Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

The government’s new PhD guidelines will make Universities more Elite

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Key Implication of this announcement

Why in the news?

The UGC chairperson announced that students with four-year undergraduate degrees can now appear for the National Eligibility Test (NET), an exam that certifies eligibility for lectureship in colleges and universities in India, and PhD programs.

Key Implication of this Announcement:

  • Lowering of Standards: Allowing students with four-year undergraduate degrees to appear for the National Eligibility Test (NET) and pursue PhD programs without a Master’s degree may lead to concerns about the lowering of academic standards.
  • Quality of Teaching: Concerns arise regarding the quality of teaching in universities and colleges if fresh undergraduate students are recruited to teach other undergraduate students.
  • Impact on University Rankings: The decision may have implications for the rankings and reputation of Indian universities, particularly those with prestigious tags like the Institution of Eminence and high NAAC ratings.
  • Dilutes the perception: Allowing candidates to pursue a PhD in a subject unrelated raises concerns about the diversity and interdisciplinary nature of research.
    • The decision to broaden access to PhD programs may be aimed at dismantling the perception of PhD as an elite qualification.
    • However, critics may argue that diluting the entry requirements for PhD programs could undermine the rigor and prestige associated with earning a doctorate.
  • Impact on Research Culture: Lowering the barriers to entry for PhD programs may have implications for the research culture and scholarly integrity within academic institutions.

Measures to maintain standards for the National Eligibility Test (NET):

  • Retain Postgraduate Degree Requirement: Maintain the requirement of a postgraduate degree for appearing in the NET to ensure that candidates have a solid foundation in their respective fields of study.
  • Reintroduce MPhil Programs: Reinstate MPhil programs to provide an intermediary step between postgraduate and doctoral studies. MPhil programs offer an opportunity for students to further develop their research skills and prepare for doctoral-level research.
  • Enhanced Mentoring and Preparation Period: Implement a structured mentoring program for NET aspirants to help them transition from undergraduate to postgraduate and eventually doctoral-level research.
  • Specialized Entrance Exams for PhD Programs: Instead of eliminating separate entrance exams for PhD programs, consider introducing specialized entrance exams that assess candidates’ research aptitude, subject knowledge, and suitability for doctoral-level research

Way Forward: 

  • Promote Interdisciplinary Research: Encourage interdisciplinary research by providing opportunities for collaboration and exchange across different academic disciplines.
  • Maintain Research Standards: Uphold rigorous standards for doctoral research and teaching positions to ensure the quality and integrity of academic programs. Implement quality assurance mechanisms to monitor and evaluate the standards of the NET and PhD programs.

Mains PYQ: 

Q The quality of higher education in India requires major improvement to make it internationally competitive. Do you think that the entry of foreign educational institutions would help improve the quality of technical and higher education in the country. Discuss.(UPSC IAS/2015).

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With Open Book Exams, India goes back to its traditional roots — and closer to being a vishwaguru

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: National Education Policy (NEP)

Mains level: benefits and challenges of open-book exams

 

As CBSE Proposes Open Book Exams For Classes 9-12, Parents Express Concern

Central Idea:

The article discusses the recent reforms in India’s education system, particularly the introduction of open-book exams by the CBSE and the shift towards a more holistic approach to learning as outlined in the National Education Policy (NEP) of 2022. It reflects on the historical origins of education in India, the impact of the pandemic on traditional learning methods, and the need for a more dynamic and flexible educational framework.

 

Key Highlights:

  • Historical perspective on education in India, tracing back to ancient gurukuls and traditional learning methodologies.
  • The influence of colonial education policies and the subsequent need for modernization.
  • Challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the limitations of traditional classroom-based learning and the disparities in access to education.
  • The National Education Policy of 2022 and its emphasis on holistic development and a more flexible curriculum.
  • Introduction of open-book exams and biannual examinations by the CBSE as part of efforts to reform the examination-oriented approach and promote continuous assessment.

 

Key Challenges:

  • Mindset shift required among educators, students, and parents to adapt to new learning methodologies and assessment formats.
  • Ensuring equitable access to education and technology, especially for students from marginalized communities.
  • Overcoming resistance to change and traditional beliefs about the value of memorization-based exams.
  • Implementation challenges, including training of teachers, development of appropriate study materials, and assessment methods for open-book exams.
  • Balancing the need for continuous assessment with the demands of a standardized examination system.

Pradhan Mantri Ujjawala Yojana (PMUY) - Apply Online Now

 

Main Terms:

  • Open-book exams
  • Holistic development
  • National Education Policy (NEP)
  • Gurukuls
  • Continuous assessment
  • Colonial education
  • Biannual examinations

 

Important Phrases:

  • “Paradigm shift in education”
  • “Dynamic and flexible educational framework”
  • “Holistic learning approach”
  • “Continuous assessment over memorization”
  • “Equitable access to education”
  • “Adapting to new learning methodologies”
  • “Overcoming resistance to change”

 

Quotes:

  • “The journey of education is an ever-evolving one.”
  • “Change while staying true to the essence of holistic learning.”
  • “Reclaiming the honour of being a ‘vishwaguru.'”

 

Anecdotes:

  • The contrast between traditional gurukuls and modern-day classrooms.
  • Personal experiences of students navigating the challenges of the pandemic and adapting to online learning.

 

Useful Statements:

  • “The pandemic revealed the limitations of traditional classroom-based learning.”
  • “The NEP emphasizes a shift towards holistic development and flexible learning methodologies.”
  • “Open-book exams offer students a chance for continuous assessment and learning from mistakes.”

 

Examples and References:

  • Examples of successful implementation of open-book exams in other educational systems.
  • Reference to the Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE) report on learning outcomes during the pandemic.

 

Facts and Data:

  • Introduction of open-book exams and biannual examinations by the CBSE.
  • Statistics on learning outcomes and access to education during the pandemic from the UDISE report.

 

Critical Analysis:

  • Evaluation of the benefits and challenges of open-book exams in promoting critical thinking and reducing exam-related stress.
  • Discussion on the need for ongoing teacher training and infrastructure development to support the implementation of new educational policies.

 

Way Forward:

  • Emphasize the importance of adapting to changing educational paradigms while preserving the essence of traditional learning.
  • Invest in teacher training, technology infrastructure, and curriculum development to support holistic education.
  • Foster collaboration between educators, policymakers, and communities to ensure equitable access to quality education for all students.

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A ruling that gives primary school teaching a new slate

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Teacher Eligibility Test (TET)

Mains level: discrepancy between qualifications and the requirements of primary education

Bratya Basu | Teachers' Eligibility Test exam: Education minister trashes report of question paper leak - Telegraph India

Central Idea:

The central idea of the article revolves around the recent Supreme Court ruling in India, which upheld the necessity of specialized qualifications for primary school teaching, emphasizing the significance of Diploma in Education (DEd), Diploma in Elementary Education (DElEd), or Bachelor of Elementary Education (BElEd) degrees over Bachelor of Education (B.Ed). The article highlights the implications of this decision on recruitment policies and the quality of primary education in the country.

Key Highlights:

  • Different Requirements for Primary Teaching: Teaching young children in primary grades requires specialized skills in foundational literacy and numeracy, which cannot be adequately addressed by the B.Ed degree, designed for teaching older students. The Right to Education Act underscores the importance of appropriate qualifications for primary school teachers.
  • Discrepancies in Qualifications: Despite regulations, there are discrepancies in the qualifications of primary school teachers, with a significant portion holding B.Ed degrees instead of the required DEd, DElEd, or BElEd qualifications.
  • Challenges in Quality: The quality of teacher education programs varies, with government-funded institutions generally performing better than self-financed ones. Concerns exist regarding low mean scores, especially in mathematics, indicating a need for improvement in pedagogical content knowledge.
  • Government Support and Innovation: There is a call for government support and innovation in primary teacher education, including the expansion of successful programs like BElEd and the Integrated Teacher Education Programme (ITEP).

Key Challenges:

  • Discrepancies in Qualifications: The prevalence of B.Ed holders in primary teaching roles highlights the challenge of aligning qualifications with the specific requirements of primary education.
  • Quality Disparities: Disparities in the quality of teacher education programs, particularly between government-funded and self-financed institutions, pose a challenge to ensuring consistently high standards of teacher preparation.
  • Limited Government Focus: The article criticizes the government’s focus on higher education faculty development rather than primary teacher preparation, potentially neglecting the crucial foundation of education.

Main Terms:

  • Bachelor of Education (B.Ed)
  • Diploma in Education (DEd)
  • Diploma in Elementary Education (DElEd)
  • Bachelor of Elementary Education (BElEd)
  • Right to Education Act
  • Teacher Eligibility Test (TET)
  • District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs)
  • Integrated Teacher Education Programme (ITEP)

Important Phrases:

  • Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN)
  • Teacher Eligibility Test (TET)
  • District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs)
  • Integrated Teacher Education Programme (ITEP)
  • Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya National Mission on Teachers & Teaching

Quotes:

  • “Teaching these competencies has to be learnt by prospective primary schoolteachers, through specialized teacher education for this stage.”
  • “Almost all of us have forgotten how we learned to read or manipulate the number system.”
  • “Better students seem to prefer government-funded institutions.”
  • “The decision to become a teacher can also occur at different stages.”

Examples and References:

  • The State of Teachers, Teaching and Teacher Education Report.
  • Analysis of Teachers Eligibility Test (TET) data from a particular state.
  • The success of programs like BElEd offered by Delhi University.
  • The announcement of the Integrated Teacher Education Programme (ITEP) and the Scheme of Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya National Mission on Teachers & Teaching.

Facts and Data:

  • 90% of teachers have some form of professional qualification.
  • Only 46% of teachers teaching primary grades have the DElEd (or equivalent) qualification.
  • 22% of primary school teachers in private schools have B.Ed degrees.
  • 4% of students enrolled in DElEd already have a B.Ed.
  • Only 14% of qualifying candidates in TET had a mean score of 60% or above.

Critical Analysis:

The article effectively critiques the discrepancy between qualifications and the requirements of primary education, highlighting the need for specialized training in foundational literacy and numeracy. It addresses disparities in teacher education quality and government focus, advocating for greater attention to primary teacher preparation. However, it could delve further into the socio-economic factors influencing qualification choices and explore potential solutions in more detail.

Way Forward:

  • Strengthening government support for primary teacher education programs.
  • Expanding successful models like BElEd and ITEP.
  • Addressing quality disparities between institutions.
  • Implementing section-wise qualifying cut-off marks in TET.
  • Providing pathways for professional development for B.Ed holders aiming for primary teaching roles.

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Too many IITs, unrealistic expectations

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: IITs and other premier institutions

Mains level: Read the attached story

Introduction  

  • New Campus: IIT Madras Zanzibar, inaugurated recently, gained widespread attention following a mention by Amitabh Bachchan on the game show Kaun Banega Crorepati.
  • Significance: The establishment of an IIT campus outside India raises questions about the implications and challenges of operating an IIT beyond national borders.

Historical Context of IITs

  • Founding Principles: The IITs were established with a focus on contributing to the nation’s human resource development, emphasizing their Indian identity and commitment to national service.
  • Technological Geography: Envisioned as institutions of “Indianness,” the IITs symbolize a united India driven by technological advancements, as outlined in the Nalini Ranjan Sarkar Committee’s Report.

