Academic Impact of Choice Based Credit System on Colleges
in Indian Universities
Dr S. Shobha Rani Msc, M Phil, Ph.D.
Visakha Govt . Degree College for Women
The continuous accumulation of knowledge from different directions is education. A person with complete knowledge will be able to meet the challenges of the society efficiently. It is also conceived to be the adjustment of man to his environment to the end that the most enduring satisfaction may accrue to the individual and society. Man has been changing by contributing his best to the society. When everything is changing decisions regarding the type of education for the right type of people gained momentum with time. As time and tide wait for none so also education system incorporated strategies keeping in mind the needs of the society that changed with time. In India, The Higher Education is a part of the education system that has assumed major importance through The Five Year Plans proposed various academic reforms through National Knowledge Commission (2008-2009), Yashpal Committee Report in 2009 recommended overhauling of higher education through academic and administrative reforms. The purpose of such reforms is to establish the Higher Education of India on an international level equivalent to developed nations. University Grants Commission in its 11th plan and Association of Indian Universities stressed on Choice Based Credit System (CBCS). The present paper briefly elaborates the pros and corns of CBCS system as the present generation is in the state of dilemma. The opportunities cannot be utilized unless both the teacher and the taught are aware of every aspect of CBCS System.
Key words: Higher Education, Choice Based Credit System, National Education Policy.
Education today is between two horns of dilemma. One is the range of it being practical and the other is the justification to the theoretical knowledge. Education should bring about a favorable atmosphere for the all round development of the individual. It should definitely contribute to the advancement of nation as well as global harmony, peace and prosperity.
Education system in India consists of primary education, secondary education and higher education. Our present area of study is about higher education. It is responsive to all important issues and developments associated with multidimensional advancement of civilization. Today it is undergoing a rapid change. Mere acquisition of certificates, degrees, diplomas nowadays is becoming a dull, passive and disinterested affair. In the name of experimentation higher education in India has almost turned out to be blurred not very systematic and scientifically spelt out. It neither caters to the fundamental objectives of education which include man making, character building, discipline and work orientation nor does it give any importance to inculcate the most essential and invaluable contributions of our age old invaluable culture, traditions, ethics and civilization. A meaningful higher education is always a passport to what one ought to be so that both the society and the world at large become mutual partners to fullness and advancement. It improves the quality of life.
The higher education system in India is the largest among the Third World Nations and the second largest in the world with four million students enrolled in about 7,000 colleges and about 200 universities (Sujata Srivastava, 2001). It is without doubt that India is one of the oldest higher education systems in the Third World with universities dating to 1857. There has been a phenomenal growth and expansion of higher education since independence. As a result of unplanned expansion the entire system has been enveloped by a number of substandard colleges and universities. Though a number of plans and proposals have been formulated to guide the system yet at the macro level very few have been successfully implemented. It has been noticed that though there has been some positive changes in higher education but much of the changes have acquired a negative quality. Expansion has taken place at all levels of the academic system and still continues despite the recommendations of various commissions and committees against unplanned growth. Professional institutes, post graduate, under graduate arts and science colleges have mushroomed in rural and urban areas catering to the needs of the society.
In the present decade of 21st century, one of the weakest link in our educational system is the Choice Based Credit Based System (CBCS). University administrators and university and college teachers have been aware of the importance of CBCS system in well noted Universities of developed nations like United States of America, United Britain and Australia. Not-withstanding that innumerable higher education institution in our country has deteriorated standards and is functioning at a substandard level. Benal (1987) in his study on development of higher education in the state of Karnataka concluded that there has been a considerable quantitative growth of the number of institutions though qualitative improvement at the affiliated colleges also university level but not a significant growth. Similar line of thought has been expressed by Joseph (1987) that curriculum and syllabus for the various courses have long been on traditional lines with little scope for experimentation and innovation.
