India’s Endeavour to Become Knowledge Power

India has some very vocal ministers these days. One of them is Kapil Sibal. If one goes by his action plans, India is on the right track to become a knowledge power. He aims at increasing the India’s gross enrollment ratio (GER) at present at meager 12.4% to 30% by 2020. Of the 220 million children going to school, about 70 million children will be able to get into higher education as against the present figure of about 26 million. The Right to Education Act, 2009 will provide the necessary impetus.

And so are his plans to set up a large number of universities and institutions of higher learning and excellence: 30 new Central Universities, five new Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research, eight new Indian Institutes of Technology, 11 new Indian Institutes of Management and 20 new Indian Institutes of Information Technology.

Many foreign education providers will also collaborate with Indian institutions both in the private and public sector and set-up a variety of educational enterprises in India.

And over 140 million young students who do not pass Class XII would be imparted skills to match with the growing and diverse needs of the economy and its various sectors through community colleges, ITIs, polytechnics and other institutional frameworks that will have to expand exponentially.

Naturally, we all will wish and pray that the mission is achieved.

But the main thrust must go to rural India that constitutes and contributes the maximum in the number mentioned as target. Will it happen there? I say so as the rural India is hardly covered by the media as against the urban India. All the drawbacks and inefficiencies of the government targets and its failure for urban areas only get media coverage.

Most of the young students who drop out and don’t enter colleges for higher education are of the rural India. How do we make all the boys and girls of the rural India continue getting educated? How do we make the teaching a respectable and responsible profession? How do we make the poor and deprived parents interested in getting their wards educated? How do we ensure the parents that there can be no financial constraints if their wards take interest work hard and perform well in their classes?

I was talking to Harendra who recently came from a village in Bihar. According to him, even though his village has a school but the kids of the poor people hardly go to the school and continue? This is the case in most of the villages.

If Noida can have a significant number of children who don’t go the schools, how can we expect the remote village having ‘sarv siksha’ or universal education? Will the hundreds of kids of the unprivileged class that I see every day morning entering in the informal education facility of Sai Temple and Shakti Mandir in Sector 40 or the government school of many of the villages of Noida get the quality of education that Sibal and Prof. Yaspal are trying to provide to the children of the country with the passage of The Right of Education Bill 2009? How many of the students of the schools in the villages that I know such as Pipra, Samahuta, Madhukarpur, and many like them will carry education on till class 12 or continue thereafter? And I further doubt if the number of the students of Birlapur Vidyalaya or Hind Motors School of the big business houses such as Birlas who go beyond class XII is significantly higher than 10-12%? Why is it not happening?

Sibal, the ministers in the states and the authorities running the schools must focus on improving the existing schools along with the setting up of huge number of model schools, perhaps one in every block of the country, as it is being planned. Can the panchayats or municipalities be made accountable about its schools and its performance?

Can India become Knowledge Power without getting the education in rural India to the same standard as the best schools in urban India provide?

India can succeed in getting transformed into a knowledge power. And it can not only be the envy of many of the developed powers, but can also sustain a reverse brain drain from those countries.

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