Showing posts sorted by relevance for query education. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query education. Sort by date Show all posts

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Rural Higher Education and Women

By Samiya Anwar

If somebody questions me, what is the best gift I received from my parents? I would probably say education. Yup! Because education is the biggest asset one can have. And for women it is more important. It is education what makes a women stand in society with the male counterparts.

I was fortunate to go to school and college. But unfortunately not all parents send their daughters to obtain education. Not all women are equal footing with men still today after so much of development.

It is a grim reality that living in urban, we don’t acknowledge the life of rustic women. What we people do is, give names to the rural women, ‘Anpad’, ‘Jahil’ and ‘Gavaar’. They are also identified as ‘hick’. It means a person rose in a rural area, an unsophisticated person. They are not intelligible persons, they are parochial and narrow-minded.

This is all observed due to a wide disparity in the literacy of urban and rural women. The historical image of ‘housewife’ silently rules the countryside. The literacy rate among rural women remained less though several efforts have been made on part of the government to deal with this subject.

Nearly 70 per cent of the population lived in rural areas and most rural women were illiterate and not at all aware of their rights. The reason could be the age-old negative typecast rural population thinking. The rate of illiteracy is high in rural areas due to their thinking patterns.

In India, the literacy level is the highest compared to anywhere else in the world. The reason for the growth of literacy is because of the umpteen numbers of various types of Colleges and Universities offering different kinds of education in various fields. Reason that education is an instrument for the social advancement. And in particular if rural-women are educated the problems of like poverty, unemployment, child labor, female foeticide, and many more can be resolved to higher extent.

Every year the college door opens for a number of students. Our country has plenty of Colleges and Universities offering higher education opportunities. The enrollment of rural girls for higher education is not in large. More girls in rural areas discontinue education to either get marry or become support for families by earning daily wage at countryside. The Higher Education remains a daydream to many of them.

Like Sarla, a rural woman had to dropout from higher studies for marriage at the age of 17. She says, ‘If given a chance in future she would still like to continue studies and become a teacher’. Her father had a different opinion. He questions, ‘why should I send my daughter to college? She will be a housewife in the future I knew. Now I am happy that she is married at the right time. There is no need of Higher Education’.

It is not just the father of Sarla, many parents in rural areas think the same way. The degree college is regarded as waste-of-time by rural people. The years between eighteen-twenty one are most important time. These years get squandered in college they say. What is the need to send girls for Higher Education? The basic education already they have, stop now. Enough is enough!

But is it good to stop the girls from achieving knowledge which is for their good. Is college means not putting time to good use? Then why most women go for higher studies even in thirties and forties. What makes women crave for achieving degrees in vocation? What does college really does to a girl and his mind? It is important for them to understand what is good and what is better.

The Higher Education is good. The college is a place of education. We go to college to know, to understand how knowledge is helpful and powerful. It makes our mind. It prepares us as citizens of the world. It is the most important part of youth. The years of learning is often misconceived as the years of romance due to the love affairs and rising love in college. This could be one reason why parents don’t want to send their daughter for Higher Education.

However the gender factors restrict the women from higher education and job opportunities. It is a disheartening that the males think that if women continue to higher education, she will compete with them economically. Education makes women to question. If they are less educated, they won’t know the laws and they can easily suppress them. An educated female questions why this, why not those. The problem arises for men. So they deprive females from higher education.

Another strong consideration in girls’ unequal access to education in rural areas includes a lack of a safe means of transportation, poor security, and the lack of separate sanitation facilities. It is significant that already statistical investigation in this country and in England shows that the standard of health is higher among the women who hold college degrees than among any other equal number of the same age and class.

Sociological surveys indicate that those who desire for higher education but are unable to enter the institute as a full-time student can view part-time study as a matter of urgency. The other surveys have noted that those women who already have a reasonable general education are the group most likely to continue their studies part-time. After the age of 24 many rural women more likely than men continue studying

Over the past two decades the rural education for women has been very impressive. It cannot be denied that rural girls and young women are attracted with higher education as a good employment is brought through education. Indeed rural women, have a lot of spunk and enthusiasm to study.

Focus on Rural Women’s Higher Education
11th five-year plan lay more focus on higher education with reference to areas of rural areas, and backward classes and women folks. By the end of the plan there should be an increase in the percentage of each cohort going to higher education from the present 10% to 15%.

Recently the five-year integrated courses launched in different disciplines in the IITs affiliated to the university in the State. But unfortunately the responses came from urban students in large number although the courses were purely meant for rural students. It is unusual, but very true.

When the rural women don’t fail to admit themselves in colleges for higher studies the urban students have an overwhelming advantage over their rural counterparts to get high grades. Kavita K. says ‘we really don’t get an opportunity to continue our studies after SSC. Pursuing Higher Education remains a dream for most rural girls’.

Thanks to the establishment of Indian Institutes for Information Technology (IIIT) at Basar in Adilabad and Rajiv Gandhi University of Knowledge Technologies in state the rural girl students are able to fulfill the dreams of Higher Education. It is reported that the girls 8 out of 52 mandals made it to IIITs compared to boys.

The tides are truly changing. The attitudes of parents have changed even in rural areas. Now, with changing sensibilities, parental attitudes have shifted significantly. Like before they don’t force girls to marry and discontinue studies. But encourage the girls to study hard and get into IIITs. The communities have matured with time.

This is witnessed due to the cooperation of government. The IIITs doesn’t put burden on parents. The loans are available which can be paid only after getting jobs. Yet, there is also an exemption of fee for those students whose family income is below Rs. 1 lakh. The parents are happy to get the children in IIITs without much investment.

A well known fact it is that rural women are particularly vulnerable to poverty. They play a critical role in the rural economies of both developed and developing countries. So, Higher Education makes a significant contribution to the strengthening of democracy and administration of society.

Nevertheless ness it is really important to arouse rural women and help them to see their own advantages, to seek for opportunities and to become the subjects of development by seeking Higher Education. It is a better means at reducing poverty and utilizes knowledge for betterment of society. We need to give special attention to this problem.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

'10% Students Have Access To Higher Education in India'

By Dr.Shelly Ahmed (Star Guest Writer)

Access to education beyond higher secondary schooling is a mere 10% among the university-age population in India. This is the finding of a report “Intergenerational and Regional Differentials in Higher Education in India” authored by development economist, Abusaleh Shariff of the Delhi-based Centre for Research and Debates in Development Policy and Amit Sharma, research analyst of the National Council of Applied Economic Research.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Indian Higher Education; Major developments of 2012, hopes from 2013

