Mumbai academia divided over involving students in framing of new curriculum
An unusual class was attended by more than 100 BSc and MSc students and graduates from 20 colleges across the city at SIES College, Sion, on Thursday. The students took turns to criticise and offer suggestions to improve the new University of Mumbai syllabus for the third-year BSc (Zoology) course. The criticism and suggestions were patiently noted down by the teachers.
The event, organised by the MU’s board of studies in Zoology, was an effort to seek inputs and ideas from students in drafting and framing of the curriculum. This is the second such exercise held by the board. Two years ago, when the process of changing the curriculum had begun, a similar workshop was organised at Somaiya college in Vidyavihar.
While the board members and some other academicians believe that the students often offer important suggestions and critique of the curriculum draft, several of their colleagues think otherwise. For them, making students a part of the curriculum-making process is, at best, a showy but futile exercise and, at worst, an opportunity for vested interests — publishing houses, tuition classes and political parties — to influence the process.
From open units to flexible curriculum, the zoology board, since the last few years, has been tinkering with a few innovative ideas to reform the curriculum and make it more engaging for the students. While these experiments have achieved varying levels of success, the board has found the validation of its idea of including students in the curriculum designing process from the state government. The state's new Maharashtra Public Universities Act 2016 provides for student representatives to attend the meetings of varsities' academic bodies, namely academic council and boards of studies.
At the SIES College workshop, most of the suggestions from students involved adding topics that they deem important in the draft curriculum prepared by the board. Some students offered a more nuanced critique of various aspects of the curriculum.
“The students are the main stakeholders in the education system and it is important to understand their needs and expectations. Hence, there should be an interactions between teachers and students,” said Anita jadhav, chairman, the board of studies.
Snehal Donde, principal, Oswal College of Commerce, Bhiwandi, said that the board in the past has adopted suggestions from the students. “They often have broader vision than us. They make suggestion that are important from their future career prospects,” she said.
However, many academicans disagree. “The students are not knowledgeable enough to be a part of the curriculum-making process. It is the responsibility of teachers to know what is important for the students’ career. If the students are so aware, than there’s no need classrooms. The idea can be applied to some subjects, but not universally,” said Saheb Ali, a professor at the varsity’s department of Urdu.
Gopakumran Thampi, principal, Thadomal Shahani Engineering College (TSEC) said that while post-graduation students can offer feedback of the curriculum they studied durig graduation, making undergraduate students critique their own curriculum is ‘absurd’. “The teachers can informally seek inputs and feedback from students. However, if such an exercise is formalised or legalised, it will open the doors for vested interests to influence the curriculum,” he said.