Academia says DU's move to 4-year course will increase drop-outs

Even as Delhi University hails its move towards all of its undergraduate courses becoming four-years long, as more student friendly and personal, some members of its academia are clearly unhappy about the 'Americanising of the university'.

Arlene January 17, 2013 09:07:29 IST
Academia says DU's move to 4-year course will increase drop-outs

New Delhi: Even as Delhi University hails its move towards all of its undergraduate courses becoming four-years long, as more student friendly and personal, some members of its academia are clearly unhappy about the "Americanising of the university".

Following an approval by the university's academic council last July and from its specially appointed task force thereafter in December 2012, the university is all set to move from a 10+2+ 3 model to the model of 10+2+4, widely followed in the US. The programme with a duration of 3 years presently, will see a shift beginning this academic year to a four-year-graduation course — with multiple exit points and provide students who have exited half-way the freedom to return and complete the remaining number of years within a limited period of time.

This academic year onwards, students taking admission into Delhi University will no more be able to do a BA or a BSc or a BCom, as they will all be merged. This will be done by offering classes from each stream as part of the 11 compulsory courses that all students have to take in their first two years of under graduate studies.

"While all students will have 11 mandatory courses that they will all do in the first two years, the university plan will allow students the option to design their own degrees — as in they can choose whatever subjects they want to study. This new approach will add more depth in learning a subject, a better knowledge of other streams as they will be exposed to other disciplines too and will encourage research and innovative thinking," Dean of Students Welfare, Delhi University, JM Khurana told Firstpost. 

Academia says DUs move to 4year course will increase dropouts

The university is of the view that allowing the students to choose what they want to study will open up a whole new world of options for them. Representational Image. AFP

More Choice or Forced choice

The university is of the view that allowing the students to choose what they want to study will open up a whole new world of options for them and also help them make an informed choice about what they want to do and where their interests truly lie. The glitch here, though, is that the students have to make their choices during their admission into the first year of undergraduate study.

"While a person can, say, major in Physics and take up a minor in Fine Arts if they so please, they have to make this choice at the beginning itself. If we don't make them choose then the students may want to take up a stream for which we don't have teachers. Where then will we find teachers for them at the last moment then?" he asked.

Delhi University's academia, say this makes no sense, as students are already making that choice in the first year. Other than this, they point out, that given the 10+2+3 standard format across the country most students have already chosen their stream of specialisation — be it Arts, Science or Commerce.

"Most students have already chosen their stream post class 10 and have learned the foundations of what they want to know. By making them learn the foundations of general courses again for two years of their undergrad is a waste of time and forcing them into studying the same thing," Abha Dev Habib, member, Delhi University Teachers' Association (DUTA) and associate professor at Miranda House told Firstpost.

According to Khurana, the new course design will have 11 core courses and eight discipline courses in year one and two. Students will also be required to study at least one language. In year three and four, students will take 12 discipline courses and four applied papers of which two will be research papers. The new format of Delhi University's undergraduate course also allows students to exit their course after the second and third year, if they so desire. But, those exiting after the second year will only receive a diploma certificate and those who complete their third year and exit will receive regular degrees. The ones who complete all four years will receive an honours degree.

Habib disapproves of this new course design. She points out that the mixing of the main degrees into 11 core classes will give students fewer options to strengthen their foundation in subjects they are interested in and that the 10+2+3 system already churns out solid honours degree students in three years.

New System will increase dropouts

"This whole plan, especially the multiple exit point system is a very bad and detrimental to our literacy. Allowing students to exit anytime after the completion of two years in the course will create more dropouts. One one hand students who would earlier be forced to complete 3 years so that they get the degree can now drop out after two years and get a diploma. In the case of poor students, this situation can be worse. They may face pressure to do a year less due to financial constraints, since they will anyway get a diploma," Habib said.

Habib accuses the university of forcing the decision to start a four-year undergraduate course on teachers and students, its the main stakeholders, who she said were not consulted.

"If you are deciding to make something compulsory, it should be done only after talks with the various colleges, teachers and students — none of which happened. They say this is going to redefine our education. If they truly want to redefine it, how can it be done without our inputs? Habib asks.

Sheo Dutt, DU professor at the Faculty of Management Studies and one of the members of the Academic Council — which passed the proposal last July — goes one step further. He terms the university's decision as illegal.

Seventy Academic Council members, out of 173, present at the meeting passed the university's proposal, in July 2012. Dutt and four others dissented the proposal.

"The passing of the proposal was out and out illegal. This is because the proposal should have first been cleared by the Committee of Courses before coming to the Academic Council. More so, 61 of the 70 members in the Academic Council were members that were later appointed to Task Force on Redefining Education, a body appointed by DU to formulate a path to implementing the newly structured course," Dutt said, adding, "This has not been passed by the real academic council members — the university teachers. If the university was serious about redefining education all teachers would be consulted."

Academia Concerns

Among the other concerns of the academia are: fewer permanent professors and hence no job security, a workforce whose degree does not reflect their skill but instead the number of years they have spent in the course and being pushed towards the American model of education to benefit private institutions.

"What Delhi University will now do is award a degree to a student based on the number of years they have spent in the course and not on the skill level or what they have learned," Habib told Firstpost.

She added, "While the university will shift to 4-year courses, the correspondence courses are still three years. Why then would anyone want to do a regular course in four years when they are getting the same degree in 3-years via correspondence education? There's no incentive to attend regular college."

Dutt agrees with Habib, even as he elaborates on the labour problem the new structure will cause. "The workload of the university's professors will fluctuate and drastically reduce on account of them not being trained to teach the newer subjects that will be introduced. This will lead to an increase in adhoc professors who are easier to hire and fire," he said. Of the around 10,000 faculty that Delhi University employs, more than 4,000 are on a temporary basis.

"These decisions are being made in favour of the private players. Why doesn't one hear of private players offering courses in say History or Physics or Sociology? It's because there's no money to be made in it. And if we going to convert the best public universities into vocational universities dishing out diplomas it will be a huge loss for pure sciences and humanities," she said.

However, JM Khurana, Dean of Students Welfare, Delhi University, refutes these allegations.

"Its not true that we are following the American university system. Yes, we want to be as good as foreign universities, but our main aim is to make our students more employable once they complete their four year course. If anything, it's an amalgamation of both, the UK system and the American system — as those wanting to do only a regular three year degree can do so and those wanting to do an honours degree can do that too," Khurana told Firstpost.

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