Sunday, November 28, 2010

Higher Education in Manipur: A Far Cry from Wishes of the University Grants Commission

It has become an informed practice on the part of the Government of Manipur to keep the people of Manipur in a state of confusion, thereby taking away the productive hours, so as to maintain “order” in the name of the State. Much of the misfortunes that have afflicted the people have their origin the manner in which the “State” has responded to the claims of the people. The fiasco pertaining to the fixation of the pay scale of the teachers in the Government colleges of Manipur is a case in point. There has been no “official order” to form a basis the accusations labeled against the Government. However, one has to accept that Manipur is such a small place to garner “information”, given that at the societal level everyone turns out to be a relative! Well, it is worthwhile to examine, the cries of the teachers of the Government colleges, since, whether one likes it or not, the colleges are the sites where the future foundation of the Manipuri society belong.
UGC & the Call for Excellence in Higher education
To make India a power house of knowledge, the University Grants Commission (UGC), through G.K. Chada Committee submitted a report regarding the need for revision of pay scale and other norms governing the teachers and higher education. The report was duly approved by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India (No.1-32/2006-U.II/U.I(i) dated 31st December, 2008). The central idea of the Committee is to retain the best minds (talented youths), in the field of education especially in higher studies. Few highlights of the Chadha Commission are given below:
1.The pay revisions are not only because of inflation. The scales of pay of teachers needed to be looked afresh in the context of salary structures of other sections of the society-corporate sector, private educational institutions and civil service, etc. Two points of view were taken into account.
a.First, the existing scales of pay of the teacher were not fully compatible with any of the existing scales of central government employees.
b.Second, the minimum qualifications laid down for teachers at the point of entry to the profession i.e. consistently good academic record, at least a very good Master’s degree (with 55 percent and above marks in the subject concerned plus NET/SET examination) were considerably higher than those prescribed for entering the civil services.
Therefore, they should be given due incentives. Acquiring higher qualifications also means that the teachers would enter the profession at an age older than of those entering the civil services. Also, it would be a significant incentive for more meritorious scholars to join the teaching profession, particularly at this juncture when both the corporate sector and foreign educational institutions are luring the young talented persons away with higher salaries and better pay packages.
2.Higher Academic Allowance should be paid to teachers in various categories of Assistant Professor since their needs at the initial stages of their academic career are more than those of senior teachers in the categories of Associate Professors and Professors.
3.Others, related to pay structure, promotion and entitlements.
Laudable MPSC: Recruitment & Human Resource in Manipur
While the Government has failed to deliver, Commissions, which do not enjoy any legal bindings, have been doing a commendable work in Manipur. For example, the list of lecturers selected by the Manipur Public Service Commission (MPSC) and appointed at various Government colleges of Manipur in January 2009 are in line with the guidelines set by the UGC. At least MPSC needs to be appreciated for this particular act of selection especially at a time when even the Manipur University is at the throes of controversy for violating the UGC guidelines for appointment of teachers and research associates.
A cursory look at the academic background of lecturers selected by the MPSC in 2009 reveals an interesting pool of human resources; ones that are closer to the vision of the UGC. Altogether, 133 fresh lecturers were appointed by the Government of Manipur for 25 different subjects. 80 percent of the total numbers of lecturers selected are UGC-NET/JRF qualified. Out of the remaining 15 percent of selected lecturers, five percent of the lecturers are SLET qualified; the rest do not hold either UGC-NET/JRF or SLET but have M.Phil/Ph.D.
In terms of higher studies, around 38 percent of the total number of lecturers selected is M.Phil / Ph.D. degree holders from various universities in India. This is in trend with the older generation of teachers since the Manipur University (earlier JNU Imphal Centre is of recent origin). 20 percent of the lecturers selected have submitted M.Phil / Ph.D. thesis but results are being awaited. 36 percent of the selected lecturers are pursuing Ph.D., which are at different stages of completion. However, the remaining six percent of the total number of lecturers selected have given up higher studies on account of age factor and other difficulties.
The composition of educational background in terms of receiving higher education is another interesting feature. With the exception of Manipuri and Defence Studies (from Manipur University), rest of the lecturers selected have received higher education (at least up to M.A. level) from different universities in India including Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi University, Jamia Milia Islamia, Chandigarh University, Kurushetra University, Jiwaji University, Osmania University, North East Hills University and so on. For example, in the case of Political Science, out of the total number (15) of lecturers selected, nine have received education from JNU, four from Delhi University and the rest from Manipur University. Likewise, in Sociology, 100 percent of the selected lecturers are from JNU.
