Chapter VIII: Reforming and Strengthening National Level Institutions
8.1 All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE)
8.1.1 The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) Act 1987 defines the role of this organization, as an instrument to regulate and manage technical institutions. In the past two decades, there has been proliferation of technical institutions, in response to manifold increase in demand for engineering and related courses. Many of these new institutions are deficient in infrastructure and do not have adequate qualified faculty. The Committee was informed that many of these colleges charge high capitation fees and are often no different from degree shops. Studies including those by FICCI/CII have shown that only 20% of our engineering graduates are employable. This state of affairs can be attributed largely to the failure of AICTE as a regulator to fulfil its mandated responsibilities.
8.1.2 Government of India had appointed a Committee under the chairmanship of M.K. Kaw to examine the role and functions of AICTE. The Committee submitted its report in 2015.
8.1.3 This Committee has recommended elsewhere that UGC, AICTE and NCTE, regulators in the higher education sector, which have been set up under different laws, should be subsumed under the newly proposed Indian Regulatory Authority for Higher Education to be created under a National Higher Education Promotion and Management Act. It is envisaged that this law, will inter-alia, lay down norms and standards for institutions of higher education in the country, set criteria for model curricula for different academic courses and create a legal framework for setting up independent testing and accrediting agencies. It is proposed that accreditation of new universities and colleges, in accordance with the standards set under the proposed Act will be done by an autonomous statutory Council of Higher Education to be set up by each state.
8.1.4 The Committee recognizes that it may take some time before the above statutory framework is created. Till that happens, existing institutions like AICTE will continue to function. The Committee recommends that administrative reforms suggested by the Kaw Committee may be given effect to, to the extent feasible and desirable, pending regular arrangements in the wake of the proposed higher education law.
8.1.5 The Committee notes that in the process of the rapid expansion of the technical education sector in the past two decades, the AICTE has largely failed to act as a Regulator to fulfil its mandated regulatory responsibilities.
8.1.6 Pending the enactment of the National Higher Education Promotion and Management Act, the Committee recommends that administrative reforms suggested by the Kaw Committee may be given effect to, to the extent feasible and desirable, pending regular arrangements in the wake of the proposed higher education law.
8.2 National Council for Education Research and Training (NCERT)
8.2.1 Established in 1961, National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) is the official advisory body to the nation on all matters of school education and also teacher education. NCERT is widely known for its work on text books, school curriculum and pedagogy, which have earned a unique reputation among school children and teachers and the education community at large.
8.2.2 As the main research wing of the NCERT, the National Institute of Education (NIE) acts as a nodal point for teaching, research and innovation with its five regional institutes of Education. It advises state textbook boards and SCERTs on preparation of textbooks. NCERT also conducts research on special areas, and contributes to training of resource persons in areas like curriculum development, gender sensitization, text book review and evaluation expertise, issues concerning children with special needs, education of minorities, SC/ST and other special categories. The curriculum frameworks sponsored by NCERT successively in 1975, 1988, 2000 and 2005 indicates the range of its contribution. NCERT, with its acknowledged position as a unique organization with a large mandate, is faced with enormous challenges for catering to teaching and learning in diverse situations and conditions.
8.2.3 NCERT interacts with state governments in strengthening vocationalization of education through its Central Institute of Vocational Education (CIVE) located in Bhopal. It also promotes integration of latest developments in educational technology and ICTE in the teaching-learning processes. It has also helped in development of audio-visual content and offers training programmes. However, the Committee notes that the quality, value and large-scale applicability of the aforesaid audio-visual material has largely been untested in the market, and its potential for scaling-up application opportunities as an aid to education is yet unproven; not unlike the efforts of many other private commercial and charitable foundations who also have contributed with different types of experiments, with varying success.
8.2.4 While it will be unfair to judge the performance of NCERT in the context of massive changes in the school scene, it also needs to be mentioned that the institution has been unable to cope with the massive volume of changes around it. For example, successive national education policies have referred to transformation of the curriculum and pedagogy away from rote learning, to encourage greater involvement of the thinking faculties of the students in the learning process and promote a spirit of inquiry. The school curricula do not adequately reflect changes in this direction. There has been no independent review or assessment of the organization which is necessary. As the new focus of school education will be on quality improvement, NCERT will have to play a significant role in realizing this objective. This will require augmentation of both the manpower as well as the other resources. NCERT needs to revisit its curricular and pedagogy formulations in the process of ‘teacher-preparation’ as well as motivation of the teaching community. NCERT needs to explore the directions to facilitate the diversion of a large number of school children to skill acquisition and vocational programmes. It needs to strengthen its national institutional networking, as also to upgrade its standing in the international arena. NCERT has a major role to play in the transformation of India’s school education, which is the underlying theme of the Committee’s report.
