New Delhi: After asking schools to focus on education and avoid commercial activities, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) is now ready to grade them.

A plan to accredit and grade schools in 2013-14 never took off but CBSE, which functions under the human resource development ministry, is now ready to start grading schools affiliated with it.

“We will accredit schools. The focus will be more on quality outcome rather than infrastructure," CBSE chairman R.K. Chaturvedi said.

CBSE has at least 18,000 affiliated schools, most of which are private. A government official who asked not to be named said grading schools would help parents and students.

CBSE has previously said some of its affiliated schools are adopting unfair means to promote themselves without focusing on their core functions. The board has also remarked that some schools are focussed only on infrastructure, without giving due attention to the teaching or learning environment.

In April, the board asked all private schools affiliated to it to stop commercial activities and follow the education by-laws on appointments and daily functioning. On 20 April, it asked schools to “run as community services and not as businesses, and ensure that commercialization does not take place in the school in any shape whatsoever". It warned schools not to indulge in commercial activities by selling books, uniforms, etc within the school premise or through selected vendors.

“The Union government wants better outcome from schools and several of its initiatives are directed towards that. The plan to rank states on education parameters by NITI Aayog, this accreditation plan, are all part of the bigger plan," the official mentioned above added.

On Tuesday, Union human resource development minister Prakash Javadekar also told reporters that his ministry is now focusing on quality education and has embarked on a mission “sabko shiksha, achhi shiksha" (quality education for all) as an extension of the “sabka saath, sabka vikas" (with everyone, and development for everyone) slogan of the National Democratic Alliance government.

He said his ministry would allow more autonomy to high quality institutions. He added that his ministry is for graded autonomy—the most stringent regulations for poor quality institutions and the least for high-quality ones.

The ministry has an accreditation and grading process for institutions of higher education in India but none for schools.

The accreditation process for higher education suffers from lack of transparency, but the government official said that CBSE has the credibility and the track-record to grade schools.

“The ministry is streamlining the higher education accreditation process to improve quality. The CBSE coming forward to do grading (of schools) will mean a better outcome across the entire education spectrum," the official quoted above added.

Prashant Bhalla, president of Manav Rachna Educational Institutions, an education group that runs a chain of schools and colleges in north India agreed on the need for accrediting schools. “The move will act as check on unfair promises made by some schools. But the bigger question is, globally, the accreditation process is handled by autonomous bodies without any partiality. The ministry or the CBSE will have to address this issue," he said.

“Accreditation should be for a certain period of time and the organization should give an improvement plan to a school. I feel, personally, accreditation and grading should be motivational than a punitive exercise," Bhalla added.