As Delhi University scraps the four-year undergraduate programme and reverts to the original three-year format, an old refrain is once again being heard in its corridors: DU teachers are averse to any change in curriculum as it would mean having to part with their notes — some several decades old — and work afresh on their lectures.
Students mull over forms during the admission process for undergraduate courses in Delhi University, Faculty of Arts in North Campus. HT Photo/Virendra Singh Gosain
There are those who buy this argument and those who don’t, but not many would dispute the fact that teachers here have a long and unfailing relationship with their notes. Carefully written by hand or photocopied, original or passed down the years — these notes have helped them breeze through their classes.
“Teaching through old notes was rampant before the courses started changing. A senior colleague had a set of notes so ancient, he was scared to turn the pages. It’s an open secret that many teachers depend on notes written years ago to conduct a class. And if a course changes, it causes them a lot of heartbreak,” said one teacher who did not wish to be named. He added that though courses have changed several times since 2005, these notes continue to be relevant.
“Some teachers read up and give a lecture extempore. Others jot down points to refer to while in class. However, many others preserve a collection of notebooks, writing pads and A4 sheets bearing notes for papers they have taught over the years. Referring to them is easier than preparing for class every day,” he added.
Though it is believed the practice of teaching from old notes is mostly prevalent in humanities courses, a mathematics teacher recently had an unexpected encounter with his notes written more than 20 years ago.
“I had gone back to my college a few days ago when I saw a set of familiar notes. I realised within minutes it was a photocopy of my handwritten notes from my days as a student. And it was not the students but a teacher using it,” he said.
AJC Bose, economics teacher at Shri Ram College of Commerce, is known in DU for his high-quality notes. Teachers and students from other colleges would buy them from the ‘photocopywallas’.
“That was 10 years ago. I spent a lot of time making those notes and I don’t think I can do that again. Students still ask for them,” he told HT.
However, he has a different take on why the faculty is anti-change.
“Teachers oppose change not just because of old notes. It’s those teachers who write guides that object to any revision of course,” he said.
Teaching by notes is more convenient with a theoretical rather than an application-based curriculum. The four-year programme — opposed by a majority of DU teachers — required students to make presentations and hold discussions in class.
Also, young teachers complain that a change in course often means they have to teach the newly introduced papers since their senior colleagues prefer to teach the same papers they have taught for years.
“This is why we introduced a rule in Daulat Ram that a teacher would have to give up teaching the same author every three years. This keeps us on our toes with no chance of getting complacent,” said Ira Pandit, who retired from the English department of the college last year.