EDITORIAL (Final issue: 1998)


Kayakalp, a project sponsored by the University Grants Commission, aimed at bringing out a set of four issues of a newsletter on innovations in higher education.  Accordingly, four issues were produced and distributed to many colleges, universities and individuals in India. However, it has been possible to bring out an extra issue of the newsletter. We now present this final issue to our readers with the hope that the aim of the newsletter will be carried forward by individuals and institutions concerned about rejuvenating higher education: lateral learning—learning from the good practices of one’s peers—among the practitioners of  higher education. The assumption underlying this aim was that in spite of the multiplication of constraints of various kinds in our environment, there are individuals who, on their own, or with very little support, work around these constraints and look for solutions to the problems affecting their day to day practice.  The experiences of such individuals provide a platform for lateral learning. We thank the University Grants Commission for having supported Kayakalp.


In this final issue we carry six articles. The ‘Media’: From Imagination to Appreciation, by Arti Kumar, reports on an attempt to enable first year undergraduate students to apply the media’s (particularly television’s) influence on them to creativity in learning. Students of English Literature presented the poems they had to learn in formats they had observed on popular television shows. What is interesting is that the students were allowed the opportunity to design presentations in the manner they chose. Apart from the newness from the pedagogical angle, the article reports on the benefits in terms of discussion and analytical skills, benefits which are not usually readily apparent in conventional approaches.


Creativity and Design Learning at IIT Guwahati, by Ravi Mokashi-Punekar, throws light on some of the issues that the introduction of any new programme has to deal with. The article describes the introduction of the first undergraduate programme in Design in the country. The variations  introduced as a result of learning from similar programmes offered at other levels, and the peculiar opportunities presented, and constraints posed, by the context in which the institution is located, are of interest.


Teaching Excellence in Higher Education, by B. R. Sant, is an account of a non-profit organisation’s attempt to involve itself in improving the professional competence of teachers in higher education. The organisation attempts to produce ‘Total Quality People’ through its training programmes. The experience points towards the need for including a variety of stakeholders in the task of reforming the higher education sector. Official training interventions are usually oriented towards content competence. In such situations, the involvement of individuals outside the official training establishment and of other institutions can be an important supplement, especially in areas not addressed by regular training programmes.


The next two articles deal with the concept of adding value to a regular education programme, in the context of a self-financing status of the implementing colleges. The self-financing imperative has its origins in the financial crunch faced by the state, but it offers some scope for institutions working within this framework to experiment on their own in curriculum matters. ‘Value-added’ Education in MOP Vaishnav College for Women, Chennai, by Nirmala Prasad, illustrates the development of supplementary courses which ‘add value’ to the regular degree programmes, and as a result, may increase the employability of the students. Six initiatives undertaken by the college are described. These include professional courses undertaken with the help of private institutions during the afternoon hours, personality development programmes and improving communication competence of students.  A ‘Degree-plus’ Programme at Kodaikanal Christian College, by Vijaya Sherry Chand, illustrates a similar theme, that of ‘value addition’ to a regular programme. A combination of a regular programme, an ‘enrichment component’ (which includes, among other inputs, mathematics, computer skills, and value education), and a part-time diploma programme (in a few market-oriented disciplines), enables the students to acquire a broader exposure and to condense what they would do in about four years into three years. Therefore, they are provided with an advantage when they seek jobs. This concept of ‘value addition’ has become important in recent times, and is likely to become a key element in the strategies of institutions which want to differentiate themselves.


The final article, Institution Building at the Department of Psychology, Allahabad University, by Rajeev Sharma, touches on the elements of the strategy of institution building followed by a university department to reach a state of excellence. The importance of the leader’s vision,  a socially-responsive  agenda, the need to update curriculum and restructure programmes or introduce new ones, developing a quality journal, and networking with other institutions of excellence, are highlighted as important aspects of an institution-building strategy. The approach is especially interesting because, very often, in the search for excellent institutions, one may ignore excellent departments which function in a not-so-excellent university.


We hope this final issue will be of interest to you. We would also like to believe that the concept of lateral learning, which provided the rationale for this newsletter, will acquire greater importance in future policies that aim at rejuvenating and improving higher education.


Vijaya Sherry Chand



The ‘media’: From imagination to appreciation

Arti Kumar

Department of English, St. Xavier’s College, Ahmedabad


This article seeks to explore how the media colours the lives of youth and how this can be used constructively to enable students to reach a refined level of awareness. It outlines experiences in teaching English Literature (poetry) to first year undergraduate students. More specifically, it deals with one particular experiment, in which students were asked to make a presentation of a poem in class, using novel approaches to presentation and their imagination.  The three poems chosen for the experiment were ‘The Quality of Mercy’ by Shakespeare, ‘Holy Thursday’ by William Blake and ‘A Tribute to the Upanishads’ by Nissim Ezekiel. It was interesting to observe how media coloured the imagination of the students in their presentation of these diverse poems.


Literature as experience


The study of Literature in the classroom is meaningful if it is an enjoyable experience. If the meaning of the text is “given” to students, their experience is blocked. Literature can be used as an effective tool to train students in clear thinking, forming independent judgements and responding sensitively to the ideas and feelings of other people. Reader-response theorists have claimed that experience of life derived from literature is a product of the reader’s imagination much more than an intrinsic feature of the writing. Each reader constructs a unique interpretation for himself and the ability to construct these interpretations grows with practical critical experience.  Such is the theoretical foundation underpinning the experiment. 


A poem is like a puzzle where words, images and symbols have to be unravelled. In a poem the sense of space is a part of the literary response. They are spaces we inhabit mentally as readers to apprehend the form—as it were—from various view points. It is like looking at a piece of sculpture. We are impelled to move around the object, and in so doing, acknowledge that part of the meaning we make depends upon the vantage point we adopt and our appreciation of the way spaces have been employed. Before coming to an analysis or appreciation of poetry, the scrutiny of a poem from a very different angle creates a curiosity and interest, especially if it is related to something which most students can identify with.


