|Q: How do you perceive the overall education
scenario in the country to be today?
|A: The fact of the matter is that even after 60
years of Independence, the literacy rate is
64 per cent. According to the 1991 census,
53 per cent of the people of India were literate.
The 2001 census increased the level of literacy
substantially by 11 per cent points, making it 64 per
cent. This means that by 2011, when the next census
will take place, it is very likely that this will go up by
another 15 per cent points. So, I imagine that by the end
of 2011, it will be somewhere between 75 per cent and
78 per cent, which means that if we can go by these figures,
India will achieve whatever kind of literacy that
we are talking about by 2020-2021.
|You need to set
up models of
(PPP), which do
not pressure the
private sector to
set up entire
One of the biggest issues in education in India today
is disparity in the quality of education — between
rural and urban, as well as between government
and public schools.
That’s not quite true. In the US, the public school system
is the state school system and it is not very good. It
depends on which school you are in. If you are in a
school in Harlem, the quality of that school is very bad.
If you have a school which is in one of the suburbs of
the United States, like a suburb of New York, it’s going
to be pretty good. It all depends, quality differs.
By and large, the public school system is not that
good. So, therefore, that’s why a large part of the
income of families goes into educating children in private
schools, which are exceptionally expensive. But
that’s the model. You cannot replicate the model in
India, since a large segment of the ordinary people do
not have the means to educate. So you cannot have a
private school system which caters to higher income
levels. When your GDP per capita is low, you cannot
have a private school system.
|But in Britain, the neighbourhood schools are
Germany too is exceptionally good. But the point is,
again you are talking about huge investments in the
education sector, which in turn means enough budgetary
support. So the problem is, where you want the
state school system to be strong, you need huge
finances. India doesn’t have that. Where you want the
private schools to be strong, you need the GDP per
capita, which is also not there, because that is only limited
to a very small percentage. So you are really
caught between two schools.
So what you then need to do, and that is how we
are approaching — if you have a Right to Education
Bill, and you ensure that quality education is imparted
in these government schools, which are neighborhood
schools, then you are starting to develop a substratum
of human capital which will move up the ladder, once
the Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan is put into place in
the 12th Plan.
Along with this, you need to set up models of public-
private partnership (PPP), which do not pressure the
private sector to set up entire institutions on their own, but, through public-private partnership, allow unique
models for private management and private infrastructure
to come into the school sector. This will not be as
expensive as the American system, and have a school
system which does not require the kind of demands as
the British system.
|So you’re dabbling in something on the lines of the
Absolutely. I will give you a small example. Supposing,
I were to say there are so many dysfunctional
municipal schools (I think the figure in Delhi would be
60-80). Dysfunctional means nothing is happening out
there but you have land. When you set up a school
enterprise, the most expensive thing is land. If you
were to tell the private sector, ‘Okay, this school is dysfunctional
but we will give you the land on a 99-year
lease or a 30-year lease,’ so then you set up a school.
So the most expensive part of the capital cost is taken
care of. So, with this concession that we are giving
you, because your input costs will be much less, you
then serve the state purpose by teaching the students,
who were in that municipal school and who were not
being taught, free of charge.
Have you moved forward on this?
Yes. I have taken these models. Or there’s another model.
You tell the private sector, ‘You build the infrastructure.
You set up a school wherever you want, buy the
land and construct the building — we will pay you on
an annuity basis in the next twenty years the cost of that
building. So you don’t go to the Finance Ministry for
finance. You get that finance from the private sector.’
And then, you tell them, ‘you admit students, and
we will pay you what we spend on a student in a government
school.’ Take for example Kendriya
Vidyalaya. We spend approximately Rs 13,000 per
child. So we pay them that Rs 13,000 per child. So,
your running cost is taken care of. Your capital cost is
taken care of by us, making payments on an annuity
basis. We don’t go to the Finance Ministry; we tap private
capital. And the incentive for the private sector is
that in most of these schools, if they were run by the
government, the attendance rate would have been 50
per cent, but now he is able to have an attendance of 90
per cent, so he earns money for those extra children he
has in school.
That also helps in our social objective of getting
more children into school. And we pay our teachers Rs
20,000 a month, plus house rent allowance and other
benefits, which is not done by the private sector. So, he
will bring down costs for running the school, increase
attendance by getting more money because he will get
Rs 13,000. So he can make a profit and we are saved
the problem of having to go to the Finance Ministry.
And so, you have another model. This is taking meeting
after meeting to put into place.
|Government school teachers are paid very well as
compared to private school teachers, yet the results
of government schools are not good.
You cannot blame the government teachers. There is no
concept of continuous education in the teaching profession.
Technologies have changed. So, one, they need
access to technology. Which government schools have
technology? They are not trained in those technologies.
