Friday, September 30, 2011

2 crore illiterates will soon get 10 lakh students as educators

1.2 crore illiterates will soon get 10 lakh students as educators
By Newzfirst Correspondent 9/27/11

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PATNA - Another bold new step with vision has been presented by Human Resource Development Department of Bihar Govt.

According to a recent decision taken by the Bihar government in a massive drive for literacy in the state is going to put its 10.5 lakh class IX and X students in the role of educators for the 1.2 crore adult illiterate people in Bihar. This plan will be implemented under a five-month literacy campaign ‘Sakshar Bharat Yojana’ to be launched from November 11.

According to Principal Secretary (HRD) Anjani Kumar Singh, the scheme proposes to use a cadre of 10.50 lakh class IX and X students as volunteers to teach basic reading and writing skills to the illiterate people in Bihar. The students will be given extra 10 marks in the social science subject in the matriculation examination for this effort.

The HRD proposes to launch a training campaign in the state for volunteers from the government high schools to ensure they have the adequate teaching skills before they begin to teach the illiterate people in their areas. As the math shows, every student volunteer will be tasked to teach 10-12 illiterate persons. The HRD has also set up an administrative infrastructure for implementation and monitoring of the Sakshar Bharat Yojana in Bihar with as many as 250 trainers undergoing an intense training programme at the Directorate of Adult Education for Kendra Resource Person [KRP]. These KRPs in turn will provide training to the panchayat level motivators at the public training centers which will be set up soon at all panchayats in the state. A male and a female motivator each have been appointed at each panchayat with an honorarium of Rs 2000 to motivate the illiterate people to learn basic reading and writing skills under the Sakshar Bharat Yojana.

The panchayat level motivators will be trained in adequate computer skills to feed data on the number of illiterate adults undergoing literary programme so as funds could be released for sustaining the literacy campaign. Besides, the elected representatives at the panchayat level like mukhia and block pramukh will supervise the adult literacy programme. The Sakshar Bharat Yojana will be launched in 35 districts of Bihar from November 11 to achieve cent per cent adult literacy in the state.

Govt proposes to bring National Mission on Teachers’ Education in 12th Five year plan

Govt proposes to bring National Mission on Teachers’ Education in 12th Five year plan
By Newzfirst 9/28/11

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NEW DELHI - Government has proposed to bring a National Mission on Teachers' Education in the 12th Five Year Plan. The Mission is aimed to impart high quality training to teachers to improve teaching standards in the country. This was revealed by Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal at a function in New Delhi on Wednesday. Mr Sibal said that the mission will help in bridging the huge gap between the demand and supply of quality teachers in the country. He said that well trained teachers are essential to impart quality education to children and successfully implement the Right to Education Act.

Emphasising the need for enhanced use of Information technology in the education system, Mr Sibal said that IT is a great empowering tool for the children. Mr Sibal also announced that the Government's initiative of providing a computer tablet costing only 35 US Dollars to all students in schools and colleges will come into effect from next month.

Earlier Mr Sibal conferred the first Rajiv Gandhi International Prize for Technology in Education and Development to the Azim Premji Foundation. Giving the award to founder of the foundation Mr Azim Premji, the Minister said that the foundation has done an outstanding work by providing quality education with appropriate use of technology.

'67% teachers are not comfortable with CCE'

'67% teachers are not comfortable with CCE'
Manash Pratim Gohain, TNN | Sep 29, 2011, 05.25AM IST
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Read more:National Association of School Principals|Comprehensive and Continuous Evaluation scheme|Ahlcon International School
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NEW DELHI: A nationwide survey of the Comprehensive and Continuous Evaluation (CCE) scheme has thrown up significant findings. Two years after CBSE introduced CCE system, a staggering 67% of the teachers are still grappling with it, while 58% of them have a negative or indifferent approach towards it. The only stakeholders of the scheme who are in favour of it are the students - 64% of the students from the surveyed schools find the new system better.

The survey was done by the National Association of School Principals in July, after declaration of the CBSE Board results in May/June this year. A questionnaire based on CCE was sent to all the schools on a random basis, of which 260 schools affiliated to CBSE responded. CBSE has around 10,000 schools under its fold in India and abroad.

Of the 260 schools surveyed, 151 felt that teachers still have a negative or indifferent attitude towards the system. Meanwhile, 62% of the parents felt that CCE is not a better system, while 56% of the schools felt that there is room for improvement.

Reacting to the findings, principal of Ahlcon International School, Mayur Vihar, Ashok Pandey, said, "With the exception of the competitive spirit and performance quality, I will in general agree with the findings regarding the lack of clarity among teachers and parents, lack of adequate training and the long-term efficacy of the system. The basic problem lies in the co-scholastic areas."

Students, however, seem to have taken to the system. "The reason is that since the introduction of the system, the curriculum structure has been revised for the third time and has been divided into formative and summative assessment. This has lessened the volume of scholastic assessment. Integration of projects and field trips make the exercise enjoyable," added Pandey.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Private aided school staff to be paid in accordance with Sixth Pay Commission

Private aided school staff to be paid in accordance with Sixth Pay Commission

Authorities took two years to revise pay, government schools got it in 2009

The Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD), Government of India, has given a nod to UT Administration to pay the staff in Chandigarh’s private aided schools in accordance to the sixth pay commission.

While the salaries of the teaching and non-teaching staff members of UT government schools were revised as per the sixth pay commission back in 2009, it took the authorities two years to revise the pay of the aided-schools’ staff.

Sunil Dutt, Senior Accountant of one of these schools said, “While Section 35 of Right to Education Act (RTE) 2009 states that all the aided schools are to be paid at par with the state government schools, the Administration kept on extending the revision of our salaries.”

“In accordance with the budget estimate sent by all of us and the document released by the Ministry, the pay hike will range from Rs 4,000 to Rs 6,000. While the arrears, calculated from 2006, when the sixth pay commission came into effect, will range between Rs 1.50 lakhs to Rs 2 lakhs,” added Dutt.

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UT Finance-cum-Education Secretary, V K Singh said, “The salaries in all these aided schools will be revised in accordance with the scale of sixth pay commission within a month. The arrears, however will be provided to the staff members only after we check our budget status. This may take more than two months.”

The move will benefit over 250 teaching and non-teaching staff members including peons, librarians, clerks, craft and sports teachers in seven aided schools. These schools include DAV Senior secondary school Sector 8, ISDSG School Sector 21, SD High School Sector 24, Institute for the Blind Sector 26, Guru Nanak Khalsa High School Sector 30, Sri Guru Gobind Singh High school 35 and Vedic Girls High School Manimajra.

Pointing towards the other benefits the aided schools have been claiming for, Principal of one DAV senior secondary school Sector 8, Vibha Rai said, “How can the government expect private schools to pay the teachers at par with the state government schools as per RTE Act unless it sets an ideal by bringing the aided schools at par with the government counterparts? The benefits which the aided schools have not yet been receiving include revised rates of Provident Fund, pensions, leave encashment and gratuity. All these benefits, however, are being availed by the staff in all the UT government schools.”

Laxity costs Assam 1000 jobs

Laxity costs Assam 1000 jobs
OUR CORRESPONDENT
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Guwahati, Sept. 26: Assam has lost nearly 1,000 posts of permanent teachers for high and higher secondary schools because of wrong information and data provided to the Centre.

Education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma blamed the irresponsible attitude of a section of officials of the education department for the situation. He said the Centre had refused to sanction the posts under the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan since the education department had failed to provide data about the exact requisition of permanent teachers in the high and higher secondary schools.

The development has come at a time when Assam is facing an acute shortage of permanent teachers in government schools. Many high and higher secondary schools are running without teachers for important subjects like science and mathematics.

Speaking to reporters during a function held to distribute cheques among school inspectors for paying salaries to 6,736 contractual high school teachers, Sarma said the department’s officials had been instructed not to commit such a mistake in future.

Admitting that corruption and unfair practices were rampant among a section of employees of the department, Sarma said the system had to be improved under any circumstances. He said he would personally monitor such corruption by using various tools, including social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

“The racket of unfair practice in the education department is deep-rooted and so it will take some time to unearth it. The inspectors of schools who received the cheques today must immediately hand over the same to the respective schools without any unfair practice,” he added.

He said Dispur would start the process of provincialising venture schools from November since Governor J.B. Patnaik had given his assent to the Assam Venture Educational Institutions (Provincialisation of Services) Act, 2011, which was passed by the Assembly in its last session.

The legislation seeks to provincialise the state’s venture educational institutions, which had got recognition on or before January 1, 2006. Provincialised educational institutions get aid from state government and their staff are recognised as government employees.

“The process to provincialise schools would be transparent and done in a very accountable manner. Nearly 400 colleges and 16,000 schools will be provincialised under this legislation,” Sarma said.

He said the governor had also given his assent to the Cotton College State University Act, 2011 and a gazette notification for setting up the university will be issued soon. The university will be entitled to give affiliation to colleges.
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iPrimary school dropout rate: Still a concern

Primary school dropout rate: Still a concern
Last Updated: Monday, September 26, 2011, 13:16
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Tags: Primary school, School dropouts, India school
Ankita Chakrabarty/ Zee Research Group

There is no let up in primary school dropout rate in the country with the northeastern states of Meghalaya and Manipur being the worst affected. The Hindi heartland states of Rajasthan, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh too have performed poorly in retaining schools kids at the primary level.

