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‘How Will We Finish Course On Time?’: Profs Decry DU Academic Calendar

The classes for new batch will start in November -- a nearly four-month delay from standard DU dates.

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In a notification released on 12 October, the Delhi University (DU) announced that classes for the first semester of the upcoming batch will commence on 2 November - a nearly four-month delay from the pre-COVID, standard beginning dates for first-year students.

The notice, which comes as the country surfaces above the waves of pandemic, has raised concerns about the well-being of students and teachers.

Further, as per the timetable issued by the Vikas Gupta, Registrar of DU, there will only be a four-day break between first and second semesters.

The classes for new batch will start in November -- a nearly four-month delay from standard DU dates.

During COVID-19, the session for the upcoming batch of first years which used to begin in July till 2019, was shifted to September. Now, it’s been moved further to November.

Speaking to The Quint, three Delhi University professors stressed upon their long-held exasperation with the new Common University Entrance Test (CUET), even as the the education system grapples for a sense of normalcy.

The (CUET) was made compulsory by the University Grant Commission (UGC) this year onward for admission in any central university.

The professors from top DU colleges such as St Stephens and Miranda House spoke on how the introduction of CUET is impacting the academic calendar, and what it means for students, teachers, and the University's infrastructure.

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'Universities Turning into Coaching Centres'

Speaking to The Quint, Professor Abha Dev Habib from the Physics Department at Miranda House, expressed that ever since the pandemic, the college has been facing staggered teaching.

The classes for new batch will start in November -- a nearly four-month delay from standard DU dates.

“The third year started from July, second year started in September, and first year will start in November. This year, for the first time in three years, we had the chance to bring the university calendar back on track. Instead, the government went into CUET-mode," she said.

As per norms laid out by the University Grants Commission (UGC), there are 180 teaching days in an academic year, spread out over a period of 365 days. As per the new calendar, however, even though the University will be completing those teaching days on paper, there will be no breaks in between and they will no longer be spread out over a year.

“What will happen is that the University will become like a coaching centre, going at a breakneck speed," said Professor Nandita Narain, who is a part of the Mathematics Department at St Stephens college.

Why It's a Concern for Students

In her conversation with The Quint, Professor Narain also elucidated the impact this will have on students -- ranging from exhaustion and burn-out to missing out on interacting with seniors.

“One is, we have to rush through the course, without even a semester break, which students need to rejuvenate, otherwise they tend to go into depression," said Professor Narain.

"If mental health is at all important, then you can't treat the students like an industry product, on an assembly line, and you just keep churning them out," she added.

Meanwhile, Professor Vijaya Venktaraman, who teaches Germanic and Romance Studies at Miranda House, said,

'The fatigue that the students will feel as they go through semesters without a break will also impact their learning process. It's like putting them through a conveyor belt with absolutely no concern for their well-being."
The classes for new batch will start in November -- a nearly four-month delay from standard DU dates.

The academicians also stressed that this means that there will be no assimilation between seniors and juniors.

"Students of one year will not meet students of another year. There may be some overlap but students will not be able to interact with students of other years. There needs to be a sense of community. Things such as sports, extracurriculars, or even organising a college trip -- all these things get lost," said Professor Narain.

Further, it is also important to not that in November, when classes begin for first years, the admissions process will still be underway.

On this, Professor Habib added,

“What about students who come after 15 days, or come after a month? I cannot, as a teacher, wait for them due to how jam-packed the year is. How will they be able to cope?”

"This is another thing that the government seems to be blind to. They're just completing a formality, and leaving everything for the teachers to figure out. Only a few campus colleges will complete their admissions in the first one or two lists, what about the other colleges? How will students make up for the loss of teaching time?" asked Professor Venktaraman.

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And For Teachers

Talking about the problems that the calendar poses for teachers, Professor Narain stated, “Apart from teaching, professors are also conducting examinations, doing corrections, and working on admissions at the same time. We are unable to do even one of them properly.”

The classes for new batch will start in November -- a nearly four-month delay from standard DU dates.

“Teachers are already overloaded, plus they don’t get a single day of vacation for their own work, for family work," she added.

Professor Habib, meanwhile, told The Quint:

“For college teachers, summer break was the most important time when you got quality time to do your own research. Start a new paper, read something new, so you could carry forward the work through the year.”

Professor Habib said, "It is not our inefficiency. You are putting us in a position where we look inefficient."

"I haven't got a break since the pandemic started. If I take leave, I also have to think about how I will make up for the loss of teaching time, which is not possible," expressed Professor Venkataraman.

The Overloading of Infrastructure

Besides the relentless worries for students and teachers, the academic calendar also poses some infrastructural problems, the professors added.

Amid staggered teaching, with exams and classes going on simultaneously, Professor Habib stated the college does not have enough rooms to hold classes and hold exams at the same time.

She said, "Earlier, we used to do one thing at a time. All rooms used to be turned into examination centres during exams."

“Infrastructure is sometimes completely overloaded, and sometimes it is totally under-utilised. Sometimes there’s only one batch coming, and only their classes are underway," highlighted Professor Narain.

She added, "On the other hand, when exams take place, then those rooms are not available for teaching. That's when students of first and second year come in. So, now we’re pushed to corners or told to take online classes. But we don’t want to do that because no one learns anything that way. It’s forced on us."

With a flurry of logistical problems arising with this academic calendar, Professor Habib said, "Earlier, we used to do one thing at a time. Now, it is a lot of mess, it is a loss of teaching, the system is huffing and puffing.”

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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