Give 10% for critical thinking in college papers: NAAC panel

An expert panel under the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC)  has proposed that college-level examination papers be redesigned so that at least 10 per cent marks are given based on evaluation of “higher-order cognition” among students to encourage development of critical thinking.

The proposal is part of a white paper, published on Wednesday, on revising the assessment and accreditation process of higher educational institutions in the country. It is co-authored by the chairman of NAAC executive committee Bhushan Patwardhan and former Indian Institute of Science Education and Research professor KP Mohanan.

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According to the paper, which has been reviewed and endorsed by the NAAC Academic Advisory Committee and the Executive Committee, the weightage to such questions may be scaled up in phases to 20 per cent and 40 per cent in the future if the roll out is successful.

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The development of higher-order cognition among students is a key National Education Policy, 2020 proposal. “NAAC recommends the plan of action to improve the quality of the design of examination questions, initially for the Bachelor’s programs in a few subjects, and subsequently to be expanded to cover all Bachelor’s programs,” states the paper.

The experts have defined higher-order literacy as the ability to process and communicate academic knowledge through spoken and written forms of language and higher-order numeracy as  the thinking that goes into making sense of numerically coded information.

Patwardhan, who was appointed as the chairman of NAAC EC in February, told The Indian Express, “As many as 80 per cent of stakeholders of the NAAC suggested the need for reforms. NAAC was set up three decades ago and since then the education ecosystem has changed significantly. And accordingly assessment and accreditation should also be changed.”

Importantly, the committee has advised against the provisional accreditation system for colleges (PAC) announced earlier this year by the NAAC and the University Grants Commission.

The PAC allows newer institutions — those with one academic year or more — to apply for provisional approval for a period of two years. So far, colleges and universities needed to be at least six years old in order to apply.

“The PAC proposal implies a lowering of standards so that a greater number of colleges can gain Provisional Accreditation. Instead, it would be wiser on the part of NAAC to help the colleges improve the quality of education they provide, such that they can be successful in meeting the standards that NAAC accreditation calls for,” states the paper.

In the paper, the NAAC has proposed that the accreditation process should also involve checking, through a national test, if students of a particular institution have achieved the required level of general education and higher-order cognition. It suggests that NAAC reduce its dependence on self-assessment of institutions while grading them, and focus more on evaluating the learning outcomes.

The NAAC panel has also recommended gradings for not just institutions as a whole, as is the norm currently, but also for individual programmes offered by them. For instance, an higher educational institute focusing on health sciences may be accredited based on its overall performance, and in addition, specific courses such as MBBS, MD, MTech offered by it can be separately graded.

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