Most certificates in humanities issued by Tribhuvan University (at least to the students of government-run affiliate colleges) are useless. Since class participation is optional, there are few regular attendees. This takes away the crucial student-teacher interaction that is believed to be the foundation of meaningful academic learning.
For those who are enrolled in TU courses only to obtain a degree, this set-up suits them perfectly. Many of them cheat blatantly in exams, a task made easier by incorporation of formulaic questions repeated every few years. A few studious students simply cram up guess papers and still emerge with good marks, although all question papers encourage examinees to give answers in their own words.
For others who haven’t studied a thing for the whole year, the secret to passing is proper utilization of their nifty chits and guess papers—stuffed inside their vest, socks, hidden in restroom, anywhere handy. And if by some chance they still fail, they can always vandalize the campus against the ‘scheming’ teachers who denied them the god-given right to pass every exam without ever studying.
The latest fit of fury was witnessed on Monday when 12 student unions affiliated to various political parties set upon the departments of English and Sociology inside Tribhuvan University Central Campus. Although their grievances and demands are couched in more palatable terms, essentially they want nothing to do with the semester system.
They fear its introduction would significantly cut down on their sway over the students whose loyalties are earned through underhand tactics like backdoor admissions for those who cannot pass entrance exams. Such hanky-panky would be much harder under a semester system. Nor would the students be able to while their time away as they will have regular class work and assignments.
This grates on those long used to getting academic certificates without ever breaking a sweat. To safeguard their current privileges, they have resorted to acts of vandalism and put forth many unpractical and self-serving demands that will do nothing to improve TU’s academic performance, but only make it worse.
They want some students to be given the privilege of not attending regular classes; the other major demand is that TU should introduce the semester system at one fell swoop at all its constituent colleges, instead of piloting it at the TU Central Campus.
These unreasonable demands make it clear that the unions want to scuttle the semester system altogether. They are afraid they will be rendered useless in the new set-up. If the current brand of student politics is the only kind possible, they should become useless. Our student union leaders are rightly seen as nuisance by regular students who go to campus to study, not to witness union gang fights.
There is a desperate need to make our higher education compatible with the rest of the world. Since the semester system is being phased in, there will be enough opportunities to tweak it to the needs of changing times. But a start has to be made nonetheless, and it has to be made now.