National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), a sovereign body was established by University Grants Commission (UGC) in 1994 on the recommendations of National Education Policy-1986 with an aim to assess and accredit the higher education institutions in order to enhance and improve the quality of higher education in the country. NAAC has identified 34 key indicators distributed among seven criteria on which an institution is assessed. The criteria are: Curricular Aspects; Teaching-Learning & Evaluation; Research, Innovations& Extension; Infrastructure & Learning Resources; Student Support &Progression; Governance, Leadership & Management; and Institutional Values & Best Practices. These criteria are relevant to the universities and colleges of the country, but the scale of evaluation varies from college to university. For a college much focus is on teaching, learning and evaluation whereas in university core attraction point is research, consultancy & extension. After calculating CGPA, the grades being granted to the institution by NAAC based on its performance which varies from A++ to C.
The UGC has made the NAAC accreditation mandatory for all recognised higher education institutions of the country and has linked it with the funding. The higher the performance in the accreditation the more funds are granted.
In Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh a good some colleges have not applied for NAAC accreditation, many colleges have submitted Self Study Report (SSR) but rejected by NAAC at that level only and those colleges which submitted SSR and were accredited are granted very low grades i.e. to the maximum of B only.
Since 2017, 23 colleges of Jammu and Kashmir (including Ladakh) were assessed and accredited by NAAC. Though beautiful draping stages were set by each college but only 10 colleges were accredited with grade B and 13 were accredited with grade C. After analysing the cumulative grade points, it was found that most of the colleges accredited with grade B were touching the base line of the grade. Similarly, the cumulative grade of all 23 colleges was found 1.94 only, which indicates cumulative grade C for all colleges. It is pertinent to mention here that at national level during the same period only 19% institutions; were accredited with grade C but here the percentage is 57. The percentage of institutions at the national level which are accredited with B+ and higher is 45 but unfortunately here no college touched that grade. Instead, some prestigious colleges were downgraded from A to B which is a cause of grave concern for the entire society, though it is also a fact that the criteria of assessment by NAAC has evolved a lot over the course of time.
After analysing NAAC report cards of most of these recently accredited colleges, it could be inferred that these colleges lag quite badly in each of these parameters. After making anatomy of the score cards of each college we could identify 03 common core areas in which almost all colleges showed abysmal performance. Those areas are: Research, Innovations & Extension; Student Support & Progression and Institutional Values & Best Practices.
The causes of stumpy show of our colleges is contentious but we could find possible reasons which are tinted here:
Curriculum at college level is not updated very frequently by the affiliating University. Most of the times the board as and when it meets for updating curriculum does not take college teachers on board and it is very rarely seen that student representative from the college is also a part of the board. The curriculum is theoretical in nature only and research at undergraduate level is not a priority.
Modern education is incomplete without modern infrastructure and other learning resources. Colleges which are established in 21st Century in J&K and Ladakh are still facing acute shortage of infrastructure which affects the entire teaching learning process. Most of colleges lack proper infrastructure that affects the quality of education. Now that we intend to move to online education as per the UGC latest guidelines but here we need to see whether these colleges are having direct uninterrupted power supply and internet connectivity or not. Keeping in view the enrolment of students the number of computer stations is also very minimal in each college.
The teachers in colleges are least encouraged to go for orientation programmes and refresher courses to update their content knowledge & pedagogical skills.
The research component in each college is very weak. There is least focus on research. Those teachers who have research experience at their back are discouraged to conduct action research. Research based teaching is often missing inside the classrooms because the syllabus completion is the main target to achieve. There is no proper mechanism in place for those Teachers who have been appointed in colleges without research experience for pursuance of their research Degrees which would have definitely helped these colleges to get higher grades on assessment scale. Due to shortage of adequate staff, sometimes institutional heads are compelled to delay their cases so that they are retained in the college.
Student progression is dependent upon the student support services. Almost no college has provided satisfactory services to students which becomes an impediment in their progression. Our institutions have also not maintained the academic calendar properly. Three years bachelor’s degree is now stretched to 4-5 years though the reasons for the same could be debated.
The governance, leadership and management of higher education are in vacuum. Each college is being governed by the Government on the one side and on the other it is being guided by the affiliating university and in this process, colleges are caught between two masters. Despite having some of the very hard working and talented professors as the heads of the institutions, they are not able to perform up to their optimal level because of many constrains. Moreover, it is also a fact that the heads of the colleges are promoted only on the basis of their seniority and the leadership qualities, administrative skills and other qualifications are not given due weightage. A good number of college heads are in-charge principals due to which they lack decision making power.
Autonomy of any institution leads to best practices. Using smart board is not a best practice but a basic requirement in the virtual word. The best practice for an institution must be innovative, radical and out of the box. The institutional values should be to build peer and public perception.
There is no space for proper training of college teachers to be good paper setters, invigilators, and evaluators. Question papers are being set randomly by teachers without taking care of rubrics of instructional and course objectives.
For the quality improvement of higher education in Jammu & Kashmir, college education should be our priority. If we aspire to have top ranked colleges, it is inescapable to improve the quality and work on NAAC parameters more especially the college principals ought to pursue a course in educational administration before they are promoted as principals. The curriculum should be made research oriented and teaching learning process be aligned with Project Based Learning (PBL). The teachers need to be facilitated and engaged in their research. Student support services need to be strengthened and made fully operational. Institutional values need to be upgraded and enhanced with the latest technologies prevalent in education. Novel ways and innovative means of educative process should be implemented in the colleges especially those located in rural areas. Government should also offer adequate human resource and full financial support to our colleges without which quality improvement is impossible.
Dr. Mohammad Sayid Bhat Sr. Assistant Professor, Department of Education, Central University of Kashmir, (email@example.com).
Manzoor Ahmad Parey Assistant Professor, Higher Education Department, Govt. Degree College Ganderbal Kashmir, (firstname.lastname@example.org).