Human resource development minister Smriti Irani said on Friday the legacy of her tenure would be ensuring her office be guided by political consensus and not partisan compulsions or bickering, an apparent response to criticism that her policies were inspired by right-wing ideology.
Speaking on the opening day of the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, Irani said the new education policy being drafted by her ministry would not only reflect the will of the people but also the vision on which a new future could be built.
“For too long this office was known for political compulsions, now this office will be known for political consensus and resonance of the will of the people,” Irani said, a veiled dig at the previous UPA government.
“We have empowered 2.5 lakh villages councils and told them to sit together and tell us what kind of education you seek for your children.”
The minister said 1.4 lakh villages have already given their views in writing that expressed their desire for education, which she described as unprecedented.
Irani said along with the issue of enrolment of children and keeping them in schools, the quality of education was a big challenge.
Listing out the schemes of her ministry addressing these challenges the minister said the e-pathsala initiative was one such scheme that ensured students had free access to learning material including NCERT text books from class 1 to 12.
Shala Darpan, another initiative, under which parents are sent regular SMSs on their children’s progress, she said, not only helps parents keep a tab on their children but also informs them if a teacher is absent from the class.
She also batted for government schools, saying institutions such as Kendriya Vidyalayas and Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas were outperforming private schools.
For ensuring quality teachers in schools she said the Madan Mohan Malviya National Mission on teacher and teaching launched last year would train teachers and help build their capacity.
Answering a question from a member of the audience who asked how she would ensure the establishment of government schools in remote corners, the minister said the fact that her government was able to build over four lakh toilets in every school in one year showed government’s resolve.
The minister said the Prime Minister’s targets seemed challenging but were doable, referring to Modi’s announcement from the ramparts of the Red Fort in his maiden Independence Day speech -- that in one year every school would have separate toilets for girls and boys.
Touching upon issue of global ranking of Indian institutions that fare poorly, the minister said global ranking agencies did not take into account research in Indian languages.
“To address this problem we have launched the National Ranking Framework under which Indian universities will be ranked on different parameters,” she said.