Monday, August 2, 2010

Mr. Kapil Sibal's Vision for Education

The Hon. Minister for Human Resources Development floored the audience at the Indo- American Summit on Saturday, with his eloquent vision for education. The highlights of his speech:

1. 21st century stands for Science, Solutions and Sustainability. Education is all about sustainable solutions for mankind. For the first time in human history, resources available with nature are perhaps inadequate for sustenance. Solutions can be found through collaboration.

2. Inclusive education agenda is required for inclusive economic growth. If we do not empower 36% of the population with education - the balance 64% of the population will have to subsidise 400mn population. No economy in the world can sustain that kind of subsidy.

3. 220mn children in India go to school. Only 14mn go to college. So, more than 200mn do not go for higher education. No economy can sustain with such numbers. Today we have about 500 universities and 25,000 colleges. Gross Enrolment Ratio of students is 12.4%. If this is to go to 30% by 2020, India needs another 40mn students in colleges - require another 800-1200 universities and another 35,000 - 40,000 colleges.

4. We need expansion, inclusion and quality. 100,000 students going to the US is a bad economic model. Many more cannot afford to go to the US - they may even be better than the ones who can afford. If we look at output per $ investment, the same investment in India will generate a lot more output. This is not a new economic model - it has already been done in manufacturing and services, where the the US have invested in China and India to enhance their competitiveness. In education, it is better to invest the dollar where the human resource is, rather than have the human resource go to where the investment is. Better to set up colleges in India and send faculty to India, rather than expect that 5-10mn people will travel to the US - because they will never be able to afford going to the US.

5. In the US, there are a total of 75,000 engineers. In India, Bangalore alone has 65,000 engineers. This is the rationale for the economic model. Need to view the business opportunity in a new way. Like the couple who came to Mumbai and decided to offer IB program in municipal schools for children of tea vendors. Children of that school are going to Yale and other parts of the world.

6. I cannot give a $100 computer to children. It is not a sustainable solution for India. What is sustainable in west may not work here. A nano car is sustainable here. Empowerment with sustainable solutions calls for such cost-effectiveness in education.

7. Unions in education institutions under colonial rule were part of the freedom struggle. But today, in education institutions, we need unions for empowerment of the minds. Need to change from being obstructive to being constructive.

8. Universities need the freedom and creativity. Need to challenge the past. If some one had not challenged the laws of gravity, we will never have flown.

9. We also need a society that tolerates dissent; a mind that is sensitive.

My comments:
After the minister left, many of the speakers were back to minutae based on blinkered thinking. One young member of the audience rightly asked one of the speakers - if we are the big segment that you are worried about, why don't you get more of us in the education-related committees?

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