Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Now, free ride to distant schools

Now, free ride to distant schools
Ashok Pradhan, TNN, Jan 21, 2011, 10.46pm IST

BHUBANESWAR: Children from remote villages will not have to trek to school any more. The government will provide them with transport every day so that they don't miss a single class. If there is no school within a 1-km radius of their locality, the government will step in and make arrangements to fetch students to school for elementary education. This benefit will be available to students of Class 1 to V. A notification dated January 17 introduced this new stricture.

Similarly, Class VI to VIII students will get free transport if there is no school within a radius of 3 km in the locality. Children of urban areas, specifically identified by the government, too, will get the free transport facility. Local authorities will arrange for rickshaws or motorised vehicles for the students, a senior education department official said.

The school and mass education department has amended the Orissa Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RCFCE) Rules, 2010, to facilitate free transfer of students from home to school. As per the January 17 amendment, local authorities will also provide escort and residential facilities if required.

"The government has amended sub-rule 4 of rule 6 of RCFCE. Earlier, sub-rule 4 stated that the government will make adequate arrangements to facilitate admission of students from small hamlets with no schools. The phrase adequate arrangements was not specified. That is why it was amended to bring clarity," an education department official said.

As per rule, the government is supposed to take steps to establish schools within a radius of 1 km for Class I to Class V and 3 km for Class VI to VIII. "In places where schools are not within this limit, the government will provide free transport, escorts and residential facilities in suitable schools as part of its constitutional commitments under Right to Education," the official said.

As per rule 6, in places of difficult terrain, risk of landslides, floods, lack of roads or with any difficulty that can put lives of children in danger, the government is supposed to locate schools by reducing the limits of 1 km and 3 km specifications.

Private schools group-up against 25% reservation

Private schools group-up against 25% reservation
HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times

School bodies such as Delhi Sate Public School Management (DSPSM), an association of unrecognised private schools, and Federation of Public Schools (FPS), an association of 300 of private schools, on Thursday said
they will not follow the government directive regarding reserving 25% seats in
nursery classes for students from EWS category.

The reservation of 25% seats has been made mandatory under Right to Education (RTE) Act from the 2011-12 academic session in Delhi.

The nursery admission guidelines issued by the Delhi government also reiterated the same.

DSPSM chairperson RC Jain said, "This is an attempt by the government to create a vote bank. Taking children from EWS category will mean schools may have to increase their fee, the burden of which will have to be borne by the general category students. This is not fair."

On Thursday, Delhi education minister Arvinder Singh had warned schools against denial of nursery admission to EWS children, saying

strict against will be taken against those who do not follow the rule. Six months ago Action Committee, an umbrella

organisation of all the various school bodies comprising 1,950 unaided recognised schools in the city, had filed a petition against the reservation for EWS under the RTE Act.

They had said the act undermines the autonomy of the schools, earlier granted under the TMA Pai judgment.

But on Friday SL Jain, senior vice-president, Action Committee, and principal of Mahavir Jain Senior Secondary School, said, "Though we have filed a petition in the court, the hearing is yet to take place. Till then we will follow the RTE

Act and grant reservation to EWS students. All schools should respect the law of the land and act accordingly."

School bodies such as National Progressive School Conference (NPSC), an organisation with about 110 leading private schools, have also condemned the statement made by DSPSM and FPS.

"We condemn such irresponsible and insensitive statements made by school bodies. We categorically state that we have nothing to do with it and will follow the RTE Act completely," said Goldy Malhotra, chairperson, NPSC, and principal of Modern School, Vasant Vihar.

"Does being poor mean that you are only entitled to poor education? Reservation

will ensure that the education system is equitable and even the poor can access good education," said Ameeta Wattal, secretary, NPSC, and principal of Springdales School, Pusa Road.

Unaided public schools in the city had expressed their dissatisfaction about the amount of money being reimbursed by the government to them for EWS category.

Though an official circular is awaited on the amount to be reimbursed, the education minister had indicated that it will be anything between Rs 1,000-Rs 1,300 per child, which the said schools claimed was too less.

Govt conducts school mapping to check availability as per RTE

Govt conducts school mapping to check availability as per RTE

Mumbai, Jan 23 (PTI) The Maharashtra government is tracking down the locations of all schools across the state to gather the availability data, in a bid to implement the Right to Education Act that makes it mandatory for states to have a school within a kilometre from the child''s house.

"We are tracking schools with Geographic Information System to check availability across the state, as per the RTE," Minister of State for School Education Fauzia Khan told PTI.

The RTE Act passed by the Centre last year says that a primary school should be available within one kilometre area of the child''s residence, a higher primary school within three kms and a secondary school in five-kilometre area.
The government is keen to gather the information since there are many remote places in the state which are not easily connected with schools and the children face trouble in walking down large distances, Khan said.

"With the mapping, the government would have exact data on school availability and the requirement in particular areas," Khan said.

The project is expected to collect the data till end of February so that the department would accordingly give approvals to new schools from coming academic year, the minister said.

UT Education Dept strikes again at pvt schools

UT Education Dept strikes again at pvt schools

Express News Service Tags : UT Education Department, Right to Education Act Posted: Sat Jan 22 2011, 03:44 hrs Chandigarh:

The UT Education Department has marked a probe against two city private schools and issued a notice against one. Inspection teams from the Department found violations of the Right to Education Act (RTE) in the three city private schools. While a notice was issued against New Public School, Sector 18, for overcharging for admission forms, a probe has been marked against Vivek High School, Sector 38, and St Kabir School, Sector 26.

On receiving written complaints from parents about these three schools openly flouting the norms, inspection teams were formed and sent to these schools. The inspection conducted by three members was also videographed by the Department.

“An inquiry has been marked against Vivek High School and St Kabir School. It was initiated in response to complaints received by the Department about screening of parents and children. A notice has been served against New Public School for selling the admission form for Rs 250 against the prescribed maximum limit of Rs 100 by the Department. The school was found guilty,” said District Education Officer Chanchal Singh.

Vivek High School Director H S Mamik denied flouting any norms. “A team from the department visited the school. They asked questions on the admission process. How can the school screen children or parents when the admission process is over?” he asked.

School openly flouting norms

Strawberry Fields World School, Sector 26, is not only taking into consideration the answers filled by parents to the questionnaire attached with the registration form but also not conducting draw of lots. Out of a total of 12 points to be considered for admission, four points are earmarked for parents’ response to questions related to school and education. The form also clearly mentions that admission would be solely at the school’s discretion. The list of successful candidates would be displayed on the school notice board and the decision would be final. The director of the school, Atul Khanna, said that the RTE Act does not stipulate admissions to be conducted on the basis of draw of lots. Also, when the draft rules have not been notified yet, how can it be applicable to the schools, he asked.

Public schools look to SC for help

Public schools look to SC for help
Madhuri Kumar, TNN, Jan 24, 2011, 08.33pm IST

PATNA: City's public schools would not make any move to implement the administration order to reserve 25% seats for the poor till the Supreme Court announces its verdict on the issue.

"We will wait and watch till February 2 when the apex court verdict is likely," a functionary of the Association of Heads of Christian Schools (AHCS) said on Monday, a day after Patna DM Jitendra Kumar Sinha issued the quota directive as per the Right to Education (RTE) Act.

The main petitioner at the apex court is the Society for Unaided Private Schools, Rajasthan, which has questioned the validity of the Act on the ground that it impinged on their rights to run educational institutions.

In Patna, the AHCS has written a letter to the state human resources department, seeking clarifications on several provisions of the Act. Association president Alfred George Roserio said, "We have also written to the minority commission, urging it to protect the rights of minority educational institutions."

While some schools have already completed the admission process, many schools have are waiting to hear from the government on the AHCS queries, Roserio said.

"If need arises, we will also move the judiciary," said St Karen's High School director Donald Gallstone.

Bihar Public School and Children Welfare Association president D K Singh also finds the administration directive flawed. "Many public schools have even taken capitation fee which cannot be refunded," he said.

Singh questioned the right of the government to intervene in policy matters of those schools which do not get any grant or aid from it.

"Also, the HRD directive, if implemented, will widen the existing social gap. Children coming from poorer sections will not be able to compete with those coming from well-to-do background," he said and added the poor children need to be properly coached before being pushed to public schools.

State HRD principal secretary Anjani Kumar Singh, however, was not impressed with public schools' pleas. "All I know is that a law is law and the RTE Act is applicable to all schools," he said.

Teachers in census process would affect studies

Teachers in census process would affect studies
Minati Singha, TNN, Jan 24, 2011, 10.42pm IST

BHUBANESWAR: Teachers are quite upset for being engaged in Census-2011 work. They said this work would affect classes in schools ahead of the examination season as they will have to go door to door to collect data. Over 80,000 teachers will be engaged in the census starting February 9.

"There is no doubt that the census work will affect studies in schools. But we are helpless. Even the Right to Education Act has also mentioned that teachers can be engaged in census, disaster and election work," convener of All Utkal Primary Teachers' Federation Kamalakanta Tripathy said. The teachers have already undergone a three day training on how to go about the task. "It is no easy task. Teachers have to literally sweat it out seeking replies to about 30 questions for population enumeration from each household. They have to collect detailed information about each person in the family including name, age, sex, disability if any and so on. After doing this job can teachers take classes or teach students?" Tripathy said.

