Sibal says no to common school board

New Delhi, DHNS & Agencies:

Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal has drawn curtains over the controversial common all India school education board, declaring on Thursday that the Centre does not want a uniform board but would instead prefer a uniform level of excellence.

HRD Minister Kapil Sibal releases the 'District Report Cards 2007-08 in New Delhi on Thursday.PTI “We do not want to destroy diversity (among school boards). We do not want a uniform board. But we want excellent quality,” Sibal said addressing a conference of secretaries of school education and literacy here.

Urging the states to put an end to their “laid-back” approach to education, the minister said the Centre wants all state boards to achieve uniform level of excellence.

The Minister said the government is set to “rationalise” the Mid-Day Meal scheme by adopting a mechanism to link cooking cost to the price index of items and ensuring that the amount spent per meal is automatically enhanced in tune with the price-rise of commodities.

The Ministry had earlier set up a committee to suggest modalities for raising the amount per child under the mid-day meal programme. The move was initiated after complaints by states that the existing limit was too meagre to sustain the programme. Currently, the government spends Rs 2.08 for cooked food per child at the primary level and Rs 2.60 at upper primary level.

The minister also said there is up to 50 percent shortage of teachers in schools in various states. Both vacancy and quality of teachers are concern areas, he said. The Right to Education bill has underlined that teachers have to receive a certain degree of excellence in five years.

The bill, which is already passed by the Rajya Sabha, will make education compulsory for students of the age group of six to 14 once it becomes a law. It has various provisions to boost elementary education too.

But the “states should not take five years for this. Chalta hai (laid-back) attitude should go. You must target to do it in one or two years,” he said addressing a meeting of elementary education secretaries from the various states.

“We need an element of uniformity of excellence and quality in school education system,” he said.

He exhorted the officials to bring a parity in excellence among all education boards. This will enable student from across the country to “compete with rest of the world”.
The minister once again clarified that he has not advocated to bring all school boards under one umbrella. He called for a uniformity of excellence rather than uniformity of education.

Diversity can be embraced while maintaining quality, Sibal said while underlining that the central government is extending a hand of friendship to the states as this is a matter which is to do with children.

“And together we must set out towards ensuring that our children march ahead of us.” The minister said that state governments must prepare plans on how to monitor neighbourhood schools and teachers attendance.
Currently teachers absenteeism is an alarming 19 percent.

30 July, 2009