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India needs a knowledge society: Shashi Tharoor

Feb 26, 2013

At a conference today organised by the CII, Shashi Tharoor talked about the need for the private sector to step up and play a bigger role in the education sector in India.

At the National Conference being held by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the business community stood up to take on the responsibility of India’s education. The conference ‘School Education: Is Secondary Education on track’ had people from the government sector, public sector and academics to gauge the condition of education in India.

The opening session saw the release of two CII reports; ‘Towards Professional Preparation of Teacher Education’ and ‘Needs of NGOs in the education sector’. The reports were released by Shashi Tharoor, Minister of State for Human Resource Development, who also gave the key note address at the session. The day was planned to cover all aspects of secondary education, from preparing teachers as educators to deliberating on the need for NGOs to step into the education sector, all aspects and stakeholders of the education sector were discussed and brought together.

Tharoor for his part, urged more private sector participation in the education sector in India for better results. He talked about the plan to set-up 6000 schools, out of which 3500 schools will be set up by government and the rest 2500 by private players. Going on with this, he warned against the rampant spread of schools that do not give quality education. The Minister urged for greater and tighter quality control to ensure parents from poor economic backgrounds can afford and access good education.

Laying emphasis on the need to make connections between employment, a rising economy and the youth to power it, Tharoor hailed India as a nation that by 2020 will have 160 million people aged between 20 to 24, while China will have just 94 million. Keeping this in mind, education is needed to ‘equip youth to take advantages of what the 21st century India has to offer them,’ The minister also talked about the issue of out-of-school children, which is an issue bothering many in the education NGO sector. He read out figures which showed the dire situation: The Gross Enrolment Rate (GER) for primary education was above 100 per cent, declining to 69 per cent for grade 8 and 39 per cent for grade 11 and 12. He reiterated the need to ‘create a knowledge society than a mere knowledge economy.’

Tharoor has been avidly attending education conferences and workshops, and talking about the need for a holistic education model in India. In this sense, he talked of the need to remedy the rampant adult illiteracy in India. Currently there are 74 per cent of adults in India who cannot read and write. Tharoor cited the CSR mandate as a good way of corporates to invest and work in the education sector in India.

The conference hopes to be a platform where all the stakeholders from the education sector meet and exchange ideas on how to make the spread of education more inclusive and successful.

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