Cannot compromise with future & employability of final year students: Nishank
There can be no compromise with the future and employability of final year university students which is why they will appear in examinations as per University Grants Commission (UGC) guidelines, said the Union Human Resource Development minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’. He said this in an exclusive interaction with The Pioneer.
He said that the UGC had issued guidelines from time to time and the decision to hold final year exams has been welcomed by the students and their guardians too. The minister said, “We do not want the final year students to have a ‘Covid’ degree wherein they are passed based on internal evaluation. What if employers put up boards stating that candidates with such degrees need not apply for jobs? We are vigilant about Covid-19 and hence the guideline calls for conduction of examinations in offline/on-line or in the blended mode. Regarding those who are opposing this, I would say that there should not be politicisation of education.”
Regarding the impact of Covid on education and how the ministry plans to overcome it, Nishank said that India’s education system is the largest in the world with 33 crore students, 1,028 universities, 45,000 colleges, more than one crore teachers, and 15.50 lakh schools. The adverse effect of the pandemic is being seen in all areas including education. But due to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efficient leadership, the ministry has faced this challenge firmly. The schools and higher education have resumed online learning. The data is being maintained through YUKTI portal. Various efforts are being made to strengthen online education platforms like DIKSHA, Swayam, Swayamprabha, e-Pathshala, Doordarshan’s educational TV channels etc. Over 90,000 courses are available for students on the DIKSHA platform alone. For students who do not have access to internet, education is being accessed through 32 channels of Swayam Prabha itself. “Presently, the Ministry of Home Affairs has ordered the closure of all schools, colleges and educational institutions. Post re-opening of schools we will see more of blended learning at both school and higher education. The Covid-19 has provided us with a set of opportunities to overcome the crisis,” he said.
On the question of limited or no digital access in many households especially in rural areas affecting digital education, he said that other options are also being facilitated. The PM E-Vidya initiative under the Atmanirbhar initiative is aimed at facilitating ‘Equity and Access’ to the students. It unifies all efforts related to digital/online/on-air education. This will enable multi-mode access to education, and includes: DIKSHA (one nation-one digital platform); TV (one class-one channel), SWAYAM online IITPAL; Air through community radio and CBSE Shiksha Vani podcast; and study material for the differently abled developed on Digitally Accessible Information System (DAISY) and in sign language on NIOS website/ YouTube. This will benefit nearly 25 crore school going children across the country.
Nishank stressed that the ministry is committed to the provision of quality education based upon factual information without any biases or prejudices. With this spirit work on the new National Curriculum Framework (NCF) for school education has been initiated. NCERT will be expected to make changes in the textbooks in accordance with the new NCF. Subject experts will initiate this process for school education, and give interim report by December 2020. While redesigning textbooks, it is to be ensured that nothing but the core content is placed in textbooks. Also, the cognitive load of the textbooks is too high. Additional areas, such as creative thinking, life skills, Indian ethos, art, and integration, etc. need to be integrated. NCERT will also start working on the layout and design of the new textbooks well in advance, however, the new textbooks shall be written based on the new NCF. The new NCF is expected to be ready by March 2021.
Regarding the recent changes in CBSE curriculum which had elicited criticism from some quarters, the minister said that the criticism was unfounded because chapters like secularism and federalism had not been removed from the syllabus. “The process for rationalisation not only involved consultations with various subjects experts but we had also launched a #SyllabusForStudents2020 campaign to receive suggestions from the students, teachers, and parents on what topics should be removed from the syllabus of the academic session 2020-21. We had received more than 15,000 suggestions. All the suggestions were analysed by the CBSE It has not been an easy task to do rationalisation of syllabus across the 190 subjects.
To decrease the load on the students, it was decided that these chapters will be taught but questions from these will not be asked in the examination. The criticism was baseless and the critics also realised this later on,” he said.
On the question of skill upgradation of teachers for a rapidly changing scenario, Nishank said, “Professional development of teachers is an essential component for the provision of quality education at school and higher education. To enhance the quality of education, we were already providing teachers training to incorporate ICT in the teaching learning. The efforts will now be more enhanced, more focus will now be placed on incorporation of ICT and e- learning.”
Replying to whether higher education institutes lack quality of research work the minister said that 21 Indian universities made it to the top 1,000 universities in QS World Universality Ranking. “To permeate a culture of research in the higher education institutes several schemes and initiatives have been introduced. The Prime Minister’s Research Fellows (PMRF) scheme has been designed for improving the quality of research in various higher educational institutions in the country. The institutes which can offer PMRF include all the IITs, all the IISERs, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru and some of the top Central Universities/NITs that offer science and/or technology degrees. Ninety projects were approved in December 2019.”
Regarding the performance of the state government under chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat, Nishank said that the state is performing commendably while maintaining coordination with the Centre. “The BJP has always honoured Uttarakhand, facilitated the desired developments and in the future it will become an impenetrable fortress of the BJP. The CM has maintained considerable patience during the Covid pandemic and kept the situation in the state under control,” he said.
Replying to how he finds time to write given his busy schedule, the minister said, “Writing is my passion but I do not let it affect my main work. For the past 25-30 years I have been resting for a maximum four hours a day. When the others rest, I write my thoughts or poems. I am happy that my work has been published in several Indian and foreign languages and also elicited appreciation.”
Thursday, 30 July 2020 | PNS | Dehradun