Tuesday, January 31, 2012

50% quit school by the time they reach Class VIII

50% quit school by the time they reach Class VIII

India's performance in primary school enrollment is regarded as one of its great achievements, and its near 100% net enrollment is one of the Millennium Development Goal targets it has reached ahead of time. But this milestone hides some shocking facts - just half the kids who enroll in Class I actually make it to Class VIII.

In 2009-10 (the latest year for which official data are available), 133.4 million children enrolled in Classes I-V, yet only 54.5 million made it to Classes VI-VIII.

Most of these children dropping out of school are winding up with very little education at all; over 50% of all dropouts quit school before Class III.

In rural areas, the most dropouts leave school in Class V, most likely because upper primary schools may be located some distance away.In urban areas on the other hand, a third of dropouts leave school in Class II alone.

The flagship Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan aims to achieve universal primary education. While it has made significant strides towards achieving 100% primary enrollment, it is failing to keep kids in school.

In National Sample Surveys, boys report the need to earn an income as the biggest reason for dropping out, while for girls it is domestic chores as well as a lower emphasis on education from their families. Nor does it help matters that only half of all primary schools have a girls' toilet.

Moreover, parents are increasingly finding that even if they make the sacrifices necessary to send their kids to school, their children are not learning enough. The Annual State of Education Report, a publication brought out by the education non-profit Pratham measuring levels of learning in rural schools, shows that close to half of all children in Class V cannot read texts meant for students in Class II.

Two thirds cannot solve a division sum.

In 2009, the centre set up the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan to achieve a General Enrollment Ratio (GER) of 75% in secondary education (Class IX to XII) by 2020. The last year, the UPA government passed the landmark Right To Education (RTE) Act, enshrining a child's right to free and compulsory education in the Constitution.

However unless the government urgently addresses the dropout rate and makes sure that the impressive statistics of children who enroll in school are actually retained, this will become a right to enrollment, rather than a right to a real and full education.

Making learning process more accessible to kids

Making learning process more accessible to kids
Published: Tuesday, Jan 31, 2012, 9:57 IST
By Aishhwariya Subramanian | Place: Bangalore | Agency: DNA

Noted Harvard educationist Dr Howard Gardner had visited Sujaya School in the city, where his theory of multiple intelligence is being put to practice in the curriculum.

As per this theory, the key to getting students to understand important concepts is by recognising their ‘primary’ intelligence and capitalising on it. Gardner, who was in the city last week, holds that human beings have multiple intelligence such as spatial intelligence, linguistic intelligence and more, but are proficient in only one of these. He believes that when this theory gets applied in education, the learning process becomes friendlier for students.

“What we’ve done is adopt the theory of multiple intelligences in our classrooms. It is enforced till the fifth standard, but the skills remain with students through all of their education,” says Priya Krishnan, CEO of Value and Budget Housing Corporation Education Services (VBHC), adding that classrooms are divided into various centres that will appeal to a child’s various intelligences.

“By taking the same theme, we will teach the children through different methods such as spatially, visually or by reading. Every child has a primary intelligence and we try to make children understand concepts by identifying that primary intelligence,” Krishnan said.

However, she added that Gardner was not consulted while introducing the concept last academic year. “We adopted the theory based on research that we had done by ourselves. But Gardner, when he visited last week, seemed impressed with the way we have implemented it.”

Further, Krishnan said teaching a classroom through various methods is not as hard as it is made out ot be. “We have three teachers for a classroom of 25, so it does not pose much trouble,” she said.

With focus being on reaching out to students, does Krishnan believe examinations should also be set according to a student’s primary intelligence? “Examinations are important but isn’t it better to crack an exam after understanding the concepts rather than simply learning it by rote!” she said.

‘Use of child labour in households growing’

‘Use of child labour in households growing’
Last Updated: Monday, January 30, 2012, 11:55

Kolkata: Pointing to a rise in child labour in domestic units, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) is seeking to bring households under the ambit of labour laws. India is estimated to have at least 13 million child labourers.

"There is growth in child labour, especially in the informal sector, the household units. The child labour law doesn't cover this sector. We want the household sector to be brought under its ambit," NCPCR chief Shanta Sinha said.

The problem of child labour poses a serious challenge to the government. Despite several initiatives, the magnitude of the socio-economic problem has come in the way of its eradication.

Many poor children in India work at the cost of their education, spending their lives in poverty and dejection. But according to NCPCR, most cases go unreported.

Sinha says child labour in any form has to be totally banned as it contradicts the spirit of the Right to Education Act.

"Under the Right to Education Act, no child can be employed anywhere - neither at home, nor at any factory or brick kiln. There has to be a total ban on child labour," says the Magsaysay award winning activist.

As per 2001 Census figures, there are an estimated 13 million child labourers in the age-group of 5-14 years.

Employers favour child labourers as they come cheap and can be easily coerced to work extra hours. They are in huge demand, specially in the diamond industry, fireworks industry and the domestic sector which includes household units, restaurants, dhabas and brick kilns.

Though the central government has broadened the coverage of child labour laws by banning children's services as domestic workers and as workers in restaurants, dhabas, hotels, yet a lot of children across the country continue to work in such units.

The household units employ a large number of children, but have been exempted from the purview of the law.

When asked about the condition of bonded child labourers, Sinha said: "I don't have the statistics. Every child who is working is a bonded labourer."

According to Unicef, "close to half the children leave school before reaching Grade 8 with higher dropout rates for SC (Scheduled Caste) children (55 out of 100) and the highest for ST (Scheduled Tribe) children (63 out of 100)".

It also states that children who are out of school are either part of the labour pool or at the risk of child labour, along with trafficking, early marriage and other violations.

Just like the plan for eradication of child labour, the issue of abolition of child marriage by 2010 under the National Plan of Action for Children 2005 has also gone for a toss due to lack of awareness.

Sinha pointed out that lack of schools was the main reason for the failure to abolish child marriage.

On the status of implementing the Right to Education Act, Sinha said: "The biggest challenge is to get dropouts back to school and give them an age appropriate education which has been mandated by the act."

The clause of no-detention policy till Class 8 in the act has triggered confusion with states like West Bengal arguing it will impede proper evaluation of students.

But Sinha said: "It actually puts the onus on the schools to see that there is quality education in schools and they move from one class to another fully equipped with learning."

She said the policy has been misunderstood by people involved with the education sector. "It doesn't mean no assessment of the students. It means comprehensive and continuous education," she added.

IANS

Big day today for BPL children

Big day today for BPL children
TNN | Jan 31, 2012, 08.14AM IST
Article

BHOPAL: Tuesday is going to be a big day for a section of children belonging to below the poverty line (BPL) category. For, the children from the category will get admission in private CBSE and ICSE schools under the Right to Education (RTE) Act.

These schools include all big educational institutions, including convents and others. The last date for submitting applications in private schools was January 25. Around 12,000 applications have been received so far. There are close to 9,000 seats in around 150 private schools in the district for 25% children of disadvantaged section as laid down by the RTE Act. According to orders given by joint director (JD) Public Instruction Bhopal division, D S Kushwaha, high school lecturers would be the nodal officers supervising admissions of disadvantaged children of the BPL category comprising 25% of the strength under the Act. The admissions would be held under random selection or lottery procedure in all the private schools on Tuesday.

The schools would have to admit children in initial two classes in the primary section, i.e. nursery, kindergarten and Class I. Twenty-five per cent disadvantaged children should form the part of total strength in both classes, according to the School Education Department.

Recently, district education officer (DEO) C M Upadhyay had given orders superseding that JD's orders whereby school principals were made nodal officers for supervising admission procedures. After the intervention of the commissioner, Rajya Shiksha Kendra Ashok Varnwal, the DEO's orders were cancelled, according to department sources.

School education minister Archana Chitnis announced that the state government would compensate for fees of children being admitted to non-aided private schools under the RTE Act. For this, the schools should register themselves and provide relevant information like number of children admitted under the RTE on the state school education portal .

Call to allocate 9% GDP for health, education

Call to allocate 9% GDP for health, education
Staff Reporter
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Wada Na Todo Abhiyan (WNTA), a collation of non-government organisations, would be organising a rally at India Gate on Wednesday under its campaign ‘NINE IS MINE' to demand the delivery of 9 per cent allocation of Gross Domestic Product for health and education by 2014.

Addressing a press conference, WNTA founder Amitabh Behar said on Saturday that the campaign is a participatory children's advocacy initiative to call for 9 per cent allocation of GDP, which includes 6 per cent for education and 3 per cent for health, to be committed to these fields as had been promised in the Common Minimum Programme of 2004.

The campaign believes that a “child who is capable of forming his or her own views has the right to express those freely in all matters affecting the child', and that “the view of the child be given due weightageGiving details of the campaign, Mr. Behar urged people to attend the rally in order to make the movement strong.

Some students of Presentation Convent and St. Columba's School staged acts during the media interaction to convey the message of the importance of allocating 9 per cent of GDP to health and education.

A group of students also raised the slogan “ Sada Haq Athey Rakh (give me my share)” during the conference and urged people to attend the rally in large numbers to make the movement a success.

The programme, which was attended by students from ten States, also included screening of two videos that showed the rallies held earlier in support of the demand and an open house.

NGO to hold rally at India Gate this Wednesday

Campaign to remind promise of Common Minimum Programme of 2004

Chhattisgarh students to get scholarship online

Chhattisgarh students to get scholarship online
The state government has decided to issue smart cards to the students to withdraw their scholarship through any of the ATMs of the nationalised banks
Submitted on 01/31/2012 - 10:42:39 AM

Raipur: More than 27 lakh students in Chhattisgarh will now get their monthly scholarship online.

