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Quality 'Shiksha' For All

Despite a number of criticisms from opposition, policies and measures of this government have been vocal enough to show 'education' as one of the important pillars of the system. The next few years however, will exhibit the degree of implementation and the changes towards addressing the demographic dividend of the country

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Sabko Shiksha, Achhi Shiksha, (quality education for all), as promised by the Modi Government following substitution of Smriti Irani's seat with that of Prakash Javadekar in July 2016, categorically implied the government's sincere and colossal emphasis in making education the tower of strength of the country today and tomorrow.

Kai Chan, a distinguished fellow of INSEAD Innovation and Policy Initiative, in a recent article analyzing a comparative between absolute number of elite schools in a country to the share of national universities in that particular country, analyzed "India - soon to be the world's most populous nation - has just seven globally-ranked schools, representing less than 1% of its universities." Moreover, he added, "Although the correlation between share of globally-ranked schools and average GMAT score is not strong (? = 0.218), it is nevertheless positive and statistically different from zero. Moreover, if China and India were excluded from the sample, the relationship has a much tighter fit."

All the above, demonstrably realizes the need for creating world class institutions in the country, especially, since India makes most to these elite institutions outside the country.

Starting at School Education:
This gigantic sector encompasses about 22 lakh schools, 1.25 lakh government aided schools, 4.5 lakh private aided and unaided schools including ICSE and CBSE schools, 143.51 lakh students and 56.22 lakh teachers. Very few are aware that 50 new Kendriya Vidyalayas were started in the Modi years summing up to a total of 109. 62 Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas were started followed by a lining up of another 27 this academic year. More than 94 Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya are sanctioned for this year encouraging more girl students to study residentially.

Although Right to Education was the then feather on the UPA's cap, the current government's discerning arguments were against the lack of implementation of the act. A series of other policies were also 'corrected' over time. "Beside other developments, I am proud of laying down the learning outcomes from grades 1 up to grade 8. These outcomes are benchmarks for educators and schools that would ensure quality of education at the school level," said Prakash Javadekar, Minister, Department of Human Resource Development.

Another breakthrough change in the Right to Education Act was the no-detention policy. Earlier, this policy allowed the automatic promotion of students till class 8 without being detained despite non-achievement of the passing grade. The new CABE sub-committee set up under the Chairpersonship of Prof. Vasudev Devnani, Minister of Education, Government of Rajasthan, collected and collated the inputs and feedback on no-detention policy to come up with a bill that would detain students in classes 5 and 8 after providing two chances to appear for the examination based on further enhanced instructions. "This is not to punish the students, but to increase accountability of the teachers, schools, parents and the students," says Javadekar. Adding on, class 10 board exams have also been made mandatory for school students.

Enhanced quality instructions demand 'quality of teachers'. Fake B.Ed certificates, multiplication of B.Ed colleges had given it a 'business category' in many tier 2 and tier 3 towns, let aside the metro cities. The country at present records a number of about 7000 Teacher Education colleges. 2017-18 will be a zero year for such colleges as no more new colleges will be allowed certification. Moreover, colleges that fail to submit their affidavit will be given a show cause order.

Going Global with Higher Education:
Traversing from an academy-oriented industry to a closely monitored research oriented industry, the higher education sector have made a remarkable refurbishment of the infrastructure, teaching-learning procedure and industry-academia connect to address the dire need of employability and innovation in the country.

7 new IIMs were started in BodhGaya, Nagpur, Vishakhapatnam, Sirmaur, Amritsar, Sambalpur and Jammu. 6 new IITs were kicked off in Jammu, Bhilai, Haridwar, Goa, Palakkad and Tirupati, IIIT in Padul, 2 IISER Tirupati and Belampur, NIT in Andhra Pradesh and one Central University in Motihari, Bihar.

The vision to create 20 world class universities comprising 10 public owned and 10 privately owned, in 10 years was indeed applauded. The guidelines will be finalized and the position for being 'world class' will be contested on a challenge-mode and not on recommendation.

A 2000 Crore Higher Education Finance Agency was initiated under this government. The vision is to reach a level of 20,000 crore with the budgetary support of the finance agency through deck market. This is planned to be ideally used in the infrastructural and research development.

TEQIP (Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme) has reached its third phase of funding about 2600 crores to Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, BIMARU states (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh), 8 North-eastern states, Orissa, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh and West Bengal.

Another masterstroke of the government in attempting a research-oriented higher education system was the vision to establish 6 Research Parks in the coming years to bridge the industry-academia disconnect.

Allotting 4816 crores to Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA), gathering and funding close to 258 real life projects in 10 domains sanctioned at 595 crores for Impacting Research Innovation and Technology (IMPRINT) programme, Uchhatar Avishkar Yojana (UAY) receiving about 92 projects proposals and 300 faculty and students jointly working on them- are some of the initiatives to push research and problem-solving thinking among academicians.

Although heavily criticized, National Institute Ranking Framework (NIRF) have been the talk of the town for two consecutive years. "Certain things we have come down because of change and add on of criteria. Last year faculty strength was assessed against the student strength. This year, faculty experience was added which is disparaging for a young institution like ours," said Prof. S. K. Das, Director, IIT Ropar.

Outcome of education is said to be a slow process, a behavioural change. Despite of a number of criticisms from opposition, policies and measures of this government have been vocal enough to show 'education' as one of the important pillars of the system. The next few years however, will exhibit the degree of implementation and the changes towards addressing the demographic dividend of the country.

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