Transforming Universities into the True Centres of Scientific Learning
Prof. (Dr.) Mohd. Ishtiyaque
To achieve any targeted goal, there is a need to develop infrastructure accordingly. This is with all aspects of life whether it is agriculture, industry, education, religion etc. Educational institutions are meant to shape and reshape the ideology among the educated class while remaining lot gets influenced by them in one way or the other. If these institutions fail to develop scientific knowledge to deal with the social, cultural and environmental issues related to wellbeing of human society, the very purpose of the educational institution seems to have failed. Such institutions remain as information and data collection centres and depend on interpretative centres in which analytical researches are not much encouraged. These weaknesses may be removed with scientific temper and an open mind having a suitable ambience as well as sufficient infrastructural facilities. In the absence of the above-mentioned conditions, the targeted goal will be a dream only. While changing educational institutions into true centres of scientific learning, some of the following important issues have to be considered seriously in order to improve the quality of education and scientific temper among both students and teachers.
India, with a population of about 1.27 billion, is having the largest number of young population who need a good education to bring change in the country. Hence, there is a need for a strong foundation and efficient education system which can cater for the need of students right from the primary to higher education level. Without a proper education system, a country cannot develop. Educated citizens can bring the real development in a country. That is why all developed countries spend a substantial portion of their GDP on health and education. In India, only 2/3 students have enrolled themselves in the formal education system. Compared to developed countries, these numbers are not good enough. In developed countries it is above 90%.
Most colleges and universities in India follow the colonial syllabus, which does not fit into the modern world scenario. Because of the outdated syllabi, Indian students are not able to secure a good place in the leading world-class organisations. The syllabi should talk not only about the modern world but also Indian culture, its relevance and ethical values.
The conventional education system of India does not have a career-focused approach. The modern world has changed lifestyles in which moral values are lacking significantly. Formal educational organisations should provide technical education at the basic level. There should be a general education up to class 10th and after that need-based specialisation should be encouraged.
Appointment of teachers must be made strictly on the basis of merit. For that, written examination should be conducted by independent agencies like the UPSC. Additional points should be given to candidates who have qualified National Eligibility Test (NET, SLET, SET, etc.), or have worked as guest faculty, ad-hoc, against leave, etc. Priority should be given to candidates who have published research papers, books, etc. Also, there is a need to give incentive to talented faculty members so that they are continuously motivated, which in turn will be beneficial for students and the institution.
Caste-based reservation system should be followed properly. SC, ST and OBC faculty positions must be calculated as per the constitutional framework in order to give justice to the poor and marginalised sections.
Research in higher education institutions is at its lowest ebb. There is an inadequate and diminishing financial support for higher education from the government. The country has decreased its spending on education from 4.4 percent of GDP in 1999 to around 3.71 percent as per this year's budget estimate. The figure is lowest among the BRICS nations. Hence, there is an urgent need to increase the budget to motivate researchers, which will encourage quality research.
There should be proper representation of various stakeholders during the time of research proposal presentation for Ph.D programme. For example, people from publishing houses, industries and people from relevant walks of life should be invited so that they can analyse the work being done in the institution, which will help them to judge the quality of work and their acceptance in society and publications.
There is wide availability of ideas which need to be exchanged. Administration should provide such platforms for the ideas to get regularly exchanged. Seminars, conferences, workshops, extension lectures must be organised, and researchers from various fields should be invited as well as encouraged to present their ideas.
There is an urgent need to revise the statute through proper legislation. The present statute does not give much freedom to university/college. It became a handicap to function independently for the officers of universities. The interference of the chancellorâ€™s office in the day-to-day work of a university becomes a great hurdle for the VC to go for innovation exercise. They do not have freedom to go beyond the guidelines of the statute which was mostly framed during colonial era in which moral values did not have any space. There is a need of more autonomy to institutions to design syllabi, examination time tables etc. To guarantee higher quality and to attain better performance in teaching and learning, it is necessary to encourage the involvement and commitment of all those stakeholders; teachers, students and management.
It is noticed that smaller the university better the functioning and performance academically. So, there is a need to build many small universities, as per the recommendation of Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA). It also encouraged the establishment of small-size universities. Examples may be cited from IITs, IIMs, and medical colleges in which individual students are taken care of properly with practical attention. As a result the performance of students is good.
With the growing impact of economic liberalisation the private sector has entered the field of education. There is a need to focus on public-private partnership in order to enhance the quality of education in government-run organisations, which will also reduce the financial burden of the government. But at the same time care must be taken that education remains affordable and accessible to all deserving students. The fee structure should be made dynamic and economically weaker students should pay less as compared to the economically well-off.
In conclusion, above-mentioned are some of the issues which have to be addressed in order to change the colonial system of education prevalent in our country. The use of IT and inclusion of moral values in the syllabi are very much required. Otherwise, most of the product which we get from academic institutions, no doubt are literate, but will lack the real spirit of education. If the situation remains the same it will be difficult for our country to provide leadership to the world community in the 21st century.
(The author is the former Vice-Chancellor, Magadh University, Bodhgaya, Bihar (India)