Monday, December 5, 2022

Higher Education not merely a retail trade in knowledge

  • Society became status conscious
  • Structural reforms sought
  • NAAC has to perform overseeing role
  • Providing a strong organisational base

In the past institutes of higher education in India used to derive recognition by virtue of the presence of teaches who won accolades from parents, students and the academic fraternity et al. One may argue that the educational institutes were limited and the educational pursuits among people were megre in those days and as such it was the situation. Yet, the institutes of eminence are still very few, some of them retained their shine irrespective of the passage of time. These days every alternate teacher wants to be called or styled himself as professor.

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Society has become highly status conscious. Starting with government departments and other organs of the state have changed to the practice of upgrading the job titles- thanks to the motivational reason personnel management education accords. Even highly reputed premiere institutes had to change the name of the Chief of the organisation from ‘Principal’ to ‘Director General’. Now coming back to the university educational system, need arises to credit the institutes of higher education and further ranking them. This is necessary because of their proliferation. National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) was entrusted with the task of enrolling institutions for accreditation under the new education policy.

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3rd education policy in India

India passed three educational polices so far and the 29th July 2020 policy was the third and the latest. This policy is aimed to bring about significant structural reforms in higher education. It has come into existence when the education sector presently is reeling through a phase of total turbulence. If NAAC performs its functions true to the letter, the higher education system gets a major shake-up and the regulatory dimension will acquire prime importance with the support from various institutions. Higher education in India is in the concurrent list of the constitution. The first task of the structural reform is to bring all the states together and accept the structural components proposed. Secondly, the university governance system has been typically modelled on British style and evolved differently with hybridization and adjustments.

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Now the growing technology and sphere of education is emerging as a game changer. The educational policy of 2020 was announced during the pandemic covid 19 which shattered the ethic of class room education, changed the concept of time and space related to the university system. Higher education is called upon to prove its performance mainly under the surveillance of NAAC and other institutional framework proposed in the policy with a snowballing thrust on current online learning and free choice of the students in selecting subjects.

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Separation of disciplines

The major problem of current higher education system in India is rigid separation of disciplines, with early specialisation and channelling of students to narrow areas of study, devoid of the scope for the development of cognitive skills. Research is a glaring causality in all most all university and colleges and lack of mechanism for peer – reviewed researches and improving competitiveness among students. Teaching community also suffer from lack of time career progression based on merit recognition, and increasing stagnation in providing inputs to the taught.

The new higher education policy aims to address many problems by providing a strong organisational base and more freedom to the student in choice of subjects and all round development of academic and intellectual faculties. This is a new ball game calling for change in institutional norms, attitudes of the people who matter in the governance and also the end user responsiveness and needs for knowledge, science and technology.

The NAAC is ordained to accord accreditation to institutions of higher education in the country based on their assessment of the former’s capability in teaching, learning, support to students and management components there in it also accords grades A+, A, B++, B+, B, C and D to the institutions.

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Telangana lagging behind

In India only less than one fourth (21%) of the total institutes are accredited as of now. While some states like Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh fared better in getting number of institutions accredited. Some states are yet to catch up with the process. A recent report of the survey conducted by NAAC showed that Telangana is lagging with only 11% of its higher educational institutes getting accredited. According to the report, there are 1976 colleges in Telangana with only 141 institutions obtaining accreditation of these 87 are private and self-financed, unlike the rest which are government run and grant in aid organisation.

To contrast, there are 4313 accredited higher educational institutions in accordance to their procedures in entire USA. They are both private and public managed. China has only accreditated public institutions.

The process of accreditation is made mandatory now in India. The NAAC was reported to have asked the Telangana state education department to take up on internal survey to assess the reasons for the inability of institutions for non-compliance with a view mainly to hasten the process of accreditation and help removal of the hurdles.

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No takers for engineering, pharmacy, management seats

There is generally full acceptance among the institutes to get accreditation but there are glaring issues for fulfilling the requirements of accreditation. Large number of vacancies of teaching staff in the collages pose an important problem for them. The faculty student ratio is low and the quality of teaching is low.This had led to ‘Student Flight’ to the neighbouring states from Telangana for their respective studies. It is reported that the assessment of NAAC in Telangana showed more than 1.34 Lakh engineering seats, 8299 B Pharmacy seats and 3362 management seats had no takes between 2015-16 and 2018-19. The reasons of course are far too many. Apart from non-availability of good teaching staff, lack of innovative, new and demand driven courses in the institutes figure glaringly as an important reason. Further, there is no scope for faculty development and new knowledge flows. There is the phenomenon of increased number of private universities getting permissions and also simultaneously filling the void in requirements.

The NAAC and the state departments of education have to carefully negotiate to fill the gap apart from NAAC taking a strict controlling role. After all, institutes of higher education need acceptable degree of autonomy and free air to breath.

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Prof. Sivamohan Marepalli
Prof. Sivamohan Marepalli
The writer is a researcher, consultant and teacher. He worked at ASCI and had brief stints at Cornell University, IWMI and other international organizations.

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