Monday, May 31, 2010

Centre plans Rs700 cr fund for secondary education

Centre plans Rs700 cr fund for secondary education
The fund will support the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (National Secondary Education Campaign), or RMSA, which aims to enhance the quality of education in government-run secondary schools
Prashant K. Nanda

New Delhi: The government plans to set up a Rs700 crore National Innovation Fund (NIF) to encourage ideas to improve enrolment levels and the quality of secondary education in government-run and government-aided schools.

The human resource development (HRD) ministry will roll out the plan in association with institutions such as the World Bank and the UK government’s department for international development (DFID), among others, ministry officials said.

Secondary schools cover classes IX through XII. The fund will support the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (National Secondary Education Campaign), or RMSA, which aims to enhance the quality of education in government-run secondary schools.

“The NIF’s overall objective is to support innovative ideas and approaches that contribute to RMSA’s goal of providing universal access to quality secondary education,” an HRD ministry official said. The official requested anonymity because he isn’t authorized to speak to the media.

“The fund will provide grants to states, districts and sub-district level structure of state governments to support activities in schools that help increase access, equity, quality and improve management at the high school level,” the official added.

Innovative ideas for community participation in secondary schools, career counselling, agricultural education and special incentives to retain girl students from underprivileged sections and backward districts could be implemented through the fund.

The ideas will first be tested out locally; if successful, the NIF will scale them up.

Nearly 40 million students are currently pursuing secondary education, but nearly half of them are expected drop out before college.

India’s gross enrolment ratio in secondary school is 40%, compared with 70% in East Asia and 82% in Latin America, according to a World Bank report published last year.

On 25-26 May, the HRD ministry held a meeting of several state government representatives and members of development partners such as the World Bank, DFID, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), ICICI Foundation and Bharti Foundation, among others, to discuss the proposal, another ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

Under RMSA, the government aims to build new secondary and higher secondary schools, recruit thousands of teachers and use information and communication technologies to improve the quality of education. The Centre has already given Rs560 crore to states under the scheme.

The NIF will be governed by a national steering committee under the HRD ministry, which will be empowered to take decisions independent of RMSA—allowing it to support government-aided schools as well.

The panel will meet at least twice a year to review the progress of the fund and the projects it would be supporting.

prashant.n@livemint.com

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sibal to meet education ministers of UP, Bihar and Bengal today

28 May 2010, 0444 hrs IST,Urmi A Goswami,ET Bureau

NEW DELHI: Keen to ensure that the Right to Education doesn’t gather dust and is properly implemented, human resource development (HRD) minister Kapil Sibal is undertaking focused meetings with key states. He will be meeting education ministers of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. The meeting, scheduled to take place on Friday, will primarily deal with teacher-related issues in the context of the Right to Education. The other issues relating to the Act will also be taken up.

Implementing the Right to Education in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar will be a challenge as both the states lack adequate teachers and schools to ensure education for every child. Reports on Demand and Supply Estimates of School Teachers and Teacher Educators (2007-08 to 2016-17) for Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, prepared by the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE), paint a dismal picture.

In 2006-07, there were 6,10,189 teacher posts in UP; of these 4,31,546 were at the lower-primary and 1,78,643 at the upper-primary levels. Additional demand for lower-primary teachers was estimated at 22,256 in 2007-08. Projections for 2011-12 show that the demand for new teachers would increase by 25,384. While at the upper-primary level, the additional demand for teachers in 2007-08 is estimated to the tune of 13,804 and projections for 2011-12 are at 15,171 additional recruitments.

According to the report, the situation in Bihar was worse. The projected additional demand for teachers at the lower-primary level was estimated to be 4,731 in 2007-08, increasing to 8,282 in 2011-12. At the upper-primary stage, the projected demand for teachers was estimated at 7,039 in 2007-08 and it may go up to 7,116 in 2011-12.

The meeting with Mr Sibal takes on added significance as chief ministers of both the states have cited lack of funds as a hurdle to implementing the Right to Education.

The West Bengal situation has an added problem. The state’s laws and procedures on primary teacher recruitment are not in conformity to the the NCTE regulations and the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.

Last year, this anomaly had meant that over 31,000 teachers with a one-year diploma in education found themselves in a bind. The Centre had intervened to ensure that these teachers are regularised, and had asked the state government to ensure conformity between state and central laws; the West Bengal government failed to take corrective steps in their recruitment criteria and process.

Afterwards, Mr Sibal is also likely to meet the education ministers of Northeast states to iron out problem areas for implementing the Right to Education.

Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal demand more funds for RTE

2010-05-28 22:50:00

Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal Friday demanded extra grants from the central government for implementing Right to Education (RTE).

Education ministers from these three state met Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal and forwarded their concerns about financial crunch that may obstruct the way for RTE in the states.

These three states are currently getting nearly 45 percent of the allocation for Sarva Siksha Abhiyaan, which is supposed to be the launching vehicle for the RTE, and are expected to be allocated almost 50 percent of the funds for RTE.

Sibal separately met Uttar Pradesh Basic Education Minister Dharam Singh Saini, Bihar Humar Resource Development Minister Hari Narayan Singh and West Bengal School Education Minister Partho Dey to take stock of preparedness for implementation of the RTE.

An amount of over Rs. .71 lakh crore will be needed for the implementation of the RTE over next five years.

A major chunk (24 percent) of this amount is likely to go to Uttar Pradesh, while 17 percent might be for Bihar and 8 percent for West Bengal. These states have raised the issue of fund shortage earlier as well.

Sources say Sibal emphasised the need for recruiting qualified teachers to maintain the teacher-pupil ratio as mentioned in the RTE. Uttar Pradesh's Saini raised concern over quality of teachers training courses available in the state and it was decided that two-year teacher training course at IGNOU will be revised to meet the demands to train teachers in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Giving details of the progress made towards the RTE, the Bihar minister told Sibal that text books and curriculum for 1st, 3rd and 5th standards have already been revised. He added that the act will be overseen by the State Council for Education Research and Training as per the guidelines of the act.

West Bengal's Dey informed Sibal about the problem with shifting school structure to a three-tier structure having 1st to 5th in primary, 6th to 8th in upper primary and 9th and 10th in the high school for implementing the act.

He said that a plan is being prepared by the Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata, to prepare a road map for implementing the act in the state. He added that more upper primary schools were being added in the state to correct the ratio between primary and upper primary schools.

Official sources said Sibal has informed the state ministers that the state rules for implementing the RTE will be notified soon.

Pvt schools gain at expense of the govt-run

Rukmini Shrinivasan , TNN, May 28, 2010, 04.25am IST

NEW DELHI: Newly released National Sample Survey data shows that the proportion of students in private educational institutions has increased at the cost of those in government institutions, but private education remains affordable only to upper classes.
Meanwhile, expenditure on education, particularly private education, is growing much faster than household budgets.

The NSS 64th round (2007-8) records data on participation and expenditure on education after a gap of 11 years. The NSS data shows that the proportion of students in private institutions (general education at all levels) rose from 28.2% in 1995-96 (52nd round) to 30.8% in 2007-08.

For private unaided institutions alone, the rise is from 10.5% to 18.8%. For urban areas, the proportion of students in private schools has now crossed 50% at the primary, middle, secondary and higher education levels, a significant rise since 1995-96. Here, too, private unaided institutions have grown most rapidly.

However, private education remains largely restricted to families with higher incomes. An analysis of spending on education by income deciles in 2007-08 shows that only the top 10% of rural India spends enough to match the average expenditure on private education. In urban India, only the top 30% can, by extension, afford private education.

Expenditure on education in real terms (at 2007-08 prices and adjusted for inflation) grew by over half over the last decade, much more so on private education. For private unaided institutions, household expenditure per student grew 69%, while for private aided institutions the increase was 48%.

This growth in expenditure on education is far in excess of the growth in average income. While annual household income in rural areas grew by 19% between 1995-96 and 2007-08 (according to calculations based on the NSS Household Expenditure surveys for those years), expenditure on education grew by 54%.

In urban India, while income grew by 27%, expenditure on education grew by 72%. Families now pay an average of Rs 1,413 annually per child in primary school, Rs 2,088 in middle school, Rs 4,351 in secondary school and Rs 7,360 for higher education. There are big variations across rural and urban areas — families in urban areas spend more than twice what those in rural areas spend on primary, middle and secondary education, but the gap narrows in higher education.

There is a big variation across states as well, from Rs 600-800 annually for primary education in states like Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa to more than Rs 3,500 in states like Punjab and Haryana.

In a first, board gives caste details of students

TNN, May 28, 2010, 04.53am IST

AHMEDABAD: Even as the Centre debates the need for a caste census, the Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board (GSHSEB), has for the first time given a caste break-up of the students while declaring the standard XII general stream results. Students have been divided into four categories scheduled caste (SC), scheduled tribe (ST), other backward class (OBC) and other reserved candidates.

GSHSEB officials said that they do a caste-wide break-up annually and send it to the Council of Boards of School Education in India (COBSE). This year however, they decided to go public with the information and published it in the booklet providing the results.

The figures dispel the myth about fewer students from these categories appear for the exam and shows their numbers are higher than in the general category. The pass percentage of students from the reserved category is also surprisingly more than those in general category.

This apart, the booklet brought out by GSHSEB is riddled with printing mistakes. For instance, in the SC category, the total number of students who appeared for the exam is given as 17,747, while those who have cleared the exam are numbering 23,522. Moreover, in the section of girl students, zero is mentioned. When contacted, none of the GSHSEB officials was available for comment on the issue.

