Academic standards on our universities and colleges
- Part 1 -

Prof N Irabanta Singh *

 Manipur University (MU), Canchipur :: April 2012
Manipur University (MU), Canchipur in April 2012 :: Pix - Deepak Oinam


There has been much discussion on academic standards particularly at the universities and colleges level both within the academic world itself and among the leaders of the public. In fact, the question of academic standards in higher education is a very complex one. In a fairly stable social situation, there are more or less generally accepted notions of "Standards" in social behaviour, morality, education and many other areas of life. The standards in education are not precise and education cannot be measured in by any universal units of measurement.

General Concept

When people talk of falling standards in education they don't mean that we are lowering our standards, but that the achievement of the students doesn't measure upto the standards that are supposed to have been existed in the past. That a graduate of today has less maturity of mind than his/her predecessor of a couple of generations ago. It would be difficult to substantiate a statement of this kind in simple terms. Apart from this the content of the "corpus of knowledge'' of any course of study has greatly increased in the last 30/ 40 years and at least as far as the quantum of information is concerned, a graduate of today would know a great deal more than a former graduate.

From this point of view a simple statement that our standards are falling would be difficult to sustain. When people talk about falling standards they don't have in mind questions regarding the kind of knowledge and extent of information that a good student might acquire today in any given subject. It is a general impression on the mind of the general public, and particularly employers, that a very large percentage of our Universities and colleges nowadays seem to be rather poorly educated.

They do not seem to have a firm knowledge and often do not seem to have cultivated their minds sufficiently to make an analysis of any thought effectively. Further, a considerable proportion of our students has very little general knowledge and do not manifest the kind of interest in the affairs of the world that an educated person is supposed to have. It is this impression which is wide spread that brings the charge of low standards on our universities and colleges. In this sense, we might speak of "falling" standards.


There are many factors in our national life today that do adversely affect standards in our educational institutions. The rapid increase in the number of students who enter our universities necessarily implies that a considerable proportion of these students come from sections of society which in the past were either denied opportunity for higher education or did not make use of available opportunities.

There is a correlation between the kind of environment in which a boy or a girl grows up and his or her ability to make maximum use of higher educational opportunities. It is usually that students who come from middle and upper class families which has a tradition of learning give a better account of themselves as students than those who come from disadvantaged sections of society.

Similarly, boys and girls who grow up in urban areas are usually more capable of copying with the demands of an advanced education than those who come from rural and agriculture backgrounds. There has been tenfold increase in the University population of India since independence which implies a much broader base of selection than in the past, and indicates a rapid rate at which growth is taking place. In such a situation there will be an inevitable lowering of average quality and standards of achievement.

Education requires discipline and freedom from distraction. The average student can rise to the demand of a modern university education only when he is, on the one hand, able to apply his mind steadily to his work and on the other, is guided and assisted by teachers who provide high quality teaching. Both these conditions are largely absent in our society today. Many of the students who enter our colleges are poorly motivated.

Even those who come from well to do middle class families seem to have lost the traditional willingness to learn, and everywhere students are now in a distracted and confused state of mind owing to the pulls and pressures that are exerted on their lives today. A considerable proportion of students are lured away from their studies into political organizations and various "unions" activities.

The infiltration of political elements among the students, the competition of various groups with one another to draw attention to themselves and to gain ascendency over the others and the politics of disruption in the wider world, all contribute to the confused situation in college and university campus and constantly disturb the peace of academic Institutions. Further, teachers have no effective control over their students and parents too seem to have lost their hold on their sons and daughters. The atmosphere of our educational institutions is not conducive to study quietly and the attainment of high standards of learning.

The teachers on their side are also now a disturbed community and several of them spend a good deal of time in agitating real or fancied grievances. The teaching community also has grown in numbers rapidly since independence; and as in the case of students, with the great growth in numbers, the average quality tends to be lower. Earlier, the minimum qualification required for appointment as lecturers in colleges in India is not very high. A second class master degree is all that is required. It has been found that many of the teachers in our colleges have no knowledge of new developments in their fields of study. So, a tradition of poor learning and bad teaching is perpetuated.

In a literal sense our standards as indicated by the syllabus of a subject as laid down by the university may appear good enough/ and may compare not with the standards and requirements for corresponding degrees in other parts of the world, the actual achievement of the student is desperately low.

The poor teacher who is unable to create any enthusiasm in the student becomes a contribulary factor in the situation usually referred to as "Indiscipline" or "student unrest" in universities. In the ultimate analysis, discipline is a product of loyalty to the teacher and devotion to learning. The teacher who is not able to evoke any loyalty and who is unable to hold the attention of the students through his teachings becomes a sense of indiscipline.

To be continued....

* Prof N Irabanta Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is former Professor (Higher Academic Grade)/ Life Sciences and Former Dean, School of Life Sciences, Manipur University and can be reached at irabanta(dot)singh(aT)gmail(dot)com
This article was posted on September 9, 2015.

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