How do you rate the present situation of school education in India? Do you think India is moving in the right direction when it comes to working with the government of a developing nation in building more efficient education systems?
The present education scenario is a mixed one with some very high quality educational institutions co-existing with others where the quality is not acceptable. However, Indian education system has certain inherent strengths because of which Indian skilled manpower are in demand abroad. The new National Curriculum Framework for School Education, introduced in 2005, seeks to make learning enjoyable with focus on conceptual clarity and development of analytical ability.
What are your plans for government schools in the current academic year?
The plan is for all-round improvement of the school system. Under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the objective is to universalise elementary education (upto class VIII) with focus on quality improvement so as to improve the learning outcome of students. A similar country-wide programme to universalise access to secondary education and to improve quality is envisaged.
What are the challenges in universalisation of secondary education in the country? And how do you go about dealing with them?
Only 40% of children of age 15-18 are presently attending secondary schools (class 9-12). To participate in the knowledge economy of the 21st century, this must go up significantly. Our target is to enhance the gross enrolment ratio for classes 9-10 from 52% to 75% in 5 years, so that the ultimate goal of ensuring 10 years of school education for every child can be met in 10 years’ time. The challenges are many and can be broadly categorised under issues involving access, equity and quality. There is need to provide access to quality secondary education for all sections of the population. Disparities based on gender, socio-economic condition, rural-urban location and disability need to be eliminated so that education can become truly inclusive.
What is your thought behind the schools (government and aided schools) reform to publish all their records, the attendance reports, progress, and other management and teaching learning information online? What are the measures the government has taken in this direction?
All schools need to be transparent and accountable. As a first step, Central Board of Secondary Education developing guidelines for disclosure of relevant information by every school affiliated with it for the benefit of parents and the public at large. The schools will be encouraged to maintain their web-sites with certain core information. This will be extended to other schools progressively.
How do you plan to address the problem of non-performing government schools with ICTs explored further?
This problem has to be addressed using a multi-pronged strategy comprising sound policies for provision of necessary infrastructure, deployment of teachers and their motivation, and not the least improvement of the level of school governance through community participation. Use of ICT can greatly improve the effectiveness of these schools by making high quality material available to the students and by making the learning enjoyable. We plan to have desktops with broadband/Internet connectivity in all secondary and higher secondary schools in the country by the end of the 11th Five Year Plan.
There are many who are pessimistic about the state of the country’s education system? What would you like to say them?
I am optimistic about the future of our country in the field of education. Despite the prevailing level of poverty and illiteracy, the upward mobility visible in the society as a direct result of education is unprecedented. This new found confidence among the young is a very positive sign. The quality and reach of education will definitely respond to this newly created demand. Use of ICT will hasten this process to a great extent.