‘The Quality of Mercy’,  by Shakespeare


This poem was presented as a ‘cooking show’, a form which was obviously borrowed from television. The presentation was titled  ‘Cookers and Shakers’. The ‘cookers’ was used because the poem talked about a recipe for mercy and the ‘shakers’ stood for Shakespeare. One student assumed the role of Shakespeare and his assistant was Agatha Christie, the famous writer of detective stories. The students made use of familiar utensils in everyday use to explain the recipe, and thereby the images used, in the poem.


A strainer

Mercy is not “strained”

A glass

Pouring water, slowly into a vessel below “droppeth as the gentle rain”

A vessel

“upon the place’ beneath”

Salt and pepper containers

“twice blest” putting salt and pepper, also used for “seasons justice”.

A big serving spoon   

Him that “gives” and him that “takes”. It was also used to explain “sceptre”

A Chef’s hat

to show “better than his crown”

A pair of  tongs

used to lift the vessel to show “mercy is above this  sceptred sway”


Through these actions, the recipe of mercy was ready in a style familiar to students as a result of television shows. Through familiar means, the presentation demonstrated unfamiliar images like ‘sceptre’, ‘crown’, and ‘seasons’. It was a lively show, and through gestures, action and words, it explained much of the poem.


After this initial light-hearted activity, the students were able to discuss the images used by the poet with a better understanding and within the context of the poem. They were better able to appreciate and discuss the beauty of the images used. Another outcome was an animated but serious discussion on mercy as a value in today’s world. A topic which would otherwise appear dry and didactic, became animated, lively and about 60 out of the 70 students in the class took an active part in the serious discussion. This level of participation in an undergraduate first year class was of an unusually high level. Though some of the comments were in a lighter vein (“Mercy is an important ingredient in the recipe of life”, “It makes life more palatable”), the discussion made students reflect on Portia’s speech, her eloquent appeal to Shylock to be merciful, and on the quality of mercy.


‘Holy Thursday’, by William Blake


‘Holy Thursday’ was presented by a student as a television news show, linking each line of the poem with contemporary events. For instance, “Hello, and welcome to the news this hour. You are watching HTV. I am correspondent Willy Blake. Main stories this hour: ‘Is this a holy thing to see . . .  fed with cold and usurious hand?”, followed by a reference to the Kosovo crisis. “People are facing intense misery. The rich and fruitful land is being destroyed by war. People have no food; if at all anything is available, it is cold storage food.”


“Is that trembling cry a song? Can it be a song of joy?”  The comment: “Madonna, the famous pop-singer has been summoned to court to explain her latest composition, as it has proved difficult to make out whether it is a trembling cry or a song of joy.”


Another example: “The sports news this hour is sponsored by Pepsi, the only drink that motivates the Indian cricketers. Indian captain Mohammed Azharuddin was asked to explain the poor performance of the Indian Cricket team at the 1999 World Cup. He replied:


‘And their sun does never shine

And their fields are bleak and bare;

And their ways are fill’d with thorns;

It is eternal winter there’.


This reply has had an emotional effect on cricket fans all over the world. They have requested the ICC to organise future World Cups only between India and other Third World countries, only under Indian climatic conditions.”


The presentation recreated the text within a particular ‘schemata’. The notion of schemata is derived from the field of cognitive psychology. Schemata may be described as structures of generalised knowledge built up from direct or indirect experiences of life through the processes of socialisation, education, reading and nowadays, the media. Network of ideas and associations form mental structures — the ‘schemata’ within which the knowledge of the world is organised. Understanding of new experiences occurs when we can relate what  happens in a specific situation to the broader structures stored in our long-term memory. Our schemata therefore have considerable influence not only on our comprehension of what happens to us in real life but also on the way we interpret the written word. Thus, the reader’s perception of meaning is the result of an interactive process between his background knowledge and the text, which he measures, evaluates and interprets against the expectations set up by his existing knowledge. (This understanding draws upon Littlewood, W. 1991. Theory, research and practice. Foreign Language Teaching 2 (5): 99-111.)  


The in-class activity served the purpose of familiarisation. It was also a creative venture which was enjoyed by everyone because they could understand the satirical punches. It helped in getting rid of cultural blocks and aided in opening students’ minds to a critical analysis of the poem. It also led to a serious discussion and debate on issues like poverty, human rights and child labour.


‘Tribute to the Upanishads’, by Nissim Ezekiel


The imagination of the students really was wild when it came to presenting such a serious poem on religion and spirituality. Again, to create an interest and have some fun, they turned to media for their inspiration and that also to a Miss India contest! Now, what is the relation, and how does it work?


The students chose five volunteers as participants in a Miss India competition. They were called Agatha Christie, Shobha De, Sarojini Naidu, Shabana Azmi and Nissim Ezekiel.


One student was the compere, and adopted the artificial tradition of announcers of such shows. The finalists were asked one question, which was taken from a central image of the poem:  “What part of a fruit would you like to be and why?”


The replies were:

Agatha Christie: The branch because it gives support. (Remember, coming from a writer of detective fiction, you are expected to figure out that a branch is not part of a fruit!)

Shobha De: I would like to be the flesh because it is beautiful and full of vitamins.

Sarojini Naidu: I would like to be the seed because another fruit can grow from it.

Shabana Azmi: I would like to be the skin, as it weathers the storm and gives protection.

Nissim Ezekiel: The nothingness in the seed — the secret locked within the seed, because nothingness is everything.


