LIS Education in South Asia with special reference to India
Dr. Trishanjit Kaur
Department of Library and Information Science
Punjabi University, Patiala
The pivotal role that education plays in building and developing the nations is
undebatable. Higher education in India has its roots in the ancient times. The world
famous Taxila University (414 A.D.) and Nalanda University (427 A. D.) were pride of
the country. India witnessed a steady growth in higher education and presently, it has one
of the largest education systems in the world with 478 universities, deemed universities
and institutes and 26958 colleges1. But her Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) for higher
education is not up to mark. It is around 10% as compared to the 25% of many other
developing countries and 81% of USA2. The Planning Commission is aspired to increase
GER to 15% by 2011-2012 and further to 21% by the end of 12th five year plan.
The success of an education system depends to a great extent on the support
services in general and libraries in particular. Libraries not only preserve the past records
of knowledge but also meet the intellectual curiosity of the users and establish a link
between the past, present and future. Today, libraries are functioning in a highly
competitive, dynamic and technology based environment. This requires regular updating
of Library and Information Science (LIS) curriculum to meet the challenges and
emerging needs of LIS job environment.
LIS education in India: A humble beginning
The history of LIS education in India is nearly a century old. In 1911, W. A.
Borden, an American student of Melvil Dewey started a library school at Baroda
(Maharashtra) under the royal benefaction of Shivaji Rao Gaikwad II. Asa Don
Dickenson, another disciple of Dewey was the founding father of LIS education at
university level. He started a library school at Punjab University, Lahore (now in
Pakistan) to impart certificate course in LIS. After the library school of Columbia
University “The training school at Punjab University was considered to be the second
known library school in the world”3. Dr. S. R. Ranganathan laid down the sound
foundation of LIS education by starting a certificate course at Madras Library
Association in 1929, which was later taken over by Madras University in 1931. The LIS
education in the country began with certificate and diploma courses and gradually
evolved to masters and doctorate degrees. Before independence, five universities were
conducting Library Science (LS) education programmes in the country. University of
Delhi was first to start Master’s degree in 1951 and awarded first Ph.D. in LS in 1957.
Dasgupta writes that “It was first university in the country as well as in (the British)
commonwealth to introduce doctoral studies in library science”4, the university also holds
the credit to establish an independent Department of LIS like in other disciplines. Over
the period, LIS departments were established at various universities in all parts of the
country to meet growing demand for LIS professionals.
The Present Position
LIS has been recognized as an independent discipline like others. More than 118
universities and institutions are engaged in imparting LIS education in the country.
Around 105 universities offer Bachelor of Library and Information Science (BLIS)
course, 78 provide the Master of Library and Information (MLIS) courses while 21
schools/ departments offer two-year integrated courses. Nearly 16 universities offer
Master of Philosophy (M.Phil.) and 46 universities provide Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
in LIS. Two universities also provide D.Litt Degree5. In addition, Documentation
Research and Training Centre (DRTC), Bangalore, and the National Institute of Science
Communication and Information Resources (NISCAIR), New Delhi, previously known
as Indian National Scientific Documentation Centre (INSDOC) impart M. Sc. in
Information Science and Associate ship in LIS respectively. The University Grants
Commission (UGC) Model Curriculum lists the six levels of LIS courses including
Certificate in Library Science, Diploma in Library Science, Bachelor’s Degree in Library
and Information Science, Post-Graduate Diplomas in Information Technology, Archives
and Documentation and Library Automation, Master of Library and Information Science
(Both one year and integrated courses), Associateship in Information Science (Equivalent
to MLISc) and Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy at Research level6.
