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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Implementation of RTE Act highpoint of education in 2010

Implementation of the Right To Education Act heralded a new era in the country's formal schooling process while deferment of a key bill on tribunals came as a major setback for the government in its efforts to reform higher education sector during the year.

The government came up with four crucial education reform bills including one on allowing entry of foreign universities in India, but the deferment of the tribunal bill threw a spanner in its efforts to carry through the reforms process.

The Oscar Fernandes headed Parliamentary Standing Committee, to which the tribunal bill was referred, questioned the HRD Ministry's "hurry" in rushing through the bill without holding proper consultation with all stakeholders.

While it made several recommendations, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal rejected them, triggering resentment from Opposition in Rajya Sabha including his own party member K Keshava Rao.

Similarly, the Foreign Educational Bill came in for criticism from Left members who contended that allowing "foreign teaching shops" would "distort the already elitist educational structure in the country", bringing further discomfort to Sibal.

It has been referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee.
Sibal, however, pushed ahead with his reforms agenda announcing 14 new innovative university and allowing IITs to start courses on medicine and recruiting foreign faculties to meet teacher crunch.

His ministry also decided to set up a committee to suggest a suitable entrance model for engineering examinations while doing away with multiple entrance tests and reducing burden on students.

All these measures came as the Prohibition of Unfair Practices in Technical Educational Institutions, Medical Educational Institutions and University Bill, the National Accreditation Regulatory Authority Bill were also introduced during the year.

On the RTE front, the government committed Rs 2.31 lakh crore till 2014-15 for the programme but poor school infrastructure and shortage of teachers still remains a challenge.

In November, fresh guidelines were issued under the Act amid confusion among schools about admission norms, with the government making it clear that children or parents should not be subjected to "testing and interview".

It said there should be no profiling based on education or qualification of parents.

YEAR-EDUCATION 2

While Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Orissa, Sikkim have notified their State RTE Rules since it came into force on April 1, Andaman & Nicober Islands and Chandigarh adopted the Central RTE Rules.

A task force set up to prepare the National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) bill also made a presentation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, amid indication that it suggested bringing medical and legal education under the ambit of the proposed body.

At a meeting of central universities, Sibal also announced creation of elite 'navaratnas' from among them who excel in research, in academic performance, sound infrastructure and ability to attract foreign students.

He also sought to bring cheers to the teachers of IITs, IIMs and IISERs offering experienced and senior faculty members a higher administrative grade (HAG) pay.

As per the decision, senior faculty members would receive an HAG pay of Rs 67,000 to Rs 79,000.

IIT teachers had gone on an agitation path last year seeking higher pay for senior faculties.

Towards the middle of the year, the ministry unveiled a plan with a prototype of low-cost computer for students carrying a price tag of Rs 1,500 ($35) and having all elementary features including Internet browsing.

The online format of Common Admission Test (CAT), which was marred by technical glitches in 2009, passed off without any problem this year, with an upbeat IIM announcing intentions of making CAT a separate body to hold the tests and taking it the global level.

The year also saw key decisions being firmed up relating to IIMs such as giving the top B-schools the freedom to open new centres in and outside India.

It was also decided that the number of board members of IIMs would be reduced to 14 from the present 25 and directors of IIMs to appointed through a process wherein the board of governors of IIMs would suggest a panel of three names to the government, from which one will be selected.

Further, it was decided that the IIMs can top up the salaries of their directors also in addition to the faculty from the funds generated by them on their own.

While NCERT celebrated its golden jubilee this year, HRD Ministry set up a committee to examine the feasibility of conversion of the autonomous organisation into a university conferring B.Ed, MEd degrees and PhDs.

Carrying forward its reforms process, CBSE decided to conduct proficiency test at the end of Class X in all the five main subjects from next year as its continuous and comprehensive and evaluation process evoked mixed response from students and parents.

The Ministry also entered into an MoU with Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to enable tracking student's mobility by creating an electronic registry of all students, right from primary and elementary level through secondary and higher education, as also among the institutions.

India also forged education ties with several countries during the year.

As the US announced it will hold the first Indo-US education summit next year, China offered its support to CBSE's move to introduce Mandarin as a language in all CBSE schools during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

Heads of several leading US universities also visited India for increasing student-teacher exchange programme.

IIT-Kanpur and IIM-Kozikhode joined hands with Yale University for an academic leadership programme exposing vice-chancellors of these two Indian institutes and deans to best practices of institutional management in the US.

Canadian universities also announced funding for a series of India-specific initiatives valued at over USD 4 million which also include a new 'Globalink' Canada-India Graduate Fellowship programme.

Through the Lenses !

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