Thursday, June 30, 2011

Free education till Class X under 12th Plan: Sibal

Free education till Class X under 12th Plan: Sibal
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Express News Service Tags : Human Resource Development Minister, Kapil Sibal, National Knowledge Centre, Karnataka Posted: Thu Jun 30 2011, 03:47 hrs Chandigarh:
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HRD Ministry to connect 31,000 colleges via National Knowledge Centre in next 2 years

Advocating the need for holistic approach to improve education and thus employability status in India, Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal today said here the 12th Five-Year Plan will look at providing free education from Class I to Class X. Currently, free education is available only till Class VIII.

He also announced the roll out of National Knowledge Centre that will connect 31,000 colleges over the next two years. “The knowledge centre will also provide 1,100 courses that have already been developed, to students free of charge. On the school education front, a National Mission of ICT has been set up and will use technology to the fullest,” he said while addressing the CII Edu Summit 2011 here.

Also, there are efforts to provide a 3D geospatial access of any college, university or school to a parent sitting at home. “The pilot project has already been carried in Karnataka, which would soon be a reality. As the future lies in geospatial technology, a parent or a student would be able to have a look at the classrooms, get information on the kind of education provided, infrastructure as well as other data pertaining to the institute sitting at his place,” Sibal said.

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Giving present scenario on Gross Enrollment Ratio in India, Sibal pointed out that only 70 out of 100 students in the age group of 18-24 years reach university. “We hope to increase this ratio to15-20 per cent by 2020. If this ratio increases, 45 million students would be able to go to universities compared with 5 million currently, and attain employable skills,” he said.

Looking at an investment of Rs 2.31 lakh crore in the education system, which shall definitely change the scenario in India in terms of improving infrastructure facilities in the schools, the minister said, “To start with, 35 dollar tablet computer will be launched and as a pilot 10,000 tablet computers will be made available at the university level by July 2011.”

He also said all CBSE schools would act as centres for training by the private sector after the working hours and would run vocational courses. “To begin with, all engineering colleges in Delhi would run the vocational courses to take this forward,” he said.

Commenting on the examination system, the minister said the HRD ministry is proposing one exam agenda for analysing critical areas of child’s ability to take up higher education in specific fields by 2014.

Sharing his view on 100 per cent cut offs, he said that the child needs to be assessed on the basis of knowledge and not mere short-term memory power.

The HRD Ministry has initiated the process of developing a National Vocational Education Qualifications Framework (NVEQF) and proposes industrial training courses in Class IX and X in specific subjects and sectors.

“These subjects would be different for different schools and would be based on the geographical location and corresponding industrial requirements of the industry in that particular area,” he said.

Highlighting the need for sector-specific training, Sibal said, “To begin with, 150 courses have been developed in the automobile sector in consultation with the industry looking at employability criteria and similar sector-specific courses will be developed in hospitality, tourism and telecom.”

Emphasising on the need for forging linkages between industry and academia, Vijay Thadani, chairman-CII Northern Region and chief executive officer of NIIT Ltd, said CII will soon be launching a project—University-Industry Congress—engaging vice chancellors of 25 universities.

Daughters of the brothel

Daughters of the brothel
Naseema was born into and lives in one of India's most infamous brothels but is now working to free trafficked women.
Witness Last Modified: 29 Jun 2011 10:40

Filmmaker Gautam Singh explains how he came to make Daughters of the brothel.

India's handwritten magazines have long fascinated me. But while researching the subject for a blog, I came across one in particular that stood out. Jugnu is a 32-page monthly magazine that has been written and published by the sex workers of the Chaturbhuj-sthan brothel in Bihar, near the border with Nepal, for the past 10 years.

Home to about 10,000 women and children, the whole area - named after the Chaturbhuj-sthan temple, which is located inside - is essentially one large brothel. Historians believe it was first established during the Moghul era. Prostitution has become a family tradition there - passed down from generation to generation.

Intrigued, I contacted the magazine and as more details emerged about this extraordinary publication and the women behind it, I realised that this story was much bigger than a blog.

The magazine had been set up by a group of sex workers led by one girl - Naseema. Born into Chaturbhuj-sthan, Naseema was abandoned by her mother and raised by a woman she calls her 'grandmother'. Although not actually related to her, this woman used the money she earned as a prostitute to raise Naseema and send her to school. Naseema became the first girl in the brothel's 300-or-so-year history to receive an education.

In pictures: Daughters of the brothel

When she returned to Chaturbhuj-sthan it was not to sell her body. With the help of local banks, Naseema established small industries inside the brothel - making candles, matchsticks, bindis and incense - offering many prostitutes an alternative form of employment. And she set about persuading the sex workers to send their children to school. Now almost every child in Chaturbhuj-sthan is in full-time education.

More than 50 former prostitutes now work with Naseema, who taught them how to read and write. As well as running the magazine - which is sold across India and also sent to subscribers elsewhere - Naseema and the other women work to prevent others being trafficked, mainly from neighbouring Nepal and Bangladesh, into prostitution. In the last year alone, they have been able to send at least 20 new girls safely back home.

But their work has brought them many enemies; the most feared being Rani Begum. As chief of the brothel, Begum's finances have suffered a blow as a result of Naseema's activities. Her thugs have publicly harassed and beaten Naseema and the other women who work with her. Naseema has also had to fight pimps, as well as some police officers and clerics who were unhappy about her work.

With a clearly identifiable hero, a suitably sinister villain and plenty of action guaranteed as they face off against one another, I felt I had come across a story worthy of a novel. I was hopeful that we could produce a perfect film, but shooting inside a brothel was never going to be easy. I deliberately chose a very small crew of just three people so that we might remain as invisible as possible. We used a Canon 7d camera. Its small size and light weight meant that we were able to move quickly from one place to the next - something that was to prove useful when Begum's thugs were sent to threaten us.

Before starting the shoot, I met Begum, hoping that this would reduce the likelihood of any problems arising at a later point. About 65 years old, she lives in a huge mansion inside Chaturbhuj-sthan. Polite and courteous, she sought to portray herself as somebody running a kind of welfare institute for destitute girls and referred to her brothel as a 'social heritage'. A former dancer herself, she stressed that every girl in the brothel is taught classical music and dance.

Begum grew less friendly when I started questioning her about Naseema and her work, but nevertheless promised not to trouble us as long as we filmed indoors. One day, however, while eating lunch, some men came to tell me that Rani Begum wanted us to leave. We eventually had to call the local police to enable us to complete our shoot.

For me, the most emotional scene in the film is when we meet Roma. A 19-year-old Bangladeshi girl, Roma thought she was coming to India to marry a friend of her brother-in-law. She was rescued from the brothel by Naseema and taken to live in a government shelter. But her family still refuses to allow her to return home for fear that she will give them a bad name. We were able to watch the heartfelt telephone conversation between Roma and her family as she pleaded with them to take her back.

And then there is the story of Boha Tola - a red light area in the neighbouring Sitamarhi district that was burnt down when local government officials conspired with villagers to eradicate it. Unofficial sources say that at least 100 women, men and children went missing as a result of the fire. As they were never officially registered by the government, no effort was made to find out what had happened to them.

Naseema and some of the other women recorded the incident on their mobile phones and gave me the footage to use exclusively in the film. They told horrifying tales of gang-rape, children being thrown onto fires and police brutality. Some of the women from Chaturbhuj-sthan went on hunger strike to show their solidarity with the people of Boha Tola, but the hunger strikers and their supporters were all put in prison.

Now 32 years old, Naseema is an amazing character who is proud to call herself "a daughter of the brothel".

Daughters of the brothel can be seen from Tuesday, June 28, at the following times GMT: Tuesday: 2230; Wednesday: 0930; Thursday: 0330; Friday: 1630; Saturday: 2230; Sunday: 0930; Monday: 0330; Tuesday: 1630.

Click here for more Witness.

Living in the shadow of prosperity: why children in rural India don't go to school

Living in the shadow of prosperity: why children in rural India don't go to school

Theme: What stops children in rural areas going to school? Sponsored by the David Rattray Memorial Trust

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guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 29 June 2011 15.35 BST

Madhumita Banerjee is the new head-teacher of a government-run school in Banipur, West Bengal, close to India's border with Bangladesh. Being a teacher and educator for 30 years has not been enough to prepare her for this schooling experience in rural Bengal. "I have never witnessed poverty at such close quarters," she explains. "Seeing children unable to study because they are dizzy from hunger makes me very uneasy about my own comforts. How can I eat my lunch when they don't have any?"

Twenty-first-century India often resembles the Dickensian tale of two cities. For some, it is the best of times; for millions of others, living in the shadow of prosperity, survival is a daily struggle. The levels of inequality are staggering. While India's economy continues to soar, with the IMF projecting its growth rate to be 8.4% in 2011, West Bengal remains one of the poorest states in the country. Nearly 11% of families in West Bengal face starvation during several months of the year. Small wonder then that parents – who work as domestic servants, rickshaw drivers, hawkers on local trains and in other unskilled occupations – are keen to take their children out of education and send them to the Employment Exchange. Teenagers can be enrolled here with a certificate stating that they have been educated up to 14 years. These parents are often illiterate themselves.

