Thursday, May 10, 2012

Debate over minimum age of admission to class one

Debate over minimum age of admission to class one

Parents are a confused lot on when to seek admission for their children to class one. Different educational institutions adopt different norms when it comes to admissions even as a consensus between the state and central authorities is not yet in sight.
There is no clarity among the schools in the State on whether to implement the government order that all children shall have attained the age of six years at the time of admission to class 1 from the academic year 2012-13.
Many educational institutions are playing it safe by granting admissions only to the six year olds. “This academic year, we’re giving class one admissions mostly to six-year-olds.
At least, they should have attained five-and-a-half years, not less than that,” Sister Mary Helma, Principal, Mount Carmel Vidyaniketan Senior Secondary School, Kanjikuzhy, Kottayam, said.
“I’ve approached a few schools for admission of my child. While the educational institutions like Bhavans are willing to take my five-year-old daughter, the one at Maradu says an official communication in this regard is yet to arrive and so I need to wait,” said Saumya Vinod, a resident of Edapally.
On the other hand, a number of CBSE/ICSE schools have already filled the seats for class 1 by doling out admissions to five-year-olds too.
“The State’s order will virtually result in a generation losing out on a precious year as currently the students in UKG or pre-primary classes will have to repeat a year, studying nothing new.
Hence we are against the policy and have taken in children aged five years for class one,” former Additional Solicitor General and Chairman of Kerala Federation of CBSE/ICSE Schools, T.P. M. Ibrahim Khan said.
He questioned the logic behind the decision.
“On what basis is the State saying this? If it is the Right to Education Act, then the Act only mentions that free and compulsory education to children between the ages of six and 14 should be ensured. There is no word on the minimum age of admission to class 1,” he pointed out.
Meanwhile, the State and Central governments, in their attempt to find a way out, have agreed to finalise the issue of age through consensus.
“It has come to the notice of the government that certain schools functioning in the State under the control of Government of India have fixed the age as five for admission to class 1 even after the enactment of the RTE Act which will adversely affect the admissions and academic merits of the State schools,” M. Sivasankar, Secretary, General Education Department, said.
The State recently took up the issue with the Centre as the department felt the need to have parity and uniformity in admissions to all schools in the state, irrespective of unaided, aided, government and specified category schools.
“It is ascertained from the Centre that the issue needs to be resolved through a consensus process. Hence the existing provisions in the Kerala Education Rules will continue to be in vogue.
The age of admission to class 1 shall be five years for all schools of the State until the Kendriya Vidyalayas controlled by the Centre also switch over to age six as implied in the RTE act,” the official said.
Already, parents find it a big challenge to gain admissions for their children in reputed schools. The uncertainty over age will only add to their anxiety.

Disabled children too will get right to free education: Kapil Sibal

Disabled children too will get right to free education: Kapil Sibal

Published: Wednesday, May 9, 2012, 17:12 IST
Place: New Delhi | Agency: PTI

The government on Wednesday said that children with all kinds of disability will be provided free and compulsory education, either in school or at home, under the Right to Education Act.
"Children with all kinds of disability will be protected under the Act," HRD Minister Kapil Sibal said, moving amendments to the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 in the Lok Sabha.
The amendment bill, which was earlier approved by the Rajya Sabha, seeks to widen the beneficiary net for disabled children under the Act and provide those with severe disability the option of receiving education at home.
Sibal said that under the Act children suffering from all kinds of disabilities including autism, cerebral palsy and mental retardation would be provided free and compulsory education.
He said diseases like dyslexia which are not specifically mentioned in the Bill would be covered once the changes, which are being considered by the government, are made in the legislations dealing with disabilities.
On the demand of minorities for making explicit reference to provisions of Articles 29 and 30 dealing with rights of minorities, Sibal said it was not needed as Constitution is supreme and everything flows from it.
He said the Supreme Court in a recent judgement has made it clear that the Right to Education Act would not apply to unaided minority institutions. It would also not apply to Vedic Pathshalas and Muslim Madarsas.
Kirit Solanki (BJP), however, demanded that all religious educational institutions should be brought within the ambit of the Right to Education Act.

Parliament passes RTE Bill

Parliament passes RTE Bill

K. Balchand
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Differently-abled children can join any school
Parliament passed the Right of Children to Free and compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, 2012, with the Lok Sabha passing the measure on Wednesday, thereby providing for an integrated education process which would allow differently-abled children in the age group 6-14 the right of admission to any school.
Replying to a discussion on the Bill, which the Rajya Sabha had passed earlier, Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal allayed fears expressed by Supriya Sule (NCP) and Priya Dutt (Congress) on home-based education for this category of children, saying a committee had been set up to issue guidelines as to the level at which such an arrangement should be made.
Mr. Sibal said he would incorporate the suggestion into the law as it was necessary to integrate the education process. He said there had to be a choice and it was for the parents to decide.
He assured the House that children suffering from various disabilities would be brought within the ambit of the Right to Education Act in due course.
Addressing the concerns expressed by minority community members over the establishment of a management committee for aided minority institutions, Mr. Sibal said it would function only in an advisory capacity.
As for shortages in schools, the Minister said the Centre had cleared the appointment of six lakh school teachers and it was now for the State governments to make the appointments and use the funds made available to them.
He, however, refused to reconsider the new system of comprehensive and continuous evaluation (CCA) at the level of the board examinations, saying the experiment was limited to 12,000 schools following the CBSE syllabus.
Most members supported Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad's demand for conducting examinations even at the board level, stressing that now the State boards were not excluded from the purview of the Central government.
As regards a common curriculum, Mr. Sibal said such a system was being evolved, science and mathematics having already been brought within its ambit. Among other subjects, commerce would be covered next.
When Mr. Sibal did not commit himself to opening schools in minority-dominated areas for the benefit of the girl child, Mr. Prasad and his other party MPs of his party staged a walkout.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Low Income Families Choose Private Education Over Government Schools in India

