Special Subject Group on
Policy Framework for Private Investment in
Education, Health and Rural Development
A Policy Framework for Reforms in Education
AGENDA FOR REFORMS IN EDUCATION
Chapter 1 highlighted
the directions for India in education development.
Chapter 2 outlined the lessons for India, drawing
upon the experience of other countries that lead
India in education. Keeping these directions and
lessons in mind in the context of the state of
education in India, if India has to achieve the
vision in education, what is needed is not just
reforms but a revolution of sorts.
There has to be a
drastic overhaul of the existing education system.
Such an overhaul would have to embrace the following
6.1 Primary Education
Compulsory and free
primary education must be on top of our education
agenda. There is no getting away from enforcing the
Constitutional commitment to compulsory education
till the age of fourteen years, provided by Article
45 and reinforced by a historical Supreme court
judgement declaring education as a fundamental right.
Compulsory and free
primary education is feasible only through active
involvement of local bodies at the panchayat and
In our endeavour to
enforce compulsory education, it must be recognised
that an important reason for drop out, apart from
economic factors, is that children feel inferior. In
many cases parents feel inferior as well and
consequently do not send children to school. If
enrolment levels are to go up, every child has to see
a school as unthreatening and stimulating.
Compulsory and free
primary education will entail increased spending on
education. This has to be met by restructuring of
inter-sectoral allocations and divestment of loss
making public sector companies. For example, the
average annual plan expenditure on education (1992-97
plan) was Rs.3,920 crores and the annual losses of
all state electricity boards (1997-98) was Rs.10,684
crores which is 2.72 times the average annual plan
expenditure on education. There must be a political
will and a conviction that compulsory and free
primary education is an investment in Indias
Equally, there is a
case for free secondary education. However, this can
be taken up once the primary education aspect is
addressed and when primary level enrolments reach
95%, say by the year 2005, which is feasible.
In the current system
of education, the lack of opportunities for
creativity for teachers as well as students is
stifling. Preoccupation with textbooks and external
examinations, to the exclusion of the process of
education, is partly responsible for this. Whole
generations of teachers have not known any other
system and changes in the present system will meet
with resistance. There is also an inertia in the
system to upgrading educational material given cosy
relationships between textbook writers, education
administrators and publishers. The government spends
90 to 97% of our total educational budget at primary
and secondary levels on staff salaries. Studies
undertaken by the National Teachers Commission
indicate that a majority of teachers are
ill-prepared, do not keep abreast of developments in
their disciplines and take private tutions at the
cost of institutional work.
Training of teachers
to infuse commitment, sensory learning, experiential
learning, computer-aided teaching and technology led
learning has to be the second item on the agenda for
reforms. The Government of India and State
Governments have to facilitate this process by
bringing about regulations for continuous teacher
A system of evaluation
of teachers by students, at least in higher
education, is due. At the primary and secondary
levels, teachers must be made accountable for
retention of children. These are revolutionary
concepts in our current mindset and are bound to meet
with stiff resistance. However, it has the potential
to bring about high teaching standards.
undergraduate and postgraduate teaching have been put
on par. This is disastrous. There must be a
differentiation in teachers education and
experience based on levels of teaching.
The use of technology
in the process of education comes third on the
agenda. India has a unique opportunity to leapfrog in
the use of technology in education. Our vast and
growing resources in information technology and the
social awareness of the benefits of information
technology must be leveraged to bring about smart
schools that integrate computers, networks and
Computers are becoming
ubiquitous and computer literacy will be as important
as literacy. In India, Internet made its debut in the
mid-eighties as an educational and research network
called ERNET. However, the early advantage was never
capitalised. Computer education has to be an integral
part of the curriculum from the school level.
2000 initiative of the Education Department to
impart computer based education in 100
smart schools, computer aided education
in 1000 schools and general computer
literacy in 10,000 schools is laudable.
However, the effort has to be on a much larger scale.
It has to be in the nature of a National Mission.
