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English should be taught from grade one, says Sam Pitroda

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Sam Pitroda Photo: K. Gopinathan
Sam Pitroda Photo: K. Gopinathan

Special Correspondent

Bangalore: Expressing concern over the decline in the number of students pursuing doctorate studies, degrees in science and technology, and mathematics, Sam Pitroda, Chairman of the National Knowledge Commission (NKC), on Thursday said that if the trend were not reversed, India's resource pool of teachers would dry up.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Confederation of Indian Industry's (CII's) "Partnership Summit 2007" here, Mr. Pitroda reaffirmed the view of the commission that English should be taught from grade one. He emphasised that the role of teachers had to be re-examined. "We have to train new teachers and also change the incentives offered to them," he said.

Mr. Pitroda, who justified the commission's recommendation to the Government to gradually increase higher education fees because "people will pay for good quality education", said that qualified but economically poor students should be offered scholarships and other forms of funding. He said that about 80,000 Indian students go abroad every year for higher studies, paying fees that are 100 times or even 200 times more than that in India.

Mr. Pitroda said that private participation, foreign universities and higher educational institutions "should be invited and encouraged" for India to increase higher education enrolment from the existing seven per cent to 15 per cent.

The commission has recommended that the Government set up an independent regulatory authority for higher education.

The commission would work with various State Governments on knowledge initiatives and the implementation of primary education. Stating that the only capital that India has is "human capital", and was also the only country in the world were 550 million were aged less than 25, he said that access to knowledge was of importance.

Elaborating on the commission's recommendation to set up a national knowledge (electronic) network that would have a bandwidth of 1 GB and connect 5,000 nodes across universities, libraries, science and technology, and health laboratories, Mr. Pitroda said that it would widen the access to knowledge and enable collaboration and sharing of data. "It would come into force within six months of being approved," he added.

Citing the spheres of biotechnology and telecom manufacturing as areas for growth, he said that the projected demand for mobile phones (from 150 million to around 500 million in the next five years) would be a major gain for India if it planned for telecom manufacturing infrastructure in a big way.

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