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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Delhi University’s NEP challenge and opportunity

The implementation of the National Education Policy in the University of Delhi can provide a model for institutes across the country.

New Delhi |
December 28, 2021 7:17:52 pm
DU has two choices to pick from — to be part of the education ministry’s Central University Common Entrance Test (CUCET) or have its own. (File)

(Written by Abhishek Tandon)

The University of Delhi (DU) — which is among the most sought-after higher education institutions in the country — is witnessing a churn.

The new vice-chancellor, Professor Yogesh Singh, who assumed office in October, has come with new ideas to take the university to new heights and a strong resolve to implement them. Recently, he also finalised his new team and announced their names in an executive council meeting.

This makes for a very conducive time for the university to implement the futuristic and more inclusive National Education Policy (NEP) of 2020. The introduction of NEP in DU would not just be a coming-of-age step but also make the university commensurate with international standards.

One of the first announcements of the new VC is already a step in the direction of NEP implementation. The VC has proposed admissions through entrance exams as opposed to intake based solely on marks. The decision has already been approved by statutory bodies — the Academic Council and the Executive Council.

DU has two choices to pick from — to be part of the education ministry’s Central University Common Entrance Test (CUCET) or have its own. If done right, this will prove to be a big step towards more inclusiveness. Given the vast structure and the huge number of students, it would be good for the DU to start its own entrance exam with the Common Aptitude Test in broad areas like commerce/management, pure sciences, mathematical sciences, social sciences and languages, among others.

At present, students of states where the boards are less lenient with grading miss out on the chance to study at DU due to the high cut-offs. Uttar Pradesh is an example in this case as grading is relatively more stringent in the state. Further, DU has often courted controversy due to its high cut-off. Earlier this year, seven DU colleges had announced a cut-off of 100 per cent for the new academic session.

As per NEP, students should also be provided with academic mobility wherein they are enrolled for a programme in one college but can take up a course in a different college. Extending this facility will be easy for the varsity as it has more than 50 constituent colleges. So, for instance, a student pursuing economics in Ramjas College can take up a course on political science in Hindu College and a course on statistics in Kirori Mal College. A mechanism for the same, based on merit or first-come-first-served can be adopted. This will also help students achieve more holistic growth. For smooth implementation, the varsity can leverage the academic bank of credit, which is proposed in the NEP and was launched by the Hon’ble Prime Minister earlier this year.

The university should focus more on providing a tech-driven education in line with the NEP. Every college should have a model audio-visual classroom where teachers can record lectures and later upload them on the university’s site or their YouTube channels. This will give students the right mix of virtual and physical classroom experiences. The pandemic has already shown us the importance of having a robust digital infrastructure.

More emphasis on research is also an integral part of the NEP and DU must make giant strides to excel in this area. It should develop an inclination towards research among students and research should become a tool to come up with innovations that solve real-world issues, rather than just helping students in clearing exams. This would also prepare students better for the job market and improve their problem-solving skills.

For the implementation of NEP in letter and spirit, some tweaks in the current undergraduate courses are also necessary. For instance, providing students with an entry and exit option, so that they can resume from where they left the course. While stretching the UG course to four years from 2022, DU’s focus should be on the value proposition. The component of research should be introduced at the undergraduate level itself. This will help in developing the right kind of mindset for students to take up research in their future studies.

It must also be ensured that the burden of fee payment is not increased on students. Students who wish to give one more year to their UG course to add more value to their degrees should get decent financial aid. As mentioned in the NEP document, scholarships/freeships should be given to students belonging to socio-economically disadvantaged groups. Here, the Rs 1,000 crore fund that DU gets by virtue of being an “institute of eminence” can come in handy to foster research and to provide research scholarships.

The upgrade of college infrastructure and maintaining a healthy student-teacher ratio are also pivotal to the NEP implementation. To this end, the university has already started the process of recruiting permanent faculty. However, the backlog created by the ineffective leadership of the last five years will require a special effort to complete the recruitments in colleges and university departments.

Due to the large network of its constituent colleges, Delhi University is probably the best experiment ground to understand how to effectively implement NEP. It can serve as a model for universities across the country on NEP implementation. It may be the biggest challenge for the varsity, but it will also provide the biggest opportunity for growth.

The writer is a senior faculty member at the University of Delhi and president of the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad, Delhi.

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