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Outstanding Learning Environments and Support for Students :: Environment Education-GK PDF

Outstanding Learning Environments and Support for Students :: Environment Education-GK PDF

Effective learning requires a comprehensive approach across curriculum, pedagogy, and student support. Curriculum must be engaging and relevant, and articulate a clear vision for the desired outcomes and how to attain them. High-quality pedagogy is then necessary to successfully impart the curricular material to students; pedagogical practices determine the learning experiences that are provided to students - thus directly influencing learning outcomes. Last but not least, the development of capacities that promotes student wellness - such as fitness, good health, psycho-social well being, and sound ethical grounding - are also critical for high-quality learning. Often, higher education represents the first time in students’ lives when they are living and working independently, and the resulting stress and pressures of student life can sometimes form a serious threat to wellness. Robust care and support systems are thus vital for maintaining beneficial conditions for student wellness, and form an important precondition for effective learning.

In summary, curriculum, pedagogy, and student support are the fundamental requirements for quality learning; infrastructure, resources, technology, etc., while also important, are means for supporting these necessary ingredients. A number of initiatives will thus be required for ensuring that learning environments are engaging and supportive for all students to succeed.

First, institutions and faculty will have the autonomy to innovate on matters of curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment -informed by a broad overall framework of higher educational qualifications that ensures consistency across institutions and equivalence across programmes, both in the ODL and the traditional ‘in-class’ modes. Curriculum and pedagogy will be designed by institutions and motivated faculty to ensure a stimulating and engaging learning environment for all students, and assessment will be used to further the goals of each programme.

Second, each institution will integrate its academic plans - ranging from curricular im-provement to quality of classroom transaction - into its larger institutional development plan. Each institution will be committed to the holistic development of students, and create strong internal systems for supporting diverse student cohorts in academic and social domains -both inside and outside formal academic interactions in the classroom. For example, all HEIs will have mechanisms and opportunities for funding for topic-centered clubs and activities organised by students (with the help of faculty and other experts as needed), such as clubs and events dedicated to science, mathematics, poetry, language, literature, debate, music, table tennis, etc. Over time, such activities could be incorporated into the curriculum once appropriate faculty expertise and campus student demand is developed. Faculty will have the capacity and training to be able to approach students not just as teachers in the classroom, but also as mentors and guides.

Third, students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds require particular encouragement and support to make the transition to higher education successfully. Providing access is only the first step; continuous support must also be provided. Universities and colleges will thus be required to set up high-quality support centres and will be given adequate funds and academic resources to carry this out effectively. There will be professional academic and career counselling available to all students, as well as counsellors to ensure physical and emotional well being.

Fourth, ODL provides a natural path to increase access to high-quality higher education. In order to leverage its potential completely, ODL will be renewed through concerted, evidence-based efforts towards expansion while ensuring adherence to clearly articulated standards of quality. ODL programmes will aim to be equivalent to the highest quality in-class programmes available.

Finally, all programmes, courses, curricula, pedagogy across subjects, including those in in-class and in ODL modes, as well as student support will aim to achieve global standards of quality. This will also help in having larger numbers of international students studying in India, and provide greater mobility to students in India who may wish to visit, study at, transfer credits to, or carry out research at institutions abroad, and vice versa. Courses and programmes in subjects such as Indology, Indian languages, arts, history, culture, and modern India, internationally relevant curricula in the sciences, social sciences, and beyond, meaningful opportunities for social engagement, quality residential facilities and on-campus support, etc. will be fostered to attain this goal of global quality standards, attract greater numbers of international students, and achieve the goal of ‘internationalisation at home’.

