Thursday, September 30, 2010

State issues quota diktat to private schools

State issues quota diktat to private schools
Somdatta Basu & Debashis Konar, TNN, Sep 30, 2010, 07.03am IST

KOLKATA: Private schools in the state have to keep 25% of their seats reserved for educationally and socially backward students as provided under the right to education law. School education minister Partha De made it clear to principals and representatives from the private unaided schools. The message was that the unaided schools too have to conform to government rules and respond to government queries, as and when asked for. Representatives of 57 private schools participated in the meeting.

"At the meeting, I have told the principals and representatives from the private schools that there should not be any kind of corporal punishment. Even cases of mental torture will not be tolerated."

"I have also asked them to submit reports to the state government whenever such incidents occur. If the state government sends a query, they should reply immediately," said the school education minister. At the same time, he clarified that the state government is not trying to interfere into the administration of the schools.

In the meeting, the minister also sought suggestions from the private schools to implement the 25% reservation for educationally and socially backward students as per the right to education law. The basic concept of the new law is: those below the poverty line should also get a chance to study in good schools.

"The private schools will have to implement the rule and the state government will adequately compensate them," the minister said later. He said the private schools will be reimbursed. "But the amount will be equal to what the state spends on the education in a government school."

Private school representatives had their queries, too. For instance, principal of La Martiniere for Boys Sunirmal Chakravarthy wanted to know when the Right to Education Bill will come into effect.

The Principal of St James School, T H Ireland, pointed out that at the meeting discussions also took place about the teachers remaining under tremendous stress. We have already framed a few rules to deal with corporal punishments. Both the parents and teachers have been adequately briefed," he said.

The implementation of 25% reserved seats however will have to be done only after a detailed discussion with the board of governors was the opinion of majority principals. "In order to implement the bill, the government has also asked for our suggestions before formulating the clauses. However we will have to discuss in the BOG and then come up with suggestions," said Chakravarthy.

The government has already decided given the principals and representatives websites and phone numbers on which suggestions could be sent.

Rs 100 Cr package to improve J&K education infra

Rs 100 Cr package to improve J&K education infra
The grant under Special Plan Assistance (SPA) is meant for schools and colleges for improvement and additions to their existing infrastructure
Published on 09/29/2010 - 12:40:24 PM

Jammu: The Government of India has approved a Rs 100 crore package to Jammu and Kashmir government for immediate improvement of educational institutions, including class rooms, auditorium, library, playgrounds and toilet complex.

"The concerned authorities have been instructed to release funds Immediately to the state government who are expected to release the same to the implementing agencies without any delay," a Home Ministry spokesperson said.

The grant under Special Plan Assistance (SPA) is meant for schools and colleges for improvement and additions to their existing infrastructure.

This is part of the eight-point Jammu and Kashmir initiative decided at the meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security on September 25.

State tells pvt schools to abide by RTE Act

State tells pvt schools to abide by RTE Act

The West Bengal government has now made it clear to the private schools that they will have to abide by the regulations of the Right to Education Act, which makes provision for free and compulsary education must for children between 6-14 years of age across the country.

At a meeting held at Writers’ Buildings today, School Education Minister Partha De, in presence of Home Secretary Samar Ghosh and School Education Secretary Vikram Sen told the representatives of the private schools that they have to abide by the regulations of RTE.

“We have told the school authorities that they have to implement the 25 per cent quota with children from economically deprived families. They have to think of how to do it. The school education department will provide necessary funds for this section of children to each schools,” De said.

The minister also said that he is keen to extend support to the private schools on how to do away with corporal punishment.

The state government has three years toimplement the RTE Act and it will also have to draft its own model of rules for the implementation.

TN schools run short of 17,000 teachers

TN schools run short of 17,000 teachers
September 30th, 2010

Sept.29: The state school education department has started enumeration of teachers in over 30,000 elementary, high and higher secondary government schools to find out the number of teachers available. Preliminary reports suggest that the state requires an additional 17,000 teachers.

A senior school education department official said that as per the provisions of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009, the teacher student ratio in classes 1 to 5, 6 to 8 should be 1: 30 and 1: 35 respectively. The RTE Act mandates free and compulsory education for children up to 14 years of age.

“As we need to maintain the teacher-student ratio as per RTE Act, our department undertook this survey to find out schools which have more teachers and which have less. In the survey conducted last month we realised that we need 17,000 more teachers,” the official said.

In some of the schools the student-teacher ratio was higher than the stipulated limit but in some schools it was much lesser than the permissible level. The school education department will submit the survey report to the state government soon for seeking permission to recruit 17,000 teachers.

“The ministry of human resource development will sanction funds for the state school education department to implement RTE,” the official added.

Free seat prod to schools

Free seat prod to schools
OUR BUREAU

The city’s top schools would soon need to set aside 25 per cent of their seats for underprivileged students against a “grant” from the government on a par with the allocation per student to state-aided schools.

The plan to implement the Right to Free and Compulsory Education in Bengal was formally communicated to unaided English-medium schools during an interactive session with the heads of some prominent private institutions at Writers’ Buildings on Wednesday.

According to the act, state governments need to provide necessary financial assistance to unaided schools to offer free education to poor students. In Bengal, the bone of contention has been the quantum of assistance to schools in lieu of their providing free education to a section of students.

“We are still working on the package to be offered to the schools for providing free education to the extent of reserving 25 per cent of their seats for poor children,” school education minister Partha De said after the meeting.

Although the government intends fixing the allotment per student on a par with the amount given to state-aided institutions, heads of private schools have demanded that the amount be raised in accordance with the quality of facilities provided by them.

“We were told at the meeting that we would be paid between Rs 7,000 and Rs 8,000 per student annually. But the final figure is yet to be worked out,” said a principal who attended the meeting.

Private schools are also worried about whether students admitted under the new reservation rule would get the required support system at home to cope with the standard of education in their institutions. “Language could be a problem for such parents when it comes to helping their children with homework,” Seema Sapru, the principal of The Heritage School told Metro.

The government has promised the schools a set of detailed guidelines on how to go about solving these problems.

The act states that those enrolled under the 25 per cent poor students’ quota must be from genuinely backward and economically weak families. There is, however, confusion among the private schools about the definition of “backward” and “economically weak”.

The principal of a reputable Christian missionary school in south Calcutta said: “We already provide free education to a considerable number of students from our community. It is not clear whether the 25 per cent quota includes students who are already being educated free of cost.”

The legislation states that seats need to be reserved right from kindergarten to the highest class. “If a high school starts a nursery section, the 25 per cent reservation rule will automatically extend to that unit,” said the principal of St James School, Terence Ireland.

Special children can rub shoulders with other kids in regular schools

Special children can rub shoulders with other kids in regular schools
Published: Wednesday, Sep 29, 2010, 8:57 IST
By Rashmi Belur | Place: Bangalore | Agency: DNA

Your child may be physically or mentally challenged. But that is no excuse to keep him or her away from school. A recent central directive to the state government has made it clear that special children should not be kept away from schools, unless they are aggressive.

A team of experts from the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), which visited the state recently, has directed the state’s Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) officials to take up the responsibility of physically or mentally-challenged children only if they are suffering from bouts of aggression.

Currently, 14,739 children in the state, who are suffering from one or another form of disability, are taking home-based education under the SSA’s inclusive education programme. But the MHRD team has told the SSA officials that not all of these children were aggressive. So, officials should take necessary measures to ensure that non-aggressive kids among these special children are sent to regular schools.

Reacting to this, an SSA official said, “The MHRD team has directed us to give home-based education to only those disabled kids who are aggressive. We will implement the same from the next academic year.”

At present, under the SSA scheme, children with severe physical and mental disabilities are given home-based education as part of its inclusive education programme. Two volunteers from the SSA go to the disabled kids’ house twice a week, to teach them life skills and the basics. “Some parents do not agree to send such children to regular schools, though they have minimal disabilities. In such cases, we cannot pressurise parents, because if anything happens tomorrow, the officials or the school authorities will be held responsible,” said the SSA official.

However, the SSA would provide necessary support for physically-challenged children in reaching school, sources said.
According to statistics available with the SSA, there were 1,25,251 children with special needs in the state. They included children with disabilities like poor vision, cerebral palsy, mental and other forms of physical disabilities.

Education, at what price?

Education, at what price?
Bhavya Dore, Hindustan Times

This year, Shefali Prasad began the year at a new school, Rajhans Vidyalaya, in Andheri (W). She would have been at Vibgyor High School in Goregaon, but an ongoing tussle between parents, of whom her mother was one, and the school, led to her parents withdrawing her from Vibgyor. “There was no
value for money in the education they offered,” said her mother Sanjita. Rustom Kerawala, a trustee of the school, declined to comment.

Parents of Vibgyor students first took the school to court in 2008 when the management raised the fees from Rs 55,000 to Rs 82,000. “But we felt it wasn’t worth more than Rs 25,000,” said Prasad. The Vibgyor case is one of the most publicised, but not the only case of fee hikes raising the hackles of parents and pitting them head-on against school managements. (See box below for list of disputes.)

In its order on September 1, the Bombay High Court ruled that the government could not regulate school fees through administrative orders, but would have to bring in an act to be able to do this. Other states have such an act, has been the chorus from parents and activists, so why can’t ours?

