Published: 08th May 2019
137 years of stellar education: Why St Joseph's College in Bengaluru is among the best
Dr Fr Victor Lobo SJ talks about the efforts that went into making St Joseph's College in Bengaluru the education behemoth that it is today and why they may soon be upgraded to a University
Academic excellence, character formation and social concern are the three principles that St Joseph's College in Bengaluru has been following for 137 years. Run by the Jesuit Community of India, the college has produced stalwarts who have contributed to all fields. Member of Parliament Rajeev Gowda, Former Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde, spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and popular actress Catherine Tresa are a few notable personalities that the college has nurtured who went on to contribute to the society. Dr Father Victor Lobo SJ, the principal of this institution, has played an important role when it comes to the college bagging the university status. He says, "We are on the path of producing thousands of stalwarts from our college. We are proud to see that there are many from St Joseph's who are giving back to society. Even though we are one of the oldest colleges in the state, we are ever new. While we take pride in our traditions, we are never complacent. We keep searching, renewing and expanding in an attempt to always be relevant to the changing times. That is why we enjoy a place of eminence among educational institutions in the country. " Excerpts from a charged chat:
There are students who come from different countries to study in this college. How do you bring in the aspect of discipline among them all?
St Joseph's College has a history and legacy of 137 years. The campus itself is systematic and self-disciplined. Whenever a new batch of students comes in, we don't put in any extra efforts to instill discipline in them. Once they enter the system, students change and they adopt the practices that we follow like punctuality, interest towards learning, healthy competition among themselves and so on. Moreover, our academic rigour is such that it can make any student disciplined.
How do you support research activities in your college?
If you look into the history of Karnataka's educational institutions, St Joseph's College was the first educational institution in Karnataka which was granted the permission to run postgraduate programmes in 1986. In 1998, ours was the first college to start PhD programmes in Chemistry and Botany. The PhD holders who worked with us as lecturers would guide PhD students from different colleges of Karnataka. Our teachers have guided PhD students from Bangalore University, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Bharathiar University, Kannada University and many more. Similarly, our college has many scientists who give their best to their respective departments. Every department is a stalwart department in our college. For example, the famous quiz master Dr Arul Mani is a part of our English department as a teacher. Therefore, our college is a place which brings out the best in both staff and students.
Apart from this, our management allocates `50 lakh towards research activities. In case more money is needed, then the management allocates it. We don't like to compromise on the quality of research activities. There are many lecturers in our college who are pursuing PhD. They teach our students and simultaneously work on their research projects.
On Board: Dr Fr Victor Lobo SJ is the prinicpal at St Joseph's College in Bengaluru
Are there any chances of this college becoming a university?
Recently, in the fourth phase of NAAC grading, we were graded A++ with 3.79 CGPA and stood first in the country. Our college is the first to be recognised as a College of Excellence. We were even selected for the prestigious Star College scheme under the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India. Because of all these credentials, the MHRD passed a motion to upgrade our college to a university under the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA). We are hoping to bag the university status in this year or by early 2020. The Higher Education Department of Government of Karnataka has also approved this decision. In case we bag the university status, the government will play a role in approving the funds for us to develop our infrastructure and also in appointing teachers.
St Joseph's is supported by the Jesuit Community. In this light, do you provide any scholarships for underprivileged or meritorious students?
It is the legacy of St Joseph's College to admit the poorest and the best of students provided they are academically sound. We have students from all backgrounds in our college. Through the Jesuit Community, we even run a scheme called Preferential Option For The Poor. As many as 17,000 institutions are run by this society and the same principles apply everywhere. In some cases, we offer scholarships and to support their education, the poorest students are given free education. All their expenses are taken care of by people who believe in philanthropy. On the first day of college, we address students and parents where we inform them about our free services. Most of them come forward to help these students. They adopt a student and see to it that the student’s fees and other expenses are taken care of for three years.
This way, we make parents part of our philanthropy and education system. Last year, `50 lakh was kept aside for scholarship and this year, we have kept aside `1 crore. Apart from parents, alumni of this college also provide for these students.
Noble cause: St Joseph's College students teach children in 20 government schools in Bengaluru
Are there enough students opting for vocational courses which your college offers?
Visual Media and Filmmaking and Digital Media and Animation are the two vocational courses that we provide. All the batches for vocational courses are full. Sometimes, when the seats are full, people request or even force us to provide a seat for them. These students also have to give exams like any other degree student. They further go on to join big media organisations and TV channels.
How are autonomous institutions trying to make a difference in the presence of Bangalore University?
As autonomous institutions, we have the right to design our own curriculum as per the requirement of students and industry. Not just the syllabus related to the national-level studies, we also incorporate some of the international-level syllabi in our curriculum. In their first semesters, students find our syllabus a tad bit tough, but we know that they will perform better only when they face tough syllabus. Apart from this, we have all the freedom to conduct exams as per our schedule and have our own methods to evaluate. Other than written exams, we have started online mode of exams. I believe that we need to mould the student according to his or her requirements of learning rather than moulding him as per the curriculum of Bangalore University.
Currently, the college has 5,600 students out of which 800 students are pursuing PG, 4,800 students are pursuing UG and 38 students are pursuing their PhD. There are 55 associations or clubs with the help of which students can nurture their skills such as music, dance, acting, care for the environment and more
Are there any outreach programmes that you conduct with the help of students?
As per one of the unique aspects that our college incorporates in both our undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, students need to visit rural areas to study its lifestyle, agriculture, organic farming and much more. While the UG students put in 60 hours into this activity, PG students put in 40 hours. Once they return to the college, they have to write a research paper on the studies they have conducted. Some of our students are teaching part-time at 20 government schools we have adopted. I personally feel proud of our students who have ventured into teaching children of gravediggers and helping them understand the importance of education. Apart from this, as a contribution to the environment, we have planted 10,000 saplings in Raichur. The land has been named as St Joseph's Forest. Every year, our students visit this place to work on the farm.
What about the result of the students?
Initially, our students find it difficult to keep up with the syllabus in the first semester as they come from different educational backgrounds like the state, ICSE and CBSE boards. Hence, if you observe their results, they seem to be average in the first semester. Gradually, they try to perform well in the second semester and get a hold on the various methods of studying. Since the system is autonomous, students find it difficult to score marks. When compared to the university results, our results are not up to the mark. But we concentrate on the output and quality of teaching rather than the marks.