Minister of State for Human Resource Development, Government of India
With panchayats playing a significant role in education, there is strengthening of democracy in the country
The education policy in this country stands on three pillars – access, inclusiveness and the quality. In my concerned view, technology could play a very major role in meeting the challenges on all these fronts. The 12th Five-Year Plan envisages to promote several projects that will maximise the potential of access, equity and quality in our education system.
There were only 20 universities and 500 colleges with 0.1 million students when India gained independence. Now, we have 611 universities and university level institutions and 31,324 colleges as on August 2011 making it one of the largest education systems of India. We have also been devoted to ensuring that even the deprived sections of the society are able to reap the benefits of higher education.
The Right to Education Act, which binds the State governments to provide school in every neighbourhood has now become a major force in helping us tackle the issue of access to quality education.
De-centralisation has been opted as the best possible method for effective implementation of this Act. Being consistent to the 73rd and the 74th amendments of the Constitution of India, the Panchayats have now been given the responsibility of managing the school system. As decided, the school management committee shall comprise of 75 percent of local community members. Today it is the state governments are supposed to provide most of the funding needed for education. Since independence, it is the central government that has assumed the cost of educational development through the system of Five Year Plans.
Education is vital for human resource development and empowerment. While the Government is committed to providing primary education and certain facilities/subsidies for higher education, given the higher cost involved in the establishment of higher education institutes, we are witnessing the entry of private sector to run educational institutions.
The immediate task is to find the solutions for teacher availability, especially in the rural areas and to fill in the gap of five lakh teachers that the country is in need of. Technology can play an extremely enabling role in providing access to mentors all over the world.
Similar challenges exist in the higher education sector also. According to a report presented to UN by the UGC, India currently has only half of the required strength of faculty for higher education. It needs around 3 lakh more professors. The Indian Institutes ofTechnology and the National Institutes of Technology face faculty shortage of 30-35 percent. The central universities face at least 30 percent shortage of teachers.
To meet these challenges, the Government of India has proposed to launch a National Mission on Teachers. This mission will address comprehensively all issues related to teachers’ training, teachers’ preparation and the professional development. This will be the major thrust area of action during the 12th Five-Year Plan.
In the past couple of years many colleges and universities have been actively engaged in integrating technology in teaching and learning. The institutions must make necessary human and financial investments, as well as faculty investments for existing and future faculty. When it comes to new technology, there are challenges galore. The teachers who are used to traditional teaching methodologies have to be trained to use the new system. But new educational technologies are the wave of the future, and it is in our best interests to imbibe it to the fullest extent.