Saturday, January 25, 2014

Shortage of trained teachers to help children with special needs

Shortage of trained teachers to help children with special needs

Tanu Kulkarni
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Aftab Pasha’s teacher at the Government Urdu Model Primary School admits that it’s a challenge to give special attention to the boy, who has polio and is reportedly a slow learner. Photo: Tanu Kulkarni

Only 825 teachers with B.Ed. in special education teaching at govt., aided schools

Eight-year-old V. Manohar, who has cerebral palsy, is happiest when at school. He is a student of class 3 at the Government Kannada School, Old Byappanahalli.
His mother, Anjali B.M., says there has been a remarkable change in his motor abilities after two years of formal education. “Although he is mostly bound to the wheelchair, he now walks a few steps,” she says. But, Ms. Anjali’s only grouse is that her son has not seen much improvement academically. “He cannot even identify letters,” she says.
As per the evaluation techniques for children with special needs (CWSN) chalked out by the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Manohar’s teacher is not only supposed to make him physically comfortable in class, but also change her teaching methods for his sake. Children with cerebral palsy should be taught at three levels — with concrete things or objects, through pictures and finally in the abstract. Teaching can be done in five steps — matching, sorting, identifying, naming and generalising.
Ask his mother if these guidelines are followed and she says: “There are some teaching aids in class meant just for him. But, he does not know how to use them. Even though the teacher pays attention to his needs, how much attention can she pay to him alone? After all there are 30 children in his class.”
There are 1.27 lakh CWSNs who have been enrolled in government and aided schools across the State this year. With inclusive education being given emphasis in the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, the SSA’s focus has been to ensure that every CWSN should be placed in neighbourhood schools. After conducting camps and assessing the nature of disability, the SSA has provided aids and appliances to cater to their needs. But officials and teachers working at the grassroots level say the inadequate number of trained teachers is a major challenge.
Earlier, each block had three inclusive education resource teachers (IERTs) and two outsourced staff trained as per the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) norms. But after the Ministry of Human Resource Development issued directions this year that staff who were not trained as per the RCI norms would not receive salary, the SSA had to relieve the IERTs and depute them to government schools as teachers. According to sources in the SSA, if any blocks are faced with shortage, they can hire IERTs.
In Karnataka, in 2012–13, there were 825 teachers who have completed B.Ed. in special education and were working in government and aided schools. In the same year, 1.47 lakh children were identified as CWSN, highlighting the inadequate number of trained teachers. Though an additional 6,000 teachers have undergone a 90-day training in special education, it involves only 12 days of contact training. Sources in the SSA said almost all teachers have undergone a three to six-day training in special education, which is only an introductory session on the needs of CWSNs.
Aftab Pasha, a 13-year-old at Government Urdu Model Primary School, is testimony to this inadequacy. A student of class 7, he has polio and is reportedly a slow learner. He can barely write his name and says he often does not understand what is going on in class. There are about 30 students in his class and his teacher admits that giving him special attention is a challenge.
RTE in pvt schools: How govt’s social engineering may backfire by Seetha Oct 17, 2013 #Andhra Pradesh #Azim Premji Foundation #ConnectTheDots #Private schools #Right to Education #RTE #School Choice #Telugu language inShare2 9 CommentsEmailPrint Will compelling private schools to ensure that 25 percent of their students must be from the economically weaker groups affect the quality of education in these schools? It most certainly will, private schools have always maintained. In the absence of hard evidence, they haven’t been able to back up their claims. But then, nor have those who rubbished these gloomy prophecies as elitist claptrap been able to irrefutably disprove them. Will RTE in private schools backfire on the government? AFP. Will RTE in private schools backfire on the government? AFP. Well, there’s good news for the latter and, therefore, bad news for the former. A recent study by a University of California San Diego professor, Karthik Muralidharan, junks the theory that the reservation proviso could bring down the grades of general category students in private schools. This is alarmist misinformation by a small fraction of snobby schools in the major metros, Muralidharan scoffed at a talk he gave in the capital last week. He feels the much-maligned Clause 12 of the Right to Education Act – which mandates the reservation – is actually a “rare example” of a policy that improves equity and efficiency. It could also be the biggest school inclusion programme in the world, he believes, given the huge numbers involved in India. Muralidharan’s assertion isn’t an ideological one; it is based on evidence from the Andhra Pradesh School Choice project. The project was initiated to find answers to two questions. One, are private schools more or less effective than government schools regardless of the social and economic background of the students? (It is often argued that private schools are able to show better student performance because these students come from relatively better off homes than those who go to government schools). Two, how will the intake of economically weaker students under Clause 12 affect the students who are already in the private schools? The four-year project, which started in 2008, was conducted in 180 villages in five districts