Arresting decline of higher education in Manipur

Oinam Nabakishore Singh *

Manipur University at Canchipur
Manipur University at Canchipur :: Pix - Deepak Oinam

Manipur University figures at 320th rank in India in 2018 according to ranking by uniRank[TM] the universities in India. UniRank is the leading international higher education directory and search engine featuring reviews and rankings of over 13,000 officially recognized Universities and Colleges in 200 countries.

National Institutional Ranking Framework of the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India places Manipur University in the rank band of 101-150 in the ranking for 2017 of Universities. Has something gone wrong with Manipur University for the state of affairs? It was set up in 1980 and has been enjoying better status.

What is plaguing the University, which is supposed to take the leadership role in higher education in the state? It has several responsibilities to nurture and raise the standards of higher education not only in its campus, but also in the colleges affiliated to it.

Infrastructure of Manipur University appears to be reasonably good, when we look at the buildings of various departments from outside. Teaching learning aids and equipments too should be good. After becoming Central University in 2005, availability of fund for various activities, especially for infrastructure like buildings, appear to be on the rise as evident from the construction works taken up within the campus.

Then, let us look at the faculty of the University. From my personal knowledge, I know a few faculty members of the University. They have had very bright academic career. I believe that they may be no less competent than those in other Universities in India. So, we should feel comfortable and reassuring.

Next, let us look at the curriculum and syllabus for undergraduate and postgraduate courses taught in colleges affiliated to it and its various departments. When I compared the syllabi of BBA of Manipur University and Delhi University by visiting their websites, it was seen that syllabus of BBA by Delhi University is much more advanced and comprehensive.

In the syllabi of B. Com(Honours) and M.Com of Manipur University, there is no course on commercial accountancy, which is essential for accountants for book keeping and finance managers. There is a need for updating and upgrading the syllabi of all subjects, undergraduate and postgraduate, at least to the level of syllabi of Delhi University. Unless this is done, students passing from Manipur University will face problems in higher studies and competitive examinations conducted at national level.

The colleges in Manipur used to be almost centres of excellence. When I studied at Imphal College in 1975-77 for Pre-University Course in Science, it was observed that teaching and learning in the college was full of energy and enthusiasm by both students and lecturers.

The lecturers of Imphal college, whom I have seen in my classes, were very good. They were real professionals. Classes began early in the morning at 9 am and continued till late afternoon. Same was the story in other colleges in Manipur.

Now, the scenario is completely changed. Those who can afford college education outside the state, and are ambitious with better marks, leave the state for higher studies in other cities. This trend too leaves many students not too serious in studies in colleges in Manipur.

Recently, Imphal College organized a national seminar on autonomy of colleges. Autonomy of college has different components-administrative, financial, curricular and extra-curricular activities. It is common knowledge that some of the government colleges were much better managed while they were private or partly funded by the government as they had autonomy in many respect.

After conversion into full-fledged colleges, autonomy in administration has been gradually diluted. Having autonomy comes with a lot of responsibilities. Principal and teachers of the college are personally responsible for the performance of students. Now, being government college, ownership of responsibilities is diffused.

Accountability of the principals of private colleges has shifted from Principals and teachers to the government. With numerous tasks of the government, it is not possible to pay attention to the affairs of individual colleges. Depending on the commitment of Principal as the head of college administration, there has been wide variation in the enforcement of discipline and adherence to academic calendar.

We hear that many students do not attend regular classes even though there is minimum requirement of attendance. Nowadays, we find that attendance of students in the hitherto reputed colleges has dwindled. Teaching and learning have taken a back seat. Students are comfortable with the degrees and certificates obtained by using unfair means in a rampant manner. The value of merit has not received its due weightage. When merit is not valued, students start neglecting studies and marks.

Let us compare the pedagogy in our colleges and universities with those of global universities and colleges. When I studied B.Sc and M.Sc. in Delhi University in 1970s and early 1980s, teaching and testing there is not very different from what we have in colleges in Manipur and Manipur University.

But, when I studied Master of Development Management at Asian Institute of Management, Manila in 2001-02, self-learning and participation in daily interactions in class are given more weightage. Students are tested in every class and given marks by the teacher based on the quality of their understanding, analysis and synthesis of ideas thrown up in the class.

Students are required to come fully prepared before the class. The duration of class room teachings, group works and writing of cases starts at 8 am and it goes on till late in the evening. Last year, I attended a course at Harvard University, USA for two weeks. Class room and group activities there too started at 8 am and goes on till late evening.

In order to read the reading materials before class, I used to get up at 4 am every day. Why I am sharing this information is to impress upon the colleges and university here in Manipur to adopt some of the best practices and hard work. Learning comes in a hard way. Classes in Manipur should start at 8 am and continue till late afternoon to cover as much area as possible. Our habit of taking early lunch should not come in the way as study is more important.

Research based studies is emphasized especially in higher education. Publication of research papers by the Universities and colleges in reputed international journals is an indicator of academic achievement. Articles have to be reviewed by peers before acceptance for publication.

Citing of articles by other researchers/academics is also another indicator of the acceptance of the article as something original, and source of new ideas and knowledge. Writing of articles/papers based on research by the students in the relevant subject in college and university education may be given due weightage.

Assessment of students based on memorization of content in books may be discontinued. Rather, questions may be set in such a way that answers can be given after analysis, where the books have little place in framing the reply.

Apart from systems and processes, which should be made known to the head of the institution, it is necessary to adopt a professional approach in teaching-learning. We learn that China is well ahead of India in higher education. We may adopt systems and processes of leading Universities of China if we really want to improve higher education in Manipur.

I do not claim that the ideas shared here are exhaustive and complete. There will be many other interventions for improvement, which may be thrown up if we have a debate. What is required is will to make changes for the better.

Views expressed are personal.

*Oinam Nabakishore Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on 16 August, 2018 .

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