“Even though the act was challenged in Tamil Nadu, the state won in the Supreme Court,” said Arundhati Chavan, chairperson of the Parent-Teacher Association United Forum, who is in the process of a comparative cross-state study of the fee issue and the law. “A government resolution can be challenged but it is more difficult to do so with an act.”

Parents and activists are now diverting their energies towards ensuring that such an act becomes a reality. Various Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) from across the state have begun approaching local MLAs about bringing up such a bill in the next assembly session, in winter.

Fee hikes have been a continuing controversy in city schools, one that has reached a fever pitch in the past year. The issue has dragged on, with the government flip-flopping on the matter. It first issued an order freezing all hikes, then revoked this, then allowed schools to increase fees, and in its latest GR hailed as “parent friendly” asked schools to be transparent about their accounts and allowed them to earn no surplus on expenses. But the court ruling undid all that. (See chronology).

But the issue is also bringing parents together in a momentous way. Earlier this week, on Monday and Tuesday, parents and NGOs protested by boycotting schools in Kharghar, several of who even faced police detention. Political parties have also thrown their heft behind the protest.

“Schools in Navi Mumbai have hiked the fees the most, so we started with our protest here,” said M.S. Deshmukh, president of the Students’ Welfare Association, a non-profit group. “It’s a protest against the government’s failure to act. Parents are at the mercy of managements; we want an act in place.”

Panvel is the next target for a school boycott. Curiously though, no parents have complained about schools hiking their fees since the September 1 court order that effectively gives schools the licence to do so.

School managements point out that it is precisely this failure to raise fees as a knee-jerk reaction to the judgement, that suggests they do so within reason.

“It’s a kind of media-generated fear that makes parents panicky,” said Rohan Bhat, chairperson of the Children’s Academy group of schools. “Schools hike their fees when necessary and in consultation with parents.”

Managements are also quick to point out that it’s a few bad apples that earn private educational institutions as a whole a bad name. “There are schools run by politicians that might be involved in making money but there are also schools run by philanthropic trusts,” said Jiten Mody, chairperson of Kapol Vidyanidhi International School in Kandivli. “Such schools must put back money earned into the school’s development – it’s a service, not a business.”

'Govt efforts to implement RTE Act not sufficient'

'Govt efforts to implement RTE Act not sufficient'
TNN, Sep 30, 2010, 05.03am IST

PANAJI: The state government has shown more than just passing interest in implementing the Right of Child to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, but that might not be enough.

A report from the human resource development (HRD) ministry has raised several concerns, bringing into sharp focus the fact that state institutes are lacking on several counts, chiefly infrastructural requirements under the Act.

For a start, the RTE Act makes it mandatory for institutes to provide certain basic infrastructure such as an 'all weather building consisting of at least one classroom for every teacher' and an office room that also doubles as the headmaster or head teacher's room.

But the ground reality in Goa is strikingly different. The statistics, as explained by the survey conducted by the central body National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA) of the HRD ministry, points how over 70% of the primary schools in rural Goa function with either one or two classrooms. Of the 868 primary schools surveyed in rural Goa, 25.58% function from a single classroom and 51.61% with only two classrooms.

In urban Goa, not surprisingly, the statistics are slightly better. Out of the 145 primary schools surveyed, 11.03% function with one classroom and 35.86% have at least two classrooms.

The requirements make it mandatory to have a room for the headmaster, but this is a luxury for Goan schools: 84.65% of elementary and middle schools in Goa are running without even a headmaster or a headteacher. Of the 1,121 primary and middle government owned schools in the state, 949 are operating with only teachers.

The RTE Act also requires schools to provide 'barrier free access, separate toilets for girls and boys and make arrangements for securing the school building with a boundary wall or fencing.' Here too, Goa has been found wanting.

Only 24.76% schools offer a ramp to disabled children as against 41% schools nationally, and as many as 61.10% schools offer a common toilet for girls and boys in the state and no separate toilet for girl students. Nearly 36% schools in the state do not have a boundary wall, largely due to land disputes.

The RTE Act also makes it essential for schools to have provision for a kitchen shed where midday meals can be cooked. Since midday meals in Goan schools are supplied by self-help groups, only 4.43% schools in Goa have a kitchen shed to prepare meals, the lowest in the country. Elsewhere in the country, 43.44% schools have provision for a kitchen shed.

Schools in Goa also do not meet the standard number of instructional days made mandatory across the country, while more than 60% of primary schools in Goa do not have playgrounds, one of the worst figure in the country.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Schools reopen in Kashmir Valley after three months

Schools reopen in Kashmir Valley after three months
PTI, Sep 27, 2010, 10.48am IST

SRINAGAR: After remaining shut for 100 days, schools in Kashmir Valley reopened on Monday with students and teachers given a free passage by security forces despite curfew and restrictions in many parts.

However, attendance was thin against the backdrop of hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani's call to parents not to send their wards to schools and colleges.

The education system in the valley had become a collateral damage in the ongoing unrest, which began on June 11 with the killing of a 17-year-old student in police tear smoke shelling.

In order to ensure the smooth functioning of schools, the state Government had pressed a fleet of state road transport corporation buses into service.

More than 170 buses were deployed on 11 city routes for facilitating the movement of students and school staff.

The attendance of the students, however, was just around 20% but authorities were hopeful that that it would improve from Tuesday.

State education minister Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed on Sunday announced a comprehensive plan for restarting the learning process and holding of annual examinations in the Valley.

"We have formulated a plan to reopen all the schools in rural as well as urban areas including Srinagar city from tomorrow," the minister said.

He said the department will ensure that students of the Valley do not lose a precious academic year due to the ongoing unrest.

Geelani had on Sunday said, "No right thinking person can deny the importance of education in society, but to think that they (government) are concerned about the future of our children is like a mad man's dream".

He appealed to people to strictly observe civil curfew when schools and colleges would resume their normal functioning in the Valley. The separatist leader also appealed to teachers and the non-teaching staff to stay at home.

In view of the diktat issued by Geelani, many private schools decided to adopt a wait and watch strategy.

"We will see how the first day pans out. If government schools function normally, we will also start from Tuesday but at the moment we cannot risk our students," Mukhtar Ahmad, who runs a private school, said.

Despite tight security deployment around the schools, there have been reports of some people threatening the management of some schools in Batamaloo area of the city.

However, police officials say they were not aware of such threats.

Parents must stand up to separatists

Parents must stand up to separatists

Finally, the children in strife-torn Kashmir Valley have gone back to schools and books after three months of confinement within the four walls of their homes. Like any other child in India, they have the right to attend school and that right cannot be robbed by the separatists with their vile agenda. Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has rightly pointed out that education should be kept out of the conflict and appealed to parents, students, teachers and civil society to cooperate with the authorities in restoring education in the Kashmir Valley. For good measure, he has added that the Government is committed to the functioning of educational institutions because “our children run the risk of losing a year of their career, a year which no one can return to them”. While his sentiments cannot be faulted, he must also look into another aspect: The shoddy state of infrastructure that exists by way of schools in the State. As many as 3,351 schools in the Valley and 624 in Jammu province do not have their own buildings and have to depend on other premises to hold classes. To be precise, 546 schools in Baramulla, 518 schools in Anantnag, 498 in Kupwara, 488 in Budgam and 311 in Kulgam function out of rented accommodation. A School Education Department report says 2,676 schools in the entire Valley do not have “proper accommodation”, while 428 schools in Jammu province lack basic facilities. Despite the State Government spending huge sums of money on creating infrastructure, the number of primary schools without their own buildings has not changed in recent years. Sample this. According to the Economic Survey Report of Jammu & Kashmir for 2007-2008, 4,119 primary schools, 628 upper middle schools and 68 Government high schools were without their own buildings. The Economic Survey Report of 2009-10 also claims that 4,119 primary schools, 628 middle schools, 76 high schools and seven higher secondary schools are without their own buildings. Where has all the money spent on infrastructure gone? Meanwhile, the Government continues to spend a whopping Rs 1,164.38 lakh on payment of rent.

Interestingly, the separatist leaders, who want the children of the common man to come out on the roads to protest and shun education for a “bigger cause”, have their own children and family members getting the best education in other parts of the country and even abroad. It does not come as a surprise that they should have the financial resources to pay for the best education money can buy for their children. Yet, when it comes to the masses, neither the separatists nor the State Government appears to be bothered about the fact that much more needs to be done to ensure quality education within Jammu & Kashmir. Encouraging parents to defy the diktat of the separatists who would like to see the Kashmir Valley observing a shutdown every day, irrespective of the consequences of their folly, and send their children to school is a welcome measure. The State Government must also provide adequate security for the children and the teachers and ensure no harm comes their way. But a lot more can be achieved if Mr Omar Abdullah takes it upon himself to upgrade the infrastructure and set up new schools so that the coming generations are free of the bigotry that inspires the stone-pelters and their masters.

It is time for CBSE students to decide

It is time for CBSE students to decide
Meera Srinivasan

A group of students who took the Board examination last year, seen revising before their examination. File photo
The Hindu A group of students who took the Board examination last year, seen revising before their examination. File photo

All city schools affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) have begun the process of finding out how many of their class X students want to take the Board examination this year.

While talk of the “optional Board examinations” started earlier, the process picked up this academic year, and has gained pace after the meeting that school heads and parents had with the Board's chairman Vineet Joshi in the city recently.

