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India’s Education Ministry asks schools to begin ‘Automated Permanent Academic Account Registry’ process

Under this registry, every student from pre-primary to higher education will receive a unique ID across all states and union territories.

What’s the news: On October 15, 2023, the Times of India reported that the Ministry of Education has directed all states and union territories to create an ‘Automated Permanent Academic Account Registry’ for students from pre-primary to higher education. Under this registry, every student will receive a unique ID aside from the Aadhaar ID. While a source has informed us that the form for this registry mentions “voluntary consent,” schools are treating this process as a compulsory move.

What is APAAR? As per a report on a thematic session by the Ministry, APAAR is a registry for institutions, students and faculty that creates “lifelong credentials, and Academic Bank of Credits (ABC),” an online repository of academic data. However, as in the case of the larger Education Ecosystem Registry, there are concerns about data security and how well this framework will be able to include all students from various backgrounds.

Compulsory registration by schools: The very first line of the consent form given to parents/ guardians/ wards to sign up for APAAR (shared with MediaNama by a source), says that the student/ guardian “voluntarily give their consent” to create the APAAR ID.

However, as per the source, schools are not only mandating registration under this initiative but also giving a short deadline of 1-2 days for the submission of this form. This compulsion is concerning considering some experts are still worried about the security and inclusionary worries mentioned before.

The form mentions withdrawal of consent: Towards the end of the form, the government does mention that individuals can withdraw consent “to all or any of the purposes at any time by and on withdrawal of consent, the processing of shared information will stop, however, any personal data already been processed shall remain unaffected on such withdrawal of consent.”

It is unclear whether this latter half means that students can’t ask for the erasure of their data.

Why it matters: India’s recently passed Digital Personal Data Protection Act, 2023 clearly states that any processing of people’s data requires free, specific, informed, unconditional and unambiguous consent. Further, it states that the entity processing the personal data must stop doing so once consent is withdrawn. Yet, the manner in which the consent form is imposed on parents as well as the framing of the form’s content raise the question as to whether the education department is satisfactorily adhering to this law. This is important considering the APAAR database will handle the data of millions of students across India.

Where will APAAR ID be used? The form goes on to list the following uses:

  • APAAR ID will allow students to easily transfer from one school to other schools, state, etc.
  • It will be lifelong and help in accessing the educational resources
  • It will be useful for tracking educational progress and achievement of students
  • It will be useful for monitoring the dropout students and mainstreaming them
  • It will be a gateway for accessing the DigiLocker ecosystem which will store digitally all achievements of students like exam results, holistic report cards, health cards, and learning outcomes, besides other achievements of students like Olympiad, sports, skill training, etc.
  • It will also be used for multiple use cases like entrance tests conducted by NTA, admissions, scholarship disbursement, transfer of government benefits, issue of awards, recognition etc., for students, teachers and other users.

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I'm interested in the shaping and strengthening of rights in the digital space. I cover cybersecurity, platform regulation, gig worker economy. In my free time, I'm either binge-watching an anime or off on a hike.

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