Wednesday, November 9, 2011

1,144 students studying in one room of Madhubani school

1,144 students studying in one room of Madhubani school

Posted on: 06 Nov 2011, 04:02 PM

Madhubani: Indeed the Right to Education (RTE) has brought students back to schools but the condition of school infrastructure and facilities still remains pathetic in Bihar.

In a shocking exposure, a government school in Kaluahi tehsil under Madhubani district is running classes of 1,144 students in an average size class room despite having six rooms in the school building.
The other rooms are being used for preparing food as part of mid-day meal scheme, stores for keeping books and for official purposes.

The exposure is more appalling as it is among those schools of the region which are being closely observed by the Education department.

Moreover, the presence of offices of Education Division In-Charge and BRC in the school campus has raised several questions over the poor facilities and deplorable condition of the school.

In this dismal condition, students of all the classes are forced to take combined classes in one room. Subsequently, the standard of education these children are getting can be easily concluded. “We have to bring our own mats and have to manage sitting on the ground for the classes”, said Class VI student Kanchan Kumari.

Illustrating his woes, a Class VII student Rambabu Mahto said that he has not yet received his course books completely. In this regard, school teacher Phool Kumar Mandal said that the school administration has received 103 books set only while the student registered in the class is 332.

Speaking over the deprived condition of the basic facilities, school teachers Ram Shanker Jha and Abu Mohammad said that the school toilets are not in the working condition and the teachers and students are facing several problems.

“The school building is in a dilapidated condition and one cannot rule out the possibilities of a mishap. In such a condition mid-day food are prepared in open as the kitchen has no shed”, the teachers said.

Durganand Jha, Principal of the school said that the school had received a grant of barely Rs 45, 000 for the maintenance purposes and it was insufficient for the school management to manage everything is such a meager amount.

“We have approached the administration at several occasions but no action has been taken so far”, Jha added.

When asked about the miserable condition of the school the Education Division In-Charge Gopal Singh said “The school campus has shortage of rooms. Rooms having books of BRC will soon be vacated and will be converted in class rooms. We will intimate the senior officials about condition of the school and necessary measures will be taken soon.”



JPN/Bureau

‘People can't believe the same economy that produces 100,000 students a year in global top 10% also churns out millions with zero skills’

‘People can't believe the same economy that produces 100,000 students a year in global top 10% also churns out millions with zero skills’
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P. Vaidyanathan Iyer Tags : Lant Pritchett, Harvard Kennedy School of Government, interview, Development Programme, nation news Posted: Tue Nov 08 2011, 01:39 hrs

P Vaidyanathan Iyer: The point you make is that in Indian schools, the focus is on schooling and on the paraphernalia attached — the building, furniture, playground and works — and not really on learning.

I have worked on a variety of issues on India's economy. I have been working off and on (since I have lived here from 2004-2007), on basic education and I have increasingly come to the view that the agenda that’s been largely fulfilled is the schooling agenda: get kids’ butts in seats, let’s get kids into these buildings we call schools, but in many contexts particularly in India, whether the children were learning anything got neglected. Now there is an increasing array of evidence mostly generated outside the official school system that even on the most rudimentary tasks, like simple arithmetic, only about half the kids by grade 5 can do the simplest possible arithmetic....

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What’s worse is that conceptual understanding is completely non-existent. So if you present a question to a student in exactly the same way (as) in the textbook, they will give the right answer. If you literally just take an addition problem and change it from columns to horizontal, kids who could answer it in columns cannot answer in horizontal.

I think one of the key features of the Indian economy is between the elite that have a good education and the rest of the population that don't. In the labour market for people with good education, wages are going up... But if you are really going to a school but not getting any education, you are really not equipping these children to work productively in a modern economy.

P Vaidyanathan Iyer: But is this representative of India?

Everyone resists this notion in part because the elite do really get a great education... If you look at which are the countries that produce the most 15-year-olds in the global top 10 per cent, India is right up there. Crude calculations are that they produce about 100,000 students a year in the global top 10 per cent. People are then reluctant to believe that the same economy that is producing 100,000 a year in the global top 10 per cent is also churning out millions with zero skills.

There are three different studies that I rely on: One is a random sample of just rural areas of Andhra Pradesh... this is not Bihar or Uttar Pradesh, this is AP, which people regard as a kind of middle-of-the-road state. Second is the repeated Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) studies, so the NGO Pratham and the ASER centre go out each year and do mainly a rural study and it is completely representative. They produce scores on a very simple indicator of basic literacy and basic numeracy using samples of 500,000 students, so it is huge. And the third is the study by Educational Initiatives which was completed a couple of years ago, which is a more sophisticated testing instrument.

This is really nationally representative... Even the states doing okay, such as Tamil Nadu, when you actually drill down the actual skill sets, they are not that much better.

Atideb Sarkar: The reason for China outpacing India is the strength of human capital, and it goes against the notion that infrastructure and capital are behind the China story. To what extent is this true?

I don't think so... The advocacy behind basic education is super-powerful and I am more than in favour of every child getting basic education. But the world's now run the experiment... Haiti has more schooling today. The average labour force in Haiti has more years of schooling than the average labour force in Germany in 1975... The first issue is we want to be careful about what’s really human capital versus schooling capital. In all the empirical work I do, I am very clear that I am talking about schooling capital. And if you just look at schooling capital, everybody just repeats again and again that this is really important for growth but, like I say, we’ve run the experiment. So we know it isn’t true, because lots of countries got lots and lots of schooling, and didn’t have any growth.

...India has done the world a favour of having emphasised elite education at the expense of mass education for about 50 years. There is a recent paper showing that it is really the presence of tertiary education that explains growth successes within India, not the extent of mass education....

But the thing about India’s distribution of learning is that it is very skewed. In China, learning is more normally distributed in a statistical sense, and yet again nobody really knows because nobody has done comparable tests in China... they got away with just testing kids in Shanghai and reporting that as a China number. There are super-educated Indians and there are completely uneducated Indians, although they are increasingly being schooled but not educated, and that’s becoming a problem....

Priyadarshi Siddhanta: Will this contribute to the negative growth of the economy?

Well it will adversely impact because you will have trouble moving into domains in which you require semi-skilled labour. What India doesn’t have is any semi-skilled labour, or high school-educated labour, people with basic literacy, basic numeracy but not advanced skills. So essentially, most children emerging from Indian primary education don’t actually know anything, they are not skilled, they are not even semi-skilled labour. They are still essentially unskilled labour. So again if you look at industries that require workers to have some degree of numeracy and literacy, India just isn’t producing those in the significant numbers, which accounts in a way for the unequal and skill-intensive pattern of India’s growth.

Priyadarshi Siddhanta: On educational output, how would you rate India on a scale of 10?

Well it’s at both 1 and 10, that is its problem. We don’t have any nationally representative tests in Indian skill distribution versus international skill distribution... but a pair of researchers have done a study where they’ve taken test scores of Indian students from 8th grade in Orissa and Rajasthan and constructed a distribution of those scores... compared the extrapolations to India. It turns out India is one of the top producers of students in the global top 10 per cent... we don’t know how many China produces really. But the United States produces about 250,000 a year, Korea 118,000 a year, India about a 100,000 a year according to these crude estimates. So on that score in absolute terms, it’s a 10.

But if you look at typical 15-year-olds, India also produces just far and away essentially the world’s largest number of uneducated people, because if you look at people just below a threshold like being adequately skilled, something like 50-60 per cent of the Indian kids, even those who are into 8th grade, would fall into that category. So in fact what they found is when they tried to compare India to other OECD countries, the problem is just that so many of the Indian kids in 8th grade couldn’t even answer enough questions to be able to distinguish them.

Kirtika Juneja: The Pratham study also says that the quality of learning has not improved.

First of all, I don’t think the evidence is consistent with inputs being the main problem. Empirical studies show that learning outcomes with or without good inputs almost are exactly the same. In part, because the inputs are not being utilised in a productive way. The motivation and incentives particularly within government schools are really low. So the levels of absenteeism and lack of effort of government teachers are just horrific. A study comparing absenteeism in India and other countries showed India to be the second worst. Absence rates are in the order of 25-26 per cent. Another 25 per cent were physically present but not teaching. Kids have textbooks, but if teachers are not helping them... the inputs are not going to make a difference.

There are problems that can be solved with logistics and there are problems that require a system to function. What India through the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) has been quite good at frankly is logistics. Money has been spent equalising inputs across schools. Ex-ante, based on the scientific evidence about the relationship between inputs and learning, what should we expect from that? Zero. The experience of what we got is zero. The ASER study has been done in a replicable way for five years, no learning at all. For five years, crores have been spent on input expansion thinking that it will work, but it hasn’t.

Kirtika Juneja: What will work then?

One of the things that’s going on and I think accounts for a lot of the problem is that the teachers and the school system are under pressure to get through a curriculum that really is moving too fast. So what happens is kids fall behind and then they never catch up... Look at the kids who can read or do addition and see if it is improving from year to year. The problem is 20 per cent of the kids can add in grade 2, and it’s all like 30 per cent in grade 3 and then it is only 40 per cent in grade 4. Think about what’s going on for that child in the classroom experience over those years. The curriculum is moving on, so they are assuming the child can learn how to add and now we’ll teach division and adding fractions. By the time the child gets to adding fractions, these kids can’t add numbers even... So until you stop the system of teaching to the curriculum, and start the system of teaching to the student, I think it’s just hopeless.

