Himachal Pradesh Government and varsity were all praise for Centre sponsored Rashtriya Shiksha Abhiyan while switching over to semester system for undergraduate courses in 2013-14 academic sessions. About 150 degree colleges, including 66 government degree colleges, affiliated to Himachal Pradesh University were arrested by semester system. The Vice-Chancellor and the Chief Minister read impressive objectives of RUSA system and hailed assuring qualitatively better academic environment. However, since 2013, the decision to introduce RUSA and Credit Based Choice System (CBCS) has backfired at students and overburdened teachers. Future of students is literally at stake as administration has made joke of examination and evaluation process by arbitrarily dropping pass percent from 45% to 35% to improve the results of first semester of third RUSA batch. Though, theoretically a better option, the Choice Based Credit System is inspired from standards followed by developed European nations, but it has, so far, proved to be a disaster in the only state that implemented it in its varsity and all affiliated colleges.
RUSA and Flow of Funds
Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS), launched in 2013 with an aim to provide strategic funding to eligible state higher educational institutions. The central funding (in the ratio of 60:40 for general category States, 90:10 for special category states and 100% for union territories) is norm based and outcome dependent. The funding flows from the central ministry through the state governments/union territories to the State Higher Education Councils before reaching the identified institutions. The funding to states is made on the basis of critical appraisal of State Higher Education Plans, which describe each state’s strategy to address issues of equity, access and excellence in higher education. For Himachal, it was an option that came with temptation of additional annual funds of Rs 100 crores from the Centre.
At the base of RUSA, the objective was to introduce the Central University pattern followed for credit system for various courses to offer students wider choice and flexibility in subjects they want to study and to help bridge the prevailing divide between humanities and science apparent under the current system.
Causes of Failure in Himachal
Insufficient Infrastructure and Server Congestion
RUSA system clearly defines required infrastructure ranging from classrooms to highly tech-savvy computer labs to support the operation under it. HP varsity authorities completely ignored it before enforcing RUSA in hurry, in hasty manner. Practically, RUSA would have required construction of new blocks and computer labs before it could even think of adopting it, and HP varsity wasn’t prepared at all.
Another carelessness that varsity showed was that it launched annual semester system, Choice Based Credit System and online application simultaneously. Due to congestion data operators were forced to wait, which is another reason for delay in results. Himachal was not prepared to adopt RUSA given unavailability of adequate infrastructure.
The evaluation process under RUSA is elaborate in nature and requires strictly systematic operation. In Himachal’s case, the varsity needed to hire as much as 1,500 employees to fulfill manpower requirement. However, varsity couldn’t even fill its already vacant posts in last four years. Teaching and non-teaching staff was overburdened, which is one reason RUSA results were always late by 8-10 months.
More than 80 per cent government colleges in the state have only one teacher for a subject. With implementation of RUSA, now teachers were under pressure to teach for about 36 hours per week, besides spending 36 hours for other academic activities, including preparation of question papers, examination, internal assignment and maintainace of records.
Lack of Awareness
When varsity inquired into the matter pertaining to failure of over 90 percent students in the first semester (3rd batch) of RUSA, no technical error was found. Varsity put the blame on colleges for poor results. However, teachers and students weren’t briefed well enough to comprehend the evaluation process under RUSA. It caused confusion among both teachers and students.
Difficult topography and stark variance in Himachal’s weather conditions also staged resistance to implementation of RUSA. While colleges in mid and higher hills remain closed for winters, those in lower hills had vacations in summers.
This haphazard implementation without fulfilling required conditions cost the students. Not only the results were always late by months, but forms of several students of sixth semester, who had applied for MA and MSc courses outside the state, were reportedly rejected. Introducing Choice-Based Credit System, HP University allowed students with chemistry as main subject to opt for mathematics or physics as first minor subject and further gave the option to choose public administration, geography, sociology or any other subject as second minor subject. As no other state has opted for RUSA, the degree wasn’t compatible with their pattern.
Right from the beginning, implementation of RUSA in Himachal remained a topic of criticism. Students’ organizations in all colleges in Himachal protested and are still protesting against RUSA in 2016. It is highly condemnable that varsity administration arbitrarily decided to drop pass percentage to 35 percent after declaring results so that pass percentage could go up. It is evident that Himachal is still not prepared to properly implement RUSA.