Subhash C Khuntia
Joint Secretary, Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India
Shri Subhash C Khuntia, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Human Resource Development, shares with digital Learning, in an exclusive interview, his vision on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) practices in school education, the role of innovation in schools and his department`s commitment to present a policy framework on ICT in school education.
The Eleventh Five Year Plan has raised allocation to the education sector in a very big way. This sector now constitutes almost one fifth of the Plan size with an allocation of Rs 6000 crore for the use of ICT in schools.
This year, in 2009, it would be 25 years post initiation of computers in Indian schools. This is an occasion that we should celebrate. How do you assess CLASS – as a success or a failure! Is it contributing to the present day demands in terms of new ICT initiatives, vision, etc?
CLASS was one of the earliest attempts in the country to use ICT for education and was limited in its scope and scale. Every new attempt takes time to sink into the collective psyche and prepares the population for bigger things. Considering these aspects, I would not call it either a failure or a grand success. It was project that has ushered in the concept that ICT can be used to improve the quality of education.
How do you support the adoption of the principles like enhanced learning, engaging all stakeholders, making effective use of resources through policies? Do you see a continued emphasis on school planning in lines of the above issues?
The Internet and the availability of massive amount of information on various topics has resulted in participative learning, collaborative development of learning resources and anytime-anywhere learning. Thus there is a paradigm change occurring in the concept of teaching and learning. From deliverers of education, teachers are transforming to facilitators in learning by students. Use of ICT will further focus on concepts like enhanced and continuous learning through optimal use of resources. Future schools need to be planned to take advantage of this through adoption of appropriate and sound policies.
What has been the trend of investment in school education? What are the special efforts made in judicious utilisation of the budget in different ICT programmes and initiatives?
The public investment in education in India has been of the order of 3.5 to 4.0 per cent of GDP in the last several years. This is not considered adequate, and our aim is to raise it to 6.0 per cent in the next few years. The school education will then absorb 4.5 to 5.0 per cent of GDP, which would enable giving a boost to the aspects of expansion, excellence and inclusion. The Eleventh Five Year Plan has raised allocation to the education sector in a very big way. This sector now constitutes almost one fifth of the Plan size, whereas the proportion was less than one tenth in the Tenth Plan. This is timely as the world over, there is an acute need for skilled manpower, and the demographic advantage that our country enjoys can be harnessed if human capital is developed through education. During the Eleventh Plan, there is an allocation of Rs 6000 crore for use of ICT in schools whereas the outlay during the Tenth Plan was only Rs 800 crore. During this plan, the utilisation of budget provision has been almost total and sanctions have so far been given for coverage of more than 50,000 schools. We plan to cover almost all Government and Government aided secondary and higher secondary schools in the country during the Eleventh Plan. The twin objectives are computer education and computer-aided education, i.e., to provide computer education to all high school students and to make all high school teachers to teach their respective subjects using ICT.
A policy on ICT in school education is long overdue. With the new government speeding up the reform process, and also under your able leadership (that has helped initiating the policy dialogue in the recent past) are we expecting to see the policy framework/document in place?
The new Minister of Human Resource Development, Shri Kapil Sibal has already announced preparation of a draft National Policy of ICT in School Education as one of the action points for the first 100 days of Government. The draft has already been prepared through a collaborative process and is already available on the Ministry`s website. The draft will be further improved through consultation with various stakeholders and thereafter finalised.
Do you have any advice for the states that would want to blueprint new architecture of school education with innovation?
The States need to transform the architecture of school education to make use of the tremendous power of ICT in improving the standard of education and in enhancing access and equity. The States also need to be flexible in their approach in the face of rapid technological change that is taking place. Therefore, innovation has to be the buzz word in educational reform.
The new Minister of Human Resource Development, Shri Kapil Sibal has already announced preparation of a draft National Policy of ICT in School Education as one of the action points for the first 100 days of Government.
What do you hope to accomplish in your current role in the Ministry for school education?
The overriding concern is not only to universalise elementary education, but to push the vision further to be in a position to universalise education up to secondary level (class 10, age 16) by 2017, i.e. end of the Twelfth Five Year Plan. This would involve not only access, but quality with equity. Improvement of quality is quite important as that will reduce drop out rate and prepare many more for higher education or for work place where skill is essential. Only then can we build a more just and equitable society, where the citizens can take advantage of their knowledge and skill so that the country can reduce poverty, improve the standard of living and take its rightful place in the comity of nations.