Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Not just bricks on the wall

Not just bricks on the wall
Pravda Godbole / Pune June 30, 2010, 0:19 IST

With writable surfaces on the walls and clocks that have movable hands, Delhi-based outfit Vinyãs is changing the face of schools in India to facilitate better learning.

Mark Twain, American author and humorist, in his irreverent style had said “I never let my schooling interfere with my education.” Preeti and Kabir Vajpeyi, founders of the Delhi-based outfit Vinyãs — centre for architectural research and design established in 1994 — seem to have taken a cue from this maxim and are striving to make schools a place where children actually learn.

To this end the architect couple floated the concept of BaLA (Building as Learning Aid) in 2001.

“We work in the development sector — with governments and NGOs. Schools following the BaLA philosophy are re-designed to facilitate education in existing government or private schools, typically elementary schools from grade one to eight. They are brighter and more colourful,” says Kabir Vajpeyi.

The concept of BaLA emphasises on an innovative atmosphere. At the core, it assumes that the architecture of a school can be a resource for the teaching and learning process.

For instance, the entrance doors of classrooms in such a school are protractor-shaped, with angles aligned with the swing of the door helping students learn geometry better. The window grilles are made of English alphabets. Walls have writable surfaces on them; clocks are constructed on walls with movable hands for children to learn how to tell time and there are scales printed on children’s desk giving them an accessible yardstick to comprehend the concept of measurement.

BaLA schools are typically funded by the government directly, some times by the Government of India or by the states themselves. “For the government-run education programmes, especially under SSA (Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan), there are various examples of planning the funds allocation for BaLA, depending upon the level of intervention, administrative and political will and the seriousness of engagement. Broadly, just as the BaLA concept is interdisciplinary, the funding for the intervention can also be interdisciplinary — i.e. the funds can come from the budget-heads of different disciplines or schemes,” explains Kabir.

BaLA has been implemented by SSA Karnataka (about 10,000 schools with about 15,000 classrooms), Himachal Pradesh from 2005-06 onwards (for more than 1,200 schools). In SSA Gujarat, for each two new classrooms in a school an amount of Rs 40,000 was approved towards BaLA from 2006-07 onwards.

Teachers and principals of BaLA schools point out that there is an increase in enrolment and retention of children. The concept has become so successful that some parents have even shifted their children from private schools to government-run BaLA schools.

BaLA was first implemented by Karnataka in 2005. Followed by Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. Vinyãs has successfully run this concept in close to eight to ten private schools in Bengal, UP, Bihar and Punjab too.

So, how does Vinyãs take this concept to other states? “We do not pitch directly. We work on demand. Motivation follows when they see the work and its impact in other states. Since BaLA as a concept is interdisciplinary — it requires a lateral way of thinking even at the level of the government. If an interested state is stuck, we guide and suggest them to study how it has been done elsewhere. Only then, when they are fully convinced and motivated enough do we get on-board. Else, we do not have the time or resources to run after them,” says Kabir.

Nagaland is first in School Grading

Nagaland is first in School Grading
Chizokho Vero

Kohima | June 29 : Nagaland has become the first state in India to assess schools and grade them under the initiative of Mayangnokcha Award Trust (MAT) with the support of the Nagaland government.
Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, School Education Minister Nyeiwang Konyak and government officials and agencies complimented MAT for initiating the novel venture to promote quality education in Nagaland.
Initially, 79 schools from 3 districts (Kohima, Dimapur and Mokokchung) submitted their Letter of Request for assessment. Out of 79 schools, 58 schools completed the first part i.e., submission of institution data. However, only 21 schools could complete the Self-Evaluation Report (SER). 14 schools qualified to be visited for data-validation and grading. The grading of the schools is valid for 4 years.
The assessment, according to MAT, is not a fault-finding mission. With a panel of moderators, the Trust only visited the institutions to validate their reports, based on which the grading was given.
The assessment of schools has been done voluntarily and was participatory. The methodology was largely based on the concept and criteria used by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC).
“The process shall attempt to guide the concerned authorities and the schools towards achieving skill-based method of educational delivery and imparting core values such as ethics, work culture, social responsibility, developing core competency, contribution to national development, use of IT, quest for excellence etc. by students, “ MAT said adding that it shall also provide platform of feedback for further improvements.
The assessment was carried out under fewer than six main criteria – aspects of curriculum, teaching-learning and evaluation, infrastructure and learning resources, student support and progression, governance and leadership and innovative practices.
The vision of MAT in carrying out the assessment is several: shaping ‘a shared future for Nagaland through sustainable and holistic development of human resources by imparting core-values and skill based education; making Nagaland a preferred destination for regional, national and international students; upgrade from assessment level to assessment and accreditation and to accredit and build linkages with national and international accreditation and certification bodies in education and training. “Together we can do this” said Moa Aier, trustee programme coordinator.
Earlier, releasing the report of the school assessment project and handing over certificates to the 14 graded schools here at Hotel Japfu, Minister for School Education & SCERT, Nyeiwang Konyak congratulated MAT for initiating the programme. “The Trust has done a positive thing for the department and for the people of Nagaland,” the minister said. Such a programme would certainly bring a tremendous impact in the overall process of education in Nagaland.
Remarking on the need to embrace positive changes, the minister said that there should be a paradigm shift from examination oriented education to quality and value based education.
He asserted that the assessment and grading would help improve the infrastructure as well as the quality of teaching and at the same the school authorities as well as teachers will have become more sensitive and alert and “thereby make the school not only a place where teaching happens as of now, but a place where learning will take place.” “This is how Nagaland schools will not only produce brilliant students as many institutions have been successfully achieving but also produce worthy citizens,” the minister said.
Encouraging MAT to continue working on the programme and venture to cover the entire state by this mission, the minister said he had taken note of the proposal submitted by the Trust for continuance of the assessment programme and assured that the department shall make all efforts to extend all necessary support and assistance, to enable the programme to continue and also to expand to other districts and schools as well.
The minister also further stated that the school education department and the Trust can work out modalities to give accreditation status to assessed schools from next year. The minister maintained that the school assessment & grading programme is one of the major achievements of the government under the ‘Year of Capacity Building’, adding “ I am sure, it is not only an achievement of the government, but a real benefit for the state, which impact shall be felt in the years to come.”
He reiterated that the assessed programme must continue, for which the government and the school education department shall be extending all necessary support and assistance.
Commissioner & Secretary, school education & SCERT Mhathung Kithan said that MAT was really doing a great job in improving education in the state. Terming the assessment as a necessity, Kithan said that educational institutions should be more responsive and responsible to the future of the students.
Stating that the school assessment is not a fault finding exercise, he strongly felt that all institutions both private and government schools should welcome the grading system and be assessed for good wholesome education system. Nagaland Board of School Education (NBSE) chairman Nini Meru said that MAT has been a great encouragement to the student who is doing well in HSLC. She hoped that in the coming days, the assessment is carried out not only for those schools willing to assess but all registered schools must be assessed.
Panel (of moderators) convenor L. Edward Lotha complimented MAT for coming forward to help Naga society though this venture, adding that whatever MAT graded the school was of “very high standard” as it adopted the same criteria of NAAC. He said felt that if similar programme is carried forward, it would become an important movement in education activities in Nagaland. CHSS Dimapur principal Aheto Sumi said that the exercise has been an eye opener for the schools with the target to improve and excel in their achievements.
Dr. Imomanen Tzüdir, president MAT hoped that the school assessment be not only a one- time event, but a continuous process, “for which we hope that the government shall continue to extend its support.”

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Right to Education saves 85 students from losing a year

Right to Education saves 85 students from losing a year
Puja Pednekar / DNA
Tuesday, June 29, 2010 1:17 IST

Mumbai: Eighty five students from the St Lawrence School in Santa Cruz got their seats back thanks to Right to Education (RTE) Act. Over 27 parents gathered outside the school on Monday to protest the expulsion of their children from the school.
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The parents, demanding that school officials discuss the issue with them, used the RTE Act to get their children readmitted to the school.

Despite the RTE Act, which prohibits schools from failing students till Std VIII, around 85 students were handed leaving certificates by the school after they failed in the examinations.

“Not only did they refuse to promote our children, but also threw them out of the school. For more than 15 days, we have been fighting with the management. When we approached the school education authorities, they transferred our complaint from one department to another. Frustrated, we approached an NGO and decided to protest,” said Farhaz Rumani, a parent whose son was expelled for having failed in Std IV.

Several parents said the school was acting on an outdated government resolution (GR) that allowed schools to take a retest for failed students and promote those who pass the retest.

“My daughter failed the retest too and so they told us that they could not keep her in the school anymore,” said Parvin Shaikh, a parent.

“We had with us a copy of the RTE Act and we showed it to them. They said action was taken against the students before the RTE Act was implemented, and that they had told the parent of one student about it,” said Rajiv Patel, joint secretary, Forum for Fairness in Education.

However, after the protest, the school readmitted all 85 students and issued them textbooks and notebooks for the academic year.

“We have resolved the matter and do not wish to further comment on it,” said Shamina Jayakar, one of the school’s trustees.

