Quo vadis the Mumbai colleges? In a shocking disclosure, Dr A D Sawant , joint director of higher education, Maharashtra Government, under whose purview the city colleges function told Education World that the Mumbai city colleges in his assessment do not have more then â€œ150-160 academic days in a year â€œ.
This in effect means that the 2, 00,000 odd lakh students of the 240 colleges in Mumbai in all the streams (i.e. Arts, Science and Commerce) study for 150 odd days during one academic year. This also means that a full fledge degree is given to a student who studies a total of no more then 450 days in three years after completing his/her plus two.
This startling information given to the Education World by Dr Sawant during an interview comes in the wake of the efforts by the Maharashtra government to get the Mumbai colleges to implement the Union Grants Commission requirements of a minimum of 180 academic working days.
Fed up with the lackadaisical attitude of the Mumbai colleges and its principals towards implementing quality education, Dr Sawant who is a scientist and founded the Environmental Science Department of The Institute of Science (IoS) issued directives in October 2002 to all city colleges that as per the UGC guidelines, each college would need to have minimum of 180 days of teaching per academic year.
â€œThe UGC guidelines stipulate it and all I am asking is implementation of these guidelines. How can one have good academic standards without adequate number of teaching daysâ€? asks Dr Sawant
Dr Sawant’s directives to all city colleges to implement the UGC guidelines last October has met with a â€œvery poor responseâ€. No more then 20 colleges have responded to the directives. Prominent among those who have responded are St Xavierâ€™s, MMK, Mithibai, NM, Nagindas Khandwala and St Andrewâ€™s.
Even then, some of them have been clever about their replies. â€œSome of the colleges who have replied have included the days on which college extra curricular activities and festivals are held and tried to palm off these days as working daysâ€, says Dr Sawant.
Naturally, Dr Sawant is angry about the indifference shown by the colleges towards strict implementation of academic schedules. Dr Sawant who has jointly published a study on â€˜Lead and Cadmium in Selected Species of Shrimps Around the Mumbai Coastâ€™ and whose findings were carried in the March 2003 issue of New Yorkâ€™s Bulletin on Environmental Contamination and Toxicology is also worried about the quality of education that the Mumbai colleges impart.
â€œStudents attend colleges for academics. I mean how can you include festivals as working days? Moreover, how can a student really learn if he or she studies for less then 150 days a year? Of what worth is his or her degree?â€ wonders Dr Sawant.
This aspect of half hearted literacy and education trend that a majority of the colleges in Mumbai follows applies to even major colleges. Conceding that his college had yet to send in the academic schedule to the state government, Mr. R D Sane, Principal of the prestigious and well-known Ramnarayan Ruia College in Central Mumbai agreed that â€œeven 180 days as per UGC guidelines were not enough to give education for college studentsâ€
Mr. Sane told Education World that the university authorities had proponed the annual exams of the college students in 2002 as well as 2003. â€œThe teachers refuse to work during holidays and therefore we are not able to implement the 180 days scheduleâ€
Mr. Sane said that the only solution to this problem was to reduce summer vacations from six to four weeks and Diwali holidays from three to two weeks. â€œI cannot force the teachers to work during holidaysâ€, said Mr. Sane expressing his helplessness
â€œI am not asking for the moonâ€, retorted Dr Sawant. â€œIf there is a will, there is a way. Many steps can be taken. Holidays can be cut down, the holiday atmosphere during the start of the academic year needs to be done away with, strict discipline needs to be introducedâ€, says Dr Sawant who points out that universities in Tamil Nadu and Kerala seem to have tight implementation of the academic schedule.
For now, though bewildered by the abysmal response of the Mumbai colleges to his directive, Dr Sawant says that he would wait and watch. â€œI am personally going to follow up this directive to its logical end and by next academic session, I expect that the colleges in the city will implement the UGC guidelines or else penalties will followâ€, says Dr Sawant
ketan tanna (mumbai)