Nailing RTE not an isolated task, focus now on Centre’s new education policy: Ashish Shelar

Abha Goradia
Minister for School Education, Sports and Youth Welfare Ashish Shelar.

Ashish Shelar, MLA from Bandra (West), took over as Minister for School Education, Sports and Youth Welfare in June following a Cabinet reshuffle. In an interview to The Indian Express, he discusses various issues ahead of the Assembly polls and why he thinks participation of youth in policymaking is crucial.

To tide over the dip in SSC pass percentage, 5-8 per cent seats were increased across 90 city colleges. On the other hand, even as FYJC admissions have reached the final stage, 1.40 lakh general seats and 28,000 reserved seats remain vacant, much more than the 72,000 last year. Isn t this a wastage of resources and facilities?

We thought about all the alternatives possible after I joined. The option of giving internal marks back (to SSC students) was untenable. There was suggestion by some officials to do away with internal marks of students from other boards, which would have been unconstitutional. Reservation for SSC board students would have been illegal and caused chaos. The best possible way was to create opportunities. Our Constitution is based on a preamble, which speaks of equal protection and equal opportunities. What was needed for me to decide was that something should be done that was constitutionally correct. Giving more opportunities to eligible students was the only option. Yes, there are side effects, but this is temporarily for a year. Next year, such a situation will not come up.

The model code of conduct will kick in soon. What are the initiatives being planned by the school education department?

We are aggressively and wholeheartedly working to see the kind of positioning of reforms that we started in 2014 and want to continue further. On that roadmap, some other decisions will also be announced.

From making yoga mandatory to conducting debates on issues such as abrogation of Article 370, the Opposition has accused you of politicising education…

This thought that promoting yoga is a way of politicisation is a sickness in the mind from where it has originated. Yoga is a universal way of exercise and we are thinking in that direction. About the debates, the Opposition will always try to create controversies, it s their job. For me, it s important to provide an opportunity and platform for the youth to express their ideas. Giving them an opportunity and stake in giving suggestions on government functioning is important. I also feel that for government policies to be full proof, the participation of youth is crucial. Keeping these perspectives in mind, a programme has been suggested. If someone sees it as politicisation, it is limited to their mind.

The issue of full salaries for teachers of unaided schools and junior colleges is unresolved for a long time. To what extent will the department pay grants?

We are working aggressively on that. The extent is for the Cabinet to decide. I will see that justice is given to the teachers.

The Right to Education Act completed 10 years this month. Yet, there continue to be glitches in the system causing many children to remain out of it. What is your assessment of RTE and its implementation?

RTE is a central enactment and there are some issues pending before the Supreme Court. Nailing the RTE is not an isolated task. Therefore, right now, we are focusing more on the New Education Policy, proposed by the central government. In this policy, the width of the RTE has been discussed. While aggregating the New Education Policy, the pluses and minuses of RTE will be discussed and addressed.

You have been a BMC corporator, you are the Mumbai president of BJP and, now, the education minister. Any future aspirations?

Inpidual aspirations have no meaning in the BJP. My aspirations have zero value. Rather, I do not have any such aspirations. The party is the final authority to take a call and today we have decided that to win an election, under the leadership of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, we should come up with a good number (of seats).

We hope that the kind of developmental agenda that we started in 2014 can be taken to the next level.