Education

Higher Education The Challenges and Opportunities in the Context

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The World Bank’s 1991 ‘World Development Media Focus Report’ has made a fascinating observation that the scientific and technological progress and enhanced productivity in any nation have a close link with investment in human capital and the economic environment’s quality. However, scientific and technological capabilities are unevenly distributed in the world and are linked with the education system in a nation.

Context

The 21st century has seen quite massive changes in higher education systems in terms of the systems’ complexity and their utility for converting education into an effective tool for social and economic changes. An exciting relationship is emerging among education, knowledge, conversion of knowledge into suitable entities from the trade point of view, wealth, and economy.

Internationalization of education includes the policies and practices undertaken by academic systems and institutions and even individuals to cope with the global academic environment. Internationalization motivations include commercial advantage, knowledge and language acquisition, enhancing the curriculum with international content, and many others. Specific initiatives such as branch campuses, cross-border collaborative arrangements, programs for international students, establishing English-medium programs and degrees, and others have been put into place as part of internationalization. Efforts to monitor international initiatives and ensure quality are integral to the international higher education environment.

The higher education system across the world has witnessed two more interesting revolutions. The first is connected with the advent and use of computers in teaching and learning and research, and the second is linked with the communication revolution. Today, education transcends geographical boundaries. Besides, the structure and context of academic work also have undergone a tremendous change. Student diversity and the administrative and pedagogical demands of new curricula delivery models characterize the academic’s everyday working environment.

The accomplishment of any educational change is linked with teachers’ readiness to implement new methods and innovative practices. The present paper attempts to understand the role of teachers in the internationalization of higher education in India. The present paper’s focus is to be acquainted with the challenges and opportunities for faculty in the context of internationalization of higher education and their inclination to adopt the change.

Review of literature:

A growing number of papers and studies document the many ways in which the university experience of students, an academic and administrative staff has been radically transformed [Chandler & Clark 2001, Deem 2001]. Student diversity and the administrative and pedagogical demands of new curricula delivery models characterize the academic’s everyday working environment. Identities as academics are under constant challenge as academic staff take on multiple and often conflicting roles as consultants, researchers, teachers, counselors, and international marketers. Support for academics involved in international activities is scarce, and the central strategic control of resources with its demands for flexibility compromises the quality of academic life.

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A qualitative study examines the role of international experience in female educators’ transformative learning as it relates to professional development in a higher education context. It also investigates how the learning productions of these experiences were transferred to the participants’ home country. Nine American female faculty and administrators who worked at universities in Arab countries in the Gulf region participated in this study. The results suggest that the female educators’ transformative learning was reflected in three themes: changes in personal and professional attitudes, experiencing a new classroom environment that included different students’ learning styles and unfamiliar classroom behavior, and broadening of participants’ global perspectives. Another study sought to assess how and why some higher education institutions have responded to aspects of globalization and, in particular, how organizational culture influences universities’ responses to globalization. Using a predominantly qualitative, mixed-methods approach, empirical research was used to explore globalization’s impact at four Canadian universities. Multiple case-study approaches were used to achieve a depth of understanding to establish the universities’ culture, institutional strategies, and practices in response to globalization.

The context of the study Political & educational context

Everyone recognizes that India has a serious higher education problem. Although India’s higher education system, with more than 13 million students, is the world’s third-largest, it only educates around 12 percent of the age group, well under China’s 27 percent and a half or more in middle-income countries. Thus, it is a challenge to provide access to India’s expanding population of young people and rapidly grow the middle class. India also faces a serious quality problem – given that only a tiny proportion of the higher education sector can meet international standards. The justly famous Indian Institutes of Technology and the Institutes of Management, a few specialized schools such as the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research constitute a tiny elite, as do one or two private institutions such as the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, and perhaps 100 top-rated undergraduate colleges. Almost all of India’s 480 public universities and more than 25,000 undergraduate colleges are, by international standards, mediocre at best. India has complex legal arrangements for reserving places in higher education to members of various disadvantaged population groups. Often setting aside up to half of the seats for such groups places further stress on the system.

Capacity problem

India faces severe problems of capacity in its educational system in part because of underinvestment over many decades. More than a third of Indians remain illiterate after more than a half-century of independence. A new law that makes primary education free and compulsory, while admirable, takes place in a context of scarcity of trained teachers, inadequate budgets, and shoddy supervision. The University Grants Commission and the All-India Council for Technical Education, responsible for supervising the universities and the technical institutions, are being abolished and replaced with a new combined entity. But no one knows just how the new organization will work or who will staff it. India’s higher education accrediting and quality assurance organization, the National Assessment and Accreditation Council, which was well-known for its slow movement, is being shaken up. But, again, it is unclear how it might be changed.

Current plans include establishing new national “world-class” universities in each of India’s States, opening new IITs, and other initiatives. The fact is that academic salaries do not compare favorably with remuneration offered by India’s growing private sector and are uncompetitive by international standards. Many of India’s top academics are teaching in the United States, Britain, and elsewhere. Even Ethiopia and Eritrea recruit Indian academics.

