Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee here on Wednesday said the government did not have adequate resources to expand higher education on its own, making it necessary for private players to take on a bigger role in future.
Mr. Mukherjee was speaking at the 11th convocation ceremony of the Bharati Vidyapeeth Deemed University here, which also conferred on him a D.Litt. (Honoris Causa) degree.
“With limited resources that the government has, it would not be possible for the government alone to achieve the target of increasing gross enrolment ratio up to 30 per cent. It would, therefore, be necessary to promote private initiative in higher education further,” he said.
The Minister expressed disappointment at the fact that the general enrolment in higher education remained “much lower than expected.” The government would continue to work towards structural transformation in the education sector to ensure expansion, as it considered education as not only a vehicle of growth but also an instrument to ensure social justice.
“Education acts as a liberating force to fight against poverty and hindrances to growth.” The government served as a driver for economic growth in the form of knowledge or “intellectual capital.” It took the initiative to establish the National Knowledge Network based on the recommendation of the National Knowledge Commission to interconnect all knowledge institutions through high-speed communication networks.
At the same time, it was necessary to go in for a skill-acquiring system fro a degree-seeking system. For this, the Prime Minister's council on National Skill Development had set itself a target of creating 50 crore skilled people by 2022. A beginning was made with the approval of three projects by the National Skill Development Corporation, a public-private sector initiative to create 10 lakh skilled manpower at the rate of 1 lakh per annum.
Speaking about the state of the Indian economy, Mr. Mukherjee said, “Our growth story is going through an exciting phase. We have weathered the global economic crisis well and the economy now is in a better position than it was a year ago. India has emerged from an unprecedented global slowdown faster than any other nation.”
The government was seeking to quickly revert to the high Gross Domestic Product growth path of 9 per cent and then find the means to cross the double-digit growth barrier. An important challenge of economic growth was to make development more inclusive. “Economic growth has to be an instrument for development and not an end in itself.”
The Minister said there was need to strengthen food security, improve education opportunities and provide health facilities at the level of households, both in rural and urban areas.
If there was one factor that could hold back India's potential, it was the bottlenecks of the public delivery mechanisms, he added.