INTERVIEW | Priority to local languages is a game-changer, says MoS Education
Under NEP 2020, medium will be mother tongue until at least grade 5, but preferably till grade 8: MoS for Education
Published: 21st February 2023 08:08 AM | Last Updated: 21st February 2023 08:08 AM | A+A A-
Minister of State for Education Dr Subhas Sarkar says the highest-ever education budget shows the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to see India as a global leader by focusing on making the education system more inclusive, accessible, and equitable for all students. Speaking with Kavita Bajeli-Datt, the minister, who was an obstetrician and gynaecologist, talks about his ministry’s initiatives, G20, and his focus on education in local languages, which he said is a game-changer.
The education budget has got the highest allocation of all time. What does this mean for the ministry?
Under the visionary leadership of our Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the ministry has been given the highest budget allocation ever. Last year, the budget allocation crossed Rs 1 lakh crore and this year it has reached Rs 1.12 lakh crore, which is a milestone and I would say a quantum jump in the budget allocation. This shows that this government’s vision is to make India a global leader in education by focusing on making the system more inclusive, accessible, and equitable for all students. The increased budget allocation will help in improving educational standards.
What progress has been made in providing medical, technical, engineering and legal education in mother tongue or local languages?
National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 has made various stipulations for the promotion of regional languages. Wherever possible, the medium of instruction will be the mother tongue until at least grade 5, but preferably till grade 8 and beyond. High-quality textbooks, including science, are available in the mother tongue. In cases where mother tongue textbook material is unavailable, the language of the transaction between teachers and students will remain the mother tongue wherever possible.
The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) launched outcome-based educational books for the Marathi language diploma and undergraduate engineering courses. Engineering books in the Marathi language were released under my supervision. AICTE has taken the initiative of making engineering books available in Indian languages. Giving priority to local languages in the NEP 2020 manifests our commitment to all regional languages. We consider Indian languages the soul of ‘Bharatiyata’ and the link to a better future. It will prove to be a game changer in the Indian education system.
The Indian Knowledge System (IKS) has a 20 per cent increase in the Union Budget. What is the vision of the government?
The IKS is one of our government’s important focus areas and an increased budget towards IKS shows our commitment to reaching the length and breadth of our country. To date, AICTE has permitted 41 engineering courses across ten states in 8 regional languages; the MBBS course has started in Hindi; Common University Entrance Test (CUET) was conducted in 13 languages and participated by 90 universities. Also, JEE (mains) and NEET (UG) are in 13 languages involving more than 30 lakh students.
Provisions of awarding a minor degree to students who complete 18 to 20 credits in IKS have been made. We have funded 36 high-end interdisciplinary research projects, established 25 IKS centres and 64 high-end multidisciplinary research projects. Around 2,000 internships at IKS have been offered. Also, more than 8000 higher educational institutions (HEIs) have started adopting IKS into their curriculum and the digitization of 1.5 lakh books has taken place.
What is in the pipeline for the higher education sector?
The government has been putting consistent efforts to promote spending and quality of Research & Development (R&D) in the country. In absolute terms, India’s gross expenditure on R&D (GERD) has continuously increased and has grown thrice in the last few years. The Department of Higher Education and other ministries and research departments are implementing various schemes for promoting R&D in the HEIs.
Further, the HEIs are encouraged to collaborate with the private sector, alumni organisations, entrepreneurship and start-ups to augment research efforts. With their strong track record and infrastructure in MedTech innovation, IIT-Kanpur and IISc Bangalore are working in this area. IIT Kanpur is establishing a one-of-its-kind School of Medical Research and Technology (SMRT) to bring a paradigm shift towards medical research and innovation in the country. IISc has pioneered research and education in science and engineering for more than a century. As a third dimension, they are now establishing a postgraduate medical school and a multi-speciality hospital on campus. The establishment of R&D cell in HEIs will enable the attainment of targets of Atmanirbhar Bharat and is expected to play a pivotal role in catalyzing multidisciplinary/transdisciplinary and translational research culture.
Teaching positions in premier institutes like IITs, IIMs, Central Universities and even in KVS and JNV are lying vacant. How does the ministry plan to fill them?
Vacancies keep arising because of retirement, promotion, resignation and up-gradation. Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti has already been notified to fill up 2,887 (including anticipated vacancies) posts of teachers on a direct and promotion basis.
However, to protect the student’s academic interests, teachers are engaged on a short-term contractual basis against the vacant posts, if any, until the regular teachers are recruited. The computer-based test is over, and interviews are scheduled for February/March. The final list will be ready by April. Filling up vacancies is a continuous process and efforts are made to fill up the vacancies as per the provisions of the relevant recruitment rules.
What are the priorities for the G-20 education meet?
The education working group (EdWG) under G-20, India, holding the presidency this year, aims to work together with G20 members and guest countries, and international organizations to bridge gaps in quality education and skilling. The Centre’s focus will be on ensuring foundational literacy and numeracy, especially in the context of blended learning, making tech-enabled learning more inclusive, qualitative and collaborative at every level, building capacities, promoting life-long learning in the context of the future of work and strengthening research, promoting innovation through more prosperous collaborations and partnerships.