Published: 19th July 2022
ICAI President Dr Debashis Mitra explains about all the major changes in the new CA curriculum
The aspiring CAs should focus on building their technological and analytical skills, for which more emphasis is being laid in the proposed scheme, he said
If all you Chartered Accountancy aspirants have been boggled with the twists and turns in the new curriculum introduced by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), we bring you an exclusive conversation with Dr Debashis Mitra who breaks it all down for you.
Dr Mitra decodes the curriculum in a way that one can understand why all the changes have been made to make aspirants “future-ready Chartered Accountants.” In fact, in one significant move, all six papers of the CA final exam have been turned into an open book exam. "The difficulty level of the papers would certainly be high, but the students would be relieved of the requirement to memorise the voluminous provisions," said Mitra.
Additionally, while shedding light on how this course will make aspirants ready for a career abroad, Mitra said that most subjects would cover globally relevant standards and topics. “CAs trained in India are already working in 48 countries, this curriculum will increase professional opportunities internationally for CAs educated in India,” he said.
For more benefits of the new changes in the curriculum and advice for aspiring CAs, find out what the President of ICAI has to say. Excerpts from our conversation:
Why and when did you feel the need to introduce such changes in the ICAI curriculum? When did the discussions for the same begin?
In order to attain the objective of enabling aspiring chartered accountants to acquire the competence that the profession requires, the Council of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) sets up ‘Committee for Review of Education and Training (CRET)’ from time to time with the basic objective to review the existing system of education and training in order to determine whether it is adequate in the context of the existing requirements and the changing environment. Conventionally, CRET is constituted each time after a time span of approximately nine to ten years; and the revised scheme of education and training is generally launched within three years from the constitution of CRET. The last CRET was constituted in December 2013 and the New Scheme of Education and Training was launched on July 1, 2017.
The role of Chartered Accountants is diversifying and there is a great demand for them not only in India but globally. The Prime Minister of India announced the implementation of the National Education Policy, 2020 which emphasises on multi-disciplinary education, skill development, digital learning and global opportunities for students. Also, consequent to the technological advancements, the need to make the curriculum globally more relevant on account of the launch of the international curriculum and increasing emphasis on ethics, the ICAI, this time constituted CRET after seven years. The CRET was constituted on May 17, 2021. The first meeting of CRET was held on June 21, 2021.
Also, perhaps you'd like to shed some light on some lesser-known changes that have been made and how they will benefit the students?
All the changes are significant and have been done keeping in mind the interests of the students and the profession. The number of papers at each level, introduction of self-paced learning modules, international curriculum, changes in the scheme of practical training, the introduction of multi-disciplinary case studies and open book/restricted open book assessment for papers at the final level are the significant changes effected in line with the NEP 2020 and study of international best practices.
Surely, a host of changes have been introduced but what, according to you, are the highlights and why?
The highlights of the proposed scheme are:
- Seamless and focused practical training, which would be an examination-free period.
- Technology-enabled learning through self-paced online modules, which provide necessary industry orientation.
- Mandatory paper on multi-disciplinary case study (with strategic management) at the Final Level to assess the integrated application of professional knowledge in different subject areas, combined with the skills acquired during practical training.
- Assessment by way of case scenario/study-based multiple-choice-questions for 30 marks in every subject at the Intermediate and Final Levels to hone the analytical skills of aspiring Chartered Accountants.
- Impetus on education in ethics and Information Technology, by blending them with core subjects at the Final Level.
- Open book/restricted open book pattern of assessment at the Final Level to assess the higher order skills of aspiring chartered accountants.
- Combination of the virtual and physical modes of soft skills and Information Technology training.
- Implementation of the international curriculum in line with the Government’s objective of internationalisation of higher education.
Some aspects of the Intermediate course have been moved to the Foundation level. Is there any particular reason for this? Does it make the Foundation course more difficult for students?
