Culture of Mediocrity

By Dr Jyots Bhattacharjee

Educatiol Institutions are supposed to be the “Temples of Learning” and they should be regarded as such. We enter into any religious temple with faith and devotion and we should also enter the educatiol institutes with the same feelings. These are the places which shape the future of the student and in a way the teachers are the tion–builders. If we look back at the epic age we would know that the ‘ashrams’ (hermitage) of the gurus were truly the temples of learning. The disciples stayed with the preceptor (guru) in his ashram and learnt warfare, scriptures, domestic work and whatever was necessary for the future life. The ‘guru’ and the “gurumata” were like parents to the disciples and they were obedient, intelligent and hard working. Even the sons from the royal families had to undergo the same training and there was no discrimition between the high and the low and everyone had to follow the commands of the guru without questions. That was how the character and life style of the future citizens were formed. Those ashrams were truly the temples of learning. The disciples learnt the true values of life and they led their lives accordingly. That idyllic atmosphere has become extinct and that custom of guru–sishya parampara is no longer feasible in this age.

The modern age is vastly different from the epic age and India along with the rest of the world has made tremendous progress in the field of science and information technology. Hence talking of the ancient era in this modem scientific age may be stigmatized by some as ridiculous. Yet the present emerges from the past and is based on the past. Hence we cannot dismiss the past as irrelevant. Though the system of education has changed enormously, yet the aim of the schools and colleges still remains the same and that is, to impart knowledge. People have faith on these institutions and they believe that the future of the child will be built up in these places of learning. The educatiol institutions flourish due to the hope and trust imposed on them by the guardians. Hence it should be the solemn duty of these institutions to make every effort to fulfil the hope of the guardians and the people. They should not betray the trust imposed on them.

Unfortutely we see to our dismay that the educatiol institutions have adopted a culture of mediocrity and there has been no attempt to achieve excellence. Though the country has progressed a lot, yet I feel that in the educatiol sector there has not been any significant improvement. Rather in certain aspects we notice a decided fallout from the past glory. Even a few decades back the situation was not as chaotic as we see now. This problem of students’ unrest or indiscipline cannot be neglected or relegated to the background. After all, the future of the country depends on these young people and so they must not go astray.

We often hear of students’ indiscipline and there are enough instances of students taking law into their own hands. Agitations on any issue, major or minor, have become common place and there does not seem to be any proper administration. It is a “free for all” situation in these institutions. The students think that they have the power to demand whatever they wish. They may even demand the removal of some administrator or teacher, if they so wish. It could not even have been imagined a few decades back. Apparently they think that the rules must follow their dictate and not the other way round. Even if they remain absent in the class for the better part of the year, they must be allowed to appear in the examition without any non–collegiate stamp. None can take them to task for any wayward activity. There must be something terribly wrong in our educatiol sector.

As far as we understand, educatiol institutions are meant for acquiring knowledge. At least that is what we once thought. There was no question of any kind of agitation. The only idea of each student was to study well and to achieve the best results. Any kind of crime in the educatiol institutions was unheard of. The teachers also taught the students with sincerity. Now we hear that private tuition has become an indispensable part of the education process. Children from the primary level to the college level register their mes in all these private coaching centres which abound the city. In fact, they are spreading like paan shops. Apparently the parents believe that without private coaching the students would never do well in the examitions. This may be a right or a wrong notion. As a consequence the students are least interested in attending their classes, as they can get whatever they want from the private tutor.

I feel that these problems have arisen because nothing has been done to overhaul the administration of the educatiol institutions. Since independence many committees and commissions have been formed, which have reviewed and modified the curriculum, infra–structure and fince, leaving aside the crucial aspect of educatiol development. An educatiol institution needs some change for the better. Year after year the same conditions are persisting and the students get bored with the routine work. The teachers often dictate outdated notes to a bunch of bored students, some of them may have already procured them from some seniors. The same situation can be seen in both the schools as well as in colleges. It is very important to awaken interest in the students to make them attentive in class and regular in attendance. Interpretation of rules and regulations is not the only job of the magement of an educatiol institute. The administrator should try to change the existing conditions with innovative ideas. The same conditions have been continuing for decades. No one bothers to check if all is well with the educatiol institutions. Lethargy seems to have taken over the mental attitude of the administrators, staff and all the officials connected with the educatiol sector. This kind of continued inertia has resulted in an administrative culture of mediocrity, which is one of the reasons of the deteriorating standards of education in India. The students from our country go to UK, France, Australia, America or other countries for higher education. But foreign students rarely come to our country for pursuing higher education, though the charges for education and hostels may be less than what is charged in their own countries. Possibly they are deterred by the poor infrastructure, unhygienic condition of the hostels or some other factors. The standard of teaching also may be idequate for them.

