Published in edu.philica.com
ACADEMIC HYGIENE: AN EMERGING PERSPECTIVE THAT INFLUENCE THE ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE
Education is the necessary foundation for strengthening human resources that has been deemed central for the National development. The growth and development of any society or country depends on educated and trained masses. Therefore, academicians need to be assured that institutions are addressing transcend knowledge and quality education to improve citizens’ lives. We are concerned here with the development of the academic performance by introducing the concept of ‘Academic Hygiene’. This study is being conducted to dig out the factors which are important for the effective academic performance and enhance the quality of education. The academic hygiene not only helps in cleaning all the standards of performance in both scholastic and co-scholastic areas, but also helps in raising the quality of academics and research through accreditation, accountability and assessment.
Academics generally related to teaching and education. In simple words, Academics is something related to school or a college or a university. Academia is the internationally recognised establishment of professional scholars and students, usually centred on colleges and universities, who are engaged in higher education and research. Education and Academics are very much inter-related and just like every other field, Education and Academics have undergone huge changes in their roles and scope.
Academics witnessed wholesome changes. Right from the ancient “gurukuls” to the modern aged schools and colleges, education system has overseen a huge transformation. The teaching initially was oral, simply because it was believed, that writing down the knowledge was belittling it. And with time, the modernisation of education in India saw newer and newer developments being embraced which is evident from the presence of ultra modern gadgets being utilised in the teaching, right from school to university level and also the up-gradation of courses and scope of subjects taught. Academics is now more practically oriented and research based as compared to the old days. No, doubt the earlier education was also experiential in nature, but nowadays it is much more specialized.
However, Academics, especially in the under developed and developing countries, is nowadays witnessing several problems like inadequate infrastructure, academically incompetent faculty, de-motivated students, overcrowded classrooms and other rampant imbalances. Apart from this, the system of higher education is also facing severe challenges with regard to its regulatory framework, funding and finances. In the modern times, the education structure has weakened and the growth of education institutions has slowed down. Academics facing a lot of evils such as:
· Improper regulation of the system;
· Unfair design of fees structure or over priced education;
· Improper designing of the study structure;
· Non up-gradation of the modules taught & lack of practical impetus etc.;
· Improper teaching;
· Preferential treatment to the students;
· Casual attitude of both students & teachers;
· Lack of standardisation;
· Lack of self up-gradation, self-motivation, self-realisation, self-esteem etc.;
· Students’ lack of interest in studies;
· Harried parents;
Due to this, Academics and education are losing its sheen and this has led to many other related problems like un-employ-ability because of increase in gap between industry requirements and academic focus, ease in availability of degrees (in extreme cases, degrees being sold for money by institutes and universities), wrong and lenient marking system and awarding more grace marks to improve the overall ranking by the institutes and universities, etc. Of course, a lot of this can be attributed to the cut throat competition and commercialisation of education which we are now witnessing. This changing scenario has made academics more challenging, at times unethical, and also polluted.
Significance of the study
A sound education system is the foundation of sustained growth of a country. But what if the education system is full of loopholes and does not provide any quality. Education, like earlier stated, is about imparting knowledge. But still we see students more inclined to cramming rather than knowing things. Education has been a problem in any country and lack of it has been blamed for all sorts of evil for hundreds of years. Creating a few more schools or allowing hundreds of colleges and private universities to mushroom is not going to solve the crisis of education in India. And a crisis it is – we are in a country where people are spending their parent’s life savings and borrowed money on education – and even then not getting standard education, and struggling to find employment of their choice. In this country, millions of students are victim of an unrealistic, pointless, mindless rat race.
But, here, we wouldn’t be laying too much emphasis on the drawbacks of education system because it has been an issue well debated over in the past and the main flaws have already been pointed out before. Rather than that, we should focus on betterment and development of the system. There is a very urgent and burning need to cleanse the academic system from the scratch and this has led to the conceptualisation of ‘Academic Hygiene.’
Review of Literature
Many scholars have tried to comment on and define Academics. A lot have tried to find out the inter relationship with education and what all are the quality parameters for it. There has been a considerable work on various aspects of academics and the need to maintain and improve the quality of academics. Scholars across the world face the challenges and problems posed by the ever changing face of education and have proposed various ways to manage them.
Lockheed, Verspoor & Associates (1991) in their work titled ‘Improving Primary Education in Developing Countries’ talked about the role of economies and their linkages with academics and education. Drawing on Bunting (1993), he declared that Quality in education does have a bottom line and that line is defined by the goals and values which underpin the essentially human activity of education. The clear implication is that this bottom line must be the starting point for our understanding of the notion of quality in education so that we do not reify the practice of education and reduce education to a technical activity that is static and unaffected by contextual and contingent circumstances. The next section of this review therefore had begun its analysis of quality by looking at various traditions in understanding of the purposes of education in relation to development. J. Delors et al. (1996) in the report titled ‘Learning: the treasure within’ talk about UNESCO’s vision of global education and the four pillars of education namely learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together and learning to be. This report helped to inculcate these pillars in to the life skills teaching. Sayed (1997) argues that the concept quality in education is elusive and frequently used but never defined its multiple meanings reflect different ideological, social and political values calls the value bases of any framework for education quality. Staffolani and Bratti conducted various studies, and in the year 2002 observed that “the measurement of students previous educational outcomes are the most important indicators of students future achievement, this refers that as the higher previous appearance, better the student’s academic performance in future endeavors. Eve Fine and Jo Handelsman (2010); in their paper called “Benefits and Challenges of Diversity in Academic Settings” highlighted diversity and how to manage it in education. They examined the challenges posed by diversity, the effects of unconscious assumptions and biases and the role they play in the interactions and the effects on academic contexts, and how to utilize diversity for the betterment of education. They concluded that if diversity is understood and managed properly, then in the long term, it can offer a great scope of improvement in Academics and education. Royam Murali (2010); commented upon the state of educational institutions and compared them to pressure cookers building pressures in the minds of youth. He underlined the importance of a well structured education by concluding that any person who is not academically oriented would be deemed to be unfit for this survival race becomes disqualified and ineligible to live in this market economy based life. Devi Vijji (2011); studied the education in India and the effects of invasion of foreign universities along with keeping the changing and increasing aspiration of the Indian students. She questioned the existing pedagogical methods and found out the teachers were ready to accept this challenge to drive the change required. Her work also stressed on issues of developing a proper teacher education system to address the organisational learning which would equip the existing teachers so that there would be no need to rely on the foreign universities. Sanjay Deka (2011); touched upon the technological aspect and its effect on education and academics and concluded that through the changes driven by technology, the teachers would be easily able to enhance themselves. He also touched on the advantages of online resources and the part they can play in education and life. Eugene C. Onvibo (2012); commented on the inability of the education to serve the practical purpose and underlined on the importance of people in the education system being aware of requirement and role of it for its existence. Rithika Lyer in 2012 said that an educational system should be tailored according to the needs and interests of the students and the country. Richard Felder and Rebecca Brent in their paper titled “How to Improve Quality” discussed about applying TQM to education and academics. Through this they suggested insights about how TQM could lead to improvements in assessments and evaluation of classroom teachings, instructional methods, improving the overall program and how to create an effective institutional teaching program. Tambawal in his work titled “Examination Malpractices, Causes, Effects and Solution” recommended various steps like the need of a sound educational policy, de-emphasis of skill over the certificates, integrity and independence of exam supervisors, remuneration of the examiners, formal registration of students, prohibition of electronic gadgets during the exams, importance of friendly learning environment, and proper concern for student grievances and complains etc. Alice Meadows, the director of communications, ORCID, in her blog titled “10 challenges that academic and professional societies are facing” talked about the challenges being faced by the Academics according to the society leaders in European and North American Countries. Drianna Kezar and Daniel Maxey (2013) in their work titled “The Changing Academic Workforce” talked about how the competitive environment and cost cutting measures have forced universities to work with adhoc or part-time teachers and how they are not able to do justice to their work. They also comment on their state at work, as compared to the full time faculties, and how they are not given enough facilities, because of which the quality of education suffers. Another article in the Guardian, UK titled “Overworked and isolated - work pressure fuels mental illness in academia” commented on the various work pressures at the universities on the academicians and scholars and how they feel stressed about it. This also has an adverse effect on their health and ultimately the quality of education. William Locke (2014); in his keynote addressed at a conference in Leicester, talked about his research on the Changing Role of Academics and the challenges it brought up regarding quality of academics. Sir Keith Burnett, in his blog titled “Want to raise the quality of teaching? Begin with academic freedom” considered the challenges of introducing a teaching excellence framework and how to deal with them. He talked about academic freedom where students are free and encouraged to do research and find out things. He also talked about the students having a conducive environment to interact and question the teaching concepts and methods for the development of teaching and education which leads to value addition to students, the institution as well as the society overall.
A lot of such studies have led to different steps being taken to remove and cure the vices ailing education overall. These studies and many more have placed the onus on the shoulders of scholars and teachers who are the conductors of academics and education.
Scope of the Study
The volatile situation in education system vis-à-vis academic hygiene creates many opportunities as well as challenges to the teachers as well as to the institutions. Pressures for change in the field of education are escalating significantly as part of academic hygiene. Considering the study regarding quality of academics done by various scholars it cannot be termed a new area of research. However this study aims to compile and conceptualise these efforts in a unified form. Also it is surprising that relatively little theoretical or empirical analysis of learning and change processes within the Education System have been undertaken. The present study emphasises on outcomes, as well as the academic inputs and makes an endeavour to understand the challenges faced or anticipated by the institutions as well as teaching faculty and also students in the context of modern education.