Children & the Commonwealth Games

Children & the Commonwealth Games
Krishna Kumar

Under RTE, all private schools and Kendriya Vidyalayas were supposed to offer one-fourth of their seats to children of the poor living in the vicinity. Some private schools of Delhi have done this following an earlier court order, and some have made a provision for an afternoon shift for the poor, which violates RTE. File

Under RTE, all private schools and Kendriya Vidyalayas were supposed to offer one-fourth of their seats to children of the poor living in the vicinity. Some private schools of Delhi have done this following an earlier court order, and some have made a provision for an afternoon shift for the poor, which violates RTE. File photo: Sushil Kumar Verma

One cannot miss the contrast in the preparations made for implementing the Right to Education and staging the Commonwealth Games.

The law endowing on India's children the right to education (RTE) carried a date. So did the decision to host the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. For the vast numbers of out-of-school children of the city, the law has brought no change. When the schools reopen next week after the summer break, they will be no better prepared to receive and retain the thousands of children who have either never enrolled or were eliminated by the system. Nor will life at school be any more child-friendly for those who have got used to the cramped, often cruel, conditions of Delhi's municipal schools. The authorities have made no preparation for implementing the new law, which seeks to transform India's schools and end the apartheid that divides private from state-run schools.

Under RTE, all private schools and Kendriya Vidyalayas were supposed to offer one-fourth of their seats to children of the poor living in the vicinity. Some private schools of Delhi have done this following an earlier court order, and some have made a provision for an afternoon shift for the poor, which violates RTE. The Kendriya Vidyalayas have taken no steps whatsoever and the Pratibha Vikas Vidyalayas, for which the Delhi government screens children at Class VI, are carrying on with this practice. This too violates RTE.

It can be justifiably argued that the scale of systemic changes the RTE demands would require a gestation period of more than the three months that have elapsed since its promulgation. Fair enough. But one cannot miss the contrast in the preparations made for implementing the RTE and the Commonwealth Games. The authorities have put in an extraordinary effort to stage the games in October. Quite literally, no stone in Delhi has been left unturned to make the event a historic achievement of national glory. The contrast between the apathy to RTE and anxiety for the Games reveals the official meaning of national pride. True, the Commonwealth Games are a one-time event whereas the RTE involves a vast, sustained effort. Both call for a massive investment in physical infrastructure. Preparations for implementing the RTE would mean judicious deployment of available resources and mobilisation of new ones. Neither process has begun. In the case of the Commonwealth Games, officials have gone overboard to squander a pumped-up emergency budget to dress up Delhi in time to stage them.

Not just the venues where the Games will be held and people will stay, but the city at large is undergoing expensive plastic surgery. Roads and sidewalks are being dug up and redone. Wherever you look, piles of freshly purchased tiles waiting to replace the existing ones greet you. Parsimony is out; extravagance is in. All along Willingdon Crescent (now known after Mother Teresa), raised flowerbeds are being installed. For this, the beautiful and extensive sweep of well-maintained grass stretching from the Teen Murti House to the Lohia Hospital is being removed. Terraced flowerbeds and tiles will cover the stretch. Tiles seem to be the favourite among contractors and officials. Even the ones installed only last year are being replaced. The surroundings of India Gate are witnessing a similar relaying of perfectly acceptable sidewalks with garish cement tiles and sandstone curbs. The story of the Delhi University campus is probably the saddest. Here, an angular, tall rugby stadium now stands facing the old Vice-regal Lodge which was restored to its original architectural ambience only three years ago at an enormous expense. Hundreds of mature trees have been cut down to build an ugly parking lot. Access to it has been provided by destroying another park which, till now, marked the university's platinum jubilee.

No doubt the chaos will soon settle down. The glitter of the Games will erase the memory of all doubts and dilemmas. The city will go on, coping with its endemic problems such as chronic water shortage, air pollution and lack of sanitation. Both the manner and style in which the preparation for the Commonwealth Games have proceeded will exacerbate Delhi's problems. Let us take water shortage, for instance. All along the freshly tiled sidewalks, a strip has been left open for flower bushes. Who will water them after the Games? The dried-up beds will remind children going to school that sustainable development is a nice slogan and a topic to elaborate for marks. The bricked tree enclosures erected to welcome Queen Elizabeth a few years ago along her route soon became convenient garbage dumps. During the days ahead of U.S. President Bill Clinton's visit, a magistrate was sent around in a van to fine anyone throwing garbage on the street. Each time such a thing is done, we bring back to life the British stereotype of Indians as people who will starve and save for years in order to spend millions on a wedding night. It seems we have learnt no lesson whatsoever about the meaning of modernity as an exercise of reason and judgment for human goals. Had these been applied for the staging of the Commonwealth Games, it could have been planned differently, with austerity and warmth, to convey India's original vision and priorities as a nation committed to equality and a new world order.

Schools are going to stay closed during the Games. When they reopen, sports will remain as inaccessible and exotic as they are now for the majority of children. Playtime will be cut in general, to make up for the closure during the Games. In schools which have the misfortune to be located in the vicinity of a stadium or practice grounds, life has been tough. In one such government school, the sports ground was used for storing cement, bricks and sand for developing a nearby Commonwealth practice field. The Games' contractor chopped down the volleyball poles and left the ground littered with rubbish. For a whole session, children could not play. The coming session promises no relief. This school was lucky to have a playground. Most schools in Delhi have none. And college students are only slightly better placed in this respect. Inspiring the young was apparently not intended to be an outcome of the Games. Like everyone else, children were expected to act as spectators of a five-star extravaganza.

The RTE represents the Republic's dream of recognising every child as an active learner and a national asset. The law assiduously lists the systemic conditions that must be met to realise this dream. These conditions include a room for every class, special classes for older children who were never enrolled, 1:30 teacher-pupil ratio, higher qualifications and in-service training for every teacher, and a child-friendly environment in schools. A lot of hard work should — and could — have been done to meet the RTE standards in Delhi's schools before April 1 when the law was to come into force. Now, after the summer break too, schools and teachers will be no better prepared to receive the tens of thousands of additional children the RTE intends to bring into the system. Nor will teachers have any clearer understanding of what it means to allow children from diverse socio-economic backgrounds to study together.

Private schools will continue grooming children of the richer classes for elite roles. Not one school in Delhi has emulated the example of Sister Cyril's historic achievement of turning the Loreto school in Calcutta into an exemplar institution where children of the poor study with the rich. Many corporate houses have now entered into the business of running schools. Fitted with centralised air-conditioning and close-circuit television cameras, the schools are chilling symbols of India's new apartheid culture. Under this culture, the poor have been thrown out to the margins of cities like Delhi. Their children are supposed to be content with the sub-human conditions which prevail in schools meant only for the poor. The RTE rejects this situation and seeks to transform it so that education becomes a means of accelerating social cohesion rather than conflict. The governments of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, among others, have declared that they do not have the funds to meet the RTE norms. The Delhi government might do the same. Never mind the tiles.

(The author is professor of education at Delhi University and a former director of NCERT.)

HRD asks Goa to up school hours

HRD asks Goa to up school hours
TNN, Jun 29, 2010, 06.17am IST

PANAJI: Goa has been asked to increase its school timings as per the provisions of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 by officials of the Union human resource development (HRD) ministry.

The latter were in the state to conduct a workshop for the southern and western states of India on the Act's implementation. At a one-day seminar held at the Goa International Centre at Dona Paula on June 26, ten states and union territories were briefed on the measures to be implemented to bring the RTE into force.

Goa, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Gujarat, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Dadra Nagar Haveli were among the regions that participated. At the workshop, the three HRD officials took stock of the existing education scenario in the states and union territories and suggested measures to improve the quality of education in the regions.

Accordingly, Goa officials were asked to appropriately amend the Goa School Education Rules, 1986 to increase school hours in Goa so that they meet the provision of seven and half hours of schooling daily as per the RTE Act. Goa has also been advised to review its own act in a manner that will facilitate the implementation of new requirements in the education sector.

Taking stock of the situation in Goa, the HRD officials told state officials to remedy the situation of single teacher schools to improve quality of education in Goa. It has been suggested that the state government consider appointing para-teachers in single teacher primary schools on the lines of the para-teachers appointed by the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan to assist regular teachers.

The state has been asked to empower village education committees that were formed under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. These have the power to take up civil works of government schools in the area worth upto Rs 50,000.

Since civil works were found pending in case of several government schools in Goa, state officials have been asked to strengthen village education committees to enable completion of school repair works. At the seminar, the states and union territories were asked to carry out school mapping in their region in order to check the density of education institutions and their physical conditions.

States have also been instructed to take measures to put an end to screening of students during admissions at the elementary level. State officials were asked to focus on enhancing the quality of education rather than focusing on quantity. States have also been told to work to enhance adult literacy rates and implement antiragging measures in schools.

Municipal school teachers refuse to do voters' list work

Municipal school teachers refuse to do voters' list work
TNN, Jun 28, 2010, 04.53am IST

PUNE: Municipal school teachers in Pimpri-Chinchwad have refused to do an updation of the voters' lists, stating that the new academic year has started and that they are busy teaching as well as doing census work.

Speaking to TOI, Ashish Sharma, municipal commissioner said that he has spoken to the district collector about the grievances of the teachers and that the collector has promised to look into the matter.

"There should be proper division of work," said Sharma. "Municipal teachers have pointed out that they have to teach at the schools as well as do census work. Updating the voters' list would be an additional burden. Teachers who have less work should be given more work to reduce the burden on others." Meanwhile, a training programme for municipal teachers to enable them to work as block-level officers (BLOs) in order to update the voters' lists was held at the PCMC main office building on Friday.

Around 200 municipal teachers have refused to do the work of rectifying mistakes in the voters' lists of the Pimpri assembly constituency.

