Friday, 21 September 2012

Current Scenario of Secular College Education in Nagaland by Dr. P. S. Lorin Principal, Tetso College

Students of Tetso College in class

Nagaland has 56 secular colleges out of which 15 are Government and 41 are Private Colleges in Nagaland. The number of College students in Nagaland as per the Annual Administrative Report of the Directorate of Higher Education is 29,601 for 2011-12. Out of this number, less than 1% of the students studying in Nagaland come from other states. A lot of things about our education system, ranging from the declaration of results to grievances of the student unions are about sending our brightest minds to study outside Nagaland state. Is that really the most ideal model for our state to follow? Maybe the time is now ripe to reverse this trend. We should make our schools and colleges the best in the country and have students all over India and abroad studying here. When students from other parts of the country or abroad study here, it automatically promotes tourism, commerce and employment.

Given the above scenario, in spite of the increase in the number of colleges, higher education in Nagaland is still not spoken in the same breath as the well known educational hubs of Shillong and Guwahati among the North-Eastern States. In the sixties and seventies, most Naga students used to go to Shillong or Guwahati for school and undergraduate studies and then proceeding to Delhi . It is only in the eighties and nineties that Nagaland has witnessed the growth of many quality schools espousing various teaching methodologies.  Today, I think Nagaland has a lot of quality schools and the school system seems to be continuously reinventing itself. This seems to be helping to overcome many of its earlier shortcomings. In my opinion, the school education scenario looks bright, provided the people concerned continue working in this manner.

On the other hand, the state of Higher Education in Nagaland sometimes worries me. Higher education seems to have taken a back seat for quite a while among our state’s list of priorities. Infrastructure and amenities in higher educational institutions pale in comparison to today’s schools. Even though, the 1990’s saw the mushrooming of many colleges, Nagaland has failed to pick up as an educational destination of choice for students from neighboring states or even for our own top students. We have failed to create an atmosphere that is conducive for academic excellence. This neglect is ultimately affecting our state’s economy. Without an educated work force industry will not invest, if industry does not invest then jobs can’t be created and if jobs can’t be created then the economy and business opportunities in our state automatically dwindle. Our state might already be in the process of a brain drain to some extent with our best brains studying, working and eventually settling outside of Nagaland state. Working and studying outside Nagaland is certainly not a negative thing; but it is our naga society as a whole which eventually loses out when our brightest minds don’t return home because of the chaotic situation in present day Nagaland.

A clearer picture of the importance Nagaland places on Higher Education emerges when looking at the state’s budget allotment on higher education. In 2010, Nagaland’s state budget allotment on higher education was the lowest among 24 states at 0.49%. States like Assam have provisions to support 188 colleges up to the extent of 100% funding under the Provincialization Act of 2005. In Meghalaya, out of 61 Colleges, 5 are Government Colleges and 20 others are under deficit financing (the government meets the salary shortfall of teachers) while the remaining 36 Colleges are receiving grant-in-aid from the government. In Delhi, out of 72 Colleges, 14 are provincialized (100% funding) Colleges and 58 others are receiving 90% funding (AIFUCTO). These policies ensure that teachers are adequately compensated, while still keeping the college fees low. They provide greater leverage to Colleges to pay appealing salaries that can attract quality talent, without having to raise fees that go beyond the reach of the common man. According to the latest statement by our Honorable Higher Education Minister of Nagaland on 7th September 2012, Dr. Shürhozelie Liezietsu, the department has substantially enhanced grant-in-aid to colleges this year. Positive steps like this are the need of the hour today.

I strongly believe that if the younger generations of today are the leaders of tomorrow, the Government along with the educational institutions in particular must provide them with the support structures to become true leaders of tomorrow. Education needs to be elevated as top priority after which everything else will follow progressively.

On the positive side, lately we notice many colleges in Nagaland pursuing NAAC accreditation, including efforts to attract and retain the best minds in the teaching profession. Government Teachers are now being provided 6th pay scale and many private colleges are taking steps to restructure their processes and match the shortfall to some extent. There is no doubt that we have a long way to go. It needs step by step progress and as long as we continue to move forward then that is a positive sign. Ultimately, higher education in Nagaland can only develop if all the stakeholders involved learn to work with each other. By stakeholders, I mean the University, teachers, government, students, parents and society as a whole.

Having only one exceptional college will never make Nagaland an educational destination. To make Nagaland into an educational hub that attracts students from all over the country and abroad, Nagaland needs many exceptional colleges led by an exceptional University. It’s the responsibility of the Government to create conditions in society which make such a dream a reality.

A key requirement from all stakeholders is the element of trust. There seems to be a deep rooted sense of skepticism and mistrust prevalent in a lot of our educational institutions. Teachers don’t trust the management, the government doesn’t trust the university, students don’t trust the teachers, parents don’t have faith in the educational institutions etc. While some of the mistrust might be valid, the drawback is that a pessimistic view can sometimes blind us to actual honest endeavors. Even honest attempts to create positive change may be mistaken as self-serving. Change takes time and sometimes it does take a while before we see the fruits of policy changes, however, with assistance and cooperation from the government and other stakeholders we might be able to bring about this change much sooner rather than later.

There is a saying, “There are some people who will find a problem within every solution while there are others who will find a solution to every problem.” I think it’s time we started concentrating on the latter. 

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