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Divided course of semester system

Greater flexibility and freedom may be the bywords of DU's semester system, but its implementation has only created a wide split.

delhi Updated: Apr 11, 2011 23:16 IST

Interested in English, but have always loved solving Chemistry equations? One would think trying to graduate in both subjects is utopian, but it is exactly these barriers the Delhi University (DU) has been hoping to break.

It was three years ago that DU embarked on what would mark a major academic reform in the varsity's history-a switch from the annual system to semester mode. It was what the 11th plan of the Government of India sought to do.

Among these changes was evaluating the performance of students twice a year, instead of just once by introducing the semester system. Another was increasing inter-disciplinarity in courses, thus enabling students to study any subject they wanted, irrespective of the stream they graduated in.

However, the journey towards implementing the semester system has been anything but smooth. The teachers' opposition almost paralysed the university. The Delhi University Teachers Association took to the streets, teachers stayed away from the admission process. They even refused to teach after the new session began. Till now, there has never been a protest on academic issues, ever.

"The last time the university saw protests of this nature was in 1986 and 1998 over the pay parity issue and on UGC's rules regarding hours of work," said Savithri Singh, principal, Acharya Narendra Dev College.

And as the impasse continued, students struggled to finish their courses for the first semester. It was the Delhi High Court that broke the deadlock and upheld the implementation of the semester system.

So far, DU has been able to implement the system in only 13 science courses. However, it is expected to implement the mode for all its undergraduate courses by July 2011.

So far, the university has been arguing that the new system of evaluation would ensure student exchange programmes once the credit system is in place. It will also help in continuous evaluation and interdisciplinary courses.

But the semester system that has been implemented is a far cry from the rosy picture the varsity had painted. "Where is the choice for students to pursue any subject they wish to? The increase in number of students in the classroom with the reservation of OBC students has turned tutorials into theory classes. Class strength for tutorials is 1:40 whereas it should be 1:10 ideally," said Deepak Jain, associate professor of Physics in Deen Dyal Upadhaya College.

Jain, who has been teaching Physics under the semester mode, had initially been a proponent of the system. But now he is cynical about the way the administration has implemented it. "The university has lost a golden chance of revising courses. Most of the courses have seen either nominal or no change at all," he said. The last time Physics course was revised was in 1994.

Nevertheless, vice-chancellor Dinesh Singh is positive about implementing the system in the remaining courses from this academic year. This after a number of departments have continued to resist the change. Sharing his vision, the V-C said, "I am hopeful that eventually we can do away with the system of being admitted to one particular course in the coming years. Students should be allowed to excel in whatever discipline they wish to pursue and then decide which degree they want to obtain," he said.

For example, a student in first year can opt for any course across disciplines rather than a set format. So, someone who is interested in Physics will have the flexibility to choose political science or economics. At the end of three years, depending on the combination of subjects they have chosen, the university will award them a BA, B.Com or B.Sc degree.

The university is also trying to move to a credit system-though it is currently not in place-based on which students can travel to other universities abroad to study.