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HindustanTimes Sun,21 Sep 2014
Best FOR Social Sciences
Rahat Bano, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, June 21, 2011
First Published: 12:23 IST(21/6/2011)
Last Updated: 09:46 IST(22/6/2011)

What do you think of a faculty that toils along with its students? A department where teachers enrich students outside the classroom, too? Or one where active research is carried out at the undergraduate level? These are the hallmarks of some of the best colleges for social sciences in Delhi, compiled on the basis of names recommended by various Delhi University teachers and professors.

Though all the colleges follow the same curricula, it’s the faculty that’s a distinguishing feature of those which stand out. Most of the colleges known for the major social sciences, political science, history, geography and sociology, have experienced, dedicated teachers.

History
At St Stephen’s, which follows the Cambridge tutorial system, the faculty is closely involved in training learners. In history department, which has an intake of 60 students, students are divided into groups of five or six and assigned a tutor, who meets them every fortnight to discuss academic or even other matters. The tutor guides students with readings, assignments, and
projects.

“It provides a unique opportunity for close interaction (between them),” says Malay Neerav, teacher in-charge, department of history. “We encourage them to read from both primary and secondary sources. We also train them in the art of writing which helps them in the wider world. Their assignments are carefully examined both for in-depth knowledge and for the language,” he says. If a book is not accessible locally, the teacher would get it from outside, even if it has to be shipped from overseas, he says.

Jitendra Narain, a former student of the department, says their tutors went the extra mile to provide otherwise-unavailable study resources in the pre-internet days. Narain, now joint secretary, Government of India, also speaks about the tight scrutiny their assignments were subjected to. “If you had copied your assignment from somebody, the teachers would detect it. Mr Neerav, Mr Baker, Kanika Sarkar… they went through every word. The assignments were personally examined. They told you which concept you got wrong. You could walk up to them anytime. You could disagree with them.”

At Lady Shri Ram College, education seems to be a two-way journey. Pankaj Jha, teacher in-charge, history, Lady Shri Ram College, says, in their department, “the idea is to cultivate the critical faculty of students and teachers together and alike! Our students are our equals and we learn and grow together!”

Yogendra Dayma, teacher in-charge, history, Hans Raj College, says, “Our college has a faculty with international exposure and three members are involved in foreign universities.”

Political science
If Neera Chandhoke, professor of political science, University of Delhi and Valerian Rodrigues, professor, Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, mentioned Lady Shri Ram College for Women, again it’s due to their quality teachers and the way they communicate the syllabus to students and generate interest.

Sri Venkateswara College students are top scorers. Last session, there were 15 first divisions in all three years including the toppers in the university as well as in South Campus.

The department “has excellent tutoring, demonstrating, teaching and lecturing skills,and gives an opportunity to the students to explore their highest potential by conducting seminars, lectures and presentations…In a disciplined environment we groom students with a fine balance of excellence in academics and extra-curricular activities,” says Namita Pandey, teacher in-charge.

At Kirori Mal College, the faculty tries and cover “each and every” topic of the syllabus in depth, says Uma Gupta, a faculty member.

“An effort is made to give assignments on each and every topic and the students are allowed to freely discuss their problems with their respective teachers.”

Geography
Kirori Mal College’s geography section is the only one in the university actively engaged in research. This “add value towards the department learning culture,” says Seema M Parihar, who is also joint director, Developing Countries Research Centre and fellow in geography, Institute of Life Long Learning, DU. In addition, she says, all the teachers “spend a lot of time with the students and try to enrich them within and outside the classrooms through informal classes, workshops, seminars and field trips.”

Sudeshna Bhattacharya, associate professor of geography, Miranda house, says, “Our department has some of the best students. Our department has very good lab facility and we also have audio visual means of teaching.”

Kamala Nehru College’s (KNC’s) and Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s geography students can work on GIS and remote sensing facilities as well. Last year’s geography topper was from Bhagat Singh College. Poonam Sharma, associate professor of geography, Shaheed Bhagat Singh (Morning), says, “We have one of the richest faculties of Delhi University in terms of senior-most teachers in geography.”

KNC boasts being the only college offering a combination of combination of tourism and political geography as a paper.

Dyal Singh College’s proximity to institutions such as Indian Meteorological Department, the Energy and Resource Institute (TERI), and Indian Habitat Centre means students can avail the library facilities there. “We have a combination of senior experienced and young enthusiastic teachers having expertise in various branches of geography. The teachers use state-of-the-art facilities, advanced audio-visual aids for teaching and take personal interest in each student's development,” says Harleen Daber, teacher in-charge of the department.

Sociology
Clearly, some of the best departments thrive on interactivity. Like certain others, Janki Devi Memorial College, too, counts extensive one-on-one interaction with students as its USP. The college even holds PTA meetings! This and other efforts seem to be paying dividends. Their student, Mayuri Dhingia from Assam broke a 25-year-old university record by topping DU with 72% marks in 2009.

Vandana Madan, associate professor of sociology, elaborates, “We try to engage with our students such that we are not only their academic guides but also mentors. Other than the intense classroom and tutorial interactions we have with them, we also keep a close track of the performance of our students, having remedial classes for them if necessary and most importantly, by having annual /bi-annual parent teacher meetings where we apprise parents of their ward’s performance at the college. Though seen as a ‘school’ process, we have found that this personal involvement works very well in motivating students.” She adds that the college provides also holds extensive career counselling sessions for students in the third year to help them decide on what they want to do next.

LSR’s sociology students acquire an edge through “their unique training which equips them to understand and appreciate the difference in human contexts, irrespective of career paths,” says Anjali Bhatia, teacher in-charge of the department at LSR.
 
“Our endeavour is to provide students a holistic understanding of society. Building upon conceptual foundations, we encourage students to investigate the workings of society, its principles and its institutions in the lived world through research projects,
seminars, workshops, lectures and candid discussions.”

Hindu College’s sociology division, one of the oldest in Delhi University, is “committed to quality, value education, excellence, and interactive learning”.

“Since this is an observational and comparative discipline, students are given a chance to carry out fieldwork, write reports, make presentations, and accept criticisms in a healthy manner,” says Vinay Kumar Srivastava, principal. “This environment in the sociology department prepares the students for both theoretical research and applied work. The faculty in the department is young, research-oriented, conscientious and diligent.”

Miranda House has an award-winning presence in its sociology faculty. Two years ago, when the university awarded ‘distinguished teacher awards’ across disciplines on the basis of feedback from students doing postgraduation, two were given for sociology, including one for a teacher in thedepartment at Miranda.

Sociology students in Miranda also get to gain work experience. “Each year, we have several rank holders in the university examinations,” says Reema Bhatia, associate professor of sociology, “This is because apart from classroom teaching, our students are encouraged to do internships with various organisations to work on various issues that interest them. The issues range from environmental, gender, urbanisation, migration, health and so on.”

Sri Venkateswara focuses on, among other things, making students go beyond the curriculum. “We also tend to improve the
students’ skills by giving them assignments from not only within the syllabus but also from outside so that they can go beyond the
syllabus, says Shashi Bhushan Singh, assistant professor of sociology, Sri Venkateswara College.

With inputs from Mithilesh and Reetu Sharma


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