In a recent decision, the state government has decided to issue ‘Sikshya Sangi Chhatrabruti’ card to the students of the SC/ST and OBC category so that they can avail of their monthly scholarship through any of the ATMs of the nationalised Banks spread across the state.

The cards to be issued by the Central Bank of India will carry the logo of the state government. It has also been decided that those areas, especially the naxal affected forested areas where no such bank ATMs exist, the government will run mobile ATMs to facilitate the distribution of scholarship to the students.

The state government now doles out more than Rs 170 crore as pre and post-matric scholarship to the students.
—iGovernment Bureau

Monday, January 30, 2012

Good news from Kashmir: Education back on rail

Good news from Kashmir: Education back on rail
January 29, 2012 | Filed under: National | Posted by: admin

Binoo Joshi

Jammu, (IANS) Ramshackle and damaged buildings are being repaired, teacher-student ratios are improving, enrolment is rising and so is the literacy rate. After over two decades of militant violence and disruptions, there is good news from Jammu and Kashmir as its education system is slowly coming back on the rails though problems remain.

Not only were 800 school buildings burnt after militancy erupted in the state in 1990 but the system too was shattered with endless strikes and violence.

However, different governments in the state made restoration of education system their priority and have seen some success with the literacy rate now reaching 64 percent, against the national average of 74.04, from 54 percent in 2001.

Education Minister Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed recently said that the dropout rate was enormous from 1990 to 1995 when militancy was at its peak. “But now in last five years, it has come down from 367,000 to 39,000.”

“Militants burnt schools in the early 1990s and an atmosphere of fear due to militancy and counter-militancy operations kept children away from schools in many parts of the state in the past two decades,” he said.

“First, the government reconstructed the damaged school buildings. And now new buildings are being constructed so that the schools have proper infrastructure,” he added.

In a reply to query by IANS under Right to Information Act, the education department stated that now there are sufficient number of teachers in all levels – primary, middle, high and higher secondary. The teacher-student ratio in primary and middle schools is 1:16, it is 1:22 in high schools and 1:25 in higher secondary.

There are over 1.7 million students and around 75,000 teachers in 20,000 government schools. Data about the number of private schools was not available with the department. An official of the education department, requesting anonymity, said there could be over 5,000 private schools in the state.

“But we were dragged back by over two decades of militancy. The schools would remain closed in the Kashmir Valley, particularly remote areas, because of regular gun battles, curfews and cordon and search operations by security forces, as well as shutdowns,” observed the official.

According to the RTI reply, 4,242 primary and 616 middle school buildings have been constructed in the past five years. Recruitment of new teachers is being taken up at fast pace by the state subordinate services recruitment board which has selected 6,000 teachers in last two years and more vacancies have been referred to the recruiting agency.

“There is a significant improvement in quality of studies in government schools,” Majid Qureshi, a Class 10 student in the Doda Government Higher Secondary School, told IANS over telephone.

“I am sure of getting distinction in Class 10 this year,” said Majid, who wants to become an engineer. His confidence is a far cry when his father Altaf, a poor farmer with three daughters apart from Majid, was in a fix about how to get his son educated.

But there are still hurdles in that path of progress of the state’s education system.

“Studies of students get hindered when teachers are frequently deputed on special duties like elections, census, VIP visits etc,” Sajjad Hussain, a retired principal in mountainous and border town Poonch, told IANS over telephone.

“We need to take immediate corrective steps on this,” he said, noting that last year, the panchayat elections were a three-month affair during which the teachers were posted on special duty. Then came the census and teachers were again drafted for enumeration.

Another incentive for poor people to send their children to school is the mid-Day meal scheme. “Honestly speaking I started sending my son Ayub to school as he would get meal there. Gradually he developed interest in studies and is now among toppers in Class 5,” said Jahangir Matoo of Assar village near Doda. He observes, “There is a lot of improvement in schools as compared to a decade ago. But still we have heard that many schools do not give mid-day meals and uniform and books to the poor.”

Asif Iqbal, a journalist in Kishtwar area, told IANS that there were many cases in the remote mountainous areas where teachers take children home and make them work as domestic help.

Besides this, teachers in remote areas “rarely go to their duties as there is lack of accountability in this regard,” he added.

i-cage for the education system

i-cage for the education system
GURUMURTHY KASINATHAN

While a satchel can hold only a few books, digital platforms can hold thousands. Students and teachers can carry and share digital books that combine text with audio and video, and allow annotations.

Schools largely use ‘pre-digital' paper methods for information storing and sharing, but digital alternatives have huge advantages.

What excites educationists is the promise digital platforms hold for constructivist learning possibilities. Constructivism, emphasised in our National Curriculum Framework 2005, suggests that learning requires active participation of the learner and is not the mere consumption of information. Digital platforms and tools can support widespread construction of learning resources. Since digital resources are ‘non-rivalrous', meaning sharing does not reduce their availability, teachers at a systemic level can locally create learning resources and share them across the country to create a resource-rich learning environment.

iBooks

While Amazon pioneered the Kindle e-reader, Apple recently took the lead with its iBooks app which can be freely downloaded to the iPad. This app “will integrate videos, photos and interactive graphics, make taking notes a breeze and be easy to navigate, features that will undoubtedly make Apple's textbooks more enjoyable and engaging to students than the current dead-tree versions”. However, the digital world is known for its seductive offerings that lock in users and deprive them of their rights. In the case of iBooks, books can be downloaded only on the iPad. Books cannot be freely shared on other computers, smartphones, e-readers, etc. While Apple all along was supporting the Open standard for books, called ePub, the iBook uses a proprietary format, which prevents it from being read on other devices.

For teachers

Along with the iBooks app, Apple released the iBooks Author app. Teachers can create their own interactive textbooks for use in class, through “a library of pre-built interactive widgets, and you can drag in your own 3D models, keynote presentations, pictures and other assorted media, all of which gets automatically formatted before being assembled and transferred to an iPad”.

While technologically this would help in easy production, the scary part is that, as per the EULA (End User Licence Agreement, which every user needs to accept to use the software), Apple will control the output. If the creator wishes to publish the book, it can only be done through Apple store after its approval.

It appears that Apple is seeking to lock the entire education system into its products, and decisions on what is available as well as what can be “creating-for-selling” are decided by it, controlling the very processes of knowledge creation and sharing. Not only is the software owned by the company, which means nobody other than Apple can modify or improve it, the output created by users would also be practically co-owned by Apple, which means it could deny permission to publish a book written using iBooks Author. Yet, the power of imminent obsolescence in the emerging digital frontiers of the knowledge market is such that the big three textbook publishers — McGraw Hill, Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, who together make up 90 per cent of the industry in the U.S. — have tied up with Apple to provide their textbooks through iBook.

It is essential that the curriculum and teaching-learning processes here are guided by public interest and priorities and not locked into the commercial ambitions of private technology companies. However seductive the apple, biting it would lead to loss of such a potential paradise of an Open and public education system.

We need to use and develop public hardware devices and software applications (which by virtue of public ownership are freely shareable and customisable) conforming to Open standards. The Union Government recently notified the ‘ policy on Open standards in e-Governance' which requires that Open standards be used in Government. This would favour the current Open standard ePub and prohibit use of proprietary formats used by iBook in government schools.

GURUMURTHY KASINATHAN

(The author is Director of Public Software Centre, IT for Change)

Resist this sinister move

Resist this sinister move

Kapil Sibal wants Congressisation of syllabus

Union Minister for Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal’s proposal to establish a National Textbook Council deserves to be spiked immediately because it is a thinly-disguised attempt to impose the will of the Congress on what schools across the country should teach their students. The proposed council is ostensibly supposed to monitor the content of textbooks used by schools that do not follow the syllabus prescribed by the Central Board of Secondary Education to ensure that the curricula does not have material which is ‘insidious’ in nature, but that reasoning is only a ruse for the ‘Congressisation’ of education in the country. The State Governments are, after all, well-equipped with their own education departments to monitor content and take action. Where is the need for a central authority to begin policing the syllabus? Moreover, it is not as if schools that do not follow the CBSE syllabus are free to devise their own content without any sense of accountability to any authority. These schools have either adopted the syllabus that has been prepared by the education boards of their respective States or by other accredited agencies whose content, like that of the CBSE, is accepted nationwide. The problem that Mr Sibal and his party see in this arrangement is that they have no leverage over what is taught in schools that are controlled by the education boards of States which are ruled by non-Congress Governments. The Minister would like schools to become organs of propaganda for his party, which is not possible with non-Congress regimes controlling several States and their education boards. If he is really concerned about the standard of education, he must focus his attention on the functioning of the National Council of Educational Research and Training, which is primarily responsible for the quality of education countrywide.

But, even more dangerous than the Congress’s move to monopolise education is the blow that Mr Sibal’s proposal delivers to the country’s federal structure. Schools, including those run by minority institutions, have traditionally been under the administrative control of the State Governments. Education boards finalise the syllabus based on various parameters, including specific needs of their respective States. If there is any need for a supervisory authority to monitor textbooks, the State Governments can themselves create such an authority. By seeking to encroach on the right of the States to monitor the content of school textbooks, Mr Sibal is effectively proposing to destroy autonomy guaranteed by the Constitution. It is no wonder, therefore, that the move is facing severe opposition not only from States ruled by the BJP and its allies, such as Gujarat and Bihar, but also Uttar Pradesh and Odisha. Even West Bengal, where the Congress is the junior ally of the Trinamool Congress, has tersely asked Mr Sibal to leave schools to the States. The Congress has clearly not learned any lessons from its previous attempts to intrude into the domain of the States, most recently by seeking to (unsuccessfully) peddle the Communal Violence Bill and push the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill through Parliament. Ever since the summer of 2004, in one form or another, the Congress has been trying to curtail the autonomy of State Governments and impose its own agenda through means more foul than fair. The proposal to set up a National Textbook Council is of a piece with the Congress’s dubious and deplorable agenda.

