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With National Education Policy 2020, comes job insecurity for professors

New Delhi: The pandemic compelled a shift to online classes posing great challenges for both teachers and students in terms of accessibility and affordability. But with the Education Ministry's new National Education Policy 2020, online education has got a push at large.

A sudden shift to virtual platforms has already led to several pay cuts and downsizing, where on one hand many professors were hoping for things to get normal, now due to NEP fear of an uncertain future of higher education in terms of jobs, infrastructure and facility looms around the corner.

The NEP 2020 aims to achieve a multidisciplinary form of universities which would include restructuring of courses available, huge chunk of investment in digital infrastructure and training of teachers in accordance with the changing criteria for hiring.

Over the last decade, there has been a shrink in the number of permanent post vacancies; and against these posts scores of contractual professors and guest lecturers were being hired. But with the NEP pressing on the recruitment of professors on a contractual basis has already created a window for mass job insecurity.

But what came in as a sudden decision to hire professors on contractual basis and a push towards online education was not sudden at all, it was a gradual and subtle move.

Rudrashish Chakraborty, member of academic council, Delhi University Teachers Association said: "Hiring on contractual basis had become rampant even before NEP 2020 was introduced. But with the government penning it down as a policy in as many words, the scope for recruitment against permanent posts is as good as non-existent. Instead of job security associated with these permanent positions, a constant fear of losing jobs will hover over scores of professors."

He also said that with the government's push towards digital infrastructure and teaching modules such as Massive Online Open Courses (Moocs) is a direct move towards making education sector inaccessible for large swathes of the population who have no access to digital facilities. "With the Government abdicating from its responsibility towards creating educational infrastructure, there is a gradual shift of the entire higher education sector towards aggressive corporatisation and profit," he said.

Meanwhile, professors associated with institutions such as IIT and NIT see scope in online teaching, posed with challenges such as conducting practical classes, explaining concepts using diagrams, many of them support online teaching but as a supplementary form of education.

When asked if there is an increase in any kind of job insecurity, Saitya Brata Das, associate professor in Jawaharlal Nehru University said: "Of course. This would be the most manifest reality soon. We won't have any more teachers in educational institutions. There will be fixed, homogenous syllabus – which fits the advanced capitalist system of mass consumption – and there will be fixed, pre-recorded lectures which can be infinitely and mechanically reproduced in so many classrooms. Why would you need teachers? You just need technically equipped studios or record rooms, and a limited number of paid "speakers" who can be paid par record: that's all! We are going towards a world where there will be education without colleges and without universities; or rather, there will be colleges and universities without teachers."

A circular issued by the National Educational Alliance for Technology in 2019, has encouraged tech universities to inculcate artificial intelligence and collaborate with IT companies to take classroom teaching to the virtual platform. Similarly, UGC circular 2018 too encouraged institutions to collaborate with tech companies for e-classes.

The massive online open courses that were introduced in India in 2015, bringing various universities together from all across the globe and aiming to provide free education to every nook and corner of the country, saw a higher enrolment rate this year. But at the same time, the certification rates as well as the exam registration were comparatively low.

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