"Illiteracy is receiving minimal political attention and remains a global disgrace, keeping 774 million adults on the margins of society and around 72 million children out of school," declares the UNESCO report on Literacy Initiative for Empowerment (LIFE). Madhumita has to plead with parents to not stop their child's education. Parents, in turn, plead their purses. The 2010 Indian Right to Education Act asserts that free and compulsory education is the right of all children between six and 14, but there is no state or central educational funding for the Banipur school after a child is 14. The costs, however, keep mounting – new textbooks required each year, uniforms becoming patchy and outgrown, cloth shoes ripped in navigating country lanes and potholed roads, and monsoon ravages taking their toll. The cost of food is also a prohibitive factor. In 2009, the BBC reported that food prices in India were at a 10-year high, with the prices of pulses, rice, wheat, milk and potatoes having risen sharply. The "global disgrace" of illiteracy and its corollary, unfinished secondary education, has strong links to poverty and malnutrition.

A primary school in a village in north-eastern India has 55 students between the ages of four and 14. It comprises a single room without water or electricity, with the prescribed textbooks set at too advanced a level. The pupils write with a limited supply of chalk and slate, and the youngest children require feeding, washing and medical attention. The school has one untrained teacher. The drop-out rate, unsurprisingly, is 72%: children in rural India do not think that education is important or necessary when a large proportion of them cannot feel its benefits.

Yet a UK Department for International Development (DFID) research project asserts that primary education in developing countries is of enormous value. It builds a capacity for lifelong learning in individuals – the knowledge, skills and attitudes that contribute to general community development germinate here. Kofi Annan, when he was secretary-general of the United Nations in 1999, realised its economic significance when describing girls' education as the "single highest returning social investment in the world today." Statistics from charities such as Plan and Camfed demonstrate the transformative potential of education across the developing world. In Africa, if a girl finishes secondary school, she is three times less likely to contract HIV/AIDS, will earn up to 25% more income, and will possibly have a smaller and healthier family, in which she will be willing to invest up to 90% of her earnings. Schooling projects in the "poverty corridor" of Honduras have the long-term aim of benefiting communities from the growth of an educated younger generation that can create local business initiatives, provide work opportunities and boost the labour market.

But many rural Indian children clearly feel a disconnect from education. Most are first-time learners without any role models, which can be discouraging. "Children must learn to learn," says Madhumita. "Only a patient and committed teacher can bring the right blend of discipline and engagement to classes." In his report to the Global Campaign for Education, former prime minister Gordon Brown agrees, "Because no education system is better than the quality of the teaching it provides, it is essential that teachers are properly trained, well motivated and equipped to ensure that children learn." Of equal importance is infrastructural support – adequate toilets, sufficient classrooms and desks, textbooks and teaching aids, fully equipped kitchens, and safe conveyance to and from school, especially for girls. Where families do not realise the value of learning, the school has a greater social responsibility in demonstrating how effective education is in breaking the bonds of poverty. This integrated approach in reflected in Plan's 'Quality Education Programme', currently operating in 150 schools worldwide, which has increased parent participation and student enrolment, and seen a consequent decrease in drop-out rates.

"Parents need education too," believes Madhumita, "but social prejudice is rife in India. Rural parents see city-educated teachers as unapproachable; teachers often view villagers as incapable of learning simply because they come from rural areas. We have to bridge such divides." She also believes in the important connection between nutrition and education: when children are sent to school hungry, one of the best policies to retain them is by providing free meals. She recalls the time when she shared her sandwich lunch with two students. "I hadn't realised how strange a sandwich must seem to a rural Bengali boy," laughs Madhumita. As they headed for the playground waving this exotic food item, the boys were quickly surrounded by admiring schoolmates. They don't know it yet, but after the summer vacation, free school meals in the form of the more familiar rice, lentils and vegetables will be available to them everyday. Hope, in the form of a government meal grant, is on its way.

Public Spending on Education in India

Public Spending on Education in India
by Jayati Ghosh

The failure of the Indian state more than six decades after Independence to provide universal access to quality schooling and to ensure equal access to higher education among all socio-economic groups and across gender and region must surely rank among the more dismal and significant failures of the development project in the country. It is not only that the expansion of literacy and education has been far too slow, halting and even geographically limited. It is also that educational provision itself remains highly differentiated in both quantitative and qualitative terms.

There are huge differences in access to both schooling and higher education across location (rural/urban or state), economic category and social group, as well as by gender. And there are very significant variations in the quality of institution across different schools, colleges and universities, which mean that the experience of education is different for different students.

These differences in quality cannot be simplified into government or public versus private as is quite commonly done in journalistic discourse: there are some good government schools and some terrible private schools. In general, public higher educational institutions perform much better than private ones. All the so-called "institutions of excellence" in higher education are publicly created and publicly funded. Rather, the differences in quality often unfortunately reinforce differences on the basis of location and social divisions.

Thus, institutions in backward areas and in educationally backward States tend to be both underfunded and of poorer quality than institutions in metros or in more educationally developed States. Rural schools are often worse than urban schools (although once again, this is not inevitable) and schools catering to elite or middle-class children tend to be better than schools for the urban poor serving slum children or rural schools serving the children of agricultural labourers. Schools with dominantly upper-caste children also tend to provide better services than schools mostly catering to Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe or Muslim children. Schools with only girl students are more likely to be deficient in basic facilities, including toilets and fans in classrooms, and teaching aids. And so on.

These differences in the quality of schooling have significant implications because they do not simply affect the quality of education per se; they also affect the chances of entry into higher education and the possibilities of socio-economic advancement that come from such entry.

Thus, the access of deprived social groups is adversely affected not only by sheer quantitative variations, but also by differences in the quality of schooling. Since this acts as a filtering process for further education, it is not surprising that evidence of exclusion grows as one goes up the education ladder. Obviously, intelligence and merit must be normally distributed in society. So these very strong indicators of differential access to higher education across social groups do not reflect actual differences in the innate quality of aspiring students but the socio-economic discrimination that reduces the chances of many meritorious students even as it privileges the children of the elite who have access to "better" schooling. This is why the process of democratising even higher education cannot proceed very far without ensuring much more equitable social access to good-quality schooling.

All this, in turn, is critically determined in the first instance by public funding. It is difficult, if not impossible, to impart quality education "on the cheap". You cannot ensure quality without reasonably good infrastructure, sufficient numbers of trained and adequately compensated teachers, other amenities and teaching aids, including access to new technologies that are becoming an essential part of contemporary life. Yet the attempts to universalise school education have all too often been associated with just such a tendency, relying on underpaid "parallel" teachers, who in turn are forced to function with completely inadequate infrastructure and lack of even basic facilities.

Ensuring a reasonable quality of education to all children -- and thereby also ensuring a greater democratisation of the entire process -- necessarily requires a significant expansion of the resources to be provided to elementary school education. It is not just the need to expand the system to cover all children, as described in the Right to Education Act, which determines this. It is also because existing institutions have to be upgraded so that they qualify as schools providing good-quality education.

This is even more important because of the need to upgrade the "education centres" that are operating in many States to proper schools that meet all the norms in terms of trained teachers and minimum facilities, among other things. Also, in the urge to increase the coverage of secondary education, many primary schools are being upgraded to secondary school status without providing sufficient teachers, rooms and other pedagogical requirements such as specialised subject teachers and science laboratories. This severely compromises the quality of such secondary school education.

This is the context in which public expenditure on schooling must be assessed. This is not something that the current government is unaware of. Indeed, the need for greater public spending on education has been openly acknowledged in official quarters, even during the first tenure of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA). The National Common Minimum Programme of UPA-1 pledged to raise public spending in education to at least 6 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) with at least half this amount being spent on primary and secondary sectors. While there was some increase in the Central government expenditure, this particular goal was nowhere near being achieved by UPA-1, with public spending on education remaining at around 4 per cent of GDP, and certainly well below 5 per cent. The second tenure of the UPA has been marginally worse, with no significant increase in allocations for education.

As evident from Chart 1, this is an embarrassingly low ratio even by the standards of other developing countries. It is less than a quarter of the equivalent ratio in Cuba, but even well below the percentage of public spending on education to GDP in countries such as Kenya, Malawi and Ethiopia. And despite the UPA's promises and recent endeavours, the ratio in India is still substantially below that of the weighted average of all the countries in the world.

Chart 1

To make matters worse, instead of providing a big increase in the funding for school education, the Central government has actually retracted by reducing its commitment on Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan from 75 per cent to 50 per cent. This is a big blow, not only for those States where school education is still far from universal, but also for other States where there is a pressing need for more funds to improve the quality of schooling. Chart 2 shows that the State governments taken together are currently spending around 14 per cent of the total expenditure on education at all levels, a decrease from the level a decade ago but an increase compared with the middle years of the previous decade. But the Central government's declared desire to increase education spending is barely reflected in the budgetary figures with the amount spent remaining a shockingly low proportion of the total public spending.

