What makes Dr. Harivansh Chaturvedi, Director BIMTECH – THE WISE CHANCELLOR – Watch  an exclusive conversation of insights and inspiration with Chetan Sharma, Founder Edumate.tv

Today on the show, it’s a very warm welcome to a very special guest- Dr. Chaturvedi. He is a name that requires no initiation, extremely popular in the education world. Not only because of what he has achieved, but also because of what he set out to teach. One of the few philanthropists, educationists, who has looked at education more from the social angle, while retaining its commercial benefits. That, perhaps, is the way forward, because at the end of it all, education has a social motive, but it’s not a charitable motive. You have got to run the organisation. With that in perspective, he’s not only the vice-chancellor of BIMTECH in Noida, he’s also very importantly the founder and executive-president of EPSI- Education Promotion Society for India. He’s being called, the Saviour of the PGDM institutions. What a pleasure to have you with Dr. Chaturvedi on this show.

First tell us about EPSI . I am really fascinated firstly by the term that is being used  and second why does everyone call you the saviour of PGTM institutions?

EPSI is not only meant for PGTM institution. It’s a broad-based industrial body for private sector, higher education and school education. It has its membership spread across the country and the idea came into my mind around 2004 and when there was a very rigid kind of regulatory control over private sector institutions. There were many problems. Private sector was growing because 1991 onwards the AICTE has given permission to management, engineering colleges, management institutions and because of liberalization of economy there was huge requirement of managers, engineers, pharmacists, and architects. So, the private sector grew very fast I think by 2005 about 75% of enrolment in professional education was from private sector and it has reached now 85%. So, at that time there was some problem related to the regulatory rigid control and I thought that there is no national body similar to NASCOM, CII or FICCI which can represent the root problems of the private sector, higher education and school education. So, we have interacted with our friends, educationists, renowned academicians, consulted them and after deliberations have decided that there will be a body and we have focused on the name EPSI, Education Promotion Society for India. EPSI has got registered in Delhi and having founder members from seven states. And we have, in the first time decided to give membership to all the institutions, not individuals. We started our journey and EPSI was launched by the then President, Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam, in a very big conference in Vigyan Bhawan In April 2005.

In the current scenario what do you think are the biggest challenges right now and what is the EPSI doing about it?

Our biggest challenge world-over for education be it in public sector or private sector, be it public owned or private owned, education is one of the most suffering sectors of the global economy. Students in schools and colleges are sitting at home. They are trying to get access to online classes. It is difficult for many of them, majority of them because of bandwidth problem, because of inequity to access to budgets, laptops and computers and smart phones and this rapid shift to online education has created a big crisis because teachers were not ready, colleges, schools and universities were not ready. So, in India also private sector institutions and public institutions, everybody is suffering.  A tribal boy from Bastar has to travel for 10 km for reaching to the nearest town to get the signal on one of the smartphones owned by his relative. And this is the irony that we are happy that online education is serving the purpose. But it is a tough call for the academicians like us, for private sector institutions, for government owned institutions.

It is good that you mentioned about the digital infrastructure which is woefully divided in this country. I mean this country has been divided since centuries on cast, creed, colour. Now the most sinister challenge is the potential divide of the digital domain. And while it is not a technology replay, it’s a play of dividing the educated world. If online education is here to stay, and it certainly is, and it is here to make a very high impact, unless and until we ensure that every citizen of Bharat and not only India has access to (a) bandwidth and (b) a device through which they can study our purpose will not be solved.

I fully agree with you and I have a few suggestions to make. Immediately, gadgets and internet bandwidth cannot be given to 30 Cr students, but at least some of the innovative and out of the box thinking should be used. Villages like I have given example, the village boy from Bastar , the Naxalite infested area, where there is no internet available. So why can’t government use some technology to provide internet available in those remote areas? And poor people who do not have paying capacity to pay for internet connectivity and for the gadget, why can’t we group them, place-wise and block-wise in a public library or in a school a room can be converted where students can go and access their lessons? Why can’t we use radio? If internet is to be used for higher education then there should create a kiosk or an access centre  for the college going students in poor areas. So, I think we can’t simply leave our poor students from poor or lower middle-class families, that they should manage their affairs.

Let’s say, imagine the education system, 10 years from now. Basis the challenge you see, where do you think the big thing is going to happen?

The big game changer will be the new education policy. Although there are sceptics and there are not fully convinced with its recommendations, at least it is futuristic Somehow it should be put into motion.

