FYUP crisis opens opportunity
Every crisis leaves a lesson to learn. The unceremonious rollback of four-year-degree programme (FYUP) in Delhi University (DU) leaves many such lessons which can profitably be learnt both by the university community and educational administrators. The foremost is how not to introduce a reform in the University.
Another important lesson is that the university community -- students and teachers, the real stake holders -- should be taken on board on any reform. The propaganda by the administrators that teachers are essentially status quoists and don’t want to change is but only a false propaganda. The University of Delhi had in the past introduced many reforms with the active participation of teachers. Introduction of Integrated Honours Undergraduate Programmes integrating subsidiary subjects with the mains and introduction of Bachelor’s Programmes in place of Pass and General ones are but only two of the recent successful examples at reforms.
The problem is that under Kapil Sibal’s overlordship of Ministry of HRD, corporatisation of Delhi University started with the former vice chancellor Deepak Nayyar, gained firm ground with Deepak Pental and was firmly entrenched with Dinesh Singh. The vice chancellor thought he was the CEO of DU with his team members and Deans at differentiated levels of senior executives. The CEO with blessings of political bosses, all members of a close knit St. Stephen’s family club, would take all decisions and the job of the executives would be to expeditiously implement those decisions. The normal robust, time tested fora like departments and committees of courses were replaced by ‘empowered committees’ and ‘task forces’.
The result was that programmes, courses of study, and structures were decided with almost no independent inputs from experienced teachers. The so called ‘Task Force’ just carried forward the assigned tasks in the dictated time frames. This force reduced itself to a tasked farce !! The result was that the whole FYUP was riddled with palpably self destructive fault lines -- lines which were visible to all except the VC and his diehard, but opportunist, supporters. The rollback of this failed FYUP has indeed saved the university system from the sure and unmitigated academic disaster.
At this stage it is not necessary to enumerate all the academic weaknesses of FYUP. Over 90 per cent students and almost all teachers were against that academic atrocity camouflaged as a reform. Even the B.Tech students under FYUP are grossly dissatisfied with the academic contents, and desperately want the programs to be comprehensively overhauled.
However it is important to mention some unethical tricks employed by the university to popularise FYUP. The first was to illegally divert over 180 crores from the OBC expansion funds to distribute laptops to FYUP students and foundation course teachers. All those who sung praises of FYUP were unduly rewarded and those opposed punished. But the most unethical was the exponential inflation of examination marks of FYUP students through a moderation process to create euphoric satisfaction. This would have ultimately destroyed the worth of DU degrees.
The misuse of the moderation mechanism and of the OBC funds are subject matter of an actionable visitorial enquiry. It must be mentioned as an aside that an officiatng Principal of a college who with the prior permission of the UGC and the GB Chairman distributed one month salary from the replenishable OBC funds was inhumanly treated by the university authorities.
The authorities and their supporters tried all kinds of ruses and rumours to defend FYUP. That rollback shall stenghthened Left in the university was one such. That Dinesh Singh was containing the domination of the Left in appointments was another. The VC and his strategists surmised that this propaganda will appeal to some elements in the BJP-RSS circles. This would also cripple any initiative against FYUP by the MHRD Smriti Irani who was bombarded on her academic qualifications by agents working on behalf of university officials. For this they also requisitioned services of a woman activist supposedly close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi but pathologically opposed to Irani. An editor of a pro-BJP newspaper and also a member of Rajya Sabha on BJP ticket was also pressed into service to write unreasoned editorials and write ups in favour of FYUP. For a short duration this determined bid for spreading misinformation managed to confuse some important persons, but reason ultimately prevailed.
FYUP was confined to where it legitmately belonged -- dustbin of hIstory. Certain misgivings are required to be removed. Though the Leftists have been vocal opponents of FYUP in the media, their opposition had no real impact on the University or the UPA Government. The impact began to be felt when the ABVP and the National Democratic Teachers Front (NDTF) pushed the anti FYUP struggle to take a quantum jump. The glorious victory of ABVP in DUSU was only owing to its unequivocal demand for the rollback of the ruinous FYUP. The growth of Left students and teachers groups in DU was mainly due to their anti FYUP stance. If the fyup was to continue the Leftists would have further grown.
The countdown to rollback FYUP started with the Delhi-BJP responding to public outcry and including it in the manifesto of the Vidhan Sabha and Lok Sabha elctions. Its inclusion was to preserve academic sanctity of the university programmes as demanded by Delhi citizens and not to politically interfere. Today it is universally recognised that the rollback is owing essentially to the combined efforts of ABVP and NDTF, and a resolute stand of the HRD Minister Smriti Irani to preserve the sanctity of the National Policy of Education on undergraduate structure which was violated by the FYUP. That she accomplished it with such grace and maturity is appreciated by all except those who are tied to the apron strings of the Team D of DU.
The manner in which the university authorities made appointments to teaching positions is a sordid tale requiring looking into. That the Left was being contained is a cover up excuse. Only those who were the known lackeys of Congress groups in DU were appointed. Academic Standards were blatantly compromised at the altar of casteism, regionalism and lackeyism.
This is no way of containing Left. We have to fight it ideologically. The mafia like stranglehold of Left cannot be allowed to be replaced by an equally mafia like stranglehold of the Congress. It Is necessary here to mention that the initial but firm steps towards undermining of democracy in the university were taken during the vice chancellorship of Deepak Nayyar and that our Lef comrades of Democratic Teachers Frontvariety were in cosy and cooing partnership with him.
There is an endless list of irregularities and illegalities committed by the VC in the context of FYUP. I mention only one. Any DU Ordinance comes into operation only after it Is approved first by the University Court and then by the Visitor. The amendments to Ordinance V of DU relating to FYUP were never approved by the Visitor. Also the FYUP was implemented in June 2013 whereas the University Court considered it only in March 2014. But who cared !! The VC Dinesh Singh was the reigning emperor. And Alka Sharma, the Registrar who is charged with the preservation and protection of University Statutes and Ordinances, acted as an omnipotent Co Vice Chancellor!
I conclude from where I began. Teachers, students and society need urgent reforms in education. Reforms are acutely needed in the domain of higher education since it impinges upon all other segments of education. But an arithmetical addition of a year in under-graduate programme (Americanism!!), and throwing in of irrelevant low level foundation courses, cannot be accepted as reform, glib talking and fancy words play by the FYUP propagandists notwithstanding. Smriti Irani has announced steps to initiate changes in the national education policy and reforms. We heartily welcome this. Policy framework and reforms must be decided through a national debate at all levels involving all segments engaged with education.
The author is former member of the Executive Council, Delhi University