Wide Angle Education

Question of quality

Over three decades ago, I was fortunate enough to be taught by a highly knowledgeable professor whom I admired a lot, for several reasons. He was respected by his colleagues and students for his knowledge, originality, critical mind and way of teaching. No doubt, he was rated the best teacher in the department. When he was a teacher in service, he did not possess an MPhil or a PhD degree. Some of his juniors in his department and many of his former students had completed their doctorates, but this scholarly gentleman was not interested in any research degree. For reasons more than one, he did not want to get a doctoral degree while in service. He was fully convinced that to be an effective teacher of English language and literature at the tertiary level, a PhD degree is not required, and he proved it by his own example. Later, after his retirement, he completed his PhD and I was told that his thesis was highly commended. This anecdote makes me raise the question whether PhD is necessary for someone who aspires to become a teacher or who is already a teacher at a university or a college.

A year ago, when Prakash Javadekar was the union Human Resources Development (HRD) minister, he announced that a PhD degree would be mandatory for teaching positions in universities from July 2021. He also added that the purpose was to “attract and retain the best quality teachers and other academic staff in universities and colleges”.

The announcement by the former HRD minister made many good teachers who enjoyed teaching and were committed to their teaching profession panic and become preoccupied with hunting for supervisors and completing their PhDs by any means.

Debatable

The announcement has also made academics debate the issue and raise a number of questions. Is it wise on the part of the HRD ministry or the University Grants Commission (UGC) to state that a doctoral degree is mandatory for someone to become a teacher at the tertiary level? Can PhD be equated with quality in teaching? Even if all university/college teachers had PhD degrees, would it guarantee quality in the teaching-and-learning process? What impact will such a rule have on the quality of education?

Undeniably, academic research is important, and teachers should be encouraged to carry out research in their areas of interest. Research in all academic fields should be encouraged and quality research papers should be published in standard research journals. There are some scholars and academics who are passionate about research and they should be supported by academic institutions and governments. Forcing all teachers to become researchers will not yield positive results. Why? No research has proved that a good researcher is always a good teacher or vice versa. Research skills can never be equated with teaching skills. It is absurd to conclude that teachers with research degrees can do wonders in the classroom.

There are basically three types of higher education institutions in India: research institutions, teaching-cum-research institutions, and teaching institutions. Most of the institutions come under the third category, and those who teach at these institutions should be good at teaching and need not be good at research. Some may be good at teaching and research to o and such teachers are not many in number. Many may be good teachers but poor researchers. Forcing such good-teacher-but-poor-researcher type to do research and publish papers is unfair and unwise because it will have a negative impact on higher education. When such teachers are forced to do PhD, not only the quality of research but also the teachers’ creativity will be the main casualty. Unethical practices such as plagiarism will be rampant and publishing sub-standard papers in predatory journals will be widespread.

When degrees and certificates are in the driver’s seat, undecorated knowledge and skills will be pushed to the back seat. Unfortunately, there is an unhealthy competition among those who aspire to become teachers to be in the driver’s seat. A sad state of affairs, indeed!

The writer is an academic, columnist and freelance writer. rayanal@yahoo.co.uk

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Printable version | Nov 24, 2020 10:05:19 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/question-of-quality/article29742748.ece

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