Despite objections, Tribhuvan University switching to semester system

2014-04-05

Pradeep Ghimire

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Tribhuvan University (TU) is launching semester system, replacing the existing annual system, from February this year, brushing aside the concerns raised by some student unions and teachers.
 
The university authorities say they took the move to improve the quality of education and curtail the 'unrestrained freedom' enjoyed by the students, most of whom don't attend classes regularly. They hope the change will also force the university teachers to go to classes regularly.  
 
Initially, the TU administration will implement the system at the various Central Departments located at Kirtipur and gradually phase out the annual system from graduate and undergraduate levels from all the affiliated colleges.
 
A semester system divides the academic year into two terms, which are usually 14-20 weeks-long each. It is regarded more 'advanced, rigorous and interactive' than the annual system. It examines the performances of progress every six months.
Experts say the introduction of semester system is a welcome move, but doubt if the university, the premium institution of higher learning in Nepal, is prepared for this rigorous system.
 
"I agree that this system is more advanced and rigorous than the annual system. But it has many challenging sides too. The university headed by 'visionless' administrators seem to have taken the move very lightly," says Dr Tirth Raj Khaniya, an educationist.     
 
He criticizes the TU authorities for not holding debates on the pros and cons of this new system before formally deciding to launch it.
Student activists say they are not opposed to semester system, but argue that the university is not yet prepared for it. "TU authorities are determined to implement the system. But they don't have concrete plans for its success," says Manushi Yami Bhattarai, Secretary at the Free Students Union at TU.
 
"I don't understand why they are switching to semester system as they have not yet come up with better curriculums? How about its financial side? They may have donors today. But how will they afford the system in the long run?" She argues that the authorities should come up with better plans and implement it from the next academic calendar.
The FSU has also submitted a memorandum to the TU administration, objecting to the decision to switch to semester system.
Deepak Gautam, Vice-president of the UML-aligned All Nepal National Free Students Union (ANNFSU), argues that the system should be implemented in all the TU campuses simultaneously and not only in the central campus.
 
But other students dismiss the claim of the activists and argue that the latter are more interested in building their political career, and that they don't want semester system as the implementation of semester system will curtail political activism at the university.
But it is not only the student activists who are against the semester system. Many TU teachers argue that the TU authorities took the move without proper homework.
President of Nepal University Teachers Association (NUTA) Rameshwore Upadhaya, argues that the TU should have implemented the system in all the affiliated campuses simultaneously
'We were also not consulted before the authorities took the move. It will generate confusion and give a negative message to foreign universities. Is it not funny if the TU distributes two types of certificates for the same degree," says Upadhaya.   
But some analysts argue that the university teachers are against the system as it requires them to be regular at the university and restricts them from moonlighting at private colleges.   The TU Rector dismisses all the claims of student activists and university teachers.
 
"Majority of students and teachers are positive about this change.  We are fully prepared for semester system," says TU Rector Guna Nidhi Neupane.
Neupane says the curriculums for the first 2 semesters have already been finalized.  The professor says the authorities will be flexible on attendance if the students and teachers miss the classes for 'genuine reasons'.  
 
According to him, the real problem with this system is that the courses will be more rigorous and the teachers and students have to work really hard.
The TU is also planning to hike the pay for the teachers after the new system is implemented.