New Delhi: India will set up a regulator for universities, work to make class X or high school examinations optional, and come up with a legislation to prevent medical and engineering colleges from selling seats—all in the next 100 days.
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The creation of the regulator, National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER), is part of the recommendations of a panel formed to study functioning of the higher education system in India and was reported by Mint on 7 June.
This will mean the end of multiple regulatory bodies for higher education, including the University Grants Commission and the All India Council for Technical Education, the top two regulators for universities and engineering and business schools, respectively, that are often criticized for their opaque functioning.
The formation of NCHER, which will subsume all the existing regulators, is a key recommendation of the Yash Pal committee, which submitted its final report to the minister on Wednesday.
The move will need changes to existing laws on the regulation of educational institutions and will have to be approved by Parliament.
Overhaul time: Professor Yash Pal (right) submitting the report by his committee to HRD minister Kapil Sibal on Wednesday. The setting up of a single education regulator is a key recommendation of the panel. Raveendran / AFP
NCHER will take over the academic, accreditation and financial functions of regulators such as UGC, AICTE, the Dental Council of India and the Medical Council of India, all at least two decades old.
“Regulators should be catalysts of growth and innovation in the education system. But they have been mostly using their powers as a tool of regulation. NCHER, one hopes, will be the beginning of a regulation free education sector,” said C.S. Venkat Ratnam, director of New Delhi-based International Management Institute and member of the education committee of industry lobby Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
Signalling examination reforms at the school level, the government also announced that steps would be taken to make the class X exam optional to enable students to continue in the same school and opt for internal assessments instead. A system for introducing grades instead of marks in classes IX and X in schools affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education—a centralized board that conducts school-level examinations— will also be put in motion to reduce examination stress in school students, Sibal said.
“The system of marking puts immense pressure on children. There are incidents where children have committed suicides. We must detraumatize the system,” Sibal added. “It will put an end to learning by rote. Class X exams don’t lead to a better education system. What we need is a standardized system of exams in this country,” said Yamini Aiyar of Accountability Initiative, part of think tank the Centre for Policy Research.
The ministry also plans to introduce the Right To Education Bill, legislation to provide free and compulsory education to children, create a body to accredit schools, and establish a national madrasa board to oversee functioning of Islamic seminaries in India.
The accreditation for schools could start off as an optional requirement for schools, the minister said.
In its agenda for the next 100 days, the ministry also plans to formulate a law to prevent and punish malpractices such as demand for so-called donation or capitation fees by medical colleges.
The minister stressed that the government is moving towards total implementation of the Yash Pal committee report, which also suggests scrapping of the deemed university status for state and private institutions.
The status of deemed universities has allowed them to operate free of government control in admissions, fees and coursework.
Soon after taking charge earlier this month, Sibal ordered the review of at least 125 institutions that have been granted the status.