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Does NAAC's grade really determine the quality of education at an institution?

By Harasankar Adhikari 

‘There is an incident that occurred at the examination during my first year at the high school and which is worth recording. Mr. Giles, the educational inspector, had come on a visit of inspection. He had set us five words to write as a spelling exercise. One of the words was 'kettle'. I had mis-spelt it. The teacher tried to prompt me with the point of his boot, but I would not be prompted. It was beyond me to see that he wanted me to copy the spelling from my neighbour's slate, for I had thought that the teacher was there to supervise us against copying. The result was that all the boys, except myself, were found to have spelled every word correctly. Only I had been stupid. The teacher tried later to bring this stupidity home to me, but without effect. I never could learn the art of 'copying'.' This is a reference story from Gandhi's autobiography about his honesty in his school days.
Why has this story been referred to in this writing? Because of the activities of the college administration and teachers of a college in Kolkata regarding the visit of NAAC officials for gradation of this college. The National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) is deputed by the University Grants Commission (UGC) to evaluate and guarantee a standard of higher education across the nation. It focuses on improving the quality of education. Thereafter, it is an assurance to improve the overall development of students by helping them inculcate skills and knowledge through their education. This accreditation categorises the institutions according to the "quality education" they offer. Provided that, it helps to access funding programmes by the federal and state governments. It is a venue to compete with private institutions. NAAC usually evaluates the quality of the institutions in respect of their education, research, faculty, infrastructure, teaching and learning system, student performance, etc.
Now the colleges are very hungry to get a better grade from the NAAC. So, the authority deliberately tries to fabricate the parameter of measurement. The institution is decorated for the very purpose of the NAAC visit. Infrastructure was borrowed temporarily. The students are being taught to tell lies to the NAAC for a better impression. Interestingly, when the washroom of a girls college is not cleaned once a week, it makes necessary arrangements like a washroom at an airport. The teaching quality is very poor. But the students have to tell NAAC it is the best. It has been noticed that the teachers are incompetent and are not regularly attending their classes on time. Even teachers instruct the parents to share fabricated information with the NAAC. The college has no regular classes one month or more before the scheduled visit of the NAAC. The authority does not think about their semester education, examinations, or results. It is a huge event for the students to be tolerant. Is there any importance to the NAAC gradation when an institution fails to carry out its regular jobs or qualitative teaching and learning with all modern facilities?
Sister Nivedita remarked, ‘Education, like growth, must always come from within. Only the inner struggle, only the will of the teacher, is of avail. Those who think otherwise do so only because they are ignorant of education as a science in itself.' She also warned, All the hammering in the world from outside would be useless. It will destroy one’s will to climb.’
Last of all, where are morality, responsibility, and honesty in higher education? What would the students teach their students if they became teachers? Is NAAC gradation essential to determine quality education? It should be revalued by all the authorities, policymakers, and other sensitive individuals.



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