Mast Kalandar

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Sat, 03 Nov 2007

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IISER course structure proposal

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Basic requirements for M.Sc. (Stream)

  1. 12 Core courses.
  2. 8 Core electives.
  3. 8 Compulsory Stream courses.
  4. 4 Stream Electives.
  5. 4 Non-stream Electives.

Remaining courses are open; could be advanced stream electives or second stream courses. This remaining course work is the work credit equivalent of 14 core/compulsory courses.

Total requirements of work credits =
    8 work hours/day
    5 work days/week
    15 working weeks/term
    2 terms/year
    5 years
    = 6000

At an average of 5 courses a term with 8x15=120 credits each.

Each course will divide work credits into:

Core course contents and structure

Core courses should not be taught as service courses

Instead they should be taught as interdisciplinary courses. This means that if a mathematics lecture is given on ODE with a view towards (say) dynamics then that aspect should be brought out (perhaps by inviting a physicist to give part of the lecture). Similarly, if a physics lecture uses Fourier Series then instead of saying "you will learn this in the Mathematics course" a mathematical lecture on Fourier series should be given. Finding teachers for such courses may be more difficult of course!

Courses do not need to be complete

Not everything can (or needs to be) taught linearly and from first principles; or needs to be approached purely from its traditional historical roots. In each course there is thread of fundamental concepts and techniques that needs to be underlined. The details should be handled via suitable exercises/tutorials and self-study.

Emphasis on "learning" rather than "teaching"

The lecturer's major task is to trace a path for the student to follow in (self) study and experimentation. Once we take this point of view, one can reduce the number of lecturing hours and increase the number of tutorial/lab/office hours. Regarding the latter, we must try to encourage the students to interact in small groups (3-4) or individually with the instructors; perhaps such interaction can be given some "credit".


At least 4 Core Electives should deal with the relation of science to the society. This should ideally begin with a course on reading/writing science (Communication skills). Other obvious topics are History/Philosophy of science. The relation of science with Music/Visual arts/Literature. Actual courses will depend on who will be available to teach. Humanities people with good knowledge of science should be invited --- whether they view science positively or negatively!

Some core courses should be electives

These may also be available as courses for 3-5 year students as electives if they are pre-requisites for other courses. In order to get students used to "choosing for themselves" at least 4 Core courses should be electives.

Stream courses

Compulsory stream courses should be decided based on the following criterion.

Suppose a (Mathematics) student of IISER is compared with a generic M.Sc. (Mathematics) student. Which courses would be absolutely essential to ensure that the IISER student does not perform unfavourably? Those courses should be compulsory for a student who wants to obtain an M.Sc. (Mathematics) in IISER. All other course requirements are "free" modulo satisfying pre-requisites.

In the above description we should be able to replace Mathematics with other disciplines as well.

Non-stream courses

Any Core Elective could be considered as a Non-stream elective but one might want to limit the number of lower level courses that can form the total credits. (What about someone who wants to be a science journalist?)

Students with very high CGPA may be allowed to skip non-stream courses or to take enough 2nd stream courses to get a second major.

Courses without lectures/tutorials/labs (Research courses)

Students should have a GPA of at least 7 in the prerequisites for a research course in order to register for it.

The notion of a "research course" could be a bit more flexible. It could involve research in the lab or in the office or the library. For example, we would have students who take tutorials and some remedial teaching. Or we could have students who take up the task of writing/communicating "popular" science.

Students with exceptional CGPA could be allowed to "overload" research courses even in years 2 and 3.

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