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Hope in the twilight

They have always been considered average Joes, the poor cousins of campus colleges. HT Horizons scans Delhi University's evening colleges to discover their abundant potential.Special: Campus Calling
By HT Correspondent | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUN 10, 2008 09:14 PM IST

They have always been considered average Joes, the poor cousins of campus colleges. However, once we looked at these latent institutions, we realised that evening colleges — or “second shift” colleges as one Pincipal calls his — hold much more water than they are given credit for.

The myth

Even today, an evening college signifies an academic institution where working people, students with lower percentages and political aspirants study. However, evening colleges have shown a distinct departure from this image, through a series of concerted efforts in the last decade. These include an increased interest in extra-curricular activities, sports, higher cut-offs and a younger and enthusiastic set of staff. Explains Madhumita Chakraborty, Lecturer in English, Zakir Husain College (Evening), “Most top rung colleges fill up quickly after admissions are declared open. Because of the drastic image change that evening colleges like ours have seen and with an increased focus on academics, good students are also joining evening colleges.”

Points out S.C. Sharma, Principal, Ram Lal Anand College (E), “The difference between the cut-offs of morning and evening colleges is narrowing.” Last year, the cut-off percentage for B.Com (H) was 84.50 at Shaheed Bhagat Singh College (E), 82 at P.G.D.A.V. College (E) and 81 at Dyal Singh (E). And that’s due to escalating scores in CBSE exams. Adds Deepak Malhotra, Principal, Dyal Singh College (E), “We complete the admissions for B.Com. (Pass) and Tourism in the first list. Almost 90 per cent of our seats are filled up in the second list.”

Many self-financing add-on courses are also being introduced at these colleges as part of the academic-orientation. Though mundane and routine for most campus colleges, for evening colleges, where a lot of students are first generation learners, an add-on course provides an opportunity for a vocational job. The internal assessment system too is a reason for the image boost. With the increased emphasis on homework, written assignments and home examinations, students have had to quit frivolous activities and concentrate on their studies.

The essence of being

An evening college, contrary to popular understanding, is an independent institution. Except the building that it shares, everything else, from the Principal to the library, is exclusive to the evening college. In fact, the respective Councils decide the cut-offs separately as well.

The good side

With the quality of facilities that evening colleges extend, they can easily accommodate additional students applying to Delhi University. Dyal Singh College (E) is offering some 500 seats, including the Other Backward Classes (OBC) quota, this year. Zakir Husain College (E) has an annual intake of a little under 400 and a total of about 1250 students on its rolls. Ram Lal Anand (E), on the other hand, has a capacity for 1200 students, including this year’s 518. There are 590 places on offer at Deshbandhu College (E). Colleges like these can easily accommodate more students, thus increasing the options for those who haplessly look at private institutions in the absence of a “campus college” seat.

Many evening colleges offer exclusive courses and professional training to their students, along with their academic degrees. S. A. Hamideen, Principal, Zakir Husain College (E), informs that they are introducing a six-month course in Tourism and most likely a one-year programme in Insurance, both open to DU students. “We will start classes around 2 pm because morning college students finish around that time. So those students can attend the courses.” Adds Chakraborty, “We are one of the select few colleges offering the BA Programme with a module in Mass Communication.”

The flip side

At evening colleges, there are issues of time and place. For instance, in a choc-a-bloc schedule of five hours, students find it hard to cope with extra-curricular activities and sports. Entry time is another issue with students.

Evening college students are only allowed into the college premises after a certain time in the afternoon, with 2 o’clock being the average in most.

The biggest disadvantage with evening colleges, however, is the absence of Science programmes. Despite the availability of requisite infrastructure, shortage of time for practicals kills the student intake by at least half.

In general, the limited number of optional papers is another problem that students complain about. But S.P. Aggarwal, Principal, Deshbandhu College (E), contends that they make up on that count by the vocational courses available.

The libraries too need attention, specifically their timings. At Deshbandhu (E), for example, while class timings are 2.30 to 7.30 p.m. library hours are 3 to 7.30. Aggarwal counters that this is because the morning college shares the reading facility with them. He, however, says that their college may have a different set-up from next year. At P.G. D.A.V. College (E), on the other hand, library hours are 1.30 to 8.30 p.m. while classes are scheduled from 3 to 8.30 pm.

Despite getting equal funding and facilities, evening colleges lag behind their morning counterparts. Their “down market” tag creates scepticism in the minds of those wishing to enrol. In spite of being part of the same parent university and given their potential, these institutes aren’t yet the jiving places for academics or for training and development that they could be.

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