Low Income Families Choose Private Education Over Government Schools in India


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UNITED KINGDOM--(ENEWSPF)--8 May 2012.  A study examining children’s schooling in Andhra Pradesh, India, has revealed a dramatic rise in the number of parents opting for fee-paying private schools over state-funded government schools. Even low-income families are ‘voting with their feet’, according to new research led by the University of Oxford.
Researchers tracked 3,000 children who were randomly selected from different social and economic backgrounds in Andhra Pradesh. They found that in 2002 about one quarter (24%) of seven and eight year olds attended private schools, but by 2009 the rate had almost doubled to 44%. The study suggests that the trend is fuelled by the availability of low fee-paying private schools, and the perception among parents that children will make better educational progress in private schools. Parents said they valued English-medium teaching offered by private schools, whereas government schools mostly teach in the regional language, Telugu.
The research is part of the Young Lives project, which is tracking the development of children in four countries, including India. The research team compared two cohorts of children of different ages – an older cohort born in 1994-5 and a younger cohort in 2001-2002.The findings are published in the International Journal of Educational Development.
The study finds that children in urban areas were more likely to be educated in private schools than government schools, and this was true even for the poorest groups. This is partly due to availability of choice in urban centres, with children having less distance to travel than those in rural areas.  A child in the older cohort was 16 times more likely to have attended a private school between the age of five and eight years if they lived in an urban rather than a rural area. However, the researchers found that this urban-rural gap is beginning to shrink: while 10% of seven to eight year olds from rural areas were privately educated in 2002, by 2009 this had gone up to 31%.
Although access to private schools is increasing for relatively poorer families, the study points out that even ‘low’ fees are out of reach for the very poor. It also highlights an emerging gender gap whereby sons are being given preferential treatment over daughters. 97% of girls in the older cohort had not attended private school by the age of eight, compared with 92% of boys. By the age of 15, 91% of girls were still not privately schooled, compared to 77% of boys at the same age showing that a significant proportion of boys moved to private schools at a later stage. These gender gaps were emerging much earlier for the younger cohort, which the authors argue is the result of the very poorest parents making hard choices about which of their children they can afford to send to fee-paying private schools.
The study shows that state-funded government schools are perceived by parents to be of lower quality’ and one problem cited by parents was absenteeism amongst teachers. Of the older cohort, nearly three quarters attended a government school in 2001 at the age of five or six, but by 2009 only half of them were still in government schools; nine per cent had transferred to a private school and a quarter (26%) had dropped out of education altogether.
Lead author Martin Woodhead, Associate Research Director at Young Lives at Oxford University and Professor of Childhood Studies at the Open University, said: ‘The schooling of India’s children has developed to become far more market-driven than in the past. Many more parents are opting out of free government schools to pay for a private education for their children, even if it means making sacrifices. Those on a very limited budget are finding they have to grant privileges to one child over another. While private schooling may provide a short-term solution to the educational needs of children in India today, it is unlikely to be the best means of providing education for all children in the longer term as its benefits are not equally shared, but according to gender, location and income.
‘Our study suggests that there needs to be a reform programme for government schools to make sure they deliver quality education. Regulation of private schools is also essential, including increasing access to the most underprivileged, as well as those who can afford to pay. India’s Right to Education Act is a step in the right direction, and we wait to see how effective it will be.’
Notes:
  • The study ‘Does growth in private schooling contribute to Education for All? Evidence from a longitudinal, two cohort study in Andhra Pradesh, India’ is by Martin Woodhead, Associate Research Director at Young Lives at Oxford University and Professor of Childhood Studies at the Open University, UK, along with Mel Frost and Zoe James from the University of Oxford. It is published in the International Journal of Educational Development http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0738059312000247
  • The sample group of 3,000 children were selected randomly from 20 different sites in Andhra Pradesh. They represented a range of different social and economic backgrounds and came from both rural and urban areas. In the latest household survey in 2009, children and their parents/carers were asked about their children’s school histories. Other factors like location, income, caste, and parental education and aspirations were also taken into account.
  • The Young Lives project is tracking the development of 12,000 children in India, Ethiopia, Peru and Vietnam over a 15-year period to better understand the causes and consequences of childhood poverty. Young Lives is core-funded from 2002 to 2017 by UK aid from the Department for International Development (DFID), and co-funded from 2010 to 2014 by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For more information, go to Young Lives www.younglives.org.uk
Source: ox.ac.uk

Haryana government invites applications for Sarava Shiksha Abhiyan from retired teachers

Haryana government invites applications for Sarava Shiksha Abhiyan from retired teachers

   
Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - 17:45
By Punjab Newsline
CHANDIGARH: Haryana School Shiksha Pariyojna Parishad has invited applications from the retired teachers who could devotedly contribute for excellent implementation of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan.
 
While stating this today, a spokesman of the Parishad said that for the implementation of various components of  Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan applications  had been invited from those dedicated and determined retired teachers who could contribute to provide qualitative education.
 
He said that the interested applicants could send their applications in the prescribed format to  Mrs. Kalpana Rashmi, Advisor, Haryana School Shiksha Pariyojna Parishad, 3rd  floor, Shiksha Sadan, Sector 5, Panchkula, Haryana – 134109.

Quality will go to the dogs, cry teachers

Quality will go to the dogs, cry teachers

Published: Tuesday, May 8, 2012, 8:00 IST
By Kanchan Srivastava | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

The recent government guidelines banning punishment in any form in schools has left teachers in a fix.
Corporal punishment had been banned earlier. Now that they cannot even scold students, teachers are worried about discipline and ultimately quality taking a beating.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) issued a set of guidelines in March for schools and other institutions meant for the care and protection of children such as hostels, orphanages, ashram shalas and juvenile homes across the country.
Now, teachers cannot detain, threaten or taunt a student for reaching school late or for not performing up to the mark. They cannot ask anyone to stand on the bench, as has been the practice for years in schools throughout the country.
Expectedly, students and parents are overjoyed, but teachers are dreading the reopening of schools in June after the summer vacations.
Their contention: the new guidelines leave them with no power to control, especially classes with 40-50 students.
Anjana Prakash, principal of Hansraj Morarji Junior College, felt there was no harm in meting out “soft punishments such as asking a student to do two rounds of the school or not allowing him/her a game period”. “These guidelines, along with the no retention policy, will ultimately hamper the standard of education in the country,” she said.
“How will a teacher handle a class without even reprimanding any student even when they are at fault?” asked Uday Nare, a Marathi teacher. “Don’t parents scold kids at home?”
Another teacher Riddhi Kothari said every class has some students who are mischievous, aggressive and “generally problematic”. “We are now expected to maintain discipline without any powers and also work hard towards students’ development,” she said.
The NCPR, however, feels punishment in any form — be it soft or otherwise — always affects the development of a child’s full potential. Maltreatment has a negative effect on the emotional and the intellectual wellbeing of a child, the NCPCR has said. The new set of guidelines also lists the constitutional rights of a child as well as punishments under the Indian Penal Code for those found violating them.
State governments are now required to set up a body to inquire into complaints against teachers and take necessary action. Schools will have to set up a cell to monitor corporal punishment, if any.
The cell will comprise two teachers, two sets of parents, a doctor, a lawyer, an independent counsellor, an independent child rights or woman rights activist from the local area and two elected students.
Teachers from across Maharashtra have decided to meet Kapil Sibal, Union HRD minister of HRD, to present their side of the story. “We too are against corporal punishment; but at the same time teachers too should not be victimised,” Kapil Patil, MLC from teacher’s constituency and president of secondary teachers association, ‘Shikshak Bharati’, said. “A school management can misuse the new set of guidelines to victimise a teacher. We want to discuss our worries with Sibal.”

Sibal, Montek differ over student loans

Sibal, Montek differ over student loans
Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, May 08, 2012
HRD minister Kapil Sibal and Planning Commission deputy chairperson Montek Singh were involved in a public spat over the model to ensure every student gets a loan for pursuing higher education.
Sibal wanted government’s financial support so that financial institutions grant money for 
 loans, the view out-rightly rejected by Ahluwalia. They were present at the launch of a report on Corporate Sector Participation in Higher Education by Infosys founder NR Narayana Murthy.
Earlier, the then road transport minister Kamal Nath had described the plan panel as "arm-chair" advisory body in presence of Ahluwalia.
On Tuesday, the squabble started with Sibal saying that education reforms cannot be pursued without government funding. And for this he demonstrated his annoyance with the Planning Commission for rejecting HRD ministry’s proposal for setting up Student Loan Finance Corporation.
“One should ask the planning commission why our proposal of the finance corporation was rejected?” he asked in a pointed question to Ahluwalia in a packed house. “Some loans have to be guaranteed by the government or else no financial institution will grant money for student upliftment,” Sibal said.
Many banks, including public sector, have imposed stringent conditions of awarding of student loans resulting in many deserving students not been able to avail the facility. “Poor bright students are the worst sufferers,” a government official said, adding that HRD ministry had proposed interest subvention by the government to help students get educational loans.
Sibal’s message to the plan panel was simple --- put strong fundamentals in place before pursuing reforms.
Ahluwalia hit back minutes – in absence of Sibal --- later saying having a budgeted support for education loans is a “bad idea”.
The noted economist made it clear that education loan scheme has to be based on payback methodology depending on the job the loanee gets.
“If a student gets government job, half of the loan amount can be waived off but if he or she gets employed in lucrative private sector entire loan should be paid back,” he told HT later. His logic was the education loan should push the students for excellence, which can only happen if they have to pay back, and has to be a commercial proposition.   
The debate on education reforms was result of Murthy’s report which asked the government to create viable environment for corporate sector to invest in higher education. “There has to be complete autonomy and fiscal incentives for corporate sector to invest,” the industrialist, who has donated large number of his wealth for philanthropy.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Rann’s ‘right to education’ taken with a pinch of salt

