Madras High Court’s Mantra for Reining in Unscrupulous Colleges…!

Publish recognition and affiliation details of medical, engineering and other professional colleges, and punish or award damages to students who are misled by unscrupulous managements into joining colleges that do not have statutory sanction to take students.

This is the Madras high court’s prescription to usher in better accountability and responsibility in the education sector, where instances of students ending up in unrecognised courses or being admitted in excess of the permitted intake are on the rise.

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Justice KK Sasidharan, dismissing a writ petition filed by St John’s College of Nursing seeking regularisation of students admitted in excess of the permitted intake, said cancellation of recognition or denial of affiliation or reduction of student intake in professional colleges should not be a ‘secret affair’.

Pointing out that there were no appropriate regulations to punish managements involved in such irregularities, the judge also laid down a set of stringent guidelines and said statutory bodies such as MCI, AICTE, nursing and dental councils must consider adopting the norms with appropriate modifications.

Every year, before the admission process for medical, engineering, nursing, pharmacy, teaching, law and other courses begins, the statutory body concerned should publish within three days of publication of Plus Two results the list of colleges entitled to admit students along with the sanctioned intake.

Justice Sasidharan also favoured a mechanism for awarding damages to students whose careers are seriously jeopardized by unscrupulous management of colleges/schools that admit students without statutory recognition/affiliation in violation of rules. Details such as pending applications, grant of approval and the final list of approved institutions, too, should be published by the regulatory authorities concerned before the last date prescribed for submission of applications, he said.

The judge was passing orders on a writ petition of St John’s College of Nursing which had admitted 50 students though its intake had been reduced to 30. Admitting that 20 students had been admitted in excess of the sanctioned limit, it wanted the court to regularise their admission and allow them to write their examination.

Rejecting the plea, Justice Sasidharan said students joined the institution without knowing that the intake limit had been slashed. “The illegal admissions would come in the open only when the university declines to permit students to write the public examination. The students would realise only at that point of time that they had been cheated. The students ultimately would lose money as well as their valuable time by studying in such unrecognised institutions,” he said.

Slamming college managements that had turned a noble cause into a lucrative business, Justice Sasidharan agreed with a senior counsel’s submissions that the statutory bodies were primarily responsible for this sorry state of affairs and poor students were being made scapegoats.

He dismissed the writ petition of the nursing institution saying, “there is no question of showing any kind of indulgence in a matter of this nature.”

Times View

The Madras high court’s punitive guidelines for rogue managements have not come a moment too soon. The verdict echoes the popular concern that there is no law to award compensation to students who lose money and time by first joining a college/course without statutory sanction, and then fight court battles in vain. Colleges flout law during admissions and then use the illegally admitted students as human shields to win court sympathy to continue the fraud. The high court has called their bluff finally.

SSC, HSC Pupils Can Mention Minority Status in Exam Forms

In a latest move in the indian education sector from next academic year, application forms for the SSC and HSC exams will have a separate column where candidates can mention if they belong to a minority community.

The move was initiated by the respective authority at the meeting held between state minorities minister Arif Naseem Khan and school education minister Rajendra Darda at Mantralaya on Monday. “Students have the option of specifying their caste (SC/ST/OBC) in the current application system. But there is no such provision for candidates from minority communities.

The new system will not only help in collating accurate data on how many minority-community students appear for SSC and HSC exams, but will also help in streamlining admissions to junior and degree colleges. I urged the school education minister and department officials to include the option of specifying minority community status in board examination forms,” Khan said. “School education minister Rajendra Darda has agreed to the suggestion and has promised to make technical changes in the system.”

Colleges with a minority tag (linguistic and religious) have to reserve 50% of the total seats for those belonging to the minority quota.

Course-correction scheme to Benefit Students at Vellore Institute of Technology

Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT) has announced a migration scheme in which a student can move from one engineering stream to another in any year during the course.

The scheme will be a boon for students who want to shift to courses that may have specific subjects to cater to their interests.

“It’s a welcome move provided students are wise in their choice of courses during migration,” said former Anna University vice-chancellor E Balagurusamy. The system will be advantageous to those who shift to courses that are connected but more specialised than the ones they are pursuing, he said.

“Even second or third year students can migrate, but they should make sure that they don’t miss out the core papers,” said Balagurusamy.