The results were declared and with great pomp and show Nissim Ezekiel was crowned Miss India. There followed a ‘TV talk’ where questions were put about his views on  issues like man’s final destination, the need to conquer the ego, the importance of self-realisation and being oneself and the ‘inward eye’, ‘eye of an eye’, nothingness and something, how can one know oneself, the path to God, salvation, and so on. Views were expressed from the Bible, Quran, Gita, Upanishads. Some comments were a conscious declaration on how we get so involved with material pursuits that we forget our spiritual destination and do not pay attention to spiritual growth. The common precepts of all religions were also discussed.


Thus, though the imagination of students does fly high to unimagined heights, it does sober down to an enlightened, intelligent discussion and appreciation of the literary text. The media serve as wings to allow the imagination to soar but then the process can also lead to a critique of the methods employed by popular shows on television. The classroom becomes animated with activity where the students participate in the learning process. Readers are not sponges, passively absorbing the text. They create the text according to their own knowledge and experience within the framework provided by the author. This recreation may prompt many kinds of mental activity: sudden images which flash through the mind, questions and exclamations about aspects of the text. But readers are not completely free to create the text in their own way. They are directed by the writer through the language. The writer guides the responses of the readers, but allows room for each individual to imagine it in his/her own way (Hackman, S., and B. Marshall. 1990. Re-reading literature: Critical approaches to the study of English. London: Hodder and Stoughton). Thus, life is full of possibilities and new technology also provides new ways and means which can be used to make the teaching-learning process interesting, enjoyable and meaningful. One can use the possibilities offered by the media to make students think carefully, critically and analytically.




Creativity and Design Learning at IIT Guwahati

Ravi Mokashi-Punekar

Department of Design, IIT Guwahati


The Department of Design at the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati (IITG) is a new entrant in the field of design education. It is the first department in the country to offer a four-year undergraduate degree programme leading to the degree of Bachelor of Design. The establishment of such a programme is a significant development in the field of design education since there is now a recognition of the design profession as one career option among the mainstream professional programmes in engineering offered by the Indian Institutes of Technology.


Established in Germany in the early 1920s, the design profession made its entry into India in the early 1960s at the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad. Subsequently, in the 1970s, the Industrial Design Centre (IDC) at the IIT Bombay started a programme in industrial design. At present, the NID offers a diploma programme in design and the IDC offers a postgraduate degree.


The credit for instituting a design programme in the north-eastern region of the country should go to an advisory committee of the Government of India, which, right at the time of the establishment of IITG, identified a programme in Design at the undergraduate level as worth introducing. The first Director of IITG, Dr. D. N. Buragohain, invited Prof. S. Nadkarni to join the institute after his retirement as Professor and Head of the IDC, IIT Bombay, and to take charge of setting up the department. This was in August 1997.


The programme in Design attempts to give inputs that blend considerations of good aesthetics, user convenience, ergonomics and socio-cultural factors with pragmatic technological factors in the design of products and systems in the man-made living environment. In contrast to the established educational models of design education like the programmes offered by the NID, Ahmedabad and the IDC, IIT Bombay, the programme at IITG had to face challenges which were specific to the region. The north-east abounds in natural resources. Water resources, good forest cover, agriculture and local handicrafts offer potential for development. The lack of industrialisation in the area and the remoteness of the region from important industrial centres were major disadvantages that the Department had to consider in planning its programme. Added to this were factors related to political disturbances that had slowed down many development initiatives in the region. The Department considered all these issues but decided to go ahead with the hope that young talented people who wanted to use innovative approaches to design activities would be attracted.


At present, the Department has five faculty members. They include an exhibition designer, a graphic designer, an ergonomist and two product designers. The staff include one model maker, one graphics assistant and one cameraman. Studios and computer laboratories have been established and workshops for woodworking, ceramics and plastics are being set up. In addition, there will be studios of photography and video-editing.


The Department of Design commenced its programme in July 1998. The first batch of 12 students was admitted through the IITs’ all-India Joint Entrance Examination (JEE). Successful candidates at the JEE who had opted for Design undertook a Design Aptitude Test at various counselling centres. All the 12 candidates were from outside the state; there were no local students.


The Department is initially concentrating on two disciplines:


Industrial Design: This discipline aims at preparing students to use analytical and methodical approaches to design problems. Issues such as user interface with products and systems, aesthetic considerations in the determination of the form of products and the role of socio-economic and technical factors in design, form part of the curriculum.


Communication Design: Given the need to have knowledge and information transfer in  communicable and usable forms, the course structure spans diverse domains in visual design. The communication design aspect addresses a broad range of questions which include social, educational and interactive communication methodologies; it also makes use of media such as publication design, video, multimedia, computer graphics, educational aids, exhibition design and photography.


Although the two disciplines are similar to the ones at NID and IDC, the difference is in the structure of the course inputs. Taking advantage of the technical courses offered by other Departments at IITG, this programme focuses upon inputs from the fields of visual arts, humanities, ergonomics and management. It introduces field work and industrial experience right from the first year of the programme. It gives special emphasis to the area of craft design and development. It integrates theoretical learning and its immediate application in the various projects undertaken during the different years of the programme.


Organisation of the educational programme


The course work for the total programme falls into four categories.


1          Design

2          Science and Technology

3          Humanities

4          Management


The first year is common to both disciplines and is devoted to establishing a broad foundation. Students may then select a major, that is either Industrial Design or Communication Design.


In the first batch, five students opted to specialise in Industrial Design and seven in Communication Design. In the coming years, the Department plans to increase its intake to 15 students in each discipline.


Course content


Year 1

The first year of the course provides students with a sound understanding of the formal elements of visual design. It includes studies in organisation of elements in two and three dimensions, colour applications and visual perceptions. A broad range of design experiences is explored. Theoretical inputs are provided in the science of ergonomics. Practical skills in visual communication using media like drawing, model making and photography are developed to enable the students to have a firm foundation for the rest of the course. The students also undergo basic engineering courses.