Multiple ways of learning

Multiple ways of learning
Jan 30, 2012, 07.24AM IST

Howard Gardner, founder of the theory of 'multiple intelligences' is in India. A professor of cognitive psychology at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, 30 years ago, Gardner brought about a radical change in the way the world looked at classroom learning. It redefined intelligence in a way that was not only revolutionary, but also an eye-opener.

A world that was used to treating intelligences as a singular conglomerate - the presence or absence of it determining a child's intelligence - was sensitised to a definition, a 'set' of criteria for what counts as an intelligence and data that supports the plausibility of 'each' individual intelligence.

As far as multiple intelligences is concerned, how does a teacher identify a student's strengths? First, Gardner advises teachers to take students to a children's museum a few times (or to a playground with multiple games) and watch them. This will complement what you observe in class, he says.

Secondly, he suggests, students, their parents, and if possible their last year's teacher, be given a questionnaire about their strengths. To the extent that all three report the same strengths and weaknesses, teachers are on a safe ground. "I don't trust self reports unless they are corroborated," he adds.

SLOT PLOT

If you know that somebody is going to be a great dancer when they are five, should you create culture palaces where they just learn to dance? Gardner says, "It is a value judgment. A scientist can't tell you what to do. If you want your country to win the Olympics, you may choose to put every five-year-old who is a good racer in a school where you just do racing. But, if you have a different value system, maybe you should not put people into pigeon holes when they are five." Gardner reiterates his theory can reinforce the idea that individuals have many talents that can be of use to society; that a single measure is inappropriate for determining graduation, etc; and that important materials can be taught in many ways, thereby activating a range of intelligences.

On the future of learning, Gardner says that digital media has brought about a revolution. "Today , not only can people learn at home with their device, but learning has the scope to be more individualised . Also, there are many ways to teach and learn. That is where multiple intelligences have opened things up," he adds.

The 'Howard Gardner India Tour' is being hosted by iDiscoveri Education, an education innovation company focussed on learning and leadership.

- With inputs from the Mindfields journal

Creative people think of things not talked about: Gardner

Creative people think of things not talked about: Gardner
Bangalore, January 27 2012, DHNS:

Ninety-nine per cent of education policymakers in the world think that creativity is about solving a problem or finding the correct answer.

But that is a skewed understanding of the phenomenon, globally renowned development psychologist Howard Gardner said.

“Much confusion prevails about what is creativity. People can be creative in every field and chore, however trivial that might be,” Gardner said in his public talk on “Creativity and genius/good work” at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) on Friday.

Dr Gardner, whose theory of multiple intelligences in 1983 changed the way intelligence was understood, thinks it impossible to compare various creative people.

“Einstein was one of the most creative people ever. And so was T S Eliot. But we can’t say Einstein was more creative than Eliot, or vice versa,” Gardner pointed out.

Put simply, it is difficult to judge the creativity of two people hailing from different fields or disciplines or domains.

Einstein and Eliot were among the seven creative people Gardner had studied. Later, he published a book “Creating Minds” on his findings. The others were Pablo Picasso, Martha Graham, Sigmund Freud, Igor Stravinsky and Mahatma Gandhi.

“None of these seven people grew up in big cities, but they did migrate to them later. And none of them was very social,” is what Gardner found out.

The audience, comprising mostly research scholars, students, school owners and corporate heads, burst into laughter when Dr Gardner remarked: “(But) most people don’t want to be creative.”

So what exactly is creativity? According to the psychologist, creative people think about things nobody has talked about.

“The more time you spend in something nobody is talking about, the more you start probing it. Creativity is about emotions. It’s about throwing yourself in something, (other) people are giving answers wrong of,” Gardner explained.

“We say a person is gifted if he is better than the people of his age or times. A person can be gifted in so many ways,” he said. And which is the single attribute that all creative people possess? “All of them have the large capacity to be alone,” he said.

Gardner also dwelt on the conventional education system, especially in India. “Education is not about getting the right answers. Sorry to say, but teachers in most non-elite schools in India think it is,” he said.

Indian teachers, Gardner continued, would do well to emulate their American peers who “spend a lot of time on probing the wrong answers given by their students.”

“Kids would have a very good rationale behind the wrong answers they give. Often, they would come up with right ones without any clue,” Gardner added. Hence, teachers should not dismiss the wrong answers.

The same situation was there in China earlier. In that country, there was too much focus on discipline and getting something right. “It’s important that we create an atmosphere in which it is OK to ask new questions and make mistakes,” Gardner wished.

Gardner has coined three concepts to describe the attitude towards creativity. These are: reflecting, leveraging, and framing.

Reflecting refers to a person spending a lot of time on what they are trying to do.

Leveraging means knowing the goal and pushing for it.

And framing is what happens when things don’t work and one figures out what they can learn to ensure they get right next time.

Book on Gandhi

Guess which book Gardner recommended to students of Harvard University?

Shakespeare? No. It was Gandhi’s “The story of my experiments with truth”.

“The book may not be particularly a well-written one in English, and also not particularly a well-organised one. But it is important,” he said.

‘Huge disparity in Indian education system’

Dr Howard Gardner, renowned development psychologist who is hailed as one of the most influential educators in the world, is of the view that India should follow the education system of Finland or Singapore, rather than that of the United States of America.

Gardner, who was in Bangalore on Friday as part of his India Tour 2012, thinks that the education system in Singapore and Finland caters to all income groups, unlike the Indian set-up wherein a “huge disparity” exists between those who study at elite institutes or abroad, and those with meagre resources.

The psychologist appeared sceptical of any profession being favoured over others. He was replying to a question on the situation in India where too many students opt for engineering. “Who knows what is going to be needed in the next 25 years,” he asked.

According to Gardner, schools in the US and India should be wary of preparing the students for vocation. Vocations should do that themselves. Instead, schools should prepare them to understand arts, science, etc, better. The point of developing intelligence is to become a competent human being.

Gardner’s psychologist-wife Ellen Winner said there was no one-to-one mapping between children’s intelligence and profession. “It helps to know what you are strong at, but you can choose what you want to focus on.”Gardner disagreed with the notion in India that caste or creed played a role in people’s intelligence.

India’s wasting infrastructure

India’s wasting infrastructure
From empty schools to hospitals barred from training nurses, the country is wasting precious resources
Tarun Khanna

On a visit to a public hospital—fortunately for me, not to address a malady, but to indulge my curiosity—there were all the insalubrious aspects that I had been conditioned to expect of India’s healthcare infrastructure for the masses: dilapidated and dingy equipment, undercared for facilities, and a goodly number of disengaged health providers who had to be chased from pillar to post to get anything done.

But something else surprised me more. There were sections of the facilities that were unused, even cordoned off, sometimes because they were allegedly awaiting refurbishment, or sometimes because some authority had not yet sanctioned their opening. Usually, “awaiting” and “not yet” meant months, not just a day or a week here or there.

Jayachandran/Mint

Jayachandran/Mint

In Mumbai, I learnt that there are plenty of schools run by the municipality that have underused capacity as well. This implicit denial of education, in a city with fabulously expensive real estate, does seem like a crime against our children.

In Bangalore, heart surgeon Devi Shetty, with unalloyed frustration, told me that examples of under-utilized public infrastructure abound in healthcare as well. In a country with a massive nursing shortage, apparently regulations do not allow existing hospitals to be used as training grounds for nursing. Nurses who graduate from institutes that teach primarily from textbooks lack the practical experience to perform on the job immediately. Then, why not develop the necessary protocols to use hospital infrastructure (especially if it is itself underutilized) to provide aspiring nurses with practical training? Remember that a good nurse can help a doctor or a surgeon become that much more effective. Our need for medical personnel, of all sorts, is dire and only going to become more acute as time passes.

Of course, we can do a lot better than accept this gross waste in public infrastructure. Some worthy entrepreneurs have done just this in numerous ways.

Consider Teach for India, modelled on the two decade old Teach for America experiment. It places talented volunteers on year or more long internships to teach in typically underperforming needy schools in India. I took my two Boston-schooled children, aged 11 and 9, to a school near Dharavi a few weeks ago, where they participated in a V-grade class (where the ages of the students ranged from 10 to 15). They took to it like fish to water, and the less-fortunate kids in the class embraced them easily. I realized that my jaded senses were more attuned to the stereotypes of poverty; the kids couldn’t have cared less. Clearly the class was much better as a result of the Teach for India volunteer, an impressive young lady who had stepped away from a dynamic corporate career. So, her presence ensured that the existing classroom was being used much better than it had been before.

I learnt recently, in another example, that the municipal authorities in Mumbai are now willing to consider opening charter schools in pre-existing, underutilized school buildings. That is terrific news. This nascent charter school experiment would do well to consider how it fits into the local educational landscape, and to share what it learns generously with others in the community. I can’t imagine that either the Teach for India effort or the charter school experiment will meet with unbridled enthusiasm from all the existing educators. But the public and regulators should have the courage to stare down those whose who resist experimentation and change, and the foresight to help those supportive of renewed experimentation.

Omidyar Network-backed Aspiring Minds, India’s largest employability assessment company, is working to give better access to first-rate jobs to graduates of thousands of India’s lesser-known colleges, ensuring a more level playing field for talent. Indirectly, this improves the value of college and school infrastructure, by ensuring that the talent nurtured there is better served. (Disclosure: I am a founding investor in Aspiring Minds.)