Welcoming foreign universities:

It is recently announced that India’s government is preparing itself for permitting foreign universities to enter the Indian market. The foreigners are expected to provide the much-needed capacity and new ideas on higher education management, curriculum, teaching methods, and research. It is hoped that they will bring investment. Top-class foreign universities are anticipated to add prestige to India’s postsecondary system. All of these assumptions are at the very least questionable. While foreign transplants elsewhere in the world have provided some additional access, they have not dramatically increased student numbers. Almost all branch campuses are small and limited in scope and field. In the Persian Gulf, Vietnam, and Malaysia, where foreign branch campuses have been active, student access has been only modestly affected by them. Branch campuses are typically fairly small and almost always specialized in inexpensive fields to offer and have a ready clientele such as business studies, technology, and hospitality management. Few branch campuses bring much in the way of academic innovation. Typically, they use tried and true management, curriculum, and teaching methods. The branches frequently have little autonomy from their home university and are, thus, tightly controlled abroad.

Foreign providers will bring some investment to the higher education sector, particularly since the new law requires an investment of a minimum of $11 million – a kind of entry fee – but the total amount brought into India is unlikely to be very large. Global experience shows that most higher education institutions entering a foreign market are not prestigious universities but rather low-end institutions seeking market access and income. Top universities may well establish the collaborative arrangement with Indian peer institutions or study/research centers in India but are unlikely to build full-fledged branch campuses independently. There may be a few exceptions, such as the Georgia Institute of Technology, which is apparently thinking of a major investment in Hyderabad.

Indian education is a joint responsibility of the Central and State governments – and many States have differing approaches to higher education generally and to foreign involvement in particular. Some, such as Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, have been quite interested. The Other States, such as West Bengal, with its communist government, may be more skeptical. And a few, such as Chhattisgarh, have been known to sell university status access to the highest bidders.

The significance of the study:

The higher education system’s volatile situation vis-à-vis the internationalization of higher education creates many opportunities and challenges for the teachers of higher education. Pressures for change in the field of teacher education are escalating significantly as part of systemic education reform initiatives in a broad spectrum of economically developed and developing nations. Considering these pressures, it is surprising that relatively little theoretical or empirical analysis of learning and change processes within teacher education programs have been undertaken. The present study considers this situation and endeavors to understand the challenges faced or anticipated by the teaching faculty in the internalization of education.

Education

Aims of the study:

The present study is aimed to understand and analyze the position of college teachers in general and those of working undergraduate colleges.

Data collection Locale of the study:

Data for the present study is collected from the college teachers situated at Hyderabad. Colleges in Hyderabad are generally affiliated with Osmania University. In addition to various colleges, the city is home to three central universities, two deemed universities, and six state universities. Osmania University, established in 1917, is the seventh oldest university in India and the third oldest in South India. Indian School of Business, an international business school, ranked number 12 in global MBA rankings by the Financial Times of London in 2010, is also located in Hyderabad.

Colleges in Hyderabad offer graduation and post-graduation, and post-graduation programs in science, arts, commerce, law & medicine. College of Engineering – Osmania University, Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Indian Institute of Technology, etc., are some of the famous engineering colleges in Hyderabad. In addition to engineering colleges, various institutes known as polytechnics offer a three-year course in engineering. Gandhi Medical College and Osmania Medical College are the centers of medical education in Hyderabad. Colleges and universities in Hyderabad are run by either a state government, central government, or private individuals or agencies. Hyderabad Central University, Nalsar, NIPER, Potti Sreeramulu Telugu University, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, English and Foreign Languages University, Acharya N.G. Ranga Agricultural University is one of the other universities located in Hyderabad.

Universe and sample:

146-degree colleges are offering undergraduate courses [B.Sc., B.Com, and B.A] situated in Hyderabad. Teachers working in these colleges are taken as the universe for the present study. Most of these colleges have academic consultants whose tenure is limited either to one term or one academic year. Academic consultants are not eligible for faculty development programs of the University Grants Commission. Various programs meant for faculty development are available for aided college teachers. Hence, the present study has selected aided college teachers working at Hyderabad as a subcategory of the universe. At the outset, a focused group interview is conducted to collect information about the willingness to train oneself for the internationalization of higher education. Out of 150 lecturers who participated in this focused group interview, fifty were selected as samples for the present study using a random sampling method.

Data for the present study is collected using an in-depth interview method with the help of a schedule. Information about the socio-economic characteristics of the respondents, educational achievements, awareness of national and global career structures, research culture, working conditions, and information as to the strategies adopted by the college to equip for internationalization is collected. Data collection is done during the months of march-may 2010. The qualitative information on awareness and availability of national and global career structures, strategies for integrating the international dimension, professional development, needs post-doctoral research culture, refresher courses, and working conditions were collected using the case study method in-depth interviews.

