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Get children to schools, says Kalam

Source: PTI
Last updated on: August 14, 2004 19:41 IST
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The President in his Independence Day eve speech said the government should increase expenditure on education to about six to seven per cent of GDP.

Devoting a major part of his eve-of Independence Day speech to education, President A P J Abdul Kalam on Sunday favoured an increase in expenditure on education by two to three per cent of the GDP and asked the corporate sector to adopt different regions within an overall national mission.

"Today our expenditure on education in India is little more than four per cent of our GDP. If we have to achieve nearly 100 per cent literacy, it is necessary to increase expenditure on education to about six to seven per cent of GDP. This two to three per cent increase has to be sustained only for a few years," Kalam said in his address to the nation on the eve of Independence Day.

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Full text of President's speech

To augment government resources, he appealed to the entire corporate sector to emulate the example set by some corporate leaders who have focused on education to make a national difference.

"Different regions of the country may be adopted by the corporate sector within an overall national mission for education", he said. "The mechanism should enable persons to have freedom to innovate and deliver directly."

Mooting a three-pronged strategy to make education more attractive and simultaneously create more employment potential, he said, "The education system should highlight the importance of entrepreneurship and prepare students right from college education to get oriented towards setting up of enterprises."   

The President suggested that college syllabi even for arts, science, and commerce courses should include topics and practicals where such entrepreneurship is possible.

"Secondly, the banking system should provide venture capital right from village level to prospective entrepreneurs for undertaking new enterprises. Banks have to be pro-active in supporting innovative products for enabling wealth generation by young entrepreneurs by setting aside the 'conventional tangible asset syndrome'", he said.

He also recommended an economic pull for generation of marketable products and enhancement of purchasing power among the people.

"This can come through the implementation of mega programmes such as rural connectivity, regional linking of rivers, infrastructural missions, power missions and tourism," he said.

"We need the education system to focus on high value and productive employement opportunities," Kalam said.

Pointing out that the country had 350 million people who needed literacy, Kalam said only a small percentage of children who belong to weaker sections managed to complete eight years of satisfactory education.

"We need to think specifically about them. Education is indeed a fundamental right of every Indian child," he said "Can we allow the situation to continue in which millions of these children are forced into life long poverty?"

Showing concern over the inequality of access to educational resources, Kalam said, "It is essential that we enlighten and create widespread awareness of education among all sections of society particularly in rural areas and among the urban poor."

He suggested use of technology for this important social purpose and felt it was possible for NGOs, other social and philanthropic institutions and the media to focus on this area of creating awareness. "We should also mobilise necessary resources for providing education to the underprivileged people," he said.

On mobilising resources for the mission of education, the President said that over the lat 50 years, successive governments have been committed to achieving the national goal of universal education and has steadily increased the budgetary allocation for education.

"However, 35 per cent of our adult population is yet to achieve literacy," he said, and pointed out that the expenditure on education as a percentage of the GDP has a direct impact on literacy.
In this context, he suggested raising expenditure on education to about six to seven per cent of GDP from little over four per cent now.

Kalam said the increase had to be sustained only for a few years as thereafter, a lower percentage of GDP allocation to education would be adequate to sustain the high degree of literacy in the country for all time to come.

Kalam observed that public expenditure alone from governments at the Centre and in the States might not be able to meet the challenge of mobilising an additional two to three per cent of GDP for the mission of education.

"It is here that we have to generate additional resources for this noble mission. Expenditure on education, whether in the Centre or in the States, can no longer be provided only by respective Ministries or Departments for human resource development," he said.

Referring to the "differential qualtiy and standards" or teaching, the President said there was a need to make the quality of teaching high in all schools. "There also is a need for preparatory education even in rural areas to make the child competitive when he or she joins the regular school," he said, and added that NGOs and the corporate sector could play a vital role in running such schools in rural areas.

Kalam said that 39 per cent of children drop out from school after studying fifth class and 55 per cent drop out after studying up to eighth class.

"This situation needs remedial action, especially since assent has been accorded to the 86th Constitution Amendment Act -- the Right to Education Bill for children between the age group of five and 14.

"But an Act alone cannot achieve the goal, unless education is delivered in a manner which will take into account the socio-economic reality and perception of the people to whom it is addressed," he said.

Kalam said the education system should aim at building character and human values, enchancing learning capacity through technology and building confidence among children to face the future.

Describing the system of entrance examination as a "heavy burden on children", the President said that recently he had received many emails from children and parents regarding too many entrance examinations, which children have to appear in from nursery up to plus-two level for entry into schools, colleges, universities and professional courses.

"It has also led to the proliferation of tuition and coaching institutes for preparing students for entrance examinations," he said.

Kalam said a common All India examination to be conducted by a nominated institution of the government should be devised for entry into universities and professional colleges.

"Examinations must also be so designed that attending a coaching course would not provide undue advantage to privileged students. Entrance tests should be more in the nature of aptitude assessment rather than creating a seniority list," he suggested.

The President recommended that examining bodies might consider the introduction of the open book system of
examinations. "This will promote creativity among teachers in setting questions and the evaluation of the creative ability of the students. A secure examination system is the need of the hour," he said.

He also said that the examining bodies should have a reliable evaluation system and timely declaration of results.

Stressing the need for adoption of safety measures, he said certain safety features must be built in school buildings without which it should not be possible to get affiliation by these schools.

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