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Syllabus falling short

mumbai Updated: May 26, 2011 00:27 IST
Kiran Wadhwa

Rabiya Varcie, 25, started out as a content writer a few months ago. A few days into her job, she realised that her post-graduation in English had taught her little when it came to her job.

“I realised that those five years were not productive for me career-wise. While it did give me exposure and moulded my personality, I wish it at least gave me a glimpse of the job scene outside the campus,” said Varcie. “Academics should be linked more to industry and not be so theory-oriented.”

This is a constant complaint among students who are taken aback by the realities of the job scene when they leave their cloistered college campuses. From outdated teaching methods to evaluation techniques where only final-year results are counted to award a degree, many courses find empty classrooms year after year. While industry complains that fresh recruits are not prepared for their profiles, university officials say they are doing their best.

To understand the academic administration better, a brief look at the university’s mechanisms show the amount of discussion that goes into the making or changing of the syllabus. Mumbai University has a board of studies for every subject, with faculty members across institutions. About 75 such boards decide the syllabus for each year and periodically revise it.

These boards are headed by deans of different faculties, such as arts, science, commerce and technology. The deans and chairmen of each board of studies find place in the academic council, a governing body that rules on all academic issues. The 100 members of the academic council meet every two months to discuss the proposals forwarded by the boards of studies.

This rigorous process of clearance, as old as the 154-year-old university, decides which textbooks students will refer to.

While this rigour ensures a certain quality and allows debate, many feel it makes the process arduous. “This system is colonial and archaic and was meant for a much smaller university. Every small change requires several approvals. If a meeting is postponed then everything is on hold. In deemed universities, things move much quicker because there is lesser load and processes are more streamlined,” said a university official on condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

But there is new thought emerging on the industry-academic divide. Several companies are sending their new recruits to finishing schools to prepare them for their job profiles. “The university’s task is to give students a foundation and teach them core subjects. Individual skill training should be left to us. If we want to make it simpler for the students, industries should set up centres of excellence on college campuses,” said Ganesh Natarajan, member of the Confederation of Indian Industries (Western Region) Higher Education Task Force and vice-chairman and CEO of Zensar Technologies. “While many have created separate training programmes, many outsource the job to finishing schools that give employees that edge within three months.”