Where lies the gimmickry?

The recent article “Educational Gimmickry” by Prof Muhammad Aslam dated 11 Feb 2014 depicts the sheer ignorance and lack of knowledge of the learned author about the scheme RUSA. The learned autho...

The recent article "Educational Gimmickry" by Prof Muhammad Aslam dated 11 Feb 2014 depicts the sheer ignorance and lack of knowledge of the learned author about the scheme RUSA. The learned author did not provide any solution to the problems like access, equity and quality in Higher Education. Harping on the negative tune cannot solve any problems. I was saddened by the pessimistic view of things and negative comments made by the learned author because I was fervently involved in the team framed by the Higher Education Dept for making RUSA document which was already under way for its completion when I joined it in Jammu.
It appears to me that the learned author has not studied the RUSA document thoroughly. How can we solve the problems of inequitable access to Higher Education, quality of teaching-learning, Gross Enrollment Ratio, upgrading the infra-structure in our Colleges? State-level institutions receive a meagre share of Central funds and over the years the states have not been able to allocate sufficient funds to Higher Education. At the same time we cannot deny   the deserving poor and the socially disadvantaged groups or under-privileged students not to have a fair access to Higher Education. We need to view Higher Education as a long-term social investment for the promotion of economic growth, cultural development, social cohesion, equity and justice. RUSA is not only about establishing the new institutions or improving the quality of existing universities and Colleges as the learned author mentions. Under RUSA there has to be inclusive growth of education in all the regions and sub-regions of our state and we must  be able to provide opportunities for Higher Education to all who deserve and desire Higher Education.
For the reasons that the schemes like SSA, RMSA etc have failed to achieve anything substantial or that our Higher Education in the State is in shambles and the RUSA is a big educational gimmickry- as the author puts it, should we close the doors for opting RUSA. Without conceiving the idea of establishing Colleges, should we first start constructing College buildings, wait for the completion of construction of the College building which takes few years and latter announce and start functioning the College. The example of establishing the Central University is vivid. Even after many years the University is still functioning in rented buildings and makes shift arrangements and has not established a sprawling campus like that of Kashmir university. Ideas like building a Taj Mahal in a day cannot take place and we have to start somewhere and the things settle down latter in due course of time.
It is true that Contractualism and faculty shortage has marred the Higher Educations in the state. It is creating serious hurdles in the teaching-learning process besides research and curriculum development. The issue is much more challenging in the rural institutions. Filling faculty positions is one of the prerequisites for the states to obtain funds under RUSA. Under RUSA guidelines not more than 15% of the faculty positions can remain vacant at any time in the state. If any state has more than 15% faculty positions remaining vacant by the end of the first year of RUSA, such states may lose the entitlement for any further grants. The appointments made as well as the faculty already appointed has to be remunerated according to UGC regulations and latest pay scales as prescribed. RUSA will provide funding for both filling up teachers vacancies and faculty improvement.
Though large numbers of Assistant Professors in different disciplines have already been advertised by state PSC, the process for recruitment is underway. Under RUSA the Government is compelled to fill up more vacancies of faculties and other staff in the institutions. Further, under the State Higher Education Plan, Creation of Universities by conversion of Colleges into cluster Universities, besides creating new Engineering Colleges and other intuitions, will certainly create huge job opportunities for our highly qualified youth. Apart from this, the RUSA document says, greater emphasis will be laid on the improvement of the quality of teaching-learning processes in order to produce employable and competitive graduates, post-graduates and PhDs. If we study the RUSA document carefully, it emphasizes the de-politicization of Higher Education governance and it will take care of autonomy, faculty and regional balances.
Collecting statistical data from all Colleges and other intuitions and galvanizing the College Principals into action for a new scheme and finally preparing the RUSA document in a very short time slot was indeed an amazing work done by the state Higher Education Department. But I must admit that all credit goes to its Commissioner/Secretary Sheikh Mushtaq Ahmad who with all perseverance was constantly pursuing and encouraging the team members to complete the project well in time. It was really a tough duty for all of us leaving the secretariat at 10 o'clock in the evening for a continuous period of two months. But hopefully our toil will prove to be a boon for our poor state as the scheme  will be a big boost to expand the orbit of Higher Education in the State. In the end, I humbly request the learned author to evaluate the scheme draft formed by the intelligentsia of the country in its positive perspective.

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