Nature India | Indigenus

Four-year B.Sc anyone?

Should India replace its three-year degree course with a four-year BS course modelled on the US pattern? Opinions so far are tilted towards the favourable as the idea seems to have met far more approvals than disapprovals.

The four-year course is expected to be introduced in major Indian institutes — the Indian Institute of Science, the Indian Institutes of Technology — and then some universities across the country next year onwards. In the four-year course, students will be exposed to the core science streams in the first year and will be expected to choose their area of specialisation from the second year. The idea is to replace drab, single track science with an interesting, inter-disciplinary approach.

The idea was mooted by the Indian Academy of Sciences (IAS) which urged the other two science education bodies National Academy of Sciences and the Indian National Science Academy to look at the merits of the US model.

It would be interesting to hear from students and academics on what they think of this. Especially in times when the number of students seeking admission to science streams is not so flattering. Will this mean more students coming in to do science or will an extra year be a dampener?


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    Mekhala said:

    I agree that a 4-year BS course would be more beneficial to the students. Apart from the exposure to core science streams, an introduction to humanities would be much desired.

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    Shyam said:

    The success of the programme vis-a-vis science eduation will depend on the quality of the curriculum.

    A thorough 4-year BS programme emphasizing on fundamentals and exposure to research should help serious science students skip two year Masters and go for Ph.D. directly. With adequate exposure to humanities and other electives in applied science it should also benefit students (interested in science but not keen on higher education in science ) looking at diversifying to other fields after graduating.

    Therefore balancing the curriculum for these two different kinds of students will be necessary for the success of the programme and at the same time be a challenge for institutions. Though universities can concentrate on both aspects of the curriculum or strengthen their standing in one of them depending on student population, geographic location and demands.


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    Sita Priya Moorthi said:

    As a current B.Sc student studying in Delhi University, I understand that the basic problem is not whether the programme should be extended or mantained at its current duration, it is with the standard of teaching, the way subjects, especially basic sciences, are dealt with. Even by making it a 4-year programme, we are still going to have the same bunch of teachers, who only wish to finish the syllabus, and students only looking at scoring marks. I don’t blame either. But before we make B.Sc a four year course, we should introduce a semester system in all universities across India only after which we should think about extending to four years. And theoretical papers must be done away with, we must introduce objective type questions. Science is not history. It is supposed to be precise and goal-oriented rather than being excessively descriptive and story like.

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    Shyam said:

    I agree with the comment above that a semester system will be needed so that students are evaluated regularly instead of one final examination being the sole decider as in many universities. But note that as you increase the number of exams & tests, grading will be a huge excercise that will require a lot of manpower. In most US research universities grading, workshops and tutorials are all done by Masters/PhD students and not the teachers (exception maybe the liberal arts colleges which concentrate only on teaching ). So as India adopts the US system it should also be aware of other logistical issues.

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    Swastik Phulera said:

    I agree that the 4 year BS degree would be a better option than the current 3 year B.Sc. degree. But why call it BS? Let the student enter the college and then decide what course he wants. If he wants more than a fixed number of courses and qualifies in them, he should be awarded a BS or else a BA. This would bring in some students who opt for arts/commerce at college just because they missed the excitement of science at school. We will, in a way, give them one more opportunity to come back to sciences or opt out of it just in case they want to.

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    L said:

    Students in the US work their way through higher education, often extending more than 4 years.

    But many of those who are supported/sponsored by parents do not really realise the value of money nor of higher education and drop-out sooner or later. Even if they don’t, rarely do they perform their best. They are more involved in partying aimlessly and wasting time and resources.

    In India, I believe, but for a negligible minority almost all students are sponsored by parents. So, a 4 year BSc will only encourage students to be less responsible. With the luxury of parental care and shelter, students in India should be able to far outperform their peers elsewhere. It may be worthwhile to consider shortening their BSc to 2 or 2.5 years and give them the extra time to explore different career options. This will be a true learning experience. The college/university course work is anyways handled pathetically!