This has led to a severe dent in the performance of UPA’s flagship education programme, ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan’, which has failed to meet the stipulated target set by the government.

Official statistics furnished by the Ministry of Human Resource and Development (HRD) showed that the school dropout rate in Meghalaya stood at 58.87 percent while Manipur and Rajasthan witnessed 42.31 percent and 38.89 percent dropout rates, respectively.

The primary-level girls’ dropout rate was no better. In Meghalaya, the dropout rate was 56.95 percent followed by Rajasthan at 39.41 and Bihar at 34.65 percent, respectively.

A further analysis showed that in the 6-14 age group, the school dropout rate was highest in Arunachal Pradesh at 10. 95 percent followed by Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, which observed dropout rates of 9.28 percent and 7.58 percent, respectively.

Author of ‘Why children drop out: Case study of a metropolitan city’ and assistant professor at National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA), Dr Sunita Chugh said, “Financial constraints still remain one of the significant causes for children to drop out. Among the key reasons for high dropout in northern states is the cultural factor.”

Dr Gaysu R Arvind, professor at Department of Education, University of Delhi, said it was not difficult to explain the high primary school dropout rate in states like Rajasthan and Bihar. She opined, “Poverty is the major reason behind low literacy rate. Moreover, seasonal migration and also unavailability of proper infrastructure facilities are the major reasons behind high school dropout rate.” She emphasized on proper conceptualization of government initiatives and policies to minimize the school dropout rate.

Chugh elaborated further, “Quality of schooling which includes infrastructure facility, physical facilities like the availability of toilets, separate toilet for girls, drinking water facility, seating facility, teacher-pupil ratio etc is not appropriate and satisfactory, thus the enabling environment is not available which creates disinterest among the children and finally they dropout.”

An HRD Ministry study, which tabulated the state-wise performance until March 31, 2011, also found that Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar had adverse pupil-teacher ratio impacting continuity in education. Uttar Pradesh had 77,680 schools with adverse pupil-teacher ratio followed by Madhya Pradesh at 53,333 and Bihar at 51,104 schools, respectively.

HN Sahay, Director, Operations, Smile Foundation India, an education focussed non-governmental organisation, said, “Lack of awareness at family level is the prime reason behind primary school dropouts. Efforts should be on to promote non-formal education. There has to be an effective mechanism of monitoring evaluation of government initiatives to tackle such issues.”

A country-wide picture offered some positive numbers as well. Kerala, Delhi and Goa are the better performers with minimum percentage of school dropouts. Kerala and Goa have recorded 0.0 percent school dropouts followed by Delhi at 0.50 percent.

First Published: Monday, September 26, 2011, 13:16

Crores meant for school buildings swindled

Crores meant for school buildings swindled
In 3 Years,560 Cr ‘Utilized’ Under SSA; 80% Works Non-Existent
FAHEEM ASLAM
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Srinagar, Sep 25: Sarva Shiksha Abihiyan (SSA), a centrally sponsored flagship programme meant for universalization of elementary education, is one area in Jammu and Kashmir where corruption seems to have been ‘universalized’ with impunity. If official documents were any indicator, there is no count as to how many crores of rupees, or even more, stand swindled in the past three years, leave alone figures of the past. Here is how:
Official documents with Greater Kashmir reveal that while at least Rs 560 crores have been allotted to various districts in Kashmir division, including Leh and Kargil, for construction of school buildings under SSA in the past three years (2009-11), at least 80 percent or work is either “under construction” or doesn’t exist on ground at all. This is nothwistanding an “expenditure” of Rs 460 crores that the School Education Department shows to have made in the past two financial years.

SRINAGAR
In a shocking revelation, official documents show that funds allotted to eight constituencies of Srinagar under the SSA is Rs 17.47 crores for the two financial years (2009-10 and 2010-11). The documents reveal that out of this money, Rs 17.21 crores stand “utilized”. But the physical assessment report of all the constituencies reveals that not a single building, for which the money was allotted, has been constructed or is existent on ground. The assessment shows that out of 52 primary school buildings, which the School Education Department, was supposed to construct, not a single structure has been erected.
Amirakadal Constituency, for instance, has received a total of Rs 2.3 crores under the SAA for the past two years out of which Rs 2.2 crores have been “utilized” during this period. But there is no trace of buildings, as per the physical verification report, which only mentions zero (0) against the physical status of school buildings to be constructed. The situation is similar in rest of the seven constituencies.

GANDERBAL
In Ganderbal district, funds received in last two years is Rs 21.38 crores while the funds “utilized” during this period is Rs 16.38 crores. But, according to the physical verification report, 58 primary schools and 147 ACRs were supposed to be constructed under the SSA—something which has not been done. As per documents, only 3 primary school buildings have been completed while 54 are under construction and only nine ACRs have been completed so far.

BUDGAM
The situation is more or less similar with district Budgam. The funds received by this district under SSA in last two years is Rs 69.29 crores and funds “utilized” during this period is Rs 62.74 crores.
However, out of 88 primary school buildings only 8 have been completed while 80 are still under construction. And out of 369ACRs, only 74 have been completed while 295 are under construction. Besides two KGVBs allotted are under construction while 5 CRCs are also under construction.

PULWAMA
In Pulwama, the situation is dismal. Funds received in last two years stands at Rs 30.27 crores while their Rs 28.67 crores have been “utilized.” But out of 69 primary school buildings, only 25 have been completed while 44 are still under construction. And out of 129 ACRs to be constructed, only 93 completed have been completed while 36 are under construction. Documents show that five CRCs are under construction in the district when the allotment is none.

SHOPIAN
Data from this district shows that funds received in the past two years is Rs 23.93 crores out of which Rs 22.54 crores have been ‘utilized’. But out of 66 primary school buildings, none has been completed while 18 are under construction. Out of 214 ACRs to be constructed, only 23 have been completed while 123 are under-construction. Two KGVBs allotted are also under constructed besides five allotted CRCs.

KULGAM
In Kulgam district, funds received in last two years is Rs 47.44 crores out of which Rs 44.33 crores have been “utilized.” But out of 99 primary schools to be taken up under SSA, none has been completed. Only 41 are under construction. And out of 441 ACRs only 21 have been completed while rest are under construction.

ANANTNAG (ISLAMABAD)
Anantnag district has received Rs 77.36 crores in the past two years under SSA and has “utilized” Rs 56.60 crores. But out of 135 primary schools, only 21 stand completed while 114 are under construction. Also 500 out of 635 buildings are under construction.

BARAMULLA
In Baramulla district, funds received in last two years is Rs 96.67 crores out of which Rs 88.86 crores have been “utilized.” But out of 152 primary school buildings, none has been completed and all the school buildings are under construction. And all the 498 ACRs allotted are under construction. Besides, 5 CRCs are also under construction.

BANDIPORA
Funds received in last two years in this district is Rs 31.94 crores while an amount of Rs 28.23 crores have been “utilized.” But out of 53 primary school buildings, none has been completed. All are under construction. Out of 339 ACRs only 49 have been compelted while 355 are under construction. The five CRCs allotted are also under construction like one BRC.

KUPWARA
The funds received in last two years is Rs 101.88 crores out of which Rs 95.82 crores have been “utilized.” But out of 205 buildings, only 53 have been completed and 152 are under construction. And out of 657 ARCs, only 392 are completed while 265 are under construction.

KARGIL
In Kagril district, funds received in last two years under SSA is Rs 31.28 crores out of which Rs 16.45 crores have been utilized. But out of 18 primary school buildings only three have been completed while 5 ARCs are under construction.

LEH
The funds received in last two years is Rs 17.43 while funds utilized in last two years is Rs 15.64 cr. But only 30 percent of work has been done so far.

THE QUESTIONS
The utilization of money, as claimed by officials, has raised a huge question mark especially when buildings on ground in so many districts are non-existent or under construction.
“When the utilization has already been made, it means the money stands given to schools and contractors. But where has it gone when 80 percent of buildings are still under construction, mostly at the plinth levels? Where has this money been utilized?” asked an official, privy to the SSA data.
According to sources, it is an important concern as to why school buildings are still under construction. “In Uri many buildings are non-existent while are still at the plinth level. So it is naturally a concern as to where does this money go?” they said.
The annual budgetary allocation under SSA hovers around Rs 500 crores on an average. By virtue of this, the school buildings should have been completed in time and well within the available financial assistance to avoid cost escalations. “But in absence of any monitoring mechanism and huge financial irregularities, the scheme has failed to yield the desired results. In many cases, school children have to study in open sky in absence of school buildings. This leads to the closure of their schools, of and on, especially during rains and heat,” said another official, privy to this data.
The official said the Government of India must order a time-bound inquiry and audit of the SSA funds and also go for physical verification of school buildings—both completed and under-construction.
“The department is showing buildings under construction in many districts. But it needs to be ascertained at what level these buildings are? Because it has been mostly seen that wherever buildings are to be constructed, the structures are either at the plinth level or at the roof level,” the official said.

