New academic session has started in Kashmir. Students are visiting colleges with vigor, vision and dreams to make their future & careers safe and shining. Let their dreams come true. May they become vibrant citizens- equipped with knowledge, resolution, patience & perseverance? Chiseling this young & energetic talent for future challenges is the top priority of the government. That is why we find a network of educational institutions managed by highly qualified staff grooming young generation of boys and girls in classrooms & labs. State is trying its best to provide modern education to the students at their door steps. This is testified by the opening & inauguration of new colleges in the places unimaginable in past times.
The journey to knowledge society is arduous but the mission goes on. Localities or families which hardly had any person to write or read a letter till recent past has at this point of time a good number of graduates & post-graduates? Literacy graph is touching new heights & dark shadows of illiteracy are shrinking.
Bringing educational setup up to the level of global standards & making local talent viable at international job market, for this target government is devising new & novel plans. In this regard one of the innovations introduced in college sector in Kashmir in 2015-16 was the semester system under the scheme of Choice Based Credit System. By virtue of purpose and programme, it is a nice scheme. However after its implementation it is now seriously being felt that in Kashmir, this scheme needs to be restructured to make it flexible, result oriented & more student friendly. The sooner it is done, the better it would be for all stakeholders. Otherwise students pursuing graduations would badly suffer delays in completing their degrees & teachers won’t be able to complete syllabus well in time. For understanding the pith of the problem let us go in details of this scheme.
In Choice Based Credit System three years degree course is divided into six semesters and in every year a student has to appear two times in exams for completing two semesters. Besides two core papers in the first four semesters, a student has to opt for ability enhancement, skill enhancement, and generic elective and discipline specific courses in different semesters. In all a student has to study six different subjects including the core one during three years. All these courses vastly vary in terms of content from semester to semester.
In all a student has to appear six times to qualify the degree. And every time one month is consumed by exams and more than a month is spend for exam preparations & then class work. In addition to this, this scheme is proving too taxing for teachers as well. For them conducting internal's, going for field work, arranging industrial visits, trips, tours & picnics, applying for seminars, conferences, workshops & updating themselves with latest developments in the respective subjects has become too difficult due to paucity of time. Insufficient teaching staff in majority of the disciplines has made the issue more aggravating.
This is the fourth year of the semester system. Let us evaluate the outcome of this scheme so far. Let us start with the start of this scheme in 2015.
Under this scheme those who got admission in colleges in 2015 they completed their degrees in four years. That too when fifth & sixth semester exams were held together with drastic concessions in terms of choices to answer the questions. Graduation they got but how much they learnt in the precious four years of their life, it is a big question. Added to this, it was plain semester system scheme where students opt for other courses in different semesters.
The students admitted in batch 2016 are supposed to have completed their graduation by the end of year 2018. But the tragedy is that they have just sought admission in 5th semester. It will take them one more year that is full twelve months of 2019 to complete their degrees. By that time their classmates in other parts of the country would have completed two semesters of their post graduate degrees and here in this part of the world they would be waiting to see their results. When shall they complete degrees, get jobs, get married & start practical life? These grave questions have caused serious concerns among teachers, students & parents.
Due to delay in results students are deprived the opportunity to apply in other institutions of the country. By the time these institutions issue notifications for admission, students in valley fail to apply due to incomplete courses. In certain cases where some institutions show magnanimity and allow students to apply in advance before completion of degrees. In that case also students fail to get admission despite being selected because their results are not declared in time.
So far two batches have already suffered heavily. How many batches have to suffer in further so that concerned quarters accept the argument that semester system at undergraduate level in Kashmir needs immediate attention & necessary reforms to make it friendly to local conditions. These local conditions are characterized by tough climatic conditions which we can never change despite best technologies at our service. Kashmir university has now come forward with odd even exam scheme to provide relief to students. Setting descriptive question papers for first, third & fifth semester and multiple choice question papers for second, fourth & sixth semester are the main features of this package. Can this plan solve the problem & bring academic calendar on track, only time will answer?
Practically speaking a year in Kashmir consists only of six months. The other six months are occupied by cold, snow, power cuts & minimum outdoor activities. This time snowing in valley started in November & continued till March. Even administrative heads move to Jammu with Darbaar given the unbearable weather regime in Kashmir. Conflict too has made things difficult for administration, teachers & taught to manage the classroom calendar in true letter and spirit in teaching institutions.
Given these hard realities and facts, reform in the CBCS semester scheme at undergraduate level in Kashmir is the need of the hour. The best the government can do at this juncture for immediate relief to the students & the system is to address the examination aspect of this scheme in the first instance. That is where it pinches and punctures the whole structure. It can issue necessary instructions for conducting together semester end exams of two semesters in November-December every year. In this connection it is pertinent to note here that exams for disciplines like English and Environmental science are already conducted together for first & second semester in the scheme under operation.
Conducting exams on such lines was in practice till recent times in Kashmir when students had to appear for two papers in each subject by the end of the session. That was called paper A and paper B, both conducted one after another in the same month. We all are the products of this scheme. Semester pattern can be modified to that pattern in terms of exams. Rest the scheme would run as per its original plan providing student’s skill enhancement, discipline specific & generic courses in the respective semester's in due course of time.
(Author is Assistant Professor)