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Higher Edu Survey report out

NEW DELHI : On December 21, 2015 the Union Minister of Human Resource Development Smriti Irani launched the Sixth All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) in New
Delhi.

Speaking on the occasion she highlighted the fact that the Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) has gone up from 19.4% in 2010-11 to 23.6% in 2014-15. She expressed confidence that the target of 30% GER, as envisaged in 12th Plan, would be achieved by 2020.

She highlighted that efforts be made to increase number of female teachers in higher education. Union Minister also highlighted that this data base acts as rich depository that gives direction while devising policies to improve higher education. Union Minister suggested that State universities in conjunction
with regulatory bodies like AICTE should strive to update curriculum, which may include industry participation, use of ICT enabled education, collaboration
with international organizations to make education more dynamic and increase employability.

While appreciating the initiatives of Gujarat, Karnataka, and Odisha; The Union Minister called upon Ministry of Human Resource Development to explore the feasibility of replicating best practices like ‘Jnana-Samnvay’ of Karnataka at national level. She also congratulated all stakeholders involved in the process of All India Survey on Higher Education.

The survey covers all the Higher Education (HE) institutions of the country including Universities, Colleges and stand-alone institutions. The entire survey
has been voluntary, based on motivation of respondents; and without any statutory mandate in place for collecting information of this nature.

With the launch of 2015-16 survey, the time-lag will be reduced to bare minimum. All the institutions located in the country are requested to participate in
the Survey and provide relevant data.

The major findings of the AISHE 2014-15 are as follows -

1) Increase in overall enrolment from 27.5 million in 2010-11 to 33.3 million in 2014-15.

2) Improvement in Gross Enrolment Ratio which is a ratio of enrolment in higher education to population in the eligible age group (18-23) years from 19.4% on 2010-11 to 23.6% in 2014-15.

3) Gender Parity Index (GPI), a ratio of proportional representation of female and male, has marginally improved from 0.86 to 0.93 to the corresponding period.

4) Number of institutions of higher education listed on AISHE portal has also increased significantly – universities from 621 to 757 and colleges from 32,
974 to 38,056 during the same period.

The Survey was initiated in the year 2011 to prepare a robust data-base on higher education. Keeping in view the usefulness of data collected during the very
first year, Ministry decided to make this survey an annual exercise of data collection in higher education sector. So far, survey for the year 2013-14 has
been completed and data collection for 2014-15 is under progress and is likely to be completed very soon. Final report for the year 2013-14 and the
provisional report for 2014-15 are available.

HRD bid to restore AICTE credibility
By Our Correspondent
NEW DELHI : The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) is planning to restore the credibility and authority of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) that was eroded by the Supreme Court order dated April 25, 2013 saying that the AICTE has no authority over colleges affiliated to a university.

The apex court had, in its judgement dated April 25 said that it is not mandatory for affiliated colleges of a university to take prior approval from the AICTE to run MBA and MCA courses.

The idea is to let AICTE play a significant role in approval of new technical institutions and courses even as the final authority will remain with the University Grants Commission (UGC).

The ministry wants that all the applications seeking approval of new technical institutions or programmes should first be examined by the AICTE and then the UGC take a decision on them on the basis of the Council’s recommendations.

“The ministry has sought opinion of the Law Ministry” official sources said on December 16.

“The role of AICTE vis-à-vis universities is only advisory, recommendatory and one of providing guidance and has no authority to issue or enforce any sanction by itself,” the apex court held in its April 25 order. The MHRD move to give the AICTE powers to screen the applications for approval of new institutes and courses indicates that a debate over a proposal to restore the regulatory powers of the AICTE is over. The council may now be back to its advisory role with bigger mandate, so far as regulation of technical institutions is concerned.

The UGC has already come up with draft regulations to take over charge of the AICTE to regulate technical colleges affiliated to varsities across the country, even as an Ordinance seeking to restore the powers of the AICTE, however, continues to remain pending with the Union Cabinet.

As the ministry is gradually moving towards vesting the regulatory powers on the UGC, many private technical institutions have begun opposing the move, saying the higher education regulator had no prior experience in dealing with technical education and vesting of regulatory power into it would turn out be detrimental.

