Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sibal lays stone for IIT-Patna campus; worries about low GER

The government was committed to the development of all new Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Kapil Sibal said in Patna Tuesday while laying the foundation stone of the IIT-Patna. The premier technology institute is coming up on 500 acres of land near Bihta, about 30 kms from Patna, the state's capital. Sibal, who arrived here Monday night, said construction work would be completed within three years.

"The central government was committed to the development of all new IITs, including IIT-Patna," Sibal said after he laid the foundation stone. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who was also present on the occasion, said the state government had last year handed over 463 acres of acquired land. He formally handed over the papers for the 500 acres of land to IIT-Patna Director Anil K. Bhowmick. IIT-Patna has been running at a temporary polytechnic campus here since August 2008.

Mr. Sibal said the Centre would soon work out with the State Governments, the modalities of implementation of the Right to Education Act in order to provide compulsory education to all children in the age group of 6 to 14 years.

The Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has chalked out a plan to provide an impetus to higher education and up the country's gross enrolment ratio from a measly 14% to at least 20% by 2020. "It's a major challenge. Developed nations report 50% to 70% gross enrolment ratio," Mr. Sibal said.

Speaking as the chief guest after laying the foundation stone of the IIT-Patna's new campus, Sibal said the country's real wealth is intellectual property which can be created only if more IITs, IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management) and universities are set up. The country today has 700 universities and 26,000 colleges, which are not enough. "We will require 40,000 to 50,000 colleges and 1000 universities and technical institutions by 2020," he said.

Mr. Sibal said only 15% of the IIT products opt for foreign jobs while the rest of them are contributing to the development of the country. He hoped that IIT-Patna would also prove to be the country's educational mainstay once it starts functioning from its new campus after two years.

Sibal regretted that only 14% of the country's school passouts study in universities while 18% to 24% of children remain unschooled. Though the scenario is improving, it's still poor compared to European countries where 50 to 70% students get university education.

The Union HRD ministry has decided to make all the colleges and universities of the country online under the "National Knowledge Network" scheme. It would be a boon for teachers and students as it would add value to their respective pursuits, Sibal said. Lauding the development work being carried out in Bihar under the leadership of Chief Minister (CM) Nitish Kumar, Sibal said the Centre is ready to help the state grow further in the field of higher education.

In his presidential address, Kumar pitched afresh the state's plea to set up the Central University of Bihar in Motihari. It would be a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi who had started his 'satyagrah' from the West Champaran district headquarters in 1917, he said. "People are ready to make land available in Motihari, only 135 minutes away from Patna. Situated on East-West corridor, the place is also on the railway map. Yet, the Centre is insisting on opening the university somewhere near Patna," the CM said and asked how inclusive growth will be achieved if all the educational institutions open in Patna.

Kumar said the state government is spending Rs. 8,000 crore (Rs. 80 billion) on education. "Bihar should be given special central assistance to implement the Centre's Right to Education Act which involves a cost of Rs. 12,000 crore (Rs. 120 billion)," he said and added the state would not look up to the Centre for such expenses if it is accorded the special state status. Mr. Sibal, however, said that the present UPA government has given record funds for education sector to the Bihar government.

Sources: The Times of India & Indo-Asian News Service, April 20, 2011

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