Objectives of the study
· To identify the loopholes in the existing academic system due to illness in academia.
· To compile and build a platform and conceptualize the cleansing process of academics calling it ‘Academic Hygiene’.
The research paper is based on the review of literature and experiences, observations, and opinions of the academicians. Secondary source like articles and websites have been accessed to collect the information for study. Also responses from as many as 25 scholars from various cities were solicited from which 15 people responded with their thoughts.
This paper aims to answer these research questions:
· What are the required quality aspects of education?
· What are the teaching standards for academicians?
· What is Academic Hygiene, according to respondent?
Recommendations & Suggestions
The extensive research and the responses from the learned scholars threw up some interesting thoughts. Most of them coincided on the point that “Academic Hygiene” is a concept which is needed for maintaining the quality of Academics. Academic Hygiene is a very wide and subjective topic; it can include a lot of parameters, as per the situation and place. The following are the main points which can be summarisedfrom the responses of the respondents:
1. Quality of Education: Education is not just about schooling and acquiring a degree. It is a process which prepares people to lead a mature life in an intellectual manner. In other words, it is a deliberate act to develop the understanding, reasoning and taking actions in life. However the quality aspect of education is essential parameter which cannot be confined to any boundaries. Quality of education depends on:
· What is being taught?
· How much effective is the way in which it is being taught?
· How much adaptable and applicable is it to different situations?
· And ultimately the effect it has on the life of the student.
Today, education has become profit oriented business. It is an emerging aspect that academicians must provide transcend knowledge and qualitative education which can create inquisitiveness in a person to seek truth, understand it and apply it in his/her life, irrespective of the subject being studied. The way of delivering this knowledge package smouldered with truth must be updated regularly, however the essence of education must not be forgotten.
2. Quality of Teachers: A great saying by George Leonard - “To learn is to change. Education is a process that changes the learner”. The quality of teachers must be something valuable that should be paid special attention to. Teachers must be responsible for:
· What a student knows before learning new concepts;
· What and How effectively a student understood and learnt about new concepts;
· How best a student can implement those concepts in practical life;
But, now-a-days we find many teachers who are not having sound knowledge or who are not interested in teaching but have taken up teaching as a profession because they do not have any other option to work, or those who simply teach on- let it go on basis. ‘Academic Hygiene’ when applied here be to make sure; teachers are having sound knowledge, are intellectual in nature and teach in real zeal and enthusiasm. It also touches on the physical attributes of teachers which include body language, dressing and grooming. Teachers must always be well dressed, and well presentable. Moreover, they must also have good communication skills, a good command over language, powerful presentation skills, and maturity in their kitty. Teaching is a noble profession and Academic hygiene when applied to teaching would preserve the integrity and nobility of teaching.
3. Teaching Standards: Teaching standards are the norms that must set up by various institutes and organisations for the academicians to follow, so that quality of education is maintained i.e. to explore and undergo the practical learning curve. However, the modern academic world is witnessing deteriorating teaching standards. ‘Academic Hygiene’, when applied, leads to the standards being transparent, just and impartial, uniform and easy to follow. Setting too strict standards would lead to difficulties and pressure on teachers who would then find ways to by-pass the standards which is not acceptable. Too lenient standards would be taken advantage of by all, even the students, which is again unacceptable. Moreover, these standards must be applied practically in various fields of academics and education in such a way so that the level of teaching does not fall below a specified level.
4. Self-grooming of Teachers and Students: Academic hygiene when applied to the teachers and students, it will constantly push them to be up-to-date and groom them by transcend knowledge. Teachers must always be well informed and be abreast of all the facts and figures regarding what they are going to teach. Students should do self study, and explore the subject to the deepest depths. They must ask doubts for better understanding. This would also keep the teachers on their toes while teaching. Thus, Academic hygiene creates an atmosphere which encourages teachers and students constantly search and research their subject which would even lead to betterment and development of theories in the subject.
5. Exploratory Nature of Education: Education must be based on research. It requires exploration, which, if done righteously can be boring, difficult and time consuming. This is a big challenge in today’s dynamic world. Today’s academicians are empowered with internet, technology and modern gadgets like computers and laptops. Most of the information is just a click away now for them. The ease of availability of information prompts them to take the short cut way of “Copy & Paste”. This defeats the entire purpose of Research and exploration. Again in countries like India, the Plagiarism norms are very loose. Many people are not aware of the importance of proper referencing and many also do not understand Plagiarism. Many scholars and guides even lay claims to the research work done by their apprentices. Academic hygiene when applied here aims to remove these problems. It vouches for an honest, more objective and accurate research; which is fuelled by the use of internet and technology. Such a research which is right provides valid and practical solutions to the contemporary issues and where one gets his/her due is the ultimate aim of Academic Hygiene.
