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Towards a vibrant education

Towards a vibrant education

With an aim to provide quality education, Utkal University is planning to shift to a choice-based credit system (CBCS) for undergraduate and postgraduate courses from the academic year 2013-14. The goal, however, seems arduous due to acute shortage of teaching staff and outdated infrastructure.

CBCS is a flexible system which provides an opportunity to students to learn from various departments while taking admission in a particular course. For example, a student pursuing PG in public administration can choose an elective paper of disaster management to be taught by geography department, do classes in wildlife administration in zoology department, attend life management and Yoga classes in Sanskrit department or undertake gender studies in sociology department, explained Niranjan Pani, professor of public administration.

However, for such a concept to work, each PG department has to prepare a syllabus and offer teaching in hard core (compulsory), core elective (special paper), allied elective and free elective courses. Only then, students can study the compulsory and special subjects in the department where they have taken admission while undertaking elective courses in other departments of their choice.

"Since most PG departments in the university don't have sufficient teachers to teach the core subjects, I doubt how these will conduct special and elective courses," said Santosh Tripathy, a professor of personnel management and industrial relations in the varsity. "The system is good but it can't help the varsity to excel in a situation where faculty shortage, lack of infrastructure, poor library and laboratory facility is affecting the teaching-learning process," said Anup Das, a professor of sociology in the varsity.

For PG and further studies in the university, the varsity has around 150 teachers and vacancies of around 90 sanctioned posts. The varsity needs around 450 teachers for the proposed change to work effectively, varsity insiders estimate. The varsity's PG department of chemistry has five teachers compared to 41 chemistry teachers in the University of Pune. Tata Institute of Social Sciences has 21 teachers to offer PM&IR course, compared to just six in Utkal University. Banaras Hindu University has 24 teachers in economics compared to six here.

In the changed system, a student needs to earn minimum 72 credit points to get a PG degree including 32 in hard core, 16 in core elective, 16 in allied elective, 8 in free elective and 16 in audit. In undergraduate courses such as BA, BSc and BCom, students need to earn minimum 122 credits.

One has to attend 40 teaching hours to earn four credits (100 marks papers) in case of theory and three credits in case of practical. So for one PG course of 72 credits, students need to attend minimum 720 teaching hours while undergraduate students need to attend at least 1220 teaching hours.

Most of the degree colleges in the state, including the premier BJB college, are battling acute shortage of teachers and may not be able to ensure the minimum teaching hours required. A single physics teacher on deputation is managing the physics department of BJB College while the overall vacancies in the college stand around 40%.

"We must move to the new system to keep pace with the global standard of education. It is a very good move offering flexibility to students and bringing standardization. It will bring rationalization because some duplication of teaching efforts in overlapping subjects can be avoided. However, there is no doubt the number of faculty members has to increase for the new system to work," said the varsity's PG council chairman P K Mishra. He said the varsity can't escape implementing the system since the University Grants Commission ( UGC) is going to make it mandatory over a period of time.

The varsity's internal quality assurance cell ( IQSC) director S P Pani said the varsity can't delay implementing CBCS in the name of faculty shortage. "These are two different issues. There is no doubt we need more teachers to excel in any system, including the ongoing one. But on the plea of faculty shortage, we can't stop CBCS, which is being adopted worldwide and has proven to be the best. We have to fight faculty shortage separately," Pani said.

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