Higher Education Reforms: New Single Commission to replace UGC, AICTE, and NCTE

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India has always been a land of scholars and learners. The root of India’s education system lies in its history. Today India’s higher education system is the third-largest system in the world after the United States and China. New Education Policy (NEP) 2020 recommends some reforms in the field of higher education. The Ministry of Education decided that the new higher education system will merge all higher education regulators into one body from the next academic session i.e. 2021. All higher educational regulators like University Grant Commission (UGC), All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) etc. will be replaced by one single education commission.

Merging of All Higher Educational Regulators:

The main governing body at the tertiary level of education sector is the University Grants Commission (UGC). UGC advises the government and enforces its standards on different universities. It also helps to coordinate between the central and the state education system. Since the colonial era, the modern Indian higher education system has been expanding at a fast pace. At present, India nearly has 50,000 colleges and about 1000 universities including approximately 416 state universities and 125 deemed universities. Indian higher education system also includes some institutes of national importance like IIMs, IITs and IISERs. This system also includes some state and private colleges. The secretary of central government’s higher education department stated that admission into all central universities with a single entrance exam is expected to be executed in 2021.

The NEP 2020 has also proposed a widespread structural reform to cut through India’s infamous red tape, proposing a new Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) as a single comprehensive umbrella body for higher education, excluding medical and legal education. The regulatory bodies like UGC, AICTE, and NCTE will be merged in a single Higher Education Commission from next year. He also stated that the system of academic credit bank will be imposed in 2021. Through this system one student can transfer credits from one university to another,

What is Academic Credit Bank?

Academic credit bank system is a digital platform. IT helps to facilitate the mobility of students from one university or college to other. It may also facilitate the integration of the campuses and distributed learning systems, by creating student’s freedom of movement within inter and intra university system. Through this credit system student’s credits can be accumulated. Then he/she can used these credits at alter point of time for the requirements of partial fulfilment of a degree program.

This credit bank will issue deposit accounts to all the students who are studying in any recognized higher learning institute. The academic credits that students earn will get automatically credited to their deposit account. later, a student can redeem his/her credits after accumulation of credits to certain level for any academic program at any convenient time. The secretary said the multiple entries and exit system will allow a student to take a sabbatical for a year. Students then will be able to re-join the colleges without losing out on the credits that they have already earned. Union authorities consider this merger of the higher education regulators a big reform in the education space.

Issues with Higher Education of India:

At the time of early civilization, teaching and learning process revolved around the ‘Gurukul System’ in India. Gurukul was a residential concept where the students were educated under the guidance of a ‘Guru’. Learning in Gurukuls was based on the different disciplines of religion, philosophy, and science. In the early modern age, Islamic influences enriched the traditional learning centers. They brought administration, law, and Arabic mathematics to Indian education. Later, during the British rule formal system of studies was introduced that focused on languages, literature, history, etc.  The higher education system in India grew rapidly after independence.

Despite the growing numbers of colleges and enrollments, India does not seem to be able to fulfill the fundamental educational needs of the increasing young population. Some major issues behind it are as follows:

Low Enrollment:

To find the number of enrolled students, India uses a statistical method called Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER). It is the ratio of the population in the 18-23 age groups to the number of people enrolled in higher studies. The Gross Enrollment Ratio in higher education in India is only around 25%. In comparison with developed and other major developing countries this percentage is quite low. Low enrollment means that students in India are not able to get admissions for higher studies. Reasons could be varied for this lower number of enrollments, but it is a major concern because education is the foundational base to prepare skilful manpower.

Equality and Equity disparities:

In a diverse country like India the GER also varies from region to region. There is no equality and equity in GER among different sections of society. GERs of males, females, SC, and ST vary largely. Metropolitan cities have more universities and colleges than rural or small cities. This leads to the regional disparity in access to higher institute. As more educational institutes are being built in urban areas, people from rural areas often find it difficult to reach them. Thus, there is a requirement of establishing more colleges in rural areas as well.

Lack of Infrastructures:

The Indian Budget often has minimum provisions reserved for the higher education sector. Because of the less aids provided by the government, many higher educational institutions including those in private sectors have low infrastructure. Poor infrastructure is another challenge to higher studies in India. The public sector universities in India lack the necessary infrastructure because of corruption, rendering them not up to the mark as per the global standards.

Old Curriculum:

Indian education system follows an outdated curriculum that is dominantly theoretical in nature and completely irrelevant to the practical scenario. The curriculum or framework that universities follow has a low scope for creativity. There is a huge difference between industry requirements and university curriculum which is also one of the main reasons for lower employment percentage of graduates in India.

Poor Quality Education:

As our curriculum follows a theoretical approach, higher studies in India is plagued with rote learning. It does not bring any benefits to the students in their practical lives. Teachers and many educational institutes focus mainly on the quantity of education. The Indian learning system does not have much scope for skill development and vocational training. This reduces the quality of education and this is why India’s education seems vague as compared to the other developing countries.

Plans of the Government to Remove the Issues in Higher Education of India

The government has been implementing some plans to change the old way of learning in India for the past few years. The Ministry of Education formerly known as Human Resource Development (MHRD) has been focusing on improving the quality of learning in India by introducing different reforms. In this direction, the Education Ministry has taken another step. The Ministry decided to merge all the autonomous higher education regulators into a single commission. Apart from this, the government has also taken a few steps in the recent years such as-

Five-Year Vision Plan:

The Ministry has released an ambitious five-year vision plan called Education Quality Upgradation and Inclusion Programme (EQUIP) to transform the higher education sector in the country. EQUIP will set to improve the quality and accessibility of higher education over the period of five years (2019-2024). This plan aims to increase (almost double) the GER in higher education and lead India among the top 1000 global universities.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs):

The government launched a Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) platform popularly known as SWAYAM (Study Webs of Active Learning for Young Aspiring Minds) in 2017. The portal offers various online courses for higher studies. MOOC also develops course modules for the higher education system in every subject area (accountancy, business studies, biology, chemistry, economics, history, geography, mathematics, physics, political science, psychology and sociology).

RISE scheme:

The MHRD, now Ministry of Education, launched Revitalizing Infrastructure and Systems in Higher Education (RISE) by 2022 in the union budget of 2017-2018. This scheme aims to provide low-cost funds (loans) to all government higher educational institutions. The loan taken by the institutions will help them to expand and build new infrastructures. With a total investment of more than 1 lakh crore rupees, the government has launched this scheme. Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) will get the largest part of loans on offer under the RISE Scheme.

Udaan:

Another scheme to give wings to the girl students called Udaan has been launched by the central government. Under this scheme, the government will monitor and provide scholarships to enable high enrollment of girl students in prestigious engineering institutions.  Udaan also promotes teaching and learning of mathematics and science at the senior secondary school level.

Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN):

Under the GIAN program, India’s department of science and technology and education ministry will create an online channel. Through this channel, US professors can teach and research in Indian institutions. They will be teach on short-term exchanges in the field of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Learning Outcome-based Curriculum Framework (LOCF):

To make the student an active learner and teacher a good facilitator, UGC issued the Learning Outcome-based Curriculum Framework (LOCF) guidelines in 2018. LOCF aims to specify what graduates are expected to know, understand and be able to do at the end of their program of study.

Conclusion:

It will take some time to revamp the whole education system in India. As every coin has two phases, similarly merging all higher education regulators into one body might bring both positive and negative changes into the education system. The correct picture will be out in coming years after the execution of this step. We should look forward to this initiation of government towards a better education. So, we hope that it will be implemented properly with the coordination among all stakeholders.

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