Saturday, July 11, 2009

Kerala Not Ready for Semesters

Kerala University has deferred semesterisation of degree courses while MG University has gone ahead with it this academic year. In North Kerala, public property is being destroyed in protest against semesterisation! In this context I’d like to share my take on this issue in the blogsphere.

I beg to disagree with the claim of the government and AKPTC that the new academic structure of degree courses will improve the quality of higher education in Kerala. Two semesters per academic year will replace the annual system at the degree level. Much as i hate to be a prophet of doom, i have to say that this change will only add to the existing chaos which will ultimately be sorted out by compromises and dilution which are bound to affect quality negatively.

Conducting seminars of stake holders on the issue of restructuring the degree level into semesters was, most certainly, a laudable move. But that was hardly enough. Before the government plunged into this important reform, it should have imperatively conducted an honest enquiry into how the existing semsterised degree courses were functioning in the various colleges. There are several vocationised courses sponsored by the UGC which follow the semester system. If someone is bold and honest enough to look beyond the statistics and supposed performance of these courses, many distressing truths will surface.

The truth is that semester system can be successful only if the colleges become autonomous. In the existing affiliation system, it will not get the desired results. The requisite learning culture does not exist in the latter.

1. The conduct of Examinations

There is an inherent weakness in the Examination system in our universities and this will prove to be the biggest obstacle in the way of success of this move to semesterise at degree level. The Examination section – the administrative - needs to be revamped drastically to avert the chaos that the higher education is likely to witness in the coming years i.e. after the semesterisation at degree level becomes effective.

The Office of the Controller of Examination is the most overworked and overloaded section in all the universities of Kerala. The Examination Section is already struggling to handle the work of the existing undergraduate courses which have the annual system. Semesterisation would double the work, but not the efficiency. The Universities are unable to publish on time the results of the few semester courses that already exist in the affiliated colleges. Timely publishing of the results is always bogged down by administrative hiccups. If degree course is semesterised, utter pandemonium will prevail. Unless, of course, the administrative system is streamlined in a manner the universities of Kerala are incapable of doing, given their union ridden work force.

2. Internal assessment.

UGC believes, and rightly so, that the semester system, with its constant monitoring of students would enable skill development. But it is unrealistic to hope to achieve this “constant monitoring” in Kerala colleges which have anything between 60 to eighty students in English and Language classes, and 40 in core subjects.

The continuous monitoring system through internal assessment already exists in the colleges in Kerala. Unfortunately, this is a huge farce. It is bound to be so in an affiliation system. 20-25 percent marks are allotted to internal assessment. Since ranks and performance of colleges are linked to marks and pass percentage, first class percentage etc, no college will take the decision to give the students only the marks they deserve to get. Colleges which have made an honest effort to do so have suffered with their pass percentages coming down, or missing the university ranks their students should otherwise have secured. In the affiliation system, with many colleges coming under the same university, the competition, far from improving the quality of teaching and education, leads to doctoring of results of the internal assessments.

The students are smart. They know the college will not risk failing them as it will affect the results. No matter how badly they do, they will be awarded a certain minimum marks. I have seen ridiculous situations where the students grow so indifferent to the internal tests and assignments that the teacher is forced to go after them and pursue them till they submit something to be marked!

Autonomy should precede the Semester system. The rating of autonomous colleges is not relative as in the affiliation system. Autonomy gives Independence in designing syllabus and evaluating the students. If semester is introduced in the present affiliation system, the only effect it will have is to increase the work load of the teachers, add to the chaos in the examination system - all with no advantage whatsoever to the students and the learning process.



  1. As a student, I have preffered the semester system but agree to your take that it helps for the college to be autonomous. When I compare my graduation to my PG at a Deemed University with the semester system, I think I made the best of my time during my PG. Infact, I think I learnt more and was more productive. But all the details you have ellaborated, was an eyeonpener.

    I was schocked at (or rather didn't want to see it): 'The students are smart. They know the college will not risk ..... they submit something to be marked!'

    Suprising I haven't faced it myself as student. Only happy that I skiped that bit. But I do remember the last time I worked with a school in B'lore, the teachers were worried about the pressure in 'passing' the students, however bad the performance was until they appeared for their board exams in 10th. And I'm sure I sensed the sense of indifference among the students themselves. That was really sad.

    That brings us back to the need to revamp our education system. The British who we follow have themselves revamped what we so ardently follow.

  2. I can only comment here from the point of view of a student.
    I was a student of JNU, which followed the semester system. It was very organised. We knew how many credits we had to do each semester. We had to present a term paper at the end of each semester. Every thing was streamlined and we never felt any pressure.
    But of course JNU is an autonomous body.
    I understand what you are saying. Just introducing a semester system does not help. The whole system needs a revamp.

  3. I studied in the system which had half yearly and yearly exams. I always thought that semester would have been easier for a student. Eventually our college moved to the semester system.
    Now working in the profession I feel that semester system is good as the weight is divided and one does not have to carry over....which could be avoided.. After all it is the concept that you carry along
    Again, this is my personal opinion....

  4. As long as teaching jobs are 'purchased', teaching quality would remain a dream. Teachers that pay for jobs might make students pay for grades.


Dear visitors, dont run away without leaving behind something for me :-)
By the way, if your comment does not get posted at the first click, just click once more.