Isn’t it about time we established an Indian Institute of politics?
Any executive running a publicly traded business would have either formal training that equips him for the job or years of apprenticeship working at various levels in the company or long experience in the industry or in many cases, all the three above. But what about our dear politicians who make million dollar decisions affecting the lives of billions? Even though India likes to claim that she has highly educated politicians based on two data points, arguably the most important two (P and PM), you and I both know that they are more the exception than the norm. There is nothing in our political system that makes sure that people who make the decisions know what they are deciding about, or even that they are competent enough to understand the options before them.
In the interest of ensuring every citizen of the country has an equal chance at governing us, let us introduce no pre-screening (though, I am very tempted to argue in favour of this). Imagine the elections are over, and the reality of what they promised their voters have just hit the candidates. When it comes to election campaigns, the feasibility and economic soundness of a policy ranks way below their probability of increasing a politician’s popularity. This probably means that in many cases, they have no clue what lies ahead. Or they have a skewed one-track mind. What could be a solution to the issue at hand?
Indian Institute of Politics: There is an undeniable need to establish a Indian Institute of Politicians (IIP) – an educational institution aimed at India’s politicians, run by academics and experienced practitioners, accredited by a university, with a curriculum transparent to the public and media. The mission of the institute would be to ensure that our politicians have the necessary skills to do their job.
Skills assessment: Before any politician is allowed to make a decision that changes the course of our future forever, they should pass a basic skills asssesment test. The test would assess them on the fundamentals of public policy, their understanding of the processes and their awareness of the impact of their decisions. Everyone needs to pass this test before they can be sworn in / appointed to top posts.
In-depth knowledge assessment: For areas they are directly responsible for, every politician should be able to demonstrate a sufficient degree of understanding of the issues, concerns, options and challenges as well as the history of all policies made so far, along with their outcomes. Now, this may be tough for someone just elected to power, though I see no reason why someone would take up a job they are ill-equipped to do. In the spirit of generosity, we could let them attend classes for three hours a day, five days a week for one whole month, where the academics at the Indian Institute of Politics would teach them, methodically, all they need to know. Till then, they can do their usual chores of smiling for photographers, attending ceremonies, kissing babies and whatever else they do, while spending a fair portion of their day studiously attending classes and reading books, so they can start their real job – the first salary slip depends on their receiving satisfactory grades (anyone has any ideas on controlling access to bribes till they pass their test?)
Continuing education: Throughout the course of their tenure, politicians will be aided through regular training. Every decision maker needs to attend two relevant training sessions of one week each, every year. Politicians will have regular access to the university where academicians can help them to identify what courses would best suit their needs, and tailor programs for specific departments.
Communication skills: In addition, every politician should be taught basic communication skills, chief among them being the virtue of brevity and the use of facts to make arguments. Too many of us have been tormented by rhetorical speeches which contain no substance and seem to go on forever. We would even be open to the use of power points to accompany speeches, as long as packs are kept to less than 20 slides per session.
If you think all this is far-fetched, I urge you to take a look at the professional development department of any major company. And then compare the impact of a decision made by, say, a brand manager against that of a nation’s policy maker. I have no doubt that you would agree with me that the investments would be well worth it. Even from the politician’s perspective, they deserve on-the-job training, just like the rest of us, so that they can develop professionally and be better at what they do.
For our better lives and better future, IIP is not an option, but a necessity.