Col (Retd) Y Udaya Chandar
There is a great shortage of qualified, trained and experienced teachers, as many who go into teaching do so only when they are uble to secure a highly paid corporate job or a decent government job. As a result, teaching has become a 'last resort' sort of career. Further, if one earns a master's degree in the humanities, the only openings for someone with that qualification is teaching at the college or high school level. There are no other openings available. The same is true for students who earn a MSc in science. Where does an MSc Biology candidate go? At best, he or she might seek a junior lecturer's job at a junior college teaching biology to a disinterested group of students. There are very few research jobs in India, and certainly not enough to employ all the MScs the universities are churning out.
This situation is particularly alarming when one does not see any new knowledge coming through domestic research channels. The research activities associated with the higher education sector lack origility and, often, authenticity. The questioning and research orientation that is not cultivated or encouraged in our institutions at the student level in high schools continue throughout their studies, even as students enter higher education.
Students seldom study and apply technology at the primary and secondary levels, or even once enrolled in higher education. Technology-based education is an absolute need for the country. The Industrial Revolution, a prosperous and exciting event that spread throughout Europe and the US in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, left India behind only because we were poor in the subject of technology. Even today we do not produce anything associated with modern technology that is visible to the average consumer. Instead, we produce items that advanced countries have already used and thrown away. At most, we copy their products via collaboration or reverse engineering.
With the current state of Indian economic growth and the possibility of high-tech jobs bringing in commiserate high salaries, the role of teachers has taken a big hit. Teaching may be noble, but it does not pay! This has led to a dearth of quality teachers. This shortage of qualified, trained and experienced teachers has led to the predictable state of low quality students emerging from new-generation institutions, and these students will become tomorrow's teachers. Teaching requires knowledge, communication skills and patience, and those in the current crop of teachers lack one or all of these qualities.
The salaries paid to teachers are uttractive, and so talent is not attracted to the profession. Even when a person wants to join it, owing to his or her love of teaching, it is not easy to gain entry. There is 50% caste-based reservation for all government-employed teachers, including those at the university level. The other 50% of positions are, in effect, 'reserved' for the relatives of politicians and people in influential positions. It is also possible to buy a teaching position, even if you have no knowledge of the subject or talent for teaching. The truth of the matter is that new teachers are often selected based on their suitable political connections.
The reservation system governing the teaching profession is terrible. One bad person employed in this work has the potential to produce an untold number of ill-equipped graduates over the course of a career.
What is worse is that people play politics to become a dean, an academic councillor, the chairman of a board of studies, member of a magement council or be med a vice chancellor. These policy makers truly have nothing to do with academics. They devise and implement policies that make the pursuit of academics increasingly difficult.
Many universities' vice chancellors are appointed based on caste equations and political connections, rather than academic attainment or administrative capability. This is because many influential people in the country think that a teaching institution can host any number of ill-informed people, as they are harmless places.
Classrooms and buildings do not exist in some institutions. Science students do not know whether they have laboratories or not. Since the focus these days is on promoting every student to the next higher class, the curriculum has become the biggest victim. People who have close contacts with local political leaders run most of the private schools in the country, and their main aim is not to strengthen the quality of education, but to make money.
These 'shops' are well known to students in each state who enrol in these schools to pass their board examitions. They know that the magement has an 'understanding' with the board officials; hence, during the examition, teachers help the students to complete their papers. Money is extracted from the students in advance, and 'help' is provided when the time comes.
The main stumbling block in India's education system today is the mushrooming of our educatiol institutions. The MLA thinks that his 'standing' will increase if he gets an IIM or IIT in his constituency. Similarly, 'degree' colleges have mushroomed in remote areas. They operate out of three rooms, led by teachers who are paid only a pittance.
One new development in our institutions, by both their faculties and students, is their entry into politics. Teachers indulge in too much of 'office politics', in hopes of climbing the organizatiol ladder, forming groups, or to pass time and decry the work of other teachers. In some universities, this has reached dangerous proportions. Selfish teachers invite students to join their politics. Students' political lives also ripen in hostels, where they have nothing much to do and a lot of free time, time they are supposed to devote to honing their academic skills. Instead, they devote all of their time to politics. Most Indian political parties have 'youth wings' that attract these students, and it is through these efforts that students have come to believe that they can become legislators and ministers. This never quite happens, however, and political parties leave them in the lurch, unless the student is an exceptiol asset to them
In many colleges and universities, teachers bunk classes just as their students do. They skip classes until December, since the examitions are not until March. Students are also very happy with the circumstances. In January, teachers realize that a lot of syllabus remains to be covered, so they must rush through to address even half of it. They leave the remaining portion for the students to read and learn on their own. In many institutions, there is hardly any system forgiving 'assignments' to the students, and where such a practice does exist, the teachers hardly correct the submitted work.