Education In India: Looking Ahead

By Kapil Sibal
Minister of Human Resource Development, Govt. Of India

New Delhi, Jan 24, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio via PIB-India) As India continues to make sustained and significant economic progress there is need to tackle much more aggressively the problems of structural inequities, especially on the education front. Consider the fact that more than 100 million youth - the combined labour forces of Britain, France, Italy and Spain - are projected to join the workforce by 2020. This is a great potential resource provided the workforce is empowered with education and skills to leverage on the available global opportunities. If we fail to provide our youth with the requisite education and skills we will not only fail to utilize our demographic advantage but we will end up alienating large sections of our young population as well. This has made it imperative for us to expand our education base so as to be able to provide   quality, affordable and merit-based education for the entire young population. To make this a reality, I have set out three principles that we must broadly embrace: First, access…providing access to educational opportunities to all who desire and need it; second, affordability…making education a reality by reducing financial barriers; and third, building quality and accountability…that we are teaching what is relevant and at global levels and delivering good value for money. The expansion in education, over the second decade of the twenty-first century, that we are envisaging, is unprecedented in modern history. Let us assess the situation.

Presently the   Gross Enrolment Ratio in  higher education is a mere 15% we seek to enhance it   to 30% by the end of 2020,   in real terms it  would mean tripling of the enrollment from around 13 million to 40 million. At the secondary school level around 40 million students enroll in 9th to 12th standard every year, if only 10% were to enroll for vocational educational, that is 4 million as against the present 1 million seats this will mean a mammoth expansion of vocational education. In regard to school education the demand has grown by leaps and bounds - everybody, from the poorest of the poor to the well off, acknowledges the value of education. Our data reveals that nearly 100 per cent children are enrolled in primary school; 98% of our habitations have a primary school within one kilometre, and 92% have an upper primary school within three kilometres. Transition rates from primary to upper primary levels have improved substantially. As a result many more children from much marginalized backgrounds are accessing school. But despite these impressive statistics, as many as 10 million children in the age group 6-14 years may be still not attending school due to the huge dropout rate. The Right to Free & Compulsory Education Act (RTE Act) that has come into effect from 2010 is aimed to ensure that these out of school children get the right to education. The progress in universalisation of elementary education over the first decade is truly inspiring. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), which is the main vehicle for implementation of RTE Act. has helped  to open more than 300,000 new schools, construct 250,000 school buildings, 11,00,000 additional classrooms, and 3,40,000 toilets, appoint over 11 lakh teachers, provide in-service training to over 14 lakh teachers and  supply free textbooks to 8.70 crore children, with the result that  an additional 40 million students have been  enrolled. While we are making massive efforts to boost educational attendance and attainment at the elementary school level, we are also working for enhancing the enrollment and the quality  at the middle and secondary school levels too to take care of not only the influx of students from the elementary stream but by motivating the present dropouts to enroll.  I am thus hoping to enhance the Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) of secondary education from around 50% presently to over 75% by the end of the decade. A Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) programme has been launched for the purpose. Already over 5 lakh teachers have been provided in-service training. And by the end of the decade I expect that each child passing out from the secondary school should be computer literate as we have mounted a mammoth programme of ICT in schools. Other initiatives include a continuous and comprehensive evaluation system for CBSE board for class 10 from the year 2011, and uniform Pan-India curriculum for math and science for board exams from 2011 academic session and uniform curriculum in commerce by 2012.

In regard to  vocational education, it  is presently not very attractive to those who are unable to pursue higher education. We are thus seeking to devise a vocational education and training system, National Vocational Qualification Framework, that is meant to meet the needs and aspirations of the students, the labour market and to be in tune with the ethos and values of the local community and society. This framework would set common principles and guidelines for a nationally recognized qualification system, covering schools, vocational education institutes and institutes of higher education with qualifications ranging from secondary to doctorate level, leading to international recognition of national standards. The framework will be a competency based modular approach with provision for credit accumulation and transfer. Students would have the scope for vertical and horizontal mobility with multiple entry and exits. This would be especially useful to promote the creative genius of every child including children with special needs. Sector Skill Councils and Industry would collaborate in the development of quality standards, competencies, model curricula, assessment standards and testing procedures. Linkage between education providers and employers would be ensured.

In regard to higher education we have taken several steps to address the expansion, by setting up:

·    16 new Central universities in the various States,
·    8 new IITs in Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Orissa, Gujarat, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh,
·    7 new IIMs,
·    5 Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISERs) at Pune, Kolkata, Mohali, Bhopal and Thiruvananthapuram ,
·    10 new NITs at Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Goa, Delhi, Uttarakhand and Puducherry,
·    20 new Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) up on a Public Private Partnership (PPP) basis , and
·    374 Model Degree Colleges, one each in identified educationally Backward Districts where Gross Enrolment Ratio is less than National average.

Further with the view to facilitate teaching resource sharing and providing access to open educational resources we have set up the National Mission on Education through ICT to link twenty thousand of degree colleges and ten thousand departments within universities. The private sector is also contributing in this effort.  In order to increase the number of quality faculty positions in science, a scheme of Operation Faculty Recharge is being launched to provide appointment for 1000 faculty positions created and to be filled at national level through global advertisement. We have taken several concurrent steps to address the quality aspects in higher education. We have introduced  in Parliament the National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutions Bill, 2010 to provide for mandatory accreditation of all educational institutions  and another bill to set up a National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) for regulating higher education. This is in accordance with the general principle of moving from “inspection approval” based mechanism of recognizing institutions to a “verification assessment” method. On the academic front the semester system has been initiated, regular up gradation and updating of syllabi has been mandated and choice-based credit system introduced. We are working on a   national depository for holding in electronic form of all academic degrees, diplomas and certificates issued by all educational institutions.

There are several other initiatives that we have taken such as improving the quality of teachers and faculty at various education levels, redressal of disputes, prohibition of malpractices  and others which will materialize soon  and whose impact will be felt in the course of next two years or so.

Thus my vision is that within this decade every Indian, including the disadvantaged, the marginalized and the minorities, will have access to quality and affordable education be it at the primary, secondary or professional level. Indian education of future will thus be: Different and unique. Dynamic, vigorous, bold and functional, serving the needs of not only of the Indian society but the global community I am confident   that India will  emerge as the international hub for education in the next 20 years and what the BPO and IT sectors are today for India, education should  be in 2030. (PIB Features)

- PIB Feature