The Government Arts College, Salem, volunteered to be assessed by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), Bangalore and submitted the preliminary self-study report in March 1999. NAAC constituted the Peer Team to visit the institution and validate the self-study report. The Peer Team members comprising of Prof. Shakuntala Katre, Professor of zoology, Bangalore University as Chairperson, Dr. Rajan Varughese, Principal of Union Christian College, Alway and Prof. T.L. Shantha, Principal of Maharani Lakshmi Amminni College, Bangalore as members visited the institution on 30 and 31 December 1999. The team gathered additional information during the visit, and after perusing the relevant documents and validating the information contained in the self-study report, has prepared this assessment report.
The Government Arts College, Salem, which was first started as a school in 1856, became a second grade college in 1879, and received the status of a first grade college in 1944. Under the able leadership of the then Municipal Chairman and members of the College Advisory Council, including the Principal and an elected Teacher, the difficult financial state of the institution was quickly rectified, both through munificent donations received from the public and the amounts collected through the conduct of two swadeshi handicrafts and handloom exhibitions. Soon a new building costing Rs.14, 00,000/- and a hostel for thirty students were constructed and put to use during 1955. Thereafter, the student strength increased steadily and encouragingly. The Salem Municipal Council handed over the administration of the College to the Government in 1959. Since then, the Government Arts College at Salem has been striving to cater for the educational needs of the socially and economically backward people of the area.
Salem Town and its adjacent areas are inhabited primarily by agriculturists, weavers, earthenware/clayware makers, jewellary makers, others, and mine workers largely belonging to the socially weaker sections of the society, Over 60% of students are first generation learners. The emphasis therefore is on providing the much-needed educational foundation, to improve and inculcate moral values and discipline among students and encourage them to pursue higher education, a task of reaching higher education to the masses.
The college is situated in a prime area of Salem Town, along the Salem-Yercaud main road. The college situated in an area of 11 acres of land is easily accessible to students and general public. The campus provides the required infrastructurel facilities for administration, housing various departments, a student hostel, playgrounds, a library wing and an open-air auditorium. Only the welfare hostels are situated away from the campus. The college which had a humble beginning as a Zillah school established in 1857, has a long and centenary history. Until 1998-99 it was affiliated to the Madras University but since 1998-99, it functions under the affiliatory control of the newly formed Periyar University.
Being a government-funded institution, the pattern of education is as per UGC norms and university regulations. The college is recognized by UGC under 2f and 12B. Being a long-standing institution of considerable regional recognition and service, the college has applied for autonomy also. The primary aim of the administration and staff of the college is to be co-operative and remain committed to their efforts to provide students with regular class work and library support. In addition, students are encouraged to participate in co-curricular and extra-curricular activities, to promote overall personal integrity of students.
At present the College offers 14 UG programmes, 7 PG programmes, 1 certificate course and one each of M.Phil and Ph.D. programmes. Despite the restrictions faced in being a government-aided institution, the college has recently started a vocational subject - Foreign Trade and has conducted a computer awareness programme. While there is considerable restriction on diversifying its curriculum and on introducing new courses of study, some attempts are being made to boost the learning abilities of the weaker students, by tutorials and remedial courses for the educationally disadvantaged. Though there are inherent restrictions to offer non-traditional, interdisciplinary courses based on need and aptitude of students, the institution appears to be aware of the handicap and through necessary introspection, has recently started a Student Service Centre for academic and career guidance. Such initiatives are noteworthy. A Bachelor’s course in Cooperation with a component of internship and collaboration with other well-established local cooperative societies and institutions is also a useful need-based course. Many science departments (geology, chemistry, physics, geography and mathematics) and humanities and languages (history, economics, commerce and Tamil) are doing very well in their efforts to reach formal education to students; Within the framework of a restrictive syllabus of an affiliating system, the wards are getting adequately trained. Since the college is affiliated to a young university and has also contributed several learned personnel to serve on the academic bodies of the Periyar University, through their interactions, the future curricular aspects can be suitably and feasibly modified to be socially and temporally relevant.
