Of teachers and teaching

I came across John Merrow’s post on Proof that Teachers Matter in which he talks about an LA Times story in which ” Three reporters documented the effects that teachers have on their students’ test results.”  The current shameful controversy and its continuing aftermath around the proclamation of a semester system in Delhi University brings a bitter taste in the mouth.

John writes:

…the adults in charge have known of the damage that some teachers are doing—and have done nothing, or nothing effective anyway, about it.  That’s the high tolerance for mediocrity that I find alarming, and that’s what must be addressed, and soon

Pretty much sums it up. According to a report 51% of the teaching posts in Delhi University are lying vacant. I am pretty sure of the 49% remaining, the percentage that actually take classes on time will be significantly lower given the frequent and sometime convenient strikes. Of the 51% I am hoping most will be filled by ad-hoc teachers, who are second class citizens living by very different slave-like rules (the permanent teacher will go on strike, but the ad-hoc has to mark his attendance at all times, for example).

Or as this article here on teachers’ opposition to biometric attendance systems implementation at the university which makes a telling note that “Teachers opposed the promotion criterion, which includes performance-based appraisal, point system and academic progression indexing.” Ultimately, the only foolproof way of knowing whether a full time teacher actually came to college to teach had to be scrapped at idea stage (well, it couldn’t tell if a teacher actually taught or how effective he was, but that was secondary).

Critics make arguments of inappropriate use of a vice-chancellor’s powers (the DU VC used emergency powers to push these through), infrastructure availability, cutting into research schedule etc. One critic even goes on to state:

Biometric systems of attendance, semester system of education and a point-based system of evaluating teachers are mere pieces in a jig-saw puzzle which threaten to take the shape of the monster called privatized education, which will ultimately mean the death of liberal arts and the narrowing down of space for independent critical dissent.

This fragment from the Frontline article is talking about Kapil Sibal (the Honorable Minister of Human Resource Development, Government of India):

In a remark that could be considered insulting, with obvious disregard for the teachers’ genuine concerns, Sibal recently said that the semester system was being opposed because teachers did not want to put in the necessary hard work. “Sitting in the plush office of his Ministry outside the university, what does he know of the hard work that we put in?” asked Vijay Singh, a history professor and an elected member of the A.C. (Academic Council).

I am sure there are concerns both ways. But folks, please remember, Delhi University is the flag bearing university in India. Everyone is involved in the debate for all possible reasons, and while they debate, students suffer.

One response from a teacher forum on the LA Times article here.

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