India saw media boom since 1990, when the country’s economy opened up and several media outlets were started to keep pace with the communication revolution that taking place around that time in the world.
The demand for media professional created opportunities and those who aspired to join media profession came from all hues of educational background.
In the media industry degrees were just piece of paper sans any weight. Irrespective of the educational background, people were taken into media industry based on their abilities and merit. Survival of the fittest remained the thumb rule in media industry.
The huge demand for media professionals in 1990s necessitated educational institutions to set up media studies departments. At this stage, teachers were taken from the media profession to train the media professionals.
In my case, I had UG, PG, MPhil, PhD, and NET in History; because of the easy availability of employment. I joined the media profession because it was the most happening thing that was happening at that point of time. Frankly, job in History department was not so easy and I got fed up looking for jobs.
In the media profession, when I reached a mid-career level, Colleges in Chennai called me to teach media modules as their regular teachers were unable to handle them. That’s how my journey to teaching media courses begun.
When I was working with a local TV channel in Chennai, Manipal University called me to teach Television Journalism. They preferred me over regular teachers as they wanted their students to get trained professionally and become job ready.
Similarly, the Chancellor of the VELS University appointed me as the Director of the School of Mass Communication to establish media departments.
The SSS Jain College Chennai bend its rules and took me in this Women’s College to teach Visual Communication. The Madras University took me in their panel to correct copies of BSc Visual Communication.
The rule of same subject specialization came for appointments of teachers. It was not a ‘one size fits all’ rule but it was mindlessly followed. It clearly specified that those with proven abilities in media field and with high academic degree in any field can be considered for teaching media courses.
However, academic institutions started blindly following ‘one size fits all' criteria for appointing media teachers as well. They had little understanding of the scope and purpose of media studies. This criterion barred the media professionals from teaching profession. This prompted appointments of teachers with relevant degrees and no media exposure.
As a result of such criteria, a great injustice was caused to the student community aspiring to join media industry. They became bereft of teachers having high degree of media experience.
A realization is now coming about the futility of ‘one size fits all’ criteria, when students are moving to private institutions where media professionals are teaching media courses. They are scornful of appointing media teachers and rejection of media professionals.
Students prefer professionals because media is a vocational course and those with vast exposure to media industry can only do justice to this course. It is also because the scope of this course is multidisciplinary in nature.
As far as I am concerned, the same degree criteria came to haunt me some time ago. This prompted me to get a degree in Masters in Journalism and Mass Communication to fulfill the criteria. However, those with fixed mind set still demand UG, PG, MPhil, PhD degrees in same subject. This was becoming problem for me as I was ineligible as media teacher. Now at this stage, I cannot go back to get those degrees to qualify the eligibility. So I moved to the position of ‘Principal’ National College of Design.
I am enjoying teaching media courses and training students to become media professionals. That is for me the way out to survive in the media teaching profession.
However, I feel it’s high time that “One Size fits All” criteria should be relaxed for media professionals to teach media courses. A mix of faculties should be there as it will help the students to be trained by the right people media and make a mark in the media profession.
So I call upon those sitting in judgment to appoint a media teacher to consider appointment of media professional of high academic caliber in to the media department.
A stand alone criterion can be made for media professionals. Those with proven media skills with high academic degree should be encouraged to teach media courses. Insisting on media degree for teaching media is in fact doing disservice to the student’s community. “One Size fits All” criteria should be reviewed for teaching media courses.
[Syed Ali Mujtaba works as Principal’ of National College of Design, Chennai. He is a senior Journalist and can be contacted at email@example.com]