Shetty, whose Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospitals perform heart surgery at a considerable discount for some of India’s most impoverished patients, found that he had to do a lot more than heart surgery to make his effort viable—for example, work with government officials to establish a medical code of conduct, with grassroots organizations to encourage people who often can’t afford healthcare to even consider medical treatment, and, to pioneer health insurance. This last bit is where he had to use existing capacity well. Working with the Karnataka state government, he pioneered an insurance scheme that was made more affordable partly by using underutilized hospital space across the state. Subscribers to the scheme—for example, members of rural cooperatives—pay nominal amounts and gain access to tertiary care across a network of hospitals. So here again, existing capacity that was lying unused was brought back into the mainstream by a simple financial innovation.

As we know from several recent reports discussed in the press, there is a privatization of health and education going on. Unsurprisingly, the failure of the state has caused the private sector—in both its for-profit and not-for-profit garbs—to step in and partially compensate. Indeed, while the state gets its act together—witness Union minister for human resource development Kapil Sibal’s desire to build new universities for example—it’s heartening to see private actors and civil society step in, whether the efforts by corporate hospital chains to expand across the country, or that of private education foundations such as those created by Azim Premji and Shiv Nadar among others. But it’s worth keeping in mind that upgrading existing infrastructure might have a comparable, or better, return on investment than building new capacity.

Tarun Khanna is Jorge Paulo Lemann professor, and director South Asia Initiative, Harvard University

Comments are welcome at theirview@livemint.com

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Court sticks to 3-plus age criteria for nursery entry

Court sticks to 3-plus age criteria for nursery entry
Abhinav Garg, TNN | Jan 28, 2012, 02.36AM IST

NEW DELHI: In a breather for the state government, the Delhi high court on Friday refused to tinker with the existing nursery admission process in the capital's private unaided schools, allowing them to admit children aged three-plus. It said that nursery (pre-school) would continue to be treated as the entry level for all such schools which have nursery as well as higher classes.

Kids admitted at the age of three-plus will get promotion to pre-primary in the next year so that parents don't have to undertake the admission process again, said the court.

"We don't find any proper reason or rationale to keep pre-school apart and segregated by those regular schools where pre-school facilities exist and admission starts from that stage. It is in interest of all stakeholders that in such schools, pre-school is treated as entry level," a bench of Acting Chief Justice A K Sikri and Justice Rajiv Shah Endlaw said. "However, in those schools where there is no pre-school level, pre-primary which would be treated as the entry level where admission is to be given to the children at the age of 4-plus," it added, dismissing a PIL filed by NGO Social Jurist challenging the current admission process.

The bench relied on the Right to Education Act instead of the findings of Ganguly Committee which had said that children below the age of four years should not be burdened with the schooling process.

"We do not agree with the findings of Ganguly Committee as even the Right to Education Act provides for the inclusive elementary education for all the children since their conception to eight years of age," it observed, pointing out that RTE specifically mandates 25% quota for poor kids even at the pre-school level and the Act would be violated if kids from the economically weaker section are provided pre-school facility while those under general category are denied the same.

Social Jurist, through advocate Ashok Agarwal, had referred to the inconsistent age criteria and admission process adopted by different private schools and had pointed out that some schools have been admitting children over three years of age, while others have been taking in only four-plus children. This has led to the creation of two entry levels.

It had sought a "stay of the order dated Dec 16, 2011, of the Delhi government, to the extent that it permits unaided recognized private schools of Delhi to conduct admissions to pre-school as entry level class in the academic session 2012-13".

Sibal decries education politics: HRD minister says states not doing enough to implement central policies

Sibal decries education politics: HRD minister says states not doing enough to implement central policies

By Mail Today Reporter

Last updated at 12:26 AM on 28th January 2012

Union human resource development (HRD) minister Kapil Sibal on Friday spoke against the politicisation of education in the country.

He was critical of the state governments and lamented their reluctance to reform the education system.

Citing the example of 13 key Bills of his ministry that are stuck in Parliament, Sibal, who was speaking at the India Today Aspire Education Summit 2012, made a strong case for distancing politics from education.
Hard lesson: Kapil Sibal was highly critical of state governments

Hard lesson: Kapil Sibal was highly critical of state governments in his speech

'Everybody is thinking of when and how we will come to power. Where is the national vision? Nothing can be done unless political parties come together and realise that education is an area of national importance and should be a priority,' he said.

'I want to give degrees to students in the Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research (IISER), but I cannot because there is no political consensus in the House,' he added, referring to the non-passage of the NIT Act (Amendment) Bill 2011 in the Rajya Sabha.

This means that the students of IISER in Pune and Kolkata who completed their five-year course in the summer of 2011 are left in the lurch, without any degree.

The minister, who has been on the defensive in the wake of recent disparaging reports (Programme for International Student Assessment and Assessment Survey Evaluation Research) on the state of education in India, went on to illustrate how the central government - even though it attracts the maximum flak for deficiencies in the education system - has little role to play in on-ground improvement.

The biggest challenge, he said, was to get the states to implement the reform policies introduced by the Centre. And any bid to exert pressure is misinterpreted as 'interference' in state governance.

'We (the Centre) can introduce policies and allocate funds. But it's impossible for us to monitor if a child is receiving quality education in Bihar or Orissa. The reality is that the implementation of policies happens at the state level,' he said.

Calling the task of empowering 20million children through education 'herculean', Sibal said India would not be able to join the ranks of developed countries unless it created a 'critical mass' of youngsters who will pursue higher education.

Currently, 16 of every 100 students in India reach university level, whereas the figure is 40 in the developed world.

The government aims to increase the number of university-going students from 16million to 45million by 2020. This gap, Sibal said, can be bridged through effective implementation of the Right to Education Act which was introduced almost two years ago. It promotes inclusivity in education and will democratise classrooms.

'The Act will create an environment to nurture that critical mass that will go to university by 2020,' the minister added.

The Act will lead to efforts to admit and retain more children in schools, which would, in turn, lead to a build-up of pressure at the university level.

The minister also asked the states to increase their budget allocation for education and called on them, as well as the private players, to help meet the need of an additional 1,000 universities in the future.
Policymakers are finding the wrong solutions
Outspoken: Filmmaker Prakash Jha

Outspoken: Filmmaker Prakash Jha

More than 800 scholarships are earmarked for humanities at Bombay University but, according to a faculty member, it ends up receiving barely a dozen applications.

Filmmaker Prakash Jha pointed out this startling statistic as evidence of the dire state of Indian education.

'We have almost forgotten the essence of education, and have started considering it the
manufacturing of managers,' Jha said at a panel discussion on ‘Redefining the Classroom’ at the India Today Aspire Education Summit 2012.

Jha, whose film Aarakshan covered the problems with reservations in education, said the policymakers are picking the wrong techniques to attack systemic problems.

'With affirmative action, I found dissatisfaction at every level,' he said.

'The story of reservation never ends... politicians have to plant reservations within reservations.'

He called for the government to ensure that all students have the opportunity to get the education they want.

This, he said, needs to be done even if it pushes spending on education from four per cent of the GDP to 14.

He also decried the way education has turned almost into a commercial transaction - with teachers as
service providers and students as clients.

'We have learnt the art of management,' Jha said.

'There is a huge paucity of good universities with good teachers. People who don’t get any other job end up applying for a teacher’s job.'

As an example of an alternative approach, Jha pointed to Super 30, a Patna-based educational
initiative. The organisation, founded by mathematician Anand Kumar, selects 30 talented students from extremely poor backgrounds and prepares them for the IIT-JEE.
Need Doon and Mayo for the poor
DUV-C trashes foreign tie-ups
Sceptical: Dinesh Singh

Sceptical: Dinesh Singh

The mushrooming of private higher education institutions in the country has made foreign collaboration a significant factor for the institutions when it comes to attracting prospective students.

But how far do the collaborations benefit students in terms of landing better jobs and drawing fatter pay packages? Or is it just an admission gimmick?

Friday's India Today Aspire Education Summit 2012 saw some of the distinguished academics and educators in the country giving a piece of their mind on a topic that has already generated much heat and dust in the academic sector.

While the predominant sentiment among speakers appeared to be in favour of international linkages, Dinesh Singh, vice-chancellor, Delhi University, remained sceptical. He articulated his reservations rather vociferously, pointing out a rather ineffective collaboration which IIT Delhi had with the Imperial College, London.

Singh narrated his own experience of studying at the Imperial College for his Ph.D, later coming back to India and taking up a teaching assignment at IIT.

'I could see the stark contrast,' said Singh about the two institutions.

'The programmes at Imperial were outstanding. They met the needs of the society in diverse ways,' he said.

'Great things have happened at IITs too, but they have not come through tie-ups,' he added.

Striking a pragmatic note, the vicechancellor urged the delegates comprising academics, educationists and university officials to do some soulsearching on the need for a foreign collaboration.

'We should look at the issue of why we need a tie-up and the philosophy behind that,' he said.

According to him, going for foreign partnerships makes sense only if they benefit the society at large.

'The focus of the tie-ups should be on how to solve urban transport, health and sanitation issues in our cities.'

Singh also advocated the need to go for more inter-university linkages within the country, such as Delhi University and IIT Delhi having more frequent academic interaction, and professional linkages with Jamia Millia Islamia and Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Vidya Yeravdekar, principal director, Symbiosis International University, Pune, however, did not have any doubt over the merits of an international partnership.

'The staff room ambience changes the moment we have international faculty members. There is a higher level of motivation,' she said.

