As I wrote this article that will appear during Navratri, I cherry-picked nine decisions (Navaratnas) involving the Ministry of Human Resources Development and listed them in no particular order—a new National Educational Policy, Swachh Vidyalaya, school books to e-books as part of the Digital India plan announced by the Prime Minister on I-Day, teacher education as part of university system, academic uniformity in central universities, India-specific ranking of higher educational institutions, Impacting Research, Innovation & Technology (IMPRINT) for India, Study Webs of Active Learning for Young Aspiring Minds (SWAYAM) Programme (India’s MOOC) and Skill Development through a revamped vocational education programme with an active role for IGNOU. Each of the decisions has the propensity to positively impact and collectively transform the face of Indian education through a coherent synergy that should leverage collaborative participation by all concerned stakeholders. It is common knowledge that only after the long academic ritual is complete, will the final ‘prasad’ be given. However, there are certain low hanging fruits that can be delivered during the ritual and here are some.
The ‘school books to e-books project’ in addition to providing digital content may eventually provide evaluation and assessment tools that can make learning fun for school kids. The teacher education system hence must integrate a strong component of technology in curriculum and fully leverage the power of the e-book project. Teacher education has rightly been handed over to the universities and the benefit will fully accrue only if the system of approval is left to the concerned universities and the role of National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) restricted to policy-making and ensuring compliance. The NCTE should also allow universities to start innovative integrated programmes to attract young students to teaching profession after they complete high school education, replacing the present integrated programmes that have remained an unattractive proposition because of its lack of innovation.
Uniformity across central universities through common admission, credit transfer, faculty/student mobility, etc. creates a unifying ecosystem that binds them through a common academic ethos. Likewise, national examination assets like JEE, NEET, CLAT, etc. must be mandated as the only entrance exam for deemed universities and various Association of Private Professional Colleges all of whom have perfected the ‘cash cow’ revenue model of selling application forms for their own entrance exams. Use of such national competitive exams along with aggregate scores in +2 will not only improve student learning but also to a certain extent streamline the professional college admission system which is infected with the capitation fee virus and infested with bacterial admission agents. This will in no way affect the right of private institutions and is a good move towards achieving the National Educational Policy.
The India-specific ranking is a welcome measure and should not be restricted to only IITs, CFTIs and state technical universities but expanded to include all accredited private universities and institutions as there are progressive institutions that do better than some of the CFTIs. This will build a competitive spirit among institutions than restricting it to only IITs and CFTIs. The role of private institutions in increasing student enrolment needs no emphasis. In addition, many progressive ones are also undertaking high-end research and delivering productive results. Such institutions need to be encouraged through the IMPRINT for India programme through a collaborative approach that funds research and innovation based on performance and not based on whether institutions are public or private.
I am not a greedy academic and expect only these four ‘Navratri prasad’ while waiting patiently with confidence for the final ‘prasad’.
The writer is Dean, Planning & Development,SASTRA University