The creation of formal systems and procedures for periodic curriculum review , reforms, updating and enrichment through open, non-affiliating strategies may be contemplated without any further delay.
Under the constraints of the traditional governmental framework, the institution largely caters for class-room, black-board teaching, supplemented by seminars, discussions, assignments, some projects and field visits. Remedial special classes are regularly held by teachers to benefit the less-able students to complete the course. Bridge courses in English grammar and usage, conducted by the English Department have been of great value to students in their course work. Basic audio-visual aids are also utilized as and when necessary. Following the state government guidelines in admitting students even with very low cutoff percentage, and due to the fact that most of the students are availing themselves of communal merit and/or first generation educational scholarships, the college staff have to put in a lot of effort to even pull up the pass-percentage of the college. The “tutor-ward system”, with adequate data-base on individual students, provides adequate scope for academic and personal counselling of students. That such a mechanism is seriously and meticulously going on for every class of students, in a government college is gratifying.
The annual university examination system is applicable to second and third year UG programme and second year PG programme of the Madras University, while the end of semester examination without internal assessment is followed in the case of first year UG and PG programmes of the Periyar University. Under the framework of university examinations, the periodical assessment is made through class tests, preparatory examinations, objective examinations, and viva voce held by the respective departments. However, the college should introduce a serious component of continuous evaluation to assess the creative capabilities, knowledge, and application of knowledge of students, especially when the institution becomes autonomous. Since many are first-generation learners, there should be an effort to promote methods of problem-solving techniques among students.
Although the teaching faculty is recruited as per the government/UGC norms, the teacher-student ratio is quite satisfactory and, that the faculty is encouraged to attend orientation and subject refresher courses, FIP programmes to update and improve their educational qualifications is gratifying. Out of 147 teachers 34 have Ph.D. degrees and 77 have M.Phil. degrees, and two have served as resource persons in national seminars. That there are hardly any drop-outs at the PG level and the pass percentage is also commendable at the PG level, indicate the efforts of the teachers. Although the teachers have so far not involved themselves in innovative teaching-evaluation methods, that the processes are going on fairly satisfactorily, is an encouraging sign. That the PG students also secure University ranks and rank-related prizes is also to be noted.
Many departments have subject-associations permitting teacher-student participation in seminars and academic interactions. Such activities should have a wider perspective to involve personnel from other institutions.
Although as of now there are no facilities for research, initiation of research programmes is encouraged among staff. With quite a good number of teachers with research degrees, they should utilize their expertise properly and at least start more M.Phil. courses to begin with. Teacher participation in research and student guidance, although not very encouraging at present, can be motivated to reach better levels of activity and achievement in the coming years. Teachers with adequate research qualifications should also be motivated to apply for research grants (minor and/or major research projects) from various funding agencies, to promote both, research activities and publication skills of the teachers. As at present, the college is also not offering any consultancy services. However, Salem being a commercial/business centre, there must be avenues open to the faculty to interact and bring about feasible industry-institution collaborations in the years to come. Once the research culture is initiated, collaborative ventures can also be promoted and made more meaningful.
Some teachers in the commerce, economics and history departments are engaged in publishing research papers and presenting papers in conferences/seminars. Books were published by faculty members in Tamil, English and history departments. Articles on higher education, curriculum design and human resource development written by teachers are published in newspapers.
Both the NCC and the NSS units of the college have been doing commendable service, many students faring very well in competitive participation at the regional and national levels. The NSS unit has adopted a nearby village - Agrahara Natarmangalam, where yeoman community service through construction of roads, etc has been initiated.
So far, the community extension activities of the college (blood donation, AIDS awareness, pulse polio camps) have been routed through the NSS and NCC, and through the officers-in-charge of the said activities. It is apparent that students take part in extension activities, but it is felt that the teachers and students can together gear up the extension activities even further.