New funding norms
for IITs, IISc

From Our Correspondent

NEW DELHI : On August 8 the Union Cabinet approved the proposal for a revised block grant scheme for funding non-Plan expenditure to eight Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, for the five financial years from 2012-13 to 2016-17, according to a PIB press release.

The eight IITs enumerated in the press note are : IIT, Bombay, Delhi, Kharagpur, Kanpur, Madras, Roorkee, Guwahati, IIT-BHU (Varanasi)

The proposed block grant scheme will be decided on the basis of multiplying the strength of students by average component cost per student. Added up to that the multiplied amount would be the increased cost of component on account of inflation by indexing 2010-11 figures to the rate of inflation per annum. Thus the amount computed as non-Plan grants for the IITs and ISCs will be based on student strength.

Mathematically this would mean that the component-wise Block grant in a year = (Students strength X Average component cost per student) + (Increase in component amount by indexing 2010-11 figures to the rate of inflation per annum)

Expenditure on scholarships / fellowships being a planned activity shall henceforth be funded through plan funds. The block grant scheme provides for matching grants from the government. According to the scheme the Government will provide matching grant equivalent to the fund generated in excess of 30% of the actual revenue expenditure. This is expected to instill fiscal discipline among the institutes and encourage them to generate resources.

Beginning from the year 1993-94 the Non-Plan of each Institute was fixed at the level of the Revised Estimates (RE) 1992-93, plus 10% thereof. In 2005 the Cabinet approved a new formula for funding non-plan expenditure of IITs - 90% weightage to be given to student intake and rest based on performance of IITs. The base year for determining annual grant-in-aid
from 2005-06 to 2009-10 was 2004-2005.

IITs and IISc, Bangalore have accumulated huge deficit on non-plan funding due to various reasons such as frozen grant amount since 2002-03, merger of 50% DA with salary, 50% enhancement of PG and Ph.D scholarship and so on.

 
 

 Pay hike likely for college, university teachers

By Sanjiv Dube
NEW DELHI :
Nearly 800,000 teachers and staff working in colleges, universities and institutions run by the Centre and state governments are set to get a pay hike in the range of 22-28%, said a Hindustan Times news report on July 9.

The Cabinet is likely to take up a UGC panel’s recommendation in this regard this month, said a Human Resource Development Ministry official adding that it is “most likely to sail through”.

“A decision on allowances will be taken up later,” he said.

As per the proposal, an assistant professor’s entry pay would jump by Rs 10,396 with a grade pay of Rs 6,000 while that of an associate professor will rise by Rs 23,662.

The last pay hike for teachers was implemented in 2006. Several teachers’ associations of various universities and colleges have been threatening to go on strike over the delay in implementation of the seventh pay commission even after the UGC panel submitted its report in February.

The pay revision will benefit faculty and staff in state government-funded colleges and universities, at Central universities, and other centrally funded technical institutions such as IITs and NITs, among others.

Centrally-funded technical institutions will have a separate pay structure and a different pay panel has suggested increasing their salary structure, but the proposals are being considered together, officials said.

The pay hike is likely to cost approximately
Rs 70,000 crore over a period of three years, and this would be shared equally by the Centre and states, sources said.

The government had last year constituted a pay review committee, headed by UGC member VS Chauhan, which had submitted its recommendations earlier this year. Following this, the HRD ministry formed a committee to review the recommendations.

As per the recommendation, the existing system of assessing annual performance of teachers has also been revised, keeping in view suggestions from various stakeholders.

For instance, the current point system is likely to be replaced by a grading system.

The Committee has also suggested linking grants to universities to the vacant posts filled by them and qualified individuals to be able to make direct entry at both associate and professor levels.

Cabinet nod to higher edu funding agency

By Our Correspondnt
NEW DELHI :
On September 12 the Union cabinet, chaired by the prime minister, approved creation of a non-banking higher education financing agency (HEFA) that would raise capital from market to invest in higher education institutions.

Briefing reporters after the cabinet meeting HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar said that the proposed HEFA will be set up as a "special purpose vehicle" either within a public sector bank or under a government-owned non-banking finance company, which will act as its promoter.

The agency, set up with an authorised capital of Rs 2,000 crore, will issue educational bonds to raise Rs 20,000 crore from market to invest in infrastructure upgrades in IITs/IIMs/NITs and such other institutions.

