EDUCATION TRIBUNE

Traditional courses lose sheen at GND varsity
Varinder Walia
T
raditional courses offered by Guru Nanak Dev University are no longer attractive. And this has forced the university authorities to introduce profession-oriented courses from August 15 to match the global demand.

Higher education needs restructuring
Geeta Kaushal
W
ith the globalisation of education, Indiaís education system has come under close scrutiny in recent years. Branded as outdated, exam-oriented and exclusively teacher-centered, theIndian school system has caught the attention of a growing number of critics and academics.

Need to recast elementary education
S. Kumar
U
nder the impact of the New Policy on Education (NPE), initiated in 1986, Operation Blackboard (OB) was launched throughout the country with the major assistance of the Central Government. The objective was to universalise primary education by increasing the accessibility rate and the qualitative improvement in education. 

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Traditional courses lose sheen at GND varsity
Varinder Walia

Traditional courses offered by Guru Nanak Dev University are no longer attractive. And this has forced the university authorities to introduce profession-oriented courses from August 15 to match the global demand.

The declining interest shown by students in postgraduate courses like Punjabi, Punjabi Honours, sociology, Sanskrit, political science and diploma in translation has come as a surprise for all concerned.

With the result, the university had to extend the dates for admission to humanity courses. One of the reasons for the current state of affairs is irrational allocation of traditional courses to various colleges/academies under the Distance Education Programme (DEP). Though the university could boast of earning sufficient revenue through the DEP, the fact remains that the strength of students on university campus, where they used to get quality education, has witnessed a sharp decline.

Surprisingly, despite the universityís statute on promoting Punjabi language, only 26 students came forward for admission to MA (Punjabi) against the total 36 seats being offered for the course. On the other hand, the total strength of students appearing in Punjabi in the affiliated colleges of the university had doubled. However, Dr S.P. Singh, Vice-Chancellor, said the university would decrease the fee of Punjabi courses from next academic year on the pattern of Sanskrit after consulting the state government so that economically weaker students could afford the expenses while getting quality education on the campus.

The new courses being introduced from August 15 include Postgraduate Diploma in Bio-Informatics, which is a combination of Biotechnology and Information Technology; Diploma in Quality Control of Food; Diplomas in Cyber Ethics and Cyber Laws; Quality Control of Drugs under Pharmacy; DNA/Forensic Sciences training, which would be a first postgraduate diploma in the country; and Diploma in Hospital Management.

The new courses would be passed in the forthcoming meeting of the Syndicate, scheduled to be held in the mid of July.

Though the university could not introduce any new course during the current academic session, primarily due to financial constraints, it (the GND varsity) is contemplating to start new courses from August 15 by modifying UGCís ambitious Industrial Linking Programme. Under this programme, any university could start a new course without incurring extra expenses.

Dr S.P. Singh said as part of extension service to industry (as mentioned in UGCís programme), the new concept would help the university in coping with financial crunch. The revenue generated from new courses (in shape of fee) would be spent on creating infrastructure, recurring charges to the new departments and faculty members.

The university, currently, has 38 teaching and research departments, two regional campuses and two constituent colleges, including a college at Niari, located on the border between Punjab and Himachal Pradesh in an educationally backward area. Besides, Ph.D in more than 30 subjects, the university is offering more than 90 courses to suit different streams of studies.

In the last three years, a number of technical and vocational courses have been started to meet the growing needs of the market in the country and abroad.
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Higher education needs restructuring
Geeta Kaushal

With the globalisation of education, Indiaís education system has come under close scrutiny in recent years. Branded as outdated, exam-oriented and exclusively teacher-centered, theIndian school system has caught the attention of a growing number of critics and academics.

Although India continues to follow the British tradition of comprehensive education, decadence prevails in its education system. India still has a lot to learn from the university of the west that practice an education policy of course customisation as per studentís requirements and interests. Indian higher education is a system full of flaws, making it extremely unbalanced and unevenly distributed.

Most schools and colleges in India depend upon financial aid from the state or Central Government. Hence, seats in colleges and universities are reserved for students belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. This aspect alone is a great deterrent to quality education. With a national consensus emerging in favour of more funds for primary and elementary education, budgetary allocations for higher education are dismal.

There is also greater misuse of funding for research for pure sciences as compared to applied sciences. The main reason for the rasing expenditure is over-employment in terms of teaching and non-teaching staff in universities and colleges. The planners of education and management bodies have very seldom used their authority to establish high-powered subject committee to evaluate degree and postgraduate programmes. If they did, very little was ever done to implement the resolved policies.

