-Sri B.V.Raghunandan,Associate Professor of Commerce,  SVS College, Bantwal
Teaching is one of the oldest professions of mankind and also the source of sustenance of the human race. The type of knowledge explosion that has made human knowledge to surpass human understanding, as Will Durant puts in his Story of Philosophy, the teaching profession assumed the onus of carrying it on from generation to generation. The ancient time teaching in the Eastern part of the World saw colleges and universities getting established away from the places of civilization so that education need not be corrupted by the street smart practices of the civilized world. The Indian tradition was to get the education from the Gurus who were living in the forests or universities established far away from the human dwellings and trade centers. The Greek practices have shown that the teachers lived in the same society and guided the members of the society in resetting their lives based on a sound philosophy. The teachings of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle got transmitted from over many centuries even though the method of storage of knowledge could not stand the passing of time. The wisdom continued to live because their teachings could very well stand the test of time. The folly of the system was that Socrates was rewarded for his teaching through a punishment in the form of hemlock. This should have taught the world that teaching in true earnest for the common man will be punished because the world in general does not accept the truth. That could have been the reason that the teaching institutions were away from the society. The teachers’ full time occupation was thinking, learning and teaching. The value of that can be understood by only a discerning few with the required intellect. People who value everything in terms of a visible physical form or weight can not understand the value of this.
Very tentatively and fearfully, we touch the Fast Forward button and come to the present day and modern world. Until recently, even though the schools, colleges and universities were very much in the vicinity of the civilized world. The educationists were intellectuals, even though they might have been illiterates or semi-illiterates, who understood the value of teaching and expected the teachers not to do anything more than teaching. Quality in learning was preserved. With the society becoming wealthier, a large number of well qualified promoters and policy makers entered the education scene. It is but natural that one expects revolutionary changes. Changes did take place along with massacre, which is very much part of any revolution. The type of depravity to which education and the teachers were moved compels us to call these educationists to be educational contractors.
The emergence of commercial dimension to education took not only the education and the educationists in a different direction, but also created a distortion in the priorities of the teaching faculty. Many of the teachers are prisoners of the compulsions created by the system, while the new generation moulded itself to the existing model. Many an institution created for reforming the system made attempts to continue the system in the wrong direction in which it is traversing rather than reversing the trend and bring it back to the changed direction.
The first institution that has failed miserably is University Grants Commission (UGC). In its effort to make the teachers to be more accountable, it identified four areas for the teacher: teaching, research, publication and consultancy. Carrying on the tasks in the non-teaching areas, it is not made known whether it can be at the cost of teaching or in addition to teaching. Undertaking a project can take the teacher away from the institution of teaching. Going to Andhra University for participation in a Refresher Course in 1994, I had the occasion to listen to a Resource Person, who was a faculty in the Post-Graduate Department of Commerce. He was boasting about the number of projects he was working on and concluded that he had not entered his Department for the previous 11 years. For 11 years, he was a non-teaching faculty. The acceptance of the American model, where a researcher continues his work in exclusion of teaching in his institution compartmentalises teaching and research so that the benefit of class room teaching material being used in research can not be thought of. The inputs from research being used in the class room teaching are also remote as the area of research is too specific as in the case of taking a statistical survey. The European practice of an expert committee awarding Ph.D after examining the quality of material used in the class room teaching will go a long way in blending class room teaching and research. The UGC should examine the model and bring it for adoption in India.
The second institution is the respective universities. In their best wisdom, they chose to introduce semester sytem at the prompting done by UGC. Anyone supporting semester was considered to be progressive and anybody else having any reservation about it was branded as conservatives opposing any change. If the semester has a tag like credit-based, it is better. If it is choice based, it is still better. The resultant is the multiplicity of examinations in which the students and the faculty are continuously engaged. Instead of two terminal examinations and one practical examination and one university examination in a year, it is four terminal examinations, two practical examinations and two university examinations. Naturally, the faculty is under the compulsion of evaluating the students rather than teaching the students. For the predominant part of the year, the faculty does not teach, but is engaged in the conduct of examinations and evaluation of the papers.  In the odd semester examination conducted by Mangalore University, the teachers did the evaluation work for 59 days regarding BBM papers. 59 days of evaluation work per semester was done by the faculty. Deduct another 15 days for conducting two terminal examinations. One can imagine how many classes were conducted in the following even semester by the concerned faculty. What happened was a big academic circus or tamasha.
