EDUCATION TRIBUNE

A target hard to achieve
The condition of 180 teaching days is entirely unrealistic
J. P. Garg

T
he
issue of 180 teaching days and 75 per cent compulsory attendance in colleges and universities, the mandatory conditions under the regulations of the University Grants Commission (UGC), continues to raise its head time and again. Recently, the Vice-Chancellor of Himachal Pradesh University (HPU), Shimla, circulated directions in this regard to all teaching departments of the university and colleges affiliated to it, though these regulations were notified by the UGC more than two decades ago.

Overhaul governance to promote accountability
Ramesh Chander
The
Nation Knowledge Commission has forthrightly acknowledged the significant contribution of higher education towards the economic development, social progress and political democracy. Equally, it expressed “serious concern” about the spread and quality of higher education and has very rightly given a call for its complete overhaul.

Campus NoteS
Quitting agriculture not a remedy: Scientists
CCS Haryana Agricultural University, Hisar
Haryana Agricultural University organised an Agricultural Officers’ Workshop at the campus in which more than 300 scientists and officials of the state Agriculture Department took part. It was decided to launch a statewide campaign to encourage farmers to treat seeds prior to sowing for better germination rate. The participants expressed concern over deteriorating soil quality in Haryana. It was revealed that over 70 per cent of agricultural land was deficient in phosphorus and 30 per cent was deficient in sulphur. The situation had been created by irrational use of chemical fertilisers by farmers.

  • Campaign launched

  • Student stock exchange

  • Special lecture series

  • IMSAR Day celebrated

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A target hard to achieve
The condition of 180 teaching days is entirely unrealistic
J. P. Garg

The issue of 180 teaching days and 75 per cent compulsory attendance in colleges and universities, the mandatory conditions under the regulations of the University Grants Commission (UGC), continues to raise its head time and again. Recently, the Vice-Chancellor of Himachal Pradesh University (HPU), Shimla, circulated directions in this regard to all teaching departments of the university and colleges affiliated to it, though these regulations were notified by the UGC more than two decades ago.

Acting on a Public Interest Litigation, the Rajasthan High Court in March, 1997, ordered that the guidelines laid down by the UGC be strictly followed by the universities and colleges. The High Court directive especially specified these requisites: examinations be held only after compliance with the norm of 180 teaching days; 75 per cent attendance enforced and those students who don’t fulfill this requirement be barred from appearing in the exam; teachers should maintain a daily diary of their teaching work; a record be maintained of the monthly statement of lectures of both the teachers and students and academic activity be extended to eight hours a day. The court order also added the provision that any person should be free to point out any specific case of violation of the directions of the UGC. Despite these judicial orders, which put the teaching faculty on tenterhooks, violations have continued to take place, at least partially, year after year.

As expected, vice-chancellors again issued circulars to the heads of various institutions to implement the UGC regulations in letter and spirit, as has been done by HPU recently. Some universities, which had earlier diluted the condition of attendance to 66 per cent under pressure from student bodies, reverted to the original condition of 75 per cent. However, this enthusiasm gradually fizzled out and the situation again came to a pass.

The most controversial of these regulations is the condition of 180 teaching days, a target very hard to achieve, rather a myth and an exercise in self-deception. A careful analysis of the actual situation would reveal that the condition of 180 teaching days is entirely unrealistic. The prevalent system of higher education involves the process of admissions, house examinations, preparatory holidays before exams, practical and theory examinations conducted by universities. Also, evaluation of answer-sheets, declaration of results, coupled with summer, autumn and winter vacations. And add to this, gazetted holidays, various functions like sports day, prize distribution, convocation and youth festivals result in loss of a sizeable number of lectures. Some results continue to pour in till September, leading to late admissions and consequent decrease in number of teaching days.

The latest craze is of freshers’ and send-off parties held by the different academic wings of the same college/university separately. Elections and strikes too take toll of teaching days. Students start bunking classes weeks before the commencement of preparatory holidays for the examinations. One should also keep in mind that teachers are entitled to up to 20 casual leaves in a year. The end result is that the number of teaching days available to the teachers in colleges stands around 130 or even less. In teaching departments of universities, which observe a five-day week, this number hardly reaches110. When one seeks information on the issue at all-India conferences of teachers assembled from different universities and colleges, none vouches for more than this number.

