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Why college and university teachers all over India are angry

Is it because they don’t want to work hard? Or are UGC’s demands unrealistic? What happens to DU students whose teachers are boycotting evaluations?

Written by Aranya Shankar | Updated: June 2, 2016 8:46:52 am
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On May 4, UGC notified significant amendments in its 2010 regulations, including altering teachers’ workload requirements by redefining “direct teaching hours”. Teachers from several universities, besides the All India Federation of University & College Teachers (AIFUCTO), have issued statements in protest, and the Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) has gone a step further — some 8,000 DU teachers have been boycotting evaluation of answerscripts of all subjects for roughly 1.3 lakh undergraduate students since May 24. So, what exactly is the issue?

What changes has UGC made?

The definition of “direct teaching hours” has been changed. It included lectures, practicals, project supervision and tutorials, all of which were treated at par. Tutorials have now been removed, and the definition narrowed to “Lectures/Practicals/Project Supervision”.

The number of teaching hours was increased. An Assistant Professor was required to teach 16 hours weekly; Associate Professors and Professors 14 hours — including time spent on tutorials and practicals. This was changed to 18+6 hours per week for Assistant Professors, 16+6 for Associate Professors, and 14+6 for Professors. The “six hours per week include… hours spent on tutorials, remedial classes, seminars, administrative responsibilities, innovation and updating of course contents”. No reason was given for the changes.

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But what is the problem with all this?

Several, say teachers, but mainly: 1) They will drastically increase teaching hours (including tutorials), and make it difficult to focus on research and administrative responsibilities; 2) The API (Academic Performance Indicators) target — on which teachers are promoted — set by the notification, especially for Assistant Professors, will make promotions impossible; and 3) With the reformulation of the workload, thousands of ad hoc teachers and Assistant Professors will lose their jobs.

Why would API changes hit promotions?

Because the maximum points that can be got for teaching are 60 per year, but the points will be determined by dividing the “actual hours spent per academic year divided by 10”. According to DUTA president Nandita Narain, “this means that any teacher who is interested in 60 points will have to teach 600 hours per year or 300 points per semester. In a semester of 15 weeks, this works out to 20 hours a week — a target that will be impossible to meet even if a teacher takes no leave at all, does not fall ill, does not enroll herself in Refresher Courses or do Research Projects.”

So? 20 hours per week is just four hours per day with two weekly offs, and most people work at least double that!

Teachers insist it doesn’t work that way. These four hours are just teaching hours, and don’t account for all the other work teachers have to do. “Lecturing for 18 hours and tutoring or conducting practicals for an additional 6 hours is madness. When will teachers get the time to prepare for lectures and tutorials? Each hourly lecture takes at least 4 hours of preparation,” says Saikat Ghosh, Assistant Professor of English at SGTB Khalsa College.

DUTA says the move will increase their workload by 50%. “At any top international university, teaching hours are not more than 6-7 (a week). Even in Ambedkar University, Delhi, they are 8-10. We’re teaching double the international average,” Narain said.

And why whould ad hocs lose their jobs?

“The workload is the basis for hiring. By making tutorials extraneous to workload calculations, they are not removing them, as tutorials are still a part of the curriculum. They are merely calculating workload based on lectures, which results in a quantum reduction,” Ghosh said. According to Narain, approximately 5,000 teachers will be rendered surplus, and will lose their jobs. “The hardest hit will be the young teachers working in ad hoc and temporary capacity for years, waiting for regularisation. Many of these are women, SCs, STs and OBCs,” Narain said.

What has been the HRD Ministry and UGC’s response?

A Ministry directive issued on May 26 said “the direct teaching-learning hours to be devoted by Assistant Professors (16 hours) and Associate Professors/Professors (14 hours) will remain unchanged”, but did not address the complaints about the definition of direct teaching hours and calculation of workloads. The day after a protest march by teachers at Jantar Mantar on May 30, the UGC issued a press note reiterating the MHRD directive. The UGC has called a stakeholders’ consultation meet on June 6 to “discuss Academic Performance Indicator (API) scheme and workload of teachers”. It “will also seek perspectives and suggestions from teachers, for its consideration”.

Could the evaluation boycott lead to DU results and sessions being delayed?

Yes, if the issue isn’t resolved soon. However, teachers have said that if the issue is resolved, they would work overtime to finish the work, so students don’t suffer. The boycott was initially for three days, but a General Body Meeting extended it to June 2, when another GBM is scheduled. In its Extended Executive meeting held on Wednesday, DUTA resolved to “intensify” its agitation. A lot depends on the June 6 meeting.

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