Plan Panel meet on higher education, Montek for semester system

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New Delhi, July 29 (UNI) The government is toying with the idea of the entire country shifting to semester system instead of annual exams as regards higher education, starting immediately with new campuses and gradually covering existing universities.

All central universities would shift to semester system in the Eleventh Plan(2007-11), according to the plan.

The concept was mooted by Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia while making a presentation recently to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh relating to restructuring and reforming India's higher education.

The issue is likely to crop up at the meeting of the full planning commission on August 6. The meeting called at the instance of Dr Manmohan Singh has been convened with a view to overhauling higher and vocational education sectors, including by putting in more investments and modernising infrastructure.

Official sources said there is concern in the government that all is not well with the higher educational system, sparked by the fact that students with more than 90 per cent marks have been unable to get admission to certain top colleges.

The Prime Minister himself having a had a long stint in academics-- both research and teaching--is evincing keen interest in reforming the system of higher education.

Dr Ahluwalia also suggested to the Prime Minister to go in for a Centralised Entrance Test for admission to various Universities.

He stressed the need for universities revising or restructuring curricula at least once in three years. Revisions, however, should be subjected to outside peer review before being implemented. The process for such revisions should be decentralised to the Departmental level and not Academic Council.

Besides, industry is constrained by the shortage of skilled manpower necessitated by a fast growing economy. It has repeatedly pleaded with the government for giving renewed thrust to vocational training.

It has offered various proposals to the Union government for upgrading ITIs--both an initiative at the company level and by the industry chambers.

Dr Ahluwalia argued in the Prime Ministers meet for ICT(Information, Communications and Technology) coverage in a phased manner in all the 367 universities entailing 18,000 colleges.

The idea is to achieve connectivity with National Knowledge Network.

He suggested networked campuses with wireless broadband connectivity in the last mile. Besides, he said, there was need for virtual class rooms, tele conferencing and video conferencing facilities. There was also need for more digital libraries and advanced computational facilities in select institutions.

With a view to working out a long-term plan to address these problems, the Prime Minister had constituted a committee--the Skill Development Mission-- with a mandate to propose credible remedial measures. The Committee submitted its Report to the Prime Minister on July 15, with its recommendations aiming to rejuvenating higher and vocational education sectors.

Source say the Prime Minister is keen to see an early reform of institutions of higher learning. Besides, the demands for modernisation and globalisation of the Indian economy make it imperative that the system of higher education is in alignment with fundamental economic changes at work.

The government plans setting up of 30 central universities (including 16 in uncovered States) during the Eleventh Plan.

As many as 14 of the new Central Universities are intended to be world class, located in States which provide land at attractive locations.

The government plans establishing 370 new colleges in districts with low Gross Enrollment Ratio(GER).

Also under consideration is launching of a Centrally-Sponsored Scheme for strenthening State Universities and Collesges.

Plans are afoot to strengthen nearly 6,000 colleges during this period.


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