EDUCATION TRIBUNE

Across disciplines
Need for overhauling the academy
Shelley Walia
The narrow pursuit of one’s own area of specialisation only ends in research that has little relevance of its findings to larger human concerns. In the academy, people and books must reinforce one another, intelligence has to join hands with keenness, conjecture and supposition must turn into zest, and dialogue and debate have to be made intense
through commitment.

Holistic education holds the key
Satvinder Kaur Mann
Education has gradually become an economic endeavour, linking degrees with jobs. Economic considerations have assumed overriding importance and are the only target to be achieved.

Campus Notes
Dr Y. S. Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, Nauni
Comptroller’s pay hike raises eyebrows
The grant of a higher pay scale to the university’s comptroller, G. C. Raiti, has generated much heat in the university circles. Though the university had contested media reports pre-empting the grant of a higher scale to the comptroller, it showed the university in poor light, with the registrar himself issuing a notification in this regard on May 31.

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Across disciplines
Need for overhauling the academy
Shelley Walia

The narrow pursuit of one’s own area of specialisation only ends in research that has little relevance of its findings to larger human concerns. In the academy, people and books must reinforce one another, intelligence has to join hands with keenness, conjecture and supposition must turn into zest, and dialogue and debate have to be made intense through commitment.

A literary evening in the common room of Churchill College discussing the inputs of the Marlow Society over the last 18 years, a lecture on the History of Philosophy of Science, a lunchtime conversation on Richard Dawkins’ recent book The God Delusion, or a seminar on Chaos and Order in the world of science and theory.

These were some of the events that take up a scholars day at Cambridge apart from the mornings spent on the encroachment of American culture in other parts of the world and the need for a collective opposition to such an imposition.

A conversation on racism, a discussion on the pharmacological aspects of psychology versus the environmentalist view, or the relationship between neuroscience and computer cognition or the link between schizophrenia and the physical delay of an infant in walking took ones mind beyond the narrow confines of a discipline that is the concern of most academics, who with the single-mindedness of an oyster, pursue their limited areas of interest.

For instance, an understanding of how the human brain understands language would be the key to developing such cognition in computers.

The concern is with the shifting attitudes towards the Humanities, which at this juncture is unquestionably not at the periphery of university education or the scientific world. We need a system that reflects the rapidly shifting ground of thought and knowledge, argument and debate about a society and its culture, with an emphasis on a methodology underpinned by an activity of self-reflection that has consequences not only inside but outside the academy, too. The confines of the existing divisions of knowledge need to be at once dismantled.

Such an intellectual enterprise will constitute an emphasis on tension and change at the frontiers of academic life, always with the aim of evolving new models and new methodologies that stand up to the test of intellectual rigour and social relevance.

A renaissance of the Humanities in the liberal arts programme comes invariably through attention to the study of arts for the broadening of cultural understanding of one’s heritage and the alertness to the exigencies of the present. Take for instance, the study of art. For such scrutiny, the interdisciplinary approach takes into consideration the non-professional’s limited technical knowledge and experience, and goes a long way to ensure that no one is oblivious of the social forces reflected in the works of art or for that matter, in any text.

In view of this close connection between art and life, it is observable that art engages several aspects of experience relevant to the artist’s religious affiliations and the religion of the public, his economic status and that of his audience, his social status and the social status of the public.

Add to this personal and social history, the geographical location and the prevailing politics of the time, and you have a new training in understanding, hearing and seeing all those vital forces that have a direct bearing on the production of any art form. In this approach lies the close analysis of ones cultural inheritance.

Our teaching in the coming years, I envisage, would thus be geared towards the application of knowledge to problems in society and towards building a bridge in theory and practice. We need to be aware of the multifarious crosscurrents within a worldwide context.

Literature and social sciences, as repositories of human values, can go a long way in sensitising the managers of industry about the aspirations and human dreams of the people they manage.

Therefore, to develop a technique of general critical analysis by which we can arrive at our own evolution and judgment of the correlation between various disciplines is to develop insights and aesthetic experience through active participation in the cultural patterns of our society and examine culture in all its complex forms, analysing the social and political context within which it manifests itself.

The fields of literature, history, science and arts concern themselves with the problem of value, of the life-giving beliefs and ideas made visible and audible through diverse mediums used by academics who give new energy to civilisation and expand our understanding of the world and ourselves.

