May 2007

Prioritising Initiatives for the Eleventh Plan

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The government of India feels the country was still a long way from realising the goal of every child completing eight years of good quality education. Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh made this admission while convening the two-day conference of state education ministers, to discuss the human resource targets for the Eleventh Five Year Plan. The Minister also admitted that the surveys of the attainment levels of schoolchildren do not give much cause for satisfaction.

The Conference of State Education Ministers was organised at New Delhi on 10 and 11 April, 2007, by the Ministry of Human Resources Development that was attended by Education Ministers of 19 of the 28 States. Senior officers of the Education Departments represented the other States and Union Territories. The two Ministers of State in the HRD Ministry, M A A Fatmi and D. Purandeswari, and Bhalchandra Mungekar, Member (Education), Planning Commission, also participated in the Conference. The conference deliberated on issues concerning the entire gamut of education such as elementary, secondary, higher and technical education, to jointly take stock and to plan ahead, so that maximum possible progress can be achieved during the Eleventh Plan in the education sector, in terms of access, equity, quality and efficiency.

The minister also hoped that during the Eleventh Plan, the gross enrollment ratio for higher and technical education would go up from the existing figure of 10 percent of the total population of school-going children to at least 15 percent by the end of the plan period.

The discussions revolved round all the vital aspects of education in India. What should we now do to accomplish the goal of Universal Elementary Education (UEE) by the end of the Eleventh Plan? How do we improve achievement levels of children in elementary and secondary schools, especially state funded ones? What action is being taken by states to meet their enhanced share under SSA in the Eleventh Plan? What steps should be taken to increase the Gross Enrollment Ratio for higher and technical education from the present about 10% to at least 15% by the end of the Eleventh Plan? Despite increased outlays, we are still quite far from the goal of spending 6% of GDP on education, which has been reiterated in the Approach paper to the Eleventh Plan. How best can this responsibility be equitably shared between the Centre and the states? How to improve quality of higher education, especially in state-funded colleges and universities? How to  maximise use of ICT, including EDUSAT to widen access and improve quality of education at various stages? The discussion also included many other aspects like minority education and vocational education in the country.

Points of consensus emerged

Constructive discussion on the major issues raised by the Central and various State Governments, resulted in some broad consensus based action points.

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