Revamping Education in India

by - C. Jayanti, *Sr. Editor in Financial Express

Unlike China, that did not see its billion plus population an economic and social liability and used it to manufacture cheap goods and flood world markets, India unfortunately did. Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has said: “For too long, we have viewed the size of our population as an economic and social liability. However, an educated, skilled, healthy empowered people are an asset. The challenge before us is to ensure that each and every citizen of India is an asset.” With the Indian economy growing at around 9 per cent per annum, different sectors of the economy find it difficult to find skilled personnel. It is estimated that the size of the working age population in India, aged 15 to 64 years, is estimated to go up from about 77.5 crore in 2008 to about 95 crore in 2026, i.e. up from 62.9 per cent to 68.4 per cent.

The aim of the government is also to increase the General Enrolment Ratio (GER) by 5 per cent —up from 10 per cent that it is now—by the end of XIth Five Year Plan along with the removal of regional, social and gender disparities. Education including technical education, medical and university; vocational and technical training of labour are on the concurrent list of the Constitution of India. The Central as well as the State Governments need to work towards making India even a global education hub. The micro and small enterprises produce about 8,000 products, contribute 40 per cent of the industrial output and offer the largest employment after agriculture.

The Prime Minister has recently announced a scheme for setting up a skill-development mission. Almost 7 million people have to be employed in the XIth Plan as per target. According to Shri H.P Kumar, Chairman and Managing Director, National Small Industries Corporation Ltd., “We need to give skills to these people, first of all and then create jobs for all 7 million people. We have to train people in skills like electrician, household mason, bakery and beautician among others. In order to provide these skills—develop the employment capability among the people, we, recently launched a new programme that is called incubation of unemployed persons of new small enterprises.”

The incubation programme is a pilot project that NSIC started in which it trains unemployed persons, who do not have high qualifications; the minimum requirement is only high school-from any place, city, villages and small towns. People are segregated into those who want skills for employment and, those who want to set up their business. This incubator was started in Delhi and NSIC has now incubation centres in Howrah and Guwahati, Rajkot, Chennai, other technical centres also—the purpose of which is to run a programme of three to six months’ duration whereby a person is made fully employable.

Says a PHD Chamber expert group, according to a study prepared by Boston Consulting Group, a global workforce deficit of the order of 46 million by 2020 is estimated. India would have an estimated surplus manpower of 47 million. This pool of human resource could be used to the economic advantage of the Indian economy, only if education and skill development is given the due importance in the planning process.

Currently, the number of university-level institutions are 419 and the colleges are: 20, 918, while the number of AICTE approved technical institutions are almost 7,000. The government hopes to rapidly expand higher education institutions with inclusiveness (while implementing 27 per cent reservation), along with removal of regional, social and gender disparities in education with a view to having a fully educated, modern and progressive nation, according to a Ministry of Human Resources Development presentation before the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Demand for Grants (2008-09). Some of the interventions proposed for inclusive education include a rise in UGC support to institutions located in “border, hilly, remote, small towns and educationally backward areas”; more support to institutions with large percentage of student population of Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), girls and minorities, apart from OBCs; providing assistance to create hostel facilities as well as coaching to SCs, STs and minorities, coaching for admission to professional courses and competitive examinations for central services. During the XIth Plan, the Government proposes to set up 30 central universities—16 in uncovered states and 14 aiming at world-class standards; eight IITs; 10 National Institutes of Technologies; 20 Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs); three Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISERS); seven IIMs and two Schools of Planning and Architecture. Apart from this central assistance will be provided for 1,000 polytechnics: 300 in public private partnership mode and 400 in the private sector. Assistance for setting up of polytechnics in the government sector shall be extended to those states that do not have one at present.

The aim of the Government is also to take of infrastructure shortages and faculty shortages that hamper education at present. The Government also aims to provide $ 10 laptops to students so that they can benefit from the telecommunication revolution. Efforts and research in this direction are on at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. Apart from this, the Government wishes to network each department of about 400 university level institutions and 20,000 colleges through broadband connectivity and make available suitable e-learning material.

The National Policy on Education (1986) had set a goal of expenditure on education to be of the order of 6 per cent of GDP. However, the actual expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP has remained about 3 per cent of GDP till 2007-08 (fiscal year). The National Knowledge Commission’s recent report on higher education has recommended that the present support for higher education should be at least 1.5 per cent of GDP, from a total of 6 per cent of GDP for education. The Government has to keep this in mind if it wants to accelerate the level of progress for the country and expand the knowledge base.

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