Sir this is going to need a lot of money. And already this country spends hardly a percentage and half of GDP which is one fifth of what any developed country spends. So unless the government spends and spends it will not be possible.

The ministry of HRD submitted to 15 Finance Commission that 10 trillion Rs will be required for education. And for next 5 years and I think the national goal of spending 6% of GNP on education is still far away. Right now, less than 4% of GNP is being sent on education which includes school education, higher education, everything. So, I think you are right that future recommendation of Kasturirangan Committee may be futuristic, maybe pragmatic but I think that without financial support and investment made by government and private sector, nothing can move.

And let us not forget Dr Chaturvedi that this country’s constitution provides for free and compulsory education till the age of 16 and that is a far cry.

I think that the enrolment up-till class 8th increased sizeable but the question is that dropout rate is too high. Number 1, in school education from Class 1 to 5 dropout rate is too high. Number 2, the quality of education is miserable. The quality of lessons impaired by teachers and methods are woefully inadequate.

Do you feel sir that this is at the government schools or is it also in the private schools. I get mixed information. I know my conversation with the Delhi Education Minister Mr. Manish Sisodia last month, in the pre-coved environment he took me to some government schools which have done exemplary well and I’ve also got reports of private schools which are finding themselves short of quality teaching. So there are mixed signals.

So, good school are there in both public sector and private sector. You must be knowing very well that one of the private schools which is in Hyderabad which is known as HPS their three former students are heading three biggest IT companies of the world. So, I think the Delhi Government has done good work in Delhi and in some other states also government schools are doing well but I am talking about majority of government schools are performing poor because of the poor government. There is no control of government officials. There is rampant corruption, teachers are not going to school, biometrics has been introduced. But they have learnt to manipulate the system. In the private sector at least, the owner is sitting on the spot. He has his personal involvement in the school. He knows if the teacher is not teaching good, he will not get admissions next year.

The premise of starting institutions by private players. Few of them without any doubt were true educationists, were true philanthropists but many of them as you know were politicians or real estate players who just wanted to leverage that asset and convert it into to hospital or into a hotel or into a school. And they saw the service sector picking up from there.  But they were not dedicated to the field of education. But now they are finding themselves short because they realise that it’s actually a service business, not a real estate business.

I broadly agree with your statement. But here I want to put forth one dichotomy of our education system as per the law of the country and some verdicts of the supreme court. In our constitution our education has been considered not for profit. But is it possible that without creating surplus any institution can survive? Supreme court has given a scheme, I think 15 years back in some of the landmark judgements. That reasonable surplus would be allowed to private sector institutions in higher education, or in school education also because surplus will give them impetus for future growth. But profiteering of any kind- 20 years back there was rampant corruption in southern India based colleges and even in North India.

Even today, Dr. Chaturvedi, you know that, particularly in the medical domain which is dangerous for this country. I mean degrees are bought. And the corruption is no less there, in this domain, in that area.

Where from corruption emanates and what is to be done? Because simply criticising corruption for 20 years, we could do not do anything. Corruption emanates from a woeful scarcity of medical seats in India. We have only 60,000 seats in MBBS and we have a huge population of 1.3 billion. So, we need more than 200,000 seats in MBBS as per some estimates. And the government can convert district hospitals and link with them new medical colleges and seats can be increased.

Why do you think they’re not doing this?

Setting up a medical college is exorbitant because of setting up a 300-bed hospital. In all districts there is a district hospital. Although all these district hospitals- we know the quality of service. Why do we go for any operation to private hospitals? Because we are not 100% confident when there is a question of saving life. So medical education is rampant corruption for last 30-40 years. The only solution is increase the supply-

It’s a demand supply mismatch. Whether it’s an over-supply and under-supply or an over-demand and that’s what controls corruption. Because also because of the quality factor. Now, we talked about several institutions, now let’s talk about the big one- your institution which you’ve nurtured for 20 long years, Dr. Chaturvedi. I remember BIMTECH being a basement in Pushp Vihar to now a fully-fledge residential campus in Greater Noida, a beautiful campus. And now you are one of the top-10 private B-schools of this country. You achieved the AICTE category-1 autonomy along with XLRI Jamshedpur. Tell us about this journey. What makes it so special?