A year 2012 was a mixed year for the higher education sector as several positive and negative developments took place throughout the year. Among the highlights, newly created IITs and IIMs started their operations, the University Grants Commission (UGC) decided to give more autonomy to state universities in appointing the Vice Chancellors. To bring transparency, All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) came up with an email service for people to lodge complaints against institutions. On the other hand, the sector also witnessed several controversies related to various education bodies like UGC, AICTE, imbroglio between teachers and Delhi University, student violence in Osmania University. The second half of the year also saw major change at the policy level with Cabinet reshuffle. Cabinet and State Ministers in the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development were changed.
With 2012 almost nearing to its end, one can only hope for a constructive and fruitful 2013 for higher education space.  The New Year will see 12th Five Year Plan being implemented and a good amount of money has already been earmarked for the sector. Though, as many as 11 higher education bills still pending in the Parliament has been a damp squib in the year gone by but with General Elections slated in 2014, Centre may push to get these Bills see the light of the day.
India Education Review interacted with some of the academic leaders from Higher Education sector to understand what in their opinion, the highlights of 2012 were and their expectations from 2013.
Best and the worst in 2012
Ajit Rangnekar, Dean, ISB Hyderabad opined, “In my opinion I do not think any major development took place this year, it was pretty normal, one big think that is yet to happen is that Shrikant Datar of Harvard went all over the country and many of us participated in discussions related to curriculum development and the requirement of new curriculum. There is a movement now to change the curriculum to make it more appropriate for the fast changing world but nothing has come out. The worst thing to happen is none of the education bills got passed by the parliament which is very crucial for the sector and I think it is crime against the whole education sector.”
Prof Pankaj Jalote, Director, Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) Delhi speaking about the various developments of 2012 said, “Overall talk about the need to increase research, and some initiatives from DST, on that front were good. Finally, there is an understanding that research capability is very important for future.”
Talking about the disappointments of the year Prof Jalote said,” there are many, no clarity on allowing foreign universities; no loosening of restrictions on government research grants which remain very restrictive and counter to the goals of doing globally competitive research; not much movement on autonomy of universities in general; no real thought on how to reinvigorate the affiliating university-affiliated college model, which exists nowhere by in India (and Nepal, I am told). Funding for research is still very low.”
Ashok Mittal, Chancellor, Lovely Professional University (LPU) said, “The most welcome development in the education sector in 2012 was the hike of 21.7 per cent in allocation of funds towards implementing of Right to Education - Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and 29 per cent for Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan. We need to plough heavy funds in our elementary education set up; and it is pleasing to see that government is committed to strengthen education at grass root level.  The proposal to set up a Credit Guarantee Fund is also a reason to cheer. The fund will ensure that lack of money will not come in the way of spreading education at the school level. Furthermore, on a pilot basis PPP schemes for 2,500 schools has been announced; which is a big move in bringing the  private players  to play their role in reinforcing the strength of Indian education set up. Setting aside RS. 1000 crores for skill development of students is a step forward to incorporate the practical aspect of education, and is a well appreciated initiative.
Speaking about the disappointments, Ashok Mittal said, “There is a need to deregulate the education sector and accord greater autonomy to the players – both government and private. But it is discouraging to see that various steps are being taken by the government that limit autonomy and reinforce regulatory roles of external bodies. Yes, we understand that regulations are needed to clip the wings of arbitrary and non-serious players. But at the same time, we feel that too much of control inhibit the growth and potential of good players. This is a reason to feel disappointed.  Secondly, FDI in education is welcome; but it should be preceded with careful planning. Indian education set up is distinctly different from what is practised in other countries. Hence, what is applicable and successful in some foreign country, may not hold equally good in Indian settings.”
Prof V S Chand, IIM Ahmadabad said, “The lack of progress on the Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Bill is the biggest disappointment for the whole education sector. There is need for immediate progress on it to bring clarity.”
Expectations from 2013: Passing of the impending Bills is what Ajit Rangnekar believes should be the first priority of the government in 2013. “For 2013, I am hopeful that all the Bills that are struck in the parliament get passed and become an Act; government has got good ideas and these Acts and the way in which government wants to move are moves in the right direction. If the political parties even do not allow education acts to pass it is very unfortunate and this is very wrong thing against national interest.”
While Pankaj Jalote added that increased research funding, more transperancy and autonomy in the university system would be required in 2013. “Boost in research funding; regulations to bring in autonomy and transparency of information from colleges/institutes/universities; a sound Indian system of comparing/evaluating the capabilities of institutions (ranking by magazines do a shoddy job - a much more rigorous setup is needed); allow foreign universities to set up campuses here, provided they have a strong PhD program (i.e. at least 20 per cent of their student population is PhD students) - besides this there should be no other restriction, as this restriction will ensure that they invest heavily, produce the research manpower which is desperately needed, besides doing education at the bachelor level - which is a huge attraction for many foreign universities.”
Ashok Mittal spelling out his wishlist for 2013 said, “We hope that the government will come up with policies that will provide a level playing turf for all the players in the sector.   There is a need for framing such policies that will help the private players to bloom to the fullest of their potential; and contribute to the development of the nation. It is expected that in coming year, the government will fund R&D works profusely; and will include private universities as beneficiaries also.”
“We expect that government will frame more proactive policies that will augment the Vocational training and skill development amongst the students. We hope that the government will restructure its regulatory framework in such a way that will help in more inclusive growth in literacy, education services at affordable costs and assurance of quality across the spectrum of education providers. It needs to be ensured that sub-standard education services are eliminated from the scene, for once and all,” added Mittal. 
Meanwhile, Prof V S Chand belives that sharp focus on management of elementary education in Indian districts should be a key challenge that needs immediate attention. “First, I hope to see a sharp focus on the management of elementary education in the 100 or so problematic districts in the country. Second, a new model of innovation in the public elementary education system which is more grounded in the experiences of teachers of improving quality, and is supported by policy entrepreneurship from the state.”
Though 2012 was a mixed year for the sector, 2013 seems to be a promising year which will see a sea of changes taking place in the sector and if the Bills which are pending in the Parliament get passed, they would change the face of the Indian Higher Education sector completely.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hey parties, don’t leave those kids alone!

By M H Ahssan

It’s time politicians talked about spending on public education in their manifestos

While issues like physical security and economic well being are taken up in big way during elections, the issues of a young mind growing up in an increasingly demanding and challenging world, have often been left out. With the importance of education growing in the economy as well as in family aspirations and expenditure, child rights issues could be a differentiator in political manifestos.

“Child welfare has traditionally been seen as a responsibility of the family, rather than the state. That is why the state, for a brief period of time, even penalised parents whose children were not in school,” said Child, Rights and You (CRY) spokesperson P Krishnamoorthy. The first breakthrough came in the form of the right to education bill, which is yet to become an act.

Indian children contribute to 9% of the world’s child population, and form 40% of our population. While 56% of our children enroll in primary schools, only 48% of them complete 8th standard, and 10% complete higher education. However, there has been an increase in family expenditure on education, particularly among the lower classes, from 6% of household income to 20%.

“Now, there is parental expectation for the state to aid in the education of their children, particularly in south where the success rates of welfare programmes like the noon meal scheme have been higher,” said UNICEF education specialist Aruna Rathnam.