Expansion of the IIT System

  • Origins and Growth: Initially comprising five institutions, the IIT system expanded over the years to include 23 IITs across the country, with varying degrees of foreign collaboration.
  • Evolution: While initially focused on technology and engineering, the IITs have evolved to include humanities and social sciences, aligning with the objectives outlined in the National Education Policy of 2020.

Challenges and Realities

  • Institutional Characteristics: The IITs differ from traditional universities in terms of discipline range and size, primarily focusing on undergraduate education and gradually incorporating post-graduate offerings.
  • Academic Rigor and Selectivity: Renowned for their academic excellence, the IITs attract top-tier students and faculty, maintaining rigorous standards despite challenges in faculty recruitment and retention.
  • Regional Presence: The proliferation of IITs across the country, including in smaller towns, raises concerns about maintaining quality standards and infrastructure outside major urban centers.

Adapting to Changing Realities

  • Quality Assurance: Ensuring the quality and relevance of IIT education requires strategic planning and resource allocation, particularly in the face of faculty shortages and infrastructure constraints.
  • Internationalization Efforts: Collaborative initiatives with global universities and enhanced recruitment of foreign faculty can bolster the international reputation and competitiveness of the IITs.
  • Funding and Sustainability: Sustainable funding models, both from government sources and alumni philanthropy, are crucial to preserving the integrity and excellence of the IITs amidst expansion and globalization.

Recommendations for the Future

  • Strategic Focus: Prioritizing excellence over expansion, consolidating resources, and strategically locating IIT campuses can ensure sustained quality and relevance.
  • Global Engagement: Strengthening international collaborations and student exchange programs while maintaining the essence of Indian identity can enhance the global standing of the IITs.
  • Sustainable Growth: Balancing growth with quality assurance measures and fostering regional connections can address challenges associated with overexpansion and ensure long-term sustainability.

Conclusion

  • Preserving Excellence: Upholding the legacy of academic excellence and national service while adapting to changing educational landscapes is essential for the continued success of the IITs.
  • Strategic Vision: A strategic and sustainable approach to growth, internationalization, and quality assurance is imperative to maintain the IITs’ position as India’s premier institutions of higher learning.
  • Collective Responsibility: Collaboration among stakeholders, including government, academia, industry, and alumni, is crucial to safeguarding the integrity and reputation of the IITs for generations to come.

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Should coaching be restricted to those above 16 years?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Na

Mains level: India's growing private coaching industry has faced numerous challenges, including student suicides

Ministry of Education issues guidelines for coaching centres; prohibits  intake of students below 16 years - The Hindu

 

Central Idea:
The discussion between Vimala Ramachandran and Arjun Mohan, moderated by Priscilla Jebaraj, revolves around the Ministry of Education’s new guidelines for private coaching centres in India, particularly focusing on the restriction of enrolment to those above 16 years of age. The conversation highlights the impact of the rule, challenges within the education system, the role of coaching centers, and the importance of mental health interventions.

 

Key Highlights:

  • The Ministry’s guidelines aim to alleviate the pressure on young children caused by the private coaching industry and restore their childhood by restricting enrolment to those above 16 years old.
  • The discussion underscores the high academic pressure faced by students and the necessity for foundational teaching, which is often lacking in the school system.
  • Both speakers acknowledge the failures within the education system, including rote-oriented teaching and lack of conceptual understanding.
  • Coaching centers are seen as filling the gaps left by the education system, catering to students’ needs from various backgrounds and academic levels.
  • The conversation also delves into the challenges of implementing the guidelines effectively, especially considering the involvement of state governments and the need for clear regulations.
  • Mental health interventions are recognized as crucial in reducing pressure on students, but systemic changes and public awareness campaigns are deemed essential for long-term impact.
  • The role of parents in understanding and alleviating the pressure on their children is emphasized, alongside the responsibility of coaching centers in managing expectations and providing quality education.
  • The issue of false advertising by some coaching institutes is acknowledged, along with the necessity for transparency and accountability in the industry.

 

Key Challenges:

  • Lack of foundational teaching and conceptual understanding in the school system.
  • Difficulty in implementing and enforcing the Ministry’s guidelines effectively, particularly at the state level.
  • The pervasive academic pressure on students driven by competition and societal expectations.
  • Insufficient mental health support for students facing stress and anxiety.
  • Challenges in regulating the coaching industry to ensure transparency and accountability.

 

Main Terms:

  • Ministry of Education
  • Private coaching industry
  • Enrolment restrictions
  • Rote-oriented teaching
  • Foundation programs
  • Competitive exams (e.g., JEE, NEET)
  • Shadow education system
  • Consumer Protection Act

 

Important Phrases:

  • “Restoring childhood”
  • “Rote-oriented exam system”
  • “Shadow education system”
  • “Competitive exams pressure”
  • “False and misleading advertising”
  • “Transparency and accountability”
  • “Mental health interventions”

 

Quotes:

  • “The load on today’s children is high.”
  • “Coaching helps students crack ultra-competitive exams.”
  • “Misleading advertising happens in every industry.”
  • “The pressure is because of competition.”
  • “Education is a service industry.”

 

Useful Statements:

  • “The Ministry’s guidelines aim to alleviate the pressure on young children by restricting enrolment to those above 16 years old.”
  • “Coaching centers fill the gaps left by the education system, catering to students’ needs from various backgrounds and academic levels.”
  • “Mental health interventions are crucial in reducing pressure on students, but systemic changes and public awareness campaigns are essential for long-term impact.”
  • “The role of parents in understanding and alleviating the pressure on their children is emphasized.”

 

Examples and References:

  • Student suicides in Kota, Rajasthan.
  • Misleading advertising by some coaching institutes.
  • Lack of conceptual understanding in the school system.

 

Facts and Data:

  • India’s growing private coaching industry has faced numerous challenges, including student suicides, fire incidents, and complaints of poor infrastructure and teaching.
  • Research shows higher levels of tuition and coaching in states with higher levels of government school systems.

 

Critical Analysis:
The discussion highlights systemic issues within the education system, the role of coaching centers, and the challenges in implementing regulatory measures effectively. It emphasizes the need for a holistic approach, including changes in pedagogy, parental involvement, mental health support, and regulatory oversight.

 

Way Forward:

  • Implement the Ministry’s guidelines effectively, with clear regulations and oversight mechanisms.
  • Reform the education system to focus on conceptual understanding and reduce reliance on rote learning.
  • Increase awareness about mental health issues and provide adequate support services for students.
  • Encourage parental involvement in understanding and alleviating academic pressure on children.
  • Ensure transparency and accountability in the coaching industry to protect students from false advertising and unethical practices

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Tackling Unfair Means in Public Examinations: The 2024 Bill

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Unfair Means in Public Exams

cheating

Introduction

  • The Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill, 2024, introduced in Lok Sabha, seeks to combat “unfair means” in public examinations and enhance transparency and credibility in the examination system.
  • This comprehensive legislation addresses various aspects of unfair practices in public exams and outlines stringent penalties for violations.

“Unfair Means” in Examinations

  • Enumerating Offenses: Section 3 of the Bill outlines at least 15 actions that constitute “unfair means” in public examinations, primarily for monetary or wrongful gain.
  • Examples: These actions include question paper leaks, unauthorized access to question papers or answer sheets, tampering with answer sheets, providing unauthorized solutions to questions, and conducting fake examinations.

Scope of “Public Examinations”

  • Defining Public Examinations: Under Section 2(k), a “public examination” encompasses any examination conducted by designated “public examination authorities” listed in the Bill’s Schedule or notified by the Central Government.
  • Designated Authorities: The Schedule includes entities like UPSC, SSC, RRBs, IBPS, and NTA, responsible for various national-level examinations.
  • Central Government’s Authority: Ministries and Departments of the Central Government, along with their attached and subordinate offices for staff recruitment, fall under the Bill’s purview.

Penalties for Violations

  • Stringent Measures: Section 9 stipulates that offenses are cognizable, non-bailable, and non-compoundable.
  • Cognizable Offenses: Authorities can arrest individuals without a warrant.
  • Non-Bailable: Bail is not a matter of right and is subject to a magistrate’s discretion.
  • Non-Compoundable: Complainants cannot withdraw the case, necessitating a trial.

Punishments

  • Individual Offenders: Violators may face imprisonment ranging from three to five years and fines of up to Rs 10 lakh.
  • Additional Penalty: Failure to pay the fine can result in additional imprisonment, as per the provisions of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023.
  • Service Providers: Those providing support for examination conduct can be fined up to Rs 1 crore, along with other penalties.
  • Organized Paper Leaks: In cases of organized paper leaks constituting “organized crime,” offenders may face imprisonment for a minimum of five years, extendable up to ten years, and a fine not less than one crore rupees.

Rationale Behind the Bill

  • Addressing Rampant Paper Leaks: Numerous cases of question paper leaks in recruitment exams nationwide have disrupted the hiring process and affected millions of applicants.
  • Need for Specific Legislation: The absence of a substantive law to address unfair practices in public examinations necessitated a comprehensive central legislation.
  • Objectives: The Bill aims to ensure transparency, fairness, and credibility in public examinations while deterring individuals and entities exploiting vulnerabilities in the system for wrongful gains.
  • Model Draft for States: The Bill is intended to serve as a model for states to adopt at their discretion, assisting them in preventing disruptions in their state-level public examinations.

Conclusion

  • This legislation represents a significant step toward safeguarding the integrity of public examinations in India.
  • By establishing stringent penalties for unfair practices and addressing the issue of paper leaks, the legislation seeks to reassure candidates that their sincere efforts will be duly rewarded and their future secured.
  • Moreover, the Bill’s potential to serve as a model for state-level legislation enhances its impact in curbing exam-related malpractices.

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Stricter Rules for Indian Students Pursuing Higher Education Abroad

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Higher education in foreign countries

Introduction

  • Indian students aspiring to pursue higher education in English-speaking countries, notably Canada and the U.K., are facing increased difficulties due to tightening immigration rules.
  • This shift in regulations is affecting various aspects of the admission process and has raised concerns among higher education experts.

Recent Policy Changes

[1] Canada’s Revised Requirements:

  • The Canadian government, responding to political tensions with India, revised its requirements in December 2023 to enhance the protection of international students.
  • Notable Changes:
    1. The Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) amount, necessary for visa applications, increased from 10,000 Canadian dollars (approximately ₹6.15 lakh) to 20,635 Canadian dollars (around ₹12.7 lakh).
    2. Canada has limited the total number of study permits or student visas to be issued to 3.6 lakh, down from nearly four lakh.

[2] UK’s Restriction on Dependant Family:

  • Starting in 2024, international students in the UK will be prohibited from bringing dependant family members while pursuing their studies.

[3] Increased GIC Requirements in Other Countries:

  • Countries like Germany and Australia have steadily raised their GIC amounts by around 10% annually, with Germany requiring 11,208 euros (₹10 lakh) for visa applications as of May 2023.

Impact on Students

  • Financial Challenges: The substantial increase in GIC requirements, such as in Canada, poses financial challenges for Indian students, making it difficult to afford living expenses in expensive countries.
  • Reduced Visa Accessibility: Canada’s reduction in the number of study permits affects Indian students’ access to higher education in the country.
  • Change in Study Choices: The stricter rules have led to changes in study preferences, with some students considering countries like Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, the Netherlands, Finland, Taiwan, and Israel as alternative destinations for their education.

