Academic credit banks, degree programmes with entry and exit options soon

The first National Agricultural Education Policy is set to bring academic credit banks and degree programmes with multiple entry and exit options to the 74 universities focussed on crop sciences, fisheries, veterinary and dairy training and research.

A six-member committee of Vice-Chancellors has been asked to submit a draft policy document to the Agriculture Ministry next month, according to R.C. Agarwal, Deputy Director General for Education, at the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. More than 45,000 students are admitted into agricultural universities every year, and the new policy is set to usher in some changes to their academic life.

“The process started about two months ago, after the release of the National Education Policy. In many ways, agricultural education is ahead of its time, and already aligned with the NEP. The NEP wants a shift to four-year undergraduate degrees, and all our agricultural degrees are already four-year programmes. Similarly, the NEP mentions experiential education, and we have already mandated that since 2016,” said Dr. Agarwal, who is in-charge of the committee drafting the new policy.

The Student READY (Rural Entrepreneurship Awareness Development Yojana) programme requires all students to undertake a six-month internship, usually in their fourth year, to gain hands-on training, rural awareness, industry experience, research expertise and entrepreneurship skills, he told The Hindu.

“One major challenge is how to ensure that this experiential learning is made available to all students if we implement the multiple entry-exit system. Even if a student leaves after two or three years, even with a diploma, he should not miss out on it,” said Dr. Agarwal. The Deans Committee, which is responsible for creating consensus on changes in the undergraduate curriculum about once in 10 years, is likely to be called to meet in three to four months to ensure that such adaptations are possible. Adoption of academic credit banks may also require some tweaking of curriculum requirements.

Another major challenge for agricultural universities could be the push for multi-disciplinarity. “Our universities have been modelled on the land grant pattern, with a focus on research and extension, and deep community connections, driven by the philosophy that farmers need holistic solutions to their problems. However, in recent years, several domain specific universities in horticulture, veterinary science and fisheries sciences have come up. How to incorporate humanities and social sciences into these settings, that could be a big challenge,” said Dr. Agarwal

The Education Ministry has said it intends to begin staggered implementation of these features of the NEP as early as the next academic year, starting with the Institutes of Eminence and then the central universities. There are four premier agricultural education institutions deemed to be universities, three central agricultural universities and three central universities with agricultural faculty who may be required to start making changes soon.

Though agricultural education is a State subject, the ICAR is responsible for the quality of education across the country, and expects to continue in a standards-setting role under the new system of higher education regulation proposed by the NEP. However, it is not clear whether it will continue in its accreditation and grant making roles under the new regime.

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 1:35:35 AM |

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