BU proposal to discontinue three fine arts courses comes as a shocker to many

Dance, drama and music classes have always been treated as add-ons or extracurricular activities, right from the school level. The treatment does not appear to alter at the university level either. Though Bangalore University (BU) has full-fledged undergraduate courses with performing arts as the main subjects, it has proposed to do away with them, as they have become “obsolete.”

Recently, BU announced a shocker, proposing the discontinuation of three such courses (among several other courses) — Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) Music, B.A. Dance/Drama/Music and B.A. Kathak and Choreography.

Institutions and teaching staff have voiced varying responses to the “news”. One teacher from a college offering the B.A. Music course expressed incredulity, saying, “It is not possible for them (BU) to make this course obsolete. There is too much interest, so it is not easy to drop these subjects. We do not have any problems regarding the number of teachers or textbooks.”

Optimistic

K. Gokulanath, coordinator of Acharya Patashala (APS) College, which offers B.A. Music, was optimistic, doubting whether the proposal would be implemented. “The college hasn't received any circular or notification. What we have read about the matter has only been in newspapers. It is not fair on their part, and I do not think there will be any serious implementation,” he said.

Further, reacting to a reason cited by the university that by scrapping the courses, the workload of setting question papers would be reduced, Mr. Gokulanath pointed out that on the contrary, with no more than four or five students studying the course, it is easy for the university to set question papers for these courses.

Konamma, principal of the Natya Institute of Kathak and Choreography (NIKC), said that she has spoken to the BU Vice-Chancellor, and he has given an assurance that the course will not be scrapped. NIKC is the only institute offering the course under BU and it receives at least 30 applications every year.

‘Shocked'

Students too are expressing shock and surprise at the decision. Akash Dogra, a second year B.A. Kathak and Choreography student at NIKC, said, “The NIKC offers more knowledge about dance forms and choreography than any other institute. Anyway, I don't think this move will affect students already enrolled in the course.”

Swapnashree Bhasi, who joined the institute in June this year, feels that it would be “very unfortunate and discouraging” for BU to phase out the course.

“I think it is only in this course that we have an intense, elaborate portion taught more through practice rather than textbooks,” she said.

Accomplished professionals from the world of performing arts lament the university's proposal. R.K. Padmanabha, vocalist, felt that the move to discontinue such courses is “unfortunate,” adding, “students don't take courses which involve studying art forms because they aren't job-oriented.” However, he said that private colleges are attracting students.

Solution

Bharatanatyam dancer and teacher Padmaja Venkatesh was more outspoken on the issue. She thought that the root cause of BU's decision was the meagre number of students opting for the courses. Blaming the education system, she said it has lost belief in the method of traditional learning, adding that the market value of these courses has also come down.

By means of a solution, Ms. Venkatesh suggested that the performing arts should be “integrated into some other course at the primary school-level itself.” “Music and dance should be made a compulsory subject, like English, in schools,” she suggested.

Bruce Lee Mani, guitarist for Thermal and a Quarter, placed the blame on the course value, saying that curriculum and faculty have to be good to attract students. “You have to be able to offer a course/curriculum that helps people achieve both artistic and commercial goals. I doubt very much if these courses had serious thought put into them, had the right faculty and the right curriculum to ensure that graduates had all the requisite skills, knowledge and street-smartness to thrive in the real world.”

Negating the university's argument that there were too few takers for these courses, some college authorities maintained that they still receive a steady number of applications every year. “As long as there is interest and prospect for a certain course, it cannot be dubbed obsolete,” insisted an artiste.