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Weekly Pullouts » Himachal Tribune

Posted at: Jun 9, 2018, 12:26 AM; last updated: Jun 9, 2018, 12:26 AM (IST)FACE-OFF: RUSA POLARISES SFI, ABVP AND NSUI

Scrapping of semester system bone of contention

Bhanu P Lohumi

The implementation of the Rashtriya Uchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) in 2013 in a tearing haste had led to turmoil in the state with student organisations ABVP and the SFI vehemently opposing it. University and college teachers and even non-teaching employees also came out in support of the agitation to scrap RUSA, which continued for nearly two years.

While the SFI remained adamant on roll back of RUSA, the ABVP mounted pressure and got the BJP to promise that it would scrap RUSA, without realising its implications. Cases were registered against the SFI and the ABVP activists, as the state witnessed violence, hunger strikes and gherao of the then Vice-Chancellor, ADN Bajpai, and also the Vidhan Sabha.

The Vice-Chancellor was manhandled, the protesting students were lathi-charged, Section 144 of the CrPC was enforced on the university campus. Nine students landed in jail and seven others faced expulsion. For the first time, the ABVP and the SFI joined hands against the implementation of RUSA but the truce was short-lived.

The results under the semester system for undergraduate courses were delayed inordinately while bottlenecks in the Choice Based Credit System (CBCS) led to selection of incompatible subjects, creating problems for the students.

The HPU implemented RUSA to get grants from the Centre and did not meet other requirements like infrastructure development and expansion of faculty, causing great resentment among teachers, who were already overloaded with work.

However, with the passage of time and measures taken by the government, things were streamlined and started settling down, but the ABVP forcefully put forth its demand for scrapping of semester system under RUSA.

Scrapping of semesters, a victory
Hema Thakur, ABVP state general secretary

Initially, the ABVP opposed RUSA and demanded its roll back, but reforms introduced in 2016 streamlined the system to some extent and the semester system remained the bone of contention because being a hilly state with a typical topography and demography, it was practically impossible to implement the semester system which reduced the teaching days.

Our demand to scrap the semester system and restore the annual system of examination has been accepted and it is a victory for us and the student community. Against the target of 90 lectures per semester, only 35-40 lectures per semester on an average were delivered, which led to a decline in the quality of education in the whole state.

The ratio of internal and external assessment allowed the students to pass without appearing in examinations. The pressure on the examination branch reeling under a staff crunch doubled with the introduction of the semester system. The staff was untrained and non-availability of software resulted in an inordinate delay in the declaration of results, which were full of errors.

Students ran from pillar to post to get their forms submitted, the online software collapsed, people from the tribal areas of Lahaul and Spiti, Kinnaur and Chamba had to come to Shimla to submit forms. The students went through tremendous stress as 90 per cent of them were shown to have failed in the first semester results, which were later revised.

The semester system also took its toll on teachers who were forced to teach for 26 hours per week against the UGC norms of 14 to 16 hours besides performing other academic activities, including preparation of question papers, examination, internal assignment and maintaining records of every student.

We’re opposed to RUSA
Amit, SFI state general secretary

The SFI opposed RUSA because it saw a hidden agenda to move towards privatisation of education under its garb by transferring some courses to the private sector. RUSA was used as an alibi for fee hike and the grading system, introduced under RUSA, put the students at a disadvantage because admissions in other universities were made strictly on the basis of percentage of marks

There was no central schedule for co-curricular and sports activities under the semester system and the students who participated in sports and other co-curricular activities missed the examinations and were compelled to appear in the next semester. This was against the spirit of RUSA, but under the semester system, the government had no answer and the teaching days were limited.

The Students Federation of India (SFI) had demanded replacement of the semester system by annual system and abolition of credit system, implemented to divide the courses in honours degree, simple degree, diploma and certificate course, but not even a single student got the diploma or the certificate in the past five years of RUSA. The SFI is also demanding that teaching hours be limited to five hours, examination forms of the students be filled by the college administration to avoid mistakes, filling of vacant posts of teaching and non-teaching staff and structuring the curriculum to suit local conditions and boost resource for generation for employment opportunities.

Inclusion of marks of Environment Studies in the aggregate, abolishing of the internal assessment system, providing re-evaluation facility at the graduation level, reappear facility on PG basis and implementation of the central schedule for the whole academic session. The SFI is not opposed to RUSA as such, but wants all its suggestions to be implemented.

SFI, ABVP politicised issue
Prateek Sharma, NSUI state general secretary

The NSUI was in support of RUSA, introduced by the Congress government in the state. Whenever a new system is adopted, there are issues which are resolved with time but that does not imply that the system is faulty.

RUSA was aimed at overall development of the students, giving them a wider range of selection of subjects.

Definitely there were problems but the SFI and the ABVP politicised the issue. However, the NSUI made several representations to the university and the state government to remove the anomalies. The issue pertaining to internal and external examinations was settled, teachers and students were educated through workshops and seminars. The software for declaration of results was made functional. The state benefitted as state-of-the-art infrastructure in the university and colleges was created from funds received under RUSA, modernisation and computerisation took place, campus was made Wi-fi and today when things have become smooth, the BJP is forcing its vision document on the students to derive political benefit.

Reverting to the annual system of examination would imply that four systems of examination would run simultaneously, delaying declaration of results. The old pre-RUSA system (2012) has to be continued for seven years till 2019, the semester system under RUSA implemented in 2013-14 and the revised curriculum from 2016 is running and the annual system would be another burden.

Problems

  • There was shortage of more than 330 non-teaching employees and more than 500 teachers when RUSA was introduced and the majority of the staff was not familiar with “Standard deviation” for giving grades
  • Colleges were not prepared to feed 14-digit roll numbers online as required by the software for the declaration of results
  • Colleges refused to send the data online and even generated their own series of roll numbers, burdening the examination branch further.
  • Non-availability of “self-speaking software” for preparation of results on time
  • Over 90 per cent of the students of BA, B Com and BCA first semester failed after the university made it mandatory to score 45 per cent marks in both internal assessment and examinations and the university revised the result to pass students
  • Answersheets of the undergraduate courses for the IV semester were evaluated in the same college, making a mockery of the examination system and giving a go-by to “secrecy”
Remedies taken

  • Weightage of internal assessment from 50 to 30 percent and increasing external from 50 to 70 percent
  • Courses under CBCS were slashed from 32-33 to 22-23 and separation between social and physical sciences were made
  • Bottleneck is existing RUSA system were removed by standardisation of syllabus in 2016
  • Himachal has topped in utilisation of funds in the country under RUSA, out of sanctioned Rs 226 crores out of which Rs 162 crores were actually received, the utilisation of funds was Rs 125 crores
  • Over 100 smart class room and 150 laboratories come up in colleges and HPU and as a result the number of NAAC accredited colleges went up from 12 to 32
  • Gross enrolment ratio increased from 24 to 35 percent
  • With HPU’s requesting the UGC and MHRD for intervention, admissions were given to students outside state

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