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Priya Joshi: Culture and Consumption: Fiction, the Reading Public, and the British Novel in Colonial India

August 9, 2009 2 comments

The need for Western stamp of approval

The need for Western stamp of approval

Often, the implementation of a new education system leaves those who are colonized with a lack of identity and a limited sense of their past. The indigenous history and customs once practiced and observed slowly slip away. The colonized become hybrids of two vastly different cultural systems. Colonial education creates a blurring that makes it difficult to differentiate between the new, enforced ideas of the colonizers and the formerly accepted native practices.” (Priya Joshi quoted in Contemporary Education By Rao, page 21).

Her theory on the ideological war waged by colonial Britain on India after 1857, ranging from quantitative estimates of book shipments from Britain to India, to library lendings make Priya Joshi’s research compelling.

Her narrative explains the methodology by which national cultures can be subverted, modified and ultimately disfigured. Carrying that logic further, it makes us examine the entire basis of using English in the Indian education system.

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Western perceptions will decide Indian varsities ranking

January 8, 2009 1 comment

The National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), an autonomous (Indian) body established by the University Grants Commission (UGC) to assess and accredit institutions of higher education in the country… has formed an executive committee to devise a framework and is also studying various university ranking models from China’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s (SJTU) Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), the UK and Australia in order to develop its own grading scales.

HA Ranganath, director, NAAC, said: “We intend to introduce our own rankings, based on world class indicators, something on the lines of Shanghai’s ARWU. Such an Indian ranking formed by NAAC should be respected by institutions across the world.”

In its rankings, for instance, SJTU uses indicators like number of alumni who have earned a Nobel Prize or Fields Medal since 1901, number of researchers who earned a Noble Prize in physics, chemistry, medicine or economics and/or the Fields Medal in mathematics since 1911, number of highly-cited researchers in the fields of life science, medicine, physics, engineering and social sciences, number of articles published in Nature and Science between 2003-2007, and number of articles listed in Thompson Scientific’s Science Citation Index Expanded and its Social Sciences Citation Index in 2007, among others. (via Indian varsities will be ranked).

This is another case where Western standards will decide Indian rankings and perception. Will India (like China) take the Nobel prize to be a gold standard? Are all other awards and recognition of no value? Are citations by Third world academics and scientists, which Thompson’s Citation Indices does not fully capture, without merit? More examination will finally be without meaning. Reductio ad absurdum.

These kind of rankings and measurements are ex nihilio – creating something out of nothing!

Piercing the Wall

Needham, almost single-handedly, not only altered the prevalent views about China, but also challenged (and changed forever) dominant Euro-centric convictions on the origins of human knowledge. Truly, by the end of his life, Needham had taught many more people than he realized, what it means to take the long view. India, too, needs such a champion. (via Piercing the Wall).

Ravi is showing off

Joseph Needham, Master of Caius College, Cambridge, is the subject of this pathetic book review. And the writer of this review is Needham’s ex-student, Ravi Bhoothalingam – ex-President of Oberoi Hotels and a Director at ITC & VST, India’s largest tobacco conglomerate, Head of Personnel at BAT Plc.

I would have little objection if his entire trip was to display his Cambridge alumni status. Or the fact that his ex-professor is the subject of a book.

Like me … love me …

It is sad, when in the closing line of his review, he says that India needs a Western ‘champion’ – like China. For one from the post-independence generation, Ravi’s craven need for Western approval, the banging of the head at colonial altars, is surprising, (at least to me).

Is the Indian nation so bankrupt, that it needs foreign help for others to recognise Indian achievements in the past, present or future? How does it help India if a few Westerners admire Indian achievements? Should modern India focus on achievement, here and now – or focus on obtaining Western admiration for past achievements of Indians in history?

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