Hope this letter finds you in the best of spirits, doubtful though it maybe given the soaring temperatures in Delhi both inside and outside the University.
First, I must congratulate you on having successfully evaded our criticism and protests against the Four Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP) and implementing it (on paper) against all odds. It is possible that this letter may never reach you; even if it does, I might not get a response, yet write I must in the same spirit as our fight for the past six months: seeking answers. I write in the hope that perhaps it would make you step into the shoes of the students who are seeking admission into DU this year and realise how immensely confused, bewildered and scared they all are. The fact that the change is being implemented in a hasty and autocratic fashion has been stressed upon over and over again, but I write to repeat it only because I think it bears repetition. All our protests and petitions have gone unheeded, unheard. The utter obstinacy of the administration is unbelievable.
The FYUP from a student’s perspective may not be as accommodating as you label it to be. Take the fees first, which is somewhere between Rs 8000 to Rs 12,000, depending on the college and the course that one opts for. Most DU colleges do not have hostels, so there are additional accommodation and other expenses as well. Students from varied backgrounds enter the university every year; will all of them be able to afford the financial burden of a whole extra year?
The motto of the FYUP is “Enabling the Young and Redefining Education”. Can a program that is insensitive to the needs of the disabled students be considered enabling? Most visually challenged students have the option of quitting Mathematics and Science after their eighth grade, and the 11 foundation courses, which include Mathematics and Science, may prove to be a huge set-back for these students.
After the 12th grade, the students used to have the option of taking up the courses which interested them; with the FYUP, it is no longer a matter of choice. The courses are now 'imposed' on the students, whether or not they have an aptitude for the subject. Apart from the 11 foundation courses, the additional DC-11 and Application courses add to the confusion. The students will now be able to focus on their major subject in a full-fledged manner only in their final year. What seems to be a balancing act is actually a half-baked attempt at Americanising the system and one simply cannot figure out why.
The FYUP is flexible only in providing multiple exit options, which is more of a bane than boon. These exit options have been termed as “dropout” options by many critics and they are not wrong in saying so. The programme is claimed to have been designed to be vocation-oriented, but is the Indian job-market ready to accept a student with only two years of college education? Also, don’t you think this would create a sort of hierarchy between students having a full-fledged graduation degree and those who have opted out of college before completing four years? From a woman's perspective, I feel things are going to change for the worse for girls from conservative families. By allowing a student to leave college after two years, it is quite possible that the family of such students may pull them out of college, immediately pushing them into the marriage market.
I feel appalled that a university of the stature of Delhi University is rushing through changes without considering these factors.
What could be worse than the inability of deputy deans and appointed teachers to answer our queries on the “open days”? I assure you, the “open days” that are being held are far from comforting. It is extremely disconcerting to get vague or no replies at all to one’s queries. How is it possible for a student to obtain a B.Com degree without Mathematics? It has been dismissed by branding it as a “mental burden”. When a parent raised pertinent questions about the same at a recent "open day", the answer was anything but satisfactory.
I am sure you are informed about how all other courses have been tampered with in a similar manner, either by slashing sections which are extremely important or by combining parts of a paper with other papers. The FYUP claims to adopt a more research-oriented procedure of learning, but, with the 50 courses that a student has to complete before he can earn his honours degree, it seems as if he will end up being a jack of all trades, and master of none. The scholastic ability of a student shall be seriously compromised, since the new system hardly gives the students space or time to explore their core area of interest. Under the glossy cover of the pamphlets promoting the FYUP, there lie many practical problems that have been refused to be dealt with, even though the administration has been questioned numerous times.
Never had I thought that I would feel privileged just because I belong to the three-year graduation system. I cannot help but feel sorry for the students who are going to come in next session. I wonder how different their college life is going to be from yours and mine. You too were a student of the university many years ago; did your teachers groom you for a job, to make you an 'entrepreneur', or did they groom you for life? It is disillusioning to watch the country's finest university adopt a market-oriented approach in terms of the education being provided. We are a country that has been under foreign influence for the longest time possible, isn't it time we learnt from our mistakes and stopped committing the same ones over and over again? When has blindly aping the West ever borne fruits for us? Such autocracy in the world's largest democracy is a matter of shame.
We are still hoping against hope that our voices will be heard and our opinion heeded.
A student from a saner DU.