It has been a rather eventful past month for Delhi University students…and a harrowing year for the undergrads. This year saw an epochal change with the introduction of a four-year under grad programme. The idea of the 4 years was to progress and grow and improve the quality of the DU education. However, there was no marked improvement in education standards within the university, and too much protest from the teachers and students. Last month the media hounds jumped in (because there was no bigger story) and Delhi University has reverted to the old three year programme.
As an individual who went through a year of arbitrary courses and a very schoolish grading system, I have a unique perspective on the events and what they meant for the students.
The four year undergraduate programme (FYUP) is a classic example of a terrific idea with failed execution. At the very outset it had merits. The fourth year added credibility to the transcript with more course credits for any future employers or universities and opened up the channel for outgoing students to directly apply for graduate schools in America, which wasn’t possible with the three year programme and often led to students taking up a longer Master’s degree in the university.
The problems, however, were arising due to a lack of structure within the four-year system as compared to the Irish Baccalaureate or the American undergraduate. For starters, the courses to be taken by students in a particular field were neither of relevance nor interest to the students. Having to study mathematics as a history student, I was categorically lost during lectures and unable to keep up with the coursework. This is a prime example of a great idea, i.e. to allow students who are interested in mathematics, but not to the extent to study it throughout their degree, to have some level of mathematical literacy. The key ingredient in this saga is the interest, of which I had none. Thus, the important hurdle in the DU undergraduate, which was the rigidity of the courses, hadn’t changed, it was only that instead of studying history of a region and period I was not interested in, I had to struggle with basic trigonometry, which given said lack of interest made it exponentially harder.
The grading system, by virtue of which coursework and classwork were weighted highly and the first year consisted of a set of foundation courses, without really specifying what foundation was being laid, made it a scatter maze. Courses to study English, which were not much better than the high school syllabus, offered no additional skill. As an alternative, offering different history or politics courses would have been of more use for the student and since a new subject would have had depth.
High amounts of coursework also meant that there wasn’t ever enough time for independent reading or stimulating discussions. The set of courses were dominated by foundation courses, which made it extremely hard to concentrate on the two history courses that were of interest during the semesters.
The final problem with this reversion is that I am now practically in a two year undergraduate for history, since the first two years consisted of developing a generic foundation. Only the 3rd and 4th years were subject intensive. This makes it harder to decide a post-college future and to make requisite applications and gives us a smaller time-frame to build an impressive resume.
For many of the students, a degree from DU is a ticket to a good job, so I would like to know how many are willing to waste a year for that “ticket” to the job? Not many of you, I could guarantee that.
For many who just want a post graduation (anywhere) feel that this extra year of undergrad was just prolonging the agony, something that’s just not WORTH IT !!
So it is the perceived value of the graduate degree – its just not worth the 4 years !!.
In summation, I wasn’t irked by the concept of an FYUP, merely by how poorly it was implemented. Its now in the annals of history as another one of DU’s catastrophic mishaps. Hopefully, the coming years will see an improvement in the system with more significant changes like improving syllabi, a teacher feedback system, and giving students an array of courses to choose from.