While Kapil Sibal promises that a revolution larger than the one in the telecom sector awaits the education sector, critics are skeptical. With too much happening too soon, we take stock of the several reforms in place and proposals in the pipeline that look to bring about changes to our existing education system.
The right of children to free and compulsory education act:
The act makes it compulsory for state funded schools to provide free education to every child between the age of 6 and 14 years. It being a fundamental free education by a school, either a parent or the child himself / herself can approach the Supreme Court under article 32 of the constitution. It is also a statutory right, which allows parents and children to approach their nearest taluka or district.
The Act also maintains that no child can be held back, expelled or be required to pass a board examination until he/she completes elementary education. In so far as infrastructure is concerned, the Act requires schools (where there is an issue) to improve within three years, or else face being derecognized. The Act mandates a fixed student teacher ratio and allots 25 per cent reservation for underprivileged students.
Taking a cue from the changes suggested in the National Curriculum Framework (NCF-2005) reforms are introduced, which include making the class 10 board exams optional strengthening of the comprehensive and continuous evaluation (CCE) system and the introduction of a grading system. The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) will make class 10 board exams optional, with effect from 2011.
This move however, is essentially meant for students studying in CBSE’s senior secondary schools and those who do not wish to move out of the CBSE system even after their board exams. However, students who wish to move out of CBSE after class 10 will be required to take the board’s external examination. Also, students studying in CBSE’s secondary schools will be required to take the board’s external (written / online examination) because they will be leaving the secondary school after class X. However, CBSE will introduce an on demand proficiency test for students who wish to assess themselves.
Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE):
CBSE introduced CCE in primary class in 2004. NCF’s paper on examination reforms mentions that external examinations are largely inappropriate for the knowledge society of the 21st century and its need for innovative problem solvers. It is important to look at the holistic assessment of a learner, which also includes co-scholastic areas of life skills, attitudes and values, sports and games as well as co-curricular activities. The scheme discourages mechanical testing and encourages use of tools and techniques for assessment informal and formal settings. The scheme is applicable for the second term (October 2009 – March 2010) of the Current academic year in class 9. The academic year has been divided into two terms – from April – September (first term) and October March (second term)
The National Commission for higher Education and Research Bill, 2010:
The bill is awaiting cabinet approval. Once cleared the central government will established a National Commission for Higher education and Research (NCHER) that will work as a single regulatory body, to determine co-ordinate maintain standards and promote higher education and research. Once NCHER comes into being, regulatory bodies such as UGC, NCTE and AICTE would be subsumed. Despite being a regulatory body, UGC gives out grants. This is a fundamental flaw as the same authority that gives out grants should not function as a regulatory body as well. A turf war exists within the councils that re part of the regulatory bodies. NCHER will try to achieve synergy.
The National Authority for Regulation in accreditation of higher educational institutions bill:
The task of the authority would be to accredit and rate all higher educational institutions in India. In accordance with the draft legislation, the national authority along with multiple rating agencies would develop and regulate the accreditation process. These multiple agencies would be registered with the national authority and the apex body would accredit and keep a check on the rating agencies. It would also keep an eye on fly by night operators. The bill would maker it mandatory for all higher educational institutions and every program of study to be accredited.
The foreign educational institutions (Regulations of entry and operations, maintenance of quality and prevention of commercialization) bill:
In a landmark decision, the foreign education bill got the cabinet nod recently. It prescribes an eight month, time bound format for granting approval to foreign educational institutions to set up campuses in India. As for the reservation policy in the higher educational institutions, the law of the land will prevail. The proposed law will facilitate overseas institutes to participate in the Indian education sector.