By Vivek Pattanayak*
More than a decade has passed since the iconic Ravenshaw College once known throughout the country as an eminent educational institution of excellence acquired the status of unitary university under the law with great excitement, fanfare and jubilation. The stakeholders had lots of hopes. The recent articles published in the print media, however, by two eminent personalities of the State namely Amiya Bhushan Tripathy and Soumya Ranjan Patnaik, both of them being erstwhile students of this glorious College of yesteryears on the ranking of the university have naturally created concern and disappointment among many well wishers.
Any institution of higher education like university is known by its academia and also performance of students and positions they occupy later in their career. The level of teaching and research contribute to the public estimation of the academia. Quality of teaching will depend upon the academic attainment of the teaching staff, their pedagogic skill and penchant for research. Ability of teachers to guide students and their capacity to encourage talent to flourish are sine qua non of brilliant teaching. Of course, one would hasten to add that integrity, sincerity, objectivity and human approach are fundamental. They are simply non-negotiable in any public institution. Research is dependent upon facilities like library and laboratory. Students profit by the quality of seminars whether recognized as regional, national or international. The professional experts who come as panelists to the seminars also enrich the level of education of the students.
Appropriate selection of teaching staff is basic pre-requisite to the quality of education, and therefore should be done in the most transparent manner based on talent, merit, and experience by an independent neutral agency in order to eliminate bias, nepotism and favouritism.
The question now arises as to whether the government, media, civil society and academia have played any part in ensuring that quality of high standard in education is attained and maintained.
A couple of years back there was a protracted debate in the media as to whether the name of the Ravenshaw University should be changed or not. Few years before that there was also controversy whether a particular hostel should be allotted to girls or remain with boys. Not long ago the question arose whether elections to the College Union should be held or not. Then there was issue of foreign students versus the local. Public is agitated by such inane subjects. Some of these matters land up in the judiciary or some require political intervention either at the state level or national level. In a democratic society all these issues will naturally spring up and cannot be avoided but the question arises should not the civil society, media and other stake-holders debate in public domain on more important matters as to how to improve the quality of staff, research and standard of teaching of the university. Should not the institution have full complement of regular teaching staff? Should the power remain with the government in all matters relating to education including recruitment of staff? Should not power be vested on the management of the university to create posts?
In a statutory university receiving government funding should not the Public Service Commission, a constitutional body be associated in selection of teaching staff. Under Article 321 of the Constitution the scope exists to extend the function of the Commission to any body incorporated by law or any public institution.
Whether all would agree or not there is growing concern among many about steady deterioration of values, ethics and quality in all public institutions. Educational institution is most important since that contributes human resource to all the traditional institutions of the society. In view of this let the decision-makers be guided by ideas from all segments of society. Let there be discussion in the media on how to improve the quality of teaching, research and academic activities so that this institution once known for its academic assets regains its earlier ranking, prestige and status.
*The author is a former bureaucrat and held important positions in aviation and power regulatory body. He can be reached through e-mail at [email protected]
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of Sambad English.