A matter of concern

Quality of Education in J&K Colleges

Aufaq Zargar
Statistics can mislead and generate distrust. But, facts never misguide. And the fact is that out of 35 colleges assessed by NAAC from Nov 2018 till date, 17 have got C grade, 17 have scored B+/B and only 1 college has got an A grade. This is really a matter of concern.
Let bygones be bygones. And lets us dream of a triumphant future in the present. Why can’t we aim at good grades? After all, infrastructure, on the whole, is good now. And the recruitment process is not sluggish also .As far infrastructure is concerned, the picture has changed and looks more adorable now than before. Hundreds of crores have been spent on upgradation of the infrastructure in the recent past. The number of teaching faculty has got strengthened over the last few years .Although, it is still inadequate, yet the mega recruitment of Assistant Professors in the years 2016 and 17 improved the figures significantly. And counting the adhoc faculty presently working in various colleges synergizes the things. We need to understand that irrespective of the faculty being on full-time or part-time, permanent or adhoc, their involvement in the development of the college on all fronts must be non- negotiable affair.
The question is why not aim at a good grade? What is lacking? What needs to be improved? To this end, all stakeholders need to ponder deeply. There are various factors that impact quality .Here I am outlining some generally accepted quality standards in today’s education.
Aligning to 21st Century:-We need to focus on the skills demanded by the 21st century to stay relevant and channelize the youth. We need to foresee the employability skills of tomorrow ,and review and revise the curriculum accordingly .Creativity, Critical thinking, Communication and Collaboration are the attested and undisputed skills of the 21st century .In order to have a race of future ready individuals, need is to integrate these skills in curriculum as there is often a deep mismatch between the skills students are taught in classrooms and the skills they need to function effectively .The 21st century education is about the aforementioned 4Cs and more. Skills like Emotional intelligence, Problem Solving, Inquiry, Entrepreneurship, Time Management, Money Management have become indispensable in contemporary times of competition and instability.
Institutional Governance:-It is the way the issues affecting the institution are decided .The instititutions needs to follow methodical, decentralized and participatory model of governance and administration. Any lackadaisical approach at this level can lead to only chaos and unruly environment in the college. Optimization of resources depends on institutional governance. Decentralization and delegation in the form of committees is a pivotal factor in the overall functioning of the institution. For a healthy atmosphere , no flow of work should bypass the committee structure .Expecting quality by leaving the governing decisions on the table of a clerk can prove only a nightmare .Institutions misconstruing on institutional governance are risking their survival .
Teaching-Learning process: – Be it past, present or future, although the role of teacher can never be ruled out yet it needs redefinition to fit on the canvass of ever changing world. The 21st century teacher is a lifelong learner and active entity of the education system ready to assist and inspire student learning .He is an effective team collaborator using the gamut of digital tools to improve student engagement in a global educational environment, and always insightful of making teaching – learning dynamic. In an age where students can access infinite amounts of information, certainly, he is not mere a transmitter of knowledge. He is a facilitator to help students make sense of information and analyze, enquire, critique, compile and apply that information to solve the problems of multitude range. He is not expected to be ultimate authority on a subject matter rather an analytical and rational facilitator who helps students make sense of vast information and use it skillfully.
Teaching- learning process now demands 360o focus on students’ overall development, rather than restricting them to the classroom. Apart from Intellectual development in the classroom, need is to focus on holistic development that includes communication skills, collaboration skills, character-building, physical education etc. A concept of reinforcing classroom curriculum with co-curricular activities outside the classroom has to be given priority now. In colleges and universities, there is a need for practical exposure so that the students can get know-how about the actual functioning of an industry. A strategic synergy between curricular and co-curricular activities will help shape the overall personality of the students, inculcating various soft-skills in them.
Research, Innovations and Extension:-An institution aiming at quality should promote a “Research Culture”. And, a beginning has been done in the last year by establishing a Research ecosystem in colleges under the aegis of HED. Well begun is half done .We hope for the outcome in the form of applied research and projects useful to the society.
An institution aiming at quality education should have an incubation center to enable the students firsthand experience in promoting innovation driven activities and provide a comprehensive and integrated range of support – mentoring, training, and a list of other benefits. Through the incubation center, students gain hands-on experience in innovation while being nurtured and encouraged by faculty, management and industry experts.
An institution aiming at quality must understand the institutional social responsibilities and facilitate extension education. Extension activities must be carried out in the community, sensitizing students to social issues, for their holistic development. Institutions need to woo students to join NCC and NSS units for effective execution of social responsibilities.
Student Support and placement:-Student mentoring and support need to be included in the mission of the institution. Student support services need to be strengthened more given the wavering times we witness. Besides scholarship schemes for various categories of students, there is need of support in form of career and psychological counseling .Kudos to the HED for supporting the establishment of these cells in colleges over the years . Placement is still a challenge for the colleges and they must take it and overcome the barriers in employability of the students on the campus and after their exit.
To sum up, we need to understand the quality status of our colleges for their conformance to the generally accepted quality standards. Nevertheless, there is no need to reinvent the wheel .The colleges need to go through the NAAC criteria for grading. And the best part is that NAAC takes into consideration the academic audit, accreditation and assessment with the inputs, processes and outputs making it an comprehensive quality inspector. Colleges going for re-assessment and aiming at improved scores must study the NPRs (NAAC peer-team Report) of the last assessment and draw a comparison of changes from the last assessment to re-assessment .
Lastly, lets us hope the higher education department (HED) continues the never-seen-before seriousness in sensitizing and supporting the colleges in their ambition to score well in the assessment and accreditation by NAAC.After all , we are targeting a jump in GER in the forthcoming years .Is that achievable without focusing on the quality improvement? A big NO.
(The author is Assistant Professor, Computer Applications (Govt.) AAA Memorial Degree College, Bemina)