Mumbai colleges have up to 135 students in a class this yearSeptember 8, 2014
Some of the top city colleges affiliated to Mumbai University this year have more than 135 students in a classroom, especially the commerce classes. This is when the University Grants Commission (UGC) prescribes the ideal teacher-students' ratio as 1:20. The class strength has gone up to 140 at some colleges after the recent decision to allow colleges to increase their seats by 15-20%. Leave alone teaching, getting themselves heard by every student itself is becoming difficult for teachers, they claim.
Also, classrooms in majority of city colleges have the capacity to accommodate only 100 students. If one goes by the UGC norm to have 10 square feet per student in a classroom, then each classroom which is accommodating around 140 students should have an area of 1,400 square feet, which is far from the existing scenario. Forcing 140 of them to attend classes to meet the attendance requirement for the credit system is difficult to achieve with the current infrastructure, say academicians.
A senior principal said, "The classroom strength has increased as college managements have been requesting for additional intake. Initially, 60 students per class were allowed. However, allowing it to increase by 10% almost every year has led to double the number of students in each class." This year, the university allowed them to increase the seats thrice adding more students to the already saturated classrooms, said the principal.
A senior professor, who is on several local inquiry committees set up by the government, said, "Most of the colleges in the city, the old and established ones, have the seating capacity for only 100 students in each class. Earlier, classrooms never had full attendance. But with implementation of the credit system, weightage is given for attendance and class participation, forcing students to attend classes." At least 15 minutes are wasted in settling the class in the 50-minute lecture, said the professor. If attendance is not made compulsory, then the implementation of the statute for credit system becomes null and void.
Another professor pointed out that there is a problem of air ventilation in cramped classrooms. "Students and teachers, both feel suffocated. Only 20-30% of A grade colleges have mikes and sound system in classrooms. In the rest, the teachers have a huge problem in making themselves heard till the last bench. Many teachers have complained of problems related to vocal cords in recent years," said the professor. He added that professors' teaching subjects such as accountancy, where they also have to use the blackboard, suffer the most. He said that the teaching job has become so stressful and demanding that over 70% of the 50-plus teachers are suffering from diabetes and because of it several other ailments.
Most colleges, however, claimed that their strength has not crossed 120 this year. Dinesh Punjwani, principal of RD National College, said that permissions to increase intake is given to facilitate colleges to fill at least the existing seats. "There are too many cancellations, after the first and second rounds. Students' mobility to better colleges continues till the end of the admission season. So even if the seats are increased, the total students in some of the classes remained 120 this year." Many principals claimed that they have increased the seats only in the self-finance courses, and not traditional ones.
Principals, however, say that the numbers of students clearing HSC over the years have increased several times, and the numbers of good colleges in the city has not grown proportionally. "Students therefore queue up for admissions at select few good ones, where the problem is acute. The problem is more severe in commerce colleges, as science students have several options post-HSC," said the principal. While, the top-rung colleges are dealing with the problem of plenty, several colleges affiliated to the Mumbai University, are not able to fill up to their capacity. After the three rounds of admission this year, around 68,000 of the 1.3 lakh seats were lying vacant. The admission process this year is extended till September 12 to allow these colleges to fill their seats.
UGC vice-chairman, H Devaraj said that the commission-prescribed ratio for undergraduate courses is 1:15, but due to faculty crunch witnessed overall, the teacher-students ratio has been relaxed to 1:20. "However, the ratio followed by colleges affiliated to universities in the cities far exceeds the prescribed one," said Devaraj. Though UGC cannot take direct action against colleges, the skewed teacher-students ration reflects in the performance of colleges in the ratings given by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), he said. Colleges lose a majority of points for not meeting this requirement.