"It will also raise money from the debt market (through government securities), besides mobilising funds from PSUs and corporates under corporate social responsibility," the minister added.

Centrally-funded higher educational institutions will be given loans from the agency to improve infrastructure, for a period of 10 years.

"While the principal amount will have to be repaid by the institution concerned, payment of interest on such loans will be born by the government," Javadekar explained.

The HEFA would also mobilise CSR funds from PSUs/Corporates, which would in turn be released for promoting research and innovation in these institutions on grant basis.

All the Centrally Funded Higher Educational Institutions would be eligible for joining as members of the HEFA. For joining as members, the Institution should agree to escrow a specific amount from their internal accruals to HEFA for a period of 10 years. This secured future flows would be securitised by the HEFA for mobilising the funds from the market. Each member institution would be eligible for a credit limit as decided by HEFA based on the amount agreed to be escrowed from the internal accruals.

"There will be no increase in fee in any institute because of HEFA,” Javadekar explained.

TEQIP

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has approved the proposal for initiation of the Third Phase of Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme (TEQIP).

TEQIP, is a World Bank-supported project to help improve quality of nearly 200 government funded and government aided technical institutions. With a total outlay of Rs 2,660 crore, the project would have a specific focus on institutes functioning in seven "low-income states", including Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh (UP). All the states are BJP-ruled while UP is heading for polls.

Of the Rs 2,660 crore outlay for the third phase of TEQIP equal contribution will come from Centre (Rs1,330 crore) and World Bank through International Development Association (IDA) (Rs 1,330 crore).

The focus states for TEQIP are Himachal, J&K, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, MP, UP, Rajasthan and eight North-eastern states and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The project will be implemented with the facility of direct funds transfer to the accounts of beneficiary institutes. It will be initiated in the current year and will be co-terminus with Fourteenth Finance Commission (2019-20).

The project will be initiated in the current year and will be co-terminus with Fourteenth Finance Commission (FFC) i.e. 2019-20,

The major outcomes of the project are:

  1. Better academic standards, through accreditation, filling up faculty positions, training faculty in better teaching methods, improved research outputs in institution in Focus States/UTs.

  2. Better administration of the institutions with improved financial/academic autonomy.

  3. Better systems for assessment of Student Learning, higher transition rates.

  4. Transparent and expeditious release of funds to institutes by way of Direct Funds Transfer (DFT) System.

About 200 Government / Government aided engineering institutes and Affiliating Technical Universities (ATUs) including the Centrally Funded Technical Institutions (CFTIs) will be selected.

The project will cover all Government / Government aided engineering institutes, ATUs and CFTIs from Focus States/UT. High-performing TEQIP-I/ TEQIP-II Government / Government aided institutes/ATUs across the country would be eligible to participate in twinning arrangements for knowledge transfer, exchange of experience, optimizing the use of resources and developing long-term strategic partnerships.

Background:

The Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme (TEQIP) commenced in 2003 with World Bank assistance as a long term programme to be implemented in three phases. The first phase of TEQIP commenced in 2003 and ended on March 31st, 2009. It covered 127 institutes across 13 States including 18 Centrally Funded Technical Institutions (CFTIs). TEQIP-II commenced in August 2010, covering 23 States/Union Territories (UTs) and 191 Institutes (including 26 CFTIs). TEQIP-II is scheduled to conclude in October, 2016. Both projects have had a positive impact on the infrastructure and educational standards in the technical institutions where they were taken up. Institutions in the central, eastern and north-eastern region and hill States are at present in need of similar and specific interventions. The initiation and implementation of the project TEQIP-III will bridge this gap.

Prakash Javadekar elevated, to head MHRD

By Rajiv Shukla
NEW DELHI :
On July 5 2016 Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the required correction in his ministry -- nearly two years late -- and removed Smriti Irani from the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). She wasPrakash Javadekar replaced by Prakash Javadekar, who was elevated from Minister of State (MoS) to Cabinet minister.

Though a poor consolation compared to giants like Murli Manohar Joshi who headed MHRD during the earlier BJP government, the academia nevertheless is pinning some hope on Javadekar.

For two year HRD Ministry has been the Achilles heel of the Modi government with Smriti Irani triggering one controversy after another and the state of higher education deteriorating from bad to worse.

