Colleges

Semester system reforms in focus

Many questions: Is the size of degree classes too unwieldy for teachers to value assigments and conduct seminars under the choice-based credit-and-semseter system? Is a syllabus reform imminent?

Many questions: Is the size of degree classes too unwieldy for teachers to value assigments and conduct seminars under the choice-based credit-and-semseter system? Is a syllabus reform imminent?  

more-in

The B. Hridayakumari committee, at its first sitting held in the State capital, listened to various views on reforming the choice-based credit-and-semester system for degree courses in the universities in the State. G. Mahadevan says the points raised included the problems posed by large class sizes and the need to expand the grading scale and restructure the syllabi.

Possible changes in the scale of grading, the need to switch over from direct to indirect grading, and restructuring the syllabi were among the points that came up for discussion at the first sitting of the B. Hridayakumari committee set up by the Kerala State Higher Education Council for suggesting reforms in the choice-based credit-and-semester system (CBCSS) for degree courses in the universities in the State.

The sitting, held in Thiruvananthapuram on March 6, saw the committee in direct contact with stakeholders in the newly introduced system for degree courses.

Perhaps, the most detailed response to the committee was given by the All Kerala Private College Teachers' Association (AKPCTA) and the Thiruvananthapuram district committee of the Kerala Private College Teachers' Association (KPCTA).

Representatives of these organisations spoke at length about the large number of students in degree classes and on how such class sizes have effectively blunted the efficacy of many of the practices of the new system, including assignments and seminars.

The AKPCTA, in its note to the committee, called for a reduction in the number of students in degree courses in accordance with the norms of the University Grants Commission. The note lamented that the quality of internal evaluation had suffered on account of “the unwieldy student strength.” However, the organisation's note was silent on how such a reduction could be effected, particularly in its constituency — the private colleges in Kerala.

Representatives of the KPCTA spoke at length about how large classes had rendered seminars and assignments almost meaningless. To a question from the committee, a KPCTA representative went so far as to say that seminars and assignments had become a tool for some teachers to shirk work. However, the KPTCA representatives too did not offer a clear solution to the problem of huge numbers in degree classes.

Against this backdrop, the passionate arguments put forward to the committee by the representative of the Parallel College Association assume significance. K.R. Ashoka Kumar, south zone coordinator of the association, pointed out to the committee that parallel colleges thrived in Kerala because everyone who wished to get higher education was not able to enrol in a college, for more reasons than one. He pointed out that more students studied university courses in parallel colleges than in regular colleges. Mr. Kumar's main grouse was that the new system simply excluded from its ambit these thousands in parallel colleges. Logically therefore, if the number of seats were to be reduced for degree courses at regular colleges and if the State has no open university, reforms to the new system will end up indirectly bolstering the parallel colleges in the State.

Grading woes

Then there was the question of the scale of grading. Some committee members and KPCTA representatives raised the issue of a wide variance in the actual performance of people who got the same grade. This ‘bandwidth,' as it were, had reduced the motivation of many students, it was pointed out.

The KPCTA wanted the committee to recommend a switchover to a seven-point grading system from the present five-point system. This, it argued, would enable the teacher to discern and grade varying levels of performance.

The association wanted a switchover to the indirect grading system wherein teachers gave marks to an answer and then converted the marks to grades using pre-specified bands.

Both the teachers' organisations were also in agreement with the need to restructure syllabi. The AKPCTA's note said: “…there has been a mechanical division of syllabi in the annual pattern into two… Subject-wise review of the current syllabi has to be undertaken and model syllabi have to be framed for all subjects.”

The KPCTA pointed out that the present syllabi for many courses burdened both the teacher and the student and were not conducive to teaching topics in a substantive manner. The organisation was also categorical in its statement that the CBCSS system as it existed today should not be implemented for postgraduate courses.

The need for reforming the examinations system was a major to-do point raised by all stakeholders, including representatives of student organisations. While the KPCTA argued that colleges should be allowed to conduct — under the supervision of the university concerned — the end-semester examinations of ‘odd semesters' (semesters 1, 3, 5), the AKPCTA was not enthused by the idea. The organisation recommended the implementation of a bar-coding system and online tabulation of grades.

Lopez Mathew, general convener of the committee, told The Hindu-EducationPlus that sittings were being planned in Kozhikode, Kottayam, and other locations. “Many persons have reacted to this issue, but very few follow it up with a detailed note or an e-mail,” he said.

Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Dec 15, 2019 6:41:02 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/education/college-and-university/semester-system-reforms-in-focus/article2988136.ece

Next Story