Sibal hits out at states over education reforms

New Delhi: HRD Minister Kapil Sibal today took on the states for blaming the Centre for all ills plaguing Education, asking them to play a more "proactive" role since the responsibility in this sector lay "squarely on their shoulders". Sibal said any decision taken by the Central Government for overall development of education in the country is perceived as an attack on the federal structure.

"This is the tragedy of the country… we all blame the Central Government for everything. If a child does not go to school, the Minister and the Centre must respond. This is not the job of the Central Government. If we try and set standards and request the boards to apply those standards, then they say, it is an attack on federal structure," he lamented.

Seeking a more "proactive" role from states as the delivery mechanism ultimately lay with them, Sibal said they must realise that responsibility of education lay "squarely on their shoulders". At the same time, he felt, the "federal structure should be far more cohesive". Voicing optimism that there would be a marked improvement in quality of education in the coming eight years before 2020, he said "much of that depends on the level of commitment that we will see from the state governments".

Sibal regretted that states are also not prepared to accept policy issues showing little efforts to abolish class X boards despite the best of intentions of the Centre. "Its very difficult to convince the states… they have not abolished class X board till date and they are not onboard on many of the issues," he said at a function here. Sibal felt that the Right to Education should be given three more years to show its results and said several provisions under it such as teacher recruitment would bring about a much needed change in the quality.

So far, he said teachers appointed by the state are "next to nothing" and the quality of the text books are not "age equivalent". "We can prescribe the quality of syllabi and set standards but ultimately the text books are prepared by the state governments, but I dearsay the content of the textbooks are such that they are not age equivalent," he said.

On the issue of funding, he said there has to be a structural change and the issue has to be addressed because states are of the view that unless Centre provides 100 per cent assistance, they cannot deliver the goods. He said no government so far in the history of the country has allocated Rs 2.31 lakh crore for elementary education and this should be appreciated by the states.