'The exposure which the students and faculty members gain from a foreign collaboration is immense.'
CURRICULA RESTRUCTURING

Delhi University will begin a four-year undergraduate programme by 2013, Dinesh Singh said, adding that the university was currently in the process of restructuring its academic curricula.

But he stopped short of providing details. He dismissed a comparison that Delhi University was toeing the American model of education, where students have to study for four years to earn their undergraduate degree.

The time that a student spends on an international campus can also boost his/her resume.

'It is benefiting the students economically,' said Vijay Gupta, director of G.D. Goenka World Institute.

'Good companies show greater interest in students who have an international study programme.'

He called for greater public spending on education to raise India's gross enrollment ratio to 30 per cent by 2030.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-2092952/Sibal-decries-education-politics-HRD-minister-says-states-doing-implement-central-policies.html#ixzz1kkT8W5S7

Friday, January 27, 2012

Chandigarh Schools Working Sans Recognition

Chandigarh Schools Working Sans Recognition

In what would come as a shock for most parents in the city, many city schools, in fact many prominent city schools don’t even have Chandigarh administration recognition. You may be spending thousands on admission on fees but if there is no recognition, it would be of no use to your child. Worse, this has been happening for years in many cases.

Pankaj and his wife Sangeeta Chandgothia, in a petition in Public Interest stated that the Right to Education had been enforced on April 1, 2010. The objective of the act was to ensure that schools must not be allowed to function unless they fulfilled the norms and standards specified. Accordingly, each and every school was to submit a self-declaration form within three months of the enforcement of the act. The District Education Officer is responsible to place the information in the form on a public domain within 15 days, the plaintiff stated.

According to Pankaj, the process goes on to an inspection to be conducted by the District Education Officer who is also supposed to list the schools not complying with the norms. Schools which fail to comply with the norms within three years of opening cease to function, the act states.

The record on the public portal of the Chandigarh Education Department states that Ankur Nursery School, functioning in Panjab University for the past several years, does not have recognition, Pankaj stated. He added that the recognition of St. John’s school expired on March 31, 2010. While the recognition of St. Stephen’s and Shivalik Public School expired on March 31, 2005. He also enclosed the list of several prominent schools whose recognition had expired.

Accusing the schools of working solely for profit, he accused officials of the education department of being hand in glove with them. “Studying from a non -recognized schools for the children amounts to no study at all”, Pankaj further stated.

The civil judge, Chandigarh has issued notices to Education Secretary, Director Public Instructions and District Education Officer. The Independent Schools Association, Ankur Nursery School, St. John School and three other schools have also been issued notice by the court.

More, better jobs in India, says World Bank report

More, better jobs in India, says World Bank report
Jan 24, 2012, 07.45AM IST

By Kalpana Kochhar, Chief Economist, South-East Asia, World Bank

India's economic growth has added over seven million new jobs every year for almost a quarter of a century. Workers have seen their wages - adjusted for prices - rise by nearly 3% a year. Poverty rates among wage workers and the self-employed have fallen. Going forward, with swelling numbers of new entrants - and more women entering the job market , as was the case during east Asia's rapid growth - India will need to create up to 10 million new jobs each year for the next two decades.

Not only do we need to create more jobs, but the quality of jobs will also need to improve. A recent World Bank report, More and Better Jobs in South Asia, finds that little has changed since the early 1980s in the proportion of the employed in the three broad employment types: self-employed , casual labourers, and regular wage and salaried earners.

There has been little upward mobility between these broad categories. The self-employed , many of whom are in farming , make up half of the employed , while casual labourers , who are paid on a daily, irregular or piece-rate basis, account for a third. Regular wage and salaried earners, who receive a regular wage or salary from a job in the public or private sector and usually earn leave and supplementary benefits, have remained largely unchanged at a sixth.

While it is easier to absorb new entrants into jobs of lower productivity, it will be more challenging, but critical, for India's future success to meet people's rapidly-rising aspirations by creating jobs of higher quality. This is the crux of India's employment challenge . Continued high growth, though very desirable, cannot necessarily be relied upon to meet India's enormous employment challenges.

What, then, needs to be done to maintain the momentum of job creation while improving quality? There is little alternative to reform. The report suggests that, among other things, sustained attention to the three Es - electricity, education, and entry and exit of firms - can make an important difference.

Electricity:

Managers of firms that create jobs identify electricity, corruption and the tax administration as the main constraints on their ability to operate and grow. The use of generators to offset uncertain power supply - a costly solution for any firm - is greater in India than in countries at similar levels of income . Unfortunately, this has only gotten worse between 2005 and 2010. Reforms will, therefore, need to encourage not only public but also greater private investment in the power sector to reduce crippling shortages. Improving the governance of power utilities will be equally important . Improving the availability of power would help firms to expand and create jobs.

Education:

Another priority will be equipping the workforce with the analytical and behavioural skills employers demand - and too often miss. This requires upgrading the quality of learning across the board - in primary and secondary schools, universities and training institutions. In fact, the greatest payoffs may well come from interventions before children enter formal school.

This is because India has among the world's highest prevalence of malnutrition in children under five - higher even than sub-Saharan Africa - when measured by wasted (low weight for height ), stunted (low height for age) and underweight (low weight for age) children. Policy interventions in early childhood must, therefore, address nutrition, hygiene, early cognitive stimulation and effective pre-school programmes , especially for the disadvantaged . Not to do so will be to risk irreversible cognitive impairment among large sections of the people resulting in reduced job prospects.

Entry and exit of firms:

It has also been found that employers engaged in formal manufacturing in India rely more on contract workers than on regular wage and salaried earners. This is partly because of India's prevailing labour regulations, which enterprise managers say are a more severe constraint to the operation and growth of their businesses than in countries at similar levels of income. When asked which labour regulations most affected their operations, nearly one in three firms in India for whom labour regulations were perceived as a moderate or severe constraint reported that restrictions on dismissal are a constraint to hiring.

The high cost of dismissing regular workers evidently hinders firms from hiring them. For a larger number of India's workers to access the security and benefits of a regular salaried job, these high costs , which protect a minority of workers, need to be lowered. This would need to be accompanied by stronger labour market programmes and institutions to cushion formal and informal workers from labour market shocks and improve their earning potential. Such a broad reform agenda is feasible. Future generations will thank today's leaders for having used this opportunity to create progressively better jobs that will bring higher standards of living.

Students deserting government schools

Andhra Pradesh | Updated Jan 25, 2012 at 11:54am IST
Students deserting government schools
indianexpress Express News Service , The New Indian Express

KURNOOL: The number of students in government schools in Kurnool district is going down every year. Quality of education leaves much to be desired for want of facilities and adequate number of teachers, as a result of which parents are opting for private schools for their children. Even poor students are going the private school way.

As per the Right to Education Act, there should be one teacher for every 30 students, one room for every class and one teacher for each subject. Every school must have a computer lab and a science lab, besides power supply and drinking water. The Act also stipulates that the school premises must be enclosed by a compound wall.

However, neither the facilities nor the required number of teachers are found at most of the 2,707 schools in the district. Nearly 60 percent of the schools do not have adequate number of class rooms, 40 percent do not have subject-wise teachers and there is no drinking water facility at 55 percent of the schools. As high as 67 percent of the schools do not have toilets, 70 percent do not have full-fledged labs, no power supply for 63 percent and 85 percent of the schools do not have compound walls.

There is a requirement of 4,000 teachers in the district. Now, Telugu medium teachers are also taking classes for English medium at many schools. Out of the 309 schools where there is computer education, 60 percent are not offering computer classes.

The result is that parents are admitting their children in private schools. While there were total 4,20,789 students in government schools in the district in 2008-09, there were 4,03,667 in 2009-10. The number came down to 3,97,157 the next year, and this year, there are only 3,91,235 students. Education department officials are apprehensive that many government schools will have to be closed in about 10 years if this trend continues.

Of the 2,707 government schools in the district, 1,887 are primary, 448 upper primary and the rest are high schools. There are less than 30 students each in 207 primary and four upper primary schools. As many as 45 schools have fewer than 10 students each. The government, which proposed to close down those schools, withdrew the idea following protests from the teaching community.

As for the standard of education, it is observed that 5o percent of the students do not know tables even at fifth class. Teachers admit that many could not add or subtract either.

Higher spending on education is not improving dismal outcomes

Higher spending on education is not improving dismal outcomes
ET Bureau Jan 23, 2012, 04.04AM IST

India came 72nd of 73 nations in the Programme for International Student Assessment ( PISA) competition, despite fielding students from its best states, Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. The dismal quality of Indian education is confirmed by the latest Annual Status of Education Report ( ASER).

Throwing money ( Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan) and legislation ( Right to Education Act) at education has produced no quality gains at all. Abhiyan spending is up from Rs 7,166 crore in 2005-06 to Rs 21,000 crore last year, yet parents are shifting wholesale from free government schools to private options (schools and tuition).
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In the last five years, private school enrolment has gone from 18.7% to 25.6%of the total, with Kerala already at 54%. The shift has not, however, improved dismal learning outcomes. Half the Class V children cannot read Class II texts, and 40% of Class V children cannot solve a two-digit subtraction. This represents a fall in outcomes, especially in government schools in the Hindi belt.

Higher spending by the government and parents has not yielded better outcomes. Many studies suggest that private schools have better outcomes, but the shift to private education has not achieved that at a macro-level. In 13,000 schools visited by surveyors, student absenteeism was 50% and teacher absenteeism 45%: neither seem motivated.

