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Editorial Today – Crafting the joyless university

editorial-today-image-27-june

Issue The teachers protest against amendments to UGC regulations.

What is UGC? The University Grants Commission (UGC) of India is a statutory body set up by the Indian Union government.

What were the amendments? The new gazette notification has increased the workload.

Bone of Contentions There are three components to the UGC’s package governing the faculty.

Teaching hour amendment revoked UGC attempted to increase it by 25 per cent.

What should be ideal teaching hour for teacher?  It is noticed that India’s college teachers have to teach far too much.

Affect of this As with teachers, so to for the students, too many lecture hours can be a disaster.

On constant evaluation  The second of the bones of contention between the UGC and the teachers concerns student evaluation of courses.

Academic Performance Index (API) This prescribes minimum scores to be attained before a teacher can be considered for promotion.

Rule by numbers The least credible part of the API is the scoring of research.

 

Issue

  • The teachers protested against amendments to UGC regulations that, they argue, it would lead to job-cuts to the tune of 50 per cent and drastically decrease pupil-teacher ratio in higher education.
  • The University Grants Commission has accepted most of the demands of agitating university teachers barring appraisal by students.

 

What is UGC?

  • The University Grants Commission (UGC) of India is a statutory body set up by the Indian Union government in accordance to the UGC Act 1956, under Ministry of Human Resource Development, and is charged with coordination, determination and maintenance of standards of higher education. It provides recognition to universities in India, and disburses funds to such recognised universities and colleges.

 

What were the amendments?

  • The new gazette notification has increased the workload for assistant professors from 16 hours of “direct teaching” per week (including tutorials) to 18 hours, plus another six of tutorials, bringing the total up to 24 hours. Similarly the work hours of associate professors have been increased from 14 to 22.
  • Academic Performance Indicators (API) system of evaluating teachers.
  • Right given to students to participate in their teachers’ appraisal.

 

Bone of Contentions

  • There are three components to the UGC’s package governing the faculty. Of these, mostly two have proved to be bones of contention between the two parties.
  • Mandated workload for teachers and
  • Student evaluation of courses, including of the lecturer herself.

But it is the third component that needs to be scrutinised for its suitability. This is the assessment of teacher performance on a range of activities, ideally centred on research, or what laypersons would recognise as the contribution made to the stock of our knowledge. As a measure of faculty performance, the UGC has devised the Academic Performance Indicator (API), which is the score the teacher has attained in all activities combined.

 

Teaching hour amendment revoked

  • On the workload, having attempted to increase it by 25 per cent, the UGC has now climbed down and restored status quo, whereby a teacher has to undertake 16 Direct Teaching Hours a week.
  • This may not appear particularly strenuous to the public, who are used to a 40 hour week! However, they may not be taking into account that every hour of lecturing, or even discussion, requires several hours of reading and preparation, these two being distinct tasks.

 

What should be ideal teaching hour for teacher?

  • It is noticed that India’s college teachers have to teach far too much.
  • They teach more hours per week and for more weeks in the year than their counterparts, at least in comparison to western world.
  • With so much of teaching to do, they are left with little time to read for their classes, which directly impinges upon the quality of the lectures students receive.
  • It is not only that a heavy load of teaching crowds out the time left for research, but too much of teaching deadens the intellect which requires leisure and solitude to flourish.
  • Expert suggest that instead of approaching the problem from the perspective of a mandatory number of teaching hours, it could be viewed within a framework that starts out by setting the number of courses a teacher must teach in a year.
  • The global benchmark is four courses, two being taught in each of the two semesters.
  • Moreover globally, the norm is no more than 40 hours per course whereas in some universities in India it is as much as 60 hours per course.
  • This approach has the consequence that students are now forced to attend far too many lectures.

 

Affect of this

  • As with teachers, so to for the students, too many lecture hours can be a disaster. Passive participation kills all creativity as there is no responsibility imposed on the student to engage.
  • The student’s misery is compounded when the quality of lecturing is poor.
  • The answer to both overworked teachers and deadened students is to drastically reduce the lecture hours.

 

On constant evaluation

  • The second of the bones of contention between the UGC and the teachers concerns student evaluation of courses.
  • Surely students must be given the opportunity to assess the instruction they receive, in particular the quality of lectures.
  • While there is scope for immaturity here, the answer to this is to take the evaluations with a pinch of salt, not to scrap them. The university needs to know how the courses that it offers are perceived so that course correction is possible.
  •  There is no substitute for student evaluation here. Teachers must learn to treat this as part of give and take.
  • There is no professional or ethical ground on which they can refuse to stand up and be evaluated by their students.
  • The UGC is right to recommend student evaluation of courses, even though we may argue over the metrics.

 

Academic Performance Index (API)

  • This prescribes minimum scores to be attained before a teacher can be considered for promotion. Mainly two elements are involved. One is the specification of a mandatory number of years to be spent in each category, between Assistant and full Professor, and the other is the assessment of research.
  • Both are problematic. There is absolutely no reason why the number of years of experience in a post should be a consideration in assessing a teacher’s intellectual progress. Things had been done differently in India in the last century. C.V. Raman came into the university from government and Amartya Sen had been made a full professor when he was all of 23 years. They went on to win Nobel Prizes.

 

Rule by numbers

  • The least credible part of the API is the scoring of research. Scores are to be given to publications according to the journal in which they have been published, based on a schedule to be notified by the UGC.
  • Evaluating articles by the journals in which they are published prejudges their intrinsic worth by privileging the prestige of the journal over the quality of the article. Even though it is a reasonable conjecture that prestigious journals use high standards when publishing articles, it is not always the case that less prestigious journals do not contain very good work. The same goes for the UGC’s privileging of “international” over the merely “national” journals.
  • Finally, the API awards marks for projects undertaken, correlated with the money value of the grant amount. It encourages a form of academic entrepreneurship divorced from the pursuit of knowledge.
  • The UGC’s “rule by numbers has turned the university into a space in which teachers chase numerical targets to survive. The resulting neurosis cannot but spill over to the students.
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  • The Warlock

    Thanks

  • kingka2

    Thank you Team

  • Lovely Kumari

    Thank you. Forum ias