One of the things that makes this very difficult frankly is that the Indian schooling system has been geared to producing elite. You stick to this rapid curriculum because in the standard 10 exams, you’ve got to know all this stuff. So you start at grade 1 on the presumption that you are going to take your grade 10 exams and do well and take grade 12 exams and so the whole system is geared to produce that elite.

Atideb Sarkar: How do we motivate teachers then?

Any system that gives control of the hiring and allocation of teachers to the parents produces much better results than the current system at much lower costs. The private sector can hire teachers at Rs 2,000 a month, a semi-educated teacher, and they do just as well as a trained teacher. I’m just being crude here. These low-cost private schools are not good schools. These teachers work one-two years and the scandalous thing is they can do just as well as the government schools. Teacher qualifications and teacher training are not producing the outputs. These private teachers do just as well, mark that word, just as well, not better. Elite private schools produce much better results but with much higher inputs. We find that we can produce the same level of quality with next to no inputs and this undermines the belief in inputs or training, qualifications.

So studies find that the low-cost private schools perform better than government schools, but not by a ton. The key thing is to formulate achievable learning targets. Let’s get kids to read fluently, not worry about what has to be done to clear grade 10 exams etc. Curricular objectives stated in the Indian system are wildly out of touch with what is achievable. Let’s set realistic targets and aim at achieving them universally and let teachers loose into achieving them. That will motivate teachers. The current system guarantees frustration on all sides.

Muzamil Jaleel: What is the best medium of instruction? English or the mother tongue?

The wisdom is that the mother tongue is the best medium in the early grades. What’s happening is that private schools to differentiate themselves are claiming English as medium of instruction and still do a crappy job. They can’t hire enough teachers who have good English... A recent study compared private schools in Andhra Pradesh and interestingly the scores of students that moved from public Telugu-medium schools to private-Telugu medium schools went way up. If they went from public Telugu-medium schools to English-medium private schools, the scores went down. Kids just aren't getting it.

Part of the process of education is to take you from a common sense understanding of the world to a more formal understanding of the world. So you are essentially making translations between conceptual understanding and how those concepts map into a formal system.

Children are never actually brought from their actual understanding of the world to the formal understanding, that schools tend to teach you, in a way they can use their common sense intuition to reason accurately in a conceptual way. Since that translation fails early, it fails completely. English as a medium of instruction too early makes this process worse. A child’s common sense understanding is mediated in their native tongue. Then you are introducing formal concepts in a language they don’t fully understand and taught by a person who fully doesn’t understand the language they are using.

P Vaidyanathan Iyer: If there is political traction to the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, is the issue about reform of the education system by political intervention?

All of the money is being allocated to teaching posts and is all about the politics of patronage in hiring. SSA is popular because it allows politicians to hire more teachers and what could be more important in terms of rewarding supporters and delivering benefits, particularly when they are so dramatically overpaid relative to the actual market? The political support to the SSA is a facade that it is about education while its popularity among politicians has nothing to do with education.

...then you get a government that makes these claims about progress being made in education, while they are making progress only in schooling and on hiring and building.

The political traction of getting kids educated isn’t there in part because the politically powerful citizenry have opted out of government schools. So where is the traction for learning in government schools? The political system has at heart the replication of the existing system that benefits key constituencies. In such a case, a system that seeks to educate children and achieve learning objectives has very little political traction.

Chinki Sinha: What do you think of the PPP model in education and the Right to Education Act?

The RTE is one of the most massively ill-conceived things that happened. At a time when India should have been thinking about the evidence on the table of learning problems, you have just enshrined an additional legislation, an input-led approach and focus to schooling that we know will fail. The law is going to say that we have to shut down schools where we know learning is high because they don’t have these scheduled criteria... and push them into schools where learning is low. That is just obscene.

What is enshrined in the national legislation is an anti-learning agenda. What is quality and how do we define it? The legislation has enshrined a definition, that we know from empirical literature..., has no deep intrinsic connection to learning performance. The RTE is just a wrong instrument at the wrong time. It will be an inhibition towards moving to a learning agenda...

The battle in education is going to be, do we free people up to learn however they would, or do we insist on an appearance of what a school should look like?... PPPs are going to go after appearances. It will draw the private to the level of the public instead of the other way around. They will need to conform in order to get the support and that will kill all ingenuity and drive.

Destitute children can't go to school as govt depts wrangle

Destitute children can't go to school as govt depts wrangle
Manash Pratim Gohain, TNN | Nov 7, 2011, 06.03AM IST

NEW DELHI: There was a ray of hope for 44 of the 392 destitute children at Asha Kiran Home in Rohini when the Directorate of Education (DoE) declared them eligible for mainstream education earlier this year. But a tussle between the education and social welfare departments of the Delhi government has got in the way of the children being sent to school.

The children aged between five to 18 years were found eligible for mainstream education on the basis of a Delhi high court order relating to education of children with disabilities and assessment by 12 resource teachers from DoE in April 2011.

It was decided that the children would be sent to a government school next to the home, but the social department said they could not risk sending the children outside the home, social jurist Ashok Agarwal said. Asha Kiran is the only state-run home under the social welfare department that has been providing shelter to nearly 800 mentally challenged persons, which includes 392 children.

Last year on December 6, a meeting of the advisory committee formed by the DoE raised the issue of the right of education of the children at the home under the RTE.

It was decided that a team would visit the home to identify the children eligible for mainstream education, and thereafter, steps will be taken to enrol them in a school.

"The team visited the home from March 12 to March 26 in 2011 and again from April 4 to April 7. Thirty-two boys and 12 girls were selected ," said Agarwal, who is also a member of the advisory committee. Education minister Arvinder Singh Lovely said, "I was not aware of the issue. Every child has a right to education. I will look into the matter immediately."

RTI reveals BMC schools struggling with excess teachers

RTI reveals BMC schools struggling with excess teachers

As if the problem of students’ dropout in civic-run schools was not enough, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) education department is now grappling with the problem of surplus teachers.

In a reply to an Right to Information (RTI) query of a social activist, the department revealed it has 2,287 extra teachers. Activist Anil Galgali claimed this is imposing a financial burden on the civic body.

“The civic agency has been following the teacher-student ratio of 1:40 in big municipal schools like English, Hindi, Marathi and Urdu mediums and a teacher-student ratio of 1:30 in small schools such as Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Gujarati medium. However, most of the schools have surplus teachers and the BMC is not doing anything to find a solution. The same ratio is recommended under Right to Education Act,” he said.

He said despite this, the BMC has started the recruitment process for teachers at some schools. “Lack of coordination among the officials in the education department has led to this problem. Instead of transferring the surplus teachers to schools with less teachers, they are recruiting new ones. These teachers often have no work and this is leading to unnecessary financial burden on the civic body,” he claimed.

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The RTI reply shows that Marathi medium schools have the highest number of surplus teachers. For 1,02,214 students in Marathi medium schools, 2,555 teachers are needed but they have 4,261 teachers.

On the contrary, English medium BMC schools have a dearth of teachers. There are 29,808 students in these schools and while the required number of teachers is 745, they have only 534.

A principal of a BMC school in Chembur said, “Some of these teachers were transferred from schools that have been shut down. Currently, these teachers are asked to do administrative work.”

Additional Municipal Commissioner (Education) Mohan Adtani said admissions to vernacular medium schools have been low for the past few years, resulting in surplus teachers. “We maintain a ratio of one teacher to a maximum of 50 students, but there is no lower limit to the number of students a teacher can cater to at a time. Marathi medium schools have many teachers and not many students and we are utilising their services under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. For mediums like Tamil, Kannada and Gujarati, the number of students have been falling rapidly but we cannot shut these schools as it is the BMC’s duty to run them,” Adtani added.

RTE campaign to be launched in Mewat

RTE campaign to be launched in Mewat
TNN | Nov 7, 2011, 06.55AM IST

GURGAON: A national-level right to education (RTE) campaign will be launched at Mewat on November 11 and the aim of the programme will be to educate people about their right to education. The campaign will be launched by Union Minister for Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal.

"It is the right of every child to get education up to eighth standard. To provide free and compulsory education to every child is among the top priorities of the state government," stated Education and Social Justice and Empowerment Minister, Haryana, Geeta Bhukkal. Under this plan children would be provided with uniforms and given mid day meal, besides free education.

Nomadic children need mobile schools

Nomadic children need mobile schools

Monday, 07 November 2011 21:45

Children of Nomadic families in Ladakh struggle to gain basic school education since their families are always on the move, says Kunzes Dolma.

Tsering Gurmat is a school dropout. Nothing uncommon there, except that Tsering had to drop out because a new primary school was established in the neighbourhood. The irony is not lost on Tsering’s parents who had hoped to give their children the education they didn’t themselves get.