Year 2

During the second year various techniques of problem solving in two and three dimensions, and skills required in the practice of industrial design and communication design, are taught. The students develop a high level of skill in presentation of graphics and model making. A designer’s concern for the improvement of the physical environment of people is introduced during classroom projects. Students are also introduced to computer-aided studies.


The third and fourth years of the programme will begin shortly. The plans for these two areas are as follows:


Year 3

More complex and system-oriented projects will be designed to improve the students’ capabilities to tackle real design development problems. The projects will be related to manufacturing, marketing and related areas. In Industrial Design, areas to be covered will include furniture design, public transport, household appliances and a range of machinery and equipment for forestry, the tea manufacturing industry, fisheries and handicrafts. In Communication Design,  projects in graphic design, multimedia and video for areas such as primary health and education, and agriculture, are being planned.


Year 4

Major projects will be undertaken both within, and in collaboration with outside organisations. The students will assemble a folio of design work compiled during the complete course work. This folio will enable them to demonstrate to prospective employers or clients their professional abilities in product design and communication design.


The aspects of this new programme which enable it to be compared favourably with the established models of design education are the following:


(i) Integrated approach


The organisation of the educational programme has been kept extremely flexible. Given the project orientation, students are encouraged to undertake projects in a diverse range of subjects. The project and its related theoretical areas of influence are not treated as separate aspects, but are proportionately integrated so that the students can experience their relevance immediately.


(ii) Work internship


The knowledge of realities of design can be gained only by observing and working in industry. This experience is cultivated gradually so that at the end of the programme the student becomes professionally confident to take any complex decisions as a part of his/her design activity. The student will undergo training throughout the four years at the Institute, initially for one month every year (mostly during the vacations) and for 3 to 6 months during the third and fourth years. Students are encouraged to undertake projects sponsored by industry.


(iii) Integration of craft and technology


The  vast potential that the craft sector offers in this region has been included as an integral part of study in the curriculum so that an attempt is made towards design and development of contemporary ideas which can be initiated with the artisan communities of the region. Tremendous possibilities exist in the textile, cane and bamboo crafts of the north-eastern region.


The experiences with the first two batches of students in this new discipline may be of interest to readers.


Peculiar difficulties are being faced in establishing the studio and model-making facilities. The diverse range of materials required for such activities are not easily available in the local market. Therefore, the Department is educating local suppliers about its requirements. For the time being, the materials needed, like material for art work, model-making and photography, are being sourced from outside the state.


Since the curriculum is structured differently from the more conventional programmes offered by the other departments within IITG, the assignments in the courses offer open-ended possibilities for interpretations, encouraging students to find creative solutions. However, the students undergo an initial phase of struggle in reorienting themselves to this spirit of self-learning.


Courses in visual design also invoke the artist within, an aspect which is very often dormant as a result of the stifling pattern of school education. Trying to blend art with technology provokes sceptical responses from student peer groups of the other departments whose programmes are more structured and follow the rigour of the examination systems. In design, the approaches are rigorous but more flexible. The environment of interaction and learning is more informal.


Contact with industry was established at an early stage and the first batch of students has undergone its first industrial exposure for a month (during the vacations) with some of the leading industries, at locations close to their home towns. Such first hand exposure has been appreciated by the students.


There is already a visible change in attitude and perceptions among the initial batches of design students who have been able to overcome their initial anxieties regarding the nature and scope of this young profession. The response seems optimistic and encouraging.



Teaching excellence in higher education

B. R. Sant

Management and Resource Development Foundation, C-14/2 Kakateeya Nagar, Habsiguda, Hyderabad 500 007


In recent times, a number of educational institutions have started encouraging ‘excellence’; many even propose to create schools or centres of excellence. For instance, the Vivekananda Institute of Human Excellence, a unit of the Ramakrishna Mutt, Hyderabad, is expected to start functioning by September 2000. The All India Council of Technical Education is drawing up plans to establish Schools of Excellence in engineering studies especially to develop good engineering teaching faculty. Recently, the Chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC) declared that the UGC would identify about 50 to 60 universities as Centres of Excellence.


The corporate sector has some lessons to offer in this direction. For instance, in Passion for Excellence (Random House, New York, 1985), Tom Peters and Nancy Austin, while discussing the education of business executives, remark that “nothing in pursuit of educational excellence is more important than studying the models of things that work.” How can promotion of excellence in education, building on ‘things that work’,  be undertaken in as short a time as possible?


The efforts undertaken in this direction by the Management and Resource Development Foundation (MRDF), a non-profit organisation that aims at promoting excellence in higher education by developing ‘Total Quality People’, constitute the core of this article. The experiences of the MRDF are offered in the belief that initiatives for improving higher education need not necessarily arise from within the system; concerned individuals and organisations outside the system can also contribute to the revitalisation of the system. The MRDF’s analysis of the situation of higher education, which led to the evolution of its approach, is first presented. Then, a typical programme for education of teachers in higher education is described. In conclusion, the MRDF’s experiences are summarised.


Higher education: The challenge of developing people


In recent times, the higher education system has been subjected to a lot of criticism in the media. However, on a more positive note, The Hindu newspaper, in March 1998, brought out a special 50-page Folio feature which contained 14 articles on higher education. S. Swaminathan, in his article ‘Great teachers: The vanishing species’, points out that it is necessary to combine scholarship and communication: “If Dr. S. Radhakrishnan is regarded as the exemplar for the teaching community, it is because he cultivated not only profound critical scholarship of a very high order but also the powers of communication, both spoken and written, which made him a universally acclaimed scholar-statesman.” Bringing back the magic that good teachers can work through their mastery of not only content, but communication, is essential in today’s higher education scenario.


