In the face of criticism about glaring glitches in the syllabus for the English courses of the fledgling choice-based credit and semester (CBCS) degree programmes of the University of Kerala, the recently constituted board of studies is scrambling to make the syllabus more student-friendly and undo at least some of the damage created by the previous board.

If some portions of the syllabus were deemed by teachers and students to be ultra-tough, some portions had to be taught without even a textbook. For one English course taught in 11 colleges, there was not even a syllabus to go by. All this had generated confusion in the minds of teachers and panic among students who were studying a course such as this for the first time in their lives.

Chairman of the new board of studies for English P.J. Jacob told The Hindu that his team's first aim was to make the syllabus appear friendly to the 30,000-plus students who had signed up for the BA English programme.

The board's challenges were many. “Some papers had four types of model question papers. We reworked this and gave one model question paper per paper. The first semester listening and speaking paper, which is common for all degree courses, had phonetic transcription which is normally done at the MA level. We removed this altogether. Then again, the research methodology paper for the BA main programme had terms which are usually taught for the M.Phil programme. We shifted this portion to later semesters,” Dr. Jacob explained.

According to university officials the CBCS examinations cost the varsity Rs.1 crore. Small surprise this, considering that the question paper for the reading skills paper of the BA English programme was 15 pages long. The grammar paper for the second semester examinations too was 15 pages long. These two question papers printed for more than 30,000 students should themselves have cost the university a tidy sum. Now, these question papers are being remodelled according to the framework suggested by the Kerala State Higher Education Council.

The BA Communicative English programme is being offered in 11 colleges in the university. From the fourth semester on, this programme had no syllabus. This has now been designed and distributed to the colleges.

Similarly, the Communicative English paper of the third semester course has no textbook; none that is available in the market. Now, after the new board took office, a draft copy of the textbook has been reached to each institution. The examinations for this course will be held in October 2011.

“We received suggestions from teachers and students regarding changes in the syllabus and many of those have been taken on board. The board welcomes more suggestions,” Dr. Jacob added.

However, the university is yet to hold any teacher to account for the mess that the English syllabus was.

Glitches in degree course syllabus had drawn flak

Some portions had to taught without textbook