The college has adequate space for infrastructurel expansion. A recently constructed centenary building provides space for classrooms. For the present, the infrastructure provided to the students and teachers is rather inadequate. Campus maintenance and augmentation of the infrastructure are a part of keeping pace with the academic growth of the institution. Therefore, in the years to come, more buildings (including additional class rooms and an auditorium) and laboratories with better and more modern equipment and an exclusive building to house the library should be built. At present, the infrastructurel facilities are put to optimum use through running of the evening degree courses, and the college is a centre for running the Madras University correspondence contact programmes.
The library is just enough to cater for the immediate needs of staff and students. Multiple copies of source and newer text books and laboratory manuals should be added, (preferably in English & Tamil) as also written by reputed authors, (both Indian and overseas), to facilitate the requirements of students. The institution should also work towards computerization and inter-library link up, for the benefit of both, the students and the faculty. A proper standard cataloging of the library resources should be undertaken. The library is also grossly understaffed to handle a student strength of over 2500 and teachers.
The library, the academic nerve center of a college may be made vibrant and modern to enable full use by students and faculty. Online service, journals, text books, standard overseas books may be stacked as soon as possible.
Since the college has acquired a few computers in the department of computer science and statistics, in due course of time, faculty (both teaching and non-teaching) should be made computer literate and computer-aided teaching-learning and library-linkage packages must be developed. Since the college can boast of a host of highly placed alumni, with some efforts from the Principal and faculty, and the required enterprise, both, the alumni and the business centres in and around the Salem town can be approached to lend a helping hand in developing a central computer centre in the college so that students of the region can acquire the much-needed computer knowledge at subsidised rates within the campus itself.
The GAC student Cooperative stores and Government college teachers welfare office located on the campus have been functioning satisfactorily. Developing a feasible health centre and an effective Student Service Centre would be highly rewarding in the coming years. Sports and physical education services offered by the college are quite satisfactory. A number of intercollegiate, state-level and national level sportsmen have been produced and the college certainly can boast of this performance. If only some sports and NCC performance related scholarships and awards could be generated through philanthropists of the area, the performance of students can be made highly competitive and effective.
Although the dropout rate is within reasonable limits, the pass percentage of the UG end examination is not encouraging. The undergraduate pass percentage in the departments of computer science, geology, geography, history, commerce and cooperation is fairly high. This only points-out that there should be more remedial and bridge courses to be instituted by the college so that slow-learners fare better. The pass percentage at the PG is quite satisfactory. There is a formal tutorial system of the class-in-charge-faculty gathering adequate student-related information on personal, academic and co-curricular activities. A feasible mechanism for appraisal/feedback from students would also be beneficial in corrective student support measures. Majority of the students get one or the other of the scholarships available. That there is a large number of alumni placed in very high and socially significant positions speaks volumes about what can be expected by a strong alumni association. A formal alumni association was started only in 1998, after over a century of the existence of the institution. Although it is better late than never, the alumni may come together and involve themselves in a healthy institution-building process and develop this age-old institution of historical repute, into an enviable institution of higher learning.
Being a Government-aided institution, the organisation and functions of the Management and functionaries are all clearly spelt out. Though it is regulated by governmental policies from time to time, the faculty position at present is satisfactory. Performance appraisal is through annual confidential reports sought from the faculty. The Principal encourages the faculty to interact with Peers in several committees. There is a continuous audit system and there has been no major fee structure change in the recent past. The college has regularly publishes the college calendar.
Since the college is desirous of securing autonomy, a well visualised master plan should be developed. It is also necessary to start a placement cell and a functional parent-teacher association. At present the council addresses issues pertaining to student grievances and such a system seems to be working satisfactorily. Although there is no formal grievance-redressal cell, that one student has been rusticated due to misconduct in the college, indicates that the discipline in the college is fairly satisfactory. The college should acquire modern media facility for speedier communication.
The Government Arts College, Salem caters for the higher educational needs of socially and economically backward sections of the neighbourhood. Efforts taken by teachers to maintain satisfactoring good academic standards were highly appreciated by parents, alumni and students. The relatively lower and more affordable cost of higher education is a salient feature of the college. The Peer Team observed healthy relationships amongst the faculty members.
