4 year graduation at DU

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A Critique by English Teachers

Delhi University Four Year Programme – A Critique by teachers

In a meeting of Delhi University English Teachers held on 13th February 2013 the following resolution was unanimously adopted:

RESOLUTION

We are deeply shocked and disturbed by the unacademic and anti student structure of the proposed 4 year Undergraduate Programme that the University seeks to introduce from July 2013. It is not in consonance with the National Policy of 10+2+3 on education. Further, there is no democratic representation of College teachers in syllabus making. The one year added to Undergraduate study will put an additional strain on the limited infrastructure that exists in Colleges-both in terms of class room space and teaching faculty. Many of these apprehensions were expressed by teachers at the time of the introduction of the Semester system and over the last two years our misgivings have been proven at the cost of academic quality and its impact upon the future prospects of students.

Critique

Against National Policy: This 4 year course constitutes an important departure from the 10+2+3 National Policy of Education. The implications of this departure and far reaching and ought not to have been undertaken unless significant value was seen by teachers and students in such a move; further the concerns of National Policy should have been scrutinized as well.

Burden on Infrastructure and Exam system: To add another year to undergraduate study will cause serious strain on the infrastructure, already overburdened by both OBC expansion and the disastrous implementation of the 3 year semester system

Manner of Implementation: Teachers unanimously expressed their shock and dismay at the manner of implementation as well. Even in February, details of the course and workload implications, syllabi, admission procedures etc are still a mystery.

Work load of students: In the hastily implemented and ill thought out semester system, students are still struggling to cope with three courses per semester; an additional burden of, five to six courses will be catastrophic. Further, the bulk of the courses are not discipline oriented, and will not increase academic rigour, and may infact reduce the emphasis on academics.

Language Teachng: Compulsory language classes have either been curtailed or completely removed.This will affect the fluency and articulation of students, and is likely to adversely affect employability.Surprisingly, the option to study an ID course in lieu of Hindi/MIL ( an option that existed uptil now), is being removed.This will adversely impact students not conversant with Hindi ,specially since this compuslory paper will count to their final grade.

Foundation Courses: The 11 compulsory Foundation courses are likely to be of little academic value to students and will work against the choices of study already undertaken at school level. They will probably cause further stress on infrastructure and increase disparity in workload .

Multiple Exit Points: exit points at the end of two and three years are a travesty to higher education as defined by any standards, let alone international standards

Hasty and Undemocratic Imposition of ‘Academic Reforms’

The most alarming aspect of the ‘academic reforms’ is the extremely short period of time in which they have been formulated and pushed through, and the undemocratic and non participatory manner in which they have been framed. As of end February 2013 the Delhi University website has only a skeletal framework with names of Foundation Courses. Officially there is no further information – no syllabi at all for any of the courses, no information about what the Application Courses will be about, no information about what is to happen in the Integrating Mind Body and Heart papers, nothing about how Cultural Activities will be taught, no clarity about whether IMBH and CA will be evaluated or not. More damningly, no information about tutorial classes, about practicals for the Science courses, about changes in Internal Assessment.

Teachers have neither been consulted nor informed about what they will be teaching in a few months from now. The 61 member Task Force does not have representation from all departments and has a large number of Principals and administrators. Teachers have been so entirely alienated in this whole process that a majority of teachers are not even able to grasp what the changes imply in terms of what is to be taught and how it is to be taught, methodology and pedagogy. Heads of Departments have refused to hold GBMs and have told teachers that committees will be set up by the Vice Chancellor to formulate courses and make syllabi. This complete disregard for the democratic procedures that are part of the functioning of the academics of individual departments as well as the University as a whole is unprecedented in its brazenness.

The 4 year system goes against the National Education Policy of 10+2+3. It also goes against the policy of streaming students into Science, Humanities and Commerce in the +2. There is no logic offered for the desirability of the change from 3 to 4 years. The drawbacks of adding an extra year are many, from adding to the over burdened examination branch to the extra expenditure for students which will actually force students from economically weaker backgrounds to drop out earlier.

The University is still reeling under the changes made from the annual to the semester system and is having trouble adjusting to the new system as can be seen in the ad hocism of issuing new rules every few weeks on issues as vital as attendance and changes in courses. On the heels of this reigning chaos comes an even more turbulent change, that of completely overturning the Honours system to a strange hybrid that has not been tested anywhere in the world yet. Students have been guinea pigs for 3 years already, and it looks like the experimentation on the youth has become the order of the day.