The general understanding is that students who have decided to continue their Plus-Two in the CBSE stream would be taking the Summative Assessment 2 (SA2) conducted by the school, and those considering switching to another Board would be taking the Board-conducted SA2. The SA2 would carry a weightage of 40 per cent.

However, the final mark sheets given by the Board to students will not indicate which of the SA2 examinations that student took, according to C. Satish, Senior Principal, R.M.K. Group of Schools, who participated in the meeting with the chairman.

In Tamil Nadu, where admissions to professional colleges is based on scores obtained in Class XII, parents might not be able to easily take a decision on whether their child should continue in the CBSE stream, or be shifted to the State Board, says Subala Ananthanarayanan, principal, Sri Sankara Senior Secondary School.

Some parents might want to wait till the consolidated grades are out and then decide.

While the answer sheets of students appearing for the school-conducted SA2 would be evaluated by the school teachers, those of students taking the Board-conducted SA2 would be evaluated by an external examiner. “We have had meetings with parents and we have assured them that the grading of the school-conducted SA2 will be done carefully. We are waiting for their feedback,” Ms. Ananthanarayanan said.

Class XI admission

During his meeting with school heads, the CBSE chairman underscored the point that no school shall base students' admissions to class XI on cut-off marks.

In fact, in 2007, the Madras High Court ruled that Class XI should be treated as a continuation of the original admission done by the school and that no admission tests should be conducted by schools for their own students.

It also directed all CBSE schools in Tamil Nadu to display on the notice board details such as the number of seats available in Class XI, applications received, selection procedure and the merit list of candidates.

Most schools have also held meetings with parents to discuss the issue and clarify doubts. G. Neelakantan, principal, Sir Sivaswami Kalalaya Senior School, said “We are going absolutely by the circular. Children of our school will be given priority in admission. Subject to vacancies, admissions will be opened up for children of other schools.”

The school also asked how many of the parents were sure of sending their wards to class XI in the same institution.

“I needed to know the number, so that we have enough sections and teachers. Depending on the response from parents, we will work out a plan,” he said. Of the nearly 110 students studying in class X, over 60 have opted for the school-conducted SA2 so far.

Mr. Satish said over 90 per cent of his students had opted for the SA2 conducted by the school.

Keeping options open

Some students might want to keep more options open. What about those students who take the SA2 conducted by the Board and later wish to seek admission in the CBSE stream again?

According to a parent of a student going to a CBSE school in South Chennai, a circular has been sent through his daughter, asking for one of the two options. “The understanding is that if we want to opt for the Board examination, we have to leave the stream. We might put our daughter in a different CBSE school or shift her to a State Board school,” he said.

Mr. Satish said that if CBSE schools had vacancies after accommodating their own students who took the school's SA2 examination, nothing could prevent them from admitting students who took the Board's SA2 from the same school or another school.

If the grade certificate bears no indication of whether a student took the Board or the school-conducted examination, it should not matter to schools of other Boards considering these students for admission to their Plus Two sections, according to school heads.

Some parents such as Radhika Mahesh are quite clear that their child would be shifting to the State Board. “I personally feel that she will find the State Board easier, so she is taking the Board's SA2 and moving out.”

Her daughter Shramatha Mahesh says she found the Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) challenging to cope with. But many of her friends are unsure how to make this decision.

Orissa plans colour code for schools

Orissa plans colour code for schools
2010-09-28 19:00:00

Bhubaneswar, Sep 28 (IANS) Orissa is considering a colour code for all state-run school buildings, a minister said Tuesday.

'We are planning to implement a colour code for all school buildings in a phased manner,' School and Mass Education Department Minister Pratap Jena told IANS.

'We are holding discussions with experts to finalise which colours would be suitable. We will take a decision shortly.'

The colouring system will help recognize school buildings from a distance, he said.

Orissa has 56,000 elementary and upper primary schools and 3,558 high schools run by the government.

The state first introduced a dress code for girls in government colleges in 2005. It also imposed a dress code for teachers of elementary and upper primary government schools Sep 15 this year.

International schools yet to score

International schools yet to score
M Ramya, TNN, Sep 28, 2010, 05.53am IST

CHENNAI: Online discussion threads on several social networking sites connecting expatriates in Chennai are filled with queries from anxious parents about the right type of school for their children. And while there are a handful of international schools' that claim to provide global education for children from various cultural backgrounds, few make the cut, expats feel. Most feel there aren't many alternatives to the American International School (AIS) and the newer German International School.

Delpha Thomas, who works in a private architecture firm, says, "We have lived here for three years. Most expats who can afford it go to the American International School. Other schools tried out by people I know have turned out to be unpleasant, as our children either could not adapt to the Indian system after attending school back home. They could not adjust well to the exam-based system and large class sizes." She sends her eight-year-old son to AIS.

A spokesperson for the school said, "The school has more than 800 students on roll, most of them foreign nationals." A number much higher than in any international school in and around the city.

Since 1996, when auto major Hyundai entered the city, the size of the Korean population in Chennai has only been growing. With 160 Korean companies, ranging from auto manufacturers to electronics giants setting up shop in the city, Chennai is now home to more than 2,000 Koreans, with every month 60 more coming to the city to work in various industries, according to statistics from the immigration bureau. Here again, most members of the community prefer to send their children to AIS.

"We don't have much of a choice beyond The American International School. In the other international schools in the city the main focus is only on Indian children who are willing to go abroad for higher studies. For children of foreign nationals the education system and the way of teaching needs to be different," said K H Shin, chairman of the Korean Association, that helps the community get settled in the city.

Foreign nationals in the city now have an alternative in the newly-established Deutsche Schule in Neelankarai, which offers the International Baccalaureate programme. "We differ from AIS as we offer a bilungual programme in English and German. Our teachers come from Germany and other European countries with working experience in various fields of education, which allow them to spot the individuality of each child. They are trained in social and psychological aspects of the children in group dynamics, body language, anti-aggression training, autogenic training, autism, ADHD, even physical therapy. Our main focus is to let the child experience the joy of learning," said school pricincipal Thomas A Pallushek. The school has 12 children, two of them half-German and two Indians, while the others are from Finland, France and South Africa.

The need for more schools that are truly international in not just name but also in character can be seen in the fact that even Indians, who lived abroad for a few years and came back to settle down in the city say that schooling in the city is a disappointing experience. "The amount of money the so-called international schools collect is not small, but quality is lacking. The curriculum is beautiful, but the teachers are not qualified enough to deliver the content in a way that will keep alive the curiosity and creativity in children. Most are international only in name," said Kareena Johnson, whose son had completed his nursery schooling in the US.

Educational consultant K R Maalathi says, "Fancy buildings and air-conditioned classrooms alone don't make a school international. The curriculum, students and the faculty too should be international. The entire climate of the school should have a global edge to it starting from secularism to international-mindedness of the students."

ramya.m@timesgroup.com

Rajasthan's literacy battle: Beyond the numbers

Rajasthan's literacy battle: Beyond the numbers

NDTV Correspondent, Updated: September 27, 2010 10:12 IST

Ajmer: India's standing is far lower than the African nations as far as education is concerned. For instance, in Rajasthan while the government insists that literacy has doubled in the last decade, the quality of education has plummeted and the student teacher ratio is abysmal.

At Kamlu Ki Dhaani, about 60 kms from Alwar, children don't even have a school building and the 116 children enrolled in the school sit under a tree. The government claims that the student teacher ratio is about 30 students to 1 teacher but this gets skewed when one gets away from the cities. At Kamlu Ki Dhaani, 116 children have just one teacher.

The villagers are angry because despite donating their land for the school, the government fund to make the building is stuck in red tape.

On paper the Rajasthan government claims that things are different. The government says that in the past 10 years Rajasthan's literacy figures have doubled especially when it comes to women's literacy. The government claims it is a state with one of the best student-teacher ratios but figures can be deceiving. While more children are getting literate, many more are not completing their education.

In 2005 there were more than 7 lakh children who were out of school. In 2010, more than 11 lakh children are out of school.

38 per cent of the girls in Rajasthan don't study beyond the age of 15.

For the one teacher in the primary school at Kamlu Ki Dhaani, teaching over a 100 children from class 1 to 5 is almost an impossible task.

Akbardeen, the teacher at the primary school says, "I can't even control these children, let alone teach them. There are five classes in the School."

That explains why even those studying in Class 5 cannot recite the alphabets properly.

A 5th grade student, Vakeela struggles with English numbers as it is never taught despite being a part of the syllabus.

Most parents in this village have never been to school but want their children to be part of the government's success story. But clearly it's a success story that has bypassed them.

Appointment letters to 7654 teachers

Appointment letters to 7654 teachers
Category » Nation Posted On Monday, September 27, 2010

United News of India
Kapurthala, Sept 27:
Punjab Education department would issue appointment letters to 7654 Master cadre, Lecturers and vocational teachers following vacation of stay orders by Punjab and Haryana High Court on September 23.

Education Minister Upinderjit kaur while talking to mediapersons disclosed that combined merit would be considered for the selection of candidates as per the directions of the High Court and the department would recruit 3624 ETT teachers soon.

She said all the Government schools in the state would be fully equipped with requisite staff and infrastructure in science, information technology and commerce streams in the coming six months.

