Human resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal is a man in a hurry. And rightly so. For years now, this ministry has been moribund. The proposal to make Class 10 exams optional and unify the school board shows that the minister is putting children before bureaucracy. Internal assessments and grading system, as more efficient and less traumatic ways to ensure that education is a joyful experience for children, have been up in the air for years. Now Sibal seems determined to get things moving.
But a single board would mean that educational infrastructure has to be standardised across the country. In many states, there will be children with different levels of learning abilities, owing to either lack of accessibility to schools or the uneven quality of education. That will prove an uphill task. The second is to get all states to fall in line and not allow the issue to become a political flashpoint. The other welcome step is the ministry’s determination to push through the Children’s Right to Free and Compulsory Bill that would give children between the ages of six to 14 the fundamental right to education. But while these reforms are underway at the primary education level, there has to be competent authority to oversee the anomalies in higher education. This could be based on the Yashpal Committee report and that of the National Knowledge Commission. It’s now clear that the University Grants Commission has not delivered the goods as far as higher education goes. What India also needs is many more quality higher education institutions. Setting up fly-by-night institutions that are riddled with politics has become a trend and is something Sibal should look into.
The malpractices in the education sector have denied many students the opportunities they deserve. We can hope that with the right regulators in place, this paranoia against foreign educational institutions coming in will go. Sibal might be a little too ambitious in promising far-reaching changes in 100 days. No one will grudge him a little more time, but will definitely want him to get it right after raising such high expectations. With the kind of political mandate that the UPA has got and with many naysayers neutralised, he has no excuse to let our children down.