Human resource development minister Kapil Sibal's 'one nation-one examination' policy is on its way to becoming a reality.
The minister, who has been promising to de-stress education for students, is pushing for a single test to replace the system of students taking multiple examinations for college admissions.
Addressing the Mail Today Education Conclave 2011 as the chief guest on Friday, the minister announced: "A single college entry test for all students across the country by 2013 is my dream."
To realise the dream, the HRD ministry had set up a committee under science and technology secretary T. Ramaswamy to take a relook at the test methodology of selecting students for undergraduate admissions.
The panel which recommended a 'one nation- one examination' policy recently went in for an opinion poll on single test - National Testing Scheme (NTS), through a dedicated website.
To bolster the panel's stand, 73 per cent of the respondents backed the NTS and 70 per cent favoured an aptitude test along with an advanced test on the IIT-JEE format. The committee is expected to submit its final report by mid-September.
Ministry sources said public opinion strongly favoured a single test as shown by the detailed opinion poll results. The NTS is the Indian equivalent of the American SAT Reasoning Test.
Sibal has been working to overhaul the college admission system to make it a far cry from the recent unrealistic 100 per cent cut-offs fixed by some colleges. His idea is to make Class XII students appear for a single aptitude test, whose results would be the basis for their admission after giving due weightage to their board exam results. In fact, Sibal will push for the passage of the contentious Foreign Educational Institutions Bill in the upcoming monsoon session of Parliament. Sibal, the chief architect of the Foreign Education Bill which faced stiff opposition from the Left parties is now eager to see it become a reality.
"The standing committee examining the Bill has assured me of its report by July 31 so that when Parliament convenes on August 1, I can introduce it."
Reaching out to the opposition parties, whose support is crucial to see this Bill through, he said: "If the BJP supports it, everything will be fine." According to him, the UPA government has the political will for the proposed legislation but the Opposition needs to come on board to help our students access more quality education from foreign institutions. The minister said the majority of the incoming foreign institutions would focus on the skill development sector. In the general stream, it would be more in the nature of twinning arrangements and collaborations for joint degree programmes.
Sibal has ensured that 15 proposed legislations pertaining to the HRD ministry are pushed through during the monsoon session. The list includes the National Accreditation Authority Bill. The minister is confident that the standing committee's recommendation would come within the next 10 days, paving the way for placing it in the House. Brimming with ideas as to how to go about setting right the education scenario, Sibal had put across his vision in his 100 day agenda. He has set the ball rolling but the landmark legislations have made him repeatedly face the harsh realities of political opposition and Centre-State jurisdictional conflicts.
The minister's keystone in his reforms stemming right from the school level to the higher education level has been expansion, equity and quality. "This is our tryst with destiny to take the gross enrolment ratio in higher education from the existing 14-15 per cent to 30 per cent by 2020," he said.
Stressing on the need to harnessing the nation's “intellectual property", Sibal pointed out: "In the 21st century a company's value is not of physical assets but of patents that which constitutes intellectual property, that which is produced in its university system." He cautioned that every nation has to recognise that a boost to the quality of ideas in its university system is crucial, if it is to progress. For this, the minister said, the "building blocks" need to be laid at the school level so that India can work to push a greater mass of students into higher education. "At present, India is only seven to eight points (15 per cent) above the gross enrolment ratio (GER) of Sub-Saharan Africa." The increase in numbers of students in colleges and universities would also necessitate a substantial increase in the current number of 600- odd universities and 31,000 colleges.
Sibal said this demand supply imbalance led to the 100 per cent cut-off at a Delhi University college. Terming it "one of the most serious challenges" confronting the education sector, he lamented it was "unfortunately not getting the attention it deserves".
If the demand-supply discrepancy is not adequately addressed by increasing the number of seats, such high cut-offs will continue to prevail. It is to fill in this crucial requirement that public private partnership (PPP) in education was imperative, the minister said. Not only was PPP vital to setting up the colleges and universities that would be needed for an increased student strength it was also vital to boost the skill development sector, he added.
Along with formal education, the HRD ministry has of late been working closely with the industry to frame curriculum and training programmes to equip its young students work force with skills needed in the market.
Sibal went so far as to say, "I want to mix formal education with vocational education at the school level itself in class VIII so that by class XII students can opt for vocational stream if they want to."
Courtesy: India Today