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UGC’s Proposal on Blended Teaching

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May 31, 2021

Why in news?

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has made a proposal to encourage “blended teaching” in higher educational institutions.

What is “blended teaching”?

  • It effectively means replacement of face-to-face teaching with online teaching.
  • UGC recommends that 30% of courses would be online initially.
  • The aim is to eventually make it to 70%.
  • The UGC document is in the public domain for feedback.

What is the rationale?

  • UGC claims that the move seeks to “liberate” students.
  • The present teaching is top-down, teacher-centric, and one-size-fits-all.
  • It ignores the diversity of students.
  • A blended approach would -
    1. provide students autonomy
    2. instil a disposition of self-advocacy
    3. promote student ownership
  • It would enable students to learn at their own pace.
  • Teachers would become coaches and mentors instead of merely knowledge providers.

What is the similar move made earlier?

  • The massive online open courseware or MOOCs were introduced in 2012.
  • This was seen as a potential replacement of physical campuses.
  • MOOCs failed to persuade universities in the USA to accept them.
  • But in India, universities are already being pushed to teach courses available on the Swayam MOOC platform.

What are the concerns and how should universities be?

  • Online courses could not replace face-to-face interaction between students and teachers.
  • The right of the faculty to develop their own courses and pedagogy cannot be taken away.
  • Higher education institutions are not only about students.
  • They are also meant to be a space for teachers.
  • Teachers are not merely knowledge providers but are also knowledge creators.
  • What happens on the campuses is dialogue.
  • By interacting with generations of students and colleagues, one learns to think.
  • And thinking does not happen in isolation.
  • The student must have an opportunity to be in the company of differences and disagreements.
  • Especially in the context of India, a key role of universities is to help democratise society.
  • The campuses give the youth relative freedom from the shackles of communities they come from.

What are the other apprehensions?

  • The move is seen as a measure to cut costs in higher education.
  • The last 7 years have seen a gradual reduction in the budget allocations for higher education.
  • The new proposal is a way of cutting the number of teachers in the name of liberating students.
  • This proposal also refuses to acknowledge the huge digital divide that exists in India.
  • It would certainly affect poor students and those from the SC, ST communities the most.
  • Also, a centralised body like the UGC would attempt to impose its own selection of courses on all the universities in the name of uniformity.
  • In all, reducing the role of the universities to merely enable the transaction of a pre-cooked syllabi is to ignore their larger and more important purpose.
  • Universities in India are historically seen as places where political citizenship is shaped.
  • Marginalising this idea and seeing students as consumers of “knowledge” is unwelcome.

 

Source: The Indian Express

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