For­eign af­fil­i­a­tions, In­dian schools, no checks

CLUE­LESS A num­ber of for­eign education boards are grant­ing af­fil­i­a­tions to schools in In­dia, but HRD min­istry, re­spond­ing to an RTI by HT Education, says it has no in­for­ma­tion on how such boards op­er­ate

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - HT Education - - Front Page - Jee­van Prakash Sharma Jee­van Prakash Sharma Jee­van Prakash Sharma

They are known for their ex­cel­lent stan­dards of teach­ing and learn­ing. How­ever, whether it be the In­ter­na­tional Bac­calau­re­ate (Switzer­land) or the Cam­bridge In­ter na­tional Ex­am­i­na­tion ( Bri­tain), prom­i­nent for­eign boards grant­ing af­fil­i­a­tions to pri­vate schools in In­dia are not reg­u­lated by any govern­ment au­thor­ity in In­dia. The min­istry of hu­man re­source de­vel­op­ment ( MHRD) has no in­for­ma­tion on the num­ber of such boards op­er­at­ing in In­dia, an RTI has re­vealed. In its re­sponse to the RTI, MHRD has also sug­gested that the min­istry of ex­ter­nal affairs would be bet­ter placed to give the in­for­ma­tion.

The RTI by HT Education seek­ing in­for ma­tion on the num­ber of for­eign education boards in In­dia re­vealed that MHRD had no reg­u­la­tory mech­a­nism to keep a watch on the for­eign boards. When asked in the RTI to name the boards and the statu­tory pro­vi­sion un­der which they had been granted per­mis­sion to op­er­ate in In­dia, chief pub­lic in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer (CPIO) Kun­dan Nath’s re­sponse was: “The in­for­ma­tion sought by you is not main­tained in School-3 sec­tion of the min­istry. How­ever, you may con­tact the con­cerned au­thor­i­ties in the Min­istry of Ex­ter­nal Affairs, in this re­gard.”

Emails by this correspondent to Vikas Swarup, spokesper­son and joint sec­re­tary in the min­istry of ex­ter­nal affairs did not get a re­sponse. Var­i­ous state gov­ern­ments, too, could not throw light on the mat­ter. “We don’t know how many for­eign boards are present in Delhi. We haven’t laid down any guide­lines on this is­sue,” says a se­nior of­fi­cial from the depart­ment of sec­ondary education, Delhi govern­ment.

NK Jarag, di­rec­tor, sec­ondary education, Maharashtra, says no per­mis­sions have been granted to such boards to grant af­fil­i­a­tions to any school. How­ever, he ad­mits that a large a num­ber of schools have taken af­fil­i­a­tions from the boards.

Se­nior education of­fi­cials from Ut­tar Pradesh, Pun­jab and Haryana also say they do not have the ex­act num­ber of for­eign boards be­cause the boards do not have to take per­mis­sions from the state gov­ern­ments be­fore grant­ing af­fil­i­a­tions to schools.

Open­ing a school re­quires, among other per­mis­sions, a no-ob­jec­tion-cer­tifi­cates (NOC) from the education depart­ment of a state govern­ment. The ques­tion as to which board is af­fil­i­at­ing the school is never asked. “This sys­tem is fol­lowed in ev­ery state. Schools are recog­nised and granted NOCs af­ter ful­fill­ing cer­tain re­quire­ments re­lated to phys­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture, aca­demic staff, fire safety etc. Af­ter com­plet­ing all for­mal­i­ties they are free to choose any education board they want. It could be the Cen­tral Board of Sec­ondary Education (CBSE), Coun­cil for the In­dian School Cer t i f i c at e Ex­am­i­na­tions (CISCE), any for­eign board or their own state education board. And that’s where the crux of the prob­lem lies,” says a se­nior MHRD education of­fi­cer.

In­ter­est­ingly, stu­dents pass­ing from schools af­fil­i­ated to for­eign boards are also get­ting equiv­a­lence cer­tifi­cates from the As­so­ci­a­tion of In­dian Univer­si­ties ( AIU), a body au­tho­rised by MHRD to grant equiv­a­lence to for­eign qual­i­fi­ca­tions for pur­su­ing higher education in In­dia. How­ever, ex­perts have ques­tioned the stan­dards fol­lowed by AIU in grant­ing equiv­a­lence for for­eign de­grees and sec­ondary and higher sec­ondary cer­tifi­cates. For a for­eign de­gree, one of AIU’s manda­tory con­di­tions is that a can­di­date should have ap­peared for the ex­am­i­na­tion (for the de­gree) in the coun­try where his or her univer­sity is. There is no such con­di­tion for grant­ing equiv­a­lence for school cer­tifi­cates.

When ques­tioned on the same, Prof Furqan Qa­mar, sec­re­tary gen­eral, AIU, says the as­so­ci­a­tion has in place strin­gent mea­sures to check the au­then­tic­ity of any cer­tifi­cate sub­mit­ted for equiv­a­lence. AIU, he clar­i­fies, recog­nises the sys­tem of education from across all coun­tries of the world and equiv­a­lence is granted pro­vided that (i) the for­eign sys­tem of education pre­scribes a min­i­mum of 12 years of reg­u­lar school­ing; (ii) the school is af­fil­i­ated by a Board that has been ap­proved/recog­nised; (iii) the school leav­ing cer­tifi­cate has been is­sued by the Board that has been ap­proved/ recog­nised /ac­cred­ited in the coun­try con­cerned.

AIU has in a num­ber of other cases ob­tained the fol­low­ing doc­u­ments: (a) A copy of the Ac­cred­i­ta­tion Sta­tus is­sued by the con­cerned ac­cred­it­ing agency; (b) Ap­proval/recog­ni­tion let­ter is­sued by the state govern­ment to the school; (c) A let­ter from the prin­ci­pal of the award­ing school stat­ing therein that can­di­date was a full time stu­dent on the cam­pus of the school stat­ing therein the pe­riod; (d) Grade 10 & 12 cer­tifi­cate of the con­cerned board and mark sheet; (e) Aca­demic tran­script and com­ple­tion cer­tifi­cate, Qa­mar adds.

How­ever, Prof Qa­mar agrees that giv­ing equiv­a­lence doesn’t mean AIU has granted recog­ni­tion or ap­proval to run th­ese for­eign boards in In­dia. How do for­eign boards grant­ing af­fil­i­a­tions to In­dian schools jus­tify their pres­ence in In­dia? Some board rep­re­sen­ta­tives say their ex­is­tence is le­gal as the cer­tifi­cates they award to stu­dents from af­fil­i­ated schools are ac­cepted for jobs or for equiv­a­lence. They are also aware of the fact that state govern­ment recog­ni­tion and no-ob­jec­tion cer­tifi­cate (NOC) is manda­tory for open­ing a school but af­fil­i­a­tion to any education board is not re­quired for get­ting govern­ment’s NOC.

“Schools have t o sub­mit doc­u­men­tary con­fir­ma­tion of their le­gal sta­tus and con­fir­ma­tion from the lo­cal/pro­vin­cial/ state au­thor­i­ties that the school is recog­nised as an ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tion when they ap­ply for au­tho­ri­sa­tion for be­com­ing an IB school,” says Priyam­vada Ta n e j a , d eve l o p m e n t a n d recog­ni­tion man­ager, In­dia In­ter­na­tional Bac­calau­re­ate (IB) Or­gan­i­sa­tion (Sin­ga­pore Branch).

Taneja could not pro­duce any doc­u­ment show­ing any school get­ting govern­ment per­mis­sion for IB af­fil­i­a­tion. Ruchira Ghosh, re­gional di­rec­tor, South Asia, Cam­bridge In­ter­na­tional Ex­am­i­na­tion, says, “In In­dia, our qual­i­fi­ca­tions are recog­nised by As­so­ci­a­tion of In­dian Univer­si­ties (AIU).”

AIU on its part says that its equiv­a­lence can’t be taken as per­mis­sion to op­er­ate in In­dia. Not only that, many ex­perts ques­tion AIU’s de­ci­sion to grant equiv­a­lence for for­eign board cer­tifi­cates as th­ese are not ‘for- eign’ qual­i­fi­ca­tion in the true sense. “In 1995, MHRD is­sued a no­ti­fi­ca­tion that for­eign qual­i­fi­ca­tions which are recog­nised/ equated by AIU, are treated as recog­nised for jobs in the Cen­tral govern­ment. But th­ese for­eign boards are of­fer­ing their pro­grammes in In­dia with­out any govern­ment per­mis­sion. So how can th­ese qual­i­fi­ca­tions be treated as for­eign qual­i­fi­ca­tions? I think AIU is over­step­ping its man­date,” says a se­nior MHRD of­fi­cial.

While a lot of coun­tries have education boards, United States of Amer­ica fol­lows a sys­tem of 12- year high school diploma awarded by schools which are ac­cred­ited ei­ther by the state de­part­ments of education or six re­gional ac­cred­it­ing agen­cies. Out of th­ese six agen­cies, the Northwest As­so­ci­a­tion of Schools and Col­leges has opened its re­gional of­fice in In­dia in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Seri In­dia Pri­vate Lim­ited. When asked to pro­vide de­tails of the col­lab­o­ra­tion, Sey­dud­din, chair­man of Seri, didn’t re­spond to emails sent by this correspondent. To prove its le­gal sta­tus, Seri has claimed, like many oth­ers, that it has got AIU equiv­a­lence in In­dia.

“When the Cen­tral Board of Sec­ondary Education af­fil­i­ates schools in other coun­tries it has to fol­low cer­tain pro­ce­dures. The schools have to take per­mis­sion for CBSE af­fil­i­a­tion from their re­spec­tive lo­cal gov­ern­ments and their ap­pli­ca­tions come through the In­dian em­bassy of that coun­try,” says a se­nior MHRD of­fi­cial.

A for­mer em­ployee of The Bri­tish School, Delhi, re­mem­bers get­ting lists of stu­dents ap­pear­ing in the fi­nal board ex­ams to the MHRD’s U3 sec­tion for stamp­ing by the sec­tion of­fi­cer. That was in the 90s to keep a tab on schools af­fil­i­ated to for­eign boards. It’s not done now . Many for­eign boards have not lived up to their ‘in­ter­na­tional stan­dards’ and have em­ployed agents to rec­om­mend schools for af­fil­i­a­tion and get ₹ 1 lakh as com­mis­sion.

“All for­eign boards are here to do busi­ness. Those which ar­rived in In­dia long ago are es­tab­lished with more than 100 schools in their kitty. The new ones want to catch up on the missed op­por­tu­nity and have, there­fore, hired com­mis­sion agents. They are ready to pay as much as ₹ 1 lakh for get­ting schools for af­fil­i­a­tion,” says a com­mis­sion agent who used to work for one of th­ese boards.

Many boards are also charg­ing large sums from schools for af­fil­i­a­tions and for ex­am­i­na­tion fees of stu­dents etc. Most of the schools cover costs through high fees.

When asked to dis­close their fees, a spokesper­son from Pear­son (Edex­cel) said:. “As a prac­tice, we don’t dis­close fi­nan­cial num­bers.”

Not only that, many teach­ers have com­plained that they are nei­ther trained prop­erly to teach an in­ter­na­tional cur­ricu­lum nor are paid well. “Not all of them are as good as they claim. If we leave aside a few good schools, a lot of oth­ers have opted for th­ese boards just to mint money from par­ents. Who knows if th­ese boards are fol­low­ing the stan­dards they main­tain in their own coun­try?”

I l l us­tra­tion: AB­HI­MANYU SINHA

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