Rann’s ‘right to education’ taken with a pinch of salt

Satish Jha : Kharaghoda (Surendranagar), Mon May 07 2012, 05:29 hrs

Eleven-year-old Ramjibhai Bhimani, son of an agariya (salt pan worker), timidly opens his school bag and takes out things one by one — a bunch of unused pencils, erasers, sharpeners and a bundle of books. “I got them from school at the Rann,” he says. But a moment later he disappears when he is asked to tell the name of his country, its prime minister, name of his state and its chief minister.
For him, the world ends in the white expanse of salt in the Little Rann of Kutch where his parents are salt pan workers, and the rest of the year at their home in Kharaghoda. They have never heard about their “right to education”.
“He (Ramji) is studying in Class V for past three years as he failed in the examinations. His elder brother Tulsi, 14, is still in class IV. The school gives books and pencils to the children but those are of no use. Most of the children who study in these schools are like my sons. The teachers are irregular and they don’t teach the children at all,” said Bijalbhai Bhimani, 51, an agariya and father of Ramji.
Bhimani, who owns seven salt pans, blames the school management. He said the school gave his son everything from books to breakfasts, but no education.
To educate the thousands of children in the Little Rann of Kutch from Surendranagar district, 13 schools are being run for salt pan workers’ children who come to stay in the Rann for eight months from October to May with their families. In the Rann, more than 2,700 families from Patdi, Dhrangadhra and Halvad talukas are said to be involved in salt farming.
For imparting primary education to the children, several NGOs and government organisations have been working for more than 15 years now. Model schools were set up and teachers were brought in the Little Rann spread in more than 5,000 sq km. But when it comes to the quality of education the situation has worsen over the years. Locals blame NGOs and government agencies for their poor show.
“There are 13 schools at present in which 354 children have enrolled this year. In each school, there is a lone while the number of students could vary from 20 to 60. The education being given to the children is nothing but a joke as the teachers themselves need to be trained first. They are pass-outs of Class X or XII, from the community itself who are not good enough for the job,” said a government official on the condition of anonymity.
He said “no graduate is willing to take the task of educating the children in the Rann where living condition is tough”.
NGOs have also worsened things. Various irregularities were found during government officers visited in the schools. Sources said in 2009, IG Patel, Mamlatdar, Patadi, reportedly found several schools running only on paper. After that visit the government took over the charge to run the schools. At present the schools are run under Sarva Sikhsha Abhiyan (SSA).
Sukhdev Patel of Gantar, who has been working in the area since 1996 and is hailed as the first one to have started education initiatives for the children in the Little Rann, refuted the allegations saying “education is the responsibility of state government and not an NGO’s work.

Kids living on platforms most vulnerable

Kids living on platforms most vulnerable
Shaswati Das, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, May 07, 2012

Aamir's (name changed) days are carefully planned. He wakes up at the crack of the dawn and combs through Nizamuddin Railway station to earn his livelihood. Armed with a polythene bag, he picks up bottles of every shape and size and runs to the local shops in the vicinity to sell what he has collected. The exchange fetches him R200, at best, with which he buys a few bottles of whitener fluid and hides under the stairs.
"I sniff about three bottles in the summer and seven in the winter. I went to school till I was six years old, but then I ran away. My father owns a shop, but I seldom go home," said Aamir.http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2012/5/07_05_12-metro2b.jpg
Aamir is among the thousands of children who live on railway stations across the city. Some of them, according to the NGO -- Plan India, fall prey to not just petty crimes and drug addiction, but are subject to police harassment, trafficking and sexual harassment as well.
These children come from the nearby towns and cities and stay at the railway stations — where they can find food and place to sleep easily.
The NGO has rehabilitated 734 children from the railway platforms so far and enrolled them into different de-addiction centres and open schools.
"Most of these children are brought here by their close relatives. From here they are trafficked to places such as Ferozpur in Punjab or sold elsewhere," said Vijay Kumar, national secretary, Badhte Kadam — a programme run by Plan India. Kumar claims that apart from other forms of harassment, young boys and girls are sexually assaulted by traffickers or by those who have been living on the platforms.
The NGO officials also alleged that the police fail to act even though majority of these kids are minors. In a report by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), it was cited that: "Railway stations in India are a breeding ground for several social issues such as child labour and child trafficking and exploitation." It also recommended setting up of child protection panels at stations.

Government wants private schools to seek financial aid for poor students from charities

Government wants private schools to seek financial aid for poor students from charities


Unaided schools claim their expenses are much more than what the state government spends per child.
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The Union government wants private schools to hold out the begging bowl to introduce the 25 per cent quota for underprivileged children.
In a suggestion utterly devoid of vision and fraught with the risk of sending education standards plummeting, it has advised such institutions to turn to philanthropic individuals, charitable trusts and corporate entities to bear the financial burden of the freeship provision at the entry level mandated by the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009. The reservation is being implemented in the Capital with effect from 2011.
The opinion, which has been widely rubbished, was given by the Kapil Sibal-helmed human resource development (HRD) ministry in reply to a Lok Sabha question last week. Acknowledging that some unaided schools in metropolitan cities spent more than the state government on each student, the ministry said these institutions would have to resort to "innovative ways" to meet the gap between expenditure and reimbursement.
"Some schools in metros have per-child budgets much in excess of those in other states. These schools would have to find innovative ways, with philanthropic individuals, charitable trusts and corporate funding, to meet the gap without loading the general category students with a fee hike," the HRD ministry contended in a statement in response to a starred question by MPs Neeraj Shekhar and Asaduddin Owaisi.
The opinion was given by the Kapil Sibal-helmed human resource development ministry.
As regards the innovative ways, the HRD ministry was implying that private schools raise additional money by seeking funds from philanthropists, alumni members, charitable trusts and business houses under the latter's corporate social responsibility initiative. Instead of focusing attention on improving and upgrading government schools so that they voluntarily attract children from all strata of society, the establishment appeared to be recommending measures that could have a direct bearing on scholastic standards. The poser in the Lok Sabha was put in the wake of the Supreme Court upholding the constitutional validity of the RTE Act on April 12. The apex court had also upheld the "affirmative burden" placed on private schools with respect to the provision of free seats for children from the economically weaker section.
To handle this load, the Act stipulates that the state government must bear the actual perchild expenditure incurred by private schools or shell out the amount equivalent to that spent on each student in schools run by it, whichever is less.
The schools contended that their expenses were much higher than the amount the state government spent on each child every month. For instance, Bal Bharati Public School, Pusa Road, spends Rs.3,200 per child per month on an average. But the Delhi government has announced a monthly reimbursement of only Rs.1,190 for every student.
To mop up such big deficits, many schools across the country have threatened to resort to fee hikes for the general category students. Others were clear that they would not go begging to either corporations or "philanthropic individuals" as the government has sagely suggested.
"Old schools might have their alumni to support them, but what about young institutions such as ours? I doubt our exstudents are in a position to help us out financially," Manju Bharat Ram, chairperson of the trust that runs the The Shri Ram Schools, said. "Moreover, how long can we keep asking philanthropists to help us out?"
According to Arun Kapur, director, Vasant Valley School, following the HRD ministry's advice might seem easy on the face of it. But schools were actually caught in a Catch-22 situation. "It's great that Kapil Sibal's ministry has said this, but will the state government allow us to raise money through innovative means? There is a world of difference between what the Centre says and what actually happens on the ground. The Act will only be implemented through rules made by state governments," he said.
However, some experts did suggest alternative methods to fill the gap. "I agree with the ministry's advice. The institutions which spend more than the government are mostly big schools and make up only 25 to 30 per cent of all private schools. Such institutions, Delhi Public Schools or Modern Schools for example, have a very strong alumni base which can be easily approached for financial help," Vinod Raina, a member of a subgroup on education in the National Advisory Council and the Central Advisory Board on Education (CABE), said.
"Furthermore, corporations can be urged to use their corporate social responsibility funds more creatively by helping schools which need additional financial help to support poor students under the 25 per cent reservation," he added.
But even institutions with affluent ex-students were sceptical. "Modern Schools are obviously at an advantage because our alumni base is strong. Still, I would like the state government to reconsider its rate of reimbursement. The economics of running each school is different and there cannot be a flat rate. We have a campus of 25 acres and maintaining it is tough," Lata Vaidyanathan, principal, Modern School, Barakhamba Road, observed.
Concern was also expressed over whether depending on charity was a long-term solution for sustaining EWS reservation in schools. A general estimate pegged the number of beneficiaries at anywhere between 2.5 and 7 million poor students in the first year of full implementation of the RTE Act.

