Today's Editorial

21 May 2017

Complete assessment vital



Source: By M K Sridhar: Deccan Herald



The National Assessment and Accreditation Council (Naac) is a flagship quality assurance council for higher education in India. Established in 1994 by the University Grants Commission (UGC), it has been actively engaged in the performance evaluation and implementation of quality sustenance procedures in universities and colleges.


It has so far accredited 297 universities and 6,772 colleges as of January, 2017. It evaluates the quality performance with reference to seven criteria. They are curricular aspects; teaching-learning and evaluationresearch, consultancy and extensioninfrastructure and learning resourcesstudent support and progressiongovernance, leadership and management; and, innovations and best practices. They are sub-classified into 32 key aspects and 202 assessment indicators. The Naac has laid down a process and procedure for the assessment. Thus, the most significant contribution of Naac is the evolution of criterion for measuring quality as well as the development of accreditation culture among higher educational institutions.


Such a criterion has been evolved over a period of time considering international best practices and the Indian context. It is also the result of continuous and consistent review/revision of their criteria, manuals and guidelines. Some of the changes made since inception of Naac include formulation of value framework, uploading of self study report on the institution's website, videography of on-sight visit, automation of off-site process, revision of grading system and mandatory submission of annual quality assurance reports. It is learnt that Naac is in the process of review once again. Hence, it is appropriate to flag few issues.


The Naac has been following a uniform criterion for all institutions but for minor variations in weightages, key aspects and assessment indicators among the criteria and between types of institutions. This is, generally the case with many countries irrespective of the diversity of climate, conditions, constraints and challenges of educational institutions. Such a diversity is an important feature of educational institutions in India as a result of which accreditation based only on uniform criteria poses a challenge.


The availability of human and material resource is not same in all institutions. The governance mechanism of the government, aided and unaided institutions are not uniform in all regions. There is a huge variation in the fees collected from students of government and private institutions. Starting an educational institution in a remote place itself is a quality dimension. Giving admission to backward students and ensuring their success is more qualitative than placement with higher salary. Availability of teachers becomes more critical than their publications considering the remoteness and inaccessibility of institutions. Minimum infrastructure itself is a luxury for many.


Consider some of these figures which are self- explanatory. A total of 64% of colleges are unaided and only 22% belong to the government. The Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) of our country is 24.5% whereas it is 19.9% for the scheduled castes and 14.2% in case of scheduled tribes. Geographical variations in GER are noteworthy. The GER of Tamil Nadu is 44% and that of Bihar is 14%. Another diversity is the variations in pupil-teacher ratio. All India is 1:21 and it is 1:50+ in Delhi, Bihar and Jharkhand. The AISHE report of 2015-16 reveals that 60% of total colleges are located in rural areas.


The challenges of rural institutions are not same as that of urban counterparts. These qualitative and quantitative dimensions reveal the extent of diversity in higher education. Further, quality also depends upon promoter, process of evolution, socio-economic conditionsculture and composition of the team, community around, stakeholder support etc. There are many factors which are beyond the control of institution.


As a result, they cannot perform well in spite of their unique characteristics, which are critical for them in their context. In this way, every institution loses its score for unique characteristic feature. Then, the entire process of accreditation and assessment is incomplete. The Naac has taken a safe stand of having uniform criteria till now. This has done a great disservice to those institutions which are strong on a criterion which does not fall under the Naac framework.


Unique quality dimensions


Further, uniformity of criterion also ignores the strength, competency, uniqueness and the efforts put in over a period of time. In fact, every institution has something good or unique. By ensuring uniformity, one is belittling or even dismissing the genuine efforts put in by them. They have slogged over a period of time. Recognising their strength or competency would act as an incentive to the institution.


While advocating the issue of diversity, it is impossible for Naac to develop a framework which considers all possible unique quality dimensions of all institutions. Grading and calculating Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) will be a daunting task because of variable criteria. Accreditation and assessment becomes a very complex and complicated exercise. It can also amount to going against the international practices, which one cannot afford to in the present circumstances. At the same time, these arguments do not wish away the issue of diversity or uniqueness.


The way out is to introduce an open criterion with small weightage to start with, on which the institution has to make a choice along with developing key aspects and assessment indicators. The institution concerned has to develop its own criteria, its concept, operational measurement etc. The self-study report has to incorporate their performance during the period under review on all eight criteria (seven of Naac and one of the institution) under various key aspects and indicators.

The peer committee would examine this criterion at the time of on-site visit. Such a provision provides a genuine opportunity to the institution to showcase its unique quality dimension which differentiates them from others. This method could also add many dimensions to quality, which are India-centric beyond the imagination of the concerned. The performance of institutions could, further, be analysed in terms of regions, duration, culture, relevance, gender etc, with the help of the data generated from such an exercise. This would augur well for the quality movement in higher education in India.

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