Dr. Indu Shahani

President and Founding Dean of Indian School of Managament and Entrepreneurship

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Career Paths for 21st Century Educators

It would be a mistake to impose a “one size fits all” solution on academia

Around the globe, as well as in India, institutions of higher learning and their faculties are coping with new pressures. While some countries are experiencing a surplus of professors, India faces a shortage of qualified educators.Impasse of education stakeholders are manifold- higher salaries or cost-cutting, emphasis on STEM subjects or on the liberal arts, prolific research and publication or excellence in teaching.

Faced with such contradictory imperatives, university instructors and educationalists are alienated on this long considered best career path. What outcomes should they deliver? What work should they produce? How should we evaluate them? How much should they be paid?

I believe that it would be a mistake to impose a “one size fits all” solution on academia. The gifts, talents,skills and contributions of professors vary widely, as do the needs of students, administrators, regulators, employers and other stakeholders. Instead, I harp on creating several tracks for career advancement.

Teaching constitutes the core of any university, so there should be one career track for those who excel at teaching. The art and science of teaching at the tertiary level has received much less attention in India than abroad. This is reflected in the way we teach and the outcomes we achieve.

Basis 1: Subject Matter
Professors are selected primarily for their subject matter expertise, not for their giftedness in teaching. Candidates complete a teaching review, but often, the hiring decision is based on the quality of the teacher’s notes more than on the delivery. Little training is offered in how to prepare a lesson plan or manage a classroom. Faculty development programs focus rarely on pedagogy. Further, the goal of most courses is to have the students memorize facts and theories so that they can do well on exams, hence originality and engagement takes a backseat.

Ideally, professors who can teach creatively, engagingly and effectively should be rewarded. Tenure and promotions along a teaching track should be based mostly on their classroom performances further determined by student outcomes, research and further study to assure that their syllabi remain up to date.

Basis 2: Research 

Research is the second important mission of universities and professors. As India raises the bar for its re-searchers, both in terms of quantity and relevance, we should create a second career track for those who shine in this activity.Today, the determining standard for academic research in our country is publication. However, less attention is paid to the selectivity of the journals that publish research papers. I envision a more rigorous process of peer and expert review to assure that research adds value to the way the subject is taught and/or the way that practitioners in the field do their work.In my discipline of management, most of the global thought leaders are from Europe and North America.It’s imperative to see more Indian professors produce game-changing, influential research in all fields. A fol-low-up of appreciation and reward should be in line.Researchers should, of course, be required to teach.However, for those on the research career track, majority of their time, attention, and compensation should be focused on the knowledge they create.

Basis 3: Administration

The third area where some professors excel, is ad-ministration. In an age of change, global competition and resource constraints, management skills are needed more than ever in our institutions of higher learning.

A track must be created for those professors who can organise, manage and lead their peers as well as their students and other staff members. These talented individuals should be trained in educational administration,rewarded and promoted basis their effectiveness.Professors at business schools across disciplines, are frequently called upon to take corporate consulting and training assignments. Specialised skills are required for working with professionals. Academicians who brings prestige and revenue to the respective universities by sharing their knowledge should be compensated and promoted for their abilities.In a nutshell, there’s no need to revise the titles and levels currently used in academia. Rather, administrators should design different ladders whereby teachers with different interests and skill sets can climb parallel through the levels. This lot of masters can then recruit and develop professors who are suited to the various required roles in a well-rounded university.

This article was published in BW Education issue dated 'April 7, 2017' with cover story titled 'BW Education Inaugural Issue April-May 2017'

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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