New Delhi, Feb 17: The quality of higher education in India is worrisome with the accent more on “job-oriented courses” rather than “broad-based, good, solid education” backed by “original quality research”, says Jamia Millia Islamic vice-chancellor Najeeb Jung.
“I am concerned about the quality of teachers coming into higher education in the country,” said Jung, reflecting a concern recently expressed by no less a person that President Pranab Mukherjee. Jung said the present changes being done in the education system were “pretty cosmetic” and felt private universities had “no commitment to higher education” at all.
“We are not looking at the quality of research that the faculty should be doing. You cannot progress higher education unless there is original quality research,” Jung told IANS in an interview at his office at the 93-year-old university that has had some national stalwarts, including former president Zakir Hussain, as its vice chancellors.
Jung, who was the chairman of the core committee of vice-chancellors formed by the HRD ministry to map out improvement in the higher education sector, felt that whatever changes brought about by universities, like semester system and making the bachelors course a four-year one, were cosmetic.
“I still think that this is pretty cosmetic. I really think that we are not talking of broad-based, good, solid education. I think that people are focussing on their own particular subject.”
Speaking on private universities Jung said: “(In) the private universities, there is no commitment to higher education, they are only charging a fee. Where is the quality?”
He spoke of how parents too have a narrow focus on this and encourage their children to pursue a “teaching job” just because it has lucrative benefits.
“The parents come to me and say saab job-oriented course hona chahiye (that there should be job-oriented courses). I am saying that I don’t want to give you a job-oriented course. Jobs will come if your child is well-educated and if he has gathered enough knowledge but they don’t want to do it.”
Pinpointing the problem, he said: “The problem is, kuchh aur naukri nahi mili toh PhD kar lo. PhD kar li, kuchh aur nahi mila toh teaching kar lo (If you don’t get any job you enroll for PhD. Even then if you don’t get any job, you become a teacher).
“But this is not the way you get into academia. If you want to get into academia you have to be research oriented.”
He recounted the disappointment he once faced at a recent interview process.
“We have had interviews for the Centre for Media, Culture and Governance, for which 37 candidates appeared. Thirty-five were exceptionally poor. You can’t spend more than a minute interviewing them. I was lucky I got two outstanding ones.”
Jung found the “exceptional brilliant” ones from the most disadvantaged sections of the country.
“I have a teacher here in engineering, whom I recruited last year. He was competing with a boy who is from IIT Delhi and has come back with PhD from Houston. This boy was far ahead of the Houston fellow. So we do get such diamonds.
He said salary was not a problem in attracting a good faculty. “Salaries have improved a lot. They have brought teacher’s salary at par with IAS officers.”
(Meha Mathur can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)