There should be at
least one smart school in each district of India,
which is completely networked. This should be
implemented to cover all schools over the next five
years. Private sector should be encouraged through
tax benefits to invest heavily in this mission.
The use of satellite
communication technology presents another great
opportunity for primary education. India had an early
start in the seventies and eighties in delivering
higher level education to directly to homes, thanks
to the work done by ISRO, UGC and Doordarshan.
However, the low penetration of television could not
bring about a revolution in distance education.
Today, with the widespread use of television and the
envisaged spread of high band optic fibre networks,
the opportunity to use communications technology in
education could have never been more appealing.
A concerted effort in
supporting primary and secondary education through
communications technology is an imperative. This has
the benefit of cutting through the maze and inertia
in the existing education system - ranging from poor
access to facilities to absence of paid teachers in
classrooms in rural schools.
6.4 Sensory Learning
The current education
system in India is oriented to teaching. There is an
emphasis on learning by rote from a very young age.
Pre-school and primary education is obsessed with
learning by reading and writing. These are relatively
less developed faculties in children in the age group
three to six. Ironically, learning by hearing and
feeling, which are better developed faculties, are
not given prominence. Child psychologists have
repeatedly pointed out to this basic lacuna in
primary education. The emphasis on reading and
writing from a very young age is also not conducive
to creativity. The latent curiosity in children is
Thus, an important
agenda for reforms is to migrate from teaching to
sensory learning in order to provoke
curiosity. Pre-school learning should not be allowed
to degenerate into a formal learning. The accent must
be on fostering creative joy and healthy
psychological development. In the process, a strong
foundation for an innovative society would be
6.5 Learning to Learn
The current system of
book-based and theory-oriented teaching does not
inculcate independent thinking. It should be changed
to make the students learn by practice and
experience. This should be initiated from the primary
level of education.
In the information
age, information would be available in multiple forms
and through multiple media. Learning to learn from a
vast array of information, instead of being taught,
would be critical. The teachers role has to
transform to one of a facilitator. Such a shift from
teaching to learning to learn would encourage the
students to develop an innovative mindset from the
very beginning, which is important in building a
At the same time, it
must be ensured that cognitive and language skills,
for which the Indian education system is recognised,
is not diluted.
in India has unfortunately still not become socially
acceptable. Academic courses have tended to ignore
practical aspects. Vocational courses are perceived
as courses meant for the less bright students.
and skill development to inculcate a sense of pride
in doing by ones own hands and to induce a
respect for dignity of labour has to receive
sufficient focus. Vocational training has to be
compulsorily given in an intensive manner at the
6.7 Distance Education
The potential for
distance education in India has been largely
untapped. World wide, there has been a strong
component of technology in the spread of distance
education. Distance education is cost effective, has
reach and is a challenging process by itself.
Distance education must be promoted not as a
correspondence course, but as an alternative system
of education on par with the formal system of
6.8 Value Systems
It is internationally
accepted that education must inculcate values in
children, leading them to be good citizens. Value
education is the very definition of education.
Unfortunately, training of young minds on values has
taken a backseat in Indian society, given its
obsession with material pursuits. Compounding this is
the fact that there are hardly any role models in
public life. Today there is a crisis of character in
To build a society
with good character and citizenship, it is important
that value education is introduced in pre-school and
reinforced in primary, secondary and higher
education. At the same time, there have to be
safeguards against advertent or inadvertent creeping
in of various isms.
6.9 Common National
A centralised system
for curriculum, examinations and funding has brought
about gross inadequacies in the learning process,
infrastructure, facilities, effectiveness of
expenditure and innovation at the institutional
As of now there are
different boards of studies for primary and secondary
school education. The State Boards, the Central Board
of Secondary Education and the Indian Certificate for
Secondary Education have varying content, standards
A common national
system for educational content at the school level is
necessary to bring about better standards. At the
same time, there must be provision to accommodate
regional and local variations and perspectives,
especially with respect to languages, history and
However, at the
college, institution and university levels, the
endeavour has to be to encourage innovation and
creativity in content and process, within a broadly
defined national framework.
