New Delhi: As I walked back to my car along with my daughters after the group photo-session at 10, Rajaji Marg, I was sure that the only way India can achieve her Vision2020 was through education.

Satya Narayan, chairman, Career Launcher Private Ltd

I had just finished interacting with Dr APJ Abdul Kalam at his residence along with a select group of CEOs from across the world. The core matters that kept us occupied were merely two, namely how does India get to her Vision 2020 and what should we do to realize our potential as a nation?

Quite unsurprisingly, both answers were centered around education. Of course, there was talk of the nuclear issue, water crisis and infrastructure development but it was education that remained the central theme of discussion.

Budget presentation by the Finance Minister should evaluate our own performance as a nation during the year gone by; set new short-term and medium-term directions and targets; undertake course corrections or come up with brand new plans in alignment with goals. It should also address the following issues:

Focus on primary and secondary education

• Enhance reach as well as ensure dropout management

• Promote education vouchers: The scheme of ‘fund the child and feed the child’ needs greater visibility. While this is happening in states where there is stronger policy entrepreneurship, a central scheme, clearly planned out in the annual budget, would help. The central budgets that are created would go directly to the beneficiary (child and poor parents. Educational vouchers, a practice that is commonplace in a number of countries is being experimented in India too. The FM should take concrete measures to push this further.

• Reinvent mid-day meal scheme: Similarly, the mid-day meals scheme needs to go through another re-invention. Collaborating with NGOs would help stretch the rupee further

• PPP for primary and secondary schools: It is a foregone conclusion that the government machinery is incapable of meeting the demand for newer schools. Old and established schools need a fresh bout of professional management.

I wish that the FM is able to announce at least a few schemes to attract private players to collaborate with the governments through PPP for creating and running primary schools — in rural, and urban areas. I am unwilling to buy the argument that private players are interested only in setting up facilities in urban areas.

We need at least 3,000–4,000 new schools every year for the next decade and a half, at least. This is after counting all the schools that the Governments across the country plan to set up. The task is huge and needs to be actioned, now!

Establish vocational senior secondary schools

In India, almost 92% of children drop out of schools by the age of 14. Does that sound incredible? Surely not! In fact, the figure is almost the same when we compare with developed economies.

However, here is the catch. Almost all of dropouts get funneled into vocational education that guarantees skills development and ensures employability. This is a non-existing sector in India.

In China, for example, there are 50,000 vocational senior secondary schools. We have not even one in India and correcting this anomaly is long overdue.

My wish is that the Finance Minister makes it mandatory for each school in the country to offer vocational training courses in the second shift (3 pm to 7pm). As a pilot, about a 1,000 government schools could be selected per state, and supported by the local ITI to offer these courses to the youngsters in the local community. Financial support, technical expertise, certification from DGVT, scholarships, industry tie-ups and placements for certified students could form an integral part of the scheme.

New focus on teacher-training institutes

Brand India across the globe has an inordinate contribution from the higher education institutes, such as the IIMs and IITs. A few other institutions, too, are on their way to becoming distinctive and well-known, including the National Law schools, NIFTs etc,.

The FM should provide direction and formulate appropriate programmes and funding to create centres of excellence in the area of teacher training. The few centres of excellence such as the CET, RTI, etc,. need to be upgraded and funded to become the fountainheads of educational leadership. We need principals, district education officers, curriculum leaders etc, in thousands.

Our focus on building institutions which will lead to this capacity that is directly linked to the nation’s growth must be an integral part of the most followed and keenly awaited speech in the Parliament.

Expand vocational training programmes

The PPP, in creating the vocational training capacities, needs continued acceleration. The employability figures in the country look gloomy. Much of young India, devoid of appropriate livelihood poses potential social danger.

The scheme to bring more of it into play through PPP needs greater thrust. The PPP for the entire set of 1600 ITIs could be completed in the coming fiscal year itself instead of dragging it over the next 2–3 years. Also, the programme to create a new breed of modern ‘ITI’ (Industrial Training Institutes) through public-private partnerships needs closer monitoring and financial incentives for better execution.

The FM must include checks and balances to ensure that we have at least 100 ITIs coming into operation in each state in the coming financial year. It is a tough ask…. but, we are in desperate times as far as employability is concerned.

Open up FDI for education

FDI in education is a sensitive subject to a diverse group for varied reasons – politically sensitive to some, sheltered for too long and hence scary to others, sheer inertia to a few more, and so on.

However, my view is entirely different and might sound contra-intuitive, too. I see the opening up of the education sector as a strategic intervention to gain competitive advantage in today’s’ knowledge world.

India, from being a knowledge consuming nation must now dream of becoming a knowledge creating one. For that, you need to have the best people working in universities, research labs across the country. The best of global institutions and their finest brains need to be attracted. We are uniquely positioned to be doing that today and we must not miss this opportunity.

Imagine Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, UCB, LSE, Yale, INSEAD having campuses in places like Kanpur, Pune, Visag, Bhopal and other tier II cities. Also, imagine bringing back Nobel laureates to India for their work and visualize what the country could be if the Jagdeesh Sheths, Mohanbir Sawhneys and CK Prahalads of our times returned to their native cities.

This is a big and audacious expectation that I have from the FM. I wonder if any one would concur with me or would mine be a lone voice?

Satya Narayan is chairman, Career Launcher Private Limited

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