But general secretary of Orissa Secondary School Teachers' Association ( OSSTA) Raghunath Sahu said, "Census is a national duty of teachers and we cannot deny it. But definitely it would affect studies in schools as teachers have to do the enumeration work along with teaching."

"Teachers are engaged as enumerators because they have experience of eliciting census data and have an idea about the locality and residents of the area. We have also engaged NGO and municipality officials for training and supervision," director of Census Operations, Orissa, Bishnupada Sethi said. "Most schools are under-staffed and also distribution of textbooks have been delayed. Now, the census work would hamper studies," another teacher said.

Some teachers also suggested engagement of unemployed youths in the work. "Why isn't the government bothered about educated unemployed youth who deserve to get work instead of making us overwork? The experience gained through census could prove useful for the youth later on in getting jobs in market research," Tripathy added.

Draft rules for education Act ready

Draft rules for education Act ready

The Punjab government has prepared the draft rules for the implementation of the Right to Education Act in the state. The rules have been finalised by the school education department and these would now be sent to the Cabinet for approval. Once these are approved by the Cabinet, the rules would be notified and implemented in the state from the new academic session.

The Punjab RTE rules provide for the “recognition” of every private school in the state by the state government. The state has laid down the standard facilities and equipment that a school would have to maintain in order to be recognised.

While a new private school that comes into existence after the notification of these rules would have to follow the norms laid down in the rules with immediate effect, private schools already running in the state would be given a period of three years to comply with norms laid down for recognition.

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A committee of the state government would inspect each school before it is given recognition. Regular inspections would be carried out by the committee in the recognised schools and in case a school is found to be lacking in any respect the education department would initiate the process of de-recognition.

The rules provide for the setting up of a primary school within one kilometre walking distance of habitation. For students of classes VI-VIII, the school would be established within a walking distance of 3 km of habitation. The rules also provide for the upgradation of existing schools with classes I-V to include classes VI–VIII and vice versa.

Every school would have to admit 25 per cent of its total student strength from among the economically weaker sections. While 75 per cent of the rest of the students can be admitted from anywhere through a lottery system the students from the weaker sections would be admitted only from the area defined as neighbourhood.

“Neighbourhood for the purpose of admitting students of weaker sections in a city school would be the municipal limit of the city and for rural areas, the area of the entire village,” said Krishan Kumar, Director General School Education, Punjab.

Panel suggests Malayalam language compulsory in schools

Panel suggests Malayalam language compulsory in schools

A committee set up by the Kerala Government has proposed teaching Malayalam at all levels of school education compulsory in the state.

According to Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan, the Cabinet today approved in principle the recommendations of the panel headed by educationist Dr R V G Menon.

The State Council for Educational Research and Training (SCERT) had been asked to submit suggestions for implementation of the panel's proposals, he said.

The Committee also recommended restructuring the periods in school classes to give due importance to the mother tongue of Malayalis.

The committee was set up amid concerns of Malayalam learning

losing importance at school levels following proliferation of English medium schools in the state.

Significantly, the committee report has come at a time when the state has been pressurising the Centre to accord classical status to the Malayalam as it is only South Indian language yet to get that coveted honour.

Recently, a panel headed by Jnanpith laureate O N V Kurup had said in a report that Malayalam met all the parameters for granting the classical status like antiquity, a literary tradition that has evolved through centuries and grammatical features.

UP plans to conduct online exam for BEd

UP plans to conduct online exam for BEd
TNN, Jan 25, 2011, 02.06pm IST

LUCKNOW: Taking lessons from the past, the higher education department, Uttar Pradesh plans to conduct the Bachelor of Education (BEd) online.

Under the online procedure, the BEd aspirants will not have to appear for an entrance exam instead there will be direct admission based on merit. In the country, states like Maharastra, Madhya Pradesh, and Punjab already have the same model.

The higher education officials feel that the online process will avoid wastage of time and also the risk of paper leak, that happened in the year 2010 when the task of conducting the exam was given to the Lucknow University. The higher education department have alreday worked on the pros and cons of adopting the online method but the final report is awaited.

"We are thinking to adopt the online process. Things are in the process. The higher education minister is out of the town, once he comes back, the final decision will be taken,'' said special secretary, higher education, VK Gupta while talking to TOI. To note, BEd is one of the biggest exam in the state and this year nearly eight to nine lakh candidates are expected to appear in the exam. (Isha).

Nitish admits primary education in Bihar not so good

Nitish admits primary education in Bihar not so good
Tuesday, January 25, 2011, 16:15 [IST]

Patna, Jan 25 (PTI) Chief Minister Nitish Kumar today admitted the fact that the the quality of primary education in Bihar was +not so good+ but said he was firm in his resolve to ensure +quality education+.

Buzz up!
"The quality of primary education is not so good in Bihar and we have to make appointment of untrained teachers as the number of children out of schools has been massive five years ago", Kumar said while releasing a report on status of education in Bihar compiled by the NGO-- PRATHAM.

"I am firm in my resolve to ensure quality education and we will stress on this...we will hold eligibility test for the untrained teachers before considering their claims for hike in their monthly remuneration", he said.

Stating that more than 25 lakh children between the agegroup of six years to 14 years were "out of schools" in 2006,Kumar said the number of such boys gradually declined and now only seven lakh of them were "out of schools".

"Now for making people literate and educated our thrust will be on quality education and for the purpose ofwhich, we will be appointing trained teachers and ensuring good class rooms, drinking water facility, besides toilets at every school", he said.

Referring to the erstwhile RJD government, Chief Minister said earlier the facilities at the government schools and the management were not up to the mark and siksha mitras who were being paid just Rs 1500 per month were engaged in teaching work.

There were several government teachers who were not discharging their duties with full honesty, he noted.

Kumar said the department of Human Resource Development be rechristened as education department.

State HRD Minister P K Sahi, HRD department''s principal secretary Anjani Kumar Singh and Bihar Education Project Director Rajesh Bhushan were also present.

Sibal pitches for doubling higher education budget to start new institutes, meet old promises

Sibal pitches for doubling higher education budget to start new institutes, meet old promises
Charu Sudan Kasturi, Hindustan Times

The human resource development ministry is pitching for a near 100 per cent hike in higher education funding under the 2011-12 union budget to meet a slew of promises it is running out of time to implement. HRD minister Kapil Sibal has asked finance minister Pranab Mukherjee to increase budgetary
allocation for the higher education department from Rs. 16,690 crore in 2010-11 to over Rs. 30,000 crore in 2011-12, top government sources have told HT. If accepted, the hike would be the largest ever for higher education.

Sibal has already raised the demands of the ministry – which heads India’s education policy and implementation – with Mukherjee in two pre-Budget meetings, the sources said. The Budget session of Parliament starts next month.

The higher education hike is critical for the government to meet a number of commitments made by the government under the XIth Five Year Plan that remain on paper. The 2011-12 financial year will be the last under the XIth Plan, which ends in 2012.

“There are several key plans and promises we have made over the past five years, including some clearly spelt out in the XIth Plan document, which are yet to see the light of day,’ a senior government official said.

These unfulfilled promises include plans to start 20 new Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) and more recent promises like the National Education Finance Corporation (NEFC). The NEFC is expected to provide easy loans and bank guarantees for students seeking higher education loans, and also provide easy loans for new institutions.

Other unfulfilled promises include a plan to set up 50 centres for cutting edge research in science – outlined in the XIth Plan document back in 2007. A proposal to incentivise state governments that set up new higher educational institutions, also spelt out in the XIth Plan document is yet to obtain Cabinet approval. A senior official said this project alone would require close to Rs. 900 crore.

The HRD ministry is also expecting a significant jump in the school education budget – principally for the implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act that guarantees schooling for all children between 6 and 14.

The ministry is seeking a budget of Rs. 34,000 crore for just the implementation of the RTE Act under the 2011-12 budget, as opposed to Rs. 33,214 crore in 2010-11 for all school education and adult literacy programmes.

Mandatory for pvt schools to reserve seats for EWS: CM

Mandatory for pvt schools to reserve seats for EWS: CM

New Delhi, Jan 24 (PTI) The Delhi government today reaffirmed that private schools will have to follow the guidelines for reserving 25 per cent of total nursery seats for economically weaker section and will act if complaints about non-compliance are brought before it.

"It is mandatory for the schools to follow the provision for reserving seats for EWS students," Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit told reporters adding, if schools do not comply with the guidelines, it will be taken seriously by the government.
When it was pointed out that complaints are coming up about some schools not following the order, she said such instances could be brought to the notice of the education department or the minister concerned for redress.

Earlier on January 20, Education Minister Arvinder Singh Lovely had said the government will not hesitate to derecognise any private school if it finds that the directives are not being followed.

The government is giving an assistance in the range of Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,300 per EWS child monthly to the schools for providing education. Apart from that, it will also give the EWS children books and uniform.

Some private schools in the city have refused to abide by the government directive in reserving the seats claiming that the provision of RTE cannot be enforced on them.

