Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Murky Truth Behind Mumbai Varsity's Ad Hoc BMM Programme

By Roger Alexander

Since my last article on the so-called job-oriented courses being offered by most Mumbai colleges, more skeletons are stumbling out the Mumbai University's cupboard, exposing a scam of monumental proportions. At the heart of the scam are the lives and future of young students and their gullible parents.

A devastating report report in the Times of India today (June 11) reveals that undergraduate colleges in Mumbai have yet to receive a copy of the new syllabus for the Bachelor of Mass Media (BMM) course despite the fact that classes for the third year have already begun and admissions to the first year are under way!

Can you believe it – a course that cost upwards of Rs 70,000 (you got that right) does not have a syllabus! And this is just the beginning. Mumbai colleges offering this course do not have full-time faculty either. And yet it being packaged and sold as a passport to material success. And starry-eyed students hoping to make it big in the media are being led like lambs to slaughter.

This self-financing course (meaning the government does not pay faculty salaries or for infrastructure) is a goose that lays golden eggs. And many liberal arts colleges have jumped on the moolah-making bandwagon to make a quick buck in the name of providing job-oriented courses. There is also a 'degree' in Bachelor of Business Management (BBM) on offer, but more on that some other time.

So how do the colleges make money out of a course like BMM? The first step, of course, is to obtain Mumbai University's permission to start the programme which already has the UGC's sanction. If it's an 'established' college, the procedure is perfunctory, to say the least.

The next step is to hire 'faculty'. These are not academics paid UGC grades (upwards of Rs 30,000 per month plus benefits) but 'visiting faculty' who are hired on an hourly basis, normally @ Rs 500 per hour/lecture. Most of these lecturers, who may otherwise be qualified in their respective fields, are normally retired teachers or out-of-work journalists and do not figure on the muster as full-time employees.

In fact, many of them move from college to college for lectures during the course of the week. And on landing better jobs they leave mid-term, leaving students high and dry till some other visiting faculty is roped in to keep the course going.

The pathetic state of the self-financing courses is evident from the saga of the making of the BMM syllabus of Mumbai University. According to the TOI report, a meeting of the ad-hoc Board of Studies for the BMM course decided on January 15 to translate the entire course into Marathi so that students would have the option of pursuing the course in either English or Marathi. So far so good. However, it was later came to light that the University had arbitrarily injected an entire component of Marathi and Hindi translation into the syllabus!

Translation? This is a specialised field requiring expertise in two languages. And here you are with the University decreeing students - who can't put two sentences in English together to save their lives - to master a second and even a third language.

The report quotes Nandini Sardesai, retired head of the sociology department at St Xavier's College and now a BMM visiting faculty (sic), pointing out that while the new ad hoc committee for BMM – it replaced the previous ad hoc body - was set up on April 1 and the syllabus changes were presented at the University's Academic Council meeting on April 21. “How did they draft the syllabus in 20 days,” she is reported to have asked.

A memorandum from BMM course-coordinators (a euphemism for someone in charge of hiring visiting faculty) protesting the changes to Mumbai University chancellor SC Jamir states, “The course in Effective Communication in English has become trilingual and expects Class XII proficiency in all three languages. All HSC students will be disadvantaged under the three language formula, as also students who have done CBSE and ICSE.”

(I think the protest was lodged because colleges will have to hire more visiting faculty for the new module, meaning a drain on the revenues unless students are forced to shell more by way of fees.)

However, Pro-Vice Chancellor AD Sawant insists that it is the University's vision (ha!) that all BMM students be able to translate from English to Hindi and Marathi. “This is very important for a journalist. It is also important in the advertising field,”' he opined loftily. (Sawant is a bureaucrat who was a director in the state government's department of education till he was promoted.)

As per the new syllabus, students are not expected to study these texts. “Faculty shall brief the students on the ideas, writing methodology and achievements of these writers in not more than 1,500-2,000 words.”

Just think of it. A student aspiring to be a Marathi journalist now has to master English to pass the course after having studied translation in not more than 2000 words! I've worked for newspapers and magazines for more than two decades and no employer, including TOI, requires its journalists to know a second language, let alone a third one, as a pre-requisite for employment.

With ad hoc committees designing ad hoc course taught by ad hoc teachers in an ad hoc manner in 2000 words or less, Mumbai University wants to produce ad hoc graduates who will take up responsible positions in newspapers and magazines, TV, ad agencies et al.

No wonder the media is in a pathetic state.

Roger And Out

1 comment:

  1. I am a final year BMM (Journalism) student and I couldn't agree more with the points that you've raised here. I personally wish we had a better, more predictable sort of faculty. they could add a few guest lecturers perhaps, but that should be the add on, not the main staff. (Though our coordinator is the best man we could have got)
    About the whole language fiasco, I have no words for the stupidity of it. BMM is anyway a little of so many things that one can't get a good grounding in any one of the subjects. add to it, two more languages; we have a professional soup right on the table.
    The mass media of a society shapes the way the people think to a great extent. If this is where our Mass Media professionals are coming from, I have very little hope for the gray cells of tomorrow.

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