By Anjali Ralhan:
Students of Delhi University will again be taken as subjects for an experiment after the hurried imposition of the semester system and the Four Year Undergraduate Program in recent years. This time, the plans are to form a new education policy.
UGC has come up with a program called Choice Based Credit System. The UGC guidelines say two things –
• “The choice based credit system provides a ‘cafeteria’ approach in which the students can take courses of their choice, learn at their own pace, undergo additional courses, and acquire more than the required credits” and hence, the system is desirable.
• The grading system is considered “better” and “desirable” because this will facilitate student mobility across institutions within the country and across other countries, and also enable potential employers to assess the performance of students.
These two consecutive arguments presented in the document have inspired me to question and probe – who are these “potential employers”? This can be seen in the light of what Madhurima Kundu, a student of DU had to say, “This is nothing but commercialization and Americanization of Indian Education System”.
CBCS flaunts that the scheme is in the interest of students, but this ultimately seems to comply only with the market oriented world, where a large section of half-educated students will be used for small sector jobs. According to the definition of efficiency present in the UGC guidelines, as a student, if I opt for History, Political Science, Hindi/English Literature, Economics or any other subject, and if I become a part of this Credit Based Choice System, then the choices given to me in the name of “credit courses” will make me more “efficient”.
The idea of this program is not something new in itself. A report published by The Hindu, dated April 12, 2005, attempted to explain the significance of this system with two questions (the report appeared when CBCS was being introduced in Tamil Nadu) –
• “Why not a student earns a few credits from one college and transfers the credits to some other college?”
• “Why not a student who is working on a part-time basis earns a few credits and stretches his studies to four or five years according to his convenience?”
Nandita Narain, DUTA president, said, “Choice Based Credit System came to DU titled as FYUP; CBCS is exactly like FYUP. FYUP has been an absolute disaster for the students. The UGC letter can be seen flaunting that the semester system has been a great success, but the reality is that it has been a great failure”. She also questioned the haste with which MHRD is trying to impose this scheme on the students of Delhi University, “There should be a space for debate and discussion before introducing a new system.”
So far, no clear guidelines have been given as to what kind of a syllabus CBCS will propose. The FYUP scheme came with its multiple exit options that gave the students a choice not to study all the main discipline papers that a course offers, but face the burden of Foundation Courses. In a plea against FYUP, to the government and president of India, five eminent scholars – scientist Yash Pal, historian Romila Thapar, author UR Ananthamurthy, poet Ashok Vajpeyi and critic Namvar Singh – contended that “autonomy does not give license to any institution to treat the education of young people in a cavalier fashion”.
Honours degrees and programs should not be treated as vocational courses. It is perhaps an attempt to lure them not to go through a rigorous academic plan but only to seek “efficiency”.
The question to be asked is, how are the students going to form their own syllabi?
And what is this concept of transferring from one college to another and from one discipline to another? Even if the system gets implemented, such guidelines do not seem to contribute fruitfully to the academic nature of a university. “Academics is supposed to make one study and learn according to the program that brilliant academicians create for students”, says Sunny Kumar, Vice President, Delhi, AISA.
The focus does not seem to be on one’s academic and personal growth, rather it’s a well thought out strategy to attack the potential and radical growth of the students who can question the structural, cultural, social, and economic hegemony of a society. When the different progressive fronts are fighting for issues like better infrastructure, permanent jobs for teachers and increase in number of seats for students – the fact that gets highlighted is that while the basic facilities have not been procured, the authorities like MHRD and UGC are being ignorant on their part.
After the announcement of the UGC guidelines, it appears that Delhi University will again be seen struggling against the UGC and the MHRD’s aristocratic behaviour. How much time and energy it will take to undo this mess is still uncertain, but the various progressive fronts have already strongly started opposing the proposed idea of CBCS.