The RTE law making education a fundamental right of every child in the 6-14 age group came into force on April one last year making it obligatory on the part of state governments and local bodies to ensure that every child got education in an neighbourhood school.

l24th January National Girl Child Day Celebrations: Ministry of Women and Child Development organises deliberations on the theme of ‘Adolescent Girls: Issues and Challenges

24th January National Girl Child Day Celebrations: Ministry of Women and Child Development organises deliberations on the theme of ‘Adolescent Girls: Issues and Challenges’
18:48 IST
24th January is being celebrated as National Girl Child Day. To mark the occasion, Ministry of Women and Child Development organised deliberations on the theme of ‘Adolescent Girls: Issues and Challenges’ in New Delhi on 21st January, 2011. The celebrations were presided over by Minister of State (Independent Charge) Smt. Krishna Tirath. Addressing the audience on the occasion the Minister said that adolescence is a critical phase in a girl’s life when she is on the threshold of womanhood. There are several needs and concerns which require to be addressed, including those of health, nutrition and education. The Adolescent Girls needs to be informed and empowered to be able to face the challenges of life such as the issue of Domestic Violence, Child Marriage, and Dowry etc. She said that the ‘SABLA’ scheme was launched in November, 2010, with the aim of all round development of the adolescent girl, taking care of their nutritional, health, life skills and awareness requirements that will empower Adolescent Girls.

She added that the girl child faces numerous challenges and her Ministry is committed to focus attention on the adolescent girls in overcoming the challenges faced during the most eventful periods of mental, emotional and psychological development. It is crucial for adolescents to achieve full potential of their individual capacities in a safe and enabling environment. Smt. Krishna Tirath emphasized that it is very important that Adolescent Girls become aware of all the facts of life, have the right to education under RTE Act, have access to good nutrition and health and are aware of their legal rights. It is also important that young girls are informed about legislations such as: Dowry Prohibition Act 2006, Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006 and Domestic Violence Act 2009, in order to be better prepared to face the numerous challenges in her life.

In India, there are 8.3 crore girls in the age group of 11-18 years which constitute 17% of the total female population of 49.65 crores. The female literacy rate is only 53.87%. Nearly one third of the adolescent girls are undernourished. About 56.2% women in the reproductive age group 15-49, are anaemic as reflected in NFHS-3 survey. Thus, they have considerable unmet needs in terms of education, health and nutrition. This is largely due to the lack of targeted health services for adolescents and widespread gender discrimination that prevail and limit their access to health services. The practice of early marriage and child-bearing that persists puts adolescent girls and their children at increased risk of adverse outcomes. Adolescent girls are harbingers of the next generation; they can transform not only their own lives but also the lives of every member of their family and the wider society around them. An investment in their well-being and development is also an investment in the well-being of the country. Further, addressing their problems and developmental needs at this formative stage of life would remove the disadvantages that may limit their potential in later life. Thus, it becomes essential to adopt a multi-pronged approach to provide a conducive environment for their optimum development and realization of full potential, Smt. Krishna Tirath added. The Adolescent Girls need to be looked at not just in terms of their own needs as AGs but also as individuals who can be productive members of the society.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development has taken a number of initiatives to enhance the status of girl child through various schemes at national and state level, the recent one being Rajive Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls, named as ‘SABLA’ which aims to empower the adolescent girls. ‘SABLA’ will use the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) platform and under the scheme groups of adolescent girls will be formed who will be provided an integrated package of services. These groups will be headed by ‘Sakhis’ and ‘Sahelis’ who would act as peer motivators. The WCD Ministry also implements a conditional cash transfer scheme ‘Dhanalaksmi’ under which cash transfers are made to the family of the girl child on fulfilling certain specific conditions relating to birth and registration, immunization, school enrolment and retention up to Class VIII. The Right to Education Act entitles free and compulsory school education to each and every child.

Speaking on this occasion the Secretary, Ministry of Women & Child Development Shri D. K. Sikri said that the theme is aptly chosen as ‘Adolescent Girls: Issues and Challenges’ to celebrate this year’s National Girl Child Day. The term “Adolescent” literally means “to emerge” or “achieve identity”. Its origin is from a Latin word “Adolescere” meaning, “to grow, to mature”. It is a significant phase of transition from childhood to adulthood. In India, the legal age of marriage is 18 years for girls and 21 years for boys. NFHS-3 data has shown that 45% of girls get married before the age of 18. This often results in early and multiple pregnancies, low birth weight babies and unmet needs of health and nutrition. There is a high correlation between the age at marriage, fertility management and family health with education. However, their ability to understand these changes and adapt successfully to them is something that requires right guidance and direction. In the process of evolving their sense of identity, they seek to define themselves, and in so doing they are influenced strongly by their own perceptions in this rapidly changing world. She has to say no to dowry and early marriage, be educated, be aware of her rights to be truly independent and evolve to be truly independent.

Three Adolescent Girls from different parts of the country, shared their own experiences; challenges and how they have managed to overcome these to come out of the difficult circumstances. They flagged the need to sensitise parents about the special needs, both physical and emotional, of girls going through adolescence. They spoke about the fact that gender discrimination and conditioning, which starts from childhood itself, takes root in the minds of boys, as well as, girls and has long term consequences, therefore, it is important that it should be addressed early. They emphasised the need for counselling and guidance, be provided to young mothers. a Panel Discussion was held on the occasion with eminent Panelists including Shri Anil Bordia, former Secretary, Education, Government of India and Ms. Indira Jaising Additional Solicitor General on board. Several issues including focus on unmet needs of adolescent girls in terms of education, health and overview of rights of Adolescent girls were discussed. Legal provisions of Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, Juvenile Justice Act and Domestic Violence Act were also discussed. Besides, the Joint Commissioner of Police spoke about the experience of enforcement of various legal provisions of women.

The event was attended by school children, Development Partners and representatives from NGOs and related Government Departments. There was a very lively interactive session, in which the school students and NGOs raised a number of questions to the Panel, regarding implementation of various Acts, awareness generation and the role of various law enforcement agencies.

YSK: PM

Education In India: Looking Ahead

Education In India: Looking Ahead

By Supratim-Sanyal on 25 January 2011

By Kapil Sibal
Minister of Human Resource Development, Govt. Of India

New Delhi, Jan 24, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio via PIB-India) As India continues to make sustained and significant economic progress there is need to tackle much more aggressively the problems of structural inequities, especially on the education front. Consider the fact that more than 100 million youth - the combined labour forces of Britain, France, Italy and Spain - are projected to join the workforce by 2020. This is a great potential resource provided the workforce is empowered with education and skills to leverage on the available global opportunities. If we fail to provide our youth with the requisite education and skills we will not only fail to utilize our demographic advantage but we will end up alienating large sections of our young population as well. This has made it imperative for us to expand our education base so as to be able to provide quality, affordable and merit-based education for the entire young population. To make this a reality, I have set out three principles that we must broadly embrace: First, access…providing access to educational opportunities to all who desire and need it; second, affordability…making education a reality by reducing financial barriers; and third, building quality and accountability…that we are teaching what is relevant and at global levels and delivering good value for money. The expansion in education, over the second decade of the twenty-first century, that we are envisaging, is unprecedented in modern history. Let us assess the situation.

Presently the Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education is a mere 15% we seek to enhance it to 30% by the end of 2020, in real terms it would mean tripling of the enrollment from around 13 million to 40 million. At the secondary school level around 40 million students enroll in 9th to 12th standard every year, if only 10% were to enroll for vocational educational, that is 4 million as against the present 1 million seats this will mean a mammoth expansion of vocational education. In regard to school education the demand has grown by leaps and bounds - everybody, from the poorest of the poor to the well off, acknowledges the value of education. Our data reveals that nearly 100 per cent children are enrolled in primary school; 98% of our habitations have a primary school within one kilometre, and 92% have an upper primary school within three kilometres. Transition rates from primary to upper primary levels have improved substantially. As a result many more children from much marginalized backgrounds are accessing school. But despite these impressive statistics, as many as 10 million children in the age group 6-14 years may be still not attending school due to the huge dropout rate. The Right to Free & Compulsory Education Act (RTE Act) that has come into effect from 2010 is aimed to ensure that these out of school children get the right to education. The progress in universalisation of elementary education over the first decade is truly inspiring. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), which is the main vehicle for implementation of RTE Act. has helped to open more than 300,000 new schools, construct 250,000 school buildings, 11,00,000 additional classrooms, and 3,40,000 toilets, appoint over 11 lakh teachers, provide in-service training to over 14 lakh teachers and supply free textbooks to 8.70 crore children, with the result that an additional 40 million students have been enrolled. While we are making massive efforts to boost educational attendance and attainment at the elementary school level, we are also working for enhancing the enrollment and the quality at the middle and secondary school levels too to take care of not only the influx of students from the elementary stream but by motivating the present dropouts to enroll. I am thus hoping to enhance the Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) of secondary education from around 50% presently to over 75% by the end of the decade. A Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) programme has been launched for the purpose. Already over 5 lakh teachers have been provided in-service training. And by the end of the decade I expect that each child passing out from the secondary school should be computer literate as we have mounted a mammoth programme of ICT in schools. Other initiatives include a continuous and comprehensive evaluation system for CBSE board for class 10 from the year 2011, and uniform Pan-India curriculum for math and science for board exams from 2011 academic session and uniform curriculum in commerce by 2012.