Mixed Implications

  • Addressing Diploma Mills: Canada’s measures are aimed at curbing the issue of ‘diploma mills,’ improving the quality of education, and discouraging unethical practices by agents.
  • Impact on Bachelor’s Degree Seekers: While master’s program students benefit from eased norms, those pursuing bachelor’s degrees in Canada face uncertainty and delays in their visa applications.

Conclusion

  • The recent changes in admission rules for Indian students seeking higher education abroad highlight the evolving landscape of international education.
  • These alterations necessitate adaptability among students and have sparked shifts in study preferences towards countries with more accessible pathways

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Micro-credentials, the next chapter in higher education

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: National Credit Framework (NCrF)

Mains level: more active role of Higher Education Institutes (HEIs)

Higher Education In India | 06 Apr 2020

Central Idea:

The article advocates for a more active role of Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) in India to enhance students’ employability by incorporating micro-credentials, short-duration learning activities validating specific skills. It emphasizes the need to bridge the gap between traditional education and current job requirements, highlighting the flexibility and accessibility of micro-credentials. The evolving hiring practices, prioritizing skills over degrees, further reinforce the significance of these short-duration learning programs.

Key Highlights:

  • Micro-Credentials Definition: Short-duration learning activities proving specific outcomes, offering flexibility for learners.
  • Changing Hiring Practices: Shift towards prioritizing skills over degrees in recruitment.
  • Industry Players: Various organizations and universities globally providing micro-credentials.
  • National Credit Framework (NCrF): In India, a framework outlining learning outcomes and credits for progression.
  • Quality Benchmarking: The importance of ensuring consistent quality standards and regulations for micro-credentials.
  • Trust Building: Reliable assessment methods critical to fostering trust in micro-credentials.
  • Potential Impact: Micro-credentials as a valuable addition to traditional education, enhancing students’ skills.

Key Challenges:

  • Quality Assurance: Ensuring consistent quality in micro-credentials to prevent divergence in learning outcomes.
  • Regulation: The need for clear regulations to facilitate recognition and endorsement in workplaces and educational institutes.
  • Assessment Methods: Developing reliable assessment methods critical for establishing trust in micro-credentials.

Key Terms and Phrases:

  • Micro-Credentials: Short-duration learning activities proving specific outcomes.
  • National Credit Framework (NCrF): Framework in India outlining learning outcomes and credits.
  • Just-in-Time Skills: Acquiring skills when needed, addressing the gap between traditional education and current job requirements.

Key Quotes:

  • “Hiring practices are changing, with a tendency to prioritize skills over degrees.”
  • “Micro-credentials are evolving as the new normal in higher education.”

Key Statements:

  • The article asserts the need for HEIs to play a more active role in enhancing students’ employability.
  • Micro-credentials are presented as a disruptive solution to bridge the knowledge gap between traditional education and job requirements.

Key Examples and References:

  • Atingi, Alison.com, Credly, Coursera, edX, FutureLearn, Google, Linkedin, Microsoft, PwC, and Udacity are mentioned as organizations providing micro-credentials.
  • Reference to the National Credit Framework (NCrF) in India as a guideline for learning outcomes and credits.

Key Facts and Data:

  • The National Education Policy 2020 focuses on providing skilled education from school to higher levels.
  • Micro-credentials can be one to five credit short modules, aligning with the NCrF.

Critical Analysis:

The article underscores the evolving nature of education and employment, recognizing the importance of skills over traditional degrees. It emphasizes the potential of micro-credentials in addressing these shifts and encourages collaboration between HEIs and industries.

Way Forward:

  • Collaboration: Encourage collaboration between HEIs and industries for the development of credit-based micro-credentials.
  • Regulation: Establish clear regulations to harmonize micro-credentials with existing academic programs.
  • Quality Assurance: Ensure consistent quality in micro-credentials through reliable assessment methods.
  • Awareness: Raise awareness among students and employers about the value of micro-credentials in enhancing skills and employability.

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Key takeaways from All India Survey of Higher Education (AISHE), 2021-22

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: AISHE Survey

Mains level: Read the attached story

Introduction

  • The All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) captures student enrollment across eight levels, including undergraduate, postgraduate, PhD, MPhil, diploma, PG diploma, certificate, and integrated programs.
  • The survey received responses from 10,576 standalone institutions, 42,825 colleges, and 1,162 universities/university-level institutions.

About AISHE

  • AISHE is a report published by the Ministry of Education since 2011.
  • Aim: Portray the status of higher education in the country.
  • Survey covers all institutions in India providing higher education.
  • Data collected on parameters like teachers, student enrollment, programs, exam results, education finance, and infrastructure.
  • Indicators calculated: Institution Density, Gross Enrolment Ratio, Pupil-teacher ratio, Gender Parity Index, Per Student Expenditure.
  • Higher Education defined as education obtained after completing 12 years of schooling or equivalent.

Key Takeaways:

[1] Enrollment Trends: Female Dominance

  • Rising Female Enrollment: The AISHE report reveals a consistent increase in female enrollment in higher education institutions.
  • 2014-15 to 2021-22: Female enrollment grew by 32%, from 1.5 crore in 2014-15 to 2.07 crores in 2021-22. In the last five years, it increased by 18.7% from 1.74 crore in 2017-18.
  • PhD Enrollment Surge: The most significant growth was observed at the PhD level, with 98,636 women enrolled in 2021-22, compared to only 47,717 eight years ago.
  • Proportion of Women: Among the additional 91 lakh students joining higher education in 2021-22 compared to 2014-15, 55% were women. The postgraduate level saw the highest proportion of female students, with 55.4%.

[2] Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) and Gender Parity

  • GER Insights: The estimated GER for the age group 18-23 years in India is 28.4, based on 2011 census data.
  • State-wise GER: States with the highest GER include Chandigarh (64.8%), Puducherry (61.5%), Delhi (49%), and Tamil Nadu (47%).
  • Gender Parity Index (GPI): GPI measures the ratio of female GER to male GER. In 26 states and Union Territories, GER favors women. At the national level, the GPI is 1.01, and for SC and ST categories, it is 1.01 and 0.98, respectively.

[3] Academic Discipline Enrollment

  • UG Enrollment by Discipline: The Bachelor of Arts (BA) program holds the highest enrollment with 1.13 crore students, constituting 34.2% of total undergraduate enrollment. Overall, 3.41 crore students are enrolled in UG programs.
  • UG Discipline Preferences: UG enrollment distribution in 2021-22 is led by Arts (34.2%), followed by Science (14.8%), Commerce (13.3%), and Engineering & Technology (11.8%). BA(Hons) accounts for 6.2%.
  • PG Enrollment: Social science has the highest number of postgraduate students with 10.8 lakh. The Master of Arts (MA) program leads with 20.9 lakh students, constituting 40.7% of total postgraduate enrollment.
  • PhD Discipline: In the PhD category, social sciences rank third after engineering and science. While 52,748 students pursue a PhD in engineering and 45,324 in science, 26,057 opt for PhD in social sciences.

[4] Preference for Government Institutions

  • Government vs. Private: Surprisingly, 73.7% of all students attend government universities, which constitute only 58.6% of all universities.
  • Government Sector Enrollment: State public universities hold the largest share of enrolment, accounting for around 31% of total university enrolment.
  • Private Universities: In terms of numbers, government-owned universities enroll 71.06 lakh students, while privately managed universities enroll 25.32 lakh students. Students show a preference for government educational institutions.

[5] Demographics of Graduates

  • Graduation Statistics: In the 2021-22 academic year, an estimated 1.07 crore students graduated from various programs, with 50.8% being women.
  • Category-wise Graduates: Approximately 35% of graduates belong to Other Backward Classes (OBC), 13% are from Scheduled Caste (SC), and 5.7% are from Scheduled Tribe (ST) communities.
  • Stream-wise Graduation: Arts and social sciences streams exhibit higher graduation rates. At the undergraduate level, BA degrees top the list with 24.16 lakh graduates. MA degrees dominate at the postgraduate level with 7.02 lakh graduates. In PhD programs, science leads with 7,408 graduates, followed by engineering and technology with 6,270 graduates.

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Science Ministry announces first recipients of VAIBHAV Fellowship

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Vaibhav Fellowship Scheme

Mains level: NA

Introduction

  • In a significant move to bolster India’s scientific research ecosystem, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) recently unveiled the first batch of ‘Vaibhav’ fellows.

About Vaibhav Fellowship Scheme

  • The Vaibhav Fellowship, initiated in June 2023, is designed to attract Indian-origin scientists residing abroad for short-term collaborations with Indian institutions.
  • These collaborations aim to foster research excellence and innovation by tapping into the expertise of Indian scientists from around the world.

Benefits for Vaibhav Fellows

  • Collaboration: Fellows commit to spending a month or two annually in India for a maximum of three years, collaborating with host Indian institutions.
  • Financial Support: Each selected Vaibhav fellow receives a stipend of ₹4 lakh per month, along with accommodation during their stay in India.
  • Renowned Host Institutions: Host institutions encompass esteemed names like the IISc, IIT, and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, among others.
  • Research Grant: The host institutions are provided with a research grant to support collaborative projects and technology start-ups initiated by the fellows.
  • Long-term Research Connections: Fellows are encouraged to build enduring research connections with host institutions, collaborate with faculty, and bring fresh ideas to the field, contributing to Indian university and research settings.

Vaibhav vs. Vajra: Distinct Objectives

  • Vaibhav Fellowship Scheme: Primarily targets the Indian diaspora for collaborations, with a focus on translational outcomes in critical areas of scientific research.
  • Vajra Scheme: Open to all foreign scientists, it promotes short-term visits by foreign faculty to Indian institutions, offering a broader platform for international collaboration.

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Better use of technology needs free access

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: ASER 2023

Mains level: ASER 2023 report underscores the importance of smartphone ownership in shaping deeper access and skills, with a focus on gender disparities

ASER 2023: Examining Education Beyond Basics

 

Central Idea:

The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2023 highlights the widespread access to smartphones among 14-18 year olds in India, emphasizing the ownership gap between boys and girls. While most youth can use smartphones for basic tasks, ownership significantly impacts the depth of access to information and services. The study suggests that motivation, often fueled by entertainment during the COVID-19 pandemic, drives learning technology skills. Gender disparities in smartphone ownership contribute to variations in online participation, especially in certain services. Access to devices without constraints promotes self-learning, as evidenced by an earlier Pratham experiment.

 

Key Highlights:

  • Widespread Smartphone Access: ASER 2023 reveals that 92% of surveyed 14-18 year olds in India know how to use a smartphone.
  • Ownership Disparities: Nearly half of boys own smartphones, while only 20% of girls possess one.
  • Impact on Skills: Ownership influences skills like using social media safety features, indicating deeper access and understanding.
  • Motivation and Learning: Motivation, driven by entertainment and the COVID-19 pandemic, plays a crucial role in acquiring smartphone skills.
  • Gender Disparities: Girls may show less participation in certain online activities, potentially due to social obstacles rather than technological barriers.
  • Educational Use: Regardless of ownership and gender, around 70% of youth report using phones for studies, but the impact on academic learning is unclear.

 

Key Challenges:

  • Gender Disparities in Ownership: The significant gap in smartphone ownership between boys and girls may limit girls’ access to certain online services and skills.
  • Social Obstacles: Girls may face social barriers that affect their participation in online activities and use of certain features.
  • Impact on Learning: The ASER 2023 report does not conclusively determine the impact of smartphone use on academic learning and performance.
  • Inequality in Skills: Ownership disparities contribute to differences in skill levels, particularly in tasks requiring ownership, such as sharing videos.

