Do you remember the times when you were little and were learning the Indian mythology or just watching Doordarshan every evening? And in one of those evenings, you learned how Eklavya cut his thumb for his “Guru” Dronacharya without even bothering to ask one question about his actions. At that age, we were also taught that our teachers or “Guru” get placed next to Gods and were indispensable for students.
That may not be the case now, though teachers still hold a distinctive place in every student’s life. They can either devise or destroy their life.
But is it exactly the case in the current scenario?
What is Academic Freedom?
Academic freedom is a term defining which is not simple despite its simplicity. This idea is designed such that the teachers are given the freedom to have different opinions or ideology in their thought processes. They are given the right to challenge the existing wisdom without any fear of being tried by the Administrator or having to face any repercussions later that may cause problems in their careers.
This was the case until the 1960s in India and the teachers around that time were very reputed and respected by all. But over the time, the Indian Higher Education system has witnessed something entirely different. Teachers have started falling from grace and their reliability is also questioned by many. And to some extent, we can blame the teachers themselves for drifting away from their missions as a teacher. But these teachers are not the only one who is wrong, the government also shares this blame. The interference of the government in the educational institutions is also a big driving force for this shift.
What is Academic Freedom Now in the Modern World?
In the modern world, the term “academic freedom” should be progressed simultaneously with globalization. In this process of transition, over the years, academic freedom has been misused and abused like never before. The teachers nowadays are using it not to improve the quality of education but to abuse the freedom given by the system. How does having the freedom to be in the office or not being in office relate to academic freedom? When questions are asked about their teaching they say my academic freedom is being questioned.
Like a good student, does their homework on time, attend every class and before every class pre-prepare for the class. A good teacher is expected to do the same routine before a lesson. Earlier the teachers used to follow this method, hence the classes were more engaging and a lot fewer students availed to tutors outside the classrooms unlike now. These days a lot of teachers don’t prepare for their lessons and just go and teach what they know. Hence the level of education is not progressing but with passing time just degrading. And if a student asks a question outside their parameters of thinking then these teachers are unfair to these students and won’t let go of their ego. As a teacher they hold a lot of powers over the student’s life, one of the major power is providing a student with their score. They will even tell students that if they want good grades then they will have to fall in line as per their requirements.
The concept of academic freedom can be further examined in the light of globalization and new challenges posed to higher education.
Another thing that we should put light on regarding this issue is also the lack of teachers in the Indian Higher Education System. This is also a major reason for this shift. Not only this makes the system less innovative but also burdens certain teachers with the responsibility towards the development of the education sector. Coupled with this is the fact that we have a lot of people who have not been successful in the industry getting into teaching. I call this the residual impact. Furthermore, we also have teachers that only want to become teachers when they have completed their first innings in the industry.
The other challenge is the uprising privatization, hence, there is an urgent need for academic freedom as an important key to ensure the developing standards of the Higher Education in India. The state and the private sector need to recognize that the creation of knowledge and development of the higher education sector cannot take place without recognizing academic freedom only if these powers are not abused by the teachers.
If we look closely at the system then the situation is quite alarming. Only 20% of the University teacher are the ones who seemed determined to work for the betterment of the system and are real teachers. The rest of them are wearing double-faced like hiding behind the face of a teacher and playing politics in the education industry.
The freedom given to these teacher has only harmed the industry very deeply. In recent years, academic freedom has not produced any phenomenal results nor has led to any deeper knowledge than the existing. Yes in some of the centers of excellence like the IIC, BARC, TIFR there have been great levels of contribution but they are only exceptions to the rule.
The basic essence of academic freedom has been lost over time.
And if the government with the academicians make a move to create more accountability, then the teachers union protest against it.
And this abuse of power, students, and education will continue until the teachers themselves reflect on this situation. This is only a setback until the time the teachers in universities and colleges realize their responsibilities. They are not only molding the lives of the students but also the lives of the entire generation of this nation. And building a nation is the utmost important task, a task more important than a running a million dollar company. Education is not only in the interest of a teacher and a student, but it is also for everyone.
A major transformation is needed. It is the call of the hour and it only and only possible if the teachers work for it themselves. The teachers need to shoulder their responsibilities properly. The teacher has the capacity to rise against all odds and the setbacks and work for the declining standard of the education and make Indian Education system great again. What do you think? Is this the scenario right now or not?
Do you think the teachers will realize this and change their way of teaching?
More by Dr. Kamlesh Mishra: Universities: National or Local?