Our national curriculum framework is not catering
to the needs of the contemporary economy.
|So, whereas the private school system has a modern
curriculum, the state school system does not. So if
you do not empower the teachers, do not have a programme
of continuous training, do not have physical
infrastructure which is modern and a national curriculum
which is contemporary, how, then, do you expect
them to impart quality education?
|So, what we need is regular training of the teachers?
See. India has no choice. If 88 out of 100 children do
not get quality education, we have a national problem
on our hands. A mega problem, which we will not be
able to deal with. And we have a great advantage today
because of the demographic deficit in various countries.
If we are able to build the human resource base
here, we will cater to the needs of India, as well as the
global community. So we will be producers in the
world in the field of education.
|There are 50
per cent vacancies
all over India
of teachers in
the states. So,
whose fault is it?
is that of the
|In terms of teachers, opinion is uniform that 90 per
cent of them are not qualified to teach — one reason
why we produce poor doctors, poor teachers, lacking
Why is that? Very simple. States have stopped
recruiting. There are many states (and I do not want
to name them) which recruit party cadres and bring
them as teachers. Some of them don’t even meet the
basic standards of Class XII. They are part of the
There are 50 per cent vacancies all over India of
teachers in the states. So, whose fault is it? Ultimately,
the primary responsibility in the education sector is
that of the state. The state has not spent the kind of
money over the years as it should have spent. In education,
two-thirds is spent by the state and one-third by the Central Government. We are trying very hard.
kind of investments we have made in education since
2004, no government has ever made in the history of
this country. What are you doing about improving the quality
and standards of education?
Well, under the Right to Education Act, we have a
provision which says that if a teacher does not have
the qualifications provided under the NCT, and if it is
not acquired within the next three years, he won’t
have a job.
What about schools? Are you going to start a system
of their accreditation?
We are setting up a whole accreditation system. There
are two aspects to accreditation. One is the physical
infrastructure. That’s easy. The quality of that infrastructure
— how many bathrooms the school has, how
many classrooms, how many blackboards — easy.
The difficulty is the quality of education in terms of
its content. We need to have a Quality Council to determine
for us, as an independent agency. I have taken
some briefings already on that issue, and hopefully, we
will come up this year itself with an accreditation policy
within the school system. We may even request the
state governments to set up these accreditation entities,
so that the child knows what school he is going to, both
in terms of its physical infrastructure as well as the
quality of education imparted. That increases the
choice of the child.
Please remember, in education, it is the choice of
teacher, not of society. And the more things you do to
increase those choices, the better it is for education.
|But it tells you we need to set up a transparent accreditation
system… Not just accreditation. For example, I have given a
direction that all colleges and all universities, within the
next three months, must have their own websites,
which tells us how many teachers they have, who are
these teachers, their photographs, their qualifications
and what is the physical infrastructure. All this is now
What happens is people go for inspections. The
faculty which is teaching one institution is then transferred
to another institution. Often, standards are not
met and this kind of cheating takes place. Once you
have a website, it is very simple and very cheap also.
And they have to prepare it, and it is part of the regulations
of the UGC, and they have to do it within 90 days.
And now, we know which teacher is teaching what,
and we can do an inspection and know what’s happening.
And those who don’t have the faculty will be dealt
with under the law.
Are you setting a vision statement for education for the
next five years?
It’s not necessary. We know what we have to do. The
Ministry of Science and Technology was a ministry of
ideas. The Ministry of Human Resource Development
is a ministry of implementation of ideas. We need not
now relook many of these things, because lots have
been said about it and there is no time to waste. The
vision is clear — to have a child who is imparted with
quality education and who, in terms of education,
moves in life to become a good responsible citizen of
|We are setting
up a whole
to have a Quality
us, as an independent
have taken some
on that issue,
and hopefully, we
will come up this
year itself with
policy within the
So there are really no problems?
As I said, we need to communicate with people, to have
a dialogue with people. At this point in time, we spend
billions of dollars to send our children outside. And
there are lakhs of people who would like to go abroad
but who do not have the financial wherewithal to actually
So, if those institutions come here, it is a win-win
for both. For the institutions, they can educate more
children, and for us, we don’t have to send people
abroad to get quality education. And at half the cost,
because the input costs are much less than they are
abroad, faculty costs are much less, and now with the
ICT revolution, you don’t have to fly faculty everyday
— you can have your courses taught through video.
So we need to change the mindset as we move forward
in education. I had a meeting with IITs. I said,
‘you people should be sharing faculty. You say we are
short of faculty, we cannot deal with expansion. So, till
you get more faculty, why don’t you share faculty?
Why doesn’t one teacher in, say, IIT Kharagpur teach
all the students one course throughout the IIT system?
Be it in Chemical Engineering or Bio-Sciences. And
they are all connected today.’ So they said, ‘yes it is a
very good idea.’
So, we need to think of ways and means, till we
get good faculty, we should cut our costs and do
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