Tendentious arguments against Right to Education Act

Tendentious arguments against Right to Education Act

A. Srinivas
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RTE marks a welcome return to common schooling; the objections lack substance.
It's the strangest of debates. Private schools are up in arms against the Supreme Court order upholding the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE), 2009. What are their objections?
First, non-minority private unaided schools feel they have got a raw deal. They will have to provide free education to 25 per cent of their students, admitted from economically weaker sections, while unaided minority schools have been exempt from this obligation.
Their second grouse is that the reimbursement by the State Government may not be adequate to cover the expenses incurred on a student, and that fee-paying wards will have to cover up the deficit. This argument has won them the support of the middle class.
Their third argument is that students from a poor background will be unable to cope with learning standards and eventually drop out.
And finally, they feel the Government is abdicating its responsibility towards educating the poor.

FLAWED VIEWS

Let's consider these views one by one. Autonomy to minority institutions has been enshrined under Article 30 of the Constitution. To argue that they should be subject to the RTE obligation would imply pushing for a Constitutional Amendment, which would open up another debate altogether on the privileges of minority institutions.
This would distract us from what RTE is all about – providing everyone a free and decent education till the age of 14. The debate on treatment of minority institutions can wait till another day, after successful implementation of RTE in its present form. The market for education is too large for one privileged group to threaten the business prospects of the rest.
The second argument on the extent of State Government reimbursement cannot be taken as an in-principle objection against RTE, as it can be sorted out by raising the limit of reimbursement to include a range of other expenses. Therefore, the outcry seems disproportionate to the problem.
The third smacks of misplaced goals – prioritising excellence in a few students over raising the skill sets of a larger number. It is easier for a school to harp about 100 per cent ‘pass' results, when the students are a homogenous group. But a result of, say 90 per cent, in a school with diversity would represent higher quality. Sure, diversity poses a challenge to teachers, but they cannot run away from it. It would enhance the social and emotional intelligence of an individual – isn't that an important objective of education?
And, as for the view that the Government is turning away from its own schools, it can neither be proved nor disproved at this stage, with the law having been in force for just two years. Government schools have been in bad shape for over two decades, anyway, so why this sudden concern over their neglect? This does not sit well with a tendency to favour Government withdrawal from other social services, such as food distribution. If the Government is deemed unfit to run the PDS and hospitals, why make an exception for schools? This is only to point out the contradiction in the argument, and not to make a case for Government withdrawal.

REAL REASON

So flimsy are the stated arguments against RTE that they do not seem to be the real reasons for the opposition to it. So, what is really behind this antipathy? It is what the middle class will not readily admit – that, to put it crudely, their children will end up going to the same school as their drivers' or maid-servants' children. The response is not dissimilar to the anger of the upper castes in North India over the mid-day meals programme.
To understand this urge for segregation, one only needs to look at how private schools came up in the first place. Till about three generations ago, people from all sections were found in one Government school. The school functioned well because the middle class could enforce its rights.
But after the Fifth Pay Commission and the rise in private sector salaries, the middle class gradually pulled its children out of Government schools and put them in ‘respectable' private schools. Now, private schools are sought-after, while Government schools, which still account for over three-fourth of all school students, are in a shambles as a result of middle class neglect.
With RTE, the wheel has come full circle, with common schooling making a comeback. In a rapidly growing economy, disadvantaged families are no longer willing to settle for dilapidated Government schools. RTE is a political response to the demands of this silent majority.

Right to Education Act: India’s Brown vs. Board?

Right to Education Act: India’s Brown vs. Board?


The Parliament of India passed a Right to Education (RTE) Act in 2009. One of the key provisions of this Act requires private schools to enroll at least 25% of their students from socially and economically backward groups and not charge them any fee. The state would compensate schools, at least partially, for teaching these students. Many private schools, and parents who send their kids to these schools, are unhappy with this provision of the RTE Act. Schools and parents dislike this forced social and class integration in classrooms.
Private schools in India can be discriminatory in ways that remind you of the American South in 1950s and 1960s. A top private school in Gandhinagar, Gujarat rescinded its admission offer to our maid’s son after they discovered that he lived in the servant’s quarter. My Aunt taught in a school in Delhi that had a separate shift of classes for poor kids to keep them away from their more privileged brethren. These kids got worse teachers and no access to school’s playground, swimming pool, or dining hall. The school even toyed with Newt Gingrich’s idea of hiring some of these poor kids as janitors during the main shift.
I was not surprised when a group of private schools challenged the constitutional validity of the Act in the Supreme Court of India. Last week, however, the Court not only rejected schools’ appeal, but also ordered them to ensure that at least one in four kids in every single classroom is from an underprivileged group. No separate shifts now! This is a momentous decision.
There are about 200 million kids in the 6-14 years age group in India. 95% of them are enrolled in schools. We do not have data on how many of these kids study in private schools. According to Pratham’s Annual Survey of Education Report (ASER 2010), one in four school going kids (26 percent boys and 22 percent girls) in rural India goes to a private school. In some states like Punjab, Haryana, Manipur, Meghalaya, and Kerala, the distribution of kids between government and private schools is almost even, while in Uttar Pradesh—the home state of RICE—43 percent boys and 35 percent girls study in private schools. The share is probably much higher in urban areas because there are more and better private schools in cities and parents have greater ability to pay the school fees. Even if we take the conservative estimate that 25 percent of all school going kids in India (in 6-14 years age group) are in private schools, it means that the 0.24 million private schools of India have a combined student strength of nearly 50 million. The RTE Act has created 12.5 million free seats in private schools for underprivileged kids—a huge opportunity and the number of free seats will only increase as more private schools come up.
I am excited and worried in equal measures. I am excited that many poor parents will now be able to send their kids to better schools. I am excited that the kids from well-off families will share classrooms with the poor. This, I hope, will make them more compassionate and more humane, and bring them closer to the reality of India.
On the other hand, I am worried that government schools will become even worse as they lose their best students (and most resourceful parents) to private schools. I am worried that private schools and state bureaucracies will make every effort to subvert the Act: there will be fake enrolments, poor treatment of the poor kids, and only half-hearted efforts to bring them up to the grade. I am worried that the Act provides for free education only till 14 years of age when most kids are in class 8th or 9th.  What afterwards: Punah mushako bhava (back to square one)?
It will be interesting to keep track of the myriad changes–positive and negative–that will result from RTE.