In regard to vocational education, it is presently not very attractive to those who are unable to pursue higher education. We are thus seeking to devise a vocational education and training system, National Vocational Qualification Framework, that is meant to meet the needs and aspirations of the students, the labour market and to be in tune with the ethos and values of the local community and society. This framework would set common principles and guidelines for a nationally recognized qualification system, covering schools, vocational education institutes and institutes of higher education with qualifications ranging from secondary to doctorate level, leading to international recognition of national standards. The framework will be a competency based modular approach with provision for credit accumulation and transfer. Students would have the scope for vertical and horizontal mobility with multiple entry and exits. This would be especially useful to promote the creative genius of every child including children with special needs. Sector Skill Councils and Industry would collaborate in the development of quality standards, competencies, model curricula, assessment standards and testing procedures. Linkage between education providers and employers would be ensured.

In regard to higher education we have taken several steps to address the expansion, by setting up:

· 16 new Central universities in the various States,
· 8 new IITs in Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Orissa, Gujarat, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh,
· 7 new IIMs,
· 5 Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISERs) at Pune, Kolkata, Mohali, Bhopal and Thiruvananthapuram ,
· 10 new NITs at Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Goa, Delhi, Uttarakhand and Puducherry,
· 20 new Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) up on a Public Private Partnership (PPP) basis , and
· 374 Model Degree Colleges, one each in identified educationally Backward Districts where Gross Enrolment Ratio is less than National average.

Further with the view to facilitate teaching resource sharing and providing access to open educational resources we have set up the National Mission on Education through ICT to link twenty thousand of degree colleges and ten thousand departments within universities. The private sector is also contributing in this effort. In order to increase the number of quality faculty positions in science, a scheme of Operation Faculty Recharge is being launched to provide appointment for 1000 faculty positions created and to be filled at national level through global advertisement. We have taken several concurrent steps to address the quality aspects in higher education. We have introduced in Parliament the National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutions Bill, 2010 to provide for mandatory accreditation of all educational institutions and another bill to set up a National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) for regulating higher education. This is in accordance with the general principle of moving from “inspection approval” based mechanism of recognizing institutions to a “verification assessment” method. On the academic front the semester system has been initiated, regular up gradation and updating of syllabi has been mandated and choice-based credit system introduced. We are working on a national depository for holding in electronic form of all academic degrees, diplomas and certificates issued by all educational institutions.

There are several other initiatives that we have taken such as improving the quality of teachers and faculty at various education levels, redressal of disputes, prohibition of malpractices and others which will materialize soon and whose impact will be felt in the course of next two years or so.

Thus my vision is that within this decade every Indian, including the disadvantaged, the marginalized and the minorities, will have access to quality and affordable education be it at the primary, secondary or professional level. Indian education of future will thus be: Different and unique. Dynamic, vigorous, bold and functional, serving the needs of not only of the Indian society but the global community I am confident that India will emerge as the international hub for education in the next 20 years and what the BPO and IT sectors are today for India, education should be in 2030. (PIB Features)

- PIB Feature

A proper regulatory mechanism is needed for international schools in Bangalore

A proper regulatory mechanism is needed for international schools in Bangalore
Published: Monday, Jan 24, 2011, 9:10 IST
By Prabhu Jahagirdar | Place: Bangalore | Agency: DNA

Bangalore, the IT-capital of India, has been exposed to the concept of international schools since long. Bangalore International School, the city's oldest international school, dropped its roots in 1969, in a garage on Miller's Road.

Known as American Community School, it was started to serve the educational requirements of children of hundreds of American and Canadian families, residing in Bangalore.

In fact, there are three crucial factors that led to 'internationalisation' of education in the city. First, the impact of globalisation, which automatically led to settlement of large numbers of families, in search of work opportunities, belonging to various parts of Europe, America and Asia in Bangalore.

These families were always on the lookout to provide international education to their wards. Technological revolution and impact of internet, multimedia, gaming, TV, social media and communication devices in our daily lives helped in the spread of the idea of international schools.

Moreover, the advancement of sophisticated technology in the last 50 years is putting pressure on us to re-look into the traditional teaching-learning processes.

Over the years, international schools have changed the education landscape in Bangalore. In fact, theseschools have been pivotal in giving global exposure to Indian education. These schools have been instrumental in providing framework and footprint for school education in the 21st Century.

In a way, international schools have helped Indian education to have a benchmark that matches the best teaching and learning processes in the world. Our children now have the privilege to study world class curriculum like International Baccalaureate and Cambridge's IGCSE and Council of International. International schools are also helping in attracting foreign students in a big way to the city.

The globally mobile population, including the expats and NRIs find Bangalore an attractive destination to bring their children to the city and provide them schooling. Teaching profession is also getting a big boost, as these schools are attracting the best teachers from across the globe. Now our children have a platform where they can compete with the best of students at global level.

However, there are several challenges and questions international schools in the city are facing today. Are these schools able to live up to their reputation? And, is the exorbitant fee charged by these schools justified?

It is sad that there is lack of proper regulatory framework to monitor the mushrooming of international schools, at times leading to confusion. Moreover, these schools are also facing severe paucity of staff members, who are well versed in teaching pedagogy and methodology.

The rate of teacher attrition is also very high. Many real estate and big business houses are entering primary and secondary schooling, by building seven-star facilities with little or no knowledge of international schooling.

Traditional schools without proper know-how, staff and methodology masquerading as ‘international schools’, are diluting the ‘international school’ movement by fleecing gullible parents with exorbitant fees.

(The author is the chairperson Pupil Tree Foundation, which is working towards a vision of bridging the knowledge divide between rural and urban India, by setting up 20 progressive schools by 2020 inall districts of Karnataka)international school,

Child labour employed at R-Day venue

Child labour employed at R-Day venue
Falguni Banerjee, Jan 26, 2011, 03.36am IST

NAGPUR: When the guardian minister, collector, municipal commissioner and other who's who of Nagpur gathers at the Kasturchand Park on Wednesday for the Republic Day celebrations of a 'shining' India, shame would be staring at them from sidelines.

Akash and Santosh, both below 14 years of age, would be at the receiving end for being spotted working at the site a day before. They were seen sweeping the carpets and placing tables and chairs in order at the huge pandal erected at the venue on Tuesday. Asked who their contractor was, Akash replied he was working for Madan, better known as Barafwala. They, however, did not divulge their exact age and only smiled when asked if they went to school.

It's been 61 years since India became a republic but these children showed the distance country has still to cover before its high ideals become reality for all. Abject poverty forces parents to send their children to toil. Child labour continues unabated. Most children employed by contractors are dropouts from school and are forced to work to support family income. The boys found working at Kasturchand park also highlighted the failure of the Right to Education Act that made quality education every child's birthright.

The shocking part is that not a single policeman out of the many present there during the rehearsals objected to boys slogging at the venue. Worse, a well-dressed person was seen instructing the boys to clean up the area!

Collector Pravin Darade, of course, denied having any knowledge. "I cannot comment since I have not seen the children. The contract for erecting pandals at the park is given by the public works department. I will ask the PWD officials to inspect and take action against the contractor if he has hired children," he said.

The apathy of the organisers, the representatives of the event management firm, the contractors and lay persons is simply unpardonable. Time and again, TOI has highlighted the prevalence of child labour in city. Only a week back TOI had published a report on an NMC contractor employing child labourers for digging up roads on Godhni road.

Read more: Child labour employed at R-Day venue - The Times of India http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nagpur/Child-labour-employed-at-R-Day-venue/articleshow/7363917.cms#ixzz1C8XWL226

States responsible for implementing RTE: Sibal

States responsible for implementing RTE: Sibal
2011-01-25 22:10:00
Last Updated: 2011-01-25 23:53:55

Kapil Sibal attends a session at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 31, 2009. REUTERS/Pascal Lauener/Files
Kapil Sibal attends a session at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos Ja...

New Delhi: As schools in the national capital have been reported not cooperating in taking students from economically weaker sections, Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal on Tuesday said it is the state governments' responsibility to ensure that schools implement the Right to Education Act.

Speaking at a function to mark achievements of Unicef's 'Awaz Do' campaign which aims at spreading awareness about the Right to Education Act, Sibal said the responsibility of implementing the act remains greatly with the state government.

'First of all, it is the responsibility of the school to ensure the RTE, then state government has to figure out if the schools are complying with the rules of the act or not,' Sibal said, addressing a function at a school here.

'If schools are not complying, there is a mechanism in the act, but first of all its state government's responsibility to see it is implemented,' he said.

Sibal noted that over 80 lakh children are out of school in the country, and urged the citizens to ensure that the act is implemented.

'It is our duty to ensure that every child goes to school, every citizen should speak for right to education,' he said.

'Awaz Do', a digital campaign started by Unicef, registered two lakh people in its campaign launched launched in October last year. The campaign aims at spreading information about the act and making people a part of the process of providing education to all children between 6 to 14 years of age, as mentioned in the act.

As per the findings of a study conducted in October 2010, only one out of six people has heard of the act but does not know anything else. Only three percent have heard of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), which is tasked with enforcing the act.

Right to education to cover secondary schools soon: Sibal

Right to education to cover secondary schools soon: Sibal
2011-01-25 18:00:00
Last Updated: 2011-01-25 18:07:02

New Delhi: Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal on Tuesday hoped the Right to Education (RTE) act will cover secondary schools in the coming years.

'In the coming five years similar rights will cover secondary education,' Sibal said while addressing a function organised by the ministry and UNICEF.

He said the act will address the problem of high dropout rates.

Educational institutions closed in Jammu

'More than 60 percent of children admitted in primary schools never reach class 12th. We have over 80 lakh children who do not go to school, many countries don't even have so much population,' he said.

