2012 was another much-ado-about-nothing year for Indian education. With the beleaguered Congress-led UPA-II government floundering in a sea of corruption scandals and both houses of Parliament routinely disrupted as a bankrupt BJP-led opposition blocked all legislative business, the policy paralysis in New Delhi which plunged economic growth to a nine-year-low of 5.3 percent in 2012, also afflicted the education sector, stymying all reform initiatives. In a year of stasis wasted in petty politicking, the education and welfare of the world’s largest child population — 480 million — was relegated to the bottom of the national agenda.
Three years after Kapil Sibal assumed office as Union human resource development (HRD) minister amid high hopes and great expectations, the plethora of education reforms he initiated are yet to translate into law. Like 2010 and 2011, 2012 ended dismally without a single education Bill being discussed and debated by Parliament. None of the 20 pending education Bills — 11 relating to higher and nine to primary-secondary education — have been legislated. Consequently, the National Commission for Higher Education and Research, Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations), National Accreditation Regulatory, Prevention of Malpractices, and Education Tribunals among other reformist legislation for Indian education are still hanging fire.
The only ‘success’ of the Union HRD ministry in the recently concluded year, was validation of the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (aka RTE Act) by the Supreme Court. In a split 2-1 verdict delivered on April 12 in Society for Unaided Private Schools of Rajasthan vs. Union of India & Anr (Writ Petition (C) No. 95 of 2010), the apex court upheld the constitutional validity of the RTE Act, and particularly its controversial s.12 (1) (c) which makes it mandatory for all unaided (financially independent) private schools to admit 25 percent of children in class I or preschool if any, from among poor and socially disadvantaged children in their neighbourhood. However, the court exempted unaided minority and boarding schools from applicability of s.12 (1) (c). But while the government welcomed the judgement, the RTE Act which celebrated its second anniversary last April is still a non-starter as state governments struggle with interpretation of the judgement, funds constraints, shortages of teachers and infrastructure.
Yet the highlight of Year 2012 was the ouster of legal eagle Kapil Sibal as HRD minister. In 2009, when the Congress-led UPA-II government was re-elected to office in New Delhi with an increased majority in the Lok Sabha, Sibal who had served in the UPA-I government as minister of science and technology, was appointed Union HRD minister with high hopes of sparking the overdue reformation of the country’s moribund education system. But instead of addressing the supply side of the supply-demand equation for superior K-12 and higher education by offering liberal incentives to domestic and foreign education entrepreneurs and universities to establish greenfield campuses, Sibal succumbed to the temptation of populist tinkering with quotas and administrative fiats to meet pressing demand for admission into high quality private schools and higher education institutions. In particular he drew heavy flak for hastily drafting a plethora of legislation which divided society — abolition of the class X CBSE board exam, introduction of the continuous and comprehensive evaluation system, and interfering with the autonomy of the IITs by abolishing the IIT-JEE — the world’s most competitive undergrad engineering exam.
Consequently his exit from the HRD ministry and transfer to the ministry of communications and IT, and appointment of the US-educated Dr. M. Pallam Raju as HRD minister in the cabinet reshuffle of October 27, has been widely welcomed by the academic community across the education spectrum. An electronics and communications engineering graduate of Andhra University and an MBA from Temple University, Philadelphia, USA, Dr. Raju was first elected to Parliament in 1989 and was hitherto minister of state for defence in the UPA-II government. In fact the entire HRD ministry leadership was revamped in the cabinet rejig with Shashi Tharoor and Jitin Prasada appointed new ministers of state replacing D. Purandeshwari and E. Ahmed. The installing of a new ‘dream team’ in Shastri Bhavan has raised hope and expectations within the nation’s academic and students’ communities that the resuscitation of Indian education will receive new impetus.
Even though at the policy-making level the year 2012 was uneventful because of the policy paralysis at the Centre, there was a flurry of activity in private education and the voluntary (NGO) sectors as private edupreneurs, philanthropists and NGOs, driven by pressing middle class demand for globally benchmarked school and collegiate education, continue to promote and commission greenfield schools, colleges and universities. Undoubtedly there’s growing awareness nationwide that the quality of education dispensed in India’s 1.30 million schools, 31,000 colleges, 611 universities, and much-too-few professional and vocational education colleges/institutes, needs urgent upgradation.
