Jamia Millia Islamia has located its first lady vice-chancellor. Yes, as students, teachers and educationists, we are keen to look the way professor Najma Akhtar imagines the concept of a college and strives for its implementation, especially at a time whilst public universities are in deep disaster, and the cause of the neoliberal marketplace – driven by means of the expanded growth of private universities – transforms education into a commodity on the market.
However, her preliminary assertion isn’t very promising. She feels that there are guides which are ‘old style‘, and have lost their relevance. Moreover, she feels that the courses need to be advanced ‘in consultation with industries‘ due to the fact ‘we ought to learn how to earn‘. She isn’t satisfied with the reality that ‘imperative universities had been spoon-fed by means of the authorities’. Hence, universities need to earn something on their personal.
Well, I do accept as true with her that on occasion we must reformulate, replace and revise the courses we educate. A university grows simplest if it is inclined to innovate and experiment. However, the chance is that during her tone I discover the celebration of an instrumental orientation to the tradition and practice of higher education.
Where is the intrinsic price of the training?
To start with, allow us to reflect on the belief of ‘relevance’. If you allow the market or the enterprise to define what’s ‘applicable’ and what is ‘worth-gaining knowledge of’, you wreck the very concept of a college: its idealism, its epistemological pluralism, its quest for foundational know-how and its longing for better values.
A college should be an area where you must count on a professor of, say, Urdu literature conversing with a researcher in biotechnology in the cafeteria. A university ought to be a place in which poetry, philosophy, and theoretical physics are celebrated even if these branches of information don’t have any direct relationship with the industries. A university needs to be a place wherein students and instructors can dare to see something beyond ‘callous cash price’.
Take an easy instance. A graduate in ‘resort management’ would possibly get a process pretty smoothly. But then, a Ph.D. in ancient history won’t guarantee immediate placement and a good profits bundle. Does it then imply that records as a subject are much less relevant than motel control or style designing? In truth, what professor Akhtar appears to have forgotten is if understanding is described simply by means of ‘instrumental’ hobbies, we lose ‘hermeneutic’ and ’emancipatory’ opportunities in schooling.
To reduce the college into a schooling college for the commercial paintings force is to assault the center precept of better schooling. Education – say, writing a book on Jamini Roy’s painting, or doing a thesis on the poetry of Walt Whitman – has its intrinsic price: beyond what the enterprise regards as a ‘profit-making’ enterprise.
Yes, jobs are crucial. But then, we ought to ask why the established order does no longer create jobs for college students of literature, philosophy, physics, and arithmetic. Why is it that teachers and researchers aren’t recruited properly? And why is it that there are not sufficient fellowships and rewards for individuals who work inside the area of classical research, literature, philosophy, artwork, and aesthetics? And why is it that the kingdom seeks to withdraw from the realm of training, and asks the college to locate its own assets?
Professor Akhtar, unfortunately, isn’t always asking those questions. Instead, she appears to be suggesting what techno-managers do: degree the ‘outcome’ of a direction in terms of its economic feasibility, prioritize the needs of the market and reduce mastering into ‘schooling’ – schooling for the ‘talents’ that the corporate international wishes.
And as a result, as a young learner, I ought to get the message: I must pay closely for the market-pleasant ‘applicable’ courses, and I ought to not hassle a lot about the opposite hobbies within the university. Premchand is irrelevant, Tagore is simply too poetic, Marx is a ‘hassle-maker’, Foucault is a ‘highbrow type’ and Arabic, Persian, Urdu, and Sanskrit are simply ancient recollections – now not applicable for the age that values techno-science, commerce, and control.
Sing in music with the marketplace. Don’t anticipate something higher from schooling. Is this the message that professor Akhtar is conveying?
How no longer to fall into the trap of ‘relevance’
I have a deep sense of gratitude for the imaginative and prescient of a public college. Yes, in the manner of my developing up, I saw that it become lower priced. There were spirited instructors, and we got an education in a far broader feel of the time period. Apart from specialization in educational disciplines, we started out to price the oceanic modern-day in a college: its cosmopolitanism, its plurality of perspectives, its political debates and its regular reflections on poetry, aesthetics, cinema, faith, and philosophy. Idealism becomes now not dead. Not the whole thing was measured, calculated and advertised.
Also read: The Myth of Value-Neutral Teaching
These days, after I have a look at what I regard because the growing enterprise of ‘schooling shops’, I experience the absence of this quest. With the corporatization of training, marketization of understanding and the dissociation of ‘competencies’ from politics, ethics, and crucial thinking, these establishments transform a learner into a consumer, a teacher into a service provider and a path into a set of measurable utilities.
In surroundings filled with techno-managerial smartness, I see ‘statistics generation’, ‘company law’, ‘commercial enterprise control’ and ‘medical psychology’ as appealing ‘programs’ – nearly like ‘branded’ merchandise.
No, in those schooling stores you will no longer find Tagore talking with Einstein, Mrinal Sen speaking about Charlie Chaplin, a historian reflecting at the trade of letters among Andrews and Gandhi and a poet talking about Allama Iqbal and Mirza Ghalib. Because the market has already declared those strivings as ‘useless’ and ‘non-productive’.
Yes, professor Akhtar, you ought to ponder and withstand the temptation of falling into the trap of what the corporate foyer regards as ‘relevant’ training. There is no reason to think that a vice-chancellor has ceased to be an educationist.