Illegal but prevalent

Experts discuss corporal punishment in schools

Children have always been perceived as a symbol of purity and innocence. When such is the case, why is it that two out of every three children are subjected to physical violence in this country? Alarming but true, many go through not only physical but sexual and psychological abuse too.

Highlighting these issues of concern, two NGOs – Childhood Enhancement through Training and Action (CHETNA) and Plan India – organised an event, Learn Without Fear (LWF) at New Delhi's Alliance Franchise centre the other day. LWF is a global campaign with a vision to make a world where children can go to school in safety and expect a quality experience without fear or threats of violence.

Eminent panellists addressed the issue of violence on children at length at the event. Among them were senior psychiatrist Dr. Jitendra Nagpal, Dr. Bharti Sharma, master trainer, Delhi Police on JJ System & children, members of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR). The talked about how physical abuse is a common feature in most schools. It came up in the deliberations that corporal punishment, in spite of being banned by the Delhi High Court, is still administered on children.

The panellists also stressed the point that mental harassment is more dangerous than physical violence as it affects children emotionally and by the time it gets detected, the child loses his self-confidence. The panellists also quoted statistics that 83.12 per cent of abuses inflicted on the children are physical abuses, and 50 per cent of physical abuse is on children aged between 5-12 years. Seventy per cent of the culprits are the school authorities who spank and torture children in various ways.

The panellists also emphasised the importance of the Juvenile Justice Act and how awareness about its provisions needs to be propagated to children so that they become aware of their rights. It came up in the discussion that NCPCR, DCPCR and Delhi Police are doing yeoman service in this direction.

The event also featured a dance performance and a play put up by some tiny tots. Their exuberance was appreciated by one and all.

The event ended on an optimistic note with those assembled expressing their determination to put an end to violence inflicted on little ones.

States to abolish Class 10 boards: Sibal

Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal Saturday said the implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act will pave the way for state education boards replacing the Class 10 board exams with a grading system.

"Under the RTE, elementary education until Class 8 is under comprehensive and continuous evaluation. Once you have that system until class 8, is no point in changing over to an exam system in Class 10," Sibal said in an interview to the CNN-IBN news channel.

The act pitches for classroom assessment of students instead of an annual exam. The Central Board of Secondary Education introduced a grading system for this year's Class 10 board exams and will make the exam optional from next year.

"It's just a matter of time that states will come on board and remove Class 10 exams on their own and move towards the grading system," Sibal said.

Noting that the states have been cooperative in preparing a roadmap for the act, Sibal said a decision on its implementation will be taken very soon.

"The states have been cooperative in all our decisions and hopefully, in the committee meeting next month, we will take decisions with unanimity," Sibal said.

The major changes being introduced in school education include a uniform syllabus for all central and state boards from next year. The human resource development ministry is also pitching for a single national-level entrance test for Class 12 students from science and commerce streams applying for undergraduate courses from 2013.

Sounding confident on the uniform curriculum, Sibal said that more discussion was needed before introducing the single national-level test.

"Well again, that (uniform curriculum) is something that has been unanimously decided by Council of Boards of School Education in India (COBSE). Let's now see if we are able to hold an all-India examination in 2013. That is a matter that will be discussed at length," he said.

COBSE is the apex body of all central and state education boards. The decision to introduce a uniform curriculum for all education boards was announced by Sibal in February.

74 KV-type schools in backward taluks (Karnataka)

TNN, May 29, 2010, 06.19am IST

BANGALORE: The government will start 74 schools in the lines of Kendriya Vidyalayas in the state’s most backward taluks.

“These model central schools, to be launched from July 15, will have English as medium of instruction from classes 6 10,’’ primary and secondary education minister Vishveshwar Hegde Kageri said on Friday.

The Centre has already sanctioned Rs 400 crore under Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), an extension of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA).

The backward areas were selected on the basis of the D M Nanjundappa committee report on regional imbalances , the minister explained. Most of these model central schools will open in North Karnataka taluks.

Kageri said there will be no compromise in quality of education in these schools. They’ll have state-of-the-art infrastructure including computer rooms, sciences labs and libraries on par with centrals schools.

However, the government will initially run these schools in rented buildings, he pointed out.

Getting admission to these model schools will be based purely on merit; the government will hold entrance test to select students on the lines of CET. The first test is on June 30.

The government has taken steps to recruit teachers with post-graduate qualification. Intake for the model schools is limited to 50 per class.

80 NEW HIGH SCHOOLS
The Centre has approved the state government’s proposal to upgrade 80 schools from primary to higher level under Sarva Shikshana Abhiyan. Kageri said the government had sent a proposal to upgrade 558 schools, but the Centre gave its nod for 80.

Future could be bright for primary education in UP

Swati Mathur, TNN, May 30, 2010, 07.09am IST

LUCKNOW: The Right to Education Act, it appears, is finally on its way out of the cold storage. The May 28 meeting between Union human resource minister Kapil Sibal and UP basic education minister Dharam Singh Saini has not only given a green signal to training ‘‘untrained’’ teachers in the state, but also, senior department officials say, bodes well for the future of primary school students in UP.

If the Centre and state were engaged in a bitter battle over fund allocations a little over a month ago, the ice thawed in this meeting. Additional state project director, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Ashok Ganguly, who attended the Friday meeting, said: ‘‘We put up our case in front of the Union minister and showed them our commitment to the cause of basic education. UP is the first state to have created a model for the implementation of the Act and completed the micro-planning; including an assessment of teacher and infrastructure requirement in each school. GoI has recognised and appreciated our efforts in this regard.’’
Notably, according to data available with the basic education department, elementary education accounts for nearly 10% of the state’s total annual budget.

In 2010-11, a total of Rs 1,50,76.85 crore has been set aside for primary school education. A senior bureaucrat, on condition of anonymity, said: “Considering that nearly 70 to 80 departments are vying for a share in the total state funds, it is sufficient to say that a good amount of money is being spent on basic education.”

Apart from highlighting UP’s achievement, in Friday’s meeting, Saini also took up the issue of teachers recruitment, shortage of teachers holding Basic Training Certificate (BTC), and the need for recruiting untrained graduates and postgraduates from universities and subsequently training them through the distance learning of IGNOU.

Interestingly, the 13th Finance Commission, in an earlier assessment of the funding pattern for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, had highlighted the inability of several states bearing the 45% of the project cost.

With implementation of Right to Education likely to cost at least twice as much despite the SSA model already being in place, it is not surprising, officials say, that states need additional Central aid.

Stating that the meeting has been ‘satisfactory’ in nature, the state government is now expecting a word from the Centre on several fronts. Ganguly added: “They will get back to us on the requisite funds, directions for the timeframe in which to implement the Act as well as directions from IGNOU and National Council of Teachers Education (NCTE) regarding the training of the new teachers.” The directions, Ganguly said, are expected in a fortnight.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Has right to education fallen victim in Maoist-hit Bastar?

Raipur, May 26, 2010

It is a zone where government officials fear to enter. In the thickly forested interiors of Chhattisgarh's Bastar region, a heavily-mined Maoist hotbed, authorities are finding it extremely tough to implement the Right to Education Act.

Some officials say in private that the government lacks the guts to implement the Act, which makes primary education free and compulsory for every child in the 6-14 age group, in the insurgency-hit pocket in central India.

Of the sprawling 40,000 sq km thickly forested interiors in Bastar, up to 25,000 sq km area is intensively mined by Maoist guerrillas.

The region has witnessed several deadly attacks in recent years, and the latest one was last month when guerrillas carried out their biggest ever attack on policemen in Dantewada district April 6, massacring 76 security personnel, including 75 of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). On May 17, 31 people were killed in the same district in a powerful landmine blast that hit a civilian bus.

"It is difficult, very difficult to enforce the Act in Bastar interiors. We are hopeful things will improve in the remote areas and we will be able to take the children to school,'' Manoj Kumar Pingua, commissioner of the Bastar region, told IANS.

Bastar region is made up of five districts - Dantewada, Bijapur, Narayanpur, Bastar and Kanker. Police say the government has no presence in an estimated 450-500 villages of the region that has witnessed the killings of 1,750 people in Maoist violence since 2005.

The authorities have even been forced to suspend the census work in 108 villages in Dantewada district, as according to Pingua, "the situation in the forested interior is so alarming that enumerators don't want to step into the landmine zone to collect biometric details of residents".

Authorities say that no school building exists in about 500 villages situated amid thick jungles where officials or security men can't even dream to enter. Even in the areas where security men are pitched against guerrillas, over 100 primary school buildings were bombed by rebels in the past five years after security men took shelter in the buildings for their offensive.

"At present, the government lacks the guts to enforce the Right to Education Act in Bastar because Maoists command a massive forested locality and even in areas close to the national highway and state highways. Security personnel deployed for anti-Maoist operations have been confined to their camps in the backdrop of a string of deadly attacks on them that has created a scare among some 40,000 police," a senior education department official told IANS here, refusing to be identified.

Anil Vibhakar, a Raipur-based expert on the Maoist issue, remarked: "There is no future of the Right to Education Act in the entire Bastar interiors at least for the next decade."

"Where security men are running for cover and civilians are living in the shadow of terror, the talk of enforcing the Education Act is just a waste of time, though it is desperately required to help people get over the generations-old poverty and extreme backwardness," Vibhakar opined.