In the pages following Summiya Yasmeen highlights the top 5 events of Indian education in the recently concluded year, and summarises the year that was.
1.Howard Gardner India tour
January 25. Howard Gardner, the celebrated professor of education at the Harvard School of Education and inventor of the theory of multiple intelligences, started his first-ever three week tour of five Indian cities. A savant and mind-bender who has authored 25 global bestsellers including the path-breaking Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelli-gences (1983); Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons (1993); Five Minds for the Future (2007); Truth, Beauty, and Goodness Reframed: Educating for the Virtues in the Twenty-First Century (2011), Gardner took Indian academia — particularly educators focused on primary-secondary education — by storm, powerfully contradicting traditional notions — particularly academic focus — of India’s educators.
His lectures-cum-workshops tour (sponsored by iDiscoveri Education) which started in Chennai and encompassed Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Delhi, attracted top educationists, school trustees, principals and teachers. Gardner was accompanied by his wife and professional collaborator Dr. Ellen Winner, an expert on gifted children. (Cover Story, EW March 2012)
2.Supreme Court upholds RTE Act
April 12. The Supreme Court delivered a historic verdict in Society for Unaided Private Schools of Rajasthan vs. Union of India & Anr (Writ Petition (C) No. 95 of 2010) which has compulsorily introduced socio-economic diversity into private primary schools countrywide. Delivering the majority judgement of a three-judge bench, Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia and Justice Swatanter Kumar upheld the constitutional validity of the Union government’s Right to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, and particularly the controversial s.12(1) (c) which makes it mandatory for all unaided (financially independent) private schools to admit 25 percent of children in class I or preschool if any, from among poor and socially disadvantaged children in their neighbourhood.
However all three judges of the apex court exempted unaided minority and boarding schools from applicability of s. 12(1) (c). Accepting the argument of counsel for private unaided minority schools that Article 30 (1) of the Constitution confers an absolute right not subject to any qualifications or reasonable restrictions upon minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice, the majority judgement exempted private unaided minority and boarding schools and orphanages from the ambit of the reservation provision. (Cover Story, EW May)
3.RTE Act made more inclusive
April 24. The Rajya Sabha passed an Amendment Bill to expand the definition of poor neighbourhood children to include challenged children in the Right to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, substantially upheld by the Supreme Court on April 12.
Moving the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, 2010, Union HRD minister Kapil Sibal said it makes all benefits conferred upon children by the Act available to challenged children, and provides the right to receive home-based education to children with severe disabilities. “It is a historic piece of legislation and will have a huge impact on quality education for children in classes I-VIII in the six-14 age group,” he said calling for the involvement of all stakeholders, including children, parents, NGOs and schools apart from government, for enabling the RTE Act. (Education Notes, EW May)
4. IIT-JEE abolition firestorm
May 28. Union HRD minister Kapil Sibal announced replacement of the IIT-JEE (joint entrance examination) conducted annually by IITs with a common entrance test for all applicants to Central government-funded engineering and technology colleges including 30 National Institutes of Technology (NITs) and four IIITs (Indian Institutes of Information Technology). Proclaiming “one nation, one test,” Sibal stated that after two years of deliberations a consensus in favour of a common entrance exam had been reached by all institutional councils.
The reaction to the abolition of IIT-JEE — which has earned the reputation of being the world’s most testing undergraduate entrance exam written by over 500,000 Plus Two school-leavers annually — and its replacement by a single common entrance examination which gave 40 percent weightage to class XII school-leaving exam scores was a firestorm of protests within the IITs whose faculties in particular, feared a dilution of admission norms and erosion of autonomy of the country’s globally renowned IITs.
Finally on June 27, after a series of meetings a compr-omise was reached between the HRD minister and the IIT councils. A new common entrance exam will replace IIT-JEE in 2013. The exam will be divided into the JEE Main and JEE Advanced. Of the 500,000 or more who write the JEE Main, the top-ranked 150,000 will qualify to write JEE Advanced for admission into the IITs. More pertinently, the JEE Main and JEE Advanced exams will be conducted and administered by the IITs. (Cover Story, EW July)
5. Pallam Raju new HRD minister
October 28. Dr. M.M. Pallam Raju took charge as Union human resource development minister, following a cabinet reshuffle by prime minister Manmohan Singh on October 27. Hitherto the Union minister of state for defence in which capacity he earned kudos for quiet, understated efficiency, Raju’s belated promotion has aroused great hopes and expectations of overdue winds of liberalisation and deregulation sweeping through the musty classrooms and common rooms of Indian education. Within Indian academia, the cabinet rejig which overhauled the entire HRD ministry with Dr. Shashi Tharoor and Jitin Prasada appointed new ministers of state, has been widely welcomed.
