Delhi,29 July :Center is to launch a new scheme namely ‘National Mission in Education through ICT’ so as to provide connectivity to the learners so that they can link themselves to the knowledge world in cyberspace and to make these learners ‘Netizens’ in order to enhance their self learning skills and develop their capabilities for online problem solving.
Stating this while inaugurating India’s largest ICT conference, ‘e-India 2008’ at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi today, Union Minister of State for HRD (Higher Education), Smt. D. Purandeswari said that the ‘National Mission in Education through ICT’ would also work for creation of knowledge modules with right contents to address the personalized needs of learners. Emphasizing the importance of Information and Communication Technology in attaining the goal of a knowledge-based society she said that in order to deliver the benefits of ICT enabled learning, the National Mission would focus attention on achieving technological breakthrough by developing a very low cost and low power consuming access device, making available free bandwidth for education propose to every Indian. Smt. Purandeswari said that the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development would like to build knowledge network between institutions of higher education and also within these institutions.
Smt. D.Purandeswari further said that India’s educational scene today is at a tipping point where opportunities abound and yet the challenges are also unprecedented. This scenario calls for dovetailing efforts at the Information and Communication Technology level into efforts of providing quality higher education. Smt. Purandeswari said that we Indians are fortunate that our demographic profile is dominated by the youth thereby providing an ideal opportunity for maximizing the benefits of ICT. She said that investing in education, particularly higher education, through ICT also makes business sense for the corporate sector as this will give immense benefit in the long run. Giving an example Smt. Purandeswari said that develop countries like the US, the UK and Australia have not only invested significantly in higher education but have also made this sector as one of their largest export earners. Even the asian economies such as Singapore and UAE have experienced the competitive advantage provided by a world class higher education infrastructure.
In this context the Union Minister of State-HRD (Higher Education) said that an amount of Rs. 85,000 crores has been provided for the expansion of higher education facilities during the 11th five year plan. She said that in the coming years the thrust will be on the use of Information and Communication Technology to strengthen the system in the mode of open and distance learning as well.
Smt. D.Purandeswari also inaugurated an exhibition on e-Governance and Digital Learning. The 3day conference organized by the Centre for Science, Development and Media Studies, CSDMS, is spread over a number of sessions to be address by leading professionals and senior bureaucrats entrusted with the spread and implementation of e-Governance and e-Learning. The highlight of the conference is that it will focus the importance of Information and Communication Technology not only in the fields of Governance and Education but also in the realms of health, environment, rural development and agriculture.
Following is the text of the address of the Minister of State-HRD (Higher Education):
“I am happy to be here this morning to deliver the keynote address in this inaugural session of eINDIA, 2008, summit, organized by the Center for Science, Development and Media studies (CSDMS) and supported and co-organized by D.I.T, Ministry of Information Communication Technology, Government of India and UNGAID (UN Global Alliance of ICT for Development). I hope that this Summit will provide a good opportunity and a suitable platform for the representatives of ICT to discuss nuances and the nitty-gritties that will be strategic for them to interact with all stakeholders including representatives of industry, educationists administrators, and policy framers on this highly dynamic subject of national and international importance. I, therefore, welcome this opportunity with added enthusiasm and interest.
India’s educational scene today is at a tipping point. Opportunities abound and yet the challenges are unprecedented. As the Indian economy strives to grow at 9% +, the higher education sector of India has to respond with dynamism to meet the escalating shortage of skilled and educated manpower. A market driven approach, adopting emerging technologies, effective fund raising and deployment backed by the right policy framework by the Government is key to boost the higher education sector. The question is whether we in India can bring about such a paradigm shift in the education sector. On this will depend the future role of our country in the emerging global scenario.
Education forms the backbone of a nation and is one of the most important keyIndicators of a country’s growth and development. The demographic differentials reveal that over next 20-30 years, India has distinct advantages in a population profile concentrated in the younger age group where many new opportunities can be fully optimized. Rise of knowledge economy at a global level has thus reinforced education as the key economic and business driver. We are today entering a Knowledge era, an era where the returns to investment in knowledge far exceed returns in any other activity.