THE URI SSA SCAM
Already Rs 3 crore, meant for construction of school buildings in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district, stand swindled in broad daylight. The financial irregularities, which include withdrawal of full payments against non-existent and incomplete school buildings in Uri, surface amidst the Minister for Education Peerzada Muhammad Sayeed’s oft-repeated claim that “it is ensuring accountability in construction of school buildings”— an assertion deflated in official documents with Greater Kashmir.
In ‘Minutes of Meeting’ chaired by the Minister for Public Health and Engineering Taj Mohi-ud-Din in June this year, the embezzlement to the tune of Rs 3 crore has been clearly pointed out. The money was drawn against buildings which were yet to be constructed or were still at the plinth level. In gross violation of rules, sources said, the money for the school buildings had been directly transferred to the personal accounts of heads of the affected institutions or Zonal Education Officers.
Minister for Public Health and Engineering Taj Mohi-ud-Din, who is a legislator from Uri constituency, has already ordered inquiry into the scandal. Pertinently, the school buildings were supposed to be completed by the end of 2007.

PAC probing irregularities
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Legislative Assembly has last month sought up-to-date information about the newly opened and upgraded schools.
It also called for official record to ascertain total number of model schools along with cumulative expenditure incurred thereon.
The Committee, which met here under the Chairmanship of National Conference legislators Mir Saifullah expressed dissatisfaction over the reply submitted by the education department.
The Chairman directed the concerned authorities to furnish information about the learning centres and number of teachers trained, status of KGBVs etc.
While PAC has sought “up to date” information, the Department is yet to furnish it, sources said.

Lastupdate on : Sun, 25 Sep 2011 21:30:00 Mecca time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 25 Sep 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 26 Sep 2011 00:00:00 IST

Panel to check if schools’ fee hike justified

Panel to check if schools’ fee hike justified

The Delhi government has notified a panel to look into the accounts of city’s unaided, private schools in order to ascertain the justifications of their fee hike.

The move comes after a direction by the Delhi High Court last month. It will allow parents to review the justification of the steep fee hike by Delhi’s private schools since 2006.

The notification was issued on Friday by the government’s Education department, specifying the members of the committee and their terms of reference. As ordered by a division bench of Justices A K Sikri and Siddharth Mridul, retired Justice Anil Dev Singh has been named as the chairperson of the three-member panel. The panel will look into the extent of fee hike required by each school on the implementation of the VI Pay Commission.

The court had also named chartered accountant J S Kochar as the second member of the panel and Delhi’s Chief Secretary has nominated Dr R K Sharma, retired Additional Director of Education, as the third member.

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“The committee shall perform acts determined in the judgment of the Delhi High Court dated August 12, 2011, passed in civil writ petition titled Delhi Abhibhavak Mahasangh and others vs Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi,” stated the notification, issued under the seal of the Lieutenant-Governor.

While deciding the petition moved through advocate Ashok Agarwal, the court had noted: “There is a need to inspect and audit accounts of the schools to find out the funds to meet the increased obligation cast by the implementation of VI Pay Commission and on this basis, to determine in respect of these schools as to how much hike in fee, if at all, is required.”

If the committee finds that a private school unjustifiably increased the fee, the school would be asked to refund the excess amount along with nine per cent interest. Similarly, if a particular school is able to make out a case for higher increase, then it would be permissible for such schools to recover from students over and above what is charged in terms of the 2009 notification.

By the 2009 notification, the Delhi Cabinet had approved the hike ranging from a minimum of Rs 100 to a maximum of Rs 500 in the schools to ease their financial burden due to increase in teachers’ salaries as per the VI Pay Commission recommendations.

Debate: School selection fees

Debate: School selection fees
Updated: 2011-09-26 08:07
(China Daily)
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Should schools charging school-selection and other arbitrary fees be penalized? Two experts and a journalist present their views.

Xiong Bingqi

Public should be part of decisions

This year school-selection fees in some key Beijing primary schools were reported to be as high as 250,000 yuan ($39,125). The common interests of the local education department, schools and agencies have turned the school-selection fees into a chronic disease, although the Compulsory Education Law implemented in 2006 states: "School-age children and adolescents shall be exempted from entrance examinations (and) local people's governments at various levels shall ensure that school-age children and adolescents enroll in schools near the places their residences are registered."

In other words, the law says that the government should promote balanced development in compulsory education. But despite the government's crackdown on the illegal practice of charging school-selection fees, the trend has grown.

The situation has deteriorated because the government's move is considered a mere slogan rather than a concerted effort carried out at local levels to promote balanced compulsory education. Generally speaking, three factors have thwarted the balanced development of compulsory education.

First, unreasonable and insecure funding for compulsory education have prompted schools to charge such fees and even increase them with the passage of time. Also, the insecure financial state of schools is an important reason for the severe imbalance between schools in rural and urban areas and different regions of the country. The mechanism has not changed much even after government efforts to promote balanced compulsory education.

Second, the severe lack of funds for compulsory education has worsened the situation. The National Audit Office covered 54 counties for a survey on funds for rural compulsory education from January 2006 to June 2007. The results showed that eight of the counties failed to allot funds as regulated and five reduced the amounts instead of increasing them.

And third, local governments have paid special attention to senior middle schools and high schools because their quality of education determines the percentage of students from schools in their jurisdictions clearing the national college entrance exam and getting admitted to prestigious universities. No wonder, even though the Compulsory Education Law says proportionate funds should be allotted to all sections of schools during the nine-year compulsory education, few local governments actually do so.

Unbalanced development of compulsory education may "favor" many local governments, because it could help generate extra revenue from school-selection fees and reduce their financial inputs into education. The education departments could even save some funds by exchanging resources with other government departments.

The school-selection fees, which for all intents and purposes are illegal, should be banned immediately to ensure that compulsory education develops in a balanced and proper way. The fund security mechanism for compulsory education should be changed and efforts made at both national and local levels to increase the allocations. Besides, an education management system must be established to guarantee the public's right to participate in decision-making and supervision.

At present, the government alone decides how much funding should be allocated to the education sector and/or how it should be used. And many times, the funds are allotted haphazardly. Therefore, to solve this problem, the public should have the right to know, participate, express its opinion, make decisions and supervise the authorities. And only by systematically carrying out these measures for reform and development can we get out of the predicament and ensure balanced development of compulsory education.

The author is deputy director of Beijing-based 21st Century Education Research Institute.

Li Jianzhong

Motto should be education, not profit

School-selection fees have soared along with commodity prices. In Beijing, for example, the fees have risen from about 7,000 yuan ($1,095) in the 1990s to more than 30,000 yuan. Some media reports even said that the school-selection fees, in some "premier" schools were as high as 250,000 yuan this year.

Last year, the Ministry of Education vowed to eradicate school-selection fees in three to five years. Earlier this year, the Beijing municipal education commission issued a regulation banning all arbitrary charges, including school-selection fees and "sponsorship fees", for enrollment in primary schools and pre-schools.

The school-selection fees and "sponsorship fees" charged by schools may have been banned, but schools still take such fees and parents still pay them.

If not, how could Wang Cuijuan, former principal of Zhongguancun No 3 Elementary School, one of the city's top schools, be charged with embezzling more than 100 million yuan from the school's "off-the-book" funds that came mostly from "sponsorship fees" paid by students' parents? In Zhongguancun No 3 Elementary School's case, mostly people who do not live in the district and should not have admitted their children to the school had paid such fees.

In another case, the former principal of Beijing No 54 Middle School, surnamed Li, was convicted of misappropriating 270,000 yuan from the amount collected as school-selection fees to buy a house built by the government for lower-income families. Li was sentenced to three years' imprisonment last year.

Schools charge and parents pay school-selection fees and "sponsorship fees" for various reasons. Parents pay them to get their children admitted to a "good" school. The phenomenon mirrors social inequality, and parents are desperate to choose "premier" schools for their children because education is a ticket to social mobility and opens the door to a higher social class.

It's a pity that some prestigious schools have buried their integrity and are trading education for profit. And they are least bothered about having commercialized public educational resources.

Besides, Chinese parents are more worried about children's education than their foreign counterparts. Their concern, which in some cases resembles vanity, and the high expectation they have from their children have made enrollment in schools a lucrative, though illegal, business.

This business has to be eradicated to restore sanity and ensure a balanced development of education. Last year, the central government released the State guidelines for middle- and long-term educational reform and development plan (2010-2020) and promised to spend 4 percent of its GDP on education by 2012. Its aim is to standardize the now diverse quality of education in schools and strike a balance in the distribution of educational resources and quality of education in urban and rural areas.

To eradicate such practices, the government has to enact laws that would make charging school-selection fees and "sponsorship fees" a crime. Although some authorities have issued quite a number of regulations to prohibit school-selection fees, they have done little to translate them into concrete action.

Perhaps China could learn from India in this case. India's Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act says the penalty for charging arbitrary fees will be ten times the amount charged. China could implement similar punitive measures against arbitrary school fees to fight the menace.

Schools should be student-oriented and dedicated to cultivating talents instead of making profit.

The author is a researcher with the China National Institute for Education Research, affiliated to the Ministry of Education.

Wang Yiqing

Society to blame for state of affairs

Almost all parents complain about the arbitrary fees charged by schools to admit children, but interestingly most of them end up paying them. The "rat race" that education has become compels them to become part of the very system they criticize.

Perhaps the intense competition in education has something to do with the traditional Chinese concept about education.

Parents' emphasis on education does reflect that they still believe in the old Chinese sayings: "To be a scholar is to be at the top of society" and "A person who excels in study can become an official". Throughout China's history, parents have accorded priority to their children's education because they believe that only through education can recognition, respect and wealth be achieved. That is understandable, for education, to a large extent, gave people social mobility in feudal Chinese society.