Such trespassing across boundaries would no doubt create a situation where we can hope for a more organised and well-coordinated interaction within departments in the university. By introducing such a methodology, students would have the freedom to combine courses in Literature with those of other subjects.

Inputs for teaching from the faculty of allied departments would be immensely useful in enhancing the quality of the courses universities offer.

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Holistic education holds the key
Satvinder Kaur Mann

Education has gradually become an economic endeavour, linking degrees with jobs. Economic considerations have assumed overriding importance and are the only target to be achieved.

This type of education has played an important role in transforming business establishments into giant industrial-economic houses and in building multinational corporations. Education has become a commodity for trading along with services. It has been generating the highest revenue since the general agreement on trade and services.

The new generation of academic places are not limited by institutional boundaries. Communication is rapid and a world of virtual reality is being made learner-oriented. Lifelong learning is now an occupation. Economic interconnectedness of nations, proliferation of corporate culture and transnational impact of multinationals are affecting human existence. World money markets have been linked through giant banking firms.

The trend is to serve the consumers, backed by the philosophy that individuals come first. This has resulted in the emergence of global multicultural values. A fun culture has seeped into the domains of education and work, resulting in acculturation and missing work culture.

In a nutshell, a consumer-driven world of make-believe, the fuelling of individual aspirations and a ruthless strife for achievement seem to be the order of the day. The inclusion of education in the services sector places students as consumers and the onus is on the education system to serve them. It is time to sit back and think as to how to serve the current educational needs of individuals, help society through this technological era and sustain a human face to make this world a better place to live in.

There is all the more need to come back to holistic education. The increased importance of curricula, including basic sciences and humanities, cannot be sidetracked. We should create opportunities for the youth in particular and society at large through community based projects and activities. Mere facts packaged in the form of knowledge will not serve the purpose. We need to avoid mediocrity, provide direction with vision and unite everybody to agree to work towards it. We should create opportunities to promote new channels, facilitate multi-disciplinary education and sow the seeds of innovation, making education self-accountable to meet the challenges of the future. Providing more space to education is the need of the hour and the domain of higher education should encompass creativity of rare depth.

The writer is a Professor, Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana.


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Campus Notes
Dr Y. S. Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, Nauni
Comptroller’s pay hike raises eyebrows

The grant of a higher pay scale to the university’s comptroller, G. C. Raiti, has generated much heat in the university circles. Though the university had contested media reports pre-empting the grant of a higher scale to the comptroller, it showed the university in poor light, with the registrar himself issuing a notification in this regard on May 31.

According to available records, Raita, who joined the university on July 20, 2004, was getting a pay scale of Rs 6,880-11,660. As per his seniority, his pay scale pertained to that of a deputy comptroller. This scale was revised to Rs 16400-22400, which is equivalent to the scale of a principal secretary, as per a notification issued by the registrar on May 31.

Fingers have been raised on the veracity of this order with the notification itself mentioning that the new salary lacked the requisite finance approval. Since it is mandatory to seek financial approval for any case where financial liability is involved, the notification has raised questions in the university circles.

  While the university authorities have taken the garb of university’s old Act, which allows the Board of Management to decide about the comptroller’s salary, it had conveniently overlooked the amended Act of 2005. The notification further states that the deputation of the comptroller has to be treated as a secondment.

This further means that he has to be paid a salary, which he was drawing earlier. The university has not even bothered to inform the state finance department about this scale nor have the statutory officials been informed.

The university now claims that an NOC was sought from the state finance department for this scale in 2005. However, they are unable to explain why the notification mentions no finance concurrence, if the same was not mandatory.

Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak
New Deans appointed

The Vice-Chancellor of Maharshi Dayanand University (MDU), Prof R. S. Dhankar, has appointed Dr Ajay Kumar Rajan, Professor, Institute of Management Studies and Research (IMSAR), as Dean, Faculty of Management Sciences, for a period of three years with effect from June 18.

Prof S. P. Khatkar, Head, Department of Engineering and Technology, has been appointed as Dean, Faculty of Engineering and Technology, with immediate effect. The appointments have been made under provisions of Statute 19 of the MDU Act.

AC members nominated

The MDU Vice-Chancellor has nominated two members to the university Academic Council (AC) under the provisions of Statute 13 of the MDU Act. Those nominated to the council are Kavita Dhull, Lecturer, Department of Law, and Bhagat Singh, Lecturer, Department of Physical Education. Their membership will be valid for a period of two years with effect from June 24.

— Contributed by Ambika Sharma and Sunit Dhawan

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