Raise the bar

The new norms and regulations issued by the University Grants Commission to improve the standards of teaching and research in colleges and universities have not come a day too soon. It is well-known that academic standards have precipitously fallen in the country over the years. The numerical explosion of colleges and universities is one reason. Numbers work against quality when they are not supported by physical and human infrastructure. Higher education has been badly commercialised and many teachers do not have the aptitude and the right qualifications to teach and guide students. The inability of the teachers to cope with their responsibilities and the expectations from them harms students and there is a progressive deterioration of standards over a period. It is necessary to arrest the slide and improve the quality of teaching. Indian universities are poor in both teaching and research. Colleges fare worse in teaching.

The new regulations envisage a new performance assessment system for teachers and make their career advancement conditional on verifiable results in academic and research performance. Apart from the number of classes to be conducted by teachers at different levels, research output will count in remuneration and promotions. The assessment will be based on academic performance indicators (API) related to teaching, research and “co-curricular, extension and professional development activities”. It is not that there are no norms now but they are not being followed effectively. State governments have been asked to amend their relevant laws within six months so that the stricter and improved norms are implemented properly. For this the culture of favouritism, patronage and political interference in the working of universities will have to change. Teaching becomes the last refuge for many who are otherwise unemployable. It is no surprise that their students also become equally unemployable.

Teachers and students from India do very well in universities abroad. It should be possible to keep them within the country so that their talents raise the overall standards in universities. The human material should also be supported by infrastructural facilities by way of libraries and laboratories. Once the basic facilities and a better and more productive work culture is available and teachers are made accountable for their performance, standards will certainly improve.

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