A straight ‘A’ for attendance for everyone in one ‘examination’; for another batch, it’s a ‘B’, no questions asked.
An ambitious programme, devised by the University Grants Commission (UGC) to “update” the knowledge of college and university teachers through regular orientation and refresher courses, seems to be coming unstuck at Calcutta University, with teachers saying the programme has degenerated into a “sham”.
Take, for example, a refresher course for Hindi teachers held in the city recently. Every single teacher scored a ‘B’. Just after that session, the university conducted an orientation course for some teachers from various subjects. Each one present was awarded an ‘A’, raising more questions than answering them.
“Every colleague I knew who attended every lecture throughout the three-week course got an ‘A’,” said a teacher of Bengali in a south Calcutta college. “I am not complaining, but this response of the university to a matter that the UGC is pursuing in all seriousness is symptomatic of a larger malaise,” she added.
Besides the straight ‘A’s and ‘B’s for everyone attending the programmes and answering the questions, the university has not yet been able to start the “micro-teaching” component of the orientation courses. Micro-teaching, say officials, gives a teacher the opportunity to assess where he/she is going wrong in class.
But CU, at least, has been faster off the blocks than its more-celebrated city counterpart, Jadavpur University, say officials. “We started the UGC-prescribed courses in April 2002, as soon as we received the directive,” a senior CU official claimed. He, however, admitted that there was a “tendency to trivialise” the programme which, he explained, was “not unnatural”, given the number of teachers CU has to train every year.
According to UGC directives, a teacher must complete a refresher course and an orientation course to be eligible for the next round of promotion. For instance, a lecturer has to complete at least one of the two to be eligible for the post of a senior lecturer; similarly, a senior lecturer must sit through both to be eligible for the post of a reader.
The orientation course, say officials, aims at updating a teacher’s knowledge of subjects other than her own. A history teacher may have to sit through a class on nuclear physics and a microbiology teacher may have to attend a lecture on Shakespeare, which, according to a section of teachers and officials, is “not much use”.