14.10.2009 -

Indian minister’s impassioned plea for teachers and education at General Conference

Thierry Rambaud

UNESCO must work to help restore respect for the teaching profession, said Mr Kapil Sibal, Indian Minister of Human Resource Development, in a keynote address to ministers at UNESCO’s General Conference.

“The young may be hungry for learning, but we may not have quality teachers to ignite their minds. The social order must respect teachers who all play a pivotal role in building a peaceful and just society. I would like to call upon UNESCO to commence a world-wide campaign to restore the respect of a teacher in society.  It would be in the fitness of things if we all take up a “Teachers First Campaign” aimed at restoring respect for this noble profession,” he said in a speech given at the First Ministerial Plenary Forum on October 8.

His speech highlighted the necessity of providing free basic education and the crucial relationship between education and sustainable development.

“Almost a billion people around the world are illiterate; more than a billion struggle to survive on less than a dollar a day; one in five children aged between six and eleven are out of school; one in four children drop out before completing the basic education cycle. The uneven and unjust pattern of development in most nations is not conducive for a prosperous, peaceful and sustainable future,” he said.  

“Education, particularly higher education, must inculcate the values of sustainable development in the minds of our youth. It is ironic that both in the past and currently the developed world, with higher human development indexes, had and have unsustainable lifestyles and consumption patterns.  Education instead of becoming an instrument of sustainable development, has become a major cause for unsustainable lifestyles.”

On a more positive note he told the forum about India’s major step forward in making education available to all.  

“I am happy to inform that a significant initiative reflecting the political commitment of the Government of India to universalize 8 years of schooling, has recently been translated into action by making elementary education a fundamental right of every child in our country.

“With the enactment of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009, every child between the ages of 6 to 14 years now has the right to free education. The Act while acknowledging the participation of private education providers seeks to ensure that equity and quality go hand in hand with improved access.”

The act follows up on India’s flagship Sarva Siksha Abhiyan programme for Universal Elementary Education launched in 2001.

Related Links

Read the full keynote address, “Investing Out of the Crisis and Attaining International Development Goals”

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