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Two big exams that Sibal flunked

New Delhi, Oct. 28: Kapil Sibal’s stint as human resource development minister, marked by a zeal for announcements that often led to controversies, ended rather abruptly today with all his initiatives for change in higher education still hanging fire.

Sibal and his two junior colleagues have made way for a new dispensation under M.M. Pallam Raju, who will be assisted by Shashi Tharoor and Jitin Prasada. Raju said “Kapil Sibalji has done a lot of good work and I think that needs to be carried forward.”

Two possible reasons are being cited for the departure of Sibal from a department where he was keen to stay on. One, the sluggish progress of his higher education reforms and two, his tiff with IIT faculties over changes to engineering admissions.

One of Sibal’s most controversial moves was his push for a single engineering entrance test for the whole country. It was seen as an attempt to centralise education at a time the worldwide trend has been to give universities the freedom to select students.

Further, Sibal made the CBSE Class X board exam optional but the efficacy of the alternative — a system of continuous and comprehensive evaluation — is still to be assessed.

Tardy reforms

Higher education reforms had been Sibal’s priority. In his first year, the ministry formulated bills aimed at:

Allowing foreign universities to set up campuses in India;

Improving standards at higher education institutions by forcing them all to get accredited;

Checking malpractices by universities such as charging capitation fees or making exaggerated claims in their websites or brochures;

Setting up education tribunals to speed up adjudication of disputes.

All these bills were introduced in Parliament in 2010 but not one has yet been passed. A revised accreditation bill has been reintroduced for passage but the other three are awaiting reintroduction following examination by House panels.

Another bill, to create an overarching regulatory body in higher education, has been introduced and is being studied by a House committee.

RTE, copyright

Sibal’s tenure will be remembered for the enactment of the Right To Education Act, which took India into a club of 135 countries that have made education a fundamental right for every child.

The passage of the Copyright Amendment Act, which entitles authors and creative artists to royalty every time their work is used, is one of Sibal’s achievements.

Sibal will also be remembered for cracking down on deemed universities. His ministry labelled 44 of the 130 deemed universities “unworthy” of the tag because they failed to meet quality norms. The decision has been challenged in the apex court.

Sibal had called a meeting of the Central Advisory Board of Education next week to discuss the Rashtriya Ucchatar Shiksha Abhiyan, which aims to increase enrolment in higher education from the current 18 per cent to 30 per cent by 2020. The meeting may be deferred.

NTRís daughter Purandeswari must be eating her words. On Saturday, she thanked Sonia and Rahul for promoting her as commerce and industry minister. She was not promoted but shifted from HRD to commerce as minister of state.