Chinese parents have always had a strong sense of responsibility, especially when it came to their children's growth and development. They tend to regard their children's future as their responsibility. Under such circumstances, many parents are apt to emphasize the importance of education for their children even if they have to literally pay a high price for it.

Moreover, a huge number of Chinese families have only one child because of the family planning policy that China has followed for three decades. Since single-child families are tight-nit, parents' resolve to ensure their children get the best education possible has become stronger.

Parents can be blamed for being caught in a trap of their own making and furthering the blind competition in education, but we cannot convince them to give up their quest. The root of the vicious cycle lies in society. The situation has changed little compared with even the distant past. But again, society today doesn't provide many options for children to chart a good future.

In the competitive employment market, it is difficult to get a good job without a college diploma and sometimes even a college diploma fails to ensure that. We have little to say if children ask us what else they could do to pursue a better life except study hard and excel in exams.

A strong sense of social unfairness has heightened the worries of parents and their children about the future, and forced them to take the difficult road.

A recent incident in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, is enlightening. People across the country criticize the "Olympic Math Contest" training classes because they increase students' burden. But when the education department in Xi'an decided to ban the training classes, the students opposed it for fear of losing the opportunity to study harder and some of them even tried to drive the educational department administrators out of classrooms. One parent appealed in tears: "If the authorities want to ban these training classes, they should provide our children a fair and justifiable way to get enrolled in 'good' schools first."

The parents not only complained about unfair distribution of educational resources, but also demanded a fair rule for competition. In a society that is full of "hidden rules", exams and scores are the only "fair" way that common people can count on.

Children from poor families, especially from rural areas, can rely on nothing but their academic achievements to prove their competence and be accepted into the "mainstream". But it seems that even the last "fair" way of achieving success is getting narrower by the day.

To rid society of unfair "sponsorship fees" and unequal competition for admission to schools, maybe the authorities should first take measures to diversify the ways for common people to improve their social mobility and offer them more opportunities.

The author is a reporter with China Daily.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Panel to check if schools’ fee hike justified

Panel to check if schools’ fee hike justified
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The Delhi government has notified a panel to look into the accounts of city’s unaided, private schools in order to ascertain the justifications of their fee hike.

The move comes after a direction by the Delhi High Court last month. It will allow parents to review the justification of the steep fee hike by Delhi’s private schools since 2006.

The notification was issued on Friday by the government’s Education department, specifying the members of the committee and their terms of reference. As ordered by a division bench of Justices A K Sikri and Siddharth Mridul, retired Justice Anil Dev Singh has been named as the chairperson of the three-member panel. The panel will look into the extent of fee hike required by each school on the implementation of the VI Pay Commission.

The court had also named chartered accountant J S Kochar as the second member of the panel and Delhi’s Chief Secretary has nominated Dr R K Sharma, retired Additional Director of Education, as the third member.

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“The committee shall perform acts determined in the judgment of the Delhi High Court dated August 12, 2011, passed in civil writ petition titled Delhi Abhibhavak Mahasangh and others vs Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi,” stated the notification, issued under the seal of the Lieutenant-Governor.

While deciding the petition moved through advocate Ashok Agarwal, the court had noted: “There is a need to inspect and audit accounts of the schools to find out the funds to meet the increased obligation cast by the implementation of VI Pay Commission and on this basis, to determine in respect of these schools as to how much hike in fee, if at all, is required.”

If the committee finds that a private school unjustifiably increased the fee, the school would be asked to refund the excess amount along with nine per cent interest. Similarly, if a particular school is able to make out a case for higher increase, then it would be permissible for such schools to recover from students over and above what is charged in terms of the 2009 notification.

By the 2009 notification, the Delhi Cabinet had approved the hike ranging from a minimum of Rs 100 to a maximum of Rs 500 in the schools to ease their financial burden due to increase in teachers’ salaries as per the VI Pay Commission recommendations.

Manjula Pooja Shroff: Inclusive education: Challenges before us

Manjula Pooja Shroff: Inclusive education: Challenges before us
Manjula Pooja Shroff | Sunday, September 25, 2011
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National Curriculum Framework (NCF) 2005 has laid down a clear context of inclusive education. Inclusion is becoming a buzzword and doing the rounds in education circles but there are still a lot of cobwebs surrounding it, even though the work in this direction began way back with establishment of special schools in 1880s.

Simply put, inclusive education wishes that education system should value all children. There should be enough understanding to help children with different abilities within regular classrooms, so that all children can get equal opportunities to learn.

Government's intention has remained quite clear and consistent, be it the formation of Rehabilitation Council of India Act 1992, National Trust for Multiple Disability and most recently Right to Education Act 2009.
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Growth, however, has been slow. Earlier children with different needs were enrolled in special schools. A movement began with debate about why special children should not receive education in mainstream schools. It soon gained momentum and schools started creating resource centres within the same campus for special learning. More recently, efforts are being made for inclusion of these special children into mainstream classrooms.

This is based on a global recognition that children and youth with disability are best educated alongside their non-disabled peers, whether in school years or during higher education.

Bringing special children into mainstream requires adjustments that schools need to make in advance. Transport facilities should be altered, so that these children can move around with relative ease. Schools could permit an adult to accompany the children in case of acute illness. Architecturally, there should be ramps and wheelchair access constructed in service areas such as toilets.

Necessary school supplies such as audio learning or textbooks in Braille should be made available. Suitable modification to examination system maybe required, so as to eliminate pure mathematical and logical assessments.

The biggest challenge lies in finding special education teachers. Any teacher who is able to respond to diversity of students in a classroom, can accommodate different learning styles and grasping abilities, is able to solve problems through consultation with colleagues or medical and psychological practitioners, will be able to go beyond four walls of the classroom and create an inclusive community.

Differently-abled are thought of as liability, of not having similar goals as normal people and demanding constant protection. It is by rising above these misconceptions and bringing in effective policies (currently on paper) inside the classroom that we can create a truly inclusive education community.

— The writer is an entrepreneur and educationist

How to save for your child’s education

How to save for your child’s education
Babar Zaidi, TNN | Sep 26, 2011, 05.36AM IST
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Read more:Kotak Life|ICICI Prudential Mutual Fund|Education loan|Education Fund|child's education|Bajaj Capital|Aviva Life Insurance
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Delhi-based bank executive Tushar Rastogi earns well and doesn't have too many loans. Yet, every three months, Rastogi's bank balance drops dangerously close to four figures. This quarterly brush with temporary indigence is because of the 34,000 that goes towards the school fees of his sons Rishabh and Saurabh. "I am on tenterhooks when the fee has to be paid, praying that no unexpected expense turns up during that month," he says.

A massive surge in education costs in the past five years has stretched the monthly budgets of middle-class households. While headline inflation has risen at an average annual rate of 6.54% since 2006, school education costs have shot up by almost 18%. According to an Assocham survey of 2,000 families across 15 cities, the annual school education expense on a child has risen from 35,000 five years ago to 94,000 now. "The cost of education usually rises twice as fast as normal inflation," says T.R. Ramachandran, CEO and MD, Aviva Life Insurance.

If you are fretting over this sharp rise in school education expenses, there's a bigger time bomb ticking away. Higher education costs are growing at an even faster clip. Five years from now, the tuition fee for an engineering course, currently pegged at roughly 5.5 lakh, would be close to 10 lakh. In 10 years' time, it's likely to cost around 18 lakh.

Experts say the amount needed for your child's education will not seem so daunting if you start early enough. "Nothing appears to be a burden if you think long term and invest regularly," says V Srinivasan, CFO of Bharti AXA Life Insurance. Even if you put away a modest 5,000 a month in an option that delivers a 12% return every year, you would build a 23.5 lakh corpus in 15 years. Increase the quantum of investment by 1,000 every year and see your corpus almost double to 47 lakh.

Sounds simple? It is, but though Indian parents feel strongly about the need to save for this crucial financial goal, they are unable to muster the investing discipline required to do so. Sanjiv Bajaj, MD of Bajaj Capital, talks of clients who start investing for their children's education but withdraw the money three years later to go on a holiday. "Where is the discipline?" he asks.

Indeed, discipline should be the cornerstone of the education fund you set up for your child's studies. How regularly you put money into this account and how frequently you dip into the corpus for discretionary spending will decide whether your child goes to a premier institute for higher studies or settles for a low-cost correspondence course. It will also decide the career path he charts for himself. "Education is an intergenerational goal. It affects the next generation and even the generations after that," says Rishi Mathur, senior vice-president , products and marketing, Canara HSBC OBC Life Insurance.

HOW CHILD ULIPS CAN HELP

Insurance policies have discipline inbuilt into their structure. A child Ulip is especially very useful because it offers twin benefit. It not only covers the parent but also the goal he sets for his child. In case of an untimely death of the policyholder , the plan gives a lump sum payment to his nominee. The policy does not end there. All future premium is waived and the child gets the money for his education as originally planned by the deceased parent. It's like two insurance policies rolled into one. Keep in mind, however, that this double benefit also means the charges of a child Ulip are higher than those of an ordinary Ulip.

