Wednesday, 24 February 2016

For once, A Counterpoint... ;-)

The moment I stepped into the salubrious portals of the 'techno-campus' of the mighty Saveetha University on Saturday, 20 February 2016, I was in awe – [like every visitor is, I guess], - at the gigantic analogous clock that must be at least 30 feet in diameter, with a wonderful garden ensconced within its two huge hands – made exclusively of diverse yet real species of crotons that give a peculiar beauty to the clock, and also an element of awe to the entrance to the second best private university in India. I was here for a forenoon of deliberations and interactions with the faculty of the Engineering College, and by all means, the faculty at Saveetha are a distinct lot – cordial in temperament, dignified in hospitality and highly efficient in their communication capabilities. Thanks to Dr. Rosalia Bonjour, Professor & Head of the Dept of Humanities, who was there right from the start, with her endearing nature! She scored full brownie points when she asked,

‘Sir, was coffee served to you?’

No, mam ;-)

Shall I get some for you?

Sure. With pleasure ;-)

That was my first cuppa though!

Later, when we met up with the principal of Saveetha Engineering College, Dr. Ganesan – a cordial and dynamic personality - I was doubly overjoyed, when he, for the second time, ordered for a cuppa hot coffee! *My bad! Me and my coffee ;-)*

Dr. E. N. Ganesan was very proud of the achievements of his staff and said that an investment in good and committed staff is equally important because it adds to the enhancement of the learning experience and benefits the ‘product-consumer’ - the student! ‘In fact the student should be the recipient of all the efforts that we the teachers invest on improving their prospects in communication skills amongst a host of other skills!’ he quipped.

In fact, this set my thought-process wandering… nay wondering!!!

And the article that follows has no connection whatsoever with my visit to Saveetha!

The views expressed are purely personal and I stand by it too J

YES, I was quite interested in the observation that he made on students as ‘product consumers’!

Well, the metaphor of student as product-consumer has become a frequently used idiom in academic parlance, more so in the domain of higher education. There are educationists and educational reformers who have made open suggestions in support of this viewpoint when they say: “If we can look upon a company or a service-provider like Airtel or Flipkart as being customer- or consumer-oriented, why can't we do the same for the college and university”?

This particular brand of academicians in fact highly condemn and denounce the spoon-feeding approach to education which treats the students as passive receivers, with no active engagement whatsoever, in the knowledge framework!

Moreover, these ‘consumer-approach’-oriented academicians feel that the teacher would indeed be doing justice to students by being more democratic when they let students decide for themselves what is best suited for them and what curriculum best meets their needs from their viewpoints. At the same time, there are also critics who question the very rationale behind this move, as they fear the student might not be well-placed at such a young age to decide for themselves their needs and wants!

I strongly feel that, the consumer-centric approach has inherent drawbacks too! Well, to elaborate: In marketing terminology, consumer/customer satisfaction is the deciding factor of a quality product or service. If consumer satisfaction is taken as the rubric that governs the academic quality standards, then, it is felt that, satisfaction in academics is not quantitative at all! It cannot be judged or analysed by marketing standards! Because a student might feel that a syllabus is quite satisfactory at a particular point in time, may be in her student days, but later on, as their individuation or a mature reasoning develops, she ruminate that, the most difficult courses were the most satisfactory!!!

Also, education is a process that is on-going, and that isn’t time bound, as in the case with a product! A product can be returned within a 30-day warranty period, if found wanting in standard! But education, on the contrary, is something that cannot be returned to the institution! It is an investment!

As such, treating students merely as consumers fails to recognize the fact that the student is a part of the Institution (‘Company,’ in marketing parlance!). The student is just a receiver, and hence a consumer, and hence, they don’t necessarily ‘belong’!

Of course, the distance between students and institutions of higher learning needs to be reduced, and loopholes need to be plugged! Customer satisfaction needs to be one of many intended learning outcomes of product-delivery!

I’m sure students from especially the engineering streams may ride roughshod over me when I make this slightly ‘damaging’ statement!

I mean it when I say it, that ‘Education is NOT a business! Might sound weird to an august few! But Yes! at least for those of us faculty and students who’re with the traditional courses, it isn’t!!!]

No amount of refinement and expertise in packaging and delivering a product can substitute for the genuine care, the tact, warmth, love, affection and passion that the teacher exudes both in and out of their class, to enrich the student, and to make the learning process an experience!

I hope this survey supplements and at the same time vindicates my stand on higher education, especially on the ‘consumer’ approach to students!

Students who see themselves as consumers rather than learners tend to perform more poorly academically, according to a study.

A survey completed by 608 students from 35 English universities formed the basis for the study, published in Studies in Higher Education, that found a “higher consumer orientation was associated with lower academic performance”.

I strongly feel that the ‘value’ of higher education is much more than a mere financial ‘transaction’ between a seller and a consumer!

But if it IS, then, the student is only ‘BUYING’ his/her degree!


  1. very informative. but thats the sad fact! many have come to terms with it. I work for an Arts and Science college, and i feel that the consumer approach is bad! thanks.

  2. thank you Ms. Abinaya! yes, in fact we are a chosen lot a rare lot! and we are quite proud about it too! ;-)
    at the same time, we're equally proud of our peers in the Engineering stream too! They in fact are sometimes quite ahead of us when it comes to learning and research too!

    what we're concerned is only about the consumer-approach that the Managements of the elite Engineering Colleges have taken! that's it!