 

Key Terms and Phrases:

  • Smartphone Skills: Refers to the ability to effectively use and navigate smartphones, encompassing various tasks and applications.
  • Gender Disparities: Differences between boys and girls in terms of smartphone ownership, access, and skills.
  • Social Obstacles: Challenges related to societal norms and expectations that may hinder certain groups’ access to and use of technology.

 

Key Quotes:

  • “Access to a common smartphone can be described as basic, but owning a smart device is necessary for deeper access to information and services.”
  • “Motivation to use and learn new technology came during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
  • “Girls seem to show less participation than boys in certain online services, which may have more to do with social obstacles than technological barriers.”

 

Key Examples and References:

  • ASER 2023 Report: Provides comprehensive data on smartphone access, ownership, and skills among 14-18 year olds in India.
  • Pratham Experiment (2017): Demonstrates how children, given unfettered access to technology, can learn and adopt digital skills on their own.

 

Key Facts and Data:

  • 92% of surveyed 14-18 year olds in India know how to use a smartphone.
  • Nearly half of boys and 20% of girls own smartphones.
  • Nearly 70% of youth, both boys and girls, report using phones for studies.

 

Critical Analysis:

  • Ownership Impact: Ownership of smartphones significantly influences the depth of access to information and services.
  • Motivation and Learning: Motivation, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, plays a pivotal role in driving self-learning of technology skills.
  • Gender Disparities: While access is widespread, gender disparities in ownership contribute to variations in online participation.

 

Way Forward:

  • Addressing Gender Disparities: Initiatives to bridge the gender gap in smartphone ownership and access.
  • Promoting Digital Literacy: Educational programs emphasizing digital literacy, especially for girls, to overcome social obstacles.
  • Integration into Education: Exploring ways to integrate smartphones into education to enhance learning opportunities.
  • Understanding Impact: Further research to understand the impact of smartphone use on academic learning and performance.

 

In summary, the ASER 2023 report underscores the importance of smartphone ownership in shaping deeper access and skills, with a focus on gender disparities. Motivation and overcoming social obstacles are crucial in promoting self-learning, and initiatives to address ownership gaps can contribute to a more inclusive digital landscape

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The need to examine the examination system

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Na

Mains level: critical examination of the challenges in the current education system

The key reforms under India's new education policy | Mint

Central Idea:

The article discusses the challenges and inadequacies in the current examination systems of educational institutions in India. It emphasizes the need for transparency, oversight, and credibility in assessments to ensure that degrees and certificates truly reflect students’ learning achievements.

Key Highlights:

  • Credibility of the examination system is crucial for maintaining educational standards.
  • Decentralized systems in India with numerous universities and boards face challenges in maintaining transparency and standardization.
  • The article criticizes the focus on memory-based testing, inflation of marks, and a lack of emphasis on higher-order thinking skills.
  • Employers often rely on their own assessments rather than institutional certifications.
  • The article suggests the use of technology, external audits, and adherence to minimum standards to improve assessment processes.

Key Challenges:

  • Lack of transparency and oversight in examination processes.
  • Inconsistency and inadequacies in syllabi and teaching methods.
  • Confidentiality leading to malpractices and scandals in examinations.
  • The need for balancing autonomy with proper oversight in educational institutions.
  • Negligence, fraud, and quality issues in assessment processes.

Key Terms:

  • Decentralized system
  • Transparency
  • Oversight
  • Standardization
  • Higher-order thinking
  • Autonomy
  • External audit
  • Credibility
  • Minimum standards
  • Technology in assessment

Key Phrases:

  • “Credibility of assessment and standard of education can be ensured only through transparency in teaching and assessment.”
  • “Inconsistency of the examination system is cause for concern.”
  • “Confidentiality is also a cause for scandals in examinations.”
  • “Transparency and proper oversight take lead roles in the examination systems.”

Key Quotes:

  • “A credible examination system is one of the key ways to improve the standard of education.”
  • “The employability of a graduate depends on higher order learning, while examination boards do not certify students on those skills.”
  • “The higher education regulator truly believes in decentralization through autonomous institutions without oversight.”

Key Examples and References:

  • Instances of question papers with language errors, conceptualization issues, and irrelevant questions.
  • Employers disregarding institutional certifications in favor of their own assessments.
  • The coaching market for competitive examinations and skilling due to a lack of faith in institutional certifications.

Key Facts:

  • India has over 1,100 universities, 50,000 affiliated colleges, and 60 school boards.
  • Total enrollment in higher education is 40.15 million students.
  • Employers conduct rigorous assessments of candidates’ academic achievements and suitability for employment.

Critical Analysis:

The article provides a critical examination of the challenges in the current education system, emphasizing the need for transparency, oversight, and credibility. It highlights the disconnect between institutional certifications and actual learning outcomes, calling for a shift towards higher-order thinking skills.

Way Forward:

  • Emphasize transparency in teaching and assessment processes.
  • Implement external audits of assessment systems to ensure reliability and consistency.
  • Balance autonomy with proper oversight in educational institutions.
  • Use technology to standardize question paper setting and evaluation processes.
  • Codify and address issues of negligence, fraud, and academic inadequacies in assessments.
  • Release audit reports regularly to assess examination boards in terms of transparency, reliability, and consistency.

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Making public education inclusive

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Odisha Adarsha Vidyalayas

Mains level: education quality in government schools

Practising inclusive education in India: Taking the agenda forward –  Cambridge Network for Disability and Education Research (CaNDER). © All  Rights Reserved.

Central idea

Odisha revolutionizes public education with initiatives like Odisha Adarsha Vidyalayas, ‘Mo School’ Abhiyan, and 5T-High School Transformation, aiming to surpass private schools in quality. This results in a substantial shift, with 81% of students currently enrolled in government schools. The state’s commitment to inclusivity, alumni engagement, and technology integration drives equality and excellence in education.

Key Highlights:

  • Revolutionary Reforms: Odisha’s education sector undergoes revolutionary changes through initiatives like Odisha Adarsha Vidyalayas, ‘Mo School’ Abhiyan, and 5T-High School Transformation Programme.
  • Recognition and Ranking: OAVs receive accolades, with one ranked the fifth-best in government-run day schools, emphasizing qualitative English-medium education for rural and semi-urban areas.
  • Inclusive Enrollment: OAVs ensure representation of marginalized groups, leading to a higher enrollment of female students. They also rescue and prepare vulnerable children for OAV entrance exams.
  • Alumni Engagement: Mo School Abhiyan connects schools with alumni, promoting mentorship, collaboration, and financial contributions, creating a significant impact on infrastructure and engagement.

Key Phrases:

  • Quality Education: Odisha’s focus on continuous teacher education, technology integration, and maintaining a favorable teacher-pupil ratio highlights its commitment to providing quality education.
  • Alumni Community: Mo School Abhiyan leverages the alumni community to contribute to school development, creating a unique model of collaborative efforts for educational improvement.
  • 5T-High School Transformation: The 5T concept drives the High School Transformation Programme, emphasizing transparency, technology, teamwork, and timeliness for comprehensive educational changes.

UNFPA India | Empowering Adolescents in Odisha through Life Skills Education

Analysis:

Odisha’s proactive approach to education, combining infrastructure development, alumni engagement, and technology integration, has led to a significant shift in enrollment patterns, with a majority of students now choosing government schools.

Key Data:

  • Enrollment Shift: In 2019-20, private schools had 16,05,000 students; in 2021-22, this number reduced to 14,62,000, indicating a shift towards government schools.
  • Financial Contributions: More than 5.5 lakh contributors, including ministers, MPs, and professionals, have contributed over ₹797 crore in 40,855 schools under the School Adoption Programme.

Key Terms:

  • Odisha Adarsha Vidyalayas (OAV): A model aiming to bridge the rural-urban education gap by providing qualitative and affordable English-medium education.
  • Mo School Abhiyan: An initiative connecting schools with alumni, promoting collaboration, contributions, and celebrating successes to improve government schools.
  • 5T-High School Transformation Programme: Rooted in transparency, technology, teamwork, and timeliness, focusing on technological advancements and holistic development in high schools.

Challenges:

  • Parental Trust: Historical perceptions of poor education quality in government schools challenge rebuilding parental trust.
  • Affordability Concerns: Despite reforms, concerns persist regarding the economic accessibility of quality education in government schools.
  • Perceived Quality Gap: Overcoming the perception gap regarding the quality of education in government schools compared to private counterparts.
  • Economic Accessibility: Addressing financial barriers for families, ensuring that quality education remains economically accessible.

Way Forward:

  • Continuous Alumni Engagement: Strengthen collaborations between schools and alumni to maintain a sustained focus on improvement. Explore mentorship programs and alumni-led initiatives for ongoing school development.
  • Enhancing Perceived Value: Implement awareness campaigns highlighting the positive changes in government schools. Showcase success stories and academic achievements to alter perceptions.
  • Financial Inclusivity: Introduce scholarship programs or financial aid to address economic barriers. Collaborate with governmental and non-governmental organizations to provide educational subsidies.
  • Technology Integration: Expand technological resources in schools for interactive and enhanced learning experiences. Introduce digital literacy programs to prepare students for a technology-driven future.

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Shortage of Doctors in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Medical Education initiatives and latest updates

Mains level: Medical Education reforms, challenges and solutions

What’s the news?

  • The demand for doctors exceeds the supply in large parts of India.

Central idea

  • The demand for doctors in India consistently surpasses the available supply, while the pursuit of medical education often outstrips the number of seats available. Reducing this demand-supply gap in medical education has proven to be a challenging endeavor, with potential implications for the availability of healthcare professionals.

Expanding Medical Education

  • Over the last decade, India has made significant strides in expanding medical colleges and seats at both undergraduate (UG) and postgraduate (PG) levels.
  • UG seats have nearly tripled, PG seats have almost quadrupled, and the number of medical colleges has doubled since 2010-11.
  • Despite this expansion, in 2021, India had only 4.1 medical graduates per lakh population, falling behind countries like China, Israel, the US, and the UK.

Challenges in scaling

  • Regulatory and Financial Constraints: On average, Indian medical colleges offer 153 UG seats per college, significantly fewer than Eastern Europe (220) and China (930). This discrepancy is a result of regulatory and financial constraints.
  • Infrastructure Limitations: Expanding UG seats in a public medical college from 150 to 200 required additional resources, such as a larger library, increased daily outpatient department (OPD) footfalls, and more nursing staff, as per the draft guidelines for establishing new medical colleges in 2015.
  • Quality Maintenance: Concerns that disproportionate scaling can impact the quality of pedagogy and, subsequently, the quality of doctors produced
  • Faculty Shortages: Both public and private colleges face teaching faculty shortages, despite better remuneration structures in public colleges. Scaling up can further strain the already limited pool of qualified teaching staff.
  • Economic Viability for Private Colleges: Investing in scaling can be risky for private colleges if seats remain vacant and costs aren’t recovered. This can lead to high capitation fees and price distortions.
  • Curriculum Limitations: The nature of the competency-based curriculum dictates constraints on scalability. For example, there can’t be more than 15 students surrounding a bed or in any other practical class.
  • Equity Concerns: The goal of producing doctors evenly across regions might not result in efficient production. Migration of doctors from states with higher production can be an issue.

