The Hindu Editorial with Vocabulary – May 2018
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The Hindu Editorial with Vocabulary – “The Classroom as The Instructor’s Castle”
The autonomy of the teacher has been cramped, and it reflects in the state of higher education. Some months ago, a global leader of the IT industry set sections of India’s corporate-sector elite aflutter with the comment that Indians are not creative. It is possible to disagree with the criterion Steve Wozniak, a co-founder of Apple Computer, had adopted while at the same time agreeing with some of his observations. He had predicted that Indians are unlikely to create world-leading IT companies because they lack the creativity to do so and argued that this has to do with the education system.
While building global IT giants may have more to do with an appetite for growing a business rather than anything else, Mr. Wozniak’s assessment of India’s education system is sharp. He traced the lack of creativity to an education system that rewarded studiousness over independent thought. He also managed an anthropological take when he identified the ‘MBA and the Merc’ as the mark of success in India’s corporate world. For good measure he likened this to the culture of Singapore, but here he may have missed a trick. The per capita income of Singaporeans is quite close to that of Americans. And that country has achieved much of what it set out to do when it struck off on its own, which was to turn a swampy colonial port into a prosperous city state proudly independent of world powers. Also, it has a national leadership more educated and responsible than what the U.S. has currently. Singapore’s orderly society may not be everybody’s cup of tea but its history suggests one way we could identify the creativity of a people as a whole. That is, a people are truly creative when they are able to collectively surmount the challenges that their country faces.
Crisis in higher education
Actually, what India is experiencing in higher education today is far worse than merely the production of studious but creativity-challenged youth. There is abetment of a toxic productivity whereby our universities churn out youth with a poor grasp of the subject matter that they are expected to know and an even poorer understanding of the challenges that India today faces, for which they alone can provide the solutions. This is particularly troubling as public expenditure on education in India favours higher education far more than elsewhere in the world when schooling is severely neglected by comparison. In addition, this is a sector so micro-managed that it answers to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s description of the Indian economy in the 1990s as “over regulated and under governed” better than the economy itself. So, neither funding nor neglect can be blamed for the lack of vitality in India’s institutions of higher education.
Universities are embedded in society and cannot be expected to naturally rise above them. Close to 50 years ago, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen had spoken of a ‘crisis in Indian education’ pointing to how India’s educational policy had been shaped by the aspiration of its middle class. Creativity is unlikely to have been a part of it. However, it is precisely to ensure that there is no sectional capture of public institutions intended to serve a larger purpose that we have public regulators. While there is more than one regulator for the higher education sector in India, for sheer reach the University Grants Commission (UGC) is unmatched. To say that it has a major responsibility in the state of affairs that we are experiencing in higher education would be an understatement. The government would be advised to follow email discussions of UGC regulations circulating on the Internet right now to garner a sense of how wide the resentment against the body is.
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The bone of contention is the basis on which the regulator identifies ‘recognised’ journals, publication in which alone earns credit for faculty. Having drawn up such a list a couple of years ago, the Commission appears to have now backtracked. Possibly stung by the claim that an astonishingly high percentage of the journals on its original list are of dubious distinction — the term for which is ‘predatory’ in that they either solicit articles to be published for a fee or follow no clear refereeing procedure — the UGC has suddenly trimmed the list. This has led to questions of the criterion that has been used.
While predatory journals are not a uniquely Indian problem, the problem appears to be more grave here, and has possibly been aggravated by the UGC’s policy of soliciting recommendations for inclusion of journals in its approved list. The whole process has led to a severe diminishing of credibility for one of the most crucial regulators of the country.
To believe that the problem of dubious journals on the UGC’s whitelist is the sole issue awaiting resolution in the university would be naive. This is actually quite recent and just another manifestation of the unaccountable regulation that has had a vandalising effect on the higher education space in the country. A small set of actionable points, not every one of them the responsibility of the UGC, would be as follows.
Revise the API
The problem of predatory journals emerged after the UGC introduced a quantitative scoring system leading to an Academic Performance Indicator (API) in which publishing is a part. The activities approved for toting up a teacher’s API are many, extending beyond teaching and research. This has led to a form of academic entrepreneurship that has very likely demoralised the less entrepreneurial, who are often the more academic and therefore more deserving of being in the university to start with. For this reason, the contents of the API must be revised to include only teaching and research, thus also saving scarce administrative resources. Teaching input can be partly measured by the number of courses taught, but research assessment should avoid the quantitative metric. Instead it should be judged by committees that have reputed and recognisably independent subject experts on it. This is not foolproof but, in the context of the email discussion now on among India’s academics, superior to a discredited list of approved journals.
Next, compulsory attendance, which goes against the spirit of learning, must be replaced by credit for classroom participation. Third, introduce student evaluation of courses to be made public. It needs emphasis that this is meant to be an ‘evaluation’ and not some ‘feedback’ to be contemplated upon by the lecturer at leisure. However, it is important to see the process in perspective. Course evaluation is meant to instil in students both a sense of confidence that their view is being solicited and a sense of responsibility in wielding authority early on. It can effectively check truancy among faculty but there should be vigilance against its misuse.
