Nishant Saxena (Lucknow)
Academics and media pundits in lucknow, the administrative capital of Uttar Pradesh — India’s most populous (215 million) state — which is an also-ran on all socio-economic development indices, are pleasantly surprised by a spurt of positive activity in the education sector.
With children having enthusiastically returned to classes after the prolonged lockdown of education institutions because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the state’s 1.3 lakh government schools recorded their highest enrolment of 19 million in the new academic year 2022- 23 which started in April. Moreover, 1,780 government schools in 890 blocks have been identified for upgradation under the Centrally-sponsored PM-SHRI (Prime Minister’s Schools for Rising India) programme.
The state’s BJP government headed by saffron-clad monk Yogi Adityanath which swept the legislative assembly election of 2019, has also promoted 280 new higher-secondary aka junior colleges, “to spread the ray of education in every corner of the state”. Simultaneously a drive to introduce digitally-enabled learning has been initiated statewide.
In higher education as well, there is some traction. Three new government universities and 78 new government degree colleges are being constructed statewide. The government is also readying 119 e-learning parks, where bottom-of-pyramid children will get access to reliable internet and digital course content. And recently, Lucknow University was awarded the A+ grade of the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) — the first higher education institution in UP to be awarded NAAC’s highest grading.
“There’s been a welcome spurt of activity in UP’s education sector. From new universities to e-learning parks, proposals to establish educational townships, sharp rise in primary school enrolments — there is a lot of action in this space,” confirms Dr. Dhirendra Kumar, former principal of Shia College of Law, Lucknow.
Prof. S.K. Swain, who heads the faculty of education at the high ranked Banaras Hindu University, is also impressed. “Yes, the state government is taking human resource development and education seriously. If properly implemented, these initiatives will give a huge boost to socio-economic development in India’s most populous state,” says Swain.
Although a rising number of hitherto skeptical academics in India’s most populous — and arguably backward state, ranked #17 among major states on Niti Aayog’s Education Index — are discerning fresh buds of hope in UP’s moribund education scene, some remain cautious. “A large number of these initiatives seem promising. However, education is not high a priority for any political party. Nevertheless, the new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is an excellent education development blueprint, if faithfully implemented. Let’s wait and watch,” says Dr. Mohammad Parvez, professor of education, Aligarh Muslim University.
Close monitoring of the state government’s initiatives is necessary. Because given this Hindi heartland’s territorial size, massive population and huge representation in Parliament, if Uttar Pradesh succeeds, India succeeds. And vice versa.