Multi-disciplinary studies: A fine jugglery?

Multi-disciplinary education- an accepted style of teaching in US, whereby students are allowed to pick up a wide array of subjects across streams, is increasingly gaining currency in India as well. Delhi itself has seen the rise of a number of private universities adopting this format of teaching lately. Even Delhi University (DU) is trying to introduce new subjects into its rigid courses to give its students a wholesome perspective.

Many varsities are adopting multi-disciplinary style of education.However, in spite of empowering students to a great extent, the success of this model is yet to be seen as it has led to infrastructure and curriculum designing related difficulties in most varsities.

The latest in a string of private initiatives to endorse the inter-disciplinary style of teaching in Delhi is The Young India Fellowship - a university mentored by stalwarts like NR Narayana Murthy and Kiran Karnik, with its campus in Adhchini, South Delhi.  Others include the Shiv Nadar University located in Gautam Buddha Nagar, UP, and even Amity University is learnt to be experimenting with this model. DU, Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and IIT Delhi have also come together to form a Meta University which enables students to take up subjects across board and avail each other’s resources.

For some students, this model of education has certainly worked. A student of The Young India Fellowship, Suvajit Chakraborty, tells Metrolife, “This university offers a one-year Post Graduate programme combining various disciplines taught by the best in the industry. After doing an LLB (legal studies), I feel this is the best PG programme for me as it gives me exposure to teaching and people from various streams. After all, as a lawyer I would be required to deal with clients from various industries. So if I am learning business studies here, I think it should help me in cases related to business problems.”

All universities and students have, however, not had as great an experience with this style of teaching. Abha Dev Habib, a lecturer in Physics at DU, says, “We tried introducing certain subjects like Environmental Education and Gandhian Studies in our curriculum to give our students a rounded perspective at both the graduation and post graduation level. However, graduation students started complaining of over-burdening, and it just couldn’t take-off at the PG level. After all, studying multiple topics cannot be at the cost of the main subject.”

Most educationists also feel that this model should be adopted in India with a lot of care. It should not become a case of aping the West just for the sake of it. Well known career counsellor Usha Albuquerque says, “It is great as a concept but requires a lot of discussion and deliberation before endorsing. New universities can use this model as they are still putting their infrastructure in place but established universities like DU have a problem adopting this as it requires enough teachers, classrooms, a completely new set-up and many other things. All varsities should strive for it in the long run, but no one should try to do it overnight. Otherwise it may lead to more harm than good.”

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