Taking lessons

Coming soon to all Indian universities: the controversial Delhi University academic system that was scrapped

The Universities Grants Commission’s proposal on choice-based credit system is similar to Delhi University’s Four-Year Undergraduate Programme.

India’s statutory body for higher education, the Universities Grants Commission, last week initiated a shakeup in varsities across the country by proposing that they follow a semester pattern in curriculum instead of yearly examinations and adopt grades instead of numerical percentages in marksheets. In a letter to vice-chancellors, the commission asked all 400 universities to “quickly initiate action” to “expedite” the change that “will provide wider options to students” from the coming academic year.

Unintentional though, the commission’s vigorous promotion carried a strong current of irony. Last year, it had forced the University of Delhi to scrap its Four-Year Undergraduate Programme, which bore a marked resemblance to the change the UGC is now championing.

Here is a look at some of the commonalities between the two systems:

Credit-Based Course Structure
FYUP: In this system, courses were split into Foundation Courses (common to students across streams), Discipline Courses I (major courses related to the degree), and Discipline Courses II (minor or applied courses chosen by students).

UGC Guidelines: Here too, the courses will be divided into compulsory Foundation Courses (relating directly to the subject of study) and Elective Courses (allowing for interdisciplinary studies).

Grading
FYUP: A grading system was created in Delhi University with an in-built conversion mechanism.

UGC Guidelines: Grade points, ranging from O (Outstanding) to P (Pass), will be derived from the marks achieved in examinations.

Multiple Exit Points
FYUP: It allowed multiple exit points from the course, so a student could get a diploma after finishing two years of the programme, a bachelor’s degree after three years, or an honours degree after four years.

UGC Guidelines: As part of the National Skill Qualifications framework, all community colleges and those institutions providing Bachelors of Vocational Studies programmes need to provide multiple exit points to students pursuing vocational skill-based courses, such as retail management and business accounting. A student can get a certificate after six months of the programme, a diploma after a year, an advanced diploma after two years, and a B.Voc degree after three years.

Replay of old protests

While some are hailing the UGC’s proposal as a significant shift in higher education structure, many Delhi University teachers are not too enthused. The teachers had last year joined Delhi University’s students in protesting against the Four-Year Undergraduate Programme, calling it “ill conceived”. They feel the same way about UGC’s suggestions today.

“It is unfortunate that the UGC has not learned any lessons from Delhi University’s horrific experience with FYUP,” said Abha Dev Habib, a professor of physics at Miranda House College and a member of Delhi University’s executive council body. “The UGC guidelines are similar to the FYUP course structure in many ways and so now we are required to deal with them again.”

Habib said the UGC did not collect enough feedback from students or teachers before forming its guidelines to standardise education across states. “Different states teach differently,” Habib asserted. “Their grading patterns are separate, so a standard system can’t be imposed in a flash.”

Apart from the system’s hurried implementation, there are concerns among students about admissions based on grade points. They point out that the grades could be interpreted varyingly since the UGC has allowed varsities to “adopt and adapt” its guidelines as they deem fit.

“A university might choose to interpret a grade, say A+, differently for an applicant from a Tier-II university,” said Vishal Manve, a graduate from the University of Mumbai who is currently applying for postgraduate courses. “We would have no recourse since grades signify a range of marks instead of specific percentages, which make it clear if the applicant fits the eligibility criteria or not.”

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.