LIS Education in South Asia: An Overview
In South Asian region, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are relatively
better placed than Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives in terms of LIS education and training
programmes. Afghanistan is another country added to the South Asians Association for
Regional Cooperation (SAARC), which have neither any LIS school nor library
association at national level. Nepal and Bhutan are at the preliminary stage of LIS
education. The situation of education in South Asia is quite different from developed
countries. There is a great diversity and complexity between and within the countries and
institutions of the region in terms of course composition, course duration, teaching
method etc. The development of LIS curricula vary depending up on the historical
development of the subject in each country. Syllabi emphasize on the traditional aspects
of education and classification and cataloguing dominate the curriculum. The course
content is not up to the mark to meet the requirements of present day job market. Instead
of using technology based advanced teaching techniques the chalk and talk method
prevails. There is a little element of information science in curriculum though the courses
are named as Library and Information Science programmes. The cutting edge topics like
information science, knowledge management, change management, e-content
management, e-learning, application of ICTs, marketing techniques, etc. have not found
place in the curriculum of majority of the LIS schools.
The duration of courses also vary. In Sri Lanka and Bangladesh LIS schools offer
bachelor’s degree programmes of 3-4 year duration. Majority of the LIS departments in
India offer bachelors’ and master’s degrees of one year duration each, while a few have
started two years integrated courses leading to master’s degree based on UGC Model
Curriculum 2001. A few universities are also experimenting Choice Based Credit System
(CBCS). The emerging information environment and developments in IT require
continues updating of LIS curriculum to develop professional manpower to meet the
challenges and complexity of job market. But many countries of the region are lagging
behind in usage of ICTs in education. In addition to the inconsistency between education
and practice there is also a lack of collaboration between the LIS departments between
countries and with in countries.
The scarcity of experienced faculty and nature of their appointment also creates
problems for LIS education in the region. A large majority of the faculty members in Sri
Lanka are also employed on full time administrative jobs in library and information
services. At the initial stage India and Pakistan also passed through similar
circumstances. But, gradually the situation improved and at present all LIS schools have
their own full-fledged departments with full time faculty. Lack of training facilities for
teachers, acute shortage of experienced teaching staff, lack of adequate resources and
collaboration in LIS departments at national and international level are the problems
common to all countries of the region. The most disappointing is the fact that none of the
LIS schools/ departments in South Asia is accredited by any professional organization till
Gradually, LIS education is getting recognition but students are not passionate to
enter the profession as their first choice of preference and only left out categories opt for
this course. This makes a call for LIS schools to wake up to attract the students of
brilliance for producing capable and market needs based professionals.
LIS education in India is in a better position than her counterparts because of its
strong foundation. Although majority of the LIS departments suffer from the problems
discussed in above sections, many schools/ departments have started incorporating
emerging concepts in the syllabi to develop LIS professionals as per the market trends.
The last decade has witnessed the organization of conferences, seminars and workshops
on IT based themes. The UGC Model Curriculum has succeeded to some extent to bring
uniformity in LIS education. But, the LIS departments are growing in an unplanned
manner in the absence of any quality control organization. India has National Policy on
Education in general, but there is a dearth of National Policy in LIS. There is also an
absence of a national body to make projections for manpower requirement at different
levels. The Working Group on Libraries7 raised a new hope in this regard by
recommending the permanent National Commission on Libraries. It also recommended
revising and revamping LIS education and training and encouraging research. Since its
inception in 1956, the UGC set up following committees for improvement of LIS
education vis-a-vis services:
1. Ranganathan Committee on University and College Libraries, 1957
2. Ranganatha Committee on Library Science Education, 1965
3. Kaula Committee on Curriculum Development in LIS Education, 1993
4. Karisiddappa Committee on Curriculum Development, 2001.
The recommendations of these committees have overhauled the LIS education
and services from time to time. The National Knowledge Commission (2005) set up by
Planning Commission recommended setting up of 1500 universities by 2015. If this
target is attained it would open doors of more job opportunities for LIS professionals at
UGC Model Curriculum
In 2001, UGC appointed Curriculum Development Committee (CDC) under the
chairmanship of Prof. C. R. Karisiddappa to sharpen the modules and course content on
different themes for LIS Education keeping in view the changing scenario and
contemporary developments in LIS job market. The committee comprised of LIS experts
including teachers, practicing librarians and information scientists who provided a
collective wisdom and efforts to prepare a National Curriculum for different levels of LIS
Education in the final form of report named ‘Saraswat Maha Yajna’. The report consists
of different modules for different levels of education.
