Dr Veera Gupta, Associate Professor, National University of Educational Planning and Administration, Delhi; Former Secretary, CBSE
he National Academic Depository is a unique idea floated for the first time in India. The idea was initially floated to check fraudulent academic certificates and degrees. It also encompassed the idea that such a depository would help in consolidating an individual’s academic qualifications which the student may have earned throughout his life. The depository would be a storehouse of a person’s academic credentials. The credentials would also specify the level of qualifications and the quality of awarding institutions.
The need for a depository is magnified in the present context of skill development and National Vocational Educational Qualification Framework (NVEQF). The NVEQF proposes to draw parity between academic versus professional, and pre versus in-service qualifications offered by different recognised institutions. In case such a system is established, an individual can earn recognised qualifications all through his/her life through a formal or informal mode of education.
As per the information available, such a depository of academic qualifications does not exist in any country. The data with respect to the academic results of a candidate is generally stored in the respective awarding institutions. The qualification is verified by the awarding institutions and a certificate is issued on a unique water- mark paper by the awarding institution. The number of institutions is so large that unique watermarks of all the institutions cannot be recognised by the potential employers. As a result, the employer communicates with all the concerned institutions to verify the respective qualification of the candidates. At the same time, an individual also has to preserve his paper qualifications for five or more decades to be able to submit at different times of his/her working life.
The academic depository would be a recurring store of the qualifications earned by an individual from school to college level, and pre to in service level at one place. This will facilitate the employers to verify the credentials of the potential candidates. It would also facilitate an individual to accumulate, preserve and list all his/her qualifications at one place. A smart card of qualifications will also help the individual in presenting his credentials with just a swipe.
For the first time, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has floated an expression of interest for establishing a depository
of academic credentials. At the same time, it was thought that a bill on academic depository would help establish such a system in the country, which can mandate organisations as well as the processes of the depository. The data security is of paramount importance for such a depository. Therefore, it was decided to issue a tender to only two government financial depositories, which are registered with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). These are the National Securities Depository Ltd (NSDL) and the Central Depository Securities Ltd (CDSL). The pilot project was conducted with the results of class XII and Central Teacher Eligibility Test (CTET) conducted by the board. There was data of more than ten lakh students.
The school principals were asked to use the depository and provide feed- back. The pilot was successful with both the agencies. The feedback of the project was given to the MHRD as an input to the draft bill on National Academic Depository. The bill proposes to make it mandatory for all the academic institutions to upload data in the depository. It also provides for safeguards for security of storage, access, and retrieval of records. It has added a few more functions such as issuance of duplicate certificate by the depository. There would be more authorised institutions other than academic institutions to act as agent on behalf of depository. Also, there would be stringent punishments if data is tempered with. The bill is yet to be finalised.
The bill is silent about cost recovery method by depositories. During the various discussions with NSDL and CDSL, it was suggested that the service could be free for students and academic institutions. The charges should be levied on employers and others who may use the service for verification purposes. The depositories would work on Build, Own and Operate (BOO) model.
The NAD has a few challenges to overcome. The first challenge is of number of accounts. In the present scenario where elementary and secondary education is going to be made compulsory, the number of students graduating from these institutions is going to be more than ten million. It is desirable that the academic depository may have to depend on UID/Aadhar for opening of new account.
The second challenge is the num- ber of institutions in the country. The Knowledge Commission has recom- mended opening of 3,000 universities as against existing 400. The vocational mission recommends opening of one lakh vocational centres in the country during twelfth plan period.
All the institutions eventually need to get registered with the depository. The third challenge is parity of qualifications. At present, there are many training programmes offered outside the formal education system by the respective organisations for their employees. Recognition of all such programmes would benefit the individual and the educational planners. There are many challenges related to hardware, software, logistics and acceptance of depository. It needs collaborative efforts of the IT, education, planning, legal and media professionals. If planned meticulously and established successfully, the NAD would lead the world.