NIRF ranking: Open letter to Shree Javadekar

NIRF ranking: Open letter to Shree Javadekar

April 4, 2018, 7:45 PM IST  in Science Nomad | India | TOI

Dear Prakash Javadekarji,

It was a great pleasure to watch you release the result of 2018 National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) from Vigyan Bhavan. It is indeed very important that institutions are ranked based on their performances, as it encourages them to compete and improve over the years.

As this is third NIRF listing, I am absolutely sure that MHRD is doing a deep study of the causative forces that allow a certain type of institutes to effortlessly make into the august list of top hundred and prevent other type of institutes from even featuring in the band beyond hundred, so I won’t like to comment on its mechanism or wisdom, but will like to tell you a story instead.

A diamond merchant had three sons. One fine day he felt the need of rating their ability, so he appointed a committee of wise men to devise a method that can rate each of them. The committee met over a few lunches and dinners in a five star hotel nearby and submitted its report.

The report suggested that the diamond merchant should give different amount of money to each son to buy diamonds, and rank sons on the basis of the size of diamond each would buy. So, the merchant gave 100 crores to first son and 5 crore to third son. His second son had a rich father in-law so he refused to take any money.

After a year, he asked the sons to submit the statement about the diamond they had purchased, and viola! An unbelievable result came out. For some completely inexplicable reason, the first son with 100 crores had the largest diamond, the one with rich father-in-law investing money had the second largest diamond, and however impossible it may sound, but the son with 5 crores had the smallest diamond.

The diamond merchant was so happy to see the effectiveness of the methodology of ranking that he constituted a yearly event to repeat it. He knew that such a yearly ranking will encourage the sons to compete and get better.

There is no doubt that the above story of three sons has nothing to do with the trio of centrally funded nearly autonomous institutes like IITs/IIMs, privately funded self-governing institutes and the state universities living on the scraps thrown from the state while suffering from political interference in every decision.

Every sensible person would concede that NIRF rankings are different than the diamond trader’s ranking of sons. Parameters defined in NIRF are a true reflection of academic excellence, as money has nothing to do with parameters like student teacher ratio and PhD degree holder teachers, as such good teachers can surely be appointed cheaply. Everyone across India knows that good research can always be done without equipment and facilities. And autonomy surely has nothing to do with governing an academy towards excellence. So, the fact that state universities struggling at the bottom of the cesspool are there for some unknown reason that NIRF has no real need to understand.

State universities are anyway not really important as they offer affordable education a massive amount of students, and these students are useless for the growth of the nation because most of them stay in India instead of flying out.

It is this sad lot that makes most of our entrepreneurs, SME/MSME owners, businessmen, industrialists, employment generators and even politicians. They also provide the nation with workers and employees that run India. So, there is absolutely no point in letting them feel good about having studied in good academies.

So, just as the diamond merchant doesn’t need to adjust his ranking with the amount of money provided to each son, NIRF simply doesn’t need adjustments based on funding provided or return on investment in terms of human capital an institute is making available to the nation through its students.

NIRF is a great concept as it ensures that the core idea of Indian society, i.e. feudal society functioning on elitism, remains intact. It ensures that year after year, we remind our state universities that they are poor and thus not good enough, and never will be. We use it to make crores of students across India recognize that they have studied in mediocre institutes and hence they are mediocre.

We obviously can’t tell state university students that if NIRF data is readjusted to number of research papers to the money available or number of PhD teachers against the fees charged it may turn the ranking upside down. We can’t let them in the secret that Indian institutions are designed as export houses of intellectual wealth of the nation and hence we are committed to investing our resources on academies with maximum outward bound students and not the state universities.

Sir, we all know that Indian educational system has only one purpose, i.e. ensuring self-destruction of the nation by accelerating intellectual bankruptcy through brain drain.

NIRF ranking system must be congratulated for offering an additional advantage to the nation by ensuring destruction of self-worth of such a large quantum of Indian youth studying in state universities.

Sir, if you find this prose overtly sarcastic, let me tell you a secret. Humour seems to be the only way to deal with the insanity that we are indulging in as a nation. It is impossible to understand why we are unable to see the obvious.

We do need the institutes of excellence, but it is the state universities that are the real makers of India. If we invest in branding our IITs and IIMs at the cost of state universities, we are doing a deep psychological damage to the self-identity of the students who study there.

A nation needs a NIRF, but re-calibrated to reflect the base reality. We need to appreciate and encourage the effort our state universities are putting in while not having funds or resources comparable to central institutes.

The real learning from NIRF for us as a nation is that we need to focus and invest more in state universities. NIRF, in its current format, is capable of doing more harm than good, as inequality can never allow competition leading to improvement. It will just increase negativity and frustration that we already have more than we need as a nation.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.