Chart 2

Of course, it is true that resources alone are not enough. There are many other changes and reforms required in our school and higher education systems: greater decentralisation, greater flexibility, changing patterns of examination, different and more creative and relevant teacher training, and so on. But significantly higher levels of public funding are the necessary precondition for any other reforms to be successful, and indeed for us to even dare to hope for improved quality of education.

Surprisingly, even this rather obvious conclusion has become a matter of debate in India at present. It is generally agreed that more resources are required for education, but there are arguments that instead of relying on more public funding greater freedom should be granted for private provision of education. According to this view, there is no reason for the state to get into education provision, and instead it should focus on creating an "enabling environment" for private provision, even, if necessary, by recognising the possibility of profit-making investment in education, as in Singapore.

There are several levels of response to this argument. First, the significant presence of positive externalities in education (which means that the benefits of providing education extend beyond the agent that is spending the resources, to society as a whole) means that if it is left only to private hands it will be significantly underprovided, and poor children in backward areas, for example, will simply not be reached.

In any case there are good reasons why commercialisation of education is actually prohibited by law in India (even though it is -- as with so many other laws -- often more honoured in the breach). The possibility of being exploited by unscrupulous private providers who take advantage, particularly of those who do not have the access to information or training that would allow them to discriminate, is very high. That is why the explicit legal and official focus has been to encourage charitable institutions such as trusts and educational societies to provide private education.

This has not prevented all sorts of other private educational institutions from coming up, and naturally there is immense variation. There are excellent institutions with very good track records, including those which are actively engaged in affirmative action to ensure greater access for underprivileged children. At the opposite end, there are crammed tutorial centres and hole-in-the-wall teaching shops masquerading as "English medium" schools to profit from the unmet hunger for education that is so marked across India.

A recent survey (India Human Development Survey 2010) of 41,554 households across India allows us to compare the incidence of private schooling and the relative costs of such schooling across States. The results are shown in the accompanying table, from which several interesting features emerge. The ratio of private enrolment in schools for children aged 6-14 years varies dramatically across States, from a low of 6 per cent in Assam to a high of 52 per cent in Punjab. While both Punjab and Haryana have high ratios of privatisation of schooling, it is not as if this feature is otherwise strongly correlated with per capita income in the State. Nor is it that private education is always greater where public education is less funded (defined by the per capita annual total expenses in government schools), or even where the gap between public and private funding is large.

Table 1

What is clear from the table is that per capita expenditure is a critical variable in affecting quality. Thus Kerala, which is generally acknowledged to have a good government schooling system, has one of the highest per capita spending values. The highest was found in Himachal Pradesh, which is one of the great recent success stories of school education; it has achieved universal and good-quality school education despite being a relatively less wealthy State that has to deal with difficult terrain and logistical constraints. The table reinforces the point that to ensure quality, raising the level of public expenditure in education is absolutely essential. All this is especially important now that the right to education has become enshrined in law. If the Central government is really serious about this, it must put its money where its mouth is.
Jayati Ghosh is Professor, Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and Executive Secretary of International Development Economics Associates (IDEAs). This article was fist published in Frontline 28.14 (2-15 July 2011); it is reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes. Comments (0) | Print
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Put pre-school under RTE: NAC

Put pre-school under RTE: NAC
Publication: The Times of India
Date: Thu, 2011-06-30

The Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council has asked HRD ministry to examine bringing pre-school learning under the purview of Right to Education Act to "ensure continuity in the child's education".

In real terms, bringing pre-school learning into RTE would mean decreasing the age limit from six years to four years. Government would have to amend the RTE Act and change the norms of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the flagship programme, that is the main vehicle to implement RTE. Sources said it can be done without amending the Constitution. "Article 21A provides for free and compulsory education to children in the age group of six to 14. But it does not prohibit government from changing the school entry age to four," a source said.

HRD is already looking into the proposal to extend the RTE Act till class 10 from the current provision of class 8. However, in case of decreasing the school entry age to four the opinion varies. Many experts point out that right to education relates to formal schooling alone and not pre-school learning. It could also lead to a turf war between the ministry of women and child development and HRD.

NAC said ministries of women and child development and HRD should evolve a comprehensive national policy for early childhood and pre-school education. It said the policy must identify and propose appropriate curricular modules, promote age-appropriate learning and develop pre-school teacher-training modules and mechanisms.

The advisory body's recommendation has come as part of its report on the reform of Integrated Child Development Scheme. It has argued that children denied any pre-school education are severely disadvantaged when they enter class one at the age of six. "In the absence of a comprehensive national policy and regulatory framework on pre-school education, children between three and six years remain neglected," NAC said.

It said absence of accurate data on the provision of pre-school services, a proper assessment of needs, lack of clarity on the appropriate number of years of pre-schooling as well as the absence of a regulatory framework, policy guidelines, and designated pre-school services have led to confusion about the appropriate age of entry into class one, which in some states has dropped to five instead of six as envisaged by the RTE. The NAC said pre-primary schooling is already being contemplated by many states like Puducherry, Punjab and Kerala.

Introduce PPP model in education sector: Assocham

Introduce PPP model in education sector: Assocham

New Delhi, June 29 (PTI) Industry chamber Assocham today urged the government to introduce public-private partnership (PPP) model in education sector for efficient management.
The chamber said such partnerships would help government in meeting its obligation under the Right to Education Act, which promises free and compulsory education to children between the age of 6 and 14.
"There is huge dearth of education infrastructure in India. Private sector will have to step in so that quality education and vocational skills can be imparted to students," said Assocham Secretary General D S Rawat.
He said there could be contractual arrangements where private players perform a part of the government''s service delivery functions while assuming investment risks involved.
"PPP can emerge as a viable alternative towards improving the access to quality education while ensuring fairness and social justice. This will certainly augment education system in the long run," Rawat added.
The literacy rate of the country has reported a sharp increase from 18.39 per cent in 1950-51 to 65.38 per cent in 2000-2001. Of 65.38 per cent, one-third are in the age group seven years and above � are still illiterate, he said.

Government Schools’ boy students to get uniforms upto VIII class

Government Schools’ boy students to get uniforms upto VIII class
Category » Bhopal Posted On Tuesday, June 28, 2011

By Our Staff Reporter
Bhopal, June 28:
The state cabinet at its meeting chaired by the Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan today decided to provide free uniforms to boy students of all sections from I to VIII standard. For this, amount at the rate of Rs. 400 per student would be provided to their parents by account payee cheques. Following this decision about 7 lakh boy students of above poverty line and other sections would get uniforms from state’s plan head.
At present, under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan girl students of class I to VIII standard and boy students belonging to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and from BPL families get uniforms at the rate of Rs. 400 per student. As a result of today’s cabinet decision now there will be no discrimination and boy students of all sections would get free uniforms.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

No fee hike in private schools : Orissa HC

No fee hike in private schools : Orissa HC
PTI Jun 27, 2011, 09.56pm IST

CUTTACK: The Orissa high court said all private schools in the state, including the English medium institutions, should abide by the provisions of Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009 and coming under Orissa Education (OE) Act.

The state government had in April 2009 allowed the English medium schools to increase their school fees by 25 per cent and their development fees by 15%.

Delivering a verdict pertaining to DAV school fee hike case, a single-judge bench of Justice M M Das said all the private schools in the state, including the English medium ones, are under the purview of Orissa Education Act, thereby refusing to accept the contention of DAV school management that they do not come under the OE Act.

The high court also directed the state to form a high-level committee under the head of director, School and Mass Education, within four months to look into the fee structure of all private schools.

"The private schools wishing to make any change in their fee structure shall apply to the committee which, in turn, shall dispose off the applications within 90 days," the HC said.

In last April, the court had reserved the verdict after completion of hearing.

The judge thus struck down the earlier notification of the DAV management asserting that the schools should continue with their fee structure of 2008-09 academic year.

The decision of the state and subsequent fee hike notification of DAV school management was challenged in Orissa High Court by Parents' Association of Cuttack-based DAV school terming these (fee hike) "uncalled for, unilateral and arbitrary."

MP schools to begin new chapter with farm education

MP schools to begin new chapter with farm education

Madhya Pradesh on Tuesday announced that syllabus in government schools will be changed next year to restore to agriculture the status it once enjoyed in Indian society. The change will be incorporated from Class II onwards by including practical aspects of agriculture to make it appealing to students.

Justifying the move, School Education Minister Archana Chitnis said the new generation was unable to understand the ill-effects of GM food and Bt seeds because it was clueless about agriculture.

“The era of globalisation has threatened our ancient agriculture tradition. The new generation will be able to take policy decisions on agriculture issues if they learn its practical side,’’ she said.

No new subject will be added but some of the existing chapters will be restructured, Deputy Director of Department of Public Instructions P R Tiwari, who is the project coordinator, told The Indian Express.

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The state government has invited agriculture experts, NGOs and educationists to finalise the points to be included in the syllabi. Chitnis said the draft will be ready by October and the changes will come into effect from the next year.

Though agriculture is taught at higher secondary level, the course content does not reflect the expertise Indians had, and only praises the West for employing advanced techniques, said Tiwari. He added that even Class XI and XII syllabi will be suitably changed.

