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'A knowledge society in the true sense of the word'

Smriti Irani 

Smriti Irani

Education occupies a strategic position in India's development priorities. India's efforts to achieve universal elementary education gained further momentum with the 86th Constitutional Amendment Act, 2002, and the enactment of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, which became effective on April 1, 2010. The RTE Act, 2009, entitles every child in the age group of six to 14 years to a right to free and compulsory elementary education in a neighbourhood school.

India has been a keen and dedicated member of the global EFA (Education For All) initiative and a founder of its E-9 subgroup. As a follow-up to the Dakar Framework of Action for EFA, a 'National Plan of Action for Education for All', was formulated in 2002 in India, with a view to contextualise and strategise policies and programmes for achieving the EFA goals. We formulated many programmes, the most prominent being the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, which is the Indian version of Education for All.

India has made substantial progress towards the EFA goals, as is brought out in the GMR (Global Monitoring Reports) too. Several strategic approaches have been found to be effective in promoting the goals of Education for All, namely the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan and Saakshar Bharat. Mission mode implementation of these programmes has accelerated (the) efforts towards EFA goals. Under the strategies of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan - the flagship programme for universalisation of elementary education that covers about 1.4 million schools and the National Programme of Mid-Day Meals that provide mid-day meals daily to about 11 million school children - near universal access to and enrolment in elementary education has been achieved.

Significant progress has also been made in bridging social category gaps in elementary education. Facilitating community involvement in both elementary and adult education programmes has been an important strategy for accelerating progress towards Education for All goals. School Management Committees with 75 per cent membership of parents in government and government-aided schools have contributed increasingly to improved schools, community involvement in school activities and participation of local self-government bodies in planning and management of elementary and adult education programmes.

For the first time in India's literacy movement, Sakshar Bharat, an innovative concept of "certified literate", a transparent assessment and certification system has been designed and operationalised in collaboration with the National Institute of Open Schooling. This practice has spurred demand for literacy, made the outcomes of the adult education programme measurable and significantly enhanced overall credibility of the programme. This system has opened for neo-literates avenues for vertical mobility in basic education. The Sakshar Bharat programme continues to focus on districts with low female literacy.

We do seek to endeavour to improve quality outcomes in education, through the Pade Bharat Bade Bharat initiative, to ensure targeted learning levels in the foundational years of education.

Recognising the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, of making education a pillar for the nation's character building, a new paradigm of education that fosters knowledge with analytical skills, logical reasoning and the ability to imagine beyond the given and stimulating life-long learning, is being adopted. Achieving excellence by improving the quality and relevance of education and enabling all children to achieve expected/specified learning outcomes remains a key goal. Our focus, therefore, is to build an education system with the highest educational and ethical standards that encourages young people to be productive and socially responsible citizens.

With a view to harness technology for education the use of ICT (information and communications technology) in education, the introduction of massive open online courses (MOOCs), Swayam (Study Webs of Active-Learning for Young Aspiring Minds) as a massive platform for on-line learning, have been under taken in a mission mode. Emphasis on skill development for (the) 'Make-in-India' campaign, quality of education, Unnat Bharat Abhiyan and initiatives for inclusive education are being accorded high priority.

The 2015 GMR provides an opportunity to the international community to put in place a co-operation mechanism to facilitate achievement of the goal of education for all within the shortest possible time period. I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate India's commitment to support the global effort to achieve the goal of education for all and promote enhanced cooperation with developed and developing countries for advancing the post-2015 education development agenda.

In conclusion, I would like to take this opportunity to convey our appreciation to UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) and other EFA co-convening agencies for leading the co-ordination of the development of the Post-2015 education agenda, and the development of the corresponding Framework for Action. We must continue to work together to ensure completion of the unfinished EFA agenda and prepare the spring board for the post 2015 agenda.

With winds of change sweeping through continents at a rapid pace, it is important that we join hands to ensure that we become a knowledge society in the true sense of the word - that no child remains without access to quality education; and no adult remains without access to basic literacy and life skill development and that we nurture innovation and skill building to enable youth to livelihood skills and foster economic development. The challenge before us is one of commitment and relentless perseverance. I take this opportunity to invite all of you to together join hands and strengthen the efforts of the national governments in their endeavour to realise the dreams of all our children and young people.

Edited excerpts from an address by Minister of Human Resource Development Smriti Irani, at the international launch of the 2015 Education for All Global Monitoring Report (GMR) on April 9, 2015 in New Delhi

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First Published: Sat, April 11 2015. 21:47 IST