India’s perpetual concern over making higher education accessible to all has yielded high number of institutions and student enrolment in the last few decades. This huge increase in enrolment of students warranted simultaneous increase in the number of teachers and teaching supporting staff which. This has resulted in the pressure of increasing revenue and reducing expenses while continuing with expanding the enrolment.
The enormous increase in student enrolment has also pushed the higher education institutions away from the conventional pattern of hiring full-time regular teachers. Now, they look for alternatives with the objective of cost saving.
Various studies and reports make it evident that despite significant investment in higher education, infrastructure and fast diffusion of various courses in the society, there has not been the major impact on the employability of students passing out from several colleges and universities.
Currently, there are two broad categories of teachers namely regular faculty members and temporary faculty members christened with different names.
In view of the public sector institutions, one comes across insufficient student-teacher ratio, considering the regular teachers leading to an impromptu arrangement of engaging temporary / contractual / guest teachers for taking care of routine teaching requirements. This also offers lesser spending in meeting the teaching-learning requirements in higher education sector in such institutions, where financial support has not been increasing commensurate to the increase in student enrolment in majority of the institutions since long.
In private sector institutions, the spending on salary is a direct function of the student footfall in them, and the limitations in respect to the fees and student enrolment compel for hiring low paid teachers in requisite numbers to satisfy the statutory requirements and to prune the spending on salary component. This saving on cost and employment flexibility has resulted in gradual increase in the dependence of higher education system’s functioning on temporary teachers being hired either for a short time or on period basis. Hence, temporary teachers can be termed low paid teachers with least job security and regular teachers as well-paid teachers with good job security.
Nevertheless, hiring specialists for teaching specialised courses with the aim to ensure distinct value addition has always been welcome and inevitable for multidimensional personality and professional enrichment.
Notwithstanding the competence of different types of teachers, the concern is more with temporary teachers owing to lesser degree of their involvement in academic processes as well as ownership of the respective institution in the context to pursuing long-term research and extension activities.
Generally, temporary nature of anything always seeks permanency, but is likely to ingrain complacency that may turn into permanency. Irrespective of the type of teacher resource, the quality of teaching-learning activity depends primarily on the attributes as subject knowledge, sense of responsibility and commitment to teaching, ability to engage and interact, classroom management, punctuality, course management, willingness to help and care learners, adaptability to feedback for improvement, unambiguous and well-organised communication, teaching innovations and adapting newer pedagogy, effectiveness in reading and writing skills, rationality in assessment, integrity, course material, etc. These different attributes demand ample involvement of teachers in planning, devising and executing their unique strategies for ensuring effective teaching to create a pool of worthy educated ones with essential competence. Therefore, poor compensation to teachers and element of uncertainty in the duration of hiring plays a significant role in accomplishing their effective contributions in attaining the objectives of higher education institutions. Any compromises on these accounts will not yield good.
The fast pervading culture of the cost of instructions to students being aimed to be met from receipts of the institution is leading to insufficient funds. Also, temporary teachers with dangling uncertainty are overworked and underpaid while regular teachers are made to strive in exploring possible ways for fetching revenue through various activities and services which are most of the time other than the core mandate of teaching-learning of students.
It is seen that quite often temporary teachers are effective in raising student performance in short runs, but fail in imparting deeper learning. Although weakness in imparting deeper learning may prevail with regular teachers too but with favorable service conditions and accountability, they can be conveniently coerced to improve the situation.
Statutory regulatory systems of the country being primarily interested in meeting the requisite count of mentors also do not feel the pinch of any degradation in quality until the employability of graduates is questioned. Currently, the all-pervasive quest of higher education institutions for improving their ranking has brought in the policy of teacher hiring/promotion becoming research and publication centric. Thus, any shift in primary focus from student learning may yield deterioration in the quality of graduating students in due course of time.
It is high time for the statutory regulators of the world’s third largest higher education system of India to holistically consider improving teaching-learning processes with the involvement of suitable persons with passion for pursuing teaching as career. Increasing number of student enrolment indicates that higher education institutions are capacious enough to create large number of acclaimed professors through enabling lucrative service conditions.
And, any migration of worthy minds from our country to institutions abroad may endanger the intrinsic intellectual strength of Indian higher education system and be detrimental for learners in the long term.
The elimination of any uncertainty in the period of hiring, proper compensation and purely merit-based transparent selections of teachers may infuse confidence in the meritorious youngsters of upcoming generations opting for teaching as a career in India.
(The writer is the founder Vice Chancellor of Madan Mohan Malaviya University of Technology, Gorakhpur, UP. Currently, he is Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Harcourt Butler Technical University, Kanpur, UP)