Fourth, the UGC should remove all experience-related considerations to career advancement. The present system leaves the able to stagnate during their best years and the undeserving to believe that time served grants entitlement to promotion. There must be a drastic reduction in the number of hours faculty have to teach. While this may not be much in the research institutes and the Central universities, in India’s colleges the teaching load is not merely taxing to the point of lowering productivity but leaves teachers no time to address the burgeoning literature in their disciplines.
Finally, once courses are evaluated by students, the classroom should revert to being the instructor’s castle. A pincer movement of corporate interest and political pressure combined with regulatory overdrive have cramped the autonomy of the teacher. The state of higher education in India today partly reflects this.
Vocabulary Words from The Hindu Editorial
1. Solicit(verb) मांगना/ सविनय प्रार्थना करना/ विनती करना : To request or ask someone for money, information, or help. (If you solicit money, help, support, or an opinion from someone, you ask them for it.)
Synonyms: Beseech, Importune, Implore, Entreat, Beg
Antonyms: Coerce, Compel, Force, Constrain
Example: The Government says that it wants to solicit opinion from all interested parties.
2. Manifestation(noun) अभिव्यक्ति/ ज़ाहिर करना/ प्रकटीकरण : The action or fact of showing something: (an event, action, or object that clearly shows or embodies something, especially a theory or an abstract idea.)
Synonyms: Demonstration, Exhibition, Exposition, Presentation
Antonyms: Concealment, Vagueness, Obscurity, Hiding
Example: Nationalist violence erupts to the surface given any public manifestation of difference.
3. Naive(adjective) अनुभवहीन/ भोला-भाला/ निष्कपट : Showing a lack of experience, wisdom, or judgement. (If you describe someone as naive, you think they lack experience and so expect things to be easy or people to be honest or kind.)
Synonyms: Innocent, Gullible, Guileless, Ingenuous
Antonyms: Sophisticated, Artful, Shrewd, Pretentious
Example: He has been particularly criticized for lack of military experience and naive views of warfare.
4. Truancy(noun) कामचोरी: The problem or situation of children being absent from school regularly without permission. Or Truancy is when children stay away from school without permission.
Synonyms: Absenteeism, Hooky, Malinger, Skiving, Shirking
Example: A properly designed school can enhance education and behaviour, and reduce truancy.
5. Tote up(phrase) संक्षेप करना/संक्षिप्त विवरण देना: To sum up; summarize.
Synonyms: Tally Compute, Summarize, Tabulate
Example: He toted up each person’s costs to see what we had spent as a group
6. Aflutter(adjective) बेचैन/ घबराहट से उत्साहित : In a nervously excited state. (in or into a nervous or excited state)
Synonyms: Jittery, Perturbed, Anxious, Queasy
Antonym: Composed, Calm, Collected, Cool, Nerveless
Example: Though her heart was set aflutter, Katren didn’t let her excitement get the better of her.
7. Surmount(verb) विजय पाना / परास्त करना : To prevail over: to mount upon. (If you surmount a problem or difficulty, you deal successfully with it.)
Synonyms: Overcome, Conquer, Vanquish, Trounce, Subjugate
Antonyms: Yield, Surrender, Succumb, Cede
Example: An ability to surmount the tribulations that would destroy any ordinary man.
8. Abetment(noun) बहकाव/ उकसाहट/ दुष्प्रेरण : The act of abetting or inciting another to commit a crime. (If one person abets another, they help or encourage them to do something criminal or wrong.)
Synonyms: Assistance, Instigation, Encouragement, Provocation, Fomentation
Antonyms: Inhibition, Repression, Deterrence, Discouragement
Example: He was found to have aided and abetted war crimes rather than planned them.
9. Bone of contention(idiom) विवाद का विषय/ फसाद की जड़/ झगड़े का कारण : An unresolved problem, dispute, or disagreement.
Synonyms: Controversy, Altercation, Disagreement, Problem, Debate
Example: Anything put clearly in writing is less likely to become a bone of contention.
10. Resentment (noun) नाराज़गी/ अप्रसन्नता : A feeling of deep and bitter anger and ill-will. (Resentment is bitterness and anger that someone feels about something.)
Synonyms: Indignation, Acrimony, Grudge, Pique, Rancour, Dudgeon
Antonym: Contentment, Delight, Appeasement, Gratification
Example: There is no anger or resentment , just an acknowledgment that the situation is different.
Word of the Day – “Innocuous”
- Innocuous (adjective) अहानिकर, नुकसान न पहुंचानेवाला, सीधा-साधा; सीधी-साधी
- Meaning:- Something that is innocuous is not at all harmful or offensive.
- Synonyms: Harmless, safe, nontoxic, innocent, edible, eatable
- Antonym: Delicious, injurious, damaging, harmful
- Example: For some reason, my wife got offended by my innocuous comment about the saltiness of the soup that she prepared from a new recipe.
- उदाहरण: एक नई विधि से बनाए सूप के खारेपन पर मेरी सीधी-साधी टिप्पणी सुनकर मेरी पत्नी को किसी कारणवश बहुत बुरा लगा।
Quote of the Day
“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.” J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
“जिस क्षण आप यह संदेह करते हैं कि आप उड़ सकते हैं या नहीं, आप हमेशा के लिए ऐसा कर पाने की क्षमता खो देते हैं। ” जे एम बेरी, पीटर पैन
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