Wednesday, May 19, 2010

HRD Ministry's efforts in reforming Indian education sector

With a series of legislative, policy and administrative initiatives, the HRD ministry under UPA-II is hurtling down the road to education reforms with a speed that has startled government officials, opposition parties and academicians. After taking over, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal brought out a 100-day agenda for school and higher education sector. One year on, he has implemented the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, making education a right for all children between 6 to 14 years. He did away with Class X boards for CBSE students and replaced them with Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE), despite criticism and doubts from teachers and students. In higher education, a number of legislative measures aimed at reforming the sector are being made.

“I have delivered what I had promised. The Right to Education Act had been rolled out ... There has also been a change in the learning and teaching process with the introduction of CCE,“ said Sibal. But opinion seems to be against Sibal's move on examination reforms, with 33 per cent respondents of the HT survey agreeing that they were carried out without consensus. Madhav Chavan, co-founder of educational NGO Pratham said UPA-II had given an impetus to the RTE Act. "I would say Sibal has done rather well ... But implementation of the Act and whether it leads to quality education of children remains to be seen". This is also revealed in the survey where 25 per cent of respondents agreed that the ministry did not have a roadmap for implementing RTE Act.

The RTE Act is facing a shortage of around Rs. 7,000 crore (Rs. 70 billion) in the first year of implementation. The ministry has estimated a requirement of Rs. 34,000 crore (34 billion) a year for a period of five years. The ministry has set aside Rs. 15,000 crore (15 billion) for 2010-11. Even if the states pitch in with their share of the fund, the scheme will fall short of Rs. 7,000 crore.

Political parties have also criticised the Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation and Entry and Operations) Bill 2010. "The draft bill shows clearly that there is no regulation on fees or admission procedure for foreign universities.
There is also complete absence of social justice implications that universities in India follow", said senior CPI (M) leader and Rajya Sabha MP Brinda Karat.

Sibal's move to create a National Commission of Higher Education and Research (NCHER), an over-arching regulatory body that will replace the UGC and AICTE, has also been opposed by various states as encroaching upon their autonomy. The rush to operationalise new IITs, IIMs and Central Universities without adequate infrastructure and faculty has been criticised. But the broad consensus is that Sibal has enthused the Education Ministry with energy and initiated action on various grounds.

Source: Hindustan Times, May 18, 2010

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