Delhi University ad hoc teachers fear job loss; delayed admissions keep student strength unstable even as teachers sprint to complete the syllabus.
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Atul Krishna | December 16, 2022 | 04:42 PM IST
NEW DELHI: Subashish (name changed), an ad hoc teacher at a Delhi University college, doesn’t know if he will still have a job next year. Yet, he has set his worries aside and complete the new DU syllabus by February 17 even as colleges continue to admit new students.
The late start to the academic year thanks to the Common University Entrance Test (CUET), changes to the pupil-teacher ratio and the tutorial system, and new course frameworks have resulted in “academic chaos” in Delhi University, said teachers. Teachers like Subashish, numbering over 4,000, are teaching on four-month contracts, their already insecure careers further destabilised by the new PTR norms that drastically increase class sizes.
“The ad hoc teachers are under a lot of pressure. In Lakshmibai College, for instance, all adhoc teachers of the Hindi department were let go all of a sudden. These are people who have been teaching for more than 14 years,” said Subashish. According to a submission to the DU executive council by an elected member, Seema Das, 70 percent of ad hoc teachers have been let go across departments in the university.
In the latest development, the higher education regulator, University Grants Commission’s 'Credit and Curriculum Framework on Undergraduate Programme' (CCFUGP), notified this week, is at odds with the new syllabus DU introduced this year.
“The biggest casualty has been the teaching learning process. No proper cohesion. No proper planning. Every day there is a notification coming which contradicts the previous one. As a result of which, at the moment, there is academic chaos,”said Rudrashish Chakraborty, an elected member of the Delhi University Teachers Association.
Delhi University’s reliance upon temporary teaching staff has been a vexing issue for years. Now, teachers teaching for years are having their contracts terminated.
“In the NIRF rankings, there are 20 DU colleges. In all of these top colleges of DU, around 50 percent teaching positions are filled by adhoc teachers. You have to understand it is due to these adhoc teachers that these colleges are doing well. They have been teaching for years, they have all the qualifications, and instead the university is taking in people with minimum qualifications,” said Sant Prakash, an ad hoc teacher of political sciences in Bhagini Nivedita College. The National Institutional Ranking Framework is the education ministry’s annual higher education ranking exercise.
Those who are still teaching worry about their jobs. According to teachers, the stipulations of the National Education Policy (NEP), will reduce the workload of teachers meaning that less teachers will be employed by the universities.
“The NEP is attacking from the other side. Due to NEP, the workload of teachers is dropping. That is creating another avenue to remove ad hoc teachers,” said Prakash. The number of teaching posts is determined by the workload and class sizes.
“Now workload committees are meeting in each college. On the one hand, adhoc teachers are doing all the work and on the other, they themselves are suffering,” said Prakash. The system of ad hoc teachers was introduced to ensure continuity in teaching-learning once a permanent staff member retired. “Gradually they started extending the term of the ad hoc teachers after every four months. Instead of bringing in new permanent teachers they started promoting adhocism by extending the services of ad hoc teachers after every four months,” said Prakash.
Confusion and disarray are now at the core of all Delhi University’s crucial activities.
The centralisation of the admission test – CUET was hurriedly introduced this year – resulted in the DU UG admission process and academic year being delayed to such an extent that colleges are still admitting students despite classes starting in November. In consequence, the student strength is unstable but teachers are sprinting to finish syllabi.
“The first years are in a real soup despite our best efforts. Our institution is one of the best organised one yet classes kept on being delayed because admissions kept on happening till December 6. The list of students became perpetually unstable and variable. This is the problem we are facing with the new batch,” said Chakraborty, who teaches English in Kirori Mal College.
“Value Addition Course (VAC) courses haven’t even started in most colleges. Students and teachers are both in distress. Teachers don’t know which students are there, who's coming, who's going. Even the students are confused, “ said Subashish.
Teachers also noted that many DU colleges that are away from the university's two main campuses have seen many seats going vacant due to the delays. “The classes started on November 1. Now it's December and yet more than 10,000 seats are empty. For instance, instead of 30 to40 students there are only five to six students in Sanskrit honours in some colleges,” said Subashish.
Teachers also said that the quality of these common courses, introduced by the new Undergraduate Curriculum Framework (UGCF), were poor.
“Many papers actually do not belong to the domain knowledge of any particular discipline, in fact, they have not been assigned any teachers. For example, in digital empowerment, you have to teach them about Digilocker and how they can book railway tickets. This is not what people will want to spend time on. Who is the teacher who will teach this? As a result, the classes for VAC, AEC, have barely started last week. One entire month has been wasted without any study for these courses,” said Abha Dev Habib who teaches physics at Miranda House .
“If you look at the content you will realise how poor some of the Skill Enhancement Courses are. These academically impoverished courses act as disincentives. That’s why students are shifting around…There are some courses which are oversubscribed and there are not enough teachers and there are some courses which have been undersubscribed and the workload has been reduced,” said Chakraborty.
The university is yet to notify complete syllabuses, having cleared only the second semester courses in November.
“Even the four year undergraduate programme (FYUP) is a half baked exercise. The student should be able to see the course work and the examination system. Unfortunately, in DU, we were just ready with the first semester papers and syllabi,” said Dev Habib. “Teachers and students have no idea how the course will go in four years, what different papers they will study, and the depth of the study will be.”
The university also changed its PTR norms and the tutorial system. In a mid-November notification, it set maximum PTR at 60 for lectures and 30 for tutorials. Teachers have pointed out that 30 is too high a number for tutorials which are best kept as small sessions of eight-10 students to ensure weaker students get personal attention.
“If one accepts that schooling is very diverse across the country and if you look at the variety of students, then it is only through tutorials that you can guide a student. In a class of 40 or 60, those from marginalised backgrounds tend to hide. Tutorials were a way to help such students. Now you are converting the tutorial system into a class of 30,” said Dev habib.
“The pupil-teacher ratio is a very important factor. If you look at the university rankings, in the top international universities, there is a teacher for every sixth student. In DU it used to be 18:1. Now it will be close to 25:1 and this will only hamper the academic process,” said Dev Habib.
The UGC’s brand new 'Credit and Curriculum Framework on Undergraduate Programme' (CCFUGP), notified on December 12, has brought fresh confusion and fears. Its stipulations are different from DU’s framework. For instance, DU allows students to get an honours degree in three years while the new UGC regulation mandates that students will have to complete four years to get an honours degree. This has left teachers wondering if they are in for yet another curriculum change.
“The UGCF was based on a UGC document from January. It was a draft. Delhi University without any application of mind simply adopted a draft document which was not even notified. Now, the new UGC draft has been notified as a regulation. This has to be compliant,” said Chakraborty. “Amid so much confusion, if a new course structure comes from 2023 as UGC intends then why did DU adopt the UGCF in 2022 which did not have the validation of UGC. For one batch, you are creating this kind of uncertainty…DU has been extremely cavalier and has put lakhs of students in jeopardy.”
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