Tuesday, 14 November 2017

NET

The following write-up is a contemplative attempt based on two articles in an online journal, The Wire, that came up recently - The Absurdity of the National Eligibility Test by Avijit Pathak (2 Nov. 2017) and If Not NET, Then What? by Pushkar (9 Nov. 2017).


NET - National Eligibility Test or, if I may call it, the Numbing Effect On Teachers - I personally have a problem with the name itself! If I were to think that qualifying the NET exam would make me an 'eligible teacher/researcher', then I would be insulting my teachers who did not have the 'NET-qualified' aspect in their biographies. Instead they had the passion for teaching, imparting knowledge and also a penchant for learning from younger minds.

It is likely on this line of thought that Pathak brings in his article, and Pushkar's counterargument is that "NET is a rational response to the broken state of higher education in India [and] [i]t's long life is simply the UGC acknowledging that the system cannot be fixed." Looking back into the statistics, Pathak's article was shared by many on social media while Pushkar's was considerably less (this is with respect to the posts that appeared on my Facebook and Twitter timelines). A crude analysis of this would result in the fact that there are many students who want to pursue teaching/research as their career, but NET is seen a hindrance. And, if one were to study closely both the arguments, then one would find logic in both.

Pathak comments on the kind of "madness" a teacher/researcher should have in order to improve the young minds to - think and re-think, question the established facts and re-question the possible answers and outcomes. While, Pushkar digs into the history of the very idea of NET-implementation and its long survival. He comes down harshly on the "useless PhD's" awarded by most universities, and the recruitment of NET-qualified candidates would minimize the flaws in higher education in India.

However, the two arguments place their stands on higher education, something that comes at the postgraduate level and beyond. While the problem seed is sowed at the elementary levels of education! The foundational education in 'Indian Education System' (IES) is admirable, but this strong base is found taxing for many students and the constant pressure of getting 'good' marks (even to this day I wonder what exactly is a good mark) adds to the already existing burden. There is a widening hiatus between theoretical knowledge and practical application, and this begins at the primary levels of education which later becomes a rigid state of confusion and chaos at the research level.

Why isn't IES concentrating on this aspect? Isn't the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application a problem?

Coming back to my first sentence - the problem with the name - 'eligibility'. Most university professors call themselves 'facilitators'; perhaps the unlearning of this should happen effectively. A teacher could take up the role of a facilitator when needed but being only a facilitator is certainly not the need of the hour. In this context, it would not be unreasonable of me to comment that Google serves as one of the best facilitators, then why need someone in college as a 'teacher' who claims to be only a facilitator!

Education's ulterior motive is to enlighten man to 'seek the truth' and 'improve the human condition'. A teacher or a researcher must work to achieve this, and NET-qualified or not should not hamper one's penchant for learning and teaching.