The Delhi University Four Year Structure – Myths and Reality
This document has been prepared by the JOINT ACTION BODY OF DELHI UNIVERSITY.
The four-year system is a measure of reform that is necessitated by the state of higher education in India today.
There is no clarity in the objective of why Delhi University is moving to a four-year undergraduate system. Is it to introduce more value based courses, or is to elevate the university to “global standards”? Unless the issue is understood, debated and discussed publicly and democratically, reforms will be ill-conceived and not in general public interest as the following sections will show.
DU is adopting reforms to bring the undergraduate degree at par with America.
The only similarity with the American system is that students can opt for a four-year course if she wants to (i.e. if they do no exercise the exit option earlier). In reality, the American system offers a wide variety of choices to students, flexibility of choosing majors and minors, accumulating credits over a number of years and across universities. None of these are available to the DU student (more details in the subsequent sections)
The four year degree will bring the student to a higher level as compared to a three year degree.
This is the least that can be expected if one whole year is added to the degree requirement, and COULD have been the strongest argument for switching to a four-year system. The reality is that a student majoring in a subject will have studied less in four years than what she currently studies in three years. In contrast, students in USA, Dhaka University or LUMS in Pakistan who all do a four year course finish at a much higher level as compared to our current or future undergraduate.
The four-year system will give the student an opportunity to study a major and a minor.
This is the first carrot that was dangled for public consumption while touting the semester system three years back, as well as when the four-year structure was first mooted. This was also the first thing that was abandoned during the semesterization process, as well as in the four-year structure. A student declares a major and a minor at some point in their sophomore year (3rd or 4th semester) after studying a number of lower level courses across disciplines. The system of minors allows students to do a few rigorous courses in a subject of her choice, within a well thought out structure, and which courses is a subset of courses that a student majoring in the subject does. A Delhi University student will have to declare both DC 1 and DC 2 at the time of admission, and do six courses of DC 2 that are not the same as DC 1 courses, and which are pitched a lower level (as per instructions sent to HoDs vide letter dated 5 March 2013 by Sudish Pachauri).
The four-year system will bring flexibility into the system.
This indeed is an important aspect of the American system. Students have a wide variety of choice within each major / minor, and other requirement that they have to fulfill towards earning their degree, apart from the flexibility of choosing their major and minor at some point in their second year of study. In contrast, the DU student will not only decide what she has to study at the time of taking admission, she will also have no choice in deciding which foundation courses she wants to study. In all probability, most majors will have no optional courses, since the number of courses offered over four years is the same or less than the number of courses offered over three years currently. The so called “reformed” structure is as inflexible as the current system, if not more.
The four-year structure will be more inter-disciplinary.
The reality is that the only inter-disciplinarity is in the school-level foundation courses that the student has to do. The interdisciplinary nature of the current BA Honours programme through its concurrent courses (inter-disciplinary courses and discipline centred concurrent courses) and the BA Programme through its foundation and application courses is being done away with.
The four year system with semesters will provide continuous assessment of students.
The three year annual system had a tutorial system with an internal assessment scheme that assessed the student in at least one assignment/test per course in each term, as well as a mid-term exam and project for each course every year. The semester system reduced this to one assignment/test and one test/quiz for each course each semester. The four-year system emphasizes group project work at the cost of written assignments and tests.
Exit options after two years is in the interest of the student.
In reality, it will create a pool of students with a certificate called an “Associate Baccalaureate” who will not be eligible for employment in many fields.
The four-year system is designed to help the underprivileged student.
Opportunities for the underprivileged student has been created through a number of initiatives, the latest being the OBC reservation in educational institutions. While these initiatives ensured that underprivileged students could take admission in courses and institutions that were earlier out of bounds for them, the new four-year system with semesters and multiple exit options may result in the same underprivileged student opting out at an early stage of their studies. In fact the so called reforms will completely negate the advantages introduced in the recent past.
The four-year system is well thought out and has the best brains in the university designing the system.
In reality, faculty in colleges and university departments who care most about academics have been left out of the deliberations. One would think that Delhi University that has a good number of world renowned faculties would have used their expertise to design a new academic system. Instead, the desire to bulldoze the new system, coupled with the insecurity of dealing with academics who would be critical of unsound “reforms” has led the university to constitute committees consisting of mediocre academics.
All stakeholders were consulted during the process of designing the new four-year system
By its own admission, the university has only one “Academic Congress” to boast of, with “ten thousand” students, teachers and parents as participants. In reality, even though the so call Academic Congress was open to all, many people including faculty were denied entry. There was no subsequent attempt to get inputs from faculties, departments or colleges. In fact, they were systematically excluded from all deliberations, and a few hand-picked individuals were chosen for the committees to usher in the “reforms”. Did the university remember to ask parents whether their children should spend an extra year in college studying foundation courses that they have or should have done in school, without gaining anything extra in terms of academic subjects?
Two weeks to a month is sufficient time to design the syllabus for courses to be taught in the new four year structure.
Universities making such a big change spend between three to five years to deliberate upon and sort out all issues arising out of this change. Syllabus formation itself takes a few months to a year. To expect departments to make a syllabus in a matter of weeks is nothing short of criminal.