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From Education in Commerce to Commerce in Education

‘I have learnt much from my teachers, more form my colleagues and the most from my students’
- Rabbi Rosenfield

‘I have learnt much from my teachers, more form my colleagues and the most from my students’
- Rabbi Rosenfield

‘Preparing to pass an examination, ever with distinction, is one thing; preparing to teach students at the college level is quite another. As a teacher, you should not only have thorough knowledge of your subject but also good acquaintance with other subjects like economics, political science, sociology, philosophy etc. and good command of the English language and communication skills. Knowledge gives you confidence; if you have confidence, you can generate interest in students and instill confidence in them and hold their attention.’ These words with which Principal M. D. Limaye welcomed me to the college as a new teacher in June 1972 guided me throughout my career and continue to guide me. Much later in the 1980s when the University of Bombay (now Mumbai) framed statutes on service conditions of teachers, the concepts of subject knowledge, command of language, communication skills and general awareness, emphasized by Prin. Limaye, were given due weight age in the selection process of teachers and principals.

Though Principal Limaye was my mentor and revered him, there were occasions of clash between us. Later when I became Principal of the Vivek College, I realized the occupational hazards associated with the office of Principal. Many of my administrative practices in the Vivek were modeled on the practices developed and perfected by Principal Limaye. He was indeed ‘vajraadapi kathoraani, mrudooni kusumadapi’ (hard like diamond soft like flower)

The library of Dahanukar, is a cornucopia of culture and has always seen a point of attraction to me. The library has had a rich collection of books on philosophy, economics, political science, sociology, literature, besides biographies, autobiographies and travelogues, not to speak of commerce subjects, the like of which no other college of commerce, barring perhaps Sydenham and Podar could boast of. It was indeed a storehouse of information and source of material for researchers. The college management had a policy of reimbursing up to fifty percent of the cost of books purchased by teachers, subject to a maximum of Rs.500/= ( a princely sum in the sixties and seventies ); unfortunately this came to be stopped because teachers did not take advantage of this.

I was in Dahanukar from 1972 to 1994. Significant changes took place in the political, economic and social life of the country, with major impact on education in general and higher education in particular. The declaration of emergency in June 1975 by the Indira Gandhi government shook the country to the marrow of its bones. Authoritarianism in administration at all levels came to the fore. There was an awakening throughout the country about the attack on democracy. Many of our students worked hard against the attack on democracy.

A new University Act, the Bombay University Act was passed in 1974 replacing the erstwhile act of 1953. The area of jurisdiction of the University of Bombay ( now Mumbai ) came to be extended beyond the metropolitan city and included the districts up to and including Sindhudurg. The head of the university, Vice Chancellor; which was an honorary post held by a judge of the High Court or Supreme Court, became a full time salaried post. In course of time, the appointment to the post

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became increasingly controversial and influenced by political considerations. This affected the efficiency of administration and quality of education in the University.

Since the mid-seventies, the University Grants commission, the nation body established by the Parliament to ensure maintenance and coordination of standards in higher education, came to play an increasing role in affairs of universities and colleges, particularly in the matter of pay and service conditions including qualification of teachers. Concerned educationists and discerning sociologists will say that the quality and standards have progressively deteriorated, a major reason being political interference in appointments to top positions.

The 11 + 4 pattern of education came to be replaced by the 10 + 2 +3 pattern in the second half of the 1970s. The projected gains of vocationalisation of education and better employability still remain a distant dream. Two institutions in the same campus, junior and degree colleges, made teaching –learning process a part time affair, leaving little time and place for co-curricular and extracurricular activities.

The restructuring of the courses of study replacing the four-year degree course with a three-year one necessitated the framing of new syllabi. In many cases, in the commerce faculty in particular, standard books for study and for reference are not recommended by the University, with the result that a large number of sub-standard books started coming in the market.

Commerce faculty witnessed unprecedented and unparalleled expansion during this period. From around 12,000 students enrolled in the faculty of Commerce in the early 1970, the enrolment went to about 1.5 lacs in the first decade of the 21st century. The so-called ‘authors’ of sub-standard books had field day. Non-availability of standard books recommended by the University, considerably affected the quality of education in general and commerce education in particular. In one case in the late 1970s nine senior teachers from numerically large colleges became authors and two very senior ones who were members of the University bodies styled themselves as ‘editors’ of a book, which a wag described as ‘nau-do-gyarah’! I remember in the 1970s, the pass percent in the B.Com. examination rarely exceeded 45 % with first class not more than 2 %. The result of the April 2012 examination was 82 % with, 65 % of them getting First Class ! Is this improvement in quality ?

In the 70s the corporate sector used to indicate ‘preference for commerce graduates of Bombay University’ in their employment advertisements. Even a pass class of Bombay University was considered superior to a First Class with distinction of many other universities. Today, one need not be surprised if the corporate sector says, ‘commerce graduates of Mumbai University need not apply’. Commerce education today in the country in general and in Mumbai University in particular has transformed from ‘education in commerce’ to commerce in education’.

Yet another development was the unplanned introduction of the ‘unaided system’, as an offshoot of the policy of liberalization and privatization of the economy in the early 90s. Many institutions have come up without even basic facilities, many of them owned by politicians. Students pay through their nose, but their basic needs are not satisfied. Inability of managements to pay the salary prescribed by the government and non-availability of qualified staff, resulted in appointment of teachers on contract basis without regular salary and service conditions. The absence of security of service and satisfactory pay structure tells upon their morale and efficiency and quality.

The extension of the reservation policy to appointments in higher education too had its impact on education. Till recently, open category teachers were appointed in reserved posts because reserved category candidates were not available, but on temporary basis. Caste prejudices of institutions too affected the appointment.

It is time to review the system as it exists today and make necessary revision, both at the national and state levels. There was a Joint Board of Vice Chancellors under the University Act of 1974; now under the Maharashtra Universities Act of 1994 which consolidated all the separate University Acts into one Act at the State level, provision was made for establishment of a State Council for Higher Education for maintaining and coordinating standards in higher education. But the body still remains on paper. Maybe, because education is a ‘spending’ department for the government and not a ‘revenue generating’ one. Indeed, daily newspapers devote pages and pages for sports, entertainment, business etc. But there are not even columns of education !

- Prof. P. Unnikrishnan