We have become habitual of adopting but not devising what actually suits us
After more than three decades India has come up with a new educational policy that was basically in draft form for few months during the year 2019 and finally got the approval few days back and as per its highlights for the educational upliftment of the society by 2035-40. It seems to be a comprehensive initiative to revamp the Indian education sector in terms of curriculum, courses and classes, create world class multidisciplinary and autonomous institutions that looks quite promising and in fact much needed, conversion of all single stream colleges and universities in the country to multidisciplinary institutions much to the need of the times, shift to four year degree programmes for all academic courses from the current three year college degrees, concept of minor and major subjects in graduation to suit the student choice and needs that means for example a student with a major subject in Zoology can choose a minor from History or Urdu if really the choice works, and increase the gross enrolment ratio to at least 50% by 2035 in the higher education sector that too looks practically a daunting task for a 15 year term to achieve that. However, we can’t say the new education policy has hit everything needed to achieve and boost in education but it has also come up with deficiencies and discriminations.
Shift to four year graduation programme
Everyone in academia must be knowing that in the year 2013 when Delhi University came up with the same proposal of four year graduation framework for certain programmes in its campus, itwas criticised and got stopped right at its inception and now the time has come that it is wholly applicable in Indian higher education system, perhaps none would have imagined to see it happening all over India after seven odd years. Then it was pursued as an adoption model and unfit in Indian context and today again it is an adopted model from US and other foreign universities but has been greeted with a scope and ray of hope for Indian college sector.
We have westernised our approachesin education and don’t hesitate to copy and adopt their system without actually looking and considering our own culture, infrastructure, socio-economic framework, socio-political setup, geo-climatic conditions and most importantly individualistic approach to knowledge and education. We adopted semester system and choice based credit system but we are not still comfortable with the system although system is not bad but our adjustment have not materialised to a success but compromises for all the stakeholders. So what has been in the minds of policy makers let’s hope that gets reflected in society and a charisma of finishing the four year degree programme happens well in time without draining more time and money of students and their parents.
I believe we have become habitual of adopting but not devising what actually suits us. Why don’t we devise what our socio-economic, socio-political and geo-climatic and culture demands. Again adopting anAmerican model of four year graduation programme cannot be considered an overnight healing to our struggling degree awarding procedure vested in colleges. This shall be more complicated when the colleges will be in transition till 2035 to shift from mere affiliated colleges of universities to autonomous ones that it will be a tough job ahead for the administrators and teachers. Importantly during the same period framing and setup of four year curriculum with one year research work will not be easy but herculean task for every college because it has to be autonomous in character and devise its own academic setup simultaneously.
The four year undergraduate programme with multiple exit options to students looks well-structured but challenging for the students and the colleges. Under the exit programme, students will have the option to leave the programme and the college whenever and what level the want does not look that much easy, it will bring with it issues and repercussions too. May it be possible that it will increase the dropout rate too when some percentage of students will find a four year period quite suffocating to earn an academic degree considering the socio-economic and other factors in our societies?
The policy says that if a student completes one year, he or she will get a certificate. A successful two year completion and clearance will enable him or she to get a diploma, three years will get them a degree and most importantly if a student pursues a four year programme with research, he or she will be eligible for direct admission for a PhD. The lack of proper infrastructure and research facilities in majority of the colleges will be a big factor to see a real success of one year research work within the four year programme of awarding a degree.
Again what will be the market fitness and usage of a student having one year certificate course or two year diploma in some subjects of purely academic nature if they wish or chose to exit at one or two year period? Will there be any takers for them when holders of technical and skilled certificates already suffer to get a earning or job. What will be the market value for the certificates and diploma of academic nature when unemployment is already at peak?
Similarly what will be the real success rate of full term four year programme? What will happen to those who basically want to finish with a full four year degree but will not be able to finish but will be accumulating backlogs. Those who will successfully complete the four year term and immediately will be eligible for PhD admission. Does that mean they will also be eligible to sit in national level PG based eligibility examinations like CSIR and UGC NET/JRF and other related examinations and get qualified to teach at higher education level? Will there be a four year guarantee to get a degree. Many students will be requiring extra years of study. However, these things are not explained in the policy.
So it will be a big question that will students actually graduate in a four year term. For example, the official four-year graduation rate for students attending public colleges and universities is around 30% in US, the country from which the four year graduation system has been adopted in the NEP-2020.Similarly according to a report of U.S. Department of Education (2019), 60% of the students completed the four year bachelor’s degree in six years.Overall, colleges and universities in U.S. report the six and eight-year graduation rates of students in colleges and universities meant actually to grant degrees during four year period.
So what will be the scenario here when the four year graduation scheme is implemented in our colleges that are already struggling at multiple fronts from academics to governance? Since 2014 our students never graduated within three years but it took them 4-5 years to earn academic degrees from our colleges. Let’s also not forget that the colleges which were created in the near past are still deficient in terms of adequate land, good leadership, physical infrastructure, state of the art laboratory & library facilities, adequate human resources and supportive staff, etc.
Therefore, it will be both interesting and challenging to witness the implementation of four year degree awarding scheme in colleges as formulated in the policy in times of transition not only from three years to four years but in terms of curriculum planning, administration and governance when the existing colleges will be transforming to autonomous institutions with their own academic setup and control. Let’s wait and watch the implementation plans of NEP-2020 for each of its aspects vested in it.
(Author Teaches Zoology at Islamia College Srinagar)