The government claimed that though agriculture is taught in other states, MP will be the first to restructure school syllabi in such a fashion.

B.Ed must, alternative schools weigh options

Ed must, alternative schools weigh options
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At Rishi Valley School and Doon School, many teachers have been working for a long time without a Bachelor’s degree in education, though some have a Master’s and some even a Ph D from elite institutions such as the IITs in India and Harvard abroad.

Now the government has asked these teachers to enroll in a distance learning programme, such as those offered by IGNOU, and get a Bachelor’s degree a diploma in education.

With the government firm that a teacher’s qualification must be standardised under the RTE Act, bigger “alternative schools” have fallen in line with the NCTE’s prescription while the smaller ones are looking at the prospect of closing down.

There had been initial protests. Last year, such schools appealed to the HRD Ministry for a more flexible approach but it only allowed a five-year window for untrained teachers to secure the qualifications to continue. Those who joined before 2001 can, however, continue. “Even Ph Ds will have to undergo training in order to be teachers,” an HRD Ministry

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official said.

The ministry feels such schools cater to a very small segment and wants all children to get “formal” education. It says such schools can either seek recognition in three years’ time, or close down, or function as learning centres.

This would mean a lot of schools in the slums or remote rural areas shutting down. Few have qualified teachers or the mandatory infrastructure, including a playground.

Most of the 60 teachers at Andhra Pradesh’s Rishi Valley School are without the qualification prescribed. “I am debating getting a degree,” said Alok Mathur, who has a B Tech from IIT-Bombay and a Master’s degree in Education Harvard University. He has the option, having joined in 1983. “Rishi Valley has more teachers than the required teacher-pupil ratio (1:30) so we are encouraging the younger teachers to go ahead and get the degree.”

Sita School in Bangalore, established in 1975 and catering to marginalised children aged between 4 and 15, could be among those shutting down. Its founder Jane Sahi jointly developed (along with academician Maxine Berntsen) the course in First Language Pedagogy for the MA in Elementary Education, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and they continue to teach the course together.

“I guess the school will have to shut down... I don’t have the required qualifications and I don’t think I can do it now,” said Sahi, who has written several books on English teaching.

With over 6 lakh teachers needing to acquire the degree, the Ministry plans to rope in state universities to train them through distance education courses.

At Vikasana on the outskirts of Bangalore, with 30 children in the age group 4-16, school head Malathisaid, “Alternative schools should be allowed to continue. It is illogical. They can’t universalise education,” Malathi said.

At Vidyodaya, an Adivasi school in Gudalur in Tamil Nadu with 100 students, founder B Ramdas said, “We won’t be able to comply. The only option is to close. We have 100 children of the Nilgiris,” he said.

He said alternative schools have mostly catered to children with special needs and have been founded with minimal budgets so it may be difficult for them to fulfil the criteria specified. The founders are often highly qualified but may not have B Ed, he said.

Act will take 3 more years to show results: Sibal

RTE Act will take 3 more years to show results: Sibal
PTI
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Faced with teacher shortage and other infrastructural hurdles, the Government has said the ambitious Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act will take at least three more years to show results.

“It (RTE Act) is going to take three years at least. This is not something that is going to bear fruit tomorrow,” HRD Minister Kapil Sibal told PTI.

Many hurdles have to be overcome for effective implementation of the Act as the states don’t have the necessary “wherewithal and infrastructure”, he said.

The Act provides for free and compulsory education to all children in the age group of 6-14 years.

Recently, some states had approached the Ministry seeking relaxation of teacher qualification norms under the Act due to shortage of teacher training institutes.

Section 23(2) of the RTE Act provides a time frame of five years for ensuring that all teachers in elementary school are trained and within this period they need to acquire professional qualification.

At a meeting of the state education ministers here on June 8, it came into light that there are over seven lakh untrained teachers in the country, the largest number of them are in Bihar, followed by Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and West Bengal.

Moreover, of the total number of untrained teachers, around 5.48 lakh are at primary level and 2.25 lakh at upper primary level.

Mr. Sibal, however, said the feedback received about the willingness of the states to implement the Act has been “very positive”.

Till now, 18 States have notified the Act which came into force from April last year and 14 of them have constituted the State commission for protection of child rights as per the provisions of the Act.

The role of State commission is to examine and review safeguards for ensuring rights of the children.

Some States have also sought a revision of the funding norms citing budgetary constraints.

While Bihar suggested raising the Centre’s contribution from 65 per cent to 90, Chhattisgarh demanded it should be revised in the ratio of 75:25 instead of 65:35.

Uttar Pradesh Education Minister R. Tripathi had said his “State is yet to get the Centre’s share for implementing RTE“.

Neoliberal Act

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COVER STORY

Neoliberal Act

ANIL SADGOPAL

The Right to Education Act, which lacks a transformational vision, is geared to preparing foot soldiers for the global market.

K.R. DEEPAK

Schoolchildren from socially and economically backward sections in Visakhapatnam. Inspite of the tall claims by the government, the political will to guarantee universal quality education has been missing.

THE most encouraging and delightful news regarding school education in India since the pro-market reforms began in 1991 came from Erode district in Tamil Nadu recently. To be sure, it is neither about the World Bank-sponsored District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) of the 1990s nor about the internationally funded and much-hyped Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) of the first decade of this century. It is not even about the high-profile “The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009” (popularly called the Right to Education Act, or RTE Act). Instead, the news that needs to be celebrated nationwide is about a simple act of the District Collector of Erode.

The Collector, Dr R. Anandakumar, and his wife, Dr M. Shrividya, went to the Tamil-medium Panchayat Union (government) School at Kumalankuttai near the Collectorate, stood in the queue along with other parents, and got their daughter Gopika admitted in the school. The Collector also told the headmistress, S. Rani, that his child would take the midday meal served in the school, rather than eat lunch sent from home.

Gopika's schoolmates are children of dyeing unit workers, auto drivers, daily-wage labourers and weavers. If all those who are on the government payroll – officials, Members of Parliament, Members of the Legislative Assembly, Ministers, members of the judiciary and, of course, teachers of schools, colleges and universities – take their cue and get their children admitted in neighbourhood government schools, it is bound to bring about two revolutionary changes.

K. MURALI KUMAR

A CHILD OF a migrant worker on his way to work at construction site in Bangalore.

First, this expression of trust by the powerful elite and its allies will set the entire government school system on a decisive course of recovery to its heyday of the 1970s – before the middle class began its “grand” escape from government schools to private schools. The talk of poor infrastructure, teacher absenteeism, vacant teacher posts, ill-paid and untrained para-teachers, unfavourable pupil-teacher ratios, multi-grade teaching, lack of teaching/learning material and missing or non-functional toilets will, in the foreseeable future, become passé. A democratic, decentralised and participative system of governance will replace the colonial mode. The curricular and pedagogic quality of teaching will improve, and the teachers will begin to innovate, create and even question the Macaulayian texts, content and evaluation norms. The state, even this neoliberal state, will stop spreading the falsehood of “resource crunch” and begin to increase allocations for education as a political priority since the children of the ruling class and its beneficiaries are studying there.

Second, in tandem with this transformation, the prevailing phenomenon of privatisation and commercialisation of school education will begin to beat a hasty retreat – a logical outcome of the shrinking market as children of the powerful and articulate sections of society begin to return to government schools. Also, Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal's pro-corporate policy of public-private partnership (PPP) in education (including higher education) and bank loans to finance children's education will not be required anymore. A by-product would be a significant saving of fuel, as school busses will stop plying, since all children, irrespective of their socio-economic status, will be studying in neighbourhood schools, government or private.

Ironically, the RTE Act, designed to sustain a discriminatory multilayered school system and thereby accelerate both commoditisation of school education, on the one hand, and exclusion of the poor, on the other, will become a major obstacle in this transformation. It will have to be eventually replaced by a new Act drafted in the framework of establishing a public-funded Common School System based on Neighbourhood Schools (CSS-NS). This will be the only historic option in education for reconstructing the polity of the Republic as envisaged in the Constitution.

Admittedly, there is not even an iota of chance that the example set by the Erode Collector will catalyse the kind of change envisioned above. The bitter truth is that the Indian state of late has been acting more as an agent of the neoliberal capital than as the guardian of the people's democratic rights, equitable development and welfare as guaranteed in the Constitution. Its policy focus is on throwing open Indian education as one of the most lucrative markets for global investment as per the World Trade Organisation-General Agreement on Trade in Services (WTO-GATS) agenda. This is evident in a range of initiatives such as the PPP, voucher schools, refinanced loans and tax exemptions to both the investors (corporate houses, non-governmental organisations and religious bodies) and the consumers (children and parents) and a range of pro-market laws on the anvil, including the foreign university Bill. Policymaking, a sovereign function of legislatures, is being outsourced to corporate houses or their NGOs and foundations.

M. KARUNAKARAN

Students in a primary school run by the Chennai Corporation learning to use the computer.