The Committee emphasized on two years integrated courses to eliminate the
duplication of course content and to provide sufficient time for teaching of the
Information Technology components and their application to libraries to meet the present
day requirements. In view of the international scenario, the Committee adopted a modular
approach to curriculum which may be adopted by departments in accordance with their
infrastructural facilities. It provides flexibility to individual departments to draw their
own syllabus based on modules with changes up to 20% to suit local needs.
The Model Curriculum is a blend of the traditional and modern subjects of study
which facilitates each department to prepare their own structure and content of
curriculum as per local needs. To enable the LIS aspirants to acquire requisite skills in
practical work, it suggested having 60% practical approach in curriculum including hands
on practice, assignments, seminar presentations and demonstrations by students during
study programme. In addition to the incorporation of the IT in curriculum, it also has
implied concepts of information literacy. The committee stressed on the need to equip
LIS schools/ departments with adequate number of practical tools in traditional subjects,
reference sources, Information Technology Laboratory with network facilities and
software packages to meet the challenging put forward by information society. It also
recommended to improve the facilities for training of teachers through academic staff
colleges for continuous professional development and to keep them informed about latest
developments in the field.
Based on the recommendations of CDC, majority of the departments has re-
designed their syllabi or are in the process of revision. But, inconsistency prevails in the
curriculum of schools/ departments depending upon the local conditions and availability
of requisite infrastructure. However, there is need to incorporate new Information
Technology based subjects to give a new lease of life to the traditional LIS. It’s high time
that UGC revised LIS curriculum immediately as the last model curriculum is about a
decade old now.
Accreditation is crucial for quality assurance to the students and public. The prescription
of norms and standards and their adherence is decisive for quality enhancement and
optimum utilization of resources. Though, the LIS education is being imparted in India
for nearly 100 years, but no system of accreditation of LIS schools/ department exist at
national level by any professional organization. Consequently, new LIS schools/
departments are mushrooming without having infrastructural facilities, information
resources and basic practical tools (classification schemes, cataloguing codes and lists of
subject headings). The LIS education through distance education programmes is another
cause of the concern. More and more universities are joining the race of providing
distance education day by day to raise funds. In addition to the lack of adequate
infrastructural facilities, majority of the universities offering distance education do not
have regular faculty. The UGC established National Assessment and Accreditation
Council, an autonomous body to assess and accredit the higher education institutions
including universities, colleges and departments/schools/centre of the universities. It has
assessed and accredited a large number of universities and colleges throughout the
country, but yet to inaugurate the accreditation of LIS schools/ departments. Though,
India boasts of having largest number of LIS schools in South Asian region, no serious
attention has been paid to set up an accreditation system for evaluation so far. Pakistan,
Sri Lanka and Bangladesh also have similar experiences. Library Associations have been
sincere efforts for the accreditation of professional education by discussing the theme in
conferences and seminars. The UGC sponsored national seminar on Accreditation of LIS
schools in India, held at Nagpur University in 1994 concluded with a need to establish
national council for accreditation under name “Indian Council for Accreditation of
Library and Information Science Education (ICALISE)”8. But till date these plans exist
on paper only. “There is need to carry out a survey of LIS schools of the countries in this
region on the pattern of Southeast Asian countries to find out about views on regional
Distance Education in India
In addition to regular courses, LIS education is also available through distance
mode. In India, 06 open universities and more than 20 formal education universities are
offering LIS programmes through distance education. The superfluous expansion of
distance education institutions has created an outbreak in the professional quality and the
educational excellence. These are producing students with degrees in their hands but with
a little theoretical knowledge, having a little or no exposure to practical librarianship.
