Certificate of participation: certifiably debatable!

Teachers' academic progess

The University Grants Commission (UGC) guidelines make it mandatory for teachers to attend a minimum number of academic programmes. Certificates also mark their attendance. 

Therefore, higher education institutions require their teachers to have these certificates and research publications to attain better grades and ranks from UGC or All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and other accreditation agencies such as National Board of Accreditation (NBA) and National Assessment and Accreditation Committee (NAAC). Sometimes, these certificates determine their salary.

As a result, obtaining certificates of participation becomes a priority for teachers from universities and colleges while attending seminars, conferences or workshops conducted outside their institutions. This often becomes the focus rather than the knowledge generated.

Are the teachers only physically present in these programmes or are they mentally involved in knowledge absorption?    

These academic discourses focus on different dimensions of professional development of the participants. The reality is that a few people are teachers by choice and most are in the profession by chance.

This could translate to indifference towards these programmes. But such an academic documentation could represent progress among teachers. 

Double trouble

Some political heavyweights and businessmen own private education institutions in the country, which makes them academic administrators by default. They could see education as a means to generate profits  than create a body of new knowledge at university level and disseminate it through colleges.

Therefore, the emphasis is primarily on teaching and peripherally on research.

Without research, teaching becomes meaningless as it’s divorced from reality. Academic events nurture and promote a research culture and therefore the need to conduct conferences, seminars and workshops.   

So, political leaders and businessmen who masquerade as educational administrators have a flawed approach to education. The metrics to determine the academic capacity and calibre of a teacher through certificates is not linked to their abilities to engage students effectively through the medium of their academic discipline and articulation. 

The quantum of time, money, energy and resources channeled to conduct seminars, workshops and conferences does not yield commensurate returns, given that these forums have become a farce.

The compulsions to expend budgetary allocations for such academic events within a financial year are an aspect of the problem.

Clearly, the certificate alone would prove inadequate to assess the teacher, who should write a comprehensive report to validate the level of learning from the seminar, workshop or conference.

The report should be written with the support of the presented papers along with a summary of the discussions and other learning outcomes.

Such reports would require the faculty members to tune into the proceedings and take necessary notes. To that extent this practice could prove superior to the conducts of faculty-development programmes to improve knowledge absorption.

Moreover, such reports contribute to continuous learning in order to keep pace with emerging developments in academic disciplines.

Only then will our education system improve.

(The author is an associate professor, Department of English, Christ, Bengaluru) 

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