Further, the objective of education is no more the building up of a democratic, socialistic, secular, egalitarian and enlightened society. The Eleventh Plan and other policy documents such as the reports of Sam Pitroda's Knowledge Commission and the Yash Pal Committee on Renovation and Rejuvenation of Higher Education make it clear that the entire education system is being geared to the sole objective of preparing a highly “skilled but entirely slavish workforce” or “foot soldiers” – from plumbers and electricians to economists, information technology specialists, nuclear engineers and biotechnologists – for the global market.

What lies at the core of the neoliberal policy framework of school education is (a) opening new markets by demolishing the vast government school system, except some specified categories of elite schools such as Kendriya Vidyalayas and Navodaya Vidyalayas or the Eleventh Plan's block-level model schools and their counterparts in various States/Union Territories; (b) shifting public funds to corporate houses, NGOs and religious bodies through PPP, school vouchers, refinanced loans, cash transfers and tax exemptions; and (c) expediting abdication by the state of its constitutional obligation to ensure education of equitable quality to all children. It is precisely in this policy background that the farcical RTE Act was conceived.

In spite of the tall claims by the government, the political will to guarantee universal quality education has steadily declined, as is evident from the declining or almost static public expenditure on education as a percentage of the gross domestic product since 1986 (see figure).

In conceiving the RTE Act, the state was guided by two key features of neoliberal economic order. First, children of different sections of society shall have access to varying quality of schooling in accordance with their socio-economic and cultural status or purchasing capacity or both. This is evident from the very definition of “school” in clause (n) of Section 2, which provides for four categories of schools of varying quality and provisions.

The Act insists on compartmentalising RTE in these categories. For instance, Section 5 provides for the right of the child to seek transfer to another school under certain circumstances. However, in the very next breath, it restricts the right of the child to seek transfer to schools of “specified category” (that is, Kendriya Vidyalayas, Navodaya Vidyalayas and other similar elite schools) and private, unaided schools. This implies that almost 80 per cent of the children in the 6-14 age group shall be denied education in schools which the state itself considers, rightly or wrongly, as providers of higher quality education. This deception destroys the very basis of education as a Fundamental Right read in conjunction with Article 14 (equality before law), Articles 15 (prohibiting the state from discriminating) and Article 16 (social justice).

The second feature of the neoliberal economic order that informs the Act is the brazen pursuit of privatisation and commercialisation of education. For instance, look at what probably can be regarded as the Act's worst provision, that is, the provision of 25 per cent seats being reserved in schools of “specified category” and private schools, aided or unaided (Section 12), for “children belonging to weaker section and disadvantaged group in the neighbourhood” (see also item 6 in the box). This provision amounts to the declaration that at present private schools are not only of higher quality compared with government schools but shall remain so even after the Act is implemented.

M. GOVARTHAN

R. Anandakumar, the Collector of Erode, who put his child in a government school.

In order to further increase discrimination in and through education, Kapil Sibal told a gathering of managers of a powerful school lobby in New Delhi in February 2010 that the Act did not prevent private schools from increasing their fees or underpaying the teachers as per their convenience. When reminded about the existing laws that authorise some of the States/U.Ts to regulate the fee structure of private schools, Sibal assured them that in view of concurrency of education, any provision in a State/U.T. law that was in conflict with a Central Act would become infructuous. His proclamation follows the World Bank diktat that “user pays the cost”.

This is precisely why the agitations organised by parents in the past few years against fee hikes are unlikely to achieve their objective unless they also repudiate this pro-commercialisation Act and seek restoration of the constitutional obligation of the States/U.Ts to regulate private schools. Indeed, this and other dilutions or distortions of the constitutional vision in the Act have opened the space for private school lobbies to petition the Supreme Court asserting their right under Article 19 (1) (g) but questioning the state's obligation under Article 19 (6) to impose “reasonable restrictions” on private bodies “in the interests of the general public”.

The provision of 25 per cent is farcical for another reason, too. As per the data collected in 2010 by the District Information System for Education (DISE), developed by the National University of Education Planning and Administration (NUEPA) and the HRD Ministry, only about 18 lakh children can hope to get admission in Class I (or nursery, as the case may be) under this provision in the current academic year, if implemented fully. In contrast, 2-2.5 crore children shall seek admission in Class I in government schools during the current year. Yet, the whole day one heard the government propaganda on radio on how fortunate the children are that they have now “gained a right to be admitted in a private school in their neighbourhood”.

Recently, a Hindi daily carried a report which said that 90 per cent of the target of the RTE Act had been fulfilled in Itarsi, a town in Madhya Pradesh with a population of more than two lakh. The report went on to say that of a target of 262 children to be admitted under the 25 per cent provision, 240 children had already been admitted. What about the remaining thousands of children of Itarsi? This misconception of the RTE is inherent in its 25 per cent provision.

Through the 25 per cent provision, the state has almost achieved another hidden agenda. As the Act was being drafted in 2004-05 by the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) Committee under Sibal's chairpersonship, a movement was building up for the CSS in various parts of the country, often engaging community leadership at the grass roots. In Bihar, the government was persuaded to set up a Common School System Commission in 2006, though Chief Minister Nitish Kumar later dumped its report under neoliberal pressure. Since the Act's implementation, the community leaders have shifted their attention to seek admission for their own or others' children under the 25 per cent provision, thereby distracting from the movement. The movement will regain momentum as the Act fails to fulfil people's aspirations for education of equitable quality and social relevance in due course of time, as has been the case with the DPEP and the SSA.


In Tamil Nadu, a movement for CSS (Samacheer Kalvi) has already caught people's imagination. The previous Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government had no option but to respond by passing the Tamil Nadu Uniform [ sic] System of School Education Act, 2010, its incomplete vision of the CSS notwithstanding.

The private school lobby, upset by this, filed a petition in the Madras High Court. Kudos to the judiciary for upholding the basic tenets of the Act although yielding to some of the demands of the lobby. The common school movement in Tamil Nadu has now linked fee structure with curriculum, arguing that if you let the curriculum to be guided by the market dictum, the fees will accordingly rise. This new poser is pregnant with radical transformational potential.

The RTE Act misleads people in more ways than one. The box shows what will happen if the Act is implemented with “100% efficiency and zero % corruption”.

Hopefully, the vast NGO sector that has been mobilised by UNICEF and other international agencies in collaboration with the government in support of the Act will take a second look at their agenda of pushing an Act that not only denies the Fundamental Right to education but also lacks a transformational vision. This self-introspection may help the NGOs to challenge the apologists of the Act who have used the “something is better than nothing” trick to confuse the RTE discourse. This “something”, too, might have been acceptable if it did not lead to distracting the people from their struggle to gain the right to education of equitable quality along with an “education that liberates” ( sa vidya ya vimuktaye) rather than enslaves. The Fundamental Right must not be reduced to crumbs or patronage.

The people of Gobindpur village in Jagatsighpur district are heroically resisting the unjust land-grabbing by the Orissa government on behalf of the South Korean transnational steel major POSCO. Expectedly, schoolchildren are in the forefront of the anti-POSCO struggle, and therefore, they will not be in schools.

The RTE Act has no conception of this denial, which is becoming a common feature of neoliberal polity. An education system along with its curriculum and pedagogy that questions the moral validity of the neoliberal economic order is implicitly at the core of the political agenda of the anti-POSCO and other such struggles, not the “something is better than nothing” RTE Act designed to exclude the masses and prepare foot soldiers for the global market.

Dr Anil Sadgopal is Member, Presidium, All India Forum for Right to Education & Former Dean, Faculty of Education, University of Delhi

Teachers first

Teachers first

PADMA SARANGAPANI

The state is not serious about the need for a robust programme of elementary teacher education to realise the right to education.

PTI

A teacher with a poster demanding higher wages pinned on her back, in Gurgaon in February.

IN India today it is difficult to decide how the agenda for teacher education and its reform can be taken forward. The Right to Education will succeed only if teachers are able to work to ensure that all children do become educated by attending school; effectively, this means that the state has placed the onerous responsibility of ensuring the realisation of the right on teachers. Given the diversity and complexity of the situations of children who are now entering the portals of our schools, teachers need to have at their disposal a deep fund of empathy, commitment, conviction and ability and motivation to persevere; of knowledge and resources to respond and create meaningful educational experiences for all children.

Existing pre-service teacher education programmes for elementary schoolteachers, the two-year, post-secondary school Diplomas in Education, are ill-equipped to achieve this, even in places where they are conducted sincerely. Dominant D.Ed syllabi tend to follow Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) formats – they are oriented to teaching ‘textbooks', they lack grounding in contemporary understanding of childhood, child development and learning theory, and they assume middle-class norms, leaving student-teachers with only ‘deficit' theories to use when thinking about families and children of the poor or marginalised groups.

That a reformed and robust programme of elementary teacher education has a bearing on realising the right to education is obvious, yet there is immense reluctance on the part of the state to respond to this requirement with the seriousness it deserves. The Eleventh Plan for teacher education has still not been okayed by the Finance Department. Important ideas in it to strengthen the involvement of universities in elementary education and to create block-level institutes for teacher education in backward districts remain unattended, even as the Twelfth Plan is just around the corner in 2012.