Ashok Munde, assistant commissioner, PCMC and returning officer, Pimpri assembly constituency, said, "The election commission of India has sent directives to prepare photographic voters' lists and make corrections to rectify mistakes in the existing voters' lists. The training camp was attended by 250 BLOs. Most of them refused to do the work, stating that they were overburdened." He stated that very few teachers took the forms to do the work. "The district collector will be informed about the teachers' stand," said Munde.

L L Jagdale, president, Pimpri-Chinchwad primary teachers' association said, "The teachers have been overburdened with work as they have to do all the work simultaneously. They have been allotted three different places for three works. Each teacher will have to meet around 1,500 to 2,000 people to do this work."

Govt schools plan to have free elementary education

Govt schools plan to have free elementary education

To ensure the Right to Education (RTE) Act is adhered to in Delhi, the government is looking at making elementary school education “free” by removing the provision of charging a fee for registration, the pupil welfare fund and the parent-teacher association fund.

The move, at present, is meant only for the government schools, officials in the Directorate of Education (DoE) said.

The government plan was initiated following complaints forwarded by the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights about students being charged for the same.

Officials said as part of the RTE Act, which came into effect from April 1, children in the age group of six and 14 are to be provided free and compulsory elementary education by the state government.

“However, the Delhi School Education Rules, 1973, have a clear mandate on maintaining a pupil fund and a PTA fund. We need to bring in an amendment and are looking at the modalities and the options available,” said an official at the Directorate.

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The child rights panel had recently forwarded a complaint about students of Class VI being charged a fee, a violation of Article 8(a) of the RTE.

According to DCPCR Chairman Amod Kanth, the organisation is entrusted with the responsibility of monitoring the implementation of the Act. “We have been consistently forwarding complaints and it is through our efforts that the Directorate has finally moved on the matter,” he said.

If the policy comes in force, it will abolish any kind of fee charged from students up to Class VIII. The government, however, is still in the process of drafting the amendment.

The government schools at present charge a nominal fee of Rs 100 for the PTA fund and about Rs 50 for registration. The fee charged for the pupil fund is Rs 5 per month for primary schools and Rs 10 per month for middle sections.

“The fee is charged in installments but we will have to see how this will work with primary schools run by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi,” said the official. The Directorate is also looking at discussions with private schools on implementing the norms of laid down by the Act.

The heart of education

The heart of education
ARUNA SANKARANARAYANAN

Another student is driven to death in Kolkata as corporal punishment continues to haunt our schools. There is an urgent need to train teachers in humane, emotionally mature ways of correcting ‘misbehaviour’.

“Caning of student callous”, “I am sorry for caning: La Martinere principal”, “Linking boy's suicide to caning unfair”. As the recent tragic death of a student in Kolkata evokes strong emotions, the issue of corporal punishment has once again reared its ugly head. Even though this heinous practice is prohibited under the Right to Education Act, instances of physical abuse repeatedly surface in the media. Beating, caning, ear pulling and making students stand for hours in the scorching sun continue to be default disciplinary measures in many schools.

Glaring lacuna

Obviously, our crying foul and even banning corporal punishment does not deter people from embracing these punitive methods. A glaring lacuna in our educational system underlies this malaise in our country. While schools endeavour to make students literate and numerate, they often fail to cater to the emotional needs of children and teachers. Further, teachers are not adequately trained to handle behavioural issues; as a result, they resort to ad hoc disciplinary strategies that can have tragic consequences. Instead of dehumanising children by using violent disciplinary tactics, teachers may embrace more positive approaches to correct misbehaviour. Just as schools invest effort in drawing up lesson plans for every class, they should also strive to become emotionally literate.

This involves open channels of communication between teachers, students and parents, chalking out clear-cut rules, involving students in decision-making and valuing the needs of individuals. Disciplinary methods like loss of privileges need to be spelled out. Schools may also incorporate emotional literacy as part of the curriculum. Through role-plays, games, stories and reflective discussions, students may be taught to recognise and label their own emotional states. Students may then learn effective ways for dealing with strong negative emotions like anger and fear. Empathy and social problem-solving skills may also be covered in value education classes.

Teachers should also be equipped with skills and knowledge to identify emotional problems in children. And, more importantly, they need to respond sensitively. As Carl Rogers, one of the founders of humanistic psychology, says, “Students learn more and behave better when they receive high levels of understanding, caring and genuineness, than when they are given low levels of them.”

That said, how should schools deal with misdemeanours and offensive behaviour? While we may brand teachers who use physical punishment as merciless and inhumane, we have to remember that a teacher's job is far from enviable. For example, imagine a Chemistry master explaining the structure of the periodic table to 60 adolescent boys. A paper rocket lands on the bridge of his nose, almost knocking his spectacles off. “Who threw the rocket?” asks Mani Sir in a terse voice as he hears smirks and giggles. Heads tilt towards the floor. Frazzled, Mani Sir turns towards the board when another rocket hits him. “Nithin Kumar,” says Mani Sir, “I saw you throw it.” “But Sir, do you have eyes at the back?” asks Nithin as the class cheers.

How should the teacher respond? Dealing with such episodes in an emotionally intelligent manner involves surveying the entire context of the situation. Is there a reason why this class is particularly distracted today? Does Nithin disrupt classes often? What is the child communicating through his body language and tone of voice? Is the child desperate to win peer approval? How is the child faring otherwise? What is Nithin's family background? How do others view him?

When confronted with defiant behaviour, a teacher should not blindly react but respond in a calm and collected manner. Instead of trying to take control, which can end in vain, it may be more prudent to give the child a choice and a chance to maintain his dignity. “Nithin, you may wait outside now and talk to me after class or I will have to send for the Principal.” Moreover, teachers have to realise that in trying situations, strong emotions may arise in both the student and teacher. When intense negative emotions arise, they often overrule our more rational side and make us act in ways we may regret later. Thus, teachers have to ensure that they don't succumb to “emotional hijacking”, a term coined by psychologist Daniel Goleman.

School heads too have to model emotional restraint. A survey of over 1,500 children in four Indian states by Saath Charitable Trust revealed the shocking fact that corporal punishment typically has a cascading effect; first the child is hit by the teacher, then the principal and finally the parent, all for the same offense!

Parents too play a significant role in addressing behaviour problems. When parents view the school as an adversary, it is often the child who takes the brunt of the blows as parents and teachers indulge in a reciprocal blame game. At times, parents are not tuned into their child's emotional needs; the “parents know best” attitude sometimes works against the child. Many parents strongly assert that their child is not under any stress or strain even though the child's behaviour tells otherwise. As the child is labelled with a slew of adjectives — wilful, stubborn, difficult, defiant, irresponsible and lazy — her behaviour only continues to worsen, reinforcing the adult view that the child is to blame. I am not suggesting that we condone children's inappropriate behaviour; however, taking a confrontational stand often exacerbates the behaviour we are trying to correct.

Signs of trouble

At times, untoward behaviour is a sign that a child needs help. Repeated behavioural problems are usually a manifestation of strong emotions that are suppressed. Anger, shame, guilt, fear or jealousy may cause a child to behave in socially inappropriate ways. The child may not even be consciously aware of these feelings or may mask his insecurities with a facade of indifference.

We must convey that it is the child's behaviour that is the problem, not the child. Statements like, “You are a nuisance” and “You are the most irresponsible child” may be rephrased as, “Your banging on the table was distracting others” and “You have not brought your books for three days; what can you do to remember to bring them?” When we ask a child to change his behaviour, we need to provide alternatives as to what he can do instead. Changing behaviour effectively takes time. In some cases, professional help maybe required.

Perhaps it is time we reconsidered the purpose of education. The manner in which schools are run suggests that education is perceived as preparation for work. Parents reinforce this notion by emphasising marks, often at the cost of a child's well-being. But if education is viewed more holistically as preparation for life, then we cannot ignore our emotional side. As teacher and writer Haim Ginott succinctly puts it, “Fish swim, birds fly and people feel.” The essence of being human is to feel. Thus, education should also address our feeling side instead of focusing solely on cold cognition. Finally, it is the ethos of the school that matters. As psychologist Steve Killick aptly writes, “Schools do not ‘teach' emotional literacy, they need to practise it.”

Instances of Corporal Punishment

1998: A 12-year old boy lost 20% of his vision in one eye as a teacher flung a duster in Delhi.

2003: A Class 10 student was stripped and beaten by his teacher; the child committed suicide in Chennai.

2007: A Class-12 student is beaten for keeping his legs on a table; the child succumbs to injuries in Udaipur.

2008: An eight-year old student is slapped by his teacher; the child's head hit the wall and he died in Kolkata.

2009: An 11-year-old student died after being made to stand for two hours in the hot sun in Delhi.

The author is the Director, PRAYATNA, Centre for Educational Assessment & Intervention. She may be reached at arunasankara@gmail.com.

State dilutes quota in RTE

State dilutes quota in RTE
June 22nd, 2010

Hyderabad, June 21: The state government has diluted one of the key provisions of the Right to Education (RTE) Act which reserves 25 per cent of seats in private schools for poor students.

The 25 per cent quota was an integral part of the RTE that came into force from April 1 this year. The state government is to pay the fees of the poor students admitted to private schools under the quota.

Though the ‘quota norm’ was included in the RTE draft rules released by the government on Monday, the government has made it clear that it will not implement the quota in private schools this year.

