Lately, it has come to our notice that Tribhuvan University is making all out efforts to revamp its graduate (in the Nepali context Bachelorís) level programme to suit the growing and felt need of the society. Last year several faculties were asked to reframe their courses after about 20 plus years. But for the first time in history, TU is expanding even the duration of the Bachelorís level in the Faculty of Management to four years. This may go to other faculties later.
The gradual evolution of the level is a welcome step because years ago, only two years were given to each level across a number of faculties. This short duration did not do much good with regard to the quality of manpower thus produced. Therefore, with the fast growing number of our graduates seeking higher education abroad and those remaining in the country to find suitable jobs in the management sector, the university had to upgrade the bachelorís level one more time.
Thus, the news says there will be a four-year graduate programme - BBS - in TU. Has this been just an upgrading plan in terms of time to be spent in college or has there also been an attempt at updating the old time syllabus? This is another pertinent question only the experts will be able to answer.
The university thinks with this upgrading attempt, it will obtain two major goals. One, the fast growing demand of colleges - both public and private - to run BBA programmes will find a viable solution in this new package. Two, BBS students applying for study abroad programmes will have less hassle to face in terms of recognition at the destination.
Up on the surface, this is just about the solution expected by the colleges and the students. But will this serve the basic purposes of graduate education in terms of quality, employment at home and abroad? This is something that needs to be addressed and assessed.
Experts on revamping spree
When asked about the proposed upgraded four-year BBS package and its overall impact, Management Prof. Shiva Bhakta Munakarmi says, "Only upgrading the level will not serve the purpose. In fact, the content is also very important if we are aiming at bringing the BBA-bound mass to BBS.
"Next," he says, "we have ruined the habit of our teachers and students through the annual and fully centralised system of examinations. We ask our students to be prepared to face the examination only once every year so the teachers do not have the responsibility to evaluate them before this. And, this does not hold any substance in terms of quality as you have eleven months free time to wander, hang around the political party of your choice and engage in lots of un-academic activities. Therefore, as long as the centralised system of annual examination remains in place, we will not achieve our goal of being anywhere closer to the current BBA programme where the semester system with several other evaluating mechanisms in place does not allow students to enjoy the kind of freedom their brethren in BBS, or for that matter, in the rest of the programmes enjoy."
The crux of the matter, according to Prof. Munakarmi, lies not in expanding the level by a year or two but in the faulty and antiquated evaluation system we have been following for a long time except for a brief stint during the New Education System Plan (NESP), 1972. This was a time when the government introduced a system that required the teachers and students of the university to work hard and get ready for several examinations during the academic year.
The highly politically motivated students who wanted to be a significant part of the anti-Panchayat movement gave a final blow to the NESP and pushed the examination back to where it had started.
One remarkable vision of NESP was to bring about a working collaboration between the government and the university regarding the type of manpower and mechanism to produce it. Today, general faculties in TU have no idea what and why they are producing the graduates for, and, unfortunately the failing rate of these faculties at the graduate and post-graduate levels is alarming, and increasing.
This has been so mainly because of the ever growing number of Ďtouristí students whose main aim in life seems to hold an ID of the university faculty and hang around on campuses joining this faculty now and that faculty the next year. If a semester system was to come at this time in TU, there would be a huge protest in all the 60 TU and 600 affiliated campuses spread all over the country.
There is virtually nothing TU can do without the full support of the scores of political parties and their political will. The ever growing and strengthening Ďtrade unioní type arms of all the political parties within TU have actually ruined the system right and left, up and down. So, an academic revolution is what the university requires at this time in TUís history. Overhauling the curricula of one level or two is not the cure for the ailment we ourselves have fostered over the years.
Finally, looking around to find such a possibility one realises that there is nothing in the offing that could bring a drastic change in TUís delivery mechanism in several ancient faculties it has been spoon-feeding for decades. Hence, for hopeful persons like Prof Munakarmi, or for that matter all who want to see TU grow at par with universities in other countries, de-politicisation as well as de-centralisation of the system gradually is the only viable solution.