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January 24, 2019

Higher Education: Reaching new horizons

Higher Education: Reaching new horizons

With the Trinamool Congress Government at the helm, there has been more than a four-fold increase in Plan expenditure for the Higher Education, Science & Technology, and Biotechnology Departments, from Rs 108.7 crore in financial year (FY) 2010-11 to Rs 514.18 crore in 2017-18.

Some of the significant achievements with respect to enhancing and upgrading syllabi, inclusion of girls, rise in enrolment and gender ratios, increasing diversity with respect to languages and expansion of scholarship coverage are as follows:

Reconstitution of West Bengal State Council for Higher Education (WBSCHE): The council, which is the State’s highest body for undertaking planning and development of higher education, was constituted afresh in 2015 based on a new legislation, to significantly enhance its power and functions.

Higher education institutions (HEI): Twelve State-aided universities have been set up in the State in the last 7 years, bringing the total to 24. All the 10 private universities in the State have been established under the Trinamool Congress Government. Forty-eight colleges have been set up since 2011. The total number of higher education institutions (universities, colleges and standalone institutions) has grown from 855 in FY 2010-11 to 1,849 in the present FY.

Upcoming universities: Four more State-aided universities – Biswa Bangla Vishwavidyalaya in Bolpur, Jhargram University in Jhargram, Green University in Tarakeswar and Purba Medinipur University – and a private university, Sister Nivedita University at New Town, Kolkata — are to start operations in FY 2018-19.

Upcoming colleges: Two government-aided colleges will start operating from the current financial year – in Naxalbari and Phansidewa blocks in Siliguri subdivision of Darjeeling district.

Rise in gross enrolment ratio: Enrolment in HEIs has risen dramatically from 13.24 lakh in FY 2010-11 to 20.15 lakh in FY 2016-17. Therefore, the gross enrolment ratio has risen from 12.4 in 2010-11 to 18.5 in 2016-17.

Growth in private sector participation: The number of private universities has risen to 10 from not even a single one during the Left Front rule.

Improving quality: At present, 292 colleges and 11 universities have obtained NAAC accreditation. The rest are in the process of obtaining it. Jadavpur University has been granted Category 1 autonomy with the highest NAAC score of 3.68.

Filling gaps in human resources: About 6,000 assistant professors and about 200 principals have been recruited for the Government and Government-aided colleges. Currently, West Bengal Public Service Commission (WBPSC) and the West Bengal College Service Commission (WBCSC) are in the midst of the next recruitment drive for the posts of principals, assistant professors and librarians.

Enhancing quality of teacher education: A university for the education of teachers has been set up. It is called ‘The West Bengal University of Teachers’ Training, Education Planning and Administration’. A uniform curriculum structure has been framed for the various teacher education programmes of the State as per NCTE regulations.

Technical education: Two government engineering colleges have been established in Purulia and Cooch Behar. As of April 2018, the total number of degree-level engineering and technology institutions is 103, of which eight are Government engineering colleges.

Employing digital tools for teaching and learning: Virtual classrooms numbering 732 have been set up in the Government and Government-aided colleges and universities. An e-learning space has been created in every State-funded HEI where free internet and Wi-Fi facilities have been made available for students and teachers during work hours.

Ensuring inclusivity, access, and equity: The State Government has initiated the K3 component of the Kanyashree Scheme under which, through the Swami Vivekananda Merit-cum-Means Scholarship Scheme, scholarships are being provided to K2-enrolled girls pursuing post-graduation studies in both science and non-science streams. In 2017, the K3 component was awarded to 3,806 girls.

Improvement in gross enrolment ratio of female students & female gender ratio: Female enrolment in higher education has increased from 5.62 lakh in FY 2010-11 to 9.53 lakh in 2016-17. The gross enrolment ratio for female candidates has risen from 10.9 in 2010-11 to 17.3 in 2016-17. Consequently, the female gender ratio with respect to enrolment in higher education has improved from 42 per cent in 2010-11 to 47.3 per cent in 2016-17.

Reservation for backward classes: The West Bengal State Higher Education Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2013 was enacted to provide a 17 per cent reservation for OBC students (apart from 22 per cent for SC and 6 per cent for ST students).

Ensuring diversity through promotion of languages: Hindi-medium general degree colleges are being set up in Banarhat (Jalpaiguri district), Asansol (Paschim Bardhaman) and Hatighisha (Darjeeling district).

Santhali and Urdu have been introduced as subjects in the State Eligibility Test (SET) conducted by the WBCSC in 2015. At the undergraduate level, Arabic is being taught in 42 colleges, Nepali in 10 colleges, Persian in three colleges (under Calcutta University), Tibetan in one college (Darjeeling Government College, under North Bengal University).

At the postgraduate level, Arabic is being taught in 10 universities, Nepali at North Bengal University and Tamil at Calcutta University. Permission has been sought to include Arabic as a subject in the SET too.

Expansion of Swami Vivekananda Merit-cum-Means Scholarship Scheme: The budget for the scheme has been increased from Rs 45 crore for FY 2015-16 to Rs 200 crore, for both 2016-17 and 2017-18. The fi­nancial support has been extended to full-time non-NET scholars pursuing MPhil and PhD, and the Kanyashree girls pursuing post-graduation under the K3 component. The total number of bene­ficiaries of the scholarship has increased from 544 in 2006-07 to 55,435 in 2017-18.

Increased focus on research and innovation: For the purpose of research, innovation and quality improvement, the Government has committed Rs 100 crore each to Calcutta University and Jadavpur University.

Updating syllabus and curriculum: The WBSCHE has completed an exercise to revise and update the syllabi for 12 science subjects at the undergraduate level, with the objective of bringing the syllabi at par with the best practices in the country.

Introduction of choice-based credit system (CBCS): The State Higher Education Department has decided to introduce CBCS wherein a student has the flexibility to choose courses from a list of elective, core and soft skill courses. As of March 2018, at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels, CBCS has been introduced in 17 universities, and will be introduced in the remaining universities by end FY 2018-19 (except Gour Banga University).

These measures prove that Bangla is inching towards achieving the best holistic education system in the country.