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Indian Minister Touts Education for All

20091029 Kapil Sibal_0120 Connecting Globally

October 30, 2009 – Kapil Sibal, India’s minister for human resource development, called for improved educational opportunities his country to counteract minimal university attendance rates at an Oct. 29 Georgetown speech.

“I have this opportunity right now – when India is ready for change,” said Sibal, who oversees India’s education policy. “While this task seems daunting, we need to do this for the children of India.”

India’s population of 1.1 billion people continues to grow. But only 220 million children go to school, and of those, only 10 to 12 million children actually go to college, he said.

“If 208 million children do not reach college, that is unacceptable for any nation,” Sibal added.

Partnering with American Universities

A strong advocate for building relationships in higher education with American universities, Sibal and his delegation visited Georgetown this week to talk about education in India. He also spoke at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, Yale, Duke and Boston universities.

“Working together strengthens the foundations of our nations and our institutions,” said Georgetown President John J. DeGioia. “It shows us new ways to meet our mutual challenges and reach our mutual aspirations, and it opens new understandings and new opportunities, making the world a better place.”

On the Road to Improving Education in India

Since assuming his current role, Sibal has helped pass the 2009 Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, which provides free education to children in India between the ages of 6 and 12. Sibal hopes to pass similar legislation for secondary and higher education within five years.

“If I do not prepare for tertiary education, then students in India will have nowhere to go,” said Sibal. “The private sector will hopefully play a big role in this.”

Georgetown’s Reena Aggarwal, the McDonough Professor of Business Administration, was one of 40 university faculty, staff and administrators who participated in introductory roundtable discussions with members of the Indian delegation.

“Minister Sibal has a clear vision for reforming the Indian educational system at all levels, from primary to higher education,” said Aggarwal, who grew up in India and now has American citizenship. “He understands the need for both good teaching and for cutting-edge knowledge generation.”

Aggarwal noted that there are challenges in reforming India’s education system, particularly because of the country’s large population.

But Sibal says he is ready to face these challenges.

“For centuries we have been consumers of knowledge,” Sibal said. “Now we have producers of knowledge, but have not given them the ability to be producers of knowledge for India.”

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