Work in progress – Biswas Curriculum
The first B.Tech batch under the ambit of the Biswas curriculum is passing out this year. InsIghT decided to review the curriculum.
Aim of the Curriculum
The old curriculum needed to adapt itself to the change in student psyche and the perspective of the industry. Students today are far more career oriented and want greater academic freedom. The industry expects the recruits to have multiple skills apart from a sound theoretical knowledge; analytical skills, leadership qualities and entrepreneurship skills to name a few.
It was believed that the old system did not give students enough flexibility to choose their courses according to the needs and was very harsh on back-loggers. Clearing more than 3 backlogs was a mammoth task which resulted in students facing academic-extension in majority of the cases. To avoid such a situation, the professors refrained themselves from awarding FRs, resulting in “Grade Inflation” and allotment of Self-Study courses / FF grades. More courses meant that the faculty was overloaded and the 50% increase in student population wasn’t really helping their cause.
The Biswas committee believed that the core industry demand is very high and no UG curriculum can possibly fulfil that. Instead, they decided to go for a “Bare Minimum Program” which would touch all spheres of the department and give each student a brief overview of all his future options. This program would entitle him to an engineering degree and the surplus time hence obtained is to be utilized by the student as per his aspirations. Core internships were made optional. He could focus on extracurricular activities; do a minor or an honour programme or both.
For pursuing this minor/honour programme, he had to prove his interest in academics by maintaining a good CPI, thus solving the missing incentive issue. All core courses/ prerequisites were planned to run in both semesters to help the back-loggers while removing FF grade and self-study courses.
Though done with the best intentions, the implementation faced many issues, the major one being the inability of the institute to run core courses/pre-requisite courses every semester. As Professor Anurag Mehra (Dept. of Chemical Engineering) pointed out – it’s an open fact that the institute suffers from a faculty shortage of 25-30%, planning to run the same course in both semesters is simply not feasible.
The Biswas committee expects that students learn their core-courses rigorously. This means tougher grading and more backlogs. Since the courses aren’t available in both semesters, there are always slot clashes and hence several problems arise. This becomes a major challenge, especially for the final year students who fail a course in the odd semester.
Students often complain that their courses are not sequentially connected and often, they are unable to answer even the most basic questions in their discipline. Prof Alok Goyal (Department of Civil Engineering) explained – the curriculum in the Civil department filtered out some courses which gave an industry feel of the discipline, either because of a faculty shortage or because they it was felt that the course was too crude to be taught and students would anyway learn it if they entered core engineering. However, this way, students don’t get to see the real life application of what they are learning and tend to lose interest in core engineering.
Since, the number of courses went down, the professors also had to cut down on topics or reduce the number of hours put into the topic or both. A general opinion on the 8-credit courses, formed by clubbing two 6-credit courses, is that these courses proceed at a very fast pace and hence force the students to cram rather than learn the subject.
According to Prof. Mehra, the industry has always been complaining that IIT Bombay students are not trained enough. Reducing core department courses and removing the compulsory internship will definitely not help the situation. The major reason for removing core internship was the lack of infrastructure to provide it and the mentality of the student community to experiment in other fields. This also brings us to the issue of the laboratories. Most students feel the experiments do not coincide with theory and the ones that do, lack the novelty factor.
Though the students feel that the current curriculum does give them enough free time to spend on extra-curricular activities, they do not understand its pros and cons. The software system needs to be improved and information (regarding the curriculum and courses) should be more readily available. Faculty-advisors need to play a more interactive role.
Minors give students a chance to pursue their interests out of their core department. Lack of proper information channels often results in confusion and students resort to the tried and tested CPI based allotment (similar to JEE). Having a better and uniform course description along with an orientation period are some of the possible solutions.
In essence, the ideology behind the curriculum still holds but the institute needs more time adjusting to the same. Special focus is required especially at the department level. With the newly built infrastructure, accommodating the increased intake can be handled smoothly. We have more resources at hand and the onus lies with the authorities and the students alike to make the best use of them.
- Ensuring flexibility in curriculum, minor program was focussedLack of resources (faculty and infrastructural) did not allow to utilize the entire package
- Having a class with more than 250 students does not make senseThe TAship program quality needs ameliorating, both in quality and number
- The program is still in an experimental phase with almost 50% of the job done. It needs more time to stabilize
- The current UG curriculum is liberal but inadequate on certain “core” aspects. It needs to be strict when it comes to grade allotment (including in-sem)
- The industry and student culture in the U.S./Europe and India is miles apart. While our curriculum tends towards being more world class, Indian industries are not really up to the mark. A balance has to be maintained between producing engineers suitable for Indian industries and being world class
- The problem is bilateral; students and professors need to work on the issue together. Forming course review committees at department/institute level on a regular basis shall help
For further details contact Achin Jindal, Ayush Baheti, Jaydeep Soni, Shreya Mishra and Siddharth Shanbhag at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org respectively.