Projects help students get lessons in the real world | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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Projects help students get lessons in the real world

The new credit semester system has students trooping out of their classrooms and into the field for research projects.

mumbai Updated: Jan 16, 2012 01:48 IST
Bhavya Dore

As the projects pile up in towers around her in the staff room, Asha Gala, laughs. For Gala, an economics teacher at SIES College in Matunga, the growing mounds are a fall-out of the new credit semester system, where every student has to submit a project worth 20 marks. Gala has had to fight off the office staff taking away the journals.

Her first year economic students have in the past few months made a leap out of the classroom and into the learning laboratory of the so-called real world.

As part of their project one group of first year students found that the economic concepts of demand, elasticity and revealed preferences were unfolding before their very eyes in the day-to-day functioning of the college canteen. On the basis of a questionnaire they interviewed other college students, found out the canteen’s best selling items and were even able to recommend pricing strategies to the principal.

“The students are thoroughly enjoying these practical exercises, what they learn stays with them,” said Gala. Similarly, third year students had the assignment of conducting a survey at the nearby skywalk to investigate if people were indeed using it.

Mumbai University began implementing the new credit system this academic year for first year undergraduate students and third year BCom students. Howls of discontent followed its immediate announcement from some teachers who complained it was not feasible and complicated.

But in some college, enthusiastic teachers are helping liberate students from the confines of the classroom through innovative projects and unusual academic challenges. At RA Podar College, third year students conducted a survey of the informal sector in Matunga near their college, looking at the lives and work of local vendors.

“It is also up to teachers to come up with innovative projects and our teachers are highly motivated,” said Shobhana Vasudevan, principal of the college.

At St Xavier’s College, which became autonomous last year, a plethora of projects are in action. Two months ago students organised a history exhibition for the public as part of an ancient history assignment. Second year science students are working on a survey to investigate the public perception of Gandhi as part of their Gandhian thought paper, while a group of second year BA students is working on a documentary on migration. Each of these is worth 20 marks. The documentary group of students has been busy with preliminary work so far, and will begin shooting next week.

“We are working for more than we are being marked on but it’s worth it,” said Mrunmayee Satam, 19, a second year student. “There’s extra effort involved but it’s exciting. We might have never learned some of these things before.”

Legwork has included going through archives and old statistics and unlearning misconceptions. “We found that the claims of some parties that migrants from outside the state flood Mumbai were not true,” said Satam. “Around 60% of migrants were from within Maharashtra itself. These were shocking statistics which we had no idea about earlier.”