A Hole in the Education Bucket

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“Plants are shaped by cultivation and men by education. We are born weak, we need strength; we are born totally un-provided, we need aid; we are born stupid, we need judgment. Everything we do not have at our birth and which we need when we are grown is given to us by education…”

                                                                                                                              Jean Jacques Rousseau

Anil Sadagopal, a well-known educationist calls it the ‘Kumbhakarna-like sleep’. Even after years and years of hoarse chants from activists, policy-makers, children, youth and adults — quality education that is supposed to be a fundamental right to all, is still a dream in India. It is perhaps for this very reason that Sadagopal had demanded the Indian state to wake up from its slumber.

In the ’60s and ’70s, education as a right received minimal attention in almost all developing countries, including India. But, when UNESCO highlighted education as a prerequisite to development, a visible change began to unfold. To some, it was time to identify education as a tool to eradicate poverty. To others, the time was ripe to mint as much money as possible. Therefore, under the garb of ensuring education to all, several private players entered the education sector with promises ranging from booking seats and hassle-free admission processes to foreign trips, free laptops and even securing a degree when one fails to clear a paper.

In 2015, we have woken up from our slumber but this time, with a bigger dilemma at hand. On the one hand, scores of engineering and MBA graduates are walking around jobless, while on the other, the number of private institutions advertising ‘quality education’ has outnumbered the number of aspirants. The number of certified engineering and MBA graduates who appear for bank tests and other government job entrances has become huge. Being ‘placed’ is no longer a dream and instead now, it translates to BPO pay package. It is in this miserable state of affairs that some unscrupulous operators have been laughing all the way to the bank. Hoodwinking the gullible who seek an immediate job and a professional degree, these institutes promote themselves to be the next best centres of learning. Here is a look at a few of those that provide an easy route to a degree with the promise of a job provided you spend enough to keep them happy.

ALL CLAIMS, NO GAINS
Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM), New Delhi

Talk about the educational institutes offering fake degrees or making tall-but-false claims about their credentials, the Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM) is probably the first thing that will come to anyone’s mind. ‘Daring to think beyond IIMs’, Arindam Chaudhuri’s IIPM was ranked as one of the top business schools of India. This was supplemented by full-page advertisements in almost all the leading publications in the country. Promotion by Bollywood stars and enticing potential students with free foreign trips and laptops were some of the other ‘unique qualities’ of IIPM.

However, when students, alumni and the UGC had exposed the IIPM for its hollowness, it became the biggest “scam” in the country’s education system. “The institute charges lakhs of rupees (say Rs 8 to 10 lakh) for an MBA degree and it is only after taking the admission that the student gets to know that they provide only certificate courses. We got convinced by the advertisements in the newspapers that clearly mentioned MBA degrees. I feel ashamed to be a part of the institute which is nothing but a scam,” rues Akash Ahuja who passed out from the IIPM in 2013. Ahuja is also facing trouble repaying the educational loan his father had taken hoping that he would get the placement from the institute.

Until the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) listed it as a fake university, everything seemed to go well with the IIPM. Since the UGC and the AICTE argued that the IIPM was not a university, they stated that the institute was not authorised to issue BBA or MBA degrees. In September 2014, when the matter reached the Delhi High Court, it barred the IIPM from offering BBA or MBA courses or advertising itself as a business school.

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Earlier, various media organisations and independent journalists had carried several reports and investigations exposing the tall claims of the institute. Consequently, Arindam Chaudhuri had filed legal suits against several journalists. Since most of the reports and exposes were on the new media, Chaudhary had approached a Gwalior court ordering to block as many as 78 URLs which were critical of the institute.

To many of the alumni, the institute is nothing but a ‘money-making body that tries to suck money from students in any form.’ For instance, Deepak Vashishta, a student of the 2013 MBA batch, could not appear for some papers due to some personal reasons. However, when he enquired about reappearing for the tests, he was in for a shock. “They informed me that the fee to reappear for the written exam was Rs 2,500 per subject and that of a super viva-voce scheme was Rs 5,000 per subject. I had 10 exams to clear and I had already paid lakhs of rupees as my course fee. I know I made a mistake by not taking the exams in the first place but it doesn’t mean that they can burn another hole in my pocket,” says Vashishta. Another alumnus Kunal Kohli shares a similar experience where the institute attempted to extract money from him for no reason. “I had low attendance but they allowed me to sit for my exams. But, when I asked them to issue a provisional certificate, I was told to pay Rs 20,000 as penalty for low attendance. I was aghast.”

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The Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM) is headquartered in New Delhi. Founded in 1973 by MK Chaudhuri, it offers undergraduate, post-graduate and doctoral programmes besides international and fellowship programmes. Though the IIPM does not hold accreditation either under the UGC or the AICTE, it is well-spread with 18 branches across India including Mumbai, Gurgaon, Noida, Bengaluru, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Chandigarh, Hyderabad, Pune, Lucknow, Indore, Bhubaneswar, Bhopal, Jaipur, Dehradun and Kochi. The Zee Business Best B-School Survey ranks the IIPM among the top 10 business schools. The total fee structure for an MBA course hovers around Rs 14 to 15 lakh, which is again subject to change.

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Students also complain that the entrance examination that the institute conducted was a mere formality. “I had reached 30 minutes late for my entrance exam. To my surprise, they allowed me to sit for the papers. I could not even attempt my paper completely but the next day I got a call informing me that I made it to the list,” recalls Jenson Joseph, a former student who manages his father’s business in Kerala.

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