RTE mandates much higher spending on playgrounds, infrastructure, teacher recruitment and training. Yet, this does not improve outcomes. At best, RTE attempts only access to schooling, not to education. Worse, RTE expects all private schools to attain impossible norms (playgrounds in areas with sky-high land prices, salaries on par with government teachers) by 2013. Will the government dare close down defaulting schools? Not a chance: defaulting schools serve half the country.

Instead, we will once again have a stupid law that is then violated widely, with netas and babus collecting kickbacks for overlooking violations. There is no accountability to students by state governments that fail to provide facilities or of teachers who fail to teach. Such a country will not overtake China any time soon.

Indian culture reflected poorly in school syllabi, finds survey

Indian culture reflected poorly in school syllabi, finds survey
Prachi Pinglay, Hindustan Times
Mumbai, January 24, 2012

Last year, while correcting the answersheets of a post-graduate dance exam, Kanak Rele, a Mohiniattam exponent, was left aghast when one of the students listed Michael Jackson and Hrithik Roshan as India's contribution to world dance. This incident made Rele, founder director of Nalanda Dance Research Centre, worry about the representation of Indian culture in the education system.

Last year, her Centre conducted a survey of more than 600 textbooks used by students studying in schools affiliated to the Maharashtra state board, CBSE and ICSE board and found that not more than 28% of the information in their curriculum relates to Indian culture.

"Our syllabi reflect our cultural heritage very poorly," said Rele.

The survey, 'Discovering India - A Survey of School Textbooks and Curriculum in Maharashtra,' was conducted over 13 months by eight researchers and was commissioned by the Union ministry of culture.

The survey found that texts such as Ramayana, Mahabharata and tales from Panchatantra, Jataka and Hitopadesha were omitted from textbooks but Aesop's Fables had been included.

"It is shocking that the south and north-eastern parts of India are almost neglected in the textbooks which are overwhelmingly tilted toward central and north India," said the survey report, which rated books on different parameters such as tradition and culture, history, heritage, Indian thought and spirituality.

The researchers analysed every lesson in 638 textbooks of three languages (Hindi, Marathi and English), maths, science, social studies and Sanskrit and compared references of any of the above parameters to other information.

The Secondary School Certificate (SSC) textbooks fared the worst with only 22% of the information relating to Indian culture, followed by Central Board of Secondary Education had 26% and the Indian Certificate for Secondary Education (ICSE) 27%.

"I believe Indian culture is very well represented in history and geography. It depends on how progressive each school is to inculcate culture education through different books," said Perin Bagli regional secretary, Association of ICSE Schools in Maharashtra.

The institute submitted the survey findings to the ministry in October 2011 and has also applied for conducting a similar survey in other states of India.

Right to education, quota, MCD and ‘poor’ jokes"

Right to education, quota, MCD and ‘poor’ jokes"
Shivani Singh, Metro Editor, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, January 22, 2012

The implementation of the 25% quota for economically weaker sections (EWS) — putting 43,800 ‘poor’ nursery students in Delhi’s 2,957 private schools — is now being monitored by the court. This will absorb 90% of the 50,000-odd students MCD now enrolls in its 956 nursery schools.
Since
none of those non-EWS students, denied admission in private schools in the process, will fill the empty MCD classrooms, sarkari primary teachers may finally truly be free to collect property tax as has been proposed by some visionary councillors.

On the surface, putting underprivileged children in private schools is a noble idea, quite like ensuring that ‘poor’ patients are treated for free at private hospitals. But hospital treatment is an emergency service. Its result does not depend on the sympathy (or the lack of it) of fellow patients.

School education, on the other hand, involves much more than classroom lessons. It is about a child’s journey to adulthood — the discovery of one’s identity through friendship and social bonding. Both immediate and long-term impacts of being ridiculed by one’s peers can be severely damaging and irreversible for a child.

When the primary reason for such discrimination is financial — the inability to host a proper birthday party or flaunt branded accessories — the trauma reaches home. In post-liberalisation India, the socio-economic divide between the rich and the poor has widened manifold. The consequence of sending a child to a school where students come from families that earn 10-50 times the EWS limit (R1 lakh per year), can financially ruin, and emotionally shatter, a ‘poor’ household.

If the government must attempt this brand of social integration, it should hold an integrated test for all MCD school students after their 5th level and fill up the designated number of EWS quota seats in secondary or senior secondary private schools with those who top the exam.

Surely, 10-year-olds will be far more aware of their social reality, and stand a better chance to adjust in a hostile atmosphere, than four-year-old nursery students whose understanding of the world is limited to the immediate and the apparent. Also, having earned their seats through an exam (and not a lottery), they will be confident of themselves and may not be easily intimidated.

But for this to happen, the government must look into its own primary education infrastructure. During 2010-11, Pratham set up learning centers for 6,541 MCD school students. Among the students of Class 3 to 5, before the NGO’s intervention, 93% were at an elementary mathematical level while 91% could not read simple English. It will be a cruel joke to subject them to an integrated test or talent hunt.

The bigger joke is that defunct MCD schools, after shifting bulk of their students to private schools under EWS quota, will enroll ‘poor’ children who would have never gone to any school otherwise. The numbers will add up to justify the RTE and surveys will keep revealing the absence of any learning. Is the RTE really about right to education or merely right to enrollment?

The archaic B Ed syllabus is one reason for the pathetic standard of teaching at MCD schools. The classrooms are falling apart. The desks are broken. Books and uniforms are not delivered on time. Millions in Delhi pay education cess and yet MCD schools cannot offer even safe drinking water.

Perhaps, it all makes sense. Perhaps, the government has had enough of its own primary school mess. Otherwise why should it channel all its energy to push poor kids down private schools’ throat, and councillors plan to send MCD teachers to collect tax?

State Child rights commission remains headless

State Child rights commission remains headless
Rageshri Ganguly, TNN Jan 24, 2012, 04.11AM IST

BHOPAL: The Madhya Pradesh Commission for Protection of Child Rights has been rendered toothless tiger in the absence of a head to give it direction, says the chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) Shantha Sinha.

In Bhopal to attend a convention on children's right to food, Sinha told TOI: "It is unfortunate that the state has not had a full time chairperson for the commission, for the last three months".

The last chairperson, Sheela Khanna, retired in October last year. Even the post of the commission secretary has been vacant for some time now.

Sinha added, "While a commission member is empowered to function, a chairperson is required to authorise enquiries and settle matters related to finance, among other responsibilities."

State commission member commission member Vibhangshu Joshi echoed it : "Currently the members can only suggest to the government. We have sent reports to the Collector. But neither can the commission summon anyone nor can it take any action, in the absence of a chairperson."

Deputy secretary, women and child development department Rekha Sharma told TOI : "The Chief Minister has to nominate the chairperson of the commission."

Under the Right to Education (RTE) Act, the responsibility of the state Commission for Protection of Child Rights increases as they have been empowered to act as the monitoring agency.

The mismatch between the commission's wherewithal and the scope of its work is apparent from the fact that monitoring just RTE will itself involve keeping a watch on about 50,000 primary and higher secondary schools across the State. That is besides addressing complaints on child rights violations, sources in the women and child development department observed.

The sources reminded that the incident of RTE violation at the local Carmel Convent highlighted the commission members' inability to take suo motu action. According to the members, they were on an 'unofficial' visit to the school when they received a complaint about corporal punishment in the school.

Principal secretary, women and child development department BR Naidu was unavailable for comment.

The Pupil-Teacher Ratio is Very Poor in State

Andhra Pradesh | Updated Jan 24, 2012 at 09:54am IST
The Pupil-Teacher Ratio is Very Poor in State
indianexpress Express News Service , The New Indian Express

HYDERABAD: Government schools in the state are lagging far behind in meeting the norms set by the Right to Education (RTE) Act. As per the annual status of education report ASER (Assessment Survey Evaluation Research) 2011, 43.6 percent of the schools with classes up to VIII do not have the required Pupil-Teacher Ratio (PTR). ASER reached 642 schools to collect data on the standards of education imparted to children in 22 districts in Andhra Pradesh, excluding the state capital.
According to ASER’s 2010 report, 38.3 schools did not meet the Pupil-Teacher Ratio in the state, but the number has grown to 43.6 percent now.

The report revealed many startling facts regarding education in state schools. About 33.5 percent of the schools do not meet the Teacher- Classroom Ratio, which is far above the national average of 26 percent. The survey shows a very high dropout rate in the 15-16 age group. More than 20 percent of the children are dropping out at 15 years.

State defends closure of schools

State defends closure of schools
Bangalore, January 23 2012, DHNS:

Defending its action to close or merge schools with student strength less than five, the State government on Monday filed an affidavit before the High Court of Karnataka that the decision was in favour of students and aimed at creating competitiveness among them.

The State has also promised that it will reopen such schools if there was an increase in the number of students.

In its reply to the PIL filed by a few litterateurs and Jnanapith awardees, the government submitted that there are 131 primary schools across the State with zero student strength and 551 schools with less than five students and 2,480 schools with less than 10 students.

As for higher primary schools, 74 have zero strength and 380 schools have less than 10 students.

“The decision to merge the schools (with less than five students) with nearby schools is in favour of the students with an aim to develop competitiveness,” the State said in its affidavit.

It also informed the court that it will provide Rs 300 per month to those students whose schools are merged with nearby schools in a three-km radius.

“Apart from decline in competitive spirit among students in such schools, even human resources are also being wasted,” it said.

Allegation refuted

The State, which has already merged 370 Kannada schools, prayed to the court to dismiss the PIL stating that there was no basis for the allegations made by the literary persons.