“However, to capitalise on this expectation, political parties need to have the will and the nuance to not only include the right kind of promises in the manifesto, but also to educate their vote banks on the importance of public education,” Ms Rathnam said. “It is even a political responsibility to do so as skill training and knowledge acquisition become even more important in times of slump in economy.”

CRY has come up with its election charter of demands, for all political parties, putting child welfare in the larger socio-economic context, rather than as a standalone. “We believe that the rapid appropriation of resources that we are engaged in now, is an injustice to the future generations, and directly affects the welfare of our children,” said Mr Krishnamoorthy. “Hence the need to include a demand to introspect our development paradigm in our charter.”

While the issue of land and livelihood has been well debated in discussions on rehabilitation of communities living in a to-be-industrialised space, the issue of displacement of their children has never been considered. “The cultural and social affectations on children uprooted from their ‘home’ are at times drastic,” Mr Krishnamoorthy said. “Children living in coastal areas are bewildered and unhappy about a shift to the hills; tribal children are attached to the forests that they live in.”

Based on the above, CRY seeks for rehabilitation and resettlement is sought to be child sensitive and child centric. “This includes providing an education and child-centric living infrastructure in the rehabilitated space, as well as empowering the community to take best care of its young population,” Mr Krishnamoorthy said. “The same demands hold for children displaced by migration or demise of their parents too. Adopting such children in welfare homes should come only as a last resort.”

On the education front, the organisation seeks a more stringent regulatory framework for private primary and school education institutions. “Each of the school education boards regulate tuition fees levied by the schools registered with them. But, there is no regulation on the rest of the fees, for uniform, books, building, transport etc,” Ms Rathnam said. CRY, despite placing the onus on public education, demands a over-arching central regulatory body as with any other sector.

“This brings us to our other demand — that of equity in education through a common school system,” Mr Krishnamoorthy said. “The TN government has responded with the proposal for a universal board of education.”

It seeks the inclusion of pre-primary and higher education in the right to education bill, which provides only for children aged 6 to 14. “For those aged above 14, but below 18, there is no guarantee of education and protection, and simultaneously no entitlement or empowerment to participate fully in political and economic processes,” Mr Krishnamoorthy said. “As the right to life is defined as living with dignity and protection, which can only be enabled through education and employment, it is important to guarantee education till the age of 18.”

“There have been fragmented populist attempts at fulfiling the guarantee, like the sarva siksha abhyan and activity based learning. But, on the whole, we require larger public participation in issues of child welfare, and not exclusivity through privatisation,” Mr Krishnamoorthy said. “To achieve that, we need an increase in government expenditure on education to 10% of GDP.” Whereas, it has actually reduced from 3.81% to 3.54% even as the last election target was 6%.

“It has been estimated that the state needs Rs 90,000 crore, 0.7% of GDP, to implement the right to education as it guarantees, and it collected Rs 9000 crore as education cess alone last year. It is not an unachievable target,” he added. The organisation applies the same arguments for regulation of private institutions to healthcare too. Figures on infant, child and infant mortality rates in India, are by now, popular. At 59, 74 and 39 deaths per 1000 respectively, they are only marginally better than their status in 1990 at 79, 109 and 49 deaths per 1000 respectively. 42.5% of Indian children are malnutritioned, compared to 7% in China, and more along the lines of sub-saharan Africa.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Right To Education Act: Is It Helping In Achieving National Education Mission?

Education is one of the many things that can develop a nation in a big way. Education gives the people of the nation a life to live. Unfortunately, in our country, education has been limited only to those people with a strong economical background. And since, the majority of the nation is lingering in poverty; education for all was not being possible.

Keeping all these points in view, the government had implemented the Right to Education Act to achieve the national education mission.

The Right to Education Act – A brief history
In the year 2005, a rough draft of this bill was composed. But because of its specification to give 25 percent reservation to disadvantaged children, it received huge opposition. As a reply, the drafting committee pressed the point that this provision was a very imperative move to create a democratic as well as educated society.

This education bill was approved by the cabinet in 2009. It received Presidential approval and was notified in the law as ‘The Children’s Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act.’

The insides of the RTE Act

Highlights of the act:

  • This act makes education compulsory to every child between the ages of 6 and 14.
  • Under this act, every private school should reserve 25 percent of the seats to underprivileged and economically backward children.
  • Donations, capitation fees or interviews of the child or the parents are prohibited in the school admissions.
  • And also, those schools that are unrecognized by the government don’t come under this act.

A few facts of the RTE Act:

  • The RTE Act is the first of its kind in the world where it is the government’s responsibility to ensure equal and compulsory education for all. In most other countries like the US and UK, the responsibility of children’s education lies with the parents, and not with the government.
  • When it comes to children under the age of 18 with disabilities, there is a separate education act for them, known as the ‘Persons with Disabilities Act.’
  • There is a special organization called the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, which is in charge of monitoring and the implementation of the RTE Act.

The RTE Act: Criticism and Analysis
Despite its stature and reputation, the RTE act was subject to many controversies and criticisms too. A few of them are as under.

  • Many educationalists put forth that the act was drafted hastily; just for namesake. It was designed without the consultation of various educational groups. There have also been statements like the quality of education was not taken into consideration while drafting the act.
  • Most of the schools set up in the rural areas were criticized to be corruption-ridden. And also, there were speculations that the teachers in most government schools resorted to absenteeism. The appointments of particular teachers were politically designed.
  • It has also been noted that around 55 percent of urban children attend private schools, and this rate is growing every year by 3 percent. The reason, as most entrepreneurs feel, is that the children are not attending government schools because the teachers don’t show up.
  • Though the act states the admission of children without any certification, there are many schools under this act in various states which don’t follow this sincerely. Most schools insist the children to produce caste and income certificates, and also birth certificates. Because of this, orphans are unable to get admissions into schools. The government was questioned regarding this issue, if any changes were being made, but the government’s reply was just silence.

Various sociologists and educationalists have analysed the RTE Act. And what they have come up with is not at all supportive to the idea of development. Their analysis and statements show clearly the carelessness of the government in the amendments made to the RTE Act. The analysis is as follows:

- Providing quality education is one of the main objectives that come under the RTE Act. Unfortunately, the very education in the government schools is of serious concern. Over the years, the educational standards in government schools have been going down drastically.

- When it comes to the enrolment and admissions, there has been considerable nationwide progress. But, the number of students attending classes in the government schools is falling at the same rate too. One of the findings of the analysts is that in spite of lack of staff in most government schools, teachers remain absent. The attendance of teachers is directly proportionate to the quality of education, which is missing in most of the government schools.

- Despite the large number of enrolments of children, over 50 percent of the students of 5th grade lack the basic knowledge and skills that are expected in a 2nd grade student. Haven’t all these things come under the notice of the government? If yes, doesn’t the RTE act have the power to make the required corrections?

