Aakash 2 distribution, revamped engineering entrance

From the international PISA rankings on secondary schooling to the ASER report on primary schooling, India's 2012 report card in education offers little to cheer about. A clutch of education bills proposing to reform the higher education sector has languished in Parliament for nearly three years. For the education sector and new HRD Minister Pallam Raju, here are the likely key events of 2013:

5 million Aakash 2: The government will scale up its National Mission on Education through information & communication technology. Early 2013 will see the HRD ministry inviting bids for five million Aakash tablets that will be made available to educational institutes across the country. The institutes will then be able to issue the Aakash tablet, preloaded with a host of educationally relevant programmes, to students much like library books are.

Common Entrance Exam: 2013 will also see the new admission format for all engineering institutes roll out. School board marks will be factored in for determining admissions to all engineering institutes that relied so far on the All India Engineering Entrance Exam. The normalisation of board marks across states will be a challenge as the proposed Common Entrance Exam aims to check the coaching syndrome.

Self-test: The 12th plan stresses the need to assess learning outcomes at school level to ensure that a reasonably good quality education is imparted in our schools. A first step will be the CBSE's Problem Solving Assessment (PSA) test for classes IX and XI in January-February 2013. The board that affiliates over 10,000 schools across the country will this year initiate this exercise to understand exactly how many students are able to grasp what they are taught.

Higher education SSA: The Rashtriya Uchchtar Shiksha Abhiyan, which will now gather steam, sets an ambitious goal of pushing up the gross enrolment ratio in higher education to 30 per cent by incentivising states to invest in higher education. Modelled after the flagship Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, RUSA targets not only setting up new universities and colleges but also upgrading existing ones and addressing quality parameters.

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