Giving autonomy to educational institutions was one of the primary concern of the Ministry of Human Resource Development in 2018. Sixty higher educational institutions, including colleges, were given graded autonomy. The boards of governors of IIMs were reconstituted according to the new Indian Institute of Management 2017, Act, that gives them more autonomy. Now the IIMs will be able to confer post graduate degrees to students and appoint their own chairperson.
JNU was in the eye of the storm as there was stiff opposition to the grant of autonomy to this university. Students felt that this would lead to an increase in fees by the university. Educationists felt the government wants to tighten its purse strings for higher education in the garb of autonomy.
Another major concern of HRD has been encouraging innovation. 2018 saw another edition of ‘Smart India Hackathon’, a nationwide initiative that allows engineering students and teachers to form a team to brainstorm on problem statements. They can also get their inventions patented.
Shortage of faculty is also being addressed. In a scheme, attractive packages are being given to students from Indian Institute of Science and IITs to teach in rural parts of India. Under Global Initiative of Academic Network (GIAN) scheme, renowned faculty from the world over are brought at the doorstep of academic institutions in India. Collaboration in research with foreign universities is also being encouraged under the Scheme for Promotion of Academic and Research Collaboration (SPARC) launched in 2018.
But, 2018 was also a year of controversies. HRD ministry had to grapple with the issue of Jio University, a university of Reliance Foundation, being selected as Institution of Eminence (IoE) despite the university being only on paper. The institution was granted the status under the Greenfield category. The mysterious manner in which the deadline for submitting applications was extended raises suspicion of cronyism. The Empowered Expert Committee headed by former chief election commissioner, N Gopalaswami, after proper scrutiny of its application recommended that Jio University can be made an institution of eminence. He expressly denied any kind of favouritism.
HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar said the ministry did not play any role in the selection of Institutions of Eminence. The empowered expert committee is responsible for making the suggestions, he said. UGC, an autonomous body, gives its final assent. In a way, HRD Ministry washed its hands of the issue.
National Education Policy has missed many deadlines so far. Even though the government had been promising throughout the year that it will bring a zero draft, which would be the first draft of the education policy by the committee headed by K Kasturirangan, it has not seen the light of day so far.
The National Testing Agency came into being in May this year. It has taken over the task of CBSE. This has relieved it of responsibilities of conducting National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for medical colleges. NTA will have the daunting task of conducting the NEET exam which will be taken at 3000 centres in pen and paper mode next year. In addition to this, Joint Entrance Exam (Mains) will be conducted by NTA twice next year.
CBSE received brickbats in 2018 for alleged paper leaks of Class X and Class XII exams. However, the authority said since the paper leak of Class X was limited to certain areas, a re-exam would not be needed. But it had to conduct a re-examination of the Class XII Economics paper. Now the board will have to gear up for next year’s exams and take measures to ensure that paper leaks do not happen again. The datesheet for the Class X and Class XII has been announced.
The much-touted bill of amending the Right to Education Act that will bring an end to the no-detention policy is yet to be introduced in Rajya Sabha. The amendment bill was passed in Lok Sabha earlier this year. However, the government has allowed the states to detain under-performing students in Class V and Class VIII.
The HRD Ministry has been concerned about the quality of faculty in universities. It has launched online refresher courses for the faculty across the country. National Resource Centres will be preparing course material for these online refresher courses. The faculty will get certified after they take these online courses on Swayam, the massive open online course platform.
In order to improve the quality of teachers in schools, National Council of Technical Education (NCTE) has decided to crack down on fly-by-night colleges that give B.Ed. degrees. The government has also announced the launch of a four-year integrated B.Ed. course for Class XII pass-outs. Many universities are ready to launch these courses.
Under the Samagra Shiksha initiative launched this year, the government has said that all the SCERTs and District Institute of Education and Training (DIET) will be strengthened. These nodal agencies for in-service and pre-service training are supposed to improve the quality of teachers. Under this initiative, government said that it will unify all the schemes of education to make it holistic.