She said the SAD-BJP government had taken major initiatives to strengthen the educational network at all levels of Schools, Colleges and Universities and in this direction Adarsh Schools to provide quality education to poor and meritorious children free of cost, Rs 400 crore scheme was being implemented successfully.
She further stated that Rs 634 crore had also been spent on the upgradation of infrastructure in elementary schools to provide safe drinking water and toilet facilities in 18969 schools. In addition, 21 new model schools would be set up in educationally backward blocks in the state. This would entail an expenditure of Rs.63.42 crore.

Similarly, Rs.5.50 crore would be spent on construction of women hostels in the 7 colleges of the state. The government is arranging another Rs.11.92 crore for 21 more such hostels, she added.

To give impetus to higher education in the state the Minister said that world class Indian School of Business (ISB) was setting up its second India campus at SAS Nagar (Mohali) as part of Knowledge City. Central University had been set up at Bathinda. Sri Guru Granth Sahib University at Fatehgarh Sahib and World-Class University would soon come up at Amritsar. New Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Ropar has already started classes in the local government polytechnic college and Indian Institute of Information & Technology (IIIT) would be set up soon.Besides, Rs 104 crore would be spent on 13 new degree colleges in educationally backward areas of the state to enable our students to compete globally, she added.

Ms Kaur claimed that in terms of spread of education Punjab stood at 14th place during the Congress rule in 2005-06 and now secured third position in 2009 according to survey conducted by National University of Educational Planning and Administration a Government of India undertaking.

Govt plans for counsellors in all its schools

Govt plans for counsellors in all its schools

The Delhi government’s Health department has formed a new plan to recruit counsellors in government schools in order to provide guidance to children experiencing trauma or stress due to family issues, peer pressure or sexual assault. For this, it will be collaborating with the Education department and plans to incorporate it as part of the health policy in schools, officials said.

Health Minister Kiran Walia said she will meet Education Minister Arvinder Singh Lovely soon to discuss the modalities. While many of the city’s private schools already have trained psychologists to provide counselling to students for some years now, a shortage of trained clinical psychologists in the country has made the process difficult, despite a government mandate on the appointment of qualified counsellors in schools. As per the New Delhi’s Parivartan Centre of Mental Health, there are only 3,500 psychiatrists registered with India’s professional body.

The level of help available to tackle mental stress at the school level is important to contain mental disorders at a later age, Walia said. “Providing for counsellors in schools is something that is in the works in the Health department. Mental health is an important issue,” she said. “It is part of the health policy and we are trying to ensure government schools appoint counsellors to help children.”

Counsellors at private schools say children have to deal with a lot from a very young age, ranging from learning disorders to issues like a broken family or gender identity. The school thus needs to provide a space and a trained person who can be approached by the children.

At many private schools, a separate department exists where children can avail of such help. Walia announced the initiative at a press briefing on the Prasad Nagar incident where three minors — a 12-year-old girl and her brothers aged 10 and 7 — were allegedly raped and sodomised after being drugged by the school cab driver Lalit Ratwal over the last one-and-a-half years. The children were reportedly fearful of approaching anyone at their school or their family due to death threats by the alleged perpetrators. The victims were later transferred to a Bal Sudhar Grahay for counselling and de-addiction treatment.

Walia, also the Minister for Women and Child Development, the department where the case was transferred following complaints on mistreatment of the victims by the police, added that she has now directed that all private and government schools must check the antecedents of drivers and other transport staff to discourage such incidents. Walia also announced a package of Rs 4 lakh for the family of the three minors.

Two minors detained
The police detained two minors, aged 14 years, in connection with the Prasad Nagar rape case. The two have been lodged at a juvenile care centre, according to the police. A senior police officer said, “The two belong to J D Tytler School. We are trying to locate the other two minor accomplices.” The two others, also from J D Tytler School and aged 14, are absconding. The accused cab driver, Lalit Ratwal (32), was arrested on September 17 and is currently lodged in Tihar.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Can Uniform Alone Ensure Education?

Can Uniform Alone
Ensure Education?

Rajasthan introduces common uniform code for students of private and government schools. ‘Focus on standard of education’, say parents.

Sunita Kasera, the correspondent of this video and a mother of three school-going children reports that in her district Karauli government has decided to introduce a common uniform code. Under this, students of both private schools and government schools will wear the same uniforms. The idea behind this is to bridge the gap between students of private and government schools, as well as help students in government schools stop feeling inferior than the students of private schools who are often dressed in smarter uniforms. However Sunita, like several other parents in her community who send their children to private schools, say that though smart uniform is a good move, the real focus of the government should be on matching the overall quality of education of private schools.

In India, government run schools are often a symbol of poor education quality and deprivation of basic facilities. Petty corruption such as bribes taken by teachers is rampant in these schools. Discipline is hardly followed as teachers themselves come and go as and how they want. Most schools also have inadequate number of teachers and do not complete the syllabus before examination. So, save a few isolated cases, standard of education in the government schools is far below the average.

These are reasons why parents are unwilling to send their students to a government school. Many parents like Sunita struggle to pay the tuition fees of private schools, yet they don’t send their children to government schools where education is free. Because they feel, if they admitted their children in government schools, the future of the children would be bleak.

Students in government schools are aware that they study here because they have no other options. This makes them feel inferior to students of private schools.

The decision to help students of government schools feel at par with private schools by bringing in the common uniform code is good, feels Sunita. But this alone cannot improve the image of government schools. For that the government needs to make sure that the schools have the same facilities and quality that private schools offer. If that is done, Sunita, along with her other community members will be the firsts to take their children out of private schools and admit them in a government school.

All Piglets are Equal

All Piglets are Equal

September 27, 2010

Within days of taking charge as our Minister for Human Resources Development (HRD) in 2009, Kapil Sibal pronounced his 3 over-arching goals for Indian education - access, equity (inclusion) and excellence.

Ninety-six percent of Indian children of school-going age are already enrolled in schools, so it would appear that access is not the major problem facing our schooling system. Most would assert that excellence is, especially in schools run by the various avatars of our government. Certainly, an increasing number of parents believe this, and across rural India, 22% of parents pay to send their children to private schools, rather than avail of the free schooling offered to them by the government.

The Right To Education (RTE) implicitly acknowledges that private schools deliver better education to their students, by requiring that 25% of their intake of students be from poorer sections of society. This provision speaks to the politically attractive 'equity' platform of Kapil Sibal's education agenda, and is designed to earn his government gain brownie points by free-loading onto the more effective private schooling system, without addressing the much more difficult task of improving quality in the government school system.

The measure is marginal at best. Assume private schools in India account for 25% of school children. Assume, further, that they increase their admissions by 25% to accommodate the provisions of the RTE. This will account for 6% of Indian children. The balance 69% will still need to go to government schools, with their absentee teachers, high drop-out rates, and low learning achievements. This is equity of a token kind, which will also raise all manner of micro issues - if 30 economically disadvantaged kids get to be admitted to Delhi's best day school, The Shri Ram School, odds are, there will be hundreds of parents wanting those slots. Who gets to decide? Enter political privilege.

Privilege, in this country, begins with political and bureaucratic power. While paying lip service to equity, those who run our government follow the natural human instinct of giving their children the best education they can afford. Beginning with teachers in government schools, this is rarely the local government school. Where private schools are available, they send their kids there.

Where there aren't any, Central Schools were created for the children of Central Government employees and those working for other all-India services. These 1073 institutions concretise the perception that what is good enough for 'them', the common man, is not good enough for 'us', the Sarkar. So much for equity.

And then there is the Sanskriti School. In the 12 years since it was set up, admission to the school has become a signal of being part of Delhi's power elite. In 2005, India Today reported that when "Delhi's elite Sanskriti school" withdrew admission to Amar Singh's "twin daughters, infuriated, he vowed to take revenge." A senior civil servant was quoted as saying, "Delhi is a cruel city - the incident just underlines the fact that Amar Singh has lost his clout".

Finely tuned to the shifts in Delhi's power structure, the school bills itself as "a public service oriented, non-profit organisation". Its parent organisation, the Civil Services Society, is a little more honest about its aims and objectives, of which No.7 is "To work for the general welfare of the Civil Services and their families."

Since the Society's governing body includes the Cabinet Secretary, the Home Secretary, and the Foreign Secretary, it has little difficulty in raising the resources to carry out this noble work. In the case of the Sanskriti School, these include 7.67 acres of land in the diplomatic enclave of Chanakyapuri, worth well over a thousand crores, leased to the school for Rs. 2 per annum. The school was built by grants of Rs. 23.8 crores by government bodies, including the Ministry of HRD, the department of Personnel and Training, and the Central Board of Customs and Excise.

Later, the Reserve Bank of India jumped on to the band wagon, donating Rs. 1 crore, to facilitate admission of its employees' children to the school. That led the Delhi High Court to fulminate, "there is nothing on record to suggest any central government policy to prioritise education of wards of its employees through donations to private schools." And, "the conditionality of having to admit children of employees of central government can hardly be characterised as a legitimate public end. It certainly would not muster any permissible classification test under Article 14 (Right to Equality) of the Constitution."

Public funds lavished on private purpose, the spirit of our Constitution violated to create islands of privilege - elitism is the natural instinct of our governing class. Talk of equity is cynical politics at its worst. But it keeps the jholawalas happy, for a while.

Mohit Satyanand is an entrepreneur and portfolio investor.

State favours Marathi schools seeking no aid

State favours Marathi schools seeking no aid

The government, which will soon bring out a masterplan for school education, is in favour of permitting those Marathi schools in cities that promise to be self-sustainable and not demand aid from the government. The move assumes significance against the backdrop of the recent protests by organisations working in the education field against the government policy not to allow any new Marathi schools in the state.

School Education Minister Balasaheb Thorat said there were 76,000 Marathi schools in the state and the government was not against them as such. “The government has stopped issuing permission to new Marathi schools since the number of students attending them has declined sharply over the years. If new permissions are given, a number of students will shift to the new schools and teachers in the old school will become surplus.”

He said the masterplan prepared in 2007 had pointed out that only 56 more Marathi schools were needed in rural areas of the state. “However, in view of implementing the Right to Education Bill effectively, the government has started preparing the masterplan again with some new norms. We will be able to finalise it by December... There are a few good Marathi schools in cities and managements of these schools are even ready to sustain these schools on their own. We will think positively on such proposals in the new masterplan. It will, however, have to be verified if such proposals are genuine as some schools first claim they will not demand aid but start demanding it once they get the permission.”

Thorat also said the new masterplan for school education would stress on the use of technology. “A few experiments are going on in some schools. To keep up with the pace of the changing times, it is necessary to develop teaching methods using the latest technology.”

The government has stopped issuing approval to new Marathi schools since the number of students attending them has declined sharply over the years. If permission for new schools is given, a number of students will shift to the new schools

Balasaheb Thorat Education Minister

Losing their childhood in Gujarat's cotton fields

Losing their childhood in Gujarat's cotton fields
Kapil Dave
Banaskatha (Gujarat), September 27, 2010

Like most teenage girls, Ramila would love nothing more than to fret over school examinations, pine for Bollywood hunks, hang out with her friends and frolic with her eight siblings. But for this shy 14-year-old from Barna village in the Kherwara block of Rajasthan's Udaipur district, the joys of childhood are fleeting dreams.

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Ramila and 10 other children from her village had left the security and comfort of their homes to work in the fields for their families' sake.

Despite her father's reservations, Ramila's mother had allowed the Met (a labour agent from her community) to take her to plant Bt cotton seeds at a plantation in Gujarat.

And if the backbreaking work wasn't hard enough, Ramila had to endure her employers' verbal abuses, vulgar gestures and unwanted sexual advances.

Ramila recounts a terrifying episode when the Met had gone back to the village for Rakshabandhan.

Her supervisor and employer had come to the sheds, where the girls slept, at midnight and asked two of the girls to step out with them.

When the girls refused to go, they entered the room hurling abuses, pulled a girl out of bed and told her to sleep on another cot. When she refused, the frustrated pair beat the young children for the next three days.

The ordeal ended only when the Met returned and was told of the beatings. Consequently, the children had to leave the farm without even receiving their wages.

Ramila is one of the lucky ones in that she managed to escape. Most children working in the fields can't. Like Bhairav, an 8-year-old boy from Rajasthan's Baswara district, who works in a farm plot near the Nokha village in Gujarat's Banaskatha district.

Due to the pesticides he handles, Bhairav has an assortment of skin and respiratory ailments. Yet, he keeps coming back. His family needs the money.

Ramila and Bhairav are two names among the thousands of migrant child-labourers, aged between six and 15 years, who are siphoned every year to the cotton plantations of north Gujarat from south Rajasthan's tribal districts through a human trafficking network.

This correspondent visited the fields in Gujarat's Banaskatha district near the Rajasthan border to observe this problem firsthand and found that despite the claims of both the Gujarat and Rajasthan governments, innocent children risk their lives in these farms every day.

Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi may project his state as a peaceful one with few labour conflicts, but there are little chances of conflicts arising when a large number of labourers are children trafficked from Rajasthan.

Two prominent Rajasthan and Gujarat-based labour rights NGOs, Dakshini Rajasthan Mazdoor Union (DRMU) and Prayas Centre for Labor Research and Action (PCLRA), have claimed that Bt cottonseed production in Gujarat is now almost totally based on child labour.

DRMU project officer Sudhir Katiyar says: " According to the latest study report, 216,600 children under 18 years were employed in Gujarat's cotton farms in 2009, including 91,200 children below 14 years and 125,400 children in the 15- 18 age group." " This season of cotton farming has just started and it's ( the number of child labourers) likely to cross three lakh this year," Katiyar warns.

Priti Oza of PCLRA says: " After the issue of child labour in cottonseed farms acquired prominence in 2006- 07 because of the efforts of unions and the National Commission of Protection of Child Rights ( NCPCR), Gujarat's labour department instituted an extensive inspection regime." " However, the inspections have proved ineffective as they inform the community before raids, so nobody gets caught. Now, the farmers have barred civil society personnel from farms." " As soon as an outsider goes to farming villages, he is immediately surrounded and asked the reason behind his visit. This happened to a DMRU team in 2008," Katiyar says and adds: " The farms are owned by economically and politically powerful communities, so the government also remains silent." The activists allege that major seed companies such as Monsanto, Nuziveedu, Mahyco, Vikram, Ajit are indirectly promoting the child labour by providing low returns to cotton seed farmers.

The licence for Bt is held by Monsanto, an MNC. While MNCs have responded to child labour by initiating programmes, the Indian companies have not partnered with civil society efforts to curb child labour.

"This year, DMRU teams intercepted a number of vehicles full of children at the Gujarat- Rajasthan border and got the children released. FIRs were also filed in Rajasthan police stations. In addition, a number of surveys carried out by activists have shown a large number of children away from their homes and working in cottonseed plots," Katiyar says.

When asked about probable solutions to this problem, the activist says: " The major cause is the cheap child labour. If the government enforces the minimum wage Act and the juvenile justice Act, the situation can be improved.

"The seed companies that are sponsoring production should be held responsible for child labour and have their licences cancelled.

"We demand that the Gujarat government organises massive surprise raids to rescue children working in cotton fields without announcing the raids in advance.

"Increasing the benefits of NREGA schemes for 200 days instead of a 100 can also help control the child trafficking." The measures may help alleviate the problem but for thousands like Ramila and Bhairav, they are too little, too late.

The scars of their lost childhood run too deep.

Meghalaya to stop exams, start evaluation system in schools

Meghalaya to stop exams, start evaluation system in schools
PTI | 08:09 PM,Sep 27,2010

Shillong, Sept 27 (PTI) Meghalaya will introduce a continuous and comprehensive evaluation system in state schools from the next academic year, freeing students from examinations.To begin with, the system would be launched in select schools where overall performance of students from Classes I to VIII will be continuously evaluated, replacing traditional written tests and marking systems, Education Minister Ampareen Lyngdoh said today.Students would be evaluated after completion of every chapter and therefore, and they don�t have to study the whole book to pass an examination. This will help in minimizing drop out rates, she said.She said, "The system is being introduced to remove fear of examination from students'' minds, laying emphasis on overall mental development rather than memorisation."Under the Centre''s Rastriya Madhyamik Siksha Abhiyan, every year 20 schools will be identified. Since CBSE has already began the scheme, Meghalaya Board of Secondary Education cannot say they cannot go ahead."The process of preparing materials for teachers training has already began and the teachers training will be conducted for two and half moth starting from December next,� Lyngdoh said.The government has made it mandatory for the teachers who were selected to participate in the the training. "If a teacher does not go for the training under any pretext, action will be taken," Lyngdoh said.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The ten-year-old teacher of untouchables

The ten-year-old teacher of untouchables

Rajni George

* Last Updated: September 25. 2010 12:55PM UAE / September 25. 2010 8:55AM GMT

Bharti Kumari comes home from school every day and passes on what she learns to other 'untouchable' children in her village. Charla Jones for The National

As an orphan and an ‘untouchable’, young Bharti Kumari seems the unlikeliest of schoolmistresses. But as Rajni George discovers, the stoic Indian village girl with an old soul has grasped new opportunities and is a charming role model for self improvement.

On any evening in the village of Kusumbhara, Bihar, the air fills with the steady rhythm of the alphabet being recited by children at a small, unregistered school. A slight, solemn-looking girl sits under a large peepal tree with a group of Dalit children ranging in age from four to 10. For an hour or so, she tutors this group of “untouchables”, belonging to India’s lowest social caste.

Ten-year-old Bharti Kumari is a student and a Dalit herself, and is only copying what she sees in her own classes. She is passing on what she learns at the private school she attends – one that her neighbours cannot afford.

Every morning, she walks to her school in the village of Akhodi Gola, more than 3km away, and returns home in the afternoon for lunch, convening her makeshift school at around 5pm.

Bharti is an unusual case altogether; orphaned as an infant, she was found at the railway station and adopted by a poor farmhand, Rampati Bhuiya, who already had three daughters. Brought up as the family’s own, she was enrolled in one of the district’s 2,002 sarkari (government) schools, as most other children of her background are. Last year a loose wire set the family house on fire, a tragedy that killed her adoptive mother. It was this death that secured her greater educational opportunities. She came to the attention of a local journalist, who decided she should attend a better school. She was introduced to the principal of the Gandhi Public School (GPS) in February, and she was taken on as a special case.

Reserved and wary, with a sweet face and pensive eyes, the young student teacher is difficult to read and is reluctant to look directly at us. When we meet her at school, we do not realise at first that she has a fever (someone tells us she has had head lice for nine months and that this has provoked the fever), which partly explains her reticence. Bharti stands out among the other schoolchildren in more than one way: in addition to her brown hair and fair skin, her stoic demeanour is that of someone who has seen a lot. She is an old soul.