The following are the important healthy practices observed by the peer team:
· Introduction of need-based courses viz. B.Sc. in computer science, B.Sc. and M.Sc. in geology, B.A. in co-operation, B.A. in economics with foreign trade as ancillary subject (vocational)
· Offering a computer awareness programme for teaching and non-teaching staff
· Coaching classes for failed candidates to re-appear in supplementary examinations of the university
· Bridge courses in English for undergraduate students.
· Cleanliness of the classrooms and hostel and surroundings and reasonably well maintained buildings
· Tutorial system to provide academic and personal counselling to students
· High esteem of the institution by its performance and service to society
· Importance given to extra-curricular activities like NCC, NSS, Sports and Games
· Welfare measures available to staff and students through co-operative societies
These healthy practices have helped to maintain a congenial atmosphere for higher education in the College.
The Government Arts College [GAC] at Salem is situated in the heart of Salem Town, and is easily accessible to all. It is nearly 120 years old. Established in the pre-independence period, in educationally backward district of Tamil Nadu, GAC has continuously and relentlessly striven towards its primary goal of reaching higher education to the socially and economically weaker sections of the local population. Dedicated efforts of its teaching faculty in lift up the morale, confidence and educational standards of its students, through stubborn practices of formal class-room teaching and ‘one-to-one’, ‘tutor-to-ward’ monitoring has yielded commendable socio-cultural results. The long–list of achievers from its alma matter, the nostalgic attachment that its old students have for their teachers, the tremendous confidence in the institution which parents have reposed in the college, coupled with the satisfaction that the present students have expressed, all point to one fact - the institution is held in high esteem by the community. For a Government institution, with its inherent restraints and handicaps, it must be highly satisfying that the community looks up to this college with reverence and expectations.
The Government Arts College of Salem has a good infrastructurel and organisational set up for the courses that are offered at present. However, a need is felt for diversifying its courses and curricular contents to include modern, need-based and interdisciplinary components. Such a diversification can be achieved through autonomy which the institution has planned to seek. At present, there is limited scope for innovative teaching-learning and evaluation methods, largely due to the restraints of the present system of Management. At present, the emphasis is on maintaining regular classes, stabilizing discipline on campus and completing the academic load as per the calendar schedule. Given an opportunity and freedom to diversify and design its own course content, the institution has the potential to excel. Being a long-standing institution, now affiliated to a very young Periyar University, much can be expected in the years to come, provided the faculty support in terms of teaching-aids and research facilities are augmented adequately.
For any growing institution, it is necessary to keep pace with recent developments in academics. A better library facility with additional resource books of repute, library-linkages and computerisation of library data-base should be developed to strengthen the academic expectations of the students.
The large component of qualified faculty, require motivation to involve in research endeavours and publication skills. It is also necessary to setup a placement cell, build a feasible parent-teacher association and a strong alumni association - all of which would be contribute to the growth of the institution.
The Peer Team commends the Government Arts College, Salem for the following aspects
· Experienced, senior-level dedicated teachers impart satisfactory class-room teaching and training.
· A well organised “tutor-ward system” reaches out to all students, both in academic and personal counselling, including information dissemination to parents if need be.
· Affordable higher education benefiting the socially and economically weaker sections of society.
· Active NCC, NSS and physical education programmes.
· Promotion of computer education.
· The sound educational and cultural traditions on which the age-old institution stands to serve the needy.
The Peer Team however wishes to record the following additional inputs as recommendation for building up the institution to greater heights.
· Infrastructural development in terms of more class rooms, better laboratory facilities and modern equipment, a separate library building and an auditorium.
· Opportunity for curricular design and development possibly under an autonomous status
· Improvement of research facilities to the faculty and motivating teachers to publish their work and undertake individual/group research projects.
· A formal placement / counselling centre to augment personality development of the students.
· More funding to initiate field oriented extension activities and field visits in require subject areas.