Ed reform gone rogue

Context: On 17th Mar 22, the University Grants Commission (UGC) released a draft curriculum for a ‘Four-Year Undergraduate Programme’, or FYUGP, a key component of the National Education Policy.

But the curriculum is filled with confusion and contradiction.

What is the draft curriculum released by the UGC?

The curriculum demarcates three phases for the students’ progression.

The first stage consists of three semesters and is devoted to basic courses labelled as Language, Common, Introductory and Vocational.

In the Introductory portion, the student must take courses from each of Sciences, Social Sciences and Humanities. At the end of this stage, students will be allotted their Major discipline based on their grades (and not their performance in entrance tests or school).

During the second stage, in semesters four through six, students will complete their Major along with a significant portion of two Minors.

At the end of the third year, the student can graduate with a plain Bachelor’s degree.

Some students can stay for a fourth year, the final stage, and complete a Bachelor’s degree called Honours or Research. These students will be eligible for direct admission to PhD programmes in India.

What are the associated issues?

The current three-year Honours degree consists of 148 credits, of which 108 are assigned to the Major discipline. A student completing all four years of the FYUGP will complete 160 credits, of which 48 are for the Major and another 18 for Research.

Due to the proliferation of breadth requirements, the FYUGP students will study an extra year and yet emerge with much less knowledge of their main subject than preceding batches.

One market for FYUGP is students hoping to go abroad for graduate studies, for whom it is useful to be able to show an extra year of study. However, this benefit will not accrue once foreign universities discipline has actually decreased!

The first three semesters ignore achievements in school or any predilection towards a particular discipline.

Someone wishing to major in Mathematics may be rejected due to poor performance in the common, demonstrate aptitude for Mathematics itself.

Having stagnated or even regressed for three semesters, students will be asked to suddenly shift gears and complete the requirements for a standard Bachelor’s degree in just three semesters. This is a recipe for disaster.

There’s no unified vision. For instance: Consider the statement that while students may opt for a three-year degree, the four-year option is “a preferred option since it would allow the opportunity to experience the full range of holistic and multidisciplinary education”. However, the fourth year is only available to students whose CGPA is at least 7. 5 and this will restrict its benefits to, at best, only a quarter of the student population.

Further, a major part of the UGC document was directly copied from a webpage of the University of Michigan. Another significant portion was found on a webpage of the University of Arizona. This plagiarism has revealed the inner workings of the committees that formulate the national policies and curricula. The curriculum has evidently been put together by a group that pooled their individual suggestions, but did not try to harmonise them in a common cause.

Source: This post is based on the article “Ed reform gone rogue” published in The Times of India on 4th May 22.

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