8.2.5 The Committee recommends that NCERT needs to focus sharply on increasing the quality of school education; in particular the move for transformation of the curriculum and pedagogy away from rote learning to promote a spirit of enquiry and understanding. For this, NCERT will have to undertake preparation of a new curriculum framework (last undertaken in 2005), through redesign its text books in a manner that teachers become motivators, facilitators and co-investigators and encourage self-and-peer-learning through project assignments.
8.2.6 The Committee notes that successive National Education Policies have referred to progressive transformation of the curriculum and pedagogy away from rote learning, to encourage greater involvement of the thinking faculties of the students in the learning process, and to promote a spirit of inquiry. The school curricula do not as yet adequately reflect changes in this direction. The Committee recommends that this important core function of the NCERT has to be given greater stress, relevance, applicability and intensity of application.
8.2.7 The Regional Institutes of Education (RIEs), also need to be strengthened to provide support in training, research, innovations and teaching learning material development to SCERTs and other institutions in the state. The RIEs have an important role in observing and conceptualizing excellent initiatives and helping other states to adopt them. They should be encouraged to look continuously for best practices and disseminate them for which suitable expertise should be provided.
8.2.8 NCERT has a major role to play in the transformation in the Indian school education scene; it needs to be strengthened in terms of faculty and resources; reorient itself by restoring emphasis on research and innovation.
8.3 The University Grants Commission
8.3.1 Established under UGC Act of 1956, UGC was set up for management and regulation of the various universities/higher education institutions. It has an omnibus mandate, covering all aspects relating to recognition, accreditation, curriculum approval, permission to start courses, disbursement of grants to institutions, and management of scholarship programmes. Over the past six decades, there has been a rapid expansion of higher education in the country. The number of universities has gone up dramatically, with many institutions coming up in the private sector. UGC did not have the resources or quality manpower to effectively ensure that high quality education was provided by these institutions, or monitor their efficient management.
8.3.2 The UGC currently performs three primary functions: - it oversees the distribution of grants to universities/colleges in India; secondly, the UGC provides scholarships/fellowships, covering more than 80,000 beneficiaries annually; and its third main function is to recognize universities and monitor conformity to its regulations by universities and colleges in the country.
8.3.3 While UGC, over the years has issued a series of regulations for achieving better quality and efficient management of colleges and universities, it has not been able to ensure effective enforcement of those regulations. The Committee was informed that there are widespread irregularities in grant of approval of institutions and courses. There are serious concerns about the quality of education provided by a large number of colleges/universities; it is the responsibility of UGC to monitor standards of education in higher education institutions and UGC has not succeeded in ensuring this. The credibility of the UGC has been seriously dented by approvals given to a large number of sub-standard colleges and deemed universities.
8.3.4 An expert Committee recently has examined thoroughly the past, present and future role of UGC, whose report is under examination by the Ministry. It is understood that the report had concluded that the UGC does not have the adequate number of personnel, of requisite quality, to be an effective regulatory force in the higher education sector. It is recommended that as the new overarching higher education management law is enacted, which the Committee suggests should be very soon, the UGC Act should be allowed to lapse.
8.3.5 The Committee elsewhere has recommended a separate mechanism for disbursement of fellowships. The UGC could be revamped, made considerably leaner and thinner, and could be the nodal point for administration of the proposed National Higher Education Fellowship Programme, without any other promotional or regulatory function to perform.
8.3.6 When the new National Higher Education Act is enacted, the UGC Act should be allowed to lapse.
8.4 Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU)
8.4.1 The Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) Act in 1985 was designed to develop a credible system of distance education in order to keep pace with the diverse societal needs of higher education. IGNOU was created as a National University directly under MHRD with the mandate as an Open University at the National level for the introduction and promotion of Open University and Distance Education Systems in the educational pattern of the country and for the co-ordination and determination of standards in such systems. With the establishment of Distance Education Council (DEC) in 1991, IGNOU and DEC have performed the role of promotion, coordination and maintenance of standards in the ODL system, and assisting State governments in setting up their State Open Universities. IGNOU currently offers 228 academic programmes through 21Schools of Studies and a network of 67 Regional Centres spread across the countrysupported by 2981 Learner Support Centres; with a cumulative student strength of over 2.81 million learners and annual intake of 7,42,426 Learners (2014-2015). The Committee notes that there has been no independent evaluation of the work of IGNOU since its establishment, particularly with reference to its quality and credibility, and recommends that such an exercise be undertaken at an early date.
