New Delhi: Union Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani, in written replies to questions raised in the Lok Sabha, spelt out the government's stand and policies on alternative systems of education, revamping of mid-day meal schemes and criteria for grant of autonomy to select colleges.
On the issue of alternative systems of education, Irani said that the present National Curriculum Framework (NCF-2005) takes care of any new development and concern in the school level education system.
She further said that addressing these concerns, the NCF-2005 follows five guiding principles i.e. (i) connecting knowledge to life outside the school, (ii) ensuring that learning is shifted away from rote methods, (iii) enriching the curriculum to provide for overall development of children rather than remain text book centric, (iv) making examinations more flexible and integrated into classroom life and, (v) nurturing an over-riding identity informed by caring concerns within the democratic polity of the country.
The minister added that various curriculum materials developed by the NCERT provide children opportunities to bring experiences in the classroom and also provide scope of infusing arts, heritage craft and work across the subjects at all levels, which in turn, helps in developing sensitivity towards all culture. Cultural aspects in education are an integral part of school curriculum at all the stages.
She said that the National Policy on Education 1986, as amended in 1992, has been the guiding document for the policies of the Central Government in the education sector.
"The government has been following National Policy on Education 1986, as modified in 1992, which provides for National System of Education implying that up to a given level, all students, irrespective of caste, creed, location or sex, have access to education of a comparable quality. The National System of Education envisages a common educational structure," she said.
On the revamping of the mid-day meal scheme, Irani, in her written reply, said, that the government of India has requested all states and union territories to have the meals tested in accredited labs.
She further revealed that the Governments of the NCT Delhi and Punjab have engaged accredited labs for testing of samples in their state.
Governments in the states and union territories may involve food inspectors to collect the food samples for testing on quality parameters.
Irani further stated that the mid-day meal guidelines envisage that teachers should not be assigned responsibilities that will impede or interfere with teaching learning.
"Teachers should, however, be involved in ensuring that (i) good quality, wholesome food is served to children, and (ii) the actual serving and eating is undertaken in a spirit of togetherness, under hygienic conditions, and in an orderly manner so that the entire process is completed in 30-40 minutes," she said in her reply.
She added, "It should however, be ensured that the food prepared is tasted by 2-3 adults including at least one teacher before it is served to children. Thus, the teacher is to supervise that the mid day meal is served in an orderly manner within specified time (recess period) and to taste the meal on rotational basis before it is served."
The guidelines provide that, as far as possible, the responsibility of cooking, supply of cooked midday meal should be assigned to local women's/mothers' self-help group or local youth club affiliated to the Nehru Yuvak Kendras or a voluntary organisation or by personnel engaged directly by the School Management Committee (SMC)/Village Education Committee (VEC)/Parent Teacher Association (PTA)/Gram Panchayat/Municipality.
The minister revealed that the mid-day meal scheme covers 10.80 crore children in 11.58 lakh schools during 2013-14.
The Scheme provides for a mechanism to deal with complaints and grievances of the stakeholders. The Ministry of HRD has been issuing instructions from time to time for effective implementation of the Scheme.
On criteria for grant of autonomy to select colleges, Irani said it included factors like academic reputation and previous performance in university examinations and its academic/co-curricular/extension activities in the past; academic/extension achievements of the faculty; quality and merit in the selection of students and teachers, subject to statutory requirements in this regard; adequacy of infrastructure, for example, library, equipment, accommodation for academic activities, etc.; quality of institutional management; National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) accreditation of 'B' grade or above; financial resources provided by the management/state government for the development of the institution; responsiveness of administrative structure and motivation and involvement of faculty in the promotion of innovative reforms etc.
As per the latest XIIth plan guidelines, once a college attains the status of an autonomous college, it is entitled for the following privileges: have freedom to determine and prescribe its own courses of study and syllabi, restructure and redesign the courses to suit local needs; prescribe rules for admission in consonance with the reservation policy of the state government; evolve methods of assessment of students' performance, the conduct of examinations and notification of results; use modern tools of educational technology to achieve higher standards and greater creativity; promote healthy practices such as community service, extension activities, projects for the benefit of the society at large, neighbourhood programmes, etc.
She revealed that the scheme of autonomous Colleges is being implemented by the University Grants Commission (UGC) to provide autonomy to select colleges.
As on date there are 487 autonomous colleges (affiliated to 93 universities) in 24 states and union territories in the country.