The number of papers at the Intermediate Level would be six in the proposed scheme, versus eight in the existing scheme. Instead of two papers in Accounting at the Intermediate Level in the existing scheme, there would be one paper in Advanced Accounting at this level. This is the reason why some topics have been shifted to the paper on Accounting at the Foundation Level. Likewise, the topics in Economics for Finance at the Intermediate Level are being included in the paper on Business Economics at the Foundation Level, which would be for 100 marks in the proposed scheme as compared to 60 marks in the existing scheme. However, the content of syllabus of both Accounting and Business Economics at the Foundation Level would be largely in line with the CBSE syllabus for Classes XI and XII. Hence, the inclusion of these topics would not significantly impact the difficulty level of the Chartered Accountancy course.
How did you ensure that the changes were in sync with the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020? Could you tell us in detail, please.
Technology-enabled learning envisaged in NEP, 2020 to be implemented through self-paced online modules, which include subjects like Psychology, Philosophy, Entrepreneurship and so on in line with the multi-disciplinary approach advocated by NEP 2020. Open book/restricted open book pattern for all subjects at Final Level would eliminate the requirement of rote learning as emphasised in NEP 2020. Further, the assessment for self-paced modules and multi-disciplinary case studies would be in line with holistic development as envisaged in PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development).
All six papers of the CA final exam have been made into open book exams. Is there any particular reason for this? Will it help students move on from the traditional concept of rote learning?
In a closed book scenario, students have to memorise the concepts and provisions, even when higher-level skills of analysis and evaluation are being assessed in the examination. This puts pressure on the students to memorise the provisions, and it consumes much of their valuable learning time.
In order to ease this burden, an open book/restricted open book pattern of assessment is being introduced for papers at the Final Level to assess the higher order analytical and interpretational skills of students. The difficulty level of the papers would certainly be high, but the students would be relieved of the requirement to memorise the voluminous provisions of Accounting and Auditing Standards, Law and Taxation. The students can focus on building their analytical skills instead.
Where will the self-paced online learning modules be available? How will you ensure that the progress of the students is monitored?
The self-paced online modules would be available at the digital learning hub of ICAI. Learning would be technology enabled and students will gain knowledge of the specific subject by devoting minimum hours of study prescribed. The module would contain self-assessment quizzes, through which students can check their level of understanding of the different topics, and track their progress. They would have to obtain minimum 50 per cent marks in each self-paced module to qualify in that module, and qualifying in all four modules is a pre-condition for appearing in the Final examination.
Multidisciplinary case studies have been made a compulsory subject. How will this help students in receiving a practical knowledge of the field?
This paper will help assess the student’s ability to analyse the provisions/concepts studied in different subjects, and provide solutions to cross-disciplinary issues in simulated case studies. Also, the case studies would involve strategic decision making, which assesses the candidate’s ability to evaluate a situation by integrating and applying the professional knowledge gained by him in different subjects and in practical training, for decision making in complex scenarios. Hence, this paper would assess the overall professional competence gained by a student during the Chartered Accountancy course.
How will the new curriculum and training ensure that aspirants are ready for an international career?
Only Tax and Law would be country specific, Indian students are required to study the Indian laws and foreign students are required to study the law and tax of their country. All other subjects in the curriculum would cover globally relevant standards and topics, and hence, would be relevant globally. Chartered Accountants trained in India are already working in 48 countries, this curriculum will increase professional opportunities internationally for Chartered Accountants educated in India.
What advice would you give aspiring CAs and how they can adapt themselves to the new curriculum of ICAI?
The aspiring Chartered Accountants should focus on building their technological and analytical skills, for which more emphasis is being laid in the proposed scheme. They should learn to imbibe ethics in every aspect of their learning. In the time to come, many things will be automated, and having analytical skills will accelerate the professional progress of Chartered Accountants. They should also develop cross-disciplinary skills which would enable them to emerge as a well-rounded Chartered Accountant.
Tell us about the practical training aspect...
Yes, it is in relation to practical training, which is a very important aspect of the Chartered Accountancy curriculum. It has been our endeavour to ensure that the students reap maximum benefits from the practical training, which helps mould them into future-ready Chartered Accountants. In the proposed scheme, the practical training period would be an examination-free period of two years, wherein a student would be able to focus entirely on practical training and acquire the necessary professional skills, professional values, ethics and attitudes. Further, after qualification, if somebody wishes to apply for Certificate for Practice then he will need to undergo one-year work experience under a fellow practising Chartered Accountant.