In defence of Kapil Sibal

After the fiasco over the human resource development ministry's 100-day plan, all 100-day plans are apparently out. Time, particularly in oriental societies, is an infinity and open-ended. It is now acknowledged a big bang in 100 days was a bad idea. The bigger the bang, the bigger the whimper. There is always life after death. If UPA-II cannot implement reforms in education, UPA-V will. All said and done, the HRD ministry's 100-day plan did convey an impression of being hastily cobbled together. I couldn't find a counterpart for the Department of School Education & Literacy. For the Department of Higher Education, it was tagged on at the bottom of the website, almost as bulleted points in power-point style. There were proposals for an autonomous over-arching authority, independent assessment and accreditation, entry (including for foreign providers), a tribunal for fast-tracking disputes, review of deemed universities and direct credit of scholarships to bank accounts. Education is typically divided into three (or four) segments elementary education and literacy, secondary and vocational (this becomes the fourth) and higher and technical (legal, medical, management, engineering). One can also throw in open and distance education and adult literacy.

Some forms of education will now become a right. In 1787, Thomas Jefferson wrote to James Madison, "A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular; and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inferences." Our charter of wrongs on education has been documented several times, not just by the National Knowledge Commission (NKC) or the Yash Pal Committee. Consequently, the HRD ministry can be forgiven if it assumed status quo problems to be known and went on from there. That status quo is what we will continue to get, if we don't reform education, notwithstanding our vaunted demographic dividend.

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