‘Govt not responsible for school education’

‘Govt not responsible for school education’


Kapil Sibal, Human Resource Development Minister, on Saturday said that the government’s role is to create an environment for people to educate themselves. He was delivering a lecture on ‘Higher Education Policy and Youth Aspirations’ organised by the MIT School of Government (MIT-SOG).
“The Central government can only create an environment that will facilitate education. School education is a state subject, even then people think the Central government to be responsible for it. While the Right to Education (RTE) Act and the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) have made a big difference, we need the stakeholders in the education system to stand up and make a difference.
“The situation in the higher education sector is also grim. Most university teachers are still opposing the semester system to avoid work. Today we have over 400 universities connected through the National Knowledge Framework (NKF) and we hope we can connect the rest of 240 soon. We have 220 million students going to school and by 2020, 45 million students will reach college. But we do not have enough number of colleges to accommodate all of them. We need to create the infrastructure,” Sibal said.
Talking about the recent Supreme Court verdict that makes it mandatory for all private schools to reserve 25 per cent of their seats for students from economically backward classes, he said that all affluent people who have problem with the mandate, should think about the subsidies like fuel, LPG that the government provides for them.
“If they do not talk about giving up those subsidies, why do they have a problem with this 25 per cent reservation?” Sibal asked.
At the beginning of the lecture, Sibal released the proposal of the 3rd students Parliament of the MIT School of Government MIT-SOG). Later, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between MIT-SOG and Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) for a collaboration on a joint programme that will address issues of leadership in politics and government.
Certain areas for collaboration have been identified for academic training and delivery.
The areas of collaboration will include academic topics constituency development, election management, campaign management. Exchange programmes, design of syllabus and creation of internship opportunities will also be a part of this collaboration.
Vishwanath Karad, founder director, MAEER’s MIT Group of Institutions said, “We look forward to a more evolved curriculum for MIT-SOG with this collaboration.”
S Parshuraman, director, TISS, said, “We hope that with such courses available in India, our bureaucrats will not need to go to places like the JFK School of Government for training. For some course modules under the collaboration, the TISS faculty will come to MIT SOG for classes. TISS is also a part of the NKF. Students from NKF can come down to TISS and access over 8,000 journals.”
Value education need of the hour: Sibal
Union HRD Minister Kapil Sibal on Saturday termed immorality as the biggest ‘tremor’ in society and underlined the need of value education to overcome it.
Sibal was speaking after inaugurating the silver jubilee convention of the Bharatiya Jain Sanghatana (BJS) at the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Balewadi. State School Education Minister Rajendra Darda, Dharmadhikari of Dharmasthala Manjunatha Temple Veerendra Heggade, Justice Chandrashekhar Dharmadhikari, founder-president of BJS Shantilal Muttha, national general secretary of BJS Prafulla Parakh and Sarala Muttha were present.
Sibal blamed consumerism for emergence of immorality in society. Highlighting the need of urging people to inculcate ethical values at the school level itself, he applauded the efforts of BJS and Muttha for introducing Mulyavardhan (value education) as a pilot project in 500 schools of Maharashtra. “We will have to create 100 such Mutthas to spread this movement across the country,” he said. He also promised to arrange a dialogue between BJS and NSCERT and SCERTs to take forward the journey of Mulyavardhan in the other parts of the country.
Sibal said, “The present day situation is such that there is no trust between husband and wife, students and teacher and the opposition and the ruling party. We have to bring back this trust in society. The leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Lokmanya Tilak used to have a dialogue with society through their writings. This dialogue between leaders and citizens is vanished. There is need to rebuild it.” Elaborating various initiatives of the government, Sibal talked about use of technology in tackling challenges. He said, “We have been linking 604 universities and 35,000 colleges across the country through national knowledge network. With this project in place, a student in Maharashtra will be able to listen to a lecture of a professor going on in IIT-Kanpur. A time will come when the convergence technology will enable every student in the country to take lessons sitting at home.”
Muttha said the BJS is an action-oriented organisation and not a function-oriented organisation. While elaborating the various projects of the BJS, such as Mulyavardhan, he said, ‘We believe in integrating our programmes with the government system. We don’t criticise, but provide solutions. Though there is ‘Jain’ in the title of the organisation, the organisation works for the nation as a whole.’
Books on the various projects of the BJS and its journey so far were released during the inaugural function. . Parakh compeered the event, while vice-president of BJS Prakashchand Surana proposed the vote of thanks.

Kapil Sibal's RTE Act reeling under severe funds crunch

Kapil Sibal's RTE Act reeling under severe funds crunch

Union HRD minister Kapil Sibal's happiness over the Budget allocation to his ministry for 2012-13 now seems unfounded.
Despite an increase of over 21 per cent against the grant given last year, it turns out there still isn't enough money to implement his showpiece legislation, Right to Education (RTE) Act.
The department of school education and literacy under the HRD ministry, in fact, has only been given 60 per cent of its proposed demand for this financial year, a parliamentary standing committee on HRD ministry has observed. In other words, RTE scheme is facing a shortfall of Rs.15,000 crore this year
Concerned over this "wide gap" between demand and actual Budget allocation, the standing committee, in a report tabled in Parliament on Thursday, expressed its apprehension on whether "insufficiency of funds would compel the department (of schools education and literacy) to cut down or withdraw from other schemes besides leading to hindrances in the implementation of the SSA-RTE programmes..."
This year, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had announced an increased expenditure Rs.61,427 crore for education in the Union Budget. Of this, Rs.25,555 crore is meant for RTE Act. Sibal's reaction to this was that of elation. "In a difficult year like this, it is commendable that the finance minister has continued to invest in education. This is the surest road to empowerment," he had said.
But now, in the wake of the standing committee's report, the happiness seems unfounded. According to the report, the department has raised a demand for Rs.40,000 crore for implementation of RTE against which Rs.25,555 crore was provided. The department's demand was on account of meeting required mandatory norms of RTE Act in terms of school infrastructure and additional teachers.
The report states that the department by its own admission has said that reduced allocation had forced them to re-work their programmes and this was setting their programmes back considerably.
What could further dent the effectiveness of the universalisation of education is the states forfeiting their share of expenditure for the Act. Currently, the fund-sharing pattern between the centre and the states for a period of five years from 2012-13 is 65:35. However, 12 states - including Arunachal Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur, Mizoram, Punjab, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Tripura and West Bengal - failed to contribute their share for the purse and an amount of Rs.1,459 crore backlog was pending as on December 31, 2011.


