RECENTLY OUR College has appointed a new professor, who had retired from IIT. He has amazing personality and is very friendly. Recently he raised a question to us - "How many of you would be willing to comeback as a teacher to this place?" Not one hand went up. There was silence in a class. Then in a conversation we came to know that India's premier institute is facing an acute shortage of quality faculty. The situation is really grim.
A growing crisis in academic recruitment at the IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology) is threatening to disrupt teaching and research, and could put international collaborations in jeopardy. Teaching as a career option is obviously low on the list of the graduates these days. No wonder that even reputed institutions like IITs, are finding it difficult to hire good faculty.
Latest survey says that the nation's seven IITs need about 900additional faculty members before the next academic session to counteract the shortfall.
"A report released last year by a parliamentary committee outlined the magnitude of the crisis. At 16 universities under federal control -considered the country's elite - as many as 1,988 faculty position slay vacant as of March 2005." The committee said the problem is probably even worse at state universities and that "drastic steps need to be taken so that students are not deprived of proper guidance."(The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 12 issue).
A string of measures - including hiring foreigners, raising the retirement age to 70, and incentive packages for new recruits - have been suggested by IIT directors. But doubts remain about whether this will save the crown jewel of India's education system from losing its shine. I did some research and following figures came out.
In a scenario where leading technical colleges across the United States and Britain offer 1:6 faculty student ratio, most IITs just manage to scrape up a 1:12 ratio while struggling to stem attrition and quality faculty. In some of IITs, it is hard to maintain a ratio of 1:14. The reasons for the same are not hard to find.
With a monthly salary that fetches a professor Rs 18,400 - 22,400, an associate professor Rs 15,000 - 20,400 and an assistant professor Rs12,000 -18,000 with a measly Rs 500 increment for professors in alternate years, it is hardly a wonder that these portals of education should suffer from a lack of quality teachers.
Teachers' salary mainly in the United States and European Union is at least 20 - 25 times more than that of IIT teachers annually. An average IIT graduate gets much better salary in job market than the one fetched by IIT director. Money is probably the only factor that forces a faculty to look for greener pastures abroad. These figures appeared in one of the monthly magazines few months back.
But what is more alarming is this statistic: by 2011 - just four years from now - that shortage of teachers will swell to 2,31,000 in Indian educational system. Almost 90 per cent of this shortage is in areas that have driven India's recent growth: computer science, information technology and electrical engineering, according to the study, which was written by a committee chaired by P Rama Rao, a professor in Hyderabad, who has been warning about this impending crisis.
Things will get worst if there is implementation of the 27 per cent OBC (Other Backward Classes) reservation, as even the youngest IIT -IIT Roorkee - is reeling under a current shortage of 226 faculty positions. IITs are trying innovative ways to attract young and talented NRIs (Non Resident Indians) serving in foreign universities to work with them. If this is the scenario in India's best technical institutes then the condition in others is easy to imagine.
A serious introspection and reform is required, else we may slip in world rankings. It is a matter of anguish that teaching, which is one of the most critical professions for the socio-economic development of a society, has become one of the last career options.
Recently, at a known technical institution, several IT and management professionals applied for faculty positions, in search of a less stressful job. If this is an indication of an emerging trend, there is a reason to cheer. It is imperative that competent minds are drawn to this profession as they have a direct influence on so many youngsters. By hiking UGC (University Grants Commission) pay scales, the government can take the first step in increasing the respectability of this profession.
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