Friday, October 24, 2008

How to improve University Education in India?

Ever since Chadha Committee made its recommendations about the pay-scales, there has been renewed interest in the teachers, teaching, role of higher educattion and great deal of talk on how we can firm up the college/university (read higher education!) by offering higher salaries. Yes, I agree, if we have to attract 'talent' into teaching, we have to offer higher salaries (or salaries comparable to other professions such as bureaucrats, doctors, engineers, MBA's etc).
But tell me, what kind of 'talent' are our colleges and universities producing at the moment? How many of us would like to back up that 'talent'? And ask yourself: Is 'talent' (if it does somehow emerge in our society, despite all our efforts to snuff it out!) actually valued in the kind of mediocrity-worshipping society we have created for ourselves? After all, if our universities are not producing much 'talent' worth the mention, how do we expect 'mediocrity' to become 'meritorious' overnight? Those who think salaries alone can make all the difference need to think twice, or perhaps, several times over.
We are caught in a vicious cycle. We have little 'talent,' our society has no mechanism whereby it could sift grain from the chaff, and then we think, money will overnight create the much needed miracle. If our entire focus in higher education has been on quantity, we can't become 'quality-conscious' overnight and expect things to change dramatically. When quantity thrives, quality suffers. If you're not convinced, go ahead and read Marx's Das Capital.
Let's create a society that shuns 'mediocrity' and valorizes 'meritocracy.' That demands that we create a social mechanism whereby 'mediocres' are separated from the 'meritorious.' Let us put an end to the culture of 'sifarish' and 'nepotism.' Then we may be able to bring 'talent' or whatever is left of it into 'teaching.' High salaries alone won't do the trick. Those of us who think, it is so, are as myopic as our policy makers or politicians.
Let's not miss the wood for the trees.

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