Why can’t students mix and match courses according to their interests?

Do you envy your friend studying in the U.S. who is doing a music major with a course in mechanical engineering? One of the primary attractions that foreign universities hold for Indian students is the flexibility they offer in combinations of courses by allowing you to mix and match subjects over a wide spectrum, like forensic science and literature, for instance. The freedom that it offers to the students to express themselves and do only what interests them is in stark contrast to the rigidities of the Indian educational system.

What would it be like if the same system was introduced in Indian colleges? Will students want to mix and match their courses according to their interests and prospects? It could be a blessing for students who often complain of monotony in their courses. But would it improve their chances professionally? The Hindu EducationPlus spoke to students, and this is what they had to say:

Janani Venkatasubramanian, third year, BE Electronics and Communication, CMR Institute of Technology, Bangalore

As students, when we are half way through the course, every minute on the clock in a class seems like an hour. The sciences of gastronomy and astronomy could be refreshing in my engineering course which is sometimes too full of circuits. Music and art would do well too. For math enthusiasts, cryptography is a highly interesting subject. While it is important to focus on the subjects that deal specifically with our course, a subject or two that may seem bizarre might show the recruiting officer that we are not thorough dull bookworms!

Syed Mohammed, 5th semester BBM, New Horizon College

For the sake of breaking the monotony, change is usually the best answer. Unfortunately, in this case when a person chooses a professional course he/she should be aware that the syllabus and subjects which are fixed are aimed at providing the best knowledge for the course being pursued. So, if a person is given the opportunity to mix subjects he/she will only move away from the objectives of the course provided. Instead, just read a book.

But, if I was given the opportunity, I would simply replace a few theory subjects with relevant ‘practical’ subjects/examinations. For e.g: Being a Management student it would be beneficial to be taught Communication/Presentation/Public Speaking skills as a part of the syllabus, thereby helping me become a potential entrepreneur instead of one with just theoretical knowledge.

Evania Navya, Psychology, Optional English and Communication Studies, Mount Carmel College, Bangalore

Although I do agree that by allowing students to choose their own subjects, you are giving them the freedom to test separate fields and see what they like, there can be an issue of not wanting to know what they want or getting confused between interests and profession. It works in the PU level where a student is unsure of what he/she wants to do but at the graduate level it becomes confusing.

Personally, I’ve never experienced the need for different subjects because my subjects are interesting and I have different papers each semester. So, for me I don’t think I would want any other subject. I have the option of taking up credit courses in subjects I may have an interest in.

Amit Kiran, B.A.-LL.B., University Law College, Bangalore

I think it is a fantastic idea that there is a variety of subjects to choose from. The Bar Council too has been pretty liberal, just prescribing a certain number of subjects that have to be taught and the remaining left to the discretion of the college. I'd love more soft subjects to be taught that are usually not within the ambit of the course because it leads to a better understanding of other disciplines and ultimately a wider knowledge base on the long run. I would love to see journalism and media studies incorporated in my course as these are allied fields that are completely ignored. I don't think it will make any difference professionally in the short run, but ultimately when more employers recognise these multi-disciplinary degrees it might lead to better lateral entry into other fields.

Sanjeev Sonnad, B.E. Computer Science and Engineering, BNM Institute of Technology, Bangalore

As a student in a technical course (B.E.), I do agree that our academical routine eventually settles into a monotony over the course of the semester. Mixing subjects and choosing ones that do not belong strictly to the course at hand would add more colour to the whole picture, and benefit us by helping us sharpen our non-technical skills, which although extremely important, are being neglected these days.

At least one subject like that would be welcome every semester. For instance, I would find it extremely interesting to study a subject on business management or about business ethics, which will definitely help me in my work environment. Studying a subject like that, while making me a better professional, will set me apart from my peers, and help me move up the ranks in today's competitive world.