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university and university
I have often heard comments that universities should be research oriented, should not have affiliated colleges, should not be examining bodies. such comments do not convey the full picture. let us examine the situation in some depth.
the first thing to examine is what is education and when does education end and research begins? Or whether they can be separated? education to my mind has two aspects - imparting of information (knowledge) and making a person self reliant both for living and for learning. imparting of information can only be done by someone who has more of it than the recipient. obviously self learning at school stage is not a viable preposition. It is another thing to say that the schools education should be child centered and not teacher oriented since it is the child who has to receive the knowledge and the way it is done depends on her.
does imparting of knowledge stop with the school? is the process in the colleges different? in one sense it is because the student is now more mature. the student is aware of alternate sources of information and has access to them be it in books, magazines or on the internet. her powers of understanding have improved. she can imbibe what is taught quickly and in its entirety. despite all this, she is still to be helped. The sources may have to be pointed out, the difficult portions explained. pedagogy has to be changed since the recipient is at different level but basically the information is still to be passed on. in the developed countries, the institutes for higher education (they are even called schools – management schools etc. - but we, in india, prefer the word institute) there are more tutors than professors and tutorials are more important than the classes.
when does the process stop?. perhaps it never does. it is why UNESCO and others now talk of lifelong education. Here we are concerned with another aspect. this is about the parallel system of creating knowledge. armed with the information and access to its sources, and having developed critical appreciation capability, a person can extend the frontiers of knowledge. this is research – creating new knowledge. there is another aspect. the available knowledge can be presented in a digestible format for the students. this can also be called research but it is not in the same genre as creation of knowledge. a third aspect is studying the situation on ground how a particular scheme or a pedagogical innovation has helped in achieving the intended objective. it can be called feedback or by some other name but again, it fails to qualify as research.
in our country all the three aspects – creation of knowledge, repackaging of knowledge, feedback is called research. there is a vital difference in these but it is ignored and everybody gets a PhD after which you cannot distinguish which avenue he chose. actually the research comes when the need for new knowledge is felt inside. there is an inner urge for that. not every one experiences this inner urge and, therefore, research is not for everyone. the present system of evaluating a university by the number of PhD it has produced should be discarded. claiming that university, during my tenure as vice chancellor, awarded 263 doctorate in one year should not be taken as success of university, rather it should indicate lack of seriousness about research (as we have defined it).
is research necessary for teaching? the university grant commission thinks so and prescribes it as an essential qualification for teaching. this is not based on any study. there is a saying that those who can - do; those who cannot- teach, those who can do neither - do research. (I am not talking about those who feel the urge to create knowledge). the teacher has to be well versed in his subject but a Ph. D. degree does not ensure this. What he should be aware of are the methods of passing on knowledge to the students but this is also not part of preparing for or for getting Ph. D. degree. as the school level, we are more conscious of this aspect and the person intending to be a teacher is expected to go through the process of learning pedagogy. this need does not go away at higher level but the pedagogical methods have to be different and, therefore, the syllabi have to be different. it is admitted that no one has ever thought on these lines and there are no prescribed courses to be completed. this can be and should be rectified. it follows from the above that Ph.D. is not necessary for teaching and the rush to get the degree somehow or other will not be necessary leaving only the genuine people in the field for research (of all the three varieties).
we now come to another question. are examinations necessary? if they are, who will conduct them? the new compulsory education act 2012 has done away with examinations and detentions till the final school leaving. (there is examination at level 10 but is optional). a little introspection will show that when knowledge or information is imparted, it is essential to check if what is passed on has been fully absorbed. this is as much a test for the teacher as for the student. this is the reason why examinations are considered sacred and it is for the same reason why they are flawed. the teacher does not want to fail. he encourages help books and unfair means. and if he can make on the side through tuitions, all the better. it is not be a matter of surprise that even at under graduate level regular tuitions are being organized. it is observed that even at the board level the tendency is to present an ever increasing percentage of examinees who pass as if it is to the credit of the board. in reality the examination is only an examining body and the pass percentage is reflection on the schools. it is also observed that even in subjects like literature, there are a large number of student who obtain cent percent marks as if the knowledge of literature can be perfect for any one. For the students, the examinations are pain in the neck since their ability is being checked but really the examinations are in their interest as these enable them to know their weak spots. the system of examination is really at fault to put them into tension but that is another big issue for which a detailed study would be required.
how is this efficiency (sic) in board examination to be cross checked. in the good old days inspections of schools was a regular function and provided assessment of both students and the teachers other than through examinations but that system is now in disuse. in fact everyone has now forgotten about it and it is not even talked of. in the private schools, same situation prevails. the only criterion is the result in the final examination.
if examinations are necessary at post school level, some one has to conduct them. Given the above statement about self interest, it has to be done by an external agency. the idea of autonomous colleges who can conduct their own examinations or the internal evaluation will not serve the purpose. we have the boards at the school level. we can replicate them at higher levels or we can call them universities, the choice is there. names do not matter but the examinations do. there has to be a suitable organization which can conduct the examinations. we can call it an affiliating university (as distinguished from research university – or simply university).
based on above, we can have two types of universities - affiliating and research (meant exclusively for research). In that case we can reduce the number of the universities. there can be one affiliating university for a state, or if the states are small, for more than one state. all the colleges in the state(s) will be affiliated to this university. the standard of examination will then be uniform across the state(s). proper coordination between the universities can lead to a pan indian standard.
number of research universities will depend on the demand.(not supply or the whims of authority like making Ph. D. compulsory for this or that post). they shall not be subsidized though the talented can have scholarships. overall the research university should be self supporting. it will have a limited number of students and a limited number of scholars to guide them who can also be guest faculty of the university. the number is not important, the quality is. with motivated students it is more than likely to be of high standard. repackaging of knowledge belongs to the realm of textbooks and the supplementary reading material. they are necessary ingredients of education but cannot be categorized as research. similarly the field studies and their reports serve an important purpose but, one again, cannot be classified as researched.
one point remains. we have talked of evaluation of teachers at school level by inspections from those outside the school. though it is not done at present, it should be reintroduced and also extended to private schools. in this digital age, the results should be well publicized. but what about the affiliating university and the college teachers. inspections will not serve the purpose since the requirements for qualifications of the inspector will not be met. the west has the saying – publish or parish but what is published has still to be evaluated. this and also the performance of the lecturers can be done by the peers through seminars, conferences etc. care has to be exercised that mere attendance therein is not counted as participation. updating of knowledge has to be assessed and regular monitoring will be necessary. at this level the assessment by the students will also be practical preposition in view of their maturity. in addition there can be social audit just as it is there for other schemes and projects. the intelligentsia, in general and not merely from the academic world can be associated with it.