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    Payal said:

    The idea of a four year B.Sc course is not flattering. Instead of increasing the number of years of teaching, we need good teaching skills. The dim picture in the science streams is not too encouraging and increasing the time period not only calls for greater mapower but also larger infrastructure.

    As a lecturer myself, I find it a double-edged sword — students normaly take up B.Sc to get a job and on the other hand there’s a lack of good teachers and infrastructure in most of colleges. The curriculum also requires serious change not an additional year.

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    Ratnesh said:

    I think a four year B.S. degree makes sense as far as deeper understanding of the subject goes. But I have concerns regarding the quality of teachers and structure of the course. For example, in physics there should be more experimental focus beside theory.

    Teachers should be more innovative and introduce new courses. Even in IIT during my time, all professors used to teach old subjects which was so boring to learn.

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    Pranav Garg said:

    Having a 4 year B.S. course would put Indian students at par with their American counterparts. In this way more Indians can get higher degrees from abroad and use it for the benefit of our Nation.

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    Karthikeyan Sivaraman said:

    A 4 year BS / BA may be another option for students to pursue. However, there are questions.

    1. What are the checks and balances in the system to prevent private colleges from exploiting parents for more money? Instead of 3 yrs, now the parents will pay through their nose for 4 years.

    2. This tries to bring the Indian system at par with the US system. While this is definitely an advantage for students wanting to go abroad for higher studies, what about scores of others (>80% of the students do not do abroad) who have to just spend another year to finish their college to get a job?

    3. Let us consider the possibility that all students do benefit from this. Even then, the question of job availability after college remains unanswered. If all the graduates in India finish a 4 year degree course, will the degree be worth another year of no-earning?

    4. The ubiquitous question of quality remains. In Madras University, during my undergraduation (1996 – 1999), the biochemistry syllabus was at least 15 year old. We were not taught to read current literature, nor were we encouraged to question in the class. More so because the teachers were not up to date.

    In summary, while I am in support of a 4 year degree, there is no point in trundling through the dredge for 4 years to get a degree. They are four precious years in a student’s life, and they have to be treated with a lot of care and respect.

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    tk said:

    A four year BS program should become a solid training ground for people interested in a research/teaching career. For anybody who is seriously interested in such a career path, the time span has been reduced from 5 years to 4years. On the other hand any college that wishes to offer such a course should be granted permission after some formal accreditation to ensure quality of curriculum and facilities. This will prevent private colleges from exploting students without offering the value for money spent by parents.

    For those who are looking at BS just for employment, the fourth year can be some kind of internship/project work that aids them in transitioning to industry/research organizations. But the main focus of the 4-year BS program should be to develop more students for research and teaching.

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    yegna said:

    It is irrelevant whether you do a 3 or 4 year BSc without dedicated teachers at the school and college level who are paid well and who will not be burdened by having to write grant reports and kow towing to the powers that be. In India education at most levels is a business with no care for quality of input (the eyes of the management are only on a high ROI on minimun investment). Quality is big NO NO. This is true for all institutions, even the IITs, IISCs or major schools or colleges. Without a major rethink and a vow and a will to delink business from education, there is no way to make progress.


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    Nivedita said:

    Does it mean that you will not be required to do a Masters before a PhD program?

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    Subhra Priyadarshini said:

    Yes, Nivedita. In the new scheme of things, a +2 qualified student can join the four-year B.S. course followed by a Ph.D. in basic sciences, with a provision for early exit with M.Sc. degree or dual degrees after completion. For technology students the pattern would be a 4-year B.S. followed by M.Tech/Ph.D. in the technology field.

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    Alok Das said:

    Introducing 4yr. will of course be helpul in understanding science. Not only that, it will also be beneficial to those who are interested in research or medical field in U.S. or Canada. But alongwith this, pedagogy and practical work must also be focused upon.