Teaching is a profession that requires social commitment and an intellectual orientation
Most experts in the field of higher education agree that finding quality teaching professionals is a great challenge for colleges and universities today. Bright young men and women pursuing postgraduate and doctoral studies no longer see teaching as a career option, professionals lament.
Teaching-learning and evaluation is an important component of assessing quality of education as per the grading system evolved by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council. Its Director, H.A. Ranganath, told EducationPlus, “I find not many institutions aim at excellence while hiring teaching professionals. There is no dearth of talent really, only institutions have to frame their recruitment policies such that only the best in the field are appointed as professors.”
He added that the culture of “students taking tuitions for everything” had diminished the importance of teachers in the classroom. With education turning into a business enterprise, teachers too were increasingly looking at ways and means to make more money.
Some educationists feel that poor pay is a big reason why talented persons are not entering the profession. Retired English professor V. Rajagopalan, who is principal at a self-financing college in Kancheepuram now, said there is a lot of “ad hocism” in appointing teaching staff in colleges these days. By compromising on pay, they compromise on quality, he said.
With the implementation of the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission, the salaries of teaching professionals would improve in government-aided colleges, Mr. Ranganath said.
“Teaching is an intellectual profession and in an institution like IIT, professors are also undertaking research work that adds value to society,” said L.S. Ganesh, professor at the Department of Management Studies, Indian Institute of Technology-Madras.
He said even premier institutes like IIT received very few applications from professionals with a strong research background for the posts of professors. “One can only imagine what the situation would be in the lesser known engineering institutes,” he said.
A college professor needs to possess a good knowledge of the subject, besides being a good communicator and creative thinker who could further his knowledge in that field.
Prof. Ganesh said the IIT professors were expected to carry out research work and also handle a share of administrative work.
Prof. Rajagopal said getting an M.Phil. these days was easier than getting a child admission in Class I. So, possessing the right degrees alone was not sufficient; teaching called for social commitment.
“Professors should be able to foster independent thinking among students,” he said. “The popular professor in college is often not the one who reads the most number of books but who can keep students intellectually engaged in the subject.”
To retain high standard of teaching quality, many colleges are now holding orientation programmes for new recruits.
Albert Muthumalai, Principal of Loyola College, said in the orientation programme the newly-appointed lecturers got to know more about the college, the good practices with regard to teaching-learning, mentoring and counselling.
“The idea is to develop teachers as facilitators of the learning process,” he said.
Many colleges have also developed an internal mechanism by which students can communicate feedback on the quality of teaching. While not many experts endorse this method, students feel their views need to be reckoned with.
S. Bharadwaj, a visual communication student of Alpha Arts and Science College, said the institution used suggestion boxes to collect feedback from students on the quality of teaching.
“In my second year, my class managed to get a lecturer out because she was lazy and could not provide satisfactory answers to student’s queries,” he said.
Priya Ganesh, a student seeking admission in college, suggested that NAAC could release booklets with information on the rankings of various institutions.
“Also, I have seen many university websites in the U.K. and the U.S. providing detailed faculty profiles, mentioning their educational and other accomplishments. Such data should be made available for students here as well,” she said.