Read more at: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/kapil-sibal-right-to-education-act-funds-crunch/1/187530.html

RTE tramples upon our freedom: CISCE chairman

RTE tramples upon our freedom: CISCE chairman

Even as private unaided school managements are having some anxious moments with the State government gearing up to implement the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act 2009 from this academic year, confusion is rife owing to lack of clarity on many issues.
In an exclusive interview with The Hindu, Jose Aikara, chairman, Council for The Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE), New Delhi, said that some of the clauses in the Act were “unscientific” and the government must be sympathetic and practical while implementing the Act.
Excerpts from the interview.
Q: The general impression is that private unaided school managements are against the implementation of RTE and efforts are being made to postpone its implementation…
A: No. We are not against it. In fact, we appreciate the government's efforts to spread universal education. Our only worry is that this Act in its present form tramples upon the freedom of the managements. We have built our schools brick by brick.
In India, less than 10 per cent of the schools are managed by private parties. The presence may be micro, but their impact on society is tremendous. Everyone must recognise the contribution of private schools in improving the quality of education imparted and thereby in building a healthy society.
Then, why should the government deprive us of running our schools. Why should the [school] administration go to local authorities? The government, instead of trying to rein us in, must look at improving its own schools.
When you say you are not against RTE, are you willing to provide 25 per cent seats for poor students?
Yes. But, why should the government insist that these students must be accommodated with other students? We are willing to have separate classrooms for them. We are also willing to adopt government schools so that these students feel comfortable with their group. But, the moot point is who selects these students. Schools do not have any say in this aspect.
How do you think school managements will overcome problems, including the cost of educating a child from a poor background?
There are only two ways: by increasing the class strength and having a nominal fee structure or by increasing the fees and having a class strength of about 30 to 40.
Schools with good infrastructure may think of increasing the class strength. However, schools with limited resources and facilities have no other way but to increase the fees, because managements cannot run their schools at a loss. You also need finances to adopt new technologies.
Without adopting new technologies, it is not possible to improve the quality of education. And, if more students are accommodated in a classroom, it surely will affect the teaching-learning process. I think 30 is the ideal class strength so that teachers can give individual attention.
How long do you think it will take to implement this Act to the satisfaction of both the government and managements?
This Act in its present form is unscientific, and I think it will take about three to four years to implement it satisfactorily so that both are comfortable.

In pursuit of socially mixed schools

In pursuit of socially mixed schools

    Manabi Majumdar
    Jos Mooi
The interaction between less privileged and rich students will enrich the experience of both.
The Supreme Court recently upheld the validity of Clause 12 of the Right to Education Act that mandates aided and non-aided private schools to reserve 25 per cent of the seats for disadvantaged children in their neighbourhoods. This is arguably a landmark judgement that creates an opportunity, though not a certainty, for rendering school a site of social transformation.
In his novel Maid Marian, T.L. Peacock poses a series of questions and answers: “Why are laws made? For the profit of somebody. For whom? Of him who makes them first and of others as it may happen.” Will this court-validated law affect the educational fortunes of ordinary people only superficially, incidentally and occasionally, as the quote suggests, or will it present a real possibility for building up inclusive and socially mixed schools? At a time when one notices a yawning social distance between the students of government schools and those of private schools (especially the elitist ones), will the mandate for recasting the social composition of school somewhat disturb, if not dismantle, the roots of background social inequalities within which the education system is embedded?

Real possibility

While there is no guarantee for inevitable progress, there is a real possibility here. We try to substantiate this claim by invoking a series of binaries that are germane to an analysis of the current school education system in India, namely, “elite capture” versus “elite flight”, “mirror” versus “window”, mind versus hand, and choice versus voice.
There was a time when government schools were peopled almost entirely with children from upper and middle classes. Those were the days of elite capture of government-run elementary schools. But as doors of these schools started opening up for the masses, the elite, in pursuit of exclusivity, voted with their feet in favour of private schools — a phenomenon we describe as elite flight. Now government schools are peopled mostly with children from less privileged sections of society.
It is indeed ironical that the government school system that is technically universal and meant to cater to all is rendered targeted. It is not that the government-run schools target any particular socio-economic group or exclude others; it is the elite that discount these schools and select themselves out in favour of private schools. By the dint of their exit the government school system is rendered, for all practical purposes, a ‘BPL' programme. The elite's flight away from integration solidifies the divide between haves and have-littles.
For example, a full page advertisement in Outlook magazine by an upmarket school “…warns parents that their maid servant might become their child's guru if they do not send the child to a high fee paying private school”, openly and unabashedly declaring the desirability of a social divide in the education system (Rohit Dhankar, 2010). Educational inequality is not only not seen as a problem, it is even considered desirable. It is against the backdrop of this barefaced avowal of the idea and practice of school segregation that we need to assess the meaning and significance of the Supreme Court ruling that ratifies a measure intended to promote social integration of children and to curb persistent leanings towards an “education apartheid”.

Inclusive education

An argument for inclusive education of course raises the next obvious question: inclusion into what? According to the American educationist Emily Style, education “needs to enable the student to look through window frames in order to see the realities of others and into mirrors in order to see her/his own reality reflected”. One may wonder what kind of mirror or window the country's school education is in reality, and for whom. Schools often are a mirror for the children of the elite and middle classes, who see the dominant worldview reflected in the curriculum and school processes, while it is a window frame for students of subordinate groups who get a peep into the world of the dominant society.
It is a real concern therefore how to make private schools, and their textbooks, classroom pedagogy and school practices sufficiently inclusive of diversities that define Indian society, and consequently to ensure that genuinely socially mixed schools can become a reality.

‘Solution,' not ‘problem'

In dealing with such vexing issues, poorer children are often seen as part of the “problem” vis-à-vis their more affluent and “able” peers; the focus is largely on how their lack of background training may slow down the process of teaching-learning in the classroom that would be costly for the other privileged children. But there is much neglect of the thought that the presence of less privileged children in school and their active participation in classroom and other school processes could actually be part of the “solution” toward enriching the currently “provincial” and isolated school-life of many a rich kid, trapped within the narrow confines of five-star schools.
There is a conspicuous silence about what cultural riches disadvantaged children could bring into the classroom to the profit of their peers, about how their background knowledge, skills and experiences could strike at the root of the separation between mind and hand, between mental and manual labour that sadly shapes much of India's mainstream educational practice. A school with children from different social and occupational groups could provide an antidote to a still-strong aversion to manual labour among the upper and middle classes, and a belief in the inferiority of manual occupations.
It is certainly important, and even genuinely challenging, to ensure that have-little children feel comfortable to mix and study with their have-enough classmates and vice versa and to see to it that new zones of exclusion do not come up within the school premises. But such foreboding need not detract from the truth that academic and social abilities are randomly distributed among children from different social strata; the expressed anxiety that the quality of education will suffer upon the entry of poor children into private classrooms presumes a non-random, class-specific distribution of abilities among children, which when apparent is actually an upshot of social exclusionary forces.

‘Overzealous' and ‘unduly'

It would, therefore, not stand to reason if the issue of “quota” in private schools is couched in terms of a trade off between parental choice for educational quality and the “overzealous” and “unduly” imposing public voice in favour of educational equity. Why should choice and quality be seen as automatically interlocked, but quality and equity as oppositional? Doesn't the choice talk sometimes mask, in the name of quality, a penchant for exclusivity, a preference away from integration? The remarks of the principal of Shri Ram (a much sought after school in Delhi and one among others that challenged the Education Act in the Supreme Court) vis-à-vis “a quota for underprivileged kids” that the school adopted under a Delhi law smack of such an attitude. When the principal's household help enrolled her son at Shri Ram, “I [the principal] was shocked. A parent in my school, mopping my floors! I just couldn't handle it. I can't sit across the table from someone who sweeps my floors” (Wall Street Journal, 2011).
When background social inequalities keep breaking into the school system with such force, what are the ways in which a measure to promote greater social integration of school children can bear fruit? Here looms large the centrality of ‘voice' — a clear articulation and open exchange of people's educational aspirations, ideas, demands and complaints — in exploring how the purpose as well as quality of education be wedded to the idea of justice.
There are several trouble spots in Indian schools, both public and private, such as curriculum overload, excessive examination-orientation, competition for marks, etc., that can be dealt with only through public discussion, effort and action, and not through individualised private choice. A socially mixed school, with its contact and coupling with many lives, experiences, and viewpoints, is likely to facilitate such a collective endeavour.
(Manabi Majumdar is at Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta, and Jos Mooij at the International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University, Rotterdam. They are the co-authors of Education and Inequality in India: A Classroom View, Routledge, 2011.)

'Over 50,000 kids from south Tamil Nadu deployed as child labour'

'Over 50,000 kids from south Tamil Nadu deployed as child labour'


MADURAI: Over 50,000 children from Madurai, Theni and Dindigul continue to be sent to the northern states to work in factories run by local merchants in violation of the Right To Education (RTE) Act and need to be identified and brought back, members of the Campaign Against Child Labour (CACL), Tamil Nadu and Puducherry said at the state-level conference on child labour held in Madurai on Monday.
C Visakan of Kottapatti in Theni district narrated how he was sold by his father for Rs 1,500 to a broker Solairaj from the same village in the year 2004, during his school holidays. He was taken to Chhattisgarh where he worked in a 'muruku' factory with other 13 year olds, for 20 hours a day in front of a fire. But he was returned to his parents when he couldn't work after his employer injured him by pouring hot oil on his body. Rajkumar of Usilampatti and S Prabu from Polipatti had similar stories.
Later talking to media persons, P Joseph Victoraj, state organiser CACL, M Jeeva and B S Vanarajan southern districts organiser of CACL said that child labour continued to flourish as children were being trafficked with or without their parents' consent to work in industries in the northern states. Many came from the three southern districts, predominantly the Usilampatti area, where studies had revealed that 60 to 70% of the trafficked children were from dalit communities.
Although they had identified about 24 families who had sent their children for labour up north, there were many more. In most cases, the government had no follow-up programme for child labourers rescued from their employees, like Balamurugan from Usilampatti who was among the 42 bonded labourers rescued recently and brought to Madurai. Balamurugan had been tortured and traumatized to such an extent that he had lost his ability to speak in public. Vanarajan said that the government should ensure physical, psychological and emotional settlement for these children as about 15% of these former child labourers end up returning to their work places. Child labour is punishable under the SC/ST prevention of atrocities act, where an affected child is entitled to a compensation of Rs three lakhs.

Sibal must create model RTE schools to prevent a disaster

Sibal must create model RTE schools to prevent a disaster

May 5, 2012

By Abhay Vaidya
Take the example of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, which inspired many successful microfinance initiatives across India and elsewhere. Similar is the spectacular story of the Anand milk cooperative movement in Gujarat, popular by its brand name ‘Amul’, which inspired farmers in other states, notably Maharashtra, to supplement their income through cooperative dairy development.
E Sreedharan’s Delhi Metro is yet another example of a project implemented superbly and demonstrating that it is not impossible to adhere to high standards even in a country like ours.
Union HRD Minister Kapil Sibal is likely to have egg on his face unless he is able to effectively demonstrate the correct implementation of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act). Sibal needs to either create models of the school he has in mind under the RTE Act, or identify at least a handful of exemplary inclusive schools in each state, to make it easier for others to follow. If he is able to do that in the short span of time that he has before the 2014 general elections, he will get the benefit of the news hounds chasing him for a good story.
The RTE challenge. Image courtesy PIB
Although the media is often blamed for highlighting negativity all around, the truth is that journalists are craving to report positive stories like the Delhi Metro. If Sibal makes the mistake of taking it easy and leaving the RTE Act’s implementation to education inspectors in various state departments, he should be prepared for a disaster in the face.
India has witnessed a lively debate on the state of school education in the country and the strengths and weaknesses of the RTE Act ever since the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of the legislation last month. This landmark act provides for free and compulsory education to children between the age of 6 to 14 years and mandates government/government-aided and non-minority unaided schools to reserve 25 percent of the seats for children from weaker sections of society.
Almost everyone has had an opinion on the RTE Act ranging from children and their parents to educationists, scholars, journalists, economists, politicians, bureaucrats and the common man. Various issues relating to education have been highlighted in the media. The fact is that the RTE Act has a very limited role and is not intended as a panacea for all the ills and lacunae in the school educational system in the country.
In a signed article in The Times of India on April 20 ( RTE Act can be a model for the world: Kapil Sibal), the minister provided much-needed clarity when he said that even after the 25 percent provision, “more than 90% of the households in the country will have to continue to enroll their children in government schools.” The 25 percent quota is primarily “an attempt at affirmative action and social integration.”
Sibal noted that in view of the enormous difficulties involved in implementing the act and making the change, “a ‘gradualist’ approach” has been adopted providing for admission of children from weaker sections at entry stage only.”
As he explained: “The long gestation period provided in the act would enable the schools to put in place institutional structures to ensure that the quality of education is not compromised. It is not going to be easy but can be done.”
While Sibal sounds good on paper, it is important to pay heed to those educationists who have highlighted the practical difficulties involved in running inclusive schools. Madhavi Kapur who runs the Aman Setu inclusive school in Pune wrote in The Indian Express about the strong need for a “properly defined strategy to integrate poorer children into schools” (Get the basics right; 25 April 2012).
“After visiting many homes in rural and urban India, I have realised,” wrote Kapur, “that learning to read without decent instruction, without enough nutrition, without electricity and water, without a place to keep your possessions or a corner to do homework, without a parent who knows what is expected and a peer group that challenges and motivates, is quite a miracle, deserving of applause.”
Kapur noted that merely admitting poor children in privileged schools won’t be enough. A well-trained social worker would be required to have a continuous dialogue with such children and their parents and the school staff will need to be mission-oriented. From her own, rich experience, Kapur has given numerous tips such as the use of songs and stories in the mother-tongue “to bridge the divide between mind and heart, home language and school language”; bilingual books in the school library and extra instruction for children without access to English…
Good intentions are not enough, says Kapur, and must be backed with an action plan that fills in the learning gaps and makes resources available to the teacher who has to implement the act in the classroom.
Creating a “demonstration effect” by establishing model schools under the RTE Act is the first step. The next step would be to goad others to follow. People need to see to believe in the change proposed. For this, Sibal must identify and encourage existing inclusive schools to show the way and chart the path for others to follow.

The RTE bill: A right that is wrongly designed

The RTE bill: A right that is wrongly designed

Published: Saturday, May 5, 2012, 16:33 IST
By DNA Correspondent | Place: Ahmedabad | Agency: DNA
Analysing the impact of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, founding managing director of Educational Initiative in Ahmedabad, Sridhar Rajagopalan said that though well intentioned the RTE is terribly designed and implemented law. Rajagopalan was speaking on a subject: "RTE - Pros, Cons and the Way Ahead for Private Schools" at Ahmedabad Management Association (AMA) on Friday.
Talking about positive and negative aspects associated with the RTE, he said that in spite of focusing on quality of infrastructure available with the school, the RTE should focus on how to improve quality of education in schools and to improve learning habits of children.
"As a society, improving the quality of education in all our schools has to be our focus. More than 70% of students study in govt schools, so that will have to get focus. All of us can contribute towards this," he said, adding that though the act is known as Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education, it does not say 'compulsory' study. "In countries like Singapore, parents get call from police station of kid who misses school for five days. Parents are not given option of sending kids to school. In RTE, there is no norm depicted as punishment if parents do not send their kids to school," he said.
Talking about the implementation issues, Rajagopalan said that one norm for whole of India - the same for urban and rural is impractical (eg playground) which might not be the same in village level and urban areas. Suggesting some of the measures, he said that there should be shift in the focus from inputs to outcomes, put pressure on parents to send children to school and make education more inclusive.

