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Doing away with ad hoc teachers

A view of Arts Faculty building, Delhi University | File

A view of Arts Faculty building, Delhi University | File   | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

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This system has engendered a sense of despondency among temporary and contractual teachers

Even as students in JNU were protesting against fee hike, another protest has been going on in Delhi, spearheaded by the Delhi University Teachers’ Association. It began after the university issued a circular, which ad hoc teachers saw as an attempt to hire them as guest teachers instead. According to the university’s guidelines, an ad hoc appointment may be made “in case there is a sudden, unexpected and short vacancy, arising out of sudden sickness or death, on medical grounds (including maternity leave), abrupt leave or any other situation that may disrupt the normal process of teaching learning.” There are an estimated 4,500 ad hoc teachers in Delhi University.

A Damocles’ sword

It is a fact that the Indian higher education system continues to be in a shambles. There are many factors that have pushed the education system to the brink of collapse. Among these is the fact that there is lack of job security among a vast majority of teachers who have been rendering their services on ad hoc or contractual basis in universities, colleges and schools. Development experts say that a healthy and civilised society depends in part on the quality of higher education. However, there is less recognition that while a fulfilled teacher can create a healthy society, a frustrated teacher can be equally destructive. Colleen Wilcox, an educator and administrator, describes teaching as the greatest act of optimism. What hope will teachers instil in students when a Damocles’ sword constantly hangs over their heads?

A regressive culture of ad hocism has unfortunately percolated through India’s education system and engendered a sense of despondency among the temporary and contractual teachers. This class of educators remains on the periphery of the system and is not allowed to mingle with the mainstream segment of teachers, even when they fulfil the rigorous guidelines that the UGC has laid down for the recruitment of teachers to permanent positions. Despite the guidelines, many amongst this cohort are hired only for a fixed number of months, and at the end of every academic session their services are dispensed with.

Without any certainty of future, as no job security act is applicable in their case, they have no choice but to reappear for interviews at different places at the start of each academic session. Add to this the humiliating and exploitative experience of such teachers who do not receive the full salary that they are entitled to in accordance with the guidelines of the UGC and are, instead, often appointed on a consolidated sum considerably lower than stipulated amounts. The problem of underpayment of temporary and contractual teachers is rampant in private universities and colleges, going by recent accounts.

The knock-on effects of these unchecked distortions in the teacher compensation systems can be profound. When a well-qualified teacher is compelled to bear the brunt of financial exploitation, he desperately seeks other measures to enhance his income and make up for the losses. Inevitably this leads to demands that students join private coaching or tuition classes, to augment the meagre official pay. Often, the quality of educational inputs provided in such settings declines considerably.

Revamp the education policy

In this context, it is the broader canvas of higher education as a core ingredient of development that shows a troubling picture. Given the importance of human capital and skill acquisition in emerging economies, how are India’s development prospects impacted by the state of immense material insecurity that is forced upon its educators? No matter how brilliant the mind of educators, if they are operating under the fear of expulsion or some other such threat, they are likely to be incapable of delivering the goods. To restore India’s long-term developmental prospects there is no choice for the government but to revamp its flawed education policy which has created and encouraged the scourge of ad hocism in our paralysed higher education system.

Shiv Sethi is Head, Department English Language and Linguistics, Dev Samaj Postgraduate College for Women, Ferozepur

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 8:03:15 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/doing-away-with-ad-hoc-teachers/article30496177.ece

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