Ten Suggestions

The globalization has caused intense competition which in turn has caused reforms in every sector. The corporate world bargains for the best human resource and the academic world endeavors to produce best brains to survive in the demand supply chain. A sound and stable educational policy to ensure societal progression is imperative to drive innovation for a sustainable development. We do not debate education the way we debate internet, roads and electricity. The ten suggestions laid down may bring back hope for a better tomorrow. Here are these:

1. Rethink the Deferment of Examinations: There are thousands of students registered with IGNOU for UG and PG courses and they complete their degrees well on time. The IGNOU students in Kashmir have no choice but to appear in examinations no matter how bad circumstances are on the ground. The story is otherwise with our colleges and universities though. An undergraduate student has to invest more than four years to complete his graduation while a post-graduate student has to consume more than three years to complete his degree due to the postponement of examinations. The question to be asked is when a Delhi based IGNOU can conduct their examinations in Kashmir on their scheduled time, why can’t our Universities? Let’s give it a serious thought.

2.Ensure Attendance of Students: As teachers we are least bothered about the presence of our students in the class. This is an unfair academic subsidy that allows students to bunk classes on daily basis. The premier institutes and universities of India would always restrict their students from appearing in an examination unless they are satisfied that they have a minimum attendance of 75% to their credit. This is one of the reasons why such institutions have succeeded to sustain the professionalism and decorum of higher education. While we are governed by same rule but the rule appears good on papers and bad in execution.  The academic governance must ensure high turnout of students in the institutions. A biometric system of attendance for students must be installed initially in Universities and well-established colleges to begin with.

3. Set up an Online Feedback Mechanism: A critical appraisal to my understanding is one of the important pillars of academic culture especially in teaching-learning process. The Colleges and Universities can create an online review and response mechanism to give an opportunity to students/scholars to evaluate their teachers/supervisors. The idea has triple effect on an academic market. First, it will encourage students/scholars to select tutors/supervisors prudently and pragmatically. Second, challenges will be thrown to teachers/supervisors to give their best in and outside the institutions. Third, policy makers would be able to draw a clear-cut line between effective academics or otherwise.

4. Re-examine Annual Performance Report (APR):  In commercial market, a customer is considered as king. He has the privilege to evaluate products and services he consumes. In an academic market although a student is core consumer of services is not given a chance to review the performance of a system in general and the teacher in particular, a review that could appear in his Annual Performance Report (APR).  There is again a huge scope for academic governance to allow students to be the part of performance analysis of system/teachers.

5. Re-visit Promotion and Transfer Policy: It is good to endorse promotion of workforce in our institutions by time but it would be best to endorse it by performance. When a performance parameter is taken as the criterion, individual grows and the institution flourishes. Let the academic governance revisit the promotion system to give a due and reasonable space to the performance of teachers before they could be moved up to the next position.  Similarly, a teacher must not be entitled to serve one particular institution more than two years.   College teachers working in the rural areas must be given an opportunity to serve in the city and vice-versa. A transfer policy therefore needs to be redefined and reframed to expose teachers to the newer challenges.

6. Initiate Student Development Program (SDP): The responsibility of an institution is not only to prepare students for standardized exams but to prepare them for a well-balanced work life. A student is successful when he is able to see in him the traits of leadership and the skills of management in addition to the academic skills. Accordingly, SDP offers a huge scope to the academic governance to develop students both in their personal and professional capacities in the same manner, the faculties are developed through FDP programs.

7. Create Funds from Alumni Association: The institutions have opportunity to create alternative sources of fund through their alumni. I have observed in the outside universities and IITs that the contribution of alumni towards the infrastructure development remains massive.  Let each institution create an alumni account and identify their alumni who could contribute 50 or 100 Rs. on monthly basis out of their earnings for developmental purposes.

8. Start 25% of Teaching Learning through Digital Mode:  Even if all students possess smart phones with high internet speed would not ensure a successful digital academic transaction.  A huge chunk of students and teachers are not able to execute the technology as required.  It would be a prolific exercise if the academic governance could translate a maximum of 25% teaching learning process to the digital mode. The crux of the idea is to prepare students and teachers in anticipation to execute the things well under abnormal conditions and accomplish an effective integration between ICT and the manual transaction.

9. Reform Examination System:The quality of education cannot be improved without the improvement/modification of examination system. In higher education, everything has changed. The designation of lecturer has been changed to an Assistant Professor, paper based attendance to biometric based attendance, single to multiple disciplinary (choice based credit system) and so on. The pattern of examination pursued in our colleges and universities however remains indifferent to the changing world.  The Universities can deliberate upon the alternative examination schemes including the open books examinations system.

10.Establish Academic Credit Rating Agency: The School and Higher education department can create two academic credit rating agencies as professional bodies to know where each educational institution does stand in the knowledge economy.  A robust annual rating system as perused by MHRD in case of universities/colleges will ensure a healthy competition amongst educational institutions of J&K.

The long pending issues that are hampering institutions to grow effectively and efficiently with the knowledge, technology and innovation must be ascertained and addressed if we have to stay relevant.

Dr. Aasif  Shah is working as Assistant Professor at GDC Bandipora.