In an attempt to conform to this idealistic stipulation of the UGC, the universities count days of admissions, examinations, preparatory holidays etc. as “teaching” days, which is blatantly false. Now, Panjab University proposes to award marks for attendance, as if attending classes “per se” is of no academic value. It is high time that the UGC and vice-chancellors adopted a pragmatic approach in this matter. Either the term “teaching” days be substituted by “working” days or the number of teaching days be set to a maximum of 140, taking a favourable view.

This utopian assumption has adverse consequences. The quantum of syllabus in a subject is generally framed keeping in view 180 lectures. The teachers have either to skip, or rush through, certain portions of the syllabus. Thus, students have to depend on self-study or private academies.

Moreover, the need of the hour is to take an integrated view of education. Steps need to be taken to develop the overall personality of students and inculcate in them the qualities of leadership and management skills, in keeping with the demands of modern-day occupations.
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Overhaul governance to promote accountability
Ramesh Chander

The Nation Knowledge Commission has forthrightly acknowledged the significant contribution of higher education towards the economic development, social progress and political democracy. Equally, it expressed “serious concern” about the spread and quality of higher education and has very rightly given a call for its complete overhaul.

The higher education paraphernalia in Haryana is flawed with multiplicity and overlapping initiatives at the university level, which needs to be reorganised to strike a balance in the process. It signifies a need to establish an autonomous commission (at an arm’s-length from the government) to oversee policy formulation, appointments and promotion of higher education.

The basic objective of this reorganisation drive should be to expand educational opportunities, develop spirit of competitiveness and promote excellence to upgrade the quality of higher education. The following initiatives focus to create smaller universities in the state that would be responsive and sensitive to change and easier to manage for quality education.

Infrastructure in state universities needs to be reorganised and synergised to promote dedicated centers of excellence to harness and commercialise knowledge for social good. Given the existing infrastructure, a university can be identified to promote excellence in veterinary and animal sciences, agriculture and plant sciences, plant genetics and biotechnology at Hisar. Similarly, another university may be entrusted to promote studies and research in basic and applied sciences.

Likewise, academic excellence in art, culture and languages, heritage, philosophical, communication and media studies can be promoted at Kurukshetra. Studies in human genome and genetics, medicinal and pharmaceutical sciences, nano sciences and nuclear technologies may be promoted at Rohtak. A dedicated university for applied sciences and engineering studies in vicinity of Delhi is also need of the hour to compete and complement the initiative elsewhere in the state.

Similarly, another university can be identified to promote gender equality and women studies. The promotion of regional, rural and local area studies calls for due attention. Edusat infrastructure can very best be utilised by various universities to impart quality education through distance and e-learning mode to the students who are unable to make it through the regular mode. Energetic efforts are also needed for establishment of an Indian Institute of Management in the state to offer job-oriented professional courses.

The Prime Minister in his address to the nation on August 15 has assured setting up of one central university in every state. The National Knowledge Commission has also pointed that central (national) university will be department-based and will not have any affiliated colleges. Therefore, the oldest state university may be calligraphed as central university and the colleges affiliated to it may be affiliated to the two (to be) newly formed universities, one each in northern (Ambala) and central (Jind) parts of the state. Efforts are required for agri-sciences dedicated university to be reincarnated as central university.

Sensing contribution of Haryana in central forces (armed and para-military), a university needs to be developed to study defense sciences, military operations and disaster management in the southern (Rewari) part of the state. Similarly, a dedicated university for legal studies and research can be promoted in the NCR region at Gurgaon.

It requires a higher budgetary allocation to empower universities to become the hub of research to develop synergies between teaching and research to enrich each other. The supportive educational infrastructure such as libraries and laboratories should be interconnected and upgraded on priority.

The initiative requires reorientation in resource allocation, reward system and mindsets to attract and retain talented faculty. The government support should be increased for sufficient resource allocation to this massive expansion. Existing checks should be relaxed to enable universities to revise fee structure and accept philanthropic contributions to meet the ensuing expenditure, in part at least.

As the existing universities in the state are sitting on a large reservoir of land, therefore, possibilities can be explored to complement the increased budgetary allocations for universities to use their available land as a source of finance. The reorganisation derive should encourage the universities to forge ties with foreign institutions maintaining a level-playing field for the two. Under such an arrangement, faculty-students exchange and dual degree programs will provide much-needed exposure and confidence to promote diversity and differentiation in the system.