The decision was prompted by the fears of teachers’ unions that if the quota was implemented, government schools would face closure because all parents want their children to study in private schools.

Trying to hedge a bit, Mr Ahamadullah, the minister for primary education, said: “We will try to enrol students in government schools as part of the RTE Act. We will opt for private schools only if seats are not available in government schools.”

The principal secretary of primary education, Ms Chandana Khan, and the Rajiv Vidya Mission state project director, Mr Mohd Ali Rafat, said much the same thing in the meeting.

“The RTE’s aim is to admit all children between 6 to 14 years in schools. Those students may be either school dropouts or those who had never been to school. We will admit these students in government schools. Only if government schools are not able to enrol them, will we look for private schools,” said Ms Khan.

Parents demand more say in school matters

Parents demand more say in school matters
Puja Pednekar / DNA
Tuesday, June 29, 2010 0:24 IST

They put their recommendations before the authorities at a discussion organised by the school education department on fee regulation at private unaided schools, on Monday.

Though the government regulation (GR) dated May 21 provides for 6% reasonable surplus, the school managements raised their demands to 15%.

However, objecting to this, Jayant Jain, president, Forum for Fairness in Education, said, “All schools are registered under charitable trusts. Education is not an industry. So, how can they indulge in profiteering?”

The recommendations stated that PTAs should be formed on the basis of free and fair election and not through selection. Education inspector or members of an NGO should be present during the election and the associations should be valid for one year.

The election procedure, number of parents per division, phone numbers of members/parents, ballot procedure declaration or result should be informed to all parents.

The associations objected to the unreasonable term fees demanded by schools every year. “According to the government norms like the SS Code, schools can only charge term fees twice a year and they have defined 21 items like examination fees, library fees, sports fees that should not be included in it.

However, schools charge term fees three to four times a year. The government should monitor it immediately,” said Anush kumar Pandey, All India Federation of PTA, (AIFPTA).

They demanded more involvement of parents in the PTA managing committee. One parent and one teacher from every division must be members of this committee.

The government will consider the demands while filing an affidavit at the Bombay high court next month.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A profitable education

A profitable education
Monday, 28 June 2010 00:00

By Sadhna Saxena

While India’s new Right to Education Act seeks to bring free and compulsory education for all children, it seems to short-change them through an unrealistic vision of the private sector’s involvement.

In August 2009, the Right to Education Act was passed in the Indian Parliament with no debate, by the fewer than 60 members who happened to be attending the session that day. Not that the Act was an open-and-shut case: many critical issues, including who exactly would fund implementation of the new legislation, which promises free, compulsory elementary education, certainly warranted debate. For many, the most worrisome part of the Act, which came into effect on 1 April, is a clause that vests the ultimate funding responsibility with the state governments. Given the fiscal status of most of India’s state governments, the worry now is that this single provision could quickly render the RTE Act irrelevant.

It should be noted that the RTE Act has managed to change the language of the Indian education discourse from one of policy to one of rights – a notable achievement. At the same time, however, Clause 37 seems to take back this ‘right’, as it clearly prohibits legal proceedings against any government or school management with regard to anything done ‘in good faith’.

The Act further strengthens the current unequal multi-tiered schooling structures, which include private and various types of government schools offering vastly differing qualities of education, and which have been widely criticised for fostering inequit. As cost-cutting measures in recent years, states have been changing policies of appointment of permanent teachers, instead choosing to appoint teachers on a contractual basis (generally known as ‘para-teachers’), often under exploitative terms and conditions. In the Act, there is no indication of doing away with such policies to set uniform salary norms and working conditions at par with other professions, instead leaving payment decisions with the ‘appropriate governments and the local authorities’.

A recent study of 50 schools from across Madhya Pradesh could not find a single institution that had all permanent teachers – they were a ‘dying cadre’, researchers were told. During the 1990s, MP argued that reaching all settlements for education would be too expensive, and so instead started a programme called the Education Guaranteed Scheme (EGS), staffed by poorly paid para-teachers called ‘gurujis’. Today, the gurujis are still paid a miserly INR 2500 per month; after working for three years, gurujis can be upgraded to a consolidated pay of INR 4500-5500, but are still not entitled to other benefits, not even paid leave. Consequently, in most EGS schools, one or two teachers receive a monthly salary of upwards of INR 17,000, while the rest are receiving consolidated amounts of as low as INR 2500, for doing the same work. This has vitiated the school environment, leading to further deterioration in the quality of teaching.

Employment of teachers on contracts has invited a significant amount of both support and criticism from educators and researchers. Supporters see this as the only way of achieving RTE goals, and a solution to the crippling resource crunch. Teachers, meanhile, have been agitating for better working conditions, and have successfully forced several state governments to marginally modify service conditions (including the ‘raise’ to INR 4500 monthly salaries of para-teachers in MP, as noted above). This ability to apply pressure could soon be almost completely de-fanged, however: under the new model of public-private partnerships (PPPs), contracts would be signed between the contractor and the employee – not the provider of the funds.

The MP study also found that, in spite of declared policy goals of free elementary education, the burden of multiple fees and other charges are significant for parents. Indeed, these continue to act as a major deterrent in the education of children of marginalised communities.

Economic context
Discussion on RTE will remain incomplete without engaging with the PPP model, under which since 2004 the government has been handing over education resources (including whole schools, school buildings and/or other infrastructure) to corporate and other private bodies. There are two strong arguments in favour of PPPs. One holds that the government does not have the resources to finance education, and that it is high time the private sector shares this responsibility. The second avers that teachers are overpaid, and that it is not possible to cut costs unless they are paid less.

The need for the private sector to share the cost of education certainly cannot be denied, but the current arrangements seem to be wilfully neglectful about the private sector’s motivations. In today’s neoliberal context, what motive other than profit could be involved in any company private group agreeing to take on such responsibilities? Further, how can profit-making bodies cost-effectively fulfil the goals of universalisation of education if governments have not been able to do so? And, most worrisome, is it really appropriate for corporate entities to be entrusted with promoting an agenda of social justice, equality and equity? Ominously, PPP promoters have already begun to suggest that school education would be advised to begin focusing solely on literacy and mathematical skills, and not on equity, justice or other larger goals of education.

Some have argued that there have always been PPPs in education, in the form of private schools set up by trusts, NGOs and other kinds of philanthropy. Today’s PPPs in education, on the other hand, are a product of a neoliberal market philosophy in which education is a commodity. Stating that non-profit private initiatives are too limiting, the Planning Commission is recommending PPP models that would be self-sustaining, and suggesting how private capital can earn profits through education. Of course, a PPP can ultimately take on many different forms, but the term cannot be divorced from its context: the neoliberal economic order.

So how can the government be simultaneously pushing RTE and PPPs? Where do the two converge, or do they run parallel? On the one hand in this situation is cost-cutting, which the PPPs argue is necessary for any universalisation of even elementary education; the reality, on the other hand, is the lack of government commitment to allocate adequate funds for RTE.

In this context, three central documents need close scrutiny: a note on PPPs circulated by the Ministry of Human Resource Development MHRD in 2009, inviting comments from the general public; a government report from 2004 on PPPs in the social sector; and a book written by an economist, Harry Anthony Patrinos (and published by the World Bank) on the impact of PPPs in education. The language used in these three documents is strikingly similar. The government’s 2004 report calls PPPs a ‘contractual system’ between the government and private bodies, where accountability is to be jointly shared.

The MHRD concept note and the Patrinos book elaborate on this, the former stating that PPPs constitute ‘an approach used by the government to deliver quality services to its population by using expertise of the private sector’.

Thus, the government is admitting its failure in delivering quality services, and is proposing entering into a variety of private contracts – ranging from building construction and maintenance to teacher training and even teaching. It is argued that these private arrangements will generate healthy competition among schools, while also opening the market in a way that will eventually offer greater choice for parents and students. Most importantly, according to Patrinos, PPPs provide flexibility in teacher contracting: ‘For policy-makers, contracting is a middle ground between government delivery and outright privatisation and does not attract as much controversy and criticism as privatization.’ Yet the government can choose private providers by means of open bidding, automatically awarding contracts to the lowest bidder.

Admittedly, PPPs are currently reserved for higher and higher-secondary schools, and not for elementary levels, with which the new RTE Act deals. But, as noted earlier, one of the most vigorous debates over the new legislation is its limited purview, with many assuming that the Act will eventually be pushed to cover higher-level education too.

With the enactment of the RTE Act, some are arguing that they have been able to push back the PPP agenda. But on 17 May, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal announced that of the promised 6000 new ‘model’ schools, almost 3000 will be run in public-private partnerships. Do RTE and PPPs represent two contradictory world views, or do they complement one another? Before the government continues to make such far-reaching decisions, that is a question that needs rigorous debate.

Sadhna Saxena teaches at the Department of Education, University of Delhi.

RTE ACT: plan and implementation

RTE ACT: plan and implementation

With the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act being implemented across the country, Newsline takes a look at the infrastructure in schools of the national capital and its level of preparation to give every child his/her due.

The Capital is among six states with the highest percentage of teachers that have master’s in Education or equivalent degrees.

As per an HRD Ministry survey of states for the implementation of the RTE Act, Delhi has only 0.08 per cent of untrained teachers. The teacher education facilities are adequate, the survey says.

The Capital has around 16 teacher training institutes, including 9 DIET colleges.