The school is housed in a two-storey concrete building off Akhodi Gola’s dusty main street with its few shops selling tea, fried snacks and staple foods. GPS has 10 teachers and 700 students, and Bharti is one of the few Dalit students enrolled here. Her fees of 50 rupees (Dh4) a month are paid for by the school’s director, Meena Gupta, who says she has adopted her, in a different sense, for “buniyadi shiksha” (basic education).

She studies Hindi, English, maths and science here, Gupta tells us: “All subjects”. Most students, we are told, “study after marriage and complete their 10th”; minors sometimes get married and then study.

We watch as Bharti leads the class in reciting the alphabet with a younger-looking schoolmate who just about reaches her shoulders: “A – A, B – B,” the class and its two leaders go back and forth, Bharti timidly. The pupils are in the third grade, but some of them are also 10 years old like her. Having fallen behind, they are still learning the basics. The two student teachers look on as the 40 children in their class chant, sitting cross-legged in the outdoor space.

One of Bharti’s teachers at the GPS, a smiling young woman, speaks of her fondly but acknowledges that she is a middling student, no more proficient at her studies than her peers. She is still struggling, like some of the other children, with the alphabet. While she may have been depicted in various press reports about her as a precocious student, it is clear that she is just another child who is trying her best to catch up with her syllabus after years of substandard education. Like any young child who has had limited access to proper education, her fundamentals are still shaky.

What is different about Bharti, however, is her initiative; this is what has charmed the public and made her the focus of several news reports and blogs.

At her home, a basic, bare-boned, mud-and-brick house with a thatched roof similar to the others in her family’s village, Bharti is more relaxed but continues to be bemused by questions about her school. Still wearing her uniform, she eats her roti in the small room that is a bedroom, dining room and living room all in one. Speaking through her family afterwards, she nods in response to questions about academia. “I enjoy classes. I like school.”

The young student teacher has many would-be caregivers: her father; her older sisters, who have families of their own; the extended family that her neighbours make up; her teachers; and the directors of her school. With the increasing coverage of her story, it seems there will be more who want to lay claim to her, in different ways.

Bharti is tiring of interviews and seems confounded by the attention that stories such as hers entail. Ill as she is, a foreign radio team has been dogging her footsteps over the past week or so, although its reporters say they have taken her to the doctor and got her the antibiotics she needs.

As soon as she recovers, she will resume her role as student teacher. There is hope in the little school under the peepal tree, in part because of the desire for self-improvement among its students and their 10-year-old teacher.

Should we do away with formal schooling?

Should we do away with formal schooling?
Abha Adams / New Delhi September 25, 2010, 0:45 IST

Do our schools confuse teaching with learning? Do they overlook real achievements in favour of a process? Abha Adams puts forward some thoughts from the other side.

Is school dumbing your child down? Do you worry that your children are wasting their time in pointless and meaningless exercises that stifle their creativity and restrict their mental capacities? Are you worried that your children are being spoon-fed someone’s ideas instead of developing their own? If so, you are not alone.

Recently there has been much concern about the ‘dumbing down’ of society in general. Much of the criticism is aimed at the print and visual media, but increasingly voices are being raised about schools and their role in the dumbing down of children. What’s alarming to the lay person and to parents of school-going children in particular, is that this concern is being expressed by some among the educators themselves.

The case against school
Over the years, many have argued that state schooling is detrimental to children and highly undesirable. These ‘anti-school’ advocates are not against education, they are against the idea of school (as an institution) itself, because they believe school is giving education and learning a bad reputation.

The critics further go on to say that schooling confuses teaching with learning, grades with education, diplomas with competence, attendance with attainment, and that schools do not reward real achievement, only processes. Many believe that compulsory schooling perverts the child’s natural inclination to grow and learn and replaces it with the demand for instruction and seeks to quantify the unquantifiable —human growth. Meanwhile, industrialists grumble that those coming out of our schools are ill-equipped for the modern work place.

Most of us have been taught to think of ‘success’ as synonymous with, or at least dependent on, ‘schooling,’ but historically that isn’t true in either an intellectual or a financial sense. Another myth is that schooling somehow produces better human beings than those who are unschooled, but the truth is that schooling in its literal sense is often an impediment to creativity and leadership, and many of our best men and women were not formally schooled. Instead, they gained wisdom by meditation and reflection — Gandhi became a great leader despite being a failure in the schooling system! So too, at the other end of the spectrum did Winston Churchill. Edison spent 12 weeks in school and there is no record of Shakespeare attending school at all.

Do we really need it?
As India begins again to try and introduce compulsory schooling, the question needs to be asked. Do we really need school? I don’t mean education, just forced schooling: six classes a day, five days a week, nine months a year, for twelve years? Is this routine really necessary? Most of us don’t think it is and rebel against it. Over 60 per cent of our children do not spend their childhood in school.

It is not that we do not believe in education — almost all of us have gone to schools ourselves and put our children into schools as well.

But isn’t it true that once we have learned to read and write, we could find much better, more profitable, more useful things to do than sit all day with 40 others being told, and made to repeat things that have no relevance to our lives?

The alternate route
School trains children to be conforming consumers. You can teach your children to be leaders and adventurers. School trains children to obey reflexively. You can teach your own to think critically and independently, and you can save your children from boredom by helping them develop an inner life.

Those who are successfully schooled are conditioned to dread being alone, and they seek constant companionship through the TV, the computer, the cell phone. You can teach your children how to meditate in solitude so that they can learn to enjoy their own company, and conduct inner dialogues. You can urge them to take on the serious material that schoolteachers always avoid. Introduce them to the grown-up material, in history, literature, philosophy, music, art, economics, theology, that will challenge and confront them and make them analyse their society and their place within it.

My home, my school
In the West, the number of parents who are pulling their children out of school is increasing because the parents believe that their children can learn better and faster without the many distractions and negative influences that are part of the package of the school environment.

Studies show that the number of home schoolers in the US has grown from approximately 15,000 back in 1970 to over 1.5 million as of 2007 and there is anecdotal evidence that middle class Indian parents turning to home schooling is also increasing.

In this age of instant information, geographical mobility, open social interaction, private education institutions, support groups, private sports academies, study groups, tutoring, and social media, there becomes less and less reason for full-time schooling. Many think the demise of compulsory schooling could be a step forward.

NCLP Scheme Should Realign with RTE Act

NCLP Scheme Should Realign with RTE Act
New Delhi: A C Pandey, Joint Secretary (Child Labor) said that there is an urgent need of realignment of National Child Labor Projects (NCLP) scheme in the light of provisions of Right to Education (RTE) Act - 2009. As per sources, Mr Pandey has said this in a meeting of the Central Monitoring Committee on Child Labor which was held on September 20, 2010. He informed that International Labor Organization (ILO) has adopted a global report on the worst kind of child labor which says that all the countries in the world have to eliminate all child labor of the worst kind by 2016.

India, as part of the international commitment, has also to prepare a roadmap to abolish worst forms of child labor which includes bonded labor, hazardous work, drugs, prostitution and trafficking. The issue of child labor is gaining importance as certain international quarters are making efforts to connect child labor with trade. There is a need to put new and modified efforts to ensure that all states will take abundant precautions to wean away child labor from industries. Pandey said that the mid day meal scheme has been implemented in all the child labor projects.

In addition, P C Chaturvedi, Secretary (Labor & Employment), underlined the need of greater involvement of Panchayati Raj institutions. He said the involvement of Panchayati Raj institutions will certainly improve the quality, implementation and alignment of NCLP Scheme with Right to Education. He also highlights the need of greater involvement of State Governments in identification and implementation of the NCLP scheme to stop trafficking of children and the mainstreaming of children rescued from child labor.

The Secretary has asked the State Administrations to take necessary measures to abolish child labor from the respective states depending on the specific conditions of their states. He also said that in the light of the global commitment for elimination of child labor, they need to build a roadmap for elimination of worst form of child labor and for ratification of ILO Convention 182. However, presently they are not in a position to ratify ILO Convention 138 because it has a number of socio-economic connotations.

Moreover, he expressed concern at efforts by few countries in using child labor as a non-tariff barrier and mentioned that as per the ILO Social Justice Declaration 2008 the labor standards cannot be linked with trade. Under the project based plan of action, the government announced National Child Labor Programme in 1988 in 12 districts of high child labor concentration. The aim of the scheme is to recognize working children, withdraw them from work, and put them into special schools and to mainstream them into formal education.

As per sources, presently, the total number of districts sanctioned under this scheme is 271. The total number of districts currently under operation in this scheme is 267. Also, the total number of schools sanctioned in the scheme is 11056 out of which the total number of schools in operation is 8040. The total number of sanctioned strength of children is 5.52 lakhs and of the children enrolled is 4.02 lakhs. The number of children that have been mainstreamed so far is 6.47 lakhs.

Child safety is responsibility of schools: Child rights groups

Child safety is responsibility of schools: Child rights groups
2010-09-18 18:00:00

New Delhi, Sep 18 (IANS) Child rights organisations and others have condemned the alleged sexual molestation of three school-going siblings by their van driver for a year and a half and said it is the responsibility of schools to ensure that children enter and leave schools with complete safety.

The Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) has condemned the incident and ordered an inquiry into the matter. It has also sent notices to the schools where the children are studying.