A culture of mediocrity may be one of the conditions of the declining standard of higher education and research in India as compared to the standards adopted in other countries. For the able administration of an educatiol institute the administrator should be dymic and he must have innovative ideas. Usually an administrator of an educatiol institute is selected on the basis of his qualifications and teaching experience. It is assumed that if an applicant has the requisite qualifications and sufficient teaching experience then he can be a good administrator. But it is a wrong notion. A successful teacher is not necessarily an able administrator. There is a vast difference between teaching and administration.

India’s socio–cultural educatiol condition is complex and the students from diverse backgrounds take admission in some institution and it needs abundant talent and ingenuity of the administrator to bring these students with heterogeneous culture into unity and a harmonious whole. The criteria of eligibility adopted for the administrator of higher educatiol institute may not be adequate to deal with the problems successfully. Such eligibility standard is bound to create an administrative structure, which lacks flexibility and innovative ideas. If the leadership quality is absent in the administrator, then such administration is bound to fail in producing worthy educated citizens of the country. Only a dymic and competent administrator can bring change to the mindset of the students as well as the staff. If one is given administration due to his experience and seniority, the system may remain stagnt and it will not any good to the students.

Students take admission in the best of the colleges with stars in their eyes. But very soon they realize that their hopes have been belied. A kind of mediocrity has become obvious in the educatiol institutions. The same condition has been prevailing year after year. Nothing worthwhile has been done for the development of these educatiol institutions. Of course we do hear about some changes in the curriculum or the examition procedure apparently for their betterment. But the efforts seem to have become singularly fruitless.

Students’ indiscipline has posed danger to the welfare of the country. Ragging has been banned legally, but actually it is still persisting to vitiate the educatiol atmosphere. Inhuman torture is perpetrated on some newcomers in the me of ragging. This kind of action is detrimental for the reputation of any educatiol institution. We also have often heard of students of some reputed colleges getting into all sorts of heinous crimes. These incidents of crime demonstrate the fact that our youths are treading a dangerous path. The college students are very young; they are neither children nor adults. Hence proper guidance is extremely necessary at this crucial stage. These young people should be imparted value education as well and the most important thing is that the administrator must be a very intelligent, resourceful and tactful person, whom the students feel obliged to respect.

The academic institutions have a social structure, but this fact is often ignored by the administrators. There are many shortcomings in the functioning of the administrative machinery in the higher education. Such a situation has attracted politicians and persons from non–academic backgrounds to explore and exploit. Political interference in the higher education has done immense harm to the students as well as to the education sector. It has also been commercialized to such an extent that education has become a kind of business enterprise and some private enterprises are minting money in the me of education. Because of the deteriorating condition in the educatiol sector, cases of students’ indiscipline and crimes have risen alarmingly. So many unpleasant incidents occur in the educatiol institutions that occasiolly the administrators have to seek help from the political leaders or the law–enforcing authorities. It is unfortute that the administrators cannot solve the problem themselves without seeking help from a third party. The dictatorial attitude of some of the administrators makes a bad situation much worse by their lack of understanding. It is important to build a persol rapport between the administrator, staff and the students for the smooth running of the institution.

I think that the whole education process should be treated as one continuous stream. We find that education has been divided into primary, secondary, college and university level. It is necessary to divide the system to various parts for smooth running. But they should not be treated as separate water–tight compartments; rather they should be treated as one harmonious whole. The sense of morality and discipline should be instilled in the child’s mind at the initial stage. And at each stage these ideas should be given a boost by the administrator and the staff at various levels. Then only we may hope to have some responsible and morally strong young people at the college and university level. They must learn discipline, morality and the importance of punctuality. For that the administrator, the teachers and the office staff must arrive in time, as example is better than precept. Only then the students will learn the value of punctuality and discipline. If the administrator is frequently absent irregular and unpunctual, a “free for all” situation will be inevitable in his institution. We should also note that a person with academic excellence may not be an able administrator. The entire education process has to be scrutinized very carefully. It has become very necessary to overhaul the higher educatiol system in the context of globalization and competition for academic services. We cannot afford to neglect the issue of higher education.

Education is the prime factor for the progress of the tion and the youth power is strongest of all the powers. So the young people must be shown the right way and the culture of mediocrity should be discarded. Much depends on the excellence of the administrative system. As such a legal and magement training with sound academic credentials should be made the norm for all administrative posts in higher educatiol posts in the country. Maging students from diverse sociological backgrounds requires tact and specialized leadership qualities. The study of escalating violence in the educatiol institutions reveals that such disturbances usually arise due to the ibility of the institutiol head to mage various categories of students coming from diverse and complex socio–cultural backgrounds. Lamenting about the loss of values can practically do nothing to redress the disquiet in the educatiol institutions which often becomes violent.

A good teacher is born, but a good administrator is made. It is very essential for the administrator to have enough magement skills to bring discipline and peace to the institution. Unless it happens the educatiol institutions will slide to the level of mediocrity and chaos and it will betray the trust reposed in these institutes by the guardians and the people.

(The writer is a former Head, Department of Philosophy, Cotton College, Guwahati)

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