The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Jadavpur arts faculty on semester track

10.20: The Dream in Medieval Literature

11.10: French grammar

12 noon: Macro economics

12.50: Performative play

This is what the routine may read like for a student graduating in English at Jadavpur University (JU), Class of 2004. The JU arts faculty is going the semester way for both BA and MA courses, being the only humanities body in the state to take the track. And if things go by the plan, students can take their pick from a combination of choices across departments.

“Since India is now a signatory to Gatt, education will soon be in the service sector and we have to match ourselves with global trends,” pointed out secretary to the faculty of arts Nandita Bhattacharya, speaking on the switch from the annual exam method that is followed on campus.

Another push came from the University Grants Commission (UGC). “It has been urging us for long to bring about a change. The NAAC team, which granted five-star status to JU, also expressed a clear preference for the semester mode of teaching,” explained Professor Supriya Chaudhuri, DSA (the UGC’s Department of Special Assistance) programme coordinator of the English department.

The academic calendar will now be broken into six-month semesters with 14 weeks of teaching. The examination pattern is also being reworked. Most departments want a 900-mark total, keeping the basic structure of the earlier under-graduate system intact. But some departments, like economics, prefer a 1,000-mark aggregate. “We have asked the university to allow us some flexibility. The grand total, of course, will remain the same for all departments. But, in place of the earlier 900-honours-300-pass distribution, we want 1,000 in honours and 200 in pass,” points out Ajitava Raychaudhuri, head of economics.

The method of evaluation is also being worked out. “There will be both class evaluation and formal mid and end-semester tests. The course coordinator will decide on the components of class evaluation — tutorial assignments, objective tests, paper presentation or even performance in a play, in case of a course like drama in practice, explains Abhijit Gupta of English.

Switching to the semester system has also triggered off a total reworking of the syllabus. This, teachers say, is allowing them to introduce new areas. Economics, for instance, will include modules on resource and environment, trade and economics of the social sector. English will offer optional courses in literature of espionage, children’s literature, queer studies and leisure-writing, to mention a few from a list of about 100. History will offer social history of science and technology, social history of modern India and regional history of states like Punjab, Bengal and Assam. “A restricted number of options will be offered every year, depending on the availability of teachers,” Chaudhuri explains.

A significant offshoot, at least in the context of the prevalent educational system in the state, will be the cross-listing of courses in some departments. English and comparative literature are going ahead with plans to offer some courses to students of other departments, studying which will fetch them course credits in their honours aggregate. “We want to open area studies in Bangladesh, Africa, Latin America and Canada to MA students of other departments,” says Kavita Punjabi, head of comparative literature.

A faculty council meet to work out the modalities was held on Thursday, at which all the departments submitted their suggested syllabi and exam procedures.

But will the time-barred semester system suit the humanities section, where students mature gradually' “It is true that students will be immature when they join straight from school. We will try to keep the least challenging courses in the initial semesters,” says Saumitra Basu, head of the Bengali department. Another problem will be the orientation of both teachers and students to the “war-like pace” of the teaching and examination schedule, as Gautam Gupta of economics points out.

“This will require a higher degree of commitment on both sides. But once the system is adopted, these problems should be ironed out,” Gupta says.

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