The BJP does not wish to appear to stand in the way of steps proposed by the government to “detraumatise” examinations for children. But, the party wishes to take on HRD Minister Kapil Sibal on his hurried plans for reforms in the education system.
BJP leaders say they will have to see how serious Sibal is on his ideas, pointing to reports that a Congress functionary as well as a Union minister had frowned upon his “haste” in seeking to implement far-reaching reforms.
Other party leaders believe Sibal could have the backing of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi.
The Congress could stand to gain politically with more young voters swinging to its side, impressed by the changes.
Within the BJP too, there are different views on how the party should view the proposed changes.
Former HRD Minister MM Joshi is totally opposed to foreign players.
Pro-reform BJP leaders like Arun Jaitley believe the entry of private enterprise — along with adequate safeguards — could lead to easing the shortages in the system. BJP chief Rajnath Singh wants the party should quickly formulate its line of approach.
Joshi wants the party to focus essentially on the fears and dangers of “commericialising” education if too many private players come in.
He also wants the BJP to highlight the neglect of primary schools in villages, which is the bane of the country’s system — since the NDA pioneered the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.
Joshi has proposed a meeting of education ministers of the BJP-ruled states as well as those run by NDA governments.
He has already warned Sibal against “tearing hurry” to announce reforms within the first 100 days of the UPA government — without consulting the states, educationists and experts.
Joshi’s main charge is that Sibal has an agenda to “commercialise” education in the name of public-private participation.
“If Sibal were allowed to play with education, it will slip into the hands of money bags of India and foreign countries,” Joshi warned. He wanted to know how children up to the age of 14 will get free education if it is commercialised.
“The real urgency is to improve rural primary schools but Sibal’s vision is limited to education in Delhi and other big cities,” he said.
Referring to Sibal’s vow to de-traumatise parents and children, Joshi said, “All the tension is because of few educational opportunities at higher level. If there are enough colleges to let students take any course of their choice and aptitude, there will be no need to struggle for the highest percentage of marks.”