Value addition box

Innovations from the US

  • India’s competency-based curriculum is akin to that of the US, which has successfully scaled up the production of doctors by optimizing resource utilization.
  • Innovations, such as involving practicing MD doctors as mentors for medical students and integrating interprofessional education (IPE) into the curriculum, have enhanced the quality of education and reduced the faculty requirements.

Quality vs. Scale vs. Equity: A triad of challenges

  • Quality:
  • Ensuring the highest standards of medical education, which translates into competent, skilled, and ethical practitioners.
  • The competency-based curriculum in India requires small-group teaching to ensure a thorough understanding and hands-on experience for students.
  • There’s a concern that rapid scaling could lead to a decline in the quality of education and subsequently the quality of doctors produced.
  • Quality assurance becomes even more critical given the life-and-death implications of medical practice.
  • Scale:
  • Increasing the number of medical graduates to meet the country’s healthcare needs.
  • Despite the expansion of UG and PG seats in medical colleges, the demand-supply gap persists.
  • Regulatory, infrastructural, and financial constraints pose significant challenges in scaling up.
  • Equity:
  • The National Medical Commission prioritizes an even distribution of medical colleges and seats. They aim for localized doctor production to ensure different regions have adequate healthcare.
  • Policies such as the cap on UG seats and the location restrictions of new colleges highlight this focus.
  • However, this might not lead to efficient doctor production due to phenomena like interstate migration of doctors.

Way forward

  • Regulatory Reforms: Streamline regulations to facilitate the establishment and expansion of medical colleges while ensuring quality standards.
  • Faculty Development: Prioritize investment in faculty development programs to address shortages and retain experienced educators.
  • Technology Integration: Embrace technology to enhance scalability and access to medical education, including e-learning and telemedicine tools.
  • Competency-Based Curriculum: Continue to implement competency-based curricula to produce doctors with practical skills and real-world readiness.
  • Incentives for Rural Service: Develop and implement policies that incentivize medical graduates to serve in underserved rural areas, addressing healthcare disparities.
  • Public-Private Collaboration: Foster collaboration between public and private sectors to expand the availability of medical education seats and improve educational infrastructure.

Conclusion

  • Bridging the gap between the demand for doctors and the supply of medical education is a multifaceted challenge in India. To meet the growing healthcare needs of the population, policymakers must carefully consider the trade-offs between quality, scale, and equity in medical education.

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Aligning higher education with the United Nations SDGs

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: SDGs report 2023

Mains level: NEP 2020 and Its Alignment with SDGs and the significant role of Universities

What’s the news?

  • Though it has been eight years since the inception of these goals, the SDGs Report 2023 flagged slow progress and painted a grim picture.

Central idea

  • The SDGs Report 2023 highlights sluggish progress exacerbated by the lingering effects of COVID-19, climate change impacts, geopolitical conflicts, and a fragile global economy. This universal struggle is particularly pronounced in the least developed countries, including India. Despite India’s resilience in facing global crises, achieving the SDGs remains a challenge.

About SDGs

  • The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent a global commitment to address pressing socio-economic and environmental challenges.
  • These 17 goals with 169 targets, unanimously agreed upon by all 193 UN member states, aim to eradicate poverty, enhance education, reduce inequality, and stimulate economic growth by 2030.

NEP 2020 and Its Alignment with SDGs

  • India’s commitment to realizing the SDGs is evident through recent actions and policies.
  • The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 in India closely aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG4, which focuses on quality education.

Here’s how NEP 2020 aligns with the SDGs:

  • Quality Education and Lifelong Learning (SDG4): NEP 2020 emphasizes quality education for all in India, addressing disparities and promoting inclusivity, in alignment with SDG4. It also recognizes the importance of lifelong learning, supporting SDG4’s objective of inclusive and equitable quality education throughout one’s life.
  • Gender Equality (SDG5): The policy promotes gender equality in education, ensuring equal opportunities for girls and women. It aims to eliminate gender-based discrimination and stereotypes in education, aligning with SDG5’s objective.
  • Employability and Skills Development (SDG8): NEP 2020 focuses on equipping students with practical skills and knowledge, making them more employable. This aligns with SDG8’s goal of promoting sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all.
  • Environmental Sustainability (SDG 13): The policy acknowledges the significance of environmental education and sustainability. It encourages eco-friendly practices and awareness of environmental issues among students, aligning with SDG 13’s objective of combating climate change.
  • Research and Innovation (SDG9): NEP 2020 underscores the importance of research and innovation in higher education. It seeks to foster a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, aligning with SDG 9’s goal of promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization and fostering innovation.
  • Global Partnerships for Development (SDG17): The policy promotes international collaboration in higher education and research. It aims to establish partnerships with global institutions, foster knowledge exchange, and align with SDG17’s objective of strengthening global partnerships for sustainable development.

Enhancing the Role of Universities

  • Research-Teaching Nexus: Universities should strengthen the connection between research and teaching in higher education. By bridging the gap between research and teaching, universities can provide students with real-world insights and solutions to global challenges.
  • Multidisciplinary and Interdisciplinary Education: Universities should promote multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches to education. Such systems produce well-rounded individuals capable of conducting research and finding innovative solutions to complex issues.
  • Innovative Solutions and Start-ups: Collaboration with private companies and the development of innovative solutions and start-ups should be encouraged. Universities can serve as hubs for innovation and entrepreneurship, contributing to SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure).
  • Value-Based Education (VBE): Introducing value-based education can help instill a sense of responsibility in citizens towards themselves, society, and the planet. This values-based approach can align with SDG 15 (Life on Land) by fostering a deeper connection between individuals and the environment.

Suggestions for the Universities

  • Mapping Operations with SDGs: NEP 2020 should guide Indian higher education institutions to align their daily operations with the SDGs.
  • Ranking according to SDGs: While ranking universities based on SDG achievement is commendable, it should be bolstered with comprehensive measures to meet the SDG deadline.
  • Stakeholder Education and Orientation: All stakeholders in higher education should be educated and oriented to ensure no activities neglect the SDGs. Collaboration among the 56,205 higher educational institutions and universities in India is essential.
  • Community Engagement: Universities should actively engage with their local communities, focusing on community health, energy conservation, efficient resource allocation, waste reduction, and skill development. Sharing resources and infrastructure with other universities and external partners should become the norm.
  • Institutional Strategies: Sustainability and SDGs should be integrated into the core institutional strategies of universities, influencing daily administration, teaching, and research.
  • Socio-economic Integration: Higher education must be closely integrated with socio-economic development to ensure meaningful and multiple impacts on the SDGs. Universities should contribute directly to the well-being and nation-building of every citizen.

Conclusion

  • India’s commitment to the SDGs, particularly in higher education through NEP 2020, is a positive step towards achieving the 2030 agenda. To accelerate progress, universities must embrace sustainability as a guiding principle and incorporate the SDGs into their daily operations. By doing so, they can play a pivotal role in addressing pressing global challenges and ensuring a better future for all.

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Many states refrain to implement PM-USHA Scheme

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: PM-USHA Scheme

Mains level: Not Much

Central Idea

  • States like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal have not signed the required MoU for implementing the National Education Policy (NEP) under the PM-USHA scheme.
  • Concerns revolve around budget allocation and the absence of specific funds for NEP reforms.

PM-USHA Scheme

  • The Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) was introduced as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme to financially support institutions in States/UTs.
  • Its aim was to enhance access, equity, and excellence in higher education with improved efficiency, transparency, accountability, and responsiveness.
  • The initial phase of the scheme commenced in 2013, followed by the second phase in 2018.
  • In alignment with the National Education Policy, the RUSA initiative has been revamped as the Pradhan Mantri Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (PM-USHA).

Challenges and Concerns

  • Lack of Additional Funds: The MoU requires states to undertake NEP-related administrative, academic, accreditation, and governance reforms. States are concerned that there are no extra funds designated specifically for NEP reforms within the scheme.
  • 40% State Contribution: States have to bear 40% of the expenses under the PM-USHA scheme, leading to further apprehensions about their ability to fund NEP initiatives.
  • Incomplete Alignment: The MoU doesn’t explicitly address the financial needs for implementing NEP changes, leading to dissatisfaction among some state governments.

Government Response and Flexibility

  • Consultations and Integration: The University Grants Commission (UGC) chairman emphasizes the integration between NEP and PM-USHA through the MoU, which necessitates alignment with NEP principles.
  • Streamlined Approach: The PM-USHA scheme consolidates various components and offers states more flexibility in focusing on felt needs.
  • Focus on Prioritized Districts: States can identify priority districts based on enrollment ratios, gender parity, and demographic proportions, ensuring tailored educational interventions.

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Should there be a blanket ban on smartphones in schools?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: India's digital transformation, schemes and policies

Mains level: India's digital transformation, ban on smartphones in Indian schools analysis

What’s the news?

  • UNESCO’s call for a ban on smartphones in Indian schools sparks nationwide debate on their impact, with educators and experts divided over whether to implement a blanket ban or nuanced regulations.

Central idea

  • With 1.2 billion mobile and 600 million smartphone users, India’s digital transformation is reshaping society. Predicted to reach over a billion by 2026, smartphone use in education is being debated after UNESCO’s call for a school ban, raising questions about classroom dynamics and student well-being.

UNESCO’s Stance on Smartphone Ban

  • With 1.2 billion mobile phone users and 600 million smartphone users in India, the country is experiencing a technology boom.
  • UNESCO recommends a global ban on smartphones in schools due to concerns about disruptions, cyberbullying, and compromised learning.
  • Research suggests that the mere presence of mobile devices can distract students and hinder their academic engagement.
  • The London School of Economics’ research highlights the positive impact of not allowing mobile phones in schools on academic performance.

Delhi’s Directorate of Education’s Approach

  • The Directorate of Education, Private School Branch, Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, issued an advisory on restricting mobile phone use in schools.
  • The advisory emphasizes the importance of reaching a consensus among stakeholders like students, parents, teachers, and school heads regarding mobile phone use in educational environments.
  • Delhi’s response demonstrates a proactive approach to maintaining a conducive learning atmosphere and prioritizing student well-being.
  • The Directorate’s concern centers around smartphone distractions such as notifications, games, and social media engagement during class hours.
  • The Delhi Government’s response showcases a commitment to addressing the potential negative impact of smartphone usage on education.

Impact of Mobile Phones on Students

  • Positive Impacts:
  • Access to Information: Smartphones offer students instant access to a vast pool of information and educational resources. Over 80% of students in developed countries use smartphones to access educational content.
  • Digital Literacy: Smartphone use fosters digital literacy, a crucial skill in today’s technology-driven world. The NEP (National Education Policy) in India emphasizes digital education and the use of technology.
  • Interactive Learning: Mobile apps and online platforms enhance interactive learning experiences. The use of QR codes in the state curriculum and additional resources showcases the integration of technology for learning.
  • Flexibility and Convenience: Smartphones enable learning beyond traditional classroom hours and locations. In countries like Finland, students are allowed to bring phones to class around age 12, promoting flexible learning.
  • Educational Apps: Educational apps cater to diverse learning styles and subjects. Language learning apps, mathematics tutorials, and science simulations provide engaging learning opportunities.
  • Negative Impacts:
  • Distractions and Reduced Focus: Mere proximity to smartphones can lead to distraction and reduced focus during classes. Research by the London School of Economics suggests that mobile phones can deter academic performance.
  • Addiction and Sleep Deprivation: Excessive smartphone usage contributes to addiction and sleep deprivation among students. Teenagers’ addiction to smartphones has been linked to increased anxiety and behavioral problems.
  • Cyberbullying and Mental Health: Smartphone-enabled access to social media platforms exposes students to cyberbullying and mental health issues. Students’ exposure to unrealistic standards on social media can lead to feelings of inadequacy and depression.
  • Decline in Face-to-Face Interaction: Increased smartphone use can lead to reduced face-to-face interactions among students. UNESCO’s recommendation to ban smartphones in schools aims to promote more meaningful face-to-face interactions.
  • Academic Decline due to Distracted Learning: Checking notifications, playing games, and engaging in social media during class hours negatively impact academic performance. Studies show a correlation between excessive smartphone use and lower grades.

