Taking admission in some of the language courses at Panjab University is not about learning them and getting a degree any more. Rather, it has become a means for students to be able to enter the campus, get a hostel seat and concentrate on other activities, like preparing for civil services or participating in campus politics.
Figures collected from various language departments show a big gap between the number of students taking admission, and those who finally take the examination.
Sample this: In the certificate course at the Urdu Department, all 85 seats were filled up in 2012-13, but only 15 students appeared in the exams.
Teachers say that the language courses are usually meant for those who are already into jobs and want to learn a language part-time. But students who wish to join student politics often apply in these departments just in order to stay on the campus.
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Amit Dhahiya, presidential candidate for Students’ Council election from the National Students Organisation, joined a diploma course in French after doing engineering.
He said, “I want to learn French as there are many job prospects linked to it. But the burden of studies will not be much and I will be able to focus on elections as well. Students usually apply for such courses because they can simultaneously do any other thing as well.”
Ruchika, another student at the French Department, said, “The percentage of students who actually come to learn the language is very small. Most think French can be learnt in two months. They leave the course in between. The PU ID card remains with them which helps them access the library.’’
Some time ago, Students Federation of India leader Prabhpreet Singh had filed an RTI application to get details from language departments. The reply shows that in the year 2011-12, as many as 85 students took admission in the certificate course in German, but only 67 took the exam. In the certificate course in Persian, 19 students took admission in 2011-12, but only eight appeared in the exam.
The RTI reply said that in 2007, 90 students had taken admission in MA in Urdu but only 10 of them appeared in the exam. In 2008-09, as many as 94 students took admission but only two appeared in the exam. The year 2010-11 was still worse: of the 65 students, only one appeared in the exam.
Dr Shakeel Ahmed, assistant professor at Urdu Department, said, “Every year, all our seats get filled, be it Urdu certificate course or masters in Urdu, but at the time of exams, not even half of them turn up.”
At the Department of Russian Language, about 30 students took admission in the certificate course in 2011-12, but only four took the final exam and, a year after that, only two of them were left to pursue the advanced diploma course.
Nasser Gorsi, who did his diploma in Russian last year, said, “There were many students with me, but most left after two months for various reasons. Some just waited for the ID card, so that they could get access to the library and start preparing for civil services.”
However, in Chinese and Tibetan languages, the situation is different. Department chairperson Damodar Panda said, “The majority of students in my department have a real interest in the language and they like studying India-China relations and such subjects. We have 67 seats and all of them get filled. The percentage of students who do not take exam is very small. As compared to European languages, students still come here to study.”