They should welcome the semester system
Ravi Dhar | May 12, 2010
I had hardly got admitted to the Master’s degree programme in English, when the campus got abuzz with the news of the semester system being introduced in Jammu University. There were many apprehensions in the minds of students, particularly the student leaders. And these often took the form of agitations and dharnas, disrupting the even tenor of the academic activities on the campus. Finally, the then vice chancellor of the university convened a meeting of the student representatives and toppers in all the departments, along with experts in educational methodology. The meeting clinched the issue; the fears were shown to be misplaced and concocted and the system was introduced. To this day, it continues without even a whimper of protest from any quarter.
Change always breeds resistance. The status quo is a comfort zone which no one likes to abandon. The more uninformed a person the greater is the resistance. Communication theory speaks of the long span of time innovations take to diffuse among the masses. And true enough, those students behaved like most ordinary people would.
But, it comes as a shock when one gets to read about academics resisting change. Recent reports about some of the teachers of Delhi University, in particular those belonging to the departments of Economics, English, Philosophy, History, Geography and Sociology protesting against the implementation of semester system in Delhi University call up memories of the past. While one can understand the resistance of student leaders who understood little the gains of semester system, it confounds ones understanding as to why dons of a leading university should be up in arms against the semester system. Moreover, what beats comprehension is the fact that there is a gap of around 28 years between the two incidents during which not just the world but also India has moved from one economic and social dispensation to another.
During these 28 years, most of the universities in India and abroad have implemented the semester system successfully. Having worked for over 26 years in various universities in India, I myself have been both a part as well as a witness of this change. Nowhere have I seen teachers or even students rising in arms against the semester system. In fact, my personal experience of the last 26 years tells me that semester system has brought in an element of academic rigour and discipline in programmes of studies at undergraduate as well as postgraduate levels. I still recall how the annual system of education had many pockets of academic lassitude which made me feel disorientated as an undergraduate student. Incidentally, I happened to top at the undergraduate level in the university.
The resistance of DU teachers to the semester system is, therefore, baffling. But, perhaps it is not all that baffling too. The annual system of education at the undergraduate level has been such as to hardly challenge the teaching and the learning abilities of the teacher and the taught. As a result, it has created a lot of spare and idle time for both. While each of the students have utilitised this spare time in their own ways depending on their proclivities and passions, the teachers too have followed suit. A major section of the students have largely wasted away this time in pointless activities. But not so the teachers. Many of them have taken up assignments which can further boost their financial position. In fact, the joke goes that a teacher was once asked by a principal regarding what was his side business, the teacher came out with the pert reply that it was teaching in his college. While one cannot fault such teachers for their desire to pep up their incomes, keeping in mind the high cost of living in a metropolis like Delhi, one can not at the same time approve of such ventures when the government has been more than bountiful in taking care of the teaching community by giving them handsome scales of pay as per the Sixth Pay Commission.
It is high time we all recognise our duties. India has one of the lowest human development indices. The only way we can contribute to raising this index and making our country as great as it was in the aeonic past is by dedicating ourselves to work for the good of our community and our nation. Teachers are very well placed in this noble task. By educating students in right earnest in stead of squabbling over the increase in workload on account of the introduction of the semester system, they can transform the landscape of this nation. This may entail the sacrifice of our personal and individual privileges and sources of income but it will be highly rewarding to see the efflorescence of educated youth in place of illiterate and semi literate youth in the country.
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