Panel frowns on exemption clause in education bill

The committee has recommended that either the provision be dropped or qualified further by incorporating specific parameters.

“Even if provision of this clause is to be invoked only in exceptional circumstances, the fact remains that in the absence of any specific criteria, norms or guidelines, apprehensions are there that the influential persons or institutions in the country may get exemption certificates easily which would defeat the very purpose of the bill,” the parliamentary standing committee on the proposed law noted in its report tabled in both Houses of Parliament in the current session.

It also pointed out that many premier institutions in the country are facing problem of shortage of qualified and experienced faculty as well as absence of required infrastructure and other facilities which are affecting the quality of education and proving to be a hassle in the whole education system. “To exempt such institutions from the proposed legislation will ultimately prove to be counter-productive only.

Therefore, this clause (in the bill) may either be dropped or qualified by adding specific parameters or norms as to when the central government can use this discretion under rules or regulations to be framed under the proposed legislation,” it recommended.
The Union Ministry of Human Resource Development, however, justified the provision before the committee by stating that higher education was unique in its role in the creation of new knowledge and disciplines for which no standards of quality or statutory authority may currently exist.

“Therefore, it would be expedient in the public interest to exempt such disciplines or emerging areas of knowledge at the intersection of disciplines from any or all provisions of the present bill,” it contended.

The Ministry further clarified that there might be higher educational institutions which either at present, or in the future served as examples by virtue of their reputation and standing for quality which may be far higher than the minimum standards prescribed by the statutory regulatory authorities.

It underlined that the broad purpose of mandatory accreditation was to motivate higher educational institutions to obtain even greater heights in quality and contended that the proposed provision was intended to be an incentive for attainment of high quality by higher educational institutions.

“However, such exemption was circumscribed by the conditionality to be specified in the notification and was also not a carte blanche as it could be evoked or modified at any time,” it added.

It also said that every decision of the Central government has to be a well-reasoned decision and subject to public and parliamentary scrutiny.

Panel disagreed
However, the parliamentary panel disagreed with the ministry’s contention and noted, “It is not clear for what reason, prospective students should not get information on quality ratings of a certain class of institutions.”

The proposed legislation seeks to set up a national regulatory authority for academic quality assessment of higher educational institutions and mandatory accreditation to improve the quality of education.

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