The petitioners, G S Shivarudrappa, Girish Karnad, Chandrashekar Kambara and U R Ananthmurthy have challenged the closure of the schools stating thousands of students would be deprived of education if these schools were closed. They have sought directions to the State government to implement the Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 with immediate effect and frame rules under the same. They have further pointed out that Article 21(a) of the Constitution and Section 3(1) of the Right to Education Act provide for free and compulsory education to all children in neighbourhood schools.

RTE Act: Who will foot the Bill?

Andhra Pradesh | Posted on Jan 23, 2012 at 12:22pm IST
RTE Act: Who will foot the Bill?
indianexpress Express News Service , The New Indian Express

HYDERABAD: The stay order issued by court over reserving 25 percent seats in schools for students from economically weaker sections (EWS) has delayed the implementation of the Act in the coming academic session. While the quota is mandated by the Right to Education (RTE) Act, there is no clarity on who will foot the bill. The ambiguity over fees is a major concern for private school managements. “The unaided budget-private schools rely on the fees for running the institution. Untill there is a clear directive on who will pay the bill and how, implementing the quota will lead to heavy losses for the schools,” says Sangeetha Varma, general secretary of Hyderabad District Recognised Schools' Association.

Implementation of the scheme will cost `720 crore over the next eight years. According to the planning coordinator of Rajiv Vidya Mission (Sarva Siksha Abhiyan), the cost of implementation will grow for each higher class. “Assuming all private schools fill up the 25 percent seats, 1.5 lakh children will be enrolled in the first standard. The expenditure per child is estimated to be `6,000 per year and going at this rate, additional Rs. 90 crore will have to be spent as these students move to the next class till 8th standard and new batches are enrolled,” he says. �

Officials at Rajiv Vidya Mission in Andhra Pradesh are uncertain if the amount spent by the state government will be reimbursed by the Centre. “An estimated Rs 90 crore will have to be disbursed by the state government annually to pay for the fee of the EWS students enrolled in the private unaided schools. Unless the amount is reimbursed, it is not possible to bring this into force. Also, 16 schools in the city have challenged the implementation of the quota. Any decision will be taken only after the matter is cleared,” says Dr R V Chandravadan, state project director of RVM.

Educating rural Gujarat

Educating rural Gujarat
Published: Monday, Jan 23, 2012, 18:34 IST
By Aruna Raghuram | Place: Ahmedabad | Agency: DNA

Sample this: In rural Gujarat schools in 2011, 26.6% children could only recognise numbers 1-9 in class III while 16.3% of kids in that class could read letters but not words. These startling facts are brought out by the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2011 released recently.

Yet, there are positive aspects to the state scenario. While reading levels showed a decline in many states, in Gujarat the numbers for 2011 were better than for 2010. Arithmetic levels also showed a decline across most states, but there was no change in Gujarat.

Every year, ASER finds out whether children in rural India go to school, whether they can read simple text and do basic arithmetic. Eighteen months after the Right to Education Act came into effect in April 2010, ASER 2011 also visited more than 14,000 government schools in the country to assess compliance with some of the norms specified in the Act.

According to the report, 86.1% children in the 6-14 age group were enrolled in rural government schools in the state and 10.8% in private schools. This is close to the national figure of 96.7% enrolment. Attendance figures also showed a healthy rise.

Another heartening fact is that the proportion of girls aged 11-14 years not in school declined from 11.7% in 2006 to 6.1% in 2011 in the state.

While teacher attendance worsened, on the positive side, percentage of schools having no computers in class I-IV fell and proportion of class IV children sitting with one or more other classes also fell, said the report.

Is this the true picture? What do NGOs working in the field of rural education feel about the scenario in Gujarat? Sukhdev Patel, founder of NGO Gantar, feels that the enrolment figures do not give the accurate picture. "There are no authentic figures available for children eligible for admission in class I," he says.

Other problems education faces are poor quality and access. "There are no schools available in remote areas of Kutch, tribal regions and some parts of central Gujarat which conduct classes beyond class IV," says Patel. Another problem he cites is the exploitative conditions in which teachers function. They are paid poor salaries and their jobs are held in poor esteem.

Ravin Vyas of Avbodh, which conducts classes thrice a week in nine villages around Ahmedabad, says finding voluntary teachers is a major bottleneck. "Of course, poor infrastructure and illiteracy of parents are also hurdles. Getting good audio-visual content in local language is also difficult." The NGO has been active in the field of rural education since four years.

While girls are more sincere than boys in his experience, Vyas says it is difficult for them to continue education after class VII due to problems of access and social restrictions.

RTE fails to improve country’s education system

RTE fails to improve country’s education system

January 24, 2012
By Darshana Ramdev

RTE fails to improve country’s education system

When the Right to Education Act was enforced in April 2010, it looked like millions of schoolchildren could dare to dream.

The Act guarantees access to schools, a target that has been met, with the enrolment rate at 90% among children in first grade. The Act demands schools to meet certain requirements, including infrastructure (building, libra-ry, kitchen, toilets), teacher-student ratio, teaching hours etc. However, far from helping improve the situation, things only seem to have gone worse.

The Annual Status of Education Report 2011 serves to reiterate the rather dismal drop in learning levels in the country.

Like the Quality of Education survey that was published not long ago, the ASER report reminds us once more that Indian children are scarcely able to stay afloat at the international level, managing, with a great deal of learning by rote, just about to meet the average international standards.
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The Writing on the Wall

At first glance, the 20 percent drop in reading levels may seem terribly drastic. But according to the analysis of the report, this drop has been developing gradually and is due to a number of factors.

Also, a recent study by Education Initiatives says that scores on general knowledge in tests given five years apart have dropped by about 10% among Standard 4 students from elite schools.

According to the ASER report, 88% of students in grade 3 cannot read a level 2 text and 71.8% of those in grade 8 still cannot read the basic level 2 text. The numeracy levels are even gloomier, with 93% of grade 8 students still unable to solve a simple level 2 subtraction problem. In all, 75.9% of children don’t learn to read at all and 75.4% still don’t understand basic mathematics.

The goal of granting access to public schools might have been achieved, but that is still not even scratching the surface. The attendance, the 'real measure of enrollment' as the report puts it, too is abysmal. This is no surprise either, for despite the Right to Free and Compulsory education, the government schools still need to be brought up several notches.

The ASER report focuses on the very basic outcomes of education and indicates that the pace of learning among students is far too slow. 75% of the children who don’t acquire the ‘grade appropriate’ level of progress, in either reading or arithmetic, don’t achieve it even the next year, implying that only one out of every four children is making adequate progress.

Tejaswini Ananthkumar, Founder-Chairperson of Adamya Chetana, says dropout rates in Karnataka are very low. “Attendance levels have improved and are at 80% per year now. The teachers too have become regular.”

The ASER report survey includes rural schools in about 558 districts out of the total 634-odd districts in the country.

Dignity of teachers slipping, says former NCERT chief Krishna Kumar

Dignity of teachers slipping, says former NCERT chief Krishna Kumar

Krishna Kumar
Krishna Kumar, former NCERT chairman.

Private schools run by corporates treat teachers as bad as the government treats teachers in its schools, said Krishna Kumar, the former chairman of the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT), at the India Today Aspire Education Summit 2012 on Friday.

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"The teacher is not getting enough credit and given their income (it) is not covetable to join the profession especially for upwardly moving middle class," he said. "In states such as West Bengal, it requires just two years of training after Class 10 to become a teacher. Is that an adequate age to be handed out the task of nation building?" he wondered.

The notion of world class education is contextual and elusive. To define this complex term, the "The Education Phoenix" session of the Summit called on the masters to identify the benchmarks that would allow the resurrection of traditional world class education in the country.

Chaired by Vinod Raina, Executive Committee member, Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti, the session questioned the practice of importing and imposing education in a country which is still debating inclusivity in its education structure.

SRM University Vice-Chancellor Dr M. Ponnavaikko asked what percentage of India's demographic was functional as a resource instead of merely making up the population. "An institute which succeeds in combining excellence in education with constant research and development and indulgence in cultural, scientific and civic (fields) to create human resource useful to self and the community qualifies to earn the label of being world class," he concluded.

Using examples of the University of Bologna, Italy and Nalanda University back home, Seeram Ramakrishna, Vice President (Research Strategy), National University of Singapore, pointed out how education centres were initially boutique institutes but with time have been "massified". This expansion resulted in comparisons which in turn attracted attention the positive impact of which was investment. Having travelled to institutes across the world, he plugged India as a massive jigsaw puzzle which needed to deal with its own differences and problems in education before venturing to comparisons on a global scale. Summing up, he said the perfect recipe to make an institute world class would be to "integrate research and technology, invest in R&D, improve pedagogy, and move towards internationalisation thereby improving the capability of the work force".

Pointing out the problems which ail the education system, S.S. Mantha, Chairman, the All India Council for Technical Education, said the current examination system caters to the common denominator, breeding mediocrity which in turn breeds more mediocrity. "Increased focus on creation of financial bodies to support those who deserve but can't afford quality education and 'vocationalisation' of higher education is the best way forward and will help decrease the number of students dropping out after school," he elaborated.


Read more at: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/former-ncert-chief-krishna-kumar-at-aspire-education-summit-2012/1/170891.html

Beedi workers' federation opposes withdrawal of scholarship to children

Beedi workers' federation opposes withdrawal of scholarship to children
Staff Correspondent

Fund for it is raised through a welfare cess levied on the beedi producers

The All India Beedi Workers' Federation has issued a statement “strongly opposing” the Centre's decision to withdraw the scholarship given to children of beedi workers studying between class one and eight.