A child Ulip works best if you invest in it for the long term (at least 12-15 years). Unfortunately, some Ulip buyers don't see it that way. "Parents often take the wrong steps because of the incomplete advice given by financial advisers ," says Suresh Agarwal, executive vice-president , Kotak Life Insurance. In an online survey conducted by economictimes.com last week, 23.5% of the 1,145 respondents said that the option to stop paying premium after 3-5 years was the biggest benefit of a child Ulip. It's probably what they were told by the agent to make the policy appear very convenient. "The flexibility to stop paying the premium of a child Ulip after 3-5 years is a feature meant for emergencies . It is not the core objective of the plan," says Srinivasan of Bharti Axa. "If you stop investing after 4-5 years, you will get a pittance on maturity," he says.

WHEN TO USE MUTUAL FUNDS

Clearly, child plans are long-term products. But what if you need the money earlier? If your child has already crossed 10 years and college is less than 8 years away, you may have missed the child plan bus. Don't lose hope because you can always use a mutual fund to get to your destination. Mutual funds are cheap, transparent and easy to understand. Unfortunately , they are also far too lenient on the irregular investor. "We may be tempted to invest when the market is on a tear, and pull the money out when it falls, but this is the wrong approach. Invest regularly and systematically," says Ashu Suyash, MD and country head, India , Fidelity International.

Perhaps the best way to invest in an equity fund is through an SIP. "It removes the emotion out of investments and rationalises the investment process," says Nimesh Shah, CEO and MD, ICICI Prudential Mutual Fund. You can safely invest in a good diversified equity fund or a balanced scheme if your horizon is 5-8 years.

WHEN YOU CAN'T AFFORD RISK

Whether you are investing in mutual funds or Ulips, keep an eye on your asset allocation. You may have started with an equity-heavy portfolio, but as your goal draws nearer, shift to the stability of debt. This shift should start 3-4 years before the goal. When you are 2-3 years away from the goal, you should be invested completely in debt-based instruments. This is important because no college will give you a 6-month extension for paying the fee just because the markets have tanked.

So before you start saving for your kid's education, check how far the goal is and then pick a suitable investing tool. Infuse a dash of discipline and you will be ready with the corpus when your child needs it most.

-With inputs from Mahima Puri

Indian pre-school education market likely to reach $1 billion

Indian pre-school education market likely to reach $1 billion
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MUMBAI: Pre-school education market is set to reach USD 1 billion mark by 2012 against USD 750 million at present.

"The Indian pre-school market is set to become the largest in the world. In India, the pre-school segment is currently worth USD 750 million and is expected to reach USD 1 billion by 2012," Serra International Pre-Schools Chairman, Arun Arora told PTI here.

Currently, the industry in India divided between the organised and unorganised sector. However, the organised sector represents just 17 per cent of the aggregate industry and this is expected to raise to 25 percent next year, Arora said adding many organized players are entering into tie-up with foreign players for expansion.

Serra International Pre-school has entered into joint venture with EtonHouse International Education Group of Singapore to launch a chain of international pre-schools across India.

The Singapore-based group is well-established in Asia with 52 schools and pre-schools across Singapore, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea, Vietnam, Japan and India with students from 54 different nationalities.

"We decided to invest Rs 100 crore for setting up 100 franchised international pre-schools by next year and 1000 franchised international pre-schools in the next seven years across India. Our aim is to revolutionise the early childhood education in the country by providing world-class curriculum," Arora said.

"For the next year, we want to focus our expansion plans across Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Secunderabad in the South Delhi/NCR and Punjab in the north, Mumbai, Pune and Gujarat in the west. These, we believe are some of the key markets that value high quality international pre-school education and would enthusiastically welcome an offering such as ours," Serra International CEO, Ranjan Goyal said.
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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Views | Profit and higher education

Views | Profit and higher education
For our problems of quality and equity in education, the government has to invest more money and improve its performance
Other Sphere | Anurag Behar

Pick up any list of the world’s best universities and go through those names. You can go through the top 500—not just top 10 or 20. You will not find a single for-profit university.

It’s useful to remind ourselves of what most of us already know: the Harvard and Yales of the world are all not-for-profit organizations. They won’t survive a year in the absence of their large endowments, and substantial annual grants.

The point is simple, high quality higher education is not and cannot be a for-profit enterprise. This is not an ideological issue; it is merely an economic implication of what is required to have high-quality higher education. Three of these requirements are: deep and broad-based research, a good student faculty ratio and a multidisciplinary faculty ranging from humanities to applied domains. There are other requirements, but these three in themselves are sufficient explanations for the not-for-profit nature of high quality higher education enterprises.

Also Read | Anurag Behar’s previous columns

I wrote about this issue in these columns about a year ago. What has prompted me to write again is the news that I read in Mint and other dailies. The Planning Commission has suggested the country permit establishment of institutes of higher learning that can be run for profit. These reports quoted a Planning Commission approach paper, “The not-for-profit tag in higher education sector should perhaps be re-examined in a more pragmatic manner so as to ensure quality without losing focus on expansion and equity.”

In the related reports, I found two bits of welcome pragmatism from the Planning Commission. The first was the candid admission of the open secret that even now most private educational institutions are out to make a profit, although the current law prohibits them. The second was that private capital will not come to the education sector unless profit making is allowed, bar the rare bit of philanthropic capital.

That’s where the pragmatism stops. Pragmatism, not ideology, should have also led them to stating that “since private capital, will (largely) not come without profit motive, it cannot solve the problem of quality and equity”. Instead the approach paper seems to be constructing a new delusion that private for-profit capital will help in improving quality and equity in higher education. Admittedly I am drawing only on these reports, and so may have misread the real drift of the commission. Though it doesn’t seem likely, given the statements that I have read, but I would be happy if I am proved wrong. That’s because this serious issue of the abysmal quality of our higher education is being side-stepped by deploying such an artifice.

You cannot fix someone’s cardiac fitness by recommending a hair transplant. That’s what this artifice amounts to. To address our problems in education, both school and higher education, there are just two ways ahead and both are needed. For cardiac fitness you have to eat right and exercise, there is no other way out. Similarly for our problems of quality and equity in education, the government has to invest more money and improve its performance.

Implementing these two, however, is very very difficult. The Planning Commission has good reasons to look for other paths. Getting more money for education is only possible if wasteful expenditure is controlled and economically distorting subsidies are reduced. Only through slow grinding changes on the ground can improvement happen in the government education system. This will not happen as a result of some policy or plan change.

Both the issues, of more money for education, and improving the government’s performance, face resistance from entrenched political interests, massive execution challenges of scale and complexity and general apathy.

If you were to cut free electricity supply to agriculture, you will have a mass rebellion on your hands. Which politically and socially influential group is willing to take up cudgels for education? None; and that is the reality.

Governments and other bodies, have continually made efforts (with limited effect) to improve the school system. There have been almost no such efforts made in higher education. The only steps being the setting up of new IITs, NITs, IIMs, AIIMS, etc.

Creating this additional capacity is important, but even more important is improving the governance and functioning of the 500-odd existing universities and their affiliated colleges. This is not just a practical issue of improving the impact of what is already being spent, it also involves the larger problem that unless we improve the functioning of these institutions, we will continue to churn uneducated people whom we call graduates by the millions. The problem is severe in the basic undergraduate courses in sciences and humanities, which are almost completely ignored by any initiative for improvement and fresh capacity creation.

The Planning Commission can get all the wise advisers, and can think through this issue far better than most of us can, if only it would not get caught in the blind belief that “for profit” education can help in improve quality and equity of higher education.

Anurag Behar is chief executive officer of Azim Premji Foundation and also leads sustainability initiatives for Wipro Ltd. He writes every fortnight on issues of ecology and education. Comments are welcome at othersphere@livemint.com

Teachers seeks transparency in counselling; lay seige to school

Teachers seeks transparency in counselling; lay seige to school
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Members of Tamil Nadu Primary School Teachers' Federation laid a siege to John Paul School, venue for general counselling (within district) for transfer of primary school teachers, here on Monday, demanding transparency in the transfer counselling. They alleged that there was no transparency in transferring teachers. Many vacant posts had been filled even before the commencement of transfer counselling.

The issue came to a light, when an officer in the rank of Deputy Director in the Department of Education spoke to a teacher rudely when she approached him for transfer under special preference meant for widow. When Muthu Selvi, a widow and teacher in Panchayat union middle school in Vedasandur requested transfer under special widow quota, the officer reportedly scolded her. Unable to tolerate disgrace and embarrassment, Ms. Selvi complained to the association about the incident. When the office bearers of the Federation Moses and Ganesan asked the officer about the incident, he treated them rudely and asked them to leave. Condemning such attitude, all teachers laid a siege to the school demanding action against the official.

In the meanwhile, Federation members said that the Education Department had filled 170 vacant posts even before commencement of general counselling for transfers. The department did not display vacancy positions in the notice board. It should be displayed three days before commencement of counselling, they added.

The department did not display list. Situation was tense on the school campus. Heavy police were deployed and two buses were kept ready to arrest the agitators. Dindigul MLA K. Balabarathi interacted with officials and members to settle the dispute amicably. After a three-hour break, the transfer counselling continued.

Uniform, but unworkable

Uniform, but unworkable
The desire for quality education for all children is noble and surely one shared by all. But Tamilnadu's Samacheer Kalvi makes that more difficult, writes Parth Shah.

