FYUP to CBCS, game of choices

Delhi University colleges await orientation lectures as faculty members and the fresh batch of undergraduate students grapple with the newly introduced Choice Based Credit System (CBCS). Students, meanwhile, have been given three preferences for the electives they would like to study in their first semester.

This is the first time DU students will get to pursue generic electives or minor subjects. A similar structure was on offer in the form of Discipline Course II under the four-year undergraduate programme (FYUP), which was scrapped a year after it was rolled out in 2013.

Students, however, see flaws in the multidisciplinary approach adopted under the new system. Karishma Koshal, a student of English (Hons) at Kirori Mal College, says, “On paper CBCS is fabulous. We have options to choose from a pool of 14 generic elective papers. But in reality we have limited options since most of the colleges do not offer all the subjects,” Koshal says.  

“I have opted for Political Science because Sociology is not taught at KMC,” she adds.
Teacher groups, which are opposing the University Grants Commission’s recent attempt at academic reforms, argue that the new system requires colleges to widen their offerings to provide more optional courses.

“Every institution has a peculiar system. There are many colleges which run only Humanities and Commerce courses. And then, then there are purely Commerce colleges like Shri Ram College of Commerce which offers only three subjects – English, Commerce and Economics. So what happens to the other choices?” says C S Rawat, Sri Venkateswara College teacher and a member of Academics for Action and Development (AAD).

He says that such a “radical shift in policy” should have been discussed before being implemented.

Lack of clarity
The credit based system, one of the biggest announcements by the Union Human Resource Development Ministry under Smriti Irani, proposes a semester system pattern in curriculum instead of yearly examinations, grades instead of numerical percentages in mark sheets.

Under CBCS, students pursue three types of courses – compulsory foundation courses (relating to the subject of study), elective courses (allowing interdisciplinary courses) and core subjects. It is compulsory to pursue core subjects every semester and choose electives from a pool of subjects unrelated to their Honours discipline.

But even three weeks after the rollout of the new system, some questions still remain unanswered. Sakshi Jain, BCom (Hons) student at Maharaja Agrasen College, claims that first-year students are yet to briefed about the newly rolled out system.

“The grading system is not yet clear. We have been told that the college will hold a seminar on allocation of marks or grades,” she says.

Colleges say they have not received clear instructions from the university, especially on how the internal assessment should be done.

Earlier in July, DU Teachers’ Association (DUTA) had claimed that the university’s Academic Council and Executive Council approved CBCS courses without allowing discussion on the course structure and the possible anomalies that could arise from its rollout.

It has also been claiming that other statutory bodies like committee of courses, faculties and staff councils were not consulted and feedback from them was never sought before “hurriedly” adopting the new system.

“CBCS was forced upon us even without discussion in the AC and EC. No faculty member is aware about the policy,” says Rawat, who is contesting DUTA elections this year. “Autonomy of the university is already gone. Now we have to be prepared for the UGC’s babus giving out instructions.”

The UGC, however, says it has set up a grievance cell for resolving issues related to rollout of CBCS.

FYUP-like structure
One of the biggest criticisms of CBCS is its similarity to the erstwhile FYUP. “The generic electives are similar to the DC-II courses. The only difference is that the elective subjects are offered only to Honours students,” Ansh Goyal, a third-year student of Computer Science at Maharaja Agrasen College, says.

“Just like four-year course, CBCS has comprehensive continuous assessment for elective courses,” Goyal says, adding that he recently had shared his experiences of studying under the FYUP system with the fresh batch of undergraduate students at his college.
According to a senior DU official, the UGC’s new system has heavily borrowed from FYUP. “The syllabus for political science is a xerox copy of the FYUP course content. Even the suggested readings are same,” the official says.

The new system, however, has done away with foundation courses – which were criticised for being “substandard”.

“Just like FYUP, CBCS lets you touch the fields away from your own subject, which is not bad but is only good if the students are really interested in doing so. Being from FYUP batch, I somewhat found my foundation courses a bit useless and time consuming as I had no interest in it. Changing the curriculum for each year has put even faculty in a blunder,” Radhika Malhotra writes on Quora, a question-answer website.

Currently, DU is running three different programmes for three levels of undergraduate students – the third-year students studying under erstwhile FYUP, second-year students under the system the varsity reverted to post FYUP and the fresh batch under CBCS.
The contentious FYUP was rolled back last year following a UGC order.

Challenges in implementation
Rawat describes infrastructure as the biggest “constraint” in implementing in the new system. “According to the university's mandate, we can't allow more than 60 students in one classroom. So we really can’t give the students the choices they make,” he says.

KMC student Karishma Koshal says most of her classmates have opted for Political Science as their elective since they are hamstrung by limited courses on offer. “Miranda House offers Sociology, but there is nothing like inter-college study. So we have no choice but to study Political Science.”

Students are usually showing more interest in studying minor subjects which are related to their core discipline. “I have marked Introduction in Marketing Management, Microeconomics and Computer Science as my three preferences because being a Commerce student I have little or no background in Science subjects,” Sakshi Jain says.

Under the new system, a student can opt for any subject in Commerce or Art or Science discipline as an elective.

The new syllabus is causing problems for some. For instance, those enrolled in English (Hons) say that many of the suggested readings for Indian classical literature are out of print.

Attendance is another issue. “The attendance norms under the FYUP were quite relaxed. This was because students had more papers to study and more assignments to do. But for CBCS, there is not much clarity,” Koshal says.

DU is also dealing with workload fluctuation under the CBCS. The new system allows students to choose between a Modern Indian Language, which includes Hindi and English as part of the Ability Enhancement Course.

“The choice between English and Hindi did not exist earlier. In today’s environment, most students would prefer to opt for English which drastically reduces our workload,” DU’s academic council member Lata says.

“What kind of Hindutva government is this, which screams about promoting Indian Languages but then treats Hindi this way? Our students not only come from DPS school, but also from government schools,” she said.

All UGC funded central universities are implementing CBCS from this year’s academic session onwards. In addition, 21 state public universities, 5 state private universities and 6 deemed universities have also expressed their readiness for implementing CBCS, according to the government’s submission in Parliament.

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