“I Cannot Sleep While I’m in India"


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It is India’s future that keeps Mr. Kapil Sibal, India’s Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister, awake. Last week, the World Bank hosted Mr. Kapil Sibal who spoke to a 120 strong crowd about “India and the World – Lessons Learnt and Contributions Towards the Global Knowledge Economy. “ During the lively discussion chaired by World Bank’s Tamar Manuelyan Atinc (Human Development Network Vice President) and moderated by Michal Rutkowski (South Asia Human Development Director. Mr. Sibal highlighted how India can contribute to the global knowledge economy.

Mr. Sibal, a well known Indian politician, is famous for his effort in enacting the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, which provides every child between 6-14 years free and compulsory education. With so many challenging issues to be solved for education in India, I was impressed with what Mr. Sibal has implemented so far as well as his grand vision for leading the country to achieve continued growth and prosperity.

While he spoke about several topics ranging from teachers’ quality, comprehensive continuous evaluation (new student assessment framework), and national vocational education qualifications framework, two things caught my attention. The first was a $35 tablet PC, Akash, meaning “Sky” that he showed the audience. The ministry plans to provide these innovative and affordable devices to students deprived of internet access, in an effort to enhance access and connectivity in education. The tablet PC is one of the tools that the HRD ministry wishes to leverage to achieve one of their goals -universal access to quality secondary education by 2020. India’s investment in basic education over the past decade through the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) program has achieved an enrollment rate that is close to 100% (net enrolment ratio of primary level education was 98% in 2009-10). However, the quality of education remains a challenge although efforts are being made to address these issues. I hope that Akash will not only be a gadget to attract attention, but can also serve as a platform to help solve these issues in an innovative way.

Second, Mr. Sibal emphasized the importance of higher education. In order to generate wealth, ideas, innovation, and new services in the country, universities play a key role through developing industry-university relationships and conducting research. As a part of the higher education reform, Mr. Sibal plans to increase the number of accredited institutions and open up education to the private sector, collaborate with foreign universities, and offer dual degree programs to increase the educational options for students. I believe that this will spur more competition among universities and enhance the quality of education in the future.

Listening to Mr. Sibal’s speech motivated me to contribute my best as part of the World Bank’s education team. When I participated in the joint review mission for SSA this summer, I saw how his vision has been implemented on the ground. For example, each state is taking innovative actions to improve the quality of education and involving communities in overseeing what is happening in schools. One thing I noticed was the need for states to communicate more effectively among another and implement best practices. This will allow Mr. Sibal's vision of universal education and building a knowledge economy to be implemented quickly and successfully.

It was very fulfilling to hear Mr. Sibal’s vision for India’s future as an emerging leader in the global knowledge economy; as a result, I can sleep better at night.


Saori Imaizumi

ICT & Education Consultant

Join the Conversation

Ulrich Bartsch
October 28, 2011

This blog glosses over the fact that the "right to education" act is a travesty. It narrowly focuses on inputs, which are shown to have no significant relation to outputs ("a quality education for all"). Good schools will close because of this act, private schools (which may or may not be good) will become more expensive and force poor students out, and inspectors will reap new windfalls from discretion over what constitutes an adequate level of amenities stipulated by the act (this is what MD Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala highlighted in her speech in India in May 2011). The act does not in any way take care of the problem of teacher absenteeism, teacher motivation and incentives, or teacher shortages. It reaches for the sky, but is blind on the ground. This blog is a piece of disinformation that could have been launched by the ruling party ahead of upcoming elections.

Sudershan Goel
October 29, 2011

Mr Kapil Sibal is a visionary. For his painstaking efforts in accelerating 'knowledge economy' of India to yield results, we all need to support him with full strength. While Mr Sibal is spearheading his focus on institutional collaborations, we need to work on
'people-to-people' joint ventures and make this dream a realty. We can. Mr Sibal has shown good leadership. We need to sincerely follow suit and make our contribution. With the size of 'knowledge bank' available in India, we can surely generate knowledge wealth with the help of quality education system offered by prime American universities.

Rachel Kasumba
October 30, 2011

I applaud Mr. Kabil Sibal and others like him who are advocating and promoting universal education for all and increased investment and enrollment in higher education, in many other places in the world. These commendable steps and actions are meant to transform countries into knowledge-based societies thereby fostering creativity, self-reliance, research, and so forth.

