Odisha: Unlikely success story

EducationWorld May 2022 | Education News Magazine
Kasturi Ray (Bhubaneshwar)

Among india’s 28 states, the eastern seaboard state of Odisha, formerly Orissa (pop.46.3 million), is an outlier. Unlike other states of the Indian Union in which political action is fast and furious, Odisha has enjoyed political stability and orderly governance under the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) headed by Doon School and St. Stephen’s College educated chief minister Naveen Patnaik, now in his fifth term in office.

As a result, the annual state gross domestic product (SGDP) has grown by an impressive 10.1 percent per year and the state, once infamous for hunger deaths in its hinterland, has made impressive progress in eliminating extreme poverty and raising the living standards of its hitherto neglected large tribal population in particular.

In education as well, with the active encouragement of the BJD government, the state has made impressive progress. In the latest EducationWorld India School Rankings 2021-22 — the world’s largest schools rankings survey — Sai International School, Bhubaneswar (estb.2006) is ranked India #1 in the day-cum-boarding school category, and the Sai Group — established by the late Bijaya Sahoo — has also promoted Sai Angan, billed as Asia’s largest pre-primary school.

Odisha’s admin capital, the neat and well-governed Bhubaneswar (pop.1.22 million) is also home to KISS (Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences), the world’s largest residential free-of-charge K-12 school for tribal children, and the high ranked Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT) University. Both these path-breaking institutions were promoted decades ago by educationist-philanthropist Dr. Achyuta Samanta.

In addition, the state has pioneered another education initiative that could serve as a model to other states — SAMS (Student Academic Management System) — which has proved a conspicuous success in smoothing the complex process of undergraduate admissions for school-leavers. Until SAMS was introduced for junior colleges (classes XI-XII) in 2010, admissions conducted in offline mode were a major headache for school-leaving (class X) students who were required to visit every college of their choice to complete admission forms. SAMS was the response of the higher education department of the BJD government to address this problem.

Beginning with 60 junior colleges, the platform initiated a one-window admission system for 169 junior colleges and 53 undergrad colleges in 2010-11. After its glitches and teething problems were resolved in two-three years, it was approved by the state government for admission into junior, higher secondary, secondary schools, Arts, Commerce, and Science undergrad colleges and vocational and Sanskrit education institutions.

Since then, it has been expanded to govern admission into correspondence, ITI, diploma, teacher education, and physical education institutions. The platform also maintains the academic and financial records of every student admitted into education institutions. Remarkably for a nation in which government — especially state governments — is notorious for lack of initiative and enterprise, SAMS was conceived and designed by the education & IT ministries of the Odisha government and initially funded by a 12th Finance Commission grant. But since then, it has become financially independent.

However, two of the state’s major autonomous varsities — Ravenshaw University and Gangadhar Meher University — haven’t signed up for SAMS to maintain their autonomy. But with the higher education department pressuring them to come on to the common admission platform, there’s a strong likelihood of their agreeing to do so.

In a letter to the registrars of these two universities, Rajesh Kumar Sahoo, deputy director of the higher education department, asked them to conduct their admissions through SAMS. Urging the two universities to come aboard SAMS, in his letter Sahoo stated that students from all parts of the state and country should be given the opportunity to study in Odisha’s rising higher ed institutions, and that is possible only through the SAM’s centralised admission process.

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