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We are passing through an unprecedented phase of slogan mongering. Hardly a day passes when some dream merchant spins a new phrase. It does not matter even if the initiative turns out be an old wine in the new bottle. Or, it proves to be much ado about nothing. 
Take the case of the Minister for Human Resource Development Smriti Zubin Irani. She has lately thought loud about a proposed initiative named ‘Think in India’. It is being conceived to retain human talent within in the country. It would apparently also serve as a platform to beckon overseas Indian professionals to serve their homeland. 
The other day a daily quoted Mrs. Irani as saying: “We all know the Prime Minister has spoken about the ‘Make in India’ project and we in the Ministry of Human Resource Development want to complement it by a ‘Think in India’ campaign through the ‘Rashtriya Avishkaar Yojana’.”
Her Ministry intends to encourage students to come up with innovations and new ideas. As put by Mrs. Irani, “So that our faculty and our students need not leave our shores in hunt for money to back their research with.” 
Before embarking on Think in India and the proposed new education policy, Mrs. Irani would have to herself first think a lot. She or rather Modi Cabinet has to ponder how to sort out contradictions between RSS-inspired insular policies and the ones that can help India turn its unsustainable population load into demographic dividend.
She has stoutly defended the decision of HRD Ministry-controlled Kendrya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS) to discontinue teaching of German as third language under the three-language formula (TLF).
She says: “The introduction of German Language in the Kendriya Vidyalayas as a Third Language as an option to Sanskrit was violative of the provisions of the National Policy on Education, 1968 (NPE) and the National Curriculum Framework, 2005 (NCF) relating to the Three Language Formula.”
German language would henceforth be taught in KVs as an additional, optional subject but not as a third language.
Mrs. Irani should ponder how she has inadvertently blurred Mr. Modi’s 3D vision that he elaborated at Madison Square Garden in New York during September this year. 
Mr. Modi had reportedly stated: “We have democracy, demographic dividend and demand on our side. These are three things that no nation has, except India. It is these three things that will take India to an assured path of success.”
Time has thus arrived to make TLF fully flexible to plan for supply of skilled manpower to different countries for reaping demographic dividend. 
A pre-requisite for harvesting demographic dividend is a strategy to overcome the foreign languages barrier. And this can be effectively achieved by giving school children the option to choose a foreign language. They should be allowed to dream about serving in a country whose language they are learning. 
Mrs. Irani should read the recent story of a Maharashtrian who studied German language at KV. This helped him land a job of software engineer in Germany. She should read what late Pramod Mahajan as Minister for Information Technology stated in Rajya Sabha in May 2000 in reply to a question on ‘German Plan to Induct Indian It Professionals.’
What applies to German equally wells applies to Chinese, French, Italian, Arabic and Spanish languages. TLF should thus be further modified to accommodate teaching of any foreign language including Japanese and Korean for the sake of facilitating overseas job opportunities for the Indian youth. 
Sanskrit learning should be exclusively reserved for children who do not want employment in the open market. The ancient language should be the preserve of students who intend to interpret the great Indian culture to the people across the world. 
Mrs. Irani deserves praise for forthrightly stating in Lok Sabha during August 2014 that the Government “has no proposal to launch any specific scheme to provide Sanskrit Scholars with employment....”
She should also convince Indian culture fanatics that Indian youth cannot be expected to survive by reciting Shalokas.
Much before Smritiji was born and much before the term demographic dividend became the rage among politicians, Sanskrit Commission sagely left the door ajar for foreign languages.  
Sanskrit Commission, which was set up in October 1956, had recommended  “that, in Secondary Schools, all Indian students should be taught three languages, namely, (1) the mother- tongue (or the regional language), (2) English, and (3) Sanskrit (or, in some special cases, some other classical language as equivalent to Sanskrit, e.g., Arabic, Persian, Old Tamil, Latin or Greek).”
If a new Sanskrit Commission is constituted and asked to make recommendations keeping in view unemployment at home and job prospects abroad, it would certainly pitch for teaching of foreign languages in schools. 
Mrs. Irani and her team of policy makers thus need to take a holistic view of the purpose of education. She should not mind taking a leaf out of the World Bank’s report captioned ‘Student Learning in South Asia-Challenges, Opportunities, and Policy Priorities’. 
One of the key messages of this report released in June 2014 is: “the education reform agenda needs to prioritize interventions that focus on outcomes rather than on inputs.”
As put by the report, “the average levels of skill acquisition in the region are low in both absolute and relative terms. Hence, schooling does not translate into what it could and what it should: better life chances, including the rise out of poverty for many. In parallel, schooling also does not contribute to productivity increases and economic growth; it represents, as such, a major constraint to the acceleration of
economic and social development.”