Majority of the universities imparting distance education programmes do not have basic
infrastructure, resources and regular faculty. Syllabi of these universities are also not
updated regularly. Usually the experienced regular faculty is not much involved in
distance education. Majority of the universities hire retired teachers or assistant librarians
of old age who are not upto date with the new developments in the field of LIS specially
those related with IT. Being a practical oriented subject, it is essential for LIS students to
practice their hands on computers and attend practical classes for classification and
cataloguing. But contact classes are of very short duration, therefore leaving students to
learn practical subjects on their own. Thus, distance education is more beneficial for the
people who are already employed in LIS services.
In 2004, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) launched EDUSAT, the
world’s first satellite meant exclusively for education. The satellite based network
provides one way video and two way audio facilities and facilitates the data transfer from
teaching end to remote learning places. It can prove to be a major input in improving the
quality of distance education, if utilized properly. The IGNOU uses video conferencing
and Dr. B. R. Ambedkar University uses electronic media for delivering instructions to
learners. However, other universities are yet to join.
Research in LIS
Dr. S. R. Ranganathan holds the credit for formal institution of the doctoral
degree programme in LIS in India. In 1951, he started first at the University of Delhi
keeping aside the hurdles. The research in LIS has been very slow up to 1980s. Though
the first degree in LIS was awarded in 1957, it took about two decades to produce second
Ph.D. in the profession in 1977. Thereafter, the universities moved upward and never
looked back. Rather Ph.D. programmes flourished despite of the lack of facilities. A
comparison of the decade-wise growth of Ph.D. thesis reveals that 43.02% of the total
research output of the country was generated from 2000-200810. Indian contribution to
LIS research is highlighted, “India maintained its Third World leadership in library
research as well as in library education and literature”11.
In India, there is no dearth of research problems that can be investigated. But
there is a lack of insight to identify the legitimate problems. An overview of the research
conducted reveals that the topics investigated did not have a problem or hypothesis but
were merely survey of the prevailing position of libraries or information systems.
Moreover, the practicing librarians rarely use research results to solve their professional
problems. Last few years have experienced a substantial growth in M.Phil. and Ph. D.
programmes as these have been sometimes treated equivalent to National Eligibility Test
for Lectureship. The universities expects their teachers to do research for stature of the
institutions, but do not support research programmes financially. In addition, library
facilities are not adequate to support research.
Now, LIS research in India is on the move from theoretical to problem based
research. The research methods used in LIS are also undergoing several changes.
Majority of the faculty members serving LIS schools/ departments are having Ph.D. and
those who do not have are working towards it.
Challenges and Lingering Issues
LIS education is being imparted in the country since a long time, but still the
profession suffers from many problems. The first and foremost is changing the mind set
of students who are not aware about the role that library can play in their lives. For that
the whole education system of India is to be blamed as it is based more on rote learning.
But of course things are changing now and libraries are actively getting involved in the
education system. This would ultimately lead to marketing of the too. The implications
of Information Technologies and ever growing information needs of users transformed
the LIS in to a profession with diversity of opportunities and challenges. This requires the
professionals to make continuous value addition to services and integrate the emerging
technologies to cope with the changing scenario, thus giving birth to a new kind of
competitive work environment. The challenges and lingering issues affecting the status of
LIS profession are discussed below:
1. Funds: Paucity of funds is the major challenge in improving the quality of LIS
education. LIS is a practical oriented course which requires adequate information
resources and infrastructure to support teaching and research and their provision
depends upon the availability of sufficient funds. The LIS research is missing the
financial support. The major funding agencies including UGC and university
authorities has not paid desired attention to LIS schools needing special grants to
build up basic facilities and infrastructure.
