|EDUCATION TRIBUNE||Tuesday, July 1, 2003, Chandigarh, India|
Indecision over new fee structure causes confusion
Pottermania may help revive reading habit
Indecision over new fee structure causes confusion
Colleges of Panjab University are in a state of utter confusion with regard to the fee they would levy on students in the forthcoming academic session. A circular stating the revised fee structure has been sent by the Punjab Government which proposes a mammoth hike.
While colleges located in Chandigarh are expected to witness a nominal hike, the affected colleges in this category are in Hoshiarpur, Ludhiana, Ferozepore and Muktsar districts of Punjab. These will witness a sizeable hike, if the new fee structure is to be implemented.
The Punjab Government, the main financing authority to a majority of affiliated colleges, has sent a circular on the proposed revised fee structure. It is yet to be accepted by the university. The matter has been referred to the governing body (Senate) with clear signals of stiff opposition to the same.
The university has more than 100 affiliated colleges in the state. There are three broad categories of colleges affiliated to the university — government, government aided and unaided.
The government colleges are likely to accept the circular "without any opposition". The aided colleges from where the voices of dissent are being heard rely on the government for 95 per cent grant-in-aid so it is difficult to say how strong the opposition will be. The government has also communicated to the colleges that the budget of the colleges would be calculated on the new fee structure.
The Punjab Government in a letter of the Director Public Instructions (Punjab) dated May 13 has communicated the ‘revision of fees and funds being charged by government, aided and non-aided colleges and the state universities’.
A student, under the revised fee structure, will be required to pay an admission fee of Rs 750 for undergraduate courses, Rs 1000 for post-graduate courses and Rs 1250 for M.Phil and PhD. In addition, he will have to pay Rs 350 per month for the undergraduate courses as tuition fee, Rs 550 for per month for professional courses and Rs 650 per month for postgraduate courses.
The existing tuition fee in case of PU colleges is Rs 70. Students will also be required to pay for amalgamated fund, annual charges, library, hostel charges and building construction.
To confound confusion, there is no uniformity in the fee structure of the colleges. While the tuition fee and admission fee remain uniform in a particular category of colleges, there are major differences in funds being charged by colleges on various accounts.
Colleges in cities are charging more than colleges in rural areas. While one hears no resistance from government colleges on the issue, there are reservations on the fee issue from aided colleges. A cross-section of college principals, while stating they would voice their concern at the university Senate, however, accept that they are unclear about the options they have if they do not accept the government direction.
The university has called a special Senate (July 6) to discuss the issue threadbare.
Principal Tarsem Bahia from A.S. College, Khanna, says colleges follow university rules. However, the Punjab Government is the main funding agency and its directions cannot be ignored. "The government has gone beyond its jurisdiction by deciding on the subject of fee," he says.
Principal Jaswant Gill, Guru Nanak National College, Doraha, says he has reservations on the issue but has no alternate choice against the government orders. It is surprising that then government did not contact the colleges before drafting the new fee structure.
"We will oppose the government move at the Senate," Principal Gill says.
Principal Harmit Kaur, Ramgarhia Girls College, Ludhiana, says as per the university calendar, any decision on fee and funds is the prerogative of the university. The government should have interacted with the principals and university heads before drawing any action plan, she opines.
Principal Janmit Singh, DAV College, Hoshiarpur, says colleges do not have any option but to adopt the new proposed fee rates, especially in case of colleges aided by the government.
Prof Charanjit Chawla says the government move for hike in fee is unconstitutional. Under Section X of the 95 per cent Grant-in-Aid Scheme of the Punjab Government, the fee structure of the university is to be decided by the university itself and not the government.
"The government is not thinking of the majority of the state population which studies in rural and semi-urban colleges," he says with regret.
Pottermania may help revive reading habit
After years of subjugation, the bundle of pages has finally retaliated against the jumble of cables. The Harry Potter mania has gripped the kids and suddenly the good old reading habit has taken precedence over channel surfing and Net browsing.
