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A reality check for higher education dreams

  • IASbaba
  • September 9, 2021
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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EDUCATION/ GOVERNANCE

  • GS-2: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education, Human Resources 
  • GS-3: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation

A reality check for higher education dreams

Context: The UGC will soon implement its two recent regulations — the Academic Bank of Credits and Multiple Entry and Exit.

Significance of these two regulations

  • Promotes flexibility of curriculum framework
  • Promotes interdisciplinary and academic mobility for students across higher education institutions.
  • Facilitates students to choose their own learning path to attain a degree, diploma or certification with multiple entry-multiple exit options. 
  • Education will be student-centric learning, customised for each student’s strengths, needs, skills, and interests. 
  • Addresses the criticism that Indian education is too structured, rigid and expensive
  • Helps in student retention & increasing enrolment. Students tend to drop out because of lack of relevance & unable to sustain their interest.

The regulations are, therefore, being showcased as star recommendations of NEP and game-changers for higher education. At theoretical level these look good, but there are challenges in making it a reality.

Concerns

  • Maturity of Student: A young student of 15 or 16 may not be in a position to meaningfully select the best courses or combination of courses to suit her aptitude.
  • Nomenclature of Degree: Even if she selects the courses, she may not be able to tailor her degrees as she wishes. This is because the control over the nomenclature of the degree rests solely with the UGC. 
  • Not a full-fledged flexibility: Regarding flexibility in the choice of subjects, if 50 per cent of the curriculum must be carried out within the degree-granting institute, then there is actually little flexibility left for the student
  • Previous Experience: A similar concept of a “Meta University” was attempted in 2012 that failed to take off despite a UGC regulation, primarily due to the silo mentality and lack of coordination among institutions.
    • National Skill Qualification Framework (NSQF) has similar enabling provisions (multiple entry & Exit) for vocational education but has nothing tangible to show for it.
  • Limited Options: If flexibility with quality were the basis, government shouldn’t limit courses only to those available on SWAYAM, NPTEL, V-Lab, etc, for credit transfer and credit accumulation. Foreign Credits can also be tapped into.
  • Employability Factor: If a student chooses to drop a year or two into a degree programme, the issue of his employability remains unresolved. Similar argument was used while pulling down Delhi University’s Five-Year UG Programme in 2014.
  • Bureaucracy Constraints: Given the challenges a student faces in getting migration certificate or transcript due to bureaucratic processes, there are apprehensions with smooth implementation of these initiatives.
  • Training Manpower: The faculty will need to be reoriented to become guides and mentors, from just teachers. 
  • Funds: Implementation of these initiatives requires funds both for IT infrastructure & manpower (teachers).  However, the total central education budget has been falling constantly by 4.14 per cent in 2014-15, 3.4 per cent in 2019-20.

Way Ahead

Great commitment will be required from every stakeholder, from the Centre and UGC to VCs, faculty and non-faculty staff to make these innovative ideas a success.

Connecting the dots:

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