The Scholastic Renaissance: Academic Syllabus Review

The Scholastic Renaissance: Academic Syllabus Review

KNOW YOUR CURRICULUM COMMITTEE

The curriculum committee of the institute is headed by a chairman and a team consisting of about five members change over a period. The committee chairman has a term of two years. The committee meets once in every two-three months, as per the need, and before a semester starts, it meets at least twice in case a department wants to change the number of credits for a particular course. There exists a senate to approve the decisions of the Curriculum Committee. The senate also has student nominees for a more transparent process.

CURRICULUM CHANGE: TYPES

There are two types of curriculum change, the major revamp and minor changes. A major revamp is typically carried out once every 3-4 years. While minor changes are carried out as and when required. Also, a course may be introduced on an experimental basis for a year, and later can be included as a regular course as per the academic regulations.

A major revamp is a top-down approach where the committee asks the departments to revise their syllabus, whereas minor changes are carried out from bottom-to-top when departments propose the introduction of a new course, change credits for a course and so on.

In a major revamp there might be a transfer of courses from senior semesters to junior semesters and also the removal of core courses altogether. The format for a number of theory and lab courses is decided in a major revamp.  Also, 1-0-3 courses are approved by the senate which has one theory class and one practical class per week and semester examinations are not conducted for those courses. It is evaluated as a laboratory course.

Students can also make suggestions for inclusion of a new subject in their department by suggesting it to the departmental group which further proposes it to the departmental curriculum committee. The departmental curriculum committee then proposes it to the Curriculum Committee which after receiving 2-3 proposals, deliberates, discusses and approves the course and sends it to the senate for final approval.

PRESENT SCENARIO:

The present curriculum was made four years ago and a major revamp will be implemented from the next academic session. The process of major revamp has already been started. There have been 2-3 meetings where the immediate change of curriculum in the semester was proposed for the start. Nowadays, in the evaluation process, they typically ask about the program’s educational objectives, the course objectives etc. and all such relevant information will be brought into the curriculum group this time.

INTEGRATED MSc ISSUES

One of the problems faced by the MSc. students are the utility of the OE courses which comes at a cost of dilution of the major science subjects. While the conventional B. Sc. student spends all his three years focusing entirely on the core science subjects, an Integrated M. Sc. student spends his studying time which is divided between science subjects and non-science subjects like the engineering subjects in the first year and open elective courses in subsequent years. When asked about the apparent academic divide between the two groups, the chairman of the Committee Prof. S. K. Patra clarified that in reality, it is not so. The contact hours which includes the lab hours, as well as the hours spent in classroom teaching, is more rigorous and of a far superior quality in the Integrated MSc course which provides the leeway for the inclusion of OE subjects as well. Thus, the latter course structure while being more rigorous is more holistic than the former.

DUAL DEGREE ISSUES

The Dual Degree students, unlike the Integrated M. Sc. students, have to compress two years of Masters’ work in a single year in the form of a research project. One of the pertinent problems, faced by the dual degree students is that their course often falls short of the requisite credits essential for placements and higher education as compared to their M Tech counterparts. All such issues can be reported to the curriculum committee through the HODs or student nominees, which shall be certainly deliberated by the committee.

The following infographic shows the credit allocation for M. Tech. (Dual Degree) students, and students who pursue a regular M. Tech. degree after the completion of their B. Tech degrees. 

 

INTRODUCTION OF SOFTWARE AND E-COMMERCE COURSES:

With the need of the hour, it is important to introduce certain software to improve the placement scenario. Currently, if we look at the curriculum, the B. Tech. the curriculum doesn’t specifically stress on software-based courses. But there are a large number of elective courses that deal with the same. There are at least six elective labs and the department can even introduce new courses as electives. For M. Tech. students, there are two slots for computer-based courses- 4 labs in each semester - 2 hardware-based and 2 software-based. As we can see, the introduction of a new software course doesn’t require a major revamp of the curriculum.

Another major impetus for the revision of curriculum is the prospect of the introduction of subjects such as E-Commerce owing to the rise of companies such as Amazon, Google etc. which is taught in NIT Delhi. Even in this case, the students, as well as the professors, can come up with proposals for such subjects which can be taken up by the curriculum committee. Thus, in principle, there exists a lot of scope for introduction of such subjects.

