Recently there has been a lot of controversy regarding the implementation of Semester system to the undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Delhi University. The protesting Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA) has complained that the Vice Chancellor Deepak Pental is implementing the semester system in DU without consultation with the teachers concerned and that he is in effect implementing it arbitrarily. And because the VC is not ready to listen to their point of view, the teachers in DUTA have been creating quite a stir by filing a petition in the High Court as well as many other steps like not submitting the internal assessment marks to the Principals of the colleges (which might lead to a delay in the result declaration; though the VC has said that the results will be declared on time) and also not taking part in the admission process. In the midst of this the group of people who are going to suffer the most if the results are declared late are students, especially the third year students who are planning to go abroad. So how does the semester system function and what are the pros and cons of implementing this system on such a massive scale?
The semester system is a system that has been used rather successfully in professional courses like B.B.A, B.B.A Com and Journalism taught at the undergraduate level at some universities across the country. In Delhi University this system is in place in very few colleges, to be precise 6 colleges of Delhi University. In this system the year is divided into 2 to 3 semesters each of 4 months to 6 months depending upon the number of semesters that are there. The semester system allows the students no luxury of studying at the last moment and still getting good marks in the final exams. So you have to be on your toes throughout and cannot bunk classes or afford to take your studies lightly. This is certainly a good point of the semester system and it will keep everyone working all through their college life seriously rather that turning to just last minute studies which many students resort to because of the structure of the current evaluation system. The other plus point of the semester system is that it means that you get tested on very small sections at a time, so when you give your final exams where the whole curriculum is assessed, you are in a position to write an even better exam than with the current system as this means you are already aware of the problem areas and by the time of the final exams, you will have a chance of improving your percentage in the final assessment by at least 5 to 10%. On the flip side, the semester system has some very serious problems which in the final assessment can wreck havoc with a person’s career. The first of these problems is related to operationalising this system in Delhi University. It is feared that teachers will speed through important sections of the syllabus with the result that those who are not able to cope with the pace or are unable to understand will be pushed into oblivion and this might encourage students to join private universities where the quality of teachers is not necessarily good. Another problem with the semester system is that because of the packed schedule of the semester, the exams might be pushed ahead by quite a bit with the result that there will be very little time to revise any subject properly and this might lead to marks coming down.
So, the semester system has its own pros and cons and the best way to implement such a system on such a large scale is through a trial of the system. The way forward should be charted out according to the suggestions of the students and teachers. Unfortunately, that is not how it seems it is being implemented in Delhi University and hence we are seeing widespread protests by so many people.
The problem with the way the semester system works and the way it is being implemented in DU and of course the government’s fascination with privatization can have a hazardous impact on the careers of students. Privatization of education means that education has been passed on to the private sector and that also means that private sector has a greater say in setting their own fees which can be exorbitantly high although the quality of education provided might not even be half as good. While at one level, privatization of education seems to be a good option given the way the government has abjectly failed to maintain decent standards of education and to add to the poor infrastructure provided by the govt. Having said this, privatization is not really a solution to the problem that continues to plague India even 64 yrs after independence, that is poor educational standards in the country. There has been a mushrooming of private institutions in recent years especially in case of training for IIT’s and IIM’s and IAS for that matter. While this may be viewed by many as a positive trend but there are problems with these private institutions. The biggest of the problems with these private institutions is that there is no guarantee of the quality of teaching and more so teachers teaching in these institutions. Infact, some of the teachers do not turn up for classes or they turn up but they do not actually teach thus wasting students’ precious time. (This is not to say that government schools are any better.) The other problem with private institutions is that they extract exorbitant amount of money for very short periods of coaching. We have tried privatization of education earlier also without too much success or to put it in a simple way there was a lack of change in the education system even then.
So, all said and done, there has to be some serious thinking on the matter of providing quality education in a decent manner and at a decent rate. The semester system should be implemented, but only after a thorough discussion on the system and how it works. And as for privatization of education, as of now, it does not seem a viable option although it can be considered a viable option if there is some quality control mechanism.
The writer is a correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz. With his interests in socio-political issues, he is more than willing to change the ‘system‘. He sees himself as an ethical journalist in the years to come.