Many universities in the US have this system as they want to be more liberal in academics. “I joined MS computer engineering at a university in the US. The course was more about hardware and so I shifted to a software course later,” said VIT vice-president Sekar Viswanathan.

The scheme, which has been introduced on a trial basis, is aimed at first year students but there are no restrictions for senior students either, said Viswanathan.

All that a student would have to do is score 60% overall marks during the current year and 40% in two basic papers of the course they want to shift to in the second semester of the year they are in. Students will be chosen for the migration based on a merit list prepared on the marks scored, and 2% of seats in every department will be allotted for the scheme.

This option is already available for first-year students in some institutions, including SASTRA University. Usually, students who join a course available at the time of admission migrate during the second year.

“All first year students have common subjects. Depending on their first year marks and the availability of seats in other departments, first years can shift courses,” said S Vaidhyasubramaniam, dean-planning and development, SASTRA University. “I don’t think it’s advisable for senior students as they won’t be able to complete the course.”

Officials at VIT University said the scheme is aimed at the first year students but there are no restrictions for senior students either.

More students opt For Higher Education, but Even More Drop Out: says Survey….!

 Higher education continues to be a mixed bag in the country. A countrywide education survey has found that the rate of attendance in the 20-24 age group (corresponding to graduation and above) has recorded the highest rates of growth in several decades. However, worryingly, the dropout rate has also kept pace.

The survey carried out by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) in 2009-10 was released this month. It looked into employment and educational trends in India.

Compared to the 1991-2000 period, the past decade (2001-10) saw attendance rates for the higher age group increase by 71% for boys and 110% for girls in rural areas. In urban areas, the growth was 40% for boys and 45% for girls. Although the rise in percentage terms is a marked improvement over previous decades, the data shows that the picture remains dismal at the ground level. In 2009-10, the attendance rates were just 19% for boys and 8% for girls in rural areas; in urban areas, the corresponding figures were 33% and 24%, respectively. This state of higher education compares badly with those in the 5-14 age group, where 87% of boys and 84% of girls were attending school in rural areas, and 91% of all boys and girls in urban areas.

Various measures like mid-day meals, new curricula and better facilities have drawn children to schools, said eminent scientist Yashpal, former chairperson of the University Grants Commission (UGC). However, in higher education, complex socio-economic conditions skew the growth rate in favour of female students. While economic pressures motivate young men to opt out of education at the earliest possible level in order to start earning, young women are increasingly pursuing higher education as it helps in marriage prospects and potential future employment. An earlier NSSO study had shown that women, despite higher education levels are still not becoming part of the workforce.

“At the higher education level, we need to do away with rigidity, allow more freedom and innovation, and link the courses to life. Resources need to be pumped in on priority basis,” asserted Professor Yashpal, while explaining the persistent high dropout rates at higher levels. Prof Yashpal had headed a high-level committee on ‘renovation and rejuvenation’ of higher education which submitted a detailed report in 2009. Its battery of suggestions included increased funding for higher education and stricter regulation of private entities. The government is yet to act on the report.

While current attendance rates indicate a positive trend for the future, existing educational levels of people 15 years old and above continue to be dismal. The traditional picture of educational levels—like a pyramid with a very wide base (of illiterates) tapering to a sharp point (of graduates)—is changing at the bottom but not much at the top. The proportion of those who are illiterate or have studied just up to primary levels is going down but beyond that the pyramid continues to be sharply pointed.

In urban areas, about 15% of males and 11% of females are graduates or above. This is much higher than the rural areas where only 3.7% of males and a mere 1.6% of females have gone up to graduation or beyond. This is despite an explosion of private higher education institutions including universities in recent years.

What is even more alarming is that in 10 years between 1999-2000 and 2009-10, the graduate and above segment of the urban population declined by 5% among males although it increased by 10% among females.

In the rural areas, the pent-up demand for education is still driving educational levels higher. The proportion of graduates and above went up by 78% among females but only 12% in males.

‘SFIs Not Refunding Fees to Exiting Students’

The Admission Committee for Professional Courses (ACPC) has received more than 500 complaints alleging malpractice by self-financed colleges in admissions. These complaints were received from seven architecture, 32 engineering colleges and one other college.

“Of the 500 complaints, the maximum – 56 – are against Changa College. We have asked these colleges to settle all the 500 complaints by August 31 or face action which would include heavy fines,” said M N Patel, member-secretary, ACPC. He further said that there is also provision for penal action against the erring colleges.

