Tomorrow, 24th September is thé day I have been waiting for about a year (ostensibly) but it seems I have been waiting for this all my life!
The Indian mission to Mars, Mangalyaan is to enter thé Mars orbite if all goes well. How I hope it does!
This mission was conceived and delivered at record low costs. If it comes through successfully it will be thé first mission to Mars that succeeded on it’s début. It is also one of thé cheapest missions of thé kind. As thé Indian Prime Minister remarked: Mangalyaan cost less than thé film Gravity!
This is not news to some of you who have read my earlier blogposts on space: I dreamt and still dream of going into space. I wanted to be an astronaut and it still hurts that I could not achieve this ambition, at least professionally. Perhaps one day thé dream will come true in some form.
The truth is that I never ever thought I would read or hear these words: “India’s mission to Mars”. Yet thèse words are now a reality. How beautiful that is, how sublime.
The mission (fingers crossed will be successful in thé conventional sensé of thé word as well) to me is already something of a success:
To be able to dream of open space and other worlds. To act on that dream is courageous. It sets free thé aspirations of thé millions who live in India and countries like India. It says to us all that we must never give up on our dreams no matter how impossible they seem. Our dreams define us, they define who we will be one day. Is there a point therefore in being parsimonious in our dreams?
I am looking at thé mission updates on ISRO’s site. Hope with me that thé next update is of Mars orbit for this craft. Celebrate thé success of this dream of Mars, of space, of life.
University education is meant to be the passageway that delivers students to a good life: exciting, fulfilling and financially stable jobs, social mobility and realising their dreams. Those from financially poor backgrounds see college as a passport to a better life, while those from privileged backgrounds may see it as inevitable.
Which passageway to choose? That is which college or university one goes to is critical. Future income, the networks one forms, the careers that open up all depend on this. Some studies (see this BBC article) show that in the UK top positions in most fields are disproportionately held by people from private schools. UK society is deeply elitist. Possibly it is not the only country to be that way.
Yet for the most part it is the passage/college that chooses us as much as we try and choose a college. Especially when the college in question is Oxbridge, Russell Group university (in the UK) or an Ivy League institution (in the US) for example.
How do these august and venerable institutions decide to whom they will open their doors?
Can the state school educated, the ethnic minorities, the poor hope to be admitted as easily as richer counterparts from private schools and well connected parents?
What is the admission criteria? Is it based on merit? Is it objective and transparent?
I don’t know. But here is an article about Harvard University which at least towards the end discusses some of these points.
Some you may have read a blogpost I wrote a while ago on the National Student Survey (NSS), critiquing it.
As it was a while ago, it came as quite a surprise to me when a journalist from the Guardian asked if I could summarise the post into a shorter article for their website!
I agreed and lo and behold, it is up on the Guardian website, along with another short comment on freshers’ week.
Quite exciting and fun as it was unexpected. Perhaps writing about policy on this blog is ok after all!