Perspectives in Favor of a Smartphone Ban in Schools

  • Enhanced Academic Focus: Banning smartphones can lead to improved academic focus among students. Research indicates that the presence of mobile devices distracts students and hampers their learning engagement.
  • Mitigation of Cyberbullying and Mental Health Concerns: A smartphone ban would protect students from cyberbullying and associated mental health issues. Students exposed to social media platforms can experience emotional distress due to online interactions.
  • Encouragement of Face-to-Face Interaction: Banning smartphones would encourage more meaningful face-to-face interactions, fostering interpersonal skills. UNESCO’s recommendation emphasizes maintaining academic integrity through human interactions.
  • Positive Impact on Academic Performance: Limiting smartphone use during school hours can lead to improved academic performance. Research from the London School of Economics suggests that mobile phone restrictions can positively influence student achievement.
  • Development of Healthy Learning Habits: Implementing a smartphone ban promotes healthy learning habits by reducing distractions. Excessive smartphone use has been linked to addiction and sleep deprivation, which hinder effective learning.

Perspectives Against a Smartphone Ban in Schools

  • Access to Information and Resources: Smartphones provide quick access to a wealth of educational information and resources. Educational apps and online resources cater to diverse learning styles and offer supplementary materials.
  • Preparation for Real-World Technology Use: Allowing controlled smartphone use prepares students for a technology-driven future. National Education Policies and state curricula emphasize the importance of digital literacy and technology integration.
  • Customized Learning and Engagement: Smartphone apps and interactive platforms offer personalized and engaging learning experiences. Many students in developed countries use smartphones to access tailored educational content.
  • Parental Responsibility and Education: Educating students about responsible smartphone use is the responsibility of parents. Some developed countries allow controlled smartphone use, teaching students about balanced usage.
  • Bridge the Gap for Economically Disadvantaged Students: Smartphones bridge technology gaps for economically disadvantaged students, providing access to digital resources. An outright ban could worsen disparities among students based on their socioeconomic backgrounds.

Way Forward

  • Holistic Stakeholder Engagement: Engage all stakeholders, including students, parents, teachers, and school administrators, in open discussions and decision-making processes regarding smartphone usage in schools.
  • Incorporate Age-Based Guidelines: Develop age-specific guidelines for smartphone use in classrooms, taking into account developmental stages and potential distractions.
  • Digital Literacy Curriculum: Integrate digital literacy education within the curriculum to educate students about responsible smartphone usage, privacy, and online etiquette.
  • Educate Educators: Provide teachers with training on managing smartphone use effectively in classrooms and incorporating them as tools for learning.
  • Parental Awareness Campaigns: Launch campaigns to educate parents about the implications of excessive smartphone use, emphasizing responsible parenting in the digital age.
  • Digital Divide Solutions: Consider alternative solutions, like providing laptops, tablets, or internet facilities alongside smartphones, to bridge the digital divide effectively.
  • Research on New Learning Paradigms: Invest in research to explore innovative approaches that harness the benefits of smartphones while mitigating potential distractions and drawbacks.

Conclusion

  • As India strides toward an increasingly digital future, the education system faces the challenge of embracing innovation while mitigating distractions. Balancing student welfare, academic integrity, and equitable access will be vital in shaping policies that harness technology’s potential while preserving the sanctity of the classroom.

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IIM bill 2023

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: IIM Amendment Bill 2023

Mains level: IIM Amendment Bill 2023, significance , concerns and way forward

What’s the news?

  • A new amendment bill introduced by the Centre in the Lok Sabha has sparked a debate on the autonomy of the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs). The bill proposes to make the President of India the Visitor to IIMs with powers to audit their functioning, order probes, and appoint as well as remove directors.

Central idea

  • In 2017, the Parliament passed the IIM Act, significantly expanding the autonomy of IIMs and giving them greater control over their affairs. One crucial provision mandated an independent review of the institutes every three years, with the report to be made public. However, after six years, only a few IIMs have complied with this requirement, leading the government to table the IIM (Amendment) Bill in 2023.

The proposed provisions in the Bill

  • Creation of the Post of Visitor: The Bill proposes the creation of the post of Visitor, who will be the President of India. The Visitor will play a crucial role in overseeing the functioning of the IIMs and ensuring proper governance.
  • Appointment Powers: The Visitor will have the authority to appoint the chairperson of the Board of Governors (BoG) of the IIMs. This move grants the President of India a significant say in the leadership of the institutes.
  • Involvement in Director Appointments: The Bill empowers the Visitor to have a say in the appointment process for directors of IIMs. The Visitor will have representation on the selection committee for the appointment of directors, allowing them to influence the choice of institute heads.
  • Review and Inquiry Initiation: The Visitor will have the power to initiate reviews or inquiries into the affairs of any IIM. This provision allows for greater oversight and scrutiny of the institutes’ functioning.
  • Director Removal: The Visitor will be granted the authority to remove a director of an IIM if deemed necessary. This move gives the President the power to take action against directors who may not be performing their duties effectively or who are involved in any misconduct.

Issues with the Current Governance

  • Lack of Accountability: The current governance structure in IIMs lacks adequate accountability due to the significant autonomy granted by the 2017 IIM Act. This has led to a governance vacuum with limited checks and balances on directors’ actions, potentially resulting in mismanagement.
  • Absence of Norms on Key Matters: The IIM Act’s failure to establish clear norms on crucial matters, such as the appointment of key positions, has led to a lack of transparency and objectivity in decision-making.
  • Turmoil and Protests: Some IIMs have experienced internal turmoil and protests against administrative decisions, indicating a disconnect between management and stakeholders.
  • For instance, at IIM Ahmedabad, faculty and alumni protested against changes to the institute’s logo and the decision to demolish architecturally significant structures on the campus.
  • Rising MBA Course Fees: An additional concern with the current governance is the relentless rise in the fee for MBA courses, which is not necessarily related to the actual costs of the course.
  • Unresponsive to Queries and Suggestions: There have been reports that some IIMs have been unresponsive to queries and suggestions from various stakeholders, including the government.
  • Uneven Governance Practices: The level of governance and accountability might vary across different IIMs. Some of the lower-ranked IIMs have been accused of operating as petty tyrannies, with directors holding unchecked power.

Importance of Government Control

  • Ensuring Accountability: Government control is crucial to ensuring accountability in the functioning of educational institutions, including the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs). It helps prevent misuse of power, financial irregularities, and a lack of transparency.
  • Preserving the Public Interest: As public institutions, IIMs have a responsibility to serve the public interest. Government control ensures that the institutes remain focused on their core mission of providing quality education and contributing to socio-economic development.
  • Academic Integrity: Government oversight safeguards academic integrity by promoting fairness in faculty appointments, curriculum design, and research activities.
  • Addressing Societal Needs: Government involvement allows IIMs to align their objectives with societal demands, producing graduates with relevant skills to address the country’s evolving challenges.
  • Equitable Access and Affordability: Government control promotes inclusivity by implementing policies that ensure equal access to quality education, irrespective of socio-economic backgrounds.
  • Quality Assurance: Government oversight allows the establishment of quality assurance mechanisms, ensuring that the IIMs maintain their reputation as world-class institutions adhering to global standards.

Concerns Regarding the IIM Amendment Bill 2023

  • Potential Government Control: Critics and some directors of IIMs are concerned about increased government control over the institutions through the designation of the President of India as the Visitor with powers to appoint and remove directors.
  • Autonomy Erosion: The bill has raised fears that it may undermine the autonomy granted to IIMs in 2017, potentially leading to a dilution of their independence and decision-making authority.
  • Lack of Stakeholder Involvement: Stakeholders, including directors of IIMs, are apprehensive about insufficient consultation during the bill’s drafting, which they believe could impact the institutes’ governance.
  • Apprehensions About the Independent Board Model: Critics argue that the existing independent board model governing B-schools has been successful globally and could continue to be effective in India without introducing a Visitor.
  • Potential for Ideological Influence: The critiques allege that the bill may be used to enforce ideological conformity, raising concerns about the Visitor’s influence over the institutes’ academic pursuits.
  • Impact on Institutional Reputation: Uncertainty surrounding the bill could affect IIMs’ reputation, leading stakeholders to question their stability and governance.

Way Forward

  • Inclusive Consultation: The government should engage in inclusive consultations with IIMs, education experts, policymakers, and stakeholders to address concerns and ensure broad consensus on the bill’s provisions.
  • Amendment Refinements: Based on feedback received during consultations, the government should consider refining the bill’s provisions to strike an appropriate balance between accountability and autonomy.
  • Codifying Norms: Clear norms and guidelines should be incorporated into the bill to provide a framework for responsible governance while allowing flexibility in decision-making.
  • Promote Transparency: The bill should emphasize transparency in decision-making processes and overall governance to build trust among stakeholders.
  • Continuous Evaluation: Implementing a system of continuous evaluation and feedback will help gauge the effectiveness of the bill’s provisions.
  • Focus on Quality Education: The primary focus should remain on maintaining and improving the quality of education in IIMs while fostering greater accountability.

Conclusion

  • The Bill reflects the government’s efforts to restore accountability and democratic oversight in the IIM system. Striking the right balance between autonomy and accountability is vital to maintaining the IIMs’ esteemed position in the Indian education landscape.

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A new national foundation and the ease of doing research

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NRF

Mains level: Establishment of the NRF and its significance for India's research landscape

What’s the news?

  • The Union Cabinet recently cleared a bill enabling the setting up of the National Research Foundation (NRF), with a corpus of Rs 50,000 crore, to be placed in Parliament in the Monsoon Session.

“There is no single factor more important to the intellectual, social, and economic progress of a nation and to the enhanced well-being of its citizens than the continuous creation and acquisition of new knowledge.”

Central Idea

  • The NRF has sparked enthusiasm among researchers and academics, who are eagerly awaiting a boost in research and development (R&D) expenditures by the government. The NRF’s vision, as outlined in the Draft National Education Policy (DNEP) 2019 and the detailed project report (DPR) 2019, is founded on the principle that progress and well-being depend on generating new scientific and social knowledge.

What is the NRF?

  • The NRF is a proposed autonomous institution in India, aimed at promoting and funding research and development activities across various disciplines.
  • The NRF is founded on the belief that the advancement of human well-being and progress relies on the creation of new scientific and social knowledge.
  • It is inspired by the successful model of the National Science Foundation (NSF) of the United States, which has been a major driver of research and innovation in the US.

