One of India’s most ambitious and controversial education reform plans in recent years, to create a single national entrance test for admissions to colleges, could soon see a quiet, almost unannounced burial.
The human resource development (HRD) ministry under MM Pallam Raju has decided to instead push a more nuanced blueprint for higher education admissions that will continue to allow state governments to conduct entrance tests and will share revenues earned from central tests with them. The new plan that will be unveiled at a meeting with state education ministers on April 2.
“What we want is a structured, streamlined admissions system,” a senior HRD ministry official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “That doesn’t have to be a single examination platform that is unacceptable to some.”
The single test plan was pushed aggressively by Raju’s predecessor at the ministry, telecom minister Kapil Sibal, with the aim of ending the multiple entrance tests students currently need to take to apply to different institutions across the country. Sibal’s team prepared a proposal for a law to set up a national testing agency that would conduct a single aptitude test and subject specific tests.
But that plan faced strong opposition from several institutions that accused the government of infringing on their autonomy, and from state governments who alleged that the ruling UPA was encroaching on the powers guaranteed to them in the Constitution.
The new Pallam Raju blueprint not only looks at creating the testing agency through an executive order instead of a law – something that the new minister mentioned at a press briefing last week – but also acknowledges that a single test poses challenges as an education policy.
“What is required is an admission process that navigates the intrinsic problems associated with the adoption of a single admission system in its reliability to predict academic success as well as being discernible as credible, transparent, fair and reasonable,” states the introduction to India’s new admissions strategy, that the HRD ministry will place before state ministers at meeting this Tuesday of the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE), the country’s apex education advisory body. “A mix and match strategy in the right proportion would deliver better results than a single methodology,” the document, accessed by HT, states.
While the national testing agency will conduct a centralized aptitude test and subject-specific tests under the new plan too, state governments will be allowed to set up state testing agencies to continue with the tests they conduct at present.
Most states hold their own admission tests for professional institutions, apart from the centrally-conducted All India Engineering Entrance Examination (AIEEE).
But that isn’t the only concession Pallam Raju’s ministry will offer to states at the CABE meeting to try and win support for the national testing agency that will now have the mandate to only conduct all admission tests to central institutions.
Under the new blueprint, the chairpersons of all state testing agencies will be on the board of the national testing agency, which will also share revenues with state governments.
The CABE meeting will also discuss plans to create a standardized higher education qualification framework in tune with international models, an education commission to review the state of the sector in India, the implementation of the Right to Education Act and strategies to bridge gender gaps in education.