Continuing Problems with the Semester System

In the two years of Semester teaching of the English Hons course at Delhi University colleges, we have encountered serious pedagogical problems. In the run up to semesterization from the year 2008 we had anticipated and sought to alert the University on many of these issues through meetings held at the level of College Departments, General Body Meetings and finally also at meetings of the Committee of Courses. Our concerns were disregarded and bypassed by the University and we are now left to face a serious erosion of academic standard and integrity in the way syllabi have been framed, examinations conducted and classroom teaching compromised to keep up with the pressures that semesterization comes with

Semester Syllabi and Classroom Teaching: The annual syllabus was conceived with a certain intellectual background and structure in mind and its bifurcation makes a mockery of every serious academic principle that went into its making. Our deep academic reservations come from the fact that all papers need an intellectual coherence and scholarly rigour, one that is impossible in the logic of bifurcation. Across departments the hurried cutting into two of the syllabus is being played out in skewed ways that challenge both students and teachers. For instance in the case of the bifurcated English Hons syllabus students are now coming to a background to a literary period after studying its writers in a previous semester. An example of this is in the 2nd semester when without any understanding of the Elizabethan age and its background crucial to the reading of primary texts, students are forced into a reading of Shakespeare and Marlowe. The entire teaching of the background comes in the following semester because of the illogicality of hurried bifurcation. And yet however serious an omission this might be the pressures of curtailed time make it impossible for any kind of accommodation of it within semester teaching and we are unable to accede to the valid and legitimate demands of students to provide essential background information and detailing that is in fact crucial to the Paper.

Examination and Results: Our experience of the manner in which University examinations have been conducted during the semester fills us with dismay and an ever increasing sense of foreboding. Semester examinations held in the Summer of 2012 were riddled with problems of wrong Question Papers being sent because of the confusion over similar nomenclature. As a result of this some exam centres received Question papers as late as 2 hours after commencement. In its attempt to pass the buck, the University has refused to accept the fact that Semester exams have created twice the pressure on an existing system. And in its bid to prove the success of semesterization in 2012, University results were disproportionately and unusually high. Even as teachers who had been involved with exam evaluation realized that the marks that they had awarded had been inflated by forces beyond their control to win over the student-parent body, the University made a mockery of both the examination and its evaluation. The following semester in the Winter of 2012, the results of English Hons students were at a historical low as the University attempted to stave off continuing exposure of a serious lapse in the awarding of inflated marks in the previous semester by doing away with Moderation by a Head Examiner. Further during the last set of Semester examinations, the University devised a new and rather alarming system of answer script identification that compromised the anonymity of the student. Now the student has to fill in her date of birth and also a code assigned to her College. If this were not information enough for identification, the invigilator at the exam centre is also asked to put down her full name and signature on the answer script. This model of identification has the potential of creating biases that could seriously compromise the evaluation of students’ exam scripts.

Four Year Structure

The change from a three year degree to a four year one defies all academic logic. The four year course adds nothing academically to the degree that students got in 3 years earlier, and the exit points at the end of two and three years are a travesty to higher education as defined by any standards, let alone international standards.

Work load of students: The semesterised 3 year BA Honours have 23 papers of which 18 are Honours papers and 5 are Interdisciplinary Concurrent Courses, except Economics which has 26 papers in all out of which 21 are Honours and the rest Concurrent. BSc Honours has 24 papers and B Com Honours has 27 papers. The Four year course has 50 papers in all. The time period for completing the degree has been increased by only one year, but the number of papers has been more than doubled for BA and BSc Honours.

Foundation Courses: The following is the list of Foundation Courses:

  1. Language, Literature, and Creativity-I (Hindi/MIL)
  2. Language, Literature, and Creativity-II (English)
  3. Information Technology
  4. Business, Entrepreneurship, and Management
  5. Governance and Citizenship
  6. Psychology, Communication and Life Skills
  7. Geographic and Socio-Economic Diversity
  8. Science and Life
  9. History, Culture and Civilization
  10. Building Mathematical Ability
  11. Environment and Public Health

First, students who have dropped Maths and/or Science from Class 9 will find it close to impossible to pick up these subjects after a gap of 4 years; it will be difficult even for students who have dropped these subjects after class 10. The school system all over India streams students into Science, Humanities and Commerce in Class 11 and the Foundation Courses go against the principal of streaming. Secondly, since students across all streams will take the same exam for foundation courses, students who have never done any Commerce at all will be competing with those who have done Commerce from Class 9 onwards, just like students who have done only Functional English in school will compete with those who have done Elective English, etc. This unfair disadvantage will translate into skewed examination evaluations and adversely affect students’ results. Third, the level of Foundation Courses will have to be pitched at Class 10 level, in which case it will entirely be a waste of time for those students who have studied these courses up to Class 12.

Cultural Activities and IMBH courses: There are 2 IMBH courses and 6 Cultural Activities courses. These courses by definition are unacademic courses and that is the reason they have always been extracurricular and not part of the curriculum. Already with exams being held twice a year and a large chunk of the academic calendar going in the conduct of exams and evaluation, students have no time for seriously pursuing cultural activities or organizing inter college competitions. Making Cultural Activities part of the curriculum is farcical.

