Do undergraduate students need to study non-core subjects to acquire a more holistic worldview? Or should they focus only on core subjects to develop exclusive expertise in them?
The recent proposal by the Department of Collegiate Education — asking the Karnataka State Higher Education Council to relook into time spent on non-core subjects and if it was needed at all — has the academic circles debating these questions. The department has urged experts to deliberate on how core subjects can be given more prominence and plans to constitute a committee to examine this proposal in the coming week.
While the department feels that learning languages in the first two years is “absolutely” essential, they are not happy with the emphasis they are currently given. The department wants academic experts to deliberate on the format and the extent to which languages need to be studied.
Besides languages, some of the non-core subjects taught include Indian Constitution, Women’s Studies and Environmental Sciences. Currently, undergraduate students are taught three core subjects, two languages and one soft skills subjects from semester one to four. In semester five and six, they learn six core subjects each semester.
The proposal has garnered mixed response from the student and academic fraternity. Sources in the department pointed out that there were 91 working days in the academic year and nearly 40% of this time was spent in learning non-core subjects and languages. Students spent 60 hours per semester on each core subject and about half of this on non-core subjects.
However, a science professor of a government degree college said most of these non-core subjects are designed based on industry requirement. “For instance, we can use non-core subjects to improve the subject expertise of the core subjects. It all depends on how the college and lecturer decides to use these classes,” he said. Harshitha R., student academic member of Bangalore University, said this move would have both positive and negative impact and there was need for a wider consultation before a decision was taken. “While on one hand, it would help us get more time to develop expertise in the core subjects, removing non-core subjects from the syllabus in the first two years may alienate us from them,” she said.
Many varsities teach non-core subjects
Several universities, such as Delhi University and University of Munbai, teach non-core subjects. In order to broaden their horizon, students are asked to pick subjects that are not related to their course as non core subjects. The number of core subjects and non-core subjects vary from semester to semester.