India Economic Forum | Education agenda at the India Economic Summit

India Economic Forum | Education agenda at the India Economic Summit

New Delhi: Stressing on the lack of time for reforms in the education sector, Kapil Sibal, Union Minister for Human Resource Development announced that the ministry was looking at having all legislative reforms for the sector in place by the next budget session of the Parliament.

Speaking at the India Economic Summit, Sibal said that the ministry’s plan to set up an overarching authority is likely to be in place by the budget session of the Parliament. Meanwhile, other pending bills with the Parliament would hopefully be passed in the next session.

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In another step to track access to education, Sibal also said that he is in discussions with Nandan Nilekani to have unique identification cards for primary school children to track their progress into secondary school. “So, we will know who has dropped out of primary school and how many children have moved on to secondary school," he said.

Meanwhile, panelists stressed on the need for for-profit institutions as part of the education system, which have till now been kept on the fringes. “We can trust the private sector to play a role in education," said Shantanu Prakash, managing director, Educomp Solutions.

However, Sibal argued that for-profit institutions had a long way to come in order to create a distinction between profit and surplus. “We cannot have companies that are listed on the stock exchange and have educational institutions and pay dividends to shareholders from the fees that parents pay in their institutions. We cannot allow education to be subject to risk factors."

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Richard Levin, president, Yale University, added that there are some for-profit institutions in the but none of them have risen to a competitive level.

Both Sibal and Levin agreed that it would take many years before top schools from abroad would think of diluting their status to set up campuses in , though Sibal admitted that some other foreign universities have expressed a lot of interest in .

The focus has been largely on the IITs and IIMs as centres of excellence. But we must also identify multiple layers and look for excellence in these layers. “We have to move away from exclusively focusing on infrastructure and focusing on individuals because at the end of the day employers hire individuals," said Anand Sudarshan, managing director and CEO, Manipal Education.

But Sibal asserted that needs world class universities and can’t afford to focus on layers. “But we need other good universities also and for that we must allow flexibility. We must move the government against regulation," he said.

The panel also stressed on the importance of recognizing and respecting vocational education and skill development. “In a degree-obsessed nation, we need to have much more vocational education in our curriculum and that requires a fundamental change in mindset," said Prakash.