Choice Based Credit System
In 2015-16 the University Grant Commission (UGC) moved on from traditional marks of year end common core exam pattern and percentage system to Choice Based Credit System in Delhi University. The talks on CBCS system went on for quite a long time created confusion among the colleges as to whether the syllabus, timetables and assessment procedures should be prepared as per the requirements of the CBCS or should they have continued with the previous marking system.
Finally University Grants Commission approved the Choice Based Credit System (CBCS) programme in which the students have a choice to choose from the prescribed courses, which are referred as core, elective or minor or soft skill courses and they can learn at their own pace and the entire assessment is graded-based on a credit system. The basic idea is to look into the needs of the students so as to keep up-to-date with development of higher education in India and abroad. Unfortunately only semester system is being followed in affiliated colleges of Indian Universities.
Characteristics of Choice Based Credit System
- Uniformity of CBCS for all Central, State and other recognized Universities.
- Three main courses are Core, Elective and Foundation will be evaluated nad accessed to provide a balanced result.
- Provision to select electives of their choice in graduation.
Elements of Choice Based Credit System
It has the following basic elements:
- Semesters: The assessment is done semester wise. Each semester will have 15–18 weeks of academic work which is equal to 90 teaching days. There is flexibility in creating the curriculum and assigning credits based on the course content and hours of teaching. In an academic year a student completes two semesters.
- Credit system: Each course is assigned a certain credit. When the student passes that course, earns the credits which are based on that course.
- Credit transfer: If for some reasons, student cannot cope with the study load, have the freedom to study fewer courses and earn fewer credits and can compensate this in the next semester.
- Comprehensive continuous assessment: There is a continuous evaluation of the student not only by the teachers but also by the student.
- Grading: UGC has introduced a 10-point grading system as follows:
O (Outstanding): 10
A+ (Excellent): 9
A (Very Good): 8
B+ (Good): 7
B (Above Average): 6
C (Average): 5
P (Pass): 4
F (Fail): 0
Ab (Absent): 0
Advantages of Choice Based Credit System
- The CBCS offers students to choose courses of their own choice.
- The credit system allows a student to study what he prefers in his own sequence as per one’s interests.
- They can learn at their own pace.
- They can opt for additional courses and can achieve more than the required credits.
- They can also opt for an interdisciplinary approach to learning.
- Inter college/university migration within the country and outside becomes easy with the transfer of Credits. This means that it will be easier for foreign universities to come and offer courses in India. Can opt for one part of the course in one institute and the other part in another institute. This will help in making a clear choice between good and bad colleges/ institutes.
- The students have more scope to enhance their skills and more scope of taking up projects and assignments, vocational training, including entrepreneurship.
- The system improves the job opportunities of students.
- CBCS makes education broad-based and at par with global standards. One can take credits by combining unique combinations. For example, Physics with Economics, Microbiology with Chemistry or Environment Science etc.
- CBCS offers flexibility for students to study at different times and at different institutions to complete one course (ease mobility of students). Credits earned at one institution can be transferred. Students get better exposure and networking through attending the course in many colleges.
The system will help in enabling potential employers assess the performance of students on a scientific scale.
Disadvantages of CBCS
- Not very easy to join other electives offered in other colleges.
- Teachers’ workload may fluctuate.
- Needs proper and good infrastructure for a universal spread of education.
- Not very easy to pinpoint the achievers.
- Difficult to estimate the exact marks due to the reason that the marks card contains letter grades and grade points than individual marks scored in a subject.
- Since there is no pressure to complete all subjects of a course within a fixed time,
Weakness of CBCS:
- Less focus and credits for core area or main subjects
- Students are compelled to study languages in higher education level
- The option to take courses according to their ability and pace is limited. There is no freedom for the first year student to take an advanced course or a third year student to take an introductory course.
- Students are compelled to be inside the classroom for the entire five hour per day schedule leaving no scope for independent study.
Opportunities for CBCS:
- Students can choose papers outside of their core area so that they can be specialised in multi-discipline.
