U’khand Seeks PPP Push to Education: Radhika Jha

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Radhika Jha, Secretary, Higher Education, Government of Uttarakhand

The last-mile connectivity is a major challenge in Uttarakhand, but the State Government is determined to overcome it at the earliest, so that all schools and colleges get connected through ICT. The Government wants the private sector to pitch in to make Uttarakhand an education hub, says Radhika Jha, Secretary, Higher Education, Government of Uttarakhand, in an interaction with Gautam Debroy of Elets News Networks (ENN)

What is the overall scenario of education sector in Uttarakhand?

Uttarakhand as a State is very favourably placed. It is the State, which is actually known as the education hub of the country and has several premier educational institutions. Whether it is IAS Academy, Military Academy, Doon School or any other school, our Government is keen to leverage advantage of such institutions.

In terms of people and their temperaments, we have a lot of interest towards education. There are some great personalities, who hailed from Uttarakhand. So, our Government wants to make Uttarakhand the hub of higher and school education. The Government is also taking steps to encourage private institutions to invest in Uttarakhand. If the level of education is higher, the overall growth of a state follows.

What is the extent of use of ICT in the education sector of Uttarakhand?

We have not done so well in ICT, as we could have done. In schools, we have made a good start in terms of upper primary and secondary education. We have computer labs in lots of our schools. But we there are problems regarding electricity, infrastructure, etc. There are several areas in our State which are remotely located, but our Government is very keen. Our Chief Secretary reviews the situation every fortnight, along with the Secretary-IT, Secretary-School Education and Secretary- Higher Education to explore the possibilities of taking the IT infrastructure to the remotest corner of the State.

The last-mile connectivity is, in fact, a challenge for us, but we are determined to accomplish that, so that all our schools and colleges get connected through ICT. In higher education, we have a good programme called EDUSAT. Through this system, our teachers can deliver live lectures to a number of colleges, even if no teacher is present at a particular time in a given college. The State Government is in a mood to review the EDUSAT, so that each and every college in the remotely located areas can avail the facility through the web-based classes.

In what other ways the PPP model can benefit the education scenario in the State?

We are focusing on the PPP model. When we talk of facilitating a private partner, we want it to come to Uttarakhand. We also want the private partners to look at our local needs in terms of employment opportunities, demand and supply, etc. We encourage them and facilitate them, because if you have good educational institutes and job opportunities in your own State, people will not migrate. Apart from ensuring development, we want to arrest migration and also want the State’s economy to grow.

How can private players help in developing the education sector of Uttarakhand?

Uttarakhand is one of the pioneering States in this sector as far as encouraging private universities to come here is concerned. We have a single- window clearance system available for private universities. Also, we have given lots of relaxation to the private players interested in setting up educational institutions in the hills. There is a high density of these institutions in the plain areas, but these also lack in the upper reaches per say. So, the Government is pro-actively encouraging the private players to come to the State.

In fact, we do it in a collaborative way. If any private player comes, we make them understand the vision of our Government, so that they could adjust to our aspirations. We always encourage private players. However, we make sure that if a private institution comes up, it must give priority to admission of the local people.

Uttarakhand is one of the pioneering states in the education sector as far as encouraging private universities to come here is concerned. We have a single- window clearance system available to facilitate private universities

Does Uttarakhand see a large number of students going to other states to pursue higher studies?

This is true. In fact, we have a peculiar situation; people from all across the country come to Uttarakhand to get school education, as we have some very good schools in Mussoorie, Dehradun and Nainital. But for college education, our students go to places like Delhi, Mumbai, etc. This is really a matter of concern for the Government.

We want to maintain that edge which we have in terms of school education. So, our Government has decided to set up very good universities. We have the University of Energy and Petroleum Studies, which is one of the finest universities in the energy sector in the country and has very good placements. We have Sanskrit Vishwavidyalaya, which is doing very good in its domain. We need to have many more specialised universities, so that there is fewer outward movement of students.

We, in fact, want to attract people from neighbouring states and countries to our educational institutions. Uttarakhand boasts of the Doon University, which is based on the pattern of JNU. It has very good schools of language and management, along with good school of life sciences. But, we are also looking for private sector participation.

Elets Technomedia is coming to Dehradun with eUttarakhand event. What is your view on that?

I think it is an excellent initiative. Usually, I keep myself limited to the government programmes and government forums. But, it is a platform where people from both government and private sector come and share their views. So, such events present an opportunity for the government to understand the private players’ concerns better. As we share our experiences, we understand and share lot many good things. In fact, we can improve our functioning by attending these kind of events, which are very informative and interactive.

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