As per the District Information System for Education (DISE) 2008-09 survey, Delhi boasts of one of the best pupil-teacher ratio in the country with only 0.07 per cent of government schools having one teacher for more than 100 students. The RTE Act stipulates the pupil-teacher ratio should be 30:1 at the primary level.

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Around 59.65 per cent of Delhi’s 2,768 government schools have one teacher for approximately 40 students.

In terms of infrastructure, Delhi’s 77.25 per cent of government schools are in “good condition”; 8.08 per cent need major repairs.

Around 17.52 per cent of Delhi’s government schools have up to secondary or higher secondary levels.

In terms of SC/ST enrollment in Delhi’s government schools, the Capital has 14.90 per cent for SC students and 0.40 per cent for ST students in government schools, lagging behind many other states.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

It just won’t stick

Indrajit Hazra, Hindustan Times
Email Author
June 26, 2010

Like Eric Hobsbawm and Manmohan Desai, I have had the good fortune of living through ‘interesting times’. I have been a resident of those hinged years when people could still smoke inside cinemas and planes (why do they still install ashtrays in airplanes?); I’ve seen women’s fashion reach a new low when showing the tops of their knickers over their jeans or trousers has not only become acceptable but a preferred form of preening; and I recently realised that schools — most English-medium schools, at any rate — had stopped caning students some while back.

Strangely enough, in all the three aforementioned cases, I can’t put my finger on the exact dates when these tectonic shifts in society happened right under my clipper-untouched nose. That may somewhat explain why I was regularly called into the prefect’s office in school to be caned for getting low grades in my weekly report card for ‘poor attention’.

It turns out that in 2007 when I was continuing to be childish while earning adult money, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights had come out with guidelines to check corporal punishment in schools. There’s now news that new guidelines are being framed under the Right to Education Act, in which Section 17b already states that “no child shall be subjected to physical punishment and mental harassment in school”. What happens at home, of course, is some other law’s business.

Corporal punishment has had a strange historiography. The dominant myth is that physical punishment meted out to children in the ordered environs of schools was a Western construct, whose rules (along with that of the then unpopular ‘pastime’ of football) were honed in 19th-early 20th century Britain and were picked up and perpetuated by convent and ‘English’ schools in India.

That is clever Orientalist bollocks.

The same fanciful notion of romantic kissing being a European invention continues to pass muster to this day. The great historiographer Prof. Wikipedia even mentions that “Hindus sometimes kiss the floor of a temple,” shifting Indians snogging into some deep anthropological, post-colonial folder. A culture of not fostering public kissing, helped by decades of not showing people kissing in movies, do not a non-kissing culture make. But, somewhere down the line, even we started believing that when we kiss we’re indulging in something sophisticatedly foreign.

But back to the supple slap or stick. The howls against caning in schools that we heard recently were confined to victims who were ‘children of people like us’. The fact that slaps, the traditional ‘gantta’ (knuckled punch on the head), and thwacks from rulers or sticks continue to shepherd children out of the cave-mouth of adolescence into the bright lights of young adulthood wasn’t ever on the radar. So suddenly, like the way WHO nudged hemp-friendly India to make cannabis illegal, corporal punishment in schools is now seen as being much more brutal than the death sentence.

Now, I don’t suffer from the saas-bahu syndrome (the woes that I underwent as someone’s daughter-in-law must be passed on to my daughter-in-law), but caning wasn’t such a big deal in the 80s (barring the post-wump-wump-wump pain on the well-clothed bottom, of course). It was seen as a rite of passage, a well-intentioned part of school life that earned the ‘victim’ a few brownie points from fellow classmates who, even if you were a died-in-the-wool wuss, saw you coming out as a pint-sized Achilles.

The truth is that caning — and every other form of corporal punishment seems to be riding on this brand ambassador of school-life pain — has now indelibly become associated with something vaguely (or not) sexual, something that paedophiles (closet or not) indulge in. That is an argument powerful enough for me — recipient of many canings from teachers male and female, old and young, straight and crooked — to change my mind and want caning to be banned in all schools, madrasas included.

As for whether suspension or staying back in school is a more effective form of discipline than the fear of the slap, I know the answer. I’m pretty sure so do the generations of kids to come.

107 new Kendriya Vidyalayas to be opened

107 new Kendriya Vidyalayas to be opened
These schools will be set up during the next two years
Published on 06/25/2010 - 11:51:05 AM

New Delhi: The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved a proposal for setting up 107 new Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVs) during the remaining period of the Eleventh Five Year Plan (2007-12).

Announcing the decision, Home Minister P Chidambaram said the new KVs will cater to about 103,000 students throughout the country, reports IANS.

He was briefing reporters after a CCEA meeeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The total financial requirement for construction and operation of these new KVs will be Rs 526.99 crore during the 11th Plan with a spillover of Rs 279.48 crore towards capital cost during the 12th Plan.

The central sector scheme of Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVs) was started in 1962 with the objective of providing educational facilities of a uniform standard throughout the country to the children of transferable central government employees.

The scheme started with 20 regimental schools in 1963-64 and has now grown to 980 schools.

94% primary students in India cannot recognise English

94% primary students in India cannot recognise English
Pankaj Sharma / DNA
Sunday, June 27, 2010 10:02 IST

A study conducted by the Programme Evaluation Organisation (PEO) of the Planning Commission has revealed that 94 per cent of the students in primary schools across the country cannot recognise the English alphabets. This reality check is major setback for prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s UPA government that has embarked on a major initiative to universalise primary education, and grant the right to education.

The ‘Programme Evaluation Organization’ (PEO) headed by deputychairman Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia has come out with this data through an evaluation study of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) in order to assess its impact.

As a part of the study a reading test was conducted by the PEO in primary schools spread over eleven states and it emerged that only 6% of primary students can identify English alphabets. But hardly any student of Chandigarh, Madhya Pradesh and Assam could pass this test. This inability is restricted not just to English, but to regional languages as well. Only 42% of the children were able to read the local language alphabets correctly and 80% could identify numbers.

According to the report, because of the poor quality of teaching, the failure rate of students in Class I and II is high in states like Madhya Pradesh and Assam — 17.21% and 13.46% respectively. However, almost 21% students in Haryana and 16 per cent in Rajasthan don’t appear for examinations,the report said.

There are some reasons behind this grim picture. The SSA norms of stipulate that there should be at least two teachers per school, but 7.2 % of the schools have just one teacher school and nearly 30% of the schools do not have more than two teachers.

It was also observed that in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, more than 90% of the teachers were involved in non teaching

Schools taking proactive stand

Schools taking proactive stand
Anahita Mukherji, TNN, Jun 26, 2010, 04.08am IST

MUMBAI: While school managements are known to go overboard to silence complaints of sexual harassment and abuse on campus, there are odd instances to the contrary.

For instance, a principal from a Kandivali school stood up for a student and sacked a staffer accused of sexual harassment. “A few months ago. I was informed by a staff member that the PT teacher harassed a girl good at sports. He called her to the PT room in isolation and molested her. I spoke to the girl in private and she broke down and told me the story. She was feverish after the incident. She told me he had been sexually harassing her for a year. In the presence of the education inspector for the area, we asked the PT teacher to resign. He was arrested soon after the incident when the parents filed an FIR,’’ said the school principal.

A few other schools, too, have taken the lead in dealing with child sexual abuse. Take for instance the Bombay Cambridge Gurukul group of schools. “We run a programme where kids are given age-appropriate information about their bodies and what they need to talk to adults about. Often kids have represented abuse in the form of paintings or drama. We once found that a Class II child was being sexually harassed by her father. The school worked with the girl’s mother to ensure the child was removed to a location away from the father,’’ said Upasana Saraf, psychologist at Bombay Cambridge Gurukul.

Such pro-active measures are usually few, but a change is in the making. “I have seen a gradual change in the way schools deal with such incidents. Earlier, schools would hush up the matter. Now, however, many institutions wait for the law to take its course,’’ said Dr Harish Shetty, president of the Counsellor’s Association of India. But there’s still a long way to go before the majority of schools start siding with the victim. “There is no uniform policy that schools follow while dealing with child sexual abuse. Most institutions don’t know how to handle such situations,’’ says social psychologist Chandni Parekh.

Let The Children Flower

Let The Children Flower
MADHU PURNIMA KISHWAR, Jun 26, 2010, 12.00am IST

It should come as no surprise that even after great public outrage over the tragic suicide of 13-year-old Rouvanjit as a result of being repeatedly subject to traumatic forms of punishments, the principal of Kolkata's La Martiniere School has justified the caning and other forms of humiliation inflicted on the class VIII student as a necessary means of disciplining him. One supposedly serious allegation levelled by the principal to justify corporal punishment is that Rouvanjit exploded a stink bomb in class! It shows that despite their avant-garde pretensions, many of our elite English-medium schools have not outgrown the moral dictum of their Victorian founding fathers: "Spare the rod and spoil the child."

Today's notions of child upbringing among the educated middle class demand constant disciplining, constant nagging, teaching children to behave themselves to fit into the supposedly orderly world of adults. After they have been taught to say "mama-papa", the two most important words dinned into child minds by the school system and parents alike are "thank you" and "sorry". To this is added the maddening pressure to "succeed" in a highly competitive world with tests and exams starting from nursery onwards which subject tender minds to robotic academic discipline, with every child expected to be equally good in all standard subjects taught in highly regimented school classrooms irrespective of the child's abilities, inclinations, desires or talents.

