-B.V.Raghunandan, SVS College, Bantwal

The article is about collegiate education comprising the general courses. There is no controversy about the fact that it is in doldrums having numerous maladies so as to render it to a state of coma. But, the controversy is always about what is to be done. Once the discussion is over, we are back to pavilion with no effort on improvement. All that we say about the need to change, the importance of innovation, elevating the status of higher education to international level etc., go to bring in additional measures addressing the problems at cosmetic level. The new systems that are implemented are purely immature and taking back education by decades. Some of the measures suggested by NAAC are nothing but bringing the high school practice of writing work diaries and creation of other documents. The efforts relate to what you do outside the College like presentation of papers, FIP, major projects, minor projectsetc carried out at the cost of class work, and not in the improvement of class work. If you expect the input from the universities, they are far worse than NAAC. Their focus is to generate funds in every possible way rather than generating academic inputs. The universities indulge so much in double talk that they lack reaccreditation from NAAC by more than a decade, proving to be worse than affiliated colleges by a wide margin. Both the UGC and universities are so immature that they have introduced course work for Ph.D. aspirants, just because there is a lot of rush due to the commercial value and promotional opportunities of the Course. They forget the fact that this is done after post-graduation. Coming to affiliated colleges, they are preoccupied with conducting college level conferences for the students of the College with the International, National and State-level tags. There is always UGC and NAAC ready to sponsor the Conferences along with National Human Rights Commission. For the crores of rupees that are poured in, what is the academic output generated? How much regular class work is lost in conducting these conferences? That is the farthest thing on anyone’s mind. Can we look upon the Government to take the lead? No, as there is no stability at any level of collegiate education starting from Education Minister to Secretary, Commissioner and Director and regional directors, each one having a maximum one year and less than that in their assignment. Though many good-intentioned people have come and tried to restructure, they leave either due to transfer or retirement before they can do anything worthwhile.
Status Report
The contemporary history of collegiate education can trace the first malady to the year 1984, when the recruitment stopped. The private colleges suffered more than the Government Colleges. Except the two occasions of regularisation of services of college lecturers under the order of the Supreme Court, there is no filling up of vacancies of teaching and non-teaching staff in private colleges. Even the vacancies created by death, retirement and resignation were not filled up leading to both teaching and administrative and secretarial work suffering seriously. The ad hoc arrangements made by the local managements on a permanent basis took the colleges back to Stone Age. Though a handful of colleges ensured that there is no dilution in the quality of people recruited locally, most of them went back to the decadent system of either caste or religion based recruitment or the Dutch auction route: people who bid to work for the lowest salary are recruited. Some of them do not have the requisite qualification or quality. Such recruitment is not subject to any regulatory compliance. The affiliating entity turns a blind eye and the government has not put into place a system of bringing in all appointments both in aided and unaided colleges, whether for approved post or not, subject to the approval of collegiate education department as in Maharashtra. Again, different salary is paid to different people depending upon the person, the subjects they teach and under whose tutelage the lecturer has been recruited. Though the aided colleges contribute to a major share of the Gross Enrollment Ratio, the Government has not pronounced its policy in concrete terms about the grant-in-aid.
The resultant is another malady affecting the system: the difference in the payment made bythe students seeking admission between a Government College and an Aided College. In the neighbouring state of Kerala, there is no difference in the payments made by the students between a Government College and an Aided College. The admission is strictly according to Government Rules and the list of admitted students is put on the notice board. The fact that they pay not more than five hundred rupees per semester in both Government and Aided College for graduation or post- graduation including MBA makes us feel inferior as lakhs of rupees are spent by the parents in Karnataka in the process of getting higher education for their children. Apart from doing regular recruitment, Kerala Government also approves new subjects, courses or combinations to admit them for grant-in-aid. In Karnataka, having the Indian Silicon City Bangalore as its capital, even computer subjects are not recognised for grant-in aid, leave alone other new subjects like bio-technology and agri-technology. Only big change to happen in the recent times is the affiliation given to the private colleges to open post-graduation courses particularly in Commerce. As it is for augmenting the revenue of the Universities, most of the private colleges run them as parking space of students until their marriage or employment. Only a few colleges offer the post-graduate atmosphere for such courses.
