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What Ails Our Higher Education

The higher education in India is suffering and the malaise is

increasing multifold while our policy makers both in the field of political
decision making and the educational administration are looking
indifferent. However, there appears to be a bunch of reflections
available on different aspects of the problems prevailing in the higher
education system in India in various quarters of public sphere and
there have been a good number of experiments at different levels in
the name of reforms but without any meaningful dividends. Let us start
with some basic issues: First, the recruitment level. We have various
kinds of systems of the recruitment of the faculty in different states.
Largely the creation of new posts has been stopped by most of the
state governments in state universities and colleges with government
aid. Even filling up the vacancies created by retirement or death of the
teachers has not happened in many a places. Some state- owned
universities and colleges have been compelled to depend upon either
the retired teachers or the semi-eligible or in-eligible candidates of the
choice of the people at the level of decision- making for the purpose of
completing the courses and or for engaging the classes. Most of them
are underpaid and largely exploited. Some of them are exceptionally
brilliant and would have faced any stiff competition had they been
given any opportunity to excel themselves. Most of these people
known by different names in different states and receiving different
remuneration or honariaum in different universities and colleges are
the ones who do not have any clear picture of their future in the field
of higher education and therefore, usually lack commitment and
conviction besides being deprived of avenues and facilities for
achieving excellence and expertise in their fields of work. Thus, mostly
our recruitment system has failed to a large extent. In some other
places like central universities, this recruitment process and the
creation of new posts have been a regular phenomenon thanks to the
step- motherly treatment of our governments at the centre. But there
also the recruitments are reported to have been made on grounds
other than the merit or not only on merit rather primitive grounds like
caste, religion, region, language, money, political patronage or the
linking of the head of the department are told to be prevailing. The
case in the newly created privately owned universities and self-
financing institution is having murkier situation. For the purpose of
having recognition or affiliation these institutions tend to invite people
with full eligibility to attend the interview, submit their papers, face the
visiting committees and handsome amount is paid to them for this
small exercise and then they are advised to disappear as the
institution will employ people of their choice with lesser salaries and
lesser qualifications. In addition to that the nature of working in these
institutions is largely undemocratic and market-like. The scenario is
greatly disappointing and discouraging to those who wish to make
teaching in higher education institutions their career of life. The reports
have suggested that even in the case of appointments being made by
selection commissions and some state public service commissions the
process of selection has been inflicted by these diseases. And in these
days of information revolution and communication technology these
things are not classified information rather everyone having a little
interest in higher education is privy to this. Therefore, the atmosphere
is not at all conducive for better intake of faculty. The concomitant
result is that we fail to have better students, better graduates and
better researchers. Some recent studies have suggested that around
seventy five percent of our graduates are unemployable. So we are
producing a great amount of incompetent human resource while the
competent chooses to be employed either abroad or by foreign multi-
national companies in Indian mega-cities.

The next aspect of higher education system deals with the

dissemination of knowledge. Here also the tragedy is that barring a few
state universities and most of the central universities, the large chunk
of colleges and so-called mofussil universities throughout the country
have been facing resource crunch and lack of fundamental
infrastructure and other facilities. The criminally uneven and
imbalanced distribution of five year plan grants to the universities
decided by the University Grants Commission on the recommendations
of the high- profile committee needs proper scientific research with
wide publication of its findings. Anyone who has been a witness to the
visit of these UGC Plan Committees to the universities would instantly
endorse that the recommendations are, unfortunately, not based solely
or largely on the requirements, achievements, commitments,
prospects and assessment of the specific institution rather there also
‘other’ issues greatly influence the report of the committee.
Unfortunately, the same has appeared to be true in the case of highly-
revered evaluation by another national body called National
Accreditation and Assessment Council. Again, the state universities in
most of the states have dearth of resources and therefore, are unable
to accept the demands of the faculty for more staff, for better-
equipped classrooms, for greater number of books and journals in the
library, for newer facilities and modern equipments and audio-visual
aids for teaching, for separate rooms for the faculty, for leaves for
study and for other academic purposes and so on. The increasing
number of students in every class every year, thanks to our long
unattended problem of population explosion and thanks to the populist
measures of various governments, has also created multiple problems
such as incapacitated classrooms, greater demand for text books in
the library thereby resulting in lesser amount available for standard
reference books, greater workload on the faculty and lesser time for
self study and research. This problem is doubled by the fact that due to
lesser number of faculty members available the authorities in
universities and colleges essentially have to depend upon some of
them for non-academic works which in turn adversely affects the
teaching and research at campus. Therefore, the aspect of
dissemination of knowledge has also suffered severely at hands of
unimaginative policy making.

The other dimension of higher education is knowledge

production. The knowledge production is largely dependant on the
service conditions available to the faculty on and off campus. This also
depends on the access to higher learning, exposure to the better
academic environment and greater intellectual autonomy coupled with
democratic atmosphere ensuring increased involvement and
participation of the faculty in academic decision-making. This process
paves the way of innovative knowledge and skilled functioning with
original thought process. For achieving this, the academic,
administrative and financial procedures have to be restructured and
re-oriented in such a way that the faculty members do not fell of being
the followers only rather they should be made participants of their own
creative and imaginative work systems. More we adopt methods which
are alien to our ground realities and conditions prevailing in the
heartland of the country and which are suitable only for urbane and
mega-city centric institutions, more we are susceptible to failures.
More we create the models coupled with indigenous methodologies
and Indianized techniques which have the essential ingredient of
participation and involvement from all quarters of our educational
functioning and all levels of rational thinking, more we are destined to
march ahead in the direction of becoming an educational super-power.
This will not be achieved only by political masters but participant-
observation from the incumbent academia has also to crave out its
role. But, unfortunately, our academic fraternity is suffering from
various diseases like intolerance to new ideas, un-acceptance to
innovation, resistance to change, adherence to stereo-type, absence of
application of own mind, existence of increased ego, dearth of
appreciation, exuberance in superficial hierarchy and so on. The
remedy to these ailments lies in the re-defining of our traditional
structures of learning and acquiring innate knowledge through
sanctified procedures so as to keep the purity of the academic process
intact and sane.

The other aspect of higher education is closely related to the

intake of the students. Here also the picture is capable of revealing the
wounds that have inflicted upon the body-structure of higher education
in India. Some of our so-called ‘Navratna’ universities and institutions,
national level institutions, Central universities have the proud privilege
of getting the best intake from all over the country and then boast for
being one of the best. But look at the education providers in the in the
remote areas of the nation and even the colleges and universities
situated around hundred kilometers away from these elite institutions,
the story changes altogether. The state governments have been
lowering the evaluation standards at higher-secondary level so as to
present a rosy picture and there have been clear-cut strategies for
encouraging increased enrollment in higher education with amazing
subsides, allowances, scholarships and other facilities to the students
seeking admission in colleges and universities. This has reaped
desired results and bitterness of the fruits has to be tested by the
teaching fraternity because a large number of the admission seekers is
here only because they have nothing else to do. A great number of
them take admission for the want of scholarship. Most of them do not
ever attend the classes. Large number of them does not even
recognize their teachers. Some of them take admission for having a
training of or acquiring the tenets of leadership through union-elections
and thereby paving their own way of entry in to main political stream.
And because of all this their attention towards learning is absent, their
commitment to study is zero; their conditioning to a disciplined life is
unthinkable; their respect for their teachers is missing; and their clarity
towards the goals of their life is unaddressed. This has led to several
unfortunate and unpardonable incidents of beating of the teachers by
erring students in examinations, admissions and elections and in some
cases leading to the unfortunate death of some of the teachers. In case
of rest of the students who have taken admission for the sake of
learning these rogues make the environment difficult both for the
serious students and hard working teachers. But even then, thanks to
the appreciable hard work of our otherwise deprived students and
unconditioned integrity of our large chunk of teachers (emanating from
our age-old value system and social-cultural patterns), a good number
of students of these institutions of mofussil towns have excelled to an
incredible extent in various fields of public life through out the country.
And this is the real hope and real life line of our national ethos. We
have to endeavour in the direction of sustaining this energy for a
better future and better living conditions with greater knowledge and
understanding of the world dedicated to our posterity.

