Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Faculty problems...

One of the biggest problems, Indian higher education is facing right now is faculty. There are not just enough faculties, I mean just in numbers; quality of faculty is one level higher. The problem is for real; as an engineering student I have seen how pathetic is the quality of lecturers in private colleges and in my days in IIT, I have also seen it failing to attract young enthusiastic good faculty. However, I read in ‘Times’ few days ago, faculty is going to be imported from Europe and just couldn’t stop laughing. It is yet another example of how stupid solutions can be implemented to solve the problems. If there is any country in the world, which has the highest number of well qualified, enthusiastic professionals that can make great faculty, I guess that has to be India. If you study last decade, the number Indian faculty in all top universities across the world has been increasing rapidly.
The problem is definitely not availability of faculty, it is attracting it. If one has to get European faculty, I guess one has to attract them by paying very high and providing good growth opportunities (I am sure at the expense of existing Indian faculty, we Indians always have this bias of considering westerners better than us). If you do same thing for Indians, I am sure one can get better than better faculty than Europeans. In India, most professionals look teaching as the last or convenient option (when on is more concerned bout place or doing time-pass rather with career perspective) if all other options are exhausted.
So, what is so unattractive about being a lecturer in Indian universities and colleges? Well, many will point out pay packages, but according to me that is just one of the many things. There are many more reasons; like reputation for the profession, slow growth opportunities, lack of research and consulting opportunities, etc. I have just mentioned three of the most important ones. Of course, the first one is derivation from the others, but it is true that in our society if you for teaching profession people think that you didn’t get any other opportunity and therefore you went for teaching.
Well, what brings a good interest and develops faculty is research and consulting opportunities; this is one of the reasons why most of the IITs faculty is so good. If while teaching one gets research and consulting opportunities not only one can increase his/her but also gets familiar with the latest of happening in the filed, bring them and experience and all of it leading to teaching students well with help of experience, examples of actual application, understanding of basic concepts and latest developments. Focus must be on such issue like bringing consulting and research opportunities in the universities rather than importing faculty from foreign countries. Universities and Government has to introspect as to how such opportunities can be made available to the faculty. For such opportunities to exist Industry must trust Academia, which today does not happen. Academia itself should take initiative and do some projects for Industry on experimental basis to establish the trust, may be in initial years Government can support such collaboration. From industry side, Indian industry itself badly needs such research help in order to cope with the international competition and excel on the global level. Take example of IT industry, how many years can they survive on just giving services to foreign companies and countries they have to look at the other options. They all try to move up the value chain (God knows what that means) but what they don’t understand is with what they are doing now itself, they can change the world with different attitudes by generating value rather than lowering costs and for that they need research help from academia.
There are good solutions available than doing stupid things like importing faculty from European countries, academia must spot it and Industry itself should take initiative because after all these students are going to Industry after they complete their education and hence the future of industry depends on issues with academia.

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