Indian educationists are very unpragmatic in their approach, which can be proven by the fact that most teaching in colleges is based on rote learning. Unless the elementary education emphasises the three Rs, its secondary and higher education system cannot find a sound base for proper growth and development. As a result, the higher education system encourages a policy where there is plagiarism in higher studies and research.

As an attempt to make amends, education has to be restructured by revising the syllabi in schools and colleges. India should follow the Liberal Arts Tradition of Education. Early specialisation or choice of streams like medical, non-medical, commerce and humanities is detrimental to the system in the long run. Enrolment in such colleges should be on the basis of merit. India should also make efforts to provide international-level infrastructure and equipment in its schools and colleges.

Although India cannot afford total commercialisation of education, the government and the private sector must provide financial aid in the form of loans, bursaries or scholarships to deserving and economically weaker students. Institutions should have a well-qualified and committed staff.

Besides, the role of the college management should be streamlined i.e. to assume greater responsibilities in order to avoid academic confusion. Unless accountability an education is considered a respectable word, Indiaís higher education system will remain in exercise in futility. It will remain a constant burden on the exchequer and its poor people.

Students evaluation and system of examination also requires an overhaul. A balance between objectivity and subjectivity is a must. A student securing 33 per cent marks can no longer be considered a graduate. No progressive country whether in Asia or in the West will allow this kind of mediocrity in its education system. India will have to show a greater concern and a sense of urgency to change its higher education system.
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Need to recast elementary education
S. Kumar

Under the impact of the New Policy on Education (NPE), initiated in 1986, Operation Blackboard (OB) was launched throughout the country with the major assistance of the Central Government. The objective was to universalise primary education by increasing the accessibility rate and the qualitative improvement in education. In spite of a big flow of money and strenuous efforts on the part of state governments, the objective could not be achieved. Efforts were renewed under the rule of the last Central Government to universalise elementary education (6-14 age group of children) up to 2010 under the aegis of the Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). Again a massive budget was provided by the Centre. However, according to one estimate, Haryana might not be able to achieve this objective before 2025 at the present pace. In any case the Constitutional commitment of providing free and compulsory education to all children of 6-14 age group has to be fulfilled.

The existing situation calls for recasting strategies and refixing the priorities. The war, in this context, has to be fought on two fronts: (i) provision of easy accessibility to education; and (ii) improvement in subject matter. Easy accessibility is one of the paramount needs, especially in respect of the deprived section of the society.

It is learnt that primary education, and not the elementary education, is available within a radius of 1.12 km of the habitation of the child in Haryana. Notwithstanding the fact that even the distance of 1.12 km has to be reduced further, it is revealed that great disparities prevail in matter relating to provision of education facilities between one district and the other. It is surmised that scientific methodology, like school mapping, is not being adopted for opening of schools. Now, when there is a challenge before the government to universalise elementary education, the issue relating to accessibility of elementary education has to be keenly and intensely pursued.

It may not be viable to open an elementary school in every habitation. Under such circumstances let education reach the consumer. NGOs, especially those which are on the recurring grant-in-aid list of the government, should be motivated, if not pressurised, to take up non-formal education in all earnestness. Guidelines and modalities should be provided by the government agency/department.

Another approach, especially in case of Classes VI to VIII is provision of distance education without any cost.

Centralised authority and administration can no more deliver the goods now. It is essential to make the local self-government proactive in administering elementary education in the rural and urban areas. The Constitutional Amendments 73 and 74 should be extensively used and full responsibilities, accompanied by full accountability, should be placed at the doors of the local bodies. To begin with, the centralised authority may have its way in matters like issuing guidelines, monitoring, evaluation and uniformity in standards. But the local bodies should be equipped with accountable decentralised administration for ensuring universalisation of elementary education in their particular areas.

Competition among institutions at various levels may enhance qualitative growth, which makes the teacher to teach and learner to learn. Once the elementary education becomes attractive the drop-out rate (30 per cent at present) will come down.

Also, management, including financial management, have to be high on the priority agenda. There are many ways to reorient and reprioritise management. Ensuring expenditure at the rate of six per cent of the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP), optimum utilisation of the budgetary allocations, fiscal discipline, decentralisation of administration, ensuring teacher placements, accountability at all levels and upgrading the existing Directorate of Primary Education to the level of Directorate of Elementary Education are some of the preliminary steps in the interest of elementary education.

The writer is former director, Bharat Scouts and Guides, Chandigarh
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