Sunday, June 20, 2010

Kapil Sibal for common medical and engineering entrance exam

Human resource development (HRD) minister Kapil Sibal is serious about placing the student at the centre of his ambitious education reforms program. In an effort to reduce examination stress, the ministry is considering merging the Central Board of Secondary Education-conducted all India pre-medical test and the all India engineering entrance examination. Mr. Sibal put forward this proposal at the state education ministers’ conference on Friday. "This is being done to reduce multiplicity to entry to higher education institutions and to save the students from sitting for two separate exams", he said.

The logic was simple, both sets of examinations have common subjects—physics and chemistry, while those opting for medical course have to appear for an additional biology paper and the engineering stream for a mathematics paper. However, if a student wants to appear for both streams, at present s/he needs to take separate entrance tests, and has to sit for the physics and chemistry tests twice. This duplication, Mr. Sibal felt, was unnecessary. Merging the two examinations would resolve this problem. Mr. Sibal said that the ministry would seek consultations on the proposal in the coming year.

Stressing on the need for a common entrance test after Class XII, Mr. Sibal said that this would serve to test general awareness and aptitude. The Class XII board examinations would test the students’ knowledge of the subject. "The education ministers are not adverse to idea", Mr. Sibal said. For entrance to professional institutions, Class XII marks and marks of common entrance test put together could be the criteria. Impressing upon the state governments also to adopt the system, Mr. Sibal said the marks of different examination boards could be equalised through a mathematical formula for weightage. "We are trying to prepare a system under which students will not have to appear in exams after exams", he said.

The common core curriculum, required for removing disparity of syllabi that necessitates different entrance exams catering to different boards, had already been devised by the Council of Boards of School Education (COBSE) in India for science and maths. "This will give an opportunity to children from economically weaker sections who are not able to avail of coaching and get through the current system of entrance exams", he said while adding that the proposal was at a debating stage and the need for it had been felt as the current system was being seen as unfair to the poor and the underprivileged. "If you have a core curriculum, it will be easier for all the states to hold exam and evaluate", Mr. Sibal said.

The minister also stressed on the need for a national framework on vocational education. Mr. Sibal said that there was another proposal for setting up a national institute for assessment and evaluation for schools which would serve as an advisory institution to help school boards volunteering to seek such help in assessment and evaluation. The advices would not be binding but would help benchmark institutes with global standards.

The ministry will work on a curriculum framework for value education as examinations "are only a gateway to higher education" whereas values last and guide a lifetime, Mr. Sibal said. The minister also unveiled a proposal to provide 60,00,000 teachers life and health insurance. "I discussed with state education ministers on Friday on the plan for starting insurance and housing schemes for 60,00,000 teachers. In principle approval has been given by them for the schemes", Mr. Sibal said. The scheme is part of the the ministry’s effort to improve the offering that students are given in the education system. "When teachers are taken care of, students benefit as well. this is part of our efforts to make the system child-centric".

The insurance schemes will require financial contributions from the Centre, the states and the teachers. The group housing scheme will be administered at the central level but will not require financial contribution from the Centre or the state governments. The health and life insurance schemes are proposed to cost far less for teachers premium wise compared to individual schemes or even schemes run at the state level.

The state education ministers welcomed the proposal, but said they would be able to communicate formal approval after discussing it with their finance ministers. The life insurance cover would guarantee a minimum of about Rs. 500,000 on retirement and Rs. 200,000 on death during service. The health cover, limited to hospitalisation of the teacher, spouse, two children and parents, is being worked on two options—either on a maximum cover of Rs. 125,000, which would mean lesser premium and another option of cover of Rs. 300,000, which would mean a higher premium. The group housing scheme is being envisaged to be centrally administered through a portal, with construction to be done by NBCC, land to be bought at institutional rates and group housing societies to be formed by teachers.

Source: The Economic Times, June 19, 2010

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