The reforms process started with a major announcement of the government to abolish compulsory CBSE Board exams for Class X from 2010-11 session and introduction of grading system from current year.

Sweeping reforms ranging from scrapping of CBSE’s Class X board exam and enacting of a law to make education a fundamental right of every child were in the news on the educational front in 2009, a year that also saw a new CAT format plagued by technical glitches.

With Kapil Sibal, who has been described by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as one of the “finest minds” in the government, taking over as the new Human Resource Development Minister, a new roadmap for reforms was put in place aiming at transforming the country’s demographic dividend into a growth propeller.

Sibal’s stint in the ministry began with a host of policy and legislative initiatives with focus on access, equity and quality.

The reforms process started with a major announcement of the government to abolish compulsory CBSE Board exams for Class X from 2010-11 session and introduction of grading system from current year.

The step was taken to reduce the examination stress of students. The CBSE also initiated a “continuous, comprehensive evaluation” which will assess the students’ performance on a continuous basis.

Another major step in the education sector came in the passage of Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, which was hanging fire for last four years. The landmark Act provides for free and compulsory education as a fundamental right of children in the 6-14 age group.

The Act also provides for earmarking 25 per cent seats for weaker sections in schools and seeks to do away with the practice of schools taking capitation fees before admission and subjecting the child or parents to any screening procedure.

The Common Admission Test (CAT) was conducted through computers, but was marred by technical glitches. Test of over 8,000 students was disrupted due to the glitches. The issue was raised in Parliament.

The CAT committee, however, stuck to the computer-based system after it reviewed the exam. It announced a fresh exam for those aspirants who could not appear in the test during the 11-day testing period.

The ministry mooted a number of legislations in higher education which was often in the news for wrong reasons, including corruption and other malpractices.

In far-reaching reforms, the ministry decided to create a National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) as an overarching body in higher education.

The proposed NCHER will replace UGC, AICTE, DCE and NCTE. The ministry has prepared another bill for entry of foreign education providers into the country.

For checking malpractices in higher education, the Human Resource Development Ministry prepared a separate bill.

The government wants to have a national accreditation body for accreditation of educational institutions. Besides, it has prepared a separate bill for setting up of educational tribunals.

However, the government’s move to review the functioning of deemed universities remained an unfulfilled task till the end of the year.

There are 130 deemed universities in the country, including around 100 in private sector. There are allegations that many undeserving institutions have got the status in the past few years.

AICTE Chairman R A Yadav was suspended by the government in connection with the corruption case registered against him by the CBI.

The agency on July 16 arrested AICTE member secretary K Narayan Rao besides registering corruption cases against Yadav, Regional Officer Sriom Dalal, Deputy Director Robinder Randhawa and Advisor H C Rai.

Under criticism over the selection of 15 vice chancellors in haste, the government mooted the idea of appointing VCs and directors of IIMs through independent collegium, a move that is likely to make the process broad based and check any type of interference.

In steps to expand the technical education, the government approved setting up of six new IIMs. It also asked the IITs and IIMs to prepare their future vision plan for expansion and quality of technical education in the country.

2009 witnessed a stand-off between the IIT faculty and the government over the “anomalies” in pay structure. But it later ended amicably after the government assured the faculty that its guidelines on the pay structure are norms which can be relaxed for promoting excellence.