Amod Kanth, chairperson of DCPCR, said a high-level inquiry would be held and everyone including the school authorities, the childrens' mother, police and the education department officials questioned.

Terming it a serious issue, Kanth said: 'Schools have to ensure that children enter and leave the school premises safely. It is their responsibility to ensure complete security of the children. Children are vulnerable and have to be under constant guardianship.'

School van driver Lalit Ratawal, 32, was Saturday sent to two-days' police custody by a court. He has been accused of sexually molesting a 12-year-old girl and her two minor brothers for over a year.

The officiating principal of the school where the girl studies, expressing shock over the incident, said: 'I am in absolute shock. I have no knowledge of the incident. Most of the children who study in the school belong to the economically weaker sections. After sending their children to school the parents just don't bother. They neither come for any meeting nor verify important matters such as the whereabouts of the drivers who ferry their children.'

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), reacting to the incident, said that perpetrators of such crimes should be dealt with strictly under the law.

Shanta Sinha, chairperson, NCPCR said: 'We don't know how many more such cases are there. The public should be aware. In this case even the mother was helpless.'

According to Ranjana Kumari, director, Centre for Social Research (CSR), the school authorities should have been more vigilant and there should have been an effective screening procedure for transporters in place.

'Moreover, if this was happening for more than a year why did the school authorities, including the teachers, not see any changes in the kids' behaviour? The child must be behaving differently, why did the teachers not notice this,' she said.

Ranjana Kumari described it as a chilling incident and the most heinous form of crime.

CM nod to kids’ trust with Tata as member

CM nod to kids’ trust with Tata as member
A STAFF REPORTER
Tarun Gogoi (top) and Ratan Tata

Guwahati, Sept. 19: Dispur has decided to set up a children welfare trust to adopt a holistic and comprehensive policy for physical and mental wellbeing of every child living in Assam.

The trust will be headed by chief minister Tarun Gogoi and include personalities like industrialist Ratan Tata as its member.

The government will formally float the trust on November 14 on the occasion of Children’s Day.

Health and family welfare minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told reporters here today that though the state government had been launching various child welfare schemes like free surgery for those with congenital heart ailments and Operation Smile for children with cleft palates, more required to be done for the children to keep them away from physical and mental ailments.

“For the government it is also not possible to address each and every problem of children. The basic objective of setting up the trust is to adopt a comprehensive policy for their welfare. For example, many children affected by insurgency and ethnic conflicts are currently facing mental and psychological problems. A good number of children had to abandon their studies and are frustrated after their parents or breadearners of the families die in terrorist activities. The trust will take various steps for psychological intervention …offering counselling and drawing up rehabilitation schemes like offering jobs,” Sarma said.

He said the issue was discussed in details with Gogoi who had given a go ahead to the project.

Sarma said the government was launching another scheme to distribute free sanitary napkins among nine lakh girls of below poverty line (BPL) families.

“It has been found that a majority of these girls skip their schools when they pass through periods. Distribution of sanitary napkins would help them attend classes without facing hindrance,” Sarma said.

He said the government was also setting up special child stabilisation units at 450 hospitals across the state to provide dedicated healthcare service to sick children.

Admitting that there is an alarming rise in the number of children using tobacco, Sarma, however, expressed helplessness of his department to eradicate the menace. He said in India anti-tobacco law is not very strong and thus the health department alone cannot stop tobacco abuse among children.

“But definitely the health department will take initiatives to create awareness about the ill effects of tobacco use among children,” he said.

Samsher Ali, a teacher of a lower primary school, welcomed the government initiative and said it would go a long way to mould a bright future for the future generation.

“Children are in the highly vulnerable group and affected first whatever happens in our society. The trust will have to work sincerely to really bring positive changes among the affected children,” he said.
Top

48 hours to save Commonwealth Games as India calls in 'child labour'

48 hours to save Commonwealth Games as India calls in 'child labour'
Commonwealth Games organisers have 48 hours to assure competitors of their health and safety and save the crisis-hit event

Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium A child works to get the Commonwealth Games' Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium up to scratch

It comes as England chiefs refuse to rule out the possibility of the country withdrawing altogether.

Team manager Sir Andrew Foster said the facilities for athletes in Delhi remain 'dangerous' and could lead to stars opting out.

There are significant concerns regarding the safety and quality of both the athletes' accommodation and the sporting venues.

Part of the ceiling at the Indian city's weightlifting arena caved in yesterday and earlier this week a pedestrian footbridge collapsed.

Meanwhile, Games bosses are reportedly turning to child labour in a bid to ensure the competition gets underway on time.

Photos have emerged of youngsters installing seats at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, which is due to host the opening ceremony on October 3rd, while other images have shown workers on the venue's roof without safety harnesses.

And it is not only Team England with considerable doubts - Team Scotland has already pushed back departure for its first batch of sportsmen, while Team Wales is said to be waiting on assurances from organisers.

Progress at all of the sites due to host events or accommodate athletes will be checked in the coming days, although some individual athletes have already signalled their intention to stay away.

England's world triple jump champion Phillips Idowu is among those to have pulled out of the Games due to safety concerns.

Teachers asked to stick to teaching

Teachers asked to stick to teaching
OUR CORRESPONDENT
Ampareen Lyngdoh

Shillong, Sept. 23: Education minister Ampareen Lyngdoh met school management committees in Jowai and Jaintia Hills today, requesting them not to allow teachers to hit the streets demanding pending arrears.

The deficit school teachers had gone on strike in protest against the delay on the part of the government, in releasing the pending salary arrears since 2007.

After the meeting with school managing committees of both secondary and higher secondary schools, Ampareen asked the teachers to concentrate on teaching, as the strike would affect the students.

A similar meeting was held on Tuesday with the managing committees of various schools in Shillong.

In a statement issued here, the BJP expressed concern over the deficit school teachers’ strike, which according to them, would adversely affect the students.

When there is hardly two months left for the school students to complete their academic year, the absence of teachers from schools will directly affect their studies, as the syllabus for the remaining months would not be completed in time.

The organising secretary of BJP, Dipayan Chakraborty, said the Congress-led MUA Government should be held responsible for the current situation.

He also wondered as to how the government would implement the Right to Education in the state, when the teachers are deprived of their benefits.

‘1 in 6 Indians not aware of RTE’

‘1 in 6 Indians not aware of RTE’
Shalini Singh, Hindustan Times

Eighty-five-year old Zahur Shah from the 250-year-old Badarpur Khadar village said he was searching for the cancer camp some time back when a passer-by told him he was standing in front of it. “Agar mujhe padna aata toh mere itne ghante usko dhoondne mein nahi lagte. Padai likhai ke bina insaan
janwar jaisa hai,” says the father of nine children, and this family of three generations has never been to school.

This largely Muslim-dominated hamlet has never had electricity or a school or even a madrassa. The nearest ones are 6 km (in UP) and 8 km (Delhi) away.

The HRD ministry claims that in 98 per cent of habitations, kids have access to a primary school within 1 km.

Shah is keen that his ten-year-old granddaughters, Naheen and Naziya, get an education.

Despite India having signed the Right To Education Act last year, which promises free and compulsory education to children aged 6-14, a nationwide poll conducted by the NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan in 9 states earlier this month, says that only one in six Indians are aware of a law on education.

The findings also reveal that only one third children receive education free, one in five are charged a fee for admission and less than 60 per cent have access to drinking water and mid-day meals.

While releasing a report on People’s Report Card on Education in the capital on Wednesday, the president of the Global Campaign for Education Kailash Satyarthi said that it was shocking that free education of good quality is still beyond the reach of most Indians.

Differently-abled children under-reported

Differently-abled children under-reported

NEW DELHI: The differently-abled account for 5-7% of India’s population in the age group of 6-14 years, but they make up only 0.4% of its workforce. This large variance in the space of a few years can be explained by the disadvantages and discrimination the differently-abled face at every step, starting from the first: being counted.

Civil society activists say various attempts by the government to identify and enumerate the differently-abled in the 6-14 years bracket have all been exercises in under-reporting — in the region of 55-70% — because of their restrictive definition of ‘disability’.

“The number (of differently-abled children) is much larger,” says Anupriya Chadha, a consultant to the government on inclusive education. And there lies the problem.

If they are not counted as differently-abled, they are not recognised as differently-abled. If they are not recognised as differently-abled, they either do not go to mainstream schools or the schools don’t adjust their learning methods to help them blend in.

If they are unable to blend in, they are not job-ready. If they are not job-ready, organisations are reluctant to employ them. It all starts from counting right, which, experts say, the government is getting wrong time and again.

India included disability in the census for the first time in 2001, based on the seven disabilities listed in the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995. According to the 2001 count, the latest available, there were 4.3 million differently-abled children in the age group of 6-14 years.

Normal schools help special kids

More recently, as part of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), the government programme that aims to give primary education to all, the human resource development (HRD) ministry asked the states to count the number of differently-abled (education is a state subject).

The ministry broadened the definition of disability to include four more conditions stated under the National Trust Act, 1999, notably autism and cerebral palsy.

Yet, last month, when a parliamentary committee revealed the ministry’s findings, the 4.3 million figure had shrunk to 3 million. Each state had its own definition of disability. In addition, parents, especially in rural India, under-reported disability in their household in the census. “There is a social stigma,” says Renu Addlakha, a senior fellow with the Centre for Women’s Development Studies.

