University: Amidst the Din and Dispute

The air is abuzz with an academic rebellion everyday as we hear loud echoes of protests going on at one of India’s finest learning centers – University of Delhi – against the approved Four Year University Program.

university-indiaClaims of hurried implementation, autocracy of administration, attempts to sabotage foundations of knowledge, among others, and are seldom put forward. It is surprising that the battle is not just confined to the premises of the University, but that leading political names like few left stalwarts have taken up cudgels against it at the floor of the House as well.

The idea here is not to get into the pros and cons of four-year undergraduate programs at the University, but to understand the sheer hypocrisy going under this facade of opposition. It is an undisputed fact that change is the law of nature. The syllabus of several streams of the departments at the University has been static for decades.

With changes in context of the Indian milieu, new texts were needed. To let academics not be a mere exercise in closed doors of the college, it was essential to make learning relate to the nuances of the present reality. Perhaps then only the idea of education shall go beyond degrees and lay foundations of an inclusive structure. Thus, just to debunk the new structure as it incorporates new basic foundation courses smacks a status quoist idea.

Another incorrect notion proffered is that of hurried implementation. As someone who has given nearly a decade to the University as a student, I can refute this with all my knowledge and integrity. The University administration was cordial enough to circulate information about the agenda setting issues of the new program through its regular meetings which we used to often hear from the members of the Academic Council and the Executive Council.

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The idea that education will be an elitist affair suggests that unlike other places, our University has given space to things like Non-Collegiate Women’s Education Board, where girls from financially weak sections have come forward. Mere extension of a course by a year shall not take the frontiers of learning only to the elite.

Already with previous course structure, the level of drop out ratio was high; therefore the logic of unwarranted continuing of education shall also be tackled. There are stories of several students who have fought and worked to give themselves an education.

Furthermore, as one hears certain political voices claiming to take the cause of education further on the floor of the house up to the Seven Race Course, certain questions need explaining. Where were these silent voices when our sincere students had to drop a year in quest of further studies? Where were these silent voices when our students were left lurching in scathing market competitive forces with their three-year degree programs giving them rote learning over a job? Or when meritorious candidates are denied jobs owing to the dormant covert dogmas of few? The concealed voices are coming forward only to disturb the process keeping in mind the quest for exercising hegemony over job allocation in the University.

The University administration has done a herculean task. It has invented a certain level of participating academics, new altitudes of interaction, all-encompassing and wide-ranging curriculum. With the new session about to begin, instead of adding layers of uncalled and unjustifiable condemnation of Four Year University Program, let us work together to make the University a genuine example of vibrant and dynamic learning.

Dr. Amna Mirza is an Assistant Professor in Political Studies at a College in University of Delhi. Read other articles by Amna.