Sabbatical leave to boost research; report to UGC

Sabbatical leave for mid-career teachers is among the recommendations made by the 4-member panel headed by Professor P Balaram, former director, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, to the University Grants Commission (UGC). 

Entitled, “Promoting and improving quality of research in Indian universities and colleges” the report further elaborates that universities and colleges should develop action programs for pursuing research and writing. The “rigorous but generous program” seeks to push mid-career teachers to conduct original research and write the results in books and monographs.

Sabbatical leave effectively increases more quality research work by teachers at the mid-career level, states P Balaram and identified how sabbatical leave for teachers would increase access to original research work and result in more books written.

Sabbatical leave for mid-career teachers is a means of encouraging high-quality research in diverse fields. The report to the Commission states that roadmaps be created to actualize more research studies. For instance, sabbatical awards for mid-career level could be planned both for universities and colleges.

Competitive Sabbatical leave awards

Mid-career national level sabbatical leaves will be awarded on a competitive basis for a year. The screening process will enable 50-100 faculty-members to pursue research which may also provide an “opportunity for faculty to build collaborative contacts with major national and international institutions”.

There is an ongoing discussion in Senate on the sabbatical leave benefit to teachers who have less than three years of service. Those who have less than three years of service but more than one year of service before superannuation could get “sabbatical leave up to six months”.

A rider has been proposed where “the plan of work/program should be submitted only to academic/administrative committees of the department concerned”. After approval, the case will be put up before the VC, and then it is referred to the Leave Cases Committee. There is no change in the rest of the regulations for sabbatical leave.

In the same way, other practices that are worth promoting in the education sector include the creation of a curriculum system of assessment.

Others include encouraging academic excellence and integrity, promoting the use of technology and media platforms. Also, developing pedagogics, remedial teaching, and the use of vernacular languages are other recommendations made to the Commission.

An Improvement Area

Steve Wozniak observed in his visit to India that students pass through school without improvement to their creativity. The Apple co-founder blamed this lack of creativity in the educational culture, which is a very predictable one “go through school, make good grades, and get a good job.” Creativity and innovative abilities are skills that must be acquired and nurtured in the school environment, he emphasized.

This observation by Wozniak is supported by data from the UN’s World Intellectual Property Indicators (WIPO). In the WIPO report in 2017, it was noted that foreign nationals dominated more of the patents granted in India, accounting for more than 85%.

The papers released by India are the least cited among the top countries, the data shows. Elsevier’s latest Research Intelligence report, which was compiled in 2018, places India in the fifth position for scientific research, while also noting that the country has shown a continuous rise in the past few years.

Between 2014 and 2017, India produced 5,64,369 publications in various subjects, 16.7 percent (about 94,249) of which were published in the top journals in the world, the Elsevier report said. There was international collaboration in 16.2 percent of the total publications, it adds.

For clarification…

A sabbatical is a break from work, often paid and usually lasting between a couple of months and a year.

When contemplating (if entitled to a sabbatical leave), use the time to acquire additional skills and experience and show your employer that you will return as an improved employee.

By taking a sabbatical, be aware of the risk of losing your job, unless stated in the contract. Some contracts do not indicate the compliance to re-employ a returnee, as this contractual commitment is not written in for commercial reasons.