A common national
system looks difficult in the context of education
being in the concurrent list of the Constitution.
However, the challenge is worth taking in the
interest of the future of our younger generation.
on the contrary, must be decentralised. Financing and
management of education at the primary and secondary
level as well as literacy programmes must devolve
down to Panchayat levels. Panchayats must be
encouraged to seek funding from the local community
to supplement state funding. Central and state
assistance should not be seen as largesse but linked
to those who can help themselves. There are, of
course, exceptions in the form of poor and backward
management can help bring about better
accountability, better utilisation of resources and
greater people participation in the future of their
6.11 Common Admission
admission to higher education and professional
courses are required to undergo a number of
examinations in order to qualify. This is simply an
utter callousness of the existing system and is
A common system for
admissions to professional courses needs to be
instituted based on national level standardised tests
on the lines of SAT, GRE and GMAT. Students can write
these tests as many times as they want, and the best
score would be considered. Each test score would have
a validity of three years. These test scores would
form the basis for admission purposes.
system of migration certificates should be abolished
and students should be free to move from one
institution to another based on a system of transfer
of professional credits.
6.12 Market Oriented
An important objective
of education is to enhance ones standing in
society and create economic value. The simplest
measurement is the earning potential of the
The Indian education
system is not market oriented. The failure of the
system to realise the potential of the information
technology requirements has led to a large non-formal
education system of creating quality software
professionals. These private institutions enjoy brand
equity and large market capitalisation. The formal
education system is not awake to the needs of
society. Hence non-formal systems fill the need.
Schools of learning
must be encouraged to constantly upgrade content and
facilities in order to make them more market
oriented. An independent rating system would also
need to factor market valuation of products from
schools of learning.
At the same time, one
must recognise that the market may not support
education in such areas as oriental languages,
archaeology, palaeontology, religion and philosophy.
These educational programmes are important and
necessary. It is here that the state will have to
play an active role and support the pursuit of
disciplines whose scholars do not command a market.
Just as economic
infrastructure is seen as critical to an industrial
society, the development of educational
infrastructure must be seen as critical to a
schools buildings, telecom networks, and
computers - have to be funded on a priority basis.
The government can progressively reduce the funding
for universities to achieve this. These universities
should take the path of self-sufficiency through
higher students fees, donations and endowments,
alumni contributions, linkages with corporate
establishments for research, royalties on books and
research output etc. Thus UGCs role as a
funding entity will no longer exist except to those
areas of education involving liberal arts and
Infrastructure Content Development
Curricula in Indian
schools of learning seldom reflect changing trends in
the world. Periodic reviews undertaken show a lack of
progressive thinking. A conservative approach is
employed in development of curriculum. The result is
that the students are ill prepared for the real world
and require training on the job.
The stress should be
on content development that will reflect latest
advances in the subject. The Internet revolution has
made it possible for information to be disseminated
in real-time. This needs to be fully utilised to
develop content that will be contemporary. This would
involve fully utilising the ERNET and if necessary,
expanding its reach.
should incorporate courses in the emerging
technologies in areas such as telecommunication,
robotics, automation and biotechnology and constantly
seek to embrace new and emerging disciplines. In the
traditional courses, the focus should be on cutting
edge technologies and courses. For instance, in Civil
Engineering the cutting edge technology would involve
constructing intelligent buildings and intelligent
6.15 Government Role
Given sustained large
fiscal deficits of the Government of India and state
Governments, the outlays on social sectors have been
low. Most of the outlays are spent on salaries and
wages. Given this situation, the tax payers
money is better spent on improving literacy, primary
education, secondary education and education that is
not market oriented while private sector money needs
to be attracted for institutions of higher learning.
The responsibility of
the Government must be confined only to
ensuring that primary education is compulsory and
ensuring that secondary education is compulsory,
bringing about 100% literacy,
disciplines that have no market orientation,
supporting and part funding centres of higher
financial guarantees for student loans,
uniformity in content and quality, and
In succeeding levels
of education, the Government should play the role of
a facilitator. Government must exercise its
regulatory role to streamline higher education to
ensure that it is meaningful, purposeful and cost
effective. In essence, the Governments role
should be maximum at the primary stage and minimum at
the higher education stage.
