What's changed and why it matters

What's changed and why it matters

Happy group of five friends jumping.

The year has been quite eventful and exciting in terms of changes and proposed changes in education in the country.

Though Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) recorded over 90% pass percentage this year in the Board exams, the lower rung of students seem to be ignored. NITI Aayog recorded that 53% of those coming out of the country’s higher education institutions are not employable. Equally disturbing is that though girls consistently outperform boys in board exams, the participation of women in the workforce has actually been declining.

CBSE launched an aptitude test for Class 9 and 10 students, prepared by NCERT. The usefulness of this new scheme is yet to be determined, but it promises to give guidance to students in selecting careers, an area that needs attention. An interesting announcement by CBSE Board stated that practical and project work of humanities students will be evaluated from the year 2020.

In 2019, Commerce continued to gain preference over Science courses at degree level. Cut-offs for admission in BCom were above 90% in most of the reputed colleges, and many of them held an entrance exam to shortlist candidates. Many colleges have included add-on courses like CA, ACCA, CS etc., which are adding to the financial burden of students.

Boost to research works

Karnataka stands sixth among all the states of India in research projects sanctioned by UGC, with 45 ongoing projects out of a total of 819. Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry of Government of India is planning to fund over 2,000 projects in the next 3-4 years.

National Institute of Advanced Studies has extended its identification of innovative young minds from Class 11 and 12 earlier, to as early as 6-year-old children. Teachers are given training to spot young talents. Such children are being given advanced training to pursue their dreams in any area of their interest and talent.

Though the shortage of teachers continues, particularly in government schools, the Karnataka Teachers Eligibility Test of 2018, the result of which was declared this year, showed that of the 2.39 lakh candidates who appeared, less than 15% could qualify, despite having completed their BEd.

Government of India announced that government colleges, universities and technical institutions will increase seats by 25% to accommodate the 10% reservation for students from economically weaker sections in the academic year 2019-20. Also, IITs, IISERs and other prestigious institutions have been asked to mentor schools located close to their campuses, particularly in mathematics and science.

From the academic year 2019-20, UGC is permitting top universities and colleges to offer online degree courses. Admissions will be twice a year. A wide variety of courses is being offered, but those requiring practicals such as engineering, medicine, law etc., have been excluded.

Two lakh candidates appeared for Common Admission Test (CAT) 2018 and results showed that the trend of engineers bagging the best ranks continued as in previous years. For medical studies, 14 lakh students appeared for National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET) 2019 and almost 8 lakhs qualified, but questions are being raised about the capabilities of many students who are taking up ‘surrendered’ seats in private universities and joining MBBS.

Though India has 15 lakh schools compared to only 5 lakh in China, there is a shortage of more than 10 lakh teachers, and many schools have single teachers managing 100-plus students. Teachers are also made to do non-teaching works such as serve mid-day meals, carry out administrative, census and election duties. The result is that the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER 2018) found that 61% of Class 8 students cannot do simple mathematical division, and nearly half of Class 5 children cannot read a Class 2 textbook. Karnataka has shown a decline in learning levels of students this year.

While students going to the USA for higher studies has shown a slight dip this year, many were more inclined to go to Australia, since that country has extended the stay back period from 2 to 3 or 4 years.

There has been a steady increase in students wishing to pursue pure sciences rather than engineering. 

It was reported that just 10,000 students actually reported to the engineering colleges out of 60,000 who were allotted seats by Karnataka CET. Government of Karnataka toyed with the idea of making the CET test on-line as is being done by JEE but is unlikely to go online in 2020 either. AICTE announced in January that 40,000 seats in government engineering colleges across India will be cut down (out of 10 lakh totally available), due to “negligence of state governments in changing the condition of state-run engineering colleges.”

Periodic Labour Force Survey released by National Statistics Office in June showed that unemployment rate for the educated (9.2% for men and 19.8% for women) was much higher than the unemployment rate for uneducated (2.1% for men and 0.8% for women). This should be a wake-up call to educators in our country.

After several years of consideration, the HRD Ministry has agreed to allow some top-rated foreign universities to open campuses in India.

Enrolments in Bachelor of Vocation (BVoc) courses is steadily increasing, from 544 in 2013 to 33,000 in 2019. Students have an option to join after Class 12 and can exit after 6 months with a certificate, after one year with a diploma, after two years with an advanced diploma, and if they complete all three years they get the BVoc degree which is recognised by the UGC.

The proposed National Education Policy has recommended that school education be grouped as follows:

Five years of Foundational Stage: 3 years of pre-primary school plus Classes 1, 2.

Three years of Preparatory (or Latter Primary) Stage: Classes 3, 4, 5.

Three years of Middle (or Upper Primary) Stage: Classes 6, 7, 8.

Four years of High (or Secondary) Stage: Classes 9, 10, 11, 12.

A final word of caution to the technology-savvy youngsters: A survey done by Nimhans in January showed that gaming addicts use the phone up to 10 hours per day as it is an escape from boredom and a feel-good factor, but they can suffer from decreased sleep, irritability and restlessness. In some cases, they can develop psychiatric problems.

(The author is founder, Banjara Academy, Bengaluru)

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