Bureaucratic hurdles have slowed down the process of teacher appointments in several colleges. Dr. Muthuswamy Ravichandran assesses the situation.

“Higher education in India suffers from quality deficit”the UGC admits in its compilations on approach to the Twelfth Five Year Plan (FYP).It goes on to further identify that “the toughest challenge of excellence lies in improving the quality of teaching-learning in a majority of non-elite universities and colleges.

The approach paper was readied by professors who have spent decades in universities. The working group laments that notwithstanding the Eleventh FYP upping the allocations nine times more than the Tenth FYP, there remains a deficit in quality.

It also points out that, “... much of the resources allocated could not be utilised fully... for a variety of reasons.”This includes the apathy of babus and academic bureaucrats.

Having done its job for three years and more, the UGC wanted to assess its impact on quality through agencies like the NAAC.

By June 2010, less than 25 per cent of all colleges and universities were accredited. NAAC in its 17 years of existence could assess and accredit nearly 1,415 colleges out of a total of 31,324 colleges in the country. It could touch only 75 of the 534 universities. Of these assessed establishments, only 45 per cent of colleges and 30 per cent of universities rank grade ‘A’.

Solutions

The working group suggests some solutions to enhance quality. It feels that structural amendments to University Acts should be made. No university should have more than 50 affiliated colleges and 50,000 students enrolled. Courseware development and the setting up of a National Educational Resource Portal must be made mandatory. Information and library networks must be extended to all colleges with 12(B) status.

The working group also suggests enhancing the teacher and student mobility. Twenty per cent of teachers and 20 per cent of students in any establishment must be from other states. International hostels must be constructed if a minimum of 50 students from foreign countries are present.

Through an amendment to the UGC Act, from the present 6,811 colleges, 20,000 government and aided colleges must be brought under the 12(B) status for UGC funding. The Working Group paper also talks about the student-teacher ratio, without giving the broad framework.

Mandatory accreditation on subject-specific lines, creation of resource portals with easy access, structural amendments to prune our universities, insisting on Refresher Course/Orientation Course programmes are no doubt welcome. But all these are secondary before the dire need of a teacher in a classroom.

National scenario

In state after state, the scene is dismal. In Odisha, for nearly two decades, there has been no teacher appointment. In sharp contrast to the national scenario, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa is strengthening public-funded education in the state.

In the first two years of the Twelfth Plan period, she had issued orders to start 299 new academic programmes in the government arts and science colleges. What is particularly welcome is the creation of 841 new Assistant Professor posts to teach and sustain the newly-offered UG/PG and Research programmes.

In continuing with her election promise, Jayalalithaa has reserved tidy sums, in the State Budget, to give laptops to 5.65 lakh students during 2013–14.

In yet another welcome move she has set up 12 new Government Arts and Science colleges in remote and educationally-backward districts. However, down the line, things are not taking place with the necessary speed. Even where the Tamil Nadu CM had issued orders for filling up of 1,093 Assistants Professor vacancies in Government colleges and 3,000 Assistant Professor vacancies in aided colleges, things are not moving. An entire year was wasted after orders were given to fill up the vacancies through advertisement and selection.

Aggrieved private petitioners moved the Madras High Court which directed the State Government to notify the selection process. A teacher union has moved the Madras High Court seeking the court to direct the Government of Tamil Nadu not to create unnecessary road blocks, “leading the way to many unethical practices,” and instead implement the GO on teacher appointments. Even as these lines are written, the Writ Petition is admitted and notice is ordered to the State Government.

In a matter of such fundamental significance to quality, the Government of India should enact suitable laws, which will not leave the matter of appointment to feet-dragging bureaucrats, willing to connive with corrupt political class and deprive students of their first friend — the teacher.

The writer is the head of department of English, Dr. Ambedkar Government Arts College, Chennai.