The new arrangement of outsourcing the teachers in HEIs will create a new intermediary to be compensated financially for its ‘services of providing teachers’. Job security and a congenial environment for teaching & research are the key enablers for eliminating the occupational stresses of such temporary teachers, which requires to be taken care of at the earliest.
The recent proclamation about the outsourcing of teachers in higher education institutions is quite astounding, especially at a moment when the implementation of National Education Policy 2020 (NEP-2020) with a focus on motivated, energized and capable faculty is being pursued aggressively. All praises to NEP-2020 for acknowledging the criticality of faculty and calling for various initiatives to ensure that each faculty member is happy, enthusiastic, engaged, and motivated towards advancing her/his students, institution, and profession.
Unequivocally, the quality of education largely depends upon the commitment and involvement of teachers in the teaching-learning and allied processes in the education system. The conspicuous absence of Indian higher education institutions (HEIs) in top global rankings, despite a hopping number of brilliant minds in nearly 1.3 billion population, points to certain challenges faced by them. Among various challenges, the shortage of teachers in HEIs is the one limiting the quality of education.
Introspection of the shortage issue shows that it has become a permanent feature of higher education in the country. However, serious concerns have been demonstrated by the regulating authorities rapping HEIs from time to time. Unfortunately, not much could be achieved for whatsoever reason. The reasonable portion of teaching-learning processes carried out through contractual/ad-hoc/guest teachers has become a new norm. Hoping for the HEIs to thrive in such a situation is hallucinating.
NEP-2020 has rightly mandated for enhancing the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) for extending opportunities of higher education to maximum number of aspirants. To increase access to higher education through a targeted GER of 50% by 2035, the additional 3.5 crores seats need to be added in HEIs. Undoubtedly, the demographic dividend available in India necessitates capacitating HEIs for meeting the aspirations of education seekers. But, the question remains, whether mere enrolment and award of certificates/degrees will educate the country to emerge as a world leader. The answer is a blunt NO!
Reasoning the prevalence of temporary teachers in HEIs leads to various factors for this precarious situation. However, the reasons could be different in public sector institutions and private sector institutions due to funding patterns. The HEIs in the private sector function in self-financed mode, while the public sector HEIs get financed by public money available with Government. This causes the differing cost of education in such institutions. Interestingly, the regulatory bodies mandate similar norms for HEIs but their implementation is different in both types of institutions. Looking upon the salary norms, the regulatory framework does not discriminate between these types of institutions, but the basis of salary to teachers in the private sector varies hugely, while it is not so in the public sector HEIs. This facilitates private sector HEIs to hire teachers at mutually agreed compensation and the philosophy of teachers being temporary or permanent takes a backseat along with lesser concerns towards service conditions.
Public sector HEIs financed from public money are mandated for strict adherence of norms for hiring teachers as per prescribed pay scales & service conditions and employ teachers on a permanent basis or temporarily as contractual/ad-hoc/ guest/visiting faculty. The new arrangement of outsourcing of teachers in HEIs will engage a service provider too for being compensated financially for its services to provide teachers. The hiring of teachers as class III and class IV staff through outsourcing may ease out HEIs from the administrative hassles involved in recruiting temporary/regular teachers. However, it is disgraceful along with putting the additional financial burden – the service charges of the service provider – either on the HEIs or such teachers and shall always have the uncertainty of what is the actual compensation made to such teachers. Nonetheless, there will be new business opportunities for such service provider agencies that will supply teachers to HEIs.
The temporary teachers have meagre compensation as compared to regular teachers in prescribed pay scales. Public sector HEIs, being unable to recruit teachers on regular scales for various reasons, resort to hiring teachers as contractual/ad-hoc/guest/visiting faculty with the intent of continued execution of teaching-learning processes. Obviously, the lesser compensation, uncertainty of remaining in service, and undefined service conditions are bound to keep these temporary teachers in a state of anxiety which hampers the quality of teaching-learning processes.
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The mental state of teachers plays a crucial role in the quality of teaching-learning activities performed by them and such discontentment affects the overall quality of education for none of the fault of learner students. The job security and congenial environment for teaching and research are the key enablers for eliminating the occupational stresses of such temporary teachers, which requires to be taken care of at the earliest for sound mental health.
It goes without saying that those financially sound can afford an education at any price. Yet, the public sector HEIs remain a dream destination for those coming from a poor socio-economic background. Thence, any degeneration in the quality of education in public sector HEIs directly affects the opportunities of seeking excellent education for meritorious ones with poor financial backgrounds. The outstanding shortage of teachers in public sector HEIs is a ringing alarm. The quagmire can be gauged from a 2018 Parliament Report, according to which there were around 36% vacant posts out of total sanctioned posts numbering over 33 thousand in Central Universities, IITs, NITs, and IIITs functioning as centrally funded or in PPP mode. The statistics of vacant teacher posts may be much more perilous to the quality of education in state HEIs.
Irrespective of the causes of the non-availability of permanent teachers, expediting fair and transparent recruitment of regular teachers at the earliest is inevitable for the overall good of higher education in public sector HEIs. All attempts to increase the capacity of higher education without having teaching-learning enablers, especially the teachers, will belie the Prime Minister’s humongous call for transforming India as Vishwa Guru.
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About the author
Prof. Onkar Singh has been the Founder Vice-Chancellor of the Madan Mohan Malaviya University of Technology, Gorakhpur (U.P.). Currently, he is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Harcourt Butler Technical University, Kanpur (U.P.).