As India prepares for a GER (gross enrolment ratio ) of 30% by 2020, the country needs a range of out-of-the-box solutions. With this in mind, the ministry of human resource development (MHRD) is preparing a five-point action plan, which would be based on new technology.
According to Kapil Sibal, minister of human resource development, at present, 26 million students in India go to 600 odd universities and 34,000 colleges. The figure, he added, is going to increase multifold in the years to come, which is why the country would need exponential expansion of its college and university system, which can be achieved only through a technology-oriented approach.
Sibal was speaking at a conference titled, EducatioNext, organised by The Times of India on August 20, in the Capital. The event saw the participation of several industry leaders, academics, activists and thinktank who addressed a wide range of issues that would determine India's future roadmap in the 21st Century.
Sibal pointed out that while low-cost devices such as tablets and mobile phones would increase accessibility, proliferation of cloud-computing will change the way in which knowledge is disseminated within the classroom.
He further added, "Around 2.5 lakh villages would be connected by fibre optics to build an information highway and a plethora of courses will be made available online."
Apart from technology, Sibal mentioned that new concepts such as the meta-university , which allows students to take their pick from an array of subjects in different universities, will enable students to make their own choices and opt for unconventional combinations like mathematics and music.
Pawan Agarwal, adviser higher education, Planning Commission, expressing concern , said that while enrolment is one of the priorities in the area of elementary education, India is yet to achieve a lot in terms of learning outcomes. Also, more enrolment, said Sandhya Chintala, executive director - Sector Skills Council, Nasscom, is desirable at the secondary and higher secondary level.
While actual learning within the classroom, she added, should be focused upon, it is important to move away from an exam-oriented approach. However, pointing out that most schools do not even have a teacher and a blackboard, Puja Marwaha, CEO, CRY, stressed how important it is for students in the remotest areas of India to have access to basic infrastructure. Mander Harsh, social activist, emphasised that in India , education has to be for public good and the government has to ensure it.