2. Learning Resources and Libraries: In general, majority of the LIS schools do not
have adequate learning resources to supplement teaching and research. While many
LIS schools do not have libraries at all, the others do not have adequate collection of
information resources (both print and non-print) and practical tools to promote
practical skills. The electronic format resources are almost missing in LIS school
libraries. The central libraries of the institutions are also not strengthened enough to
3. Infrastructural Facilities:
Almost all the LIS schools have included the subject of computer application in
curriculum. But majority of these do not have state-of-the-art computer laboratories
with adequate nodes for each student with provision of the Internet connectivity and
other web based resources to facilitate digital learning. Still, the Internet connectivity
is luxury for many LIS Departments. The hardware, software and web based
resources require regular updating.
4. Medium of Instruction and Employability of LIS students: Medium of learning
influences the chances to grab the new service opportunities. In India, being under
control of British Empire for almost 200 years, English is used as the major language
for higher education. The research programme and masters degree in LIS are mainly
carried out in English language though the certificate, diploma and bachelors degree
are also offered in local regional languages. There is also no dearth of literature in
English. Students can also get the opportunity to use LIS literature by foreign authors.
The growing competition and sophisticated job environment has given birth to the
need for better communication skills and good command over English language. The
students’ option for the medium depends upon their schooling background also.
Students’ with non-English medium schooling background and from remote rural
area not having adequate schooling facilities do not get the exposure to serve at
advance and specialized institutions.
5. Nomenclature of Discipline and Discrepancies among Universities: To begin with
it was prone towards Arts and Social Sciences, the LIS education is moving towards
Science discipline due to its growing interdisciplinary approach, making its status and
position uncertain. The inclusion of information technology, communication
technology, management techniques, and statistical techniques, etc. is increasing it
complexity day by day. Moreover, LIS schools lack uniformity on curricula of LIS
courses. During study programmes very less attention is paid to what the LIS
professional are to do during the job. The LIS departments also lack consensus on the
duration of courses. Majority of the schools/departments are offering one year
bachelors’ degree and one year masters’ degree in LIS, while many schools offer two
years integrated programme.
6. Lack of LIS Policy: India has National Policy on Education to promote education in
the country. But the Govt. of India has not implemented any policy to support the LIS
education. There is a need to have a properly prepared programme for the optimum
utilization of available academic and technological resources for the quality assurance
of LIS education.
7. Faculty: There is acute shortage of experienced and capable faculty members in
majority of the developing countries. LIS departments do not have adequate number
of permanent faculty as per the recommendations of UGC Review Committee (1965)
and Curriculum Development Committee (1992). Authorities appoint LIS
professionals with a little experience on adhoc bases at lower salaries. Unless a
person gets sufficient remunerations he/she can not give his/her whole heart to the
job. There are departments that are run by single faculty member with guest faculty
from other departments and university library.
8. Gap between Theory and Practice: There is a cavernous gap between the theory
and practice in LIS. As the computer laboratories and libraries are not adequate,
students do not get the opportunities to practice their hands on these. Such culture
produces LIS professionals having degrees but a little or no practical knowledge.
9. Mushrooming of LIS schools: LIS schools are growing in an unplanned manner
without having requisite facilities and infrastructure and there is no check and balance
on their emergence. All this has resulted into mass production of sub-standard
professions making an addition to the unemployment.
10. Apprenticeship: Apprenticeship enables the LIS aspirants to have the actual job
experiences and let them to know the current job requirements. It also facilitates the
LIS Departments to revise their curriculum according to the changing job market.
Generally, LIS programmes do not include apprenticeship as a part of the course.
It is high time to analyze the changing context and tune up the LIS courses
accordingly. The LIS departments should aim to prepare professionals who can blend in
the political, educational, psychological, cultural and technological changes that are
taking place. The constant accumulation of contemporary topics into the profession has
become essential for survival. Information needs of users are not only growing but also
widening. The changing information scenario is putting a great pressure on librarians to
pay matured attention to users and ensure quality services to remain relevant. This will be
possible with the new generation of LIS teachers and professionals taking LIS discipline
to new heights.
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The author is grateful to Mr. Nirmal Singh, Researcher in the department for assisting in