8.4.2 Online courses, covering a very wide variety of fields, naturally will proliferate in the education field. A number of universities already have started resorting to online programmes – indeed even the school system is entering this area in a significant way. IGNOU originally was seen both as a national university and also as the designated national regulator of online education. These are inherently conflicting roles, and cannot be sustained for a long. However, IGNOU has gained much experience as a national university, and is playing an important role in the space of online education. It should now be given the position of the designated National University in the field of distance education; and allowed the autonomy and the space to set its own standards, and be a pacemaker in this fast growing area. There is a collateral responsibility devolving on IGNOU to maintain the highest possible standards.
8.4.3 Concurrently, the need has arisen to have a regulator to deal with distance courses, especially as so many state and private institutions have started operations in a big way in this field. Indeed in teacher-education field, the Committee noted with dismay the proliferation of long distance teaching shops, offering degrees or diplomas basically in exchange of money, with minimal assurance of quality or teaching-learning standards. There is need to designate or create a new national agency as the Regulator in this area; till that is done, the Committee recommends that IGNOU plays this important role. This is a delicate and weighty call, as the role of regulator conflicts with that of a teaching university; however, in view of the experience of IGNOU in this field, it may have to play this role very temporarily.
8.4.4 Meanwhile IGNOU should be authorized to offer online programmes in different fields including teacher education, agriculture and law etc., subject to the condition that they should function as their own regulator, and ensure scrupulo us conformity with the standards set in this regard by the relevant designated Regulatory Agency.
8.4.5 IGNOU, like every university of high quality, should have its own strong internal quality cell, to ensure conformity to high standards.
8.4.6 There has been no independent evaluation of the work of IGNOU since its establishment, particularly with reference to its quality and credibility, and recommends that such an exercise be undertaken at an early date.
8.4.7 IGNOU should now be given the position of the designated National University in the field of distance education; and allowed the autonomy and the space to set its own standards, and be a pacemaker in this fast growing area. There is a collateral responsibility devolving on IGNOU to maintain the highest possible standards.
8.4.8 IGNOU should be authorized to offer online programmes in different fields including teacher education, agriculture and law etc., subject to the condition that it should function as its own regulator, and ensure scrupulous conformity with the standards set in this regard by the relevant designated Regulatory Agency.
8.4.9 IGNOU, like every university of high quality, should have its own strong internal quality cell, to ensure conformity to high standards.
8.5 National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS)
8.5.1 The National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) started as an Open School Project of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) in 1981, and in 1989 acquired its present nomenclature as an autonomous organization of the Ministry of Human Resources Development. It has now emerged as one of the largest open schools of the world, covering 30 lakh learners through 6000 centres. Many categories benefit from this system, especially those who missed receiving school education, those who want to pursue education as a hobby, as well as differently- abled persons, gifted children, sports persons etc.
8.5.2 The Committee did not have an opportunity to study the work of the NIOS closely. The Committee also noted that no major external study or examination of the organization has taken place in recent years.
8.5.3 This Committee’s report has repeatedly stressed the role of technology in education. As the potential for utilization of technology in enhancing the quality of education, facilitating the rapid spread of knowledge and information grows rapidly, it can be stated that the role of distance education in schooling will increase exponentially in the near future. The need is therefore to take note of the current experiments, and restructure the institutional mechanisms, to cater to the potentially burgeoning demand which is bound to arise sooner than later, with a large number of private players also participating in this field of education.
8.5.4 While the role of NIOS has been fairly clear in the area of school educatio n, it now needs to redefine itself to the large potential demand for vocational education – at least insofar as it can be delivered digitally. This is a major expansion area that needs to be utilized, particularly in close collaboration with the Ministry of Skill Development.
8.5.5 The NIOS is now departmentally managed, which is not the ideal management structure. As the entire field of distance education in the school sector is looked at, and as the management of the same reviewed, the issues of management/monitoring/oversight of NIOS need to be addressed appropriately.
