By and large, semester system is perceived to be better than the annual system in institutions of higher learning since the students could be kept busy all through the year.
The system, indeed, intends good. But, to the chagrin of the student community, it is not fool-proof at the last hurdle; shortcomings in the valuation process are what rankles them.
Instances of faulty valuation are all too common in the affiliating model of the Indian university system. For instance, during the course of centralised valuation in one of Tamil Nadu's reputed universities, an economics teacher realised that he had evaluated a Microbiology paper only while totalling the marks. Ironically, students become the casualties of the system. The teachers are not to be blamed entirely since they are apparently given unrealistic targets by the universities that accord priority to sticking to the examination schedule. The universities, as things stand, are less worried about the validity of the system.
The issue was discussed threadbare at the recent meeting of the Senate. The university, based on the observation of several members that a hurried evaluation on the part of teachers due to poor turnout in valuation centres was the cause for such mistakes, made it mandatory henceforth for colleges to depute teachers for valuation duty.
But the decision again has consequences for students, according to college principals, who find it simply impossible to manage the institutions when teachers go en masse for valuation duty on working days.
Where does the solution lie then? The heartening factor is that a definite pattern has emerged. The system continues to be a success in unitary universities and autonomous colleges where the institutions are able to conduct examinations and publish results in an organised way as students are in manageable numbers. It only means that the semester system is not at fault, but it just does not suit the affiliating model of Indian universities, former vice-chancellors acknowledge. It is time Indian higher education institutions adapted themselves to the requirements of the semester system or reverted to the annual system, they advocate.
According to P.S. Manisundaram, the first vice-chancellor of Bharathidasan University, the concept of semester system borrowed from American universities has failed in India. In the American system, the system is workable because the valuation process is entirely an internal affair. When it comes to implementing the same system in affiliating universities, the load on students and teachers become enormous, said Prof. Manisundaram who was the Syndicate Member of the University of Madras in the mid-1960s when the then vice-chancellor, A.L. Mudhaliar, introduced the semester system only for engineering programmes as a pioneering project. But, even before the impact could be determined, the rest of the universities followed suit.
It is now better for universities to revert to the annual system by restructuring the courses accordingly, said Prof. Manisundaram, reasoning out that for one hundred years till the semester system was introduced, the annual system was a success. In fact, for B.Sc. Honors course, candidates had to take the examination for all the papers only at the end of the third year. There is no reason why the universities should not get back to the annual system since it would also expand the duration of teaching-learning transactions. The teachers would be in a position to take part in the centralised valuation work in large numbers during the summer vacation, Prof. Manisundaram explained.
Adaptation to the semester system, according to P.K. Ponnuswamy, former vice-chancellor of Madras and Madurai Kamaraj Universities, can be made possible in the real sense of the term only in the event of the higher education system restoring faith in internal valuation at the level of individual colleges. He wondered how a system that believed in the teachers' capacity to teach could desist from extending the trust for valuation.
In any case, with the right checks and balances to rule out scope for bias or nepotism, internal valuation could be made reliable. Also, when teachers value the papers of their own students, they, in all probability, would not compromise on the duration meant for teaching-learning transactions. The bottomline is that affiliating and semester system never go together, said Prof. Ponnuswamy.
Semesters vs. Quarters: Which System Serves Students Best?By Room 241 Team • November 5, 2012
The debate over whether secondary and post-secondary schools should use the semester vs. quarter schedule has been ongoing for years.
Over the last couple of decades the semester scheduling for all schools, specifically college, has had the lead because of students’ learning capabilities and other factors. There are a number of reasons why K-12 schools and colleges and universities choose semester over quarter scheduling.
Currently, 71.2 percent of colleges use the semester calendar, while just 14.7 percent use the quarter calendar, according to the National Association of College Stores. The association surveyed 4,373 institutions to find these statistics. Further, institutions of higher learning that use a semester calendar increased from 62 percent to 70 percent between 1990 and 2001, according to the American Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers. This proves that in the semester vs. quarter debate, the semester is winning out.
Semester vs. quarter compared
In quarter calendars, students generally graduate one month after their semester calendar peers. That means that the number of job opportunities has decreased by the time quarter college students finish school. In times when the economy is fickle, timing can be everything for recent graduates. Semester calendar students, therefore, have an advantage over their counterparts when finding employment after school.
One of the biggest problems with the quarter calendar is that it makes it difficult for students to transfer from two-year colleges. The majority of the two-year colleges function on a semester calendar and often the quarter calendar universities’ schedule does not line up correctly. What this means for transfer students is that they have to wait until the following semester to enter a four-year institution.
Advantages of a semester calendar
In the depth over breadth argument, the longer exposure allowed in a semester calendar allows for better quality of instruction. Rather than learn just the facts, students have more time to learn theories and generalizations. Students need time to absorb new concepts, and forcing them to learn quicker proves inadequate in education.
For students attending college right out of high school, the semester calendar allows for adjustment into academic life. They have more time to prepare for the rigors required by universities. When halfway through a course and a student realizes they are having trouble, they still have time to work and improve their performance.
Many of the current textbooks are written specifically for semesters. Moreover, the extra time allows for greater collaboration with not only peers but with faculty and students. By also eliminating one examination week and one registration period, there is an increase in the amount of effective instructional time.
In general, more time means better quality education and overall instruction capabilities in the semester vs. quarter debate.
Argument for quarters
While there are distinct advantages to semesters that deal mostly with extended time, quarter calendar schools provide more flexibility and more options.
The decrease in the amount of time spent in a classroom, generally 10 weeks, means that some students may find it easier to focus on each of their subjects. Furthermore, students may be more apt to experiment with their elective courses and may vary their courses because they are shorter. Not only that, but students can also experience different faculty members in those different courses, providing greater variety.
Double majors or minors may be easier for quarter students because of the variety of courses they are allowed to take. Also, if a student falls behind, they have plenty of opportunities to make up their GPA. Moreover, they are less likely to fall behind since the courses are so short, providing a greater chance to succeed.
When it comes to professors and/or courses, if students find either disagreeable they have a shorter time commitment. When the 10 weeks are up, they can switch to another course or another professor they find more agreeable.
Perhaps the best pro quarter argument in the semester vs. quarter debate is that the quarter calendar has shorter winter and spring breaks. Students are therefore able to remain focused on their education since they have less downtime.Tags: Leadership and Administration, Pros and Cons