In the remote Himalayan region of Changthang in Ladakh, many parents, wiser after a lifetime of harsh nomadic life in sub-zero temperatures, face the dilemma of whether to leave their children behind in the residential school or take them along in their seasonal trek across the hills with their livestock. The heavy dependence on children to share the work load for survival in the harsh, multi-tasked routine of grazing the livestock across the ranges of Changthang clashes with a growing realisation that education is perhaps the key to a better, certainly easier, future for their children. A way of life that sustained them for 2,000 years may not quite be working as well now.

Nearly 150 Changpa families, nomadic pastoralists who trace their origins to Tibet, live alongside about 20 Tibetan refugee families in the four main villages of Korzok, Rupsho, Kharnak and Alkung close to the breathtaking Tso Moriri lake in eastern Ladakh. This vast grazing ecosystem in the Indian Trans-Himalaya stretches over 22,000 square kilometres. Livestock is the mainstay of the economy; the high-altitude, arid landscape in this cold desert supports little else.

Few families in Korzok lead a settled life. Situated three kilometres from the northwest end of the Tso Moriri Lake at 15,075 feet, this small village is one of the highest permanent settlements in the world. The closest town, Duruk, is over 100 km away; the capital of Leh nearly 150 km. The region is cut-off for about eight months a year due to snowfall.

The Changpas move camp nearly ten times a year locating green pastures for their yaks, sheep, goats and horses, their robos (small yak-hair tents) dotting the spectacular landscape. The animals’ produce offers an adequate, indeed sustainable, source of livelihood: pashmina, or cashmere wool, is the most valuable; others include sheep wool, yak wool, curd, butter, and cheese. While children help with the numerous tasks, they are also relied upon to look after aging parents.

As recently as four decades ago, there were virtually no Government facilities for the Changpas in Korzok. In the 1970’s, the Jammu & Kashmir Government set up mobile schools to provide elementary education to children. It was the first generation exposed to mainstream education — and thoughtfully incorporated the nomadic way of life by moving with the families and animals every few months. A special tent would be set up for the school where children learnt to read and write in Urdu and their native Bodhi language. The enrollment was not spectacular, but it was a beginning.

Things changed when the Government, zealous in its efforts to educate Indians across the vast and remote parts of the country, started constructing primary schools in remote locations. One such school promptly came up in Korzok; it was later upgraded to a middle school. Over the years, the Government helpfully proceeded to set up a new Centralised Residential School in Puga, intended to cater to all nomadic families in the region. This was no mean feat in the barely-connected arid grasslands but it resulted in the suspension of all mobile schools.

Standing at a crossroad, Tsering’s baffled parents had to make a choice: Leave their child behind in the residential school for the required nine months in a year for a ‘mainstream’ education or keep up the familiar and, so far sustainable, nomadic life that required children to help with the numerous family chores. They chose the latter. Tsering left school and moved on with the herd. Many children end up not being enrolled in school at all. Some families chose modern education and a more sedentary lifestyle; about 90 students aged four to 16 now study at the Nomadic Residential school.

The opening of the school at Puga was a welcome step but they fear that their children won’t learn anything about nomadic life. Presently the many nomads wish for such a school which would move with them so that the children could learn their work as well as the modern education.

The Changpas are not an isolated case. South Asia has the world's largest nomadic population. India alone is estimated to have over 60 million nomads, belonging to over 350 formally identified nomadic groups. Studies indicate that many children who never enroll in schools come from communities with livelihoods that require them to move from place to place.

India’s landmark Right to Education Act in 2009 committed the State to ensure that all children from 6-14 years of age have access to basic education. In line with this, under the Union Govern-ment’s flagship education scheme, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, innovative means were tried to include children who were in particularly challenging circumstances. The implementation of these initiatives, however, leaves much to be desired.

In a recent review of the education schemes, State Chief Minister Omar Abdullah reaffirmed his Government’s commitment to utilising the central schemes towards the goal of 100 per cent enrolment of boys and girls at the primary level, against the current 65.67 per cent. “The Government is keen to revive the mobile school scheme in the state and help children of migratory population to receive education throughout the year without any break”, he said.

Traditionally, nomads have sustained a productive system that preserves the ecosystem while providing adequately for the populace in the region. Incorporating their rich knowledge base within the education system, the mobile schools of Jammu and Kashmir, by intent, are an innovative step in the right direction but severely lack effective implementation.

The famed Ladakh Vision Document 2025, created after extensive deliberations in 2005, envisions a society where education would “build human resource in order to create a happy Ladakh, through the harmonious use of our natural resources, guided by our cultural resources.” Making that dream come true will take a lot more than the occasional review.

School on wheels takes education to Indian slums

School on wheels takes education to Indian slums

Reuters
Nov 8, 2011

HYDERABAD, India // On a hot afternoon, a bright orange bus drives into a slum area of the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, parking amid shelters made of tarpaulins and bits of wood.

Barefoot children come running, eyes shining, and troop inside.

It is a school on wheels that brings education to the doorstep of disadvantaged children such as these every day, halting for several hours at a time in different parts of the sprawling city.

The children, whose parents are day labourers on construction sites or work as rag pickers and maids, either never go to school or drop out once enrolled.

Many have to work as hard as their parents to pay off family debts.

"These children have no time to go to school, unless the school comes to them," said TL Reddy, founder of the Clap Foundation, a non-governmental organisation that runs the mobile school.

"At first we prepared a temporary tent in their slum to give basic education for the children. Then slowly we developed the concept of a school inside a vehicle to attract more."

Mr Reddy, a teacher for 25 years, first thought of doing something for the children when they caught his attention a decade ago.

After gathering donations and setting up the tent first,his group began operating the bus three years ago. The inside of the vehicle is bright and clean, its walls festooned with the alphabet, numbers and pictures of fruit and animals.

Children perch on seats around the inside of the bus, writing on slates they hold on their laps.

Some days, the bus is so full that children sit cross-legged on the floor as a sari-clad teacher talks to them.

"The teaching is good on this bus and nobody beats us," said Devi, 10, who enrolled in the first grade of primary school three years ago but soon dropped out.

She attends school in between helping her father collect rags and she hopes to be a teacher when she gets older.

Manjula, also 10, bubbles with excitement about her studies and wants to be a doctor so she can bring medical care to slum children such as herself. "Now I can read and write from 1 to 200 numbers," she said.

The goal of the school on wheels, Mr Reddy said, was to give the children enough basic education for them to be streamed into government schools.

So far, about 40 children have done so, despite the considerable odds against them.

"The greatest hurdles are things ranging from the erratic schedule of the students and the varied mindset of their families," Mr Reddy said.

But the school's greatest achievement may be something far more simple.

"This is the only chance they get to be kids, even if it is for only two hours," Reddy said.

* Reuters

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Schools get ready to read out PM’s letter on November 11

Schools get ready to read out PM’s letter on November 11
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Samarpita Banerjee Tags : National Education Day, Prime Minister, Right to Education Posted: Sun Nov 06 2011, 01:48 hrs Pune:

On the National Education Day on November 11, schools will read out a letter from the Prime Minister addressed to children during the morning assembly. November 11, the birth anniversary of India’s first Education Minister Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, has been celebrated as National Education Day for the last three years and this year, a national campaign, ‘Shiksha Ka Haq Abhiyan’ will be launched on that day.

HRD Minister Kapil Sibal has also sent a letter to all directors of education, informing them of the occasion and asking them to read out the PM’s letter at the morning assembly.

Schools have been advised to observe the event through cultural activities, quiz competitions, songs, drama, paintings and debate.

M R Kadam, director of primary education, said, “We have received the letter from the HRD ministry. The central government has issued some guidelines about celebrations that day. We have sent information about this day to a lot of schools and instructed them to read out the letter during their morning assembly. Many of the schools are organising cultural programmes, school committee meetings as well as awareness drives related to the Right to Education (RTE).”

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Lily Patel, principal, Sardar Dastur Boys High School, said, “Schools shut due to Diwali vacations had been instructed to resume school before November 11. We are reopening on November 9. We are in the midst of our centenary celebrations and the education day will fall in the middle. We will be reading out the letter to the children, as we have been instructed by the directorate of education.”

The letter by the PM, addressed to “precious children of this great nation”, talks about Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and the importance of education. He further talks about his childhood and describes his village and how he had to study under an earthen lamp and walk for miles to reach his school.

Jayshree Venkatraman, principal, DAV Aundh, said, “Even if I did not know about this initiative, I think it will be great to read out a letter from our revered PM. It is a great initiative and we will make sure it is followed in our school.”

Barefoot - Way of the rainbow

Barefoot - Way of the rainbow
By Harsh Mander

Finding spaces for street children in regular schools is the best way of providing them a humane and inclusive schooling.

It was in the early decades of the 20th century that the colonial government in India first accepted the legal responsibility to look after children without responsible adult protection, including street children. Since then, even in six decades of democratic freedom, in practice most governments have fulfilled this approach mainly by virtually incarcerating large numbers of these children in custodial, jail-like State-run institutions. Children are not just locked up but what I describe as ‘locked away' in these cold, loveless institutions for the entire duration of their childhood. When the child grows into adulthood — and sometimes earlier, at the age of 14 years — the child is suddenly discharged without support, guidance or care into the impersonal adult world, to fend for himself or herself. This is sadly the approach of several private and religious charities as well.

