Delhi University’s Four-Year Undergraduate Program (FYUP) is all set to commence on 20 July under the new Undergraduate Curriculum Framework (UGCF). The most peculiar thing that is to take place starting this session is the removal of the English subject from the Ability Enhancement Compulsory Course (AECC), which is compulsorily taught to all first-year students.
Professor Krishnan Unni P, who teaches English language and literature at Deshbandhu College, says, “There are two types of removal that we have been dealing with. The first one started last year and that has a clear agenda behind it. There was a signature campaign and resistance against the removal, despite which, no action was taken in this regard. The text of one of the major Dalit writers of our time — Bama — was removed last year. The second kind of removal, which is bothering each one of us, is regarding the New Education Policy (NEP) under which there is a tremendous cut and pruning of syllabus. For instance, five units have been cut to three units. The workload is greatly reduced and the number of classes will be cut.”
Currently, the universal concern among all English professors is what kind of students they are going to groom, says Prof Unni. “For instance, students are not being introduced to properly learn an era, particular historical background or a text with a sociopolitical context among others because such sections have been entirely removed from the syllabus”, he says.
Prof Unni asserts, “This is academically dangerous for me too, because students don’t know why they are studying English literature, where are they going despite certain fallacious promises given to us like benefits of credits.”
Delhi University has some 5,000 ad-hocs in various disciplines. When asked if the new policy is going to affect them, Prof Unni says that the future of ad-hocs is in big peril. “Colleges will have to decide whether they can retain ad-hocs who have been teaching for a long time very conscientiously. Definitely, there is going to be an impact. But a clear picture will emerge once the scheme is implemented”, he comments.
On condition of anonymity, an Associate Professor from the north campus, DU, told Patriot that when you are in a system of being uncertain about your job, anybody who will stand out will also be the one who will be marked out, and none of them would want that to happen at this time.
She says, “It is very unfortunate that if they (ad-hocs) want to speak, they would be very hesitant. They will just wait and watch and hope. From that point of view, all that is happening doesn’t seem fair.”
She is also apprehensive about the consequences of NEP and questions how one is going to teach humanities and literature which are interrelated with almost every other course. “Its very nature is interdisciplinary. It’s not about teaching a story, it’s teaching the text and context”, she adds.
The Vice-Chancellor has assured that nobody will go. It’s an Academic Council’s resolution. But there’s uncertainty about what happens if a teacher is unable to present the timetable and workload, considering the notice that asks teachers to provide a detailed proof of the number of classes they are assigned and are supposed to teach according to the timetable.
Why to quit?
Priyanka Singh (name changed), who has been teaching English as an ad-hoc in DU for the last 14 years, says, “Since English has been a compulsory subject for a long time now, people have been absorbed into the workload and have chosen this career. It is very tragic to say to someone that you chose them, and now their work doesn’t exist.”
She says that besides the feeling of hopelessness of losing their jobs, the problem of people who are freshly graduating in English each year is also concerning.
“Why should you tell people to exit the job that you created for them in the first place? And for a person like me, who is middle-aged, what career am I going to have now?”, she asks.
Singh says that besides teaching communication skills, they also teach critical thinking in the first year in AECC. “We teach them to see things, think about them, absorb them in a particular way. These are very important skills that help students in future”, she says.
She highlights that the decision to remove English subject will only end up pitching students who didn’t study English subject and literature against those who studied the subject compulsorily. “It is like saying that I come from a batch of 2004 Undergrad where getting 60% was big news, but now I am being compared to people who are getting 90%. We are hacking off our own students’ futures”, she comments.
When asked for long-term implications of this scheme, Singh states that it is leading to the fact that ad-hocs like her have lost out on more than 10-15 years of benefits like maternity leave and health insurance just to be told that they stand nowhere. “I feel it is also a very effective way of neglecting the population that is asking for a permanent job”, she adds.
On the implementation of NEP, Singh wonders who will benefit from the policy because when the teachers were asked for feedback, they had submitted a very negative feedback which never got factored in. “They say its democratic…people have approved it. I wonder which people approved it”, she says.
Deepa Singh, first-year BA English Honors student, says, “We all know how much importance is given to English in a professional setting. We are taught the basics in AECC like how to hold a conversation during interviews, letter-writing, and so on.” She believes that the concerned authority should rethink this decision.
Another student, Sania Singh, points out that several students don’t come from good schools and need a basic English course in college. “Removing the subject is like obstructing their progress, which is not fair”, she says.
She adds that one cannot impose Hindi on the entirety of the country because there are people not using this language for their entire life. “Instead of removing the subject, prioritizing subjects would be much helpful”, she says.
Deepanshi, a student at Deshbandhu College, who is unhappy with this move, says, “Often, when someone appears for a job interview, they are judged on their English speaking skills. Moreover, question papers of most of the national level exams are in English. Therefore, having an option to choose between languages is a better decision.”
She adds that there are a lot of people who go abroad, and clearing exams like IELTS and TOEFL is required to study in other countries, for which having knowledge of basic English is a must.
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