Thursday 30 October 2014

The Crisis of University Education

The advent of globalization since the mid-twentieth century in India saw the rise of privatization in almost every sphere of commerce and even such resources as human intellectual capital is now being exploited as trained labor in the form of outsourcing and prospects being developed very deliberately in the field of engineering and medicine. As a parallel to that we have institutions that cater to the needs of the globalizing trend to keep up their market value such as the various engineering and medical institutes which are seen as the most prestigious colleges some among them being All India Institute of Medical Sciences and Indian Institute of Technology or commerce colleges such as the Indian Institute of Management. The complete professionalization of education in these branches has led to a never-ending demand manufactured by the corporations and reflected in the society by the manufactured aspirations of the mainstream population. This curbs the progressive forces which try to build themselves from within the society as the general consensus among the masses becomes that competition is the best self-checking and sieving mechanism that picks a few good men from a batch of rotten apples and even though the generalization is often crude and illogical, the critique of competition is never voiced in proper terms. The problem with competition lies in its very nature, being the driving force behind capitalism which again leads to globalization turning India towards a path of Western development creating the same illusions of egalitarianism through equal chances at competition turning the whole arena of varied social space divided by ethnicity, caste, race, gender and other forms of inequalities and creating an open market system at the risk of marginalizing the already oppressed classes. But the whole illusion of development is somehow preserved in the hearts and minds of the aspiring students through preservation of institutes such as those aforementioned with adequate autonomy. As we take a deeper look into this supposed autonomy, we come to realize that the autonomy that is so flagrantly proclaimed by the institutions and by which they earn their present reputation is actually only limited to the academia. Even less, as the idea of fruition in engineering courses is to get a proper placement in a private corporation along with a proper degree and the students are led to believe that the two come in combination and are inseparable from one another. If one is separated from another, for instance, if the degree is attained by a student but not an internship, all he sees before him is a market where his skills and all that he has learnt are inefficient in order for him to be productive to that market. Herein we witness the context to question the totality of study given in these forms of professional education to which completion is only attained when a proper place is accorded to each student as though he were a cog in a machine and leads to the regression of a utilitarian society. This framework is justified by the economical basis of capitalism and corporate concepts of supply and demand but what is really amusing to observe is the manipulation of culture and consent by forces of capitalism to such an extent that their sole basis of education becomes a market which only seems open to better opportunities and prospects but are constantly rigged by those with huge amassed capital. It is in this form of an analysis that we cease to see the society as stratified into various strata like that of a totem pole but divided into two classes which is the working class and the ruling class. The intellectual grounds or places of study set by the ruling classes are only to reap and harvest the intellectual labor of the working classes and in this manner even the spaces of universities are governed by the dynamics of open spaces where a direct master and slave servitude is seen if viewed properly especially the professional ones even the ones that are government regulated. This form of an education tends to alienate the student from his field of study as he is oriented not in his field of study as a virtue but in his field of study by virtue of market and hence is alienated from his labor in the same way a worker is alienated from his labor by the policy of minimum wages.
On the one hand are these universities where market forces reign supreme, and on the other hand there are Universities that teach sciences and humanities such as the University of Delhi, University of Calcutta, Jawaharlal Nehru University to name a few. But even in these universities we have a wave of opportunism that seeps in from the general economic percept of the society which has already been characterized earlier. This force creates the same hegemony over intellectual labor controlled by the ruling classes that jeopardize the space for organic growth of intellectuals. This form of hegemony is imposed not just on the students but also upon the teachers by the forces through the tool of administration that is given the sole function to control and regulate the intellectual production and oversee the development of proper products out of their machinery. For the most part, the teachers and students rely most upon the administration which again is regulated by the bureaucratic University Grants Commission which levels out systems of study and syllabus that have to be taught in the universities and the teachers have little say in it unless the hardly voice their opinion through unions. Even lesser regard in the formulation of courses and syllabi is given to students for they are seen as too imprudent to be considered for an opinion. This is how hegemony is imposed upon the students and teachers and is regulated by the administration.
Now we move on to describe what a crisis inherently is and how the crisis is different in this case and why one must apprehend all previous connotations attached to the word crisis in this specific case. When we talk about crisis in general, we talk of it with regard to a system. But here, as we have analyzed, the cause of the crisis is the very extension of system into university space. That being stated, to deal with such a crisis, one must not rely on a higher force which is the general protocol for dealing with a crisis. In this case, the solution to the crisis needs to emerge from within the working classes itself because it is their space that is being distorted by market forces and conventional dogmas. What is being stated here might seem as a superfluous extrapolation of class identity in university and to some it might even seem a futility but even as they might not agree with the class identity as mentioned above, the idea of the consumer culture and its negative impact on education ought to be intelligible to them.
Before moving on to solutions, we ought to take a deeper look into the various complex forms that this crisis has raised upon the life of an individual student from more personal perspectives. The first and most important point to tackle is the disillusionment faced by the students when they indirectly confront such a reality but never get the grasp of its actuality. Most common students do not properly know the difference between proper knowledge and commoditized knowledge but as an instinctual unconscious act can understand the difference between the two. When he begins to connect the proverbial dots and makes the conclusion that the knowledge is indeed for a specific purpose rather than for a general holistic purpose, he would immediately, in order to not just succeed but excel in his field of study would conform to that specificity. This will reduce his scope and consequently his capability to gather proper amounts of knowledge and rather than treating it as an idea of the mind to be meditated at, one would think of it as matter that is to be used not in terms of theoretical understanding and then moving to practical application but treating his acquired knowledge as a form of commodity to exploit or reap the benefits of. This would surely lead to his personal productivity but it would at the same time derail the effect of study on him. This creates a certain sense of nihilism and negations of certain forms of thought that are generally not permissible in the university space are legitimized such as desensitization towards gender and race and practice of class hierarchy in a socio-economic manner. In such a case, only due to a minor flaw in the system of education, which is just one of the aspects of the crisis, creates a huge impact on the complete secularity and sovereignty of the university.
The problems mentioned above and the System in which these problems exist is the very crises we should seek to resolve. A progressive refueling of students is needed to bring them to the necessary social consciousness required for them to fully understand their role not as a material cog but an entity capable of proper human thought and action. With the realization of this new role, they will seek to break free from their pre-existing roles in that they, as the working class would want to take ownership of the means of production, so would the students and teachers.

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