Functioning and Governance

  • The NRF will be established as the highest governing body for scientific research, in accordance with the recommendations of the National Education Policy (NEP).
  • The Department of Science and Technology (DST) will serve as the administrative department of the NRF, with a Governing Board consisting of eminent researchers and professionals from various disciplines.
  • The PM will be the ex-officio President of the Board, while the Union Minister of Science and Technology and the Union Minister of Education will be the ex-officio Vice-Presidents.
  • The Principal Scientific Adviser will chair the Executive Council responsible for the NRF’s functioning.

Mission and Objectives

  • Capacity Building: The NRF will focus on enhancing research capabilities at universities and colleges. It will establish doctoral and postdoctoral programs, set up “Centres of Excellence” at universities, and provide funding for shared infrastructure. Mentorship programs will be initiated to empower faculty members and students in higher education institutions.
  • Nurturing Excellence in Cutting-Edge Research: The NRF will support curiosity-driven research across disciplines, creating a repository of knowledge for potential future applications and independent work within the country. It will encourage international collaborations and participation in mega-science projects to strengthen research capacity.
  • Research for Societal Impact: The NRF will fund competitive peer-reviewed grant proposals across all disciplines, including interdisciplinary research, and across various institutions. It will play a vital role in supporting research with tangible societal impact, recognizing outstanding research through awards and national seminars.

Financial Autonomy and Flexibility of the NRF

  • Autonomy in Decision-Making: As an autonomous institution, the NRF will have the authority to make independent decisions related to financial matters, including budget allocation, funding priorities, and research project support. This autonomy enables the NRF to align its financial strategies with its research objectives effectively.
  • Block Grant Funding: The NRF will receive financial support from the government in the form of a block grant. The NRF’s governing board will have the discretion to allocate these funds based on the organization’s needs and priorities.
  • Flexibility in Allocation: To sustain and enhance the NRF’s activities in the long run, the DPR had proposed an annual grant that would eventually aim to reach at least 0.1% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), approximately Rs 20,000 crore in current terms
  • Remuneration Structure: The NRF will have the flexibility to determine the remuneration structure for fellowships, projects, and other financial support mechanisms. This ensures that researchers are adequately incentivized and compensated, attracting top talent and promoting quality research.
  • Transparent Financial Management: While enjoying financial autonomy and flexibility, the NRF will be accountable for its financial decisions. The NRF’s governing board will establish transparent financial rules and guidelines to ensure proper budget management, reporting, and accountability.
  • Corpus Creation: In the initial years, any unspent funds will be held to create a corpus. This corpus will be professionally managed to generate steady returns, which can be utilized to support future research funding and initiatives.

Conclusion

  • The establishment of the NRF marks a pivotal moment in India’s research landscape. With its ambitious missions, commitment to excellence, and focus on societal impact, the NRF is poised to transform India into a research and innovation powerhouse. By fostering a culture of inquiry, providing support to cutting-edge research, and promoting collaborations, the NRF has the potential to propel India to a position of global leadership.

Also read:

Where India lags in science, research fields, and can National Research Foundation help fix it?

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Cabinet approves Bill for National Research Foundation (NRF)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: National Research Foundation (NRF)

Mains level: NA

research

Central Idea

  • The Union Cabinet’s approval of the National Research Foundation (NRF) Bill, 2023 marks a significant milestone in the field of scientific research in India.
  • With an estimated budget of ₹50,000 crore from 2023-28, the NRF will reshape the research landscape in the country.

What is NRF?

  • Apex Body: The NRF will be established as the highest governing body for scientific research, in accordance with the recommendations of the National Education Policy (NEP).
  • Department of Science and Technology’s Role: The DST will serve as the administrative department of the NRF, with a Governing Board consisting of eminent researchers and professionals from various disciplines.
  • Leadership Structure: PM will be the ex-officio President of the Board, while the Union Minister of Science & Technology and the Union Minister of Education will be the ex-officio Vice-Presidents.
  • Functioning: The Principal Scientific Adviser will chair the Executive Council responsible for NRF’s functioning.

Consolidation and Funding

  • Integration of Science and Engineering Research Board: The proposed Bill repeals the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) established in 2008 and subsumes it into the NRF.
  • Equitable Funding: The NRF aims to ensure equitable distribution of research funding, addressing the current disparity between eminent institutions like IITs and IISc and state universities. It seeks to allocate research funds more fairly, with an expected private sector investment of ₹36,000 crore.
  • Government Contribution: The government will contribute ₹10,000 crore over five years, while the DST will continue to receive its annual budget for funding autonomous research bodies, scholarships, and capacity-building programs.

Collaboration and Policy Framework

  • Industry-Academia-Government Collaboration: The NRF will foster collaborations among industries, academia, government departments, and research institutions. It will establish an interface mechanism to facilitate participation and contributions from industries, state governments, scientific ministries, and line ministries.
  • Policy Framework and Regulatory Processes: NRF’s focus will include creating a policy framework and regulatory processes that encourage collaboration and increased industry spending on research and development (R&D).
  • Research in Social Sciences and Humanities: The NRF aims to promote research not only in natural sciences but also in humanities, social sciences, and arts. It recognizes the importance of integrating these disciplines in decision-making processes.

Addressing National Priorities

  • Priority Areas: The NRF intends to identify priority areas aligned with national objectives, such as clean energy, climate change, sustainable infrastructure, improved transportation, and accessible healthcare.
  • Multidisciplinary Projects and Centers of Excellence: To address national priorities, the NRF will support large-scale, long-term, multidisciplinary, and multi-institutional projects. It also plans to establish Centers of Excellence focusing on crucial research areas for the country.
  • International Collaborations: The NRF will coordinate and support research in mega international projects, including LIGO and ITER, in which India is actively involved.

Funding and Impact

  • Increased Funding: The NRF aims to significantly increase the funding available for scientific research in India from both government and private sources. Currently, India’s spending on research and development remains below 0.7% of its GDP.
  • Potential Impact: The NRF’s establishment has the potential to address the pressing issues in Indian science and enhance the country’s research output. Experts view it as a major landmark for science in India, with the allocated ₹50,000 crore as a starting point for future growth and impact.

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VAIBHAV Fellowship Program

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: VAIBHAV Program

Mains level: Various initiatives for Indian Diaspora

vaibhav

Central Idea: The Ministry of Science & Technology has launched the Vaishvik Bhartiya Vaigyanik (VAIBHAV) fellowships programme.

VAIBHAV Program

  • The program aims to connect the Indian STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medicine) diaspora with Indian academic and R&D institutions.
  • It promotes collaborative research work, knowledge sharing, and the exchange of best practices in frontier areas of science and technology.

Implementation and Eligibility

  • Implementing Agency: Department of Science and Technology (DST), Ministry of Science and Technology.
  • Beneficiaries: outstanding scientists/technologists of Indian origin (NRI/OCI/PIO) engaged in research activities in their respective countries.
  • Benefits: Grant of INR 4,00,000 per month, international and domestic travel expenses, accommodation, and contingencies
  • Verticals identified: 75 fellows will be selected to work in 18 identified knowledge verticals, including quantum technology, health, pharma, electronics, agriculture, energy, computer sciences, and material sciences.
  • Collaborations: The VAIBHAV Fellow will collaborate with Indian Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs), universities, and/or public-funded scientific institutions.
  • R&D Activity: The fellow can spend up to 2 months per year, for a maximum of 3years, in an Indian institution.

VAIBHAV Summit and Participation

  • The Government of India organized the VAIBHAV Summit to connect the Indian STEMM diaspora with Indian institutions.
  • The summit was inaugurated by the Hon’ble Prime Minister and saw the participation of over 25,000 attendees.
  • Indian STEMM diaspora from more than 70 countries took part in the deliberations.

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Is the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) flawed?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NIRF Ranking

Mains level: State of higher education in India

nirf

Central Idea

  • In a country as diverse as India, ranking universities and institutions is a complex task.
  • The Ministry of Education established the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) in 2016 to assess the performance of institutions based on critical indicators.
  • Institutions eagerly await their standings in this nationally recognized system every year.

NIRF Ranking: An Overview

  • The NIRF releases rankings across various categories, including ‘Overall’, ‘Research Institutions’, ‘Universities’, ‘Colleges’, and specific disciplines.
  • The rankings serve as an important resource for prospective students navigating the higher education landscape in India.
  • NIRF ranks institutes based on their total score, which is determined using five indicators:
  1. Teaching, Learning & Resources (30% weightage)
  2. Research and Professional Practice (30%)
  3. Graduation Outcomes (20%)
  4. Outreach and Inclusivity (10%)
  5. Perception (10%)

Concerns about the methodology

  • Role of Bibliometrics: Bibliometrics refers to the quantitative analysis of scholarly publications, including metrics such as the number of publications, citations received, and journal impact factors.
  • Limitations: Bibliometrics may not adequately consider factors such as the quality and relevance of research, innovation, societal impact, and contributions beyond traditional publications.
  • Caution against Over-Reliance: A comprehensive evaluation methodology should consider a broader range of factors to provide a more holistic assessment of institutional performance.

Issues with NIRF’s Bibliometric Approach

  • Reliance on Commercial Databases: The NIRF relies on commercial databases like Scopus and Web of Science to collect bibliometric data for evaluating research output and impact. However, these databases may have limitations in terms of coverage, accuracy, and the inclusion of non-traditional research outputs.
  • Accuracy and Misuse Concerns: There are concerns regarding the accuracy of bibliometric data, potential manipulation of citation counts, and the misuse of metrics for promotional purposes. It is important to ensure the integrity and validity of the data used in ranking assessments.
  • Neglecting Non-traditional Contributions: The focus on research articles in bibliometric indicators may overlook other valuable intellectual contributions, such as books, book chapters, patents, policy reports, and other forms of non-traditional scholarly outputs.
  • Disincentive for Local Issues: The emphasis on internationally recognized journals and global research trends may discourage researchers from addressing local issues and conducting research that is contextually relevant to national or regional priorities.

Transparency and Flaws in the Rankings

  • Lack of Transparency: Institutions and stakeholders should have access to detailed information about the methodology, data sources, weightage assigned to different indicators, and the process of data collection and analysis.
  • Need for Detailed NIRF Methodology: While the NIRF publicly shares its ranking methodology, there is a need for more comprehensive and transparent documentation that provides a detailed view of the evaluation process. This would enhance stakeholders’ understanding and enable a more informed assessment of the rankings.
  • Addressing the Discrepancy: Clear and precise definitions for indicators like research quantity and quality are crucial to avoid potential ambiguity and misinterpretation. Transparent guidelines and criteria should be established to ensure a consistent and fair evaluation.

Conclusion

  • Promoting Comprehensive Evaluation: There is a need to develop evaluation methodologies that go beyond bibliometrics and consider a broader range of qualitative and quantitative factors to provide a more comprehensive assessment of institutional performance.
  • Transparency, Diverse Factors, and Balance: Ensuring transparency in ranking methodologies, considering diverse factors, and striking a balance between quantitative metrics and qualitative assessments will contribute to a more accurate and meaningful evaluation of universities in India.

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Kerala High Court’s Ruling on Education Loan and Credit Scores

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: CIBIL Score

Mains level: Read the attached story

loan

Central Idea

  • Student’s credit score not a factor: Kerala High Court emphasizes that a student’s credit score should not be a determining factor in rejecting an education loan application, highlighting the importance of equal opportunities for students.
  • Importance of humanitarian approach: The court asserts that a humanitarian approach is necessary from banks while considering education loan applications, recognizing students as the “nation builders of tomorrow.”

