Weighing Out The Case For The New 11-Week Semester

Slowly and with little grace, we have come to the end of the 4th week in the new compact style session that the University of Ibadan now adopts. For those of us who were caught in the room roulette of trying to secure accommodation so that we would be able to settle and then start to take our lectures seriously, it would not be too comforting to hear that 4 weeks out of the available 11 weeks of lectures has already gone by while we were caught up in all that.

For many, the session now being 11 weeks unlike the regular 13 weeks which was previously obtainable, the thought of that is a reality that they vehemently would refuse to come to terms with.

Given that from psychology, we know that we humans all have a familiarity bias which makes us all the more sceptical about change, it is not surprising to see some people still thinking of wishing away the reality of an 11-week semester.

Now, the new reality that we are faced with is one that when thought on, we could easily pitch as a Jaw War topic if an 11-week semester truly cuts it. But then, even without the formality of an actual debate event, it is still a topic of contention for many who would waste no time arguing why the compact session is a good idea or not.

While at the end of the day, we can’t dictate to the management how they should go about the administration of the school for the sake of all things good, we would be weighing in on the issue of the current compact session and then go about making sense of it from a point of logic.

Like in any other admission year, the University of Ibadan admitted a few thousand undergraduate students who successfully aced the UTME exam that year and met the school’s admission requirement for their desired course of study in 2019.

In 2019 though, due to various factors, the University of Ibadan was somewhat behind on their calendar and those who got admitted in 2019 after passing their post-UTME were not looking likely to resume any time before the end of the first quarter of 2020.

Finally, when 2020 slowly rolled in, that resumption for the new 2019/20 session had to be put off as the conclusion of the 2018/2019 session was itself interrupted by the Covid-19 Pandemic and this was further exacerbated by a protracted ASUU strike throughout the nationwide lockdowns and even into months after when the lockdowns had been lifted. And when finally, the school was to emerge from this dark cloud, the 2019/2020 session eventually had to be cancelled and so all those whose admission letter from JAMB read 2019/20 were now automatically admitted as the 2020/21 set.

When in February of 2021, the new session finally commenced, it seemed like the new virtual learning system set up in the university to be able to adapt to the so-called new normal was finally slowly going to mean that the session was going to be brought to align properly with their designated year.

After having both lectures and students struggle to adapt to the new purely virtual sessions, in June students were asked to resume and the university moved into the christened “Hybrid system of learning” where they combined in-person lectures with virtual classes when necessary.

With a transition to the next session in February 2022, everything was still looking like it would go smoothly and lost grounds, as regards the semester aligning with the year, would finally be regained without altering all that much the structure of the current semester.

After merely two weeks of learning, another dark cloud came yet again and this time it was in the form of another protracted ASUU strike. The strike which first started as a warning strike by the academic union then morphed into an indefinite strike which eventually ended on dragging on for about 8 months.

From there, after the strike was called off in October and schools had to resume, the school management then maintained the reasoning that since the 2 weeks of lectures had already been done before the strike, it only made sense that for the rest of the session we would do just 11 weeks of lectures before exams.

But then in that calendar too, the second semester calendar still contained an 11-week timeline. And that’s where we find ourselves today with the current 2022/23 session being slated to also have semesters with 11 weeks of learning before exams.

Why this long recital of history you might ask? It’s merely to drive home the strongest point in the argument for the new compact semesters. The idea is that so much time has been lost that it only makes sense to try to speed things up. For many who see no problem with the current structure of the semesters with the whole 11-week of lectures, it’s simply because they agree strongly with the management’s seeming standpoint that so much time has been lost already to spend too much time on things which could be gone over more quickly.

In all honesty, from a point of logic we could argue that the argument for a compact session is in itself strong as in the about 4-year period from 2019 till now, about 2 years have been lost to the various breaks beyond the management’s control. It thoroughly makes lots of sense in the surface that we try to redeem the time in the best possible way we can.

There’s also the fact that with the previous 13 weeks, UI was running one of the longest semesters of most federal universities and even with the current 11 weeks, UI still commits more weeks to teaching than several other federal universities.

While we have so far considered the main merits of the 11-week semester, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t valid issues that can be raised with shortening the calendar in order to make up for lost time. Next up we would be considering the various issues that seem like a hurdle to an 11-week calendar.

Minding the Speed Limit

The idea of allocating any number of weeks to lectures is so that in just enough time, lecturers can commit themselves to teaching the entire scheme of work as required by the curriculum. Now, when the semester comprised 13 weeks, it’s no hidden knowledge that in various faculties like Education, Arts, and Agriculture, several lecturers found it hard to effectively cover all the aspects they were supposed to dedicate time to teach.

