Why have DU panels not approved English Dept’s undergraduate syllabus?

Amid all lies being spread about and victim-hood being played out, I place some facts regarding rejection of the UG revised draft syllabus of the Department of English of University of Delhi. Elected and nominated members present in these meetings have shared the following facts:   

1 The syllabus was not approved in the meetings of

  • Standing Committee on Academic Affairs held on 11 July 2019
  • then in the Academic Council (AC) held on 15-16 July 2019 and
  • finally in the Executive Council (EC) on 20-21 July 2019.

Surprisingly, in spite of rejections at two lower levels, the unapproved syllabus made it to the EC.

  1. Objections on the syllabus were raised mainly on three grounds:

A. The revision had technical flaws as core papers of BA Hons. English were completely changed, at least two new added and two completely The order of papers was also altered, whereas it is NOT PERMISSIBLE in BA Hons. English Course (for that matter any UG Course) as per CBCS Guidelines.

Two new papers were introduced: An Introduction to Literary Studies and Caste and Literature. These two papers had replaced Indian Writing in English and American Literature.

The content too was revised to the extent of 100%, whereas there is a limit of 30% to do so as per CBCS Guidelines adopted by the University.

The Ability Enhancement Compulsory Course (AECC) on English Communication has been revised 100%. This paper is a core skill-based language paper under CBCS which has been completely changed to a literature paper in the draft revised syllabus. Technically, so is not permissible as per CBCS Guidelines.

It is strange that the faculty involved in syllabus revision had elected AC and ex-AC members too but it seems that neither had they studied the basic guidelines of CBCS, the syllabi of which they revised nor of LOCF, under which this revision was done. On the contrary, after the entire syllabus revision fiasco, they have blamed the UGC for the ‘diktat thrown at them’. Why do they forget that the same guidelines which had envisioned CBCS had put some academic restrictions too at the same time, and not thrown at them specifically.

B. Another fundamental objection was regarding constitution of sub-committees of different papers. A glance at the lists of sub-committees reflected that a faculty member from a prominent Campus College was part of sub-committees of as many as 16 papers; followed by a few others as members of 15, 14, 13 papers respectively and so on and so forth. Around 10 members were part of sub-committees of more than 10 papers each. The Standing Committee, AC and EC considered this aberration to be against healthy academic practices.

c. Some pieces of literature were objected to as they were too ideologically loaded, i.e. inclusion of Marx even in British Literature papers; demeaning Hinduism and its traditions; baselessly presenting certain people and sections of society in bad light, etc.

I have learned that in this context the example of ‘Maniben alias Bibijan’ in Fluency in English prescribed by the University of Delhi textbook for BA Programme Core paper came up. We, the teachers of English cannot deny the fact that this story based on Gujarat riots has been taught for more than a decade to BA Programme students. Even in the CBCS syllabus of English, it forms a part of the Recommended Reading List. This is also true that this story, under the garb of fantasy, frames unsubstantiated allegations specifically against RSS and Bajrang Dal for their alleged role in rioting and killing, which certainly is hurting to these social organisations, which is contrary to the purpose of literature – to heal and bridge social gaps rather than widening them.

This story was just ONE example quoted by an AC member to highlight that such literature be better not included which senselessly maligns image of a section of society and creates divides.  He had further quoted tens of more such examples from the literature included in the revised syllabus, which selectively targeted Hinduism while glorifying practices like wearing of Burqa in Islam, by terming it as ‘An Enabling Garment’ and inclusion of Left-wing online portals, like The Wire, Al Jazeera and others. 

  1. It is evident that a few teachers involved in the revision of English syllabus misused this academic opportunity to serve their ideological and political masters. Consequently, other papers too could not be approved which had gone through rigorous academic exercise, that too purely academically.
  1. The current status of the syllabus is that post-EC it has been sent back to the Department for review on the above grounds, latest by 31 July 2019. Now it is up to the Department to comply with the CBCS and LOCF Guidelines. An Oversight Committee shall be constituted to oversee the syllabus of the English Department, along with syllabi of three more Departments.
  1. Meanwhile, a few faculty members involved in the syllabus revision, have been spreading canards about the reasons of the syllabus not getting approved by DU Committees. Shockingly instead of conceding the serious lapses on their part in intentionally ignoring the basic guidelines of the CBCS and the LOCF and converting the purely language papers to literature papers, the Coordinator of the BA/BCom Programme Core Language Cluster Sub-committee, Mr. Sachin N. has called the works of some colleagues as Kunjis. This is utterly noxious on his part to malign the reputation of those English teachers who write on language issues and the entire range of teachers who value language teaching the same way as literature teaching. I, as a teacher who has a flair for writing on language topics and whose books on communication and technical aspects of writing have been appreciated by faculty and students, dare challenge the self-appointed coordinator of the cluster of language courses for his expertise in coordinating a set of language papers, while the sub-committee had other members who have done considerable work on communication and language teaching, like Dr. Mukti Sanyal, Dr. Manoj Garg, Dr. Tasneem Shahnaaz and others. Moreover, if he considers academic work of his worthy colleagues in the University ‘kunjis’, then what justification he has for their presence in the current syllabus revision sub-committees?

He has also gone on to blame media and some publishers for their role in not getting the syllabus approved, while hailing the so-called inclusive approach followed in syllabus revision. I wish to remind the English teacher fraternity how this coordinator and the other few all-pervasive members of the current syllabus revision sub-committees had manipulated a section of media in April 2017 by manufacturing hue and cry on the issue of syllabus revision by another set of teachers as the former had picked up a small change in the syllabus- inclusion of a novel by Chetan Bhagat in Popular Literature optional paper. This is when they had pressured the then Head of the Department of English to get themselves included in the syllabus revision process under the garb of participatory approach. It is since then that have been using syllabus revision as a tool to further the ideological agenda of the Left.

  1. Meanwhile, the students who have entered the University are the ultimate sufferers as they are clueless on what to study in syllabus even after the commencement of the fresh academic session. The admission-seekers of the University have every right to know the syllabus of courses before they plunge into the admission process itself. Nothing could be more unfortunate for them than this uncertainty over syllabus as they enter their College life. They deserve to get respite from syllabus related anxiety after braving 100 and near 100 percentage in the Board exams to make it to the University of Delhi.

Prerna Malhotra teaches English at Ram Lal Anand College, University of Delhi


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