Indian education might finally have its space in the sun, with the government today promising to rid it of stress and overprotection.
Over the next 100 days, education will see some radical measures - including doing away with traumatic Class X board examinations, independent agency to rate school quality, grades to judge school students; public-private partnerships, changed IIM/ IIT curriculum and education loan subsidy for poor students - aimed at reforming the education sector.
This and more revolution is on the mind of Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal, whose bold 100-day agenda has access, equity and quality as its fountainhead. The government is finally talking of making the system, instead of students, accountable by promising policies for school accreditation and teacher education for the first time.
But top on Sibal’s priority is de-stressing and de-regulating education. He had earlier told The Tribune that he wanted to do to education what Manmohan Singh did to economy in 1991 - liberate it. Today, he set out to do just that, saying: “Class X boards are not necessary in the modern system. They can be optional. We’ll have one all-India board exam for students who want to enter universities.”
Others need not taken the board examinations and can enter the next class. Eventually, class XII boards would also go, with Sibal keen to spare students of sleepless nights. He feels students should be admitted to colleges on the basis of common entrance tests.
With an agenda to initiate nine laws in 100 days, Sibal appeared like a man in hurry today, raising doubts about the mechanisms whereby measures like scrapping class X boards or getting private partners into education, would be taken. The minister didn’t elaborate on modalities, but said he would achieve what he had set out to.
In fact, he hinted at getting foreign education providers to implement government’s quota policy; a law to regulate their entry and operation is on the anvil. The thought goes against the Yasphal panel, which favours getting foreign scholars instead of universities.
“But why should top world universities not come to India?” asked Sibal, listing eight areas of legislative priority for the government - Right to Education (to be pushed in budget session), all-India Madrasa Board, autonomous national commission for higher education and research, prevention and punishment for educational malpractices, mandatory accreditation in higher education, dispute (concerning teachers) adjudication tribunal; law to strengthen National Commission for Minority Education and another to amend Copyright Act.
First priority is of course the establishment of what Sibal called an “an overarching, autonomous commission for higher education and research, to be managed by academics”. The commission would subsume the existing regulators like UGC, AICTE and MCI, said the minister, spelling the end of regulatory era in education.
The government further warned all fly-by night operators in education with a bill to monitor malpractices like capitation fee. “Universities must provide what they promise. We will have compulsory accreditation for all higher education institutes. There will be strict entry barriers. An institute that clears the barriers can be called a university,” said the minister, who also wants semesters and credit transfer systems in varsities.
With his plate full of dreams, it remains to be how far Sibal goes on the challenging road to educational reforms. Already educationists are questioning his urge to end Class X boards, which, they say, prepare students for tougher classes ahead.