'After children complete their secondary education, they can decide if they want to go to university, or do some vocational training,' the minister added.

The Right to Education act , which came into force April 1, 2010, makes education a fundamental right for children between 6 to 14 years of age and is to be implemented for the first time in the country.

As per the act, every child in the age group will be provided eight years of elementary education in an appropriate classroom in the vicinity of his or her neighbourhood.

All too many School Inspectors saying “all is well”?

All too many School Inspectors saying “all is well”?

Shomikho Raha

Teacher absenteeism has been documented to be widespread and while the motivational reasons and drivers of this are complex (Ramachandran et al, 2005; Kremer et al., 2004), one factor that has permitted this is weak supervision or absence of inspections. Monitoring providers of services to hold them accountable is an important part of any service delivery system. Governments have acknowledged this and inspections have been taken particularly seriously by the government primary education system of Madhya Pradesh (MP) I recently visited (and more generally across states by the centrally sponsored Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan scheme). Has it worked? On paper at least, it has. Assigned to undertake inspections of teachers in schools within a district are the following list of officials in MP: the Cluster Academic Coordinator (CAC or Jan Shikshak), the principal of the Higher Secondary School who functions as Cluster Drawing-Disbursing Officer (DDO), the Block Education Officer (BEO), Block Academic Coordinator (BAC), Block Resource Centre Coordinator (BRCC), Assistant Project Coordinator (APC) at the district-level, District-Project Coordinator (DPC), District Education Officer (DEO) and his Assistant, the Joint Director (JD) as well as the CEO Block and CEO District from within the Rural Development Department. Considering that there are usually 3 BACs in any BRC Office, 4-5 APCs at the DPC Office and several more CACs, the number of officials functioning as inspectors at any block or district are consequently many more. Do teachers however feel that they are functioning in an Inspector Raj system? Thankfully for them at least, this is not necessarily the case.

The reason is that in practice not all officials are able to meet their inspection targets or make the time available for travel to undertake inspections at the cost of other work they are also tasked to undertake. For, of the list of officials mentioned, much fewer of them (CAC, BAC, BRCC) are in fact tasked principally with the inspection responsibility. The challenge then is not that inspectors do not exist or have not been assigned duties with clear formats; rather the challenge is inadequate implementation of inspectorial duties. The obvious question that then comes to mind is this: who inspects the inspectors?

There was for a long time a single vertical structure that made answering this question somewhat easier. From the Zila Shiksha Basic Adhikari to the Sub-Deputy Inspectors of Schools, each district used to have one line reporting structure. With the District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) of the 1990s that was scaled up to the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), a separate vertical of contractual posts was also created that covered monitoring functions.

Parallel to the existing administrative system in the state, this implementation of the now decade-old SSA has consequently created a separate management structure engaged in supervisory activities as well. Drawing attention to this two-dimensional system currently present, the recent Anil Bordia Committee has proposed integration of educational administration at different levels. This same report notes that during the last few decades “school supervision has grievously suffered due to insufficiency of staff and administrative neglect”. While acknowledging that the SSA may have “improved matters”, it still concluded that “the situation has remained essentially unchanged” and more damningly that “the functioning of schools has deteriorated and quality of the teaching-learning process has shown no improvement” (Bordia Committee Report, p.83). The solution suggested: better supervision and more periodic inspections.

In MP recently to develop a PAISA Tool for institutional analysis, I found in fact three vertical structures existing. Why does this adversely effect inspections? To illustrate: if the present full-time inspector in the Jan Shikshak (CAC) finds an incidence of teacher absence in a school, this is reported to the BRCC, which moves further up the same vertical to the DPC, who then reports this absenteeism to the DEO in a different vertical. But in order for any action on the concerned teacher, the DEO must report the same to the District CEO from yet a separate vertical (Rural Development Line Department), who is the designated appointing authority of the teacher and the only official with the powers to terminate the appointment. The length of steps to reach the appointing authority translates into a time lag between an inspection and any action. This may be further delayed because the CEO orders his own inspection or simply because he is in-charge of 21 divisions with Education being only one of these. Secondly, the Jan Shikshak can draw his pay from the BRCC by reporting “all is well” from all his required quota of inspections, which is an incentive that also drives the BRCC to report “all is well” as he too has 30 inspections to complete in a month alongside attending mandatory official meetings and other work to draw his pay. The “all is well” mantra popularized by a recent Bollywood film therefore keeps everyone in the system happy, from the Jan Shikshak and BRCC to the teacher and anganwadi worker in this collusion.

Interestingly, a way to bring better accountability to the inspections of the Jan Shikshak is not to wholly change the current arrangements, but to modify it in important ways. At present, officials in different verticals do not hold the other accountable to the extent they potentially can. The Sankul Pracharya is the Principal of a Higher Secondary School who is the Drawing & Disbursing Officer paying teacher salaries for a designated number of 7-8 schools in the area. He falls under the Line Education Department vertical. Currently no rule states that the Jan Shikshak (a SSA vertical officer) must a priori inform the Sankul Pracharya of his inspection schedule of the schools in his purview so that the latter can hold the former accountable for having undertaken them. Nor is the Jan Shikshak also reporting his inspection findings to the Sankul Pracharya, who can then use the report to cut the wages of absent teachers, which he is authorized to carry out with evidence. If the BRCC (also a SSA vertical officer)was further required to have a mandatory countersign of the Sankul Pracharya as a precondition for releasing pay to the Jan Shikshak, there is a further built-in “triangulating” accountability measure of the inspections having been undertaken as planned and the information shared for necessary immediate action on absent teachers through docking wages. The BRCC can then even hold the Sankul Pracharya accountable.

Triangulating Reporting for Better Accountability

The lesson I took away from MP is that rather than creating more inspectors higher up the vertical who find themselves too busy with routine other work to travel for inspections, there is a case to be made for many more Jan Shikshaks. Unlike the present system, their sanctioned numbers at the block-level should be determined by a fixed ratio to the density of schools in the area to be monitored. We need more full-time inspectors who are held more accountable for their work.

Finally, can the inspector of inspectors also be at times from outside of the government system? The 1954 ‘Report of the Committee on the Relationship between State Governments and Local Bodies in the Administration of Primary Education’ was categorical that “all inspecting officers should be directly under the government and that the Local bodies should have no control over them” (1954 Report, paragraph 61). In the changed circumstances of today when we have an active Rights-based movement and the 74th Constitutional Amendment, it will be interesting to see whether in practice envisaged local bodies such as the School Management Committees will be empowered to hold inspectors accountable. Or would the Committee Members of the 1954 Report, if still alive, have not much change to worry about.

Shomikho Raha is Lead, Implementation Research at the Accountability Initiative.

India plans to extend RTE Act upto +2 levels

India plans to extend RTE Act upto +2 levels
The government would paddle the next cycle after successful implementation of the current programme under RTE
Published on 01/25/2011 - 12:44:36 PM
By Jay P Gupta

New Delhi: The Government of India was considering extending the Right to Education up to secondary school levels from the existing class 8 levels to check dropout rates as well as youth unemployment, Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal said here on Tuesday.

“The idea is still in its nursery stage and after successful implementation of the current programme to provide free education to children in the age group of 6-14 under RTE, the government would paddle the next cycle,” Sibal said.

He said statistics show that 60 per cent of the children who begin classes from primary level dropout after completing class 8 and it was resulting in creation of huge lot of unemployed youths. It has its repercussions in many forms which were detrimental for the youths and society as well.

During the extended period, the students would also be imparted vocational training besides the regular secondary level teaching so that after coming out of the school they could get livelihood, he added.

Since education upto class 8 levels for all children has now been made a constitutional right ;suitable amendments would be made in the RTE Act it to work it upto secondary levels, Sibal added.

He said the government was committed to implement the RTE Act in its true spirit and to extend the facilities to all the unprivileged children, the government was planning to open schools in small places where even a population of 500 people existed.

Sibal was speaking at a function organised by the UNICEF to mark the release of a Unicef map representing the collective voice of more than two lakh Awaaz Do champions speaking up for the eight million children in the country who are currently out of school.

"There are eight million children who need to be provided a discrimination free, inclusive education. RTE provides for equitable and quality education. The Awaaz Do campaign helps ensure it.Let us be part of it,” Sibal said.

The campaign was launched by UNICEF three months ago to raise awareness for the Right To Education Act and to build support for its full implementation across the country.

The Act guarantees free and compulsory education for every child six to fourteen years old regardless of caste, religion or background.

The map of India presented to the Minister includes a graphic representation of geographical spread of Awaaz Do champions who who have pledged their support. It shows how people from towns and cities in the farthest corners of the country have come together to voice their support for the RTE.

The campaign uses the Internet, social networking and mobile technologies to mobilize and empower supporters to become actively engaged in discussions and debates.

Speaking on the occasion Unicef India Deputy Representative David McLoughlin said."We need to continue to build on this tremendous momentum and commitment in support of the campaign across the country. We all have to do our bit to make sure that the rights enshrined in the legislation becomes the reality for every child in India."

Monday, January 24, 2011

Administration orders 25% quota in schools for poor kids

Administration orders 25% quota in schools for poor kids
Madhuri Kumar, TNN, Jan 24, 2011, 03.12am IST

PATNA: In a major move towards implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, the Patna administration on Sunday directed all CBSE/ICSE-affiliated schools in the district to reserve 25% of the available seats in Class I/nursery sections for children belonging to weaker sections of the society.