However, as Ulrich points out, focusing on inputs alone will not lead to quality education. We therefore need to look beyond inputs (more classes/schools, students, etc) and critically analyze all the factors that would ensure that we achieve the desired output (quality education for all leading to innovation, job creation, improved goods and services, and the like).

Wherever these education opportunities for all are being implemented, the governments are doing a great job of ensuring that student enrollment goes up, more schools are built and with the introduction in India of other facilities like the affordable tablet computer, to complement other forms of teaching, the future looks bright. There is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that the students get quality education and this challenging task can not be left to the government alone. Teachers have to be well trained, compensated, and supervised. Parents need to be educated too on the importance of ensuring that their children go to school on time, be involved in their homework (in cases where they can), - they have to play a more active role in their education beyond just allowing them to attend school. There is a great need for quality books - updated/current, relevant to the local environment but also competitive in their global outlook. Other facilities include research and technology as already pointed out. Others necessities include proper sanitation and sports facilities, lunch programs, etc Finally, supervision, assessments, and evaluation at all levels is very crucial for the success of any program. Otherwise, you end up with graduates who went through the systems but are unprepared to handle the simple tasks that the work force and business world demand.

November 03, 2011

In India our political leaders are very bad. They are the responsible for poor India. Need some improvement for world bank money. World bank should start one community to care about money what ever they are providing to India. Without caring the money, it is waste, of all world bank plans might be failed for poor peoples in India. If u need any good plans contact me privately.

Saori Imaizumi
November 08, 2011

Thank you for the comment. My blog entry is based on the observation of the Minister's talk. But as you pointed out, it is important to focus on outputs, issues on teachers, and other issues to improve access, equity, and quality of education in a holistic manner.

Saori Imaizumi
November 08, 2011

It is good to hear from someone like you who can be inspired from what I have written. I think, in the end, one leader alone cannot change the country, and someone like you or others who can believe in the vision of the leader and take actions are needed.

Saori Imaizumi
November 08, 2011

You touched almost all the issues that we should be thinking about for improving education system. As you mentioned, in order to solve these issues, not only government but other actors need to cooperate. During the mission for SSA, I saw some interesting public-private partnerships to improve students' reading skills, teachers' education and etc. With Minister's strategy for opening education sector to private sector, I hope that more collaborative approaches for tackling issues will be generated.

Saori Imaizumi
November 08, 2011

I am interested in hearing about your opinion.

Rachel Kasumba
November 24, 2011

Saori, thanks for the great work that you do and for keeping us posted. Collaboration is definitely the way to go in these times and I have no doubt that it will lead to improvements.

December 25, 2011

Mr. Kapil Sibal,

The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan program might be a success but the recent PISA 2009 test shows that India ranks the lowest among the 2009 PISA participant countries. This is very alarming. Either the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan program is not a success as is advertised or there is something very wrong here. Either way, India is a long long long way to contribute to the global knowledge economy.


January 15, 2012

nice this tablet is good i appreciate the hardwork done by mr. kapil sibbal to launch this product but in my opinion this is just a gain to collect publicity becoz its a govt. company and launching these all features in just 3000 bugs is itself a proof that they are making fool of us second thing a large bulk of orders are taken back becoz of the quality they are providing in hurry m not demoralizing anyone m just making u aware ..........anyways its good u can try ur luck .....

Aakash Tablet
December 31, 2011

Nice !

October 24, 2014

Hi Saori,
Allow me to be the contrarian.
"Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act" sounds great on paper. India has 28 million children between the age of 6 and 14 working - many in abominable conditions in coal mines.
What did Kapil's agency do for them when they were in power for 10 years? Did the numbers go down?
I am surprised that he is still gloating about "Aakash" which was another Government boondoggle. It was a spectacular failure - the device is of poor quality ,low battery life and just too complicated to be used by poor villagers who never saw a computer in their lives. It was a blue baby, but hey anyone can declare "Mission Accomplished".
India has all the laws that a civilized nation needs, but we have so many corrupt Govt. officials that those laws are never enforced and the worst impacted are the poor. Instead of going to school, the poor kid works in a coal mine with bare hands all day, earning pennies for his illicit labor. We do have the laws, but the Mining companies pay the officials to look the other way. Kapil Sibal was one of those politicians who defended the corrupt and blamed the media for making up corruption scandals, so I have zero respect for him.
" Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) program has achieved an enrollment rate that is close to 100% (net enrolment ratio of primary level education was 98% in 2009-10). "
There are lies, damned lies, and statistics! If you visit India, you will see more than 2% of school age kids picking rags, begging, cleaning in restaurants..