Students and teachers of Mahatma Gandhi University find the choice-based credit and semester system introduced for degree courses in 2009-10 better than the age-old marking system according to the feedback from a survey conducted by the university.

The Mahatma Gandhi University seems to have implemented the choice-based credit and semester system (CBCSS) for degree courses without many hiccups. University authorities say the new system that was introduced in 2009-10 has helped it in bringing a thorough academic transformation in its affiliated arts and science colleges.

These inferences were drawn based on the feedbackfrom a survey conducted by the monitoring committee for CBCSS among 600 teachers and 300 students who were part of the new system.

Rajan Gurukkal, Vice-Chancellor of the university, told The Hindu-EducationPlus in an interview that 74 per cent of the students who participated in the survey considered the semester system superior to the annual pattern of academic activity.

“More than 50 per cent of students consider the grading system of evaluation superior to the age-old marking system. The interesting outcome of the survey is that while 50 per cent of students admit that their teachers cover the syllabus for the last two semesters, two-third of them complain that the time allotted for teaching different modules in the syllabi is insufficient,” Dr. Gurukkal said.

Observing that there is a strong demand from student community for setting up a tribunal for dealing with internal assessment grievances of students, Dr. Gurukkal said that 85 per cent of the students who participated in the survey favoured internal assessment and 77 per cent of them submitted that all components of internal assessment were completed on time.

The survey found that 71 per cent of students had got the opportunity to verify internal assessment grades before these were sent to the university.

Nearly 20 per cent students lodged complaints regarding their internal assessment.

Only 50 per cent of students were aware of the existence of the students' grievance redressal mechanism (GRM) in their colleges;30 per cent of them were blissfully ignorant of the existence of the same and 20 per cent of students openly acknowledged it.

Explaining that only seven per cent of students out of the total 20 per cent (having complaints about internal assessment) had dared to lodge complaints with GRM in their institution, Rajan Varughese, Pro-Vice Chancellor, told The Hindu-EducationPlus that students have demanded allocation of more time for completing their studies.

“Nearly 60 per cent of the colleges take steps to compensate lost working days. The slot or schedule for extra-curricular activities is constrained and the institutional arrangements are either lacking or defunct in majority of colleges. About 75 per cent of the students are aware of both the content of the new undergraduate programmes and computational aspect of the newly introduced five-point grading system,” Dr. Varughese said.

The survey revealed that the Oral Communication Skill Test for English Common Course was highly appreciated by 80 per cent of the students as beneficial and as a logical corollary to the common course in English.But the existence of the ‘Open Course' component was known only to 42 per cent of students.

“This may be due to the fact that survey group was second semester students while open courses are slated for the fifth semester students. The choices of the students are not fully realised in affiliated colleges as they are constrained by several academic, institutional and faculty factors. But 51 per cent of students feel that their choices of courses are accommodated within the above limitations,” the survey said.

Ground realities

Describing that the second part of the survey was conducted among the teachers of affiliated colleges, Dr. Gurukkal said that the ground realities of curriculum restructuring were reflected in their responses to the survey conducted during the fag end of the second semester.

“Two third of the teachers who took part in the survey opined that the semester system is superior to the annual stream, but as far as the mode of marking (marks or grades), the survey outcome is evenly poised. While 54 per cent of teachers admitted that the time allotted for completing the syllabi is not sufficient, 58 per cent of them completed the entire portion within the mandated semester days,” Dr. Gurukkal said.

Asserting that there was an overwhelming support for (89 per cent) internal evaluation, Dr. Varughese said that 80 per cent of internal evaluation work was completed within the stipulated time frame.

Internal evaluation

“Almost all colleges publish internal evaluation results in the colleges before they are forwarded to the university. Teachers of affiliated colleges feel that the curriculum has now become student-centric. But the level of skill development envisaged through new curriculum is not attained. While 60 per cent of teachers are enthusiastic about the possibilities of open course introduced in the curriculum, 28 per cent of them are to be educated on this aspect,” he said.

The survey found that students were tutored in a big way by the majority of teachers about the niceties of evaluation methods introduced in the restructured curriculum. “They are of the opinion that the new grade cards do not fully reflect the merit and skill of the students. Majority of teachers (82 per cent) find time to compensate the lost working days. About 80 per cent of teachers opined that the students participate in extra curricular activities. Majority of the colleges have functional GRM for dealing with students' internal evaluation related problems,” the survey said.

Near-consensus

The feedback process estimated that there was near-consensus among the major stakeholders (students and teachers) on the structure, content and operational aspects of CBCSS.

“The credit-semester pattern is preferred by all. Though there are time constraints, every effort is made by teachers to cover the topics by compensating the lost working days. The internal assessment component is welcomed by both teachers and students. The complaints are low compared to the multiplicity of internals,” it said.

The survey found that the existence of GRM in all the colleges and the awareness of the same by students point to the creation and operation of academically vibrant institutional framework under CBCSS programme.

“The constraints in the way of optimising the curricular objectives of open and choice-based courses are serious issues which are to be resolved at the college level, with active intervention of the university,” it said.

Dr. Gurukkal said that the problem of attaining the mandatory 90 working days in a semester was addressed to certain extent by the strict adherence to the academic calendar by the university on the one hand and compensatory work carried out by individual colleges and teachers.

Dr. Varughese said that the decision to do away with the annual stream (March, 2011 examinations) will pave the way for complete switch over to semester pattern for all programmes in affiliated colleges.

Suggesting that the undergraduate semester and postgraduate classes will have to be synchronised to ensure maximum working days, Dr. Gurukkal said that the November and May semester breaks envisaged in the CBCSS pattern can be completely devoted for evaluation with simultaneous opening of centralised valuation camps for all odd and even semester examinations.

Plug loopholes

Recalling that the modernisation and computerisation of the examination wing in the university (online hall ticket, online transfer of marks, submission of internal marks, online teacher portal and so on) further institutionalise the curriculum reforms, Dr. Varughese said that the university will strengthen the CBCSS by working on its advantages and plugging the loopholes, if any, aimed at stepping up the quality of higher education offered to the student community.

Dr. Varughese said that the sample size of the survey was small compared to the actual strength of teachers and students.

He said that the non-co-operation of some institutions, which were the primary source of data collection, had affected the survey.

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