SOCIETY/ EDUCATION/ GOVERNANCE
Topic: General Studies 1,2:
- Social Empowerment
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Teacher vacancies at IITs and reservation
Background of the issue
- Additional Seats due to reservation: The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) have a large number of faculty vacancies, as the student intake capacity was raised by over 50% during 2008-10 after reservation for Other Backward Classes students was introduced. Recently reservation for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) has been added.
- Expansion of IITs in recent decade: Also, more IITs were opened during 2008-17, currently, there are 23 IITs.
- Inadequate Teachers: Since the ratio of students to teachers has come under strain, and the high bar for entry of teachers, starting with a doctoral degree, has shrunk the pool of eligible aspirants from reserved categories
- Committee Formation: In this background, the Education Ministry formed a committee headed by the Director of IIT Delhi, V. Ramgopal Rao to look at implementing the reservation system effectively.
Why is it difficult to find candidates in reserved categories?
- The Committee said in its report that the IITs, set up as institutions of national importance under a special law to contribute to national and even global development, had to pursue high quality teaching and research.
- Aspirants must therefore possess a PhD degree, as well as a superior academic record and “high research accomplishments” for teaching.
- About a decade ago, the student to faculty ratio was estimated at about 6:1, which facilitated closer monitoring and pursuit of projects that make IIT courses unique. This faculty ratio later fell to 12:1, and appears to be under further strain.
- The Education Ministry’s Committee has pointed out that the optimal is a ratio of 10:1, on the basis of which faculty numbers have been set.
- The reality is that not enough candidates belonging to the reserved categories are going into research in engineering and technology. Even among those who do, only a small group opt for a teaching career. This has sharply reduced the available pool from which the IITs can recruit teachers while adhering to reservation norms.
- The Committee was concerned that the absence of enough qualified faculty was coming in the way of the IITs improving their global ranking, although the academic system was capable of breaking into the top 50.
What remedy is the Committee offering (recommendations)?
- Student admissions and teachers’ appointments are covered by the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2006, and the CEI (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Act, 2019. Beneficiaries belong to the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, OBCs and EWS
- The Ministry Committee, met twice in the current year, and came up with two options and ans action point to increase the talent pool.
- Exemption by including in 2019 law: According to the first, government could include the IITs in the schedule to the 2019 law on teachers’ recruitment, which would exempt these institutes from reservation, just as it does other institutions of excellence such as the Homi Bhabha National Institute, TIFR, Space Physics Laboratory and others.
- De-reservation of positions if no suitable candidates are found in that year: As a second option, the panel suggested that faculty at the level of Assistant Professor Grade I and II be given reservation, including for EWS, and the vacancies considered for the institution as a whole, and not for each department. Where suitable candidates from the reserved category are unavailable, the posts should be de-reserved in the next year, with approval from the Board of Governors. Also, Associate Professor and Professor posts should be exempted from reservation.
- Government-sponsored preparatory programme to increase Pool: To provide for a talent pool from among the reserved sections, the Ramgopal Rao panel has suggested the launch of two-year research assistantships fully funded by the Centre, with an option for the candidates to take up PhD studies and acquire qualifications that meet the rigorous standards of the IITs
- The recommendations have evoked a strong reaction, as they are seen as negating the objective of affirmative action through reservation.
What is the government’s position?
- The report of the Committee, which was obtained under the Right to Information Act by an interested citizen, is “under examination” by the government, according to the Ministry of Education.
- Although it aims at addressing a critical gap, the recommendation to do away with reservation is at odds with the stated position of the Central government.
- In November last year, the Education Ministry put out a notification pointing out that central educational institutions (CEIs), which would include IITs and IIMs, should ensure that faculty positions, including senior posts, fully met the norms of reservation.
- The Ministry now has a recommendation favouring no reservation, and a reiteration of the idea of treating an IIT as a single unit for the purpose of drawing up a roster of reserved posts, rather than go by individual departments.
- The single unit idea is also the intent of the 2019 law, which was first issued as an ordinance, to remove legal difficulties arising from court judgments that did not accept the logic.
- An analysis by PRS Legislative Research estimates that the composite method of calculation typically leads to a small rise in reserved posts, over the individual departments method. On the other hand, it also means that the reserved posts could be heavily represented in one department but there may be none in another.
- Diversity achieved through affirmative action such as compensatory discrimination in favour of some classes of citizens corrects historical distortions. For it to be fully realised, however, the concomitant is massive investments in the education system at all levels, which can raise the capability of students
- Governments must aim for progressive redistribution, for which policy should actively expand equal opportunity, starting with a strong, liberal public school system. This will strengthen diversity, and lay the foundation for the kind of scholarship that institutions of excellence need.