Jamia Millia Islamia VC Najeeb Jung talks about implementing the semester system and elaborates on other plans.
Why has the university decided to shift to semester-based learning?
The semester system is not new to Jamia. For long, we have had a semester system at research levels – the MPhil course work stage, for instance. We have also been successfully running a semester system in the faculty of engineering and technology for several years now. Besides, two years ago we implemented the semester system at the postgraduate level and all our postgraduate programmes run in the semester mode now. Therefore, shifting to the semester mode has not been a recent step for our university. However, what must be added is that there are several advantages of the semester system such as continuous assessment, possibility of tweaking courses keeping the level of students in mind, in other words making it more student-centric. In any case, it is a universal practice, which is followed in all parts of the world. It is not something entirely new to us.
How will the university benefit from the new model?
We have seen the benefits of the semester system in our university. Rather than burdening the students once a year with evaluation etc, the semester system helps us spread the process of learning and evaluation evenly all through the year. There is greater engagement with the teaching-learning process in a semester system with class participation and continuous assessments being an integral part of it. It also offers flexibility as compared to the annual system and offers students the possibility of opting for courses in cognate disciplines and developing a multidisciplinary approach to their object of study. It makes the process of learning all the more intensive.
What changes has the curriculum witnessed? Which courses have been restructured?
Needless to say that with semesterisation, one needs to adopt the whole philosophy of semesterisation which entails not just restructuring the curricula but also modes of assessment, preparation of study material etc. My faculty members have been engaged in this process for the last couple of years and have deliberated over the structure of the curricula. This process has also given them a chance to rethink the objectives of their field of study. It has given them an opportunity to revisit questions such as pedagogical methods to be adopted, updating course curricula keeping in mind changing trends across the world, including several new areas of study, adopting newer techniques of evaluation, looking at newer sources of information etc. All in all, it has been a period of churning and I am sure it will bear fruits in the years to come.
Will the semesters be implemented in phases?
We are going to introduce it at the undergraduate level in July this year. We have made necessary preparations for that. My teachers have been working hard for the last couple of years to make the transition as smooth as possible from an annual mode to the semester mode for undergraduate courses. It must be added that they have experience of the semester mode at the postgraduate level, which has helped their decisions.
How has the faculty responded to the change?
The faculty has made a very smooth transition from the annual to the semester mode. They have made all the preparations required for this switch. They have learnt from each other and have adopted the best practices followed in our university and elsewhere. It has been a period of a lot of hard work for them but this process will go on to necessarily benefit the student community.
Delhi University’s experiment with the semester system is yet to bear fruits. Do you think the shift is going to benefit the student community? How?
Jamia Millia Islamia has a completely different structure. Unlike Delhi University, which offers affiliation to 80-odd colleges, Jamia does not have affiliating colleges and therefore, the numbers that one is dealing with are completely different in the two universities. All our departments and centres are independent and run their own courses. They can devise their own syllabi, their own mode of evaluation etc — it allows them the flexibility needed in a semester system. I am sure an intensive engagement with one’s object of study spread all through the year will certainly benefit the students and the teaching-learning process in general.
Besides, the semester system, what are the other plans of the university for 2012?
We are going to launch new programmes in Afghanistan studies and China studies besides setting up a new centre in nanosciences and nanotechnology in the coming days.