Meet to consider fee hike, legislation for edu

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New Delhi, Sep 13: The government is considering a 20 per cent fee hike in Central and State Universities and Colleges and enacting a Central legislation to declare the right to elementary education a fundamental right.

The two key issues will be taken up at a meeting of the Full Planning Commission slated for the evening. The meeting is to be chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The meet has been called to give focused attention to the field of Education in the Eleventh Plan. Education is the only item on the agenda of the meet.

The other issues to be taken up by the Full Plan Panel include--- expanding Mid Day Meal Scheme to cover all elementary level children by 2008-09 as a result of which 50 million additional children will be brought under the ambit of the scheme; universal enrolment of 6-14 age group children by 2008; reducing elementary dropout rate from 51 per cent to 20 per cent by 2011-12 as also eliminating all gender, social and regional gaps in enrolment and dropouts by 2011-12.

In the area of secondary education, the Plan Panel meet will consider expanding intake capacity in 44,000 existing Secondary Schools; additional appointment of maths and science teachers, upgradation of 15,000 Upper Primary Schools to Secondary Schools; and recruitment of quality teachers through NET and SET.

On the issue of equity, the meet will work out means of giving special focus to girls education, including incentives and hostels; support to Madrasas for adoption of general curriculum of States, and also for teaching of Urdu language; and special remedial coaching within and outside schools.

An important item on the agenda of the meet is enactment of a Central legislation to give effect to the Fundamental Right to Free and Compulsory Quality Elementary Education to children of 6-14 years of age. It will make free elementary education a joint financial responsibility for the Centre and States.

Regarding the proposal for fee hike, Planning Commission sources say the idea is "revision of fees with affordability." The Commission's proposal is to suggest revising fees to cover up to 20 per cent of the operational costs gradually in all existing Central and State Universities and Colleges and immediately in new institutions.

The Commission believes that literacy can accelerate the process of eradicating poverty and reducing regional disparities, a key factor that impairs growth.

The meeting will also consider transformation of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) into a National Mission for Quality Elementary Education with specific monitorable targets.

The Commission has worked out an allocation of Rs 2,69,673 crore for the Eleventh Plan, of which new initiatives will involve an expenditure of Rs 84,743 crore.

The initiatives relate to higher education, skill development through Polytechnics, education mission through ICT, technical education, language development and scholarships and book promotion.

The Commission feels that SSA has increased access to elementary education, but is yet to ensure good quality education. Expansion has meant multi-grade teaching with many inadequate trained teachers resulting in poor learning levels. Dropout rates remain high--29 per cent at primary and 51 per cent at elementary level. There is acceptance that regional, gender and social disparities continue to persist.

The meet will consider raising enrollment in higher education from 14 million in 2006-07 to 21 million by 2011-12 and 21 million by 2011-12. University enrolment is to go up by 8.7 lakh and colleges by 61.3 lakh students. The Commission visualises that around half of the incremental enrolement will come from private institutions.

The Commission has suggested filling up vacant faculty positions in Central and State Universities and Colleges.

It has also suggested expansion of fellowship programmes for PHD and Junior Research Fellowships to attract bright people into acadmeic career.

The meet will consider providing scholarships to all needy and deserving students in higher education.

It will also consider establishing Higher Education Loan Guarantee Authority to facilitate education loans. Another innovative measure that will be taken up relates to offering concessions to the students discharging social obligations, such as serving in government hospitals and going to rural areas.

Among the proposals to improve quality of education include standardising education to reduce the performance gap between private and public schools. It also aims at making funded institutions accountable using students performance as a yardstick.

For this purpose it suggests linking allocations to performance.

Inbuilt in the Planning Commission's proposals is expansion of IITs and IIMs to accommodate OBC reservations and also efforts to provide quality education by upgrading some universities to international level.

For the first time in the history of plan formulation, the Commission has ventured into having full commission meeting and even National Development Council meeting on a specific sector.

Commission members say this has been done to make implementing agencies partners in the plan formulation to have better results.

The Commission has already held an NDC meeting on agriculture and now it intends to adopt a similar approach relating to education.

Sectoral approach has, however, delayed finalisation of the plan and led to delay in the introduction of new programmes. Commission sources say that in conditions of paucity of resources this has helped in maintaining increased flow of funds to priority projects, which are primarily the flagship programmes outlined in the NCMP.


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