Multi-path FYUGP for colleges, AI powered classes and lessons on POCSO in Kerala schools

From the introduction of a four-year undergraduate programme to AI training for teachers, Kerala is poised to set a new standard in education.

ByDileep V Kumar

Published May 28, 2024 | 5:25 PMUpdatedMay 28, 2024 | 5:25 PM

V Sivankutty Kerala supplementary textbooks

A new academic year is about to ring in Kerala, and this time, both universities and schools are gearing up for a fresh start with exciting changes.

The state government and officials concerned say these changes aim at equipping students with modern skills and values, ensuring a holistic and inclusive learning environment.

Also Read: Brain drain or brain gain? Kerala debates growing migration of students abroad for higher education

Universities revamp UG programme

“A paradigm shift”, the Higher Education Department termed the four-year undergraduate programme (FYUGP), which will be implemented in the state from the academic year 2024 -25.

The department viewed that a major change the new system will bring forth is that the higher education system will switch from teaching-centric to learning-centric.

“The system that we had is predominantly teaching-centric. That is, the teachers provide facts and the students memorise and reproduce them during examinations,” an officer of the Higher Education Department said.

“Thus, there is no scope for conceptual understanding. A student remains ignorant on real-world situations, logical analysis, and problem-solving,” he added.

However, it is pointed out that with the introduction of the new system, students will get the opportunity for interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary learning.

They will also get exposure to research at an early stage. An ecosystem for innovation and industry engagement are the other benefits being claimed.

Also Read: Proposed new education policy will result in ‘negation of religion’: Kerala Opposition

For a knowledge-based society

It was upon the recommendation of Professor Syam B Menon Commission, appointed in 2021, that the FYUGP was introduced in the state. The commission then had recommended ‘building Kerala as a people-centered knowledge society.’

As part of revamping the higher education sector, two other commissions — a five-member commission to reform university laws and a four-member commission to revamp the conduct of university exams — was also constituted.

The FYUGP being introduced in the state shall have three broad pathways:

  • Three-year UG Degree
  • Four-year UG Degree (Honours)
  • Four-year UG Degree (Honours with Research)

If a student gets 133 credits in three years, s/he shall be awarded an Undergraduate Degree. If it is 177 credits, in four years, either an Undergraduate Honours Degree or Undergraduate Honours with Research Degree will be awarded.

A student will also have the option to choose courses from options like:

  • Discipline Specific Core (DSC) Courses
  • Discipline Specific Elective (DSE) Courses
  • General Foundation Courses
  • Multi-Disciplinary (MDC) Courses
  • Ability Enhancement Courses
  • Value Addition Courses
  • Skill Enhancement Course.

Another takeaway of the new programme is that on completion of three years (six semesters) a student has the option to exit the programme with 133 credits. S/he then shall be awarded with a bachelor’s degree. The maximum credit a student can acquire in three years is limited to 150.

According to the Kerala State Higher Education Council, the FYUGP is more to develop structures of thought, inquiry, exploration, expression, attitudes, sensibilities, habits, and abilities associated with teamwork, than to commit to memory a large array of information, often in a disconnected manner.

Concerns

Meanwhile, the new initiative is riddled with concerns as stakeholders, especially educators, doubt whether the transition enhances the quality of education and improves the overall employability and readiness of graduates for the future.

“Ensuring that the additional year is meaningful and adds value to the student’s education can be challenging,” said an assistant professor of University College, Thiruvananthapuram to South First.

“There are concerns about maintaining the quality of education during this transition. Faculty need to be adequately trained, and the new curriculum should meet international standards to make the extra year worthwhile,” he added.

Another faculty member of the University of Calicut said that many colleges and universities may not have the necessary infrastructure to support the extended programme. This includes classrooms, laboratories, libraries, and other facilities.

“Another key issue is that the local job market and industries need to be aligned with the new educational structure. There is a risk that employers might not immediately recognise or value the four-year degree, potentially disadvantaging graduates,” faculty member told South First.

Meanwhile, the neighbouring Karnataka had recently scrapped the FYUGP and reverted to a three-year UG course.

Though it is the National Educational Policy (NEP) 2020 that introduced the FYUGP, Kerala took the stance that it will not implement the NEP in toto.

It is also being pointed out that as many of the NEP points are only advisory in nature, the state is not bound to follow it in letter and spirit.

Buckle up for a learning revolution

Imagine a classroom where lessons come alive with virtual reality adventures.

This academic year, Kerala’s schools are throwing open their doors to a transformed learning experience fuelled by artificial intelligence (AI) where classrooms will be buzzing with interactive lessons and personalized learning journeys.

It’s the Kerala Infrastructure and Technology for Education (KITE), under General Education Department, which is providing training to teachers in AI.

“The training which will have to be completed by August 2024 is for high school, higher secondary, vocational higher secondary teachers belonging to government and aided schools and more than 13,000 teachers had completed the training so far. The target in 20,000,” said a KITE official.

According to the official, AI tools can create dynamic and interactive learning experiences and teachers trained in AI can utilize educational games, simulations, and virtual reality applications to bring complex concepts to life.

This not only boosts engagement but also helps students retain information more effectively.

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Preparing for the future

Additionally, a new syllabus is being rolled out for classes 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9. This updated curriculum includes crucial topics such as the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, gender awareness, democratic values like secularism, and scientific temperament.

“The inclusion of the POCSO Act in the curriculum empowers students with knowledge about their rights and safety. This fosters a culture of awareness and helps them identify and report potential abuse,” said an official.

The official also points out that developing scientific thinking skills encourages students to question, analyze, and solve problems based on evidence.

“In the case of instilling the importance of secularism, it will foster tolerance and respect for diverse religions and cultures, preparing students to be active and responsible citizens in a globalized world,” said the official.

In the case of vocational education, the idea is to expose students to a wider range of career paths beyond traditional academic subjects. This, it is said, will allow them to discover their interests and aptitudes early on, making informed choices about their future education and careers.

(Edited by Majnu Babu).