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sc-arts-college-articleMajority of colleges in Manipur (fully funded or aided by State Government) are created as Arts and Science colleges and few of them also offer Commerce degree courses. They must be operated more innovatively to deliver development of the state (similar to the ways how professional degree colleges are managed and perceived). Their presence must bring about socio-economic impact locally around the towns wherein these colleges are located in Manipur. The course contents and delivery approach followed by these colleges must not blindly copy whatever and however is being taught elsewhere, and instead the overall goal must be for a ‘fit for purpose’ relevance to the local scenario. They need to be reoriented towards ‘applied studies’ approach so that ‘non-professional degree’ graduates produced in Manipur are empowered to become job creators within Manipur in their field of study. Special consideration must be also given to employment standards of staffs (i.e. academic and non-academics) and feasibility of sharing teaching infrastructures on external knowledge exchange activities.
Highlights of current Higher Education (HE) scenario in Manipur may include ‘negligible student numbers in colleges’, ‘non-employability of graduates out of colleges’, ‘unmotivated academics and lack of professional support staffs in colleges’, ‘poorly maintained infrastructures in colleges’, ‘negligible socio-economic impact because of a college’s presence in a region when compared to the public budget being spent annually on staff salaries and maintenance of the college’. It’s doubtful whether any official or Hon’ble Minister of Education in the Government of Manipur has analysed the principle questions such as ‘why a student has to go to a college/University after school education’, or ‘how attending a course in a local college add values to the students as compared to attending a distance learning course from a reputed institution elsewhere’, or ‘how skill training and vocational courses are aligned to degree courses so that graduates can experience both aspects during the three years degree course’ or ‘should colleges in Manipur run courses with contents as same as those running in other states of India’, or ‘should colleges be only about teaching students or be used for socio-economic development agenda’.
State Government seems to believe that ‘facilitating setup of few private universities in Manipur is the only and best way forward to improve HE scenario in Manipur’ and ‘new HE policy means focusing only on private university setup’. Such standalone policy without rectifying the core HE policies is rather likely to fuel further deterioration to social values and economy of Manipur; because the State Government has failed to recognise the ‘in-principle’ connection between ‘the presence of a local university/college’ and ‘the purpose of a local student to attend a local university/college’. The guiding doctrine for a new HE policy ought to be such that ‘the policy facilitates a youth to empower self to create own career even if the graduate is unable to be absorbed into the available job market (in Government services or Private Company jobs) due to whatever reasons after their graduation from the HE institutions’.
The foremost essential action for Government of Manipur to revive dying non-professional degree colleges in Manipur and aspire for a new HE scenario which is fit for the 21st century is to restructure ‘Department of University and Higher Education’ towards new roles and responsibilities, along with bringing changes in certain areas of HE policies as explained in this paper. Such a suggestion is because of the fact that overall operational control of these colleges (incl. topics of staffs employment, infrastructure management, Higher Education policies, student admissions, student welfare measures) are under this department in the Government of Manipur, while the role of Manipur University (a Central University under Ministry of Human Resource Development) over these colleges is limited only to awarding of degree certificates by holding examinations because of their affiliation to the university.
A 21st Century’s HE policy needs to consider various aspects such as: ‘employment norm of academic staffs to be practice-led researcher/tutor’, ‘expanding roles and accountability of a College Principal’, ‘administrative staffs to support non-academic responsibilities professionally at colleges (esp. estates and socio-economic impact agenda)’, ‘bonus/reward schemes and additional project funding pots to motivate/increase contribution by academics’, ‘centralised web-based learning course materials (video, audio, text) accessible to students via mobile or online’, ‘modular classrooms for dual-use purposes (i.e. teaching as well as external knowledge exchange) and flexibility to use joint learning infrastructures among colleges’, ‘accessibility of teaching staffs by students from other colleges’, ‘local job creation and economic development’, ‘involvement of local authorities in planning/delivering HE activities’. HE as a sector doesn’t work in silo and aligning HE policies to the agendas of other ministries (such as commerce and industries, social welfare, science and technology, tourism) are essential. HE institutions serve only as temporary transit point for youths from their homes to the real society/industry.
In order to capture how HE institutions are delivering towards their intended mandates, a systematic measurement framework ought to be created (e.g. in UK, Teaching Excellence Framework, Research Excellence Framework, Knowledge Exchange Framework are used). Such an approach will help in measuring ‘teaching/learning outputs by students at each college, whether fit for purpose later in the society/industry’, ‘research/knowledge-exchange activities by academics and support staffs at each college’, ‘utilisation of college/university assets for local economies’, ‘alignment with NAAC and NIRF exercises conducted by Central Government authorities’, ‘effectiveness of programmes created for own agenda by other ministries to compliment HE agenda at each college/university’, etc.
With the growth of IT/Internet, and availability of hi-tech mobile devices at the disposal of students, a new infrastructural approach of providing learning system is necessary. The role of academics in colleges must be changed from ‘teaching’ to ‘supporting’. Infrastructures of colleges must be designed for dual usage by staffs/students as well as nearby public users. Various courses and infrastructures planned under the agendas of other skills training institutes, ITIs (Industrial Training Institutes), and professional colleges must align with the plans of nearby HE institutions. Staff support Intranet Portals should be made available (incl. new ‘Train the Trainer’ type courses). Also, it’s time to update roles and responsibilities of a College Principal by adding new accountabilities on socio-economic impact agenda to the local region via effective utilisation of available assets of the respective colleges and contribution by academic/non-academic staffs. Establishment of new local advisory boards to colleges is essential to facilitate such impact agenda with local governing Municipal councils.
Curriculum design and delivery structure may consider including ‘research project submission as form of examination’, ‘case-study based teaching’, ‘research paper on local industry/sector professionals as coursework test’, ‘non-tutor-led course materials for self-study’, ‘interventional add-on modules on skills trainings (e.g. centrally managed ‘web-based/video-audio’ courses and subsidised crash courses at some physical centres)’, ‘web-based intranet for all students and tutors similar to web-based distance learning systems’. One time investment may be necessary on the development of course materials and teaching/learning delivery system (e.g. ‘Blackboard’ software). Fixed dates on academic semesters should be maintained annually for all relevant activities at each colleges irrespective of any potential disruptive issues. Clarity of information necessary for use by students or parents of students or staffs should be maintained by the Department of University and Higher Education through dedicatedly designed Intranets and web-portals.
Thus, an overhaul of HE policy is necessary to make the current colleges in Manipur (delivering Arts, Sciences, and Commerce courses) relevant to local graduates. Otherwise, neither students are benefiting nor local towns where these colleges are located. Yet, huge expense is going out every year from the state budget to pay salaries of the staffs and maintenance of college assets without making much return to the society.
About the Author:
Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA, LLM) is an Innovation Consultant based at Leicester (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/MSMEs in Manipur.
For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com
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Newspaper report says ‘the budget for organising Sangai Festivel 2017 was Rs. 7 (seven) crores’. Since the amount spent for the festival was huge and the fund was allocated from public money, it does make sense for any Indian citizen to ask the simple query – ‘Is Rs. 7 crores worth spending on the Sangai festival annually, and what does Manipur’s public gain or lose by having the festival?’ The best approach to answer this question is through having ‘a Sangai Festival Impact Study (SFI) framework tool’ that provides an objective and scientific analysis of the impact of each edition of the Sangai Festival. This approach will ensure every Indian citizen (esp. a Manipuri resident) to have a holistic perspective on the purpose of having the ‘Sangai Festival’ without the influence of any ‘political rhetoric’ and ‘biased views’ (which may been created because of the interests of few personals or groups associated with organizing the festival).

