Time for new education policy
Time For New Education Policy, INTERVIEW of The WEEK. Actress-turned-politician, 38-year-old Smriti Irani, the youngest in the Modi Cabinet, is all set to take the biggest challenge of her lifetime as the HRD Minister.
Actress-turned-politician, 38-year-old Smriti Irani, the youngest in the Modi Cabinet, is all set to take the biggest challenge of her lifetime as the HRD Minister. In 2003, Smriti Irani, with Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi still running all time high, joined the Bharatiya Janata Party. The party gave her ticket to contest from the Chandni Chowk constituency in Delhi during the 14th Lok Sabha Elections. She lost but continued to work for the party. Her rise in the party and in politics particularly has been swift and steady. She became the vice-president of Maharashtra youth wing in 2004. In 2010, Smriti Irani was elevated as the president of BJP Mahila Morcha. In 2011, Smriti became Rajya Sabha Member from Gujarat. She speaks fluently in Hindi, English, Gujarati, Bengali and Marathi. BJP’s Vice-President and HRD minister Smriti Zubin Irani has utmost concern about the welfare of students and parents, and promises that new education policy will emerge only after wide-ranging consultations with all stakeholders. SMRITI IRANI in a telephonic interview with LATA JAIN
You are new to the world of politics and are made the HRD Minister; don’t you think the Prime Minister has thrust a lot of responsibility on you?
I am the youngest in Prime Minister Modi’s cabinet. The only way this government can succeed it is to give every area of life a fresh look. In any case, I have to learn the working of the ministry from the scratch and it is not difficult.
The youth has put its faith in this government and in what they hope it will deliver for them, in which my ministry will have a role to play. I am already listing out the top priorities for my ministry. I am determined to bring in a positive change and prove my critics wrong.
Life was difficult for you since childhood; how did you manage reaching this stage?
I was born in a conservative and poor Punjabi-Bengali family, I started earning at the age of 14years. I was paid Rs 200 to promote beauty products; this was my first job. I wanted to get into the film industry as acting was my passion. I participated in the 1998 Miss India contest but couldn’t make it to the finals. But without losing hope, I came to Mumbai, worked as a waitress in McDonald's to support myself while auditioning for films and TV shows. I got my first break where I replaced Neelam Kothari as the host of an episode of a show 'Ooh La La La'. The rest is all history.
Why do you think that you as a television actress and a model are being raked up as not qualified enough?
There are and were several actors/actresses who succeeded in politics. It is people’s mindset and I don’t believe in making noise over it. My work will prove my strength as a minister and I need to work twice as hard to prove my point and succeed.
What are the changes you think you will be able to bring in the system?
Primarily, I want education to bring in relevance to our life. There should be connectivity to the learning to growth. Education is about real learning and there is no real learning really taking place in our country where tutorials hold the sway over everybody's life. We will formulate a new national education policy "reflecting the aspirations of India now and opportunities in the next decade"
Everybody is going through the process of education as a means to earn a livelihood or getting somewhere in life or to fill his or her coffers, and that is incorrect. Education is meant to complete your life. Education is meant for you to understand the world around you better, to relate to it better. And find new ways and means to discover your inner talent to hone your skills.
Do you know what are the expectations of youth and parents from the education system?
People want an educational system that truly helps them discover themselves and interface better with the world around them which our current system doesn't. Our current system is all about mugging up and memorizing things. It tests your memory; it tests your ability to remember things; it tests your intelligence. It does not test your skills. It does not spot them. All of that needs to be done.
Why all that brouhaha about your lack of a degree?
People were made to believe that I gave wrong information to the Election commission.
Did you give wrong information?
No, but some people think only the Harvard-returned are qualified to become HRD ministers. It is the wrong feeling that some people have. I stated in my affidavit filed with the Election Commission, while contesting the elections at different stages.
What do you personally believe? Don’t you believe that these qualifications and degrees enhance your creativity and thought process?
The people who come in to run different ministries are not necessarily specialists in the areas that they are expected to work in. What they really require is an ability to acquire familiarity with the subject, to learn, listen, interact with people and see how they can improve on the job. I believe I have the skill sets to do well in the ministry, I have common sense.
New IITs set up in 2009 are already struggling with lack of faculty and other key issues. Setting up a new set of IITs will only add to the problems already faced by the hallowed institutions. You are promising more IITs and IIMs, why?
It is intended to open more lucrative academic opportunities for a growing population of ambitious students in the country. A number of engineering aspirants every year fail to make it to the hallowed IIT institutions, owing to the shortage of the available seats in IITs. Obviously, more IITs mean more seats and more opportunities for more students. We will work on the maintenance of quality and infrastructure at the existing institutions. I am also keen to develop contribution of the alumni of such institutions for better engagement with students to promote research. I will undertake a similar exercise with IIM directors. For any new initiative on policy, all stakeholders will be consulted. Policy will not be made in isolation
You are looking at changing the curriculum. Each time a new government comes, students face a new change?
The last education policy was formulated in 1986. In 2014, this is a new India with new needs and new aspirations. Hence, we will begin the process of consultation state-wise, region-wise, nationally, not only with the government and the bureaucracy but with all stakeholders. We will also invite international experts who can give us an insight from their experiences in the field of education. The changes will be in the interest of students.
Will you add saffron tinge to the curriculum?
Too much is being decided without a word from my end.