Smriti Irani on education policy: ‘One size fits all’ not correct

By: | Updated: April 18, 2015 12:03 PM

Union HRD minister Smriti Irani has said the country's new education policy would be decided by its "2.75 lakh village education councils"...

Smriti Irani, Education policy, new education policy, HRD Minister, Delhi University, FYUP, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Education news, economy news, India newsUnderlining Prime Minister Narendra Modi?s vision of policies having a ?people connect?, Smriti Irani said that for a country that is ?complex and has such diverse cultures needs, one size fits for all programmes was not correct?. (Express Photo by AMit Mehra)

Union HRD minister Smriti Irani has said the country’s new education policy would be decided by its “2.75 lakh village education councils” and that the view of each council would be mapped by her ministry.

Speaking on Thursday at the latest edition of Express Adda — the full transcript will be published next week — Irani also said that while a few academic experts, bureaucrats and politicians decided for the nation “what to study” in the previous UPA government, the new policy under NDA would consult people with “rooted experience in the education field”.

Underlining Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of policies having a “people connect”, Irani said that for a country that is “complex and has such diverse cultures needs, one size fits for all programmes was not correct”.

“We have devised 32 themes for education…and put it up on HRD website,” Irani said, adding that her ministry had streamlined the process by bringing the school and higher education departments together.

“Education begins from school, but I found out that both the departments worked separately. I made both the departments sit down together and said ‘let us not compartmentalise education… so that people have this comprehensive and cohesive look at education’,” she said.

Responding to a question by former Delhi University vice chancellor Prof Deepak Pental about the steps taken by her ministry to maintain global standards in Indian universities, Irani said she preferred that Indian higher education not be judged solely on the global rankings system.

“Everyone is free to aspire for better global rankings, but we also need some kind of measuring tool for ourselves because we know our democracy and its needs better. We are devising a national ranking system in conjunction with all our vice chancellors of central universities, IITs and IIM directors among others,” she said.

Pental had recently come out in support of current VC Dinesh Singh, who was served a showcause notice by the HRD ministry over the Four-Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP) at DU, saying the government’s move would lead to the “autonomy” of the varsity being “compromised”.

Responding to another question, Irani tried to clear the air on the controversy surrounding the Gujarat government’s decision to adopt history books written by right-wing ideologue Dinanath Batra.

“One needs to understand that every state government has the constitutional right to formulate educational and academic structures within the state. Are you to deny the state the right to a particular formulation because you don’t believe that particular ideology?” she asked.

Asked if the issue concerned her as a parent, she said, “Nobody is reading it (Batra’s book) in my house. My children read books prescribed by the Delhi government because they are in a Delhi school.”

Irani went on to criticise the media, accusing it of blowing things out of proportion.

Singling out two reports published by The Indian Express, she said, “There was this brouhaha on good governance day that all schools will be open on Christmas day… when you look at the reality what happens? There is a online essay competition which is done and voluntary students are told if you want to participate you can.”

Irani also referred to another report about India’s former atomic energy chief Anil Kakodkar having decided to quitting the IIT Bombay board due to a disagreement with the HRD ministry over the selection process for directors.

“I had videographic evidence that Kakodkar had done group conversations with all the IIT nominees who were to be selected for the next round. Can you imagine that a Cabinet minister of government of India had to carry videographic evidence to prove that there was a wrong report printed,” she said.

“The rule in my family is if it is in The Indian Express just ignore it. It might be cooked up. I am sorry I am saying this because lot of these were printed by presumably sources and somehow those sources couldn’t pinpoint the exact thing which happened,” Irani said.

Incidentally, the first report that the minister referred to was accompanied by an image of the original circular issued on December 9, 2014 by her ministry, which said it had “decided to observe December 25, which is the birth anniversary of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee and also Shri Madan Mohan Malaviya, as Good Governance Day”.

In the report on Kakodkar, the newspaper had contacted Irani to obtain her response, which was published as part of the report.

Kakodkar later told this paper and reporters from other newspapers that he was not happy with the selection process.

Irani, meanwhile, also spoke about the initiatives being lined up by her ministry, including an online platform for central universities, IITs, IIMs and NITs among others to start 80 degree, diploma and certificate courses.

“We are mapping close to 500 examination centres across the country. Upon its completion, students can avail the certificates for just Rs 500,” Irani said.

She added that from this academic year, the government would start the PM’s flagship programme aimed at roping in foreign university faculty to teach Indian students.

“We are inviting 1000 professors from across the world in conjunction with central universities, IIMs and IITs for better quality of education and the Indian government will bear the complete expenses,” said Irani.

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