By Piyush Panigrahi:
On June 24, 2009, the Yashpal Committee, headed by scientist Yashpal suggested a number of recommendations including the removal of the University Grants Commission (UGC), All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), National Council for Teacher Education (NCERT) and Distance Education Council. The committee report also recommended that IITs and IIMs be turned into full-fledged universities and to introduce a national test on the lines of GRE open to all aspirants and held more than once a year. Instead of all regulatory bodies, the report suggests a Commission for Higher Education and Research (CHER) to be set up to govern the higher education in the country.
In the report, the panel, mentioned that jurisdiction of Medical Council of India (MCI), Bar Council of India (BCI) and others needs to restricted to administrative jobs only and that their academic responsibilities need to administered by universities. Expressing concern over the spreading of engineering and management colleges that have “largely become business entities and dessiminating poor quality education,” the committee expressed grief over the growth of deemed universities and suggested a complete ban on further grant of such status.
In response, on July 4, 2009, Kapil Sibal-headed education ministry released the Action Plan enlisting the following goals:
On September 11, 2009, “The agenda for schools is 100 per cent complete. Now you tell me the agenda for the next 100 days,” asserted Kapil Sibal. He insisted that his ministry had not only met the 100-day targets but even exceeded them in some cases. The ministry, for instance, had sanctioned 150 women’s hostels in higher educational institutions in districts with significant population of weaker sections besides releasing Rs 45 crore for it as against a target of 100. Similarly, Sibal had announced the review of the functioning of the existing private deemed universities and then extended the review to public deemed universities too. The review committee had gone through the presentations of 81 out of 92 private deemed universities.
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2009, was passed within the 100-day period. Besides, the Class X examination had been made optional. The current system of marking was replaced by a grading system.
In higher education, Sibal had announced the setting up of an autonomous overarching authority for higher education and research based and a draft note had been circulated for inter-ministerial consultations. The ministry’s target for mandatory assessment and accreditation in higher education through an independent regulatory authority had been met with a draft legislation and concept note having been made though some states had expressed concerns regarding the autonomy of the accreditation process. Sibal also introduced an amendment Bill to further amend the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions Act.
The ministry had also announced 15 new central universities, that have been established with the appointments of the first vice-chancellors, except in Himachal Pradesh. Academic reforms like semester system and credit transfers have also been implemented by some universities.
While the picture seems rosy, it is necessary to explore whether his ideas are applicable to poor, downtrodden and illiterate section of Indian population. As envisioned by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in 1950, Article 45 of the Indian Constitution stated, “The State shall endeavour to provide, within a period of ten years from the commencement of the Constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years.” The state never endeavored to provide free and compulsory education to Children even after six decades. Only in 1993 Supreme Court of India recognised primary education as a fundamental right. Later in 2002, the government through the 86th Constitutional Amendment arrogated the right of providing free and compulsory education to itself, thus making the guaranteed right by the apex court dependent on the state. A wide gap remains between enrolment and completion rates, especially for children from poorest households and marginalised groups in rural areas and urban slums.
In a new unveiling of education agenda, Sibal talks about a common entrance exam for engineering and medicine aspirants after Class XII, a full-fledged curriculum for value education for schools, mandatory sports classes across schools, and insurance and housing schemes for 60 lakh school teachers – these are among the new key initiatives HRD Minister Kapil Sibal announced as part of his next one-year agenda. Briefing the media after a meeting of the State Education Ministers in New Delhi, Sibal said the government wanted to reduce the multiplicity of entrance examinations for entry to higher education.