In these institutions, segregated from the outside world, children are usually housed in large dormitories, with stern and disciplining staff who rarely build loving and nurturing bonds with these children. Children report sexual and physical abuse, and a sense of profoundly unloved loneliness. Street children whom we work with describe these as chillar jails, chillar meaning small change, and describe entire childhoods of running away from these institutions, only to be caught and locked up once again. Street children, more than others, long for freedom of choice and agency, and these homes rob these from them.

Alternate view

In stout opposition to the custodial care approach, many NGOs developed a variety of street-based outreach programmes. They believe that children and youth have the right to choose whether or not they wish to stay and remain on the streets; and should continue to retain their independent agency and economic independence, which they have fought for at a young age, and which they value highly. They have a sense of belonging to the streets, and find within it emotional and material satisfaction. According to this view, street life is a conscious choice of those children who find it as a better alternative to the betrayal of abusive relatives or parents. It is also better than abusive State custodial homes. This choice of children should be respected. We should not impose our own beliefs regarding their need for adult protection, if it violates a child's own aspirations.

They strongly believe the child on the streets has acquired a certain set of skills and abilities, which harsh street life has taught him. They live life on their own terms. They negotiate with adults around them to earn a living for themselves and may also take care of their siblings and families. These basic survival skills should not be taken away from these children, but instead these should constitute the base of working further with these children. On the foundations of what they have themselves learnt on the streets, what should be provided to the children is skill-based training, to help them take up vocations in the course of time. Innovative street-based approaches include drop-in shelters, contact centres, night shelters, evening classes, play activities in public parks, de-addiction and health services etc.

Although it avoids the abuses of custodial care, the biggest disadvantage of this approach is that it accepts that children will continue to work at an age when they should be in schools. While they get support from street-based approaches, the non-formal education programmes may provide more chances of being literate that being educated. They have limited options for careers, except in some low-end options like rag-picking and unskilled labour, or a career in crime, with limited chances for higher education. After the passage of the Right to Education Act, an approach that supports the child being out of school is, in our opinion, no more a legally tenable option.

When children are required to take decisions like adults, what they miss is responsible and caring adult protection. Children start handling money at an age when they are not capable of choosing which option is better for them. There are high chances of substance abuse among children. They are free to buy drugs on the streets. The street environment is stressful, dangerous and highly unhygienic. They also are denied access to nutritious food, and health-care services. They grow up with many ailments, mental health problems born out of abuse and neglect, and often drug dependence. There is insufficient research, but we find a large number of such children die very early. We talk often of ‘missing girls and women' in India. We believe that there are also ‘missing street children and youth'.

The third set of approaches — to which I subscribe — attempts to secure the rights of the most vulnerable urban child — those who are forced to make the streets and railway platforms their home, and who earn by picking rags, begging or other street-based work — by extending to these children voluntary comprehensive care in open residential homes. It believes that a child's rights to protection, education, food, health-care and recreation must be upheld, but in ways that do not take away the freedom of choice of the child, in ways State custodial institutions do.

The main strategies of this approach are reaching out to the street child guaranteeing comprehensive, long-term care to the child, and her rights to protection, love, food, health-care, recreation and education, in voluntary, open, non-custodial homes. These are guaranteed to the child with no conditionalities, with love but no sense of charity, and for as long as the child needs these, as one would ensure for one's own child. We learn from the pioneering work running such homes by Sister Cyril, the Don Bosco brotherhood, and the magnificent service for over 50 years in Snehalaya, Mumbai, which provides family-like care in smaller units of 20 children each, supported by foster parents. In Delhi and Hyderabad, we have attempted to scale up the Rainbow and Don Bosco models, by working closely with state governments.

Healing potential

The best approach, and one that indeed has the potential of enabling us to reach every street child, is to share spaces in existing schools, that are vacant maybe 16 hours, and these are the very hours in which a street child is most vulnerable. This is the most economical model. The same building needs only small additions for toilets, bathing places and a kitchen. It also leads to integration, dignity and the learning hands-on of egalitarian compassion and pluralism.

What has come to be celebrated as the Rainbow School approach began when, several years ago, a street girl, barely four-years-old, was raped outside the gates of an elite girls' school, Loretto Convent, Sealdah, in Kolkata. The Principal of this English Medium School, Sister Cyril Mooney, was deeply troubled. She resolved to open up the doors of her school to these children, and she fought opposition by parents and school managements, to develop one of the finest models of inclusive and humane schooling in India. The children enjoy the benefits of being inside a regular school with all the activities, the interaction with the more privileged peer group of the regular school, the rough and tumble of normal school life and the friendly interaction with other children of various backgrounds, creeds and castes. This positive environment enables each child — the most privileged and the most disadvantaged — to grow together and respect and learn from each other. In the classrooms of such a school, do we see the realisation of a new humane egalitarian India?

Nursery admission: School body lays down new rules

Nursery admission: School body lays down new rules
Manash Pratim Gohain, TNN | Nov 6, 2011, 03.22AM IST

NEW DELHI: With the nursery admission process in city schools all set to begin from December 15, the School Action Committee (SAC) -- a forum of six private school organizations -- has prepared a set of admission guidelines for schools to follow.

The SAC guidelines are based on the provisions of the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act and Delhi High Court directions on nursery admissions. Meanwhile, schools are still waiting for clarifications on various issues regarding student's age, compensation, and providing admission to students from economically weaker sections (EWS) of society.

The SAC guidelines were set to facilitate the point-based admission process and are drafted so that schools can finalize their admission criteria from these broad parameters.

According to S K Bhattacharya, chairman of SAC, "The parameters we have set are merely suggestions. We have circulated the guidelines among schools so that they can give their feedback. Broadly, the suggestions are as per the RTE and Delhi High Court's directions. For example we have suggested that old schools can give more points for alumni category, while new schools can give fewer points here and give more points in a different category."

As per the parameters prepared by the SAC, old schools which have been in existence for more than 70-80 years can provide 10 to 15 points for students who are the children of alumni, while new schools can restrict alumni points to two or three points. Other criteria which help to assign points include which neighbourhood the child lives in, whether they have a sibling and whether the student is a girl, among others. While the guidelines make it clear that there will be no social or academic profiling of parents, it is silent on the issue of nursery admission age. The committee said that it will abide with whatever the court and directorate of education decide.

"There is a case pending in the high court right now and we will go by the orders of the court and directorate of education. Right now we are abiding by what has been asked from us by the directorate," said Bhattacharya.

Around 2,000 private recognized schools in the city will start accepting applications for nursery admission from December 15 to January 31. Schools are expected to come out with their first list in the first week of February.

Speaking on the issue of nursery admission, education minister Arvinder Singh Lovely said: "On the issue of nursery admission age we are yet to receive any notice from the high court. For remaining issues we will follow the same guidelines issued last year. There is no change in the process so far."

But there are other contentious issues as well, such as the eligibility age for admission to nursery class, EWS admission in higher classes and clarification on compensation to the schools. Schools say they have been waiting for a clarification from the government for over a year now.

Schools can't be just shut down: Sibal

Schools can't be just shut down: Sibal
TNN | Nov 6, 2011, 04.11AM IST
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MARGAO: Responding to a query from reporters over plans to shut down the higher secondary school of Chowgule college, Margao, Kapil Sibal said schools were not like an industry and cannot be just shut down. This statement comes against the background of the growing demand by the ex students and teaching staff of Chowgule HSS for the govt to take over the school.

When Sibal was asked to comment on the raging debate on the medium of instruction, he stated that it was a matter to be handled by the state. However, during his keynote address he said in passing that the focus should not be on the language of instruction but on the teachers carrying out their duties and instilling Gandhian principles in the students. tnn

Private schools to remain shut on Nov 11, 12

Private schools to remain shut on Nov 11, 12
TNN | Nov 6, 2011, 04.11AM IST
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PATNA: Private Schools and Children Welfare Association has announced closure of all private schools in the state on November 11 and 12 in protest against the government order to them to get registered under the Right To Education (RTE) Act by November 12. The registration in effect would mean allowing admission of poor children on 25% of the seats available in the school.

Members of the private schools' management and staff would oppose the government move by wearing black badges in schools. On November 10, they would hold a protest demonstration at the Kargil Chowk.

Talking to newsmen here on Saturday, association chairman Syed Shamael Ahmad said the private schools would observe November 11 as "anti-repression day". "We will hold a demonstration and submit a memorandum to the governor, CM and HRD minister on the day," he said.

Ahmad alleged the government order passed on the pretext of RTE Act has gone far beyond its provisions. "It is a 'Tughlaqi' order that is bound to affect the functioning of the private schools which are giving quality education to students," he said.

Ahmad said the government should have waited for the outcome of the petitions filed in the Supreme Court against the validity of the RTE Act.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Schools closer home within 2 years

Schools closer home within 2 years
Somdatta Basu, TNN | Nov 5, 2011, 03.42AM IST
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KOLKATA: Lottery for admission at the primary level to go, what next? The Mamata Banerjee government is likely to take a leaf out of the Right for Children to Compulsory and Free Education Act and emulate the admission procedure existing in other metros such as Delhi within two years from now. The deadline is March 31, 2013.