According to sources, a meeting of the chairman and principals of these colleges was held at ACPC office at LD Engineering. Officials said that these colleges had either refused to refund fees or declined to return original mark-sheets after candidates who had secured admission in government colleges.

The problem began after the fourth round of admissions in which students were granted admission to higher branches of engineering in government colleges. Earlier, the ACPC was given permission to hold a special round to fill seats which had fallen vacant after the third round.

After three rounds of admissions, most students had submitted their original documents and paid fees in full to the self-financed colleges. However, when a large number of students asked for refunds after they were granted admission in government colleges in the fourth round, the self-financed colleges made an attempt to retain these students by withholding refund of fees or documents. The rules stipulate that self-financed colleges have to return fees and documents.

In another development, the ACPC has once again asked Dharmsinh Desai University (DDU) to admit all the 81 students in post-graduate engineering. These students were earlier denied admission by the university. DDU had refused to admit students in its grant-in-aid postgraduate engineering college. The university said that it had written to the state government to cancel its grant-in-aid status and grant it the self-financed status. The government has not taken a decision yet. The DDU has also moved court but the court has not given any stay in the matter.

22 Lakh Children without Basic Education: Tharoor!

Nearly 22 lakh children in the country are yet to receive elementary education and it is the responsibility of state governments to bring them to schools, minister of state for HRD Shashi Tharoor said on Thursday.

“We are definitely anxious to catch the remaining 22 lakh children in our country who still are not in school. These are mainly tribal children, children of migrant workers and the begging children. These are students we need to catch and take them to the school,” Tharoor said.

He was speaking at the launch of the Right to Education (RTE) anthem video. HRD minister M M Pallam Raju and Rajya Sabha MP Javed Akthar were also present on the occasion.

“It is the responsibility of the state governments to look out for them. Even if a migrant worker’s child is in a place where the language is not of his family or the state, the child should acquire basic literacy. It is the responsibility of the state to get him into the school and not of the family,” Tharoor said.

The lyrics of the RTE anthem has been written by lyricist Javed Akhtar while the song has been sung by noted singers Sonu Nigam and Sunidhi Chauhan.

The video also features Bollywood actors Ranbir Kapoor, Imran Khan, Katrina Kaif and Anushka Sharma. The video will be dubbed in English and 15 regional languages to generate awareness among the stakeholders for implementation of the RTE.

“The RTE came into existence in 2010 and since then it has showed remarkable success,” said Raju. “The anthem and the video will help spread the message of RTE.”

Under the RTE, it is obligatory on government and local authorities to provide elementary education to all children in the 6-14 age group.

IITs Restart Preparation Courses to Fill up Quota Seats…!

Hamstrung by the lack of qualified candidates to fill up the mandatory quota seats, the Indian Institutes of Technology have not only lowered the cut-offs for the reserved category students but also restarted the year-long preparatory courses. But not all campuses will run these courses. This year, the IITs have decided to take turns to run the bridge programme.

For the first time, some of the IITs have outsourced the preparatory course to their counterparts in other tech schools. For instance, IIT-Roorkee is holding these classes for not just their students but also those of IIT-Delhi and IIT-Mandi. IIT-Madras is conducting ‘prep classes’ as they are known, for its candidates and those of IIT-Bombay, IIT-Hyderabad and IIT-Gandhinagar. Apart from running the course for its candidates, IIT-Kharagpur is also training students of IIT-Patna and IIT-Bhubaneshwar.

Preparatory courses are special coaching classes for reserved category students who fail to make the grade despite a substantial lowering of the cut-off marks. These students are taken in when there are not enough candidates to fill up the quota seats.

This year, 276 physically disadvantaged candidates and 200 scheduled tribe students will undergo the preparatory course.

“There are very few students undergoing the preparatory programme this year. While it goes on to show that applicants are more prepared, we also felt that makes sense to share the work-load and bunch students instead of running the programme for a handful of students on every campus,” said IIT-Bombay director Devang Khakhar.

Sources said the idea came up when the new IITs complained of faculty and space shortage for holding these extra classes. “Later, when the older IITs decided to shoulder the responsibility, some felt that candidates could be grouped and there is better utilization of resources,” he said.