However with the five-year term of the 15th Parliament and the Congress-led UPA II government scheduled to expire in 2014, it’s a moot point whether Raju will have sufficient time to push even major pending legislation such as the NCHER and Foreign Educational Institutions Bill through a fractious Parliament.
6. Preschools quota order
January 7. The education department of the Delhi state government issued the Delhi School Education (Free Seats for Students belonging to Economically Weaker Section and Disadvantaged Group) Order, 2011 (aka DSE Order).
Drawing inspiration from s.12 of the Right to Education Act, 2009, s.3 (a) of the DSE Order directs all schools to “admit children in class I to the extent of at least 25 percent of the strength of that class, belonging to weaker sections and disadvantaged groups in the neighbourhood and provide free and compulsory elementary education till its completion; provided that where such school imparts preschool education, the provisions shall apply for admissions to such preschools”. (Education News, EW March)
7. Child malnutrition report shock
January 9. Prime minister Manmohan Singh released the Hunger and Malnutrition (HUNGaMA) report of the Naandi Foundation in New Delhi.
A study based on a survey of the height and weight of more than 100,000 children across six states, HUNGaMA states that 42 percent of children under-five are severely or moderately underweight and that 59 percent of them suffer moderate to severe stunting. The conclusions of the survey were described as a “national shame’’ by prime minister Manmohan Singh.
8. ASER dampener
January 16. The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2011 — a nationwide survey of learning outcomes in (mainly government) rural primary schools in 16,017 sample villages in 558 of India’s 635 districts which tested 633,465 children — was released in New Delhi by Union HRD minister Kapil Sibal. ASER 2011 reveals that in most of the 28 states and seven territories of the Indian Union, learning outcomes of primary school children are three years behind expected levels.
ASER 2011 also reports that over 25 percent of rural India’s children now go to private schools. (Education News, EW February)
9. NVEQF roll out
February 6. The National Vocational Education Qualification Framework (NVEQF) for mainstreaming vocational education was rolled out by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) in New Delhi.
NVEQF recommends that secondary and college students sign up for skills development programmes contermin-ously with general education and vice versa. The objective: to provide a multiple entry and exit system between vocational education, general education and the jobs market. Currently a mere 8 percent of senior secondary schools dispense vocational education and less than 3 percent of secondary students opt for vocational education and training courses. (Education News, EW March)
10. NKN’s connectivity initiative
February 15. The National Knowledge Network (NKN) plans to connect 1,500 higher education institutions across the country. The objective of the NKN project is to establish connectivity bet-ween faculty and students of science, technology, healthcare, agriculture and governance on a common digital plat-form. The estimated cost of the project — of which NIC (National Informatics Centre) is the implementing agency — is Rs.5,990 crore over ten years, of which Rs.1,500 crore has already been spent.
Project NKN has already connected 670 institutions including universities, NITs, IITs, IIMs, CSIR and agriculture labs. (Education Notes, EW March)
11. NCPCR mandates monitoring cells
March 5. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) issued guidelines for establishing corporal punishment monitoring cells (CPMCs) in schools countrywide to hear grievances related to corporal punish-ment, child sexual abuse, mental harass-ment and discrimination.
