Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXXI No. 5, June 16-31, 2021

Remembering versatile educationist, scientist, teacher, writer…

by S. Viswanathan


FOR OVER SIX decades Dr. M. Anandakrishnan (MA) strode the field of education like a colossus: he made rich contributions as a scientist, teacher, administrator and one who shaped policies from the elementary to the highest levels. Not just for Tamil Nadu or India, he extended his expertise to diverse countries as far away as Brazil.

MA had vast global experience since he obtained his PhD from the University of Minnesota, USA in 1960. He was Professor of Civil Engineering at IIT-Kanpur and later served as its Chairman/ Board of Governors for over a decade.

MA was the first Science Counselor at the Embassy of India, Washington DC and later served United Nations Centre for S&T. He was Chairman of several academic bodies such as Science City, Tamil Nadu State Science and Technology Centre, Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS)…

During 1990-97 MA was an adviser on science and technology for Brazil. He used to host informal dinners in Chennai for the Brazilian Ambassador. In one such meeting I got a detailed exposure to this large South American country and its rich resources.

Single-Window System for Engineering Admissions

MA’s stewardship at Anna University for two terms could be considered a high point of this university. The single-window system for engineering college admissions is one of his most important contributions. MA opened up the university for participation by a wide cross section of specialists from different professions. The regular discussion programmes in the university’s conference hall used to throw a lot of light on current and emerging issues.

I have had the privilege of close interactions with MA for three decades. When IE was incorporated as a public limited company, MA readily agreed to be a Director. For over a decade he was a member of the board of directors. He participated in the several initiatives of IE during that period – in public lectures, the Forum Beyond Books, the Agriculture Consultancy Management Foundation – and freely gave his time and advice. He also presided over the IE Business Excellence award function in 1996 addressed by Dr. Manmohan Singh.

MA had written numerous articles for IE on issues concerning education. In an article on NEET exams he stated: “the level of higher secondary syllabi of most state boards is far below that of the CBSE. NEET will be instrumental in remedying this lacuna. NEET is fresh air in the polluted atmosphere of admission scandals.”

MA was critical of the manner of selection of vice chancellors of universities in Tamil Nadu. In an article on VCs, he wrote: “thanks to the various scams and corruption charges in several state universities in Tamil Nadu over the last 15 years, there is total loss of credibility over the appointment process of vice-chancellors. There were charges of corruption, caste favouritism, political influence and nepotism.

“The candidate chosen for the vice-chancellor’s post should be a distinguished academician with a minimum teaching experience of 25 years as a professor or its equivalent at a reputed research or administrative organisation,” MA said.

In-laws and Outlaws…

At the 150th year celebration of the Madras University, Dr. MA was asked: “when can an Indian university/academy/institution gain the reputation of a Caltech/Princeton or MIT?” His answer was poignant: “in a system where appointments of vice chancellors were directed by political leaders and when university vice chancellors are the sons/ daughters and daughters-in-law of the promoters/ proprietors and most of whom are politicians or small-time businessmen, how can this happen?”

MA was not in agreement with the sidelining of merit in the caste-based reservation policy of Tamil Nadu. When the state increased reservation to 69 per cent he, along with senior advocate K. Vijayan, took bold to oppose this through court intervention. I remember the proponents man-handling them on their way to the airport.

As the Vice Chairman of the Tamil Nadu State Council for Higher Education (TANSCHE) MA has made phenomenal contribution to expand computer education, standardising and simplifying the usages in Tamil.

It’s hard to imagine another versatile educationist like MA. One of his lasting contributions related to the reform of school education of Tamil Nadu which upgraded the syllabus right from the elementary school. — (Courtesy: Industrial Economist.)

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