Foreign universities are coming to India. What’s in for us?

The brain drain seems to be fizzling out.Soon Indians pining for quality education may choose not to fly overseas in their hunt. If the Indian government has its way, very soon foreign universities like Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, Purdue, Georgia Tech. will establish their campuses in India. Some like the University of Michigan have already opened an economic research center in Bangalore. Some years back The Indian School Of Business was set up in Hyderabad in association with Kellog, Wharton and London Business School.

Last year the number of Indian students studying in the USA touched a whopping 103,260 of a total of 671,616 overseas students. Needless to say, we topped the list. As per the US Department of Commerce, Indian students have contributed around $3 billion to the US economy last year by dint of their tuition fees and living expenses, out of a total of $17.8 billion by overseas students. Indians are indeed very important to the Americans. On the other hand, students eager to get into prestigious Indian institutions like the IIT’s and the IIM’s face intense competition. Only 2% manage to get in. Students can study part time and earn their fees overseas. Given the contrast, it is not difficult to understand why so many Indians opt for overseas education.


A report submitted by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development on 22 May 2006, however, is apprehensive about foreign educational institutions. Expressing concern about the entry of unqualified educational institutions or, worse still, use of double standards by good ones, the committee calls for the establishment of a body to oversee all activities of these institutions. It has even proposed setting up salaries for the faculty in these institutions.

Another aspect is the criticism that the American system of education is facing from some leaders in the field of education in USA itself. Prominent  American educationists like John Taylor Gatto, John Holt, to name a few, have written books highlighting the drawbacks of the current American system of education initially brought into play most prominently by John Dewey in 1899. Dewey was influenced by Marx, Hegel and brought about collectivism into school syllabi at the cost of disregard for traditional school subjects. For Dewey, it was all about how good a child would be as a part of a social structure. In The School and Society, Dewey declared that education doesn’t occur “between teacher and pupil, or between teacher and parent.” Rather education is a responsibility that society must execute using techniques “previously ignored as trivial, futile, or even condemned as positively evil.” Following the principles of Friedrich Froebel, “inventor” of kindergarten, Dewey proclaimed that schools should condition children for the desired “social order.” Many today see his views as apt for creating a system of mass indoctrination. Do we really want such an education system even partially in this country?

Even if we want such a system, are we ready to pay the cost? Some years back, The Harvard Business School had announced a week long course for executives at a cost of $4500 (a staggering Rs 180,000). Such astronomical sums as fees for seven day courses are really unnecessary. After such extra vagance, what is the quality of people that we get? Youngsters who are products of such an education system are victims of impure thoughts and habits. They are easily lured by vices. The greatest drawback of the modern system perhaps is that it fails to inculcate values in its students. Students fail to see anything beyond the immediate pressing concerns in their lives for meeting monetary needs. Ethical and moral components of life are totally ignored. Life becomes just a race “to keep up to the Joneses.” Recognizing this hollow, the Maharashtra State Board for Education has started a program for teaching value education to students in government schools. This is what is urgently required for Indian students. The West is already reeling under the pressures of an immoral and ethically uneducated society.

Real education

Educating About Education

Chanakya Pandita, whom Srila Prabhupada often quoted, gives three checks to identify whether someone is truly educated:

1. Matr vat para daresu An educated person sees any female other than his wife as a mother. This means that the heart is free from any exploitative desires for the opposite sex something that is very much desirable nowadays.

2. Para dravyesu lostra vat An educated person views others’ property like discarded garbage on the street. This means that the heart is free from any desires to usurp and posses anything that doesn’t rightfully belong to oneself. One is content with what is possessed by the will of providence.

3. atma vat sarva bhutesu An educated person sees others as he would see himself. He treats others as he would want others to treat him. If he feels pain due to some activity, he wouldn’t do that to anyone else.

To possess these three characteristics, one must be pure, contented and compassionate. Chanakya Pandita identifies such a gentleman as an educated person. The epitome of this line of thought is given by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad gita (5.18) by defining the truly educated person as a person who “by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog eater [outcaste].” Such a person is respectful to others, guided not only by moral principles but by spiritual vision. He perceives the presence of the Supreme Lord in the form of the in dwelling Supersoul in the hearts of all living entities and thereby maintains a standard of purity in his interactions (in terms of thoughts, words and actions) with them. In the Srimad Bhagavatam (11.19.40), Lord Krishna mentions the best education to Uddhava: “Actual education is nullifying the false perception of duality within the soul.” Thus, again, the true test of education is not
in qualifying the student with
material knowledge but in empowering him with spiritual knowledge.

We observe that more one is advanced in modern education, more he is averse to spiritual understanding.[1] A person becomes excessively proud of his academic achievements and consequently starts putting more faith in his own ideas. With a parochial outlook, he looks down on any other system of knowledge other than the one that supports and supplements his. In the Bhagavad gita (13.8 12), Lord Krishna mentions twenty items of knowledge. The first two on the list are humility and pridelessness, indicating that an educated person will necessarily develop these two characteristics. But we observe just the contrary in the world around us.

That is why the Vaishnava saint Bhaktivinoda Thakura mentions in one bhajana,

jada vidya jata, mayara vaibhava, tomara bhajane badha
moha janamiya,  anitya samsare, jivake koraye gadha

“All the so called knowledge of this world is born of the flickering potency of Your illusory energy (maya). It is an impediment to the execution of devotional service to You. Indulgence in mundane knowledge verily makes an ass of the eternal soul by encouraging his infatuation with this temporary world.”

Modern education does not lead to development of character or mental powers even. Thus, this is not real education. His Holiness Hrdayananda Dasa Goswami Maharaja writes in his purport to Srimad Bhagavatam (10.63.26), “The process of education may be succinctly described as a way of eradicating ignorance through the attainment of knowledge. Through inductive, deductive and intuitive means, we attempt to refute the specious, the illusory and the imperfect and elevate ourselves to a platform of full knowledge.” Thus, by Vedic standards, the best education (raja vidya) reveals one’s spiritual identity and encourages activities based on our spiritual nature. Material education, on the other hand, fosters bodily identification and leads to the wastage of precious human life in the pursuit of temporary, fruitless goals. The present education that teaches us knowledge about the material world and its workings is not helpful for elevating in this regard.

If the foreign universities are capable of bringing about this change for us, they are welcome. If not, we are better off without them.

Nanda Dulala Dasa has a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. He is a part of the editorial team of Indian English BTG. He stays at ISKCON Mumbai where he teaches Krishna consciousness to college students.

Ref.[1] Gallup poll 2009