Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday announced the setting up of an autonomous National Testing Agency for conducting entrance exams to higher education institutions and that the government will undertake UGC reforms.
Presenting the Union Budget 2017 - 18 in the Lok Sabha, Jaitley said nearly Rs 79, 686 crore had been allocated to the Human Resource Development Ministry as against last year's Rs 73, 599 crore, an increase of around Rs 6, 087 crore.
Jaitley also assured of greater administrative and academic autonomy to educational institutions subject to their performance.
"We propose to set up a National Testing Agency as an autonomous and self - sustained premier testing agency to conduct all entrance exams to higher education courses, " Jaitley said.
The minister said the aim was to free the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) from administrative responsibility and allow them to focus more on academics.
"In higher education, we will undertake reforms in the UGC (University Grants Commission).
Good quality institutions would be enabled to have greater administrative and academic autonomy.
Colleges will be identified, based on accreditation and ranking, and given autonomous status, " he said.
He also said an 'Innovation Fund for Secondary Education' will be created to encourage local innovation for ensuring universal access, gender parity and quality improvement.
"This will include ICT (information and communication technology) - enabled learning transformation.
The focus will be on 3, 479 educationally backward blocks, " said Jaitley.
The minister also announced widening the access of SWAYAM or the "Study Webs of Active - Learning for Young Aspiring Minds", a web portal of the HRD Ministry, where Massive Open On - line Courses (MOOCs) are available.
"We propose to leverage information technology and launch SWAYAM platform with at least 350 online courses.
This would enable students to virtually attend the courses taught by the best faculty, access high - quality reading resources, participate in discussion forums, take tests and earn academic grades.
"Access to SWAYAM would be widened by linkage with DTH (direct to home) channels, dedicated to education, " he said.
Jaitley also proposed to introduce a system of measuring annual learning outcome in schools.
He said that emphasis will be put on science education and flexibility in curriculum to promote creativity through local innovative content.
Of the nearly Rs 79, 686 proposed to be allocated for the coming fiscal, Rs 46, 356. 25 is for the Department of School Education and Literacy while the remaining Rs 33, 329. 70 crore is for the Department of Higher Education.
While the Department of School Education and Literacy will get Rs 38, 375. 67 crore under the centrally sponsored schemes, the Department of Higher Education's share under the head stands at Rs 1, 300 crore.
HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar hailed the budget as "balanced and progressive".
"It is a revolutionary budget and development - oriented.
The education sector has been allocated nearly Rs 79, 686 crore, an increase of around Rs 6, 087 crore from last year.
This increase is a huge advantage.
This budget has taken care of hitherto neglected sectors, " said Javadekar.