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Column | Panjab University must rethink timeline for CBCS implementation

Panjab University

The University Grants Commission (UGC) put forth an idea of introducing the choice-based credit system (CBCS) in institutions of higher education in 2008-09, claiming that the new “learner-centric approach” has distinct advantages over the existing system since it allows students choice of courses or subjects within a programme and much more. In April 2015, the UGC suggested common minimum curriculum and syllabus for undergraduate courses under the CBCS, and instructed universities to restructure their courses and syllabi accordingly. But, not all stakeholders have found merit in this “top-down”, “one-size fits-all” approach, even terming it as an attack on the university autonomy.

Be that as it may, Panjab University (PU) has decided to adopt the CBCS for BA, BCom and BSc pass and honours courses from the 2017-18 session in all its 194 affiliated colleges across Punjab and Chandigarh. The plan to transform these traditional, popular undergraduate courses entails an in-depth review and revamp of their curricula and syllabi. Unfortunately, with a little over four weeks left for the new session to commence, colleges are still awaiting information on the proposed changes from the PU. Teachers, staff and college students are too in a quandary over the new system.

PU may violate UGC regulations

It seems that in its effort to introduce the CBCS, PU may violate the UGC (Grievance Redressal) Regulations, 2012, framed to prevent harassment of students during admissions. These UGC regulations require that the prospectus of a university/college must be published as well as posted on its website 60 days before the admission process begins to be easily accessible to students. The prospectus must feature detailed information on the structure of courses offered.

Under the regulations, the PU should have given the information by March 2017 if it planned to move to the CBCS from the coming session. This would have enabled affiliated colleges to release prospectuses following the UGC guidelines. With the academic session about to begin, colleges have been forced to release prospectuses and start the admission process without mentioning the structure or syllabi. Chandigarh colleges and PU itself have also launched portals for centralised admissions. With students visiting colleges to take admission, colleges have no answer to their queries on the CBCS and the choices for courses, subjects and papers.

No time to select courses

Reports suggest that the PU will notify the information only after its academic council meeting on June 21, whereas the last date for submission of forms for centralised admissions is June 26, leaving no time to students to make up their minds on choice of courses and subjects. This seems grossly unjust. It’s also infringement of UGC regulations. Most students and colleges would blame the PU for landing them in such a mess.

Then there are reports of inconsistencies between the UGC regulations and the PU proposed CBCS courses, especially with regard to the requirement of 30 hours of contact teaching a week, as per UGC (Minimum Standards of Instruction for the Grant of the First Degree through Formal Education) Regulations, 2003. The planned BCom course has been faulted by commerce and economics teachers. English and Punjabi teachers are perturbed over reduced focus on languages. It is apprehended that there will be more complaints once the syllabi are formally notified.

Challenges before colleges

Major changes, like the ones now being proposed through the CBCS, require farsighted planning and a degree of micromanagement. As colleges are to implement the system, teachers and staff have to be well versed with various aspects of the new scheme so that they can assist their students take informed decisions. Even the whole gamut of new course nomenclatures under the CBCS, like the discipline specific elective courses (DSE), generic elective (GE) courses, ability enhancement courses (AEC), ability enhancement compulsory courses (AECC), skill enhancement courses (SEC) and the fine distinctions amongst them are quite baffling in themselves. With different papers carrying different credits, the CBCS will be a maze difficult to traverse for many a student.

Moreover, colleges have to decide on pass and honours courses/options/papers to be taught, and plan the number of seats per paper according to the faculty and infrastructure available with them. Many are yet to adjust to the new semester system introduced just a couple of years back. Some may now have to switch over from the common 45 minute period to a one hour period because one credit equals one hour of teaching per week in the CBCS.

Not prepared for fundamental change

Further, colleges have to distribute workload to the teachers according to the yet-to-be-notified syllabi, timetables have to be designed as per the new requirements, teachers have to prepare themselves to teach the modified syllabi, new books have to be arranged, laboratories equipped, et al. Usually, this work is completed before the colleges break for summer vacation but nothing has been finalised so far, and the vacation has begun, adding to the confusion all-around.

It is obvious that PU and its affiliated colleges are ill-prepared for this fundamental change. Some stakeholders feel that heavens are not going to fall if the previous system continues for another year because they fear that sudden and shoddy implementation of the CBCS would only cripple what may ultimately be a ‘good initiative’.




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