In the aforementioned places, several reports have been gotten about lecturers who don’t get to finish the scheme of work before the exam period and then they proceed to task the students who came to class for an in-person learning experience to go and try to learn the remainder on their own.

It follows that if the semester was 13 weeks of learning and we were experiencing things like that, shortening the calendar would only look to worsen this situation and maybe make it spread to other faculties where teachers may be just about trying their best to finish what the curriculum requires in time. If the trend of doing just a part of what is to be learnt and then tasking the students to find a way to try and learn the other things does spread it would not be helpful to learning at all. Part of the perks of coming to school is the exposure to proper in-person learning as this ensures that proper education is instilled in the student. And that’s why no matter how brilliant an individual is, he could never sit down at home and become a licensed doctor, lawyer, engineer, or even an educator by reading through all the textbooks and claiming to have a hold on what should be learnt. The point is, without guidance all of what should be learnt both in character and in knowledge would never be learnt.

This in itself is one of the strongest arguments against merely speeding things up by shortening the time spent on learning. It defeats the purpose of an education if in a bid to hurriedly get over with things, those things which ought to be taught are just glossed over or are not taught at all.

And then alongside this, the other issues within the university that have been presented as a would-be hurdle to the effectiveness of a compact semester are things like reports of teachers not resuming classes in certain faculties until it is the 6th or 7th week. There is also the fact that due to how the system currently is in the university, for many students in various halls of residence, the process of trying to secure an accommodation slot in the school halls for a new session inevitably takes the first 2 weeks off the calendar and even stretching up to the 4th week for some students who may not be lucky.

Then again there is the fact that with the new compact semesters the time which is lost during the semester by students due to no fault of their own, is now ever harder to recover as there is less time now to cover for whatsoever time is lost.

Having like Nemesis, the famed legal symbol, weighed both sides of the case on a scale and having considered the strong points of each and examined them with careful logic, in the concluding part, we would now be going on to pass our judgement which we have come to by use of logic.

Driving Fast But Safely

It goes without saying that despite whatever sentiment we may hold, precious time has indeed been lost over the last 4 years due to several irredeemable situations.

It’s only logical that in the ways within our power, we try to salvage the current situation. If we continue with the current system of 13 weeks, we would inevitably be putting several lives on hold and making them spend extra time which is not there on top of the extra time they have already been forced to spend.

So, in this, we agree with the reasoning of the management to run the compact semesters of 11 weeks as the need for us to speed up our education for the remaining years is inevitable.

We don’t want students of the university to miss out on several jobs within the labour market that lie outside the four walls of the university and have age limits which could make students lose out if so much time of their lives is spent in school. Yet to this, we would add that those hurdles that have been identified that would act against the effectiveness of the compact semester should be properly checked and curtailed.

For one, the whole process of accommodation in the various halls of residence should not be allowed to drag on for so long. Within a week after the freshers and finalists in each hall have been allocated slots, the remaining slots should be quickly allocated to the stalites based on priority, and the whole dust of accommodation placement is made to settle maximally within 2 weeks of resumption.

That way, so much time is not lost by students because of that and everybody is made to know where they stand as early as possible so they can sort themselves out and settle down to the main task of learning.

As for the issue of teachers who don’t deem it worthy to resume their duties at the appropriate time, the university should make sure that the same strong hand which is used to clamp down on ‘erring’ students is also used to review erring lecturers.

This is because it is unfair for students who paid to get an education to be made to suffer due to the unbothered attitude of these lectures.

Lastly, on the issue of making sure that the scheme of work for a certain semester is adequately dealt with in the time allocation for learning in the new semester, each faculty could be tasked with making sure that all of those things which are important to be taught are taught to the students.

Also, feedback can be gotten from the students as to what they feel are the current limitations to the issues of covering all the topics that ought to be covered before the exam.

This feedback can then be used to come up with more innovative and effective ways of teaching to make sure maximal learning with regards to all that the curriculum requires to be taught is then put in place.

In conclusion, as a word of advice to fellow students, ultimately whether the weeks are made as long as 4 or 5 months or the semester is reduced to just 10 weeks, the ultimate responsibility falls on you to try and make maximum use of whatever time is made available.

Part of what would in the end distinguish those who end up succeeding from those who do not, no matter the condition, is how much due diligence is paid to the task at hand. And so even as we would be coming to terms with the new realities of the compact semesters of 11 weeks, it behoves on us to make the best of the situation that we find ourselves in.

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