The next dimension of higher education is educational training.

This is a known fact that mushrooming growth of colleges providing
Bachelor degree is Education in many states has, in fact, brought a bad
name to the higher education institutions as such. The main reason
behind all this is unmanageable number of colleges besides other
reasons of rampant corruption prevalent in bodies providing
permission, no-objection, recognition and affiliation to the colleges,
motivated privatized control, profit-oriented attitude of the owners,
etc. The result is poor quality of library, faculty, equipments and
classroom facilities, low turn-out in classes, irregular practicals,
delayed examination and results and somehow minimal training. The
other training of the incumbent teachers is widely ignored as the
fundamental construct that prevails in higher education institutions in
India is that one who has cleared the eligibility criteria and passed all
the examination with specified percentage of marks and other such
required examinations is capable enough of directly entering the
classrooms of undergraduate and postgraduate classes and start
lecturing them on topics prescribed in syllabi. Sadly, the whole process
begins without any specific understanding of the nuances of academic
pursuit, knowledge dissemination and communication skills. The
university Grants Commission has, of late, started some orientation
programmes and refreshers courses through academic staff colleges
established in a few universities through which it is intended that the
existing faculty be provided some additional knowledge in the field of
their own work besides some elementary understanding of some other
disciplines. A separate note is required to comment on the state of
affairs in these exercises, yet it may be safely mentioned that
sufficient training and exposure to teaching techniques is required to
equip our would- be faculty with necessary inputs and desired skills.

The other aspect of higher education is educational

administration. In this area also the situation is alarmingly pity. The
recruitment of the people on the highest citadel of educational
administration in the whole country is largely faulty. The selection
procedures for Principals of colleges do not promote merit or
scholarship and not even administrative capabilities are taken into
consideration. But other socio-economic factors along with political
ones prevail upon the choice of the incumbent. The positions filled by
seniority or by promotion are also susceptible to a situation of having
someone incapable of performing this wholesome task of organizing
people of different tastes and discipline and caliber, managing the
academic, administrative and financial affairs of an educational body,
generating a sense of belongingness towards the institution in the
minds of all the people involved directly or indirectly, providing better
opportunities of greater learning and research to both the students and
the faculty, creating a democratic and open environment of liberal
thinking coupled with essential adherence to traditional norms and
value system, and thereby paving the way of overall growth of the
institution and all its components. This requires some elementary
grounding into the educational system, some innovative and visionary
perspective, greater commitment than the fellow learners and
colleagues, and necessary integrity towards the cherished goals of
development, progress and excellence. But to our disappointment,
most of our principals lack most of these pre-requisites and hence they
usually fail in invigorating any sense of work either in faculty or in
students or in employees. They tend to pass their time in enjoying the
benefits and privileges attached to the post and avoiding any major
decision-making which may alter the course of events or altogether
change the functioning because of imminent fear of inviting any
trouble from their own masters, be it management or government as
the case may be. And same is true of our Vice- Chancellors of the
universities also. There are some other areas also which need greater
attention and serious impartial research. The problems are multi-
faceted and so are the solutions. The only wish we can do that our
teachers imbibe the qualities mentioned by the greatest of the Indian
poets Mahakavi Kalidas as he declares:-

f’y"Vk fØ;k dL;fPknkRelaLFkk

laØkfUrjU;L; fo’ks"k;qDrkA

;L;ksHk;a lk/kq l f’k{kdk.kke~

/kqfjçfr"Bkif;rO; ,oAA

Of the teachers some may epitomize perfect grasp over eclectic and intricate
knowledge processes; some others may be especially endowed with the craft
off effective communication, but the one who blends both the virtues is the
torch-bearer of the great mission called ‘teaching’.