CBCS: Consult stakeholders

The University Grants Commission on April 10, 2015 made public a document with draft syllabi of 18 subjects on choice-based credit system, asking colleges and universities to implement it from the coming academic year.

Most institutions are taken aback by the directive. They are hardly aware of the Choice Based Credit System (CBCS). How would they implement it with hardly any time left without participation of staff and students?  It was an order and institutes have been asked to fall in line.

What is the CBSC all about? It is redefining of the curriculum into units or modules. At the completion of a module, the learner can pave the way for learning other modules either in the same institution or elsewhere keeping with one’s needs and interests. The courses are converted into credits. Students can move from a certificate to a diploma to a degree if interested. It is a “cafeteria approach‟ to learning with freedom for the learner to choose from the many subjects.

The UGC claims that CBCS is a shift from the traditional teacher oriented education to a student-centred education with the facility to transfer the credits from one institution to another. Though the students will choose courses of inter-disciplinary nature, the required courses for majoring in a subject will ensure depth.

Professionalism and quality consciousness, UGC argues, are the basis and CBCS offers a very flexible and open system for a quality upgradation of higher education. Courses are categorised into three kinds - core, elective and foundation.

The guidelines provide for effective checks and balances in terms of assessment and weightage for core, elective and foundation elements of a course to remove all variations across colleges and universities. The methods applied for award of grades computation is of semester grade point average (SGPA) and cumulative grade point average (CGPA), which will result in eventual grading, to be done on the basis of specified formulae.

The National Democratic Teachers’ Front, a right leaning group, has opposed the CBSC and has asked the HRD Ministry and UGC not to implement it forcibly. Any reform, according to the group, has to be initiated through in-depth debate among various stake-holders. The Teachers Front has a very valid point. 

Reforms in the university system should not be introduced from above. Given the fact that there are more than 650 universities and over 35,000 colleges catering to over two crore students, it is not proper to introduce reforms without proper consultation and preparation.

Implementation problems

The problems in implementation are likely to be many and the UGC may not be well versed in it. The Students’ Federation of India has rejected the document. Their contention is that the approach is dictatorial and attacks the autonomy of the universities. AISA (All India Students’ Association) has opposed it.

For them “a uniform syllabus signifies a certain political, social and economic vision. It imposes uniformity at the cost of blanking out all alternative/ heterodox views, critique and dissenting voices in an attempt to ensure that feudal and patriarchal ideas and practices, communal common sense and neo-liberal polices become not just the dominant discourse but in fact the only discourse”. 

The way education is tuned to the needs of the markets, one may not disagree with this position. In the context of globalisation, with CBCS students would be better able to sell themselves if they spoke the ‘academic language’ that would be understood internationally.

The UGC says CBCS will secure seamless mobility of students across institutions in India and abroad, make it easy for the transfer of credits earned by students seeking migration from one institution to another, help to better understand the performance of students graduating from different universities and colleges based on grades and prove helpful for potential employers to understand and infer performance of students.

However, the introduction of CSBS is not going to be easy in the country. The measure needs more teachers and infrastructure if students have to choose from number of courses. Secondly in a diverse country like ours, uniformity in education is not what a country must search for.

Uniformity kills creativity and criticality. We cannot and should not tune higher education to the needs of the markets alone either. It is sad however a centralised system of education is imposed without sensitivity to the needs of the local, regional and national contexts.

(The writer is Principal, St. Alo-ysius Degree College, Bengaluru)

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