By Shweta Madaan:

One of the most prominent universities of the world, The University of Delhi (DU) has decided to introduce a grading system for both undergraduate as well as post-graduate courses. An expert committee has been formed to formulate this change from the academic session 2013-14. According to the representatives of this expert committee, the decision to introduce grading has been taken to make the semester system more effective.

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In most of the courses offered by the University of Delhi, the semester system came into the curriculum with effect from the academic session 2011-12 onward. From the very beginning, this move of the University was not welcomed with arms wide open. It created quite a furore in the academic world. For many days, classes did not take place because the DU teachers and students were protesting. One can easily judge the seriousness of this issue by looking into this outrage in past. Even, some of the political parties tried to convince the Human Resources Development Ministry to force Delhi University to discuss the issues raised by its protesting teachers and to not take coercive steps. Now, the university is going for new changes like the four year under-graduate degree courses, META University and the grading system. It is believed that they are also going to meet the same fate.

It seems that all these changes are being pushed through in undue haste. The teaching and academic community is opposing this move because the university does not seek their acceptance; neither are there any proper discussions nor any consultations. These measures have been introduced by the Vice Chancellor in such a flurry that his credibility is being subjected now. It is also believed that there is some hidden agenda behind such drastic actions. There are some statutory procedures and established democratic academic practices for implementation of new rules and policies related to academics but this hubbub is really subverting this set-up.

The students are also not pleased with the semester system. It is overburdening them and teachers and is affecting the university culture. Students are forced to cram because it is the only possible way left to outscore others. The syllabus is so vast that a student does not have any time to participate in extra-curricular activities. Yes, it keeps him/her focused on what is taught in class but at the same time the students who really want to try something new don’t get time for the same. In most of the courses, the syllabuses of the subjects which are meant to be studied in one year are now to be completed within six months. The teachers are struggling to finish the courses and even if they are finished, there is no time left for preparation. The colourful college life which is shown in movies now seems facetious.

Now, let us look into the effectiveness of grading system in colleges. In the past, when it was proposed for schools that a grading system would be followed, the schools were in dither. So, the University is now mulling over in following this system. The VC reported that a committee has been set which will look for the feasibility of implementation of this scheme. It has got the academic council’s approval which is the highest academic body in the university. The members of this core team say that this idea has been appreciated by all. But I do not feel that it is a good step. Grades do not accurately indicate how much a student has learned in a class. Grades do not keep the passion to excel alive. When one gets fewer marks in an examination, he/she can analyze in a better way the mistakes for which marks were cut; but with grades, you do not have the actual marks. (The grades are given according to class limits. For instance, the students scoring in the range of 91-100 will get A1; the students scoring in the range of 81-90 will get A2 and so on. Then, it does not matter whether the student is getting 91 or 100, he will get an A1.)

There are fears that if the students will really benefit from this system. It does not differentiate the truly deserving students and the lazybones. It overshadows the hard-work of students and discourages them because an average student is also getting same grades as of outstanding one.

The academics body says that after the implementation of this grading system, no student will be declared fail. But what is the point in doing so? You cannot loosen up the criteria. If this system gets implemented, there will be no strictness. The students will become complacent because they know that they will definitely pass. The authorities are also making a point that weak students get depressed when being reprimanded by their teachers; so, in this way, we can soothe them. But the reality is that it does NOT encourage the students to work hard at all. Many researchers, educators and parents are now questioning the purpose and effectiveness of grades. Certainly students deserve to know how they are doing and they benefit from understanding how they are performing; but the communication of this progress can have a great impact on how a student learns.

It is my opinion that grades do not motivate a student to perform better because if a student does not know where he is standing, how on earth will he try to improve himself? Students take it easy because their sole purpose becomes getting an A1 and they tend to learn the things just for this purpose. This type of learning is not worth of it. Instead, the students who get marks are more likely to want to continue exploring whatever they’re learning, more likely to want to challenge themselves, and more likely to think deeply. And, this is the main objective of education which must be imparted by the teachers to the students.

These systems are considered inefficient because teachers have raised a range of objections and some serious allegations have been made on the working of the University in making new policies. It appears completely undemocratic. The teachers are totally displeased owing to the formation of new systems without any discussion with them and without their acknowledgement. The University needs to act in a judicious way. There must be proper discussions and workshops before implementation of new policies so that the results of such systems can be learned effectively; and the students can hope for a promising future. As the University has decided that it is going to award grades rather than marks, there must be proper categorization. The differentiation should be made between good, better and outstanding performances so that the spirit of healthy competition does not get over and the quality of education remains maintained.

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