27th March 2010
Topsy turvy higher education system in India
One of the reasons why it is so hard to find Indians who understand policy is that the disciplines of law and politics are looked down upon in India. In India the best children go into engineering and medicine after school, leaving the third best students to study law and politics.
In Australia, on the other hand, the most difficult course to get into (I'm using the University of Melbourne as a proxy – see data below) is law. Thereafter comes veterinary science (for some unknown reason!) and medicine. Both these are easier to get into than law! Engineering comes well below medicine.
The way of thinking of doctors and engineers, however, is completely contrary to the way societies work (indeed, the way they themselves, as humans, work). It is impossible to understand society without understanding human incentives – and that is the one thing that engineers and doctors are never taught. This topsy-turvy prioritisation of higher education in India, in my view, is one important reason for the failure of otherwise brilliant Indians to understand good regulation and policy making (Nandan Nilekani seems to be an exception). The so-called brightest brains in India are simply not able to understand economic or political theory!
"ENTER" SCORES FOR ENTRY TO UNIVERSITY OF MELBOURNE
(data from http://www.vtac.edu.au/ where not specifically cited; figures are percentiles)
Law: 99.45 in 2006
Veterinary Science: 99.10 (see this)
Biomedicine (general medicine): 97.9
Media and Communication: 95.7
Engineering: 91.75 in 2001 (84.7 in 2010)
Arts (general): 89
Science: 89.05 (see here) in 2010
Education: 82.9 in 2001