What inspired Prime Minister Narendra Modi to award MHRD to Smriti Irani two years' ago is anybody's guess but his decision certainly indicates his lack of understanding about the MHRD.

"Being a state chief minister for years he mistook MHRD for a state education department where the minister has little to do because the state universities are under the control of the chancellor", said a UGC member who refused to be named.

There seems some sense in the UGC member's statement because Modi's second choice -- Prakash Javadekar -- for a ministry like HRD, certainly doesn't speak well of Modi's foresight. Or is he under RSS/other political pressures to opt for Javadekar ?

Javadekar has been for long an extreme rightist (ABVP) student leader, a known pacifist, often playing to the gallery. His approach in cases like the JNU and the University of Hyderabad (UoH) may land the MHRD in situations where the government may concede more than what is desired. Populism may supersede governance and academic calendar may go haywire as is the case in most of the states particularly UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh et al.

With the BJP and its allies gradually gaining ground in Rajya Sabha, the MHRD may soon push for a number of enactments and amendments that have been lining up since the days of Sibal. Even the draft new Education Policy is fraught with risks and dangers and a habitual liberal/pacifists like Javadekar can really spell doom for the department.

Born in Pune, Maharashtra on January 30, 1951, he did B.Com from Pune University where he took active part in students politics. This launched his ABVP career. Worked for a nationalised bank for some time and then took to politics as a full-time avocation. He was a Member of Maharashtra Legislative Council during 1990-2002 and has been a Member of Rajya Sabha since 2008, currently elected from Madhya Pradesh.

Past legislative experience:
Minister of State with Independent Charge for Environment, Forests and Climate Change since November 2014.

Minister of State ( Independent Charge) for Information and Broadcasting and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs during May-November 2014.

Executive President of Maharashtra State Planning Board during 1995-99.

NET need relaxed to fill up vacant lecturers' posts

From Our Correspondent
NEW DELHI :
The government has relaxed the mandatory National Eligibility Test (NET) in order to fill up faculty vacancies in degree colleges and universities. Now those who completed a Ph.D or registered for one before 2009 would be eligible for lectureship without clearing the NET.

The HRD minister Smriti Irani announced on April 12 2016 that the move will help create a larger talent pool for teaching jobs. Women researchers will get more time to complete their research — an additional year for MPhil and two more for PhD — along with maternity leave benefits, she said.

At present, a student who has a postgraduate degree or an MPhil and has cleared the NET/ SET (state-level eligibility test) is eligible for lectureship in a college or university. If the student fails to clear the eligibility test but has an M.Phil degree, he or she can teach in a college, but not a university.

If a student does a Ph.D in accordance with University Grants Commission regulations, such as publication of research papers and presentations in seminars/conferences, he or she is eligible for the post of assistant professor in any college or university.

In 2009, the UGC made NET and a PhD the minimum eligibility criteria for the post of assistant professor in colleges and universities.

On April 12, the ministry gave the go-ahead to the commission to exempt such students from NET/SET for teaching jobs in universities and other educational institutions.

However, students will have to fulfil a number of conditions, including that the PhD is offered in regular mode and researchers have published papers as part of their work.

The ministry and the UGC did not have a specific figure on the number of beneficiaries but officials said the decision would benefit hundreds of thousands of aspiring teachers who were so far ineligible as they could not clear the NET or SET.

“There has been a long-standing challenge faced by researchers/aspiring teachers. The UGC today in conjunction with the government has taken this decision,” Irani said.

UGC chairman Ved Prakash said the move would create a greater pool of eligible candidates for recruitment as assistant professors. It would also address the shortage of faculty in educational institutions, he said.

Irani said female students would be given maternity leave of 240 days that would be excluded from the duration of their research. They would also be given eight years compared to the existing six for completing their Ph.D and three years to complete their M.Phil instead of two. The same benefits will be provided to people with disability.

Also, in case of relocation of a female MPhil/PhD scholar due to marriage or other reasons, research data will be allowed to be transferred to the university to which the scholar intends to relocate provided other conditions are met.

Granting more freedom to autonomous institutions and to incentivise quality education, the UGC and the ministry have done away with mandatory inspection of such institutes, nor will they require a no-objection certificate from the state. An autonomous college has academic autonomy to design its curriculum, prescribe syllabi and evolve its own pedagogy.