Patna DM Jitendra Kumar Sinha issued the directive at a meeting with principals/representatives of these schools. As many as 75 schools were represented in the meet, official sources said and added they were also directed to inform the administration about the number of seats available in these sections in their respective schools.

The schools have been asked to reserve seats for children belonging to weaker sections and hailing from the neighborhood of the school, ie. a radius of 1 km. Half of this quota will be reserved for girls.

It could not be known immediately if the quota would be implemented from the coming academic session in 2011-12. Many of these schools were confused on the issue and said they would think about it.

"We will take a call on it later," Notre Dame principal Sister Tessy told TOI on Sunday evening. Loyola's Brother Felix and Don Bosco's Mary Alphonso echoed Sister Tessy when this paper reached them for their reaction.

District officials, however, quoted a state human resources department (HRD) circular to point out that the quota is mandatory. The circular, issued recently, has directed district administrations to implement various provisions of the RTE Act related to admissions in schools.

Rejecting the demand from a section of private school managements to allow them to continue with admission tests for Class I, the state HRD has said that no child should be subjected to screening at the time of admission. DM Sinha said, adding selection of children should be done randomly.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Karnataka government teachers will soon be trained to handle special children

Karnataka government teachers will soon be trained to handle special children
Published: Sunday, Jan 23, 2011, 8:42 IST
By Rashmi Belur | Place: Bangalore | Agency: DNA

General teachers in all state government schools will have to handle special children along with normal children from now on.

The Union ministry of human resource development (MHRD) has directed the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) to set up a study centre to train general teachers for handling special children in schools.

Few months ago, a team from the ministry had visited the state and discussed about this with officials of SSA.

According to the officials, the ministry had directed them to set up study centres at block levels to train the teachers. “We are planning to set up study centres in 202 blocks. We are implementing this project under the inclusive education scheme,” said an official.

The officials also said that general teachers are facing difficulty in handling special children at schools. “There is a need for trained teachers to handle special children. But we are not getting that number of teachers. So, as per the direction from ministry, we are training them from this academic year,” the official said.

The training will be called as ‘Multi-Category Teachers Training’ and for that purpose, the SSA is upgrading district and taluk level headquarters as resource rooms. “We will select a minimum of two teachers from each block and train them for 90 days. Our target is to train at least 1 lakh teachers this year,” official said.

Even the education department received many complaints from teachers about the difficulty in handling special children at schools. “We have received complaints from teachers, but we cannot stop such children from coming to schools. This training will definitely help the teachers,” said an official from the department of public instructions.

NDMC proposes education cess & tax on trades

NDMC proposes education cess & tax on trades
TNN, Jan 23, 2011, 08.03am IST

NEW DELHI: Residents of areas under New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) may have to shell out more money in the form of new taxes soon as the civic body has proposed to levy education cess and tax on trades similar to the professional tax that the MCD had proposed last year.

According to NDMC, the new taxes are being levied to meet the rising expenditure of its proposed schemes and to generate funds for providing better facilities and maintenance. Also, the taxes have been proposed keeping in mind the increased value of land in NDMC areas due to development work.

The civic body is looking at levying a new education cess as it need additional funds for providing quality education, computer facilities for its newly-proposed 'Lakshya' scheme under which select students will be provided coaching facilities for appearing in competitive engineering and medical entrance exams.

"The case for levying education cess would be examined further and a report on the same would be submitted to NDMC's council for consideration,'' said an official.

A new tax on trades and a new betterment tax have also been proposed taking into account the increase in urban land value due to execution of development work. "At present, there is no proposal to levy tax on professionals. However, levy of tax on trades has been suggested to meet the expenditure on providing better facilities in the markets," said an official.

The council has to determine the schedule of taxes for 2011-12 before February 15.

The civic body has also proposed rebates in property tax for certain properties paying property tax on rate-able value (RV) determined under the Annual Rent By-Laws, 2009. "In view of the fact that some residential property owners have to pay a higher tax under the RV by-laws, the council may consider giving a 50% rebate to 3,279 owners of residential properties having a RV of up to Rs 5 lakh,'' said an official.

More powers for state ministry of miniorities

More powers for state ministry of miniorities
P J Joychen, TNN, Jan 23, 2011, 03.46am IST

JAIPUR: The state government, to strengthen the fledgling ministry for minorities, has empowered it to issue minority certificates to educational institutions run by religious and linguistic minorities.

Rohit R Brandon, principal secretary, minority affairs, said recently till now the minority education institutions had to obtain recognition from the National Commission for Minority Educational Institution (NCMEI) in New Delhi.

But the state government has simplified the procedure and adopted the Maharashtra model and authorised the principal secretary of the minority department as the competent authority' to issue such certificates. He said this would save a lot of time and effort of such institutions to get recognition.

The Maharashtra government took this step in 2008.

"With this decision, the state government fulfilled one of the long standing demand of minority institutions," he said. He added to obtain minority status certificates from NCMEI was time-consuming and cumbersome. This would help the institutes to save money and time from going to Delhi.

He said, according to statewide data, only 84 institutes have been able to obtain minority certificates during the last six years by August 2010.

The Constitution allows linguistic and religious minorities to establish and administer educational institutes of their choice. The National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions Act 2004 lays down rights of minorities educational institutions. The state government could issue such certificates provided it notifies a competent authority or else it had to be recognised by the commission.

Brandon said the appeal against the competent authority lies with the NCMEI and anybody unhappy with the decision of the competent authority could approach the commission.

The three-member commission is headed by a retired judge with powers of a civil court. It has been endowed with adjudicatory, advisory and recomendatory powers.

The state cabinet on December 15 had decided to transfer the Haj committee, Madarasa board from the home and education departments, respectively to the minority department for functional efficiency.

Parents condemn Sekhwan's statement

Parents condemn Sekhwan's statement
TNN, Jan 22, 2011, 10.52pm IST

LUDHIANA: Following publication of a story in The Times of India about teachers violating a notification against private tuitions, the issue gained momentum again. On Friday, Punjab education minister Sewa Singh Sekhwan stated he had no objections to private tuitions by teachers after school hours. He said he considered the practice of private tuitions a service to the nation.

Condemning the move, CBSE parents' association for educational reforms asked the minister should go through Section 28 (chapter iv) of Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009, that says no teacher should engage in private teaching activity. The Act has been implemented by a notification dated April 1, 2010.

"It is the duty of every responsible citizen of the country to obey the Constitution of India. So we pray to our worthy education minister to strictly implement all provisions of the Education Act. It is also requested that there be an inquiry into nursery admissions and action be taken against all private schools in Punjab which have not reserved 25% seats for economically weaker sections and other reserved categories. All admissions without this 25% reservation are illegal. State government should cancel all such admissions and arrange fresh admissions under its supervision," the association has further stated.

School children to be tracked in Maharashtra

School children to be tracked in Maharashtra
Sanjeev Shivadekar, TNN, Jan 21, 2011, 08.27am IST

MUMBAI: The state government plans to keep track of the performance of school children with the help of technology.

The school education department is contemplating a child tracking system ( CTS) for students of the SSC, CBSE, ICSE and IB boards in the state. With the help of e-governance, the department hopes to maintain records of students, right from their entry into school till their exit.

"The idea is to track missing children, school dropouts and child labourers," school education minister Rajendra Darda said. With the click of a mouse, details of students will be available with the department, Darda said.

Parents Teachers Association president Arundhati Chavan said it was a good initiative and its implementation will help the government know if schemes meant for the betterment of students are working.

"The department will know if scholarships, free-ships and mid-day meal schemes are being implemented properly by schools," the minister said, adding, "The department plans to make use of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to link the students' personal data."

Delhi shelter homes uninhabitable; over 1,800 children flee: RTI data

Delhi shelter homes uninhabitable; over 1,800 children flee: RTI data

NEW DELHI: They were rescued from a difficult life of living on the streets or from the clutches of employers forcing them into labour and sent to children's homes. Sounds like a happy ending. But that is apparently not the case as over 1,800 children have escaped from various shelter homes in Delhi in the last four years because of their "uninhabitable" conditions, a RTI query has revealed.

Of the 1,807 children who escaped, only 57 have been found. The rest - 1,750 kids - are "still at large".

The data revealed is for the period between 2006 and 2010.

Rakesh Senger of Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), a child rights organisation, who filed the RTI, said: "Children who are put in children's homes or shelter homes need to feel free; they should be able to participate in different activities. But in a lot of homes the situation is like in jails."

"There have been cases where children have complained of sexual abuse by older kids in the homes, and these were being taken up by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR). When it comes to homes run by NGOs, at least the mental well-being of the children is looked into; the government-run ones lag behind in that," Senger said.

The information about the escaped children - as given by the women and child development department of the Delhi government - pertain to 26 shelter homes, both statutory and non-statutory.

"The information given under the RTI Act says that the total number of children residing in these 26 shelter homes over the period of four years is 10,600; As many as 1,807 children escaping is nearly one-fifth of the total number and 97 percent of them are still at large," Senger said.

Another shocking fact revealed is that 29 children residing in the homes died during the four-year period. Although the exact reasons for the deaths were not given, it was said they died because of illnesses.

"The concern here is the children are kept in the shelter homes for survival and to get a better life, not to meet the end of their life. Twenty-eight of these 29 children are from Bal Nirikshan Grih, Nirmal Chhaya Complex, Jail Road," Senger said.