RBI Circular on Educational Loan Scheme

  • Model scheme for financial support: RBI has a model educational loan scheme prepared by the Indian Banks Association (IBA) to provide financial support to deserving students pursuing higher education, ensuring equal opportunities.
  • Adoption by scheduled commercial banks: In 2019, the RBI advised all scheduled commercial banks to adopt the educational loan scheme, aiming for consistent practices and adherence to principles outlined in the circular.

Role of RBI in Education Loan Policies

  • Ensuring financial support: RBI’s circular and advisory role aim to ensure that deserving students are not denied the opportunity to pursue higher education due to financial constraints, promoting inclusive access to education loans.
  • Standardization and uniformity: The RBI’s model educational loan scheme and guidance seek to establish standardized practices across scheduled commercial banks, fostering fair and equitable access to education loans.

What is CIBIL Score?

  • Numerical reflection of credit history: Credit scores, like the Credit Information Bureau (India) Limited (CIBIL) score, provide a numerical summary of an individual’s credit payment history across different loan types and institutions, aiding lenders in assessing creditworthiness.
  • Impact on loan applications: Credit scores play a crucial role in loan applications and financial assessments, serving as indicators of an individual’s ability to repay debts.

Why Education Loan can be an exception?

  • Enabling pursuit of higher education: Education loans play a vital role in enabling students to pursue higher education, providing necessary financial support for tuition fees, living expenses, and educational costs.
  • Equal opportunities for students: Access to education loans ensures equal opportunities for students from diverse backgrounds, facilitating their academic aspirations and future contributions to society.
  • Implications of loan rejections: Loan rejections based solely on credit scores can hinder students’ educational prospects and limit their access to quality education and future career opportunities.

Judicial perspective on Education Loan

  • Holistic evaluation beyond credit scores: Kerala HC emphasized the importance of considering the ground realities, future prospects, course potential, and scholarship opportunities for students in education loan applications, promoting a comprehensive assessment approach.
  • Upholding equal access for all: Key rulings such as KM George vs The Branch Manager and Pranav SR vs The Branch Manager underscore the court’s commitment to upholding principles of equal access to education loans and fair assessments.

Significance of the Kerala HCs Ruling

  • Equal opportunities: The ruling ensures equal opportunities for students by emphasizing that credit scores should not be the sole basis for loan rejections, preventing students from being denied educational opportunities based on their credit history.
  • Humanitarian approach: The court’s emphasis on a humanitarian approach acknowledges the importance of considering students’ future potential and recognizes their role as future builders of the nation.
  • Fair assessment criteria: The ruling establishes the need for fair assessment criteria that go beyond credit scores, encouraging financial institutions to consider factors such as course potential and future earning capabilities.
  • Protection of educational aspirations: The ruling safeguards students’ educational aspirations, preventing loan rejections solely based on credit scores and allowing deserving students to pursue their studies.
  • Precedent for future cases: The ruling sets a precedent for future cases, promoting a more holistic and compassionate approach in evaluating education loan applications, and potentially influencing other courts and financial institutions.

Way Forward

  • Peer-to-Peer Lending Networks: Facilitate peer-to-peer lending platforms for education loans, connecting students directly with lenders and expanding access to funding.
  • Education Loan Guarantee Funds: Establish funds to guarantee education loans, reducing risk for lenders and encouraging loans to students with lower credit scores.
  • Financial Literacy Programs: Implement comprehensive financial literacy programs to equip students with knowledge and skills for responsible financial management.
  • Industry-Academia Initiatives: Foster collaborations between industry and academia to provide scholarships, internships, and grants, supporting students’ education and future employability.
  • Innovative Repayment Models: Explore income-share agreements and flexible repayment options to align loan repayment with individual earnings and ease financial burden.
  • Crowdfunding for Education: Utilize crowdfunding platforms dedicated to education, enabling students to raise funds for their educational expenses from a wider audience.
  • Collaborative Industry Sponsorship: Encourage partnerships where companies sponsor education loans in exchange for an internship or job placement opportunities, benefiting both students and companies.

 

 

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Revised Guidelines for Deemed University Status

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: UGC, Accredition of Universities

Mains level: Read the attached story

university

Central Idea

  • The University Grants Commission (UGC) has released revised guidelines allowing higher education institutions to apply for deemed university status.
  • The new guidelines aim to establish more quality-focused deemed universities by simplifying the eligibility criteria.

University Grants Commission (UGC)

  • UGC is a statutory body under the University Grants Commission Act, of 1956.
  • It is charged with the task of coordinating and maintaining standards of higher education in India.
  • It provides recognition to universities and also allocates funds to universities and colleges.
  • It is headquartered are in New Delhi, and it also has 6 regional centres.
  • All grants to universities and higher learning institutions are handled by the UGC.
  • In 2015-16, the Union government initiated a National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) under UGC to rank all educational institutes.

 

Why in the news?

  • Light but tight regulatory framework: The guidelines are based on the principle of a “light but tight” regulatory framework envisioned in the National Education Policy 2020.

What is Deemed University?

A Deemed University is a status granted to higher educational institutions in India by the Department of Higher Education (DHE) under the Ministry of Education based on the recommendation of the University Grants Commission (UGC).

State University Deemed University
Establishment Created by state government through legislative assembly act Granted autonomy by the UGC based on academic and research merits
Funding Fully funded by the state government Self-funded
Fee Structure Regulated and streamlined according to government guidelines Freedom to set their own fee structure
Curriculum Regulated and aligned with UGC guidelines Autonomy to design their own courses and curriculum
Research Research programs and activities aligned with government norms Emphasis on research with credible research output
Infrastructure Facilities and infrastructure as per government provisions State-of-the-art infrastructure
Affiliated Institutes Can have affiliated colleges and institutes Generally have a single institution
Admission Process Follows state government guidelines for admissions Can set their own admission policies and criteria
Degree Granting Authorized to award degrees and diplomas Authorized to award degrees and diplomas
Flexibility Governed by UGC regulations and guidelines Autonomy in decision-making and flexibility in operations

 

New changes introduced-

Eligibility Criteria and Changes

  • Previous eligibility criteria: Under the 2019 guidelines, institutions with an existence of at least 20 years were eligible to apply for deemed university status.
  • Revised eligibility criteria: The revised guidelines replace the previous criteria with requirements such as multi-disciplinarity, NAAC grading, NIRF ranking, and NBA grading.
  • Criteria for application: Institutions with valid accreditation by NAAC, NBA accreditation for eligible programs, or ranking in the top 50 of specific categories in NIRF for the last three years can apply for deemed university status.

Cluster of Institutions and Distinct Institution Category

  • Cluster of institutions: A cluster of institutions managed by multiple sponsoring bodies or a society can also apply for deemed university status.
  • Distinct Institution category: The guidelines introduce the “Distinct Institution” category, exempting institutions focusing on unique disciplines, addressing strategic needs, preserving Indian cultural heritage or the environment, dedicated to skill development, sports, languages, or other disciplines determined by the Expert Committee.

Changes in Faculty Strength and Corpus Fund

  • Increased faculty strength: The revised guidelines increase the required faculty strength from 100 to 150.
  • Increased corpus fund for private institutions: The corpus fund requirement for private institutions has been increased from Rs 10 crore to Rs 25 crore.

Executive Councils and Academic Bank of Credits

  • Creation of executive councils: Private universities seeking deemed university status will be required to create executive councils, similar to central universities.
  • Mandatory registration on Academic Bank of Credits: Deemed universities must register on the Academic Bank of Credits (ABC) and can offer twinning programs, joint degree programs, and dual degree programs.

Off-Campus Centers and Future Plans

  • Off-campus centers eligibility: Deemed universities with a minimum ‘A’ grade or ranked from 1 to 100 in the “universities” category of NIRF rankings are eligible to establish off-campus centers.
  • Future removal of “deemed to be university” term: The UGC chairperson stated that the term “deemed to be university” will be removed once the Higher Education Commission of India is established through an act of Parliament.
  • Current number of deemed institutions: Currently, there are around 170 deemed institutions in the country.

Back2Basics:

NAAC NIRF NBA
Full Form National Assessment and Accreditation Council National Institutional Ranking Framework National Board of Accreditation
Governing Body University Grants Commission (UGC) Ministry of Education, Government of India All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE)
Purpose Assessing and accrediting higher education Ranking higher education institutions Accrediting technical education programs in engineering
Assessment Criteria Quality parameters and predefined criteria Teaching, learning, research, graduation outcomes, etc. Criteria and standards for quality technical education
Accreditation Grades A, A+, B, B+, C
Focus Evaluating institution’s quality and performance Ranking institutions based on various parameters Accrediting engineering programs for quality technical education
Scope All higher education institutions in India All higher education institutions in India Technical education programs in the field of engineering

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Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

Low Enrollment of Muslims in Higher Education

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: AISHE

Mains level: Religious disparity in higher education

muslim

Central Idea

  • All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2020-21 conducted by the Ministry of Education reveals the underrepresentation of Muslims in higher education compared to other communities.

What is the AISHE?

  • To portray the status of higher education in the country, the Ministry of Education conducts an annual web-based AISHE since 2010-11.
  • Data is collected on several parameters such as teachers, student enrolment, programmes, examination results, education finance and infrastructure.
  • Indicators of educational development such as Institution Density, Gross Enrolment Ratio, Pupil-teacher ratio, Gender Parity Index, Per Student Expenditure will also be calculated from the data collected through AISHE.
  • These are useful in making informed policy decisions and research for development of the education sector.

AISHE 2020-21 data on Minority Education

The survey highlights a decline in Muslim enrollment, potentially due to economic constraints and limited opportunities for pursuing higher education.

(1) Decline in Muslim Enrollment:

  • Muslim enrollment in higher education declined by 8% in the 2020-21 academic year, while other marginalized communities experienced improved enrollment rates.
  • Economic impoverishment forces talented Muslim students to prioritize earning opportunities after completing school, rather than pursuing higher education.
  • Drastic declines were reported in UP (36%), J&K (26%), Maharashtra (8.5%), and TN (8.1%).
  • Delhi witnessed a significant portion of Muslim students failing to enroll for higher education.

(2) Uttar Pradesh’s Low Enrollment Rate:

  • Muslims constitute around 20% of the population in the state.
  • Despite an increase in the number of colleges in UP, mere 4.5% Muslim enrollment is in higher education.

(3) Kerala’s Exceptional Performance:

  • Kerala stands out as the only state where 43% of Muslims pursue higher education, bucking the trend of low enrollment.

(4) Female enrolment improving:

  • Muslim and other minority communities exhibit higher female student enrollment than male students, indicating progress for women in minority communities.
  • Male members of the Muslim community face pressure to earn a living early, potentially hindering their pursuit of higher education.

(5) Lack of Muslim Teachers:

  • Muslim representation among teachers in higher education institutions is alarmingly low, comprising only 5.6%.
  • General Category teachers account for 56%, while OBC, SC, and ST teachers make up 32%, 9%, and 2.5%, respectively.
  • Gender disparities among teachers persist, with only 59 female Muslim teachers for every 100 male Muslim teachers.

Reasons for such low enrollment

  • Religious influence: Certain societal and cultural norms within the Muslim community prioritize early marriage and family responsibilities over pursuing higher education, especially for female students.
  • Economic Challenges: The Muslim community faces financial limitations th