“They will only have to provide an NOC from the affiliated university and if they are accredited with the highest grade for two consecutive cycles, they would be granted autonomous status,” Irani said.

UGC to stay, Hari Gautam report shelved

By Sanjiv Dube
NEW DELHI :
Falling prey to a tricky news report on April 1, All Fool's Day, the HRD Ministry confirmed that the University Grants Commission will stay.

Newspaper reporters at time run a negative report to get a positive reaction from politicians and the government and the HRD ministry unfortunately succumbed to this trick, and in turn, spilt the beans : that the UGC is here to stay.

It issued a press note dismissing reports about any suggestion to junk the UGC. The Ministry said that it had indeed constituted an expert committee under the chairmanship of former UGC chief Hari Gautam "to recommend restructuring and strengthening UGC" and that there was no move to scrap it.

"The mandate given to the Committee was to analyse, review and recommend to the Ministry, the architecture required to strengthen the UGC", the press note said and added that the committee's report is "yet to be examined in the Ministry."

The most pertinent words were, however, added as suffix to the statement which said that "The UGC has been created by an Act of Parliament and cannot be unilaterally scrapped.” Here lies the catch!

The fact of the matter is that the dissolution of statutory bodies like the UGC or the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) require parliamentary approval and the earstwhile UPA 2 and to some extent present NDA as well have had paliamentry sessions that can best be described as lame duck.

The UPA government, a Congress-led coalition, carried all the attributes of an unsuccessful coalition. The result was that despite all his wit, wisdom and intention the then HRD minister Kapil Sibal, could not get a number of cardinal bills through. National Commission on Higher Education and Research (NCHER) Bill 2010 is a glaring example of Kapil Sibal's failure and the bill, a valourous example to abolish the UGC and the AICTE died a painful death four years later.

MHRD okays uniform staffing pattern in varsities

NEW DELHI: The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has, in principle, accepted the recommendations of a committee set up to suggest a uniform staffing system in universities.

A MHRD official said on October 5 that once the new recommendations are in place an assistant registrar of a university with grade pay of Rs 6,600 will become eligible for promotion to the post of deputy registrar on completing five years of his/her service, instead of eight years.

Similarly a deputy registrar of a university would be designated a joint registrar on completion of five years of his or her service.

A joint cadre review committee was set up by the University Grants Commission (UGC) to suggest measures on uniform staffing pattern, service conditions and other issues of non-teaching staff in universities and colleges. The panel submitted three report along with recommendations for 24 non-teaching cadre between January 1, 2008, and September 23, 2010. The ministry has approved only some of its recommendations.

“The MHRD has approved the proposal to re-designate such deputy registrar as joint registrar, with the stipulation that the post (joint registrar) will revert as deputy registrar when it falls vacant,” the official said. So far, deputy registrars on completion of five years of their services were only eligible for increase in their pay grade.

The ministry, however, did not agree to extend the benefits of career advancement scheme to scientific officers or technical officers. “Instead, modified assured career scheme will govern their career progression,” the official said.

With higher education institution facing shortage of faculty, the ministry permitted utilisation of university science instrumentation centre professionals in teaching, in case they do not have any specified work. But, this would not make them eligible for extension of academic grade pay and applicability of career advancement schemes, the ministry said in its order.

Cap on college affiliation, govt says 200 is enough

By Sanjiv Dube
NEW DELHI
: The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has, in its effort to provide quality higher education, asked the states to put a cap on the number of affiliated colleges, a ministry official said on August 17, 2014.

The ministry has sent a number of suggestions to the states to improve academic and administrative excellence in the university system, including fixing an upper limit on the number of colleges that state university ought to affiliate. The MHRD feels 200 is more than enough and has directed the state higher education departments to ensure that the state universities do not affiliate more than 200 colleges falling within their jurisdiction.

According to the All India Survey on Higher Education 2010-11 conducted by the MHRD the national average for college affiliation per university stands at  300. Individually, Osmania University has the maximum number of affiliated colleges -- 901 -- while 811 colleges are affiliated to the University of Pune. Rashtrusant Tukadoji Maharaj University, Nagpur has 800 colleges with it and Rajasthan University, Jaipur has 735 colleges while Mumbai University has 711 colleges attached to them. While capping affiliations, States will be asked to create more universities instead.