By contrast, some traditional notions of bringing up children in India make far greater allowance for the unique privileges of childhood and the liberties children are entitled to. For example, in most traditional and semi-traditional families in India, expectant mothers hang a portrait of Bal Gopal right opposite their beds so that they can see baby Krishna's visage first thing in the morning as an aid to having their prayers for a Krishna-like child rewarded. Why Krishna, and not Ram or any other god or goddess?

Socially conditioning expectant mothers to desire a Krishna-like child is to prepare them for the joie de vivre that most children are intrinsically gifted with. Krishna is supremely naughty, forever tricking his playmates and playing pranks on his mother and other village folk. Stealing butter is his favourite sport not because he is ill fed or deprived of his favourite food but because he enjoys playing naughty tricks. He lies and cheats while playing games with other children and teases young girls and women no end. This Krishna leela has been celebrated in our mythology, paintings, literary creations, dance and music through the ages.

To see an image of baby Krishna in each child is to recognise the divinity of every child and learn to delight in their making sense of and negotiating with this world in their unique way, including through naughty pranks and childish tantrums. Children don't need air-conditioned classrooms, expensive schools, toys and exotic entertainment to make them happy. They need unconditional love and a sense of security from the adults responsible for their well-being. They are as happy playing with mud or sand, chasing butterflies or simply running around, jumping up and down, or cracking stink bombs.

One would have expected that after Aamir Khan's insightful and moving film Taare Zameen Par, at least teachers of elite schools would have imbibed the basic lesson that regimenting children is not the best way to educate them. Each child is unique and should not be expected to become a flawless assembly line product or behave like a little saint! Real education lies in enabling each child to discover his own genius within. The present-day school system revolves around penalising you for your weaknesses and mistakes and the inability to tread the beaten path in learning predetermined skills. The film held up a mirror to all adults parents and teachers alike to show how the system of education we have come to value is so designed that only a few lucky ones can succeed in the rat race and that too by destroying or suppressing much of their creative abilities and innate joy. During the years i taught in a Delhi University college, i steadfastly refused to accept examinership because it involved marring young lives by "failing" them or grading them in ways that left permanent scars.

While a few lucky ones come out successful, most of our modern-day baby Krishnas just manage to get by while a large number are simply crushed under the burden of living up to the neurotic expectations of adults. Our education system is making nervous wrecks out of otherwise perfectly healthy individuals by privileging robotic learning and cut-throat competition which takes all joy out of learning and makes children slaves to the insane world we have created under the pretence of promoting excellence and rewarding merit. HRD minister Kapil Sibal needs to put this issue centre stage in his attempts at reforming India's education system.

All those parents holding stage-managed demonstrations to defend La Martiniere School's disciplining methods better remember, their child could be the next victim. In fact, it is not enough to demand that the principal and teachers of La Martiniere who traumatised little Rouvanjit be made to resign. They should be charged with and tried for abetment to suicide, no less.

The writer is professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi.

HRD panel to oversee RTE rollout

NEW DELHI: This National Advisory Council might not be as powerful as its namesake and as freewheeling in its mandate, but it will oversee the implementation of the Right to Education, the single most important intervention in the field of education since independence.

HRD minister Kapil Sibal, who will be the ex-officio chairperson of this 14-member NAC, has cleared the names of eight members. They are Kiran Karnik, former president of NASSCOM; Krishna Kumar, former director of the National Council for Educational Research and Training; Mrinal Miri, former vice-chancellor of North-East Hill University; social scientist Yogendra Yadav; Amita Dhanda, professor of law, National Academy of Legal Studies and Research, Hyderabad; Venita Kaul, earlier with the World Bank and current head of Centre for Early Childhood Education and Development, Ambedkar University, Delhi; Annie Namala, an activist and head of Centre for Social Equity and Inclusion; and Aboobacker, vice-president of Muslim Education Society, Kerala.

Central rules of RTE stipulate that at least three members should be from amongst SCs/STs and minorities. The rules also say that one-third of the members should be women. One member will be from among persons with specialized knowledge of pre-primary education and one with specialized knowledge of teacher education.

The NAC on RTE will be five ex-officio members -- secretary, school education and literacy, HRD ministry; director of NCERT; vice-chancellor of National University of Educational Planning and Administration; chairperson of National Council for Teacher Education; and chairperson of National Commission of Protection of Child Rights.

Under the central rules of the RTE Act, the NAC will review compliance with teacher qualification and training. It will also commission studies and research for the effective implementation of the Act and be an interface between the HRD ministry and the world at large in creating awareness and a positive environment for the implementation of the Act.

The NAC will play a vital role in implementing the curriculum and evaluation procedure for elementary education and ensure that the RTE's stress on all-round development of the child, building up her knowledge, potentiality and talent is maintained by all the stakeholders. Similar panels will be created the state level. Called the State Advisory Council, each of them will have 14 members.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Percentage rule for scholarship

Percentage rule for scholarship
OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT

New Delhi, June 24: The human resource development ministry has tweaked eligibility rules for its college and university scholarship programme for poor students to help those from school boards that are stingy with marks.

The change, first mooted soon after Kapil Sibal took over the ministry, will come into effect from the coming academic session itself, government officials said today.

Students who score over 80 per cent in their Class XII qualifying examinations are at present eligible for the scholarship.

The ministry doles out 82,000 such scholarships every year, under a programme started in 2008.

Undergraduate students are awarded Rs 1,000 a year as long as they maintain a first division — 60 per cent — throughout the course. Postgraduate students are awarded Rs 2,000 a year during their course.

Only students from families with income less than Rs 4.5 lakh are eligible for the scholarships.

Under the new eligibility criteria, all students who figure in the top 20 percentile of performers in their respective school boards are eligible for the scholarship.

“The change in rules will ensure that students’ eligibility is based on how well they do in their board rather than having to compete with students from boards that may be more lenient,” a source said.

India has over 30 school boards including the centrally-run Central Board of Secondary Education and the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations. Each board conducts its own Class XII qualifying examination.

State boards of Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Chandigarh and the CBSE and CISCE are generally rated as “high-scoring”. Students of these boards on an average score higher than counterparts in other boards. Students in schools affiliated to the state boards of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh usually score lower on an average, sources said.

“It is silly to believe that children in some states are inherently poorer performers than in other states,” an official said. Comparing students’ performance only with their peers — from a particular school board — also helps reduce any regional imbalance that may be leading to variations in scores, the official argued.

“The larger question we have tried to confront through this change in rules is whether it is at all possible to compare performances of students in Orissa villages with their counterparts in Rajasthan,” he said.

Teachers question Gujarat hiring policy in court

Teachers question Gujarat hiring policy in court

Ahmedabad: The validity of a process for recruitment of teachers under the Gujarat government-initiated Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is likely to come under the scanner of the Gujarat High Court on Thursday.

The recruitment process has been challenged by teachers of 50,000 physically and mentally handicapped children who have been asked to apply afresh under the (SSA) scheme, if they wished to continue serving.

The teachers claimed that they were appointed under a 1981 central government-funded education scheme but the state government discontinued it saying that the union government did not grant funds for it.

They said that the central funds were discontinued since the state government failed to furnish a proper report to the central government. The state government has now asked them to apply afresh in the new recruitment process if they wished to continue their service.

The teachers' plea is that such advertisements and recruitment process were arbitrary and would affect the education of the disabled children statewide who are taught by 1,250 specialist teachers.

The petitioners said they have not been paid wages by the state government for the last 14 months, despite a high court ruling May 29 that they be paid full wages.

A division bench of Justice D.H. Waghela and Justice M.D. Shah on Tuesday sought the government's reply on the issue.

Justice Waghela told the counsel for the state, "It is a fundamental responsibility of the state to provide education to the disabled children. They are the citizens of India and have the right to enjoy the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution."

"You have to make your stand very clear whether you want to continue the service of these teachers or not. If not, then you would have to give reasons for the same that may be challenged," the court said.

"If you wish to continue their service, then you have to specify it before the court. Obtain instructions in this regard as such petitions would finally affect the disabled. That would not be to the benefit of anybody," Justice Waghela said while posting the matter for hearing on Thursday. IANS

MHRD finalizes scheme for interest subsidy for education loans

MHRD finalizes scheme for interest subsidy for education loans

MHRD finalizes scheme for interest subsidy for education loans
New Delhi: The ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) has finalized the modalities for the implementation of a new central scheme to provide full interest subsidy during the period of moratorium on educational loans for students belonging to economically weaker sections (with parental family income from all sources of less than Rs.4.5 lakh annually).

The loans will be provided by scheduled banks under the Educational Loan Scheme of the Indian Banks' Association (IBA) for pursuing courses in professional or technical streams from recognized institutions in India.

The modalities have been finalized in consultation with IBA. The scheme is effective for all IBA approved educational loans sanctioned in the form of eligible students' in respect of approval course of studies from the academic year 2009-10.

"Under the scheme, proof of income is required to be certified by authorities to be designated by the state governments. Accordingly, the ministry has written to all Chief Secretaries of states and union territories to intimate the designated authority/authorities (at the district/sub-district/block etc. levels) to the District Level Consultative Committee (DLCC) so that banking authorities at the branch level where students would be approaching for availing the benefit of the scheme would be aware of the same," an official press release said.

All scheduled member banks of the IBA have also been advised to take necessary action to adopt and implement the scheme so its benefits accrue to the eligible students.

Canara Bank is the nodal bank, for the member banks of IBA, for claiming reimbursement of interests credited to student accounts.