The education sector
in India is probably the most controlled sector in
India. The whole mindset is on grants and aids.
Arising out of this mindset is a plethora of rules
and regulations. There are far too many bodies
managing education. Rules and regulations govern
virtually everything from location, student intake,
course content, fees and fee structure, appointments,
compensation for faculty and so on.
This is the equivalent
of government imposing controls on an industrial
units location, capacity, raw material intake,
technology, compensation package, product prices,
recruitment etc. on the back of subsidies and grants.
institutions of learning have become rigid. There is
little freedom for creativity and innovation. The
compensation system is unable to attract good quality
faculty. Research initiatives are constrained and
linkages with private sector are poor.
The whole system needs
to be overhauled. Institutions that do not depend on
the government for funding or have low levels of
funding must have operational freedom and the
flexibility to innovate. Management of education must
A redefinition of
government role in higher education would call for a
major privatisation of the university education
system in India. A Private University bill should be
legislated to encourage establishment of new private
universities in the fields of science and technology,
management, economics, financial management and other
critical areas with commercial application.
These new private
universities should offer courses in emerging areas
of science and technology and respective areas. They
must be encouraged to aim for world class standards
that would revolve around research based learning, an
open environment, people based competencies, best in
class facilities, market oriented curriculum,
attractive performance based compensation packages
and an unfailing accent on quality.
Business and industry
have a vital role to play in establishing world class
institutes of higher learning. Leading business
houses must be encouraged to establish such
institutes and universities.
6.18 Rating System
The quality of
education imparted in India is diverse. For example,
in technical education the quality ranges from the
globally recognised Indian Institutes of Technology
to fly-by-night engineering colleges. Educational
institutions in India are neither rated nor
benchmarked. There is no demand on teachers to
constantly upgrade skills. While institutions exhort
students to be competitive, they themselves have no
motivation to be competitive as schools of learning.
The employment market has created a non-formal
assessment of institutions but there is no formal
system in place.
There are anomalies as
well. The University Grants Commission is responsible
for quality of universities. However the Indira
Gandhi National Open University and the All India
Council of Technical Education are outside its
institutions in India schools, colleges,
institutions and universities- must be rated by
independent agencies analogous to a Standard and
Poors or CRISIL in the financial sector. There
should be an annual review by the rating agency.
Rating should mandatorily cover some important issues
such as emphasis on girls education, value
education, social service, physical education and
games. This rating should be mentioned in the
prospectus as well as all important communications.
Initially, higher educational institutions should
comply with rating requirements. After a defined
period of time, the rating system should be extended
to schools as well.
Funding to educational
institutions must be linked to rating. Institutions
with a lower than the minimum specified rating should
not be allowed to operate.
An independent rating
system will bring about accountability in the
education system in India. It will motivate schools
of learning to be performance oriented and
competitive. It will push teachers and faculty to be
contemporary. Based on ratings, a differential fee
structure could emerge. On the whole, a system that
continuously seeks higher standards of performance
would emerge. This is important for Indian society to
progress in a far more intensively competitive world.
6.19 Foreign Direct
Almost all sectors in
India, save such sectors as defence, atomic energy
and education, are open to foreign direct investment.
In the education sector, such investments are cleared
on a case to case basis and there are very few
investment in education will have the benefit of
improving standards and quality of education. It can
facilitate global integration of the Indian education
which, even to date, is not accepted in many
professional disciplines such as medicine and
The Government should
allow foreign direct investment in education. To
begin with, this can be limited to education in
science and technology. In other areas, there could
be a possibility of external cultural influences
coming in through foreign direct investment and hence
may not be allowed.
The massive investment
in education involved in creating a knowledge society
needs to be financed.
development fund needs to be set up for primary and
literacy education. Donations to this fund to be
fully exempt for income tax purposes.
