Private accreditation in education
Oct 29 2013
The first four decades after Independence witnessed widespread growth of educational institutions. The access to education was a critical factor, and it was presumed that these institutions would do their job judiciously. The domain of education was also confined to traditional disciplines such as pure sciences, arts and humanities, social sciences and professional medical and technical education. However, the advent of computers and communication and broadcasting technologies after the 1980s expanded the scope and spread of all the disciplines in education. New subjects, new disciplines and inter-linkages among various disciplines became prime motivators of change in universities across the world. Developed nations were quick to appreciate the need for standardising the quality of education. Industries were looking for benchmarks that would vouch for quality of output, i.e. trained graduates. Thus, the world witnessed the emergence of quality-assuring agencies in the US, the UK and many other parts of Europe.
The Indian parliament accepted the national policy of education (NPE) in 1986 and it became a programme of action in 1987. The NPE did talk of the necessity to standardise the quality in higher and technical education. However, it is only in 1990s that the UGC and the AICTE became active on this and created two agencies — namely Naac (National Assessment & Accreditation Council) and NBA (National Board of Accreditation), respectively. The task of these bodies was to access and accredit the educational institutions and their teaching programmes.
Naac is an independent autonomous entity, whereas NBA is an arm of AICTE. Naac, thus, operates with more confidence and has its own identity. NBA carries all the burden of good and bad virtues of AICTE. Both these agencies operate with small numbers. Particularly Naac, which has to handle around 29,000 colleges and 600 universities. Even after 19 years of existence since its establishment in 1994, Naac is struggling to assess and accredit all the educational institutions.
The 10th plan of UGC first talked about the need for expanding the number of accreditation agencies. In 2004, when Naac completed decade of existence, there was a review. While there was praise for what Naac had achieved, there was also concern over the slow pace at which institutions were getting assessed and accredited. The idea of bringing in private professional bodies and creating something like a Crisil index gained ground. Ficci and CII also expressed the need for pursuing the concept of public and private accreditation agencies. In seminars conducted across the country, on the occasion of UGC’s golden jubilee, academicians further discussed this concept. Yet the country has been in search, for the last decade or so, of solutions to address the issue to assessing quality and accrediting an ever-increasing number of educational institutions.
Few state governments have expressed strong desire to set up state assessment and accreditation council. The central government has in principal cleared an Act, created by the Union HRD ministry, which creates a scenario for private assessment & accreditation councils (Paac).
This approach would allow private agencies in developed nations to become a part of such attempts in India. The roles of Naac and NBA would change; they would have to see that the Paac collects academic, administrative, governance and financial data in a very scientific manner and does the task of assessment and accreditation as well as gradation of education institutions and their programmes in a standard manner as defined by Naac and NBA.
It would be better if Naac & NBA are integrated to create a central body. The nomenclature of Naac is of generic nature, which has two well-defined tasks.
First, they should continue with the assessment and accreditation process, as they are doing it now and keep their focus on creating an integrated educational approach for all faculties in a credit-based modular structure, a system that industries and businesses are focusing on.
Secondly, they need to monitor the task of private assessment and accreditation providers. Paac’s final endorsement should be endorsed by this central body. The central body should be very autonomous and independent and managed and run by known academic and industry experts. They have to see that Indian grading system that focuses on very complex and huge education system achieves two results. They have to see that the process is capable of addressing the system that is touching thousands of colleges affiliated to thousands of public, private as well as foreign universities. In addition, they have to see that young Indians want to and feel proud to be a part of the higher education system. Their expectations are different and they have access to different educational institutions the world over. So, there has to be cohesiveness and uniformity, which is in step with global standards.
No doubt, private assessment & accreditation council (Paac) is a positive step. But the government has to create a flexible legal strategy to promote Paac so that such a move eventually benefits the industry, governments, and most importantly, the youth.