Sibal road map: Gujarat first to welcome, Left sees conspiracy

Written by BASHIR PATHAN | Shiv Sahay Singh | Gandhinagar, Kolkata | Updated: Jun 28 2009, 04:26am hrs
Union Minister Kapil Sibals radical education reform ideas now face the long haul of a battle with the states, a battle that may not be only political.

For, the BJP government in Gujarat was the first to publicly welcome his idea of scrapping the Class X Board exam and putting in place an alternative evaluation mechanism. The Left-ruled states of West Bengal and Kerala, on the other hand, saw it as a conspiracy to over-centralise and privatise education, even disturb the federal structure.

The Uttar Pradesh government, meanwhile, said it did not agree with Sibal and had, instead, introduced its own set of reforms to ease the burden on students and maintain the sanctity of the Class X examination.

If the Centre takes a decision to abolish the Class 10 Board examination in all -aided schools and by doing away with the Board examination, the Centre would help private schools to function as per their will. Abdus Sattar, minister in charge of minority affairs and the west states, Gujarat will follow suit, assured state education minister Ramanlal Vora. Gujarat Principal Secretary (Education) Hasmukh Adhia said the government was waiting for an official communication from the Centre.

Said Gujarat government spokesman and health minister Jay Narayan Vyas: If the Centre evolves such a model through consensus, we will welcome it. Before taking any decision to abolish the Board examination, there should be a national debate involving state education ministers and academic experts so that such a model can be introduced and implemented uniformly across the country. In fact, abolition of the Board examination is one of the terms of reference of the Gujarat Education Innovation Commission set up by the government to suggest innovations in the present education system, said Vyas.

In sharp contrast, the CPM-led Left Front government in West Bengal slammed the idea. School education minister Partha De said that the Left would never agree to such a policy that is an attempt to privatise and over-centralise education.

He said that school education is dependent on the government and on government Bengal Board of Madrasah Education, said he was open to Sibals idea of a separate board to deal with the madrasah system but it needed a lot more thought.

Sattar said that the policy challenge is to ensure parity between a student from a Madhaymik Siksha Kendra in a village and one from a well-heeled private school affiliated to the same board with the same curriculum and the same pattern of examination . Quality assessment is easy when you have quality institutions and we have to keep in mind that ours is a country of great diversity. But we are open to discussion, he said.

The Trinamool Congress, too, was wary. Saugata Roy, minister of state for urban development said that a decision which involves millions of students across the country cannot be rushed through.

In Kerala, education minister M A Baby said the state school board examination could not be abolished in such a silly manner. Education is on the Concurrent list of the Constitution. We hope the Centre will not take a unilateral decision on the matter. Kerala will raise its concern with the Centre, he said.

Uttar Pradesh minister for secondary education Rangnath Mishra criticised Sibals move adding that his government had already put in place significant reforms: Abolishing the board exam is wrong. In UP, we have made required changes in Class X board exams, like introducing grades, and a credit system. These will reduce the burden on the students and maintain the sanctity of the examination.