30 August 2011 - The 9 August ruling of the Supreme Court that schools in Tamilnadu must implement Samacheer Kalvi immediately has received mixed reactions. Some think it is a great step forward for equality and social justice, while others fear that it will undermine the quality of education in some schools. I believe the judgment is flawed, and will prove harmful to the students, parents, and teachers of Tamilnadu.

Samacheer Kalvi, or the Uniform System of Education, was brought in with much excitement by the previous DMK government. It would, said the government, ensure a uniform curriculum across the state in public and private schools, require the use of standardised text books by all pupils, and protect the rights of children to education in their mother tongue.

The implementation of the scheme began in the 2010-2011 academic year for Standards I and VI, and it was set to roll out for Standards VII-X in 2011-2012. But then a new AIADMK government was elected in mid-2011, and objected to the content of the textbooks. The new dispensation claimed the books promoted the previous government's politics and policies, and they passed legislation to delay implementation of the scheme while the books were revamped. In the meantime, some schools waited for the new books, some spent large amounts on books that followed the earlier curriculum. Some halted the use of books altogether.

In June, the Madras High Court ruled that the new law was unconstitutional and that Samacheer Kalvi must be fully implemented this academic year itself, as previously planned. Books produced by the DMK government were acceptable, any objectionable sections could be removed or papered over, and the books should be used. The government's appeal to the Supreme Court proved fruitless, as the apex body affirmed the High Court's views.

All of this is happening after children have been in school for weeks. Valuable instructional time has been lost. Students have become innocent victims caught in a political crossfire over curriculum and textbooks.


Rather than setting broad standards and allowing parents and teachers the freedom to achieve those in the ways most well suited to their particular circumstances, politicians have focused on equality of inputs.


• Alternative advantage, shackled
• Zip through Class V, then dropout
• A few chapters short
• Kerala revises textbook
• Goa wrestles with language
The whole situation highlights several important problems - with Samacheer Kalvi in particular and with government control of education in general. First, this sort of political haggling is inevitable when government involves itself in the detailed operations of schools, and the ones who lose will always be the students. Governments are political; they are not educators. Their strengths do not lie in planning curricula or in writing and selecting text books. Schools are familiar with the exams their students will need to pass to be successful and can plan their curricula accordingly. They do not need detailed plans handed down to them by government officials.

When it comes to textbooks and other such resources, schools and teachers are better placed to evaluate various options and determine what will be the best fit for their unique children, teaching styles, and circumstances. Indeed, even the National Curriculum Framework 2005, the central government's guidelines to states, emphasises the importance of giving flexibility to teachers and schools in determining the best way to achieve educational outcomes and the best resources to employ in pursuing those aims.

Children are different from each other, schools are different, and teachers are different. There is no reason, therefore, to assume that the same books will most effectively teach maths or social sciences or English in every situation. Those decisions are best left to individual schools. The government of Tamilnadu has demonstrated extreme arrogance in asserting that it knows better than parents and teachers how to teach children.

Inevitably, when governments involve themselves so heavily in the minutiae of education, the curriculum and textbooks will be politicised. Whether the government itself is writing the books, or a publisher is writing books to sell to the government, the incentive is to produce what will appeal to politicians. Say some good things about the party, and that probably earns you points. Emphasise the bits of history that play to the governing party's strengths, and that will probably help your case. And that's before we even start to think about the potential for bribery and corruption.

Is it any surprise, then, that the new government objected to the old government's chosen textbooks? And is it not all but certain that the scenario will repeat itself when the next new government is elected? Samacheer Kalvi increases the politicisation of education, and disempowers schools, teachers and parents. Neither is good for the quality of education.

Second, Samacheer Kalvi, like so many other government initiatives related to education, focuses entirely on inputs rather than outcomes. Everyone agrees that we want children who can read and write, add and multiply, speak well in their mother tongue and use English. All of these are outcomes. The books that are used, the teaching methods that are employed, the number of teachers, the hours spent at school, and the buildings and other facilities available are all inputs. They are tools for achieving educational outcomes. They are means, rather than ends in and of themselves. We should therefore focus on those ends, those objectives, and trust teachers and parents to judge the tools that are best used to achieve them.

Rather than setting broad standards and allowing parents and teachers the freedom to achieve those in the ways most well suited to their particular circumstances, politicians have focused on equality of inputs. If all pupils were exactly the same, all parents had exactly the same values, all circumstances were identical, and all children had the same goals, then focusing on inputs might work. But they are not. Outcomes are what matter, so governments should trust parents and teachers to figure out how those outcomes are best achieved.

And it is important to remember that Samacheer Kalvi applies to all schools, even private schools that are neither operated nor paid for by the state. The freedom of parents to choose the education that is best for their children has been removed. The ability of talented, experienced teachers to employ creative methods to teach their students has been severely undermined. By focusing on inputs, rather than on outcomes, the government of Tamilnadu has reduced incentives for teachers and schools to be innovative, to raise standards, to achieve more. None of that will be rewarded. Instead, teachers must follow government-determined rules and use government-approved resources.

The signal sent loud and clear is that it is those inputs, not outcomes, that are most important.

The forced requirement that all children must be taught in the mother tongue violates parental rights and is rather impractical in a cosmopolitan and multi-cultural state. The UN Declaration of Human Rights, in the Article 26, clearly states "Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children." India was one of the first signatories of this Universal Declaration.

To implement this, not just in letter but also in spirit, the Tamilnadu government should not only allow private schools to decide the medium of instruction. It should offer choice to parents in government schools for different media of instruction. The parents should have a right to choose the medium of instruction in private as well as government schools.

The desire for quality education for all children is noble and surely one shared by all. But Samacheer Kalvi makes that more difficult. It ensures that all children will use the same curriculum and the same books, but it reduces the ability of teachers to respond to the unique needs of their students or for parents to choose the education they believe is best for their children. If the government of Tamilnadu truly wants to improve education for all children, it should free up teachers to teach, schools to determine the specifics of curriculum and resources, and parents to choose the education that is best for their children.

This is the best way to improve education for all: Not just the right to education but the right to education of choice.

Sports likely to get priority in 12th plan: Narendra Jadhav

Sports likely to get priority in 12th plan: Narendra Jadhav
PTI | Sep 24, 2011, 07.34PM IST
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Read more:Sports|Planning commission|Narendra Jadhav|India International Sports Summit|12th Five Year Plan
MUMBAI: Development of sports is likely to get priority in the 12th Five Year Plan that will be implemented from the next year, a Planning Commission member said on Saturday.

"This is the last year of the 11th Five Year plan. Work is on for the 12th plan to be implemented from 2012-2017. In this what we have proposed and approved is that three fields: education, health and infrastructure - will get priority," Planning Commission member Dr Narendra Jadhav told reporters on the sidelines of the India International Sports Summit, organised by TranStadia on Saturday.

"Sports is related to all three. So sports is also likely to get priority in the 12th plan," he said.

Jadhav said the Commission was mulling a 'Sarva Krida Abhiyaan' on the lines of 'Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan'.

"It could be implemented in schools where sports could be made compulsory," he said adding, that thought was also being given to the establishment of a specialised sports university.

"We are looking at developing sports culture in the country from village level to urban with development of sports infrastructure on a Public Private Partnership (PPP) model," he said.

Among the new initiatives could be an Indian Institute of Sports (IIS) along the lines of IIM and IIT to provide holistic education including sports medicine, coaching and sports sciences, he added.

To a query, Jadhav said, a final decision on the 12th five-year-plan was likely to be taken by January next year.

SC seeks states' response on facilities in Govt School

SC seeks states' response on facilities in Govt School
By Newzfirst 9/23/11

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NEW DELHI - The Supreme Court asked states to explain by October 15 steps taken for ensuring potable water and toilet facilities in government-run schools. The bench of justices Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma said that these are very essential things which state authorities cannot neglect. They have to be taken up on priority otherwise parents will not like to send their children to schools.

Though most of the states have filed their affidavits on the steps being taken to provide the requisite facilities, the bench was not convinced with the same and accordingly directed chief secretaries of the states to file additional affidavits to comply with its directions.

The apex court passed the direction while dealing with a PIL filed in 2004 by Environment and Consumer Protection Foundation highlighting the plight of government-run schools in Delhi and lack of basic facilities such as drinking water, toilets and dilapidated condition of some school buildings.

The court sought comprehensive information regarding basic facilities like drinking water, separate toilets for boys and girls, power supply, boundary walls, mid-day meal facility besides teaching infrastructure.

Friday, September 23, 2011

School dropout rate a big challenge, says Bhujbal

School dropout rate a big challenge, says Bhujbal
TNN | Sep 23, 2011, 12.43AM IST
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PUNE: Dropout rates and children who still refrain from schooling are big challenges before the government, Chagan Bhujbal, state minister of Public Works Department, said here on Thursday. Bhujbal was speaking at the release of the commemorative volume on platinum jubilee year of S B Mujumdar, Founder and president of Symbiosis Society at Symbiosis Vishwabhavan auditorium.

Bhujbal said, "According to a survey conducted by the Union Ministry of Human Resource and Development, 81 lakh children in the country between the age group of 6 and 13 years still refrain from education. Out of this 94% have never seen a school and 25% drop out half way. The right to free and compulsory education has been implemented 60 years after independence; hopefully, it will be able to change the situation."