The National Council for Teacher Education again lost its head just as it began to take up and respond resolutely and sensibly to important agendas – such as preparing a new teacher education curriculum framework, setting down teacher qualifications to be notified under the RTE, and formulating the teacher eligibility test. Some States which had just begun to initiate a review of the State D.Ed curricula have now put the processes on hold in response to these confusing signals from the Centre. We are seeing a struggle regarding the place and form of teacher education reform on the national agenda. There seem to be two reasons for this. The first is a more obvious financial one, and the second is more subtle.

Teachers are the most ‘expensive' part of the education system, and any effort to cut costs of education strikes at teachers' salaries. This is seen widely in the private sector, where teachers are paid a pittance and there is enormous variability in pay. Beginning with Shiksha Karmi, the Indian state has legitimised the creation of ‘para- teachers' in primary education. By definition, these teachers are not expected to have pre-service teacher education qualifications. Some researchers claim that these teachers produce equal if not better results in terms of children's learning. Some researchers even claim that the small unregulated private schools, which keep costs very low by employing unqualified teachers and paying them very little, achieve better ‘results' than government schools with qualified and well-paid teachers. The claim is that they provide better ‘value for money' and that investment in pre-service teacher education is unnecessary.

Structured curricula, close monitoring and the incentivised practice of ‘payment by results' would, it is claimed, be the best way to take quality education to all children. These arguments are founded on partial information regarding children's learning and overall experience of school. They also draw upon the narrow sampling of what will count as children's learning, and very often the comparisons do not control for parental backgrounds and other such effects. As long as teacher education curricula themselves remain moribund, the arguments that pre-service teacher education is not really necessary in order to teach appeal to the common sense, and along with this the appeal of the idea that under-qualified and hence low-paid, well-managed teachers can produce ‘results'.

The second reason comes from the subtle and complex character of what constitutes the ‘knowledge' of good teaching and how someone can acquire it through a period of education. There have been widely differing and competing paradigms on how to conceptualise this. Traditionally, teacher education was carried out in ‘normal' schools through apprenticeship. Mostly, only subject matter knowledge was asked for. The Radhakrishnan Committee, which looked at university education, was of the view that teachers required only good subject knowledge and ‘education mindedness'. Many people even today believe that what primary teachers basically need is ‘love for children' and ‘commitment'.

E. LAKSHMI NARAYANAN

In Salem, diploma holders in Teacher Education waiting in a queue on a Sunday to register their names with the District Employment Office when it opens the next morning. A 2009 photograph.

Some theorists have conceptualised the work of teachers in terms of a range of ‘competencies' and try to train teachers on each ‘sub skill' through practice and reinforcement. The idea that teachers need to be considered as ‘intellectuals' – involved in thinking and solving problems in the classroom, adapting to new situations and interpreting and reflecting in order to work – began taking shape only in the last three decades. This notion of the teacher as an autonomous and thinking practitioner has always existed – it is the basis of the ideal of ‘guru' or ‘Socrates' as a model teacher.

What is new is that this notion of a ‘teacher' is now ‘democratised'. Instead of being only in elite and exclusive institutions, such teachers are expected to work in the ‘mass education system' to realise the educational aims for all children, and teacher education is central to the development of such teachers. This certainly requires more investment of time and intellectual inputs. However, even educated people are unable to imagine the humble primary schoolteacher and her work as being intellectual and rigorous. The Bachelor of Elementary Education (B.El Ed) programme of the University of Delhi is one such programme that has succeeded in demonstrating that it is possible to prepare thinking, reflecting and highly motivated teachers who are willing and able to work even in government schools and with very underprivileged children.

It is imperative to renew the curricula of pre-service teacher education. The five key aspects that must be attended to are:

1. Enabling students to become knowledgeable in content and learning pedagogy in relation to content. We must acknowledge that dominant school experiences of rote learning do not lead to adequate understanding of content that is required. Pedagogy cannot be learnt or practised without the content.

2. Radically restructuring the experience of learning so that student-teachers begin to think of the aims of education differently and are able to question conventional notions of ‘deficit' and educability of the poor. Approaches to literacy and early reading are among key areas that elementary schoolteachers need grounding in, in contemporary thinking.

3. Growth of the person of the student-teacher in self confidence, communication and self-reflection, particularly so that she can review and interrogate her own socialisation.

4. Engagement with the idea of education in relation to society – to understand the phenomenon of social diversity and student diversity, to appreciate different forms of childhood and family contexts.

5. Support in becoming agents of change for which the understanding of the profession and the formation of a community of professionals is essential.

Today, in some States, the Central government is considering large-scale expansion of open and distance learning methods of educating and certifying the large numbers of teachers who have no qualification. This is on account of the compulsions of the RTE, which requires achieving this target within five years, of which more than one year is already over. There is a real danger that in an effort to meet the target, the content of teacher education will be completely compromised and turned into a sham. This has already happened in the case of most of the in-service training programmes where targets of training days are achieved with nothing of any worth being transacted in the training centres, with only teachers' cynicism being strengthened.

In the name of pressuring the state to take quality of education seriously, this clause of the RTE Act may have in fact precipitated complete deregulation by providing new fields in which it can be ‘proved' that ‘qualified' teachers produce no impact on the quality of education. The spread of quality in teacher education then is a slow process, but there is no ground to believe that it does not produce effects.

In a recent interview with the Minister for Education of Finland, which has scored well in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), he identified the investment in teacher preparation as being the single contributing factor to this achievement.

In 1986, soon after preparing the National Policy of Education, the state had begun an indigenous process of investing in pre-service teacher education through the creation of District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs) throughout the country. Regretfully, the externally funded District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) distracted central attention from this institution-building effort towards in-service training of teachers, claiming that this would produce the desired effects of raising quality.

Investment in reviewing and reforming pre-service teacher education may have more effectively achieved the goals of both forming and securing professional identity and preparedness for the diversity in the classroom as a result of inclusion through the RTE. The Central government needs to be persuaded to approach the implementation of reform of teacher education with the systematic investment and attention it requires and safeguard it from being hijacked by short-sighted, cost-saving alternatives.

Padma Sarangapani is a Professor in the Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

Kerala's lessons

Kerala's lessons

R. KRISHNAKUMAR
in Thiruvananthapuram

The State's public education system faces the threat of dilution from several quarters.

H. VIBHU

A MARCH activists of the SFI organised to the Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram on June 23 demanding that the government accept its charter of educational rights.

WHEN a national law is finally in place to ensure that not a single child is out of school, there is a growing concern in Kerala, which already has a well-established, though languishing, public education system, about the United Democratic Front (UDF) government's moves to sanction a large number of private, unaided schools.

The decision to issue no objection certificates (NOCs) to over 600 private schools offering the CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) or ICSE (Indian Certificate Secondary Education) stream in an already over-crowded education sector has rekindled interest about the changes in the school system in Kerala, which, going by recent demographic trends, faces the prospect of a decline in the number of school-going children.

For nearly two decades now, Kerala has been engaged in an exciting but controversial revision of the school curriculum and pedagogy, with a drastic shift away from customary textbook-oriented teaching and learning to an activity-oriented, intrinsically motivating learning process.

Yet, despite the claims about improvement in learning abilities and teaching standards and increasing involvement of local bodies and Parents-Teachers Associations (PTAs) in local school development and their commitment towards improving infrastructure and other facilities, government and aided private schools have not really come to terms with the general perception about their declining quality, indicated by the steady decline in student enrolment. Nor have they been able to stem the steady flow of students to an ever-increasing number of “private, unaided (even, unauthorised), English-medium schools”.

The results of the first official enumeration undertaken this academic year indicate that there are 42,30,311 students on the rolls in government, aided and recognised unaided schools following the State syllabus – a decline of 1.21 lakh compared with the last year. Of them, 94,000 study in the languishing aided schools. In 2010-11, too, there was a decrease of 1.15 lakh students, a trend seen in previous years too.

Even as the year's head count was on in State-run schools, there were widespread protests over the decision of the Congress-led government to give NOCs to private CBSE/ICSE schools that had the stipulated infrastructure facilities in place and were seeking recognition from the respective Central boards. The NOC from the State government is a condition for obtaining recognition from the Central boards.

There are reportedly 2,500-odd applications from such schools pending before the State government. A number of these schools have been functioning for several years now without obtaining an NOC. True to the trend in Kerala where anybody can start a school today, most of these school managements first buy land and buildings and are hence ready to demand NOCs as and when a State government feels generous about it. Until that time, such institutions present their students – after several years of “unrecognised schooling”– for Class X Board examinations through other established schools in the neighbourhood that already have the Central Board's clearance.

In its previous term from 1996 to 2001, the UDF had given NOCs to nearly 500 CBSE/ICSE schools. The LDF government, which came to power subsequently, initially took a tough stand on the issue but eventually gave sanction to 42 CBSE schools.

But if there are enough schools for all the children in the State, why should the ever-growing interest in private unaided English-medium CBSE/ICSE schools be such a bother?