- Students have opportunity to take extra credits more than minimum requirement to complete the course which will give weightage to encashing further opportunities.
- Higher education gradings are acceptable internationally so that students can compete international opportunities.
- Credit-transfer opportunity and possibility of taking different courses in different colleges simultaneously to complete the total credit requirement within minimum period.
Challenges for CBCS:
- For any new system, usually there will be a strong resistance to change from every quarter of the academic world.
- Accepting grade points in subject instead of marks and letter grade instead of exact total marks is difficult due to the fact that allotment of individual ranking is not possible by merely referring grade points and letter grades.
- Opportunity to take credits outside the core subject area may dilute the depth in core area of studies.
- Students may face dilemma in choosing the subjects due to their inexperience in predicting future demand.
- For the institutions, the number of students in a give class is not constant due to the fact that students can take any subject in any college for a given course.
- The workload of a faculty member may vary during different semesters of a year. The college is compelled to provide good infrastructure, best faculty, large number of elective at low fees to attract more students for a given course.
- It is time consuming and expensive if a student takes different subjects in different colleges during a same period of time.
- Students cannot stay in a hostel of a particular college due to their study in different colleges.
- Students have to pay college fee for different colleges for their subjects taken in such a way that the sum of the fees paid will be always higher than the fee paid to an individual college.
Choice Based Credit System in Indian Context
‘The world of education in India encompasses different “worlds” that live side by side. One world includes only a fortunate few with access to modern institutions computers, internet access and expensive overseas education’ it said and went on to identify the majority of the education system as ‘a second world [that] wants to maintain status quo– teachers, administrators, textbook publishers, students – all have reasons to prefer things to remain as they are or change only gradually’. It also noticed the existence of a ‘third world’ that ‘struggles with fundamental issues such as no books, wrong books, teachers desperately in need of training, teachers’ with poor commitment, rote learning of irrelevant material, classrooms with hundred students, dirty floors and no toilets’ were some of the various recommendations that the Ambani-Birla report made for improving higher education, one was to enable an easier movement of students ‘from one institution to another based on a system of transfer of professional credits’.
The Ambani-Birla report was not much discussed within the university system except to
for its recommendations about inviting private investment for education. However, many of its ideas found a new life in the report of the National Knowledge Commission (NKC) that was set up in 2005, and worked from 2006 through 2009 (Pitroda, 2009). The NKC too talked of allowing students the freedom of movement from one institution to another and the importance of learning them to work with their hands. The National Knowledge Commission was headed by Sam Pitroda, a successful entrepreneur who helped to initiate the Indian telecom revolution in the 1980s. Sam Pitroda’s Report to the Nation of the National Knowledge Commission was of the view that ‘it (was) essential to provide students with choices instead of keeping them captive’. Correspondingly, it suggested that in order to obtain a degree, while every student earn a minimum number of credits in their chosen discipline, they also should be provided the freedom to earn the remaining credits from courses in other disciplines. The idea was to free students from the tyranny of being tied down to just one set of subjects for study merely because they had chosen a particular stream of education on leaving school.
“The NKC proposes a transition to a course credit system where degrees are granted on the basis of completing a requisite number of credits from different courses, which provides students with choices”, it said. One of the benefits of such an education hoped that it would remove the pressure on students leaving school to think of only medicine and engineering as two meaningful options for the future—both of which were options that had to be chosen during school and once chosen could be changed only after suffering a loss of years. Moreover, the report said, that students have the freedom to choose the subjects they could study while obtaining a degree, it would put pressure on the institutions of higher education to create courses that the students would find meaningful.
The present system of education was characterized by too much rigidity and too few choices for students. In its opinion, universities that were smaller or had a semester based system were more flexible. However, that simply meant, that, in the opinion of the NKC, the larger universities—the site of education for most students in India– too would have to transform themselves, especially in order, the NKC hoped, to ‘introduce greater diversity and more flexibility in the course structures’. Providing choices to students, in other words, would also enhance “competition between institutions and correspondingly enhance accountability” (Pitroda, 2009, p. 64).