All eligible students who wish to avail of the benefits of the scheme are advised to approach the respective bank branch from where they availed of the education loan and complete the necessary formalities.

These include obtaining the certification in respect of annual family income from the competent authority at the block, tehsil or district level, so that the individual student accounts can be credited with the interest due on the loan for the academic year 2009-10 onwards.

Law threatens low-cost private schools

Law threatens low-cost private schools
Schools may not be able to keep tuition fees low while fulfilling all the norms of the Right to Education Act
Anupama Chandrasekaran

Hyderabad: In a small hamlet in Andhra Pradesh’s Ghatkesar district, 20km from Hyderabad, Indus Academy is one of four schools offering private education for the poor. Run by Career Launcher India Ltd’s foundation, its three single-storey buildings house around 40 children in the age group of 4-10.

The walls of the school are festooned with bright-coloured pictures, and the school boasts a laptop, a television, a DVD player and plentiful study materials. But the appearance of prosperity can be deceiving. Charging as it does a student fee of less than Rs200 a month, Career Launcher is planning intensive door-to-door canvassing next year to enroll an additional 60 students—at least to recoup its Rs1.5 lakh investment on its educational tools.

At the same time, three other groups are furiously developing a chain of affordable private schools, or non-government schools for poor families, in and around Hyderabad. The corporate race, which started two years ago, includes microfinance firm SKS Microfinance Ltd, a Singaporean private investor, India’s No. 2 drug maker Dr Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd, and local entrepreneurs.

Over the last decade, the number of poor private schools in India charging Rs100-250 a month and run mostly by small local businessmen has risen to 75,000. English language skills of students in such schools are better than those of government-school children, according to an annual study by education not-for-profit Pratham. English language skills of students in such schools, the study shows, are better than those of government-school children—largely because low teacher absenteeism ensures regular tutorials. But pedagogy in these schools is still lacklustre.

Even as these entrepreneurs search for low-cost teacher training and curriculum improvements to add “high quality” to the “affordable” label, the Right to Education (RTE) Act of April 2010, which seeks to ensure primary education for all 6-14-year-olds, threatens to fracture their efforts.

This law requires all schools to be government-recognized—a bribe-ridden and expensive process, costing at least Rs50,000 per school, according to school operators and policy advocates. The law also mandates higher teacher salaries. Last week, amid increasing pressure from states, Union human resource minister Kapil Sibal signalled that a committee would work on exempting poor schools from some requirements.

“We are readying for a big confrontation,” says Parth Shah, president of the Centre for Civil Society, a Delhi-based policy advocacy. “Politically, the government will find it hard to close down affordable private schools. But people may have to pay higher bribes to meet higher infrastructure standards, pumping up fees and pricing out the poor.”

Andhra Pradesh is known to have 18,000 such schools, according to a yet-to-be published budget schools rating report by Gurgaon-based Micro-Credit Ratings International Ltd (M-CRIL). The pilot study of 35 schools, which offers a sort of report card for parents and financiers, signals better reading skills in students attending poor-private schools but abysmal arithmetic capabilities compared with the average student’s performance in Hyderabad.

To support better education, funding agencies such as the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation (MSDF) are offering computer-aided materials and financing the training of a few schoolteachers in Hyderabad and Bangalore. What will be key for these schools is whether they can continue upgrading themselves without grant money or fee increases.

“It may be likely,” says MSDF’s Sangeeta Dey, “that if these schools increase their fees with improvement in pedagogy, that they start catering to a higher income group and become expensive for the underprivileged.”

But James Tooley, a British academic known for his groundbreaking 2006 study on budget private schools catalyzed by his observations in Hyderabad’s slums, believes he has an inexpensive polish for a shiny pedagogy.

After nearly a decade of observing these schools under the microscope, Tooley, a professor of education policy at the Newcastle University, stepped under the lens himself last year. He set up Empathy Learning Systems, a chain of 12 low-cost schools, investing Rs65 lakh along with Mohammed Anwar, an education entrepreneur featured in The Beautiful Tree, Tooley’s 2009 book on poor-private schools.

Tooley is hoping to treat two primary ailments without stretching his purse: shoddy instruction and teacher attrition.

The monthly salaries of private budget-school teachers are in the Rs1,500-4,000 range, only 10-20% of government school salaries. Many private-school instructors thus switch jobs even for Rs100-200 increments, says the M-CRIL report. But teacher salaries are often the largest chunk of these schools’ expenses; keeping salaries low keeps fees low.

At Empathy’s schools, detailed lesson plans are used to combat higher teacher turnover, so that new teachers can immediately fill in the shoes of their predecessors.

“A low-cost teacher training model ensures that you are not investing in instructors so much that the whole system collapses when they leave,” says Tooley, whose current business interests have not diluted his reputation as a researcher.

Empathy’s teaching tools and training are also offered at a monthly charge of Rs15, to teachers from the 22 competing schools in the business. This reduces its dependency on school fees, which are often paid erratically due to the irregular salaries of parents.

As Anwar and Tooley look to increasing their school count next year to 15, by providing curriculum and training to 50 schools they might break even. But there’s pressure to squeeze rates even further. For teachers such as Ayub Shad of Jawahar High School, located a stone’s throw away from Hyderabad’s historical mosque Charminar, even the Rs15 rate is a tad unaffordable.

Cost challenge: Students at the Career Launcher-operated Indus Academy in Ghatkesar near Hyderabad. Over the last decade, the number of such private schools has risen to 75,000, according to a study. Bharath Sai / Mint

Cost challenge: Students at the Career Launcher-operated Indus Academy in Ghatkesar near Hyderabad. Over the last decade, the number of such private schools has risen to 75,000, according to a study. Bharath Sai / Mint
Meanwhile, the fight for sustenance in the two-year-old budget school chain phenomenon has already led to two break-ups. Tooley and Anwar split from a 2008 partnership with a Singaporean private equity group, now known as RF Chandler, which currently runs a franchisee model called Rumi Education Pvt. Ltd. SKS Microfinance’s SKS Educational Society and Career Launcher divorced within a year of their marriage; SKS now runs 16 schools under the Bodhi Academy label, charging monthly fees of Rs160-220, while Career Launcher runs seven Indus Academy budget schools.

While the parties refuse to clarify the reasons for their split, one thing is clear—the competition is intensifying. Dr Reddy’s Foundation is the latest entrant, with four Pudami—“earth” in Telugu—neighbourhood schools in and around Hyderabad, catering to around 1,000 children.

The hope is that an aggregation of dispersed poor private schools into a chain run by a single management will ultimately shrink tariffs of teachers and curriculum providers, as vendors need to knock on fewer doors. But the RTE Act, with its mandate for playgrounds and kitchens in schools, may yet put the brakes on this revolution.

“These businesses are striving to provide world-class education through a sustainable model, which like microfinance is not dependent on charity,” says Gurcharan Das, chairman of SKS Educational Society. “The threat from the government to close down these schools persists. How can a school in the slum have a football-field-sized playground and pay minimum salaries of Rs20,000? If they had to pay such salaries, the fees would go up fourfold.”

Prashant Nanda in New Delhi contributed to this story.

Plan to make street-kids seekers of education

Plan to make street-kids seekers of education

Rahul Devulapalli
First Published : 25 Jun 2010 01:14:02 AM IST
Last Updated : 25 Jun 2010 09:41:53 AM IST

HYDERABAD: At any busy traffic junction, the red light signals a halt to the movement of vehicles but at the same time a go-ahead to the invasion of beggars, mostly children. These half-naked kids in a shabby `avatar’ do all sorts of things like banging on the vehicle, scratching the glass and clinging on to the doors to get the attention of motorists and are adamant enough not to move till a good amount of change is handed over. In the process, they put themselves at great risk, cause irritation, annoyance, inconvenience and even danger to the motorists by diverting their attention and then obstruct movement of traffic while trying to reach to safety once vehicles start moving after the green signal is on.

This is the most common experience for motorists and because there are an estimated 50,000-plus child beggars in the twin cities, a majority of them drafted for the job by their very parents or organised mafia gangs. And the tragic part is, there is an increasing tendency among them to bring more and more toddlers into the racket.

K Shashikirana Chary, project director, the National Child Labour Project said 2000 such children have been caught and put under surveillance so far this year. “We are picking these children as and when we get complaints or during raids by our enforcement teams. We take them to transit homes and keep them there till their parents or kin come looking for them. If none turns up, we arrange for their education up to fifth class.”

“The parents of these kids are the main culprits and have no self-esteem. Most of them are repeat offenders. Every time they are caught and released they shift to a new locality to continue their activities. We try and counsel the parents too but often with no result.”

More worrying is the fact that these children are part of organised crime controlled by mafia. These kids are estimated to earn anywhere between Rs 200 and 500 a day and a percentage of it goes to their “guardian”.

According to a government report, India has the largest population of street-children in the world. The international NGO, CRY ( Child Rights and You) has already sounded caution on the grave situation.

“The high-risk group street-children are those who do not have any responsible parents or guardians and grow up in the streets. Without protection from parents or the state, these kids are tricked, threatened and/or grievously harmed (for instance, raped) to force them into beggary, thefts and other criminal activities. They have a very poor health status and work in the most inhuman and dangerous conditions,” said Sahaya Teresa, communication manager, CRY.

In spite of undertaking some initiatives in the past, the government has failed to make much headway in protecting these kids, she said.