Motivated, Energised, and Capable Faculty

The most important factor in the success of higher education institutions is the quality and engagement of its faculty. Acknowledging the criticality of faculty in achieving the goals of higher education, various initiatives have been introduced in the past several years to systemise recruitment and career progression, and to ensure equitable representation from various groups in the hiring of faculty. Compensation levels of permanent faculty in public institutions have also been increased substantially. Various initiatives have also been taken towards providing faculty with professional development opportunities. However, despite these various improvements to the status of the academic profession -and the existence of so many model faculty members who truly inspire us all -on average, faculty motivation in terms of teaching, research, and service in HEIs remains far lower than would be truly desired and needed for the higher educational system to thrive and reach the high levels that are expected of it. The various factors that lie behind low faculty motivation levels must be addressed to ensure that each faculty member is happy, enthusiastic, engaged, and motivated towards advancing her/his students, institution, and profession. To this end, the policy recommends the following initiatives to achieve the very best, motivated, and capable faculty in HEIs.

As the most basic step, service conditions that are conducive to excellent teaching, research, and service will be ensured. All HEIs will be equipped with the basic infrastructure and facilities necessary to carry out good work in higher education, including clean drinking water, clean working toilets, blackboards, offices, teaching supplies, labs, and pleasant classroom spaces and campuses.

Teaching duties also will not be excessive, and student-teacher ratios not too high, so that the activity of teaching remains pleasant and there remains adequate time for interaction with students, conducting research, and other university activities. Faculty will be appointed to individual institutions and not be transferable across institutions, so that they may feel truly invested in, connected to, and committed to their institution and community.

Faculty will be trusted and empowered to maximise their motivation; they will be given the freedom to creatively design their own curricular and pedagogical approaches, including with respect to syllabi, pedagogy, textbook selections, assignments, and assessments. Faculty will also be empowered to decide how best to spend their time, with respect to research and other institutional activities - within basic norms. In summary, empowering the faculty to conduct innovative teaching, research, and service as they see best will be a key motivator and enabler for faculty to do truly outstanding, creative work.

Excellence will be further incentivised through merit-based recruitment within the existing reservation categories, and career management. Institutional decisions regarding faculty recruitment, retention, salary increases, promotions, recognition, and movement into institutional leadership will move, while implementing the reservations, towards being merit-and performance-based, and will not anymore be based on seniority, let alone nepotism, bribery, etc. Meanwhile, faculty who do not deliver on basic norms will be held to account.

In keeping with the vision of autonomous institutions empowered to drive excellence, HEIs will have clearly defined, independent, and transparent processes and criteria for faculty recruitment, while following the reservations provided under the provisions of Constitution of India. A robust and merit-based tenure-track, promotion, and salary structure will be developed, with multiple salary levels within each faculty rank, to incentivise and recognise excellent and committed faculty. The goal will be to ensure the highest quality teaching, research, and service on campus. A system of multiple parameters for proper assessment of performance will be developed for the same, including peer reviews, student reviews, innovations in teaching and pedagogy, quality and impact of research, professional development activities, and other forms of service to the institution and the community. Such merit-based assessments would be used to determine tenure decisions, as well as promotions and salary increases for each faculty member, among other possible department-wide and institution-wide recognitions.

Vertical mobility of faculty based on merit will also be essential; outstanding faculty with demonstrated leadership and management skills would be trained over time to take on increasingly important academic leadership positions. The process in place for faculty recruitment, tenure, development, and career management / progression will be part of the institutional development plan of each HEI.

The presence of outstanding and enthusiastic institutional leaders that cultivate excellence and innovation through a merit-and performance-based process and culture is the need of the hour. High-quality institutional leadership is extremely important for the success of an institution and of its faculty. Various outstanding faculty with high academic and service credentials as well as demonstrated leadership and management skills will be identified early, and trained through a ladder of leadership positions. Leadership positions shall not remain vacant, but rather an overlapping time period during transitions in leadership shall be the norm to ensure the smooth running of institutions. Corrupt practices will be removed and replaced by merit-based hiring of institutional leaders through committees of experts. Institutions or individuals engaging in any corrupt practice in the selection of institutional leaders will be brought to justice.

Institutional leaders will aim to create a culture of excellence that will motivate and in-centivise outstanding and innovative teaching, research, institutional service, and community outreach from faculty members and all HEI leaders. It is the institutional leaders that would be held to account for the quality and direction of the institution. 
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