Thursday, July 16, 2009

My dig into the Yashpal Report

The Government has finally realized that something is wrong with our Educational system. And this is not the first time. However, with the abolition of AICTE and UGC and the implementation of the Yashpal Report within the coming 100 days, it wants to make sure that something substantial does happen this time. A big hoopla surrounds the Yashpal report and it is the current ‘new’ topic of discussion. However, as was with the nuclear deal,
do we really know how it will affect us once it is implemented?

The Yashpal report is a comprehensive document that lists out the proposed changes that need to be undertaken by the Indian Education System in order for it to be viable in the changing face of education. However, it has come out to be as vague as the Government’s whole idea of quality education.

The ideas presented, though noble, are certainly not clear. For example, an excerpt from the report under the head “The idea of a university” reads as follows:

Apart from resisting fragmentation of knowledge, the idea of a university should aspire to encompass the world of work in all its forms. Work constitutes the human sphere where knowledge and skills are born, and where new knowledge takes shape in response to social and personal needs. Indeed, the experience and culture of work represents that core space where the humanities and the sciences meet.

As can be seen, there is a lot of thought but absence of an implementable idea.

Further, the report discusses the ‘Problems of the Education Sector’. Though the identification of the problem areas is right, there is a failure in quantification of the amount of damage done. Explaining the teaching method and mode of transmission in class rooms, it says: “mode of transmission is generally quite poor”. This kind of generic terminology might undermine the immediacy of the need to address the issue and thus affect the motive of the report.

The report has little or no data to prove or corroborate many of its claims. For example, it says that in the past, some institutions after being declared as universities had promised to give degrees for a certain amount of money; however, there is no data present to prove such an allegation. In the absence of data, all claims just become mere observations which do not have the capacity to bring about any change.

The report proposes an end to the ‘Deemed University’ phenomenon. If, implemented, no new institution will be accredited with the ‘deemed university’ status and the existing ones will be given a period of three years to develop into a university (fulfilling all the prescribed norms), failing which their deemed university status will be withdrawn. It is a difficult idea to implement as it is unfair to expect an institution to start with university level standards. A better idea would have been to declare an institute a university in stages; the first stage being a deemed university.

In the Indian higher education scenario, there is one regulatory body to cover all possible areas of education. For example, University Grants Commission (UGC), All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE), Medical Council of India (MCI), Bar Council of India (BCI), Council of Architecture (COA), National Council on Teacher Education (NCTE), Indian Nursing Council (INC) and Pharmacy Council of India. The Yashpal Report proposes the development of a single regulatory body called the ‘National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER)’ to overcome the chaos created by the confusing rules of a large number of bodies. This will certainly make regulation more effective and transparent and also reduce corrupt practices by institutes. According to the report, the new regulatory body will move from the current method of the ‘inspection-approval’ to a new method of ‘verification and authentication’. This will ensure that the educational institutions work in co-ordination with the regulatory bodies and the upgradation of an institute becomes an ongoing instead of a one time process.

The report lays down the objectives for higher education which indicate that there will no more be any confusion in policy decisions as there will be a single point of contact of all policy related queries. Also universities will become autonomous which will give them more freedom. It has mentioned continuous reforms in education, although again specific details about them are missing.

Amongst all other recommendations of the report, the one that grabs attention is the proposal to convert universities like IITs and IIMs into full fledged universities imparting knowledge in all areas. This proposal, if not implemented with caution can ruin the engineering or the MBA education of the IITs and IIMs.

The ideas presented in the report can improve the quality of higher education in India only if it provides tangible ideas that can be implemented in reality. Although it has started a debate which is necessary for reform, resenting merely ‘what needs to be done’ will not help any one.

Source :[PaGaLGuY : My dig into the Yashpal Report ]

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