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Education Agenda for UPA-2: Great Expectations of Kapil Sibal

Education World, July 2009
By Parth J Shah

Dr. Parth J. Shah, former professor at the University of Michigan, is president of the Delhi based Centre for Civil Society (CCS), an independent think-tank committed to lobbying for government reform. Manu Sundaram is a campaign associate at CCS.

The appointment of the reform-oriented, Harvard-educated Kapil Sibal to the HRD ministry, an important portfolio, is an indicator that the UPA-2 government is serious about revitalising India’s education system. The new HRD minister has adopted “access, quality and equity” as his watchwords. We suggest the following action plan for him:

  1. Reward states that place schools under local control. The 73rd and 74th amendments to the Constitution of India, enacted in 1992, require panchayats and local governments, the third-tier of administration in villages and urban areas, to manage local schools. However, much of the administrative control over schools is still vested in state governments. The UPA-2 government should reward states that devolve school adminis-tration, finances, and functionaries to local governments.
  2. Promote a new National Institute of Learning Assessment. Regular assessment of students’ learning outcomes across the country is vitally necessary. An autonomous organi-sation (‘National Institute of Learning Assessment’) could be established with a corpus of Rs.100 crore, with the sole purpose of continuous measure-ment of learning levels of students, beginning with government and government aided schools but later including all schools countrywide. The institute could also co-ordinate India’s participation in similar transnational assessment efforts.
  3. Mission for minority and SC/ST girls education. In the 25 most educationally-backward districts (as per the Education Development Index), the government/HRD ministry should introduce a conditional cash transfer scheme to incentivise minority and SC/ST girls to continue their education after class VIII. Generous scholarships of Rs.12,000 per annum for girls in classes IX-X and Rs.15,000 for girls in classes XI-XII, and access to boarding schools, would dramatically alter the national education landscape.
  4. Multiply all existing government scholarship schemes by a factor of five. Pre-matric, post-matric and post-graduation scholarships are already being offered by several ministries (HRD, social welfare, minority affairs etc). Expand them by a factor of five! This expansion must be accompanied by a separate budget for generating awareness about scholarship schemes across the country.
  5. Grant professional education ‘industry’ status. Kapil Sibal should start by granting ‘industry’ status to vocational training, non-formal/non-school education such as e-learning, and higher professional education. This will infuse massive capital, technology and more importantly, high-quality management into skills development and professional education.
  6. Introduce innovations in Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (post-primary education). A reform that can revolutionalise post-elementary education is to convert state grants to government and government-aided schools in 25 cities to per-student funding. This programme would allow post-primary students to choose the schools they want to attend, with funding following students. Choice and competition would dramatically improve the performance of teachers and the quality of school managements countrywide!

Read the complete report on Education world.

 

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