CBCS in Delhi University: A matter of choice

All universities will soon evaluate students on grades instead of marks, and offer them a say in subject selection. Teachers are not giving the new system full marks

Amitabh Thakur | June 19, 2015


#du admission   #delhi university admissions   #delhi university cut off   #delhi university   #choice based credit system du  


In the last week of May, when the Delhi university (DU) opened its admission process, it also introduced a new system of evaluation: choice-based credit system, or CBCS. This was done in accordance with the guidelines of the human resource development (HRD) ministry. The new system seeks to replace the marks-based evaluation in all the universities across the country. Most universities in India follow the marks based evaluation, some follow the grade system and some follow both. In January 2015, in a meeting of all state education ministers convened by the HRD ministry, it was decided by consensus to implement the CBCS in the new academic year of 2015-16. This was done with the intention to “provide wider options to the students and also ensure their seamless mobility across institutions”.
 
What is CBCS


As of now the universities offer fixed courses or papers to the students. The CBCS will provide choice to the students to select from the prescribed courses. In any particular programme leading to the award of the degree, diploma or a certificate, there will be three types of courses – core, elective and foundation courses. The core courses will be compulsory and from the discipline or subject which the student is pursuing. The elective course can be from the discipline/subject which the student is pursuing or it can be from some other unrelated discipline/subject. The elective courses seek to provide an expanded scope of study. It may be supportive of the discipline or it may provide exposure to some new discipline, subject or domain. It will be instrumental in nurturing the student’s proficiency and skill. The foundation courses are intended to enhance knowledge. They are mandatory for all courses and may be of two kinds – compulsory foundation and elective foundation.

Glossary of a new higher education

Choice-Based Credit System (CBCS): Students have a choice to select from the prescribed courses (core, elective or minor or soft skill courses).

Credit-Based Semester System (CBSS): Under the CBSS, the requirement for awarding a degree or diploma or certificate is prescribed in terms of number of credits to be completed by the students.

Courses: Usually referred to as ‘papers’, all courses need not carry the same weight. These should define learning objectives and learning outcomes. A course may be designed to comprise lectures/ tutorials/laboratory work/ field work/ outreach activities/ project work/ vocational training/viva/ seminars/term papers/assignments/ presentations/ self-study etc. or a combination of some of these.

Credit Point: It is the product of grade point and number of credits for a course.

Credit: A unit by which the course work is measured. It determines the number of hours of instructions required per week. One credit is equivalent to one hour of teaching (lecture or tutorial) or two hours of practical work/field work per week.

Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA): It is a measure of overall cumulative performance of a student over all semesters. The CGPA is the ratio of total credit points secured by a student in various courses in all semesters and the sum of the total credits of all courses in all the semesters. It is expressed up to two decimal places.

Grade Point: It is a numerical weight allotted to each letter grade on a 10-point scale.

Programme: An educational programme leading to award of a degree, diploma or certificate.

Semester: A semester is of 15-18 weeks of academic work equivalent to 90 actual teaching days. The odd semester is usually from July to December and the even semester from January to June.

Two ways to assess students
Two methods, relative grading or absolute grading, have been in vogue for awarding grades in a course. The relative grading is based on the distribution (usually normal distribution) of marks obtained by all the students of the course and the grades are awarded based on a cut-off marks or percentile. Under the absolute grading, the marks are converted to grades based on pre-determined class intervals. To implement the following grading system, the colleges and universities can use any one of the above methods.

The UGC recommends a 10-point grading system with the following letter grades as given below:

O (Outstanding)   10
A+ (Excellent)   9
A (Very Good)   8
B+ (Good)   7
B (Above Avg)   6
C (Average)   5
P (Pass)   4
F (Fail)   0
Ab (Absent)   0


The assessment of such courses will be done on the basis of grades. The current practice is to award marks based on the examination which is then converted into letter grades (like ‘A’ or ‘B’) by some institutions. The UGC notes, “There is a marked variation across the colleges and universities in the number of grades, grade points, letter grades used, which creates difficulties in comparing students across the institutions.” Therefore it has recommended “a 10-point grading system with the letter grades”. (see box)

H Devaraj, vice-chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC), considers the transition from the marks-based system to the credit-based system to be one of the major reforms in administering higher education in the country. There are 719 universities in the country including deemed and private ones. To bring around such a transition, certain prerequisites such as semesterisaton of the academic session, restructuring of syllabi, standardisation of the examination system should be in place. To remove the problems in the implementation of the system, the UGC has conducted meetings with vice-chancellors of all the universities across the country. “There was no dissent but some shared discomfort,” says Devaraj who conducted these meetings. The discomfort mainly stems from the affiliated colleges who have a large number of students but do not have enough space or teachers. According to him the UGC has assured them all the help to overcome their concerns.

The introduction of CBCS in DU has sparked another debate on the lines of the four-year undergraduate programme (FYUP), which was introduced in the university in 2013 but had to be rolled back a year later following widespread protests. CBCS, too, now faces similar opposition.

“CBCS is a euphemism for no choice at all,” says Nandita Narain, president of the Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA). “In the earlier system too, students were offered subjects other than the core/main subjects. In the new system the courses which will have less students will eventually die out as is happening in music, Indian languages, philosophy, etc.” She warns that the “seamless mobility” will be only one sided – from the government universities to the private ones. There is a very poor teacher-student ratio in the existing universities and government colleges, therefore the intended mobility cannot take place because of the lack of infrastructure whereas the private universities have a lot of space to accommodate students. Eventually this move will lead to the higher education going completely in the hands of the private sector, she says.

On the other hand, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), which was completely opposed to the FYUP, is supporting the CBCS. Saket Bahuguna, secretary of the Delhi unit of ABVP, says, “All the IITs and management institutions across the country follow the credit-based system. Why should we deprive the students from a system which is widely acclaimed as a better one across the world?” He, however, adds, “We continue to demand better infrastructure for the optimum and intended use of this new system.” He says CBCS will have no negative impact on the students as the number of years for the completion of degree remains three as against four years of the FYUP. Also, there is no exit option for students, unlike FYUP, so there is no risk of increase in the dropout rate, especially for girls.

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(The article appears in the June 16-30, 2015 issue)

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