Usha Rani, director of Women and Child Welfare Department, however, expressed confidence that with the newly-launched Intensive Child Protection Society Programme, things are going to change for the better in the future.

“The project will be activated soon and it will also address the issues of child labour and children’s rights. We have already instructed the district offices to get going on the programme. Since there are no statistics available on the number of child beggars, a census on their numbers is also being taken up,” she said.

Usha Rani said a special drive will be launched soon to send child beggars to school according to the Right to Education Act after due consultations with the education and police departments.

rahul.d@expressbuzz.com

No decision yet on regulating schools affiliated to intl’ boards

25 Jun 2010, 0737 hrs IST,Urmi A Goswami,ET Bureau

NEW DELHI: The ministry of human resource development appears to have a second thought about “regulating” international schools affiliated to foreign boards like Cambridge International Examination (CIE) or International Baccalaureate (IB). The ministry is understood to be of the view that the number of international schools are too small to be worried.

Sources indicated that the first attempt would be to build the database, and in this regard may consider a registration regime. Given the paucity of data on international schools it may consider the idea of a legal formulation that would require these schools to register themselves. This would be accompanied by a degree of conditional disclosure, requiring schools to inform the relevant authority about the number of foreign and Indian teachers in their employ , their syllabus and curriculum.

A senior ministry official said that no final decision had been taken on the subject. This is a shift from its earlier stance, when the ministry has suggested a more proactive semi-regulatory regime. In 2008, the ministry approached the Cabinet with a proposal for a policy framework which required that proposal to set up international schools be vetted by appropriate authority. Its Cabinet note on the subject had received concurrence from relevant ministries and departments including home affairs.

However, the Cabinet was of the view that the matter required further discussion and deliberation. It was referred to a Committee of Secretaries in 2009. The 2008 proposal was not proposed as a regulatory framework enforced through legislation. Instead it was a policy framework which sets out the certain requirements . Every school, which affiliated itself to a board outside India, would have to get their proposal screened by a mandated authority with representatives from the centre , state governments, Indian education boards and prominent educationists including one from the international board system.

Schools would be allowed to affiliate with only boards having well established credentials like CIE/IB and not any overseas board. International schools, that is foreign organisations operating schools in India and Indian schools affiliated to foreign boards, would be required to submit annual reports to a committee set up to oversee their functioning. These schools would also be required to participate in socially useful programmes and provide merit-cum-scholarships to children from weaker sections.

Given the disparity in salaries paid to foreigners and Indians teaching in such schools, the policy also seeks to
bridge the gap. Though a tricky area, the ministry had proposed that greater pay parity, and a 20 per cent ceiling on the number of foreign teachers that could be recruited by such schools. Additionally, no foreigner could be appointed as principal of these schools.

The number of international schools have grown in the last ten years. In 1998, there were only two IB-affiliated schools in the country, the numbers have gone up dramatically, there are 50 IB schools and 200 schools affiliated to CIE. Despite a surge in their numbers, there is at present no clear policy about setting up international schools in India, affiliation of schools in India to foreign boards or appointment of foreign teachers.

An attempt to consider a policy to regulate international schools was made by the human resource development ministry in 2006. A committee headed by former education secretary PR Dasgupta worked out a series of recommendations. At that time, the number of schools affiliated to IB was at 33 and CIE at 148.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

La Martiniere: We don't have to follow NCPCR

La Martiniere: We don't have to follow NCPCR
23 Jun 2010, 1448 hrs IST
Even as there are reports that the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has recommended that the Principal of La Martiniere Sunirmal Chakravarty, accused of caning his student Rouvanjit and abetting his suicide, should be suspended - the secretary of the school Supriyo Dhar has said the school has received no such report or recommendation and it is not mandatory for the school to implement such a recommendation.

Speaking to TIMES NOW, Dhar said on Wednesday (June 23), "A recommendation is a recommendation, it's not mandatory, No 1. And what inquiry is in progress? We have done an inquiry and we have taken action as per the Rights of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009. We have taken action as per this, and it is clearly specified there what is to be done - corporal punishment is not allowed and if it is done you have to take action as per your service rules. This act clearly specifies that, and we have acted accordingly, we have not violated that. So the question of taking any further action at this stage does not arise."

Meanwhile NCPCR Member Secretary Lov Verma hinted that the commission was considering a broadbased recommendation to the government to safeguard the interests of children. "Our guidelines have already gone, but we are planning to make it a broad-based thing, in which all schools and all parents as well as children are aware of their rights," he said.

`RTE will curb madrassas' freedom'

`RTE will curb madrassas' freedom'
Manjari Mishra, TNN, Jun 24, 2010, 01.35am IST

LUCKNOW: Even as Uttar Pradesh government puts on hold the implementation of Right To Education Act 2009 pleading severe resource crunch, a serious rethink among the minority community over the legislation has come as a major setback. Open reservations of The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) to the enactment "divorced with grass-roots realities" have found an echo among Muslim intellectuals and clergy who openly condemned the Act as a national tragedy on Wednesday at a public function.

An interactive session hosted by the Islamic Centre of India turned out to be a volatile affair. And the verdict after four hours of heated discussion was the enactment which `apparently is one of the best intended piece of legislation', ironically is equally potent to add to the woes of same poor citizenry targeted to be the recipient of its benefits.

Participants including Maulana Saidur Rehman Azmi Nadvi, the head of Nadvatul Ulema, Naib Imam of Lucknow and head of Firangi Mahal Maulna Khalid Rasheed, chairperson of the UP Minority Commission Mohammad Ali Qazmi and former judge of the Supreme Court Justice Sageer Ahmad demanded the government to move forward with caution taking care of minority interests.

"AIMPLB is concerned about certain glaring grey areas in legislation which could eventually prove detrimental to the disadvantaged class," said Maulana Khalid Rasheed. The Act and its ramifications was discussed threadbare at the meeting of the board's executive body held on June 6 at Aurangabad. Members aired serious doubts about the impact on the madrassas whose freedom could be drastically compromised in the bargain. "The board has decided to build public pressure and hold opinion-building sessions in major cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Patna and Lucknow," he said. After compiling views of Muslim intelligentsia academicians and ulema, the board would meet in Delhi on July 3 to chalk out a final strategy.

What has led to ire of ulema is the provision under Section 18 of the Act which makes obtaining government recognition of a school a mandatory condition for running a school while Section 19 lists if the conditions are not met within three years, the breach would led to a fine of Rs 1 lakh and if the offence continues, A Rs 10,000 fine each day.

Over 90% of the under privileged children specially from Muslim families go to unaided madrassas which do not fulfil the norms specified for setting up a school like the area, playground and building expansions or procuring the certificate of recognition, Khalid Rasheed said, adding "they would fall prey to capricious government officials, unless urgent remedial measures are initiated."

Centre moves to protect children from cruelty

Centre moves to protect children from cruelty
Vineeta Pandey / DNA
Thursday, June 24, 2010 0:04 IST

New Delhi: The Union government is in the process of bringing about a comprehensive law to prevent all forms of cruelty to children. If the proposed law goes to its intended end, acts like kissing a child on the lips, fondling his or her private parts and inflicting physical penalty on him or her in the name of disciplining would attract imprisonment of 10-14 years.

The proposed law also seeks tough punishment in the cases of harmful traditions that endanger the life or limb of a child and neglect of a child by parents or guardians.

The draft of the special law — prevention of offences against the child bill - has been piloted by the ministry of women and child development (WCD) and is pending with the law and justice ministry for fine-tuning. It is understood that given the sensitivity involved in the legislation, the proposed law is being handled directly by solicitor general of India Gopal Subramaniam.

The major reform in the proposed legislation includes raising the age of consent from 16 to 18 years. Which means having sexual relationship with a child below 18 years will amount to rape.

Criminal responsibility of a child, which begins after seven years of age at present, is being increased to 12 years. This means no offence committed by a child below 12 years will be considered an offence and he/she would be presumed innocent. The proposed law also seeks to raise the age of ‘immaturity’ — the age at which he is unable to understand the consequences of his action - to 15 years. The present age is below 12 years under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), section 83.

The proposed law recommends a jail term up to three years and a fine of up to Rs25,000 for corporal punishment. The definition of corporal punishment now includes violence, cruelty and inhuman or degrading treatment by any person, including a child’s family members, school, relatives, friends, prisons and juvenile homes. IPC sections 232, 324, 325, 326, 341 and 342 will be applicable under such circumstances.

To prevent the growing trend of “child goddesses”, the proposed law bans dedicating a child to the service of any deity, idol, object of worship, temple or any other religious institution. The offence can attract rigorous punishment up to 14 years and fine up to Rs10 lakh. It also bans child beggars or forcing children to seek alms.

“Though a few offences are covered under various sections in the Indian Penal Code, it is mainly in a disjointed manner. We are bringing a comprehensive legislation which will cover all sorts of offences against the child,” said WCD minister Krishna Tirath. The minister is keen to table the bill in the monsoon session of the parliament.

Stressing on child-related jurisprudence and reforms in existing laws to protect children, chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) Shantha Sinha emphasised on fast-tracking cases involving children and handling these in a more sensitive way.

“There is need for adequate penal provisions for restitution, reparation and rehabilitation of a child for its life with dignity,” the NCPCR chairperson said.

WCD ministry officials said there is a lot of duplication and overlapping in the existing laws. The proposed law would be more comprehensive and being a special law will prevail over any other existing law coming in conflict with it.