The guidelines prescribe that all school children should be informed through campaigns and publicity drives that they have a right to speak up against physical punishment, mental harass-ment and discrimination. NCPCR has framed the guidelines following a detailed study conducted in 2009-10 involving 6,632 children in seven states. (Education Notes, EW April)
12. Union Budget neglects education
March 16. Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee presented Union Budget 2012-13 to Parliament. In a 90-minute budget speech, Mukherjee dismissed education in four short paragraphs, budgeting a token 18 percent (unadjusted for inflation) increase in the education (primary, secondary and tertiary) outlay from Rs.52,000 crore in 2011-12 to Rs.61,472 crore in 2012-13. For implementation of the Right to Education Act, 2009 through the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan programme, he provided Rs.25,555 crore — an increase of 21.7 percent over 2011-12. For the Central government’s ambitious Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), launched in March 2009 to improve access to quality secondary education, the allocation was Rs.3,124 crore — 29 percent higher than in 2011-12. Significantly the finance minister increased the allocation to Integrated Child Development Services from Rs.10,000 crore in 2011-12 to Rs.15,800 crore in 2012-13.
However despite raising the education budget by 18 percent, the Centre’s allocation of Rs.61,472 crore aggregates a mere 0.64 percent of the country’s GDP. (Cover Story, EW April)
13. AICTE ban on new engineering colleges
March 19. The Delhi-based All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the apex level accreditation authority for all ‘technical’ education (engineering, business management, pharmacy, hotel management, etc), announced a blanket ban on accredi-tations for new engineering colleges across the country from the academic year 2013.
As the apex-level accreditation authority for technical education institutions and courses, AICTE has been criticised for being too liberal in granting accreditations. The number of engineering colleges approved by the council has risen from 2,388 in 2008 to 3,241 in 2010 and 3,393 in 2011. In 2010-11, AICTE accredited 159 engineering colleges in Karnataka, and 105 in Uttar Pradesh. (Education News, EW April)
14. NCERT textbook withdrawn
May 14. Over 100,000 copies of Indian Constitution at Work, a class XI political science textbook published by NCERT (National Council of Educational Research and Training) — the country’s largest (Central govern-ment controlled) school texts publisher — were proscribed and withdrawn from the market, following protest in Parliament by several political parties. Their grouse: a cartoon drawn by renowned cartoonist, the late Shankar (1902-1989) way back in 1949 and included in Indian Constitution at Work depicting Dalit icon Dr. B.R. Ambedkar sitting atop a snail, being egged on by the late prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru whip in hand. Accor-ding to Dalit parties spokespersons, the cartoon insulted Dr. Ambedkar, the principal author of the Constitution.
Subsequent to the withdrawal of the textbook, Union HRD minister Kapil Sibal ordered a review not just of cartoons, but also of the content of all school textbooks. (Education News, EW June)
15. UGC guidelines for twinning programmes
June 2. The Delhi-based University Grants Commission (UGC) approved a new set of guidelines for foreign universities offering twinning progra-mmes in collaboration with Indian higher education institutions. According to the new UGC guidelines, only universities ranked among the global Top 500 of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings or Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s league tables will be allowed to offer twinning programmes. Moreover partner Indian universities should have received the highest accreditation grade of the National Assessment and Accreditation Council.
16. West Bengal’s first private varsity
July 6. The West Bengal legislative assembly passed the Techno India University Bill 2012 to establish the state’s first private university under state legislation. The university is promoted by Kolkata-based Techno India Group (TIG) which currently owns and administers 15 engineering colleges, ten business schools and ten primary-secondary schools with an aggregate enrolment of 40,000 students in 20 campuses in urban India, offering professional (science, engineering, law, business management etc) education.
The main campuses of the proposed Techno India University will be established in Kolkata’s Salt Lake and in Bishnupur, Joka. (Education News, EW July)
17. Supreme Court stays AICTE notification
July 10. The Supreme Court stayed a notification issued by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), which empowered state governments to prescribe admission norms and adjudicate tuition fees of all AICTE-accredited B-schools within their geographical jurisdiction. A bench comprising Justices P.M. Lodha and Anil R. Dave delivered the interim order.
The apex court’s stay order evoked a collective sigh of relief from B-school managements who can now admit students through admission tests such as CAT, MAT, XAT, ATMA and CMAT. (Education News, EW August)
18. EDI rankings
July 18. The Educational Development Index (EDI) 2010-11 of the Delhi-based National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA) which measures the primary and upper primary (elementary) education fulfillments of India’s 28 states and seven Union territories, was released.
EDI 2010-11 ranked the southern Union territory of Puducherry (pop. 1 million), India’s most educationally advanced with a composite score of 0.870 (out of a maximum 1) for the second year consecutively, followed by the Union territory of Lakshwadeep (rank 2, EDI score: 0.849). These tiny territories were followed by Punjab (3, 0.815), Tamil Nadu (4, 0.815) and Kerala (5, 0.804).
