The Punjab government will provide free textbooks to all students, and introduce pre- primary classes, nursery and LKG, in government schools from the next academic session as part of its sweeping educational reforms. It will also provide free Internet service in 13,000 primary schools and all the 48 government colleges. This was announced in the state Assembly today by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh who said his government would accord the highest priority to school education and, notwithstanding the constraint of resources, seek to increase budgetary support to the education sector. Five new colleges will be set up in the current financial year, he said. He claimed that his government had inherited a virtually collapsed system of school education and expressed concern at the split in the society into haves and have-nots. He said the children of a favoured few get good school education and the opportunity to study in top institutions while the others being left with poor educational grounding. As part of the government initiatives to improve education in the state, textbooks would be posted online, thus enabling students/parents to download the same free of cost, the chief minister said. A comprehensive digital education programme will be launched to improve access to quality school education. Smart classes, computer hardware, free Internet for 13,000 primary schools and digitalisation of school records is already in progress, he informed the House. Amarinder said special funds would be earmarked for providing proper infrastructure in terms of electricity, furniture, toilets and playgrounds in all government schools in the state. English as the medium of instruction will be offered as an option in government schools.
On a pilot basis, English medium will be started in atleast two primary, middle, high and senior secondary schools in each educational block from July onwards. The government also proposes to set up two new sainik schools in districts Gurdaspur and Mansa, and another institute on the lines of the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Academy, Mohali, to train youth to join the armed forces. In a unique initiative, the government also proposes to launch a programme--'Padho Punjab. Padhao Punjab'--whereby young NRI graduates and people from across India and the world will be invited to dedicate upto one year by way of volunteer work to assist in teaching in the schools. The government, said the chief minister, will aim to provide one college in each sub-division of the state. The syllabi of various degree courses, both technical and non- technical, will be reviewed and brought at par with the best in the country. To improve infrastructure, quality of learning and the capacity of teachers, the government proposes to set up an authority to regulate the functioning of private universities and colleges in the state. This is also aimed at introducing greater transparency and accountability in the functioning of higher education institutions, said Amarinder, adding that the government will soon finalise a proposal in this regard in consultation with all stakeholders. A Central Institute for Promotion and Development of Punjabi Language is proposed to be set up at Talwandi Sabo in Bathinda. To promote technical education and skill development, the government has initiated a Mukh Mantri Vazifa Yojana for meritorious students studying in government polytechnics or PTU campus colleges, wherein 70-100 per cent rebate is provided on their tuition fee based on the performance of meritorious students. The Department of Technical Education has already signed an MoU to provide free Wi-Fi on all campuses of government engineering colleges, government polytechnic colleges and government ITIs. Skill development and industrial training in the state will be revamped in Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode, and the department also proposes to set up a skills' university at Chamkaur Sahib (Ropar), which will award certificates, diplomas, graduate degrees, post-graduate degrees and PhDs, the chief minister said. The government is also in the process of setting up a Regional Vocational Training Institute for Girls at Rajpura and Regional Directorate of Apprenticeship Training at Mohali at a cost of Rs 35 crore, he added.