The proposal for a new national scholarship scheme, PM-Yasasvi (PM Young Achievers Scholarship Award Scheme for Vibrant India), for meritorious students from the OBC, SC, Denotified, Nomadic and semi-Nomadic Tribe and economically backward categories for the secondary and higher levels of education is a good idea. As is the idea of engaging senior citizens to mentor and tutor the students. This is a positive move that could help dent the number of drop-outs during the transition from elementary to secondary school and at the school to college/university level.

At the broader level, the fact that the students will be selected through a national test is likely to help schools across the country to meet certain basic curriculum and teaching standards. The inclusion of senior citizens in the scheme is a recognition of the untapped capacity for contribution of this segment of the population. It will also help build the capacity for continuous remedial and tutoring facilities for students, not just those who are awarded these scholarships but also any student who may require additional support. Besides the benefits of academic mentoring, it will help address any other issues students are likely to face such as adjusting to new settings. Involving senior citizens in the process will allow the education system and the country at large to tap into a productive human capital resource. For now, the proposed scholarship scheme will have an allocation of Rs 7,200-crore and is expected to help 85 lakh students in the first year itself. However, the direction to the ministry of social justice and empowerment to absorb all existing scholarship schemes under PM-Yasasvi must not result replacing the existing pre-matric and post-matric scholarship schemes (administered by several central ministries and state governments). The idea is to create more opportunities for students and ensuring that these are administered properly to help students access the best possible education that they might have otherwise not been able to. Bringing all scholarships under one umbrella should help improve administrative efficiency, implementation, and quality.

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This move of increasing the number of scholarships that students can avail will also make it easier for higher education institutions to generate revenues beyond what they receive as grant from government. In turn such a move will allow the central government to divert money into research and development, pre-school education—both segments that are crucial to improving human capital. Improving the educational opportunities for all is critical to improving human capital that is critical for the knowledge economy. Improving access is however just one aspect of this effort. Attention must be focused on improving the education system transitioning from a rote-based information heavy system to an analytical one that emphasizes problem solving and application. The aim is not just to increase public spending in education but to utilize the spending to maximum benefit—to focus public spending in segments and activities that are best served by government intervention, while in other cases leveraging public money for greater private flows.



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