The country’s most industrially advanced states — Maharashtra (ranked 17th), Gujarat (14) and Karnataka (15) — are placed well below the salt in elementary education development. The index also confirms the popular belief that the large BIMARU (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh) states don’t seem to care about the dangerous consequences of neglecting primary and upper primary education. (Special Report, EW November)
19. NFPPPE launched
August 16. The National Foundation for Promotion and Protection of Private Education (NFPPPE) was launched in Mumbai for promoting and protecting private education institutions in the public interest.
Dismayed by the Supreme Court’s judgement of April 12 in Society for Unaided Private Schools of Rajasthan vs. Union of India & Anr (2010), which substantially upheld the populist RTE Act, 2009, private school managements banded together under the leadership of Jaipur-based educationist Damodar Goyal, president of the Society for Unaided Private Schools of Rajasthan, to promote NFPPPE. The proposed NFPPPE will “articulate their viewpoints and protect their interests”, said Goyal. (Cover Story, EW August)
20. EW India School Rankings 2012
September 7. Vasant Valley, Delhi; Rishi Valley School, Chittoor and the Indus International School, Bangalore were voted India’s No. 1 day, boarding and international schools respectively in the fifth EducationWorld India School Rankings 2012.
The survey conducted by the Delhi-based opinion polling and market research agency C fore, polled a mix of 3,070 fees-paying parents, principals, teachers and educationists in 21 cities across the country asking them to rate 443 of India’s most well-known schools on 14 parameters. (Cover Story, EW September)
21. Twelfth plan education outlay hike
September 15. The Planning Commission finalised the outlay for the education sector in the Twelfth Plan (2012-17). The commission has allocated Rs.453,728 crore, an increase of 155 percent over the Eleventh Plan, with focus on setting up new institutes and universities and expanding existing institutions. The outlay for the higher education sector is Rs.110,700 crore, an increase of 178 percent and Rs.343,028 crore is allocated for school education and literacy, a jump of 149 percent.
22. La Martiniere Boys principal acquitted
September 21. Judge Madhuchanda Bose, additional district and sessions judge Kolkata, absolved Sunirmal Chakravarthi, principal of La Martiniere for Boys, of the charge of abetting the suicide of class VIII student Rouvanjit Rawla in early 2010. The court also cleared teachers L.J. Gunnion, David Royan and Partha Dutta of related charges. (Education News, EW October)
23. No extension of RTE deadline
November 8. The Central government ruled out extension of the deadline for enforcing the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (aka RTE Act) beyond March 2013. Even though several states are yet to attain the infrastructure, teacher-pupil ratio and other standards set by the RTE Act, the Union HRD ministry is against extension of the deadline.
24. EW India Preschool Rankings 2012
December 7. In the EducationWorld India Preschool Rankings 2012 covering six cities, The Magic Years, Vasant Vihar was rated Delhi’s No. 1 preschool; Kangaroo Kids, Bandra (Mumbai’s No.1). Other winners: EuroKids, Salt Lake (Kolkata); Vael’s Billabong High-Kangaroo Kids, Neelankarai (Chennai); Head Start Montessori (Bangalore) and Indus Early Learning Centre (Hyder-abad).
EducationWorld published its third league tables of Top 20 preschools in six cities based on a survey conducted by Delhi-based market research and opinion polls agency C fore. (Cover Story, EW December)
25. Parliamentary panel rejects NCHER
December 13. The Parliamentary standing committee examining the Higher Education and Research Bill 2011 expressed reservations about the proposed National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER).
It recommended a review of the NCHER Bill which seeks to dissolve existing regulatory bodies such as UGC, AICTE and NCTE and exploration of alternative and viable mechanisms where the three statutory bodies function under the supervision and monitoring of NCHER.
26. Parliament fails to discuss education Bills
December 20. The winter session of Parliament ended without a single education bill being debated or legislated. When the winter session commenced on November 22, minister of state for HRD Shashi Tharoor had announced there were 20 pending education Bills — 11 in higher education and nine in the schools sector — for Parliament to debate. However none of the Bills were debated.