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Tug of war

An intense debate rages over the new reforms, including the semester system, the four-year degree courses and changes in the re-evaluation process

education Updated: Dec 04, 2012 16:27 IST
Aanchal Bedi

Change is in the air at the University of Delhi. The word out on the street is that the institute has turned into a laboratory for academic experimentation. After the implementation of the semester system at the undergraduate level, DU has introduced another round of academic reforms such as the meta college concept and the four-year degree system, expected to be rolled out from next year.

Since a host of reforms have been introduced “supposedly” in haste, differences are surfacing within the academic community. Some teachers think the university is not geared for such an exercise and that this will impact thousands of students and teachers. There are others, however, who believe the moves are positive. “The new reforms are for the betterment of the students. Not everybody wants to do specialisation in one course. The four-year-degree programme will help students distribute their capabilities. The new syllabus will be project-oriented and hands-on, offering greater flexibility of choice,” says Malashri Lal, dean, academic activities and projects.

As per the proposed design, in the four-year degree programme, the first year, includes two semesters of courses such as mathematics, computers, environmental studies, and Indian culture, etc. Besides, students would be required to study English and one Indian language from a set of modern Indian languages. In the second year, students would have to opt for a discipline of their choice, on the basis of their aptitude and eligibility. At the end of the second year, they will have an exit point where they can opt out of the course with an associate degree. In the third year, students would continue with their chosen discipline along with concurrent papers. If they opt to exit at the end of the third year, they would be awarded a general degree. In the fourth year, students again have a choice of continuing in the traditional scheme of papers or take up a research project. On completion of the fourth year, an honours degree will be awarded.

“The changes are being made without any discussion or roadmap. The four-year degree is expected to be rolled out from the next year but no syllabus has been prepared yet. Adding one more year will mean more expenses, but what about the marginalised students who can’t afford the fee? Though IIT already has a credit system in place, they don’t grant admission to blind students. With exit points, a student can opt out of the course with an associate degree, but from the employability point of view the degree has no value. Introducing such reforms in DU where we have a heterogeneous group of students, would mean commoditisation of education. As far as the meta college concept is concerned, generation of a meaningful degree is a big question mark,” says Abha Dev Habib, assistant professor, department of physics, Miranda House, DU.

Welcoming the four-year-degree programme, Pragya Srivastava from the Faculty of Law, DU says, “A four-year degree programme will give enough time for extra-curricular activities and help students who wish to study abroad. However, the semester system is not favourable since a lot of papers have been removed. It prevents us from gaining in-depth knowledge of the subject.”

Reiterating the same, Vaibhav Maheshwari of the Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) says, “For some subjects like income tax and cost accounting, we require concept clarity. With the semester system, however, we are not left with any option but to mug up everything. Instead of learning, studies have become a game of marks. Therefore, quality becomes a big question mark.”

The dust still hasn’t settled when it comes to academic reforms but other issues such as the new evaluation procedure requiring three teachers to check one script, inconsistent attendance policies and late declaration of results have again come in for a round of criticism. In favour of the move, Lal says, “The supervision of one answer script by three teachers will rule out any errors. It will save a lot of time and ensure transparency. The new procedure is just a short-cut of the process currently in place.”

Speaking for reforms, Pratibha Jolly, principal of Miranda House says, “There is nothing wrong with introducing reforms. Educational practices should sync with the changing world. DU has stagnated and the examination system is outdated, it’s just content-based. Change and lucrative thinking is necessary.”

Concluding this debate, Kavita Sharma, former principal of Hindu College, DU says, “A lot of difficulties are bound to be there when you make changes in a system that has been in place for years. The concept is good but the devil lies in the details. The meta college concept requires meticulous planning in terms of time management, declaration of results, and deciding which university accepts the other university’s marks. And the success of the four-year degree programme lies in proper implementation. The entire syllabus should be harmonious so that it develops students’ skill set (not only academically but in terms of employability as well) and increases student mobility.”