Reforming PU education

Reforming PU education


Reforming PU education

Mohan Das proposes some basic reforms to improve pre-university education, which he calls an inevitable need of the hour.

The pre-university system is one among the several nuisances that dot adolescence. Pre-university interjects the education process at a time when education  begins to take root in students and their awareness is increasingly exponential.

For many students, PU offsets years of discipline and preparation they received in school, which is nothing short of an uprooting. Add to this uprooting a fancy moniker that addresses them as “college students”, which unfortunately, has come to mean unbridled freedom.

Being neither schools nor colleges, PU institutions are now closer to becoming, at worst, amusement camps, and at best, bus-stops along the road of formal education. Does this “uprooting” harm students? The consequences of this uprooting are less than beneficial, unless proved otherwise. If that is so, PU education needs a rethink.

PU education: two body blows

The first body-blow PU education received was during the mid-1990s when the UGC found it necessary to bifurcate plus2 or pre-university education from university education. No break-up is without casualties.

After bifurcation, most experienced senior teachers drifted into UG teaching leaving behind a bunch of disgruntled and inexperienced teachers to “babysit” teenagers.
Which babysitter takes babysitting seriously? Most male baby-sitters preferred to invest in private tutorials, and most of their female counterparts couldn’t care less. And the second body-blow came with the very popular exam reforms.

Commodification of education

The much touted “reforms” introduced by Dr Harish Gowda that mainly concerned PU examinations was the second body-blow to PU education.

The obsession with exam reforms only served to commodify PU courses by ignoring reforms in PU education. Nearly, all PU reforms so far, have focussed only on exams, not education.

Students were given the rights of customers to make demands and be served without any hindrance. The biased reforms have only crippled PU education much like the introduction of T20 cricket. The two body-blows have completely devastated PU teaching, bringing education more ignominy and demoralising many committed teachers. In fact, it is PU exams that make news, not PU education. And, isn’t this true of all our education systems?

Not reorganisation, but reformation

Until recently the only “reforms” in PU education was a drastic change in syllabus (the import of CBSE syllabus) and continuous internal assessment. The latter was suddenly discontinued. All this amounts to only reorganisation. What is needed is continual reformation, not staggered reorganisation. Even reorganisation - limiting the fee for the admission brochure, or fixing the opening date, or even incorporating a new syllabus – has been cosmetic with little impact on student education.

How do these measures prepare students as they set out to face an increasingly complex, highly unpredictable and challenging world? Here are a few suggestions for reforms.

* Introducing new subjects as optionals:  In science, the optional is usually the fourth subject (Comp Sc / Bio / Elec). Why not introduce other subjects where students get introduced to various forms of music, art, dance, film appreciation, literature, sports, etc? Far from being distractions, these additions can make PU education more exciting.

The new options may be introduced in some institutions to select group of students who opt for them and, following a good response, include other institutions as well.
Student number for these courses may be limited in each institution, or the courses themselves limited to select institutions that possess proper infrastructure.

n Exploring each subject: At least two extra periods per month must be devoted for exploring each subject – the history, development, current status and scope of the subject must be explored. During these sessions, the essential inter-linking and unity of various subjects must be highlighted and means to attract students to subject research and development can be explored.

n Selecting principals: Many unaided institutions are one-person-shows and are run according to the whims and fancies of their “owners”. Why cannot it be made mandatory that each unaided PU institution be presided by an active, honorary ‘governing council’ or ‘board members’ consisting of reputed people who will oversee its functioning? Nobody can deny the importance of a good principal. An empowered council can choose a better principal.

In the absence of such a council, guidelines must be set for such important appointments.

A rule that only teachers who have at least a decade of unbroken service, and rank among the best teachers in the institution, are eligible for the post of principal may be a good idea.

* Rewarding teachers: Good teachers must be suitably rewarded no matter which institution they serve. What about making it mandatory for all PU institutions to introduce a book grant given every three or five years? Why not give credit to teachers who give lectures in workshops following a good feedback? It should be made compulsory for all institutions to sponsor at least one teacher from each department, every few years, for higher studies. (There are several ways in which eligibility or selection of teachers can be determined.)

*Qualifying teachers: Recently a senior official of the department of PU education was quoted in a reputed daily as saying that B Ed may be made mandatory for PU teaching. But, a short-term certificate course in practical teaching, focussing on PU level alone will serve the purpose.

It should include lesson planning and preparation, classroom management, basic student psychology and personality development. The course may be conducted in two parts by a gap of six months, separately for new and experienced teachers.
n Prescribing timings: Many unaided PU institutions are like banana republics. Chaotically managed and operating in several shifts they are “banana institutions”.
Institutions that operate on shift systems do so, not out of helplessness, but because they admit far in excess of their capacity. Authorities must prescribe fixed timings for all PU institutions.

*Structuring fees & salaries: Many unaided institutions are alleged to charge exorbitant fees. Why are such high fees demanded and how is the money spent? Why don’t the PU authorities structure teacher salaries depending on the fee structure of an institution? 

* Appointing qualified counsellors: PU authorities must make the appointment of a full-time or part-time student counsellor mandatory for each institution. Many teachers too need counselling.

* Grading PU colleges: If the UGC can grade their colleges under NAAC, why cannot the PU board grade all PU colleges likewise? They can have separate grading for government, aided and unaided PU colleges. It is also necessary to fix cut-off percentage, tuition fees and salaries according to the grade of the college.

*Renaming PU: Terming PU students as “college students” is deleterious to student psyche.

PU students are not college students, and they must be told that. Such terms give children a delusional sense of adulthood i.e., unbridled freedom.

PU education may be renamed as intermediate, and PU lecturers may simply be called intermediate or high-school teachers. (Actually, the root of the problem lies in the state’s definition of school. Going by the abbreviation SSLC – Secondary School Leaving Certificate – it is obvious that school ends with Class X.)

Reforms at PU level are difficult because of time and space constraints. Yet, PU is an important stage in a person’s educational career and adolescent life.

PU students must be taught to enlarge their minds, sharpen their thinking and be kept busy and active to qualify themselves for a useful university career and a productive professional life.

Reforms must help students and teachers. The only question is; what are the authorities waiting for?