By - Dr Thangjam Ranjit
Through your esteemed daily, I would like to highlight an academic issue which is very important vis -a –vis the academic careers of thousands of students in the state.
It is a fact that in most of the government colleges, including those in the urban areas and district headquarters, only the Honours courses are opened without General/Pass courses in the 5th and 6th semesters of the Three Years Degree course under Manipur University. It means where General and Honours courses were running in Govt. Colleges, after the introduction of semester system of examination in 2010 by Manipur University, about 27 govt. colleges had discontinued General courses for reasons known to the concerned college authorities only. Many teachers who are in favour of having Honours courses only in degree colleges reasoned for shortages of infrastructure and lack of faculty members to run both the Hons. and General classes in parallel in the concerned colleges. The argument is not justifiable since all these colleges had opted for Honours and General courses from the university authority., and a teacher in the UG courses is supposed to take classes for 14 to 16 hours in a week as per UGC norms. In the above circumstances, a department having a minimum of 4 to 5 teachers in Arts subject can run both the General and Honours courses in parallel without difficulties but with some difficulties in science subjects/departments. As per UGC norms, an undergraduate college is supposed to have 7-5 teachers in each department/subject, depending on whether the subject is having practical or not. Most colleges of the state have enough faculty strength now, except few. For room problems, it can be solved by extending one or two classes in the evening/or morning for the sake of students, who are none but our children only.
The practice of offering Honours courses only in the govt. colleges, except newly converted ones, is not good at all, considering lack of quality in higher education in particular and education in general in Manipur. It is a common knowledge for general public that students having aptitude for higher studies on one hand and other students not having interest for higher studies on the other cannot study together to achieve their respective goals ,as they are in incompatible combination . In an Honours class, the number of students should be within a manageable level of 20-30 for science subjects involving practicals and more than this number for arts subjects; if so, there is possibility of imparting quality education in the concerned colleges .
To the dismay of many parents who want their children to obtain higher academic degrees/laurels from these elite or premier colleges of the state, it is a distant dream. The number of students in these colleges in science streams goes 30 /40 to 80/90 in average and even 130/140 or more in some arts subjects/classes in some colleges. It is common understanding of parents that honours subjects are desirable in higher studies than those of the general subjects and accordingly they ask their children to opt Honours instead of General course. Again, one should not believe in the rumours that General students are not eligible for higher studies leading to MA/MSc/MCom. In fact, General students have more advantages than Honours students as far as academic scopes/careers are concerned. To be brief, a graduate in General Course having the uniform knowledge of the three subjects , unlike a Honours graduate, can avail the opportunity of reading any of the three subjects in master degrees or all of the three one after another, if he or she desires to do so. Whereas, Honours graduates will get chance to do master degree only in one subject in which he or she is offering Hons. subject .But, to the worries of many innocent parents and students ,college authorities are asking students to opt Honours courses in large number, in the present practice, irrespective of whether they are interested to do post graduation or not, whether the students get high marks or not , and the like. In a nutshell , the very academic exercise/ practice that is going on now in govt. colleges are unhealthy and unproductive one. To say the least, the continuing academic exercises, of giving only the Hons. degree without General/Pass course degree being practised by college authorities, are just for creating unemployment problems and to produce unfit graduates in the highly competitive job markets of today is a great injustice done to students and society by authorities in govt colleges and the same must be stopped by the authorities in the concerned department of the state govt.
It is a common knowledge that general students who are not interested to go for higher studies but to end up studies by becoming graduates only are compelled to face uphill task of undergoing a comparatively bigger and tougher syllabus of Hons. course unnecessarily, and thereby making many of them failed or passed in lower divisions/grades in the 6th Semester Hons. Examination and even by making them unfit for any higher studies or loss of academic careers, instead of high marks/distinction in the 6th Semester General exam. Thus, General students by opting Honours course in their poor knowledge the opportunity of learning three subjects in General course and passing easily is also derailed while Honours students on the other hand, by clubbing together with students having no charm /interest for higher studies have to lose their enthusiasm and degrade themselves as they are in touch with their incompatible partners in large number in the classes, labs, study tours, etc. for science students.
In the light of the above facts, concerned authorities in the colleges, education department, Manipur University, DM University, etc. should contemplate seriously the consequences that lead to the withdrawal of General courses from the govt. colleges of the state, and clubbing of two incompatible groups of students in the name of Honours course in huge and unlimited numbers beyond manageable level than the normal intake capacity in Hons. course, in the larger interest of the varied students in our society, and should re- introduce the two parallel courses – Hons. and General in the govt. colleges where only the Hons. courses are in operation, beginning from the forthcoming academic session, 2020-2021. The re- introduction of General and Hons.courses in degree colleges of the state will bring quality in higher education and can catch up other universities in the North East, such as NEHU, GU, Dibrugarh varsity, Mizoram varsity, and Tejpur varsity, which are ranked in comfortable positions among 100 ranking universities of the country, in the next few years, in the larger interest of the student community in general and students in higher education in particular and the society in the state.