As reported in the newspapers the University Grants Commission (UGC) has decided to revive the National Eligibility Test (NET) as the essential eligibility criterion for recruitment and appointment of lecturers in colleges and universities with a view to address the issue of decline in quality in higher education. Whereas this new-found concern for improving the teaching standards in colleges and universities on the part of the hitherto slumberous UGC authorities must have pleased their new boss, the Union HRD Minister, for their active and urgent interest in the state of affairs as it obtain today, it also sets an important task for Kapil Sibal, the lawyer, to seriously engage in this new field of education under his charge and the time will only tell how he uses his legal experience and obligations to stem the rot and improve things vis-à-vis quality of teaching in education in general and in the field of higher education in particular. The fact of the matter is that the entire system needs overhauling. However, we would confine our discussion exclusively to the theme of this piece and the role of UGC.
Tasks and functioning of the UGC
The UGC, which became a statutory organisation by an Act of Parliament in 1956, is a national apex body for the coordination, determination and maintenance of standards of university education. In short, the UGC is mandated for the specific task of maintaining proper standards of teaching, examination and research in colleges and universities. For the purpose of performing its functions, the UGC has been provided sufficient funds. Out of these funds, the Commission grants funds to the colleges and universities for their maintenance and development.
The UGC has been in existence for more than 50 years and had earlier been conducting the centralised and decentralised versions of the NET to select lecturers for colleges and universities in the country without any interference from any quarter, then why has it failed to appoint competent lecturers all the time it had been conducting the NET?Why always this glib talk of declining teaching standards? The crux of matter is that the NET as conducted under the guidelines of the UGC has miserably failed to provide competent teachers to impart education to students in colleges and universities in the country and has proved as a worthless endeavour. In fact, on account of the rampant corruption and moral degradation as they obtain today in every sphere of the state, the NET has been used as a ruse or device to select and appoint incompetent teachers all over the country. The UGC authorities under the patronage of HRD ministry have been exclusively catering to the vested interests of islands of the affluent elite. They have created in the country, a highly westernised, nay Americanised, and commercialised system of education which serves only vested interests. Ironically this system survives on cut throat competition and corruption and is being abetted and strengthened by the Marxist academic mafia who have captured important positions of decision making power in apex institutions in the last four decades or so. Though otherwise, they profess themselves to be the messiahs of the proletariat and common people. The reintroduction of the NET is nothing but another trick to mislead the people because they are ignoring the very basics which go with efficient and effective teaching and instruction.
Ignoring the basics
Unfortunately, the authorities at the helm of affairs in the UGC and Ministry of HRD seem to be obsessed with a foolish and fallacious presumption that they have to serve only the interests of English medium students. They are abysmally ignorant of the ground situation and are not conversant with the basics of pedagogy. They do not understand even this basic essentiality that it is their responsibility to make available to the students standard textbooks in the very language of their instruction and examination using authentic terminology in that language. It is also their responsibility to recruit and appoint only those teachers who are competent to teach their subject through that particular medium of instruction. But does the NET take care of these essential elementary considerations for screening teachers for appointment in colleges and universities? If not, then what is the use of this worthless exercise called the NET?
The ground situation
This writer is not aware of the number of college students who opt for vernaculars such as Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam etc, as the media of their instruction and examination in southern states and the would like to be apprised of these facts by the concerned, but he can vouch for following incontrovertible facts about the ground situation in the northern Hindi speaking states.
i) Millions of students studying in colleges and universities are opting for Hindi as their medium of instruction and examination every year in the states of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Punjab etc, especially in subject like Economics, Commerce, Political Science and other Social Sciences and humanities. Most of these states are ruled by either the BJP or the Congress party.
ii) That 95 per cent of lecturers, readers and professors working in colleges and universities in the above states are ignorant of the standard Hindi technical terminologies concerning their subjects and are not competent enough to teach their subjects through Hindi medium. This writer has given the benefit of doubt to the remaining five per cent.
iii) That not a single college or university level textbook in the subject of Economics, Commerce, Humanities etc, has been published by any private publisher or State Hindi Granth Academy using standard and approved Hindi technical terminology in these states in the last 20 years.
iv) That the UGC spends corers of rupees every year on in-service training of college teachers in the country but no one has ever paid any attention to the above-noted all-important and essential aspects of teaching . Huge funds are going down the drain.
In the face of such undeniable facts, how can an apex institution like UGC ever maintain proper standards of teaching, examination and research in the colleges and universities.
What is being asserted here is that the NET is of no use if it cannot select those persons who are competent to teach their subject through the medium of instruction opted by students in their respective states. The NET must also test teacher’s expertise and competency in the language through which he has to impart-education. Would the UGC make drastic changes in the NET scheme if it has to be of any worth?
This writer is not aware of the difficulties that are being experienced by the students of southern states who have opted for Tamil, Telugu or any other language as their medium of instruction pertaining to the availability of standard textbooks and authenticity of technical terminologies used therein. But in case of Hindi the Supreme Court has been gracious enough to issue specific orders regarding use of authentic Hindi technical terminologies in the textbooks, which are yet to be implemented by the Union Ministry of HRD and the UGC. The orders dated 06.09.2004 run as follows:
“This is a public interest litigation filed in respect of the failure of various Governmental organisations, including the NCERT, to utilise Hindi terminology, as approved by Standing Commission for Scientific and Technical Terminology. Initially the writ petition was disposed of in view of the fact that the Union of India had agreed to the prayers made by the petitioner. In this application instances of deviations between the technological terms, as decided by the said Commission and the utilisation of terms by NCERT have been brought on record. NCERT was accordingly made a party and served. Its response is an acknowledgement of marginal variations with the terminology evolved by the Commission and an assertion that terminologies of the Commission were not binding on it and that it was free to evolve its own terminologies using the Commission’s terms as reference points. Pursuant to the direction of this Court the Union of India has filed a copy of the resolution under which the Commission was set up. The expenditure involved annually on the running of the Commission has also been stated. It is clear from the resolution that the object of setting up the Commission was to evolve a uniform technical terminology for Hindi and other modern languages. Apart form other objects such as production of University level textbooks, supplementary reading material and reference literature in all disciplines, the primary purpose of the Commission is to facilitate Hindi being used as a medium of instruction in technological subjects. That uniformity is necessary in the use of technical terms cannot be doubted. Furthermore, the setting up of the Commission and the expenditure incurred in connection therewith would be meaningless if the terminology evolved by the Commission were not in fact used by the Government and bodies under its control. If bodies such as NCERT are already evolving and have the wherewithal in terms of expertise to evolve technical terminologies, then the duplication of effort by and the continued expenditure on the Commission would be unjustifiable unless the effort of the Commission is enjoined.. Therefore, as long as the Commission operates, it is directed that the technical terminology evolved by the Commission be adopted in connection with the textbooks being produced by the NCERT and other such bodies under the Union of India.
So the task for the Union HRD Minister Kapil Sibal, the lawyer, is already cut. This writer would regard him a successful and competent HRD Minister if he would be able to get these orders of the Supreme Court implemented in letter and spirit in the next five years through UGC and other bodies functioning under the supervision of his ministry.
Obviously, the scheme of the NET needs to be overhauled in the light of above orders of the Supreme Court as far as recruitment of competent lecturers in Hindi speaking states is concerned. Otherwise the NET will lose its validity as well.
(The writer can contacted at 660/10 Krishna Colony, Gurgaon-122 001(Haryana)