HIGHER EDUCATION

SORRY,I AM SELFISH!

Posted on March 7, 2014. Filed under: HIGHER EDUCATION, OFF -BEAT, PERSONAL, POLITICS | Tags: , , , |

A couple of days before the surrender-cum-arrest of Subrata Roy Sahara of Sahara, one of his sons read out a statement before the media. Like any other dutiful son, he talked about the respect his father has for the law of the land, among many other attributes and adjectives glorifying the senior Roy. But one thing struck a bell in my head.

While asserting that his father and the company did not do anything wrong, the son vouched for the contribution made by Subrata Roy to the country.

Sometime ago with the opening of a new ‘world-class’ terminal in the international airport of Mumbai, the promoter’s son expressed satisfaction over his father’s ‘gift’ to the nation as if the project was funded out of his pocket!

Many years ago, when a business house launched mobile services, it was also supposed to be something of a gift to the country.

Politicians of all kinds belonging to different parties do not shy away from stating their desire to gift the hapless people a better nation.

In this context, I would like to recall the views of some colleagues of mine over giving private tuitions in contravention to the regulations laid down by the authorities. A colleague who taught Mathematics made a lot of money from tuitions and he asserted that this act was something of a service to the needy students and the society! This is some activity where the Private Marginal Profit is much bigger than the Social Marginal Profit.

But I am an ordinary man who does a job to feed himself and his family and I am not at all ashamed of putting my narrow personal interests above those of the nation. I shall never put the cloak of national interest over my self interests and never have any intention of giving ‘gifts’ the country.

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THE IRRELEVANCE OF POLITICS IN THE CAMPUS

Posted on April 14, 2013. Filed under: HIGHER EDUCATION, INDIA, OFF -BEAT, POLITICS | Tags: , , |

The Sunday Story ‘CHANGE’ in The Hindu dated 14/03/2013 made for an interesting read with write-ups stressing the import of campus politics and inevitably there was one about the recommendations made by the Committee headed by J M Lyngdoh, a former Chief Election Commisioner of India.

As a Lecturer for more than 18 years and in-charge of conducting elections to various students associations,I have come to the conclusion that there is absolutely no need to hold elections in the campuses for it does no good.In fact, the entire campus atmosphere is vitiated with the entry of political parties and large amounts of money and muscle power. Not only the students even the staff are also affected by the involvement and the interference from the political parties.

In the said page, it is mentioned by S N Vijetha that the limit on expenditure of Rs.5000 per candidate is something that is not practical and also something that no candidate ever wants to adhere to.For me, the most sticky recommendation is relating to the attendance.In most cases, the aspirants are not in the habit of attending the classes and the college authorities are often pressurised to give the required attendance under duress from local politicians.When some college decides to take the proverbial bull by the horn, there is no support from any corner of the state administration.The student unrest following the disqualification of aspirants due to the lack of attendance forces the state administration to cancel the elections only to hold them at a later date.

I welcome the recommendation that gives a student only one chance to contest the elections for in the past many students used to have a monopoly over certain posts for a long time.Similarly, the fixing of the age limit also has put an end to serial contesters.

Most of the candidates who come out successful in the elections learn the art of things like collecting funds from various sources very quickly and that should be a stepping stone into Indian politics where it is increasingly becoming difficult to come across a politician who is not corrupt.

More importantly, we are in a country where entry into politics is determined by the lineage of a person, cutting the political teeth in the campuses is hardly required.

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PORTRAIT OF THE TEACHER AS A BUSINESSMAN

Posted on April 29, 2012. Filed under: CORRUPTION, HIGHER EDUCATION, OFF -BEAT, PERSONAL | Tags: , , |

Every year we college teachers are required to give a written undertaking to the effect that we are not giving any private tuition to our students. It is another matter that most who give such undertakings do merely consider it only as a piece of useless paper.It is also quite another matter that people who are engaged in other professions having no proper qualifications want to cash in on this situation.

Over the last 18 years, I have been witness to many of my colleagues who have no qualms in making money by providing their ‘valuable time and knowledge’ to the needy students ostensibly to help their pupils. So much so that a senior colleague who was not in the habit of taking classes while in service is showing keen interest in classes even after his superannuation.

There have been instances where the whole tuition exercise has become a business. In Economics, costs( expenditure) are classified under two heads: fixed and variable.The costs that remain constant irrespective of the quantity of output are called fixed costs while the variable costs are those that are related directly to the quantity of output. When it comes to tuition at home, the fixed costs mostly relate to the use of electricity for the fan and the light.Even when no tuition is in progress, the use of electricity remains the same for the teacher and his family needs it. On the side of the variable side, the costs remain very less at almost zero, since most students are not even provided with chairs or tables.So in my humble opinion, the costs are as good as zero while the benefits in terms of the money paid by the students is great. Economic theory explains that the producer finds it profitable to produce as long as the marginal revenue (benefit) exceeds the marginal cost (expenditure). In this way, it is most profitable to give tuitions from the confines of the home.In terms of Opportunity cost also, they are on a sound wicket with them putting their time and effort to good use.The teachers very often outsource talent from outside their homes to ‘educate and discipline’ their own children.

