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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Why the faculty are equally to blame for institutional decline?

A business leader blames the poor student quality for producing ineffective graduates, while a minister attributes it to the faculty not being world-class. Whatever the reasons may be, I noticed that  at times, faculty are equally to blame for the decline of teaching standards and of institutions. Lest anyone consider this a rant based on personal experience at IIM-A, let me hasten to add that this represents a collage of experiences from different IIMs, as shared by various friends during the past 2 years

  1. Overuse of TAs:-While increasing class sizes lead to difficulties in evaluating of test scripts, surely these can be solved by designing objective tests which test what they are supposed to, and to have electronic tests as far as possible, or even simulation games. Instead, professors increasingly outsource answer scrip correction to the teaching associates, whose quality is the student's luck of the draw. While many TAs are good, the bad ones are enough to disillusion students and have them game the system with irrelevant CP etc.
  2. Inflexible grading-standardization focus:-As TAs(as opposed to professors) correct the answer scrips, they naturally tend to respect the answer key. While students can appeal the marks, that takes time and the process is not always transparent, thus it may create a tendency to study as per the suggested class notes/guidelines only
  3. Poor organization and delays of speaker sessions:-If events start very late often, then students may not like to attend administration efforts like speaker sessions etc.
  4. Disrespect of student efforts:-Even when students toil to organize events/faculty-industry meets etc, and faculty turn a cold ear to that, that does not send out a good signal to those involved.
  5. Not supporting student activities adequately:-Support does not need to be just monetary. It could be helping to open doors, suggest themes, act as judges etc, and is not at all easy.
  6. Staying cossetted in irrelevant research to the expense of 
    1. Guiding Student research:-While I agree that many students express interest in research merely for CV pts, there is many genuinely interested, but not able to attract the interest/attention of the respective faculty, who then crib about student disinterest.
    2. Keeping office hours:-This is rarely followed by faculty unlike in the West.
    3. Industry Interface:-If the faculty do not take interest in industry outreach via MDPs, meeting with visiting professionals etc, then industry funding and interface falls. 
  In passing, let me add that while it takes two hands to clap, one should have the courage to blame the hand permanently fixed at the place, than to blame transient hands like students who  don't really influence the place. And lest this sound as a rant against IIM-A, it is not meant as that, but to provoke thought and discussion.

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