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Sunday, 24 July 2016

Arun Jaitley credited globalisation, economy and technology for changing the entire landscape of legal education in India

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley credited globalisation, economy and technology for changing the entire landscape of legal education in India today. Super specialisation in law would be expected in vogue in times to come, Arun Jaitley said.

"Between three-pronged factors - globalisation, economy and technology - the entire landscape of legal education has changed, and hence you no longer have to concentrate on the traditional concepts of legal education like criminal and civil suit law," he said.

Jaitley also emphasized on super-specialisation taking over the charge in legal field. ome a successful lawyer, one has to improve upon the traditional legal educational concepts. In coming days we may find the traditional concepts hardly being used and super-specialisation will be the order of the day in legal field," said Jaitley.

The finance minister was addressing the inaugural ceremony of the new campus of the Law College administered by Karnataka Lingayat Education Society.

The minister said that it would be counterproductive to de-globalise the landscape of legal education.


Arun Jaitley also talked about the potential consequences of Brexit, the impact expected to be far-reaching.

"Brexit itself has contracted and narrowed down the economy. So, the consequences will be far more difficult to imagine today," the minister and a noted lawyer himself, said.


Directly linking country's growth with the need for training people in the services sector, Jaitley said that if India has to grow in the sector, the human minds need training to succeed.

"The Indian economic resources extend from agriculture to industry but when one actually breaks up the Indian economy, 60 per cent is services. And globally, India is a bigger powerhouse as far as services sector is concerned," he said.

National Education Policy in India and Creeping Saffronization

The first full-fledged National Education Policy in India was drafted and implemented in 1968 and the second in 1986. Barring some modifications in 1992 and in 2005, the first major overhaul of the 1986 policy has been taken up by the Modi government now, which is seeking to address and accommodate changes in the realm of education – at all levels from elementary to college education across rural and urban India. In April 2015, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) under Minister Smriti Irani announced the initiation of the consultation process for the formation of the New Education Policy (NEP)

According to the formal announcement, the aim was to respond to the “changing dynamics of the population’s requirement with regards to quality education, innovation and research” and help the country move towards becoming a knowledge superpower. The process was announced as a multiple level consultation process both on ground and online across stakeholders. Grass root opinions were soon to be garnered also from the Gram Panchayats (village councils) and online consultations had begun on thirty-three themes.

On May 27, 2016, the TSR Subramanian Committee entrusted with the preparation of the policy draft submitted its report to the ministry, aiming to give direction toward addressing quality concerns. The five-member panel of the committee had been given the task of compiling the MHRD’s collected feedback from the multiple consultations. The report was well over two hundred pages long and had about ninety suggestions. The ministry announced that it needed an evaluation before public release and that the actual new policy based on the report would take at least two more months to prepare.
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In June 2016, the head of the committee, Subramanian, urged Irani to make the report public before the final policy was out. He wrote to her saying that it was important to release it in public interest as the contents were not classified, and that after “soul searching” he felt that he ought to release it himself if she would not. While he has not released the full report so far, he was not the only person to place this pressure on the MHRD. The civil society organization Common Cause also made a request for complete content disclosure in order to facilitate informed public discussion on the first revamped NEP in three decades.

Irani responded to these requests by stating that the report was not the property of merely an individual and could only be made public once all the states had provided their opinions on it. At this stage she spoke of all the efforts made towards taking in public opinion, citing that the ministry had received written suggestions from about 110,000 villages. While the TSR Committee saw their report as a draft policy, the ministry at this juncture seemed to see it as only a set of recommendations, and said that they would release the actual draft when it was completed.

This is despite the fact that when the TSR Committee was appointed, it was called the ‘Drafting Committee for the New Education Policy’ and in the official press release its duties included the provision of a Framework for Action (FFA) for policy implementation. Subsequently it was rechristened the ‘Committee for Evolution of the New Education Policy’ and the FFA was not submitted as the policy was pending approval. The actual report is still not publicly available as of this writing.

The policy itself was to have been out by the end of last year, but has had multiple extensions on grounds of more extensive consultations. In the wake of this, the Modi government’s cabinet reshuffle seemed to throw a spanner in the works – Minister Smriti Irani was removed from the MHRD. Her tenure until the Modi government’s own halfway point had been rife with controversy – beginning with allegations of so-called saffronization by multiple groups not allied with the BJP. The suicide of Dalit scholar Rohit Vemula, the subsequent protests at the University of Hyderabad, and the controversy regarding the curbing of free speech at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi earlier this year added to the turbulence. Irani has been given the position of the new Textiles Minister.

Minister Prakash Javadekar who is the only one of Modi’s nineteen new appointees to make it to the Senior Cabinet has promised to ‘build upon her good initiatives’ and has said that he takes the issue of education very seriously and sees it as an emancipator and agent of change. Javadekar, who was a student activist during the Emergency period in India, has promised to come out with a “student-centric education policy.” He has invited comments on what is now a forty-three page report with inputs from the MHRD on the NEP draft.