- As already said, the RTE act directs all the schools to reserve 25 percent of seats to the economically backward and underprivileged children. And it is obvious that this will change the classroom structure. Analysis says that the present Indian scene of mixed and diversified classroom is not at all encouraging. The children from the weaker sections of the society are discriminated within the classroom itself, on the basis of caste, creed and ethnicity. Though our Indian constitution prohibits discrimination on various grounds and marks it as a punishable offence, discrimination is still happening in classrooms, as a result of the RTE act.

Education is the basic and a very important right of every Indian citizen. And when more than two-thirds of the nation’s populace doesn’t have access to proper and quality education, we can just see where our nation is heading. We have seen the criticisms and the analysis the RTE act had faced and undergone. The question here is, will this act help in achieving the national education mission, that is, education for all? Will there be a hundred percent literacy rate in our country?

There are many fears regarding the 25 percent seat allotment for the children from the weaker sections. By doing this, the government has justified the poor quality of education in government schools. One more glitch in the RTE act is that will the children who are enrolled in private schools will be able to cope up and adjust with the standards of education culture in elite schools.

To put in a single line, the RTE act is more of a collection of loopholes in regard to quality education and funding, teacher availability and skills and discrimination. And will this act help in achieving national educational mission? Definitely not, if the loopholes remain loopholes. There should be quality education on the government schools also. Teachers should be appointed on merit basis, not politically or on the basis of relation. Strict punishments should be issued for teacher absenteeism. Above all, discrimination on any social basis should be completely abolished. Only after all these things happen, RTE act can really and completely be successful in our country.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Have Reservations Helped Disadvantaged Students In India Get A Higher Education?


A study shows that a significant number of students from scheduled castes and scheduled tribes have been helped through affirmative action.

As many as 26% male and 35% female students from India’s most disadvantaged castes and tribes in 245 engineering colleges would not be there without reservation, according to a new study that says affirmative action policy in higher education works largely as intended.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Analysis: Understanding The Typical Election Manifestos

By Likha Veer | INNLIVE

A manifesto is generally defined as ‘a published declaration of the intentions, motives or views of an individual, group, political party or government whosoever issues it’. (Election Commission of India (ECI) 2013) Manifestos are employed by ideological movements to explain in detail ‘the rationale behind, the goals of, and the prognosticated path of, the movement.’ 

The Oxford dictionary defines manifesto as ‘a public declaration of the policy and aims of a group such as political party’. Election manifestos are of different genre with different set of purposes. ‘The election manifesto normally contains the declared ideology of the political party concerned in general and its policies and programmes for the Country/State and people at large. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Why The State Of India’s Primary Education Is Shocking?

Do you expect a steady migration of students from government to private schools and a rapid fall in quality of education in a country where education is a constitutionally guaranteed fundamental right?

Then, that is the story of rural India, where 70 percent of the country’s population live. Its present and future generations are in a royal mess: poor families are spending a lot of hard-to-find cash to get half-baked education for their children.

Even as the government undertakes to educate all its children under the Right to Education (RTE) Act, private schools are mushrooming in rural India and attract 10 % more students every year, compared to the previous year.

It is such a tragedy that by next year, when UPA seeks fresh mandate for all its welfare schemes, 41 percent of the primary school children will be paying for their education and there is no guarantee that what they learn is of any quality or consequence.

At this rate, sooner than later, India’s education sector will resemble its crumbling public health system in which three-fourth of the people pay for their health expenditure.

The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER 2012) for rural India, released a few days ago by PRATHAM, an NGO, exposes the shocking mess that our school education is in. With longitudinal data from 2008, the report shows how the country is falling into dangerous lows both in terms of quality and the invasion of the private sector.

Let’s look at some key facts of the ASER.

First, on the quality of education:
In 2008, only about 50 percent of Standard 3 students could read a Standard 1 text, but by 2012, it declined to 30 percent – a fall of 16 percent. About 50 percent of the Std 3 kids cannot even correctly recognise digits up to 100, where as they are supposed to learn two digit subtraction. In 2008, about 70 percent of the kids could do this.

Not only that the country is unable to improve the learning skills of half its primary school children, in the last four years, it has fallen to alarming lows. Similar deterioration in standards of education was also noted among Std 5 students.

Importantly, the report notes that the decline is cumulative, which means that the “learning decline” gets accumulated because of neglect over the years. The poor quality of education from Std 1 pulls down their rate of learning progressively so that by the time they are in Std 5, their level of learning is not even comparable to that of Std 2.

The private schools are “relatively unaffected” but their low standards remain low. They have also shown a “downturn” in maths beyond number recognition.

The poor quality of education and rate of decline are however not uniform across India. Some states are low in quality, but are staying where they are (Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh) while some have higher levels of education, which are neither improving nor deteriorating (Himachal Pradesh, Kerala and Punjab).

It also says that the decline is more noticeable since 2010, when the RTE came into effect, indicating targets of blanket coverage compromising quality and standards.

Second, on privatisation:
The report notes that the private sector is making huge inroads into education in rural India. By 2019, when the RTE would have done a decade, it will be the majority service provider. The private sector involvement will also be strengthened by 25 percent quota of the government (under the RTE Act).

Quoting DISE (District Information System of Education) data, it says that Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Goa have more than 60% of private enrollment in primary schools. Andhra, Maharashtra and Karnataka are at 40 percent, while UP is at 50%. Ironically, the highest private sector enrollment is in Kerala, where successive governments claim commitment to welfare policies, particularly on education and health.

Besides private schools, parents also spend considerable amount of money on private tuitions, making quality education more inaccessible to people without money.

What do these findings tell us?
That the country is in a serious crisis – its quality of school education is startlingly low and is in free fall, while the private sector is exploiting this weakness even in rural India. Although the study doesn’t throw considerable light on the reasons of the decline and possible corrective steps, it does indicate a correlation between the acceleration of the deterioration and the implementation of the RTE Act.

If the correlation is correct, it is clear yet again that a populist and insincere political instrument does more harm than good. When the Act was passed, there were misgivings by many – particularly on the haste, lack of appropriate consultation with all stakeholders and also on the logic of applying a uniform principle across states with huge disparity in coverage and quality of education. In some states such as Kerala, Himachal and Punjab it was evidently superfluous.

Even after two years, it’s still not clear, how the finances are met and if the states are committed at all. The estimates in 2010 for the implementation of RTE was pegged at about Rs 210,000 crores with centre shouldering 68 percent of the burden.

Whether the RTE is being implemented or not, it’s abundantly clear that it is certainly not working. “There has been a feeling that RTE may have led to relaxation of classroom teaching since all exams and assessments are scrapped and no child is to be kept back. Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation(CCE) is now a part of the law and several states are attempting to implement some form of CCE as they understand it,” says the report.

“Does CCE catch this decline? Are teachers equipped to take corrective action as the law prescribes? Is corrective action going to be taken? Given the magnitude of the problem, it will be a good idea to focus just on basics at every standard and not treat it as a “remedial” measure. At this stage, teaching-learning of basic foundational skills should be the main agenda for primary education in India.”

As the report notes there is a national crisis in learning. The quality of education and performance of the students in both government and private schools have to improve and the government has to check the invasion of the sector by private capital.

