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Standardising quality of learning

Why do we need fixed period contracts for higher education institutions?

A draft proposal has been put up by the labour ministry for fixed term employment. The fixed term employment provides greater flexibility for employers in hiring their staff on fixed-term contracts as opposed to permanent jobs. This was introduced in 2016 only for textile and apparel sectorand now it is proposed to expand it to all the industry establishments. This provides an opportunity for improving the quality of teaching staff both government and private institutions.
Let me explain how, it is a fact that we have many higher educational institutions in the country. As per all India survey of higher education-2016 there were 799 universities, 39071 colleges and 11923 stand alone institutions listed. Of the 799 universities only 277 universities are privately managed. So it is a fact that we have a large number of educational institutions and the estimated total number of teachers is over 1.5 million. In terms of student passout the resent data show the report 6.5 million students passout every year. Out of 180 courses available, only 10 course cover 83% of the total students enrolled in the higher education. At the under graduate level the highest number (40%) of students are enrolled in Arts/Humanities/Social Sciences followed by science (16%),Engineering and technology (15.6%) and commerce(14.1%).
While the engineering and technology colleges are heavily privatized, large number of arts science and commerce colleges are still run by government and not for profit institutions.
Now what is the challenge in the employability of the students who are passing out they are varying estimations of employability ranging from 10%-25%. One of the major causes of poor employability is quality of education imparted in the campuses and one of the factors responsible for poor quality of education is the quality and education of the teachers.
The faculty in the private institutionsand also in the government are currently hired on permanent jobs to meet the headcount requirements of the regulatory institutions like AICT, UGC etc.It is also true that government colleges have a lot of temporaryteachers,but this happens because the headcount has not been enhanced in this government institutions and hence teachers cannot be on permanent rolls.
A question is whether the permanency of employment of teachers/professors in the educational institutions– is it contributing to the poor quality? In my mind, it does, for example in the US it’s a common practice that all teaching staff will be initially hired on fixed contracts. During the fixed term contracts, faculty must meet the norm set in terms of publications, research work and teaching load.Only those who meet these norms and only after they demonstrate the meeting of standards consistently, then faculty will be invited to join as “Tenure professors”. Tenure professors are permanent professors. It’s a status symbol for any faculty to become a tenure professor and hence there is lot of pressure on the faculty to perform and demonstrate leadership, initiative, innovation etc. to earn the tenure status.The question is why we can’t adopt the same model in engineering, arts, scienceand commerce colleges in India.
Yes am aware that the college teaching staff and non teaching staff are unionised specially in government colleges. Yes, am aware that it requires lot of pulling to do any changes in service conditions of teaching faculty but if you want to fundamentally transform higher education institutions, the government must take a bold step allowing both private and government colleges to insist on meeting high quality and quantity standards before attaining the tenure status. It’s time we adopted the US model despite resistance from faculty

Author: T. Muralidharan
Name of publication: Telangana Today
Date published on: 05/03/2018
published in: Hyderabad
Tags: Employability

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