Reforms agenda in place for education sector: Sibal

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New Delhi, Nov.9 (ANI): Massive reforms are required across the spectrum in India's Education sector, declared Human Resource Development MInister Kapil Sibal, at the plenary session on "Creating World-Class Education in India", at the 25th India Economic Summit, on Monday.

Indeed, most of the critical legislation relating to this sector would be in place by the end of the budget session of Parliament in March 2010, he said at the event jointly organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry and World Economic Forum in New Delhi.

These reforms would need to bring in flexibility, transparency and quality in education in India, he added.

Inviting the private sector to participate in a big way in India's education agenda, Sibal emphatically delineated the distinction between 'profit' and 'surplus,' stating that enterprises must be allowed to make surpluses to be ploughed back into the sector. "We cannot allow education to be exposed to risk factors," he stressed.

The minister outlined several key challenges. India needs to prepare the critical mass of students to be ready for higher education, he said, pointing out that at present, only 12 per cent of the 220 million children who go to school in India reach college level.

The target is to increase this to 30 per cent by year 2020, he said. There are huge gaps in the skills development sphere too, that need urgent attention, said Sibal, with only around 12 per cent of India's 509 million young employed people equipped with the right skills.

Richard C Levin, President, Yale University, USA, felt that developing access was 'doable' with resources and political will.

However, building world class institutions was much harder, and takes decades, he said. Mr Levin felt that partnerships and affiliations with foreign universities was a more viable proposition in the present term, than expecting great universities to establish themselves in this geography.

Access, Affordability and Accountability are the key pillars to develop a sound education system, pointed out William D. Green, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Accenture.

His company's world wide agenda of "Skills to Succeed" sought to address the need to raise the 'water table' in the tank, by making more people employable, he said, pointing to the need for a 'horizontal' approach across the board, along with the 'vertical' one of building world class institutions.

Rajendra S. Pawar, Chairman, NIIT Group, India, suggested that mobility to students to move between different streams, and between vocational and formal education, establishment of an independent regulatory authority and letting the market principle operate in terms of what to teach and what to charge, would make education more open to both students and parents, as well as investors.

Anand Sudarshan, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Manipal Education India, called for a more diverse approach and the creation of a national mindset that gave respectability to vocational education.

We need to develop excellence at each rung of the ladder, he said.

Shantanu Prakash, Managing Director, Educomp Solutions, India, too, regretted that India was a degree-obsessed country. We need to harness the vast intellectual capacity that India possesses to draw investment into Education in India, he said.

Ravi Venkatesan, Chairman and Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Corporation India, highlighted the key role technology could play in making education accessible and affordable, especially at the higher education level.

Expressing confidence that the government's initiatives in Education, in terms of far-reaching reforms, establishing infrastructure and encouraging public-private-partnerships and tie-ups would bear fruit, Sibal felt that India could, in time, develop into an education hub. Then, he said, the most reputed institutions in the world too would be keen to test the Indian waters. (ANI)

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