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Mainstream, Vol XLV No 44

Indian Universities, Classless Societies

Monday 22 October 2007, by Ranbir Singh


Karl Marx had predicted that the revolution of working class against the capitalist state would lead to dictatorship of the proletariat which will, in turn, lead to the establishment of a classless society. His prophesy has, however, proved wrong: The state did not wither away and the classes remained in tact in all types of political regimes.

But the Indian universities did become classless societies to a great extent. This happened, in the first instance, due to the entry of many incompetent persons who really lacked the capacity to teach in the teaching profession. Some persons also got recruited as teachers who had no aptitude at all for teaching. They possessed the capability but lacked interest in teaching. These were, so to say, non-teaching teachers. These had to do so because they could not enter the professions of their choice. Thus, the universities became class less societies inasmuch as some teachers were more interested in their research work and publications than in teaching which had a low priority for them. Even such teachers as had the capacity, motivation and dedication for teaching in the beginning, lost their zeal to do so when they found that it did not help them in getting promotions. The Selection Committees for the posts of Readers and Professors gave no weightage to their contribution in teaching.

Their research publications were more helpful for promotions or recruitment to higher posts than their attainment in teaching. So much so, that some of them did not even hesitate in advising their students not to take interest in teaching after joining the profession. They also warned them that, otherwise, they will have to stagnate. Naturally, the enthusiasm of some university teachers for teaching got dampened when they found the incompetent and the non-teaching teachers flourishing. Some of them got convinced that, instead of teaching, right political connections are more important for getting higher positions. Others found that equations with the Vice-Chancellor or/and with the Senior Professors, are more important than teaching, for this purpose. Others among them came to know the hard way that the nuisance value of a teacher counts much more than her/his teaching: Their hold over the rowdy students or their relationship with the so-called student leaders matters far more than their commitment to teaching.

But exceptions are always there. There were, and there are, some teachers having knowledge as well as the skill in teaching who remained committed to teaching because it was a passion with them. They not only possessed the necessary aptitude and up-to-date knowledge but also the communication skill for making their lectures interesting. Their spirits did not get dampened even if they were by-passed in promotions or were ignored in open recruitments. But they did have the satisfaction of performing their job seriously, sincerely and competently. Such teachers continue to command the respect of their students. These are the teachers who have really prevented the universities from becoming completely classless societies. Former teachers in Political Science Prof Randhir Singh of Delhi University and Prof J.C. Anand of Punjab University fall squarely in this category. Therefore, while appointing persons as teachers competent men should be appointed and while promoting them or selecting them for higher positions their contributions to teaching should be given due weightage in addition to research.

Prof Ranbir Singh is a Consultant, Haryana Institute of Rural Development, Nilokheri (Karnal).

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