Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Made In India- Gazette

Two years ago, on the threshold of a new national election,  the University of Delhi  was in spate.  The vice -chancellor, wielding the gauntlet of power, had been running amok. His associate, the pro-vice-chancellor, stepped down and retreated inexplicably,  into an FMS cell. The rest of the vice-chancellor’s team, personally  recruited, surrounded him and  sang   ceaseless hosannas.  In fact, such is the aura of a Vice Chancellor in office that teachers from undergraduate colleges   shunned food and drink till the very end , identifying with his  blundering ambitions.  Over high drama, with massive student participation, the FYUP was rolled back.

  University teachers went back to work with good intentions hoping  to restore university life to normalcy. The trouble with these good intentions, is that they paved the way to a rather murky  CBCS hell. The university was left to its own devices, with a vengeful  vice-chancellor  hard-driving  the last big nails  into the  coffin of the university. Appointments continued to be  stage- managed  and   retiring teachers  were denied  their rightful dues by throwing in a spanner into  a well-oiled  and efficiently  functioning  pension and provident fund system. 

 The MHRD, has for some years now, conducted itself as one of the last colonial outposts of Independent India: visualizing  its role as braving it out and attempting  to instill  honour and discipline among unruly natives.  Smriti Irani’s homespun headship did not disturb us initially, because Sibal and Tharoor, despite their Indian roots,   were unabashedly dazzled by foreign degrees and the proverbial pieces of silver, lining the coffers of private universities. 

In the  summer of 2015 the University of Delhi   retained  its hostile vice-chancellor and a new  Choice Based  Credit System  (CBCS) that magically spread its tentacles  over the entire university. Why did we not resist this?  Arguably, dismantling FYUP had taken up a lot of our energies and dissipated the rest.  Great discontent and embitterment replaced the fight that had gone out of our lives, along with  all semblance of light.
We crawled awhile in a dark tunnel, supervised by   ministries and commissions suffering from tunnel vision themselves, awaiting  the coming of the new Vice-Chancellor.  He has come, blowing upon his conch, but we cannot see him and he cannot hear us at all. Universities now  recruit Vice-Chancellors and   ensure the  dimming of   spotlights  so  that both  vision and perception become a constant  blur. The machinations in higher education are no longer put in place by one or two whimsical individuals: this is an amorphous, gnawing  force, eventually  reducing  institutions  to rubble. A new Gazette has   unfurled   itself on  staffroom notice boards, offering  solutions to all our problems.  

 Q. How do we deal with increased  student strength,  diminishing infrastructure, non-recruitment of  teachers and vacancies that have not been filled in years? 
A: Combine  two practicals into one, and  make all  tutorials  advisory.  Our prime minister is able to speak to the entire nation whenever he needs to  through one solitary  mann ki baat.  Teachers  should not find  it difficult to  put forward their mann ki baat  to miniscule groups of hundreds.
Increase individual teacher workload  from 14 to 22 and 16 to 24 hours)This will  automatically reduce the number of teachers and  do away with all  problems of recruitment  

Q. Aren’t university teachers in India in any case teaching far more than their contemporaries  in other parts of the world?  
A:  Our rules we must make in India!  Teachers will earn more under the seventh pay commission implementation. They must be seen earning their money; forty hour work weeks indicated at the time of the sixth pay commission, will now be implemented

Q.  Teaching overloads will not help teachers or students.  Traffic rules do not allow overloaded vehicles on the street. Why must students and teachers be put under pressure?
A: Vehicles   are not allowed to carry too much weight. In the case of the university, we have truncated  or thrown out each and every   lode-bearing curriculum. Our schooling systems have failed and so have our vocational training systems. Therefore the Universities must turn into Skill Development Centres.

 Q. For years young teachers have held ad-hoc jobs and have also gone on to raise families without maternity leave or the security of  summer salaries.  Surely this is demoralising and distressful?
A: They were employed under the previous regime.  We have sufficient candidates of our own, so order will be restored soon enough.

Q.    Wouldn’t you   agree that poor infrastructure and lack of facilities   impedes the daily functioning of the university.  
 A: Undue emphasis  is laid on infrastructure.” Lectures can be held behind a banyan tree.” (in the words of a visiting NAAC team)

Q. Classrooms are filled with students way beyond recommended numbers.  Surely, students need mentoring and guidance and ideal studying conditions. Teachers also need to add to their learning.
A: Each teacher shall take on holistic responsibility( the emotional and mental wellbeing)  of  around 25  students each, over and above the  prescribed minimum teaching schedule. This will take make for a productive 40 hour week .    The emphasis will be on teacher- student interaction, and will maintain teacher student ratio. We have also highlighted the journals that will accept research papers that teachers  may wish to write  in their free time. A master plan of research topics is on its way to  standardise research.  We are efficient and we shall deliver.

Some questions still remain unanswered:

The CBCS has not provided the transformative make-in-India  impetus   inundating each  pore  of current government policy in the   academic year that  has recently concluded.  The FYUP has been born again as a  three year program, renamed as CBCS, and is of little academic worth. CBCS is another hurriedly cobbled venture  with  little legitimacy. The English (Hons)Syllabus  is a packed pot-pourri over two years.  At the end of  two years, we hurriedly push students with half-baked inputs into the high temperatures of research production, possibly scorching and burning them for life. This cannot be   the raison-d-etre of   literature or liberal arts programmes.  FYUPs delinquent compulsory foundation  programmes  have been replaced by  banal  AECC compulsories under CBCS.
English writing skills leave much to be desired, going by what has been on display.  Over several years,   the emphasis on the ability to think has been replaced by the skill required to fill in blanks. Important readings, literature, essays and poetry have been shelved, making language and disciplines functional, thereby reducing learning to  limited skill. This USP, entrenched in our schooling system, is now taking over university syllabi.  This is not what we want for resurgent India. We do not want to ‘make in India,’ a soulless and unthinking future, for generations of our young citizens. 

The cruel trick that the CBCS plays by calling itself a choice based credit system is now being  stamped  on all  learning schedules  in the second year. University Departments mandate and select one option in each credit course (that has six to eight options). This is reinforced by Academic Planning Committees and implemented by college departments. The student is taught a truncated main course and has very little choice when it comes to the credit courses as well. 

In the Sciences, students tend to opt  for  credit courses requiring  fewer  hours. This  undesirable and unintelligent   precedent   of privileging  some main courses over others   highlights the  short sighted rules that have been  set in motion.

 Responding to the continued onslaught on Higher education, teachers have put aside differences, taken to the streets, flocked to the GBM, boycotted evaluations, and listened in one voice to the DUTA leadership. This collective show of strength is important and welcome for it will now begin to define us. Long marches and protests await and this will be a grim, protracted struggle.  
“Teachers of the University; Stay United! Else we stand to lose pretty much everything!

1 comment:

  1. The higher education in the country seems to be in a mess, thanks to ad hoc policies/ measures taken by the authorities, with no thought given to the the teachers on who are the ones at the forefront of our education system.