India’s education market is on the verge of a boom and realizing the huge market potential, India needs to have a proactive demand based policy towards private higher education including foreign institutions/universities desirous of setting up campuses in India or entering into joint-ventures. As our economy seeks to grow and become increasingly knowledge based, the country’s higher education sector is put to the severest test. This is because the quantity and quality of its educational sector directly impacts the quantity and quality of its economic output. An effective higher education sector provides the country with a globally competitive workforce, which, in turn, is a critical enabler and a facilitator of economic growth and development.
Developed countries, such as the US, the UK and Australia have not only invested significantly in higher education but have also made this sector as one of their largest export earners. Even the Asian economies such as Singapore and UAE have experienced the competitive advantage provided by a world class higher education infrastructure.
India has consistently recognized that a large and growing pool of accomplished talent is a vital foundation for its sustained economic growth. This underscores the importance of a capable and effective higher education sector in the country. The sector today needs a new framework that will enable it to globalize and drive its next phase of growth. A dip stick assessment of India’s higher education sector indicates that it is steadily progressing to meet global benchmarks on key parameters. However, further efforts needs to be made to enhance the accessibility, funding and quality of higher education in the country.
The growth of higher education in India has been reasonably impressive since independence .While the number of enrollments in India is high owing to the size of its population, the gross enrollments ratio (GER) is only 11% as compared to 60% in USA and Canada and 40% in several developed European countries and 21% in BRIC countries. The Government of India is targeting a GER of over 15% by 2012. To meet this target the country will need to increase substantially its supply of Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs). Besides, there is a sharp imbalance in the availability of HEIs across States, with certain States facing an acute shortage. To address this problem, recently the Central Government has decided to open 30 Central universities during the 11th Five-Year Plan (2007-12). Among the 30, 16 will come up in States that do not have a Central University at present. The remaining 14 are being classified as "world-class universities" to be run by the Union Ministry of Human Resources Development. India will put in Rs. 85,000 crores under the 11th Five Year Plan period for the expansion of higher education facilities. In addition to thirty Central Universities during the 11th Plan period (2007-12), the Government will also set up eight Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), 10 National Institutes of Technology (NIT), 20 Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIITs) as far as possible in the Public-Private Partnership mode, three Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISERs) seven Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and two Schools of Planning and Architecture(SPA). The XI Plan also accords priority to promoting research of high quality across the Higher Education system, modernizing curricula and evaluation system, and making them more responsive to future challenges and needs.
The Indian Government would also offer assistance to 1,000 polytechnic institutes; 300 in public-private partnership mode and 400 in the private sector, besides taking care of the infrastructure and faculty shortages. Further, to enable students make most out of the advanced technology; the Government also aims to provide 100 dollar laptops to students. Research in this direction is being already carried out at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras. These steps will substantially take care of the quality of higher education, which, as I have mentioned earlier is an essential desideratum of economic growth.
In the coming years, the thrust is on the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to strengthen the system in the mode of open and distance learning as well. India has a large number of Distance education programmes in Undergraduate and Post-Graduate levels. Today many prestigious Indian Universities offer open and distance programmes. Indira Gandhi National Open University, one of the largest in student enrollment has numerous distance programmes with numerous local centers that offer supplementary contact classes, addressing both the access and quality challenges. In order to deliver the benefits of ICT in the learning process, a new scheme namely ‘National Mission in Education through ICT’ would be launched, with the objective of providing connectivity to the learners to the ‘Knowledge World’ in cyberspace and to make them ‘Netizens’ in order to enhance their self-learning skills and develop their capabilities for online problem solving. The Mission would also work for creation of knowledge modules with right contents to address the personalized needs of learners. It aims for certification of competencies of the learners, acquired through formal or non-formal means, as also to develop and maintain the database having profile of human resources. In order to deliver the benefits of ICT enabled learning, the Mission would focus attention on achieving technological breakthrough by developing a very low cost and low power consuming access device, making available free bandwidth, for education purpose, to every Indian, and to build knowledge network between and within institutions, of higher learning in the country.