Sanskriti schools to open across country

Sanskriti schools to open across country
Akshaya Mukul, TNN, Sep 21, 2010, 12.17am IST

NEW DELHI: Sanskriti School, the exclusive preserve of children of officers of all- India services and central services in Delhi, will now go national, as the Centre is planning similar educational institutions all over the country.

However, the new Sanskriti schools -- the first one is already being planned in Shillong -- may go against a key provision of the Right to Education Act that mandates 25% reservation for children of economically weaker sections in the neighbourhood. The new Sanskriti schools, as per the draft, will have only 15% of seats reserved for poor children while 55% will be for children of officers belonging to all-India services or central services.

Since the respective states will have to provide free land for the schools, children of state government employees will have 15% reservation, leaving only 15% for general public. Then again, the general public may have to pay a higher fee as the draft proposal, prepared by the department of personnel and training, allows the proposed schools to charge differentiated fee.

The central government will provide one-time financial assistance for capital expenditure for setting up of such schools.

The proposed guidelines also say that the fee structure should be such that these schools are able to meet all recurring expenditure. They can even receive donation from NGOs to further develop infrastructure.

DoPT sources give two reasons for expansion of the Sanskriti network, one of them being the Delhi High Court's directive to the government to frame policy guidelines for setting up of Sanskriti-type schools. The matter came up in course of the HC hearing a PIL regarding funding to Delhi's Sanskriti school.

The second reason, a source said, was the realization that children of officers of all-India services/central services faced schooling problems in other metros and cities where they are posted on transfer.

As per the draft guidelines, the proposal to set up a school should come from the state government or association of All India Services/Central Civil Services Officers in consultation with the central government employees' coordination committee, justifying the need for such an institution.

'Poor' schools get govt thumbs

'Poor' schools get govt thumbs
Nikhila Henry, TNN, Sep 23, 2010, 12.11am IST

HYDERABAD: The state government seems to be acting against the spirit of the Right to Education (RTE) Act. While keeping schools catering to poor students waiting for recognition, the education department is rolling out red carpet to those flush with funds even if they do not meet the requirements of the Act.

If 'poor' schools are being denied recognition for not having facilities such as a playground, rules are thrown to the winds in case of cash-rich managements.

Such bias in granting recognition is galore in the city, said representatives of charitable institutions. According to managements, hundreds of schools are waiting for government recognition even after fulfilling most of the requirements. "The state government has promised to clear the recognition process within a month from the date of submitting applications by schools, but it has taken us over six months to even get an acknowledgement slip from the authorities. The schools are being forced to run from pillar to post to get recognition," lamented Samuel Paul, secretary, Alpha School, being run for street children, which was not given recognition for want of a playground. The school, set up in 1980, currently has a strength of 180 students.

Most of these schools were set up in the city many years ago but decided to apply for recognition now as they were encouraged to do so as part of the government's move to implement the Right to Education Act. Some of these schools include K C Hope School, Habsiguda, which has been providing education to slum children for the past five years, and Saint Anthony School, Chilkalguda, set up in 1980 for orphans. "The students will have nowhere to go if recognition is denied and this goes against the very spirit of the Act," said an official of K C Hope School. The school even provides midday meals and books to students from slum areas in Habsiguda. Also caught in the red tape are three charitable schools in Rahmatnagar.

On the other hand, among those schools which got recognition are some of the big brands like Rosebud School and Gowtham Public School both of which have no play ground while the former runs primary classes on the first floor. Similarly, Saints School, which does not have lavatories (as per district education officer's records) has got government recognition. Sources said there are also schools like Princeton Grammar School which is hamstrung by shortage of teachers and Rays Public School, which does not have a principal, that have got the state government's stamp of approval without any hassles.

According to the district education officers in the city and Ranga Reddy, most of the application processes pending with them are of those schools which do not have enough facilities. They also denied that any favouritism is being shown towards certain corporate schools.

Meanwhile, some of the school managements which were denied recognition have even approached court demanding that the government speed up the recognition process or give them recognition by default (deemed recognition).

Central Monitoring Committee on Child Labour calls for an urgent need of realignment of NCLP Scheme with Right to Education Act, 2009

Central Monitoring Committee on Child Labour calls for an urgent need of realignment of NCLP Scheme with Right to Education Act, 2009
18:5 IST
The Meeting of the Central Monitoring Committee on Child Labour was held under the Chairmanship of Secretary (Labour & Employment) in New Delhi earlier this week on 20th September, 2010. In his address Joint Secretary (Child Labour), Shri A.C. Pandey said that there is an urgent need of realignment of National Child Labour Projects (NCLP) Scheme in the light of provisions of Right to Education Act, 2009. He pointed out that ILO has adopted a Global Report on worst kind of child labour under which all the countries in the world have to eliminate all child labour of the worst kind by 2016. As part of the international commitment, India also has to prepare a roadmap for elimination of worst form of child labour – bonded labour, hazardous work, drugs, prostitution, trafficking by 2016. The issue of child labour is assuming importance because there is an effort in certain international quarters to link child labour with trade. Renewed efforts have to be put in to ensure that in all such industries all states take abundant precaution to wean away child labour from industries. Shri A.C. Pandey said that the Mid Day Meal scheme has been implemented in all the child labour projects.

Addressing the meeting the Secretary (Labour & Employment), Shri P.C. Chaturvedi emphasized that there is a need for a greater involvement of Panchayati Raj institutions. With the involvement of Panchayati Raj institutions there would be significant improvement in the quality implementation and alignment of NCLP Scheme with Right to Education. He emphasized the need for greater involvement of State Governments in identification and implementation of the NCLP scheme to stop trafficking of children and the mainstreaming of children rescued from child labour. He asked State administrations to take all measures necessary for elimination of child labour in the respective States depending on the specific conditions of their States. He said that in the light of the global commitment for elimination of child labour, we need to build a roadmap for elimination of worst form of child labour and for ratification of ILO Convention 182. However, presently we are not in a position to ratify ILO Convention 138 because it has a number of socio-economic connotations. He expressed concern at efforts by few countries in using child labour as a non-tariff barrier and mentioned that as per the ILO Social Justice Declaration 2008 the labour standards cannot be linked with trade.

Under the project based plan of action, Government announced National Child Labour Programme in 1988 in 12 districts of high child labour concentration. The objective of the Scheme is to identify working children, withdraw them from work, and put them into special schools and to mainstream them into formal education. Major activities under NCLP scheme are intensive child labour survey in the district, raising public awareness, stepping up enforcement of Child Labour Act to withdraw children from hazardous work, establishment of special schools to provide bridge education for mainstreaming in formal education, pre-vocational training, provision of master trainer for every district, provision of mid-day meal, payment of stipend for children, health check up of children and provision of a doctor for every 30 schools. Currently total number of districts sanctioned under this Scheme is 271. Total number of districts currently under operation in this scheme is 267. Currently total number of schools sanctioned in this Scheme is 11056 out of which total number of schools in operation is 8040. Total number of sanctioned strength of children is 5.52 lakhs. Total number of children enrolled is 4.02 lakhs. Total number of children mainstreamed so far is 6.47 lakhs.

YSK : PM

Teachers voice concerns on making RTE workable

Teachers voice concerns on making RTE workable
TNN, Sep 21, 2010, 05.38am IST

BANGALORE: Segregation could lead to discrimination. Grading in any private school will lead to complications. Schools cannot expel students however grave their misbehaviour... These were some concerns raised at a workshop on the Right to Education bill organized by the Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industry ( FKCCI) on Monday.

B Gayethri Devi, principal, Little Flower Public School, questioned: "Every school is independent and varies in its mission and vision. How can we come under one framework?"

One of her major concerns was since the bill says an age appropriate admission should be done, this could possibly lead to child labour. "Now, parents know they have to enrol their children in Class 1, otherwise getting admission later could prove difficult. But in RTE, child labour can increase as parents are assured of admission up to Class 8 without screening and Transfer Certificate," she said.

Yeshasvini Ramaswamy, anchor and managing director, e2e People Practices, said: "Whether we want it or not, RTE is here to stay. Our role as educationists is to bring positive change in education. Sadly, not many people opt for teaching, but prefer lucrative jobs. About 50% of our population is not getting even basic education. We have to do something, bring in positive change, such that teachers and principals are looked up to."

She added that there is a need to work together and bring about a solution that can cover those 50% deprived of education. "We need to contribute to the growth of the nation, influence the youth to bring about change," she said.

Sudha Raju, member, advisory board, School for Leadership Excellence, said the present teacher-pupil ratio needs attention. "The ratio required is 1:30, which is not a reality today. Some government school teachers handle two classes. At the end of the day, their voices seem choked," she said.

Many schools do not have basic amenities for the differently abled. "If we consider the UK and US, there are teachers who go and teach in hospitals. It is important to have infrastructure before implementing RTE. Also, adequate teachers are required," she added.

Ganesh Rajagopal, managing director, Varchas Education and Management Private Ltd, stressed that quality doesn't find mention in the bill. "There are no parameters or definitions to improve quality. Private schools can adopt government schools. In that way, there will be no stress or discrimination," he said.

Highlights

* Right attitude required for implementation

* Provide basic infrastructure such as drinking water, toilets and books in government schools

* Government department should constantly check school's condition. One member pointed out that work is inadequate

* Can IT firms adopt government schools?

* Awareness programme for elected representatives to highlight ground reality

toiblr.reporter@timesgroup.com