Citizens' Issues
Four bills crucial for reform of higher education pending before parliament for very long

Experts say reforms are required urgently to equip young people with knowledge and skills, so they can participate fully in the growth story

Four draft education bills have been gathering dust on the legislative tables of parliament, sidetracked by the high drama over the much-talked about Lokpal Bill and the Food Security and Communal Violence Bill.

These bills, namely the National Accreditation Regulatory Authority Bill, Foreign Education Institutions Bill (Regulation of Entry and Operations), Prevention of Malpractices Bill and the Education Tribunal Bill, have been pending the legislative process for a long time now.

Experts say the bills are important for the reform of the education sector and should be passed soon. "The industry knows the value of these bills in terms of bringing about potential changes in the education system," says Sandeep Aneja, founder and managing director, Kaizen Private Equity, India's first equity fund focused on the education sector.

The Foreign Education Institutions Bill, which aims to regulate the entry and operation of foreign educational institutions imparting or intending to impart higher education in India, was cleared by the Union Cabinet last year. The Bill was drafted during the tenure of the first UPA government, but the Left parties had opposed it.

The Accreditation Regulatory Authority Bill proposes to set up a body to assess and accredit every institution in higher education. The existing accreditation process is voluntary.

The Education Tribunal Bill proposes to set up a two-tier structure of educational tribunals at the national and state levels to adjudicate disputes. This Bill too was deferred in the Rajya Sabha after criticism by the opposition.

Chennai-based developmental professional, Ramesh Arunachalam says that the bills are important to ensure the quality of education. "All the four bills have the potential to scale up the quality of educational reform and, therefore, they must be passed expeditiously. IIT Mumbai was the only Indian educational institution that featured in a recent rating of the top 200 universities across Asia and this is a pointer to the urgent need to scale up (higher) educational standards."

"If this is not done urgently," Mr Arunachalam says, "India's celebrated 'demographic dividend'-the reason for strong economic growth-may turn to a 'demographic liability' as the younger generation (mainly of low income segments) will not get proper education, and hence will not be able to access appropriate jobs. With over than 600 million people dependent directly and/or indirectly on agriculture, it is imperative to act now and pass the four pending Bills so that younger people from rural areas acquire the skills and quality education required to be a part of the inclusive growth story."

Madhuri Pejawar, dean of Science of the University of Mumbai, told Moneylife that the proper implementation of these bills will be equally important. "One such initiative has been started by the University of Mumbai, which is introducing a grading and crediting system at the college level. This system is in line with foreign universities and would help students opting for higher education, abroad," she explained.

The 100% cut-off for undergraduate admissions in some of Delhi's premium colleges this year has increased the concern, even in industry circles, and this prompted the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), to write the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resources Development, seeking the introduction of reforms in higher education and quick approval of the four education bills.

A senior official from the HRD ministry, who requested anonymity, told Moneylife, "We have received recommendations on the Prevention of Malpractices Bill from the Standing Committee. Two bills, namely the Foreign Education and Accreditation Authority bills, are pending with the Standing Committee, whereas the Education Tribunal Bill is pending in the Rajya Sabha. We hope to get at least two of these bills passed by the next academic year."


Vodafone: Good insight

The ad is very simple, and its positive point is that it is humane without using human beings. It is also a good example of how even an average creative work fares well when the strategic thought is strong

The next time you run out of 'talk time' on your Vodafone SIM card, there is no need to panic. You can simply borrow it from a buddy/neighbour. And to highlight this value addition, Vodafone has hit upon a unique Indian insight. Which is that we desis do not hesitate for a second to hit on others when we need to borrow something. In fact, many Indians seem to enjoy this practice, I kid you not. For them, borrowing things is a part of the bonding process.

I like this concept. Because it's very us. I cannot imagine a Western nation where a housewife rings the doorbell of her neighbour to borrow some sugar; or a dude borrowing his friend's bike when he has to go on a hot date. It's a very Indian thing. Vodafone's consumers, which for this feature must constitute the lower middle and the lower income groups, will identify with this communication.
The ad itself is very simple, and its positive point is that it's humane without using human beings. All we get to see are close-ups of hands exchanging different items. Toothpaste, hammer, stool, gas cylinder, fan, thermos flask, tennis racquet, shoes, eggs, etc, etc.

Against the backdrop of a cheerful music track, which helps the situation feel happy. The music is important in this advert, else the act of borrowing can appear a bit painful, which on occasions it is, for the people who are constantly hit on. All this ties in, of course, with the promise that people can borrow Vodafone 'talk time' from others.

Now while the commercial is cute enough, I have to say it stays at the level of 'okay'. After a few exposures, ennui that comes from watching hands exchanging things will set in. The creative has missed a trick out here. Some really engaging and hilarious ads can be made with people abruptly running out of 'talk time' on their mobile phones during those moments when they need it the most. Still, it's a cool insight, and that's already half the battle won. A good example of how even an average creative work fares well when the strategic thought is strong.

PS: A safety warning: Er, people, do be careful who you lend your 'talk time' to! We live in a world where even a friendly neighbour can turn out to be a terror agent.


Is the Gold Standard back?

The Fed might print more money; the EU crisis is becoming worse...

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