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May 29, 2011

Page: 21/37

Home > 2011 Issues > May 29, 2011

Campus Scene
Controversy over semester system still unresolved

By Saurab Dubey

DELHI University, the prestigious university of the country, is in turmoil over the introduction of semester system at undergraduate level. The members of Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA) met the Vice Chancellor many times and registered their opposition to the semester system. But the VC is adamant on the issue and he has issued orders to introduce the system from the current academic session, beginning from July.

The issue hit the headlines because of the prestigious history and reputation of the University and also the presence of powerful teachers association there. The VC has repeatedly been trying to enforce his powers without justified participation of the other concerned institutional bodies, while the DUTA is consistently opposing it without studying its impact. As a result, the real concern is being ignored by both the VC and the DUTA members.

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 now take 16 papers from the main subject, six minor papers and two electives. If a student takes six minor papers from one subject, he or she would qualify for a minor paper 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 of 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, 10 per cent each for class tests and the project presentation would be 5 per cent. The itinerary of the semester system suggests that the results would be declared in less than a month. But the teachers feel it would be impossible considering the lack of resources available.

Despite strong opposition from the DUTA, the former Vice Chancellor Prof Deepak Pental issued orders for introduction of the semester system from the coming academic session. “Currently between 20-70 per cent teachers are involved in examining scripts. All teachers should be involved (in it). At a meeting of DU Executive Council it was resolved that all teachers must be involved in the evaluation process,” Prof. Pental said, adding that there may be difficulties because of the increased examination load. The teachers also feel that holding two centrally evaluated examinations would increase the examination burden manifold.

But the DUTA raised a very pertinent question—when the former Vice Chancellor passed the proposed semester system, no member of the Academic Council (AC) and the Executive Council (EC) supported it. The VC then used his emergency power and passed the semester system. But the question is whether by using his emergency powers the VC can change the ordinance and statute of the University without taking the Executive Council and the Academic Council into confidence.

Talking to Organiser, Dr VS Negi, member of the Academic Council, said the semesterisation of the undergraduate courses in haphazard manner by the DU would lead to uncertainty among the students and the teachers. Only the DU administration is happy party to it. It could have been implemented in more efficient way if the DU had taken-up the issue in proper way. “Principally, we are not against the semester system, it is the dictatorial approach of the VC towards its implementation that we are protesting against it. The Delhi University is a democratic institution, why should we be the puppets in the hands of the University administration,” said Prof Nandita Narain of Miranda House.

The Academic Council consists of Vice Chancellor, Pro-Vice Chancellor, deans of faculties, heads of departments and elected members (teachers). It is the Academic Council that empowers the Vice Chancellor to amend the subject courses. The Committee of Courses has not yet passed the courses of English (Honours), Economics (Honours) and Political Science (Honours). “The Academic Council is one of the supreme bodies of the University and it has been convened in violation of the University statutes. All the stakeholders need to be represented. The High Court had also asked the University to consult the students and yet we have no student representative in the Academic Council,” said elected Academic Council member Shri Sheo Dutt.

However, many universities in India have adopted semester system and are giving good results. For example in the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), all the courses are conducted under the semester system and the students as well as the faculty members feel comfortable with it. There are four to five exams in one semester and they cover all blocks of the syllabus. Syllabus in JNU is prepared by the faculty with its own choice and selection, while in the case of Delhi University it would not happen in the ongoing semester system. In the case of routinely exams in DU also it would be a big problem because of lack of infrastructure and the shortage of faculty and administrative staff.

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