Common test, NCERT books issues keep HRD mandarins busy
As it treaded the path of reforms, the HRD Ministry came under attack from IITs for adopting a new single entrance test and also grappled with the cartoon row in NCERT books in 2012, during which it also failed to get key legislations passed in Parliament.
Kapil Sibal, who termed the single nationwide test for engineering programmes as his "dream", did realise it before he made way for MM Pallam Raju as the HRD minister in October but not before he faced stiff resistance from the IITs who vetoed his plans.
The premier institutes, however, agreed to adopt it subsequently under a compromise formula though several states are yet to embrace it.
While the ministry was dealing with the issue, some offending cartoons and content in NCERT textbooks kicked off a row during Budget Session of Parliament, with several MPs demanding their removal. Two NCERT textbook advisors resigned while a committee set up to examine the content was accused of not arriving at a consensus among the members on removal of a host of cartoons.
Amid all these, two to three cartoons were removed by NCERT before revised textbooks could be supplied to students.
The Ministry during the year had to also confront with protests from states like Tamil Nadu and others about "objectionable" content in textbooks.
Another highlight of the year gone by was the passage of the Copyright Act (Amendment) Bill, 2012 amid rare show of unanimity in both the houses of Parliament. This will give a fresh lease if life to song writers, artistes and performers, deprived of their dues so far, who can now claim royalty for their creations.
Sibal could achieve little success in getting key legislations stuck in Parliament passed. His successor Raju also had little luck in passing these legislations, one of which is National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutions Bill, 2010. The passage of the Bill would have made accreditation mandatory for every institutions.
During 2012, UGC issued guidelines which mandates that foreign universities entering into agreement with their Indian counterparts for offering twinning programmes will have to be among the global top 500. The Indian varsities on the other hand, should have received the highest accreditation grade.
During the year, outlay for the education sector for the 12th Plan Period was finalised at 4,53,728 crore, a jump of around 155%, with focus on setting up of new institutes and universities and expanding existing one.
UGC proposed 20 exclusive women universities and 800 constituent during the 12th Plan Period colleges under the central varsities to ensure equity in access to quality education.
The efforts of the ministry in the first half of the new year would be aimed at ensuring that states achieve Right to Education standards by March in terms of infrastructure and teacher requirement. Raju has already ruled out extension of the deadline for enforcing the RTE Act beyond March 2013 as several states are yet to achieve the standards.
Over 12,000 new schools still remains to be opened.
On November 11, the advanced version of low cost tablet Aakash was launched by President Pranab Mukherjee. Coming at a price tag of Rs 1,130 for students, the device is powered by a processor running at 1 GHz and has a 512 MB, a 7 inch capacitative touch screen and a battery working for three hours of normal operations.
The CBSE announced that its international programme (CBSE-i), adopted by about 26 schools abroad, will soon be available in 50 schools in the country, offering to students a global curriculum which is enquiry and skill based.
To create a pool of skilled hands in the country vital for the economy, the government also unveiled a vocational qualification framework for technical institutes in the country which will involve students from school level.
The programme will be implemented in association with AICTE in polytechnics, engineering colleges and other institutions in the university systems from 2012-13 to churn out trained professionals for various sectors.
The year gone by also proved a boon for Bihar, with the HRD Ministry giving in to its demands of setting up a central university in Motihari in addition to the one proposed in Gaya.
The government also raised Kendriya Vidyalaya admission quota for MPs from two to six seats in the wake of increased demands from the Parliamentarians.
On the other hand, an IIT panel recommended raising tuition fee of undergraduate programme from Rs 50,000 to Rs 90,000 per annum from 2013.
However, in a setback to the Ministry towards the end of 2012, a Parliamentary panel expressed its objections and questioned the viability of a proposed over-arching body in higher education subsuming regulators like UGC and AICTE.