Coming to the subjects and combinations offered, many colleges in the nearby vicinity offer the same combinations for arts and science courses. The HEP combination for arts and PCM combination for science students take away any choice that otherwise would have been available to the students. The affiliating authority could have played a greater role in allotting the combinations so as to bring in diversity. This would have given a choice to the students and also would have avoided the competition among the colleges leading to unviable number of students for each of the colleges. The imagination of the management and the faculty will be left numb in the long run regarding the wide choice of subjects and combinations available. It is interesting to note that many colleges in West Bengal offer Philosophy as a subject for the degree course, whereas we have to go in search of the subject in our state. Same is the fate that has happened to subjects like Logic, Anthropology, Geology, Earth Science, Ecology etc in the modern time of technology and environmental concerns. In Commerce and Management Courses, we do not hear about Organisation and Methods, which would be supplementing Networking and ERP Technology initiative of organisations. Everywhere, you hear about HR, Insurance and Banking, as if these were new subjects by anyone’s imagination. No board of studies thinks about creation of new subjects in order to satisfy the present day requirements due to the changing conditions. Again content creation is never their business except suggesting the books from which ready material is available.
I fear to tread the space of curriculum, syllabi and examination systems. Having taken up the task of observing the status, there is no escaping from the consequences. Looking at the examination system, everyone is concerned about the writing ability of the students going down day by day. The emails and the SMS are blamed for this. However, the cause is far more deep routed than the simple blaming of the SMS. Over the years, attempts have been made in miniaturising the answers rather than encouraging the students to attempt essay type questions. Initially, the students were required attempt five questions in each theory paper. In the name of reforms, the 20 marks questions were changed to 16 marks, 8 marks, 4 marks, 2 marks and even 1 mark questions. Now, the madness is to go in for objective types of questions. Instead of the candidates writing the answers, they are simply required to tick the boxes containing four possible answers. For the benefit of easy evaluation and machine abled evaluation, we have robbed the students of the chance of understanding the concepts and answering the questions. Blindly ticking the boxes can lead to getting success in the examinations. The tragedy is the same objective types of questions are introduced even for the NET/SLET examinations. The examinations that give eligibility to research scholars and future teachers are in line with the entertainment mode of evaluation system used by ‘KaunBanegaKarodpati’ programme (It is a good thing that lifelines like ‘phone a friend’ or ‘double dip’ are not given) .
The subjects that are prescribed have been stagnant and out-dated by decades. The revision of the syllabi now and then is nothing but affixing a new label. The area of concern is taking the language subjects away from literature. For commerce and business management students, literature was denied right from the beginning. It was Letter-writing that was important than the grandeur world of Shakespeare or the beautifully natural world of Wordsworth. Letter -writing became Commercial Correspondence, then Office Communication and finally Executive Communication. Imagine the class room atmosphere for teachers and the students between literature and the clerical work of punctuations and addresses. Is it necessary to teach the students how to write letters, when they have studied literature? The stagnation in the subjects is more for the convenience of the faculty rather than for the easy understanding of the students. Over decades of syllabus framing does not involve content creation at any point of time. I remember, while participating in the Board of Studies of an Autonomous College, the question of material not available for teaching the Accounts maintained by local bodies like Municipal Corporations. The faculty raising the question was good enough to accept the suggestion of contacting a few local bodies and get the material that can be converted into the required content. This should be a regular exercise brought about by the Ph.D. holding faculty. The very purpose of conducting a survey and collecting the primary data as a prelude to writing a thesis is to get the competence to create new topics and create the content for the same.
Many colleges came to possess LCD Projectors and other teaching aids. With the exception of management colleges and a few well managed colleges, most of the other colleges possess them only as show pieces. Efforts are not made for the regular usage of the Projectors. The computers used have out-dated operating systems, free and ineffective anti-virus programme, lack of readiness for the usage, pirated software and any other undesirable aspects. Even though, many DVDs are available about most of the subjects, there is a total dependence on books. The effort made in the absorption ICT is pathetic. The claims made and the realities have a wide margin of difference. There are many books that carry the CDs free of cost. No system is established for collection and usage by either the students or the faculty. Preparing a list of the CDs and making them available to the faculty and students would have led to a better absorption IT in learning.
