I would call it re-marginalisation.
The second essay of Culture, Society and Development in India (Sanyal, Manoj Kumar, Ghosh Arunabha); a very unassuming book, caught my attention. The essay, Globalisation, Mandalisation and the Indian Middle Class (by Rajesh Kochhar) opens up a few interesting issues that affect Indian education today.
Rajesh Kocchar introduces the emergence of a new breed of a community called the denationalised middle class (DMC). This emergence, he argues, is a result of the combined and sequential effects of Mandalisation and Globalisation. The larger effect of implementing the Mandal recommendations is the realignment that the Indian Middle Class (IMC) have sought due to the Mandalisation. He says:
If globalisation had not taken place, it is very likely that Mandalisation would have eventually produced a new equilibrium state in which the upper castes would have willy-nilly accepted a diminished role and status consistent with their actual numbers. Globalisation has disrupted this social process in the sense that the upper-caste dominated IMC has opted to effectively distance itself from the new mainstream and attach itself to the West. No wonder then, that of all the aspects of Globalisation the ones that have appealed the most to the IMC are a West-inspired lifestyle and education unencumbered by considerations of social justice. […] In the current, third phase, the distance between the elected representatives and the middle class has increased; the middle class feels left out and has, as already noted, sought refuge elsewhere. There is also the attendant stagnation, if not actual decline, in scientific output. Since the service sector is essentially science-less, science education is getting devalued. […] Many would argue that the decline is not confined to science alone but stretches to scholarship in general.
I am one of those that argue such.
(The entire essay is worth reading. The one in the book is an extended version of Denationalised middle class: Global escape from Mandal, available as a PDF at Rajesh Kochhar’s blog. Download the Third lecture on this page)
The decline is becoming obvious. As the IMC moves closer to its new-found affiliations to the West, they are creating a gap that is now being rapidly filled in by the aspiring-nouveau-IMC. An example:
One recent advertisements by the Frankfinn Institute has been a difficult one to forget. It’s a radio spot, where a girl is teasing her cousin about how much the cousin would make after her MBA. The protagonist of the advertisement claims to earn Rs. 70,000 just after her 12th. If the advertisers are able to reach the right target market, this has devastating implications on the future of the educated Indian that country is banking upon. As more service-sector opportunities get prominence and the promise of glamour and the Mandal-marginalised IMC moves west-ward, a new class fills the gap: the aspiring-nouveau-IMC. Daughters of farmers from Punjab, for example.
The BPO industry, in general, has not done much good to help arrest the decline of science education. It seems, we will face a full circle and be in the same situation that the USA faces – a deficit of scientific pursuit. (This is just one such article; Obama’s State of the Union address was a big indicator). The threat perception that the US feels, I think, therefore is somewhat unfounded.
We have an industry crying out loud about the skill gap between the college and the workplace. It seems however, that this industry has a very short-term view on the kind of demands it is making on the nation and its education system. In less than 10 years, we will be facing a problem (and an opportunity):
By 2020, the people of India will be more numerous, better educated, healthier and more prosperous than at any time in our long history. Total population will exceed 1300 million. In spite of declining fertility rates, falling infant mortality and increasing life expectancy will spur an increase of at least 300 million people. A marked slowdown in birth rates will leave the under 15 year old population at roughly the same size as it is today. This means that pressure for expansion of the educational system will come only from increasing enrollment and efforts to reduce drop-out rates. The population over 60 years of age will double from 60 to 120 million people, necessitating special measures to support this vulnerable group, which includes a high percentage of illiterates and is especially susceptible to both malnutrition and health-related problems. Unequal rates of population and economic growth are likely to further aggravate regional disparities within the country. (via India Vision 2020, MSS Research)
For education, it means:
Literacy and general education form the base of the knowledge pyramid that is essential for rapid and sustained development in the 21st Century. The continuous advancement of science and the application of improved technology form the middle rung. Social ideals and values form the apex. Technical education, both vocational and professional, constitutes the foundation for development of science and technology. A large number of the country’s engineering colleges need to be upgraded to quality standards nearer to those of India’s world-class IITs. India’s expenditure on R&D, which is currently 1/60th that of Korea, needs to be dramatically enhanced. Another essential requirement is to improve the linkage between technology development and technology application by fostering close ties between basic research and business. (via India Vision 2020, MSS Research [emphasis, mine])
A very good reason for businesses to take a longer term view of what they demand from the education system and restrict the growth of re-marginalisation and creating a new breed of DMC.