This was easier said than done. For, the idea that universities should teach their courses through the semester system using a system of credits to give relative value to courses and grades to evaluate the students, had been floating around for many decades. However, with the exception of a handful of relatively resource rich universities like the JNU (founded 1969) or the
Hyderabad Central University (founded 1974), where teaching was always based on the semester system and which typically had less than ten thousand students, the majority of the general universities had avoided converting their teaching from an annual system to the semester system.
In 2008, universities were simply ordered that every course to be converted into the semester format and it was done from the coming semester without a single formal murmur. Since then, all the teaching in the university was done in the semester format. Delhi University too changed from the annual format to the semester format by the session of 2011-12 but, only after considerable public criticism prior to the change, suggesting that there was a large body of teachers that were resistant to change and quite vocal about sharing their reasons for resistance, most of which revolved around two statements firstly that institutional and faculty autonomy is being compromised and there are not enough resources. That is another matter that once the semester system was introduced it was met with reports of approval (R.A. Wolff, 2010) and no particular shortfall was reported as compared to the previous annual format.
Apart from advocating the semester format for teaching, the National Knowledge Commission repeated some of the other well known, points of criticism of the system of higher
education in India. The NKC charged the universities of having created unemployable graduates without any skills; creativity was wanting in these products of India’s higher education sector; education rendered them hostile to those who really possessed skills etc. The courses should be ‘relevant’ and should be application oriented with a judicious mix of projects that attract the theoretical researcher and those interested in general abstraction. Even the social science courses and humanities, the NKC recommended, should have a component that required either desk based or field research (Pitroda, 2009, p. 115). Clearly, according to the recommendations of the NKC, the freedom to students to choose what courses they wished to pursue was the key to transforming higher education in India. A further boost to this idea was received through the recommendations of a Coeval Committee that had been giving some thought to the matter of improving the quality of higher education in India.
The UGC has always initiated measures to bring efficiency and excellence in the Higher Education System of India. The basic motive is to expand academic quality in all aspects, right from the curriculum to the learning-teaching process to examination and evaluation systems. However, so far multiple methods are followed by different universities across the country towards examination, evaluation and grading system. Considering this diversity, the implementation of the choice based credit system seems to be a good system in assessing the overall performance of a student in a universal way of a single grading system. Since independence, the society and government in India had multiple aspirations with regard to higher education. That higher education would transform the country and its people in some dramatic ways remains the most important.
Over the years, we have witnessed multiple layers of expectations being imposed on the system of higher education. University was supposed to be the key institution to foster equality, equity, justice, cultural change, economic growth of the country, economic transformation of the region, nationalism, humanism and many other things. Under these layers of expectations those involved the practice of higher education—law-makers, politicians, policy makers, the faculty and even the students– seemed to have forgotten that the core purpose of the university is to foster the creation of new knowledge and its effective distribution in society. Perhaps with the introduction of the CBCS, giving students a choice to study what they please without the restriction of disciplinary boundaries, there may be a possibility for higher education in India to really transform itself.
The institutions of higher education are in need of the infusion of a new model of education in order to keep the curriculum in pace with changing environment which includes technology adoption, changing industry requirement, changing aspiration of students and changing expectations of society. It is expected that two models and two systems of higher education are going to get importance in this changing environment. The two models of higher education which are going to be relevant in future days are (1) Conventional classroom-based education model and (2) Technology supported online education model. The two higher education systems which are expected to be attractive to the learners are Choice Based Credit system and Competency based Credit system.
The basic system of education tries to present the knowledge as a whole, centered round interest and activities. Central Government and State Government of India have made many efforts and activities to promote education for its young generation through learning by doing. It caters budget for strengthening information technology and state of art technology at urban cities. This development should also be taken up as projects in rural cities where basic infrastructure as well as communication technology should be given prior importance.
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