Parents running from pillar to post to get their children admitted to a state government or a government-aided school will soon be able to breathe free. The state government will work overtime to create enough primary schools so that children get admission to a school close by - within half-a-kilometre radius from home in urban areas, and one kilometre in rural.

However, parents will also have the liberty to get their children admitted to schools far away. "For instance, there is no bar on students residing in Salt Lake against applying in Ballygunge Government Boys High School. The restriction is only on the minimum limit; the maximum limit has not been specified," said school education secretary Vikram Sen.

For the upper primary level (Class V to Class VIII), the minimum radius is 1 km. The minimum distance for village schools is 2 km.

A GIS mapping of such schools done by the school education department reveals that the department runs short of 1,500 primary schools and 5,500 upper primary schools to meet the proposed admission criteria. "We have already been able to set up 700 primary schools and 4,300 upper primary schools. The rest will be completed within March 31, 2013," said school education secretary, Vikram Sen.

Terming the project 'Neighbourhood schools', the school education secretary said: "The RTE Act provides that states should create provisions for neighborhood schools. We are now implementing the provision mentioned in the Act."

The government also plans to beef up infrastructure in the existing schools to offer uniform facilities. However, this won't solve the staggering problem being faced by the schools at the moment.

On Wednesday, the cabinet had decided against holding lottery system in schools to give admissions to children. "We will decide on a mechanism of admitting students within next week after we arrive at a consensus," the school education secretary said.

Deepak Das, vice-president of Government School Teachers Association, said: "The government has to set up many more schools if this provision is to be implemented. Plus, this will restrict the choice for parents. Currently, guardians prefer to pick and choose the schools for their children. Some even travel quite some distance to get their wards admitted to schools. Now, if the government does not set up schools with best facilities in their localities, the guardians with a particular choice in mind will create a stir in case they find that the options available do not have sufficient facilities."
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ST students to get subsidised educational loan

ST students to get subsidised educational loan
National Scheduled Tribes Finance and Development Corp would provide concessional loan at six per cent interest to sustain their courses
Submitted on 11/04/2011 - 08:37:38 AM

New Delhi: Tribal Affairs Ministry launched a scheme to offer subsidised education loans to Scheduled Tribe (ST) students at concessional rate for higher, professional and technical education in government-approved institutions.

Speaking to reporters in Delhi after launching Adivasi Shiksha Rinn Yojana (ASRY) on Thursday, Tribal Affairs Minister Kishore Chandra Deo said that the scheme by the National Scheduled Tribes Finance and Development Corporation (NSTFDC) would provide concessional loan at six per cent interest which is payable only after completion of the course or after getting a job.

This will enable them not only to gain seats in institutions and universities but also to sustain their courses which will last for four or five years.

In order to encourage self employment, provision has also been made in Rinn Yojana for extending concessional financial assistance for undertaking income generating activities after completion of studies.
—iGovernment Bureau

Friday, November 4, 2011

Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI) pushes India to 119th place

Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI) pushes India to 119th place
By Newzfirst 10/26/11

The 2010 UNDP Global Human Development Report- The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development, introduced a new index, the Inequality-adjusted HDI aimed at capturing the distributional dimensions of human development. Three dimensions of HDI i.e. income, education and health are adjusted for inequalities in attainments across people. Globally, India is ranked 119 out of 169 countries but loses 32 percent of its value when adjusted for inequalities.

The 2010 UNDP HDR entitled The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development focuses specifically on inequalities in human development attainments across countries. To quantify the potential loss because of such inequalities, the Report introduces three new indices, viz., Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI), Gender Inequality Index and Multi-dimensional Poverty Index.

The Government of India (GoI) has been concerned about rising inequalities and uneven distribution of the benefits of growth. Accordingly, the thrust of the 11thFive-Year Plan (2007-12) was on inclusive growth. The forthcoming 12th Five-Year Plan is expected to deepen and sharpen the focus on inequalities.

In view of the above, this report presents a methodology and provides estimates for the Inequality-adjusted HDI for Indian states. The report is organized as follows: The first section focuses on the methodology adopted to arrive at these estimates and data sources utilized.

The second section outlines the IHDI estimates for India’s states and findings from the analysis. The paper concludes by highlighting key areas for further research and policy interventions.

Amidst growing concern over these persistent inequalities, and in light of government emphasis on inclusive growth, this report calculates the HDI and Inequality-adjusted HDI for states in India. The methodology adopted is similar to the approach of the HDR 2010 and data utilized from different rounds of the National Sample Survey on appropriate variables. To facilitate a cross-country comparison, the indices are normalized with reference to the goalposts outlined in the HDR 2010.

When ranked according to global goalposts, Kerala’s rank is 99 (between Philippines and the Republic of Moldova) whereas Orissa is ranked 133 (between Myanmar and Yemen). Amongst India’s states, Madhya Pradesh suffers the greatest loss of HDI due to inequality with 35.74 percent. Variations in IHDIs across states and a comparative analysis with global averages reveal that inequality in the distribution of human development is distinctly more pronounced in India than elsewhere.

Further, loss resulting from inequality varies across dimensions and is highest in education (43 percent), followed by health and income. Loss resulting from inequality in education is much higher than the global average of 28 percent and loss due to inequality in health is 34 percent, compared to the global average of 21 percent.

The findings of this report suggest that human development outcomes alone, without measurement of inequalities, may significantly mask the performance of individual states.

Full report is available at: http://www.undp.org.in/sites/default/files/reports_publication/IHDI_India.pdf

Primary schools not child-friendly: Survey

Primary schools not child-friendly: Survey
HP News Network | October 28, 2011 | Comments | | Print

New Delhi: Primary schools in India are not child-friendly, a survey said Friday, even as the right to education (RTE) is lauded for increasing enrolment of students.

The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) launched here, covers five states of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand and Rajasthan. It monitored the education process in nearly 900 schools with around 30,000 students.

“Around 850 hours of classroom observations demonstrate that most primary schools are not child-friendly at all,” said the ASER report prepared in collaboration with UNICEF and UNESCO.

“Teachers use some kind of teaching and learning material other than the textbook in less than one out of every 10 classrooms,” it added.

Classroom absenteeism was found to be a major issue in the longitudinal study that tracked the teaching methodology over a period of 15 months in the academic year 2009-10.

Infrastructure, enrolment and attendance are taken into account, the report stated.

“In standard 4, less than one-fourth of all children could do a numerical three-digit subtraction problem with borrowing. The biggest challenge that surfaced in the survey was how to guarantee age-appropriate education to children,” the report mentioned.

“We seem to be going wrong with the dwindling headcount in schools even though the enrolment is high on paper, and the quality of education that is not considered,” said R. Govinda, vice chancellor of the National University of Educational Planning and Administration.

“There is a long-term engagement needed with teachers to make the schools child-friendly in India,” Govinda added.

Of the over 11,000 children tested in standard 5, only 3 out of 10 children were able to fluently read a standard 3-level text.

Twenty percent of children surveyed were first generation school-goers, while less than 50 percent of households had any study material available for children.



IANS

Give free education to kids of migrant workers: HC to Mah govt

Give free education to kids of migrant workers: HC to Mah govt
Press Trust Of India
Mumbai, September 28, 2011
First Published: 17:32 IST(28/9/2011)

The Bombay high court has asked the Maharashtra government to open schools in rural areas to provide free primary education to the children of migrant labourers who work in sugarcane fields.
Hearing a petition filed by Maharashtra Sugarcane Growers and Transporters association,
Justice B H Marlapalle observed that the children of agricultural workers cannot be denied the Right to Education guaranteed by the Constitution.

The petition contended that the workers should be given enhanced wages and facilities such as education to children. It alleged that the state had come out with many schemes for such children but was not implementing them.

The petition said that workers migrate from their homes to various places in rural areas in search of jobs in sugarcane fields and along with them their families also move for temporary period upto six months till the cultivation season lasts. As the children go with their parents they are deprived of education.

Sudhir Goyal, secretary of school education, filed an affidavit saying that the state had taken many steps in the last six months in its pursuit to provide free education to children in rural areas. A survey had also been conducted to study the needs of migrant workers in sugarcane fields.

The survey had revealed that most workers migrate from Beed district while maximum sugar factories are located in Kolhapur, Sangli and Satara districts, he said.

Accordingly, the state was considering to open free schools and residential hostels in Beed district and other parts of rural areas for children of migrant agricultural labourers. Even if 20 such children are found in a particular area, a residential school and hostel will be set up for them.

Crowded schools: HC notice to Delhi government

Crowded schools: HC notice to Delhi government
TNN | Nov 3, 2011, 01.41AM IST
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NEW DELHI: Shocked by an incident in which a class VII student lost one eye after being hit with a stone in his school in August, Delhi High Court on Wednesday took up the matter suo motu. A division bench of acting chief justice AK Sikri and justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw converted a letter written by an NGO about the case into a PIL. The letter had alleged the government school was crowded and lacked security measures. The court has demanded a response from the state government on the incident.

In its letter to the court, the NGO also alleged the school authorities failed to provide immediate treatment to the child, Vijay Soni, leading to the loss of his eye.

Soni, a student of Delhi Government Boys Senior Secondary School in New Seemapuri, was hit by outsiders on August 29 when classes were held in the playground due to shortage of rooms. Soni will be operated upon at AIIMS later this week.

