Saturday, March 06, 2010

Proposed semester system in Delhi University triggers debate

The proposed introduction of the semester system in Delhi University at the under-graduate level has triggered much debate with many arguing that the semester system would result in the deterioration of academics rather than the improvements it suggests. The semester system proposes that each of the three years in Honours courses would be divided into two semesters with four papers per semester. Of the 24 papers, students would take 16 papers from the Main subject, six Minor papers and two electives. If the students take six Minor papers from one subject, he or she would qualify for a Minor in the subject. In some courses such as B.Sc. Physics Honours where one subject as Minor is considered inadequate, a structured package of six papers comprising two or three subjects would be proposed.

The semester system also proposes changes in the Programme courses. At the end of each semester, centrally evaluated examinations would be held. The in-house college examination will be removed and 25 per cent for internal assessment would be redistributed in the form of attendance and assignments of 10 per cent each while class tests/project presentation would be 5 per cent. Many teachers have said that holding of two centrally evaluated examinations would cause increased examination burden. According to Economics Department professor Dr. S. C. Panda, the process of setting the question paper is taxing with multiple question papers needed to be set within a limited time and few people to do it. “Once students have written the exams, the examination branch has to assign fictitious roll numbers which takes a week to 10 days. Then evaluation happens following which a month is taken for result tabulation. The prospect of repeating the process twice a year is scary,” he added.

The proposed itinerary of the semester system suggests that the results would be declared in less than a month. Teachers have said this would not be possible considering the resources available. Also expressing concern over dispensing with the fictitious roll number system, Dr. Panda said: “This is being done to save time. However, the fictitious system preserves the student anonymity.” To solve the problem it is being suggested that three-four examiners evaluate one script which is being considered as ineffective by many teachers.

Many Departments such as English and Economics have alleged that to implement the semester system some main papers would have to be reduced leading to dilution of Honours courses. Teachers would also have reduced time for research. Regarding the interdisciplinary character which the semester system proposes to introduce, some teachers have argued that the interdisciplinary character already existed in the form of concurrent courses. Teachers have further argued that students who are admitted late under the system may suffer academically.

The DU website states that the university was obtaining data from colleges regarding specialisations of their teachers and data on papers that they were currently teaching on their respective subjects. IT based systems would also be put into place to reduce the employees’ logistics work. Despite opposition, Vice-Chancellor Prof. Deepak Pental said the semester system would be introduced from this session onwards. “Currently between 20-70 per cent teachers are involved in examining scripts. All teachers should be involved. At a meeting of the DU Executive Council it was resolved that all teachers must be involved in the evaluation process,” he said, adding there could be difficulties because of the increased examination load.

Emphasising the need for inter-disciplinary curriculum, Prof. Pental said five years were available for a student to study a particular course and it was necessary to incorporate strands of other disciplines too. According to Prof. Pental, the syllabus of some courses would be ready by mid-April while for some others the syllabus might not be ready.

Source: The Hindu, February 22, 2010 (Reported by Urvashi Sarkar)

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