Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Intellectual wastelands

Higher education in Nagaland is at crossroads. In a bid to build robust higher education with stress on access, equity and quality, new challenges are emerging. We are witnessing the worst ever disappointing phase. The popular narratives – the mushroom growth of colleges, the poor quality of infrastructure, the conundrum of quality education, etc, have now become so humdrum. Skill based job-oriented courses and the employability factor of our clueless youth paint a dismal picture. To add insult to injury, the system has been marred by poor academic administration. We have reached a point where the need for bringing about some radical changes has become urgent. Leaders are change makers and they make things to happen. This is the area which is actually plaguing the current scenario of our higher education. Our institutions are fast becoming intellectual and moral wastelands where incompetence is rife, IQ is declining and basic academic values are missing. The emphasis on academics, the student and staff grievances, discipline, institutional issues like preparation for NAAC, etc receive cold shoulder. Deep down inside, lobbyism and sycophancy has hijacked the whole institutional business. The laid down procedures/guidelines from administrative department are not being implemented. Leadership and administration is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration. It is about vision, inspiring people, setting goals, formulating strategies, decentralizing powers, solving problems and making the system to function efficiently while taking on board everybody. In this direction, honesty and ethics are the two most powerful leadership traits. Academic leader should be impartial and supposed to win the confidence of all his subordinates and this is the only way academics can be run successfully. Maintaining biometric attendance is okay but it is more important to see whether teacher’s presence in the college has benefited the students or not. The negative role played by academic leaders is so detrimental for academic institutions to flourish. It is a debatable issue that if a teacher can teach civil servants/administrators why he/she fails to run his own administration? True academic leader’s first identification is how dedicated a teacher he/she had been and how many old students can approve him/her as teacher. The point is based on the fact that teaching is a challenging and most difficult job. Teaching rigorously and consistently for a long time is not everybody’s cup of tea; it needs determination, commitment and honesty. Those who can achieve it are supreme and liberated. They should possess all the traits like boldness, confidence and knowledge on academic affairs including administration. The second part is the teacher’s scholarly contribution. This improves the professional competence of teachers. Teachers with high subject matter knowledge are more likely to expand student’s desires to learn and succeed. They can impart high quality instructions and contribute significantly to raising the standard of higher education. Particularly at a time when our students are groping in the darkness, they need guidance, the highly qualified teachers can assist them to increase their academic potential to achieve high outcome. With these qualities, a teacher can be a successful administrator. After all academic administration is not a rocket science. Indeed in a rapidly changing world, higher education has a multidimensional role. It is seen as a focal point of knowledge, research, innovation and applications to address the socio-economic and global challenges and to improve our life. Its responsibility is to equip individuals with advanced knowledge, foster creative capacities through problem-solving approach and impart skills, to solve the growing unemployment demands of the rising student population. It has transformed different societies and countries around the world and it has endless opportunities for us as well. Our institutions must be responsive to the challenges to fulfill the expectations of the society. Academic leadership has a vital role to play in creating the conditions for our success. We can no longer afford to have the system polluted by mediocrity, inefficiency, bias, lobbyism, sycophancy and sifarish system. We have to create a system which is free of any politics in which merit prevails; honesty and dedication are valued. We need to adopt rigorous and well defined selection method/departmental examination for selection of academic administrators like that we have for civil service examination, so that potential candidates are encouraged to become academic leaders. This is the only way forward for our bright and sustainable future.