National and global career structures:

Kalisch and Enders [2005, pp.131-32] note that three overlapping sets of institutions shape faculty work: 1] the generic science system and systems in each discipline, which to a varying extent are cross-national, emphasize the autonomy and mobility of researchers, and foster competition based on scholarly merit and prestige; 2] rules about work, competition and careers, where academic work is embedded in national policy and cultural settings; and 3] the organizational operations of universities, which both reflect national and local traditions and are touched by common trends such as massification, growing expectations about social relevance and the nationally-parallel global transformations. A fourth element in the mix that might be of growing importance is internationalization and globalization on academic careers.

The present study finds that the teaching faculty’s available opportunities are based on all these four elements. Most of the respondents experienced the interplay of all these elements in their work lives. More than fifty percent of the respondents felt that education’s massification is burdensome and acting as an obstacle for faculty improvement.

Faculty mobility has long been a positive professional norm though varying by nation and field [El-Khawas, 2002, pp.242-43] and varying somewhat in motive. A small number of researchers have expertise and reputations that confer superior opportunities in many countries. However, most teaching faculties have primarily national careers and use the cross-border experience to advance their position at home, traveling mostly at the doctoral and postdoctoral stages and for short visits. A third group consists of faculty with lesser opportunities at home than abroad due to remuneration or conditions of work, the denial of national careers due to social or cultural closure, or an economic freeze on hiring. This group has less transformative potential than elite researchers.

Excellence in education will require improvement in infrastructure, well-crafted courses, e-learning materials, access to laboratories, computational facilities, and above all, well-trained and highly motivated teachers. When asked about the availability of resources and research opportunities, 78 percent of the respondents opined that there are many bottlenecks. In most of the colleges, e-learning, internet facilities are not available. Even their college libraries will mostly have books useful for undergraduate students rather than useful for further research by the teaching faculty. Most of the respondents felt that they are not exposed to the pedagogical methods acceptable internationally. Hence, their awareness about the teaching methods is not much. Simultaneously, they were not trained in the teaching-learning process relevant to the internationalized educational system while doing their post-graduation or pre-doctoral/doctoral level.

Strategies for integrating the internal dimension:

There are many ways to describe the initiatives which are undertaken to internationalize an institution. They are often referred to as activities, components, procedures, or strategies. In the process-oriented approach to internationalization, an emphasis is placed on enhancing and sustaining the international dimensions of research. Most of the colleges in general, autonomous colleges, and colleges with the potential for excellence follow the process-oriented approach. Yet, the faculty is not ready to equip themselves for this internationalization. The reasons mentioned by the respondents include more work, fear of losing the job, lengthy working hours, high aided-unaided teaching faculty ratio, low job satisfaction levels, and lack of facilities at the institutional level.

Professional Development Needs

As they are called in many countries, faculty members, or academic staff, constitute a critical ingredient influencing the quality and effectiveness of higher education institutions. Universities in the developing world cannot respond to external changes and pressures without capable, committed, and knowledgeable faculty members. However, the challenge for many faculty members is that they are being asked to fulfill tasks and assume roles for which they are not adequately prepared. Besides, there are not many training centers to equip them well. Academic staff colleges provide refresher and orientation courses, but these courses are attended by those whose promotions are linked with attending refresher courses.

Post-doctoral research culture

Unlike the advanced countries, where a large pool of post-doctoral research fellows carries out the bulk of the high-quality research, there is a near-total absence of a post-doctoral culture in India.79 percent of the respondents expressed their willingness to pursue post-doctoral research. Still, it said that they are not able to do due to financial problems. Although the number of women at post-graduate and doctoral levels in various universities is high, very few of them make sufficient advances in their careers for various social reasons. Women teachers and teachers studied in vernacular medium felt that though they are interested, their family responsibilities and language and communication problems act as major challenges for them.

Conclusion:

Higher education in India has entered a new phase with foreign universities’ invasion and increasing aspirations of Indian students. This has created a need to revive the pedagogical methods. But the question remains, whether the teaching faculty is ready to accept these changes or not? In the present study, the teachers are ready to accept the challenges of global teaching. The hour’s need is to equip Indian teachers than permitting the foreign universities to establish their campuses in India. This requires an appropriate teacher education that can address the issue of organizational learning.

Challenges

Charles A. Peck, Chrysan Gallucci, Tine Sloan, and Ann Lippincott [2009] illustrated some ways in which contemporary socio-cultural learning theory may be used as a lens for addressing the issues of organizational learning in teacher education. Using a theoretical framework developed by Harré [1984], they showed how individual and collective learning processes led to changes in a teacher education program. Important innovations in program practice were generally found to have their sources in individual faculty’s creative work. However, program level changes required negotiation of new ideas and practices within small groups of faculty and the program’s larger collective. The present study would like to conclude that the Harré model, and the socio-cultural learning theories from which it is derived, may offer a useful theoretical framework for interpreting complex social processes underlying organizational renewal, innovation, and change.

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