SangaiFestival_2017

As a baseline, analysis of the impact study can be done under two scenarios – ‘with the festival’ and ‘without the festival’. In simple terms, these two scenarios means ‘Where could have we spent that Rs. 7 crores in case we didn’t have the festival and still achieve similar/better outcomes for Manipur’s public by having another project/programme instead?’ or ‘How best was Rs. 7 crores spent by conducting which specific activities as part of the festival, and how far those activities enabled realizing the essential impact factors as envisaged under overall objectives of having the festival?’. The word ‘tourism’, as per the Oxford’s English Dictionary, means ‘the commercial organization and operation of holidays and visits to places of interest’, and the specialized agency of the United Nations ‘World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) professes the simple definition of ‘sustainable tourism’ as ‘the tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities’. These two meanings highlight that tourism involves ‘management of certain activities involving money in a commercial setting’ and tourism activities ought to be made ‘sustainable’ for long term benefits especially for the local community’.

Compared to last editions of the Sangai Festival, there are few changes in the approach of how the Sangai Festival 2017 was organized, such as ‘new events at more venues (incl. those outside the usual venues within the Imphal municipal areas)’, ‘The SangaiRun to promote Loktak Lake and the Keibul Lamjao National Park’, ‘efficient usage of promotional means (incl. YouTube videos, dedicated websites, online ticketing system, publication on national print media, discussion on radio as well as TV showrooms, special invites to national and international delegates), ‘having the North East Development Summit at Imphal during the Sangai festival period and inviting the Hon’ble President of India to open the Summit’s ceremony’. It was laudable gesture that Her Excellency ‘the Governor of Manipur’ also adorned dress costumes of various ethnic groups in Manipur on various Sangai Festival events and hold heartedly championed those events. Visitors from outside Manipur (nationally and internationally) and local visitors to the event venues gave positive feedbacks about the activities of the Sangai Festival 2017 as well as possible improvements to the festival in future and limitations of the current 2017 festival. At the closing phase of the 2017 festival, the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Manipur also made an announcement regarding the intent of including more venues located in hill districts in the next Sangai Festival 2018 (such as cherry blossoms and flower festivals of Mao in Senapati district).