The maximum number of children who escaped from a non-government organisation was 807, from the NGO Prayas. From among the state-run institutions, the highest number of children escaping - 169 - are from the Children's Home for Boys, Alipur.

"There is no trace of these children and even the authorities concerned have no idea about the whereabouts of these children. It raises a question regarding the efficiency and seriousness of the services being provided by these institutions," Senger said.
According to BBA, Delhi has 37 state-run and 17 non-government shelters as well as observation homes for homeless children with the total capacity of 3,000. According to civil society, more than 10,000 children live on Delhi's streets, mostly near bus stands and railway stations where they can find odd jobs.

Further, of the 76 temporary shelters in Delhi, not one is dedicated to children. It is alleged that the children are not allowed to enter the night shelters meant for adults and families.

The lack of facilities in the homes is however not because of paucity of funds, but for want of intention. The homes are funded by the government under different schemes.

In the information given, 15 of the 26 institutions furnished details of their expenditure for the year 2007-08. Their total expenditure was over Rs 5 crore and the per month expenditure on each child was approximately Rs 3,000.

"This is sufficient for a child to get better facilities and infrastructure in the homes. Despite this, these homes are in a dilapidated condition, which makes one think whether the children are staying there for a better or bitter life," he said.

City to soon get residential school for poor

City to soon get residential school for poor

The education department is set to begin a residential school for poor students under the Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) in Ludhiana.

Along with free lodging and boarding, the school will provide free coaching for students from Classes VI to VIII. In Punjab, three districts have been selected where such schools will come up. These include Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Amritsar.

Anil Matharoo, District Coordinator of SSA in Punjab, said: “Greater Ludhiana Area Development Authority has approved land for setting up the residential school. About 1,000 sq ft area has been selected near HIG Flats in Sector 32 on the Chandigarh Road. The official paperwork is almost complete. Along with the piece of land, we soon hope to get possession of the 7-8 rooms that have been constructed.”

He added: “The hostel building will be constructed later as we are yet to receive funds. But from the next academic session, the school will be functional. There will be hostel facilities for 100 boys and girls each, who will either belong to below poverty line families or have come from distant places.”

“Initially, we will start the school with 200 students. We have already started selecting them,” said Harpal Kaur, District Education Officer (Elementary), Ludhiana.

The state SSA has already started Residential Bridge Course (RBC) at Ahata Sher Ganj and Millar Ganj in Ludhiana. The aim of the RBC is to bring school dropouts into the mainstream. Dropouts in the age group of 6 to 14 years are being provided free boarding, lodging and coaching facilities. Gradually they will become a part of the mainstream and be admitted along with regular students.

RTE Act petitions to be taken up soon: SC

RTE Act petitions to be taken up soon: SC
New Delhi, Jan 21, PTI:

With admission season under way, the Supreme Court on Friday agreed to give early hearing to petitions challenging the validity of the provision of Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act which mandated 25 per cent of reserved seats for economically backward sections in private unaided schools.

A Bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia agreed to give hearing on a bunch of petitions on a priority basis after taking note of the affidavit of the government which said the issue did not involve Article 15(5) of the Constitution.

The court said a three-judge bench can hear the matter if the issue of of basic principle of the Constituion was not raised.The Bench was told that early adjudication of the matter was must in view of the ongoing admission process in schools which have to be completed by April.

The Bench hinted that the matter could be heard by the end of this month or in February after it concluded hearing on some of the part-heard matters.

The main petitioner Society for Un-aided Private Schools, Rajasthan, and a host of associations representing various private schools have questioned the validity of the Act on the ground that it impinged on their rights to run the educational institutions.
The Bench, during the last hearing, had said it would not like the matter to be referred to the Constitution Bench.

The apex court had noted that since the amendment to the Constitution which led to the enactment of the Right to Education Act has been challenged, the matter would be placed before a larger bench to decide its legal validity.

The petitioners had contended that the issues involved in the Act relate to Article 15 (5) and to Article 21(A) of the Constitution.

The court was hearing a batch of petitions which claimed the Act violated the rights of private educational institutions under Article 19(1)(g) which provided maximum autonomy to private managements to run their institutions without governmental interference.

The Act, which made free and compulsory education a fundamental right for children between 6-14 years, also mandated that private educational institutions have to reserve 25 per cent of the seats for children from poor families.

CBSE will verify evaluation of school-conducted exams

CBSE will verify evaluation of school-conducted exams
Published: Thursday, Jan 20, 2011, 10:03 IST
By Maitreyee Boruah | Place: Bangalore | Agency: DNA

In order to make school-conducted Class X exams more credible, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) will appoint officials to randomly verify assessment procedures.

The board has also directed schools to involve teachers of other schools in evaluation of exam papers, to avoid partiality.

These are part of a set of strict guidelines issued by CBSE on Wednesday, to be followed in the examinations of March this year.

“With the Class X exam becoming optional for the first time, students can now take school-conducted exams. However, with the issuance of guidelines, we want to ensure that school-based exam will maintain the high standards of the board,” said a senior CBSE official.

Since the schools will be conducting and evaluating exam papers, CBSE has strictly asked them not to communicate the marks of the students on their own. Once the evaluation of the answer papers is done by the schools, these should be sent to the board, so that results are declared by CBSE.

“The board would be declaring the results of class X in May, along with the results of board-based summative assessment. We will be issuing a uniform certificate to every student,” said MC Sharma, controller of examinations.“Through the guidelines, we have laid down procedures on how the summative assessment for class X students must be carried out,” he added.

The summative assessment in March represents the final leg of the assessment of students.

Schools will, however, continue to have the freedom to formulate their own question papers, use CBSE question papers’ bank or mix and match them. “In order to ensure standards, the question paper bank in different subjects would be sent by the board so as to reach schools in time. From the question paper bank, the schools can set their respective question papers,” stated the circular issued by CBSE.

Moreover, evaluation of answer scripts will be done by the school teachers themselves, on the basis of the marking scheme provided by the board. With the issuance of guidelines, CBSE hopes all the apprehensions of parents could be put to rest about the credibility of school-conducted exams.

For the first time, from this year onwards, Class X students will have the option of appearing either for the CBSE-conducted board examination or final class X test conducted by their respective schools.

The CBSE made class X board exams optional from 2011, as part of Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) system. Although there was some apprehension among parents, the number of students who have opted out of the board examination shows that the scheme has found favour with students.

In the very first year that the option has been made available, about two-thirds of students have opted out of the board exam. CBSE sources said about 5 lakh students have opted to go with the school examination. The total number of students studying in class X in schools affiliated to the CBSE across India is 8.23 lakh.

Reimbursement for EWS seats too little: Schools

Reimbursement for EWS seats too little: Schools
HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times

Delhi Government will reimburse anything between Rs 1,000 and Rs 1,300 per child for 25% seats reserved under the economically weaker sections (EWS) in the unaided public schools, said education minister Arvinder Singh on Thursday. The government though is yet to issue any official circular the
reimbursement amount.

As per the Delhi government’s nursery admission guidelines framed under the Right to Education (RTE), it is mandatory for unaided schools to reserve 25% seats for the EWS category and the government will reimburse the amount equal to that spent on a student studying in a government school.

Private unaided schools had earlier said they might have to resort to a fee hike for general category students if the government does not reimburse the full fee amount for EWS category. The government has categorically ruled out any fee hike.

LV Sehgal, principal, Bal Bharti School, Gangaram Marg, said, “The 6th pay commission and recruiting more teachers to maintain a teacher student ratio of 1:30 as per RTE is costing the schools a lot. A reimbursement of R1,000 to R1,300 is too low, we might have to increase the fee.”

RC Jain, president, Delhi State Management Schools, an association of 1,531 unrecognised schools, said, “We won’t allow the 25% reservation of EWS students, since we don’t get government aid.”

But there are only 500 such schools that spend more than R1,300, said Singh. “The Capital has 3,000 schools, out of which 2,500 have a fee structure lower than R1,000. The rest already had 15% EWS reservation as they had got land at concessional rates,” added Singh.

Singh also said, in case a school can’t fill the 25% reserved seats, they should write to the DoE. “Many EWS parents approach the DoE for admission, we can accommodate those students in schools with vacant seats,” he added. He added that the government may convert vacant EWS seats to general after the admission process is over on March 31.

Erring schools

Singh said that so far 15 schools were found guilty of flouting admission guidelines and appropriate action has been taken against them. The complaints range from parents being forced to buy expensive prospectus by schools, EWS category parents alleging discrimination and schools creating discriminatory criteria.

Right to Education! For many its just that, a RIGHT!

Right to Education! For many its just that, a RIGHT!

by Aseem Rastogi

Everyone talks about the Right to Education Act these days. It seems to have become the most important policy decision for our government. Obviously it doesn’t have the power to overthrow a government like say talking about terrorism, reservation for specific sectors of the society etc. But in a period where everyone from the common man to NGOs is putting deep pressure on the government, they obviously can’t let this issue be at the backburner.

For years the abysmal student involvement in schools across the country had been a humungous problem. The number of students who attend school today has shot up to 96%. Already happy? WAIT! The question is how many of them come to school for studying.

