Infusing excellence in higher education
There is a need to carry out radical changes in higher education to ensure its quality so that we can form best human capital to shape the future of our society
ACADEMICS BY DR MUHAMMAD AMIN MALIK
The importance of education is best described by a famous Chinese proverb “If you want to think one year ahead, plant rice, If you want to think 10 years ahead, plant trees, But if you want to think 100 years ahead, give education to people." Best education is a guarantee for durable peace, progress, prosperity, integrity and honesty.
The school is one of the most important formal agencies of education which plays major role in molding the ideas, habits and attitudes of a child with a view to produce well balanced personalities. Higher education is an important stage in the ladder-type continuum of education. The definition of higher education includes a hierarchy of institutions and programs. Central universities, state universities, private universities, IITs, NIETs, IIMs and various colleges offering general, specialized or professional education, occupy the spectrum of higher education.
It is at the level of higher education that one’s shaping and sharpening into a quality human resource actually takes place. Just like we have high resolving power telescopes which can distinguish the constituents of a double star in space and a microscope of high resolving power which can distinguish germs from its surroundings, the basic objective of higher education is to increase this mental resolving power of the human mind and add real value to human resources to produce scientists, intellectuals, leaders, wealth creators and administrators who shape the future of our society.
Today everybody seems to be after quality education and great talks, research papers in conferences, seminars and workshops are being presented but the reality is different. Once I was discussing quality higher education with a friend of mine, now a retired college principal and he narrated a humorous story that when he appeared for the principals interview in J&K PSC, some years back, the Chairman during the interview session told him that “how can he amuse us with some joke of his college?” where he was working as acting principal then. He told the panel that “what joke I can tell you …..We have 300 students in the college and among them 250 are Sumo Drivers….. “The whole interview panel burst into a peal of laughter.
The huge quantitative expansion in the higher education over the last two decades with 80 degree colleges, 100 private colleges, many universities and dozens of extension centers has thrown us new challenges in terms of declining quality in these institutions in view of the inadequate infrastructure, faculty and other facilities. It appears that even if we meet our targets of higher access and enrollment, even if we spend huge amounts on higher education and even if we open a large number of new colleges, the issue of quality education will continue to hang over. Further, never has a college degree been more important and at the same time never has it been more expensive. With the result that our universities and colleges have remained as factories churning out thousands and thousands of graduates and postgraduates only to be unemployable.
A culture of rote learning, lack of application of knowledge and a poor examination system have undermined our higher education. The system is not fostering critical thinking, innovative use of knowledge, problem solving skills, nor are the students taught to face the real life problems. Our study focuses on testing our memory capacity. We are so worried about test scores and in this way we have narrowed the scope of education thus devaluing the credibility of a degree and wasting the best human talent. Further the component of moral education is also missing as our education is blindly directed towards the materialistic end, which is degrading our moral standards and weakening the social fabric of our society.
The common entrance test (CET) and the AIEEE examination badly affect the science academics in the colleges as most of the candidates register in the colleges for BSc classes but never turn up till these exams are over. These students have huge shortage of attendance and they are never being stopped for appearing in the university examinations. I remember that when I was in GDC Sopore in 1997-2001 we used to monitor the attendance of our students and send reports to the principal and next day their parents were notified about their wards attendance shortage. This component is now missing and it has emboldened the students and the parents that even if they fail on other fronts, they can still manage to appear for university exams and get a degree. We cannot discourage these students on this front of appearing in the competitive exams but we need to shift these exams in Jan, Feb or March so that students have the option to attend the college in a regular manner.
There is a disappointment among the students that there are no better prospects in obtaining an academic degree. So they lack vigor and zest to take serious academics in the colleges. Probably we need to have special cells in our colleges for counseling these guys and make them clear that more 60% jobs available every year in India or in J&K state, require a graduate qualification which includes prestigious IAS, IFS and KAS competitive exams. How good future a graduate will have if he qualifies IAS, IFS or KAS just after coming out from an academic college at a young age? They also need to be told that there are other ways of building ones career through academics and research etc. In my classroom lectures I have always been spending few minutes telling students about the bright future they will have if they pursue serious academics in the college.
Apart from this, our universities have to come out with syllabi which are job-oriented and which will reduce the wide gap between industries and academic institutions. There should be an interface between society, industry and educational institutions. There is a need to design and propose new courses to see the emerging global trends and to meet all professional requirements. The new syllabi so formed must have long term prospects. But it must not be done at the cost of academic subjects. The academic subjects like the arts and sciences have not become redundant even in the most developed countries. These subjects provide the rigorous academic training that enable students to succeed across a number of fields later in life.
Further there is a need to develop some of the existing top colleges into model colleges with two principals, one each for administration and academics so that administration and academics are run with the same pace and perfection. Let their be all kinds of facilities like internet, LCD projectors, well-equipped laboratories, other aids and special cells for career counseling and coaching etc and a comfortable atmosphere where we can create and share Knowledge. In order to make it meaningful, admissions in these colleges should be restricted through competitive test.I am sure that in just in 3-4 years time there will be a great improvement on the quality of teaching, interaction and research and we will reap a good harvest by producing quality graduates and in the course of time it will percolate down to other colleges. Apart from this, the college principals have to opt for NAAC inspection and urge the Govt to implement the findings of NAAC in letter and spirit. The National Accreditation and Assessment Committee (NAAC) is an autonomous body established by UGC to assess and accredit institutions of higher education and to standardize them.
There is an old saying that “A group of horses led by a lion can defeat a group of lions led by a horse”. The successful operation of an educational institution requires energetic and competent administrators who can really turn around the things. In the whole process of college education, the college principals are the pivot on which the whole system turns. They set the academic tone and work actively with teachers to develop and maintain high curriculum standards, evaluate the functioning of its own staff - teaching and non-teaching, monitor students educational progress, establish performance goals and objectives, manage career counseling. They visit classrooms, observe teaching methods, handle student discipline and attendance problems.
Over a period of time, there have been reports that administrative mismanagement, personalized dealings, indiscipline, polarization of staff, lobbyism and apathy towards students are creating a passive and non-vibrant environment for academics which is actually rotting the whole system. The root cause lies in the lack of leadership qualities in the administrators. This is where the Govt may contribute positively by bringing in more precision in the appointment of college principals. There is a need to change the precedence of appointing the college principles by the state PSC where the large weightage is placed on seniority of a person. Let there be descriptive written examination and guidance of UGC rules for selecting college principals so that only appropriate people get the chance to come forward. Further these administrators must be given a chance to visit the top academic and professional intuitions of India and stay there to obtain the first hand knowledge about the latest trends in academics and administration.
Over the years the Higher Education Department J&K, has assumed a very gigantic size and the system is now a large complex body dealing sensitive issues. We have reached a point where the need for bringing about radical changes in its structure can no longer be ignored. We need to have Higher Education Commission with members and a chairman to reorganize it academically and administratively.
There should be a concern over the quality of education in our higher educational intuitions and its relevance today. It is therefore, highly desirable that educationists, academicians, bureaucrats and politicians sit together, discuss these present issues on education and share experiences and contemplate on ingenious solutions of provide quality education. We need to think how we can have best universities, colleges, renowned scholars, innovative principals, passionate teachers and gifted students so that we can form best human capital to shape the future of our society.
(The author is an Associate Professor at the Department of Physics Amar Singh College, Srinagar. Feedback at email@example.com)
Lastupdate on : Mon, 20 Jun 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 20 Jun 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 21 Jun 2011 00:00:00 IST
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