Why installing CCTV cameras in classrooms is a ludicrous idea

The outdated curricula and misplaced focus in medical colleges needs correction, not constant monitoring.

 |  4-minute read |   06-02-2017
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It was reported few days back that Medical Council of India, the custodian of medical education in India, has mooted the idea of installing closed circuit TV cameras in classrooms of all medical colleges in the country to ensure maintenance of teaching standards. Not only that, this idea could fall in the basket of "minimum requirement" for new medical colleges to get permission to open. This idea is ridiculous, dangerous and illogical to say the least and should be stopped right in its infancy.

Firstly, this proposed idea aims to address teacher absenteeism, a persistent problem in medical colleges. But installing such cameras to monitor teacher presence is ludicrous. There are plenty of ways to ensure attendance, including the use of biometric or other technology to check for absenteeism, but to follow the teacher from entering the college to the classroom is not at all essential. Plus, only showing up to the class is not a sure-shot method of ensuring better teaching quality.

Secondly, the MCI ambitiously aims at checking the quality of teaching by installing these CCTV cameras. That medical education in India is in a crisis is well known and teaching standards are below par in a huge number of institutions. But to suggest that MCI will monitor teachers for their teaching skills, which cannot be formula based and is a diverse activity, is outright unbelievable. Unless the core problem of quality teachers, appropriate pedagogy and related issues are not addressed, any amount of monitoring will not make a poor teacher a great one.

Thirdly, there are about 398 medical colleges in India across both private and government sector. It is common knowledge how pathetic the state of infrastructure is in many of them. Does the apex body now suggests that it has the technology, the wherewithal, the manpower, to get CCTV feed from tens of thousands of classrooms of all the medical colleges and that it is equipped to analyse them for teaching standards as it suggests? The answer can only be imaginative.

medbd_020617112249.jpg The pedagogical principles need revisiting not placing cameras.

Fourthly, such surveillance increases the risk of harassment, both of individuals and institutions. Government regulators have many tricks up the rule book to persecute whom they will. Situations where institutions have been red-marked for having a room which is two inches (yes, two inches) less than as prescribed, are common. Putting people on constant watch, especially those who have called out the corrupt practices of MCI is to provide a tool that can be misused.

Fifthly, such a move disrespects the privacy of a large number of individuals. Putting people under constant watch is directly against basic tenets of privacy. With more than 50,000 young people studying each year in these classrooms, who will ensure that there will not be misuse of the live feed that comes from their classrooms? With big data taking care of a lot of things these days, will dossiers of individual teachers and students be available for later use or rather misuse? At this stage there are more alarming questions than answers about this move by MCI.

Lastly, and importantly, falling on such ridiculous ideas is testimony to the failure of the medical education regulator. The screening process for teachers during recruitment needs overhaul, not surveillance. The pedagogical principles need revisiting not placing cameras. The outdated curricula and misplaced focus in learning needs correction, not constant monitoring. The objective assessment of institutions sans whims and fancies of inspectors needs to be institutionalised, not mounting cameras all around.

One might ask why should a teacher be against CCTV monitoring if one is doing their job as required. It is important to understand there is a social contract between students and teachers. What transpires in a classroom is very vital in learning (the absence of it too). Having Big Daddy watch above one’s shoulder constantly is to make that space restrictive. While a teacher should at any point of time be ready to demonstrate her teaching skills to anyone required, being suspicious about it and subjecting her to constant surveillance is unwarranted.

Better sense should prevail and MCI should quietly let go of this absurd idea. This move if implemented would stand to be questioned, and rightly so, in a court of law citing privacy issues. Such measures are only stopgap arrangements to brush away core concerns and are against the principle of autonomy which the finance minister in his Budget 2017 speech said would be granted in greater doses to higher education institutions.

Fixing CCTV in classrooms is not a panacea for what ails medical education in the country. It is a drug which does not cure and has serious side effects.

Also read: Why a quota in the IITs is the last thing that women need

Writer

Sambit Dash Sambit Dash @sambit_dash

The writer is a teacher at Manipal University.

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