ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Karnataka - Universities Bill: Academic Freedom on the Way Out?

The Karnataka State Universities Bill, soon to be presented, will put in place a framework for slowly diminishing the autonomy of the universities. In the process of placing Karnataka on the IT map, college teachers and academics are getting the short shrift.

University teachers of Karnataka are up in arms against the government’s reform programme for universities. For one, the government is cutting down grants to the college by 15 per cent which would not only affect the salary component of the teachers but more importantly, colleges would resort to recovering the loss by way of increasing the fees. Ultimately it is the students and their parents, mainly rural side and the students who are studying in general subjects would burn their fingers or would become the victims. This discrimination is emanated from the fact that at present the main concern of the Karnataka government is to extend support to information technology – 30 new engineering colleges have been permitted and the intake allowed to be increased. There will be 20,000 seats in IT courses. Moreover the incumbent ‘modernist’ chief minister and the government are going all the way to pamper the IT industries. This is once again reflected in its all out support to Infosys – both in terms of the thousands of acres of land that the government has leased out to the company in different parts of Karnataka-Mangalore, Mysore, Bangalore, and also by appointing chief of infosys, Narayana Murthy to different bodies. In the process of placing Karnataka on the map of information technology at the global level, college teachers have been made unwitting victims.

The second important issue that triggered off the controversy among academicians is the experiment to introduce ‘Samudayadatta Shikshana’ – taking education to communities. This programme is to tackle the problem of school dropouts, especially girls. It begins with the premise that teachers have the larger role to transform the village communities. Towards this end they should stay back in the villages, at least once in a month despite the inconvenience or absence of any facilities. They should meet parents of children, different people in the village and understand problems without the mediations. In other words, it was an attempt to take the education to the midst of village communities. Even though the resistance came largely from the women teachers, however, what went wrong with the programme was too much stress on cultural programmes. In many places, taking education to the people ultimately ended up in performance of cultural programmes once a month. There was no sustained effort to make the programme effective. Secondly, resistance also came from ‘gentlemen teachers’ who are regularly absent from schools for months together. These are teachers who live in urban areas, and are involved in various small businesses except teaching in the villages. Very notion of staying back in villages makes them nervous. In fact, this Samudayadatta Shikshana has the potential to radically transform from within, provided a sustained effort is made to retain the tempo of the experiment.

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