The Right to Education Act was enforced from April 1.

Schoolgirls pedal their way to success

Faizan Ahmad, TNN, May 25, 2010, 07.36am IST

PATNA: In Bihar's countryside, young girls in uniform pedal their way to the schools. They are coming out with flying colours leaving behind boys in three Rs.

In a state where female literacy is as low as 33.57 per cent (national average 54.16 per cent), the girls have started making big leaps in education. The credit goes to various incentives introduced by the state government during the past three years, particularly the bicycle scheme.

In the secondary school examination conducted by the Bihar School Examination Board (BSEB), results of which were declared recently, girls have made a tremendous forward move. Khushboo Kumari, who was second topper at this examination, pedalled every day to her school at Sonaili from her home at Bhogaon, a 10 km to and fro. Kumari's Katihar district has an abysmal 24 per cent female literacy.

Of the 9.74 lakh students who appeared at the examination, four lakh were girls. A total of 75,136 girls got first division, which is double the last year's number of 37,708. Each first divisioner girl is entitled to an incentive of Rs 10,000.

"We have succeeded in bridging the large gender gap in education," said HRD principal secretary Anjani Kumar Singh. "Now each girl going to secondary school has a bicycle," he added.

Singh told TOI that the school campus has shrunk with the number of girls increasing manifold. "In 2007, there were 1.60 lakh girls in Class IX, now their number has swelled to nearly half a million," he said.

The official cited the example of Patna's Bankipur Girls' High School saying the school has to arrange 16 to 17 sections in each class. Everywhere, he said, girls have either equalled the boys or outnumbered them.

The bicycle scheme is a real hit. The idea was conceived by chief minister Nitish Kumar in 2007. Called Mukhya Mantri Cycle Yojna, Nitish said, "the scheme is very close to my heart." He felt it has changed the face of Bihar with lakhs of school girls riding bicycles to reach their schools every day.

"This is, in fact, an affirmation of the fact that a small initiative can really go a long way in bringing about a big change. In Bihar, bicycles have now become a instrument for social change which can be felt in any part of the state. It has brought about a real transformation in the field of girls' education in Bihar," the CM wrote on his blog.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

HRD ministry's initiative to protect languages

TNN, May 27, 2010, 05.28am IST

NEW DELHI: The HRD ministry's roundtable on protection and preservation of indigenous traditional knowledge and endangered languages has identified three areas that need to be addressed immediately to save languages from getting extinct.

A five-member committee has been set up to suggest how to link languages with employment opportunities. The committee will also find out regions in the country where many languages have become extinct. It will also recommend how to make languages a part of school curriculum so that the young generation becomes interested in them and on setting up of regional centres.

At the meeting held on Wednesday, HRD minister Kapil Sibal expressed the need for setting up an inter-ministerial group with representatives of the ministries of tribal affairs and north-east so that a comprehensive view on fast-disappearing languages could be formed. Sibal also sought cooperation from states.

The meeting saw members expressing concern that languages were losing out to English. One reason they cited was the employment opportunities knowledge of English offered vis-a-vis other Indian languages. One member pointed out that regions with high literacy had more instances of local languages getting extinct.

Members also lamented the lack of infrastructure to promote and preserve Indian languages. For instance, 230 manuscripts have not been studied in the country. A member also pointed out how lack of knowledge of ancient manuscripts and languages resulted in a Spanish company coming up with a face-cream. It was found that its formulation was lifted from an ancient text. India could win the patent case only after a long battle.

Earlier, a preliminary meeting of a few members of the roundtable had decided that a holistic strategy needed to be put in place for the documentation and preservation of the endangered languages. It was first decided to take up languages which are spoken by less than 25,000 people. It was also felt that a comprehensive National Linguistic Survey of India should be carried out. Strangely, the proposal to have a linguistic survey, proposed during Arjun Singh's stint as HRD minister, was abandoned by the ministry later.

Government likely to set aside more funds for RTE

The Union government wants to increase the money it plans to spend on implementing the Right to Education (RTE) Act
Prashant K. Nanda

New Delhi: The Union government wants to increase the money it plans to spend on implementing the Right to Education (RTE) Act, while putting up a larger proportion of the funds for programmes under it to counter complaints by states that they are strapped for cash.

The government proposes to step up spending by Rs30,000 crore to Rs2 trillion, according to human resource development (HRD) ministry officials familiar with the development. The funding pattern will be changed to 65:35, with the Centre putting in 65%, from the earlier 55:45 ratio, as per proposals drawn up by the ministry.

The Act promises compulsory education to all children up to class VIII, and is one of the key policies of the United Progressive Alliance government.

The proposals are likely to be sent to the Expenditure Finance Committee (EFC).

“Looking at the historic Act and its long-term implication on the education scenario in the country, we are not against taking a bigger responsibility in relation to RTE expenditure,” said a ministry official on condition of anonymity.

The government had previously estimated that Rs1.7 trillion would be spent over five years for the successful implementation of the Act.

Another ministry official confirmed the development and added that the effort was aimed at addressing the financial concerns of states and at helping with the smooth implementation of the Act, which came into force on 1 April.

The officials said the proposals would be circulated among the ministries concerned and depending on inputs, “we will put a strong case” to EFC.

If EFC accepts the proposals in their entirety, then the Union government will bear an expenditure of at least Rs1.3 trillion over a period of five years.

Several states such as Uttar Pradesh (UP), Bihar, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh have demanded that the Centre foot a larger share of the RTE bill as they are facing a financial crunch. Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik had met HRD minister Kapil Sibal early this month and asked that the Centre bear 90% of the expenditure for at least two fiscal years.

The education ministers of UP and Bihar will be coming to Delhi later this week, an HRD ministry official said.

“They’ll meet the minister on RTE and are expected to present their argument for a better deal,” he said. “They have a wish list. We are trying to increase the Central share, but the states too have a responsibility.”

Currently, 220 million children are in schools across India, while at least 8.1 million children of school-going age are excluded from the system, HRD ministry data shows.

prashant.n@livemint.com

Reform and regulate

A raft of new bills on higher education promises to shake up the sector like never before. But will the proposed laws be an unmixed blessing? Seetha finds out
ON THE TABLE: The new laws will revolutionise higher education in India

After shaking up the school education system, human resource development minister Kapil Sibal has now turned his reforming zeal to higher education. On May 3, Sibal tabled four bills in the Lok Sabha — a rare feat for any minister. That’s not all. Nine more bills related to higher education are in the offing. And a draft bill on a new regulatory body — the National Commission on Higher Education and Research (NCHER) — is being circulated for comments.

“This is creating a framework for a quite different educational system from what we are used to. It crafts an eco-system for the delivery of educational services by multiple players while addressing issues of quality and transparency,” says Dhiraj Mathur, executive director and India leader for the education sector at consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

So the Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operation) Bill will set rules to allow foreign universities to operate out of India, the National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Institutions Bill will license accreditation agencies and set out rules for rating universities, the Prohibition of Unfair Practices in Technical Educational Institutions, Medical Educational Institutions and Universities Bill will penalise institutions taking capitation fees or manipulating admissions while the Educational Tribunals Bill will set up a mechanism for speedy redressal of disputes.

“Each of the bills is addressing a particular need,” says Amitabh Jhingan, partner and education sector leader at consulting firm Ernst & Young. “They are a clear step towards an effective regulatory framework.”

The bills on education tribunals and accreditation have attracted little flak as of now, though some educationists are sceptical about them. The tribunals were recommended as far back as 1986 in the National Policy on Education. A fast-track justice delivery system, the human resource development ministry explains, would build an effective system of checks and balances and help in the orderly growth of the sector.

The bill provides for national and state-level tribunals to decide on various categories of disputes relating to service matters, affiliation issues and unfair practices. Failure to comply with the orders of the tribunals could invite a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh and jail for up to three years.

But opponents of the bill point out that it may not be feasible to set up so many tribunals. “Where are they going to get the people to man these,” asks K. Shyam Prasad, chancellor, Martin Luther University, Shillong. “It may turn out to be just a tamasha.”

The bill on accreditation, which will make accreditation of all higher education institutions mandatory, has also got a mixed response. Currently, accreditation is handled by two agencies — the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), an autonomous body under the University Grants Commission and the National Board of Accreditation, part of the All India Council for Technical Education — and is optional. As a result, less than one-third of all universities and less than one-fifth of colleges are accredited.

The new bill will create an enabling environment for multiple accreditation agencies and specify norms for grading. That, says H.S. Ballal, pro-chancellor of Manipal University, is a welcome move, since NAAC was over-burdened with work. “Benchmarking institutions with others is necessary.” The National Accreditation Regulatory Authority will register, monitor and audit the functioning of these agencies.

However, Mathur points out that the effectiveness of the law will take time to assess, since accreditation agencies are still to come up.

There’s more scepticism about the Foreign Educational Institutions Bill and the Prohibition of Unfair Practices Bill and experts wonder if they will serve the purpose for which they are designed.

At least two provisions in the Foreign Educational Institutions Bill — that they should set up a corpus of Rs 50 crore ($10 million) and they should not repatriate profits — are likely to put off foreign universities. While Mathur feels Rs 50 crore is a lot of money for genuine, not-for-profit institutions, Jhingan feels it is not an unreasonable amount, provided institutions have the ability to build up the corpus as they scale their operations.

Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), one institution that is serious about setting up a campus in India, has flagged this as an area of concern. “The corpus requirement will place a financial burden on legitimate institutions planning to initiate operations in India, specially in times when our budgets are already under pressure,” Vijay K. Madisetti, professor and executive director of Georgia Tech’s India Initiative, told The Telegraph. It would be easier, he says, if this corpus requirement could be met through letters of commitment, cost sharing or other means like land and physical assets.

The clause on non-repatriation of profits isn’t an issue for Georgia Tech. “We are a non-profit government-funded entity, and will establish a not-for-profit entity in India,” says Madisetti. Jhingan feels this will be a non-issue for at least the first 10 years, since educational institutions take that much time to generate any meaningful surplus. Mathur, however, feels this will put off foreign universities. Not all institutions are not-for-profit ones, he points out, and private companies will want a return on investment. “It might be utopian to expect them not to make or repatriate profits.”

As Dinos Arcoumanis, deputy vice-chancellor (research and international) City University London, notes, “It would be useful to consider how legislation can encourage international universities in setting up overseas, without placing restrictions on them.”

The bill, however, is silent on whether foreign universities will have to abide by caps on fees charged or regulations on teachers’ salaries. “Foreign universities are welcome but it should be a level-playing field,” says Ballal. “Rules that apply to us should apply to them as well.”

The bill on unfair practices, on the other hand, will please most people. It attempts to check unscrupulous and fly-by-night operators, brings a measure of transparency to admissions, makes capitation fees illegal, prohibits misleading advertisements and withholding of documents as well as refusal to refund fees if students switch institutions. All these attract stiff penalties ranging from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 50 lakh.

But Shyam Prasad wonders if the proposed law will be effective. “The issues are identified but things are left hanging,” he says. The bill, he points out, does not say how to ensure that capitation fees will not be taken at all. These fees, which are illegal even now, are never taken openly. And no parent ever comes forward to complain. “Enforcement will be an issue,” agrees PwC’s Mathur. “The more draconian the law, the greater its misuse.”

Capitation fees, notes P.V. Indiresan, former dean of the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, are the result of a demand-supply gap in education. It might be better, he feels, to institutionalise it the way many universities in the United States do, by admitting less meritorious students who can contribute to their endowment fund. These donations help them in subsidising bright students who cannot afford their fees. “Don’t go against the economics of the situation,” he advises.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

India plans 100% literacy by 2020

India plans 100% literacy by 2020
The government was taking a slew of measures including public-private partnership to reach the goal
Published on 05/19/2010 - 12:36:57 PM

New Delhi: India is aiming to have 100 per cent literacy by 2020 and a slew of measures were being taken to achieve it, Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal said.

"India should be literate by 2020, because that is where national assets and real wealth will be created," he said while delivering the 38 the Shree Ram Memorial lecture on ‘Inclusive Education for the Marginalised' organised by the PHD Chamber of Commerce here.

Describing human resource development as the most important factor for sustaining economic growth, Sibal said 70 per cent of the working population was under qualified with no primary education.
The minister stressed on inclusive education, calling upon the private sector to play a major role in the process.

"Government has planned 6,500 model schools, of these 3,000 are to be made on the public private partnership (PPP) model," he said, asking the private sector to contribute in building infrastructure.

Sibal also discussed the need for providing residential schools to stop street children and child labour from going back to work.

"Once the right to education is implemented, in the next eight years, every class will have at least 25 per cent students from economically backward sections. I hope by then we will have a legislation to give reservation beyond that level," Sibal said.

The government needs to recruit 20 lakh teachers to successfully implement the Right to Education Act, he said, reports IANS.

The implementation of the Act was a difficult task and the only solution would be to hire teachers even if they did not have the required qualification.

“In the course of five years these teachers need to acquire the qualification necessary for the position,” he said “Hopefully, in ICT mission mode for higher education, in the next three years the government will bring broadband connectivity to schools and by the end of the 11th Five-Year Plan, India will be fully connected with 22,000 colleges and 480 universities.

We hope to connect all schools in a similar fashion by the end of the 12th Plan as well, he said

Guidelines issued for Uniform School Education

STAFF WRITER 11:10 HRS IST

S Singan

Madurai, May 19 (PTI) Use of computers for teaching, language laboratories equipped with audio and visual aids, and periodic exhibitions in science and mathematics are among the measures suggested by Tamil Nadu Government under its Uniform School Education scheme being introduced from this year.

The scheme is being implemented with the aim of ensuring social justice and quality education in schools.

The government has formulated the scheme to introduce common syllabus, textbooks and examination system in state board, matriculation, Anglo-Indian and Oriental schools.

Under the scheme, the government has amalgamated existing four boards to create a single common board through an act, which was upheld by the Madras High Court recently.

To start with, the scheme is being introduced for Class I and VI from this academic year while other classes would be brought under it from 2011-12 onwards.

Besides suggesting setting up of language laboratories for teaching English, Tamil etc.

SC concerned over commercialisation of education

Teaching shops were mushrooming in the country without having even the basic infrastructure, the court said
Published on 05/21/2010 - 05:55:07 AM

New Delhi: "Education has become commerce," a concerned Supreme Court observed and added that many of the mushrooming teaching shops in the country do not even have the basic infrastructure.

The court said that education which was never an instrument of money minting has been reduced to a commercial activity.

The vacation bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice GS Singhvi, said that the extent of commercialisation of education could be gauged from the fact that in Maharashtra in one year 464 B Ed colleges were opened and in Haryana there are 25 engineering colleges. The intake in the engineering colleges is not even up to 50 per cent.

Justice Singhvi said, "Education has become commerce. Our generation can't change the mindset. Education is something more than commerce." The court said these institutions "don't even have the basic infrastructure".

In an obvious message that the court was not oblivious to the ground realities, Justice Singhvi said, "Very unfortunately we can't close our minds to all that is happening in the country."

The court made this observation in the course of the hearing of an application by the Association of Management of Ayurvedic Colleges seeking the court's directions to permit their students to appear in examinations.

The association wanted that students who have completed one and a half years of classes should be permitted to appear in the coming semester examinations.

At this, Justice CK Prasad said the students knew they were taking admission in the courses which don't have clearance of the Central Council of Indian Medicine (CCIM).

"We can't compromise on the study of curriculum and nobody can take the exam without completing the course," Justice Prasad said. "Completing one and a half year is not just a matter of duration but to study a curriculum during that period."

Without passing any order on the application, the court said the matter would be heard by the bench headed by Justice RV Raveendran when the court reopens after the summer recess, reports IANS.

Friday, May 21, 2010

$150m fund for out-of-box innovations

CHARU SUDAN KASTURI

New Delhi, May 20: India is setting up a $150-million corpus using funds from the World Bank, European Union and the UK government’s Department for International Development to hatch innovative strategies to universalise secondary education.

Called the National Innovation Fund, the corpus will provide financial support to out-of-the-box projects for which budgetary funds cannot be used because of the risk of failure, top government officials have told The Telegraph.

“Think of the fund like a means to discover secondary education’s ‘switch hit’,” a senior official said, referring to cricketer Kevin Pietersen’s path-breaking shot where a batsman switches his bat grip at the last minute to outfox the fielding side. “You need the straight drive in cricket but you also need the switch hit.”

On the eve of the Lok Sabha polls last year, the HRD ministry launched a scheme titled the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyaan (RMSA) aimed at universalising access and retention in secondary education by 2020. India, at present, has an enrolment ratio of 52 per cent in secondary education. Only 18 per cent of the country’s workforce has received secondary education.

The scheme is the single largest new education project envisaged and launched under the UPA. The right to education law, though implemented by the current government, was first drafted when the NDA was in power.

The ministry will manage the National Innovation Fund and use it to finance projects that meet the overall aims of the RMSA but cannot be funded through money allocated in the budget. It has written to all states asking them for comments on the proposed fund ahead of a meeting organised by the World Bank in Delhi on May 25 where the plan’s contours may be finalised. Several state government representatives are expected to participate in the talks.

The ministry, in a concept note on the fund, has suggested that the corpus be used to finance two kinds of projects: totally new ideas on a pilot basis, and scaling up innovative strategies with established success at the pilot stage.

The states have already suggested a few projects, sources said. These include the possibility of organising state-level competitions in the sciences and math along the lines of the National Olympiads, using parents as volunteers to fill in if there are teacher vacancies, and conditional cash-transfer projects.

The fund can also be used by the ministry to launch a National Innovation Award to recognise successful out-of-the-box strategies in secondary education, the concept note states.

The proposed corpus amount of $150 million works out to about Rs 700 crore. That is almost half the Rs 1,527-crore budgetary allocation for the RMSA in this financial year.

But ministry officials are cautious not to repeat mistakes they admit the government made in primary and tertiary (vocational) education. Funds received from foreign donors and diverted to promote innovation in these sectors over the past decade have not led to any significant successful “innovation” even at the state level.

Aware of apprehensions of a repeat under the secondary education fund, the ministry has outlined — in the concept note itself — plans to protect itself from past failures through a tighter selection and monitoring mechanism.
Top

Sibal's kiss of death

RN Bhaskar
Thursday, May 20, 2010 22:46 IST

Kapil Sibal, the Union minister for human resources development (HRD), is a man in a hurry.That could explain why he has overlooked obvious loopholes in his Right to Education Act (RTE) which could virtually decapitate India’s education. The same could be said about his draft Foreign Universities Bill.

