S.S. Murthy, professor of electrical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, is struggling to remember the names of all his students. From teaching a class of 50, Murthy now faces the challenge of personalising his teaching to a class of 150.
Like him, most of his colleagues across the seven older IITs are trying to come to terms with ‘pool teaching’, which involves teaching a class of 100 to 150 students rather than a smaller group.
“At the IITs, we rely more on group discussions, assignments and experiments. But with increasing student strength it is becoming difficult for us to get involved with each student,” said Murthy.
The teacher:student ratio at the IITs has gone up from 1:6 to 1:10 after implementation of Other Backward Classes reservation, which will see the IITs increase their total student strength by 54 per cent by 2011.
The number crunching throws up some disturbing facts.
The 15 IITs together will need 12,000 teachers over the next 10 to 12 years to maintain the current student:teacher ratio.
The Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry’s plan to set up seven more Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) will only add to the faculty shortage.
The existing seven IIMs are already grappling with a faculty crunch of 25 per cent, leaving over 100 positions vacant.
The seven new IIMs will require 392 more teachers over the next three years.
While India’s premier institutions have found it difficult to get good candidates, mushrooming engineering and management institutes across the country have lowered the bar many notches to enable recruitment.
Many of the 2,300 engineering colleges and 1,500 management institutes in India do not have qualified faculties.
A large chunk of teachers are plain B.Techs or MBAs without a Ph.D or any research and teaching experience.
The picture gets bleaker when we look at the condition of Indian universities.
A sample survey of 47 universities by the G.K. Chadha pay review committee in December 2008 showed that 48.6 per cent teaching posts were vacant.
“In the long run the IITs and other institutes should take youngsters as teacher trainees and offer them job opportunities,” said P.V. Inderasen, former IIT-Madras director.
Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal plans to raise the Gross Enrollment Ratio in higher education from 11 per cent to an ambitious 30 per cent.
But to achieve that he must first bring the missing teachers to the classrooms.