As Delhi University (DU) prepares to implement the choice-based credit system (CBCS), voices of dissent within its administration, especially those belonging to the academic and executive councils, are getting louder.
Abha Dev Habib, member of DU’s executive council, says: “We should learn from the four-year undergraduate programme (FYUP) fiasco. No academic restructuring should be rushed and implemented without involving teachers and students. At DU, the semester system and FYUP were implemented without feedback from teachers and with no preparation at the ground level in terms of necessary infrastructure. The worst victims of such hurried ‘reforms’ are students. In DU, where every year over 56,000 students take admission in regular courses, these rushed mindless reforms have jeopardised the careers of lakhs of students. It is unfortunate to see that the UGC guidelines on adoption of CBCS are silent on the real issues ailing higher education, such as lack of infrastructure and recruitment of permanent faculty. It claims that the semester system (on which CBCS is based) is working well, without putting forward any review. The document is also silent on questions of quality and equity.”
Several teachers and students at DU have been demanding withdrawal of the semester system too as they believe that it has deeply diluted academic and examination standards. “It has reduced the teaching time, over-burdened the university and colleges with examination work, reduced time for in-depth study and self-study and failed to cater to the needs of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Before implementing CBCS, it is important to review the semester system,” says Habib.
The dissenting teachers believe that the CBCS replicates many features of the failed-FYUP pattern of courses. “We have seen that common foundation courses were disastrous. The structure diluted honours courses. The cafeteria approach, which was integral to FYUP and which CBCS also adopts, led to marginalisation of basic humanities, social science and science courses,” she adds. Sources in the university say that there was no consultation on the matter. Even the academic council (AC) was not allowed to debate the matter. Soon after the UGC/MHRD letters in November 2014, the vice chancellor had set an eight-member committee on CBCS and the matter was placed in the AC meeting of January 21, 2015 as “merely a reporting item.”
According to Professor Amitava Chakraborty, member of DU’s academic council, FYUP in Delhi University was a failed attempt to introduce CBCS. “In its present form, the CBCS is a replica of the FYUP, minus the fourth year. It is also proposed that 50% of the theoretical component of core courses be taught by teachers from other universities while 50% evaluation of practicals and complete evaluation of projects be done by examiners from other varsities. “Besides this, a move to introduce faculty-transfer between universities is also under consideration. Can one plan work for all universities? Does DU have the infrastructure and a healthy student-teacher ratio to support this? If students are allowed mobility across universities with variable fee-structures, does affordability not become a crucial factor,” asks Chakraborty.