In a statement, Centre of Indian Trade Unions-affiliated federation national president B. Madhava said the children of beedi workers who were studying between class one and eight should be provided scholarship. A recent circular issued by the Centre had removed children studying between classes one and eight from the list of beneficiaries of the scholarships.

Mr. Madhava told The Hindu on Thursday that when he asked the Commissioner for Beedi Workers Welfare Fund the reason for this circular, he was told that it had been done because the Right to Education Act would make education for children up to class eight free and compulsory.

However, Mr. Madhava said the Government should not withdraw the scholarship for two reasons. First, it was a welfare fund raised through a welfare cess levied on beedi producers. Therefore, it was a welfare measure that benefitted the beedi workers directly from the manufacturers while the funds were only routed through the Government. “The Government is not spending a single paisa (on the scholarship),” Mr. Madhava said.

Second, although education was made free and compulsory under the RTE, there were other costs to education such as transportation and books which were not provided by the Government, he said.

Mr. Madhava said children who did not complete their education up to class eight would not make it to classes IX and above.

Mr. Madhava said the Beedi Workers Welfare Fund Act of 1976 and the rules framed under it had made it possible for lakhs of beedi workers to send their children to school. Had it not been for this scholarship, lakhs of children would have been child labourers, he said.

CCE students do better than board examinees: Study

CCE students do better than board examinees: Study
Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, January 26, 2012

Students evaluated throughout the year have better learning ability as compared to those whose performance is assessed once, the Central Board of Secondary Education has found.

The CBSE has introduced continuous and comprehensive evaluation (CCE) for class X instead of board
examinations about two years ago with an aim to improve overall learning ability of students, rather than making students cram textbooks just before the examination.

To evaluate its impact, the CBSE conducted a pan India survey on performance of student who opted for CCE instead of the class X board examination and those who appeared for the board examinations.

Of the total 10,61,500 students who appeared in class X board examination in 2010, about six lakh had opted for CCE. The CBSE evaluated the class XI performance of some of these students across India.

“Most of the CCE students had outperformed the board examinees in most of the streams in class XI,” said a senior CBSE official, claiming it to be a first study of its type conducted by the board. The study was done in schools were almost half of the students had opted for comprehensive evaluation instead of annual board examination. Around 64% of the students favoured CCE instead of board examination.

The CCE students have recorded good performance especially in science and commerce streams. The board also found that the overall classroom learning ability of the students who undertook CCE was better. “I think the finding is closer to truth,” said Dr VK William, principal of Mount Carmel School, Anand Niketan.

Dr DR Saini, principal of Delhi Public School RK Puram, felt that CCE improves the students learning ability without causing any stress but evaluation depends on honesty of a teacher. “The board examination was same for all but in CCE the child’s performance depends on a teacher,” he said.

The CBSE had prescribed guidelines on how to conduct CCE in schools but officials admitted lack of clarity among teachers on some of comprehensive evaluation. CBSE in an earlier survey had found 67 % of teachers were finding problems with CCE and more than half of the teachers interviewed had negative perception about the system.

Delhi Court allows nursery admissions at 3-plus

27 Jan, 2012, 08.12PM IST, PTI
Delhi Court allows nursery admissions at 3-plus

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court on Friday gave the go-ahead to the existing nursery admission process in the capital's private unaided schools, allowing them to admit children aged three-plus years.

A bench of Justice A K Sikri and Justice Rajiv Shah Endlaw said: "Those schools where pre-school (nursery) education is imparted, it has to be treated as entry level and entry level would not start from pre-primary in respect of such schools."

The court ordered that the nursery would continue to be treated as the entry point of education and promotion to kindergarten (KG) for all such schools which have higher classes was valid.

The court further said: "Children admitted at pre-school at the age of 3-plus will get promotion to pre-primary in the next year and for that, they will not have to undergo the admission process all over again."

"However, in those schools where there is no pre-school level, it would be pre-primary which would be treated as entry level where admission is to be given to the children at age of 4-plus," the court ordered.

Disposing of the petition of NGO Social Jurist, the court said: "Pre-school is not to be treated as part of formal education and at that stage, education has to be only informal."

The bench also had a view that promotion from nursery to KG and so on was an "integral" part of the "developmental continuum" that a child needs at his early age of education.

"Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) which has been globally recognized as critical for human resource development starts from the period of conception to age 8. This entire period presents a developmental continuum and the pre-school care and education has to be treated as part of this developmental continuum. It, thus, becomes an integrated process," its order read.

At the level of pre-school, curriculum has to be such which should ensure that child gets interested in education when he is to take next step at pre-primary level and thereafter, formal education from class 1, the court observed.

With a view to reducing burden of toddlers, the court observed: "We want to make it clear that the focus on 'care' and 'education' at pre-school level has to be altogether different. The children are not to be burdened with any textbooks or home works."

The court's order came on a plea filed by Social Jurist, against the city government's recent order allowing unaided private schools here to go ahead with the admission of 3-plus toddlers in pre-school (nursery) class.

The NGO in its petition said that the order of Delhi's directorate of education (DoE) violated an earlier judgment of the court which said that no child below the age of four years would be admitted for formal schooling.

It sought a "stay of the order dated Dec 16, 2011, of the Delhi government, to the extent it permits unaided recognised private schools of Delhi to conduct admissions to pre-school as entry level class in the academic session 2012-13".

Ashok Agarwal, counsel for the NGO, had alleged that the government had failed to prevent unaided recognised private schools from admitting children below four years of age in formal school.

Seeking a ban on the pre-school class where kids aged above three years but below four years, were admitted, the NGO had pleaded that formal school education should start with the pre-primary class where children above four years were admitted.

Norway, yes, but let's also look within

Norway, yes, but let's also look within
Geeta Ramaseshan

The Norwegian child welfare services may not understand how children are brought up elsewhere but the Indian system of child protection is highly interventionist and ends up unfairly targeting poor parents.

The case in Norway relating to the two Indian children who were removed from their parental home raises critical concerns about what is meant by the concept of “best interest” in matters relating to children.

The purported findings of the Norway child welfare services — as claimed by the parents, at any rate — that a four-year-old did not have a separate room, that the children did not have appropriate toys for their age, were wearing clothes that were big for them and were being given food by hand, indicate a lack of understanding of how children are brought up in different parts of the world. While fortunately the case may be resolving itself, the issue of “emotional disconnect” — which the authorities apparently claim the parents have had with their children — would be a non-issue in India. But cases can and do come up when children are separated from their parents on grounds that are not always clear.

While each personal law in India — Hindu, Muslim, etc. — has different criteria for guardianship, child custody cases are determined on the basis of “welfare of the minor” and “best interests” of the child, though these two terms are often used interchangeably by courts. Despite certain guiding principles of the higher courts, it would still be dependent on the individual opinion of the judge who would determine the issue.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act permits state intervention in cases where children are in need of care and protection and seeks to provide for a system which will protect the best interest of children. The Act enumerates various categories where there can be state intervention. Under one category, if a parent is unfit or incapacitated in exercising control over her or his child, then such child is in need of care and protection. Any police officer, public servant, social worker, “public spirited citizen” or voluntary organisation can produce a child before the Child Welfare Committee, constituted under the Act, stating that it is in need of care and protection. The Child Welfare Committee may then pass an order to send the child to a children's home for speedy enquiry by a social worker or child welfare officer.

Overzealous “public spirited citizens” and NGOs contact the system and complain about such violations based on their subjective opinion, often with an inherent class bias. A visit to the Child Welfare Committee premises in Chennai is an eye-opener, crowded with impoverished migrants from Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and other States whose children are taken away on complaints that they are acrobats, beggars or working with their parents. Some children are caught by the Railway police and handed over. Once the child is caught in the system, it becomes a long and arduous task for the parents to get them out. Often, they are unable to prove their identity as parents. Proceedings before the Committee are not considered litigious in nature. Hence parents do not get any legal assistance during such proceedings. Thus migrants who come in search of livelihood due to internal displacement in their States become doubly discriminated.

The Committees constituted under the Act are required to complete an enquiry within four months. But the pendency of enquires beyond the stipulated period is common. This is because the committees have no means to determine who the parents are and try to establish contact with the committees of other States from which the children originate and then try to send them “home.” The problem becomes compounded as some States and districts do not have such committees. The lack of inter-State coordination results in inordinate delay.

In the period between the enquiry proceedings and the submission of the final report, the child is entrusted to an overcrowded reception home. This is more like a transit home and children are in “protective custody”. Since this is a temporary measure, children have nothing to occupy them. Migrant children dislike the food, do not understand the local language, some of them speak in different dialects and communication becomes difficult for even for those who know Hindi. Under the Act, after the enquiry is completed, if the committee is of the opinion that the child has no family or ostensible support or the child is in continuous need of care and protection, it may allow the child to remain in the children's home or shelter home till suitable rehabilitation is found or till the child reaches 18.

How does one determine that a parent is unfit to keep the child and cannot give ostensible support? The determination of “best interests” under the Act is complex as it has to be considered with the need of the child to be with a parent and the lack of adequate facilities and resources. And what is the kind of rehabilitation that the State can offer? The purpose of asking this question is not to justify exploitation of children by parents. But neglect cannot be determined on the basis of poverty, as is sought to be done by some who set the law in motion.

The Act is highly interventionist in its structure. But as it is used on the impoverished, who have no access to justice, its application is invisible. This is compounded by the fact that to protect the privacy of children, proceedings under it are not open to public disclosure. A greater scrutiny is needed for us to understand its implication on children.

(Geeta Ramaseshan is a senior lawyer practising in Madras High Court in the area of criminal law, constitutional law and family law. She can be reached at geetaramaseshan@gmail.com.)