India will need at least 800 more universities and another 35,000 colleges in the next ten years to increase the percentage of students going for higher education from the present 12.4 per cent in the country, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal said here today.

“India has about 480 universities and about 22,000 colleges. If we were to increase that figure of 12 per cent to 30 per cent, we will need another 800 to a thousand universities in the next ten years. We will need another 35,000 colleges in the next ten years... we are still below 40 per cent which I think is critical,” he said.

Mr. Sibal was speaking at the first contact group meeting of Parliamentarians for Education of the UNESCO South Asia Cluster, in which delegates from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka and other south Asian countries participated.

Highlighting the importance of human resource development, Mr. Sibal said, “When the global economy is doing well and the stock market is in the upswing, the developed nations share their prosperity with us.” But it is not the case when global economy is not doing well and the stock market is on decline, he said.

“And I think that if we in this part of the world recognise the facts, we will realise how important education is for a developing economy,” he said.

Mr. Sibal said the energy of a nation ultimately depends on its youth. “The energy of a nation does not depend on parliamentarians who are over 60 years,” he said.

He said that in the 21st century, acquisition of physical or tangible assets will not be the wealth of any country but it will be the acquisition of intangible assets which are created not in the stock market but in the university system of nations.

“We need to ensure that a critical mass of students moves into the university system,” Mr. Sibal said, adding that the gross enrolment rate of education is the factor that makes all the difference between a developed and a developing country.

In developed countries, the percentage of children moving into the university system between the age group of 18 - 24 years is above 40 and in some parts of the developed nations the figure is 53, he said. “In India the figure is 12.4 per cent against the global average of 23,” Mr. Sibal pointed out.

The minister underlined that development of quality human resource is at the heart of achieving education for all and other development goals. “If we have economy moving at the rate of eight, nine or 10 per cent and do not develop a potential human resource, then there will be a mismatch between the economy and those who have the potential to serve this economy... and we cannot afford that,” Mr. Sibal said.

“And therefore when we talk about investments in primary and secondary education, we are constantly talking about the fact that there is not enough faculty...,” he said.

Mr. Sibal said the global community has failed to realise that human resource anywhere in the world is critical to global economy. “The more young people you have within the university structure, more mobility and civilisational dialogue you have, the more will be the potential for that creativity which will energise the world and in a sense ultimately benefit the global community,” he said.

Asserting that that it is quality in education that matters and not the quantity, Mr. Sibal said, “We have to look at meeting development goal in primary secondary education, but how do we move up the ladder has to be thought about.”

Suggesting changes in teaching and learning processes, he said, “We are caught in a static educational system that existed over the last 60 - 70 years... it’s time to wake up.”

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Ensuring quality educationApril 6, 2010