The live and visible components of an institution are: students, teachers, and administrators-cum-non-teaching staff. Development of students is the central issue, and the factors that contribute to this are quality of teaching, quality of the examination processes, quality of faculty development and quality of the courses. For our present discussion, we may exclude examination process and courses of study. Thus the two core activities that affect higher education are quality of the faculty and quality of teaching. Auxiliary activities in an institution would include institutional academic development plans, research and publications, links with industry, commerce, and other professions, and access to admission, recruitment and counselling. Though we know that effective teaching and good teachers are essential, our system has practically no measure or means to systematically evaluate ‘teaching effectiveness’, nor does it do anything to enhance teaching skills and classroom performances. This situation can lead to mediocrity and underperformance.


Role of Academic Staff Colleges


The UGC initiated the Academic Staff Colleges (ASC) after 1986 with the objective of providing in-service training to teachers. This training is of two types: (i) orientation courses of a general nature for new entrants, and (ii) subject-specific refresher courses. Forty eight ASCs were established all over the country in 1987. The Osmania University ASC, over the last 12 years, has organised 29 Orientation Courses (905 participants) and 73 Refresher Courses (2417 participants). The present author and his colleagues in the Management and Resource Development Foundation (MRDF) have had the opportunity to contribute to more than a dozen orientation and refresher courses. The latter were in such subjects as Biology, Chemistry, Commerce, Economics, Education, Physics, and Psychology. In addition, we have addressed courses in the ASCs of Sri Venkateswara  University, Tirupati and Central University of Hyderabad. The latter conducted a unique course for about 40 College Principals in which MRDF designed the developing excellence component. Our interventions have been in the form of three to four hour-long presentations in each course on the theme of Achieving Excellence in Higher Education: Role of ‘Skills’ Development. For refresher course presentations, we made a small change; we included brief accounts of outstanding developments and biographical sketches of great scholars and teachers in that specific subject.


The MRDF’s vision and focus


The MRDF, a non-profit organisation, was set up with the vision of developing ‘skills’ among people for achieving ‘excellence’. We believe in self-development and learning and we focus on attitudinal skills, effective communication skills, and leadership skills to develop Total Quality People (TQP). We do not teach in the conventional sense. Our methodology is interactive and participatory and each of our programmes is designed and developed to suit the specific needs of the users. For instance, the programme for teachers of higher education focuses on developing the right attitudes, infectious enthusiasm, and good powers of communication.


MRDF ‘skills’ development programme for higher education teachers


MRDF feels that individuals can achieve excellence by learning the ‘skills’ of positive or ‘possibility’ thinking, effective communication, and understanding the self and others. A possibility thinker is diligent, has self-confidence, acquires leadership qualities, understands the significance of both success and failure, and believes in the joy of sharing. None is born with communication skills. Effective speaking, listening, writing, and reading skills can be learnt under expert guidance. Whereas speaking and listening skills get visibly displayed through body language, writing and reading skills are silent knowledge-augmenting vehicles. All the four communication skills need to be continuously improved and practised for achieving excellence. Interpersonal skills, ability to overcome communication barriers, and constant endeavour to understand self and others go a long way in achieving success in the personal and the professional spheres.


Behaviour, character, and life-style of teachers influence the students as much as his or her scholarly knowledge of the subject. The spirit of ‘excellence’ has to be infused and ingrained into our teachers. In turn, they will impart the spirit amongst students. It may also be mentioned that in every institution there are non-teaching staff who constitute an important link in the making of centres of excellence. Suitable ‘skills’ development programmes for them are therefore necessary. MRDF has developed training capsules for non-teaching staff also.


MRDF experiences


In addition to our experiences with orientation, refresher, and other special programmes of ASCs of Osmania, Hyderabad, and Sri Venkateswara Universities, we have conducted several one-day programmes for teachers in a number of colleges in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. Many of these programmes were organised at the request of some teachers or Principal-participants in the ASC programmes who wanted similar programmes to be conducted for other teachers in their colleges. The feedback we have received from the Directors/Principals and from teachers has been positive. The managements were satisfied because they felt that the effectiveness of their teachers had improved and that the students had benefited, thereby enhancing the reputation of their institutions. The teachers were impressed because our themes were unique, highly motivating, and useful in their day-to-day life as parents and members of society.


Initially some teachers were sceptical about the themes of ‘excellence’ and ‘skills’. They felt that they knew everything, and that it was only  the students and the college management who were responsible for the present malaise in higher education. Others felt that it was enough if they performed at the ‘minimum’ necessary level. However, our message that excellence was a journey and not a destination, motivated such teachers. The results that we have noted are enthusiasm to perform excellently, change of attitude towards teaching, taking up leadership roles, improved communication and a greater appreciation of the principles of understanding self and understanding others.


MRDF feels that effective teaching is not merely subject teaching, not just advising students about ‘do’s and don’ts’, but about developing teacher excellence. It is necessary that the spirit of excellence be absorbed by today’s senior students. Some of them are going to be tomorrow’s teachers. Such people will already have the basic foundation to become potential excellent teachers. Let me conclude with the words of Peters and Austin: “Excellence is a personal commitment. Excellence happens when high purpose and intense pragmatism meet. Doing better than average takes tenacious preparation. Excellence is a high cost item. The price of excellence is time, energy, attention, and focus.”



‘Value-added’ education in M.O.P. Vaishnav College for Women, Chennai

Nirmala Prasad

M.O.P. Vaishnav College for Women, Chennai


In recent times, privatisation—more specifically encouraging self-financing colleges—has been seen as a way out of the financial crunch that the state is facing with respect to funding of higher education. Self-financing colleges, in contrast to completely state-initiated and  funded institutions, have the flexibility to offer job-oriented, need-based courses, and to impose on themselves high academic standards. The innovative steps taken in these directions by a relatively new college, the M.O.P. Vaishnav College for Women, Chennai, are outlined in this article to highlight the role self-financing colleges can play in adding value to the regular degree-oriented education offered in the higher education system. Specifically, the manner in which an innovative curriculum has been developed is highlighted.