6. Focus on Skills rather than Bookish Knowledge: Real education is not about learning theories from the books. But the real purpose of education is to understand these theories and make a person capable of applying them to real life. Mere learning and cramming of theories, getting good marks and not learning the practical aspect of these clearly defeats the actual purpose of education and academics. However, in the modern world, due to the pseudo-knowledgeable mindset of parents, who want their children to top the classroom exams, the child is forced to become a part of a rat-race which never allows him/her to develop truly. The concept of academic hygiene says that education is not something which is confined to books and journals. It is something which is gives a person an objective to live. It is understanding life itself and encourages the child to break the traditional barriers and develop into him/her the ability to think-out-of-the-box. It also says that education is more about learning through projects, market orientations, and more practically oriented activities. Almost all of the institutes, at all the levels, have now started to include activities like guest lectures, industrial visits, live projects, etc. keeping this in mind, but unfortunately, most of this is only on paper. Most of the institutes also give more marks than the student deserves, on the pretext of encouragement, however, by doing so, they are saving the student from failing, a fact which is then leveraged to create a brand image of a good institution. Academic hygiene when applied aims to remove this double standard of teaching and vouches for honesty and transparency in the module and marking system.
7. Fairness in Teaching: Teaching is one of the noblest of professions where shaping careers and lives are at stake. This makes this job very difficult and challenging. The challenges here are to be honest, liable and transparent, impartial and fair towards the students. The role of the teacher is not only confined to teaching, but he/she has to be a friend, guide, mentor, parent, philosopher etc. in front of the student. The teacher has to teach by example and understand that his/her actions and words will have an everlasting imprint on students mind. Academic hygiene says that one must always maintain fairness in teaching in terms of knowledge given. No knowledge must be withheld from the student and no preferential treatment must be given to any student.
8. Reward & Appreciation: A graduating student earns more in an IT company than what a Lecturer or Professor earns in some colleges. Once institutes start paying more, they get quality faculty in, they get people who actually want to teach and people who are worth the caliber of teaching. Therefore, institutions must reward worthy to their faculty members to maintain high level of academic achievements and to promote a healthy work-life balance. Reward and appreciation for academic staff includes competitive salary, relocation package, pension scheme, research incentive scheme, generous research leave, career development meetings and mentoring, excellent support, training and development opportunities. Our education system rarely rewards to their academicians who truly deserves highest academic accolades. Academic Hygiene when applied, aims to reward and appreciate deserving faculty members along with retain them for long tenure which enhance institution’s brand image.
9. Self Audit Practices: The academic model holds that teaching, research and community service are the core of academics. Academic audits are carried out to ensure that the academic policies that have been designed are adhered to and the relevant supporting documentation is in place. It has become axiomatic that self-audit practices by the institutions could recognize original contributions in form of creativity in education, development of vocational education, valuable original research and innovation.
10. Industry-Academia Collaboration: One of the key pillars in growth in education is the level of industry interaction with the students. Companies should be sought out for such interactions. It can help bridge the gap in theory and practice as well as make students under direct competition with each other so that they can fight it out openly rather that doing so under the carpet. Skills thus developed will boost employability and fetch good jobs. To achieve excellence, institutes need to create a real partnership between government, educators and industry.
The main concern of the teaching philosophers is not only to impart theoretical knowledge, but also to enable the students to apply such knowledge in their practical life. Now-a-days, teaching is confined to classrooms and the link with practical knowledge is broken and also the close relationship between the teacher and the student. It is noticed that institutes and faculty members are equally responsible for the poor academic performance due to their unenthusiastic behavior, malpractices, inability to acquire technology, inability to conduct self-audit practices by the institutes’ management etc. due to which academic performance is reducing day by day in young people such as lack of participation in class discussions, high absences in class, inability to complete assignments, disruptive behavior, high level of anxiety etc.
Hygiene is something which is helpful in maintaining the good health of anything to which it is applied. The same is true in case of ‘Academic hygiene’. “Academic Hygiene can be described as a systematic approach which, when properly understood and applied to Academics, helps in filtering and getting rid of, the loopholes, malpractices or methods which are polluting the academic environment, and thus ultimately leads to sustainability of Academics and fulfilment of its ultimate objective.”
For the development of a society, it becomes necessary to provide quality education through set of rules, both behavioural and practical, which must be framed, applied, and adhered too. By doing this, academics which is facing a huge challenge in these modern times, can be freed and protected from the malpractices and vices which are rapidly infecting and making it hollow. Academic Hygiene will go a long way in ensuring the fulfilling of the purpose of academics. If properly applied, it will create healthy and progressive academic environment which will be beneficial to everyone in years to come.
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