Updated: August 17, 2021 4:43:42 pm
The ‘atmosphere’ that sets apart a premier college might be lost because of Covid-19 restrictions, said Hindu College principal Anju Srivastava in an interview, but students will still have a taste of what they have to offer with college society activities moving online and value-added courses to choose from. Excerpts.
What can students expect in terms of cut-off marks for admissions this year?
We have not yet met for discussions on cut-offs but we have learnt that the number of students who have scored above 95 and 99 has grown exponentially. Given that we have very limited seats in the college, the general understanding is that we would like to keep these very high. We will have to keep it close to 100 per cent at least at the beginning in the first list, and once that’s done hopefully we will have the opportunity to bring it down a little bit lower to hopefully be able to meet the expectations and hopes of students.
What has the experience of teaching-learning during Covid been like? How has the college adapted to this change?
It required firstly a lot of adaptation from the teachers… There were several issues with the shift to digital devices… Perhaps for teachers in the science courses and those more used to technology, shifting online would have still been easier but we also have teachers who have been teaching languages and the arts for donkey years in the form that they were used to and there was a little more resistance to the shift there maybe… But after the initial months, we worked our way through it… At the start, it was a little bit disorganised, with classes being conducted over Zoom using 40-minute packages and so on but we received support from the University which offered MS Teams and other technologies and the whole system found its feet… The teachers have put in a lot of work, helped each other and adapted… Of course, the entire pace is different, even when I’m teaching I’m aware of so many things that could have been done better in the physical classroom but we have been working through it with the idea that “if it can’t be cured, it has to be endured”.
As for the learning part of it, I think for students at the beginning this seemed like a little bit of a break from the normal, that they could take it a little easy… but as it became clear that this is how it is going to be, they also pulled themselves together… In November, the new students joined us and as they were drawn in, we decided that we needed to activate our college’s counselling centre to address the students’ wellbeing and that’s something that has been important this year… We also did classroom sessions with the counsellors… We have found a lot of cases of intense trauma and depression and we have been intervening, contacting parents if required and communicating with them that things are not going great for the child… I’m happy to say that I think we as a college have been handling this aspect well.
We have around 30 student societies in college, and with time, the students and teachers found ways to carry these online as well. The new students were also able to be introduced to these societies so they’re being able to get a flavour of the college’s life and of learning outside the classroom. Of course, the students are very creative and they’ve even managed to take their dance performances and music online.
For the coming batch of students, I’m having discussions with my teachers about how we start the process of teaching them… This is a batch of students who didn’t even go to school in class XII, we will have to find ways and work even harder to engage them and create an interest in them for the classroom and their area of study.
Something important in a college like ours, learning through peer-to-peer interaction and teacher-student interaction has been compromised.
Could you tell us a little bit about the college and the courses it offers?
The Hindu College is a very old college, it’s more than 120 years old, with very humble beginnings but over the years it has built a reputation for itself and has been recognized as a premier and prestigious institution for several decades now. We have welcomed women students right from the beginning when there were only 13 students and that inclusivity has always been a part of the college… We offer 15 courses, of which six are science courses, five are humanities courses, and of course, we have our commerce and language courses. These are the conventional, foundational areas of study but I think that they are extremely important because these subjects are the foundations from which all the other newer programmes offered today stem and branch out. Apart from these core courses, in the last year, we have also been offering several short-term value-added courses that students can opt for, such as courses in toxicology, Python, business analytics and behavioural economics and we’re planning to add more in the years to come. Something we have had for years but that we especially activated this year with the shift to the online mode was a tie-up with Coursera to enable students to access online courses on offer there free of cost.
What are some of the unique things about the college that students might be interested in?
I think the first thing that draws students toward the college is the alumni that it has produced, which is full of prominent illustrious names—bureaucrats, politicians, journalists, we have done really well in sports as well… Apart from that, what really sets the college apart—even though it seems pointless to talk about it given the current state of things—is its atmosphere. The kind of freedom and environment it gives students to express, learn and explore is an integral part of the college’s experience. Though this is for the students to be able to say, I myself also try to be as accessible as possible, and questioning, discussion and openness is very much part of the flavour of a student’s life here… We have students from the length and breadth of the college, from different backgrounds, and there has also been a significant number of international students in recent years. The cultural diversity and diversity of experience in the college is also a big draw.
Do you have any words on what this new batch of students hoping to enter DU can expect in a university changed by the pandemic?
I know that this must be a time of unimaginable uncertainty and anxiety for these students especially after the year they’ve had and that they must be worrying about whether their marks will get them the college and courses of their choice. I want to wish them all the best first of all, and then I’d like to tell them to not be discouraged if admissions do not work out exactly as they had hoped. There are around 70 colleges in Delhi University offering a large number of courses and there are lots of opportunities for them within that. There is a uniform curriculum across all these colleges, and Delhi University is a premier university and there is a certain standard across them. What might differ is the atmosphere, but even that hardly counts with the current mode of operation.
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