Higher education has long since been sold out and today it is only the preserve of those with money. With or our without RTE, even the primary school education is moving in the same direction.

If markets are to run the country, why do we need governments?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Why The State Of India’s Primary Education Is Shocking?

By Dr. Shelly Ahmed (Guest Writer)

Do you expect a steady migration of students from government to private schools and a rapid fall in quality of education in a country where education is a constitutionally guaranteed fundamental right? Then, that is the story of rural India, where 70 percent of the country’s population live. Its present and future generations are in a royal mess: poor families are spending a lot of hard-to-find cash to get half-baked education for their children.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

School Education Abroad Catches The Fancy Of Indian Parents

Varun Dhawan, a 14-year-old resident of south Mumbai, has packed his bags with plenty of warm clothes and is ready to go. No, he is not going for a vacation, but is going to study at a boarding school in the US, from his Grade-VIII onwards. He is not alone. Dhawan joins a host of other Indian children who have now started moving abroad to study, starting from secondary education itself.

With a higher disposable income, affluent parents in India are not averse to the idea of sending their children abroad for school education. Educationists and education consultants say there has been a 25-30 per cent rise in the number of students going abroad for higher education.

Sunitha Perumal, country head of EF International Academy, said, "People from the upper class send their children to schools abroad. Opportunities that would be available abroad and subject combinations are very vibrant." EF International Academy provides education from grades 9 to 12 in its four campuses in the UK, US and Canada, and has seen students coming from across the world, including India, said Perumal.

For parents who do not want to send their children very far, countries like Singapore and West Asian nations offer a good opportunity. Abraham John, chairman, The Indian School, Bahrain, said the school had become a preferred destination for school education in the country. The school currently has 10,200 students; their number increased by over 1,200 in academic year 2012-13.

"Approximately, 90 per cent students are Indians in our school," John said, adding the school followed the Central Board of Secondary Education, and placed an equal emphasis on sports and other activities.

In terms of most popular destinations, educationists said countries like the US, UK and Australia followed by Germany, Singapore and Switzerland were preferred by Indian parents.

On an average, the fee structure for grades 8 to 12 is significantly higher in foreign countries, compared to India. Sample this: The parent of a grade 8 student in an average Indian school in a metro has to pay an annual tuition fee of Rs 25,000, with an additional Rs 10,000 spent on books, uniform and stationary. In an average school in the US, the fee structure may range from Rs 15 to 30 lakh depending on its size and location.

"Though schools abroad are very expensive, we are seeing an increasing number of Indian parents sending their children there. Even individuals from non-metros such as Jalandhar, Surat, Ludhiana and Indore are opting to send their children abroad for school education," said Naveen Chopra, founder and chairman of The Chopras, an overseas education consultancy.

Apart from global exposure, the option to choose from a wide range of subjects, including music and fine arts, is one of the primary reasons why parents send children to schools abroad. "In India, though schools offer facilities like music, dance and sports, these are termed extra-curricular activities. The schools do not take these activities seriously, as they are considered as components over and above the school curriculum," said a New Delhi-based consultant.

In schools abroad, small classes with an average student strength of 15 to 25, with equal emphasis on other aspects of learning, are a 'pull-factor', said consultants. "In countries like the US, there is no undue pressure on students during Grades 9-12, unlike we have here for the board examinations for these grades. Hence, parents who can afford the education there, prefer to send children to schools abroad for holistic learning, compared to textbook education in most Indian schools," said a education sector expert.

A Mumbai-based education consultant said that unlike degree education, visa regulations of most overseas nations placed lesser restrictions on students travelling to those countries for school education. "They do not see these students as a threat to the locals, in terms of employment, which is an issue for higher education courses. Hence, it is relatively easier to get a visa for pursuing school education," said the consultant.

While an overall percentage of students from India are going abroad, the percentage of those going for school education is still small. Educationists expect this trend to continue. Industry experts said that in the next five years, there would be a 30-35 per cent rise in the number of students going abroad for school education.

According to research by the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIM-B), Indian student flows to the world grew by 256 percent between 2000 and 2009. The numbers increased from 53,266 to 1,89,629 in the same period.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Tody's Education Beyond Teaching, Tests And Textbooks

By Sultana Shiraz / INN Live

If our school education has to make a mark, it has to surpass tests and textbooks, argues INN Live

School education has become a mere jumble of books, syllabus, portions, homework, tests, exams, marks, grade, percentage, detentions, and impositions. Is there anything more to school education beyond these? There seems to be no proper data of improvement in learning outcomes with such education. When young minds are forced to get molded into this rigmarole it saddens our hearts.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Indian Education Needs a Big Change

By M H Ahssan

The current regulatory regime imposes five heavy costs on our higher education system. Newsindia dissects them here…

The biggest lesson of the last twenty years of economic reforms is that growth comes from the 3Es - Education, Employability and Employment. This is reinforced by the view at the exit gate of the higher education system. India is in on a higher education emergency. Our higher education system needs to deliver quantity, quality and inclusiveness. However, the current regulatory regime is sabotaging all the three requirements.

Five explicit costs which the current regulatory system imposes on our youth are:

Lower Capacity  
India’s Gross Enrolment ratio of 11% is half the world average and 20% of developed countries. Of the 8 million who pass the Class 12th exam every year, only about 5 million enter higher education and almost 3 million disappear. Most importantly, the 100% cut off of institutions like Shri Ram College of Commerce (I had joined this college in 1987) can only have three explanations. First these kids are smarter than us; highly unlikely. Second 90 is the new 70; possible. Third, this is the price of a bag of rice in a famine; only 10 lakh kids took the Class 12 exam in 1987 but this year more than 1.2 crore kids took the exam yet the number of seats has not moved much. Our demographic dividend means that 1 million kids will join the labour force every month for the next 20 years; we have no choice, we need a massive expansion of our higher education system.

Lower Competition
The current regulatory regime uses a bunch of input-related factors (land, building, ratios, etc) and require a trust structure for operation. This creates a de facto license Raj in higher education. This license Raj means that the key skill for education entrepreneurs is to get ahead in regulatory arbitrage and this leads to an adverse selection among education entrepreneurs because it biases the field in favour of politicians, criminals and land mafia. This means that first generation entrepreneurs backed by third party capital are unable to create organisations that would add to capacity. This creates big issues because the quality of so-called private education and private entrepreneurs becomes a self-referential argument against private education.

Lower Inclusiveness
Because of lower capacity and competition, the current higher education system is not inclusive when you unpack the Gross Enrolment ratio from a geographic, gender or disadvantaged group perspective. More than 330 of our districts have lower gross enrolment ratios than the national average. The ratios for women and scheduled castes and tribes are between 25-35% lower than the national average. While the case for reservation of seats in higher education is complex, the most important antidote to lack of inclusiveness will be a massive expansion of capacity.

