Doctoral learning missing in arts education
Prof. Indrapramit Roy, 19 Jul 2014
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Indrapramit Roy

Asst. Professor of Painting

Faculty of Fine Arts

MS University of Baroda

THE state of art education in India is inversely proportional to the heights that contemporary art is reaching in India. The exponential growth in the number of Universities offering Fine Arts tells nothing of the indifferent quality of many. Historically the first university to formally offer Fine Arts was Maharaj Sayajirao University of Baroda in 1951. From then onward many universities have started Fine Arts departments all over the country. But as with much of the state of higher education in this country the quantity has hardly helped creating quality. The fundamental problems seem to be growing bigger by the day. The fact that some ­­are under All India Council for technical Education while the majority are administered by UGC is indicative of the policy confusion.


What’s missing in arts education?    

The curriculum does not reflect contemporary art developments. For instance, none offer courses of interdisciplinary nature but are happy to perpetuate divisions such as painting, sculpture and print making while art in the world over is increasingly multi-disciplinary. Looking at the syllabi and courses will have you believe that all visual art can be neatly categorized into these departments and no such thing exist as new media, installations or performance art. The courses offered in Art History or theory is also thoroughly inadequate and archaic. Lack of resources and lack of incentive to change and adopt the best practices exacerbated by excessive centralised regulation and outmoded procedure is leading art education at the highest level to merely exist.


Expanding knowledge
There have been a slew of new directives from the UGC in the past few years that has only compounded the problems. Take for instance the insistence on PhDs for appointment of professors. Professionals in art or for that matter design should be encouraged to get involved in teaching and that is the way to keep art education at its creative best. Most artists and design professionals do not go for doctoral degrees simply because there are no practise based doctoral degrees available in this country and PhD necessarily means Art Historical research. In the name of bringing quality to Art education the UGC in its wisdom has managed to not only freeze new recruitment but also made career advancement of best teachers a nightmare in one big sweep.

Dire need of art journals

The API (academic performance indicator) score necessary for promotions is a classic case in point where nomenclature borrowed from other disciplines grafted on art education is proving to be utterly nonsensical. There exist no such thing as ‘peer reviewed journal’ in art and yet one is expected to publish in such journals! The word ‘Publication’ excludes artwork, design work or any such visual inputs. The privileging of the written word over all else is indicative of the overwhelming bias that is detrimental to disciplines such as visual art. There are numerous instances of this overly bureaucratic and myopic attitude that is being imposed in the mistaken belief that one size fits all kinds of academic needs. Art education is going through one of the worst crisis and there is urgent need to look into all aspects such as policy, curriculum, teacher recruitment and funding and listen to the voices of the stakeholders.

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