Friday, May 07, 2010

Slumdog Professors

There was this intriguing post in some random blog which talked about a professor outsourcing grading papers over to countries like India where somebody who spends more time in giving feedback can evaluate papers.

The professor, Dr. Chandru Rajam says
“I like to half-jokingly point out that a mother is outsourcing childcare to a daycare provider. If you can entrust the care of your infant to a third person, any form of outsourcing should be fair game.”
Thus far so good - then comes this stupid conclusion from the author.
I am in complete agreement with Dr. Chandru Rajam. I think outsourcing grading papers is a tremendous idea. I also think outsourcing Dr. Chandru Rajam is a tremendous idea.

I am quite sure I can find better teachers at Virtual-TA willing to work for 10-20% of what Dr. Chandru Rajam makes. Heck, even 33% would be a bargain.

I am not sure what the author's understanding is of the teaching-learning in universities. Its either that his understanding is way off the mark or that the author is suffering from a severe 'Slumdog Millionaire' syndrome. This syndrome is perceptible amongst Americans whose opinions of India are based on a painted canvas of poverty, deprivation and the Taj Mahal.

You may be a vendor of a world class product/service based out of India - but its hard to deal with a Western customer for whom that doesn't matter and his entire sales negotiations revolve around his perception of how many "cents" you are paying your employees.

I can put it down as just a few cheap customers bargaining for that additional few dollars - but this trend is not gonna stop until India achieves a level of wealth for its masses and achieves a respected image in the global media (as opposed to say, China) - and our professionals are not viewed as 'cheap' slumdog professionals but as skilled professionals who can command their price in the market. A few more decades and we will show you how its done!

C. K. Prahlad

I have listened to his speech once when he had come to India - and had merely known him as the author of the book about business models in the rural areas. His recent demise made headlines and along with the news, I came to know a lot of things about him - odd tidbits like the 'C' in his initials stood for my hometown Coimbatore (nice surprise) to extensive obituaries penned by the who's who of the business and academic world.

The more I read about him, the more I was impressed. From the description of him as an academic, he definitely was one I would have loved to have as my professor.

There are some professors who teach you something that you barely remember after coming out of college. And there are those whom you are grateful to for their passing on skills that prove valuable to you later on. And then comes the rare breed of those who make people consider academics as a possible career choice. Like RaviC and CK.