The teachers often come up with ingenious plans to overcome competition. Cartels and alliances are formed to drive away rivals out of business. Very often, the cartels are shortlived but the rivalries provide a lifetime of bad blood. Discounts are offered for carte blanche packages. When things become hot, the teachers form tutorial centres with someone else being put in charge to run the operations. This is proxy capitalism.If both the husband and wife are teachers, then it is profitable in more ways than one.A few years ago, when the authorities wanted to take stern action against the offenders, the students had to go at odd hours, sometimes even before the sunrise. Some teachers forbid the use of shoes and cycles so as not to attract the attention of others.

It is the teachers of the Science subjects that command the most of the tuition market primarily owing to the practicals. It is common knowledge that students going to tuitions are often rewarded with good marks in the practical examinations.The teachers of Mathematics and English make the students quake in their shoes in the classrooms. The teachers make the subjects more difficult than what they are in reality. The English teachers make the students believe that knowledge of Grammar is essential to succeed in the examination for which tuition is the only alternative.

Whether it is the revised scales in line with the recommendations of the 6th Pay Commission or the UGC, the tuitions still matter to these wise men. It is only money and the greed for it that drives the teachers to give tuitions although the givers give different and often ludicrous justifications. One former colleague of mine, a Lecturer of Mathematics pointed out that he was doing a service to the society by helping out the needy. On the other side, a Chemistry colleague wants teachers to give tuitions in order to have ‘a grip’ on the students.It is not uncommon to find students often at the receiving end of the teacher for not going to the house of the teacher.The Chemistry colleague of mine does not shy away from predicting the failure of students who are not obliging. I can cite two examples.One student who went all the way to qualify in the IIT entrance was called arrogant. The other student who is very well placed now was so much harassed that he went to the teacher. These people do not shy away from giving lengthy discourses on corruption and favouritism and that too in public spaces! Some even had the gall and temerity to ask others to send text messages in support of the movement led by Anna Hazare and company.It is all the more easy to get students when the college is granted autonomy where the ‘grip’ of the teacher is considerably stronger.

The society also in a way encourages this practice where teachers are more proactive in tuitions rather than in the classrooms.The quality of a teacher is often estimated on the basis of number of bicycles in front of his house.This is what I call a ‘cycle index’. Students are often chided by their parents for spending more time in the college for they learn more from the tuition teacher directly.

Then there are the ‘professionals’ who are not engaged in the teaching profession but give tuitions either on a full time or a part time basis.Some of them have really made it big on the fiscal front and they get more respect in the streets in relation to a teacher who does not give tuitions. They make it a point to ensure that their students do not go to the college for the classes by scheduling their tuitions in parallel to the college timings. This leads to situations where the students even do not know the names of the teachers in the college. The college teacher is simply known by the subject.The tuition teacher is more respected for he has the ability to teach many a subject while the college teacher can claim knowledge of only one subject.

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WHO IS ‘MISSILE’ GORBACHEV?

Posted on November 15, 2010. Filed under: DISTANCE LEARNING, HIGHER EDUCATION | Tags: , , |

 

I was stumped when a colleague asked me this question.

When I wanted to know more, he showed me the question relating to an assignment paper for students of the IGNOU (Indira Gandhi National Open University).

It is true that the Russian leader was instrumental in bringing words like ‘perestroika’ and ‘glasnost’ to the mainstream. It was Gorbachev who kick started the move in the dismantling of Communism in the former Soviet Union and its allies across Eastern Europe. Gorbachev also in partnership with the President of the United States, Ronald Reagan initiated the moves to strategically reduce the number of ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles) held by the US and the then USSR.

However, that does not make someone change the name from Mikhail to Missile.It is all the more appalling when it comes from the ‘largest’ distance education facility-the IGNOU.

The IGNOU prides itself on being the largest facility of its kind in the world and honestly, the materials provided to the students is genuinely of a very high quality.But there is something that is lacking and needs attention.

It is not the study materials alone that matter. What matters also is the guidance provided by the Counselors.It is in this context that the IGNOU falters. The study centres give the task to people who are not always the most capable.

It is really surprising that the IGNOU spends so much on giving the remuneration to the Counselors-most often tax free that there is no emphasis on quality control.

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