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Expand access to school education

Special Correspondent

‘Key task is to stop the dropout rate in Standards VIII and X’

— Photo: M. Vedhan

BOOK RELEASE: R.Srinivasan, full -time member, State Planning Commission, (left), holding a copy of the book “Towards new pastures. College Autonomy - Three Decades” by Xavier Alphonse (extreme right), at a national conference in Chennai on Thursday. Albert Muthumalai, Principal, Loyola College is in the picture.

CHENNAI: If the enrolment and pass percentage in schools are not improved, classrooms in universities and colleges will remain empty, R. Srinivasan, full-time member, State Planning Commission, has said.

Expanding access to higher education will have to be preceded by expanding access to schools, he said at a national conference on “Higher Education at Cross Roads-Access and Academic Excellence” in Loyola College on Thursday.

Quoting statistics, he said the rate of enrolment was the highest at 93.5 per cent at the elementary school level, but it dipped drastically to 51.65 per cent at the high school level and 27.82 per cent at the higher secondary level.

Of this, only 10 per cent pursued higher education.

The aim of the Planning Commission was to increase the enrolment at the higher secondary level by 40 per cent during the 11th Plan.

The key task would be to staunch the dropout rate in Standards VIII and X. Reducing the dropout rate and increasing the pass percentage, he said, would lead to a paradigm shift in the quality of school education.

The working group of the Commission intended to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education (in the age group 17-23) from 10.5 per cent to 15.5 per cent over the next five years .

Objectives

N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu, said the objectives of aiming high and throwing open the doors of institutions of higher education should not be contradictory. If one objective was emphasised too much, the endeavour would be in trouble. Colleges and universities would have to make education accessible in a just sense.

India would do well to follow the example set by the West and effect synergies between undergraduate and postgraduate courses and research and training, Mr. Ram said.

India could become a knowledge superpower, by 2020, only through a 100 per cent literacy. For this, free and compulsory education for all must be ensured.

Mr. Ram also launched a book authored by UGC member Xavier Alphonse, “Towards New Pastures. College Autonomy-Three Decades (1978-2000),” and handed over the first copy to Mr. Srinivasan.

Albert Muthumalai, principal, Loyola College, spoke.

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