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Thursday, April 22, 2010

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Article Collected by - Education is My Passion

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While Kapil Sibal promises that a revolution larger than the one in the telecom sector awaits the education sector, critics are sceptical. With too much happening too soon, there seems to be lack of clarity about the reforms in place and proposals in the pipeline. Here is an attempt to decode them and examine their worth. 

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 6 and 14 years. “Since it is a fundamental right, in case a school refuses free education to a child, a parent or a child 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,” says Ashok Agarwal, lawyer and president of All India Parents Association. 

Also, the Act maintains that no child can be held back, expelled, or required to pass a board examination until one completes elementary education. In so far as infrastructure is concerned, it requires schools (where there is an issue) to improve within three years, or else the school will be de-recognised. It also calls for a fixed student-teacher ratio and allots 25% reservation for underprivileged students. 

Examination Reforms 

Taking a cue from the changes suggested in the National Curriculum Framework (NCF-2005), Sibal has introduced reforms, which include making the class X board exams optional, strengthening of comprehensive and continuous evaluation (CCE) system and introduction of the grading system. The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) will make class X board exams optional, with effect from 2011. 

This is 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, ‘such’ students who wish to move out of the CBSE system after class X 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 classes 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 in informal and formal settings. The scheme is applicable for the second term (October 2009-March 2010) of the current academic year in class IX. 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 establish a National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER). NCHER will work as a single regulatory body, which will 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. Narendra Jadhav, member, Planning Commission, said, “Despite being a regulatory body, UGC happens to be giving out grants. This is a fundamental flaw. The same authority cannot give out grants as well as function as a regulatory body. The turf war exists within the councils that are part of the regulatory bodies. NCHER will try to achieve a synergy.” 

Unfair Practices in Technical, Medical Educational Institutions and Universities Bill, 2010 

One of the five major bills awaiting Cabinet nod, it prohibits institutions from accepting fees or charges without issuing receipts and mandates them not to admit any student without conducting admission tests. It prohibits capitation fee (directly or indirectly) by the institution as well as the applicant. It also provides for refund of a certain percentage of the fee deposited, if one subsequently withdraws from the institution. 

The bill also seeks to curb malpractices such as over-pricing of prospectus and barring advertisements by institutions, among other things. It has proposed imposition of civil and monetary penalties, which may extend up to Rs 50 lakh for violation of provisions to be enforced through State Education Tribunals, which are to be established under the bill. 

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 make it mandatory for all higher educational institutes and every programme of study to be accredited. 

The Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations, Maintenance of Quality and Prevention of Commercialisation) 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.
  Source: The Times of India
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