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We need to break the silo culture in higher education

Higher education in India looks like a kaleidoscope of degrees, each having different credit requirements. Fortunately, the school system is uniformly using the 10 2 format. However, different bachelor’s degree programmes have different durations. A bachelor’s in the natural sciences is usually three years, while one in engineering will be four years. The programmes in education and library sciences are even shorter. This variation is not simply in terms of duration but also in terms of the breadth and depth of content and training.

This variation is unique to India. Internationally, academic programmes are designed in terms of credit requirements and the semester system. If India has to evolve a vibrant and efficient tertiary education system, it is necessary to adopt these basic concepts. Further, the credit requirements and number of semesters to acquire a bachelor’s degree should be comparable. It is standard practice now to have a bachelor’s programme of eight semesters with an average of 160 credits. The number of credits may vary, but within a band around this average. This model is needed for a definite direction for reforms in higher education.

Any bachelor’s programme should have two major components — core and professional. The core programme should provide basic elements. For example, a degree in the natural sciences should have some elements of logic, philosophy and creativity. The core should also provide some common elements such as mathematical and computational capability. A degree in sociology should provide some basic elements of computational and mathematical sciences. Usually, the core programme carries about 45 to 55 per cent emphasis in the 160-credit, eight-semester bachelor’s programme.

Professional courses should have some compulsory elements as well as some elective elements. Students should be able to fashion a minor by choosing electives that will complement their basic degree. Project work and/ or research should also be an essential element. The primary aim of such a component is to train students in real-world problem-solving and thinking in an integrated manner. Students also learn in a collaborative manner. The project or research activity should be about 10 to 15 per cent, and the elective the same, in overall credit requirements.

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