Still in kindergarten stage, reforms have a long way to graduation

Garima Singh New Delhi | Updated on March 09, 2018

A major decision taken this year was making Class 10 board exams compulsory again in all CBSE schools and sanctioning 62 new Navodaya Vidyalayas   -  Prakash Hassan

Govt needs to focus on public-private partnerships to usher in quality, inclusiveness, say industry watchers

The education sector has seen several changes at all levels in the year 2017. However, long-term challenges still remain, as the sector needs far-reaching reforms to usher in quality and inclusiveness, be it in primary, secondary or higher education.

One of the key changes was in February when the Department of School Education and Literacy made an amendment to the Right to Education (RTE) Act. For the first time, class-wise and subject-wise learning outcomes were included till Class VIII with a view to focusing on quality education. The aim was that at the end of each class, a student should attain basic levels of learning. The Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD) allocated ₹91.20 crore to all States and Union Territories (UTs) for printing the ‘Learning Outcomes’ documents, the posters in regional languages and for their distribution.

According to the official document from the Department of School Education and Literacy, about 22 lakh students were assessed under the National Achievement Survey (NAS), which included 1.1 lakh schools across 700 districts making it one of the largest surveys focused on student learning achievements. NAS will help teachers measure which children have achieved the required level.

The other major decisions taken by the department include making Class 10 board exams compulsory in all CBSE schools and sanctioning 62 new Navodaya Vidyalayas. Under the adult literacy campaign, three crore people were made literate. A Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha to do away with the no-detention policy and permitting States to detain students in Class 5 and Class 8.

“I think it’s good that they have introduced exams as having exams are a sort of external measure of students’ learning which is quite useful as it brings some discipline in the system. But we should not make it a situation where the only thing that counts is exam grades. The focus should be on broader learning outcomes,” said Amitabh Jhingan, Partner with E&Y and education sector leader.

Another interesting thing that happened was the emergence of the partnership models between at least certain segments of the private sector which were largely foundations and non-government organisations (NGOs).

Aadhaar-based data

To keep a tab on the number of drop-outs, duplicate enrolments and also to ensure proper utilisation of resources, the department is working on creating a Students Data Management and Information System (SDMIS). Till April 2018, the SDMIS is expected to have data of all the 21 crore students. This data will be updated on an annual basis.

Distributing textbooks

In August, the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) came up with a portal from where schools, States and UTs can directly buy textbooks. Four regional production-cum-distribution centres were set up in Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Guwahati and Kolkata, including in Delhi, the headquarters, from where the textbooks will be distributed. According to the document, by June 2018, the NCERT will be printing as well as distributing around six crore textbooks.


Till December 8, 2017 around 3.59 lakh national means-cum-merit scholarships schemes were sanctioned. Meanwhile, the National Scheme of Incentive to Girls for Secondary Scholarship (NSIGSE) approved 7.12 lakh incentives to girls for the current year.

Steps to be taken

“The government should look at ways to create deeper partnership models with private schools because 45 per cent of the total enrolment in the school segments is with private schools and most of these private schools are actually delivering outcomes which are superior. I think, there is a need for the government to realise that and come up with executable public-private partnerships,” said Jhingan.

Higher education

“The year 2017 has seen both positive and negative developments in higher education space. The passing of the IIM Bill, 2017, NEET Bill and launching of SWAYAM, an online education portal, and launching several education schemes such as the Institute of Excellence of which MHRD has allocated ₹2,000 crore can be cited as positive developments. On the other hand, there has been a lot of turbulence on university campuses on issues such as fee hike (Punjab University, Chandigarh), gender issues, lack of facilities, etc,” said Harivansh Chaturvedi, Executive President, Education Promotion Society of India.

In 2017, a number of major decisions were taken such as the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test, 2017, introduction of Indian Institute of Management Bill, 2017, re-approval of education colleges with retrospective effect and setting up of the Indian Commission for Medical Education.

However, when it comes to bringing higher education under the ambit of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), Chaturvedi said: “We are unable to understand why school education has been exempted from the GST levy, while colleges and universities have been put under it.”

Overall, Chaturvedi said, in 2018, apart from the need for better financial outlays on education, what is required is implementing long-standing reforms in Indian higher education that suffer largely due to lack of autonomy and accountability and paucity of funds.

Published on December 28, 2017

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