Bhujbal, who released the commemorative volume, said, "The government has decided to give permission to foreign universities to set up in India. Few Indian universities have expressed concern. Such universities must raise their standards and face the competition. Symbiosis, which will easily be able to face this challenge must lead from the front and help these universities to identify faults and improve standards."

Mujumdar expressed concern that the government is not doing enough for expansion of higher education in the country and often interferes in the functioning of universities. He said, "None of the universities in India figure in the top 200 of the world. This is disappointing and one of the reasons is too much government interference. India received independence in 1947 and in 1991, it received economical independence, but India is yet to receive educational independence."

The function was also attended by renowned cartoonist R K Laxman and his wife, Kamla Laxman, besides, Raghunath Mashelkar, former director general of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Bhushan Patwardhan, vice-chancellor, Symbiosis International University, Vidya Yeravdekar, principal director, Symbiosis Society, veteran leader Mohan Dharia, wife of S B Mujumdar, Sanjeevani and A V Sangamnerkar, vice-president, Symbiosis Society.

Creating researchers by brute force

Creating researchers by brute force
Rigging incentives to make students choose a research career is harder to implement than ministers imagine
Sandipan Deb

When I christened my column The Sceptic, I had no idea that the first piece I would write would demand far more than mere scepticism. Yes, I write in wonder mixed with disbelief.

Union human resource development (HRD) minister Kapil Sibal has announced that Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) graduates would have to start paying back the money that the government incurs on their education—Rs6 lakh over and above the Rs2 lakh the students pay for a four-year course—as soon as they find a job. But this will not apply to those who opt for higher studies in any of the IITs.

The aim is to make the IITs centres of cutting-edge research, by scaling up from less than 1,000 PhD graduates per year today to 10,000 by 2020-25. The carrot for going in for research: you don’t have to pay back anything. Join the industry, and you have to shell out Rs6 lakh in equated monthly instalments (EMIs).

Jayachandran/Mint

Jayachandran/Mint

I have a feeling this violates some sort of individual right—after all, the government is making it unattractive for me to take up a job and trying to force me into research. It sounds suspiciously like the bonds that companies used to make recruits sign in the 1970s and 1980s—that they could not quit before a specified number of years—and the courts have ruled a long time ago that such bonds have no basis in law. Also, the IIT proposal treats the business sector as second-class citizens, which is wrong and stupid. It implies that all valuable research in India takes place in the IITs and none in the industry—whereas all one has to do is talk to companies such as GE, Texas Instruments, IBM, Nokia, Oracle, Hyundai, or Philips.

Lastly, the assumption is that if you churn out enough PhDs, something will stick somewhere in terms of invention and innovation. Well, this certainly is a novel strategy: Research and development by brute force and chance.

That’s the macro part. The micro aspects are simply mind-boggling. Let’s say IITian A gets a job in a public sector unit (PSU), and B in a multinational consultancy; B’s salary is four times A’s. So their EMIs have to be different; so too, the payback periods. Scale this up to say 100 firms, each with its own salary package, which have hired IITians—so 100 different EMIs and payback periods. Does the government sign agreements for each IITian with each employer? Who keeps track when the IITian switches jobs? And what happens if he decides, after a year or two, to join a PhD programme in an IIT? Does he get back the money he has already paid, or does he have to write it off as punishment for the sin he committed by joining a job?

Now, IITian B is transferred by his employer to New York, with a dollar salary. Does his EMI change? And who pays it, the US firm or the Indian firm? Then, B quits and joins a German firm which posts him in Brazil. There is certainly no agreement signed between the Indian government and the German firm. How do you make B pay? Or, tired with the corporate life, B joins Stanford for a PhD. Does he still have to pay? If so, how? Is the government going to hold his family in India at ransom till he pays up?

Meanwhile, after working for four years in the PSU, A decides to take two years off to write a novel. Since the government has announced that the unemployed won’t have to pay EMIs, A is free. Two years later, his novel having been rejected by 23 publishers, A starts an IIT entrance coaching institute in his hometown Kakinada. How on earth will the government locate him and start demanding EMIs? And what about IITian C, who, three years after graduating, finds himself working for the Singapore government? Will a bilateral treaty then be necessary to get the Singapore government to deduct the EMI from his salary and remit it to the Indian government?

What about the IITian who joins a business school after graduating? He is not pursuing higher studies in an IIT, but he is definitely not employed. Should he pay EMIs? Or should he start paying once he gets a job, and if so, how does the government get to know when and where he starts working?

Sibal has said the problem of IITians not paying up will be tackled by “dematerializing” degree certificates. I am not sure what that means, but certainly that cannot stop a graduate from taking 25 printouts of his certificate at one go and get them attested, which would be sufficient to last him a lifetime. Besides, other than your first employer (if at all), who asks to see your graduation certificate when hiring you?

Of all the responsibilities of an HRD minister, premier institutes like the IITs are the “sexiest”. So minister after minister is drawn like a magnetic sticker to a fridge door to try to “improve the IIT system”. Most of their meddling has had unhappy or no results. But this one surely takes the cake.

Sandipan Deb is a senior journalist and editor who is interested in puzzles of all forms.

Note: The Sceptic is a new, fortnightly column that will question status quos and establishment wisdom in public life.

Comments are welcome at theirview@livemint.com

States should have panchayat-level register for children,NCPCR

States should have panchayat-level register for children,NCPCR
PTI | 02:09 PM,Sep 22,2011

Patna, Sept 20 (PTI) National Child Rights Protection Commission (NCPCR) chairperson Shanta Sinha today suggested that the states should have a panchayat-level register for children to prevent child trafficking and their exploitation. "I suggest that the states should ensure that a register for children is maintained at panchayat-level which will come in handy to prevent child trafficking and exploitation", Sinha said while addressing a workshop on 'Prevention of Human Trafficking' at the state legislative Council Annexe here. Stating that "At present, we have the data available in percentage relating to child trafficking and exploitation at block-district-state-and-national-level", she said the panchayat-level register would facilitate the assessment of the factual status of children subjected to trafficking and exploitation. "It will also be beneficial to ensure that the children record their attendance at the panchayat level to know the actual position", Sinha said. "The governments should have political will power and evolve comprehensive strategy to tackle the cases of child trafficking....the states like Bihar and Orissa are vulnerable to inter-state human trafficking where much attention has to be paid", she said. Sinha suggested that the anti-human trafficking action plan adopted in Bihar called 'Astitva' be implemented by other states to prevent cases of human trafficking.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

ust 14% of corporation school students in city know of Childline no.: Study TNN Sep 21, 2011, 03.51am IST

ust 14% of corporation school students in city know of Childline no.: Study
TNN Sep 21, 2011, 03.51am IST
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Madras School of Social Work|
f corporation school students

CHENNAI: Only 14% of corporation school students in the city are aware about 1098, the Childline number. A study by students of the Madras School of Social Work has revealed that though awareness about violation of child rights is high, only 0.9% of students have used the number to report cases of child abuse.

The study also found that most of the children had access to their parents' mobile phones and almost 11.6% had a personal mobile phone. "We also found that most children had dialled the number out of curiosity or for general queries about school syllabus and books," said K Sathyamurthy, assistant professor at the Madras School of Social Work who co-coordinated the study.

Officials at Childline India foundation, however, said they encouraged such calls. "We think it is important that people don't hesitate to call the number even when they witness an act of cruelty against a child or come across a child in trouble," said Anuradha Vidyasankar, head of the South Regional Resource Centre for the Foundation. The resource centre gets over 50,000 calls every year from all over the state. To increase awareness, it is planning a variety of programmes targeting communities rather than just children.

"The low levels of awareness among school children could be because till now, Childline's focus has primarily been on vulnerable children," said Kajol Menon, executive director of the Childline India Foundation. The toll-free number 1098, the country's first child helpline number, was launched in Mumbai in 1996 to deal with street children in distress. As of March 2011, 21 million calls have been serviced by Childline service that operates in 172 cities/districts across the country.

Recently, 1098 was accorded category 1 status, placing it in the league of numbers like 100 for police, 101 for fire and 102 for ambulance. Foundation officials hope it will help increase usage. "When we began, landline usage was almost 85%. Now, mobile phone use has increased manifold. With the changing telecom scene, we have been seeking, for the last seven years, a special status to be provided to 1098," said Menon. However, due to some technical issues, the service hasn't been implemented by all service providers yet. "It is a national service and we feel citizens should act like watchdogs and ask their telecom service providers to implement the service," she added.

It is compulsory for all telecom service providers to allow toll free calls to a number with Category 1 status. Earlier, the facility was available only on MTNL and BSNL landline phones as well as a few mobile service providers approached individually by Childline India Foundation. The Foundation is also planning to shift to a system where all calls will be received by four centralized call centres in the country. "We feel it will help us improve quality and efficiency of response," said Menon.

Social workers at the Madras School of Social Work are also planning a few programmes to increase awareness. "We have decided to target communities instead of just working with children," said Sathyamurthy. Over the last week, students from the institute have conducted street plays in Koyambedu, Anna Nagar and Purasawalkam. "We are also looking for sponsorships to begin with advertising on buses, in public places and over the radio," Sathyamurthy said.