For Central funding, the States will now have to develop a comprehensive higher education plan that utilises an inter-connected strategy to address issues of expansion, equity and excellence together. The plan needs to include projected analytical growth -- number of degrees to be awarded in the next decade, staff recruitment and research enhancement, among others.

The Ministry will unveil an ambitious Rs 1 lakh crore Central funding scheme to link academic, administrative and financial reforms of higher education within States and UTs as part of the Centre’s Rashtriya Uchattar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA).

RUSA is a flagship scheme aimed at providing strategic funding to States’ higher and technical institutions. When implemented, it will lead to setting up and upgrade of colleges and universities, facilitating higher education for more students. Other institutions like IITs and NITs are also granted permission to autonomously award degrees.

Tamil Nadu has the maximum number of 55 public universities and 29 deemed universities. Andhra Pradesh has the most State universities (32) and Rajasthan, the maximum number of private ones, at 25.

Delhi and Uttar Pradesh have four Central universities each, the most among all States and Union Territories. While the oldest established university is that of Mumbai (1857), the first institute to be granted deemed university status was the Indian Institute of Science (IIS) in May 1958.

MHRD gets CABE nod for national testing agency

By Rajiv Shukla
NEW DELHI :
On April 2, 2014 the Central Advisory Board for Education (CABE) formally approved the Central government plan to establish a national level testing agency.

The meeting, held at Ashoka Hotel on April 2 was quite lack-lusture and wasn't as fiery and dynamic as the ones chaired by Kapil Sibal but it did deliver what was expected of it.

The National Testing Agency plan, presented by the Ministry of Human Resource Development Ministry, seeks to establish a national testing agency that would conduct multiple Centrally-held admission tests for higher educational institutions.

The item seems to have been included in the CABE agenda at the eleventh hour and this was obvious from the confusing way it was presented at the meeting.

The CABE chairman M M Pallam Raju wanted all higher education items listed from 1 to 6 in the CABE agenda to be taken up before lunch as the Higher Education Secretary Ashok Thakur had to go for a meeting in the afternoon, but the chair got lost in the debate and missed three key higher education items which had to be taken up in the post-lunch session. These items included National Testing Agency and NCC which the minister said he had been pursuing for long. 

The blueprint for the National Testing Agency, shared by the MHRD with state education ministers at the CABE meet, represents a definite shift from the plans pitched by former HRD minister Kapil Sibal, who had pushed for a single national examination.

The new proposal allows state governments to continue holding their own admission tests, and even establish their own testing agencies.

According to the MHRD note prepared for the agenda "the students emerging from the higher secondary system and seeking admission to professional programme of study at the undergraduate level in higher education appear in a multitude of entrance examinations. These examinations are conducted either by the institution or by a consortium of institutions (both at State and National level) or by State agencies on behalf of institutions both at the State or National level."

The note said "the standards of these entrance examinations vary widely. The burden thereby imposed on the student in terms of time, money (the examination fees to be paid) and the stress caused in scheduling and preparing for each examination is tremendous. The student has to concomitantly restrict his/her choice of institutions for which he/she can compete based on the scheduling arrived at. For admission to Social Science and Humanities courses on the other hand, the performance of the student at the secondary school leaving examinations conducted by Boards of Secondary Education at the Central and State level is the usual determinant of merit in the admission process.

There are two problems that exist in this case. The secondary school board examinations are one-off affairs and the student is not provided the opportunity to improve upon his/her score. There is, therefore, no margin for any contingency or unforeseen circumstance that could affect performance. The anxiety and trauma on the student and parents has been highlighted on
numerous occasions. Secondly, the wide disparity in standards of examinations and evaluation across the State Boards does not render itself to an objective, transparent and reliable cross-country comparison."

"Concept of National Testing Scheme

The key factors for a nationally acceptable testing scheme in order to avoid multiple examinations should;

  • Provide the student with opportunities to improve.

  • Provide flexibility to the institution in structuring its admission process.

  • Be structured in a manner which is perceived to be transparent, fair, reasonable and reliable.

  • Accommodate the diversity in learning outcomes at the secondary level without compromising on its ability to indicate merit.

