This is a guest post by RINA RAMDEV AND DEBADITYA BHATTACHARYA
The much-debated API (Academic Performance Indicator) system, linking promotions of faculty members in Indian universities/colleges to a quantifiable assessment of their performance, was introduced by the University Grants Commission (UGC) in its 2010 Regulations. Since then, there has been mounting resistance and discontent among massive sections of the teaching community – forcing the UGC to withdraw the said assessment framework for a while in 2013, before reintroducing it across institutions of higher education. However, over the years, the ire of protesting teachers has translated into a sustained critique of the API system and its failure to account for the infrastructural inadequacies of public institutions as adversely impacting the promotion prospects of thousands of teachers across the country.
It was rightly argued that a point-based appraisal pattern reduces teaching as an adventure of ideas into a standardised set of visible-verifiable outcomes and deliverables, expending in this, the necessary surplus of every academic encounter. The clock-timed hours of classroom-teaching – convertible into digits and decimals – were not only incommensurate to the disaggregation of thought beyond workdays and work-hours, but also insisted on a corporate-model professionalism limiting the exact interface between the teacher[-as-service-provider] and the student[-as-client].
The perils of quantification notwithstanding, the API system practically sought to make teaching a redundant exercise in terms of ‘necessary qualifications’ for faculty promotions. With a lucrative price-tagging of the ‘value’ of research activities conducted by individual teachers outside of teaching-schedules and the consequent structures of waging intellectual productivity through the numbers of projects and publications, the API contributed to a voiding of the classroom in undergraduate colleges in many parts of the country. Forced to prove her/his levels of productivity as the most essential claim to survival and growth within the field, the teacher needed but little to do by way of engaging students. And yet, on the contrary, the government persisted with its policy of withdrawing research grants and forcing research organisations to look for alternative sources of funding to sustain their work. Consequently, teachers have been infrastructurally forced into producing dubious research in the cause of ‘career advancement’, self-funding their way into business-rackets parading as scholarly platforms.