We need to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio to 30 p.c., says Oscar

The country’s biggest challenge is to empower teachers so India can be an economic and intellectual power in the near future, Union Minister for Transport, Roads and Highways Oscar Fernandes told a conference of teachers from more than 20 States here on Saturday.

“For this to happen, we need to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio to 30 per cent,” the Minister said at the inauguration of the three-day 27th Statutory Conference of All India Federation of University and College Teachers’ Organisations (AIFUCTO).

He urged the teachers to motivate students to opt for research. “For every doctoral student we have, China has 10 times more. This is a challenge we have to face,” he said. However, Mr. Fernandes said the warning issued by Barack Obama, President of the United States, to students there to rise up to the challenge of competition from students from India, demonstrated the potential of the students.

The Minister saw an increased role for private institutes in increasing GER – a partnership with the government where teachers are paid for by the state, while the infrastructure is developed by private players.

However, AIFUCTO president Tarun Kumar Patra, believed that it was a wrong mindset that only private institutes can reform the system. “Neo-liberal economic conditions, privatisation, commercialisation and commoditisation of higher education in the global market have emerged as major threats to the access, equity and quality. Private and foreign education providers are invited by the government to enter the arena of higher education in India for profiteering,” he said.

Pay remains the greatest issue among teachers, with 80 per cent of the arrears between 2006 and 2010 still pending, Mr. Patra said. Other issues were deprivation of increments for those who have done their M.Phil./PhD, withdrawal of pension scheme for teachers in most States, meagre pay for contract or part-time teachers, the organisation said.

Light at the end of tunnel

Union Minister for Transport, Roads and Highways Oscar Fernandes is hoping for a “significant” development in the tunnel project of Mangalore-Bangalore highway — which is a proposed collaboration with the Japanese Republic — during the visit of Emperor Akihito in the coming week.

“We can achieve some progress of it during the Indo-Japanese summit…Meanwhile, I have arranged for meetings with various highway development officials, and we are looking into the State’s request to set up a separate corporation for the project,” he said. He also dismissed allegations of a few legislators that he was doing “little for his home state”.

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