Lower Lifelong Learning
Our higher education system is designed for full-time students between the age of 18-25. But besides the flow of new students from school, there are a number of participants in the labour force who would like to complete, continue to start their higher education but need more flexibility. This flexibility today is sabotaged by the apartheid in distance education and the lack of a qualification corridor. The distance education solution is obvious; large campuses need to be legitimately and massively supplemented with four other classrooms; cloud, satellite, on-the-job and small study centres. The lack of a qualification corridor between a 3-month certificate, a 1-year diploma, a 2-year associate degree and a 3-year degree has sabotaged vertical mobility. The proposed National Vocational Educational Qualification Framework is a great move but requires a level of co-ordination between the Ministry of HRD, Labour, and the States, which is yet to be created.

Lower Employability
The lack of employability (soft skills, computers, etc) is pervasive among many graduates. In fact, graduate unemployment is higher than normal unemployment. This low employability arises for many reasons; lower competition, centralised setting of curriculum, no modularity, the lack of employer involvement and the lack of credit for formal apprenticeships. India has only 2.5 lakh apprentices while much smaller countries like Japan (10 million) and Germany (6 million) have shown how integrating on-the-job training into learning can greatly improve employment outcomes. We estimate that about 58% of India’s youth suffer some degree of unemployability.

Last mile: Interventional or structural?
The policy agenda around skills is not impossible or unknown. Employment Exchanges need to become public-private partnership career centres that offer counselling, assessment, training, apprenticeships and job matching. The Apprenticeship Act of 1961 must be amended to view an apprenticeship as a classroom rather than a job and shift the regulatory thought regime from push (employers under the threat of jail) to pull (make them volunteers). The National Vocational Educational Qualification Framework must be agreed to by the States and the Ministries of Labour and HRD as the unifying open architecture tool for recognition of prior learning and vertical mobility between school leavers, certificates, diplomas and degrees. Delivery systems are in the hands of the States and each State must create a skill mission or vocational training corporation tasked with building capacity and quality. The States should also create asset banks to make existing government real estate available for skill delivery.

Need for English skills
All schools must teach English because English is like Windows; an operating system that creates geographic mobility and improves employment outcomes by 300%. Schools and Colleges must selectively embed vocational subjects ,particularly soft skills, into their curriculum.

Flexibility of options
The regulatory cholesterol around national distance education (mail order, e-learning and satellite) must be reviewed to offer flexible options for workers already in the workforce and the geographically disadvantaged. We must create a national network of community colleges offering two-year associate degrees; these colleges, rooted in the local ecosystem, will serve the informal sector (92% of employment). This missing mezzanine layer – their two years programmes are not normal degrees on a diet but vocational training on steroids – would bridge the gap between vocational education and training but make the system more inclusive. Finally, we must create skill vouchers that will allow financially disadvantaged students to get trained, wherever they want at government expense.

No room for delay
It’s late but not too late to change. Mughal Emperor Jahangir told his gardener in Kashmir that if a tree takes 100 years to mature, that’s all the more reason to plant  it as soon as possible. In other words, the best time to start changing our higher education system was 1991 but the second best time is today.

Monday, March 17, 2014

MY INDIA - MY VOTES: Reforming Indian Education System

By Siddhi Sharma | INNLIVE

Education is our fundamental rights, as we all know. But the question here is do we understand the difference between being literate and being educated, in its real sense? The world respects the Indian intelligence, but are we recognizing their talent? Are we doing something to enhance their skills or provide them the required infrastructure, guidance and a constructive environment for their growth and progress. 

Aren’t we just burdening them with theoretical knowledge and not providing them the requisite skills to face the real life situations?There are so many grounds where we lack and lack terribly. This time while we vote lets pledge a zero tolerance for any loophole in our education system. For we know, one loophole and the entire vision of being a developed nation, flushes down the drain. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

India’s Education System Fails To Make The Grade

Children between the ages of six and 14 belonging to the economically weaker sections of society in India are entitled to free education under the Right to Education (RTE) Act. But going by the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) for 2012, which was released earlier this month, it may take a lot more to ensure that the quality of education imparted to those children is of acceptable standards.

ASER is the largest annual household survey of children in rural India focusing on the status of schooling and basic learning. Facilitated by Pratham, a Mumbai-based NGO, ASER 2012 covered over 330,000 households and about 600,000 children in the age group of three to 16.

According to the report, around 13% of children in grades one to five could not read at all and around 11% were not able recognize numbers from one to nine. Only 46.8% of all children in grade five were able to read a grade two level text. This number, in fact, has been declining over the past two years from 53.7% in 2010 and 48.2% in 2011. In mathematics, too, there has been a significant drop. In 2010, 70.9% of the children enrolled in grade five were able to solve simple two-digit subtraction problems with borrowing. This proportion declined to 61% in 2011 and 53.5% in 2012.

The report also points out that the decline in reading levels is higher among children in government schools as compared to those in private schools. At present, over 90% of schools in India are either run directly by the government or are government funded. But according to ASER 2012, in the six to 14 age group, enrollment in private schools across the country has increased from 18.7% in 2006 to 28.3% in 2012. The report adds: “If this trend continues, by 2018 India may have 50% of children attending private schools even in rural areas.” In contrast, in the U.S. more than 80% of children attend public schools and in U.K., this number is over 90%.

Talking to the media, Pratham Education Foundation CEO-president Madhav Chavan said that RTE has come to mean “the right to schooling and not to learning and education.” A statement by ASER 2012 notes: “The guarantee of education is meaningless without satisfactory learning. There are serious implications for India’s equity and growth if basic learning outcomes do not improve soon.”

Meanwhile, the quality of teacher training in India is also a matter of huge concern. According to the Central Board of Secondary Education, last year, 795,000 candidates took the Central Teacher Eligibility Test (CTET). More than 99% of these candidates failed to pass the test. CTET certification is mandatory to become a teacher for grades one to eight in central government schools.

Commenting on the shortage of trained teachers, a recent report by Mumbai-based rating agency India Ratings and Research titled, “2013 Outlook: Indian Education Sector,” covering both primary school and higher education notes that “most organizations will find it challenging to comply with the prescribed student-teacher ratio (STR) in the coming years.” The report also adds that although the government’s spending on education in financial year 2012 increased to 3.35% of GDP from 2.62% in 2005, “the infrastructure for both school and higher education needs to be upgraded to provide better quality education and absorb new enrollments.”

Pointing out that quality of education provided by schools is directly related to the quality of its management, T. V. Mohandas Pai, chairman of Manipal Global Education Services and formerly head of human resources at Infosys says: “The quality of leadership in government schools is inadequate and they are very poorly managed. Over the past 20 years, due to political [pressure] poorly educated teachers have been recruited, often with no relevant qualifications. Post recruitment training too is inadequate.”

According to Pai, the fundamental flaw in India’s schooling system is the controls and restrictions implemented by the central and state governments. “It is very difficult to open a new school in the English medium across India, [and the existing ones] are subject to regular harassment and unable to expand freely.” Pai suggests that the only solution to stem further decline in India’s education system is to open it up. “Stop funding government schools and fund the child so that parents have a choice of schools.”