Take the RTE first.Three provisions of the Act have consequences that could mean the virtual collapse of school education in India.

Consider these clauses: Chapter II , 4 says: Where a child above six years of age has not been admitted in any school or, though admitted, could not complete his or her elementary education, then he or she shall be admitted in a class appropriate to his or her age.

ChapterIV, 16, says: No child admitted in a school shall be held back in any class or expelled from school till the completion of elementary education. And Chapter IV, 17 says: No child shall be subjected to physical punishment or mental harassment.

Collectively, these provisions will make it impossible for any teacher to teach his or her students effectively for several reasons. The first clause unwittingly lays emphasis on age and not mental or emotional capabilities of the student.

Thus, if a 10-year-old boy approaches a school, he will have to be admitted to Std V, because that is the class “appropriate to his or her age” even if the child has not studied for the previous four years. Secondly, when a student knows that he (or she) cannot be failed, the pressure on him to meet the minimum benchmarks also gets eased. That encourages students to take their studies and tests less seriously, blunting their competitive skills.

Moreover, schools which normally detain anywhere between 20-30% of the students in any class each year will now allow such ‘unsuitable’ students to sit in a higher class and thus adversely affect the general comprehension environment of the entire classroom.

If a school or a state cannot weed out even 5% of ‘unsuitable’ students each year, it results in an unwelcome load of at least40% (or as high as 60-70% for some schools) of “academically backward” students at the Std IX level. Few governments have the political will to detain 40-60% of the students at the Std IX level.

The result: a larger number of “academically backward” students will be promoted at the SSC/HSC levels. Many students will approach the job market with the tag of “Std IX failed”. But potential employers will find their skills levels not matching even Std III levels. These are the people who will feel cheated of their right to get a job in society, and could create tremendous social discord, if not riots.

Even teachers begin to find teaching increasingly difficult as the number of ‘weak’ students keeps increasing in each higher class. If the teacher scolds the child, it could be termed as “mental harassment” —prohibited under the RTE Act.Fearful of the consequences, teachers will become more guarded and increasingly incompetent. Separating the ‘bright’ and ‘weak’ students into different classrooms won’t help either, because it would be termed discriminatory.

This will necessitate the teacher:student ratio to be improved to 1:20 instead of the recommended 1:30 (against the currently prevalent 1:80 or even 1:100 in most schools).This will require the government to appoint more teachers, for which it does not have the money. Nor are the teachers readily available.

In fact, what is more probable is an increase in ghost names on school registers who will be shown as students in order to avail themselves of grants from government. Since there is to be no evaluation, no detention, and Sibal plans evaluating the success of the RTE Act only after three years (when general elections are called), it will encourage state governments and unscrupulous managements to siphon off money from the exchequer through bogus enrolments. In fact, some critics have already begun calling the RTE Act an election-funding exercise.

As for Sibal’s prescription that defaulting schools will be shut down, somebody needs to remind him that the need of the hour is to open more schools, not close them down. A better way would be to transfer management and ownership of defaulting schools to managements who have done an excellent job.

As for the Foreign Universities Bill, what it will do is to allow foreign universities to charge the fees they want, and to pay their teachers what market forces determine, without first allowing the same freedom to Indian colleges and universities, including the IITs and the IIMs. The result: the best teachers will join foreign universities located in India, because of better working conditions and higher wages.

Sibal would then have assured a total collapse of India’s education — both for schools and for its colleges.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Child rights panel: ‘Shortlisted names can embarrass govt’

Child rights panel: ‘Shortlisted names can embarrass govt’

Having appointed Shantha Sinha as chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) for the second term, the Ministry of Women and Child Development is now considering a similar second term for two other members in the panel.

According to sources, Sadhya Bajaj and Dipa Dixit may be back in the NCPCR along with four new members. Interestingly, the appointment of Bajaj and Dixit last year had been dragged to the Delhi High Court with allegations that both did not meet the eligibility criteria to become members. But the ministry, according to a former member of the panel appointed to select the members and chairperson this time, is keen on retaining them.

“With Sinha back, the other two may be back too,” said Padma Seth, an eminent child rights activist and daughter of former Speaker of Lok Sabha the late M Ananthasayanam Iyengar, who had raised her objections in appointing the same chairperson and the two members for a second time.

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Seth quit the three-member selection committee late last month, alleging she was being pressured to decide on the names short-listed by WCD Minister Krishna Tirath.

Seth had also written a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, asking him to “intervene” and stop the “hurried” proceedings.

“Such action will be challenged in the High Court and will lead to an embarrassment to the government. In fact, the ministry had received strict directions from the court for transparency in the appointment of chairperson and the members,” she added.

In an April 17 letter, Seth even asked the minister to add special invitees during the meetings as she felt that composition of the selection panel was “too small”.

Krishna Tirath said the process to select the NCPCR members is on and would be finalised soon. She did not disclose the procedure, citing it was “not so important”.

Central school debate

CHARU SUDAN KASTURI

New Delhi, May 18: India’s historic right to education law has placed the future of the country’s Kendriya Vidyalayas and other central schools under a cloud of uncertainty, leaving the government divided on whether to retain their unique character.

Sections of the human resource development ministry want the current mandate of these schools to be wound up, while others argue that they must be allowed to continue, top government sources have told The Telegraph.

HRD minister Kapil Sibal is understood to be personally in favour of retaining the current mandate of these central schools, but a section of his ministry is against seeking exemptions for the institutions.

The debate on the future of these schools is a direct outcome of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, implemented from April 1 this year.

Section 13 of the act bars all schools from subjecting “the child or his or her parents or guardian to any screening procedure”. The section punishes those who infringe with a fine of Rs 25,000 for the first violation and Rs 50,000 per infringement subsequently.

The country’s central schools all currently violate this section — because they largely select students either through a national test or based on their parentage.

The over 1,000 central schools across the country represent India’s largest public school chain and were started to principally cater to the wards of central government employees in transferable postings.

Today, the central schools have a clear priority list — children of transferable central government employees get higher priority than state government counterparts who still rank higher than ordinary citizens.

The Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNV), nearly 600 across the country, were started in 1985 when P.V. Narasimha Rao was HRD minister, to provide meritorious students from rural backgrounds the best standards of schooling.

These are residential schools and each year conduct a national examination to select students.

The bar on any admission scrutiny under the act means the government will either need to seek exemption from the law for these central schools, or will have to end their current mandate.

Guidelines issued for Uniform School Education

S Singan

Madurai, May 19 (PTI) Use of computers for teaching, language laboratories equipped with audio and visual aids, and periodic exhibitions in science and mathematics are among the measures suggested by Tamil Nadu Government under its Uniform School Education scheme being introduced from this year.

The scheme is being implemented with the aim of ensuring social justice and quality education in schools.

The government has formulated the scheme to introduce common syllabus, textbooks and examination system in state board, matriculation, Anglo-Indian and Oriental schools.

Under the scheme, the government has amalgamated existing four boards to create a single common board through an act, which was upheld by the Madras High Court recently.

To start with, the scheme is being introduced for Class I and VI from this academic year while other classes would be brought under it from 2011-12 onwards.

Besides suggesting setting up of language laboratories for teaching English, Tamil etc.

Schools to accept mother's surname

Mid-Day.com, Wednesday May 19, 2010, Mumbai
single-mother1.jpgIn a landmark move that will be seen by many as a sign of Indian society shaking off the last of its patriarchal shackles, the state education department, in a circular issued to all the schools in the state, has instructed them to accept the middle and last name of a single mother in the child's records from the new academic year.

Single mothers will, however, have to produce documentation to support their single mom status, such as a copy of the divorce order or proof of custody of the child.

The move has brought much joy to estranged wives, divorced women and single adoptive parents. Niloufer Mistry, a single mom from Babulnath, who recently adopted abandoned Orissa twins Suruchi and Suniti, said, "It is a wonderful thing. My children don't have proper birth certificates or a last name and have been forced to go by their first names since I am still completing the adoption legalities. I faced many problems getting them admission into kindergarten because of my single status."

Francis Swamy, Principal of Holy Family High School, Andheri, and member of the SSC board, said, "In today's scenario, when a single woman can bear the burden of her entire family, why should the privilege of giving her name to her child be denied to her. It is, after all, a matter of dignity."


Read more at: http://www.ndtv.com/news/cities/schools-to-accept-mothers-surname-26413.php?cp

Audit shock

Audit shock

PURNIMA S. TRIPATHI

A social audit on the working of the ban on child labour in the domestic and hospitality sectors reveals a sorry state of affairs.

G.N. RAO

Children working for a brick maker in Khammer district, Andhra Pradesh.

LIKE any normal child, Illyas from Varanasi, a 13-year-old, wanted to go to a regular school and become an important man some day. But poverty forced him to start working at an eatery for Rs.200 a day so that he could feed his younger siblings. He, however, continues his studies as well and is in class V. But his naive question stupefies all who hear it: “Shouldn't the government help children like us to go to a school without working?”

Sanjay from Kursela, Bihar, has not been so lucky. Almost the same age as Illyas, he had to give up studies after class IV, when his father took ill, to take care of his three younger siblings. He earns Rs.900 a month, gets free food and supports his two younger brothers' education.

Fifteen-year-old Nagaraju from Alware village, Nalgonda, Andhra Pradesh, works as a cleaner at a hotel for Rs.1,500 a month plus abuses and beatings. This poor boy supports the education of his elder sister, who has completed her intermediate and is planning to go for higher studies. His sister's education, he hopes, will one day end his troubles.

