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Friday, September 5, 2008

Education in 11th 5 Year Plan

GREAT expectations


These are exciting times for higher education in the country. The Eleventh Five Year Plan document proposes an almost tenfold increase in outlay for higher and technical education. The planners have set ambitious targets - to attract 15% of students passing out of class XII (from the current 10%) into higher education by 2012, and 22% by 2017. According to them, the way to do this is to expand and upgrade on an unprecedented scale.
In the new Plan, there’s more of everything - 30 new central universities are to be set up, seven IITs and IIMs, 10 National Institutes of Technology, five research institutes to be called Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research, 20 IIITs, two schools of architecture and 330 colleges in educationally backward districts.
Infrastructure is also due for major upgrades. Among the big beneficiaries of these special grants will be 17 to-be-identified central universities that will receive Rs 3,298 crore. Besides, 39 engineering institutes will get Rs 6,749 crore, for improving their infrastructure.


The money, this time, comes with a plan. The document envisions wide-ranging reforms in the way higher education is imparted and much of the fund allocation has been tied up to the beneficiary institute carrying out structural changes. Some of these proposals are even likely to trigger debate and attract controversy.
For instance,the document seeks to raise fees for higher education to up to 20% of operational costs, from the present five%. “Higher education is highly subsidised. The document seeks to reduce this subsidy to improve the quality of education,” explains Bhalchandra Mungekar, member, Planning Commission.
Another proposal is to break up large affiliating varsities like Mumbai, Bangalore and Pune into more manageable units. Osmania University (Hyderabad) has more than 900 affiliated colleges while Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore universities have around 500. Some of these institutes conduct over 1,000 examinations, annually.“These universities have ceased to be centres of higher education in exchange for becoming agencies that merely conduct examinations,” states Mungekar.
This time around, the Planning Commission has also suggested major reforms. Some of the reforms under consideration are as follows —

Structural changes

India had based its university system on that of the UK. But, following the same has now become troublesome in light of universities that have over 500 to 1,000 affiliated colleges. It has now been suggested that bigger universities be split into smaller manageable universities. This move would be implemented first in central universities, followed by state universities. India, at present, has over 400 universities.
Reforms in the appointment of vicechancellors have also been considered, with suggestions for a more transparent process. Appointments are now to be based purely on quality and merit with proven academic capability.


Following numerous discussions between the Planning Commission, MHRD and PMO on the changes in central universities, it has been suggested that reforms in governance and academics should focus on academic excellence, improved governance and avoiding delay in procedure.
The suggestions look to provide genuine academic and functional autonomy. Although the government remains the primary funding agency,it should not interfere in the day-to-day functioning.

Exam reforms

The Plan document outlines that annual examinations have become irrelevant from the point of testing knowledge. It suggests that this system be replaced with a continuous assessment and evaluation system. It further suggests that the semester, internal assessment and continuous evaluation system be implemented immediately in all central universities from the forthcoming academic session in 2008.
The Plan also highlights a credit system, wherein a student studying ,say , economics will now be able to appear for a paper in other subjects as well.

Assessment and accreditation

The Plan also reiterates the need for agencies such as the National Assessment and Accreditation Council. In fact, it suggests that each state have its respective agency based on the NAAC. Private participation in assessment has also been encouraged, but only when a central certifying agency is in place to certify private agencies.


Education is set to receive a boost worth Rs 2.85 lakh crores, with the Planning Commission increasing the allocation for the sector by a massive 19.49 per cent in the Eleventh Five Year Plan.
The education budget has been classified into elementary, adult and secondary, and higher education. For elementary education, Rs 1.25 lakh crore is being earmarked, which is a major hike from the Rs 30,000 crore allocated in the last Plan. Likewise, the share of the budget for adult and secondary education is being increased to Rs 6000 crore and Rs 53,000 crore, respectively. As per the Plan document, Rs 84,000 crore is being set aside for higher and technical education.
According to Mungekar, the increase in the budget for health and education is an attempt to achieve inclusive growth. “The most important issue is our agenda for reforms in the higher education system, where we have asked for major structural changes. These reforms are a must if we are to move forward.”
He adds, “This Plan is aimed at carrying forward the expansion of higher education.We are suffering as far as the quality of education is concerned, and the same needs to be addressed at the earliest. Further, many of these projects will function on a public-private-partnership mode.”

Sunil Sharma


Dil Se Desi Group

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