Thursday, June 02, 2016

New Education Policy: What Does Government Have To Hide? 


A committee tasked with making the draft policy submitted a 250-page document to the HRD ministry on May 27, but the ministry has refused to make it public.

On May 16, Minister for Human Resource Development Smriti Irani said in an interview to the state-run All India Radio that the government expected to receive a draft New Education Policy in 15 to 20 days. At the time of this writing, the ministry has said that it does not have a draft education policy.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Producing Degrees, Not Brilliance: Just A ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ Scheme Won’t Be Enough

Women’s empowerment has suddenly become the most talked about socio-cultural issue in the South Asia region. A case in point would be the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ scheme that was recently launched in Haryana by the Prime Minister. The Government scheme aims to educate girl children and work towards providing better welfare services for women in the country.

Education as the Means and the End
There is a general consensus about the fact that for many young girls and women living in a country like India, which is imbibed in deep patriarchal practices, education is an important tool for achieving the goal of empowerment.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Vocational Education - Plugging the skills gap

By M H Ahssan

There is a great shortage of people with employable skills. But vocational training is neither popular nor seen to be offering good job options. The challenge is to overcome this perception.

Most policy decisions in India invoke the 'guns and butter' trade-off - we have limited resources, many conflicting uses for these resources and our policy makers therefore have to make hard choices. However, there are some critical issues, the solutions for which lie less in resource allocation, and more with a change in policy and mindset. This article focuses on one such issue - the severe need that India has for skilled workers, and the inability of our existing vast educational system to produce them.

According to the International Labour Organisation, India has approximately 39 million registered unemployed persons. There are probably another 260 million who are underemployed or unemployed in the age group of 18-50 years, according to iWatch, a Mumbai-based voluntary organisation. At the same time, the organised private sector is struggling to find skilled workers, which in turn is impacting its ability to compete on a global scale.

Take the example of steel. India is targeting an increase in steel capacity by 120 per cent, to 120 million tons by 2019-2020. To achieve this, in the next few years more than eight million skilled people will be required to work in this sector. According to industry experts such as Tata Steel's HR head B N Sarangi, the country lacks the skill development centres to supply these human resources. This is the tragedy of our labour scenario - a large number of unemployed and unemployable young Indians, who are hungry to learn, but who lack the skills needed to participate in the Indian growth story.

What is the solution to this glaring mismatch? A cursory glance at several industrialised nations indicates that a thriving, dominant Vocational Education and Training (VET) system can play a significant role in reducing this imbalance. Vocational education focuses on the creation of skills in specific trades that generate employability. Its focus is significantly different from higher education in that it recognises a very basic fact from operations theory - our products, services, and potentially our long-run welfare are only as good as the weakest link in the chain. Offering quality vocational education to our youth today is of paramount importance to India's economic and social development, if we want India to become to force to be reckoned with globally.

We live in a world with diverse and evolving production lines, which in turn require diverse skill sets. While a country needs someone to produce research on say, how to build the best goods, it also needs someone who is trained to a world-class level, to man and operate the technical apparatus used to produce and maintain these world-class goods and services. The weakest link in India today is not a lack of engineers and doctors, business school students or IT professionals. It is the lack of young skilled-workers to make our steel factories run, to provide top-notch ancillary services from automobile repair and white-goods installation to planning our cities better and improving our revenues from tourism.

Large numbers, little impact
Our ambitious growth forecasts are partly based on what is known as the 'demographic dividend'. India is a very young country with over 770 million people under the age of 35. The average age in India is 25 years, compared to China, where the average age is 34 years and Europe, America or Japan, where it is 40-45 years. We expect this to translate into higher growth, via improved output, production and consumption. But the 'dividend' cannot come from the numbers alone; the nation will also require its young population to have the skills that increase productivity and output.

According to the Modular Employment Skills (MES) initiative by the Directorate General of Employment and Training, (DGET) only about 2.5 million vocational training seats are available in the country, whereas about 12.8 million people enter the labour market every year. The large gap is partly due to the lack of high-quality VET institutions. However, there is also another reason; the student population does not perceive VET as an option that gets them what they aspire for. An optimal strategy has to address both why more Indian students are not taking up vocational education, as well as aim to correct the ineffectiveness of existing providers to attract and equip motivated students with skills to become part of a productive workforce.

The good news is that vocational education is making its way on to the radar of the various influential bodies that have the power to generate change. For instance, the Prime Minister's National Council on Skill Development has been established with a target of creating 500 million skilled people by 2022. There is growing engagement by the World Bank, the Human Resource Development Ministry, industry organisations like the FICCI and CII and various consultants who recognize the importance of a skilled and employable youth population.

Industry insiders, however, are aware that mechanisms for promoting vocational education have been around in the Government for ages, in different shapes and forms, and have failed dismally for the most part. There are close to 7000 ITIs, where training is imparted in 128 trades. The period of training varies from 6 months to 3 years, while the entry qualifications are academic and vary - from those who have passed Class 8 to 12. These institutions are widely perceived - both by students and the industry - as being ineffective and out of touch with industry needs. Of the 128 trades they teach, many such as turners, machinists and grinders have been rendered obsolete by technological advances. The curriculum for several of the others e.g. several engineering trades has not been revised in several decades.

This has led to a mass-churn of graduates who are not needed by the industry and are not equipped with the basic technical know-how of their trade and as a result are becoming a part of India's vast unemployment pool. At the same time, the government is encouraging private sector participation in the form of Public-Private-Partnerships (PPPs). However, due to the lack of a transparent and intuitive accreditation system, a multitude of unaccredited institutions have sprung up in places, and a lack of any formal accreditation makes accountability and quality control impossible. There are several thousand community polytechnics that are training about 450,000 people a year, and none of these programs has been evaluated rigorously.

Unfortunately, simply reducing existing government inefficiencies and involving the private sector will not automatically ensure that parents will want their children to take up vocational education. It is dangerous to discount the very deep-rooted stigma associated with vocational training. It is common perception amongst parents and students that going for any sort of vocational or skills-based training would lead to eventual employment (if at all) in a 'blue collar' job, which is considered less respectable. Also, vocational education is perceived as a dead-end, with no existing linkages to the formal higher education system.

Given these challenges, the critical message to get across is that not everyone should (as opposed to can) become an engineer, MBA, lawyer or a doctor. It is only by demonstrating that vocational education allows people to improve their livelihoods by getting jobs they desire that this mindset can be shifted.

At this stage, as the next new wave of vocational education and training approaches us, we need to ensure that we do not repeat mistakes from the past. This is all the more critical as the Government is planning to invest significant resources to scale up VET in India. It is critical that we step back and ask ourselves what key principles policy makers have to keep in mind while developing a model for the "perfect" institute for vocational education, which will be able to deal with both demand and supply hurdles faced by skills-based training today.

