Shri SC khuntia
Joint secretary, ministry of human resource development, government of inda
Shri SC Khuntia, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Human Resrouce Development in conversation with Rajeshree Dutta Kumar and Yukti Pahwa, on government’s perspective towards Right to Education (RTE), Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan, role of ICT in leveraging opportunities in education sector, etc.
What are the challenges and opportunities in the current education scenario?
India is a country with a large young population. Therefore, there is immense opportunity to develop human resources and education would be a potent tool for the same. While education develops the personality and empowers, it also has a direct role in skill development for an emerging economy. The changing nature of society and economy are challenges which can be converted into opportunities by our country. There is a large literacy gap that needs to be bridged, and the Right to Education Act providing for education upto the elementary level for every child in the country will enable this to happen. The second set of problems is the mis-match between demand and supply of skills. Further, the demand for skill is not static as the nature of skill requirement keeps on changing along with the technological progress. Therefore, there is a need to impart 21st century skills. The skill gap not only exists in India but also in developed countries where demographic transition has resulted in shortage of people in the working age. So there is a great opportunity for Indian youth to be trained in the skills that are required both in and outside the country.
With RTE into motion, what are the challenges being faced for its implementation? Please tell us about its relevance.
The Right to Education Act was notified to take effect from 1st April 2010. The mandate now is to ensure that every child in the age of 6 to 14 is in school. The challenge is not only to enroll the child but to retain the child in school by imparting quality education, so that education becomes purposeful for the children, their parents and the community at large. Secondly, education needs to be child-centric and joyful if we need to improve retention in the school. Fortunately, we have been able to cover almost the entire country with neighbourhood schools at the primary and upper primary level within a distance of one kilometer and three kilometers respectively. The challenge now is to ensure retention and achievement of learning outcome through quality interventions. Then only the real purpose of the right to education legislation can be satisfied.
How do you see ICT’s role amidst above?
ICT has a key role to play in improving access, in ensuring quality and in enhancing quality. Use of ICT in the teaching learning process will bring about conceptual clarity to students. Teacher’s continuous professional development can also get a big boost through use of ICT and internet connectivity. This will help in maintaining teaching quality in remote places. This of course does not mean that teachers can be dispensed with. But teachers will be able to use quality material during teaching and would supplement the same with their own interventions and interaction with the students.
“There is a large literacy gap that needs to be bridged, and the Right to Education Act providing for education upto the elementary level for every child in the country will enable this to happen.”
Yours views on Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan.
Once the children complete the elementary stage of education, they would like to progress to the secondary stage if they and their parents are convinced that it would equip them to have a life of higher quality. Since, Right to Education Act is already in force, it is expected that there would be much larger number of children who would be completing the elementary stage.
This would result in a surging demand for secondary education. Therefore, the critical factor is to ensure that all children complete their elementary education and are given opportunity to continue secondary education. RMSA provides a framework to enable this by providing a school within 5 kilometers of every habitation and also ensures that all schools satisfy the norms and standards prescribed. There is a special emphasis on removal of disparity arising out of gender, geographical location, disability or socio economic backwardness. There is a strong emphasis on simultaneous improvement in both access and quality while ensuring equity.
Your views on relevance of ICT in school programmes? Why do we need these different flagship programmes?
Use of ICT in school education is capable of providing a paradigm change in the educational process. It is a powerful tool to achieve the educational objectives more effectively. Therefore, a specialized scheme “ICT @ schools” has been launched with the twin objectives of developing ICT competency and (ii) imparting ICT enabled education. All secondary and higher secondary schools in the country would be enabled to have optimal ICT infrastructure and connectivity to ensure that all the secondary and higher secondary students achieve a minimum level of competency in use of ICT. The scheme would also ensure that all subject teachers use ICT as an effective tool in imparting education in respective subjects to the students. At the present stage of development, a programme of this kind is meant to provide an impetus for all schools to leverage technology for its qualitative growth. Usage of ICT should become an integral part of the educational process and transaction in all schools.