Saturday, December 15, 2007

Teaching Experience-3

We recently had IBM visit our campus to recruit candidates for their call centre. We were glad that 22 of our students were selected. It also underscored the fact that regular course study was taking a beating and aptitude /logical reasoning and basic intelligence is the requirement of the day. The next big question is whether we are going to find good teachers to train young minds or are we going to make do with those who were left behind and could not land good job? At least 13 of the selected candidates were science students 8 from the Biology stream and 5 from the Maths group. The choice was unmistakably fair and these were the best the college had to offer. It was not as if the company settled for the best among the bad lot. Some of these girls had made it to Wipro also and the company did not select a single candidate from another college in town. Some of our students are doing their masters from another local college and the best among them were also selected. This brings up the next question. If young minds are going to be lured into taking lucrative jobs in multinationals where the course they’ve studied is not being put to use is it not time we revised and restructured the course?

I remember a batch we had 2 years back. The final year students would attend classes only on the days they had practicals. After the practical class was over they would excuse themselves to go to the canteen and vanish from there. We had a kind of counseling session with them but at the end of it was they who counseled us in their own way. They were all either attending coaching classes for MBA admission or taking lessons in Computer centres. They saw no future in our outdated syllabus and they took admission in our college since a degree was the minimum requirement for an IT job, a bank PO’s post or for admission to an MBA program. I felt certain that their results would suffer and tried to reason that some companies did not even let second divisioners apply for a job.

“We can manage madam” was the reply. “this is only a repetition of what we learnt in 12th standard and we have no intention of doing our masters or going in for research.”

The fact that struck me odd was that the girls who were vocal were also the most focused and they all managed to get a first class. They are pursuing their studies in reputed institutes outside the state where campus selection ensures that they land good jobs.

My friend and colleague Dr. K. Shukla made a very pertinent observation. She went to attend a pre registration seminar in the PG department of Botany with a candidate who wanted to do research under her. The Post Graduate students seemed to be a disinterested lot with no quest for knowledge and seemed to be there just because they had no better option. She remembered her own days as student in the same department and rued the fact that lack of motivation had perhaps led to such a situation.

My experience as a novice was very encouraging. We did not have an honors course then but pass course students showed a keen interest that delighted us. Their depth of knowledge was amazing. One could not misinform them and get away with it. We’d have animated discussions about the evolutionary trends of living organisms and try to find the affiliations among different groups. I did my masters around that time and I was greatly helped by my interaction with these students since teaching was the best way to learn. Our first Honors batch produced excellent results with 7 out of 8 students securing a first division. I don’t remember them ever missing a class. Many of them got married and their daughters and nieces are now our students. The priorities of the present generation have changed in keeping with times. My only regret is that we already have a dearth of good teachers in Physics and Mathematics. Soon good Biology teachers may also disappear from the scene and when it happens what is going to be the future of the teaching profession? I am not in a position to comment on Arts and Commerce students but I guess it is the same there too.Or am I perhaps over reacting?

My next post will deal with a lighter side of my teaching experience. Do forgive this rather serious post. Couldn't help it.


vishesh said...

ha grandma
i understand what you mean by the lack of teachers...i changed from science stream to commerce...the main reason being that the physcis department was bad...i was any way planning to do CA and things in that line...though it was hard decision because i still love science...but fortunately i have access to the computer to stay connected to the world...

Na.Su.Krishnan said...

COuld understand your emotions. I am one of the victim by having bad teachers. When I was doing my graduation in Comp.Science most of the teachers are those who couldn't get a job in the job market. Teaching was their last resort to earn. You can very well imagine their interest in teaching.

Preethi said...

I can so relate to this. My mom was a physics lecturer and she would bemoan of the reducing standards of the students joining even at ug level.. with a dime a dozen engg colleges cropping up at every corner, not many opt for studying the sciences.. and even less take up pg/ research in science..
Also with the call centers offering a good pay at the age of 20.. it is too tempting to pass by.. Tom Friedman presented a documentary on this - called the Other Side of Outsourcing. I think this is available on Youtube. A must watch

Hip Grandma said...

vishesh:did you find the commerce teachers better?if then there is hope yet.

NSK:this is exactly what I mean.No one who is meritorious wants to take up teaching.we have a little girl in our complex around 12 years old, who seems to be a born teacher.I see her dealing with her friends and her handwriting as seen on the door at the basement of our block shows total control and clarity.unfortunately lack of incentives and a decent pay pack may never encourage her to take up the profession.

preethi:i can understand your mother's concern.research in science is not of the desired quality and college teachers take it up for career advancement.

Vinesh said...

first time to your blog - will be here again :-)

found "wife of one" in your blog tagline hilarious :-)

kurrodu said...

I share your concern regarding the growing dearth of good teachers especially in our country. Few of the younger lecturers in my engineering college had no motivation to teach. I expect this situation to worsen in the years to come. I think the solution to this problem is to increase pay for the lecturers.
I always think that it is possible to make teaching profession attractive by intelligent policy making by the government. A certifying body should be set up that rates institutions based on the quality of its teachers; the training methods adopted by them to teach students and the techniques used to grade them(assignments, tests etc). If possible, the institution should be derecognised if they fail to get a minimum level of certification. The students should be ready to pay more for these institutions based on these ratings. This would enable those administering the institutions to raise the pay for these teachers. This would inturn attract more outgoing students to choose the profession.

My other concern is the decline in post graduate research in basic sciences and math. They directly reduce indigenous breakthroughs in other applied sciences (engg and medicine). Providing better incentives and increased stipends for the research work might improve the situation.

Hip Grandma said...

vinesh:welcome here.looking forward to your input.

kurrodu:some of your suggestions if and when implimented are bound to fetch good results.but our politicians and policy makers may never ever do it.they are not visionaries just opportunists and exploiters.very sad indeed.

Joy said...

HHG, My mom teaches sanskrit in University and I can relate to every word in this post. Practically, we all understand that some professions get us job easily and are more rewarding monetarily. Couple of years back science was rewarding, now its computers , few years later, it would be something else - robotics, visual art design, I don't know. And we do not have much choice other than to adapt.

People who are really interested in these subjects will still pursue. The knowledge base would get transformed from a human mind (of a very good teacher) to internet. I think learning itself will change in years to come.

It is like a wave, every profession rises and then comes down and lingers on. The lingering on is very painful as we do not want it to go away and we do not have enough energy to sustain it. Have you read this book "Who moved my cheese?". It is about practical way of living a professional life.

Usha said...

I agree - I hear this from teachers all the time. I am really scared for the students in future unless they have very strict norms for selection and also increase the payscales.

The Visitor said...

Dear G'ma,

I think Joy has pointed out that such changes are inevitable. Our current pattern and choice of subjects to be taught are based on the English conception of what should be taught.
Even in those days, though most people did a graduation in some science/arts subject, they ended up as officers in government, banks, private organizations where the nature of the job was mostly clerical in nature, which had nothing to do with what they learnt.

Those with technical diplomas ended up as skilled workers in factories; those with engineering were employed in manufacturing concerns. Those were the days when India was in its infancy, so the demand was for such jobs. Now India is seen as a place for outsourcing and IT - so the current craze is for such jobs. So it would be useful if the curriculum was changed to suit the changed skill set required for such jobs.

Those interested in science and research were always very few in number, and I am sure that these people will ultimately find their way to such jobs. A more serious concern is the lack of good teachers - this should certainly be tackled by giving them better packages, so that potential teachers are not drawn away from the system.