A RIF (Reading is Fundamental Inc. is a nonprofit organisation to promote reading habits) survey shows that "nearly 70 per cent of children who read a Harry Potter book said it had encouraged them to read other books. Of those who had read Harry Potter, 35 per cent cited the recommendation of a friend as their reason for reading the book, and for a further 20 per cent ‘wanting to find out what all the fuss is about’ spurred them to pick up the book."
Back home in Chandigarh, a leading bookstore claims that it sold nearly 300 Harry Potters’ in first three days flat. The book is ‘out of stock’ now and the next consignment is awaited. Other leading stores, too, face a similar situation and ‘blame’ it all on couch potato-turned-bookworm kids of City Beautiful!
Predictably and sadly, this reading culture that is holding the kids spellbound for now is likely to remain short-lived. Popeye and his gang, aided by multimedia games, will soon break the Potter magic spell and after a few weeks, mouse clicks may again drown the shuffle of the pages. But isn’t it wonderful that kids are rediscovering reading and the Net and the TV have been relegated to the background.
Then why blame kids for all this wean-off-from-reading culture. Blame the parents and accuse the schools of this. Parents use the idiot box as a honey-laced soother. As soon as a child learns to toddle he is taught how to plonk himself on a sofa and operate a TV remote. And then the honeymoon between the kid and the TV starts till pre-teens. After that, it is the Internet, multimedia, CDs and video games that supplement the regular TV stuff. Parents prefer to spend a fortune on toys but books fail to capture the attention of most of them.
Very recently on the final day of a fair held in Chandigarh, a grumbling bookstall owner was seen wrapping up his wares after three days of no sales. The reason he cited was that the parents who visited the fair preferred to squander hundreds of rupees on junk food and other items for their kids’ sake, but not one of them encouraged their child to purchase a book from his stall.
Schools are no better. Top schools in Chandigarh boast of multimedia theatres and libraries. But the money spent to upgrade the school libraries is just a fraction of what is spent on the purchase of CDs and other hi-tech equipment each year. Most schools do not encourage extra reading.
Another reason is the poor quality of Indian books. India, the land of epics, mythology and software wizards, has to depend on foreign authors. Despite the fact that most of the animation work is outsourced to India, ironically, the quality of graphics and language in most of the Indian kids’ books is poor.
"Which parent would like to spend money on books that has lots of spelling mistakes and whose animations are pits to say the least", asks Deeplata, a mother of an eight-year old boy. Her son prefers Hardy Boys to Mowgli and Hitchcock to Panchtantra and she has no regrets about it.
"We have so many Indian books by
reputed publishers but children just do not prefer them. The latest
Harry Potter book is eight times the cost of an ordinary Indian book
but parents do not mind shelling out the amount. I think this all is
due to media hype," says Rajiv from a leading bookstore.
Harry Potter has caught the imagination of the kids worldwide. Because there is a child in each one of us, rationalises Dr N.P. Manocha, Director, Health and Family Welfare, Chandigarh.
"And that child wants to escape reality and transport himself into a world about which he often dreams. A world where there are no rules, no codification and nothing beyond the realm of possibility. A world where he is all-powerful".
This is what Rowling’s books represent for him: a world of fantasy and magic where everything is possible. The book represents a virtual reality for the reader.
Dr Minocha points out that such literature has been available in India for a long time; tales of Panchtantra, Chandraleka and Chandra Kanta are all fictional works about fantasies. But it is the manner in which the stories have been told in the Harry Potter series which scores above others.
Like Cinderella, Harry Potter is also a poor, whose parents have been dead and he lives with his uncle and is subjected to emotional abuse. Even Cinderella had some kind of witchcraft power which led her to turn a mouse into horses.
Says Dr Rumina Sethi, Reader, Department of English, Panjab University; "Harry Potter books are the age-old fight between good and evil. This is a subject which concerns everybody and remains relevant at all times".
Dr Preeti Arun, a psychiatrist, says:
"For a child in the age group of 8 to 10 magic has always held a
great fascination. Also fantasies have fascinated human beings be it
Alif Leila, the Arabian Nights or Chanda Mama".
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