There are many challenges to higher education in our country, I would like to share my views on a few of them. It should be our endeavour to further expand access to higher education, especially to professional education, to levels comparable to those in developed countries. Access to quality education is as important, if not more, as access to education itself. We must learn from the best practices abroad in management of higher education and must try to make India an attractive destination for large number of foreign students from both developing and developed countries seeking quality school, higher and professional education. This is our foremost challenge.
Secondly, while public spending on education as a whole is around 3.6% of GDP, the allocation for higher education sector is only 0.37% of GDP. The comparative figures for four developed economies (the US, the UK, Australia and Canada) are 1.39% (average) and for the BRIC countries it is 0.6% (average). Owing to investment constraints in India the higher education sector is unable to cope with growing market demand and global competition.
Increased private investment is thus an imperative need to expand infrastructure and provide greater access to quality higher education. I would revert to this subject in little more details later. Thirdly many of the Indian institutes do not come under the umbrella of either national or international accreditation bodies. Fourthly, India lags in terms of students teacher ratio with 26 students to a teacher vis-à-vis the global norm of 15 students per teacher. Fifthly, the quality of faculty is questionable, as 57% of faculty members do not have either a PhD or an MPhil. Last but not the least, participation by India universities in R&D is low and most students do not take up doctoral or post doctoral research. Education as a service industry, is part of the globalization process under the umbrella of the General Agreement on Trade in Service (GATS), which has recommended removing all trade barriers in higher education and making it a global commodity. Although India has no commitments under GATS to open up higher education services, as an importer, India can bring in international knowledge and best practices and address the capacity crunch in HEIs that it currently faces. Furthermore. India is unique among developing economies as a number of HEIs have gained international recognition either through their own campuses or global partners. This export of education can provide India with immense opportunities in this regard.
Despite to these challenges, India has significant advantages in the present knowledge race. It has a large higher education sector – the third largest in the world in the student numbers, after China and the United States. It uses English as a primary language of higher education and research. It has a long academic tradition. There are also a number of high quality institutions, departments and centres that can form the basis of quality sector in higher and technical education.
The spread of higher education in India was achieved largely through active State support whereby public funding was considered necessary in order to provide equitable opportunities of higher education to all. Although the Government has considerably invested on higher education, it is obvious that the need far outstrips the provision. Hence, we need to adopt an innovative and flexible methods of leveraging the financial, managerial and teaching resources in the private sector. It is however imperative that a regulatory frame work is put in place so that there is no commercialization of education and also there is an effective prevention of racketeering and exploitation in this regard. Subject to this, we have no inhibition to allow private players to function in the country with a reasonable degree of autonomy and freedom for providing quality education.
The past few years have proved that the thought of India becoming an economic superpower is no longer outlandish. We could argue about the timeframe, but the possibility is real, almost inevitable. That said, we cannot afford the luxury of hubris that come with it. A lot of groundwork still has to be done. Exciting as the prospects are, the road ahead is extremely challenging. We have to stretch the canvas every way we can. Our dreams and our visions have to be audacious. Our ambitions need to have that essential element of the ‘killer instinct’. And-in tune with the pace with which things move to-day we have to take a quantum leap in the speed with which we do things.
We certainly have the luxury of having the essential endowments and competencies that go into building a successful, global economic power. What we do not posses is the luxury of too much time.
With these words I wish the Summit all success and I call upon the major stakeholders including the captains of industry, educationists, universities and other centers of higher education, administrators and policy framers to get themselves involved in this humongous task of nation building so that India could be at the focal point of the emerging global scenario based on the new knowledge economy.