Discipline 1: The number of papers for Discipline 1 is 18 which is the same number of papers in the present semesterized system for BA Honours and less than the 21 papers for Economic Hons, 24 papers for B Com Hons, and 23 BSc Honours papers. Further, the Discipline 1 papers are now less than half of the total number of papers in the 4 years thus diluting the emphasis on the Honours papers. In the total marks towards the final degree Discipline 1 will count for only 1800 out of 4200 marks, which is less than half of the total marks towards the division obtained . It is possible that syllabi will be dramatically curtailed and dumbed down for easy teaching and testing, and thus, we will actually be teaching courses far diluted in quality, compared to the annual system, and even the current semester system courses Alarmingly, the implications of the longer course of undergraduate study is being cited as the reason for shortening the M.A and M.Phil courses, and this may prove disastrous for higher education and academic rigor. The aim of higher education-of creating critical thinking abilities and enforcing academic rigor is likely to be lost with such changes.

Discipline 2: When the semester system was introduced we were told that the rationale was to bring in the Major/Minor model so that students had greater choice and interdisciplinarity. However, since there was not enough time to create a Minor field and to formulate new papers for it, the first casualty of the semester system was the proposed Minor field. The same history is repeating itself again – there is too little time before July to formulate and concretize a Minor field which will enable a student to continue that discipline in the Masters. At the moment, all students across various disciplines study at least 2 other disciplines. Their choice will now be cuirtailed to 1. The time devoted to the second (minor) discipline is not sufficient to make it a base for higher studies.

Research: The academic component of the four year course has added nothing to it to enable students to do research in the 4th year. At the beginning of the 4th year students will still have 4 papers of Discipline 1 to study. The internal assessment scheme is taking away the academic writing component that was evaluated regularly through the year. Students are now going to be writing only for their exams. This weakens any potential for research, diluting the earlier 3 assignments plus 1 presentation per paper that existed in the annual mode to 1 assignment only per paper in the semester mode to only 1 presentation in the 4 year model.

Multiple Exit Points: Students who exit after 2 years have done 11 Foundation Courses which do not prepare them for either academic or vocational options, have done only 8 out of 18 Discipline 1 papers so do not prepare them for a future in that Discipline, and only 2 out of 6 Discipline 2 papers which are a waste of time and resources because study in that Discipline is negligible. Students who exit after 3 years have done added 6 Discipline 1 papers and 2 Discipline 2 papers to their academic package, but this still does not make them eligible for further studies in either Discipline and adds nothing to their vocational or career options. The student who studies for 4 years can now go on to post graduate studies, but in terms of academic papers of Discipline 1 and 2, this student has done exactly the same amount of academic work that a student does at present in 3 years, so in effect has wasted one year of time as well as money for nothing.

BA, BSc and B Com Programme: These 3 courses catered to students who did not want to, or could not, pursue Honours programmes. Their USP was of a different kind and the level of the papers pitched differently. By merging these programmes with the Honours there seems to be no clarity on how these students will be accommodated in the existing sanctioned strength of students, departmental work load of teachers, infrastructure of room sizes. There are many colleges with many sections of BA Programme, and some colleges that have no Honours teaching at all. What is to happen to these colleges?

Compulsory Hindi Paper: Delhi University gets many students from all over India, and for abroad as well. It is surprising and unfortunate that the option to study an inter-disciplinary course in lieu of Hindi/MIL an option that existed up till now, is being removed. While many foreign universities insist on a certificate course in the national/spoken language, the 4 year system seems to make the Hindi/MIL paper one that is compulsory, and its marks/grades will be counted for the final grade. This may prove to be very daunting for students not familiar with Hindi, and also unfair to those students who have never studied Hindi or may have dropped it in class VIII, as happens in many Indian states.

Work Load Implications

For College Department: Teaching the Foundation course is likely to prove a challenge for many reasons. If the Foundation Course is fixed across particular semesters, the workload will increase dramatically for that period, and drop in other semesters. This will probably lead to fluctuation in work load and therefore to greater ad-hocism /contractualisation. It would be better for work load stability if departments in different colleges are allowed to choose when the offer their particular Foundation Course to students of a particular department in order to balance the number of required teachers. However it seems this is unlikely to be allowed as the Exam branch is likely to cite problems in paper setting as the reason for fixing Foundation Courses allocation as in the past. This defeats the purpose of creating choice for students, as students should be free to decide various combinations of papers as would suit their inclinations and capacity to study.

We are almost at the end of February, and as yet, most teachers of the Department have no information about the contents and syllabi of the Foundation Course or Minor Discipline courses. The contents of the Applied Course too remain a mystery. If teachers are not prepared adequately for the new courses, teaching and dissemination of information will most definitely be a major issue that will challenge teachers in the coming session.

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This entry was posted on February 14, 2013 by in Critique and tagged , , , , , , , .

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"REFORM" or DEFORM? 4yr course startsJuly 21st, 2013

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