Education Next – The Way Forward : The New Dream Of Literacy


India ranks amongst one of the largest countries in the world with the highest illiteracy level. Definitely it’s a source of incredible shame for the third largest economy of Asia. Repeated efforts on the part of the Government, since the post independence period, to uplift the literacy level in our country have been only partially successful or entirely futile. The gender discrimination in our country is also a major factor contributing to the high illiteracy level. The percentage of female illiteracy in our country is higher, that directly affects the population control and stabilization efforts.

The recent proposed project of the Human Resources Development Minister Shri Kapil Sibal to reduce the illiteracy level in India, as announced in the conference, “Education Next – The Way Forward” held in Delhi earlier this year is positively highly ambitious and at the same time of Herculean dimension. The minister envisaged the proposed plan of launching India as the “Education Superpower of the Future”.

The plan and its proposed implementation:
The proposed plan has outlined certain strategies which as per the Minister if implemented at the right place and at the right time will considerably reduce the illiteracy level in India. The four point program outlined in the conference includes:
• Increasing enrolment from 12.2% to 30% of the relevant age group of the population in higher education programs by 2025
• A proposal to introduce a considerable number of new courses
• A comprehensive use of the modern technologies to disseminate the various educational programs
• Involving both the private and the corporate sector as proactive entities in the proposed program

The positive points of the “Education Next” Program:
• The exhaustive use of cloud computing
• Spreading of education through the use of low cost devices like tablets and mobile phones
• Using the Broadband and Internet to provide open education
• The proposal of introducing a huge number of new courses will give the students a wide variety of choices to pursue and the freedom to choose combination of courses as a part of the syllabus which may even include odd combinations like Mathematics and Music
• Revamping the education structure so the students have adequate exposure to practical education like hands on experience, laboratory and research facilities
• A major strength of the plan lies in involving the corporate and private sectors because it is impossible for the Government alone to undertake this Herculean task. The educational ventures of the Tata group, like the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai or the Indian Institute of Science are state of the art educational facilities, which have the fresh vision and the capacity to introduce new management techniques for creating an improved infrastructure for higher education. Evidently the corporate and the private sector can make enormous contributions towards creating a better education system for our country
• The project will be augmented by connecting 2.5lakh villages through fiber optics

The “Educations Next”, though barely at the skeletal stage, seems to have omitted certain important issues discussed below:
(A)Improving literacy amongst women: There are already numerous existing State and Central government initiatives, policies and programs to enhance the access of girls’ education and to make their retentions in school possible. These include providing bicycles for transportation, separate toilets and residential school for girls. Conditional cash transfer in the form of specific scholarships to persuade families to send the girls to school, providing sets of school uniforms, sponsoring textbooks along with a separate scholarship scheme for SC/ST girls are some of the other existing motivational measures. Majority of the female population of our country are deprived and excluded whenever it comes to accessing any basic right and that includes education.
(B)Necessity of a comprehensive teachers’ training program: The dream of “Education for All” is incomplete without a comprehensive teachers’ training program which involves preparation and continued education of the teachers. The re-envisioning of the curriculum and the pedagogy of the teacher education programs proposed by the NCFTE in 2009 provides a meaningful pathway to produce reflective teachers who can teach in diverse classrooms effectively.
(C)The Government budget for the education sector: The figures for the budgetary allocation of SSA by Central and the State Governments have increased considerably from 2005-2006 to 2011-2012. In the 11th Five year plan the net budget for SSA was Rs20, 060 crore which increased to Rs59, 385 crore in 2011-2012. The Twelfth Five Year plan holds the promise of a fivefold increase in the budget for the education sector.

Challenges likely to be faced by the “Education Next” program:
• The “Education Next” program primarily focuses on the higher education schemes. But part of the focus should be shifted to the primary school education which provides the basis for a higher education. The reason is simple. Under the Right to Education Act (RTE) of 2009 education is free and mandatory till the age of 14. Despite this only 95% of this age group population enroll in schools, 73% attend school, only 40% make it to the middle school and less than 20% finally goes to the secondary school.
• The issue of the market demands needs an immediate address. The current statistics show that 70% graduates from the technical streams and 85% graduates from the general streams are either under employed or unemployed, a direct consequence of the severe mismatch between the education provided by the institutions and the practical market demands. So far the educational policy makers have been unable to design a curriculum in tandem with the market demands. The idea of expanding higher education will completely fall through if this issue is not addressed properly.
• Introducing a huge number of courses for higher education to increase the choice of the students will also generate the need for proper faculty to teach these courses. So it is necessary to design the new courses based on the availability of the concerned faculty. Many positions in the universities and colleges are vacant for the dearth of qualified faculty.
• The target to increase the enrollment in higher education from 12% to 30% involving a total of 800 universities and 50, 000 colleges will create a mammoth infrastructure which will need very qualified and experienced managerial backup or else it will take no time to come apart at the seams.
• And lastly funding. Such a huge endeavor will need a consistent source of guaranteed funding. Only the Government funds will not be sufficient to meet the needs of the increasing number of students aiming for higher education especially when in India the cost of higher education is relatively high. So the funding issue also needs an immediate address because it will form the backbone of the new infrastructure of the improved higher education system.


Since the post independence period the Government endeavors are continuing to lift the curse of illiteracy from our country. Not underestimating the possibilities of the new “Education Next” program, it is to be noted that numerous such programs have been envisaged in the past, existing in the present and will also be hatched in future. But the process of implementing literacy amongst the Indian population still maintains a snail’s pace as it did a decade ago. At this rate as per Wikipedia statistics, India will become fully literate by 2060. Not an encouraging thought, is it?

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