Friday, July 11, 2014

High-5 for education: New IITs, IIMs on paper

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley deftly straddled the two worlds of higher and school education while addressing two basic requirements of education — access and quality. The flagship Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan continues to be the cynosure of the new government with increased allocation of Rs. 286.35 billion while the FM announced setting up of five new IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology) and IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management). The budget allocation to education has been increased by 12% to Rs. 837.71 billion.

The new IITs will come up in Jammu, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. The five new IIMs will be in Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Bihar, Odisha and Maharashtra. It's part of the Modi government's larger plan to have IIT/IIM in each state.

However, allocation of Rs. 5 billion for new IITs/IIMs shows a mismatch between intention and action. Setting up one IIT costs Rs. 17.5 billion and an IIM nearly Rs. 10 billion. While IIT-Roorkee Director Pradipto Banerjee thinks new IITs will correct the historical wrong, the new government should also address the problems of eight IITs that were set up during the UPA regime. From bad infrastructure to more than 40% vacancy in teaching faculty, the new institutes are yet to stand on their feet. While democratization of IITs/IIMs is a laudable idea, the fear of dilution of quality is also not misplaced. The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), as one official says, needs to start new institutions in 'mission mode' with inflexible deadlines.

Madan Mohan Malaviya Teachers' Training Programme with an allocation of Rs. 5 billion comes as a good initiative to bolster quality of school education. Scores of studies have found lack of quality teachers as the biggest hindrance to school education. The new initiative should help states sort out the recruitment mess and create a uniform standard throughout the country. The move to take information technology to children through virtual classrooms will increase access.

Source: The Times of India, July 11, 2014

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