The bench issued a notice to the Directorate of Education and sought its response by December 14. The HC also appointed advocate Ashok Aggarwal as amicus curiae to assist the court in the case and find means to decongest the schools so that students don't have to attend classes in the open.

The NGO had sought action against the school authority and the government, accusing them of failing to learn a lesson from an earlier incident in which a girl student of class XI had also lost an eye.

Soon after the August incident, teachers took Soni to GTB Hospital but left him outside the emergency ward. His parents took him to Guru Nanak Hospital, from where he was referred to AIIMS, which advised surgery on the damaged eye.

Tests remain, but no 'pass-fail' till Class VIII

Tests remain, but no 'pass-fail' till Class VIII
TNN | Nov 4, 2011, 03.24AM IST
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KOLKATA: School examinations remain, but there won't be any detention up to Class VIII. The state government has fallen in line with other states as prescribed under the Right to Education Act. The decision was taken at the Cabinet meeting on Thursday.

State commerce and industries minister Partha Chatterjee said the government was not in favour of doing away with examination system because it helps in assessing a student's progress. "The examination system will continue, but no one can be detained in the name of examination," Chatterjee said, with state education minister Bratya Basu sitting by his side. "There should be provision to improve a student's weakness. Therefore, we want the examination system to continue," Chatterjee added.

The other decision taken at the meeting was doing away with the lottery system of admission in government schools. The lottery system - introduced during the Left rule - has been prevalent for a long time now. Recently, however, the government issued an order saying even government-aided schools should follow the same rule. Therefore, the cabinet's decision on Thursday indicates that both stand cancelled. Basu said the reason for doing away with the lottery system was that the chief minister felt the system smacked of gambling and it could not be allowed. "The CM feels such a system could affect the minds of children," Basu said.

The Right to Education Act would not allow students to go through tests for admission. Under the circumstances, the state cabinet decided to leave the choice of admission to individual schools. "A panel headed by the state education minister will review complaints -- in case there are any -- against schools on a case-to-case basis and take action where required," Chatterjee said. "The state government will otherwise not intervene, but do so only if there are allegations against schools for taking additional fees, corruption or personal agenda. The complaints will be checked from school-to-school basis," the minister added.

"Whether the schools admit students on first-come-first-serve basis or merit or any other method is for them to decide," Basu said. However, they have to inform the government about the system they are adopting.

Learning suffers

Learning suffers

Thursday, 03 November 2011 21:17
ANURADHA DUTT


Obsession with quotas in education is misplaced

Too much is made of the policy of reservations for disadvantaged students in colleges and higher educational institutes. Eventually, a small proportion of these students pass out of high school to access the portals of higher learning through the quota route. At any rate, the overall education scenario is far from bright. Unesco’s ‘Education for All Report, 2008’ has pointed out that only 66 per cent of Indians were literate, with 76 per cent males and 54 per cent females. The number of children aged 6-14, who were not in school, was estimated to be 40 million; and over 92 per cent of students did not study further than primary school.

The report stated that, about 35 per cent of schools lacked the necessary paraphernalia such as blackboards and furniture, and about 90 per cent had no toilets. Leaking roofs and lack of water supply compounded the problems in half the schools. The ‘World Development Report 2004’ cites high absence rate of primary school teachers as well.

The higher education picture too is dismal, with about 427 registered universities — it is difficult to fix an exact number — for 1.2 billion people. These include public and private universities. Many of the institutes are not recognised. Such data indicates that very few Indians are actually going in for higher studies. Since quotas are meant for the underprivileged and poor, the inference is that a meagre number actually gets to benefit from amongst the vast unlettered populace. So, why the overdrive to secure reservations for select vote banks? Also, why is there an obsession with assuring quotas to Scheduled Castes/Tribes and OBCs in the Indian Institutes of Technology, the Indian Institutes of Management, premier medical institutes and the like when so few are actually clearing high school?

Education-for-all must be bolstered by a pledge to provide quality education up to high school for the largest number of students. Otherwise, the Right to Education legislation is as meaningless as getting unqualified students into technical and medical courses that require suitable aptitude and high ability.

Policy makers need to ponder on this. One cites information culled from the Annual Status of Education Report Centre and other studies to substantiate the point that even basic learning skills are severely inadequate. Aser Centre has released a study of 900 schools in 15 districts, which monitored 30,000 class II and class IV students over a period of 15 months. Most apparently were two grades below even in the best performing states. To cite another example, the Bihar Government reportedly conducted one-month summer camps for students of classes III-V in 2008. But they failed to perform even at the class II level when it came to arithmetic or reading.

Though the Right to Education Act, 2009 ensures that primary education is a fundamental right of children aged 6-14 years, reorientation of the learning and teaching process is of crucial importance if quality education is to be provided to the huge number of children from disadvantaged backgrounds. ‘Inside Primary Schools’, a United Nations-sponsored year-long study of 30,000 students in Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Assam, finds learning ability to be substandard. Hence, a class V student is equipped only to study class III textbooks. About 40 per cent of the children in class IV were aged 7-14 years, when they should have been ideally 8-9 years old. To cite other cases, 30 per cent of class II students could not read more than two alphabets in a word, despite having been taught long phrases in class I. About 10 per cent were taught in a language different from that spoken at home. Teachers were also evaluated, with “a fair number” not being able to answer questions correctly. The skills and knowledge of teachers need to be upgraded; school premises improved; electricity and drinking water assured; and toilets built where required. Just providing midday meals to children is not a guarantee of success.

The passage of the Right to Education Act 2009, which came into effect from April 1, 2010, was considered a notable achievement by civil activists and teachers, as this right enshrined as Article 21 of the Constitution came to be at par with the right to life, guaranteed in Article 21A. Earlier, it was part of the Directive Principles of State Policy in the Constitution, under Article 45. Henceforth, all children in the 6-14 years bracket would have to undergo eight years of elementary education in a nearby school. The State would bear the cost for poor children. In order to simplify the process, it was laid down that a child, even after the admission cycle is completed, would be admitted to school; and the admission test was made redundant. The disabled would also be admitted to general schools.

Private schools would have to set aside 25 per cent of their capacity for children from the deprived or the disadvantaged sections. Many of those who availed of Government land on nominal lease have defaulted on this commitment, despite the State subsidising such education.

Further, all schools and teachers would need to conform to the standards, set down under the Act, or face disqualification. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights would monitor implementation of the law, with the involvement of NGOs, teachers, students, administrators, intelligentsia, Government functionaries, legislators, members of the judiciary and others. This was meant to ensure that all children would undergo eight years of quality education. The initiative was hailed as being long overdue. But the studies cited above suggest that merely enrolling students is not enough. Ensuring that they actually learn is the bigger challenge.
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Kapil Sibal meets MPs across party lines on education reforms

Kapil Sibal meets MPs across party lines on education reforms
Akshaya Mukul, TNN | Nov 4, 2011, 04.32AM IST
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Read more:UPA allies|Lok Sabha|Kapil Sibal|hrd minister|Education reforms
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NEW DELHI: Faced with criticism from within his party and UPA allies for his proposed reform bills on higher education, HRD minister Kapil Sibal on Thursday had a second round of interaction with MPs from Congress, NCP, Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal to convince them and clear doubts.

Congress MP J D Selam, who spoke on behalf of the SC/ST MPs' forum in the meeting, said, "I have asked the ministry to send original bills to our forum. We would scrutinize the bills and get back to the ministry. The minister has agreed. We should be given more time to study."

Sibal and ministry officials briefed in detail about four bills that are pending in Parliament and the need for their speedy passage. The Educational Tribunals Bill, Unfair Practices Bill, National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutions and Foreign Educational Institutions (regulation of entry and operations) Bill are pending.

Two other bills proposed to be introduced are National Academic Depository Bill and Higher Education and Research (HER) Bill. Educational Tribunals Bill has been passed by the Lok Sabha, but is held up in Rajya Sabha after Opposition from Congress MPs. HER Bill that proposes to create a new regulatory body in place of the UGC is likely to be introduced in the Winter session of Parliament.

Sources said, "MPs were told that the proposed legislation is reformist in nature but would not work against the marginal sections as it is fulfills the goal of equity, access and quality." It is believed that while MPs were supportive of the overall reformist agenda many of them felt that equity might suffer with slew of legislations. "We welcome the initiative but we also have concern. The goal of legislations is to increase access and quality. Equity should also be added. There should be focus on reducing the gap between general and disadvantaged sections. Also, there should be proper representation of SC/STs in the proposed tribunal and council," Selam told TOI. Many of the MPs like Rajniti Prasad of RJD, Ram Gopal Yadav of Samajwadi Party and PJ Kurien of Congress were supportive of Sibal's initiative, but stressed on the equity angle.

Last month Sibal's first interaction was attended by Congress MPs Shashi Tharoor, Navin Jindal, NCP's Supriya Sule and others.

Parents under pressure ahead of school admissions

Parents under pressure ahead of school admissions
Yogita Rao, TNN | Nov 3, 2011, 02.46AM IST
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I am seeking admission for my three-year-old son. The admission kit the school gave us has three or four forms. Can you guess what sort of questions they contain?" asks Deepak Patil (name changed), wiping off sweat from his forehead. "Well, they ask if my son is fluent in English. Can such a small child be fluent in any language, leave alone English?"

