By: Vijay GarG
Rigour and depth of learning are no longer of value. The new curriculum for the four-year undergraduate course proposed by the University Grants Commission reduces the proportion of the honours or major subject in the workload to 30 per cent from around 73 per cent in the choice-based credit system of 2015. More, the proposed credit system is so arranged as to include an array of subjects unrelated to the central one. The compulsory ‘common courses’ in the first three semesters are, apart from a regional language and English, ‘understanding India’ — whose India? — and yoga education. Environmental science and sports, reminiscent of school, must be read too and, alarmingly for humanities students shaky in mathematics, mathematical and computational thinking and analysis as well as digital and technological solutions. The logic is enigmatic. Since every credit matters, a brilliant history student might end up doing badly in this segment of 24 credits after struggling with subjects far afield of his discipline. Is the UGC aiming at mediocrity and ignorance all round? The curriculum appears to undermine intellectual maturity by forcing students to spread themselves thin and that, too, possibly without any interest.
What is noticeable is the lack of choice. Freedom of thinking is being squeezed out. It is the same with universities, which, according to another UGC proposal, will have to accept a fixed number of PhD students on the basis of two central tests instead of having their own admission criteria. The constriction of choice begins from the undergraduate level. Even when students start on the major subject, one of the two minor subjects, earlier meant to complement the major one, has to be vocational. Specialization becomes a hollow word with 27 credits to be earned from three ‘elective’ subjects from the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities. The concept is absurd, with multiplication of labour and overlapping of disciplines. The UGC cannot be unaware of the effect that this curriculum will have on the learning, thinking and research capabilities of young people. Is it to be inferred that the grinding down of the country’s intellectual potential is deliberate? One of the meanings of the Latin root of the word, education, is to lead forth, or out. That can be imagined as being from darkness to light, not into outer darkness.
The writer is Retired Principal