By: Ishu Kumar & Udita Singh (CCS Interns)

‘Don’t go to college’, says Paypal founder Peter Theil who is offering 24 bright kids a scholarship for not going to college! He calls it “stopping out of school”. Through this initiative, he wants a few sharp young folks to begin thinking about the big picture early. He wants them to become entrepreneurs and not workers. “Entrepreneurs are simply those who understand that there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity, and are able to turn both to their advantage” said Machiavelli. We believe that entrepreneurs are born when minds are given freedom to express and act upon fresh ideas. It’s a pity that the Indian education system stifles free thought.

Imagine a child who spends 18 years of her life battling to get into a college where the cut off percentage is an insane 90 something or even a 100%. But are these colleges allowing  students space to learn and experiment, or, are they simply stuffing them with age-old ideas and theories? We think the India higher education system, particularly when it comes to social sciences, is one which excels in reproducing rot! Narayana Murthy tell us:

“…despite its vast network of universities and colleges,India has failed to create a world-class higher education system.According to the academic ranking of world universities for 2005 , India had just 2 universities in the top 500, while Japan had 34, China 18, South Korea 7 and Brazil 4. Mckinsey estimates that about 10%  of Indian students with degrees in arts and humanities and 25% of Indian engineering students are globally competitive”.

And it’s not just a question of investing more in research. The Soviet Union had the highest per capita PhDs yet not a single practical innovation of the 20th century originated there. Entrepreneurship is necessary to translate research into innovations that benefit consumers. Holcombe tells us:

“Thus, while it is reasonable to consider research and development to be factor pushing technological change, research and development is not the cause of growth, it is a response to growth opportunities. The question is what creates such opportunities? The answer is: entrepreneurship. In a static setting, where there is little change, there will be relatively little in the way of entrepreneurial opportunities. Those that might be lying in wait must be relatively obscure to have remained unnoticed, and the static environment precludes the creation of new opportunities. Furthermore, with few opportunities, there is little incentive to devote any resources toward seeking them out. In an environment of economic change, new opportunities will continually be presenting themselves. When entrepreneurs take advantage of some opportunities, the economic environment changes, creating with it additional opportunities. Thus, entrepreneurship leads to more entrepreneurship”.

Being an entrepreneur is not a rocket science. Its ground lies in teaching us to find solutions for ourselves. The big question is – Do we want a country of robot workers or enterprising entrepreneurs; a country of job-seekers or job-creators?  Matt Ridley – in a Ted talk – tells us that “Through history, the engine of human progress and prosperity has been ideas having sex with each other”. Kapil Sibal – Minister of Human Resource Development – today said that the 100% cut-off at Sri Ram College of Commerce is “irrational” and “unfortunate”.  A debate on what the cutoff ought to be is, quite frankly, simply wiling away time. The real question is what happens in colleges? What India needs is a Peter Theil as the Minister of Human Resource Development. What say?

Post Disclaimer

The opinions expressed in this essay are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of CCS.