Eligibility Tests: National and State Tests are hot cakes amongst young graduates. And rightfully so, because these tests grant the license to teach in the HE (Higher Education) sector of India.
UGC-NET is the bull’s-eye of every post graduate who wishes to teach.
Eligibility Test: An Introduction
NET (National Eligibility Test) & SET (State Eligibility Test) or SLET (State Lecturer Eligibility Test) is conducted to determine the eligibility of Indian Nationals for Lectureship in various Indian Universities and colleges. NET also Awards Junior Research Fellowships (JRF) for Ph.D programme.
National Eligibility Test is conducted by CSIR (Council of Scientific and Research Council) and UGC (University Grants Commission) /CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education), while SET/SLET is jointly conducted by UGC & State Level Bodies of the respective states.
CSIR deals with science subjects viz. Earth Sciences, Life Sciences, Mathematical Sciences, Physical Sciences and Engineering Sciences, whereas CBSE deals with NET in 95 different subjects including Arts, Commerce, Management, Languages etc. NET qualified individuals who are awarded with JRF are then eligible to get register for the Ph.D programme, in most of the Indian Universities or Research Institutes. Once the JRF is awarded, the financial assistance (Fellowship/ stipend/ contingency) is undertaken by CSIR/UGC.
However, NET aspirants may have several questions such as why does the CSIR/UGC opine the need of examining the candidate’s eligibility for lecturer post? Why does the UGC not allow the post graduate to pursue their career in teaching field directly? Why only the Doctorates with Ph.D course work are exempted from NET exams? Answer for these questions lies in the role of a teacher or a lecturer. In our society, Lecturers have always been considered as a role model, capable of moulding young and unstable minds to creative and independent individuals. They are also seen as tool for Revolution as they compel & often guide young minds to think beyond their current realms of academics. Keeping in mind such importance of the impact of lecturers on our society, UGC/CSIR has made rules for stringent examination of candidates for Lectureship and named it as NET.
Eligibility Test: Their Structure
The CSIR’s NET question paper consists multiple choice questions divided into sections/parts – A, B, C. Part A is common for all science subjects and is based on General Sciences (Physics, Chemistry, Maths, Biology and Aptitude). Part B and Part C are based on subject knowledge. Part B tests the basic concepts and Part C examines the research aptitude, analytical thinking and logical reasoning of their respective subjects.
The UGC’s NET question paper consists of three Papers-I, II and III. All papers contain multiple choice questions. Paper I is based on general knowledge, teaching and research aptitude. Paper II examines the fundamentals and paper III research aptitude, analytical thinking and logical reasoning of their respective subjects. NET/SET examine and analyse candidate’s subject knowledge in detail and therefore NET/SET/SLET qualified candidates are deemed to be fit for the post of a Lecturer or Professor.
Does it really address the question of Teaching Aptitude & Quality
However, the question that begs our attention is, is it true that only subject knowledge can make the candidate fit for the Lecturer post?
Teaching & Learning are interactive processes. During these processes, an invisible bridge is formed between the teacher and the students. This bridge is tightly held by many pillars. Subject knowledge is one such important pillar but this pillar, alone cannot withstand. The other important pillars are Communication, Compassion and Creativity. Unfortunately these qualities are not tested in NET/SET/SLET exams.
A good Lecturer’s quality is to transform a difficult concept which is easy and understandable for students. An ideal Lecturer should abandon the bookish terminologies and explain the subject concepts by providing analogies relevant to a student’s life. The explanation of subject not only requires subject knowledge but also the skill to translate it to a student’s level. The NET/SET/SLET exam conductors are not considering this criterion for examining the candidate as a Lecturer.
There are few basic qualities, worldwide, that are expected from a good teacher or lecturer such as enthusiastic, positivity, motivative, constructive, organized, patient, and humorous. He/She should have an individually perceptive and value based personality. He/She should be able to pace the lecture appropriately, demonstrate and illustrate the concept, encourage students to think and reflect on what is being taught & be able to hold the attention of students. UGC/CSIR failed to incorporate and test these features/traits while examining a candidate for the Lecturer post.
Role and Importance of Lecturer
Understanding the role and importance of Lecturer in our developing Nation, a Lecturer’s eligibility should not be checked simply on the subject knowledge itself. The criteria of eligibility need to be widened. The CSIR/UGC need to redesign, reconstruct the syllabus and modify the exam pattern in such a way that could test the candidate’s overall personality.
