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Students trash DU four-year package

- ‘Foundation courses’ a rehash of school syllabus & would not help us bag jobs, survey told

New Delhi, Dec. 16: If the four-year undergraduate programme that Delhi University introduced this year were a poll candidate and the students the voters, it would have lost its deposit.

A survey has found first-year students at two leading colleges giving a resounding thumbs-down to the programme, launched in July after a bitter and noisy debate. Nine out of 10 said they would have even now switched to the erstwhile three-year course if given the choice.

The Miranda House and Shri Ram College of Commerce students seemed so disillusioned in five months that the positive responses ranged between five and 14 per cent to most questions. Poll candidates lose their deposits if they fail to win a sixth (16.6 per cent) of the valid votes polled.

The survey was carried out by the two colleges’ teachers’ associations, an overwhelming majority of whose members were against the switch to the four-year programme. (See chart)

However, the student respondents, who had to answer a printed questionnaire, did not have to reveal their identities. Some 570 Miranda House students and 148 at Shri Ram College volunteered for the survey.

The results were announced before the media today by the Delhi University Teachers’ Association, where majority opinion has been staunchly opposed to the four-year course. But university authorities played the survey results down.

“It’s too early to make an assessment about the four-year programme. The impact of reforms of this kind take a lot of time to be visible,” a senior official said.

A former Academic Council member, who took part in the preparation of the courses, said: “They (the students) have just completed one semester. They don’t know what they will come across in the second, third and fourth years. Their views at this point of time will be biased.”

The students’ disappointment seemed centred on the 11 foundation courses that students from all the streams have to compulsorily study in the first and second years before moving to the core subjects of their choice.

Some 90 per cent said these courses merely rehashed what they had studied at school. A minuscule minority thought these would significantly improve their employability, as the university claims, or prepare them better for higher studies.

The foundation courses relate to a range of topics from economic development, water, energy and agriculture to sanitation, environment, ethics and society.

The university authorities claim these courses would improve students’ understanding of the world around them, prepare them better to meet contemporary challenges, and help them bag jobs.

Union human resource development minister M.M. Pallam Raju had said the four-year programme would enhance the students’ practical knowledge.

“Nearly all the students feel that the (four-year programme) is failing to make productive use of their time,” Delhi University Teachers’ Association president Nandita Narain said.

Abha Dev Habib, a professor and member of the university executive council, said the university had started a similar survey but abandoned it midway after receiving discouraging responses.

“We are demanding that the foundation courses be taught in the fourth year, and the fourth year made optional for the students,” she said.