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My MA Course At DU Was Such An “Utter Shock”, I Started Failing It

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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?

Image credit: M ZHAZO/Hindustan Times/ Getty Images
Image credit: M ZHAZO/Hindustan Times/ Getty Images

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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  1. S Dey

    I am so sorry but I have a different point of view. hear me out before you all yell. This person seems to blame her failure on environment, teachers and commute. Well Lets begin with commute. There are thousands of people who travel from South Delhi to North Campus. I myself did it even before metro happened
    As far as crowded classrooms are concerned, i teach/ work in a US university. There are international students from Middle east and far east Asia who struggle with language, but they manage
    Finally, I have studied in Delhi University, trust me for the cost of education, it is very good stuff. Please look up the student loan figured in US and UK.
    Finally, if she was the one of the few people flunking, I dont see why it is such a big deal. It is usual for people to drop a class. It is possible she was weak in her subject. I did brilliantly in Maths in school, I struggled in college. I majored in Chemistry. Big deal. It is possible, that my knowledge of maths was just limited.
    I think Profs in India do a very good job. And at the Masters level, it is the student’s responsibility. Did she/ he try to talk to the prof after class? Get an email ? Did the prof say no outright ? Blaming the system and writing blogs is easy. To me this person sounds like a whining 10 year old as opposed to a grown up Master’s student.

    1. Nafees Ahmad

      Sir, I respect your point of view. The Delhi University which you studied in and the one I studied in, could be different. In other words, the times might have changed in DU. I am not criticizing its graduation programme. It is one of the best in the country. The problem starts when one enters at the master’s level. When I say chaos, I literally mean it. Trust me, whatever I wrote in my article was just the tip of the ice berg. First, I never said that the two hour commute was a reason or one of the reasons for the failure. Second, I was never weak in the subject. In fact, in my final year of graduation, I was the highest scorer in the class. At the end of the day, I somehow managed to pass the course with the required percentage. But what about those who are repeating their masters as they could not score 55 percent marks in order to be eligible for NET/JRF exam? What about those who are now enrolled in IGNOU? Most of the professors in India are occupied with only one thing’ foreign’: research in a foreign university Sir! There is no bond between a teacher and a student. Can a professor do justice with a hundred-odd students? Do you know that more than three hundred students are enrolled in Political Science department? What will happen even if I manage to take a professor’s email address? What I am saying is that higher education is crumbling in India or at least in Delhi University. Thank you for your valuable comment. Thanks once again.

  2. bhawna maithani

    I m also share my experience of masters of political science in delhi university, I m afraid when I took my 1st class that how can I engage with teachers in huge class. Then I saw teachers were not taught all students equally they taught only some students who totally speak English, then I realised that Hindi medium students has no space instead of this is our mother tongue. I saw teachers are biased for therefore education system is totally divide and messed up students thinking power. Thank you!!

    1. Nafees Ahmad

      Thanks a lot for your kind remarks. Whenever you get a chance, pen down your thoughts and get them published in youth ki awaz.

  3. Manali Mathur

    i can relate to the things exactly as they are mentioned in this article in 2016. i considered myself fortunate enough to clear Delhi university masters entrance exam( there were both entrance and merit based but as i am outstation student so i had to appear for entrance) and got enrolled in lady shri ram college for women. the total student intake of the political science department for the year 2016 was 502 students( which is huge and hard to manage keeping in mind that departments like psychology have 20-25 seats in total, gigantic difference!). with due respect to the professors the department is chaotic and mismanaged and it has been pointed out by students quite a lot but not much has been done till yet. i too was the merit holder in my graduation but in masters i completely lost interest in the subject. teaching method n standard too is poor. we get huge readings n multiple to go through. what is taught in class( which is a mess itself) is really basic, like the things which we already know or have studied but when it comes to the standard of the readings it is really high, language is very critical, not clearly written or printed, bulky,etc.
    the main lectures are very basic, even if you try you cannot take interest.
    it was a shock to me as well that such poor classrooms and teaching standards in DU at the masters level.
    i have practically lost interest in my studies, because if you cannot relate to what you are studying there seems no point.

    1. Nafees Ahmad

      I don’t remember whether I had commented on your kind remarks.

      It was indeed shocking that DU accommodated such a huge number of students in one department. 502 is a big number which would suffice to shock to death any western professor.

      I would urge you to kindly write a piece on your experiences you had during your masters in youth ki awaz.

      I strongly believe that we can force the authorities to change their behaviour if we raise our voice.

  4. Naveen Kumar Payasi

    You’re right even in 2018 its very much same, the way teachers teach subjects leaves students in the era of paranoia

    1. Nafees Ahmad

      Thanks a lot for your comment. I would urge you to kindly write a small piece in youth ki awaz describing your thoughts about the program known as masters in political science. We need to suggest ways to force the authorities to take positive steps to address the concerns of the students.

      Thanks once again. Will look forward to see your post on YKA.

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