There is a general feeling that education is must for democracy. The functioning of our universities however tells a different story. Universities are repositories of highly educated persons; they mould the clay to make men and women who create and transmit knowledge. When we see how our teachers associations and students’ unions function, we realize how wrong we are. It is rare for a good teacher or a good student to become president of the teachers’ association or students’ union. Look at the way our courts/senates function; many of them have been kept at abeyance for years, because they do not help the university function well. A look at the age old courses, teaching methodologies, teacher-student interaction and research output tells a grim story of how our academic councils, faculty boards, boards of studies, and departmental committees function. All of us who profess to be teachers have to mull over these issues. Teachers are the longest lasting people in the university system. Without their willing cooperation, nothing can improve the universities. They should be paid better so that they can pay full time attention to reading, writing, teaching, and researching.
Today teachers in India are fairly well paid. In general a fresh lecturer in the university gets a salary of at least Rs. 5,00,000 per annum. And under the present rules of promotions, he is sure to retire as university professor. This is his destiny whether he teaches or not, whether he researches or not, whether he writes articles and books or not, and often whether he comes to the university daily or only occasionally. Please compare this with average Indian income of Rs.15000 per annum; let me emphasize the word average to bring home the fact that at least one-third of the people do not get even one-third (Rs. 40000) of this amount.
True, most of our teachers are sincere, and given the circumstances in which they work, they have done pretty well. A large number of them work more than they are paid for. But the number of full time politicians, bullies and shirkers is on the increase. It is unfortunate indeed that teaching profession for many of these highly paid teachers has become a springboard for party politics and within and outside the campus. Full time politics, coaching for competitive examinations in mushrooming coaching centers out side the university, or just sitting at home take precedence over teaching, guiding and helping their students. Now it is confirmed that salaries alone do not produce good teachers, good teaching, and good research. Pride in the profession and motivation alone can make a good teacher.
Our university teachers refuse to sign attendance registers because they think it below their dignity. But they compare themselves with middle level government servants and want to have all the facilities they have but not all the responsibilities. Not teaching at all or teaching something that was relevant only fifty years ago, is part of their academic freedom.
When we look at the structure, contents, and relevance of our academic programs, we find the situation highly depressing. We refuse to introduce new courses and new teaching methodologies because both involve extra work. Very often we design courses to suit our conveniences rather than the needs of the students. Narrow self-interest has blurred of our visions to the extent that we have started cutting the very branches on which we are sitting so comfortably.
Source: R. P Misra, Former Vice Chancellor