Pooja, 13, from Lohanipur, Patna, cooks for a living and earns Rs.800 a month. Her three siblings work for food. She supports her mother, who turned mentally unstable after her husband abandoned her.

These heart-wrenching tales of real children were narrated at a public hearing on the working of the ban on child labour in the domestic sector and in the hospitality industry, which has been in force since October 2006. The public hearing, which was held in New Delhi on April 30, was the culmination of a nationwide social audit.

Looking at the sorry state of affairs in the country as far as child rights are concerned, one can see why there is an anguished cry for justice for children. The social audit, carried out by the Campaign Against Child Labour (CACL) and the Campaign Against Child Trafficking (CACT) in association with over 30 non-governmental organisations working for child rights, covered 12 States – Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, Goa, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. It brought out a mind-boggling, countrywide tale of apathy, insensitivity and indifference.

Quoting official sources such as the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India, the social audit report puts the number of children employed in the domestic sector at 1.86 lakh and in the hospitality industry at 70, 934. In all, over 2.56 lakh children work in the domestic and hospitality sectors. Unofficial sources, however, put the figure at around 20 million.

Compared with the enormity of the problem, the response of the authorities to the social audit was poor, even hostile, the report says. This is evident from the figures given of the number of children rescued in various States since the ban came into effect. Andhra Pradesh, which was more forthcoming with information than other States, rescued five children in 2006, 97 in 2007, 242 in 2008 and 62 in 2009. Bihar, which gave the figures for 2008 and 2009 only, rescued 474 and 1,404 children respectively. Delhi, where roughly 50,000 child workers are engaged in these two sectors, four children were rescued in 2006, 91 in 2007, 33 in 2008, and no figures are available for 2009. In Jharkhand, only 12 children from domestic sector and 15 from the hotel industry have been rescued since 2006. Madhya Pradesh simply gave no information. It was discovered by those carrying out the audit that either the States did not have the information or they did not want to divulge it and, therefore, kept shunting the auditors from one department to another.

On the basis of the meagre information received from the States (only 10 out of 12 responded), the auditors figured out that out of a total of 5,096 children rescued since October 2006, only 3.04 per cent of the children were reported to be from the domestic sector and the rest were from dhabas and roadside eateries\hotels. The figures for the number of children rehabilitated are equally dismal. “This speaks volumes about the attention being paid to the problem by our law-enforcement agencies,” one of the auditors said.

S. MAHINSHA

A young boy working as a cleaner at a restaurant in Thiruvananthapuram.

The public hearing once again threw light on the stark realities of an apathetic society, a callous government machinery and toothless laws, which have resulted in the social malaise called child labour. This is rampant across the country, in homes and in innumerable eateries, dhabas and hotels, though such employment has been banned by law.

The jury at the public hearing comprised Syeda Hameed, Member, Planning Commission; R.K. Raghavan, former Director, Central Bureau of Investigation; Vimala Ramachandran, educationist; Ashok Arora, a senior advocate of the Supreme Court; and Arvind Kejriwal, Right to Information (RTI) activist and Magsaysay Award winner. Its unanimous verdict on the functioning of the ban on child labour in the domestic and hospitality sectors: “A failure.”

The public hearing was attended by eminent citizens, senior members from the media, senior government officials and child rights activists; 68 children were present, and 20 of them deposed before the jury. The jury noted: “It was clear that many children were forced into employment because of extremely adverse economic conditions at home. Some were orphans and some had only a single parent. The majority wanted to pursue education but had no option but to work to earn and support the rest of the family.… What was galling was the physical treatment meted out to some of them in a domestic environment. Those who perpetrated violence on the child workers included a software engineer and a banker. This indicates the gravity of the problem. Even those who are educated and are well employed are insensitive to child rights and the latter's need to be treated with kindness and extreme care.”

With regard to the poor implementation of child rights laws, the jury observed: “The enforcement of existing laws has been tardy. For example, there are about 50,000 child workers in Delhi; only 23 of them are known to have been rescued. The need of the hour is to sensitise the enforcement machinery in order to make sure that the existing laws and provisions are well implemented in letter and spirit. At present, there is little accountability for implementation. The Ministry of Labour should devise means for bringing in this accountability.”

Stating that the existing laws on child rights were ineffective even in the rare circumstances when they were implemented, the jury noted that these could be made stringent so that they acted as a deterrent. It recommended making offences under the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, cognisable and emphasised the need to sensitise the community at large on issues relating to child rights.

“Aren't we all guilty? When we haggle with the autorickshaw driver and pay him Rs.2 less, or when we pay our maid a few hundred rupees less, aren't we forcing them to send their children out for work?” asked Kejriwal. According to him, we are all directly or indirectly responsible for the current sorry state of children in India, and unless the attitude of society changes, child labour will continue to be prevalent. Added to this is the obfuscation of laws, which makes even existing provisions almost ineffective. “The law should be made more effective, offences under child labour laws should be made non-bailable, and the law-enforcing agencies should be made more accountable for their implementation,” he said.

The problem is compounded by the fact that there is little clarity about its real nature. Should it be treated as a labour issue or as a child rights and protection issue? “Child labourers are children in need of care and protection… but the Labour Ministry continues to deal with the issue of child labour by way of regulating it in some sectors and limiting its role to the rescue of children from hazardous sectors only, whereas the need of the hour is to address the problem in a holistic manner as an issue of children's right to protection,” said Rajmangal Prasad, national convener, CACT. Moreover, he said, recognising the criminality of the offence would also lead to a shift in the attitude of the authorities and civil society at large, and that would happen only by making it a cognisable offence.

Another aspect that needs to be taken care of is the rehabilitation of children who are taken off work. “Most of the children employed in the domestic and hospitality sectors are there because of adverse financial conditions at home, so rehabilitation should be a key component of any programme aimed at such children,” said Rajmangal Prasad. The report says that rehabilitation programmes for children rescued from work are extremely inadequate, resulting in children falling back into the same trap after being rescued. The audit report cites the annual report of the Ministry of Labour, which itself says that under the National Child Labour Project (NCLP), catering to children rescued from hazardous sectors, the 9,000 schools being run for them have an enrolment of only 0.45 million children, and only 0.48 million have been mainstreamed since the NCLP was initiated in 1998. This gives rise to the big question: “Where is all the money being put into such programmes going? Who are the children benefiting from such projects?” The social auditors of the CACL and the CACT got no answer from the authorities, nor do government reports say anything about it.

“Revamping the existing child labour elimination programmes and investing adequately in new and holistic and need-based interventions is the need of the hour,” the audit report says.

But, as Kejriwal puts it, are we not all, as members of a responsible civil society, responsible for the sorry state of many such children? Unless the attitude of society as well as the law-enforcing agencies changes, nothing will change for these Illyases, Sanjays, Nagarajus and Poojas.

20 lakh teachers needed to implement RTE Act: Sibal

The government needs to recruit 20 lakh teachers to successfully implement the Right to Education Act, Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal said on Monday.

The implementation of the Act was a difficult task and the only solution would be to hire teachers even if they did not have the required qualification.

“In the course of five years these teachers need to acquire the qualification necessary for the position,” he said delivering the 38 the Shree Ram Memorial lecture on ‘Inclusive Education for the Marginalised' organised by the PHD Chamber of Commerce here,

“Hopefully, in ICT mission mode for higher education, in the next three years the government will bring broadband connectivity to schools, and by the end of the 11th [Five-Year] Plan, India will be fully connected with 22,000 colleges and 480 universities. We hope to connect all schools in a similar fashion by the end of the 12th Plan as well. To bring about quality inclusive education is the rationale behind all education reforms.”

Mr. Sibal also spoke about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's commitment to build 6,500 ‘model' schools in backward areas; of these, 3,000 would be developed through public-private-partnership investment. This proposal would soon be put in the public domain, he said and asked the business community to join in.

The government was willing to look at possible economic models to implement it.

“With 70 per cent of the workforce not having cleared the primary class exam and only 5-7 per cent having skills as opposed to 95 per cent in the developed world, advancement in human resource is the focal objective of the nation right now. With the human resource meltdown that is taking place globally, India holds the key to filling the huge demographic deficit by technically arming its people,” Mr. Sibal said.

Meanwhile, an Assocham study has shown that the number of private institutions in the country is expected to double from 300 in the next two years, as the Centre has reduced its spending on higher education.

The number of private management colleges is expected to touch the 600- mark by 2012 as public expenditure on higher education has been reduced.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

From 2011, aspirants for jobs in govt schools will have to clear test

Akshaya Mukul, TNN, May 18, 2010, 02.01am IST

NEW DELHI: Come 2011 and anyone aspiring to become a teacher in a government school will have to compulsorily pass the State Teaching Eligibility Test (STET).

While STET will come into operation next year, it has also been decided that over the next two-three years, B.Ed will become a two-year course, instead of the current one year, and diploma in education will be completely phased out. "The plan is that study of education should be located in the university system," National Council of Teacher Education (NCTE) chairperson Mohammad Akhtar Siddiqui told TOI.

NCTE has already withdrawn recognition of 585 institutions giving B.Ed and Diploma in Education degrees. Madhya Pradesh tops the list with 217 illegal institutions, followed by 103 in Gujarat, 41 each in Rajasthan and Karnataka, 31 in UP and 28 in Haryana.

