Q. Congratulations. Recently, Eliezer Jolden Memorial College, Leh, was accredited with NAAC B grade. What are the advantages of it?
NAAC accreditation is a basic requirement to avail MHRD and UGC Fund. This is for the first time that in the last 25 years our college has been accredited with National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) accreditation. In terms of funding, there are lots of advantages. If in case we sent a project proposal, we could get funding from them.
So far our college has been run with very meagre finances. Until a few years ago, we used to get UGC funding of around Rs 20 lakh, and at that time NAAC accreditation requirement was not there. We got this funding only for one time. After that, they have made NAAC accreditation mandatory and the fund inflow was stopped in 2011-12.
Secondly, the teachers can avail of Faculty Improvement Programme which is to provide an opportunity to the teachers of the Universities and Colleges to pursue their academic/research activities leading to the award of M.Phil./Ph.D. degrees.
Thirdly, having NAAC accreditation itself is a status symbol. In 2019, NAAC ranking, the highest grade in J&K is B +. Only Government College for Women, Cluster University MA Road got B+ grade and after that immediately is the B grade which we got. It is very encouraging not only for the college but for the people of Ladakh as well.
Like I have said earlier, there will be more inflow of funding, not only for construction but for organising different kinds of workshops and activities too. We can provide additional classes for students, we can buy books for the library and many other things. Earlier also, we organised workshops but that was with a limited funding. But now with this, teachers will also get an honorarium to conduct workshops. I hope now teachers will put in more effort.
Having NAAC accreditation doesn’t mean that funds will flow automatically, we have to put in efforts and send project proposals as per requirement, and then it could be approved and sanctioned.
Q. How important is it to prioritise the education sector because the issue of lack of funds has always been there? What is the annual Hill Council budget for higher education (for degree college, Leh)?
No doubt, it is very important to prioritise higher education. All in all, education is something that simply has to be a priority over everything else. The role of school education is to make the base of the students and to teach them with morality lectures. The work of higher education is to guide them and show them proper direction for the future. But, here we are still running with the old concepts like going strictly by syllabus, and having to complete it; and exams are conducted, no matter the result. It should not be like this.
Infact, in higher education, class teachings should stop; we have to provide all the materials to the students. Monologue lectures do not have any role in higher education. Their development should be holistic and we have to prepare them for the future. Our approach should be different from the old concept and should be skill-based.
Presently, we have half skill-based courses that are academic- oriented where there is no practical hand. It’s more of a theoretical nature. To provide them with skill-based courses, we have to show them practically; but due to limited funding, we are not able to provide them with the learning materials.
We need to understand that when we talk about higher education we should not simply think about education but there are many aspects to it. The students who get into higher education are of the age group that needs counseling and orientation. If they don’t get all these things, then their future is bleak.
The funding for Leh Degree College is very limited. The plan Capex Budget is Rs 14.5 lac annually which is a very meagre amount. Due to limited funding, we cannot do many things. In the last financial year, we didn’t have a penny even to buy books, and we have a very limited collection of books. Now, due to NAAC accreditation, we do not have to depend on one department for the funding, as we can look for other places for funds.
Q. Now the examination has been delinked from Kashmir University. Has it solved the numerous challenges faced by our students?
The college is still affiliated with Kashmir University but the examination has been delinked. Now, they have set up an examination sub-centre in both the districts of Leh and Kargil. The question papers of the semester examinations are also different.
From March next year, the new academic session will start, and the students who will take admission in Ladakh in all the five colleges, their affiliation will not be with Kashmir University, but with the Ladakh University. In a phased manner, old colleges will be delinked with KU. Now the problem of the students like delay in examination and degrees is partially solved, not fully.
Q. What is the present enrolment rate and what are the courses available? Any plan to introduce new courses?
At present, we have around 1,300 students enrolled in our college, out of which 75% are female and 25% are male. We are providing courses in three streams but with limitations. Now with the cluster university, I see a ray of hope to improve higher education. Earlier, the courses were designed by the Kashmir University as per their choice and they imposed those courses on us. But now we can design our own courses. The decision on courses will be designed by the cluster university. Definitely, many new courses will be introduced with the start of Cluster University.
Q. Congratulations! You have been appointed as Controller of Examination of the University of Ladakh. And you had the opportunity to teach in many colleges of the state. How has the journey been?
To be very honest, the journey has been very satisfying and happy. So far, I have taught in 5-6 colleges of the state. My main goal was always to be in this field. As the Controller of Examination of the University of Ladakh, my priority will be to solve the issues related to students and then to introduce new courses. Many university posts have been created, be it Registrar, Vice-Chancellor, Controller of Examination, and many more will be created. There will be more job opportunities. Secondly, the examination system will be smooth without any problem. Thirdly, we can design our own courses according to UGC norms.
Message to the Readers:
“Parents should keep an eye on their children when they enter higher education and should not neglect them. Many parents let them be free without any check. Atleast check whether they are going to college or not, what is their behavior, etc. Monitoring your child is worth the effort. And for the students, whatever your aim is, stay focused. Many students take it very lightly. This approach will not work in this competitive world.”