The College was born out of the joint efforts of the Vallabhacharya Vidhya Sabha, a popular educational agency in Chennai and the Diwan Bahadur M.O.P. Iyengar’s Charities, a renowned philanthropic body. The Charities offered land worth Rs. 25 crore in the heart of the city. The Sabha accepted the challenges of providing the infrastructure and running the college. An initial fund of one crore rupees was raised for this purpose from the business community of Chennai. A group of philanthropists and educationists of Chennai was constituted to manage the college. The College is affiliated to the University of Madras.


Courses management and administration of the college


The College began with four courses in 1992, BCom, BBA, BSc (Mathematics) and BSc (Computer Science), and later on added BA (Corporate), BSc (Nutrition), BA (Sociology), MBA, and MA (Communication)  and an evening BCom course.  It has about 70 staff members, teaching and non-teaching. Seven of the teaching staff hold PhDs. The growth of the college is summarised in the following table.


Growth of M.O.P. Vaishnav College for Women, Chennai






3 UG

7 UG, 2 PG

Ratio of applications to admissions









Ratio of students to staff



Constructed area per student

24 sq.ft.

102 sq.ft.

Library cost per student

Rs. 483

Rs. 1080

University examination pass rate




The College attracts women from the upper middle and middle classes, but meritorious candidates from the lower middle class are also admitted, and if necessary, financial support is provided by the college. About 20 percent of the students admitted receive financial support. However, the College has to compete for students with the larger and well-established colleges in the city. At the same time, the College does not have the autonomy to devise its own syllabus. It has to follow the syllabus prescribed by the University. Therefore, the concept of ‘value addition’ was evolved. In fact, at the time of admission, the applicants’ willingness to undergo the ‘value addition’ courses is also assessed.


Value addition


The concept of value addition has “increasing the employability of the students” as its main focus. After much discussion among the governing body members and the faculty members, it was felt that if the college had to be different, six areas needed to be addressed. These are:


1.                   Optional Professional Training

2.                   Personality Development Programme

3.                   Communication Workshop

4.                   Project Work

5.                   Journals

6.                   Variety of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities


The College offers a variety of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities, like debates, essay and drama competitions, painting, jewellery design and similar creative pursuits. Many colleges offer similar programmes, and so what M.O.P. Vaishnav College does in this area may not be very significantly different. However, a greater stress is put on writing, especially creative writing, and this is evident in the encouragement given to the students to bring out departmental journals.  Vidiyal (Tamil), Sankhadvani (Sanskrit), Kshitij (Hindi), Elixir (Mathematics), Signet (Corporate Secretaryship), are some of the journals brought out. The more significant innovations are the Optional Professional Training; the Personality Development Programme (which aims at instilling in students self-confidence and self-esteem); Project Work (to expose students to the world of practice); and the Communication Workshop (which is offered to new entrants so that they can improve their communication skills in English).


Optional professional training


The Optional Professional Training (OPT) innovation is seen as an important tool for improving the employability of the students. The courses offered under this programme are non-credit part-time professional courses. They are conducted  in the afternoons (2 pm to 5 pm) with the help of leading professional institutions.

The OPT is combined with the stipulated University syllabus so that it can help shore up the employment potential of fresh graduates.  It should be noted that the courses offered are not mandatory. Students can opt for any of the following courses:


Financial services

This course is conducted in collaboration with the Integrated Business School, and is offered to all students from the Commerce and Management faculties. The course fee is Rs. 500. It has proved to be a popular course and 180 students opted for this course during 1998-99.



This course is conducted in collaboration with the RPG Institute of Retail Management, and once again is offered to students from the Commerce and Management faculties.  The course fee is higher at Rs. 2,000. Forty students registered for this course in 1998-99.


Interior decoration

This programme is conducted in collaboration with the Institute of Interior Decoration and Fashion Designing. Students from any of the faculties can opt for this course. But the course fee is high (Rs. 3,000) and  very few students registered for this course.



This course, offered in collaboration with the Advertising Club of India, and open to students from the Commerce and Management faculties, has just made a beginning. The initial response has been good.


The experience over the last three years with the OPT has been on the whole positive. The motivation that girls bring with them when they enter college shows a lot of variation. About 20 percent are from business families and so the OPT does not appeal to them.  Another 30 percent are career oriented; and about 10 percent are seriously interested in achieving something in the corporate world. It is the latter group which finds the OPT attractive. The programme offers them a decisive edge and the response from industry to graduates with OPT exposure has been better. (The College has its own Placement Service and so it has  been possible to keep track of industry response.) However, it is too early to say whether the OPT definitely increases employability—except in the case of the BSc Computer Science graduates where graduates with OPT have been preferred to those without the exposure. All that can be said is that the initial response of potential employers has been positive.


Personality development programme


The College found that students coming out of today’s school system needed a rapid orientation on taking initiative, determining personal objectives and directions, team work, creativity, and time-management. The Personality Development Programme was a response to this analysis. All first year students have to undergo this programme; about 550 students registered for the 1998-99 programme. No course fee is charged. The course inputs are provided through eight afternoon-sessions spread over three  months. Student feedback indicates that the programme may have helped in building up the self-image of students and promoting a sense of team and co-operation. For illustrative purposes, the course outline is provided in the table below. 


