New Delhi: The new junior human resource development minister, Jitin Prasada on Monday, echoed Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi’s ideas of prioritising job creation for the youth through skill development, education for minorities and taking quality education to the villages as his agenda.

“Vocational education is a priority. One of the key concerns of Rahul Gandhi is youth getting jobs," he said on his first day in office.

Gandhi on 5 October took a delegation of industry leaders including Housing Development Finance Corp. chairman Deepak Parekh, Bajaj Auto Ltd managing director Rajiv Bajaj and Wipro Ltd chairman Azim Premji to Kashmir University to dispel their worries about investing in the militancy-affected valley.

Prasada said his other priorities are minority education and taking the benefits of Right to Education (RTE), the government’s flagship scheme that mandates eight years of compulsory education to children of ages 6-14, to the villages.

“RTE is a priority of the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government and the priority will remain. We have to reach all who have missed out. The plan for opening 6,000 model schools, both with public funding and with private participation, will also get a thrust," he said.

Though interest from private entities in this was lukewarm, former HRD minister Kapil Sibal wrote to industry leaders to participate in the scheme before the cabinet was reshuffled on Sunday.

The aim is to take model schools, designed after government-run central schools, to 6,000 blocks—3,500 of them in the underdeveloped category.

The cabinet reshuffle brought an entire new team to the HRD ministry—M.M. Pallam Raju is the new minister and Shashi Tharoor and Prasada are ministers of state. The ministry is likely to postpone a meeting of state education ministers scheduled for 1 November as Raju and Tharoor are yet to take charge of their offices.

“We have advised the new ministers to postpone the meeting as all of them are new and may not have the detailed knowledge. Education ministers from states may hijack the education agenda due to political differences," said a senior HRD ministry official, requesting anonymity.

The Central Advisory Board on Education, the highest advisory body comprising state education ministers and independent experts, is expected to take up several key issues on education reform when it meets.

According to the agenda, the meeting was scheduled to debate and finalize a new law to curb malpractices in schools, extend the RTE implementation period by two more years beyond 31 March, 2013, and put in place a higher education framework.

The ministers are also expected to discuss ways to strengthen the funding pattern for state universities, among other issues. Prasada said his ministerial colleagues and he will try to push through several education bills that were introduced by Sibal and are pending in Parliament.

At least a dozen proposed legislations like the education tribunal Bill, education malpractice Bill, accreditation Bill and foreign university Bill are facing law makers tests for quite sometime. Prasada said he will also take up the cause of Uttar Pradesh, his home state, to bring it at par with the national level in education.

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