Big year of change for Education

With CBSE and NCERT mired in controversy after controversy, the Human Resource Development Ministry has at last begun defining clearly the roles of the two prime agencies that control school education in India. As a result the wings of both these agencies have been clipped somewhat and their overlapping, allencompassing powers too.

The ministry is also of the view that CBSE should concentrate only on its mandate— examination and affiliation of schools. As such, the Central Board of Secondary Education has been asked to stop publication of textbooks. The task of publishing those textbooks will now be taken over by National Council of Education Research Training.

It was also decided that Xth and XII Board Exams will be held in February next year and not March. Several change-driving decisions were taken at a meeting chaired by school education secretary Anil Swarup in early June. It was also attended by CBSE secretary and NCERT director among others.

A new agency, named the Higher Education Empowerment Regulation Agency (HEERA) is set to boot out two archaic and bureaucratic institutions of the 1950s controlling higher education, the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). Come 2018, the Board exams for Xth and XII will take place in February as a part of reforms focused on ‘error-free evaluation’. The process will take about a month.The early results, the board believes, will also help CBSE students with the undergraduate admission process. ‘Otherwise it has been a neckand-neck affair’, CBSE chairperson R K Chaturvedi told the media in June. ’Moreover, I think there is no point in allowing re-evaluation of 10 questions. Either it should be allowed in totality or not at all. The matter is also in court. But if we can ensure that evaluations themselves are error-free, the question of re-evaluation will not arise’, Chaturvedi said.

Meanwhile, CBSE was granted relief from all the controversies by Supreme Court on 12 June. The apex court directed CBSE to release the result of the undeclared NEET 2017 results (at the time of printing) and directed the state high courts not to entertain any plea with relation to the NEET 2017 result.

The June meeting decided that books published by the CBSE will henceforth be prepared by the NCERT, whose chief Hrushikesh Senapaty made a presentation on the plan of action. The NCERT said it ‘will be ready for the increased volume as well as with the revision process before the start of the next academic session’, said an official of the HRD ministry.

The Association of School Books Publishers ( ASBP) has raised serious concern over the government’s ‘order’ for ‘only NCERT book regime’ and said that if the government indeed goes ahead to bar private publishers from CBSE schools, it will have a disastrous impact on the Indian publishing industry affecting the livelihood of lakhs of people. Educational publishing accounts for over 70 percent of all books published in India. Talking to reporters in New Delhi, Dinesh Goyal, President ASBP said, ‘The recent move by the CBSE to encourage the use of NCERT textbook in affiliated schools has led to widespread confusion among schools, parents and publisher’. Justifying the need to make available quality books to learners, Navin Joshi, Secretary, ASBP told Rural Marketing, ‘For decades learners and educators have benefitted tremendously from the books brought out by private publishers. Competition and the presence of thousands of publishers in books with highly refined and qualitative content and innovative pedagogic method. This meant wide choice in content for schools and books that suit various levels of learners’.

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