Patil's angst is shared by many parents going through the primary and pre-primary school admission process. While the Right to Education Act bars the screening of children for admissions, parents fear private schools will test the intelligence of potential candidates in myriad ways, going to the extent of seeking educational qualifications of parents and details like their membership in social organizations. Parents say the number of good schools in the city is limited, whereas applicants are in the thousands. Though they sympathize with their children, they feel making them go through the grind for a coveted seat is unavoidable.

Then there is expenditure. A parent who spent around Rs 10,000 on forms said: "A school in Mumbai Central charged the highest amount for a form--Rs 5,000. I hate to see my daughter sit through all this at her age, but it is unavoidable. I have been sending her to special classes for the last three months. There is a shop at Kemps' Corner that sells interview materials. I have bought these too to train her at home. I want that she should not be confused if she sees all that material when a school calls her for an interview."

Another parent, whose son will be three soon, has been on her toes for six months, reading up on international schools, among other things. Not sure about the nature of questions to be thrown at her or her son, she does not want to leave any stone unturned. Her husband, a businessman, is about to complete an MBA course; he enrolled in it to ensure that he was not found wanting by any school seeking parental qualifications.

Another parent journeys from Ghatkopar to Mahalaxmi every day for training sessions for her four-year-old daughter, who she wants in a renowned Bandra school. "My daughter has secured a seat in nursery in a Chembur school. But we want for her the Bandra school. We do not know what the school will ask us or our child in the interactive sessions. So, we are familiarizing our child with strangers to develop her communication skills."

Meenakshi Chirawala, a trainer, says schools want "good" students. "Many schools seek parents who are professionals. They have been doing this for several years now. I mostly train children to familiarize them with their surroundings, and make them arrive at a basic understanding of colours, shapes, etc. I teach them to converse and help them overcome fright of strangers."

Muslim cleric calls for campaign against Right to Education Act

Muslim cleric calls for campaign against Right to Education Act
Submitted by admin3 on 3 November 2011 - 5:00pm

Indian Muslim

By Faisal Fareed, TwoCircles.net,

Lucknow: A Lucknow based Muslim cleric, Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firhangi Mahali has appealed from the Muslims across the country to respond to the calls of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) to boycott and oppose the Right to Education Act (RTE). He regarded the RTE as a “threat to our madarsa education system.”

“Everyone should answer the call of all India Muslim Personal Law Board to oppose RTE Act which is threat to our madarsa education system,” Firhangi Mahali said while addressing in a felicitation ceremony organized by Sir Syed Foundation at in Lucknow on Wednesday. Maulana Farhangi Mahali and director of UP Jal Nigam, PK Bhukesh were felicitated on the occasion.


from R to L, PK Bhukesh, Saeedur Rehman Azmi and Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firhangi

Without specifying any substantial reason, the cleric started counting the features of the RTE Act which he considered, will clash with the independence of Madarsa, “the government will introduce a syllabus and procedure for the appointment of teacher which everyone will have to follow. We cannot follow such policies in madarsa as we have our own syllabus as well as procedure for selection of teachers."

Firhangi Mahali claimed that the RTE Act would end the madarsa education system, which he regarded as the centre of religion and spirituality. So he said that if there are any misunderstandings among the people of the community then they should sort it out by holding talks with each other rather than fighting about the teaching of Islam.

Chancellor of Integral University, Maulana Saeedur Rehman Azmi highlighted the importance of education for the Muslim community and stated that everyone in the community should acquire knowledge as it’s the only key for the development of the community.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

12 years on, JSpur schools still in sad shape

12 years on, JSpur schools still in sad shape

Saturday, 29 October 2011 23:47
KAHNU NANDA | JAGATSINGHPUR

Odisha observed 12th anniversary of the 1999 Super Cyclone on October 29, which was one of the most ravaging natural disasters that mankind has experienced ever in modern times.

However, thanks to official apathy and massive corruption, several victims of the tragedy are yet to get compensation. Similarly, the reconstruction works in several areas have been below par, while the State Government has not been able to handle relief distribution and provide benefits under various rehabilitation schemes, besides restoring the communication system.

Reports said that most schools in the district were either partly damaged or razed to the ground in the devastating cyclone. Most of them have been rebuilt and repaired. Government agencies, several NGOs and many public undertaking companies had undertaken new construction and repair works.

Many schools went for a facelift but lack of yearly maintenance again left the building in ruins. A large number of the buildings have been rendered unsafe. The Government authorities are unable to provide adequate funds for the yearly maintenance works. The donor NGOs and companies who had provided the funds for the new buildings are not caring a hoot about their maintenance either.

Official reports indicate that nearly 801 OBB school buildings have been constructed in Jagatsinghpur district by spending about Rs 16 crore. Besides, construction activities have been undertaken for 972 primary schools and 192 high schools.

Besides under Cyclone Shelter-cum-School Building Scheme, Paradeep Port Trust and Paradeep Phosphates Limited had undertaken to construct 181 school buildings. Besides, funds were also availed from Prime Minister Relief Funds (PMRF) to construct some buildings.

Under Chief Minister Relief Fund, nearly eight school buildings and cyclone shelters had been constructed at a cost of Rs 10 lakh each.

Moreover, Maharastra Government which adopted Jagatsinghpur district after the cyclone had constructed about 52 schools-cum-cyclone shelters at a cost of Rs 18 lakh to Rs 20 lakh each.

Indian Overseas Bank had constructed three schools-cum-cyclone shelters, TATA Relief two, CASA four, Reserve Bank of India one, RK Mission one, CMRF seven, LOS six, HUDCO ten, CYSD three, RD Department of Odisha Government seven, Karnatak Government one and IRCS had built two shelters. Each building had cost Rs 15 lakh to 20 lakh.

Furthermore, 17 school buildings were constructed under MPLAD funds. Official records show that after completion of the school buildings, they were handed over to the school authorities. Odisha State Disaster Management Authority (OSDMA) had been deployed to supervise the work and monitor the quality of construction.

But after passing of two years, the buildings required maintenance. The State Government paid no heed to bear the yearly maintenance cost and the donors refused to take any further responsibility. As a result, most of the buildings are now in dilapidated conditions.

Two years ago, the District Administration faced an awkward situation when a Parliamentary committee visited Jagatsinghpur district to verify the condition of the cyclone shelters funded under MPLAD funds.

Many of the buildings had been damaged or rendered unsafe. The District Collector had called an urgent meeting and instructed Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) authority to repair the buildings forthwith. The Parliamentary panel visited only three cyclone shelters, including two in Biridi block and one in Jagatsinghpur.

The members had expressed displeasure over the poor construction works and instructed the District Administration to taking care of the maintenance of the buildings.

When contacted, District School and Mass Education Department authorities said SSA funds cannot be diverted for maintenance of the buildings.

OSDMA sources, however, said for the multi-purpose cyclone shelters, annually Rs 50,000 is being provided to each registered ones for management and maintenance. The concerned committee at village level uses the corpus fund. However, it is not possible to provide yearly funds to all cyclone shelters built after the Super Cyclone.

Give free education to kids of migrant workers: HC to Mah govt

Give free education to kids of migrant workers: HC to Mah govt
Press Trust Of India
Mumbai, September 28, 2011
First Published: 17:32 IST(28/9/2011)

The Bombay high court has asked the Maharashtra government to open schools in rural areas to provide free primary education to the children of migrant labourers who work in sugarcane fields.
Hearing a petition filed by Maharashtra Sugarcane Growers and Transporters association,
Justice B H Marlapalle observed that the children of agricultural workers cannot be denied the Right to Education guaranteed by the Constitution.

The petition contended that the workers should be given enhanced wages and facilities such as education to children. It alleged that the state had come out with many schemes for such children but was not implementing them.

The petition said that workers migrate from their homes to various places in rural areas in search of jobs in sugarcane fields and along with them their families also move for temporary period upto six months till the cultivation season lasts. As the children go with their parents they are deprived of education.

Sudhir Goyal, secretary of school education, filed an affidavit saying that the state had taken many steps in the last six months in its pursuit to provide free education to children in rural areas. A survey had also been conducted to study the needs of migrant workers in sugarcane fields.

The survey had revealed that most workers migrate from Beed district while maximum sugar factories are located in Kolhapur, Sangli and Satara districts, he said.

Accordingly, the state was considering to open free schools and residential hostels in Beed district and other parts of rural areas for children of migrant agricultural labourers. Even if 20 such children are found in a particular area, a residential school and hostel will be set up for them.

Age limit for primary school teachers recruitment extended to 40 years in Uttar Pradesh

Age limit for primary school teachers recruitment extended to 40 years in Uttar Pradesh

Lucknow: Here’s a piece of good news for the candidates applying for the post of primary school teachers in Uttar Pradesh. The state government has now extended the age limit till 40 years for recruitment of teachers in primary government schools.

Giving approval to the proposal by Basic Education Department, the state government has issued an order to raise the age limit from 35 years to 40 years to fill around 70,000 posts of primary school teachers lying vacant.

