An Indian government official called for education reform in India and the growth of an Indian university system in a speech last night in Copley Formal Lounge.

“I do believe I have this opportunity at a time when India is ready for change. But the challenges are daunting,” said Kapil Sibal of India’s Ministry of Human Resource Development. “But it’s the challenge that excites me.”

Sibal, who oversees primary and secondary education in his ministry role, said he wants to increase the numbers of Indian children reaching the university level.

Carol Lancaster, interim dean of the School of Foreign Service, highlighted a shared commitment to higher education in her opening remarks.

“He has become the minister of human resources with a reform agenda, and that reform agenda for Indian education involves creating a greater and larger degree of excellence in Indian education, including higher education, which is thankfully one of the things that has brought him to our campus today,” Lancaster said.

In Sibal’s first session of Parliament in 2009, the Indian government passed the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill. The bill ensures that every child, aged six to 14, is able to go to school.

Sibal said the challenges of improving education in India involve curriculum reform and faculty training.

“It is for the child that we need to do this, not for parents, not for teachers, not for the country – to allow the child to have the kind of choices that he is entitled to as he moves through school into [the] public,” Sibal said. “So our curriculum will be child-centric, so that each child will be able to discover his own genius as he moves forward.”

He also said India needs to create a higher education system so that students will not need to go abroad to attain college degrees. He wants to set up 14 new central universities in India and expand other existing institutions.

Sibal said he needs economic growth in India in order to finance his plan to expand and reform the education system in India.

When asked about providing equal opportunities for girls, Sibal said it is a social problem that can be solved by providing incentives for families to send their girls to school. [According to the World Bank](,,contentMDK:22338951~pagePK:141137~piPK:141127~theSitePK:295584,00.html), statistics from the Public Report on Basic Education show that the number of women attending school in India has increased. In 1996, 20 percent of girls in India’s seven least literate states had never been enrolled in school. In 2006, the percentage dropped to 4 percent.

“Some families don’t send their children to school,” Sibal said. “Government can’t be solving problems of that nature. Government can put systems in place. Government can give incentives.”

He ended his speech by emphasizing the challenges he faces in reforming Indian education.

“I just wanted to tell you the challenge . and how difficult it is actually to brace myself to meet it, and with the passion that I have that I will succeed – to ensure that I put a system in place that will allow me to succeed,” Sibal said.”

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