Talk to your kids in the mother tongue


Talk to your kids in the mother tongue

Anita Vachharajani | Sunday, May 6, 2012

In Hindi films from the ‘70s till the late ‘80s, the new-bahu-of-the-house made it her job to dismiss traditions. She refused to breastfeed her children for ‘the sake of her figure’ (SHUDDER!); went to parties; taught her kids the twist and the rumba; threw out her weeping in-laws, and, significantly, foretold a switch from the matrubhasha to English.
My cousins and I watched these films enthralled. They wept; being younger, I just gaped. Somewhere these films mirrored our lives, because in the ‘70s, as second-generation immigrants of a certain class in Mumbai, we were already losing crucial links with our mother tongue, Malayalam. We went to English medium schools, spoke Malayalam only with older people, and parodied the ‘Mallu’ accent. We weren’t taught to read and write Malayalam because we already had English, Hindi, Marathi, and later, French, to deal with.
This shedding of the mother tongue would return to fascinate me years later when I studied Linguistics and learnt about language loss and language ‘death’. When individuals and communities slowly let go of their mother tongues, a point may be reached when no one speaks the language any more. Many Indian and world languages have ‘died’ for socio-political or economic reasons.
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In 2010, Boa Senior — the only surviving speaker of one of the Great Andamanese group of languages called Bo — passed away. With her death, her ancient language, full of stories, songs and myths, is now extinct. With every language that dies, we lose a part of our shared history.
Today, fewer people in cities teach kids their mother tongues - their reasons range from the socio-economic, to the psychological and the political. I’m often asked why parents should teach a child Marathi, Punjabi, Kannada or Oriya when they have to go to school and study English or Hindi. It’s a perfectly valid question. I am a Malayalee who reads, writes and thinks in English. My husband is a Gujarati, who is literate in his language. My mom and I speak good Marathi, and both of us read it too. Hindi is all around us — in films, songs and casual conversations.
But we still screwed up. We just couldn’t keep up with the simple rule of teaching babies multiple languages: one person talks to the baby in one language exclusively. This way there is no confusion; the child knows that this specific ‘code’ or structure will work in this ‘domain’. And, miraculously, most children can learn multiple codes and structures. Since ours was a mixed marriage where we also worked together from home, English became our lingua franca, and unfortunately, by default, our child’s mother tongue.
Teaching kids multiple languages does not impair their intellectual growth. In most cases, the more ‘codes’ and structures you impart to kids — without confusing them — the sharper they tend to be. Being multilingual can delay age-related mental decline, gives you a better ‘ear’ for languages and better communication skills. Most importantly, it fosters linguistic diversity and gives children a deeper understanding of different worldviews.
But as a parent, I firmly believe in going with your child’s specific developmental needs. If your environment has many languages and your child is coping well, that’s great. But if there is a problem and the doctor suggests you to stick to one language only, please follow that advice. To get our kid past a speech hurdle when she was two-and-a-half, we were asked to use just one common language: in our case, English. Today I’m sad she doesn’t speak Gujarati or Malayalam, but I’m relieved we got past that logjam.
To preserve the world’s fragile linguistic diversity, UNESCO celebrates February 21 as International Mother Languages Day. Do your bit for linguistic diversity — talk to your kid in your mother tongue a little. You’re not just teaching her words — you’re sharing a whole history and a unique worldview!
Anita Vachharajani raises a child, writes children’s books, and spends most of her time worrying about her poor parenting skills.

Plug loopholes in proposed law on Right to Education, have private partnership model

Plug loopholes in proposed law on Right to Education, have private partnership model 

By Rajesh Shukla
The last two decades have seen paradigmatic transformations at many levels in India. Rapid growth has unleashed the aspirations of millions who were erstwhile dependent on state handouts. Desirous of a better future for their progeny, even poor parents have started allocating a larger share towards education in their budgets. For many households, the principal motivation of savings is, interestingly, not for medical emergency or old age security as one might have expected, but to be able to afford education for their children.
The returns to education from additional years of schooling, a switch from an illiterate status to a primary level, is about 21% and it further rises to 62%, 130% and 263% at the education level of matriculation, higher secondary and graduation respectively ( How India Earns, Spends and Saves, 2010) are enough of an economic enticement for all sections of society, especially the poor.
With education being seen as a passport for upward mobility, one would have hoped that the Right to Education Bill would help in creation of a conducive environment and lay the foundation to ensure quality education. Although the Bill has been welcomed by academicians, politicians and others, it raises the fundamental question of whether it absolves the government of its responsibility to provide quality education.
Further, with the courts sanctioning 'reservations' in private schools, this 'victory' conceals the fact that these school, primarily located in urban areas, account for only a small percentage of total institutions. With majority of children, as high as 90% in some states, enrolled in government schools, one would expect the focus to be on improving the quality of education they provide. A mere 25% reservation in private schools is but a small drop in the huge ocean that is India.
Majority of schools except those located in major urban centres are haunted by lack of necessary physical infrastructure, lack of adequately qualified and sufficient number of teachers and much more due to high absenteeism and multi-grade nature of teaching, i.e., one teacher attending to children from different grades in a single classroom.
Additionally, with regard to the proposed 'reservation', although it is being projected to be carried out in the name of the poor, the manner in which it has been drafted not only creates ambiguity but also leaves considerable room for wide ranging interpretations.
Consider the provision: "Child belonging to a disadvantaged group... belonging to Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, the socially-and educationally-backward class... other group having disadvantage owing to social, cultural... specified by appropriate government."
The framing of this provision begs the question as to whether there will be a genuine assessment of the economic background of the family or whether this provision will ultimately be implemented taking into account caste and religious considerations that is already a contagious and ambiguous concept as far as development is concerned. Another provision reads, "No child...shall be held back in any class or expelled from school till the completion of elementary education."


Another disturbing provision of the Act is that it effectively leads to the extinction of lakhs of unrecognised private schools. These schools, which charge pittance compared to 'elitist' private schools, cater to those economically-backward sections of society who want an alternative to the government schools, are instrumental in increasing enrolment rates. However, with this regulation effectively pulling down their shutters, the only option left for the poor is the government schools.
The crux of the problem is the deplorable situation of government schools. What is needed is a complete overhaul of the system, but measures proposed are palliative at best. In addition to the well-known infrastructure problems, multiple steps need to be taken to improve the quality of education.
It is remarkable, that the very legislation supposed to bring about equality in society actually ends up ossifying the very identities that have been the cause of inequality and discrimination. Will such a system of reservation then end up only perpetuating inequalities? Will the children from the economically-weaker sections of society be able to cope up not only with the education system but also the culture of these schools?
Reservations have often been accused of creating a 'creamy layer' rather than achieving their desired objective of providing the socially-weaker sections of society the opportunity to improve their condition and, thus, be able to compete on an equal footing. Will the outcome of this Bill be on similar lines?
We hope that in due course, governments and policymakers will focus on removing various flaws in the Act and enhance its ambit to include government schools as well, while simultaneously ensuring proper implementation of the Act.
It might be prudent for the government to realise the fact that it alone is not capable of managing the pressing need of providing quality education to the masses and, therefore, realises the urgency of adopting a more efficient model. Although every model does have its limitations, an objective and meaningful public-private partnership model might be worth experimenting with.
With all sections of society, including the poor, willing to pay more for quality education, the probability of this model succeeding is actually pretty high. With the traditional model not being up to the mark, it is imperative for the government that other innovative approaches be experimented with and be actively embraced before we end up creating a class of 'educated' but unemployable youth.
In fact, the country's gains from the much-touted demographic dividend rest on the creation of a vibrant, educated and skilled labour force. It must be emphasised that unemployed educated youth are a dangerous mixture in a country that is witnessing massive inequality.
(The author is an independent consumer economy expert)