According to Annual Status of Education Report (Rural) 2010, The number has reached 96% not because the standards of schools and infrastructure has improved by leaps and bounds, but because there are other factors like mid day meals to go along with it. Obviously, if you don’t have anything to eat, how will you study? But here it may be that people eat good food rather than study. [full report pdf]

Enrolments from Bihar to Gujarat have risen magnanimously. Bihar is a case in point because of its high levels of poverty and not much importance being given to education over the years. The out of school share ratio of girls x`has come down to just 4.6%. More than 63% of the children in the age group of 6-14 attend school today. This number has increased significantly in rural areas too. Continuing with the survey, they have also found a higher enrolment rate across South India compared to the other parts.

School Enrollment

But does enrolment guarantee success? During the earlier years the target was getting maximum students to come to school. But sadly along with that our government failed to provide the basic infrastructure in terms of blackboards, proper classrooms, teachers who come regularly and also desks and chairs. This has resulted in the quality of education falling to abysmal levels.

Students who can’t read standard 1 text in standard 2 text in standard 5 has dropped around 5% in 5 years. People in standard 5 cannot even do basic calculations the kinds one does in standard 1 and standard 2.

Tamil Nadu Schools

With such pathetic standards of education, where are we moving to? Everyone cried out saying that one can’t fail students in lower classes. But does this mean that you keep promoting the students despite getting basic competencies in English and Maths. Shocking!

Punjab Schools

The survey also analysed the schools across the country on 7 basic parameters like toilets for both males and females, presence of teachers, drinking water etc. Only 3% of them had all these facilities.

The Activity Based Learning Program in Tamil Nadu seems to have made a positive change to education. While across the nation, only 50% in Class VIII can solve their level Maths questions, 69% Biharis can solve those kind of questions.

The most important factors to be considered in the future for education include having good classrooms, ensuring teachers are present, continuously evaluating different forms of education like the Activity Based Learning Program in Tamil Nadu and equipping schools. Both qualitative and quantitative improvements are required in equal amounts.

Do we want Right to Education just to remain as a RIGHT?

Haryana teachers to undergo test for awards

Haryana teachers to undergo test for awards
2011-01-20 22:30:00

Chandigarh, Jan 20 (IANS) Getting a reference or a pull alone will not help teachers in Haryana aspiring for awards meant for the teaching community. The state's education department is now planning to hold screening tests for the selection of teachers for state and national awards.

A spokesman of the department said that the proposed screening test would comprise a written examination, classroom teaching evaluation and children's learning outcome evaluation.

He said that the written exam, to be conducted by directorate of secondary education, in general knowledge and the teaching subject would have 200 marks. Minimum cut-off would be 75 per cent marks in both subjects.

Classroom teaching evaluation would be done by the expert committee of the directorate of education. Children's learning outcome evaluation would be done by directorate officials directly or through a third party.

'The children's learning outcome evaluation would be done only for those teachers who qualify written exam and classroom teaching evaluation. It was expected that all the children in the classes taught by the applicant teacher should score more than 60 per cent marks,' he added.

He said that all teaching personnel could apply online on the departmental website for appearing in the screening test.

Haryana teachers to undergo test for awards

Haryana teachers to undergo test for awards
The state's Education Department is planning to hold screening tests for the selection of teachers for state and national awards
Published on 01/21/2011 - 11:35:09 AM

Chandigarh: Getting a reference or a pull alone will not help teachers in Haryana aspiring for awards meant for the teaching community. The state's Education Department is now planning to hold screening tests for the selection of teachers for state and national awards.

A spokesman of the department said that the proposed screening test would comprise a written examination, classroom teaching evaluation and children's learning outcome evaluation, reports IANS.

He said that the written exam, to be conducted by Directorate of Secondary Education, in general knowledge and the teaching subject would have 200 marks. Minimum cut-off would be 75 per cent marks in both subjects.

Classroom teaching evaluation would be done by the expert committee of the Directorate of Education. Children's learning outcome evaluation would be done by Directorate officials directly or through a third party.

"The children's learning outcome evaluation would be done only for those teachers who qualify written exam and classroom teaching evaluation. It was expected that all the children in the classes taught by the applicant teacher should score more than 60 per cent marks," he added.

He said that all teaching personnel could apply online on the departmental website for appearing in the screening test.

Gujarat government work hurting education?

Gujarat government work hurting education?
Published: Thursday, Jan 20, 2011, 20:09 IST
By Jitendra Dave | Place: Ahmedabad | Agency: DNA

The government’s numerous programmes it seems is impairing the education in municipal primary schools of Ahmedabad.

According to sources, government rules state that classes need to the conducted for at least 240 days in a year.

"But thanks to the various government programmes for which teachers are pressed in to service, the municipal schools have not been able to conduct classes for more than 40 to 50 days," said the source.

The civic body authorities have been making tall claims about improving the level of education in municipal primary schools. In fact, it also served notices to a number of teachers for non-performance following the Gunotsav results. However, sources said that the teachers are not able to take a class due to a host of government programmes.

Since beginning of the academic year in June, the teachers and students are busy with various programmes including enrolment, tree plantation, civic body elections, Diwali vacation, Khel Mahakumbh, Kankaria carnival, Kite Festival, visit to Mahatma Mandir, census and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) among others.

"The teachers are hardly able to focus on teaching," said sources in Ahmedabad Municipal School Board. "At present, schools are closed for three days as the teachers are busy with census work and SSA training," said Habib Mew, a former member of Ahmedabad Municipal School Board.

He said that instead of focusing on education, the ruling party is busy with celebrations leading to poor education standards in schools. "The teachers are also fed up with the government programmes," he said.

"After I heard of mismanagement in municipal primary schools, I personally visited various schools in Gomtipur where I found Gujarati school 1 and2, Urdu school 6 and7 and Marathi School 1 and 6 closed and children waiting outside the classroom," said Iqbal Shaikh, Congress corporator from Gomtipur.

He also said that municipal school board chairman Manubhai Raval could not be contacted despite repeated attempts. The civic body officials, meanwhile, are defending themselves terming the census work as national duty.

"Education was affected only during the Kankaria carnival and Kite festival and not otherwise. At present most of the teachers are busy with census work but we have reserved some for teaching too," said Manubhai Raval, chairman of Ahmedabad Municipal School Board.

India's ‘Model Madrassas’ Substitute Tolerance for Orthodoxy

India's ‘Model Madrassas’ Substitute Tolerance for Orthodoxy

Kurt Achin | West Bengal 20 January 2011

Traditional Islamic schools, known as madrassas, have gotten some negative attention in recent years. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, some madrassas are accused of stoking Islamic fundamentalism and militancy. In India, a new kind of madrassa is emerging – where tolerance and secularism are valued over orthodoxy. One such "model madrassa" is in the state of West Bengal.

A school in Orgram, in the Indian state of West Bengal, has something unusual to boast about.

It is the only Islamic madrassa in India – and probably in the world – where Muslims are in a minority.

More than 60 percent of the students here are Hindus. Parents from the surrounding village say they prefer the school to other choices for its moderate, inclusive approach to education.

Educational materials and food are provided to the students free of charge and the co-ed curriculum includes plenty of math, science and practical skills like using computers.

Courses in Arabic and basic Islamic theology are core requirements for every student – but that is about as far as religious instruction goes.

This young student says a lot of his Hindu friends tease him, saying, how could a Hindu study at a Muslim madrassa? He says he tells them they are wrong – that this modern madrassa is meant for students of all religions. He tells them he can study in a madrassa and still remain a Hindu.

A young female student says she has not found Islam to be any different from Hinduism, in that they both preach the same message of peace. After studying here, she says she has come to know Islam closely and it has brought her closer to Muslims in society.

The Orgram madrassa was recognized in 2008 as one of more than 500 so-called "model madrassas" in West Bengal, eligible to receive backing from the government. The schools hope to stand in contrast to more ideological madrassas, particularly in nearby Afghanistan and Pakistan that are often criticized for fueling extremism and militancy.

Muslims make up more than 13 percent of India's billion-plus population. Headmaster Anwar Hussain says his school offers a new tool for teaching Hindus and Muslims to transcend their often violent history.

He says the school sometimes invites Muslim and Hindu parents to seminars to promote increased Hindu-Muslim interaction. Muslims, especially Muslim women, who are known to be more conservative, are encouraged to step forward and interact. He says in that way, the madrassa plays a big role in maintaining communal harmony.

Hussain says the school fosters a spirit of equality – be it religious or economic.

He says the students from all Hindu caste levels attend the school and mingle with no differentiation. He says, if a low caste Hindu student has gathering at his home, often upper caste Hindus will attend. Likewise, high level, or Brahmin, students extend invitations to low caste Hindus and tribal students. Hussain says caste division and untouchability are a thing of the past among the students.

But not everyone is praising the model madrassa.

Sami Mubarak is the Imam at this Calcutta mosque, and the vice chairman of a national Islamic organization.

He complains there is no mosque at all on the premises and Muslim pupils and teachers cannot offer prayers. He calls that utterly wrong and unacceptable.

Conservative Muslims also have a problem with the school's policy of putting boys and girls together in the same classroom.

He says, if boys and girls study together in a class after six years of age, all kinds of troubles arise. He says Islam commands their separation, after they turn seven. He insists co-ed classes for older students are forbidden by Islam.

But teachers at the Orgram Madrassa say both genders have to co-exist in the real world – so students may as well start learning how to do that now. As for prayers, the school says students are free to walk just down the street to the local mosque.