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UGC Proposes Compulsory Community Engagement Course

The proposed framework and guidelines are a part of the implementation of the National Education Policy and aim to “foster social responsibility and community engagement” among students.

On 28th February 2022, the University Grants Commission (UGC) released a draft National Curriculum Framework and guidelines on ‘Fostering social responsibility and community engagement in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in India’, which is a part of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020.

The draft recommendations propose that all HEIs must offer both undergraduate and postgraduate students a compulsory course in community engagement. This course will aim to help students understand the challenges faced by vulnerable households and learn about local culture and lifestyle in a respectful manner. In addition to this compulsory course, the guidelines also suggest incorporating community engagements in all other courses to help students relate their classroom knowledge with field realities. The new guidelines aim to “give a fillip to UGC’s long-standing commitment to strengthen social responsibility and community engagement of Universities/Colleges in India.”

It is recommended that each HEI conducts a compulsory course to provide community engagement to all undergraduate and postgraduate students so that their appreciation of rural field realities is holistic, respectful and inspiring.

New UGC guidelines

According to the draft, this course may be a two-credit course which would be 30 hours long and consist of at least 50% field work. Postgraduate students may also undertake a field project for additional two credits on a topic relevant to their regional community. The guidelines state that after completing the course, students should gain an understanding of rural life, Indian culture, and ethos and social realities and must be able to identify opportunities for contributing to the community’s socio-economic improvements.

The course would consist of four modules, including “Understanding rural and local economy & livelihood” and “Rural & National Development Programmes.” Among the field-based practical activities recommended are visiting rural schools/mid-day meal centres, participating in Gram Sabha meetings, interacting with female members of Self-Help Groups and understanding the functioning and problems of each of these.

The guidelines also noted that most students felt “dis-empowered” when taught only in the “classroom style delivery of content”. So, existing courses should be adapted, both in content and pedagogy, for community engagement to facilitate learning from the field.

For instance, a management curriculum may include aspects of micro-financing in rural context; chemistry syllabus can have a component of conducting water and soil analysis in surrounding field areas; political science syllabus could include mapping of local rural governance institutions and their functioning.

Draft guidelines

In addition, the draft also proposes that the courses be adapted to facilitate mutual learning in the context of the climate crisis.

Finally, the draft recommends that new classes be designed and introduced at both UG and PG levels which foster social responsibility and enable community engagement.

For instance, new courses for engineering students may be designed, focusing exclusively on water harvesting, storage, security and distribution; management programmes may design a new course on logistic and business planning for sustainable 24×7 water supplies to rural habitations, etc.

Draft guidelines

The proposed guidelines have been prepared by an 11-member committee chaired by KK Agarwal, chairperson of the National Board of Accreditation. The UGC has invited comments and feedback from all stakeholders on its University Activity Monitoring Portal (UAMP) by 15th March 2022.

Feature Image Credits: The Indian Express

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Shriya Ganguly

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