UDAYAN KISHOR & SHAFAQUE ALAM
[email protected]
New Delhi, 12 July
While everybody is busy discussing the positive and negative aspects of the Four Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP), semester system and other changes in Delhi University’s regular courses, the students of School of Open Learning (SOL) are bewildered about not just the effects which the new changes in regular courses will bring in their career, they are also demanding basic rights like exams and results on time and simple educational facilities.
 A petition has been filed in the Delhi High Court highlighting the problems faced by the students of Delhi University’s SOL.
 According to the petition filed by an organisation ‘Fight for Human Rights’ against the Centre, DU and SOL, the practices and procedures followed by SOL in conducting annual examinations, rechecking and revaluation of answer sheets and treatment of students is arbitrary and discriminatory.
 The bench of acting Chief Justice B D Ahmed and Justice Vibhu Bhakru has issued notices to SOL, the university and the Centre and sought their response.
 "Every year lakhs of students, who are unable to study in undergraduate courses in regular colleges, take admission with SOL but they are treated indifferently… The authorities concerned conduct the annual examination for the students of School of Open Learning (SOL) in May/ June every year and declare results very late in November/ December.
 "As a result, the candidates, who fail to clear any paper in their final year, are deprived of the chance to pursue higher studies because the result of supplementary examination conducted for failed students is announced very late when admission of all courses is closed by all universities,” said the petition.
It added that the university and SOL charge heavy amounts for revaluation and rechecking of answer sheets and also submitted that examiners do not check the answer sheets properly and invigilators openly demand money from examinees for allowing them to copy in the examination.
 The petition said, “It has been a general practice in Delhi University that regular candidates are awarded good marks but students of School of Open Learning are not awarded proper marks though their answers are satisfactory."
 It added that it is the general experience of the SOL students that the treatment meted out to them by the staff and the institution in general is most "objectionable, rude, indifferent and discriminatory”.
 “The students are treated as second class citizens, which discourages them to take admission with SOL and this results in defeat of the very purpose of imparting education to maximum number of citizens,” it added.
 While earlier distance learning students and regular students used to get the same degree of three years course, now after introducing the FYUP in regular courses, the main fear of students of SOL is that their three year degree will get less importance in getting jobs or further studies.
 “Earlier, because the course duration and content was the same at both SOL and regular colleges, in the job market both the degrees carried equal worth. However, now with reforms being carried out in the regular colleges, both in the course structure and the duration, the worth of degrees of SOL students is likely to become less considerable. It is not unlikely that most of the employers in the job market would prefer students with four year degrees over SOL students who would still be given three year degrees," said a student of SOL, Shyam.
 Another SOL student Sahitya added, "We are afraid that now it will not be impossible for us to seek migration to regular colleges after performing well in the exams during the second or third year of our graduation, as the reforms in regular colleges would create a very significant divergence and disparity between the courses offered by SOL and regular colleges.” The SOL’s students are also complaining about other problems which they face, including fewer classes. "We generally get around 30 classes in six months. As students who take admission through correspondence are generally working side by side, weekends are the only option to attend the college. But what about the other students who are not working anywhere and can’t get admission just because they set up the big cut-off wall in front of them. Only 30-40 classes in six months are not enough if someone wants to study seriously," said a student.
 They also complain that they are not getting teachers of the same quality which students of regular courses get. "Most of them are guest teachers," said Bhuvan. He added that while the bus route pass for regular students is applicable all over Delhi, the correspondence course students can make the pass only from their house to the college and vice versa. "We have only one library to study and no separate libraries for each college," added Bhuvan.  Another student of SOL, Arun, said, “Our government is supporting private colleges only, as for the last 30 years, University of Delhi hasn’t built a single college and now this four year programme is not satisfying. The cut-off is so high that I have no other option but to choose the correspondence course.”