OPEN ELECTIVE ISSUES:

There are certain optional electives provided by the CS department that is quite useful to the computer science students but being the students of that same branch, they are not allowed to take up that course. For example, CS students can’t take up the courses like advanced programming skills and java. The reason for this is that as OEs these subjects do not delve too deep into the subject, rather they provide just a basic intro to the subject. The CS students crave for a different level of understanding on these topics, hence the course with the same syllabus can’t be provided to them. Instead, a new subject can be introduced if the students require one.

DEPARTMENT SPECIFIC ISSUES:

One of the departments, which has had a lot of turmoil is the department of Industrial Design. Instead of being an emerging branch which should grow from strength to strength as the years roll on, it has lost its sheen in the last few years. Both the professors and the students are very dissatisfied with the current course structure. From the dearth of professors to the study of irrelevant subjects, the students have had to face the brunt in every scenario. According to the students, the branch doesn’t offer specific industry oriented courses relevant to the discipline. Instead, the current curriculum enforces them to study most of the subjects parallel to mechanical engineering students.

This creates a major divide during placements, as the Industrial Design students are not allowed to sit for a majority of the mechanical companies. Further, the ID specific companies don’t find the students competent enough for recruitment, owing to the lack of design specific courses. The professors too feel the same, and believe that a B. Design degree is more relevant than the B. Tech. degree that is currently offered. Further, the establishment of a design centre like the IDC (Industrial Design Centre) in IIT Bombay and DOD in IIT Guwahati is the need of the hour.

The syllabus of the Department of Biomedical Engineering also has certain shortcomings. For example, students need subjects that directly help them in the industry.

To this end, the curriculum committee provides opportunities for both major and minor revamps.  If the course needs a completely new structure, it comes under the purview of a major revamp which would be enforced in the next academic year. For the specific courses which are to be added and the possible removal of few irrelevant mechanical subjects can come from a meeting of the respective professor with the HOD and then followed with a proposal sent to the committee. The key point to note in either scenario is that the onus always lies with the professors of the department to initiate the change and further the valediction of the fact that all changes necessary are enforceable in principle.

 

TRANSFERRABLE CREDITS AND INTERNSHIPS

For programs such as Erasmus Mundus, which provides students with opportunities to study a semester abroad, the institute has a provision of transferable credits. Thus, the credits gained from the semester abroad are transferred as it is, which encourages students to participate in such programs.

On similar lines, there are issues related to six-month internships. Currently, the institute doesn’t allow students to pursue a six-month internship, both within India and abroad. According to the curriculum committee, such a move is justified in two ways.

Firstly, in most of the cases, six-month internships are ploys to rope in students before graduation in the form of cheap manpower. This is particularly prevalent in private colleges which allow such internships.

Secondly, even in the case of IIT Bombay, one of the few IITs which allows such internships, only a minuscule number of students avail such internships. The flip side of not utilizing the six-month leave productively also looms in the air. Thus, catering to the majority of the students’ needs, the institute doesn’t approve of a six-month internship of any kind.

However, to do justice to the genuine cases, there is a scope of proposing the cause in the Senate as well. In this case, the student can either put forth his case to the respective HOD of the department or through the student nominees of the Senate which is then forwarded to the director of the Senate. Depending on the outcome of subsequent deliberation by the Senate, the student’s proposal may or may not be approved.

MINOR DEGREES

Many IITs have the provision of awarding minor degrees to the students depending on certain parameters set down. Currently, there is no scope of a student opting for a minor degree in any department in our institute. However, the curriculum committee believes that such a provision is certainly feasible and the issue will definitely be taken up by the Senate in its upcoming meetings.

According to Prof. S. K. Patra,

The present curriculum is very credible in every respect as it provides room for change depending on the needs of the department. Depending on the scenario in the market, new courses can be introduced as and when required. However, the implementation of such courses is done taking into account the resources available in the form of faculty, infrastructure etc.

With the ever changing needs of the world, a dynamic curriculum is imperative for the development of the students. However, the onus for the development of such a syllabus lies on the students and the professors of various departments. The curriculum committee provides opportunities for the students and professors’ suggestions in the form of proposals, which after certain deliberations, will materialize in the form of a holistic curriculum.

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