(a) Need for a credible, reliable, definitive examination system at Class Xand Class XII levels
8.5.6 Currently apart from the state education boards and the two national schemes for providing high school certification, there is no other online certification process which is widely accepted as of genuine quality, reliable, and which can act as the key to open the door to areas in vocational training schools or in higher education institutions. As pointed out elsewhere in the report, there are different kind of needs which require to be addressed today:
(a) For those who drop out from the school system at some stage or the other for whatever reason, and would like to regain the main-line academic stream, an acceptable national examination of high quality is required as the touch-stone of having cleared Class X or Class XII level as may be. Since many of these candidates may be already engaged in other activities, the system would have to provide a rational way of completing the examination through different segments, at different times, with a well - thought out overall time limit – without compromising quality – much like a number of similar examinations in developed countries are designed.
(b) The Committee’s report elsewhere envisages the desirability of students identified as having special reasons to move over to vocational streams, including those who are unable to cope with the rigours of a formal educational stream. Many of such persons, who are self-motivated, may want to return to the main academic stream. The examination at Class X and Class XII may provide the opportunity for the same, as the entrance test for re-entry.
(c) The present Board examinations and the certification they produce are of varying value, representing different standards of learning. A national examination of this sort, with adequate credibility, and of sufficiently high but relevant standard can provide the benchmark, against which admissions to institutions all over India could be considered; this will be an additional avenue for bringing merit into the admission process.
(d) Again for those who wanting to study abroad, the Class X and the Class XII proposed examination could provide the certification of minimum quality achievement, for the foreign institution to make a fair judgement.
(e) Elsewhere in the report, a proposal has been made to institute 10 lakh new fellowships every year for higher education. The proposed Class XII examination could provide national benchmarks to identify beneficiaries based on merit standards.
8.5.7 It is essential for the MHRD to nominate a suitable agency that could undertake this important new initiative. Normally, one could have proposed that NIOS should be the nodal agency for sponsoring these all India examinations; however in view of its doubtful record of performance, and inability to establish itself as a credible agency, this needs to be examined as by the MHRD as to whether the task should be given to a revamped NIOS, or to any other appropriate agency.
8.5.8 The Class XII examination may be the first one to get established, to be followed as soon as possible thereafter by the Class X examination.
(b) Regulatory Issues
8.5.9 The Committee notes that the field of distance school education will undergo very rapid expansion in the coming years. Already the private sector has moved into this field, as it sees this as one of financial opportunity. It is important that as the sector evolves, the government should not be caught at a later date with events having overtaken its institutions, as has happened in the case of higher education. While NIOS may be the premier national agency for dissemination of schooling material, conduct of examinations etc., (much like IGNOU is in the higher education space), some thinking is required to establish an appropriate regulatory authority to keep track of developments in this regard, to provide the legal framework for any government intervention, equally to provide support encouragement and mentorship to healthy private initiatives in this regard.
8.5.10 There is need to take note of the current experiments in distance education, undertaken by public and private institutions, and restructure the institutional mechanisms, to cater to the potentially burgeoning demand which is bound to arise sooner than later, with a large number of private players also participating in this field of education.
8.5.11 While the role of NIOS has been fairly clear in the area of school education, it now needs to redefine itself to the large potential demand for vocational education – at least insofar as it can be delivered digitally. This is a major expansion area that needs to be utilized, particularly in close collaboration with the Ministry of Skill Development in view of its past record of performance, the NIOS needs to be appropriately strengthened and upgraded.
8.5.12 The NIOS is now departmentally managed, which is not the ideal management structure. As the entire field of distance education in the school sector is looked and as the management of the same reviewed, this management / monitoring / oversight of NIOS needs to be addressed appropriately.
8.5.13 The Committee notes that the field of distance school education will undergo rapid expansion in the coming years. Already the private sector has moved into this field, as it sees this as one of financial opportunity. It is important that as the sector evolves, the government should not be caught at a later date with events having overtaken its institutions, as has happened in the case of higher education. While a revamped NIOS may be the premier national agency for dissemination of schooling material, conduct of examinations etc., (much like IGNOU is in the higher education space), some thinking is required to establish an appropriate regulatory authority to keep track of developments in this regard, to provide the legal framework for any government intervention, equally to provide support, encouragement and mentorship to healthy private initiatives in this regard.
8.5.14 The Committee recommends that an upgraded NIOS or any other designated agency should create two new national level examinations systems to certify Class X and Class XII equivalent achievement, which should be credible, reliable and seen as definitive. These systems will cater to different kinds of needs not so far addressed by the normal education system, and can be used by different varieties of end users. The proposal for 10 lakh new fellowships for higher education mentioned elsewhere could use this Class XII examination as the benchmark for selection of candidates, with appropriate classifications. It is also proposed that the Class XII examination system may be created as soon as possible, with the Class X examination to follow.