One more serious problem afflicting higher education is lack of takers for some of the courses. It is heartening to note that the interest in Science Courses is getting revived. But, a serious introspection of what went wrong with these courses can prevent us from making the same mistakes. Coming to science courses, the obsession of science teachers in conducting coaching classes for PUC in total negligence of degree students was the genesis of the problem. In order to make extra money, the whole lot of our science brothers concentrated only on PU classes. During the pre-bifurcation period, the tail was wagging the head: programme of PU classes decided the programmes of Degree Section. It was very painful to hear some of the science faculty saying that it would be suffocating for them to engage only degree classes due to bifurcation. That negligence by the Faculty resulted in the negligence of the Course by the students. Now that we came a long way from bifurcation, the student community is taking a fresh interest in the basic science courses. Arts courses lost their sheen due to making everything easy and making every student to pass. The courses lose their seriousness, if the examination is eyewash. There is also lesser employment by the industry. In addition, the present generation is becoming visual and restless in the absence of doing any work, due to the exposure to the electronic media. Sitting through a class of theory discussion, which does not engage them may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
The Blueprint
The remedies are obvious:
A] Recruitment of Faculty: The vacancies of teaching and non-teaching should be filled up. A separate College Recruitment Board can be established for recruiting teaching and non-teaching staff for private colleges and Government Colleges. Even for the unaided courses, the recruitment of management staff should be done by the Recruitment Board. The Government can come out with a separate scale for the management staff. This will avoid recruitment of unqualified personnel by the managements.
B] Establishment of Consortium of Colleges: A Consortium can be established in a radius of eight to ten kilometres. The area prescribed can vary like a city area or a Taluk or one or two Taluks put together. The idea is to select an area the width of which is not too much for the students to travel in terms of money, time and effort. The Consortium can comprise private, aided, autonomous and Government Colleges in the Consortium area. Apart from ensuring a wider choice of combination available to the students, this can ensure the following:
• Allot different combinations of arts and science so that each college has a distinct combination. A few popular combinations may be allotted for more than one college
• Let a single application form be taken by a student by paying a token application fee (in contrast to the hefty application fee collected by some of the Colleges
• The candidate can fill in the name of the College, the Course and the Combination
• Seats can be allotted as per Government Rules
• If the Colleges in the Consortium are not able to absorb all the students, additional batches can be sanctioned in consultation with the Colleges
• Managements can submit their requirements of faculty through the Consortium, which in turn will get them from the College Recruitment Council
• The Government should have the power of transferring the faculty within the Consortium on the basis of need
C] Revamping the Syllabi & Curriculum: The relevance of the subjects taught and the new subjects to be introduced are to be identified. Expertise can be obtained even from outside the State also. Subjects taught in each of the Courses in various states can be compiled into a list. The strength and relevance of each subject can be discussed before selection of the relevant subjects. For language subjects, importance should be given to literature. Language subjects should be common for all the Courses. Certain hours can be allotted for teaching Phonetics in each of the language subjects and the teaching should be through a complete engagement of the students.
D] Absorption of ICT: Libraries can have a digital section comprising the CDs provided along with the books. The Faculty and students can use and copy them. DVDs marketed by CNBC TV 18, National Geographic, All India Management Association etc can be purchased and stored in the library for usage by students and the faculty. An ITC Handler can be appointed from among the faculty to ensure that all these teaching aids are put in a readily usable condition and virus-free.
E) Appointment of Academic Handlers: In every department, an Academic Handler can be appointed in charge of two or more junior teachers. The Handler will hold periodic counselling and ensure the faculty to visit book stores regularly, visit book exhibitions, present papers in conferences, use the ICT for class room discussion, take up the examinations, write books, join professional organisations to attend the guest lectures arranged etc. The Handler has to ensure a continuous and intensive attempt on the part of his wards for improving qualifications and also quality.
Conclusion: A critical examination of the present system in its wholesome length can bring out many other shortcomings and components to the Blueprint. It is restricted to this length because the suggested measures themselves will take a quite a lot of grit on the part of the Government and Universities to make them see the light of day. The process of implementation will guide us to go further.
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