The Manipur State Government ought to engage a consultancy firm/institution that specializes in delivering impact studies of major projects/programmes by deploying economic and social research methodologies. Similar examples of such impact study report can be availed by searching ‘Olympic Games Impact Study’ on ‘Google Search engine’ (e.g. Pre-Games Report and Post-Games Report from the Economic & Social Research Council, UK). Such impact study report shows ingredients of what an impact study framework tool comprises. For a sustainable Tourism in Manipur, the Sangai Festival Impact Study (SFI) framework tool ought to be developed by identifying ‘pre-defined impact indicators’ spread across three internationally recognized areas of sustainable development – economic, socio-cultural and environmental. These indicators can be categorized into mandatory and optional, and each indicator ought to have a context (i.e. the area/topic of measurement) and an event indicator (i.e. the trigger / measuring factor). The period to be considered for measuring impact can be of three phases: Pre-Event (maybe covering ‘1 to 6’ months prior to the particular Sangai Festival), During-the-Event, and the Post-Event (maybe covering ‘1 to 6’ months after the particular Sangai Festival), and the duration of each phase may be considered appropriately.

Few possible indicators of the SFI under the economic agenda may be ‘employment by economic activity related to the festival’, ‘Tourist stay in private guest houses, and accommodation occupancy rate in local hotels’, ‘traffic at airport and bus/taxi terminals’, ‘size and number of not-for-profit/companies involved in the festival’, ‘nature of public spending during the festival and debts/expenses incurred by the State Government as part of the festival’, and ‘income earning of local people (incl. Emas/mothers at Keithels/markets) and those in the non-organized sectors’. Possible indicators of the SFI under the environment agenda may be ‘vehicle air pollution and surge of vehicle traffic due to the festival’, ‘solid waste disposal and public hygiene quality’, ‘utilization of local community and private resources (incl. ‘community halls, or equipment for meetings or leisure centers’ for a hiring fee)’, ‘utilization of Government owned public resources (incl. vehicles, auditoriums)’. The Socio-cultural agenda for the SFI may include indicators such as ‘poverty and social upliftment because of the festival’, ‘crime rates during the festival’, ‘volunteers to the festival’, ‘opinion polls on the festival’, ‘participation of local, national and foreign tourists’. Such indicators can be pre-designed for the current Sangai Festival and be improved (i.e. deleted/inserted) based on inputs from future festivals. By having a scoring system which is factually based on relevant data, we can have a holistic perspective of whether a particular Sangai Festival has been successful and up to what extent it has achieved the intended target points on each pre-defined indicator.

The Sangai Festival ought to bring about sustainable socio-economic development for the people of Manipur (esp. bringing positive impact to those at the bottom of the Pyramid in terms of economic parity and social inclusion). Infrastructures created as part of the Sangai Festival ought to be of multipurpose utility beyond the festival period by public and the event venues may be planned across various districts of Manipur State so as to leave behind valuable infrastructures for the local communities after the conclusion of the Sangai Festival of a particular year. This approach will support the socio-economic development agenda of the State Government, in addition to the intended tourism development agenda through the Sangai Festival. The Sangai Festival ought to have provisions of including the possible services of local population (i.e. private individuals as well as local clubs) so as to bring about socio-economic benefits to the local community in addition to those officially sub-contracted business people and corporate firms for the Sangai Festival. Active participation of local transport associations (of buses, wingers, auto-rickshaws) and private tour operators (incl. event organizers of various cultural and sports activities) ought to be provisioned in the plan for the Sangai Festival so that the ultimate benefits will be passed on to the public at large instead of few contractors associated to the Sangai Festival. What really is essential regarding the hoisting of such ‘Sangai Festival’ is to have an absolute clarity of ‘what the overall objectives are and the extent of festival’s scope’, because it is not a common sense approach to spend the large sum of Rs 7 crores to entertain ourselves for few days at the opportunity cost of investing the same amount on other valuable ventures such as ‘creating new coal-tarred roads, or new hospitals, or new school/college buildings, or new local micro-financing funds for uplifting poverty at villages’.

Indeed, the Sangai Festival can act as the platform for Manipuris (currently residing within Manipur and at various global cities) to get together and contribute towards the socio-economic development of the villages (and local communities) within Manipur, if we appropriately plan and execute the festival with a clear purpose to justify all possible opportunity costs. Otherwise, the festival will better serve the interest of few contractors and government officials (incl. ministers/MLAs) as compared to public at large in Manipur. Thus, it is essential that the state government creates an effective ‘Sangai Festival Impact Study (SFI)’ framework tool sooner than later so that there is clarity and transparency in the purpose of conducting the annual Sangai Festival by spending large sum of public money which could been spent on other relevant projects for the people of Manipur.

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA, LLM) is an Innovation Consultant based at Leicester (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/MSMEs in Manipur. For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com

 

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