Till now, we have discussed in a nutshell about the qualities of a good lecturer and the incorrigible incompetence of National Eligibility Test (NET) in examining the teaching ability. NET is based & thrives on the subject knowledge itself. It is reduced to a mere game of memory; the more you remember, the more you can answer the MCQs. But to be a lecturer, it takes more than just ticking the right options. Developing a student whilst piquing his/her interest in the concerned subject requires more skill than merely selecting a right option.
It is crucial for a lecturer, to empathize the concept, analyze it & understand the significance & relevance of that particular topic in our daily life & should be aware of its application and more importantly translating it to a student’s level so as to make the delivery of knowledge an easy, interactive & fun process. Eminent Indian Educationist, Dr. Anil Saddgopal, while echoing Albert Einstein, says that only the person who understands well can teach well. The NET does not provide for examining any of the above mentioned qualities.
The inept NET continues to qualify the unskilled candidates and make them eligible as lecturers. Certified as “Eligible”, these lecturers, unskilled and incompetent stand as an ideal before the unassuming students. They teach students with the same memory based techniques which they have mastered to qualify the NET and hence they fail to kindle student’s inherent scientific attitude. Today, our Indian Education system is churning out only labors (who at times lack the basic competence) and not scientists. A more popular evidence for this, is the Thomson Reuters report (2001-10), which was submitted to the Department of Science and Technology. According to this report, India accounts for just 3.5% of global research output. Due to our stagnant research, “India is being called as the sleeping giant of Asia.” (TOI, 2012)
At the inaugural function of the centenary year celebrations of Dakshineswar Ramkrishna Sangha Adhyapeeth, the Indian president, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, spoke about our deplorable Indian Higher Education. He lamented, “We need more research and innovations in the country as India is far behind all other developed nations when it comes to higher Education.” He also added that none of the Indian Universities find their place amongst the top 200 rankings globally. He regretted the fact that many Indians received Noble prizes only when they were researching outside the country (Business Standard, 2nd April 2015).
Understanding the dismal standard of Indian Higher Education, the Indian Education Regulatory authorities like the UGC, the CSIR & the Department of Science and Technology are now trying to provide the required infrastructure to Universities and Research Institutes but are neglecting to provide good quality mentors. However along with the infrastructure, proper guidance and intellectual environment, shapes or moulds the student to become the scientists of tomorrow.
It is said that mere criticizing won’t be any fruitful or go the distance unless it is provided with an alternative. So while we are criticizing that NET is incapable to find good mentors, we need to find an alternative & a better method, to replace the old and inept one. One of the ways of this could be to start looking at the education models practiced in developed countries.
We have gathered that in developed countries a certificate course anywhere between 6 months to 1 year is conducted. Such courses are named as Diploma in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education or Post graduate Certificate in Higher Education & such. These courses focus on the teaching role of the academician in Higher Education, with reference to the diverse ways in which students learn. They provide a practical and theoretical ground-base in learning and teaching in Higher Education and emphasize the links between the conceptual frameworks and professional practice. The course enriches a candidate’s understanding of student learning & develops ideas for educational enhancement. Accomplishment of the course leads to improved teaching practices.
We are of the view that the UGC should also start similar part time certifications. Students wishing to pursue their career in the field of Teaching and Education should be allowed to take such kind of courses during their post graduation so as to enhance their understanding of Teaching/Learning process and student behavior & learning.
Scientifically, Teaching ability & its quality cannot be determined by solving multiple choice question papers & hence we need to revolutionize the process of finding eligible lecturers for our developing nation.
After doing extensive research we tried to hypothesize the pattern and content of certification course. We are of the opinion that the certification courses thus provided should constitute but not be limited to, subjects like teaching and research methodology, psychology, communication and social awareness. The aspiring teacher should be assessed by observing their teaching methodology, written assignment, individual and group presentation along-with their participation in social and cultural activities. It requires a minimum of 6 months to refine and groom a candidate to prep for classroom teaching. This additional certification becomes increasingly important in the light of the fact that no such grooming is currently provided at any post graduation level.
We opine that this Teaching Certificate course will provide freedom & flexibility to students who aspire to become Teachers/Lecturers & choose their career at post graduation level. The UGC should allow taking this course at the second year, so that by the Final year the aspirant will be ready to pursue his/her teaching career. This will not only help the aspirants to save their valuable time but also spare them from the misery of course & qualification confusion.
The aforementioned certification course is expected to provide us good mentors and teachers, which is the dire need of our country at this moment. To facilitate & boost the growth and development of our Country, Higher Education authority should replace ineffective NET with effective teaching certificate course.