of Andhra Pradesh by the Azim Premji Foundation, as part of a memorandum of understanding between the state government and the World Bank. In all these villages, students in government schools were offered vouchers which would allow them to study in a private school of their choice in the village. The vouchers covered school fees, books and stationery as well as uniforms and shoes but not the cost of transport to private schools that were not in the village. Nor did it compensate for the loss of mid-day meals that are provided in government schools. Then, a lottery first chose 90 villages that were to be treatment or voucher villages. The other 90 villages that did not get selected for vouchers became the control villages. Within the voucher villages, another lottery chose students who had applied for vouchers. A total of 1,980 households out of the 3,097 that applied for the voucher got it. Of these, 1,210 accepted the vouchers and enrolled their children in private schools at the start of the project. Private schools that participated in the programme were not allowed to cherry-pick students; they had to accept the students who won vouchers and chose to study there. The rest of the households who had applied for but did not get the vouchers were the control group, whose children continued in government schools. Independent tests then looked at learning outcomes of students after two years and four years. Since both sets of students were from identical socio-economic backgrounds, any differences in learning outcomes, the thesis went, would be because of the change in schooling. Most of the results were predictable, of course. The voucher students who went to private schools did better than the non-voucher students. The study reaches this conclusion in a somewhat roundabout way. On the face of it, there was not much difference in scores on two main subjects – Telugu and maths. So it did appear that private schools were not more effective, and that differences were because of family background. But then it was found that private schools had less qualified, less experienced and lower paid teachers than government schools. They, however, had better attendance than their government school counterparts. Private schools also had longer days and years and more teachers. And though they spent lesser time teaching Telugu and maths, they spent more time in teaching English, social studies and Hindi (this was taught as a third language, which government schools did not). What’s more, the similar scores in Telugu and maths were achieved despite private schools spending less time teaching them than government schools did. So clearly, private schools were giving more bang for the buck, since the per-child cost is one-third that of government schools. The survey, however, knocks the bottom out of the argument of many private schools that Clause 12 will adversely affect the performance of students already in private schools because of lower-performing scholarship students. The study found no effect at all. It then looked at whether the number of scholarship students was a factor – the more the number of such students, the greater the negative effect. That too drew a blank. Going by these findings, Muralidharan – who thinks Clause 12 is not a bad idea - suggests that schools should not be allowed to cherry-pick from students from lower income backgrounds. This, he argues, could happen if compliance with the proviso is seen as something schools should be doing at their individual level. Instead, he says, it should become a `system-level’ issue, with the provision being implemented in a coordinated way at the city, block or district level. He suggests a system of private schools providing audited enrolment and fee data to the government; low income parents listing their preference for private or government schools; and a lottery system to allocate schools to children from low income families. Muralidharan could be treading on thin ice here. The method he suggests could be quite complicated when it comes to actual implementation, given the huge numbers – of students and schools – involved. It also places too much faith in the efficiency of government systems. Efficiency levels vary widely from the centre to the state to local governments, between states, within states and between local bodies as well. But the problem with his thesis is that he thinks Clause 12 is the right way to ensure equity in education. That is just not true. Forcing equity like this may work in a few individual cases; it cannot be a national-level government policy. It is not just an issue of whether elite schools want to take children from lower income backgrounds. Parents who pay a bomb to send their children to these schools do so because of their exclusivity. It may sound snobbish but people are entitled to their snootiness. The state cannot force social engineering; it will backfire. In any case, the elite schools will simply bribe their way out of any lottery or other system that is put in place. They won’t find it difficult to do so; the very people who will be implementing or overseeing this system – the politicians and bureaucrats – send their children to these elite schools because they do not want them to mix with the hoi polloi. So, instead of looking at how to fix a few elite schools which cater to a very small minority of school going children, why not look at expanding the education market? If the idea is to ensure that all children get access to a basic minimum quality of education, a better way would be to make it easier for private schools to come up, within a broad regulatory framework with reasonable rules. Also, it might be better to design a proper school voucher programme which will allow parents to choose between government and private schools. This could go hand-in-hand with changing the way government schools function so that they compete with private schools for the voucher students. There will be no need for complicated lotteries which will invariably be rigged, given the kind of cronyism that prevails in India today. Seetha is a senior journalist and author

