Uttarakhand, known as the education hub of the country faces the challenge of last-mile connectivity, but the State Government is determined to overcome it at the earliest, so that all schools and colleges get connected through ICT. The Government is infact focusing on PPP model and wants the private sector to come to Uttarakhand to set up private institutions, says Radhika Jha, Secretary, Higher Education, Government of Uttarakhand, in an exclusive interview 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. It’s a state, which has several premier educational institutions. Whether it is the IAS Academy, Military Academy, Doon School or any other school, our government is keen to leverage advantage of such institutions.
In terms of our people and their temperaments also, 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 have lots of problems in terms of 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. Now 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 webbased classes.
In what other ways the PPP model can benefit the education scenario in the State?
We are in fact focusing on PPP model. When we talk of facilitating a private partner, we want a private partner to come to Uttarakhand. We want the private partners to also look at our local needs in terms of employment opportunities, in terms of 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 also want to arrest migration, we also want the state’s economy to grow.
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. 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 there is lack of such institutions 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.
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. It has good school of life sciences as well. But we also want private sector participation.