In July last year, when the Vice-Chancellor of Delhi University (DU) Dinesh Singh introduced the Four Year University Programme (FYUP), DU became the first Indian university to offer students a US-style four-year degree. The new course, which replaced the exisiting 10+2+3 format of education with the 10+2+4 format, was introduced in haste without consultation. It was hailed by its proponents as a big push in education reforms, but its structure and implementation has turned out to be deeply problematic.
With 11 foundation courses and 26 interdisciplinary courses, it promised to bring in an interdisciplinary approach to higher education in India. However, students and teachers feel that these failed to add value to the programme.
“The foundation courses were a huge let down as they were a repetition of the school curriculum,” says Abha Habid, president of the Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA). Under the mathematics curriculum, students had to study prime and composite numbers, and the difference between hard and soft water under the science curriculum.
“I didn’t buy course books and but still managed to clear my exams. It was a waste of time,” says 19-year-old Rivankita Gupta, an economics student at Shri Venkateswara College, who like many others was drawn to the four-year course as it made applying to universities abroad easier. Sunaina Bavra, 19, a second year student of political science at Hindu College, feels that the course was cumbersome and mismanaged. “There was a lack of clarity in the beginning. Teachers would hardly be present and there was a lack of interaction in the classroom,” she rues.
However, both Gupta and Bavra root for the course despite its pitfalls, and even as the University Grants Commission has ordered a roll-back of the FYUP. Unlike a three-year course, students could choose to pursue a major and a minor subject for specialisation under the FYUP.
“An interdisciplinary approach to learning is important. But what constitutes interdisciplinary?” asks Deepak Mehta, who teaches at the Department of Sociology of the Delhi School of Economics in DU. “Studying economics and sociology at the same time doesn’t make it interdisciplinary. It is only when we relate concepts across subjects that it can be called interdisciplinary,” he adds.
Another controversial aspect of the FYUP is the multiple exit option that allows students to exit after two years with an Associate Baccalaureate, a Baccalaureate after three years, and on completion of four years, with a Baccalaureate with Honours.
Although, many feel that the multiple exit option will institutionalise dropping out, members of the academic task force who chalked out the curriculum for the FYUP feel that it will only increase the employability of students.
“An Associate Baccalaureate is the equivalent of a diploma and that will certainly help students who opt for it find jobs. The next exit point, after another year, is suitable for students wanting to go for the civil services or CA, and those who want to opt for higher studies abroad can complete four years and get an honours degree,” says Anil Jha, member of the Academic Council.
However, many beg to differ. “The multiple exit option will help increase employability, but only as call centre employees and individuals who can man kiosks in malls,” says Mehta.
Ish Mishra, who teaches sociology at Hindu College, also feels that an Associate Baccalaureate holds little value. “While students undertaking a diploma specialise in a particular skill, what specialisation will a two-year course under the FYUP offer?” he asks.
“Education should develop the thought process and curiosity. A four-year BA programme is not a bad idea but it needs to be well thought out and carefully structured,” says Mehta.
Although a UGC order has now called for the rolling back of the FYUP, many see it as an opportunity to reform education that was missed.