India Inc Should Look Outside Btech And Mba

{flickr|100|campaign} The Tatas generous $ 50 million donation to Harvard Business School has, quite naturally, attracted considerable attention in India. This includes uncharitable suggestions that Indias high-profile multinational has got its priorities all mixed up and is suffering from a colonial hangover.

The debate over the ethical validity of corporates directing their philanthropic energies abroad, particularly when Indian education could do with booster shots, is likely to continue. The India versus Harvard tussle is, however, only one emotive aspect of the public interest in private endowments.

Equally relevant is the question: What are the donations for? In addressing this issue, it is best not to lump together all donations to overseas institutions.

Visit to know more Top Engineering Colleges

The Tata donation to a premier business school has followed a path well-travelled. In Indias prevailing value system, management education is the pinnacle of accomplishment, on a par with an IIT degree. An MBAis regarded as a passport to career advancement and that explains why business schools have mushroomed all over India. Indian society hasnt paused to ask the question British cartoonist Martin Rowson once posed to me in jest: Why does a man selling envelopes in Swindon need a management degree?

Rowson was guilty of caricature. Yet, there is a point to ponder: has India become obsessive about the MBA, at the cost of everything else?

This is why it may be instructive to look at the two other gifts to Harvard that were overshadowed by the fat Tata cheque: Anand Mahindras $ 10 million donation to the Harvard Humanities Centre and Narayana Murthys $ 5 million to the Clay Sanskrit Library.

To the reigning philistines, these endowments were eccentric indulgences. Ever since Jawaharlal Nehru injected the promotion of scientific temper into the Directive Principles of the Constitution, Indian conventional wisdom has deemed the perusal of the humanities a colossal waste of time and an unaffordable luxury.

For conspiratorial post-colonialists, the primacy of the liberal arts during the Raj was Macaulays plot to create a nation of subordinate clerks. To economic planners concerned with a skilled workforce, classical studies or Indology was another diversion of resources. In the contrived science and technology versus humanities battle, the latter stood no chance.

The institutional devaluation of the humanities was reflected in the modified design of the all-important civil services examinations . From the day multiple-choice questions became the norm and the essay paper was junked, it became clear that lucidity and articulationthe ability to construct an elegant and internally consistent argumentwere no longer regarded as worthwhile attributes.

The stress on applied skills was no doubt a shift away from an elitism that had earlier made the IAS and IFS a wing of the St Stephens College alumni club. But, have we overdone the anti-elitism bit and, instead, bred a generation lacking lucidity in three languages?