Former Education Secretary in the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Anil Swarup, on Saturday called for bigger focus on improving primary education infrastructure rather than providing subsidies in higher education. Addressing a session at the Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) here, Swarup said it is more important to improve primary education infrastructure than just offering subsidies in higher education.
He said innovative ways were being explored to take education to the poor in rural areas with the help of modern technology. Narrating his experience as Education Secretary, a post he occupied for less than two years before retirement, Swarup said he once made a surprise visit to a school in interior Maharashtra which half no electricity connection.
During his round to the classrooms, he was surprised to see every student was equipped with tablet and the class had wi-fi connection and a smart screen. “A young teacher explained to me that they had introduced foldable solar panels which powered the devices,” Swarup recalled.
The teacher also told him that the tabs were being used to show educational videos to children in the backward area and the use of gadgets caused a significant drop in the number of absentees while showing educational videos to 40-50 children in a class. The initiative was first mooted by the teachers and guardians and then a local NGO came forward to fund it entirely under corporate social responsibility.
As Swarup brought the success story to the knowledge of the central government in Delhi and the teacher, who was behind the turnaround, met the President of India. Other schools got encouraged and the same model now got replicated in 60,000 schools across Maharashtra, he said.
Swarup also said giving scholarships to deserving students in higher education will be more helpful than concentrating on subsidies.