New Delhi: A day before he formally takes charge as human resource development (HRD) minister, Prakash Javadekar on Wednesday sounded a note of conciliation with stakeholders in the education sector and promised to try and take everyone along.
Javadekar also stressed his credentials for the job, to which he moves from the environment ministry.
“I am passionate about education. In the last 40 years, I am into education in different roles—from student politics... to being a member in parliamentary committee on HRD,” said Javadekar, who replaced Smriti Irani in Tuesday’s cabinet rejig.
Irani’s term was confrontational, featuring run-ins with academia and students of institutions including the elite Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), Delhi University, Hyderabad University and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).
“I respect academia... I will see that everybody is a partner in progress,” Javadekar said at his official residence in New Delhi, asserting that he would fulfil the responsibility Prime Minister Narendra Modi had handed him.
During the term of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, Javadekar was a member of the parliamentary panel attached to the HRD ministry that vetted draft education bills including the foreign university bill, the education malpractice bill, and the national council for higher education and research bill that attracted controversy. Most of them have not seen the light of day.
“The new minister is a good listener but he has inherited several confrontations and mismanagement at the higher education level,” said a Delhi University professor, who declined to be named.
“The immediate challenge in front of him is the choice between rhetoric and action for improving the education sector,” the professor said.
Javadekar himself said the main challenge was to improve the quality of education.
After a meeting with top bureaucrats of the HRD ministry who gave him a presentation on the key initiatives the ministry is undertaking, he said: “The question is whether education is fulfilling the aspirations of the poor or not.
“We today reviewed primary (school) education and higher education projects. We will come out with our road map,” he said.
A ministry official, who attended the meeting termed the new minister as a “very good listener”.
Terming Irani a “little sister”, Javadekar said he will take forward the good initiatives started by her. He has invited Irani to come to the function where he will officially take charge of the ministry on Thursday.
“We (Irani and he) had a good meeting today...She is coming tomorrow to my function,” Javadekar said.
The Indian education sector is one of the biggest in the world and caters to over 300 million students via 1.4 million schools and over 45,000 colleges and universities.
Authorities said that the minister may take up the new education policy immediately.
“A portion of the policy is already online and we are getting good feedback. I will look at it (after taking charge),” Javadekar said about the education policy, which among other things may bring back the Class X board exam, amend the no-detention policy in schools, promote Sanskrit and value education.
Javadekar said he would focus on “character building” through education; the first public function he attends in his new role is on 10 July in Pune. Its subject: respecting teachers.