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Umesh on Education

Please help make the Manifesto better, or accept it, and propagate it!

Hi Umesh, I do indeed appreciate the time you have taken to discuss the
issues raised in my education paper.  I apologise for the delay, but i
wanted to think thru your comments before pecking away.

The critical issue is about the data, how reliable, reflective of
reality they are.  Frankly I don't know.
Government data in these matters are generally suspect given the
bureaucratic incentive structure to improve the image.  But now there a
few private groups collecting data thru surveys.  Many of these groups
would never be accused of any anti-government bias, actually most of
them demand more involvement of the govt.  PROBE being one of these
groups.  Their report also supports the Myths I talked about; though
they make a few more qualifications than I do and don't reach exactly
the same conclusions. But their data is there for people to understand
and use as an "objective" reference in debate.

How could one debate policies when the data (understanding of ground
realities) are not accurate?  One option is to go by our own
experiences.  But experiences differ among people.  Your experience
could be rather different from others.  Even though individual
experiences are real, how could we base policy decisions on them since
they differ so much?  It would be impossible to reach any sort of

The other option is to decide policies on the basis of "First
Principles."  One's ideology, one's vision.   Here the debate about
education would quickly turn into sermons on ethics, politics,
economics, theology, philosophy.  Interesting though them may be, they
are scarcely going to help much.  Peoples' visions/ideologies don't
change that easily.  This applies to both sides to the debate.

The third option is to do the best we can with the data we have.  They
may not be perfect, but they are in most cases a better guide to
understanding the OVERALL picture, which individual experiences are
generally unsituted.  National policy requires undestanding of the
national situation.  It is the "average" of local/personal experiences.
This is the option that "social scientists" usually adopt.

I have not collected any data on my own. I use others' data.  But reach
rather different coclusions.  The first article i wrote on this topic in
1997, i had used the data from a few articles/reports written by Prof
JBG Tilak of National Institute for Education Planning and
Administration.  I myself was startled by what the data led me to.

This seems to be central to your concerns, so i deal with it first.  The
rest soon...
Dr Parth J. Shah
President                            Voice:  (91-11) 646-8282
Centre for Civil Society             Fax:    (91-11) 646-2453
B-12 Kailash Colony                  Email:  parth@ccsindia.org
New Delhi 110048                     Webpage: http://www.ccsindia.org

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