Another key feature of this derive is to overhaul the state of governance of the universities to preserve autonomy and to promote accountability. The size and composition of university courts, academic councils and executive councils, which slow down the decision-making process, needs to be reconsidered on a priority basis. The derive should promote information disclosure norms for universities as regard to financial situation, physical assets, admissions criteria, faculty positions, academic curricula, as also accreditation.
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Campus NoteS

Quitting agriculture not a remedy: Scientists
CCS Haryana Agricultural University, Hisar

Haryana Agricultural University organised an Agricultural Officers’ Workshop at the campus in which more than 300 scientists and officials of the state Agriculture Department took part. It was decided to launch a statewide campaign to encourage farmers to treat seeds prior to sowing for better germination rate. The participants expressed concern over deteriorating soil quality in Haryana. It was revealed that over 70 per cent of agricultural land was deficient in phosphorus and 30 per cent was deficient in sulphur. The situation had been created by irrational use of chemical fertilisers by farmers.

The participants deliberated the crucial issue and recommended that agricultural scientists and officials of the Agriculture Department work together closely to monitor the situation and educate farmers about proper use of fertilisers and steps to be taken to improve soil quality. The participants also expressed concern over lack of enthusiasm among youth to take up agriculture as a means of earning a livelihood. It was pointed out that quitting agriculture was not a remedy. The need of the hour was to make suitable changes in agricultural practices to keep the profession monetarily attractive.

The workshop also deliberated the issue of altering the wheat-rice crop rotation practice. Scientists said instead of weaning farmers away from it, it was better to teach them bed planting and inter-cropping for more earnings. It was pointed out that mere application of urea before irrigation could raise production by as much as 10 per cent.

Campaign launched

HAU has launched a new campaign to educate farmers about the time factor in sowing the production. It will send a newsletter regularly to all sarpanches in Haryana from time to time so that they could in turn advise farmers about the various measures they should take to ensure higher returns. Scientists say farmers were not serious about the time factor even though this could affect crop production adversely. There are about 7,000 sarpanches in Haryana and the university has enrolled their services for this campaign.

Student stock exchange

Guru Jambheshwar University of Science & Technology, Hisar

Guru Jambheshwar University of Science and Technology has established Haryana School of Business Student Stock Exchange (HSB-SSE). Inaugurating the exchange Vice-Chancellor R. P. Bajpai said the innovative concept of student stock exchange would help students keep a close watch on market trends, analyse companies on a sectoral basis and also trade in stock.

Dr Bajpai said the objective was to acquainting students with operations of stock exchange, assessing the effect of political developments, monetary and industrial policies on stock markets at the national and international levels. Buying and selling of equity shares would take place at the closing price of previous day of Nifty. Stock and trading timings of the student stock exchange would be 8.45 AM to 9 AM from Monday to Friday.

Profits and losses would be notional but students have to pay brokerage in cash that would be used to distribute prizes to winners, who earn maximum profits. Final year students of MBA (Finance) will manage the exchange on day-to-day basis. A Board of Directors comprising of 13 members will monitor the exchange on the lines of actual stock markets in the country.

Special lecture series

Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak

A two-day special lecture programme was organised on the campus of Maharshi Dayanand University (MDU) here under the aegis of United States Educational Foundation of India (USEFI) recently.

USEFI visiting faculty member, Prof Bijoy Bordoloi of Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville (USA), delivered talks on “Evaluating Wi-Fi network for security tracks” and “Economics of offshore outsourcing.” He gave a detailed account of the academic scenario prevailing in the USA during discussions. He threw light on student-entrepreneurship deeds of Michael Dell, Mark Anderson and Bill Gates. 

The Director, Institute of Management Studies and Research (IMSAR), Prof A.K. Rajan, Head, Computer Science, Dr Nasib Singh Gill, besides other senior faculty members and students of the university were present on the occasion.

IMSAR Day celebrated

Students, faculty and staff of the Institute of Management Studies and Research (IMSAR) at MDU celebrated “IMSAR Day” on September 28. Cultural and literary events, besides management games were organised at the institute to mark the event. The items included dumb charades, different strokes, ad-mad show, skits, solo dance, group dance and group song performances.

A magazine of the institute—IMSAR.com—was launched on the occasion by Lalit Jain, CMD, LPS Group. Addressing the students, Jain exhorted them to “dream big and work hard to realise the same.” The IMSAR Director, Prof A.K.Rajan, and senior faculty member, Dr H. J. Ghosh Roy, also spoke. A number of IMSAR alumni as well as corporate professionals were present.

— Contributed by Raman Mohan and Sunit Dhawan
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