  • Account for the difference in the social-economic background of students in a manner that is objective and discernible and to elucidate the diversity in categorization at the level of States.

  • Be cost neutral for the testing agency with a mechanism to share revenue with State Boards.

Generally, admission practices in institutions of higher learning can be categorized into four types as follows:

  • Type 1: Admission based on performance in the examinations of the course last attended. e.g. admission to undergraduate courses in universities based on the performance in the Class XII examinations.

  • Type 2: Entrance examinations that test subject knowledge, achievement and learning levels for a student to attempt the course for which he/she seeks admission. e.g. Joint Entrance Examinations (JEE) conducted by IITs.

  • Type 3: Standardised aptitude tests that measure the general cognitive, analytical and communication abilities rather than achievement. e.g. Common Aptitude Test (CAT) conducted by IIMs.

  • Type 4: Admissions based on academic performance over a period of time or on the application dossier. e.g. admission to post-graduate courses based on academic performance at the undergraduate level along with references from professors.

The reliability and validity of the entrance examinations is best determined by their ability to accurately evaluate the candidates’ academic performance at the university level. Studies indicate that secondary/high school leaving performance is a better indicator of academic success. This has also been stressed by the Committee that went into restructuring of the JEE.
However, with the wide variation in the examination processes at the higher secondary level across the country and the difficulties associated with normalization of the results of the examinations across State Boards of Secondary Education makes it well nigh impossible to arrive at a reliable or reasonable predictor of relative merit.

Studies have also indicated that essay-based examinations that focus on writing ability and analytic arguments may be more effective in predicting academic success rather than multiple choice tests. This leads to the issue of objectivity in the examination process. Reading and evaluating essay type question requires interpretative judgment on behalf of the evaluator.
The resultant score is to some extent dependent on the preferences and predilection of the evaluator. The purpose of standardization of examinations as a means of assessing inter-se merit between candidates may then be questionable. Another problem with having an examination that tests knowledge and achievement through essay type answers is the complication
caused by the vast numbers of candidates. This would require a substantially large number of evaluators with the probability of differences in assessment between evaluators being higher and objectivity being somewhat lost.

What is required is an admission process that navigates the intrinsic problems associated with the adoption of a single admission system in its reliability to predict academic success as well as being discernible as credible, transparent, fair and reasonable. A mix and match strategy in the right proportion would deliver better results than a single methodology. Therefore, the design of a national examination for entry to undergraduate courses that can capture the knowledge and learning levels along with the aptitude of the student in a manner which is comparable across the country requires an Aptitude Test to be administered concurrently with Subject Tests. The Aptitude Test would assess the ability of the student to analyse,
comprehend, interpret, communicate and evaluate. To make the test tailored to the choice of the student and also to be less stressful on the student, the test could be administered at two difficulty levels, moderate and high. In so far as subject tests are concerned, these tests would perform the standardization function across States Boards and CBSE/ICSE and the
scores obtained in these tests could normalize the results obtained by the student in the Board examinations in the subjects of his/her choice. This provision would cause States to orient the tests in these subjects to the state context appealing to local history, culture and language. It would also be in keeping with the trend that inter-State mobility amongst students
pursuing programmes of study emerging from these subjects is minimal. The students can appear in a subject or combination of subjects of their choice depending on the institutions to which they plan to seek admission. The tests may be based on multiple choice questions along with a few short essay type questions to test the analytical and cognitive abilities based on
subject proficiency learning and understanding. The performance could be graded both on raw sores as well as percentiles depending on how a institution wants the results to be tabulated and provided to it. The tests could be conducted at least twice a year gradually increasing the frequency when robust mechanisms have been put in place. "

National Testing Agency

The Programme of Action, 1992 for implementation of the National Policy on Education, 1986 describes far-reaching changes in the examination and evaluation systems at the university level. Among other things, it mentions the setting up of a National Testing Service to be developed as a quality control mechanism, which would organise national level tests on voluntary
basis and for norms to be evolved for comparability of performance and also for conducting independent tests.

The National Knowledge Commission in its Report to the Nation (2006-2009) also mentions the setting up of a National Testing Service for certification of language competence, recruitment of language teachers, development of open and distance education and open educational resources.

