Views & Reviews
The Higher Education Dilemma in Nagaland
Colleges in Nagaland are plagued by serious problems. While undergraduate degree level is governed by the stringent rules and regulations of the University Grants Commission (UGC), the “system infirmities” in our state is hampering in adopting and updating the new standard guidelines issued by the UGC for maintenance of quality higher education.
System infirmity starts from the top functional agency, the Secretariat level. The Commissioner & Secretary (C&S)/ Secretary are often not well verse with the different set of rules governing the Higher education in the state. Most of them are often of the understanding that the service conditions and placement/promotion are same as the state civil service rules. By the time they get acquainted with the new rules, they are transferred. In the past 3 years alone, there are already seven Commissioner & Secretary in Higher and Technical Education Department. It has become a playground for the political boss. No efficient and honest bureaucrat lasts long in this department. The adversely affected lot by this inefficiency and instability at the top level implementing agency are the teachers, whose appointments, placements/promotions and others required the homework from this level. Many teachers in spite of their eligibility for promotion are stuck for as long as ten years. This plays as disincentive for the teachers.
However, surpassing all those issues is the issue of CONTRACT EMPLOYEES. There are more than 180 plus contract employees/Assistant professors. This is out of the total 350 (approximate) existing regular teaching posts in 14 colleges in Nagaland. This abnormally high rate of contract teachers is primarily due to the UGC regulation that required compulsory Ph.D. degree for Principalship. Many regular teachers go for study leave to acquire Ph.D. This study leave vacancies are then filled by the department through contract/fixed pay arrangement. The problem is, the department make this temporary arrangement by appointing without open advertisement, thus denying the fair chance to all the eligible candidates. Out of all these 180 plus contract teachers, there are less than 10 candidates who are actually appointed in the contract service through open advertisement.
This practice has adversely affected the result of the government colleges. Except in lone departments where no other private colleges offer these courses, there is no good result from government colleges. Higher education is affected by the “school education syndrome”. In the school education there are many teachers who are appointed in place of vacancy arising out of their parent’s retirement. The efficiency of those who are appointed through open competition is unquestionable, however, the problem lies with those with backdoor appointments. Therefore, the notion that the government schools are manned by the most qualified teachers is a misconception. We have to look deeper, if we really want to address the education system in the state.
Likewise, in the government colleges, the contract teachers who are appointed on a temporary basis, (and are usually appointed through casual interviews conducted by the department by inviting only those friends and families known to the department officials), are fighting for service regularisation. If all these services are regularised, I assure you that our future generation is doomed. We will be committing a monumental error for our future generations. It will have the vicious cycle affect. Experience suggests that once their services are regularised, they have the tendency to encourage and practice the same method when they get opportunity to serve in any platform.
It is true that some of them are contributing commendable job. However such exceptional cases should not lead us to conclude that we can build our society through such practices. Reports and feedbacks received from various government institutes suggest that the most capable and intellectually stimulating faculty comes from teachers directly recruited through open competition. Possessing minimum eligibility criterion, NET, is only one of the many criteria to teach in higher education. The overaged factor, long period of service, etc. should not be the excuse to sacrifice quality education. The practice of regularising contract services, especially in the premier department such as higher education is not only illegal but also unethical as it is a matter of the very core of our society’s future.
Associate Professor (Rtd.)