Revised CBSE Affiliation Bye-Laws: A Positive Move
The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) is India’s leading school examination board, conducting examinations for Grades 10 and 12. There are over twenty thousand schools affiliated with CBSE, which form most of the prominent private and government schools, (of the 1.4 million schools in India, most of which are in the state/government sector and most of which follow the curriculum of different state boards of education).
Last week (on 18th October 2018), CBSE made a major revision to its affiliation bye-laws (Click here to access the revised bye-laws). This is a positive move and must be commended. The earlier position for the recognition and affiliation of schools was complicated, with overlapping authority of various regulators and lack of clarity in who was supposed to look after what. The Right To Education Act (2009) had brought clarity to the role of government as a regulator, but had not addressed the downstream role of school examination boards. This has now been clarified.
All schools in India need to be “recognised” after the introduction of the RTE Act 2009 and the regulator/authority for this is the state government (with specific powers devolved down to districts or sub-regions of the state). During the recognition process and through subsequent inspections, the state government is responsible for ensuring that the school meets infrastructure, safety, teacher qualification, and other requirements. Earlier, CBSE would also inspect the same at the time of affiliation and often in a different manner to that of the state. This duplication has been removed, and CBSE will merely require a self-certification from school and a verification document from the state government.
To affiliate to CBSE (as opposed to the default option for a school of going with the state board of education), a school requires a No-Objection Certificate (NOC), which is issued by the state government. There is scope for considerable simplification with the NOC process too, as many states insert fresh conditions in the NOC document, even though all regulatory aspects have been covered in the recognition document. The NOC should be a simple letter of no-objection and not a fresh inspection.
CBSE will, therefore, focus on academic and outcome aspects rather than on infrastructure and land regulations. This is what examination boards are supposed to do and it is surprising that it took so long for CBSE to recognise that it is an academic body and not a school regulator. A further welcome change is the added emphasis on professional development and training.
There are some areas where CBSE continues to interfere in school operations beyond the traditional role of an examination board and this is in part due to the dual responsibility for school education with the Central Government and State Governments (school education is a Concurrent List subject in the Constitution of India). State governments can use their education officers and departments of education to issue guidelines to schools for tuition fee control, special programmes such as water harvesting or environment, and emphasis on whatever is fashionable within the government thinking of the time. The Central Government has no such control mechanism over most schools (the nodal ministry, MHRD, controls less than two thousand schools directly). CBSE is a supposedly autonomous organisation, but reports to MHRD, and thus the Central Government continues to use CBSE to run its pet projects and schemes in affiliated schools.