A recent notification issued by the University Grants Commission (UGC) to vice chancellors of Indian universities asking them to implement the choice-based credit transfer system (CBCS) and semester system from the academic year 2015-16 is likely to pose a challenge to Delhi University.
DU introduced the semester system a few years ago amid opposition from a section of teachers and students. This was followed by the implementation of the Four-Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP), which proved to be very unpopular and was rolled back last year. Faculty members at the university feel the new UGC notification is likely to lead to another standoff between DU, its faculty and students.
Abha Dev Habib, member of the executive council at DU, says: “Academic reforms cannot be rushed. Teachers and students have been systematically articulating their opposition to the semester system. It is unfortunate that the UGC without any data/feedback from universities is trying to conclude that semester (system) is working.
Today, teachers and students at Delhi University shun the word ‘reform’ as the first victims of these hurried reforms have been students and academic quality. The university should first study its experiences of semester system and FYUP. Till date, the university has not been able to implement OBC expansion in terms of infrastructure and teacher recruitment.”
Habib feels that the UGC document should have focussed on challenges in higher education and listed changes that would help students and higher education. “It is not clear how the suggested changes will help students. The first reform which the education sector needs is infrastructure development and appointment of faculty members.
State and Central universities are crumbling as teachers have not been hired on a permanent basis for many years and lakhs of teachers are working on contract basis. As a result, the quality of teaching learning processes have degenerated,” she adds.
Some faculty members at DU fear that credit transfers promote private and foreign campuses, which have few takers today. “MoUs will be signed and students will be pushed to these campuses for a semester or two. There are reports that some other universities in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Kerala are against the semester system too. It is for the UGC to collect feedback on the semester system from universities and put it on public domain. The time spent on examinations has increased while time for teaching, self-study and for extra-curricular has reduced,” adds Habib.
Some members of the university’s academic council have also written to the DU vice chancellor expressing their reservations over CBCS. “The education policy change cannot be done by simple notifications of the UGC or human resource development ministry (MHRD). CBCS is being pushed through such a notification. If the government thinks that the current system needed overhauling, then there must be a commission with educationists which would consult all stakeholders and finally take the matter to the Parliament,” says Amitava Chakraborty, member of the academic council.
Explaining why he does not approve of CBCS in the present context, Chakraborty says, “No education system is bad or good as such. Oxford and Cambridge with annual system, Harvard with trimester system, Yale with semester system all retaining their position at the top of all rankings through years proves this. The semester system cannot work in a large classroom system that India has. That’s why even states like MP, are reverting to the annual system. CBCS is likewise inapplicable for a large country like India. Calcutta University vice chancellor has already said that they cannot implement it due to infrastructure problems. We need to utilise the corpus created through the education cess. Thoughtless, sudden, cosmetic changes like semester, CBCS are not going to help Indian higher education,” he adds.
The CBCS is devised to allow students mobility between institutions. Some modules can also be completed online. “But the success of this system relies on faculty from a wide array of disciplines and specialisations. It also depends heavily on very advanced infrastructure,” says Chakraborty.
Talk points of Choice-Based Credit System
The UGC has asked the universities to consider setting up a working group of senior faculty members to address some pertinent issues which have a strong bearing on the implementation of CBCS. These issues include:
# Semesterisation of ­curricula for various courses
# Restructuring the syllabi in the form of modules
# Standardisation of­ ­examinations across ­universities
# Switching over from numerical marking system to grading system