For quota students who fall short of the mark, the IITs generously reduce cut-offs and conduct special coaching for them for a year.

The arrangement started in the mid-90s after the IITs wrote to the government for permission to run a programme to help quota students lagging behind in the JEE race. But the same was discontinued two years ago.

Each year, the IITs provide concessions to quota students. They lower entry levels for them, going as slow as 50% below the last general category student’s marks to do justice to the quota. But to reach the colleges’ full capacity, scores are relaxed once again and students are selected to be coached in maths, physics and chemistry for a year before they can join the IITs after clearing an internal test. “After successful completion of preparatory programme, you must join the institute where you have been allotted a seat originally,” reads a notice by the IITs to the candidates.

Education can Eliminate Violence: Says the Dalai Lama!

Education can eliminate “the very basis of violence and war” and this century will become a century of peace and non-violence, Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama said here on Wednesday.The Tibetan leader was speaking on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s historic march and speech.

According to the official website of Tibetan administration, the Lama said: “I always have a dream that within this century the world will truly become a real happy human family. In order to achieve that, we need to have a sense of oneness. I think, through education, more realistic and holistic thinking, we can develop a sense of oneness.”

“Then, the very basis of violence and war will no longer be there and this century will become a century of peace and non-violence.”

“I have a dream” is a public speech delivered by the American civil rights activist on August 28, 1963, in which he called for an end to racism in the United States.

JEE-Advanced All Set to Become a Computer-Based Exam Next Year!

Next year, the JEE-Advanced may change from being a paper-pencil entrance exam to a computer-based one. The decision on the switch will be taken when the Joint Admission Board meets in early September.

On Sunday, members of the board, the highest body that takes decisions on admissions to the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), said the JEE-Advanced in 2014 could be offered as a computer-based exam since “it is the way forward”.

“We discussed a proposal to offer the test on computer or, at least, to keep it as an option in the first year,” said IIT-Bombay director Devang Khakhar. He said the rollout looked possible since candidate numbers had dropped to 1.5 lakh.

A total of 12.82 lakh high-school graduates applied to take the JEE (Main) exam in 2013 when India took its big step towards the ‘one nation, one exam system’. Among them, only 1.74 lakh candidates took the computer-based test. The next level, which is the JEE (Advanced) test for admissions to the IITs, received 1.5 lakh candidates.

IIT-Kharagpur, which is in charge of conducting the JEE (Advanced) for 2014, will parse through the 2013 database. “As a starting point, we’ll see how many of the students who qualified for the IIT (Advanced) took the main test on computer,” said an IIT official.

Some logistical deviations will have to be considered. “We’ll have to run the computer-based tests and the paper-pen tests at the same time at all the centres across India,” he said. “We’ll have to be extremely cautious.”

Higher Education’s Gross Enrolment Ratio to be Raised to 30% by 2020: Says Education Minister

The government has begun efforts to enhance gross enrolment ratio (GER) in higher education to 30 per cent by 2020 from the current level of around 19 per cent, Union minister for human resource development (HRD) MM Pallam Raju said here today.

“We have a gross enrolment ratio of close to 19 per cent, which is much below the 26 per cent average GER in global scenario. But we are certain that with the sustained efforts that began in 11th five-year Plan we will be able to take our GER to 30 per cent by 2020,” he said.

Speaking at the fifth convocation of the city-based Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU), Raju stressed on the need to raise the level of education right from schools to higher institutes with focus on quality.

“That is exactly what the government is trying to do right now. There is a very clear plan and that plan must progress from school education through college education and through the universities. It is important to integrate education with higher disciplines and bring an international focus on the campuses,” the minister said.

The Centre and the HRD ministry have been putting in efforts to encourage GER and no university must be left behind in these efforts, he said, adding that the focus should be on quality.

“For that to happen, it is important for the universities to be the centre of revolution by focusing on quality of education,” Raju said.

Earlier, honorary doctorate degree was presented to Justice (retired) Rajinder Sachar.

In the absence of Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan, his mother Zeenat Tahir Hussain and his elder sister Nikhat received the honorary doctorate degree.

As many as 24,578 students from distance and the regular modes of education were awarded degrees and diplomas for various programmes and courses for 2011 and 2012.

Chancellor Syeda Saiyidain Hameed and vice-chancellor Mohammad Miyan also spoke on the occasion.