Public provisioning of education (and health) facilities has long been the basis of Kerala's acclaimed development achievements. As is well documented, historically all the social reform and political movements in Kerala have encouraged school education as an effective tool against caste, gender and class discrimination. Kerala accepted early enough that “mass literacy required mass schooling”. It is also a State where recognition came quite early that “universal education, paid for by the state, was an objective of state policy” (as it was affirmed in a royal declaration in erstwhile Travancore, which is now part of the State, as early as 1817).

Kerala, therefore, surged ahead of many other States in human development indicators such as literacy levels, including female literacy levels, enrolment in schools, percentage of girl students and Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes students in schools, low drop-out rates and the number of schools (and colleges) even in remote areas. By the early 1980s, enrolment at the primary level was near universal, with virtually no gender gap. Also, significantly, even as early as 1957, 41 per cent of the schoolteachers in Kerala were women, a factor that must have encouraged many parents to send their girls to school, according to scholars. The trend has continued, and at present 71.28 per cent of schoolteachers are women.

S. GOPAKUMAR

An activist injured in a confrontation with the police during the protest.

By 2002-03, Kerala had one lower primary school for every square kilometre and one high school for every 4 sq km. According to a 2009 survey, there were only 15,776 out-of-school children in the 6-14 age group. Almost all government schools, except a handful, had pucca buildings, access to drinking water, and toilet facilities for boys and girls. Public spending on education in Kerala was the highest in the country and more than 80 per cent of it was on school education.

Government and aided schools had for long been the backbone of the State's public education system. Of the 12,642 schools in 2009-10, about 4,501 (35.6 per cent) were government schools, 7,278 (57.57 per cent) were aided schools, while 863 (6.83 per cent) were private, unaided schools. Private, aided schools outnumber government schools at all levels from lower primary to high school.

In addition, according to State government figures, 912 schools in the State offer courses in non-State syllabi, of which 764 are CBSE schools and 108 are ICSE schools. There were 26 Kendriya Vidyalayas and 14 Jawahar Navodaya schools.

Many more CBSE/ICSE schools are certainly functioning without authorisation, but, as one official told Frontline, “because of the chaotic scenario in the CBSE stream, which allows private study up to Class VIII and does not insist on textbooks or curriculum prescribed by the CBSE alone in these classes”, there are no reliable figures available to indicate how many of them are weaning students away from State-run schools.

The school-age population in Kerala has been falling steadily from the early 1990s, as a result of the low birth rate-low death rate demographic transition. But fertility decline alone cannot account for the reduction in the number of children in government and aided, private schools.

A key factor is the steady increase in enrolment in the unaided, private, English-medium schools, which follow the non-State syllabi. According to one estimate, between 1990-91 and 2002-03, enrolment in government schools fell by 25.6 per cent, whereas it increased by 71 per cent in private, unaided schools.

UNECONOMIC SCHOOLS

Such a competitive atmosphere has resulted in a lingering problem of “uneconomic schools”, not in the unaided sector that collects hefty fees and donations and hence can afford to offer more facilities to attract students, but among the government and aided schools. The State pays the salaries of teachers and non-teaching staff in aided schools and provides a maintenance grant to the managers in return for subsidised education.

According to the Kerala Education Rules, a school becomes “uneconomic” when the number of students in each class/batch falls below 25. A rule of thumb, for example, has been to consider a school with four classes/batches as uneconomic if the total strength falls below 100. But “considering the pressure that invariably accompanies any move to close down such schools in Kerala”, the rule has now come to mean that a school is uneconomic if the total strength falls below 50 students, a government official said.

Along with uneconomic schools comes a category of “protected teachers” who are rendered surplus as a result of declining student strength. They were originally recruited by private-aided school managements at their own terms, in most cases after accepting donations, but their salaries, even when they are found to be in excess, continue to be paid by the government.

Teacher costs account for 85 per cent of the total government spending on education in Kerala.

In 2009-10, the fall in student enrolment resulted in 3,962 schools being considered uneconomic, out of which 1,974 were government schools and 1,988 were aided private schools. Of the 2,916 protected teachers, 1,189 were redeployed in government schools and 359 in other aided schools, while 899 were retained in the parent schools.

The original decision of the government was to close down uneconomic schools. But very few uneconomic schools were eventually closed down. Instead, governments began to neglect such schools, by not filling retirement vacancies, and so on, and such institutions continued to have a “sub-normal survival” with further decline in student strength.

“The quality improvement programmes may have benefited schools in the urban centres. But in the rural and semi-urban centres schools are yet to improve [their standards] and even poor parents are reluctant to send their children to such schools,” T.K. Jose, a senior government official who spearheaded the Kudambashree poverty eradication programme, said.

The situation is worse in the aided private school sector, according to Education Department officials. This year, the fall in the number of students was 94,000 in the aided schools, whereas it was about 20,000 in the government schools.

“Kerala's education system is about to face the same fate as its once-acclaimed health care system. As its market share went down, below 40 per cent or so, the quality of health care in the government system, except perhaps in the medical college hospitals and a handful of district or taluk hospitals, went down considerably and people increasingly began to depend on costly private hospitals. Government hospitals became more and more uneconomic with further erosion in quality. That is going to happen to public education in Kerala, too,” James Varghese, Secretary, General Education, told Frontline.

In this context, the introduction of some of the provisions of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, too, may prove to be troublesome in Kerala, he said. With the Act insisting on neighbourhood schools within walking distance of every child's residence, even a State like Kerala, already saturated with schools, will have to open new schools – at least about 200 to 300 more. “When you go on adding schools, the student strength will naturally decline and you will be left with more uneconomic schools as a result,” he said.

Another important problem for the State will be the provision in the Act for 25 per cent reservation of seats as State quota in unaided private schools for neighbourhood children from deprived sections of society. Kerala's public school system already covers almost all such children. Yet it will be forced to subsidise the cost of education of the 25 per cent of the students in the private schools every year, as well. Moreover, with underprivileged students seeking admission in private schools, there will be further erosion in the number of students in the government and aided schools.

The popularity of the unaided CBSE/ICSE schools, even among parents from underprivileged sections of Kerala society, has often been seen as a testimony to the poor quality of education in the government and aided schools. So, has the recent curriculum reform in Kerala been an utter failure?

“The State system has proved to be far superior to the CBSE stream. For example, 11 States have adopted the CBSE syllabus in their State schools. Studies conducted by independent agencies have consistently shown that children in the Kerala State stream have much better learning achievements than students in these States. Other States have already started treating the curriculum revision in Kerala as a model. But within Kerala, it is yet to get widespread recognition,” James Varghese said.

“Kerala's public education system faces the threat of dilution from several quarters. Eventually, it will only affect the poor, who will then be left with a much weakened system, while the middle class and the rich will seek the unaided CBSE/ICSE schools more and more,” he said.

Education is free in both government and aided schools. It means that 93 per cent of the schools in Kerala offer free education, which is a boon for poor students. This is the basis for the acclaim that the universal, secular and unifying system is a great leveller of Kerala society. By offering NOCs to CBSE/ICSE schools, the UDF government is perhaps indicating a dangerous course correction, putting pressure on parents from low-income backgrounds, too, to send their children to private schools at unreasonable costs in search of doubtful quality or force them to be excluded from the mainstream.

Even as early as 2005, the Human Development Report prepared for the State government by the Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram, cautioned: “That private sector provision is qualitatively superior is supposed by the general economic logic of quid pro quo, that a price ensures and enforces quality. Such arguments are both baseless and dangerous. Baseless, because conveniently forgotten here is the fact that there is no free lunch: behind every public provision, there is a price in the form of taxes from the public and this price should have ensured and enforced quality as much as it does in private provision. Dangerous, because it props up an unwarranted bias for private sector where there is an explicit provision for exclusion. If education, as perceived in Kerala, is a major way of levelling society, then unequal schooling – due to varying educational quality – operates against this. Hence, reallocation of public funds to improve quality of basic education in Kerala is essential for the benefit of children of low-income families.”

00% cut-off symptom of a disease, says Yash Pal

00% cut-off symptom of a disease, says Yash Pal
Kalpana Pathak / Mumbai June 17, 2011, 0:45 IST

For former head of the University Grants Commission, Yash Pal, students scoring 100 per cent should be given negative marking. For, in the race to ‘mug up’, they would have learnt nothing and washed out their creativity.

That’s obviously an extreme view, but Pal, who two years ago chaired a 24-member Committee on reforming higher education, has reasons to feel disappointed at the decision of Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) to fix 100 per cent cut-off marks for admission.

“We train our students to work for others. Indian colleges teach their students to make nuts and bolts, and the so-called specialisation that institutes talk about is highly unrealistic. Even IITs are nothing but undergraduation factories,” says Pal.

His report on ‘Renovation and Rejuvenation of Higher Education’ that he gave to the Ministry of Human Resource Development in June 2009, is nowhere close to implementation.

Among other recommendations, the committee proposed a national testing scheme for university admissions on the lines of Graduate Record Examinations, an admission requirement for many colleges in the United States, open to all aspirants and to be held more than once a year.

Human resource development minister Kapil Sibal promised the same yesterday after SRCC’s decision became public, but Pal isn’t convinced. “The ministry is so caught up with little things that it does not have the time to look at bigger issues,” says Pal.

