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St. Xavier’s frees students from subject straitjacket

Here’s to the future St. Xavier’s College graduate: first-class major in physics with chemistry, history and film studies.

Beginning the next academic session, Bengal’s first autonomous college will blur the lines between science and humanities, allowing undergraduate students to pick any combination of subjects in the prospectus.

Yes, you read it right, any combination.

“We will not have honours and pass subjects, we will replace that with major and electives. Students can choose any elective they want to,” Father Felix Raj, the principal of the college, told Metro.

The freedom to straddle disciplines is meant to open the floodgates for customised courses that don’t restrict students to the straitjacket of combinations like math, physics and chemistry or economics, political science and sociology.

So, quirky though it may sound, a student majoring in English can opt for biology as an elective and a chemistry major can widen his or her horizons with history for an elective subject.

The rules require a majoring student to take 16 departmental courses as part of the major subject and six extra-departmental courses, which are all electives. “The degree will be granted on the basis of one’s performance in all the subjects, though the credits for departmental courses will be more than those for the elective subjects,” Felix Raj said.

Not only will students be free to choose the electives, they do not have to study the entire subject. For instance, math as elective will give a student the option of picking between the algebra and calculus papers instead of being forced to study all the papers.

“We want students to enjoy their studies and, at the same time, not ignore their pass subjects, as is the tendency under the present system,” the principal said.

Universities like Cambridge also allow students to combine a variety of subjects and even give them time to understand what suits them. Xavier’s won’t parrot that model.

Students at Xavier’s would need to choose their areas of specialisation at the very beginning, unlike Cambridge where students can start out with a variety of courses before choosing what to specialise in.

At MIT, it is mandatory for science students to take humanities and social science courses.

So what if a humanities student decides to opt for a pure science subject as elective despite not studying science at the plus-two level?

St. Xavier’s has planned a student-support system within the curriculum, under which teachers can offer tutorials to students who are weak in particular subjects. “If a student struggles with a particular subject after two months of studying, there will be the option of tutorials,” Felix Raj said.

The proposed curriculum also aims to rationalise students’ workload by making it more practical.

Internships are being made mandatory for all students. They will also have to complete a project each in the third year that will carry 100 marks.

The revamped curriculum will also allow students to accumulate credits and take sabbaticals between semesters. So a student, with prior permission from the college, can clear all the credits in the first year, then take a break and come back to complete the course.

What it means is that a student can complete graduation in up to 10 years if he or she wishes to study in a staggered manner.

Has Xavier’s stolen a march over Presidency with this innovation?
Tell ttmetro@abpmail.com