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India must ensure children are learning, too
Ashish Dhawan
October 24, 2013
First Published: 00:44 IST(24/10/2013)
Last Updated: 00:46 IST(24/10/2013)
In 2000, India signed the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that set out broad development targets to be achieved by 2015. The MDGs for education were universal primary education and the elimination of gender disparity in primary and secondary schooling. On a country level, these goals were effective for India, as they pushed us to achieve universal elementary enrollment which stands at 97% today. Yet, we know from various quality assessments that our education system fails to deliver quality education and does not prepare our children to be productive and responsible citizens. Now that the global dialogue is moving to the creation of a post-2015 vision, we must ensure that in education we emphasise the quality of learning from early childhood through secondary education. Three specific areas that should be addressed in the post-2015 vision include:
Early childhood education: A growing body of evidence establishes that early childhood education is critical to an individual’s educational outcomes as 80% of brain development takes place by the time a child is 5.
The state governments need to invest in creating a pre-primary curriculum, providing access to schools at the pre-primary level (age 4 to 6) and introducing this age group of learners to early literacy and numeracy. We have an opportunity to track the efficacy of such a system as the Delhi government has introduced a pre-primary grade in its schools.
Secondary education: Given the huge surge in student enrollment in the last few years, it is critical to ensure access to high quality secondary schooling. A central challenge, particularly in rural areas, is finding the right balance between building infrastructure in close proximity to villages and ensuring sufficient enrollment within these schools.
In China, 35% of rural children are enrolled in State residential schools. India’s enrollment figures will likely go up through a similar network of large residential schools in rural areas. We already have working models of such schools with the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNV), a network of rural residential schools catering to gifted children.
The Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan should build on the example of JNVs to extend quality education to rural children. We should also develop a curriculum focussed on vocational and skill development at the secondary level. In Finland and Switzerland, students choose to continue their secondary education in either an academic track or a vocational track.
Standardised assessment: In most countries, including India, we lack sufficient data and capacity to systematically measure and track learning outcomes that lead to ineffective policy-making based on inputs rather than outcomes. While sample surveys like Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) and National Achievement Survey (NAS) collect information on learning outcomes, they do not tell us whether every child in our schools is actually learning.
We need to aim for every child in Classes 3, 5 and 8 to take a statewide assessment test in mathematics and language. The ministry of human resource development has allocated funds for state-learning surveys. States need to focus on building technical capability to implement these surveys. As these assessments get institutionalised and regular data about education outcomes emerge, we can build the political and community will to address our shortcomings.
India should work closely with Unesco’s Learning Metrics Task Force to adapt relevant recommendations around internationally comparable learning standards, metrics and implementation practices.
While India has made great strides in achieving Education for All, we need to move the goalposts now from just getting children into school to ensuring that they are learning in school.
Ashish Dhawan is founder and CEO, Central Square Foundation
The views expressed by the author are personal
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