Not ready to teach foundation courses, say teachers

“In our Maths class, we had a lesson on the dancing men which comes in the Sherlock Holmes series. Some student asked who Sherlock Holmes was…and the teacher replied that he was a great man…he didn’t even seem to know that he was teaching fiction,” said a student of Kirori Mal College at a public meeting on the new assessment policy of Delhi University’s four-year undergraduate programme (FYUP). The meeting organised by the All-India Students’ Association had former and current teachers interacting with first year students.

The students’ main issue with FYUP is that they are burdened with too much to do in terms of project work, group discussions and presentations. They also said that teachers were ill-equipped to teach even the “silly” foundation courses.

Even though the university has specifically said that attendance is not needed for exams, the new assessment policy in which 55 per cent is internal gives the colleges a right to impose certain restrictions indirectly. “In our college they say if we are absent they will cut marks in our assessment,” said another student from Kirori Mal College. “They want us to deposit our Class X and Class XII certificates and only then are they willing to give us the laptop. We have been told that in case anything goes wrong with the laptop we will have to pay for it, otherwise we will not get our certificates back,” she added.

“Nothing fair”

Several teachers present at the meeting said they were not responsible for the FYUP and that the foundation courses were not structured taking their feedback. They, however, acknowledged that many of them were not equipped to take the foundation course. The students said that in the present course there was room for teachers to favour students they liked. According to them, holding group discussions and presentations was just being unfair to those not confident enough to speak in public or coming from mediocre schools.

English teachers there said that writing, a skill they devoted a lot of energy previously to was being undermined by the idea of group discussions which worked only in a corporate set up. “I have been teaching here for 27 years and I really do not know how to teach a child to give a presentation or group discussion. And, not in a set-up where there are 80 students in class. There is simply no time to teach,” said Ramjas teacher Vineetha Chandra. They also discussed the recent Delhi Government decision to reserve seats for city students in Delhi University. “This university is centrally funded, and is meant for the whole country. The university is what it is because people from all over the country come to study here. We have to take a very firm stand against this,” said Jawaharlal Nehru University professor Nivedita Menon.

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