“ a compromise formula which includes a proposal to take top 20% students based on percentile ranking of respective boards for preparing the merit list”

How meaningless is this solution ?. Higher education in India will become the domain of the school toppers and Children of affluent parents and we wonder why half a million students leave India to study undergraduate courses overseas. Children who will never return to a country that shunned them.

Is this is what we call inclusive in RTE ?.

God Save India

Inclusive education does not mean that everyone must enter, or pass out from, an IIT. It only means that if you wanted to, you could have a shot at it. The child labourer is excluded because she can never dream of entering an IIT; she may absolutely hate IIT, but not trying to join an IIT should be her decision. Even if there is only one IIT train, every child must have access to the platform where the train comes. Of course, not everyone will get on to the train but everyone knows what to do to have a shot at the train. This is called inclusion in education. Everyone must go to school till class 12; those who work hard, and are willing to work harder still, will join an IIT. Others will, by choice, decide not to work that hard and become economists.

Shubhashis Gangopadhyay

All children are born equal and mindless politicians are trying to grade the children and youth of the nation and create a new Brahamanical Caste system in Education, which is pandering to the neo rich who can afford to send their children to elite private schools and Coaching schools.

"HRD Ministry of India wants to build castles of higher education on the bamboo scaffoldings of its schools" ~ Satish Jha

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Saturday, May 19, 2012

146 - An opportunity lost Atta-ur-Rahman

An opportunity lost
Saturday, May 19, 2012

The single most important discipline that impacts the growth of national self-reliance is engineering. Expertise in engineering leads to a country to develop key products and processes that include special alloys, engineering goods, industrial machinery, automobiles, electronics, household appliances, computers, polymers, and even novel textiles, chemicals and pharmaceuticals. It is for this reason that while developing basic and applied sciences as well as social sciences in a well-rounded fashion, I decided to give special emphasis to the engineering sector when I was the federal minister of science & technology and later the chairman of the Higher Education Commission.

India decided to strengthen its engineering sector back in the 1950s under the visionary policies of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and as a result seven world class Indian institutes of technology were established over the last several decades. This emphasis on strengthening education in general, and engineering universities in particular has resulted in the emergence of a strong middle class in India that accounts for about 32 percent of its population and is growing at a pace of about 1 percent per year. It has also impacted the rapid development of the mega industries (steel, automobiles, software etc.) in India as it has the critical mass of highly qualified manpower that is able to serve as the engine of growth.

Recently India has decided to make massive investments in higher education. Indian HRD Minister Kapil Sibal recently announced that India will invest Rs80,000 crores in the next five year plan (till 2017) in higher education. These funds will be used for increasing the number of IITs from the present seven to sixteen, and setting up 200 new universities and 40 centres of excellence. This will allow India to increase its access to higher education from 17 percent of youth aged between 17-23 to over 30 percent. In Pakistan we increased this access from 2.6 percent to 7.6 percent during 2003-2010 but we are now sliding backwards.

India will also replace its University Grants Commission by a much more powerful body to be called the National Commission for Higher Education and Research. This was decided recently by the Indian cabinet. Realising the importance of engineering education and research in the year 2000 we decided to strengthen the existing engineering universities by creating significant endowments of Rs100-200 million for every engineering university in order to promote research. Later when I became chairman HEC about 5,000 PhD level scholarships were awarded to the brightest students of Pakistan after a competitive national test, over 2,000 of which were in the fields of engineering and computer sciences. The efforts to strengthen engineering led to dramatic progress in Pakistan with several of our universities being ranked in the top 300, 400 and 500 of the world.

However, the most important step to strengthen engineering education and research in Pakistan was to establish a network of several world class foreign engineering universities. The model chosen was a very visionary one by all accounts. The students in Pakistan would have been enrolled into courses offered by the top engineering universities in Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, Austria, China and other countries. Students would have studied exactly the same curriculum as offered by the foreign universities, they would have been taught by highly qualified foreign faculty and they would have received degrees from reputable foreign universities without ever going abroad. This would have brought world class engineering education at a very affordable cost to Pakistani students and created the needed momentum for our engineering industry to start massive investments in engineering industries.

At present Pakistani parents spend about Rs100 billion annually in sending their children abroad for studies. Much of this money would have been saved. The model involved partnership with consortia of top universities (rather than with any single foreign university) so that quality faculty could become available in sufficient numbers. Thus nine top German engineering universities formed a strong consortium to establish a world class engineering university in Lahore. Similar consortia were formed by Italy, Austria and China. Lands for all the universities were generously provided by the provincial governments and the PM of Pakistan laid the foundation stone of the Pakistan-French University. Classes of the German, Austrian, Italian and Chinese were planned to commence in October 2008.

The new technical universities were based on the novel concept that education and employment are strongly and permanently linked and that it was important to ensure this. Each university would therefore have had a technology park within its premises. The university/technology park complex was envisaged to produce qualified and trained engineers who would have serviced local industry, carried out R&D work, become entrepreneurs and, most importantly, brought inward investment into Pakistan because highly trained manpower would have been available to foreign investors.

The high tech R & D centres in technology parks would have focused on developing commercially viable products or services, developing prototypes and undertaking small scale production in order to demonstrate the commercial feasibility of the products of services realised in the R & D centres. In cases where further development into a large-scale business was justified, a separate business enterprise would have been established on an industrial or commercial site outside the tech park. The tech park was to encourage start-ups operating in specially designed incubator units. Entrepreneurs within the university in all categories, students, faculty and technicians were to be encouraged to develop worthwhile ideas, inventions and know-how into commercial products and services. Start-up companies would have been encouraged to apply for venture funds from a central fund operated by the owners of the tech parks and given help with the preparation of business plans and company operation and management methods.

The projects for four of these university in collaboration with Germany, Italy, Austria and China were approved by ECNEC in February 2008 at a cost of about Rs160 billion over a 10 year period. The projects were approved by ECNEC in February 2008 and were again presented to the present prime minister on May 12, 2008. The prime minister had approved the implementation of this programme. Then disaster struck. On May 19, 2008, just three months after ECNEC had granted approval for the projects, the cabinet froze the programme and decided to form a four member committee. The programme was strongly supported by the Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervez Elahi at various cabinet meetings and later by the new Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif at the cabinet meeting held in Lahore. However all this was to no avail. The foreign countries with whom the negotiations had been carried out over several years for the establishment of these universities just could not believe what had happened. Pakistan had lost all credibility as a nation in their eyes.

In Pakistan we have strangled education to serve the interests of the ruling feudal classes and we are today in the shameful position of being ranked among the bottom seven countries of the world in terms of expenditure on education, that is a lowly 1.8 percent of the GDP. This is a national tragedy for a nuclear power.

A wonderful opportunity to bring world class engineering education to Pakistan has been lost.

The writer is former federal minister for science & technology and former chairman of the Higher Education Commission. Email: ibne_sina@hotmail.com