Meghalaya, one of the Seven Sisters state is always recognised for its beauty and grace and has now and again been alluded to as ‘the abode of clouds’. The state’s literacy rate figures 63.31% according to the census report of 2001. The state has one central university located at Shillong, besides a few professional colleges. Like all other states in the country, Meghalaya has also adopted the policy of free and compulsory education for its students up to the age of 14. The state also follows a uniform system of education i.e. the 10+2 system as followed in other states of the country.
Robert Garnett Lyngdoh, the Minister of Higher and Technical education, Meghalaya, discusses more about education, technology and policy matters of this beautiful State.
Could you please give a brief introduction on the education scenario in Meghalaya, with particular emphasis on technology? Is higher education affordable to all? How is the job market for college graduates? Does Meghalaya also put emphasis on technology aided education in higher education?
Over the last few decades, Shillong has earned itself a reputation as the hub of education in the North-Eastern region. Students come from all the States in the North-East to pursue their studies here. It is precisely for this reason that the Central Government set up the North Eastern Hill University in Shillong, to cater to the growing needs of the students of the region. Presently, two new institutions are coming up in Shillong, viz., the North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Sciences (NEIGRIHMS), a referral hospital and post-graduate institute on the lines of AIIMS, and the Indian Institute of Management (IIM). Besides these, a number of private institutes, like NIIT, APTECH, etc., have also set up centers in Shillong.
The Govt of Meghalaya has been laying special emphasis on technology in the State. As you can see from the above, there are ample opportunities of pursuing further studies within the State and the cost of education in the State is affordable. The College graduates in the State have the opportunity to undergo value added training programmes, either while pursuing their degree or post-degree. However, due to the fact that employment opportunities in the private sector are limited within the State, most are absorbed in various industries outside the State. The State Government has made tremendous inroads, over the last few years, to ensure that the products of the Schools and Colleges are technology savvy and the Government has spared no efforts to ensure that the state of art facilities are provided to the students both in the urban and the rural areas.
In your tenure as an education minister, how do you review the implementation of educational policies and practices?
The Education scenario in the State does need a new impetus to propel it forward to meet new challenges of the future. Students have to be given the right skills to enable them to successfully meet the needs of the future. Besides this, there is an urgent need to make sure that classroom lessons are practically implemented in the community. Towards this end, the Government has adopted new paradigms by taking innovative approaches and qualifying hands on experiences and field studies as an imperative where the students would gain additional knowledge through field experiences. The Operational Values, where students implement what they learn by working with the community, and Project Sustainability, where in departments give impetus to vocational training, are some of the steps being taken by the department to propel this dream forward.
How is education in Meghalaya preparing individuals and society to benefit from ICT?
The synergy that we see through the education department and the IT department will ensure that the students are exposed to the realities of cutting edge technology. The schools right from the elementary sector, are equipped with computers installed through the Computer Aided Learning (CAL) under the banner of the SSA. The Secondary schools through the EFC award and the CLASS project are also implementing computer learning processes. Besides, we have a project under EDUSAT, which would be used for classroom teaching using high end technological tools. The students are, therefore, well equipped to tackle the challenges of new technology.
What are so far the consequences of an ICT-integrated curriculum and the use of ICT in occupational practice on the attainment targets of education in your State?
We have made a beginning by equipping the students with tools to ensure they have an edge in the new learning processes. The fact that a large number of students from the State are working in BPOs/KPOs and software development parks outside the State speaks volume of the achievement of the state. We are further endeavoring to benchmark the educational standards to higher levels so that placement offers would increase in the future.
The Central Government set up the North Eastern Hill University in Shillong, to cater to the growing needs of the students of the region. The schools right from the elementary sector, are equipped with computers installed through the Computer Aided Learning (CAL) under the banner of the SSA. The Secondary schools through the EFC award and the CLASS project are also implementing computer learning processes. Besides, we have a project under EDUSAT, which would be used for classroom teaching using high end technological tools. The students are, therefore, well equipped to tackle the challenges of new technology.
One of the trends in Centre-State relations has been the increasing financial dependence of states on the Centre. Don’t you think this need to be changed? How can States tackle this?
Due to the resource constraints of small States like ours we have no other option but to depend on the benevolence of the Central Government for acquiring the necessary hardware and software to be utilised by the student community. There is no immediate formula to overcome this malaise and no cut and dried solution right now. Bold policy initiatives to involve the private sector could be one way out, but, considering the fact that the private sector is still very small in the State, this will take time.
How do you see the role of private sector participation in the state’s educational activities? How much support do you get in this line?
We would like to encourage the private sector to come to our State and set up joint ventures especially in areas, which are more job oriented and demand skills where we can leverage on. Partnership under the ITES banner has a lot of incentives as elaborated under the IT Policy, 2004.
Within the ambit of present Centre-State relations guaranteed by the Constitution and in practice, what are the limitations that you face in your functioning as an education minister?
In the field of education, the State is still very dependent on the Central Government for financial support.The emergence of private individuals, as well as private institutions and universities, is a recent phenomenon, which has to be closely monitored and gauged.
In 5 years from now, where do you see Meghalaya going in terms of quality education? What is your vision for the year 2012? What is there in your personal agenda?
In five years, I would like to see education giving the right skills to the youth, through the use of proper manpower training techniques. I would also like to see educational institutions more financially independent. And, lastly, I would like to see that what is being taught in classrooms is being practically implemented for the benefit of society.