Friday, April 22, 2011

PM’s council calls for exam system overhaul

The Prime Minister’s Science Advisory Council has advised the government to institute a single national examination to assess the eligibilty of candidates for all higher education institutions, replacing the current system of multiple competitive tests.

Entrance examinations have "become a menace", according to a report prepared by Prof. C.N.R. Rao, Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Science Advisory Council. "IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) entrance has the reputation of being difficult and purposeful, but it has also had a negative effect on young minds. Young people suffer so much to succeed... and in the process lose excitement in education."

Rao also advocated the need to work toward having at least 10 Indian institutes among the world’s top 100, and advised the government to stop appointing bureaucrats as administrators of colleges and universities. In his recommendations, which the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) made public on Thursday, Rao, a renowned educationist and scientist, criticized the government’s move to open a number of higher educational institutes without bothering about the faculty crunch the sector is facing. "It would seem counter-productive to allow uncontrolled increase in the number of government-supported colleges and universities without careful consideration of manpower requirements," he said.

In the last couple of years, the Union government has opened 16 new central universities, seven Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), eight new Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), more than 20 National Institutes of Technology (NITs) and a number of other research institutes in the field of science and technology. However, the institutes are facing problems in terms of physical infrastructure and human resources.

Most of the new central universities do not have even 50% of the required faculty. The new IIMs are being run by visiting faculty from the older schools. Moreover, Union government-run institutes including the IITs are already facing a faculty crunch of 33%, according to official figures. India currently has 40 central universities and 15 IITs.

Criticizing the government’s handling of the administration of colleges and universities, the scientist, who has been visiting faculty in leading universities including Oxford and Cambridge, said this requires an overhaul. "What is unfortunate is that educational and research institutions are administered by people with IAS (Indian Administrative Service) or similar administrative backgrounds, many without any real interest in education," he said. A senior HRD ministry official, who declined to be named, said the report is not being regarded negatively. "It’s a good checklist for government on what we should do."

Regretting that no Indian college is equal to the best institutions in the advanced countries, Rao has suggested that "it is important that in next 10-15 years, several of our educational institutions are in the top 100 in the world. As a step forward, around 10 higher educational institutions could be provided all the support required to enable them compete with the best of institutions in the advanced countries." If India wants to succeed it should give greater importance to the teaching profession and accord due respect to teachers, Rao said.

Source: Mint, April 22, 2011

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