That hardly means anything for Nitya Batra, a commerce student from DPS, Indirapuram, in New Delhi. “SRCC’s decision is unrealistic. Even colleges like Kamla Nehru have raised the bar and are asking for 98-99 per cent. Students, with such high percentage marks, would rather prefer Hindu or Keshab Mahavidyalaya but not Kamla Nehru. In this process, students like us are left out,” says Batra.

Batra says it is also difficult for students to change their streams. For an Arts student to get admission in Khalsa college, the cut-off is way below 90 per cent. But for a commerce student, the cut-off is 92 per cent. “I can’t change my interest to get into a good college. My parents are supporting me and I will not choose a college over a course,” she says.

Batra is certainly not alone in the country, which ironically has the largest higher education system in the world in terms of number of institutions and the third-largest in terms of student enrollment. While India has 26,000 institutes across varied fields of study, the US has 6,706 higher education institutions and China has 4,000.

Since 1951, the number of universities in India has increased from 28 to 504, while the number of colleges have grown from 578 to 25,951.

A recent report of Ernst & Young estimated spends on higher education in India at nearly Rs 46,200 crore, with 92 per cent of it coming from private institutes. The report projected it to grow over Rs 150,000 crore in 10 years.

The dean of a management institute in Mumbai says the present set-up promotes nepotism. It looks at controlling the educational system by doling out licences to politicians and their kins. Distributing licences in this manner promotes distortions, and there are no transparent mechanism to ensure that information on education institutions are made available to students and their parents. “So, an area where the government shouldn’t play an active role, it is extremely active. And, where it should play its role, it is either absent or doing little,” the dean says.

It was due to the government’s over-regulation that M L Srikant, dean of S P Jain Institute of Management and Research in Mumbai, had to discontinue a successful programme that it entered into with Virginia Tech of the US. “We had a capacity of 80 seats, where as the amount of applications we got, we could have filled 800 seats. With every student landing four job offers, we could have placed all the students, too. But the government did not allow us to continue the programme beyond two years. It was a similar struggle with the All India Council for Technical Education for four years to increase its class size from 120 to 180 at present,” laments Srikant.

Last year, around 60,000, or 30 per cent, of the existing 200,000 management seats remained vacant. This is the highest vacancy ever in management education, with institutions even accepting money and selling seats to students without entrance test scores.

Engineering institutes also faced a similar situation. Nearly 530,000, or 40 per cent, of the 1.32 million seats remained unoccupied.

Sibal last year allowed an additional 200,000 engineering, 80,000 management and 2,200 architecture seats.

Amitabh Jhinghan, partner and education sector leader, Ernst & Young, says extra supply and low demand are a clear case of lack of quality institutions in the country.

“The government needs to quickly focus on expanding the capacity of quality higher education institutions. It can let some quality existing institutions to take over not-so-good institutions and improve their quality and enrollments, too,” says Jhinghan.

Capacity constraint in domestic institutes offering quality programmes is one of the main reasons why more and more students are opting to study abroad, making India the second-largest source of international students after China.

For instance, between 2005 and 2009, test takers for Graduate Management Aptitude Test grew from 13,544 to 30,633, reflecting a compounded annual growth rate of 17.7 per cent. Over 50 per cent of Indian students opt to study in the US.

Manpower, finances may hit inclusion of Std VIII in elementary school

Manpower, finances may hit inclusion of Std VIII in elementary school
Abhishek Choudhari, TNN | Jun 28, 2011, 09.44pm IST
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NAGPUR: The Union education ministry's decision to include Class V in primary schools and stretch elementary schooling till Std VIII instead of Std VII has been greeted with some misgivings by teachers and administrators. "School subjects have evolved through their own complicated histories. However, educationists the world over believe that learning in the first five years of schooling should be integrated, without subject-specific compartmentalization.

Teaching children to study concepts at younger ages, in an attempt to prepare them to compete in the world, is counterproductive," says the note from the HRD ministry.

Teacher unions say that the implementation of such a rule will have a direct effect on the manpower demand and supply ratio.

Ram Pal Singh, president of All India Primary Teachers Federation (AIPTF), said, "In India, we are already facing a shortage of 10 lakh primary teachers. Now, if we include Std V too in primary, you can see how the ratio will get skewed. It will take a very long time for us to train that kind of manpower."

However, Singh said he welcomed the decision, regardless of the short term drawbacks. "In states like Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar etc, primary school is from Std I till Std V, while in some states it is not. So the move by the HRD ministry is right since we will have uniformity across the country," said Singh.

Some others see this as the HRD ministry's move to step into the states' decision making territory. Nago Ganar, Nagpur MLC (from teachers' constituency), said, "The constitutional responsibility of providing free and compulsory education to students aged 6-14 years lies with the state. By sending this kind of directive the HRD ministry is stepping into our shoes, which is not right. If the HRD ministry wants to change the policy then they should inform about the desired changes to the states, who can then decide how to implement it."

Indra Shekhar Mishra, general secretary of All India Secondary Teachers Federation (AISTF), too feels that manpower will be a major issue along with the financial burden on the states. "When we implement such policies, which affect a large section of the society, we have to take into consideration many important aspects. The financial burden for the state governments will be enormous for creating the infrastructure, also for the implementation of extra midday meals," said Mishra.

The state government too feels that the policy will put additional strain on resources. "Close to 90% of the madhyamik schools are in the private sector. Bringing standard VIII to the elementary system will mean not just adding classroom, but recruiting teachers and providing midday meals too," said V Radha, Maharashtra's acting school education secretary.

Andhra Pradesh: Schools turn into paddy godowns

Andhra Pradesh: Schools turn into paddy godowns
Headlines Today Bureau | Hyderabad, June 21, 2011 | Updated 21:57 IST

The classrooms in Andhra Pradesh are bursting at the seams - not with students, but with sacks of foodgrain. There is no room for students in state's government schools. Primary schools, secondary schools and not even hostels have been spared in many districts. They have been turned into a dumping ground for paddy, leaving students in the cold.

Students of a school in Penugonda village of Warangal district were in for a rude shock when classes resumed after summer vacations. Bags of paddy lined the corridors and filled the classrooms, with no place left for tables, benches and students.

So for now, classes are being conducted out in the open with students of class XI sharing space with class X.

Swapna, a class IX student, is not happy. "For the past 10 days, we have faced difficulties. We are taught under the red hot sun and it gets worse if it rains. The bags attract scorpions and rats. We are afraid, we'll be bit by them," says Swapna.

Principal Rajendra Prasad said local officials had assured him bags would be removed within a few days of dumping them, but they are yet to be moved.

How did these bags end up in the classrooms? The Andhra farmers had a bumper harvest. But the government had no place to keep the produce.

"We have done this for the farmers. It's been a boon for the farmers, but a bane for the students. We are a bit delayed in transporting the crops, but we'll clear it all soon," said revenue divisional officer Baluraju.

Officials claim to have removed most of the stored paddy. Call it bad coordination or lack of storage space, the government needs to take a hard look at the ground reality.

HC asks govt to frame RTE rules in 6 wks

HC asks govt to frame RTE rules in 6 wks
Jun 29, 2011, 04.42am IST
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CHENNAI: The Madras high court has directed the Tamil Nadu school education department to finalise and publish the rules for the Right to Education Act within six weeks. The first bench comprising Chief Justice M Y Eqbal and Justice T S Sivagnanam delivering its order on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by advocate S Sathia Chandran, who said that though the act has laudable provisions, it could be translated into action only if they are implemented rigorously. In order to do so, rules should be framed under the act.

Unless rules are framed, the implementation of the act would suffer, even to the detriment of the objects of the act, the petition said. The rules are meant to specify provisions of the act such as the manner and extent of reimbursement of expenditure for admission of children belonging to weaker sections and disadvantaged groups to the extent of 25% of the strength of a class; the area or limits for establishment of a neighbourhood school; manner of giving special training and the time limit for completion of elementary education by children who have never been admitted or who have dropped out.

While the central government framed the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Rules and got the same notified in the Gazette of India on April 9, 2010, it took a direction from the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) for the state government to put up a copy of the draft rules seven months later. The direction came as a result of a two-day hearing in the city on violations of the RTE Act during which members of the NCPCR, including chairperson Shantha Sinha and RTE national coordinator Kiran Bhatty, heard cases from across the state on the issue. The draft rules were put up on the website of the school education department and suggestions were invited from interested parties before December 20, 2010. "It appears that a number of suggestions have come from stakeholders namely educationists, parents, teachers, members of civil society and RTE activists.

Subsequently, the department extended the deadline to January 5, 2011, following requests from NGOs. The department ought to have finalised the draft rules immediately thereafter and notified the same so that the rules could have come into force at least in the current academic year, i.e. 2011-12," the petition said. "However, the process of finalising and notifying the rules is getting delayed and as a result the implementation of the said act is totally hampered and the object effectively scuttled," the petition said. It was submitted that the delay had prompted private schools to remain insensitive to their obligation and duties under the act.