Human Resource development minister Kapil Sibal on Thursday unveiled an ambitious plan to reform education — from adult literacy to schools and colleges — to optimise India’s demographic dividend.
Half of India’s population of 1.1 billion is under 25 and only a quarter of Indian graduates are considered employable. By 2020, India will have the world’s youngest population. Sibal said the action plan for reform would be ready in 100 days.
The plan is targeted at doubling India’s Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education, a dismal 12.4 per cent currently, in five years. The GER — the ratio of primary school students to graduates — increased by only about 7 per cent in the past 10 years when Arjun Singh and M.M. Joshi were ministers.
Sibal said school education would be revamped. There will be an accreditation system for schools, Class X examinations will be made optional, there will be grading instead of marking in CBSE schools and madrasa students will be allowed lateral entry into mainstream institutions.
Also, there are plans to connect all government schools with broadband internet in the next five years and a unified national teacher-training syllabus.
The ministry proposes a public-private partnership model for government schools.
“A private player can be allowed to construct two more stories above a municipal school to admit new students for a reasonable fee,” said Sibal. “Then, they will have also have to provide quality to existing students. There will be no license raj. Anyone who meets strict accreditation norms will be allowed to open institutes.”
“If we fail to provide quality education to our 50 crore youth, our country’s future will be in darkness,” said Sibal. Moreover, in the last five years, China has attracted 2,000 teachers back to its state universities. “We can give financial and social incentives to bring back top Indian faculty back home,” Sibal said.
But these radical moves have their critics.
The first protests have come from the two Left-ruled states: West Bengal and Kerala. West Bengal school education minister Partha Dey opposed making the Class X exam optional. His Kerala counterpart, M A Baby, reportedly demanded a conference of state education ministers to discuss the issue.