NCTE, which has been appointed as the competent authority for teacher education under the RTE will notify the compulsory STET decision soon after it is vetted by the HRD ministry. "No state government has opposed the decision," Siddiqui said.

Right now only three states -- Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh -- conduct entrance examination for school teacher's job. In the next three years, more than 10 lakh teachers would be recruited for the effective implementation of the Right to Education Act.

In its meeting on Monday, NCTE also decided that those with B.Ed and diploma in special education from the Rehabilitation Council of India would be given jobs in regular schools after a short orientation course in elementary education. "This will help increase the number of teachers as under the Right to Education Act lakhs of teachers have to be appointed to maintain the teacher-pupil ratio of 1:30," Siddiqui said.

Explaining the STET, Siddiqui said NCTE would lay down detailed guidelines for states to follow while conducting the examination. "The entrance test will push up the quality of teachers," Siddiqui said.

NCTE has also decided to tell states that for teaching jobs in primary and upper primary schools, preference should be given to graduates. At present, people with 10+2 and two year's diploma also get the job of teachers for primary and upper primary section.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Cong flays Rio Govt over Education dept problems (AT: Bogus teachers in Nagaland)

A Correspondent

DIMAPUR, May 16 – Accusing the Nagaland Government of sleeping over the problems plaguing the State’s Education department, particularly the bogus/excess appointments issue, the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Tokheho Yepthomi, along with party MLAs, on Thursday met the Governor at Dimapur Airport and submitted a memorandum demanding a ‘logical investigation’ into the matter.

Briefing mediapersons later, Tokheho said the Governor has been apprised of the situation in the Education department while stating that had the government been sincere, it would have taken appropriate and preventive steps based on the SIT report instead of setting up another committee.

Accusing the government of sleeping over the issue, the opposition MLAs said many students enrolled in government schools are suffering due to absence of teachers. The careers of students enrolled in government schools have been massacred by the DAN Government, they charged.

The CLP leader also questioned the government’s failure to react over the findings of the SIT report which has indicated involvement of high government officials in the appointment of bogus teachers.

MLA Joshua Sumi reminded of the recent Education Act passed by the Parliament which gives the ‘right to education’ to every child. It is an Act amended by the Government of India and should be implemented across the length and breadth of the country, he said.

The memorandum submitted to the Governor, which was made available to the media, stated that the SIT report has clearly pointed out teachers posts are being seen more as a commodity and all teachers who have been rendered bogus have paid a price for gainful employment. The government has only victimised the victims further whose only fault was buying a post on sale, it said.

The memorandum further pointed out that, besides identification of bogus teachers, there was need to identify the main culprits behind the appointments, while stating that instituting committee after committee for the investigation was irrelevant. It also did not rule out involvement of the Treasury department stating that this is ‘obvious as salaries against these appointments are released although budgetary allocation is exceeded’.

Stating that the SIT report has made it clear that there is complete breakdown of governing and administrative mechanism in the department, the CLP has demanded thorough investigation in various schemes including the Mid-Day Meal and SSA programmes.

The CLP has emphasised on ‘logical investigation’ of high government functionaries involved, those responsible for such appointments, how many such appointments have been done with government approval, appointments done with authentic signatures, those done with forged signatures and those responsible for destroying the important government documents.

The Governor, who was en route to New Delhi, has assured to look into the issue once he gets back, the CLP leader informed.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Court puts on hold principals' transfer

TNN, May 15, 2010, 04.16am IST

BANGALORE: The additional city civil and sessions court on Friday stayed the transfer of the principals of Bishop Cotton Boys and Girls Schools till the suit filed by them is disposed of. The order was passed by judge Bheemappa Jattennanavar.

As per the May 7 transfer order, issued by Bishop Vasanth Kumar, the two principals were to have handed over charge by Friday evening. A criminal case was registered against the bishop in the Cubbon Park police station on the orders of the Fourth ACMM Court for "misappropriation of school funds for personal gain".

The members of the Bishop Cotton Parents' Association expressed happiness at the order. "Truth and justice have prevailed. This victory is just the first step. The School Management Committee will bring in better governance through various steps being planned as per the law, including revamping of the board of management, the executive committee and related organs of the Church of South India that affect the functioning of the schools," James Arun, advocate, parent and CSI member, told TOI.

A PIL has also been filed by the parents in the Karnataka High Court on May 11, seeking implementation of the Right to Education Act, by forming an SMC comprising 75% parents to monitor schools' working. The court will hear the matter after the vacation.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Schools ignore RTE Act, collect fee from students

At time of admission children have to pay for stationery and sports material that would be used in their schools

Even as the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act 2009, which came into force from April 1, provides for no charge of any fee from the students, the state schools are collecting Rs120 to Rs60 from children at the time of admissions.

Money is being collected by the staff at various government schools in the name of "school development fee" or "students fund" etc. As per the past practice, even the girls are being charged with the fee. Also, receipts are not being issued for such collections. Kishori Lal of village Nimali in Alwar district told DNA, "I paid Rs30 each to get my daughter Rani and son Dinesh admitted to class VI and IV respectively at government school Nimali. I was not given any receipt for these payments."

"We charge Rs65 for boys' fund from male OBC students. No receipts are issued as we note down their names in a register. In addition, for "school development fee" last year we collected Rs50 per student, but this year it has been decided to charge Rs100," said Googan Singh, headmaster Nimali School.

Laxman Prasad, the District Elementary Education Officer (DEEO), Alwar said, "We are charging as per the past practice. There is no government order to stop such collection. Students' fund is utilised for stationery, chalks, duster, notebooks, sports material etc. Rs120 are collected from general students, while Rs60 from SC/ST/OBC."

"These collections are violation of Section 3 of RTE Act, which prohibits school authorities from charging any fee," said Noor Mohammad of Shiksha Panchayat. Parmesh Singh of Alwar Mewat Institute for Educational Development said that officers were asking for fee although they were duly informed that it was illegal. "There are complaints from Sikar and Ajmer districts too," said Govind Beniwal of Campaign for Protection of Child Rights.

He said Rajasthan Commission for Protection of Child Rights should immediately take action in this regard otherwise, the campaign will move court against Act violation.
Pradeep Siel, additional director Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan said SSA was state nodal agency for implementation of RTE Act, decision to charge any "development fee" or not was to be taken by elementary education department. Director (EE) SS Bissa, however, could not be contacted.

Innovative ICT scheme to be started in school education: Sibal

Innovative ICT scheme to be started in school education: Sibal
12 May 2010, 1941 hrs IST,PTI

NEW DELHI: HRD Minister Kapil Sibal today announced plans to launch an innovative scheme to spread elementary education using Information Communication Technology (ICT) tools.

The new scheme will be similar to the existing ICT scheme in higher education.

"We are planning to start a new ICT scheme in elementary education. This will address the requirement of teachers and help the students study on their own," Sibal told reporters on the sidelines of a programme here.

He said the scheme would focus on development of e-contents which would be used by students at primary and upper-primary classes for learning purposes. This will take care of the unavailability of teachers to a great extent.

Besides, separate modules would be developed for assessment and evaluation of students. Teachers' training will be a component under the proposed scheme.

"We are consulting the IITs for evolving the scheme. Role of technology is paramount and it will provide affordable solution to the country's need for education," he said.

He said there is huge requirement of teachers at primary and upper primary stages across the country.

"Solution will come from technology. Through digital signal processing, we have to reach out to students. We have to have a system in place to help students learn on their own," he said at the function organised by Texas Instruments to display new-age products in education.

At present, the government is running a Rs 6000 crore ICT scheme in higher education.

Minister of State for HRD D Purandeswari said poor enrolment rate and unavailability of teachers were the major challenges in education sector.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

State is in cahoots with school managements: Jayant Jain

Priya Ramakrishnan
Wednesday, May 12, 2010 0:19 IST

More than a year since some parents took private schools to court for charging exorbitant fees, the matter is still unresolved. In fact, it has only escalated tensions between the two conflicting parties, even as the government continues to play an indifferent role in the background. Leading the dissenting voices, Jayant Jain, president of Forum for Fairness in Education and All India Federation of Parent Teacher Association (AIFPTA) has been on the forefront of the battle. With the government once again missing the deadline for the third time on the fee hike issue on May 8, Jain spoke to DNA on the next step planned in the battle.
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With increasing operational costs and implementation of the sixth pay commission, why do you think private unaided schools are wrong in increasing fees?
Our main objection to the fee hike is that private schools registered as charitable trusts are involved in profiteering. Schools are also granted exemptions under the Income Tax Act for being charitable trusts. Furthermore, they get land from the government at a subsidised cost. If profiteering is the objective, they should be treated like any other commercial venture. Schools can only recover operational and maintenance costs in the tuition fee, but in reality, they are collecting capital expenditure such as building fees, infrastructure fee, development fee, etc.

Why should the government interfere in matters of private unaided schools? If your demand is met and a regulatory body set up, how will it help resolve the conflict?
Firstly, there has been a tremendous increase in the number of private unaided schools in the city. With no supervision, most of them flout norms and prescribe their own fee structure and rules. Also, there is also no transparency and every private school has its own fee structure. Once a regulatory body is set up, there will be a uniform fee structure.

