“A publisher called us a few days ago and finally came today with a couple of textbooks that are supposed to be used for our Foundation Courses, we could see that the books contained some passages from the reading list but it was all very advanced and not a single topic from the syllabus was there,” said St. Stephen’s College Mathematics teacher Nandita Narain this past week.
It was day two of the official academic year in Delhi University and most teachers there didn’t know what they were supposed to be teaching for the Foundation Courses under the controversial new four-year undergraduate programme. “Unless we are given specific reading material, we really will not know what to teach the students,” added Prof. Narain.
The absence of textbooks for students to study the Foundation Courses seems to be ostensibly “solved” by Delhi University, which has decided to commission printing of textbooks, some of them “original works” by some of their own teachers. The website even has pictures of the book jackets and a list of publishers who were commissioned.
When asked for details regarding the quality of content of these books and specific questions regarding the teachers who had made these books, Dean (Academics) Malashri Lal did not give a direct answer. He said: “You will have to see the website.”
“We haven’t even received these books and also haven’t been told whether they are ready or not. I feel really nervous facing these children without knowing what to teach,” said another teacher, who didn’t want to be named. Some of the colleges were reported to have brought these textbooks simply because they “had no other choice” but many of the books promised are yet to be ready.
When asked directly for a specific date as to when the books will be ready, how they expected teachers to teach and students to study without the books being available and without knowing when they would get them, Prof. Malashri Lal again said: “They will just have to wait to find out.”
However, this still does not solve the problem of accessibility of the prescribed “readings” for the Foundation Courses. With each original book being very expensive, the entire list for Learning Mathematical Ability works out to Rs.35,750.
If the university makes “course packs” by copying these “readings” and then distributes them, it will be committing a serious breach of copyright, an offence for which it is already in court. Ms. Narain also doubted whether the university had managed to get copyright permissions from all the publishers in such a short span of time.