Although late in the term, the outspoken Salam Rajen was sworn in as a Cabinet minister in the N Biren Singhnaïve-led coalition government last September along with four others and given charge of the Education portfolio which he held as a Minister of state years ago. Ever since, he has been on a whirlwind tour of educational institutions non-stop suspending errant teachers who were found absent from duty during his inspection. There were complaints from the suspended teachers that they were not given enough opportunity to explain either absence or late attendance. Well, those could be corrected after due investigation. But, sometimes surprise inspections and suspensions are required to check the attendance of teachers as well as the prevailing situation in government schools and colleges. So far so good. That is what every new Education Ministers do in the early days. But, he needs to watch out. In a state like ours with high literacy rate, Education Ministers are always closely watched followed by close scrutiny of their speeches in various functions. And they should be wary of that.
In a recent function at the prestigious DM College of Science, the Education Minister S Rajen Singh gave a warning to colleges in the state should work to get minimum credit score of 2.5 of National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) and that salaries for the staffs of those government colleges failing to score the minimum credit point may be held up. The Department of Education (U) will issue a notice in this regard, he had promised. This came as a surprise to various sections of the society with questions coming up on whether the state Education Minister has been properly briefed on the meaning and mandate of NAAC assessment and accreditation of higher education institutions in the state. The National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) was established in 1994 as UGC autonomous body. NAAC accreditation is mandatory for all the higher learning institutes in India and only NAAC-accredited universities in India are eligible for UGC grants. Without NAAC accreditation, universities are not eligible for UGC grants, RUSA grants, financial aid etc. On the other hand, NAAC accreditation determines the quality of the institute in terms of education, infrastructure, research, teaching & learning etc. Institutes with top NAAC grades such as 'A++', 'A+' and 'A' are most sought-after institutes, as they offer high-quality education. On the other, all the recognized institutes of UGC must apply for NBA/ NAAC/ any other accreditation after the completion of the first or second batch of courses.
Meanwhile, NAAC accreditation helps the higher learning institutes to know its strengths, opportunities, and weaknesses through an informed review process, identifies the internal areas of planning and allocation of resources, help funding agencies with objective data so that they can take a decision on the funding of higher learning institutes, help educational institutes to initiate modern or innovative methods of pedagogy. NAAC accreditation or grade of a higher learning institute will help the student to figure out all the details about the institute such as quality of education, research output, teaching-learning, infrastructure etc. NAAC grade helps students to choose the best institute based on its NAAC grade/ performance in the NAAC accreditation process. NAAC grade also determines the value of degree offered by the higher learning institutes. In simple terms, NAAC encourages a participatory approach for all towards all round development of the education sector in the country and there is nothing which mandates disciplining or victimisation of institutions in the overall scheme of things, unless he is otherwise advised. Yet, there is still the fact that he should always apply his mind before uttering something so ridiculous. And, we still cannot comprehend as to how this idea of withholding payment of salaries of college staff not up to the NAAC mark got into his head. He is either misguided or simply naïve.