ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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What Does an MA Know?

Postgraduate Learning Deficits and the Diploma Disease in Social Sciences

The annual Pratham surveys point to deficits of learning endemic to Indian schools. But what if these deficits are being carried forward and sustained in higher education? This paper shows that the results of a survey conducted among postgraduate students of economics in an Indian university were very Pratham-like. The objective was to assess their understanding of basic arithmetic operations and some primary economic principles/indicators. Is it the case, particularly in the social sciences, that we are receiving and, in turn, churning out generations of students who lack an understanding of basic principles? If so, what are the institutional mechanisms in place to sustain this long continuum of ignorance?

An earlier draft of this paper was read by Jean Dreze and Romi Khosla and we thank them for their suggestions. We also thank Vishwajit Kadam and Rutha V S for their help in the questionnaire and survey; and Hemant Apte for methodological clarifi cations. We remain obliged to all the colleges and respondents who consented to be a part of the survey. The faults rest with us.

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