This is a continuation of the previous article which appeared in Pallikkuttam and authored by Dr. D Dhanuraj**
In the previous edition of Pallikkutam, I wrote on the Government run arts & science colleges in Kerala and the various guidelines that plague the education sector leading to the inefficacy and poor standards for the quality outcomes. In this article also, I would like to focus on the quality and the factors affecting the Education sector.
There is no doubt about the necessity of teachers to keep on updating their knowledge and understanding of the subject forever. The college or university they are attached to, shall provide the best environment for the intellectual pursuit and clinical labs in their pursuit to knowledge. Unfortunately the colleges in Kerala are too much politicized as a result of the high state control over the matters related to the education.
Vice Chancellors and the college principals are always under the shadow of the political upmanship of the cadres of the political parties. As a result, their effectiveness and their abilities are often compromised, while caught up on the quagmire of keeping personal integrity vs. the fraudulence of political equations of the governing body from time to time. Appointments to the key posts are always under cloud as the education system is devoid of transparency at many levels. If the position like Vice Chancellor is prestigious in the academic community, it is increasingly becoming a challenge for the honest men and women to accept this designation in the recent times. Some dare to challenge and withstand the pressure extended by the political cronyism while others yield to them.
Now, coming back to the teachers, they say international exposure is a key to improving the quality. But how much supportive are our systems for the educator to travel abroad and participate in International Conferences? There is a cumbersome procedure for the teachers to travel abroad to participate in any international conference. In Kerala, the travel requires permission from Director of Collegiate Education to Chief Minister level. It is time consuming and laborious. One does not understand the logic behind such a long process as any violation and illegal activity by the Professor/teacher while being abroad is dealt by the regular laws mostly.
Online presentations/video conferencing/webinars can save both time and money. Unfortunately, the online presentations and conferences are not still popular with the academic communities in our country. Our colleges are mostly ill-equipped with the poor broadband connections and conference facilities offered. Moreover, as I had mentioned in the previous article, the teachers are not exposed to such kind of presentations and conferences for the poor acquaintance within and external depending on their exposure. Gone are the days of the approval systems and one should be more bothered about the webinars and online communities of scholars! As long as the promotions and increments depend on the number of publications and presentations made in the national and international conferences held in India (foreign trips are tricky for the above reasons), the standard and quality could only be watered down since the quantity has to be accommodated over quantity for an oversupply of scholars and shorter demand of the institutions.
The prevailing Seminar guidelines are outdated and there is urgent need to revise it reflecting the current reality. In the present guidelines, teachers are asked to pay huge sum after auditing citing flimsy reasons. For eg: Rs 35 per person/ per day for refreshment, Rs 750 -1000 for resource person who is supposed to speak for 90 minutes session, purchase of stationery limited to Rs 1400/- etc. It is very clear that these norms are outdated and make things very complicated. At the end even those who want to organize good interactions and seminars find it very funny to get speakers on board under the present guidelines. So they will be forced to deviate from the set rules by rigging the procedures knowingly.
It is difficult to fix the quality in an already fixed framework of the conferences and seminars especially when the regulators, the implementing agency and the beneficiaries remain with the organisers. This raises serious issues with the top down approach or very centralized planning still existing in the academic circles.
In the previous article, I had mentioned about the clerical work involved in purchasing and budgeting processes. One might wonder if one could order the books from e-commerce websites like flipkart and amazon. I am told that these websites are not still approved by the departments. Teachers have to visit the conventional book stalls to order the books.
Now, if we look at the issues plaguing the education system at the university level, the big responsibility that these universities hold in Kerala has been and is remaining to the conduct of examination and giving away the certificates and not promoting research. One should strive for strengthening the colleges so that they become autonomous and independent and the universities shall become in house centres of excellence in different of areas of research. In a state like Kerala, the trust of the general public with the universities and colleges are waning so any proposal to have in house examinations and evaluations would raise doubts about the transparency in the system. If the private universities are allowed to operate in Kerala and all the universities are given a level playing field to set the norms, autonomy of the colleges publicized through their certificates would be valued in a market economy and would be benchmarked along with the global best or the nation best at least. This would reduce the scope of malpractice and abuse in the system.
‘Equality’ as the focus of the argument for promoting higher education in Kerala, the sector has been strained by the resource allocation of the Government as the decisions are most of the times taken not in the basis of demand and merit. Decline in quality of higher education is inevitable given the ecosystem prevailing in the sector.
The Government of any day should see improving the quality of higher education as their biggest social commitment towards the society. They are bothered not about the quality but about the quantity. This quantity is a measurement of how distributive their justice to the society is. There is no objective evaluation of the cost of services delivered by the public providers. As a result, the competitive environment and level playing field is missing in the sector.
Read the first part of the Article here: An Account of the Woes of the Indian Educator! (PART 1)
* The author is the Chairman of CPPR. His views are personal and does not reflect or anyways represent the views of Centre for Public Policy Research
**This article is a reproduction of views which appeared in Pallikkutam, a monthly magazine published by Rajagiri Group of Educational Institutions