A shocking fact came when it was revealed in Parliament that the country faced a shortage of more than 3, 00,000 teachers in higher learning institutions, especially in engineering colleges which alone have the shortage of more than 1,50,000 teachers.
What is more shocking is the fact that the percentage of shortage has increased from 40% to 54% in recent years. The Union Ministry of Human Resource Development has now ordered 15 Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) to appoint non-resident Indians (NRIs) and people of Indian origin (PIOs) as permanent faculty to cope up with the shortage. However, foreign nationals are not allowed permanent appointment.
Experts call this solution to be inadequate. Around 50% of the teaching posts are lying vacant in country’s top most engineering institutes and the situation is even worse in self-financing colleges.
An assessment was made recently by All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) regarding the obligations laid by AICTE. It was revealed that hardly one-fifth of the engineering colleges in the state met the obligations set by AICTE.
The AICTE currently stipulates a 1:14 teacher-student ratio in engineering colleges. The ratio itself is very high as the standard international teacher-student ratio is 1:10. Efforts are on to bring the ratio down to 1:12.
The reasons of the shortage in faculty could be many. Prestigious institutions like NITs and IITs started facing shortage in faculty when the seats in other backward classes (OBCs) increased to 27% from 2008 to 2010.
The reason of shortage can also be the lack of recruitment of supporting or non-teaching staff. The ratio of teaching and supporting staff is 1:1.1 in Central engineering institutions. When the student intake doubled in recent years with the increase in seats and courses, not a single appointment was made in supporting staff in the past nine years in NIT, Calicut. Due to this, the faculty have to spend time doing clerical work leading to the dilution in academic activities. This makes students suffer a lot.
Unattractive pay can also be one other reason for lack of shortage in faculty. Though AICTE has set a stipulation for this but not all private engineering colleges follow it.
The shortage of faculty affects the students in many ways. Less number of teachers makes students work on a single project leading to a lack of attention from teachers. This further leads to diminishing of quality. Also, the choices before the students for their elective subjects reduce.
Ashalatha Thampuran, Principal of Mohandas Institute of Engineering and Technology, Nedumangad, says, “The faculty shortage was felt more in the middle-level cadre”. The AICTE stipulates a faculty cadre ratio at 1:2:4 for professors, associate professors and assistant professors.
Although the AICTE has made M.Tech degree compulsory for faculty, most private colleges do not fulfill AICTE’s this stipulation. Of the121 engineering colleges in Kerala, hardly one-fourth offer M.tech. programmes. After the AICTE’s this new stipulation an appeal by Union Human Resource Minister, Kapil Sibal, many institutions came forward to start postgraduate programmes. But many colleges were denied permission to do so by state’s universities.
When private engineering colleges are worried of AICTE’s stipulations including the faculty strength, prestigious institutions like IITs and NITs are worried about the dwindling quality of their research.
The lack of faculty at the higher level academics, leads to lack of quality at doctoral and post doctoral research. This deprives India of any single technical institution of international repute. Dr. Paleri, who had worked at Purdue University, U.S, says, “We have IITs. But they are known only for churning out the best undergraduates. Good institutions worldwide are measured in terms of research- in terms of the number of Nobel laureates they create and patents they win.”
Though the country’s education managers talk volumes about managing the quality, very little is done in that regard.