The BRICS Ministers of Education Meet in Beijing ended on a note that pledged to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all.
The Meeting of BRICS Ministers of Education held yesterday witnessed an Indian delegation led by Prakash Javadekar, the Minister of Human Resource Development along with a high-profile delegation from all the five BRICS countries.
While India’s lack of infrastructure in providing basic education has got highlighted in various global reports, the country’s recent step to improve and initiate a collaborative space for higher education is now under the scanner.
BRICS meet in China
Observing the UN Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4) – Education 2030 and recalling the Brasilia Declaration on March 2, 2015, Moscow Declaration on November 18, 2015 and New Delhi Declaration on September 30, 2016 the recently concluded Beijing summit had imperative discussions on education reforms, approaches to promote equity in education and fostering quality education. The strengthening of BRICS collaboration in the field of education and exchange of students and scholars and teaching faculty among the BRICS Member States was also discussed.
Speaking on the occasion, Minister of Human Resource Development, Prakash Javadekar thanked China for hosting the meeting in Beijing. He said that the Education, being the universal good, empowers everybody. It will set the tone for the world of the future. Education is a universal, apolitical agenda. It’s not negotiation, but cooperation all the way. So, increased cooperation in education is the need of the hour.
India aims high education
The creation of an institutional mechanism in the form of BRICS Network University and BRICS Think Tank Council was highly applauded by the Indian delegation and mentioned by Javadekar in his speech. BRICS Network University, where 12 universities from each of the 5 countries will engage with each other in education research and innovation, is another commendable initiative. Five areas of cooperation are prioritised which are Communication and IT, Economics, Climate Change, Water Resources and Pollution, and BRICS study. India will participate whole-heartedly in all these cooperative efforts.
Javadekar also said that under the dynamic leadership of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the government is reforming and reprioritising its education. In School Education, it is the learning outcomes which are being emphasised upon, and efforts are on to promote creativity and keep alive curiosity and inquisitiveness amongst students. In higher education, the focus is on skilling, research, and innovation. He emphasised the steps taken to achieve equity through increased scholarships, education loans, remission and fee waivers for disadvantaged and marginalised sections.
Minister Javadekar highlighted some of the initiatives of the Indian government in education. He specifically spoke about the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) which provides a relative ranking of Indian institutions, India’s indigenous MOOCs platform, SWAYAM, which has already hosted over 480 courses online and, this year, plan to host 2000 courses and GIAN (Global Initiative for Academics Network) under which 600 professors from 62 countries have already conducted their courses in India and, this year, we expect to receive another 800 faculties from across the world. The Minister spoke about India’s research initiative, IMPRINT, which identifies priority areas for research for India, National Digital Library, which provides over 7.2 million online resources free of cost and is ever expanding National Academic Depository (NAD), Smart India Hackathon, which involved over 40000 students in solving over 300 problems received from various sources.
At the conclusion of the BRICS Education Ministers’ meeting, a bilateral meeting was also held between the Minister of Human Resource Development, India and the Education Minister of China, Chen Baosheng when bilateral cooperation between India and China was discussed.
Challenges in education
India’s higher education plans and programmes received due criticism from global bodies as QS World University Rankings avoids putting even a single Indian institute in its list of 200 top universities around the world. Although India’s huge demography of young and talented individuals is considered as a major potency, India fails to optimise the latent might in the right way. According to a government data, only one out of every seven children born in India goes to college. Evidently, quality and quantity suffer in the country and that has remained one of the perennial problems of the country boasting of being the next super power.
As per the data available dated 2010, India’s Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) for higher education was a meager 13.8 pc, compared with the global average of around 26 pc. Comparing with the standards of Australia, Russia or the US, with GERs upwards of 75 pc, India has a lot to catch up. Although the Ministry of Human Resources & Development had set a target of a 30 pc GER for India by 2020, the way ahead looks quite daunting and quite impossible to be realistic.