This is the story about how i (being a normal college student) changed the University syllabus .
This was a fight between a common student and legacy education system. And how i brought the education reform in my University. This is for every student who also wants to do the same. So here’s the stepwise detail of all the incidents.
[note: for non-programming person, i have given notes later in each part, so bear with me]
Starting of story
A little about myself
I am a programming Geek. I spent hours and hours in programming. After doing my high school (12th), due to some financial crises, i enrolled in a local college with state University affiliation in 2019. I checked the syllabus and it was pretty much average (see image below).
As, you can see it was very much basic and as i know C++ already, so i didn’t attend any of its lectures.
First encounter with the problem
It was at the end of the year, that i have some demo exams (or pre-university exams). During that, i wrote an answer about enhanced for loop (or range based for loop). My examiner pointed to me that, i was doing wrong. I cross checked it and said that i am right. He then pointed to me that, this is wrong.
I said that it’s a C++11 features. He told me that, there isn’t any such thing. I thought that maybe they are not teaching C++11. Maybe C++98 or 03 version (1998 or 2003 version). [note for non-programming person: C++11 which was released in 2011 is industry standard and is widely used. And even there are more updates in 2014 and 2017 at that time.]
So, to confirm things, i decided to meet the C++ teacher, and when entered the lab, some students were doing practical in dosbox running windows7 . I was shocked that the version of C++ that they are running is not even C++98, it’s the “C with classes” that bjarne stroustrup has written for the initial draft before even standardization.
Why it was a big issue
You all have use apps like WhatsApp, Facebook etc or any other game. You all know that, these apps recieve updates, and with each update recieve, it recieves new features. Sometimes, the old versions are not supported and you have to update that app to use it.
This same applies to programming languages, each programming langauge recieves updates (standard), and with each update comes new features and bug-fixes. These features make things so much easier. Some version (or standard) have become too old that they are not used in industry or companies.
As programming languages are tools of software developers, through which they develop software (application). And suppose you are using old tools (that nobody uses and are too difficult to build complex things), that nobody today uses, will you able to work or even find any job in companies?
To understand this clearly, try to imagine a tree 🎄, it is very strong if it’s foundation (roots and trunk) is strong. But, if it’s foundation is not strong, then it will fall one day by wind.
The same applies for education. If one is studying anything that is irrelevant, then it is bound to fail one day. [Note: i am not taking about some advanced or complex features, i am talking about right foundation. Suppose, if anyone teaches you about radios today, will you be able to find a job?
Initial analysis of problem
My initial analysis was that maybe the problem was at college [spoiler: it isn’t].
One of my classmate, came to me with a problem. I solved out easily with modern C++ (with new features). He was awestruck and said “why didn’t they teach us this”. The teacher contacted me and said “that program is wrong”. So, i showed him in my compiler. And showed several website. One thing he said that struck my mind is that “whether it’s true or not, you have to use this(C with classes) only on exams, that is prescribed by University.”
I enquired in some other colleges and they all were teaching "C with Classes". I have checked the books that are prescribed by University along with the syllabus. None of the books were in C++11 or C++98. They all were in "C with classes".
So, now i have found that real problem lies in University. But exams were near at that time, so i focused on the exams.
Initial steps taken
I have a Todo list in which i record various things want to do. I have written in this problem. [Note: sometimes when you have some free time, and you think what to do. It helps in that situation + it also helps in remembering things and also motivates you to finish them.]
So after the exams, i began analysing the solution of this problem that i can do at a student level.
Even more bigger problem
Discovery of even more grave problem
But after 1st year examinations, i found the problem, even more grave than i initially thought about it. I checked the 2nd year syllabus, and found that we have Java and python as programming subjects.
But, the syllabus was very much basic. Same variables, if-else, loops, functions and objects. [Note: it’s like teaching some basic spoken words in different languages. But, it doesn’t make anyone fluent in a language. It requires going deep into a particular language, practising, knowing it’s culture, etc].
Even, python was added last year in syllabus. As, i didn’t have much experience in Java and python (C++ is my primary language of choice). I said ok.
But as i keep learning and knowing these languages, i found that even they are teaching old standards in these languages also. The book that they are referring also point to python 2 standard. [Note: python 3 is released in 2008. And python 2 doesn’t work. And now they even end support for it.]
Now, speaking about Java, i even didn’t have words for it. They are teaching applets, that is deprecated (removed) in Java 8. And they are not even used or run by Web browsers.
The AWT is also deprecated (removed) and is replaced by swing (javafx). So, if anything is not used today, what is meaning of teaching them like radio or tape cassette.
If one already knows a programming language, it is even easier to jump to another language. They have same logic but a slightly different syntax (way of writing). But University was only teaching this for whole year. It’s like speaking an object like computer in different languages such as Chinese, japanese. It can even be learnt in less than 1 month.