A National Testing Agency would have the mandate to conduct the testing mechanisms and processes to the exclusion of institutional testing for admissions. Provision for States to establish State Testing Agencies could be made to conduct tests as well as assist the National Testing Agency in the discharge of its duties. The National Testing Agency could have an
executive body of whole-time appointees reporting to a General Council with representation of heads of all State Testing Agencies amongst other eminent persons. A revenue sharing model with State Testing Agencies can also be built in so that the new testing scheme would not cause a loss of existing revenue to States.

Conducting national tests of the magnitude and reach contemplated would require managerial and technological capabilities of the highest levels which need to be adequately provided in the organizational architecture of the proposed Agency. Although in the initial stages, computerized testing methods would have to run concurrently with paper-pen written tests to account for differential exposure levels of students across the country to technology, institutional capacity and capabilities would have to be upgraded so that the testing scheme operate entirely using online computerized methods. The reach projected by the implementation of the National Knowledge Network and the National Mission on ICT to institutions
around the country would enable computerized testing to be made possible. Preparing the students (expected in the range of 40 to 50 lakhs every year at present increasing up to 100 lakhs by 2020) would be another mammoth task, though not impossible if we acknowledge the success of electronic voting machines being universalized in the country.

The National Testing Agency would have to take care of infrastructure and academic aspects of testing. Infrastructure aspects would include setting up and operating an e-examination halls consisting of hardware and system software and necessary support. Academic aspects such as creation of question banks, graded for various levels of difficulty while taking into
account types of questions, design of question papers, declaration of results, how test scores should be viewed by students and academic institutions etc. would be taken care by domain experts, psychologists, educationists and teachers.

A good example to emulate would be to look at the Centre for Assessment, Evaluation and Research, which is a partnership between CBSE, and the Pearson Foundation. Its mandate is to develop research and assessment capabilities and resources for CBSE, its affiliated schools and teachers. Its work will be guided by international best practice in school-based assessment, teaching techniques and high-stakes examinations. It carries out research, provides professional development programmes, and publishes a variety of support materials, all with the single aim of improving student learning.

The Association of Test Publishers (ATP) is another example which can be useful while contemplating setting up a National Testing Agency. As per information on its website, ATP is a non-profit organization representing providers of tests and assessment tools and/or services related to assessment, selection, screening, certification, licensing, educational or clinical uses. Leading publishers and assessment services providers in the testing industry are members of ATP. A Chief Executive Officer and Board of Directors head up the Association. A Chairperson is selected each year from among the Board members and serves a one-year term of office. Each area of testing has its own division: Certification/Licensing, Clinical, Education, and Industrial /Organizational.

Perhaps the most efficient way to proceed with the setting up of the National Testing Agency in higher education would be through the mechanism of a Special Purpose Vehicle. The best practices from the above examples and others may be adapted for the purposes of the Agency, so that the various exam administering bodies such as JEE, AIEEE, CAT, CMAT, GATE etc. are brought together under a single body. A model for a National Agency for Testing has been prepared by CBSE, which suggests the objectives, structures and functions of the Agency.

The above issues were discussed in a meeting chaired by Secretary HE on 21st March, 2013 in which Prof S S Mantha, Chairman AICTE, Prof Ved Prakash, Chairman UGC, Mr Vineet Joshi, Chairman CBSE, Prof Devang Khakhar, Director IIT Bombay, Dr Sanjay Dhande (Ex Dir IIT Kanpur), Sri Anant Kumar Singh, JS(CU), Sri R P Sisodia, JS(HE), Dr H C Gupta, Director IIT Delhi, Dr Umesh Bellur, IIT Bombay, Chairman JAB IIT Delhi, Prof Mondal, Director DRDO Lab participated in addition to the representatives of Pearson, Promatric. All the participants were pf the view that a National Testing Agency on the above lines needs to be created urgently not only to take away the burden of these examinations from the respective bodies (i.e in the case of GATE the number were increasing exponentially and becoming difficult for the IIT system to sustain) but also to conduct the tests scientifically and professionally using ICT as a major tool. The participants were of the view that this needs to be done through an SPV to be created administratively rather than through legislation by MHRD. Therefore the exams to be undertaken by this Agency would be on voluntary basis.

The matter is therefore placed before CABE for its in principle approval so that action as proposed could be taken.

 

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