UGC pay hike: Cause for cheer or fear?

UGC pay hike:  Cause for cheer or fear?

Much has been said about how much lecturers are going to be paid, now that the Karnataka State Government has accepted the recommendations of the UGC Pay Commission. While a fresher will earn Rs 30,000-Rs 35,000, those who have completed 20-25 years of service will take home Rs 60,000-Rs 70,000. Teaching — at least in India — has never paid so handsomely. Naturally, this has provoked critics to ask:

Do lecturers deserve this massive pay hike?
To me, such questions divert attention from real and serious issues such as the state of primary, secondary and higher education in this country, the role of the teacher from Class 1 to Class 10, and the state of learning in school and college.
Those who attack/ defend the pay hike are getting caught in a vicious cycle.

Where’s the rot?
The quality of learning does not depend on pay packets but on recruiting good quality teachers.
We need to appoint more teachers in schools and colleges across India.
The state of higher education cannot be enhanced unless good learning takes place in schools. Committed and serious teachers in schools — especially in government primary schools — are overburdened. They need to be paid well. There is no point in talking about reforms in higher education unless we are committed to enhancing the quality of learning in schools.

Hefty pay packets will not attract good lecturers to higher education because we have not produced good students at the secondary level. So, where is the talent going to come from?
Creative solutions, please
A fat salary in itself will not attract the best talent as teaching is still a ‘boring’ and ‘unattractive’ profession to many because of the abysmal conditions of learning that continue to exist.
Why are we avoiding serious questions on education? Many lecturers are actually ashamed of the pay hike because the learning conditions for students continue to be mediocre. As lecturers, who are serious about our mission, we are unable to do what we want to do, which is to get our students involved in projects, group activities and dissertation work instead of watching quietly as they cram for examinations.
Instead of spending energy debating the pay hike, we need to worry about what is wrong with our system of learning. To begin with, we need to talk of scrapping the examination system because crores of rupees are being wasted on it. The savings can then be utilised to recruit more good teachers in schools and to set up libraries in government schools and colleges.

Say no to cramming
We know that examinations are traumatic for students. In their current format, exams call for the reproduction of mechanically learnt answers — nothing more. Genuine evaluation is completely missing.
Let us bravely embrace the alternatives. For instance, let’s develop a system wherein every child in school writes 10 pages and speaks about what she has written. This cannot happen unless the child has really learnt the topic. Let us have teachers — from within and outside the school — evaluate the child’s written and oral presentations. This model will not only eliminate mediocre teachers, it will do good to every serious student. In their current form, examinations neutralise the power of good learners and destroy weak learners.
For those concentrating on “economism”, let me point out that this will also save crores of rupees otherwise wasted on setting up and paying boards of examiners, invigilators etc.

Voices of sanity
Instead of getting caught up in the calculation of pay arrears, it’s time we listened to the voice of the teacher who is really concerned about the state of learning in India.
Let us explore genuine reforms in education. Let us ask ourselves why market economics must decide which courses must be started or shut down every year. New subjects emerge today and die tomorrow driven by market forces. Let us ask why there is a steady drop in students who opt for the Pure Sciences and the Liberal Arts. Let us talk good economics, not bad economics.

(As told to Kavitha K)

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