Contractual teaching plaguing higher education in India

Over 1,000 universities and 40,000 colleges in India has been reeling under acute shortage of teachers for quite some time.

Higher education in India that caters to more than 1000 universities and 40,000 colleges has been reeling under acute shortage of teachers for quite some time. The vacant positions of teachers are invariably seen in the higher education institutions (HEIs) irrespective of the discipline.

Statistics can be seen from the reply of MHRD to a question about vacant teaching posts in Lok Sabha on February 10, 2020, which says the University Grants Commission (UGC) has informed that at present there are 18,243 sanctioned teaching posts and 34,928 sanctioned non-teaching posts in various Central universities across the country, out of which 6688 teaching posts and 12323 non-teaching posts are lying vacant as on date.

A recent news item of September 2020 indicates that in all Central Universities, 6210 posts of teachers are vacant. The situation is equally bad in the universities and colleges located in most of the states of the country. Even in the premier institutions of the country, the faculty strength is not up to the requisite level. This unavailability of teachers on the sanctioned posts is quite worrisome which is much more concerning to witness the slow pace of recruitment on vacant teaching posts.

Over a period of time, the constant push for increasing the gross enrolment ratio has resulted in a reasonable expansion in the number and capacity of HEIs, resulting in the significant requirement of additional teachers. The unavailability of teachers in old HEIs is primarily due to the retirement of teachers, and extraordinary delays in recruitments due to various reasons. 

As a result, the HEIs evolved a model to make contractual appointments widely called ad-hoc/contractual/temporary/term appointments. This paves the way for ensuring that the teaching activities do not come to a screeching halt, nevertheless, it is always considered as a mere temporary arrangement.  But the continuance of such temporary arrangements for a long necessitates due contemplation for correcting the situation as it also leads to the diabolical performance of HEIs in global ranking and performance parameters.

The widespread practice of conducting teaching activities through contractual teachers makes it apropos to look at its implications on the stakeholders. However, before delving deep into the subject, it needs to be understood that the reasons for not having regular appointments of teachers are different in the public-funded institutions and the private institutions which are invariably self-financed.  The public-funded institutions do not have their financing linked to the institutional performance and the number of admissions, while the institutional performance and number of admissions decide the fate of everyone from pillar to post in the private institutions. Therefore, in the absence of any financial crunch, the vacant teaching posts in public-funded institutions are most likely due to procedural lapses, impropriety in recruitment processes, etc. causing disruptions in faculty recruitments. But, the situation is different in the private institutions which generally resort to underpayment to teachers or a lesser number of teachers for latently enhancing the margins between income and expenditure or inadequate receipts. Thus, the dissatisfaction is prominent among teachers in the majority of private institutions, and they always aspire to join any public-funded institution for better service conditions and compensation.

Contractual teachers are hired for short term contracts which could be renewable or non-renewable as per the policy of respective HEIs at meager compensation. These assignments are purely temporary and embedded with uncertainties.  The service conditions of contractual teachers in public-funded institutions are largely similar to teachers in a good number of private institutions. As regards, the compensation to such teachers is concerned, the private sector HEIs are better off as compared to public-funded HEIs. However, the non-payment of salaries and facilities to teachers in private sector HEIs at par with that prescribed by statutory regulatory bodies is quite common. In view of inadequate compensation for the teaching job, job satisfaction, and the absence of any social security in the country for its citizens, the teachers remain on the lookout for better jobs and are not loyal to the institution working in.

Teachers are the key drivers of the teaching-learning processes in HEIs and their discontent is likely to decimate the quality of the education system in long run. Wherefore, it is paramount to ensure that the teachers are kept free from any stress regarding their job responsibilities, compensation, and service conditions. The uncertainties in the mind of teachers, be it of any type lead to restricting them psychologically from yielding the best deliveries to the students. Such contractual teachers do perform the teaching tasks as per assignment, but passionate teaching can not be expected from them in general. Consequentially, the students undertaking the education once in a lifetime become the victim of learning gaps. The damage caused to the learners in the form of knowledge gaps demands extra efforts by them. The students passing out from HEIs undertake coachings for attaining the requisite learning levels. The inadequacy of learnings in students is evident from the roaring coaching industry across the country.

HEIs are unique establishments entrusted with the task of research and extension along with teaching.  Teachers are supposed to work on knowledge creation after their classes. For which teachers have to own the institution before working towards creating their research groups & research facilities.  The post-graduate students are expected to undertake research activities under the supervision of teachers which can also not be carried out efficiently in the absence of a happy state of teachers both at the workplace as well as their home with family. The research and extension activities can not be conceived by anyone in penury, hence the research outcome of HEIs is bound to droop down with such contractual teachers.

The continuance of contractual teachers for longer periods limits these individuals from making up to the mark contributions in the productive period of their life and is not in the interest of the quality of teaching in HEIs hiring such teachers. Numerous instances of contractual teachers agitating for better service conditions from time to time indicate their miseries.

Thence, it is preeminent for public-funded HEIs to strategize to steer themselves away from the compelling situation of hiring contractual teachers for carrying out teaching-learning activities. This can be ensured by the filling of vacant teaching posts with meritorious candidates through a fair process at the earliest. The continuance of contractual teachers is neither in the interest of these individuals nor in the interest of quality of teaching. Concerted efforts are required for recruitment against the sanctioned faculty positions by the state as well as central governments for preventing further degeneration in the quality of higher education.

(The views expressed are the writer's own)

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