Promoting quality in colleges

Auspicious beginning

Auspicious beginning  

ENTHUSIASTIC TEACHERS became ideal students for a day as they listened carefully to lectures, jotted down notes and spent time discussing various issues relating to education, during the lunch break.

It was a one-day seminar on `Innovations by teachers and quality of collegiate education', jointly organised by the GRG School of Management Studies of PSGR Krishnammal College for Women, and the National Assessment and Accreditation Council.

Prof. K. Gopalan, former director, National Council of Educational Research and Training, New Delhi, set the tone for the proceedings by giving his views on the educational scenario and the way in which creative teachers could make a difference.

"Economic prosperity, intellectual dynamism and resourcefulness are reflected in the quality of higher education," he said, and repeated the statement for emphasis. Education was one of the most crucial factors for socio-economic development, and the main instrument for development and change.

"Tomorrow's society will be a knowledge society. All those generators, creators and promoters of knowledge will have to be produced by higher education," he reminded his audience. Independent India was conscious of the vital role that education played in national development. There had been several programmes to improve the quality of higher education.

There were nearly nine million students in India, and no other country in the world could hope to achieve the high rates of growth that the country had achieved. That brought into sharp focus the need for quality in education, because mere increase in the number of young people attending schools, polytechnics, colleges and universities alone, was not enough to give a fillip to national development.

"Quality is the result of intelligent effort, and everyone in the system is responsible and accountable for what happens. However, quality is never a destination, and no one can ever attain it," he noted, explaining that quality was a journey that everyone in the system had to undertake, keeping a few common guidelines in mind.

Based on his experience as an educationist for the better part of five decades, Prof. Gopalan said there was one inescapable conclusion about teaching and learning in colleges and universities: "The quality of higher education in the country is very poor." There were a number of reasons why things had come to such a sorry pass, despite so many surveys and studies having been made, to say nothing of information collected and reports written.

One of the main reasons for the poor quality was the "unplanned, haphazard proliferation of colleges", giving rise to the view that the growth was "not based on needs, but on other considerations". There were educational institutions in the country in which infrastructure was grossly inadequate, and the quality of students and teachers left much to be desired.

"There are over 3000 colleges in India which have been declared non-viable, and which do not receive any assistance from the University Grants Commission. Still, they continue providing sub-standard education and turning out students. Going into college and coming out unprepared for life is a terrible waste," he observed.

Another reason for the poor quality was the "curse of affiliation". It was a system that had become unproductive. "We must liberate colleges from the clutches of universities, and liberate universities from the clutches of colleges as well. We must provide autonomy to colleges and make them independent institutions," he said.

He said that the "politicisation of campuses" was yet another reason for the fall in academic standards. "Political parties consider educational institutions not as temples of learning, but as nurseries for the recruitment and training of their cadres. Such trends are unknown in foreign countries. We must banish party politics from college campuses," he observed.

"Colleges are also overcrowded with non-students who do not know why they are there. They remain unmotivated, undedicated students. Teachers should be appointed only on the basis of an impartial, open recruitment system based on merit alone, not on the basis of caste, communal or parochial grounds," Prof. Gopalan added.

Moreover, the system of annual examinations had led to corruption and inefficiency everywhere. "It has encouraged rote learning and selective study instead of innovative teaching and sustained study. Teaching being subordinated to education has been the greatest evil in the Indian educational scene," he said.

By Michael Raj A. A.

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