"It is possible to store the mind with a million facts and still be entirely uneducated." -- Alec Bourne, A Doctor's Creed. Today almost every university of Pakistan have adopted the semester system as its core educational system. Is it really serving the need of the student?
In most of Pakistani universities, semester last for 16 to 18 weeks. Most of the students like the semester system because it ends quickly as compare to annual system. They don’t have to wait for the whole year. This seems good but what I have seen that due to lack of time, students do not absorb the subject properly. As the semester goes, they forgot everything they have learned during the semester system.
Students are evaluated number of times during semester with 3 exams (First, mid and final session), minimum 4 quizzes and 4 assignments for each subjects (normally six subjects during one semester) and if the subject is with labs then add minimum two lab assignments and 3 lab sessionals. So the biggest argument for semester system is that as compare to annual system, semester system is supposed to be better as it keeps the students busy during whole tenure. But the students lose interest with the subjects in the semester system as they are always overloaded. So instead of doing things honestly they mostly try to cheat specially in assignments. J. Bronowski said "It is important that students bring a certain ragamuffin, barefoot, irreverence to their studies; they are not here to worship what is known, but to question it". But in our current system we overload them with what is known rather than helping them to think and question them. So sad!
We have seen number of times that students who perform good or excellent in the annual system during Matric or FSC exams, only perform on an average in the semester system and vice versa. Why it is happening again and again? Most of the people argue that it is due to cramming (rata system) which students adopt in annual system while it does not work here. In my view the actual reason behind this problem is that, semester system is much easier for the student who studies teacher rather than the subject being taught by the teacher. Funny isn’t it? But it is true. In semester system, teacher who teaches, prepare the question paper. Secondly, for the last 10 years, I have seen that mostly all the teachers repeat their paper with little or no modification. So most student who just study subjects sometime feel trouble while who have studied teacher can guess what could come in the exam.
“A university is what a college becomes when the faculty loses interest in students”.- John Ciardi. During last four years as a lecturer, I have seen that fellow teachers and authorities love the semester system and both have their own reasons. Teachers like because they have less pressure on them as compare to the teacher in annual system. Just imagine a teacher teaching a tenth class in a school for matric exam. He doesn’t know that paper will be tough for class or not. Whereas in semester system teacher adjust his paper according to what he thinks is the level of the class. Similarly the authorities of the universities never bother how the teacher is teaching; they are more concerned with the research activity of the teachers for their ranking. So both teachers and university authorities like the semester system because semester system helps the teacher by giving him relax environment and to authorities improved ranking in terms of research papers. But does anyone care about the student intellectual level?
If we talk about extracurricular activities, a student studying in the semester system have no time for these things. If he/she will try for it, he/she will suffer in his/her CGPA. We use to teach the proverb “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, but never understand it and never try to implement it as well. Semester system of Pakistani Universities is clearly making dull boys and girls. We are neither excelling in sports and nor in education.
In my personal view, semester system is good for the students but the way it is implemented in our universities have killed its main purpose. Universities claims that their students are free to choose any subject from the whole curriculum but mostly do the opposite and bond the students with fixed subjects that the student have to study during a semester. This should be changed. Second the over burden of quizzes, assignment and number of exams should be removed. If we see the example of “University of Melbourne, Australia”, semester system there, is implemented in a very different way. No quiz, some assignments, only one exam after the semester and a two weeks holiday before the exams, gives lot of time for the students to revise, absorb and prepare. As a result less burden during semester and lot of time after semester give them the opportunity to absorb the subject properly. I wish this kind of semester system should be implemented in Pakistan. The more the student gets time, more he absorbs the subject, more he can learn and more he can get benefit.