The Government of
India should utilise this fund for primary and
secondary education, development of disciplines that
the market cannot support, higher education on a
selective basis and for creating the required
infrastructure for education.
higher and professional education can relieve
government funding from these areas which can be used
for primary education and improving literacy.
Subsidies for higher education should be gradually
withdrawn through higher fees and changes in fee
Concurrently, a credit
market for education needs to be developed to support
financing the higher costs. Financial institutions
should be encouraged to offer assistance in the form
of loans to students in higher education and
professional streams. Introducing loans improves
resource allocation since students will enrol in
courses with better returns. It will also attract
resources to the education sector as it is linked to
graduates future earnings. Since sufficient
collateral cannot be provided by students, a scheme
for government guarantees coupled with an independent
recovery authority needs to be institutionalised.
6.21 Marketing Indian
India is currently
being seen by foreign universities from UK, USA,
Canada and Australia as a huge market for their
educational services. The quality of educational
services rendered by some of these universities is
questionable, but such concerns get clouded in our
societys blind charm for foreign labels and
This process has to be
reversed. Indian institutions and universities must
be able to attract overseas students. There is a good
market for Indian education in Asia, Africa, South
America and East Europe. Our cost levels will easily
be less than one fourth of those in the developed
world with comparable quality.
The Indian education
system, once reformed, will have the ability to
attract a large number of foreign students. This will
have to be encouraged in order to generate additional
finances and earn goodwill. To begin with the
establishment of international schools in all our
existing centres of excellence, which have
international reputation, can be started.
Our universities have
become hot beds of politics. The teacher turned
politicians in universities are largely responsible
for falling standards and commitment. University
unions are seen as nurseries for political careers.
To remedy this serious
malady it is important that all political parties
come to an understanding that they will keep away
from universities and educational institutions. This
may seem to be an utopian idea. However a beginning
in this direction is overdue. It is also important to
bring about legislation banning any form of political
activity on campuses of universities and educational
6.23 Education and
Education is not the
only input for creating a knowledge based society.
Economic opportunities are equally important.
Education is necessary but not enough. Opportunities
to harness education and knowledge need to be
created. This would necessitate an economy free from
controls that fosters new opportunities. These new
opportunities, in turn, place new demands on
education. They also help reverse the process of
brain drain. In this sense, reforms in education and
in the economy are mutually reinforcing.
6.24 Research in
Research in India is
largely an elitist concept. Research at all levels
starting from the Undergraduate level in the science
and technology fields should be encouraged. Even the
infrastructure available for research and development
is poor and archaic.
The industrial growth
is estimated to be around 12 to 15 % in the coming
years. This would mean not only a large requirement
of trained graduates but also providing continuing
education for upgrading the skill and knowledge of
technical personnel working in industry and service
sectors. There are meagre efforts to address this
large segment. This could be a potential
money-spinner for the educational institution.
Universities and institutions should establish
separate administrative department to focus on this
segment. The faculty should be drawn from those
teaching the regular classes. The faculty will also
benefit from interaction with the industry personnel.
6.25 Physical Education
There is no emphasis
on physical development in our school curriculum.
There is a need to encourage sports activities by
providing the necessary infrastructure. The existing
resources of Sports Authority of India and other
sports bodies in the country should be utilised for
this critical area.
One day per week
(preferably Saturday) has to be compulsorily set
aside for extra-curricular activities such as games,
study trips, arts and crafts and similar activities
at the primary school and secondary school level.
6.27 Upgrading RECs and
Engineering Colleges can be upgraded by allowing them
more autonomy to raise additional resources for
upgradation of their resources. This has to be taken
up on priority to ensure that the quality of RECs are
comparable to the existing IITs.
Institutes (ITI) established in the late sixties
provided a large number of skilled and semi-skilled
manpower for both Indian and Persian Gulf companies.
However, over the years, they have gradually lost
their position due to non-upgradation of their
curriculum and infrastructure. Indias growth
aspirations would need a large number of skilled
manpower and these ITI can meet these requirements.
Urgent steps should be taken to upgrade the
infrastructure, resources and curriculum of these ITI