If the Modi government’s assurance of fulfilling the promises made in the election manifesto is anything to go by, then the education sector, right from the primary level, is in for a revamp.
The manifesto describes education as the “most powerful tool” for the advancement of the nation and the “most potent weapon” to fight poverty.
Among the announcements of the Modi government in its first 100 days have been the intent to strengthen education for all, provide modern education for minorities, improve higher education through the setting up of new IITs and IIMs and give a fillip to research. The government announced the scrapping of the Four-Year Undergraduate Programme of Delhi University, which had left the academic world divided, in the interests of students.
While all these announcements have been welcomed, the government’s intent to revitalise and reorganise curriculum that will “make future generations proud of their culture, heritage and history and also for creating confidence in the vitality of India” are being received with scepticism.
Declarations made by non-governmental organisations such as the Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti about rewriting textbooks have put the government on the back foot as concerns are being expressed about the authenticity of the content it suggests for the books.
As the government tries to prevent the alleged “saffronisation” of education from dominating the discourse, the spotlight is also on issues that need immediate attention. For instance, with 6,06,191 teacher’s posts lying vacant at the primary level both in the State sector and under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the government has its task cut out.
Faculty shortage in institutes of higher learning, even the IITs, paucity of funds for research and disconnect between the industry and the education sector are the other areas that will need work on a war footing.
Training the teachers is yet another area that needs reforms as does the teacher-student ratio.
While the Prime Minister has spelt out the link between education for the youth and employment, skill development and education programmes to produce an employable workforce are also on the new government’s agenda.
He has offered clues on how to bridge that gap. In July 2013, addressing the students of Fergusson College in Pune as Chief Minister of Gujarat, he said: “A huge amount of Indian currency is spent to buy imported weapons for the security of the nation. Why? Friends, don’t we have such engineers in the country, don’t we have that mettle, or don’t we have that talent that can make defence equipment on our own, which not only protect our nation but can also be sold to the world, and make the common man of India feel proud. In the engineering colleges of India, there is no subject of defence engineering.”
India’s growing need for skilled professionals will also have to be addressed as it is anticipated that five lakh skilled workers will be needed over the next 10 years in various sectors such as aviation, food processing, automobiles and healthcare; the percentage of skilled workers in India is just 6.7 per cent as compared to China’s 50 per cent and European Union’s 75 per cent.