Notably, for BTC selection in 2007 and 2008 the age limit of 40 years was made mandatory. On the basis of which, the B.Ed degree holders demanded to increase the maximum age limit for the appointment of primary school teachers.

Earlier, the officials neglected the demands by giving explanation of training programme for candidates before BTC selection.

Considered as a move ahead of Uttar Pradesh Assembly election, the BSP does not want to lose the huge vote bank of B.Ed candidates.

Corruption looms large on primary education in Uttar Pradesh

Corruption looms large on primary education in Uttar Pradesh

Posted on: 02 Oct 2011, 07:09 PM

Lucknow: Despite the government’s attempt to boost the primary education for children between 6 and 14 years by implementing Right to Education, one cannot ignore the harsh reality in Uttar Pradesh that the basic education system has been crippled by corruption.

Be it the construction of school buildings, mid-day meal scheme or the printing of textbooks, the traces of corruption is quite evident in all the issues. In maximum cases, the failure to take the required steps by concerned authorities has bolstered the intentions of corrupt officials.

The Estimate Committee of Assembly has already apprised the Mayawati Government of the misappropriation done during the construction of classrooms and boundaries of the approved primary and upper primary schools in Mathura’s Chata block during 2008-09 and 2009-10.

The probe committee which was formed by the state government during its visit to the site found that neither the departmental guidelines were followed nor the prescribed procedures were given the due importance. Rather huge amount of money were amassed by the officials.

While the probe committee has found the Assistant Basic Education Officer guilty, the State Project Director of the Sarva Sikhsha Abhiyaan, Mathura’s District Basic Education Officer and officer of Department of Finance and Accounts were recommended for suspension. However, no action has been taken against the alleged officials.

The High Court has handed over the investigation of mid-day meal scam in Mainpuri district to CBI. The amount of money involved in the scam can be gauged from the fact that the institution which was supposedly supplying the mid-day-meal to the schools in the form of conversion costs has been paid an amount of Rs 7.6 crore.

Moreover, the institution has lifted 43 thousand quintals of cereals in the period. The CBI officials are investigating the role of three district collectors and two Chief Development Officers (CDO) in this scam.

Sensing the strict approach of the court, the Mainpuri administration has suspended BSA Kendian Ram.

Similar is the case of printing of books. The case is such that in the present educational session even before the completion of tender process, a publication in Jhansi has started the printing of books. The scam in the tender process has forced delay in the printing process of the books. And despite a report being sent to the government in this regard, no action has been taken as of yet.

Students turned out to be major sufferers in the issue as they were deprived of the books till September 15.

Teachers need to reinvent themselves

Teachers need to reinvent themselves
Kamala Mukunda

‘Children don't learn best when they're in fear, says Kamala Mukunda

It is a great time to be a teacher in India. The very idea of what a teacher should be is changing. Earlier, we thought the teacher had to know everything, and just press the switch for information to transfer into the students' minds. When some students behaved in disruptive ways, they had to be controlled or else the information flow would be interrupted!

So the teacher had to be good at controlling behaviour, and we all know the easiest way to do that is to use rewards and punishments. When I remember my teachers, I realise there were so few who allowed their affection for their students to show. Most of them were feared or cordially disliked. But today, we know a lot more about how children learn, and this is transforming the work of the teacher.

Today, children know a great deal when they first encounter a teacher. They have sophisticated ways of making sense of what they hear or see. They learn by creating knowledge out of all they experience.

The catch

In fact, they are ‘born to learn'. But there's a small catch: they are also full of their own interests and inclinations, and the match between these and what's on the syllabus is weak at best!

So the whole model of information transfer has to be thrown out of the window.

And guess what, we've also realised that children don't learn best when they're in fear, or when they're running behind rewards. This means a teacher has to be creative, affectionate, flexible and infinitely patient.

‘More fulfilling'

I happen to think that this makes the job more tiring, but also more fulfilling.

The major challenges for a teacher now are not how to manage and control students, but how to connect with, inspire and enthuse them. (I know, ‘challenge' is usually a euphemism for ‘stress'. But I'm all for euphemisms.) I don't have to waste my time inventing meaningless rewards and hurtful punishments. I can instead spend time getting to know the kids, letting them get to know me, and helping them learn what's on the syllabus. Actually this change mirrors a transformation in myself as I was growing up.

When I was very young, I used to play ‘school-school' standing in front of a bunch of potted plants and earnestly scolding them, stick in hand. Later, in high school, college and university, I repeatedly found myself helping my classmates understand the material we'd just been taught. I think I honed my skills of explaining in such a way that the other person understands; something that many of our teachers failed to do! Without realising it, I was changing my own ideas of what it is to be a teacher, and beginning to enjoy the act of teaching more and more.

Kamala Mukunda is a teacher at the Centre For Learning, Bangalore.

Ensure free & compulsory education: HC to UP govt

Ensure free & compulsory education: HC to UP govt
Done Oct 22, 2011, 05.02AM IST
Tags:

free & compulsory education

LUCKNOW: In a Diwali bonanza to the parents, whose wards are studying in convent and reputed English medium schools, including all un-aided schools in the state, the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court has directed the state government to ensure free and compulsory education to children till the age of 14 years. The order has come as a shock to the reputed schools charging exorbitant fees from children below 14.

A division bench of Justice Abdul Mateen and Justice SK Saxena, further directed the secretary, basic education to ensure the compliance of the order and furnish his personal affidavit in this respect on November 24. The court also issued notice to National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and UP Legal Services Authority, the bodies pursuing the cause of child education, to place their stand before the court by filing an affidavit till next date of hearing. "The state government may take suitable steps for carrying out the aforesaid direction," observed the bench, adding that the Centre may also take necessary action in the matter. "Child is the future of nation and issue of child education cannot be negotiated," held the bench.

The order came on a PIL filed by an NGO, Meydha. The NGO had submitted before the court that the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 was passed two years back, but 'unaided' schools are still charging fee from the children upto age of 14 years. It was argued that section 3 of the Act confers a right upon every child upto 14 to have a right to free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school and that no child shall be liable to pay any kind of fee, charges or expenses. "Certain unaided schools are charging fee from children in gross violation of Section 3 of the Act," contended the NGO.

The Act also provides that it is the duty of the government to provide free and compulsory education to every child. "The petitioner's contention prima facie has substance," held the court.

DoE registers 448 pre-primary schools

DoE registers 448 pre-primary schools
TNN Oct 25, 2011, 04.09AM IST

PANAJI: The directorate of education (DoE), which for the first time has begun the process of recording the number of preprimary schools in Goa, has registered 448 schools so far.

The DoE had first decided to regulate preprimary education in Goa only a few years ago as the state saw a number of playschools mushrooming across the state. Many of these preprimary schools were functioning from dingy apartments sans basic infrastructure.
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The education department, however, got poor response from preprimary institutions for the registration as the Goa School Education Rules, 1986, does not have any provision to regulate playschools. Also, the state does not have any control over preprimary schools as they do not get any funds from the Goa government.

But the DoE has now taken the task of registration seriously as regulation of preprimary education has found a mention in the Right of Child to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE), 2009 of the Union government.

The RTE requires that states should provide free pre-school education to children from the age of three to six as preparation for school education. In view of this provision, the first step for Goa would be to regulate the existing playschools in Goa. States have been provided a deadline of three years by the centre to implement provisions of RTE.

The DoE has begun the process of providing registration numbers to the 448 preprimary schools identified by it. The preprimary schools that do not display these registration numbers prominently outside their premises for the information of parents seeking admissions for their wards will be considered illegal, sources said.

Sources informed that most of the preprimary schools functioning in Goa offer Konkani and Marathi as medium of instruction. The medium of instruction used in the playschools though is yet to be recorded in the official records.

ibal Calls for RTE Awareness Camps

ibal Calls for RTE Awareness Camps
Submitted by Pratibha Minhas on Thu, 10/20/2011 - 11:01
Sibal Calls for RTE Awareness Camps

As per reports, Kapil Sibal, the Human Resource and Development(HRD) Minister yesterday announced that soon he would be launching several awakes camps regarding the spread of knowledge about the Right to Education (RTE).

The Right to Education (RTE) is considered an important article of the Indian constitution. The article says that any child, between the age group of 3 to 14, will be given free and compulsory education.

However, throughout an officials meeting held with the State Education Ministers, Sibal continued to request the ministers to lay additional emphasis on the issue of society mobilization and public awareness about RTE.

He further declared that following awareness strategies, the central and the state governments will be working together so that the RTE knowledge does not get more weakened.

The HRD Minster also highlighted the fact that the previous educational graph has certainly proved the fact that most of the states failed to accurately implement the RTE Act.

While giving his speech, he further affirmed that till date, only 20 states have proper RTE implementation. Some big state, including Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Karnataka, were still found waiting to follow the RTE suit.

However, from November 11, a countrywide movement regarding the RTE awareness would be launched from Nuh in Mewat, Haryana.

On the other hand, the PM also accounted it has been made mandatory for every high school principal to read all clauses related to the RTE during morning assembly. The campaign would be taken up in all 13 lakh schools across the country.

In the meantime, Sibal added, “It will be a historic failure, if we fail to implement the RTE law and the children are suffering in states which have failed to notify the rules”.