Apart from giving due importance to teaching of foreign languages, Mrs. Irani should pitch for a restrain on anti-genetically modified crop activists in the Sangh Parivar. If NDA does not jettison UPA’s hostile stance against genetic engineering, animals-based pharmaceuticals research and clinical trials, then Indian scientists would have no option but to rush for greener pastures abroad. Mrs. Irani thus faces the risk of  a big setback to ‘Think in India’. 
Her new education policy should also ensure that the term autonomous institution is respected in letter and spirit. And to that, she would have to unshackle institutions from the tight grip of netas and babus. A bold step in this direction would give credence to ‘Think in India’ initiative.
The removal of politicians and bureaucrats from the governing bodies of the numerous Government-funded institutions would create environment for participation of academics in the management of education sector.
Take the example of five Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISERs) that are under the administrative control of HRD Ministry. The Secretary, Department of Higher Education and Financial Advisor in the Ministry are on the boards of all the five institutions. The Boards also have two other Secretaries to the Government of India, apart from Chief Secretary of the State, where the institution is located. 
Mrs. Irani, please think how you can retain talent and attract back Indian talent from abroad by offering these 25 seats on IISER boards to reputed acedmics and experts. Apply this restructuring norm to all institutions including the ones under the control of different ministries. You would end up creating path-breaking space for birth of new ideas and innovations. 
She should not feel constrained by Cabinet Secretariat’s Allocation of Business Rules while pushing for reform of the institutions under the control of other ministries. They  often run these institutions as platforms for showering pre and post-retirement benefit to civil servants.  
One can appreciate this contention by considering the case of Institute of Pesticide Formulation Technology, which operates under the aegis of Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals. Its 12-member board has eight bureaucrats!
 Another instance in point is Swami Vivekanand National Institute of Rehabilitation,Training & Research. Its President is Secretary to Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. Its Executive Council and General Council are packed with bureaucrats. 
The Secretary to Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is also President of at least two other institutes under the Ministry’s control. 
One can cite similar governance models for institutes under the control other Ministries. Mrs. Irani has thus to think a lot about the state of affairs of educational centres right from primary school upward to specialized institutions before unveiling Think in India. 
The proposed initiative should provide for transformation of education sector from political arena to merit-based, job-focused and competition-driven sector.
Mrs. Irani should also not overlook the advantages of flight of skilled manpower from India while working out the details of Think in India. 
 The underlying logic behind Mrs. Irani’s Think in India campaign is the same as the one under the non-starter ‘brain gain’ policy of the UPA II. The latter provided for setting up of 14 innovation universities and institutions to make India a global hub of knowledge. The policy remained on the paper during the last five years. UPA, however, succeeded in giving a big push to innovations through an apex, sector or ministry-specific and State-specific innovation councils. 
Brain gain is nothing but a new initiative to prevent brain drain and encourage Indian academics and experts to return back to the country.  Government and its entities have been implementing different projects to prevent brain drains since the eighties. The issue of brain drain has figured in Parliament since the sixties.  
The Government and its entities including University Grants Commission (UGC) have been thus implementing different projects to retain talent at home and attract talent back home from abroad. 
Whatever the name for brain drain, the fact is that this phenomenon has benefitted India in more ways than one. The regular remittances by expatriate academics and other experts serve as the bedrock for the country’s balance of payments position. We need to earn more foreign exchange through export of skilled manpower to pay for outsourced fossil fuels and manufactured goods, whose imports have grown by leaps and bounds due to UPA’s faulty policies.
Expatriate experts serve as brand ambassadors for Indian expertise abroad. They facilitate transfer of knowledge, technology and foreign direct investment in India. 
The movement of skilled manpower to other countries has helped the Government sustain its reservation policy for scheduled castes & tribes, other backward classes and minorities. 
As benefits outweigh the costs, the Government should a big push to massive vocational training of manpower right from the school stage.
It is here pertinent to quote a Planning Commission-sponsored study titled ‘Understanding Skill Development and Training in China: Lessons for India’ that was released in April this year.
As put by the Study, “Keeping in mind the needs of a growing economy, Chinese planners gave much importance to educational reforms, especially vocational educational reforms. Their education policy is guided by Confucian ideology and the quest for lifelong learning.”
The study has turned the torchlight on the success story of Tianjin Sino-German Vocational Technical College, which has a sprawling 165-acre campus that offers 44 specialties which cover 9 fields. The college has employment rate of 98% for its fresh graduates. 
Such studies should inspire any open-minded Indian decision-maker to rise about linguistics politics and think of emulating China in providing vocational training to its students. NDA Cabinet should stay glued to Mr. Modi’s agenda for accelerating economic growth and generating job opportunities. 
                                               
Published by taxindiaonline.com on 17th December 2014
 
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