What Does Reimagined Public Policy Education in India Imply for Career Paths and Prospects?

Session Report
Trisha Shivdasan

Careers in Public Policy, an Online National Monsoon Workshop Program, a Three-Day Immersive Online Introductory Career Counselling & Awareness Certificate Training Workshop was conducted on on 22nd, 23rd and 24th August, 2023 by IMPRI, Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi in collaboration with PPI, Public Policy India.

On the first day our first speaker, Prof Mukul Asher, former Professor Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore; Visiting Distinguished Professor, IMPRI opened the discussion by talking about what a reimagined Public Policy education in India implies for career paths and Prospects.

Introduction to Public Policy

The session began with a compelling introduction by Prof Asher, setting the stage for a crucial discourse on the transformation of public policy education in India. Participants from diverse backgrounds, including students, academics, and policymakers, gathered to gain insights into the changing landscape of public policy education and how it influences career paths and prospects.

1. The Expansive Realm of Sanskrit Literature

The session commenced with a reflection on the vastness of Sanskrit literature, highlighting its significance in India’s literary history. Prof Mukul Asherreminisced about his own experience studying Sanskrit, stressing the need to appreciate the wealth of knowledge it offers. This perspective underscored the importance of having an open mind to embrace diverse sources of knowledge, setting the tone for the broader discussion.

2. The Role of Knowledge and Openness in Public Policy

Prof Mukul Asher introduced the idea that knowledge and openness should be integral to the field of public policy. In the modern era, knowledge must flow freely from various sources worldwide. It was emphasized that individuals in public service, including civil servants and stakeholders, need to remain open-minded and humble to navigate the complex landscape of policymaking effectively.

3. Selecting the Right People and Nurturing Culture

The session shed light on the critical aspect of selecting the right individuals for public service. Prof Asher emphasized the importance of instilling a culture that aligns with the values of a developed nation. The discussion centered on the process of selecting individuals and fostering a conducive working environment.

4. Balancing Scholarship and Faith

Drawing from the wisdom of Professor Krishnamurthy, the discussion highlighted the complementary nature of scholarship and faith in life. Those who strike a balance between competence, scholarship, and a connection to tradition and civilization contribute significantly to decision-making and public life.

5. The Influence of Media in the Digital Age

Prof Mukul Asher referenced an Egyptian cartoon that emphasized how internal “enemies” in the form of media can shape public opinion. The session underscored the importance of discerning credible information from misinformation, especially in the digital age.

6. The Paradox of Tolerance

Karl Popper’s “Paradox of Tolerance” was introduced, emphasising the need for empathy and judgment in maintaining a tolerant society. This concept resonated with the broader theme of balanced decision-making in public policy.

7. Swami Vivekananda’s Vision

The discussion transitioned to the relevance of Swami Vivekananda’s vision for India. His call for focusing on the well-being and education of the masses was highlighted, underscoring the need for modern tools while preserving traditional values.

8. The Great Convergence

Prof Mukul Asher introduced the concept of the “great convergence,” signifying the blurring boundaries between advanced and developing nations. The importance of possessing global knowledge and adapting to this changing landscape was stressed.

9. Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle

Participants were reminded of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, illustrating how the act of observation can influence the subject being observed. The message was clear: individuals in public policy must be cautious about their biases and perceptions.

10. The New Governance Framework

The session concluded with an exploration of the new governance framework, emphasizing the need to focus on outcomes and results, rather than just inputs and outputs. This shift demands a different approach, mindset, and skill set in public service.

Conclusion and Next Steps

As the session concluded, Prof Asher reminded the attendees of Swami Vivekananda’s call to “Arise, awake, and stop not till the goal is reached.” It served as a powerful motivator for individuals seeking careers in public policy and underscored the significance of embracing change and innovation in the field.

The discussions held during this session were instrumental in fostering a more informed and forward-looking perspective on public policy education and its impact on India’s future.

The insights gained from this session will be disseminated widely to inform and inspire individuals pursuing public policy education and careers in India. This information will also serve as a reference point for policymakers and educational institutions as they adapt to the evolving landscape of public policy education. Further discussions and collaborations are encouraged to ensure that the future of public policy education in India aligns with the changing global landscape.

Acknowledgement: Trisha Shivdasan is a research intern at IMPRI.

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