8.6 National University of Educational Planning and Administration(NUEPA)
8.6.1 The National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA) is the organization dealing with capacity building and research in planning and management of education attached to the Ministry of HRD. The University’s origins go back to 1962 initially set up as a research centre for education planners, to later in 1965 become the Asian Institute of Education Planning and Administration sponsored by UNESCO. In 1979 it was restructured as a National Institute, with an expanded mandate and by 2006, it was elevated to a ‘deemed to be university.’ Today, it is a National University which apart from providing in-service training in the area of educational planning and administration, also has the stated objective of undertaking research on subjects allied to educational planning related to different states as well as other countries.
8.6.2 The University offers M.Phil, Ph.D and Post-Doctoral programmes and awards degrees. Among its main functions is the responsibility to provide technical support in teaching, research and advisory services to Central and State governments. It is also expected to function as a clearing house for the dissemination of knowledge and information in the field of education.
8.6.3 The Committee did not have the opportunity to examine the training and advisory services work of NUEPA. The Committee also came to understand that there has been no major internal or external critical review of the organization over the years to assess the role it plays on the national education scene.
8.6.4 Since NUEPA was designated as the Secretariat to service the Committee in evolving the new education policy, the Committee had first hand exposure to the research work done in NUEPA, and its role as a think tank capable of providing inputs on important aspects of educational planning. Given its mandate, the Committee expected that research on several contemporary issues affecting the education sector would have already been undertaken by NUEPA and would be provided to the Committee. Put simply, the Committee found very little serious examination of fundamental issues facing school/higher education in India undertaken by the University. Apart from the faculty, those pursuing M. Phil, doctorates and post-doctorates under the aegis of the University should have been actively engaged in conducting research into the burning issues that confront the education sector in the country. Surprisingly, of the 33 issues referred by the MHRD for consideration or for examination in the context of the new policy, hardly any material of relevance was readily available in NUEPA, which the Committee could utilize directly or even with adaptations. Indeed, the research material made available by some non-governmental and private research organizations was of high quality, relevant, and provided a nuanced understanding of the issues.
8.6.5 NUEPA faculty and its management remain fully occupied with day-to-day activities and a constant stream of meetings, seminars, round-tables and training courses seem to be in progress constantly. In following the teaching aspect of its mandate, the University has not developed the capacity to remain in active touch with developments on the ground, across the states and to critically examine why specific strategies driven centrally or sometimes by the states are function well while others are seen floundering.
8.6.6 In all probability, the fault lies not so much with NUEPA itself but has more to do with the nature of the appointments, when the senior staff are not challenged intellectually, required to produce material of direct relevance to policy formulation or to act as a think tank to support the Ministry in the process of making strategic interventions or even advocating a change of track based on research findings. The credentials of the faculty and academic staff are not in question, and many are held in high esteem within education circles. What is needed is the ability to provide critical thought and back assumptions with well - founded research undertaken collaboratively.
8.6.7 The only repository of national data on education is also located in NUEPA. As mentioned elsewhere, the present data structure is weak, unreliable and does not lend itself as a practical decision-making tool. To fulfil its role as an educational planning university NUEPA should have developed the skills to disaggregate data, challenge the status quo based on quantitative and qualitative facts adduced through research and suggest alternatives best suited for the country. Undoubtedly there are serious problems in the field relating to data collection, consolidation, transmission, relating to physical human, as well as technological issues which cannot be oversimplified. For these reasons the blame should not be placed entirely on NUEPA, which perhaps has not been enabled to upgrade, renovate and modernize its information gathering and dissemination systems, much less to provide analytical research papers.
8.6.8 For the sake of providing high quality inputs to the Ministry, there is every need to have the mandate of NUEPA and its output evaluated by a high level peer review with experts from within and outside the government institutions. Only people in the same profession and conversant with the current scenario and emerging trends would be able to comment on the relevance of NUEPA’s academic and policy related advice. Unless such a review is undertaken, the Ministry and policy makers would be denied timely advice on what matters most.
8.6.9 Like every other organization attached to the MHRD there should be peer- reviews and periodical external reviews of the work of NUEPA. A clear re-orientation of its research agenda to reflect actual issues on the ground needs to be undertaken without delay.
8.6.10 The central data compilation consolidation system needs to be significantly upgraded; a decision needs to be taken whether NUEPA is the correct agency in which to locate this activity.
8.6.11 The establishment of a Central Bureau of Educational Intelligence with high quality statistical expertise and management information system should be considered as an alternative to provide the requisite focus to this area.