The conference will focus on key issues that confront the education scenario.

The four-day 14th All India Conference of the Students Federation of India (SFI) will focus on key issues that confront the education scenario in the country -- commercialisation and centralisation. It will come out with documents spelling out its stand on the various initiatives of the Union Government to commercialise education, along with an agenda of action.

Addressing a press conference on the eve of the conference here on Monday, the SFI’s general secretary, Ritabrata Banerjee, said that the government was keen on opening up the Indian education sector to foreign universities. This should not happen in a country where only about 10 per cent of people in the 17-25 age group had access to higher education. In developing nations, it was about 24 per cent.

The government, he said, was not inclined to increase budgetary allocation for education but claimed that the entry of foreign universities would improve the quality of education. Mr. Banerjee pointed out that a list of 144 probable institutions entering India did not contain any premier university like Oxford, Cambridge or Harvard. Among the list, 44 institutions were declared illegal in their country of origin. Eminent educationists opposed the entry of foreign universities in India and even Israel did not want institutions from outside to enter its country.

The SFI, Mr. Banerjee said, was opposed to the move to centralise educational institutions and wanted education to be in the State List. The conference would also discuss democratisation of educational institutions and equitable access to education. Though the country, which had the highest number of child workers in the world, had a Right to Education Act, the government did not provide monetary allocation for its implementation, he said.

The SFI’s president, P. K. Biju, MP, said that the organisation strongly opposed nine Bills on education waiting for ratification by Parliament. The government’s move to privatise education would affect children belonging to rural areas and backward sections of society.

SFI’s State president, K. S. Kanakaraj, accused the Tamil Nadu government of diluting the Right to Education Act by not taking any steps to enforce it. It did not initiate any action against educational institutions collecting excess fee. Both the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam did not oppose the legislations sought to be implemented for privatisation of education in the country.

A torch relay taken out from Kumbakonam, in memory of children who lost their lives in a school fire, reached Madurai on Monday. The conference begins on Tuesday with students’ rally and a public meeting to be addressed by N. Sankaraiah, freedom fighter, and Sitaram Yechury, former president of SFI.

More In: Madurai