Great news! The 12th Five-Year plan will focus on education
Education is high on the agenda says Pallam Raju, Union minister for human resource development while revealing details about the government's upcoming 12th Five Year Plans.
The ministry of human resource development (MHRD) is looking to skill 500 million people in India by 2022 through its various initiatives.
Speaking to M Saraswathy on the sidelines of a summit in Mumbai, M M Pallam Raju, Union minister for human resource development, talks about the strategy of making Indian youth more employable. Edited excerpts:
MHRD has launched the National Vocational Education Qualification Framework (NVEQF). How will this enable the 'skilling' push?
NVEQF is the framework that the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has come up with.
This will allow lateral movement between skilling and education. It will also recognise prior skilling.
AICTE has done this in 18-19 disciplines and is now working on more. About 376 colleges have signed on for this initiative.
We hope they will start implementing it. Otherwise, there is no measure of skilling and no framework to move up the ladder.
We also want the sector skill councils to be involved, so that there is a common framework of reference for linking various vocational qualifications.
It will enable setting of common guidelines for a qualification system that is recognised nationally.
The Right to Education (RTE) Act has been implemented. But there are reports of violations by schools. What steps are being taken to bridge these loopholes?
We have reviewed the RTE mission and are satisfied with the enrolments, retentions and the key and supporting infrastructure.
The enrolments are almost 230 million. But an area that we are not satisfied with is that the recruitment of teachers in some states and the retraining of employed teachers is going slow. We need to really buck up in these two areas.
With respect to the compliance by schools, we are encouraging and expecting states to become down hard on people who violate the norms. The ministry is also holding the Central Advisory Board of Education meeting, later this month, to review these aspects.
Several new International Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) were approved. However, it appears that the idea of having public-private partnership in setting up new IIITs has not worked. What is your view?
This is not true. There is a tremendous interest. Even in my own constituency of Kakinada (Andhra Pradesh), there have been three to four bidders. So, there is an interest. There have been 20 new IIITs that have been approved and proposals have come in to partner.
No Indian institutes feature in the list of the world's top 200 educational institutions, prepared by international bodies. What steps is MHRD taking to improve the situation?
These rankings are primarily based on quality of research output from both the faculty and students of institutes. In this aspect, there should be no excuses.
We are encouraging all institutes to bring in good faculty and boost research. Universities and institutes should focus on this, there should be no excuse. We are prodding and nudging them in this direction. We are hoping it would happen.
Resources are not a constraint, and the Sixth Pay Commission has improved the situation. However, one of the weak links in the education system is the linkage with industry. Only if you have meaningful linkage with industry will you have research funds flowing in, which would give them the ability to do top quality research.
Since the thrust is on skilling and vocational education, what are the initiatives which the government is taking to boost skill education?
The National Policy on Skill Development (NPSD), approved by the government, has set a target for skilling 500 million persons by the year 2022.
Here, the National Council on Skill Development (NSDC) has a target of skilling 150 million people by the year 2022.
Further, skill development is being enabled by NSDC through the 22 sector Skill Councils.
Further, the National Skill Certification and Monetary Reward Scheme has been unveiled, which will be implemented on a pan-India basis.
This scheme will motivate the Indian youth to acquire a vocational skill and is expected to benefit a million people this year.
We are planning to set up 200 community colleges this year.
The National Employability Enhancement Mission (NEEM) is being launched through AICTE.
This framework will provide a vehicle for companies and entrepreneurs to provide employability skills and internship as value-added proposition to student for all fields.
The Foreign Universities Bill will be an enabling regulation for international institutes to set up Indian campuses. However AICTE has said all technical institutes will need their approval for opening an Indian campus. Will this be a deterrent?
Both the University Grants Commission (UGC) and AICTE are regulators.
As regulators, they have a responsibility to ensure that the standards exist and are maintained.
We want to create quality capacity. The focus in the 12th five-year Plan is the aspect of quality in education, both in school and higher education.
Hence, I do not see any hindrance for institutes wanting to set up a campus in the country. Further, there is a lot of interest that we are seeing from institutes abroad.
There have been suggestions of India having a comprehensive job data that can be compiled and maintained. Has MHRD begun any work on this?
I believe this is a very good suggestion. The MHRD can lead in this segment.
In the ministry, we have begun this effort by creating a database of all our teaching resources in terms of research that is going on. This will be a meaningful database.
Faculty shortage has been a big issue in India. Is the ministry taking any steps to reverse this?
Shortage of faculty is an area of concern for us.
But the UGC has come with some schemes initiatives like visiting faculty and adjunct faculty to enhance faculty resources of universities.
Also, they are expanding research for identifying quality faculty.
Image: Union minister for human resource development M M Pallam Raju
Photographs: Tim Chong/ Reuters