PM concerned over gap between private-public schools

New Delhi, May 17 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Thursday expressed serious concern over the gap in the quality of education between public and private schools and pointed to the need to bridge it if good education was not to become a preserve of the privileged classes.

Addressing a conference on “Empowerment of Scheduled Castes, Schedules Tribes and Minorities through Elementary Education”, he said the government had taken several initiatives to increase public investment in education to attract more private investment but admitted “what has been done is not enough”.

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“More needs to be done and new pathways have to be found to realise education as a fundamental human right of all our children,” he said.

He felt that “the route to the social and economic empowerment of all disadvantaged groups – be they Dalits or tribals, be they women or minorities – is through education”.

Referring to the Report of the Sachar Committee on the status of the Muslim community, Manmohan Singh said it had revealed inequity in access to education at all levels, particularly in higher education, and though some states did have a better track record, there was need for chalking out state-specific strategies.

“There are sharp and important regional differences. States like Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have a much better track record in empowering through education. Educational deprivation among minorities differs from state to state. Hence we need state-specific strategies and interventions,” he said.

“Greater attention needs to be paid to improving the teaching of science and mathematics in schools as numeracy skills and scientific knowledge are the key to success in the knowledge economy,” he said.

Among those attending the conference were former prime minister I.K. Gujral, Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani, Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha Charanjit Singh Atwal, the chief ministers of Nagaland, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh, MPs and MLAs.

The conference was organised by the All India Forum of Legislators (Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes).