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Class XII lessons for professors

New Delhi, Jan. 5: Some college and university teachers in India may be receiving Class XII-level lessons to “update” their knowledge.

The refresher courses taught to teachers at the country’s 67 academic staff colleges mostly amount to a recap of elementary and dated knowledge, several academics have told The Telegraph.

Teachers who have taken these courses and resource persons who have taught them say most of the syllabuses haven’t been updated for years and, therefore, do not increase the teachers’ knowledge.

The only benefit it gives them is to help them bag promotions, since taking a refresher course is mandatory for career advancement. The teachers rarely protest, for an updated refresher course containing the latest knowledge would be that much harder to learn.

Biju Dharmapalan, assistant professor in life science at the Mar Athanasios College of Advanced Studies in Tiruvala, Kerala, said he had recently participated in a refresher course at the academic staff college of Himachal Pradesh University. He found the syllabus to be of Class XII standard.

“The academic staff colleges don’t generally update the syllabuses though they are supposed to — so taking the course becomes a waste of time for the teachers,” Dharmapalan said. He has highlighted the issue in a letter published in the latest edition of the journal Current Science.

Under the higher education regulator University Grants Commission’s norms, a teacher must take three refresher courses and one orientation course over their career to be eligible for continued promotions.

The commission provides grants to the academic staff colleges to conduct the 21-day refresher and orientation courses. The participants are paid allowances and the resource persons get an honorarium.

The teachers find it easy to complete the substandard courses and get high grades, so they hardly ever protest the poor content, said professor Subhash Chandra Lakhotia of Banaras Hindu University.

“The substandard courses are also convenient for the resource persons imparting the courses,” added Lakhotia, who has been a resource person for several such courses.

Dharmapalan said the academic staff colleges in central universities update their courses more often compared with the state universities, but none does it regularly.

University Grants Commission chairperson Ved Prakash admitted the poor standard of the refresher courses in many academic staff colleges.

“We had set up a committee to assess the functioning of the academic staff colleges. We have got the report and will soon rejuvenate these colleges to ensure the teachers are enriched academically,” Prakash said.

Lakhotia said the commission does not regularly monitor the standard of the refresher courses. “The commission must set standards for the selection of the resource persons, and must sensitise the institutions to update the courses regularly,” he said.

Former commission secretary R.K. Chauhan said the 6th Pay Commission had recommended that the academic staff colleges revise their syllabuses regularly.

“But most of the colleges do not do so. So these courses become a recap of what the teachers already know,” Chauhan said.

Commission sources said about 50,000 of the country’s five lakh university and college teachers take refresher and orientation courses every year.