Why it is a problem for every student?
- It’s like learning everything about tape cassette or radio. If one learns about them, how can one expects to get a job today.
- It’s like wasting money 💰 and time learning ancient things.
- University was teaching like some basic phrases (like hi, hello etc) in different languages like French, Japanese etc. But, as you know to get a job, one requires a deep knowledge in one language.
- I have one friend, who is very good in mathematics and programming but didn’t know about the whole legacy syllabus. Suppose, if he goes to find a job, do you think he will get a job with the knowledge he had?
- This is the similar situation with all the students who are currently in the University.
- This is 1 of the main reason for unemployment in the IT sector.
How i solved this problem?
To be clear, at that point of time, i was a normal student (age 18) studying in 2nd year. So, i began to think what i as a student can do.
The power of social media
After this, i began thinking about the solution. At that point, i read about some scam or scandal in an organisation against some prominent people. But due to the problem being out in social media, he has to resign. At that time, i know the power of social media. As i personal use Twitter and i think it is best suited for this purpose.
But, i didn’t know the people associated (nor the teachers in my college). I go to the University website and after using some technical skills…., i was able to found out the details including name, phone number, e-mail address etc of the whole computer department of the University.
But, i was also afraid of posting through my real name, so i changed the name on my Twitter account to a fake name. But, now i come across a different problem that i didn’t have many followers, so the tweets didn’t gain any traction. Also, i didn’t have any links to any famous people.
I also heard about the change.org (it is an organisation where you can start a online petition, and people that approve of your idea, can join you by signing the petition. Once, it hits a particular number of signature, the organisation will send the people that you have mentioned, the petition along with signatures).
But, it also meet with similar demise, as i didn’t have large number of followers.
Requesting for help
On Twitter, i know ( follow) a few people that are famous are have large number of followers. one such person is kate gregory (she is a very nice person and a great C++ developer, and also helps several students). So, i asked for her help through her e-mail.
She sent me a video of her explaining similar situation (about migrating from old C++ to modern C++) and also retweeted my tweet.
Once i get some views, i mentioned the Twitter handle of the people of the University. (Out of 5, i found that only 2 were using Twitter and only 1 is active user).
Talking through voice call
Then, i decided to call them. I used my grandma’s number. One benifit was that, my grandma was not a tech-savvy person and had simple mobile. Whenever any other person call her (person who was not known to her), she simply cuts them. So, they can’t guess my real identity. As anyone can’t simply know details from grandparents details (through parents name is a possibility)
The first person i called was the HOD (head of department). When i called her and talked about the old syllabus, she replied “which version are you talking about, there’s no such thing”. And as i try to explain her, she cut the call. I tried many times, but all was in vain, she would either cut it or not accept it.
Then, i called the second person in-charge (vice HOD). he said that, you have to come to the University. i cannot do this, you can discuss it with the committee members. I told him that i came from a small village, and i can’t come to place physically. But, i can call you through the video call if necessary. He was in hurry, so said to contact later.
Then, i tried to call the third person. I called him, and explained in detail that the syllabus was outdated. He was the one with Twitter account. He asked me about my place and to meet in irl (in real life). I told him the city nearby me. He said today i initially belong to that city and said to meet in next after 14 days. I initially thought of it as maybe joke or he was not considering serious.
Then, after several days i tried to call the HOD with another number and that she actually answered the call, i was prepared and told her that, you can visit these sites (websites that explain the programming languages standards), and can see that the syllabus still uses the old standards. And then, told me to text her the details. I was excited and send her messages about the part is syllabus that i want to change or remove. But no answer or response.
How the problem was solved?
After some days, the third person (that one with Twitter account), contacted me and told me that, he was coming in colleges in that city. I said yes to the meeting. I actually go and meet him there.
I prepared for this, and gather various materials such as videos, websites to explain things. I explained him in detail and also showed him things. He told me that he will try at his level. And i also send him the same details (the syllabus that i initially sent to HOD). I also told to contact me, of there is any need. But, he said “due to University rules, the syllabus of current year is fixed, but for next year it will be changed”.
Then, i was busy in exams and then came the lockdown. But, this year the syllabus is changed. Atleast, the students that will study the new syllabus will have better future. But it almost took 2 years (also due to lockdown).
Now, i think all the things i did helped me or atleast played a role in this educational reform. But, i still came half-way to what i initially thought. I want an online session (meeting) with HOD of each college (around 350), but i was not able to(due to 💰). If you can help me, contact me(through Twitter or telegram).
Please clap this article and also share it to reach it to more students who also want to change the universe syllabus.
Note: initially i thought to include some tips and some extra for students(including 1 big secret). But, the article is too long, so if you also want to change syllabus or want to do similar, please atleast read the following article at least once: