While Tulsi Virani ruled over our small screens for a good eight years, Smriti Irani's stint as the Union Minister for Human Resource Development could barely make it past the two-year mark. In a dramatic upheaval of the Cabinet of Ministers that took place on 5 July, Smriti Irani was ousted as the HRD Minister and was replaced by erstwhile MoS for Environment, Prakash Javadekar. Irani has now been handed the Ministry of Textiles, causing ripples across the nation.
The last two years have been quite a roller coaster ride for Irani, courting controversy at every step of the way, her public image taking a hit every single time. But behind this storm of rows and student agitations lies hidden a lot of good work. As she bows out of the HRD Ministry, Catch decided to take a look at some of the commendable policies that were announced by her and the Ministry of Human Resource Development:
1. National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF)
Before NIRF, India had no proper framework to rank institutes. Most rankings were conducted by private bodies or magazines, each with their own individual framework. Thanks to NIRF 2015, we have verified ranking data on engineering, management, pharmaceutical, architecture, humanities and law colleges and for universities as a whole. Also, more than 3,500 institutions participated in this exercise, making it the ranking exercise with the most number of participants in the world.
2. Third gender identification for transgenders
Hailing from a party that has largely decided to completely blindside the LGBT community, due credit has to be attributed to Irani and her Ministry for implementing this landmark move. Introducing third gender identification in schools and colleges can go a long way in empowering the marginalised trans community in the nation.
3. Going digital
In tandem with Modi's Digital India vision, Irani's ministry has introduced quite a few online initiatives. Some of the top initiatives taken up by the HRD are as follows:
a) Integration of JEE online
The ministry introduced joint counselling for admission to undergraduate programmes of IITs, ISM, NITs, IIITs and other CFTIs/GFTIs, reducing the multiplicity of counselling sessions per student. The number of vacant seats has reportedly been reduced from 23% to less than 1% since the implementation of this move.
b) IGNOU's e-Gyankosh
This digital repository is expected to benefit lakhs of students enrolled in Open and Distance Learning (ODL) education for higher education. The repository consists of online course material, easily accessible to Open university students.
c) Bharatavani portal and app:
Touted to be the largest online repository of dictionaries in India, Bharatvani, is a single point online window for knowledge in and about Indian Languages, dictionaries, language IT tools, and textbooks. Currently, the app has 35 multilingual dictionaries and MHRD under Irani's reign had plans of extending it to 250 dictionaries in a year's time. The portal has already been launched in 22 scheduled languages and was to be extended to 100 more.
d) SWAYAM - MOOCs platform
Study Webs of Active-Learning for Young Aspiring Minds (SWAYAM) is basically a Massive Open On-line Course (MOOCs) in all kinds of subjects. SWAYAM was introduced with a view to offer courses in collaboration with UC Berkeley, IIT Bombay, IIM Bangalore, edX, JNU etc.
e) Know Your College Portal
Irani's ministry introduced this portal in their attempt to help bridge the gap between students and education providers through a single platform. The portal contains information on every college, details of courses, laboratories, faculty, library, availability of hostels, status of an ombudsman and anti-ragging facilities in the institutions. More than 51,000 colleges imparting more than 17.8 lakh courses have been listed in the portal.
4) Initiatives for women and PwD candidates
Women and persons with disabilities often face discontinuation of their M.Phil and PhD. studies because of a host of reasons. Women and PwD candidates with more than 40% disability are now allowed a relaxation for the maximum duration by one year for M.Phil and two years for Ph.D. In addition, women candidates can avail Maternity Leave/Child Care Leave once in the entire duration of M.Phil/Ph.D. for up to 240 days. And in the case of relocation due to marriage, a woman scholar will be allowed a relaxation in the maximum duration by one year for M.Phil and two years for Ph.D, all thanks to Irani's Ministry.
5) Kendriya Vidyalaya Shaala Darpan
An Enterprise Resource Planning platform for KV students, Shaala Darpan consists details of daily attendance, performance, profile etc of the students. All these details can be witnessed by the parent, student, teacher, principal and KVS HQ online. The ministry has also introduced online registration for KVs, digitising learning with 4,250 e-classrooms, etc. Smriti Irani has also been largely instrumental in helping to shape the New Education Policy, 2016.
-- With inputs from Manimanjari Sengupta