‘Corporal punishment will be dealt with firmly’

Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal highlighted issues related to corporal punishment, deemed universities and the concept of CET in an interview with Zeenews.com’s Swati Chaturvedi on Kahiye Janab.

Swati: What do you, a Harvard alumni, have to say about the recent student suicide incident due to corporal punishment?

Kapil Sibal: Our Right to Education Act bans corporal punishment. As part of this, mental harassment and mental stress too are banned. Very soon we shall issue guidelines based on which we expect the state governments and boards to act.

There is a need to change perspective here. Our children will shape India’s future. So we need to also think about the unborn child. The biggest challenge is to ensure that they are able to compete globally by being educated through the system we provide.

Swati: You yourself said that we have economic reforms, but not education reforms in India. Has any other sector got a raw deal apart from education?

Kapil Sibal: Our Supreme Court said in 1993 that education was a fundamental and a constitutional right. We took 17 years to achieve that. What I am doing now should have happened 15 years ago. Secondly, we have introduced four legislations in Parliament. So you cannot say that I have not done what I said I would.

I cannot comment on other sectors, but education has got a raw deal in our country.

Swati: Why are we not able to curtail deemed universities? This has become a huge racket in our country?

Kapil Sibal: The point is not to stop them. We will need to strike at the root. In case we shut them down, then where will students go? So stopping them is not the aim.

Swati:There are accusations against you that you are getting foreign universities here and granting them all the freedom. What about the quota system then?

Kapil Sibal: Whoever comes, there will be a level playing field. Same laws will apply to them and no special treatment will be bestowed on anyone.

Swati: The Congress has been in power for a long time. Till today only guidelines have been issued. Who is benefiting from this racket?

Kapil Sibal: We have approached the Supreme Court. We have a taskforce too. The apex court will tell us what to do next. We have also told court about our reaction to the consequences on accepting of the recommendations of the taskforce. Meanwhile, we want to overhaul our foundation.

Swati: Our system is such that it is facilitating the creation of an army of underemployed people. One does a PhD and has to work as a security guard?

Kapil Sibal: Yes, the quality of education in India is not up to the mark. We are trying to change that, and so have made accreditation mandatory. Simultaneously we have ended Inspection Raj and started a self-disclosure system. Through this, the institutes are required to themselves divulge details about the quality of education, kind of teachers and infrastructure etc they have. And in case the information is found wrong, we’ll prosecute them.

Swati:We woefully neglect arts. We have second rate research and second rate scholars…

Kapil Sibal: Yes, we have overlooked arts and humanities. I think it is a very important field. We must encourage it. Out of the 114 innovative universities that we will begin, one must be in Arts. History, economics & literature need to be boosted. The basic set up of a civil society is made from arts and culture and not the sciences.

Swati: But UGC which is the controlling body is like a dinosaur….

Kapil Sibal: UGC has also begun implementing new regulations like we introduced in AICTE. When the National Council for Higher Education and Research gets established, then this whole set up will change.

And you can’t even imagine the kind of investment in education and the kind of change that’ll happen in the next 10-20 years.

Swati: Please comment on the novel concept of the Common Entrance Test?

Kapil Sibal: Students have to sit through so many exams. So much mental stress is on the student due to this. An all India merit list should be prepared, based on Class XII results plus an aptitude test. And admission should be decided on this basis. We have an expert committee to equalize results via a scientific procedure. This will also kill the structure of capitation fees, and admission to various institutes shall be on merit. But we will talk to committees, education ministries and state governments and proceed on this unanimously.

Swati: You have been slammed for your scheme to bring in foreign universities and kill IITs by granting them those facilities that the latter lack?

Kapil Sibal: We did open eight IITs and seven IIMs. It was the National Development Council’s decision. Our 9% growth of the last three years has been reduced to 7.4%. The government plans to shelve the triple IIT plan in the 11th plan and take it in the 12th plan due to the current economic situation not being good. The matter is not over yet. We shall approach the Finance Ministry again.

Swati: The foreign universities that come will be ready to give our best teachers double the amount that IITs give? Please comment.

Kapil Sibal: Don’t we have private institutes paying hefty salaries? Have IIT teachers left. 90% of our engineering turf is under private sector. But no IITian has left it for that. The attrition rate in IIT is almost zero. This is because the IIT faculty gets so many facilities like attending conferences aboard, practicing private consultancy etc.

Swati: You yourself are Harvard educated. Today, how many people are there in government who are Class I officers and are sending their kids to government schools?

Kapil Sibal:There will be very few because government schools are not good. To rectify this malady, our Right to Education Bill states the minimum infrastructure and teachers’ qualifications. We will give three years’ time to the new government schools which will be required to adhere to a certain infrastructure. As per this, if the teacher is not qualified enough in five years’ time he/she can no longer remain.

Swati: In some villages, only a single teacher is managing the whole school…

Kapil Sibal: As per a Parliamentary law, 75% of the people in the school management committee will be from the locality. 50% will be women and the woman whose kid goes to school will herself be on that management committee, so that she knows whether the teacher is indeed discharging duties. Thus, the education system will change in the near future.

Swati: Are you not scared of opposition. Like when you said no boards for Class X students….

Kapil Sibal: I am not scared of anyone. I only fear going against my conscience.
As far as Class X is concerned, first there were protests, now all are happy. Now, the paranoia in a child’s mind that I am incapable because I have failed will no longer exist. The old system was killing his confidence. So we brought in a change. And since then there has been no suicide on account of mental tension due to this.

Swati: You were talking about 9% growth. Our maximum growth is from the services industry. Please comment.

Kapil Sibal: Till you do not educate children, your dream of a double digit growth won’t materialize. And that is why education is the most vital issue of our country. This has been recognized by both the Prime Minister as well as Sonia Gandhi.

Swati:What will you tell the parents of the children who committed suicide because of corporal punishment or the girls who got molested by school principals?

Kapil Sibal: We will take very stringent steps. And if there is any such society under my jurisdiction, I would like to give a deterrent punishment. And we will take all courts and states along to ensure that this does not happen.

Adapted by Ritam Banati