The journey has been very exciting because I devoted prime time of my age, and I devoted 20 years and I’m still continuing. Because I have faith with the owners, I have my faith with my faculty colleagues, and I know what the society requires. After joining BIMTECH in New Delhi I found that the infrastructure was very mediocre, and a great institution cannot be run from a very mediocre or a very low-profile infrastructure. So, I submitted a vision to the owners- Late BK Birla ji and his wife, Late Sarla Birla ji. And they understood the whole point. And I proposed that we can do very good in management education, but we need a fully residential campus. But more than the physical infrastructure I was more concise about the development of the faculty. When I joined there were hardly 7 Faculty members, 200 students. Now we have 65 faculty members and around 900 students. Our alumni strength is more than 8000 who are working around the world. Not only have we built one of the most beautiful, efficient and robust infrastructures, where all the 800-900 students can live, comfortably, and the faculty can live comfortably. I’m also living in the campus for the last 20 years. But we have seen the dream that BIMTECH should become one of the well-known institutions of India and now we are moving towards international accreditation. We have got all accreditation from India, from AIU, from NAAC, from NBA, with high score in all accreditation. We are A+ institution according to NAAC and NBA. Our effort is now to become renowned in Asia and we are now known at international level. For 5 years we have been trying to get ACSB which is the gold standard in management education. Out of 15000 B-schools in the world, only 800 are accredited by ACSB which is a 100-year-old body.

Dr. Chaturvedi they say that when you make the one true sign of greatness, as what you’re showing, is that even after achieving so much, you have a thirst for more. You always believe that what you are doing is work in progress. Thank you for the inspirational statements. You know there’s a vision 2020, which is a perfect vision, but if you have a vision 2025, what would 2025 be?

We had built a vision in 2012, which was a vision for 2020. Most of the goals have been achieved but now we have been working for a vision, which is for 2025. An ACSB team will come in the first week of March. We are hopeful that they will consider us worthy of getting their accreditation.

Talk us through your personal life journey, Dr Chaturvedi. You have been an exemplary academician and an educationist. What is it that makes you the way you are? What is it that makes you an inspiration for the other generations to come?

I come from a very humble background. I belong to a very small town which is very near to this place- I was born and got educated in Mathura. Without getting any access to quality institution, my whole education was in Hindi medium. But instead of doing CA, one opportunity was there for me because my brothers and other relatives are there in Chartered Accountancy. They’re some of the biggest Chartered Accountants in Mumbai. So, I decided to become a teacher. I was not having any reason to make money.  But there was idealism because I imbibed it in my teenage life by knowing great leaders like Gandhi, Bhagat Singh, Vivekanand that one should aspire for the society rather than being selfish about his own family. So, I thought I should become a teacher because I wanted to work in education. When I did a teaching job at Banaras Hindu University, and another at Agra RBS College, which is a premium institution more than 100 years old. I taught there for 20 years. I joined AICTE the regulatory body in (1995) as director. I worked there for 5 years. Then I joined on the invitation of the Birla Group as the director of BIMTECH, in September (1995.)

I am so glad that you were selfless and not selfish, as you wouldn’t have benefited from your success and your inspiration. And thank you for that tale because it truly does inspire a lot of section of education world and beyond. Now I’m going to ask you to give some advice on that inspiration to the various sections of the education world- for the student, the parent, the teacher, the principal, your fellow vice chancellors, very importantly also because you particularly mentioned the very important role of the entrepreneur- the education entrepreneur. What is your advice to these sections of the education ecosphere?

Starting with the student’s what advice I will give to them is that they should think of a long career because the average age of this generation will rise Generation G. About 90, 90 plus. so they should think about higher education as if they are joining a marathon rather than a sprint and they have to decide which discipline they have to pursue and according to their liking or whatever is the call of their heart. Parents, I would advise, do not force your children and do not think they should become what they could not become. And this would allow the new generation to dream big and to select a discipline as per their liking or as per their capabilities. Institution owners I would advise that now the time has come they should invest in physical infrastructure but that is not sufficient. They should invest in soft infrastructure also that is the governance of the institution that is the quality of the teachers. I would advise the government that let there be reform in the education system and there should be public – private partnership model where government cannot invest, private sector should be invited and should be given utmost freedom.

 I will add another PP model and that is more related to the covid environment. You know you’ve got to be Pragmatic, you got to be Positive, you’ve got to be Progressive. That is the only way forward in this realm of uncertainty. It’s quite amazing how you have structured your thinking, the clarity of your thought for every single section     of the eco sphere tells us what makes Prof and Dr Chaturvedi a complete and inclusive and a 360 degrees academician. Thank you for sharing your success with us.

Edumate is a very promising concept and I think India’s burgeoning education sector needs several channels. For being the first attempt, I would give you full support and my appreciation for your big initiative. And we hope that you will do something wonderful for the education sector of the country.

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