Kapil Sibal’s Arduous Task for Education Reform

An article in ‘India Today’ names Mr. Kapil Sibal as Mr. Loudspeaker. In his new role in UPA as HRD minister, Kapil had been hyperactive at least in announcements of his wishes. Every Indian will like all these reforms to get implemented in next five years. There can’t be any politics with education with its dismal condition.

Only about 12 per cent of the 220 million children who attend schools in India reach college level. Sibal has set a target to increase this to 30 per cent by year 2020. And that will require more than 27,000 additional institutions of higher learning that includes 14,000 colleges of general higher education, 12,775 additional technical and professional institutions and 269 additional universities.
Is it not a disgrace that only around 12 per cent of India’s 509 million young employed Indians are equipped with the right skills?

Further, India is ranked 102 out of 129 countries, immediately below Kenya and Nicaragua, in UNESCO’s 2009 Education for All Development Index that scores nations on the spread, gender balance and quality of primary education and adult literacy.

According to Nasscom, software firms reject 90% of college graduates and 75% of engineers who apply for jobs because they are not good enough to be trained. Infosys increased its training of employees to 29 weeks, that’s seven months of training. Why do they need so much training? And why is the quality of applicants so poor? Many are skeptical about about the large number of MBAs and engineers that are passing out from a large number of mushrooming institutes in India..

Will Sibal be able to take care of the numbers as well as the quality demanded by the industry?

Sibal is trying to change everything and fast enough. Everyone will be with him if he could get it done. Many things are getting announced.

Will the passing of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act make the change happen? Can a bill or act make the millions of children (an estimated 160 million), who are presently out of school, access to quality education possible? How does Sibal get 1 million good teachers and arrange about Rs 1.5 lakh crore for the project?

Will the whole lots of bills that Sibal is trying to get through significantly change the situation of education fast enough for him to see and the country to reap the benefits?

Sibal is putting a lot of efforts. Sibal visited USA recently and met the presidents and other functionaries of Harvard, Yale, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Boston University to invite them to India or to have active collaborations with Indian universities. But I doubt Sibal can dictate his terms to US universities.

Manmohan Singh and Sibal are talking loudly about new IITs, IIMs, Indian Institutes for Science Education & Research, Indian Institutes of Information Technology, world-class central universities, degree colleges in all educationally backward districts, and model schools in every block of the country.

But why are not institutes such as the BHUs, Aligarh Muslim University, or BITS, and BIT, Mesra getting set up in larger numbers? Why not the top 100 big business houses that are now headed by the younger and better educated CEOs participate in building one world class institute each? Why can’t the school complex in every village be made the place of pride for its residents? Why can’t the people at large participate in building and maintaining the school and other educational institutes?

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