Seven years after the government implemented the Right to Education (RTE) Act, the Union Cabinet on Wednesday agreed to dilute the no-detention clause to allow state governments to detain children in classes VI, VII and VIII. The Cabinet also cleared the UGC’s Institutions of Eminence Deemed to be Universities Regulations 2017, aimed at creating an enabling architecture for 10 public and 10 private institutions to emerge as world-class institutions.
On the no-detention policy, Section 16 of the RTE Act, which came into effect in March 2010, currently states that no child admitted in a school shall be held back in any class or expelled till she completes elementary education, which is Class VIII. The Cabinet is now learnt to have approved the HRD Ministry’s proposal to amend the law to provide state governments the freedom to draft appropriate rules under the Act for detaining a student in Class VI, VII or VIII. However, no child will be held back in a class unless she has been given an additional chance to clear the exam after failing once, said sources. In between the first and second attempt, the student will be given remedial coaching.
The proposal was passed at the behest of various state governments. In August 2016, the Central Advisory Board for Education, CABE, the highest body advising the Centre and states on education, passed a resolution calling for scrapping the no-detention policy on the ground that students were no longer academically serious. Although the Parliament has already passed an RTE amendment Bill this session to extend the deadline for teachers to acquire the prescribed minimum qualifications for appointment by four years, the HRD Ministry will introduce another amendment Bill next session to change Section 16 of the Act.
The clearance for Institutions of Eminence comes in the wake of concerns that the country has little representation in international rankings of educational institutions. These institutions are proposed to have greater autonomy compared to other higher education facilities. For instance, they will be free to decide their fee for domestic and foreign students, and have a flexible course duration and structure. Besides, their academic collaborations with foreign institutions will be exempt from approvals of government or UGC except institutions on the list of negative countries maintained by the Home and Foreign ministries.
Once identified, the target for these institutions would be to break into the top-500 bracket in one internationally reputed ranking framework in 10 years and come up in the top 100 over time. The Cabinet had taken up this proposal on June 7 but its approval was deferred and the regulations referred to an informal group of ministers after concerns were raised over the impact of greater autonomy.
The group of ministers — HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar, Textile Minister Smriti Irani, Power Minister Piyush Goyal and Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman — held two meetings in June and suggested a few changes to the regulations. As first reported by The Indian Express on July 24, the group of ministers had red-flagged the provision that permits transfer of the ‘Letter of Intent’ (LoI), issued by the empowered committee of the UGC, from one private player to any other party under exceptional circumstances. The HRD Ministry accepted this recommendation and, to prevent misuse of the transfer clause, has now specifically defined what exceptional circumstances mean: bankruptcy or death of the original promoter.
As for the rule prescribing minimum enrolment of 15,000 students in 15 years, the group has recommended that the institutions should be free to fix this number as they may like to specialise in an area that may not require a large number of students. The ministry has accepted this suggestion and Institutions of Eminence will now have to enrol a minimum of 10,000 students in 15 years. They can also aim for an enrolment figure under 10,000 provided the promoters can provide convincing reasons for the same.