Teams (1)

Objectives; team strengths: synergy, multiple strengths, common direction

Teams (2)

The process: formation, different types of teams, roles, competition vs. collaboration; win/win attitude in teams


The responsibility of sender and receiver, barriers to communication, effective listening, body language, empathy

Transactional Analysis

Understanding human behaviour through TA, using TA to improve interpersonal skills

Problem Solving/

decision making

Definition of problems, different approaches to problem solving and decision making. Creativity and problem solving

Time management

Understanding the psychological causes of poor time management; overcoming them, improving planning skills


Self-image and performance, attitudes and perceptions, role of ethics and values in achieving success

Personal effectiveness

Interdependence of self and environment, achieving role clarity, overcoming the environmental constraints; empowering the self



Project work


The aim of this innovation is to expose students to the world of practice. Project work is accepted as a regular part of the curriculum in many good institutions; but it should be noted that in the present case, this component was introduced in an undergraduate college, for women students. The assignments do not form part of the curriculum prescribed by the University. The college requires all students to participate in this module, and students usually work in groups. The college is responsible for finding projects on which students can work for varying periods of time.  Students of the Commerce and Management faculties have been involved in project work in Marketing, Market Research, Advertising, Financial Management and Financial Services. Almost all the students—undergraduates, it should be emphasised—have also participated in summer projects and industrial training programmes during their summer vacation. Though such participation is not mandatory, the response of the students has been very good as such work gives them an edge during job seeking.  The project work of the students of Visual Communication has been formalised so that they are now required to undertake five internships, each lasting one and a half months,  spread over three years. Students of the Department of Sociology have conducted various studies, for instance on the dowry system and on ‘women in the informal sector’. Computer Science students have undertaken a study of the relevance of the BSc Computer Science syllabus and a survey of the Y2K problem.


Communication skills workshop


The idea of this workshop arose out of the need perceived by the College to develop the English language skills of the students. The workshop is conducted as soon as the students enter the College; thus it is open to all first year students. It is an intensive and a highly interactive programme. No course fee is charged. The entire programme is designed as a 20-hour module of exercises in listening, speaking, reading and writing. These 20 hours are spread over ten days. The course material is tightly packaged to include a variety of exercises in reading and listening comprehension, creative writing, group discussions, team-teaching activities, fun-with-grammar and vocabulary-building exercises. Sufficient variety is maintained in the course material so that students of all backgrounds can feel comfortable with it. The workshop has been received well by the students and the faculty members have also observed among the students significant improvement in listening comprehension and oral communication. Such improvement leads to greater self-confidence.



A ‘degree-plus’ programme at Kodaikanal Christian College

Vijaya Sherry Chand


The idea of the self-financing college as a means of meeting the demand for higher education when state funding is constrained, has been gaining acceptance in recent years. With this acceptance comes a greater freedom to experiment with the curriculum to evolve more job-oriented programmes. In this article, the attempt of the Kodaikanal Christian College (KCC) to combine a university degree with ‘real world oriented additional diploma and enrichment courses’ is described. The KCC was set up in 1994 as a totally self-financed Arts and Science College by the House of Abrahams Charitable Trust in the hill station town of Kodaikanal. Attracting students to a self-financed college in the hills has proved to be problematic, but the focus here is on KCC’s effort to innovate in curriculum design.


The move to enrich the degree programmes derives from the academic vision that was articulated by the college a few years ago: degrees have been devalued, but rather than debunking degree-oriented education, one should enrich it through parallel initiatives that provide learning opportunities relevant to future employment. Thus was born the concept of ‘degree-plus’ education. This model allows students to put in work on the additional components so that within a period of three years, they get not only a university degree, but can be considered to have put in an extra year of work.


In practice the concept of ‘degree-plus’ education translates into a regular university degree programme, a compulsory ‘enrichment’ component and a required ‘part-time diploma component’. There are five undergraduate degree streams at the moment: Computer Science, Hotel Management and Catering Sciences, Business Administration, Commerce, and Electronics.


Enrichment component


The enrichment component is offered under the aegis of a sister institution, the Paradise Academy. The dual structure of a college and an academy was followed in order to distinguish between the formal education programme (for which the college was responsible) and the additional components which could be offered more flexibly through a parallel institution. The enrichment component has five courses: Spoken English and Public Speaking; Computer Awareness; Fundamental Mathematics; Value Education; History of Ideas. The first four courses are spread over two years and the last is taught over a period of one year.  The total classroom instructional time is about 30 hours per year in each course, in addition to examination time.


The enrichment component is designed to overcome some of the major weaknesses of the schooling system, particularly the school system’s inability to contribute to personality development. Communication and basic mathematical competence, and an awareness about computers, are  felt to be basic areas that a supportive college curriculum should address.  ‘Value Education’ and ‘History of Ideas’ are expected to provide a preliminary exposure to philosophy and the great minds of the past. Students’ reactions indicate that, on the whole, the enrichment component has been useful.


Part-time diploma courses


The third component of the ‘degree-plus’ curriculum is the part-time diploma courses which are coterminous with the degree programme (running over three years), and are offered under the aegis of the Paradise Academy. Two courses have to be selected by each student. The choices are presented in the following table.


Degree Programme

Diploma courses available

BSc Computer Science

Computer Applications, A Recent Computer Language

BSc Hotel Management and Catering Sciences (HMCS)

Travel and Tourism, Craft Courses

Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA)

Service Marketing, Journalism, Human Resource Development, Marketing, Tax Planning

Bachelor of Commerce (BCom)

Tax Planning, Marketing, Financial Analysis and Budgeting

BSc Electronics

Computer Applications, Computer Hardware

All programmes

Total Quality Management


The evaluation system that is followed is based on a credit system which accommodates the ‘required credits’ (minimum number of credits prescribed  by the university for various courses of study that a student has to obtain for a degree) and ‘additional credits’ for the enrichment/ diploma courses. Arranging for faculty resources to handle the variety of courses on offer has posed a challenge to KCC. While existing faculty members are able to offer some of the additional courses through the Academy, visiting faculty have to be identified for the others. At the moment, KCC designs the curriculum of the various additional courses on its own. The certification of the successful candidates is done by the Academy itself. But the expectation is that the additional training that the students receive will help them obtain an edge in the job market. Attracting students to the institution has no doubt been a problem; also there is a need to keep costs to a minimum so that fees do not come in the way of attracting students. In spite of such problems, KCC believes that its ‘degree-plus’ curriculum offers students opportunities to obtain additional qualifications during their three-year  degree programme and to develop their personal qualities so that they can face the world of work with more confidence.