The third institution is NAAC, which is being talked about like the CIA in the USA or KGB in the erstwhile Soviet Union. The quality of an institution is being reduced to certain decimal numbers between 2 and 3. People talk about 2.67 or 2.89 etc as the quality of their college. The NAAC Committee expects the colleges to move the sky and bring it down to earth. Conferences, research projects, community development programmes, outreach programmes, certificate courses, and the list goes on. There is no mention of the class work or the reading habits of the faculty. At no point of time the peer team is interested in asking the faculty about the frequency of library visits, visits to book-exhibition or visits to the book shops. Neither any attempt is made to encourage the colleges to arrange book exhibitions in the colleges themselves for the benefit of students and the public. NAAC does not realize the fact that what they are asking for is making the Colleges to function like Mac Donald Hamburger Points. The colleges are getting standardized preparing themselves for the approval of the Peer Committee every five years rather than serving the interest of the students. The Faculty is taken away from teaching by a wide margin. Many a faculty is very busy taking up minor projects, Ph.D., programmes, Publications, presentation in seminars in far away places including foreign countries. The number of working days lost in the process of global trotting is not being considered as a serious matter. The total result of all the people presenting the papers, and the advancement the concerned discipline witnessed make the whole thing a zero sum game. The time allotted for the presentation in such conferences and the seriousness with which the conferences are conducted are under a very thick cloud. Very often, either the proceedings are not published or none of the reports are sent to any government department in order to help in the policy framing. The total number of working days lost in the process adds to the days of non-teaching by the faculty.
Another contributor is the government. Every single public holiday is applicable to the educational institutions first. National holidays, state holidays, local holidays and suspension of classes to accommodate government sponsored programmes give the faculty either no work or non-teaching work. The programmes may be good for exposing the students to the serious problems of the society. They can as well be conducted during the birth day celebrations of the national leaders. What better way is there to celebrate the birthday of great leaders than to conduct social awareness programmes for the benefit of the students? Again, the educational institutions can be exempted from these holidays. On those days, a half an hour programme can be conducted to make the students aware of the significance of the day. That will make the faculty to be teaching for a few more days.
The last one to contribute is the faculty itself. With the passing of days, professionalism is decreasing in among the teaching faculty. Taking care of the family, performing religious duties, attending the social functions and other unprofessional spending of time has become the hallmark of a teacher. A globe-trotting teacher did not furnish the details of the examiners valuing in the concerned subject to the Chairman of the Board in the recently conducted Mangalore University examinations evaluation creating a last minute crisis. When the faculty was asked for explanation, the answer was that it was not possible write the names of 23 people on a paper. A person who can present a paper in the international seminar can not write down the names of 23 examiners and the number of scripts valued by them. So much for the professionalism! The habit of visiting the library is vanishing. The expectation that each faculty will possess a private collection of books appears ludicrous. Many appreciate the habit of buying books in others, but they never make it a point to adopt it for themselves. Teaching and learning are inseparable and it is very difficult to say whether one is teaching or learning even though the faculty may be in the process of teaching. Not spending time in learning makes the teaching to be a pain for the teacher. No doubt, it is a bigger pain for the students who are unfortunate to be in the class of such faculty. Where each faculty becomes a mobile encyclopedia over the years, there is nothing more the students can ask for. Tthe funny things and extra-fittings the educational contractors expect out of the faculty will look silly in essence.
The net effect of all the actions of these institutions is that the faculty teaches less and indulges in non-teaching work more. The passion one witnesses in the faculty for the subjects taught and the concepts contained in the subjects are waning. A good many are becoming automatons that get activated on the entry into the class and deactivated at the second bell. The student community also becomes a victim to confine their learning to the class work, and the learning is conditioned by the toll of the bell. It is a million dollar question as to how we liberate Prometheus from the narrow confines of boorish expectations and let him unleash his power in the true enlightenment of the students and the faculty.





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