Friday, October 9, 2009

The End of Higher Education in `Swarnim Gujarat'

In an unprecedented move, the Govt of Gujarat has decided to implement the Sixth Pay Commission pay scale instead of the University Grants Commission( UGC) Recommended Pay Scale to the university and college teachers. This means that their salaries will be at par with bureaucrats and govt officials. In no other states has the state government flouted the UGC norms so openly and with such impunity. The move can seen as a strategic back door implementation of what is known as Common University Act, an Act apparently made to bring about uniformity in Higher Education but also to reduce `burden of higher education' by promoting privatization and commercialization of higher education. The whole game is to encourage ` Self- Finance' educational institutes and contract based appointments of the teachers and discourage granted and subsidized education. Not that anything is grievously wrong with the concept, but the problem lies in the way it is implemented. The way the State Govt took teachers for granted and penalized them is outright unjust. No other state in the country seems to follow this ` Gujarat Model'.

The roots of problem in Gujarat do not just lie in the present economic situation, but also in the politics of Mr Narendra Modi and his admirers. One of the smartest manipulators of media, Mr Modi knows that he will get admiration even if he is demonized by media and his detractors and so he uses his media generated persona to float ` airs' of various sorts. Swarnim Gujarat is one such brain child. Swarnim Gujarat or Golden Gujarat has succeeded in creating a belief that all is well in the state of Gujarat and not just that this is the Golden Period.

Gullibility is one fundamental trait on which politics all over the world survives and thrives. Gujarat is no exception. Teachers and intellectuals probably are the most gullible people in the country today. Family members of the people who died drinking illicit liquor in Ahmedabad and the family members of children killed by Tantriks in the Asharam Bapu Ashram know that there is no such thing like Swarnim Gujarat . Neither do the family members of people killed in the Post Godhra riots and various minorities buy the idea of Golden Gujarat. It is not just that insignificant and ideologically impotent political party called ` Congress' which dislikes the state under Mr Modi, it is also a fairly large number of people in the BJP who hate Modi and his coterie. With the present decision of the Govt, Mr Modi might probably lose many of his admirers among teachers and he doesn't care about it. For, as long as you have the media,you don't need any other propaganda machinery.

The best part of this crisis is it provides the much needed ` reality check' to those who live out-of-sync with present times. Teachers and academic institutions are reputed for completely being out of touch with the actual world outside and these kinds of blows bring them back to normal.

The title of this entry ` The End of Higher Education' is deliberately ambiguous. For the ` the End' can mean the final collapse and it can also mean ` the ultimate purpose' behind Higher education. This is for the second or third time I am participating in teachers agitating against the govt in my short career of 13 years. The question is, why does the society and its representatives think that higher education is dispensable and insignificant ? Why is it that if the teachers go on strike for routine administrative things like the implementation of pay commissions are not seen as creating any serious problems for society? Teachers not going to work is no big deal for society. One needs to ask why. I have seen many highly reputed educational institutions, like other institutions of the society, completely shattered and biting the dust. Most of them have become ` by the mediocre, of the mediocre and for the mediocre', where loyalty to the authorities has actually become ` merit'. Probably this is because of the large scale upheaval caused by the forces of globalization and economic liberalization which went on a rampage after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The present economic recession has brought this bull-in-the china shop machine of globalization to a grinding halt.

This moment of crisis is indeed a moment of agitation and resistance to contemporary fascism bred on omnipresent media but it is also the moment of introspection: we have to find out what is the ultimate purpose and function of higher education in very specific and concrete terms and then restructure our institutions on its basis. This is the quest for ` the true end' of Higher Education in Gujarat and probably in India too. The post-Cold war ideological vacuum, which resulted in the disappearance of critical discourses from public life, was filled up with regionalism and fanaticisms of all kinds in the past two or three decades. One of the most important functions of higher education in India today is to promote a critical form of cosmopolitanism which resists fanaticisms of Modi-Raj Thakeray and so many others politicians world over, by restoring critical spirit to its public domain. It would mean moving out of the walls of colleges and universities directly into public spaces. And given the possibilities of new medias like the internet with its social networking sites, blogs and other platforms, I think the teachers of today need to do their critical ` extension' activities on such platforms. This might mean , apart from the usual academic seminar- research publications, the teachers would do well to reach out to the places where young people really are, apart from classrooms- that is in the space opened up by the internet.

The post-colonial thinking looked at how the idea of nation was `imagined' and `constructed' in the times of print media. The post global contemporary culture has created newer ways of creating communities with the help of social networking and blogging and hence a newer way of `imagining' nation which is NOT primarily based on regional and local cultures. Globalization which people once thought would bring about the end of nation has actually resulted in newer ways of inventing nation and hence newer nations. It is in the context of this newer ways of imagining nation and culture that higher education in India and elsewhere will have to find out its true ` end'.


Anku said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anku said...

Hello Sir,
I appreciate your contribution with regards to current decision of Gujarat Govt.

But I also want to bring forth one fact that , where Gujarat is standing in terms of quality of education as compared to other states in India.

I think I need not comment on even the attitude of the educationists. What value additions 'they' are doing to improve the standard of the education particularly in Gujarat?

In my 15 yrs of eduction in Gujarat , I hardly found the focused educationists be it in my school or graduation.

Don't you think that educationists should bring their focus back to the education and not to the politics, pay, benefits, work HOURS & leisure of being in to this field and what not!

This is just a view of mine, there is NO feeling or emotion attached to it.

Anku said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Soumi said...

A wonderful piece..isn't it high time the government stopped taking teachers for granted? No wonder few bright youngsters opt for teaching these days. These overpaid good-for-nothing politicians have a problem with everyone it seems. When will they learn to appreciate and reward talent? They even have problems with the so called 'obscene salaries' that CEOs and others get in the corporate sector in India!

Sachin Ketkar said...

Hi Ankit, I think you did not carefully read my blog, I am talking of collapse of the system and the education as being ` of the mediocre, for the mediocre, by the mediocre'....did i mince my words anywhere? I am saying the same thing you are saying and with full emotions and more strongly...

Ankit Desai said...

Yes Sir, I agree with you and that reflects in 4th paragraph
"The best part of this crisis is it provides the much needed ` reality check' to those who live out-of-sync with present times. Teachers and academic institutions are reputed for completely being out of touch with the actual world outside and these kinds of blows bring them back to normal"

I read the whole blog and thought to add what I felt that somewhere the educationists are also responsible for inviting this situation.

And the comment was not on the blog but thought to add what I felt about education in Gujarat, especially after I left Gujarat for further studies. I appreciate your study on the topic and in my view you did not mince your words anywhere.


bhumi said...

hi sir this is bhumi here
M A student 2008
i am reading ur new blog
i think it is really worth reading.