Who’s Eligible for Teaching in colleges and universities?

Richard Feynman (1918-1988), an American physicist and Noble laureate considered to be an all time great teacher, held the view that teaching is more important than research. “I don't believe I ca...

Richard Feynman (1918-1988), an American physicist and Noble laureate considered to be an all time great teacher, held the view that teaching is more important than research. "I don't believe I can really do without teaching…," he said.
Selection for a post and eligibility for the same are two different things. While the eligibility for a post doesn't guarantee selection and subsequent appointment, the Selection depends upon the suitability of the candidate. In the past, the candidates with 55% marks at the Masters Degree level in a relevant subject from an Indian University, or an equivalent, were eligible for College lectureship and screening tests were conducted by the state PSC to shortlist the number of candidates for the interview. Today, the candidates with only NET/SLET or PhD are eligible for the College/University teaching as per UGC norms. If MPhils are made eligible for the same, what is wrong in it. At least there will be a wide choice before the interview panel for selecting the best candidates for teaching. It is not only the NET/SLET or PhD alone which should qualify a person for teaching in a College or a University; the candidates also need to have soft skills.
Many academics and scholars believe that significance of NET/SLET for the eligibility of teaching can't be outrightly rebuffed keeping in view the standard of this test. They believe that only a few qualify the test and that these tests demand the diametrical comprehension and wider assimilation of the subject concerned. They say that in comparison to MPhil, NET qualified candidates merit higher position. They also argue that today MPhill degrees are sold in an exhibition and getting an MPhil degree is not a big deal and that there are thousands of candidates who have obtained MPhil/PhD degrees from third rate universities without actually going there, and the degrees are not worth the paper on which they are printed on. Many academics also agree on this point that it is easier for candidates to obtain PhD/MPhil degree by unfair means either by corruption or by pleasing the guides than qualifying the competitive NET/SLET.
PhD is a far superior degree than MPhil but both are research degrees and I don't agree with the notion that MPhils are worthless degrees. MPhil is a training course in advanced research work and a stepping stone to excel in a PhD program. Earning MPhil degree is also a legitimate higher degree qualification in its own right. MPhil candidates obtain their degrees after a lot of hard work, which requires submission of dissertation and collection of primary and secondary data. The main parameter of research output in both the cases is the quality of research work and publication and without it, the degrees have no value. There are MPhils who are extremely brilliant but are helpless to continue their PhD programs due to one or the other reasons and it is not justifiable to close the doors for them.  There is a need to do much more for those who sweat and toil to acquire research qualifications and they can't be left to languish without any hope.
It is also true that any NET/SLET qualified candidate can't necessarily be deemed to be apt for the job of teaching in colleges and universities. With a single examination, we should not certify a MSc degree holder to become a teacher ignoring the other factors which are essential for the job. The NET/SLET qualification is just a screening test and it can't evaluate the candidate's in-depth knowledge for teaching and research with a single, day-long examination, despite the fact that for attempting a single question one needs to have a thorough knowledge of the subject. Then, there's the question of those candidates who clear NET/SLET get jobs in Colleges/Universities and whether the private institutions also absorb these people with UGC pay scales? Surely that is not the case. Then what is the purpose of putting the candidates under a lot of stress to prepare and try to clear this examination. In many cases, Universities and self-financing Colleges directly appoint PhD candidates, leaving out the NET/SLET candidates.
Prof M A Charoo, a renowned academician, says, "during 1965-67 I was taught chemistry by a teacher in AMU, this teacher was a great scientist and 3-4 of his scholars got their PhD degrees every year but unfortunately he lacked the art of transmitting his knowledge". He believes that a post-graduate/graduate degree should be sufficient eligibility for teachers in higher/school education but for the selection as teacher, the person should be assessed in two steps – one is to assess his knowledge about the subject and the second is to find out if he or she can teach his/her students in an easy understandable language so that at least 70-80% students understand what they have been taught. A person therefore should be assessed practically by making him to take a class. This way I believe we can provide very good teachers. What if a person is armed MA/MSc/MPhil/PhD/ NET/
SLET qualification but does not fulfill the two requirements, then he/she will be a liability rather than a good teacher, he argues.
Renowned Scholar Prof Rouf Khan,  who is now teaching in a foreign university, says that a highly qualified person is supposed to be knowledgeable and therefore a better choice for teaching position at any level but it is also important to see that he/she has attained knowledge and not just acquired degrees only. At present there are thousands of candidates who have PhD degrees, but how many PhDs have so far contributed significantly to their field of research. We see at present most of the research degrees are just degrees. Journals do publish to earn $200 per publication. Research guides are chosen on the basis of availability. We must work towards changing the education policy and our social setup, he argues, adding that he knows many professors from Aligarh and they always were biased towards selecting candidates of Kashmir University for teaching and research positions and instead preferred the ones who had degrees from Aligarh, and other qualifications and skills were ignored.
While as the selection process for the competitive exams like IAS/KAS, for which a simple graduate is eligible, is a long drawn process and really determines the perseverance and passion of the candidates for the job, the same kind of evaluation is not present for the selection of teachers in the higher education. The UGC regulatory mechanism for higher education should aim to improve quality in teaching and learning, rather than leave institutions constrained by over-regulations, which proves to be counter-productive. The UGC needs to come up with full-fledged directives and address all these concerns.
(Feedback at amin_malik_ku@hotmail.com)

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