The Golden Rules for policy-makers
Vocational education has evolved over the last few decades in other countries, and their experiences are extremely valuable resources for our policy makers. The "golden rules" that a system of vocational education should follow are:

Institutions should be able to understand and evolve alongside industry needs, through a dynamic structure and deep involvement of industry practitioners in institution design and function.

Institutions should avoid narrow focus on just one skill, by equipping students with generic skills such as problem-solving, basic computer literacy, language and communication skills to make them employable.

Institutions should incorporate motivation into criteria for admission, as opposed to using purely academic benchmarks.

Components of general education within vocational education should be established, and institutions should have links with traditional higher education institutions.

The policy making process for vocational education should be streamlined, with transparent accountable mandates established for various supervisory entities.

Accreditation bodies should be publicly accountable and monitored on a regular basis.

Vocational education has evolved along different paths in different countries. For instance, Germany and Switzerland are amongst the best known for the close and successful involvement of governments and policy makers in developing a high quality system of training.

In Switzerland, over two-thirds of the young population goes in for vocational education, which is a mission shouldered jointly and transparently by the following entities: (a) Confederation (at the 'federal' level) - responsible for strategic management and development; (b) Cantons (at the 'state' level) - responsible for implementation and supervision; and (c) professional organisations - responsible for curricula and apprenticeships.

There is a national framework that is transparent and intuitive, in place for evaluation of quality, and there are well established linkages with industry and general higher education. VET follows a dual-track approach to learning, with students attending courses at vocational schools and developing practical skills by doing an apprenticeship at a host company.

Vocational education in Japan on the other hand, is mostly run by the private sector and boasts of some of the most innovative and responsive vocational training institutes. They offer some very compelling case-studies on the critical need for institutions to be able to evolve to meet the requirements of the economic landscape. Their focus has continually shifted in response to Japan's changing output profile. This was made possible by very strong linkages with industry, with courses on offer being dictated by societal needs coming from industry.

Also, motivation of the students is the sole basis for admission into several of these colleges, not academic ability. They accept all those who are motivated, and whenever the capacity is filled they close applications. Their teaching staff is learning constantly, and there is a healthy turnover in staff that often goes back to industry.

The advantages of a practitioner faculty are being widely recognized even outside the space of vocational education. A general higher education giant like the University of Phoenix subscribes almost completely to this model. Their faculty primarily comprises of industry practitioners who hold regular industry jobs and teach on a part-time basis. This model has generated shock-waves throughout the US since it goes against the traditional "knowledge-based" structure of higher education. However, the model has been a huge success where few can argue with the results as they are observed in placement statistics as well as the average quality of students.

Needed: A symbiotic relationship
The challenge for Indian policy makers is to ensure that both the supply-side players i.e. the government and the private sector, enter into a symbiotic relationship to battle the perception issue plaguing the demand for vocational education. They need to work with each other to create impact on a large-scale to plug the massive human resource gap. The government has the advantage of existing infrastructure, credibility and scale, whereas the private sector is innovative, dynamic with strong links to the industry space. At the same time, industry is recognizing the importance of having skilled workers and is coming forward to actively involve itself - we can see this in the form of several industries adopting ITIs and the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) entering into a partnership with corporate organizations such as IndiaCan.

There is no denying that the task ahead is daunting. Unsurprisingly, the single biggest source of hope lies in the youth. I recently visited Radaur, a village in Haryana with a population of under 15,000 people. The wide range of students, from Class 10 students to MBAs, were for the most part from modest backgrounds, with parents employed as sweepers, drivers and small shop owners. However, their motivation and hunger to succeed was evident, as was the recognition that in order to get employment they need to be equipped with not just a degree but with employable skills - trade based and soft.

This village is not unique in its youth desiring to "make it big." Dr. K L Johar, former Vice-Chancellor of a university in Haryana said to me, "the concept of participatory management is a panacea for educators, educational planners and administrators." Going by the same spirit, let us not just point fingers at our policy makers - they have a big responsibility, but ours is no less important. We can get the job done, together."

Friday, December 28, 2012

Can Technology Help Solve India’s Education Problems?

In the mid-1980s, semiconductor manufacturer Texas Instruments (TI) spotted India’s potential as a hub for research and development, and heralded a wave of tech multinationals moving into India. A few years ago, it expanded its operations in the country and stared looking at India also as a market for its semiconductor products.

Now, the company has taken a further step: Globally, TI has been in the education technology space for more than two decades, and a few weeks ago, it brought this to India. TI sees India not only as a strong market for its education technology solutions, but also believes that these can help the country to address the constraints it faces in the education sector.

TI has tied up with Indian firm CORE Education and Technologies, which focuses on content creation and teacher education to offer an integrated solution called STEMpower. (STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.) This includes laptops for teachers, networked handheld devices for students, software and content. “Some of the recent reforms in the education sector in India, like the focus on continuous and comprehensive evaluation and formative assessments, have interested TI in bringing our classroom training technology solutions here,’’ says Jagan Chelliah, director of sales and marketing, education technology at TI India. He adds: “Our intention is to refine [these solutions] over time to address the specific needs of the India market.”

During a press event, Sanjeev Mansotra, chairman and global CEO, CORE said: “STEM is about more than just education. It is about our economic future. The viable jobs of the 21st century will require high degrees of STEM literacy, and if our communities don’t have a STEM-literate workforce, those jobs can and will go elsewhere.”

Another technology multinational which recently introduced a new initiative in the Indian education sector is chip-maker Intel. In collaboration with the Karnataka government in September, Intel announced the launch of Computers On Wheels, an e-learning pilot program, in five districts across the state. It is based on the Intel Learning Series and includes infrastructure, hardware, software, content, training and support. The program is designed to deliver one-on-one e-learning in classrooms that is matched to local needs. “Advances in technology continue to transform how we live, work, play and learn. Intel is committed to making education accessible and engaging for all students,” says R. Ravichandran, director of sales, Intel South Asia.

Visvesvara Hegde Kageri, minister for primary and secondary education in the Karnataka government, sees the Intel initiative as a “very useful mechanism to enhance student learning by integrating innovative teaching methods” and by providing “a more engaging, interesting and experiential form of teaching and learning through smart use of technology.”

But how much of a role can technology really play at present in India’s education sector? S. Sadagopan, director at the International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore, points out that there are four parts to learning — lectures, library, laboratory and life. “Technology plays a critical role in all these,” he says. Sadagopan cities an example from the laboratories: “Frog dissection is completely gone…. Many expensive instruments can be made available to school children in less endowed places through technology.”
But Dilip Ranjekar, co–CEO of the Azim Premji Foundation, which focuses on primary education, offers another perspective.

Technology, Ranjekar says, can play an important role in education but only when the basic infrastructure is place. “In a vast number of schools in India, basic facilities like water, power and sanitation are inadequate. The teacher quality and involvement is also abysmal. These basic issues have to be addressed before there is any scope for technology to create any meaningful impact.”