By Nafees Ahmad: It was in 2009 that I secured admission into India’s most premier varsity – Delhi University. The college was Deshbandhu in the South Campus and the course was Political Science (Honors). Everything was hunky-dory during graduation. I had a great time and shared a good rapport with all the teachers. I had a nice friend circle and enjoyed overwhelming support, both from teachers and friends. Inspired by my teacher’s motivating words, integrity, and punctuality, I worked hard and learnt a lot. Gauging my interest in Political Science, the teachers urged me to major in the same subject. Subsequently, I applied for admission to the master’s course and luckily got through. So yeah, I had everything going for me and life was all set, right? And here’s the plot twist. The admission to the master’s course at Delhi University was the beginning of an unprecedented turmoil in my life. It was August 2012 when ‘destiny’ showered its blessings on me and I got into North Campus. Buoyed by my final year marks of graduation and admission to the much coveted North Campus, I was on cloud nine. But, sadly, the euphoria of success did not last long. So how did the life-script go all wrong?
The answer- the chaotic department of Political Science housed in the Faculty of Social Sciences. And the chaos started from the classroom. It was September 2012 when I attended my first lecture. To my utter shock I found that the lecture was being held in a conference room that was overcrowded. Actually, ‘overcrowded’ is an understatement. The room was teeming with students who were jostling for space. A bunch of students were sitting on desks, their backs against the wall and legs hanging above the floor, and clutching their notebooks on their thighs. It was a lecture on ‘Theories of International Relations’ (a subject that deals with how countries manage their external affairs and foreign relations with other countries) to a gathering of 100 odd students. ‘Is this a classroom or a rally at Jantar Mantar?’ was the question in my mind. It kept me perplexed until the lacklustre lecture came to an end. How could a varsity like DU hold a class of 100 odd students at one time and that too after putting both Hindi and English medium students together? But this was the norm at one of India’s topmost universities! ‘These are some readings. Get them xeroxed and read them for the next lecture,’ said the teacher while concluding her lecture. Soon I saw students departing for the Crystal Xerox Point, located near the Central Library in the Arts Faculty premises, in small and scattered groups. I too followed some students and found myself in a long queue for the copy. After waiting for an hour, I somehow managed to get my copy. I left the campus and reached my home after a two-hour commute from the campus to Jamia Nagar. (Bear with me. I thought I’d give a little more context). In the evening I flipped through the readings and found many lines fuzzy and a few lines simply missing or too obscure to be visible. The case was similar with all the readings. They were either complex, based on complicated theories, or simply too fuzzy to be properly readable. The complexity of the readings and the crowded classrooms soon had an adverse impact on my academic career. Not only did I lose interest in the master’s degree but also in Political Science as a subject. Did I have an option? Was there an exit? No, certainly not. I kept on attending classes and ultimately appeared in the first-semester exam, where I flunked my most favorite subject- ‘Debates in Political Theory’ (a subject that deals in key concepts of Political Science such as liberty, equality, freedom of speech and expression, and more). This was the same subject in which I had attained 64 percent marks in my final year of graduation. The only difference was in the teachers and the environment. At Deshbandhu I knew teachers personally and had their numbers. They were always there when I needed them. On the contrary, in the Political Science Department, I knew no teacher personally and had no one’s number. Moreover, there were only 20 to 30 students in a class during graduation. Different classes were held for Hindi and English medium students. On the other hand, the Political Science Department at North Campus held the same classes for all the Hindi and English medium students and as well as for those who crossed oceans to reach India with big hopes of high academic standards. This ultimately forced some to quit midway, some to take admission into Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), and some to repeat the entire master’s programme. The classes continued for the second semester and so did my frustration with the Department and its poor teaching standards. I appeared in the end-semester exam and flunked another subject. Now it had become routine to flunk at least one subject. It was a part and parcel of the ‘chaos’. It flunked a large chunk of students regularly. I somehow managed to finish the course and moved on with my life. But I thought the experiences were worth sharing. Delhi University, being India’s premiere institute, should take into account students’ perspectives. It should allow students to have a say in what they want to and how they want to study. It shouldn’t adopt a top-down approach. Furthermore, it should not combine Hindi and English medium students as their requirements and reading materials differ. Interestingly, Delhi University has a better approach at the graduation level. There it maintains a good student-teacher ratio. It holds different classes for Hindi and English medium students. It also has different colleges spread all over the National Capital Territory (NCT). The manner in which the University runs its master’s courses currently has an adverse effect on their quality and leads to poor academic standards. To sum up, the varsity should bring down the size of the classes at the master’s level as it cannot teach a hundred students in one class. It should enlarge the student-teacher ratio in order to allow teachers to guide students individually and in a proper way.
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