India is at the stage where it is beginning to see a surge in the working age group of its population. While this trend is likely to continue for a couple of decades and more, to reap its benefits, education that enhances employability and stimulates intellectual curiosity is a must. Employability-oriented education results in creation of human resources that are readily deployable in the socio-economic activity in the country. Stimulating intellectual curiosity on the other hand is at the core of discoveries, inventions and innovations that fuel the value creation in all spheres of human activity. Both are critical to the development of the country.
To address these needs, a number of education institutions have come up in the past decade. According to the UGC Higher Education 2013 report, there are over 33, 000 colleges and 700 degree awarding institutions in India as compared with 12,806 colleges and 256 degree awarding institutions almost a decade earlier in 2000-1. Not surprisingly, India has become the third largest education system in the world. Yet none of its degree awarding institutions figures in the top 100 of the world when benchmarking academic excellence. Even more disheartening is the incessant complaint from the industry regarding the lack of employability of graduates.
The need of the hour is an undergraduate programme which goes beyond just gathering knowledge. On one hand, students need to be educated and guided to undertake critical thinking and formal research. On the other, they need to be equipped with skills and attitudes they would need in the world of work.
Firstly, bringing in both these aspects while maintaining the levels of knowledge imparted earlier would need more time. Then they would need to be trained in learning and applying methods and techniques that will make them more effective at work. But most importantly, they will need interdisciplinary exposure to build a larger and more contemporary worldview. All this would be best achieved by adding one more year at the undergraduate level and making it a four year undergraduate program (FYUP).
It’s not just DU
The Delhi University introduced FYUP in 2013. As part of this programme, a student will study a main subject called as discipline 1 in which there will be 20 papers, a second minor discipline of six papers, foundation courses common to all and applied courses. However, since the time the FYUP has been conceived at the university, there has been a lot of debate and discussion around its introduction in the university. But DU is not the only one implementing FYUP. There are quite a few other institutions such as Ashoka University, Shiv Nadar University, Symbiosis School of Liberal Arts, IISc, and so on.
At Ashoka University, a newly established private university, students will be able to explore a variety of perspectives, and also pursue one or two in depth. They have a set of foundation courses spanning literature, mathematics, economics, philosophy, and sociology that are common for all students; a major subject, electives from other subjects and an internship in the final year. The structure at Shiv Nadar University too is very similar where students do foundation courses, major subject, electives from subjects other than the major, research oriented courses, courses with international aspects and an internship with the industry.At IISc Bangalore, too, there is a FYUP in biology, chemistry, environmental science, materials, mathematics and physics.
In four years, a well-organised undergraduate programme can become an enriching learning experience for the student, increasing their employability and helping them pursue higher studies abroad.
Here’s what FYUP can do
Develop core skills needed at the workplace: The students can be imparted a set of common skills which are needed at all workplaces to begin with. Communication and presentation skills, reasoning and analytical skills, working with computers, applying numerical and statistical techniques etc can be a part of all students’ study.
Be multi-disciplinary: In addition to the main subject, the student can be encouraged to study at least one more subject of interest. This will give students an opportunity to explore additional knowledge, albeit not in as much detail as the main subject. This is important because multi-disciplinary education is becoming the key to career growth worldwide.
Help develop a research orientation: Formal project work can be introduced as part of regular courses wherever possible. But more importantly, formal research work followed by a dissertation can be a dedicated activity in the last two semesters. Another thing that can be done is to incorporate an internship typically with an external organisation on a specific project. This research orientation would help stimulate the intellectual curiosity.
The authors are from Admizzionz Campuz