Govt has to bear Rs 3,800 cr to implement 25% quota under RTE

Govt has to bear Rs 3,800 cr to implement 25% quota under RTE
Sruthy Susan Ullas, TNN | Sep 22, 2011, 01.31AM IST
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BANGALORE: The finance department wanted to know what would be the extra burden to the state to implement the 25% quota in private schools under the RTE. It got a mind-boggling figure of Rs 3,800 crore.

The state unit of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan furnished this exact figure to the government on how much it would cost the government to reimburse private schools ( ICSE/CBSE) if the 25% seats are reserved for poor students in these institutions. The government will have to bear this amount till 2020 when the first batch of the 25% will finish class 8.

According to the figures available from SSA, the number of students who would join private schools as part of the 25% quota in 2012 is around 99,000. The figure has been arrived at by calculating the 25% of the total number of students studying in Class one of unaided schools as of today (which is 3,98,000).

The year 2013 will have twice this number as there would be 25% in Class 1 and Class 2. By the academic year 2019-'20, all classes in the state will have the 25% quota. The total number of students whom the government has to fend for in private schools would be around 7.5 lakh. The reducing growth rate is taken into consideration for calculation.

The unit cost spent on one child by the government is calculated to be around Rs 7,000. The expenditure includes the teachers' salary, infrastructure, midday meals and other incentives. According to the draft rules, all the children admitted under the 25% quota are also entitled to the facilities given by the state-- scholarships, free uniforms, free textbooks, free midday meals, free schoolbags, writing materials, and any other that may be introduced from time to time.

It is estimated that Rs 1,500 crore would be required per year to implement the landmark law that promises free and compulsory education to all children between the ages of 6 and 14. This amount will be shared by the Centre and the state at 65-35 ratio.

However, the department is still unclear on how the funding should be for the 25% quota. It was this lack of clarity in funding that also irked the private schools when the draft rules were being made. "To get even a few thousand rupees, they ask bribe in percentages. If we give a petition today, we get the refund after six months," said P T Joseph of Independent School Federation of India.

The Right to Education Act was implemented in 2009, but Karnataka is yet to notify it. According to the education department, the law is now expected to be notified in 15 days.


The numbers game
* Rs 3,800 crore to teach 25% quota in private schools
* Around 99,000 students will join private schools in 2012
* In 2020, all the classes in the state will have the 25% poor students
* Total number of 25% students in 2020 will be around 7 lakh

Where have all the good teachers gone now?

Where have all the good teachers gone now?
Manoj Kumar
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In our hurry to become a superpower, we forgot the elementary. We started first with creating engineers, followed by doctors. Then we created ‘tech coolies' and ‘nurses.' Teachers, along with other nation-building professionals, fell by the wayside.

Does September 5 ring a bell? If it does, you are probably a rare exception. It was Teacher's Day and the highlight for many was an e-mail doing the rounds asking people to drink a particular brand of whisky in remembrance of the teachers we've had in our lives. No prizes for guessing the name of the brand.

This really is to diminish the role that teachers play in shaping the future adult. In my long years in the field of education, I have come across many examples of teachers literally making or breaking the future of their students. Recently, while serving on the panel of the KC Mahindra Education Trust that gives annually 600 scholarships to meritorious children across India to continue their college education for three years, I came across N. Pavithra. Hers is a remarkable story.

From Kunnathur village in Tamil Nadu's Tirupur district, Pavithra is the older of two children, born to illiterate parents — mother Rani and Nagarajan, a daily wage coolie. When Nagarajan lost 50 per cent vision in his eye in a freak accident at work, the employers were quick to reduce his wages by half as well. He now earns Rs. 700 a week, which translates to $2 a day. The tragedy of Pavithra and family is that they do not figure in the below-poverty-line lists nor has any rights-based system given them any chance of a sustained livelihood. Under these circumstances, she turned to the only other authority figure other than her parents -- her government school teachers. She told them that the daily 30-minute classes were not enough for her to understand her lessons. At home, she was submerged with domestic chores and the care of her younger brother and handicapped father.

Her teachers saw in her a burning passion to learn, a hunger to excel and a deep motivation to use education to get out of the poverty trap. They asked her to stay back in school after regular hours and addressed her doubts. All this resulted in Pavithra topping her school with an aggregate of 95 per cent.

In my travels, I have come across hundreds of Pavithras — young boys and girls from impoverished, illiterate families. The common thread in them is a burning desire to liberate themselves through education. They all believed education was a great leveller, their only hope from poverty. And, like Pavithra, almost all of them scored more than 90 per cent marks in their school final exams, thanks to the intervention of government school teachers who believed in them and helped them learn during and after school hours.

The real challenge is to find excellent teachers who can be their remedial tutors, mentors and rainmakers. Many of us have fond memories of a particular teacher who left a mark on our lives, who changed our lives in some meaningful way. Where have all these teachers gone today?

Real teachers simply do not exist. We as a nation erased the framework and the climate to create good teachers. In our hurry to become a superpower, we forgot the elementary. We started first with creating engineers, followed by doctors. Then we created ‘tech coolies' and ‘nurses'. Then we created an army of generalists who claim to be educated, have paper degrees and could easily take up any of the service sector jobs — ranging from being an ‘officer' in a corporate to the ‘fast moving' retail sector to the financial services sector.

Teachers, along with other nation-building professionals, fell by the wayside. The remuneration became unattractive for bright minds to consider school teaching a good career option.

So far, the state has succeeded only in levying an education cess on our incomes which is more like conscription. In fact, it might have been a better idea to force all bright people to do two years of coaching and tutoring than taking a cess from the honest taxpayer. Why can't we have a high-profile Indian Education and Learning Service? This elite civil service could include direct as well as lateral entries and will work out ways to reform the elementary, tertiary and higher education systems.

The reforms package could include the IITs becoming training centres for teachers of mathematics, physics and other sciences. They could also offer post-graduate programmes in mathematics, physics and chemistry teaching. In fact, there could be specialised institutions focussed on teaching and offering a five-year professional course akin to the Indian Law Schools.

These could attract the best minds and graduate professionals called Learning Experts. All these will pave the way for our IIMs to offer electives in the larger area of school management and theories of learning and intelligence.

We need the best teachers to ensure all children excel. For this, even the pedagogy should shift from ‘teaching' to ‘learning.' Children should be able to learn themselves and teachers should be ‘coaches' and ‘learning facilitators.' There is a market for the good teacher; we now need to look at the supply side. This way, we can create an army of Pavithras, the real demographic dividend that will propel us to become a knowledge superpower.

(The writer is the CEO of Naandi Foundation, Hyderabad, which works in over 1,800 government schools to ensure that children learn. The views expressed here are personal. His email id is: manoj@naandi.org)

NCPCR questions screening tests in schools

NCPCR questions screening tests in schools
indianexpress Express News Service , The New Indian Express

BHUBANESWAR: The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has asked the State Government to investigate allegations that schools in Orissa continue to conduct screening tests for admission and let out their premises for accommodation of security personnel much in violation of the Right to Free and Compulsory Education of Children Act (RFCECA).
Taking cognizance of the NCPCR report, the School and Mass Education Department has been asked to probe the allegations and submit an action taken report so that the national body can be kept in loop about the outcome.
NCPCR member-secretary Love Sharma, in a recent letter to Chief Secretary BK Patnaik, stated that the Council was informed about screening tests being done for admission into schools run by the SC and ST Development Department.
According to reports, entrance test was conducted for admission into Ekalabya Schools in 11 districts of the State and it is a violation of RFCEC Act which stipulates that no school or person shall, while admitting a child, collect any capitation fee and subject the child to any screening procedures. Not only this, a 2010 circular of the Department itself states that any school or person who subjects a child to screening will be penalised
` 25,000 for the first offence and ` 50,000 for the every next violation. The NCPCR requested the Government to investigate the allegations and submit a factual report at the earliest.
Besides, the national body also drew attention of the Government to the fact that school premises are being misused. It is alleged that they are being utilised to house security forces in the conflict areas. This has led to a situation wherein students are not only deprived of education but also get exposed to violence. No school should be used for such purposes, it said.
The NCPCR also asked the Government to look into
the problems of migration which is taking a toll on the children. About 20 lakh people migrate in quest of work to outside states. Out of them, 30 per cent are children who work in exploitative conditions while migrating with their families and are subjected to inhuman conditions.

Graduates with minimum 45 percent marks eligible for TET in Uttar Pradesh

Graduates with minimum 45 percent marks eligible for TET in Uttar Pradesh
Publication: Jagran Post
Date: Mon, 2011-09-19

Lucknow: Coming as good news for those who wish to qualify for teaching in primary and secondary schools, the state government has approved that any graduate who clears one year of Bachelor of Education (BEd) is also eligible for the Teachers Eligibility Test (TET) along with the BA, BCom and BSc aspirants.

The minimum eligibility for TET has also been reduced from 50 percent to 45 percent. The DEd (Special Education) and BEd (Special Education) candidates can sit for the test while 5 percent rebate in qualifying points has been given to the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes and physically challenged candidates.

The state government issued the revised order on TET mandate released on September 7. Under the Right to Education, the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) issued a notification on August 23, 2010 making the TET compulsory as a screening test for recruitment of teachers in primary and secondary schools. The minimum educational qualification for recruitment of teachers was also stipulated in the notification.

In the older mandate, the state government had set minimum eligibility of 50 percent marks in BA /BSc/BCom and one year of BEd from an institute recognised by the NCTE and the Uttar Pradesh government.