Institution building at the Department of Psychology, Allahabad University

Rajeev Sharma

Ravi J. Matthai Centre for Educational Innovation, IIM Ahmedabad


The Department of Psychology was established in the University of Allahabad in 1961.  In a university that was founded in 1887 the initiation of a discipline like Psychology appears to have been rather delayed.  However, within a short period of time the Department acquired a distinct identity in the field, nationally as well as internationally.  It became a University Grant Commission’s Centre for Advanced Study in Psychology in 1984. Apart from innovative teaching approaches, the Department has an active and focused research and doctoral programme and a well-equipped library with a special emphasis on social psychology. It also publishes an international journal devoted to issues of concern to the developing world. It has also hosted several national and international conferences. This article focuses on the distinctive approach adopted by the Department to developing a socially-relevant academic identity for itself. The features of the strategy discussed here will be of help to university departments in evolving for themselves an identity associated with academic and institutional excellence, since good departments are often the building blocks of excellent universities.


The beginning


The founding Head of the Department of Psychology, Prof. Durganand Sinha, envisioned the establishment of a centre for excellence in the discipline, a centre which would not be a replica or an imitation of the western model of Psychology. He visualised the Department as a place of study and research rooted in the Indian ethos, focusing its attention on Indian problems in particular, and those of the developing world in general. This vision gradually shaped all the academic activities of the Department: from undergraduate to post-graduate curriculum, doctoral and research programmes and linkages with scholars and academic institutions within the country and abroad. An early national workshop, conducted in 1972, gave an opportunity to faculty members in the Department and in other universities to discuss how Psychology can respond to the concerns of a developing country like India. It also provided an impetus for developing a curriculum at the post-graduate level focused on the study of change and national development. Thus, when most other universities were devoted to the study of behaviour in laboratory conditions, the Allahabad Department became probably one of the first to offer courses in socio-psychological aspects of change and national development and organisational psychology.  


Continuous revision and updating of academic programmes and pedagogy


The concern for the study of psychological aspects of issues of national importance was reflected in continuous  modification of the curriculum. Beginning with the undergraduate programme, experiments and theoretical inputs were redesigned so that students could think about and relate to their environment.  Students were encouraged to take up projects related to social concerns. While maintaining the rigour of traditional experimentation and methods of Psychology, variations were introduced which provided an opportunity to students and faculty to work on problems relating to education, health, rural communities and development and growth of different types of organisations.


The concern for disseminating the knowledge generated through research is reflected in the steps taken to organise workshops and action programmes. These programmes  have covered school and educational problems, road safety, hospital hygiene, community-based rehabilitation programmes and communal harmony. 


New framework for the post-graduate programme


The university academic calendar used to function on an annual examination system.  The Department realised its limitations and designed a semester-based teaching and examination system for the post-graduate level.  The structure of the teaching and examination system was also changed drastically.  Instead of long essay type questions, each paper was designed with several short questions that tested analytical skills, conceptual understanding and application skills.  To bring in more objectivity, each paper was examined by a Board of Examiners.  Though this required additional effort from the faculty, the quality of the academic programme improved immensely.


To develop skills in the areas of group-work, leadership and social facilitation, experience-based participatory methods, simulations, group-discussions and field projects were introduced. Team teaching (by more than one instructor) has also been used.


Revamping of the doctoral programme


The Allahabad University has been following the system of thesis writing for a doctoral degree.  The Department felt that its doctoral students needed some preparation and so introduced compulsory course work.  This move also helped the faculty develop new courses.  Visiting faculty from other universities within and outside the country have been participating in many of these courses.


Linkages with institutions abroad


The Department established linkages with several foreign universities—the Universities of Michigan, Maryland, Georgia, Wakeforest and California in the USA, Queen’s University, Universities of Toronto and Alberta in Canada, the University of Strathclyde at Glasgow, and the University of Freiburg in the Netherlands. Linkages with these academic institutions facilitated the academic exchange of faculty and resulted in several joint research and teaching programmes.  This also enabled the faculty and research students to contribute to the growth of cross-cultural psychology.


An international journal for the developing world


A gradual but logical culmination of  research into indigenous approaches to understanding human behaviour was the institution of a journal titled ‘Psychology and Developing Societies’. This journal focuses on research on issues of concern to developing societies, and highlights approaches which explore alternative conceptual frameworks. Within a short span of time, the journal acquired an international reputation.


Post-graduate programme in human resource development and management


Psychology as a discipline was contributing to academics, but its utility in the professional field was limited.  Realising this, the Department started a two-year programme in human resource development and management, which employs a multi-disciplinary approach to prepare graduates who can work on the management of the human side of work in organisations.  Students are selected through an all-India test and interviews.


The development of this programme took more than three years.  During this period, faculty members interacted with other academics and professionals from industry to arrive at a course design suitable to Indian conditions. The Department did not seek any additional faculty positions or funding  from the university or University Grants Commission, and has been managing the course in a self-financed manner. The programme has been well received, as evidenced by the employment of the graduates.


This article has outlined the strategy of institution building followed by a university department to develop an identity of excellence for itself. The founder’s vision of rooting the Department in a local ethos and developing a socially-responsive  agenda, was critical. But updating of the academic programmes, evolving an outreach programme to obtain feedback from the community, and developing a quality journal as a means of communication, were equally important. A third feature has been the willingness to restructure programmes based on academic criteria, and to introduce a new programme in response to the needs of professionals. Finally, networking with well-known institutions elsewhere has been important in terms of promoting academic exchange.

(The author wishes to acknowledge the inputs provided by Prof. R. C. Tripathi and Shri Yoganand Sinha.)