In view of the rich academic background of those selected/appointed, Manipur can expect a good return in terms of producing scholars at the graduation level. Once again, MPSC should be appreciated for the commendable job.
On Professional Commitment: Vigor & Culture
Age is an important factor in productive endeavours. 90 percent of the total numbers of lecturers selected is in the age group of 30–40 years. Remaining 10 percent is above 40 years old but below 45 years with the exception of two or three lecturers. Hardly two years old in service, professional commitment of the fresh lecturers cannot be challenged by any authority. There is the enthusiasm of being in a regular job and moreover, these are the few lot (young as they are) who believes in bringing about a revolution in higher education in the state. Lethargy has not yet seeped into their young bones.
A new teacher in any educational institution brings along with him/her not only educational qualifications but also a culture of learning-teaching imbibed over the years from her/his alma mater. For example, a scholar from JNU or DU would certainly bring into the new institution, so posted, a culture of idealism and importance of epistemology apart from encouraging the students to read. This is accepting the fact that even the theory of praxis informing Marxism has its basis in the notion of ideal. Moreover, their efforts would be in creating an academic atmosphere, thus, the importance of having a “library” in the true sense of the word, or even tell the concerned authority, “If you want, eat moolah from the funds allocated for buildings and walls but not from the funds allocated to buy books and journals”. They would certainly plead to the concerned administrative authority for transparency and coordination, so as to uplift the status and standard of the concerned institution. This does not mean to say that they’re challenging the mindset of the older generation of teachers. A good institution in its quest for excellence needs to have a confluence of ideas between the older and new generation teachers. Obviously, a symbiotic relationship between the two is a must.
Limitations & the Politics of Number
Acknowledging the intellectual acumen of the selected lecturers is one thing but there is an overwhelming sense of déjà vu when it comes to translating the good intention and their intellectual strength into action. For example, in addition to the 133 newly selected lecturers, in the category of lecturers as defined by the Government of Manipur, there are 49 more (lecturers/librarians), making a total of 182 lecturers. This category of teachers constitutes only 16 percent of the total number of Government college teachers currently in Manipur. Lecturers/Librarians (Sr.) constitute 24 percent. Lecturers/Librarians (SG) constitutes around 7 percent and, finally, Lecturers/Librarians (SG-senior level) constitute around 53 percent of the total number of Government college teachers in Manipur.
The new lecturers are incapacitated with the kind of mindset prevailing in Manipur. In other words, they are regarded as inexperienced and incapable (sic. kids). The Government of Manipur acknowledged similar kind of understanding and effected such a mindset when it declared the extension of working years of the Government college teachers up to the age of 62 years. It reads: Extension of the service years have been made as the “new” teachers cannot teach the new syllabus of the college students.
The Government of Manipur, especially, the Finance Department, seemed to have captured the frozen state of lecturers in terms of numbers, when the Department placed its suggestion of scales of pay. Following table shows the differences between the 6th UGC recommendation and Finance Department Suggestion:
6th UGC Recommendation
Designation Number of teachers Pay Band Pay in Pay Band AGP Basic Pay DA (35%) HRA SCA TA Spl Pay Total
Librarians 182 15600-39100-6000 22560 6000 28560 9956 2858 1500 1600 - 44512
Finance Department (Manipur) Suggestion
Designation Number of teachers Pay Band Pay in Pay Band AGP Basic Pay DA (35%) HRA SCA TA Spl Pay Grand Total
Librarians 182 9300-34890-5400 22850 5180 27960 5788 2796 1500 1600 - 43642
Other categories of teachers such as Lecturers/Librarians (Sr.), Lecturers/Librarians (SG) and others are not affected. If the Finance Department suggestions are accepted by the Government, then the present lot of Lecturers and future new entrants are the ones who are going to suffer the most; foremost being academic/career advancement. Although, the Government has not come out with an official order, what Yenning can read is that the Government is playing a dirty politics of appeasing the 53 percent of the Lecturers/Librarians (SG-senior level), who are on the verge of retirement, at the cost of the lecturers.
When faced with such a callous attitude on the part of the Government, defying norms set by the UGC, there needs to be unity among the teachers (old and new alike). But this can happen only when the senior lecturers abandon their paternalistic attitude and think in terms of professional solidarity.
Does not Manipur want to become a powerhouse of knowledge? Gone are the days when Manipur was the destination for higher studies. One cannot blame the phenomena of insurgency for this deprivation. The Government as well as the senior teachers are accountable for the crisis.
Now the question remains: Will the Ibobi sarkar pull up its socks and work towards bringing about a revolution in the realm of knowledge? For decades teachers have been blamed for the degradation in education in Manipur. Now all we want to say is give the teachers a chance; you have already given ample opportunities to the contractors and armed forces.

This article was posted on The Sangai Express on November 28, 2010

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