The government has once again missed the deadline for filing a report on its observations on the fee hike issue. With the next academic season starting from June, what are the challenges faced by parents to win the face-off?
With more than 60% of private schools owned by politicians, it is obvious that the state government is in cahoots with school managements. They are deliberately delaying the matter in court. To counter this, we will once again come out on to the streets and pressurise the government to regulate private unaided schools. The last time we organised a protest, we managed to amass more than two lakh signatures against the Bansal Committee Report. We will approach the court again if the government dithers. If the Delhi and Tamil Nadu governments can set up regulatory bodies to monitor the fee structure of private schools, why can’t Maharashtra do the same?

Recently, parents’ bodies across the country united under a single umbrella and formed local chapters of parent-teacher organisations. A joint PIL was to be filed by them in the Supreme Court. How far have you progressed on this?
Currently, we are recruiting more parents into the organisation across the country. We will soon be opening local chapters at Hyderabad, Bangalore, Kanpur, Delhi, etc. We have also made contact with parent organisations from tier 2 cities such as Secunderabad, Faridabad, etc. Once we get everyone under one umbrella, we will start preparing the PIL. We will do this before July.

Naveen Seeks 90 Percent Central Funding For RTE Act

Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik today joined the bandwagon to demand 90 per cent Central funding for at least two plan periods for implementing the Right To Education (RTE) Act in the state.

Patnaik met HRD Minister Kapil Sibal here and also demanded that 11 districts, including those affected by Naxalism, should be considered special category districts at par with northeastern states for the purpose of all schemes of HRD Ministry.

"I have demanded that the Centre-State share should be in the ratio of 90 to 10 to implement the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act at least for two plan periods," he told reporters after the meeting.

Patnaik's demand comes a few days after similar demand was made by chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Patnaik said Orissa has made concerted efforts for improving the educational infrastructure at all levels and for enhancing the technical skills and capabilities of its human resource.

He said about half of the state is hit by poverty and Left-wing extremism. The population in these areas require special efforts and there need to treat these districts on a par with northeastern states and other hill states, he said.

Sibal assured Patnaik that all the issues would be considered favourably. Sibal said efforts will be made to minimise the burden on the state.

Shantha Sinha gets second term as NCPCR chairperson

The Centre on Tuesday decided to appoint Shantha Sinha as chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) for the second term.

Ms. Sinha, a renowned child rights activist, was appointed as the chairperson of the child rights panel in 2007. An academic with the Central University Hyderabad, Ms. Sinha is the winner of prestigious Magsaysay Award for 2003. She was presented the Padma Shree Award in 1999 for her work on child rights.

The NCPCR emphasises the principle of universality and inviolability of child rights and recognises the tone of urgency in all the child related policies of the country. For the Commission, protection of all children in the 0 to 18 years age group is of equal importance. Thus, policies define priority actions for the most vulnerable children. This includes focus on regions that are backward or on communities or children under certain circumstances, and so on. The NCPCR believes that while in addressing only some children, there could be a fallacy of exclusion of many vulnerable children who may not fall under the defined or targeted categories. In its translation into practice, the task of reaching out to all children gets compromised and a societal tolerance of violation of child rights continues. This would in fact have an impact on the programme for the targeted population as well. Therefore, it considers that it is only in building a larger atmosphere in favour of protection of children's rights, that children who are targeted become visible and gain confidence to access their entitlements.

The NCPCR was created by an act of Parliament in 2005. However, the government is yet to take a decision on its members.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Govt plans to cut interest rate on education loans

5 May 2010, 0623 hrs IST,Subhash Narayan & Rajeev Jayaswal,ET Bureau


NEW DELHI: The government is working on a refinance scheme to offer education loans at interest rates as low as 4%, and plans to extend the repayment period for those who aspire to become doctors, engineers, fashion designers and IT professionals.

The scheme envisages the setting up of a special purpose vehicle to refinance banks for giving education loans below prime lending rates. Currently, interest rates for education loan varies between 10% and 12%. The ministry of human resource development (HRD), which has drawn up the plan, also wants to extend loan repayment periods from 5-7 years to 6-12 years, according to government officials.

“In the next one month, the entire concept will be crystallised,” HRD minister Kapil Sibal told ET.
Mr Sibal said the ministry has already discussed the proposal with the Planning Commission on Tuesday. “They have appreciated the idea and asked us to submit a formal note,” he said.

Confirming this, a Planning Commission official told ET the panel was looking into the proposal to set up a new National Education Finance Corporation (NEFC) to refinance banks on this count. Based on the feedback, the ministry will prepare a formal note for the approval of the Cabinet.

NEFC is to be set up with an initial equity capital of Rs 5,500 crore. The ministry has proposed to infuse Rs 3,000 crore in the company every year so that it reaches to Rs 35,500 crore by 2020, the plan panel official said.

Income, loan criteria for edu loan

An interest rate of 4% will be charged from those students whose parental income will be less than Rs 4.5 lakh per annum.

This will be 7% for those with parental income above this mark but wanting an education loan of less than Rs 12 lakh. Loans above Rs 12 lakh will be charged at 9%, the plan panel official said on condition of anonymity.
Mr Sibal had told Parliament on March 5 that his ministry is planning to set up NEFC to refinance education loans besides funding educational infrastructure and expansion of educational institutions.

“When... every child has free access to loan why will he need to sell the family silver to enter into an educational institution?” he had said then. The demand for higher and technical education loan will grow from Rs 7,948 crore in 2009 to Rs 159,566 crore by 2020, shows an assessment by Educational Consultants India (EdCIL) said, an arm of the HRD ministry offering consultancy services for human resource development.

Education loans set to become more attractive

May 11, 2010 12:37 IST

The Union ministry of human resource development, headed by Kapil Sibal, has drafted a proposal on educational loans, which entails changes that will increase the accessibility of these loans -- the objective being an equitable distribution.

The proposed changes include:

Reduction in the rate of interest: The ministry is planning to subsidize the interest rates on educational loans and intends to bring in down to as low as 4%.

For the same, the ministry is working on a refinance scheme. This would involve, setting up of a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to refinance banks for giving educational loans at a rate of interest below the PLR. National Education Finance Corporate will have to be set up to refinance the banks.

Impact: Banks have been witnessing defaults and non-payments on educational loans. This may change. Banks are set benefit on two counts -- defaults should reduce because of low rate of interest charged to the borrower and even in case of defaults; banks will be able to cut their losses by virtue of subsidy provided by the government.

Set criteria for charging interest rates: It is intended that the rate of interest charged will be based on parent's income.

* Parents with income less than Rs 450,000. will be charged 4%.
* Parents with income more than Rs 450,000 p.a. and requiring a loan of less than Rs 12 lakh (Rs 1.2 million) will get it at 7%.
* For loan amounts above Rs 12 lakh, interest will be charged at 9%.

Impact: The highest rate of interest to be charged under the proposed structure i.e. 9% is lower than the lowest rate currently charged by banks, which is in the range of 10%-12% in most instances. This will certainly prove to be beneficial to students across the board.

Repayment period: The ministry intends to increase the loan repayment period to 6-12 years from the current 5-7 years.

Impact: This will reduce the pressure on the borrower by giving him/her greater amount of time for re-payment.

No interest during moratorium period: The interest cost for the moratorium period will be paid by the government. So if the loan is for a period of 7 years, the interest for the first two years (study period) and one year moratorium (holiday period to find a job) will be paid by the government and for the balance 5 years, interest and principal will be paid by the borrower.

Impact: Typically interest rate on the education loan starts accumulating as soon as the course is over. Since interest during the moratorium period will be paid by the government, EMI for the borrower is set to fall. This will reduce pressure on his/her cash flows.

This is a proposal which has been submitted to the Planning Commission and has been discussed with them too.

The Planning Commission is currently looking into the proposal of setting up a National Education Finance Corporation to refinance banks. Based on the feedback received, the ministry will prepare a formal note which will be submitted to the Cabinet for approval.

If this proposal is approved by the Cabinet, educational loans will certainly be accessible to more number of students. 'Financial issues' will hopefully not deprive a student from pursuing higher education.

Rule flout charge against school

A STAFF REPORTER

The father of a 10-year-old boy detained in Class IV by a teacher, who was allegedly denied a laptop as bribe, has moved the high court accusing the school of violating the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009.

The father’s lawyer said the act prohibited schools from detaining students till Class VIII. The writ petition, likely to be heard this week, also charges the school with torture and extortion.

The Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations, state government and the principal and some teachers of the school have been made party to the case.

“We’ve filed a case of mental torture, extortion and violation of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act. Our stand does not contradict the ICSE rule that bans detaining students till Class IV,” said the lawyer.

The secretary of the south Calcutta school refused to comment as the matter was sub judice. “We have received the petition on Saturday.... We are looking into it and will make our submission in court,” he said.

The boy’s detention in Class IV for two consecutive years had prompted his father to lodge an FIR with Shakespeare Sarani police station on April 2. The complaint stated that the class teacher had turned vindictive towards the boy after his father refused to “gift” him a laptop. “I have text messages on my phone to prove that my son’s class teacher demanded a laptop,” the father had earlier told Metro.

On April 28, the school informed the boy’s family that he had been issued a transfer certificate which mentioned that he had been detained in Class IV.

“What will I do with such a certificate? I want my son to start going to school again. I was demanding justice for my son which I did not get from the school,” the father said.

The accused class teacher is absconding. “We had gone to his home in Thakurpukur but he was not there,” said an officer. The teacher’s bail plea has been rejected by the sessions court. “He has moved an appeal in the high court,” said the officer. The hearing is scheduled for Monday.