Friday 18 August 2017 News Updated at 10:08 AM IST
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Don't dumb it down, Mr Minister - Deccan Herald
Don't dumb it down, Mr Minister
K S S Seshan
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At a national conference on higher education held in New Delhi recently, Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar is reported to have said that research will hereafter be made not mandatory for promotions for college teachers, while it will continue for professors at universities. He has categorically stated to do away with the clause of research to get their promotions, instead, community-based activities with students will be made a criterion for such promotions in colleges. The minister seems to be missing the woods for the trees.

There is no denying the fact that at the college level, the lecturers are expected to teach the subjects in their broad perspective that encompasses concepts and basics. In other words, it is something of everything of a subject that is taught in colleges while it is the other way in universities, where everything about something is taught with deeper perspectives.

The argument that college teachers are expected basically to teach and therefore need not do research does not hold good when taken into consideration the world of difference that a teacher with a research degree can make in his teaching even at the college level.

There are two different levels of approach needed in the way subjects are dealt with at colleges and universities. But what seems to be missing in the minister's understanding of the needs of the students at these two different but complementary levels is that the critical approach required while handling scholars at MPhil and PhD levels at the universities is also required to an extent at the college level.

A college teacher equipped with a research degree will be able to incorporate such a critical approach to her teaching. When oriented with the nuances of research, one will be able to introduce to the students the new trends and latest developments in the subject.

A critical approach to teaching the subject will go a long way for the students in understanding the subject in its true perspective. Teachers equipped with research degrees are sure to be able to deliver better when compared to others without such exposure to research.

Colleges are but feeder institutions for universities as the latter draw sustenance only from the affiliated institutions. The volume of day to day work for the teachers at colleges generally will be more than what it is at the universities. The number of students at the undergraduate level is always larger in each class demanding more time from each teacher. The periodic assessment, that is required to be done by the teachers in colleges, may not leave enough time for them to pursue research.
Unlike universities, colleges may not have the needed library, laboratory and other facilities to pursue research along with teaching. But if one has already a research degree at the entry point, such teachers should have opportunities to update.


Complex criterion

The existing criterion for promotion of college teachers to do research activity based on the Academic Performance Index (API) is only putting them to hardship. The absence of experts as research supervisors in colleges, the absence of infrastructure, lack of needed funds and the heavy work load that is more than their fair share are often cited as causes that stand in the way for college teachers to do research while teaching.


As there are only two cadres, lecturers and readers at colleges, while there is a three-tier hierarchy in the universities - assistant professors, associate professors and professors - the parameters for promotions should also never be the same for teachers at colleges and at the universities.

The community activity with students by college teachers in lieu of research as criterion for promotion, as contemplated by the minister, is sure to meet road blocks as individual teachers cannot formulate a programme of such activities where the institutional lead becomes essential.

Bodies like NSS, NCC etc, involving students and teachers are always sponsored by the concerned colleges and not every teacher could be involved in them. The credit for any community activity with students' participation should rightfully go to students and not to the teachers, to claim for personal promotion.

Universities, on the other hand, have an inbuilt mechanism to get connected with the outside community even at the individual level. One of the essential prerequisites of the university besides teaching and research is the extension.

The extension work broadly encompasses publication of the findings of research as books and papers, holding seminars, symposia, participation in conferences, giving extension lectures, holding refresher courses, bringing out referred journals and many such activities.

While possession of research degree is made compulsory for recruitment of college teachers, they should be entitled to attend academic seminars and conferences held elsewhere to keep themselves abreast of the subjects they teach.


They should also attend the orientation and refresher courses several universities conduct periodically through the UGC-funded academic colleges and attending a stipulated number of such courses should be made mandatory for the career advancement of college teachers.

(The writer is retired professor of History, University of Hyderabad)


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