He has further attempted to address some of the allegations against the MHRD in his speech at an event organized by the Bhartiya Shikshan Mandal, an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a prominent organization with heavy right-wing leanings. He said that education ought not to be reduced to a BJP versus Congress feud or be subject to party politics and said it was open for discussion. He has promised to let the aim of the new policy be to “raise the quality and encourage innovation” through education.

The allegations of saffronization have not fully settled despite his insistence that the views of all ideological sections were necessary for a good draft. The lack of appearance of the full report does not help his cause. Further, at the same event, strong arguments were made to encourage the teaching of Sanskrit in schools, and the recommendations for the policy are already reported to have a significant component of ‘value’ education – which has raised worries about the possibility for political manipulation. Other speakers at the event implied that this meant a need to teach the “basics of all religions” in order to inculcate religious harmony, but the steady emphasis on the need to provide a value system through education is rife in the MHRD document as well.

With the month end slated as the deadline for comments, one can only wait and see what the way forward is – and hope that a strong NEP 2016 emerges from the messy back and forth that its incubation process has been.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

The pressure on children to achieve high levels of academic system is making kids stressed and sick

When Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull sat his year 12 exams in 1972, he apparently didn't feel much pressure to do well.

"I wasn't as stressed out about the exams as perhaps I should have been," Mr Turnbull later recalled. "There's no point being anything other than chilled when you do the exam."

Just you try telling that to a high school student today.

Indeed, the pressure of school has ramped up considerably since the '70s; thanks in part to an education system now obsessed with a narrow definition of success — with standardised testing, ranking, comparison and competition — a disturbing number of young Australians suffer from depression and anxiety.

Clark's daughter was one of them, struggling — and often failing — every day during the two years of her Higher School Certificate (HSC) to attend classes, hand in assignments and show up for exams.

"By all the standard markers … my daughter graduated from school a failure," Clark writes in her new book, Beautiful Failures: How the Quest for Success is Harming Our Kids.

But it's not just the kids who 'fail' who are suffering, Clark says — those who 'succeed' are, too.

"This drive to achieve a number at the end of 12 years of schooling has become a kind of mania," she says.

"Overriding so much that is wonderful and exciting … about being educated."

Her daughter's struggles led Clark, a journalist with Guardian Australia, to ask questions about what is going so wrong with education in Australia that 26 per cent of children drop out of school, and many others lament losing their adolescence to stress and mental illness.

She spoke to ABC News about what an education 'revolution' might look like, how parents and policymakers can ease the burden on our kids, and the Australian schools already leading a change.

Your daughter, your 'beautiful failure', was the inspiration for this book. What was her experience with school, and at what point did you realise she might not be the only one struggling in this way?

My daughter pretty much failed to hit all the marks you're supposed to hit in the last few years of school.

All types of assessment and judgment paralysed her with anxiety, she wanted to flee classes, she truanted, and suspension and expulsion were always just around the corner.

Getting her to school was a daily struggle.

I realised that we weren't the only family in pain when I wrote an article about her finally finishing school — and what an incredible achievement that was for her — and the feedback I got from around the world made me realise how many kids feel like this.

For someone who doesn't have a spare 10 hours, what is going wrong with education in Australia?

There is too much focus on academic outcomes and a very narrow view of success with a one-size-fits-all approach that negates individuality.

There is too much testing and too much competition, and too much comparison between kids.

The whole system is geared towards achieving better outcomes rather than getting kids to love learning, and consequently there is a hierarchy of pressure, with kids right at the bottom.

There are a whole lot structural problems too but, well, I could write a book!

Does this really have an impact on the health of young people? After all, older generations seemed to cope just fine.

Firstly, I think the pressure has ramped up in the space of a generation, and is much, much worse than the parents of today experienced.

And secondly, I think it is definitely impacting on the mental health of young people.

When 26 per cent of kids are suffering anxiety and depression and mental health issues, and when kids report that school pressure is one of the main reasons for their anxiety, we have to join the dots. Most experts in the field have already done this.

What is PISA, and to what extent is it to blame for this 'mess'?

PISA stands for Program of International Student Assessment and it is run by the OECD, and it is only part of this mess, but it's a significant part.

Since the advent of these global tests in reading, maths, and scientific literacy in 2000, governments around the world have started tailoring policy to get better outcomes, to become more competitive, in the international rankings.

Again, this leads to a narrowing of the focus of education, and much that is wonderful and necessary and joyful about education gets sidelined.

And yet … Finland! Why is Finland considered to be the gold standard when it comes to education? What does it do differently to other countries?

The Finns actually go out of their way not to make kids anxious about school. They value the whole child, not just a small academic part of the child.

There is no streaming, testing is negligible, competition and comparison between children is anathema, and yet they still do so incredibly well in academic outcomes.

They also have a very equitable system, with very little variance between schools in terms of wealth. There's a lesson in there for everyone.

You spoke to one high school student who felt she had been robbed of time and opportunities to do things she loved, to discover who she was — instead, her focus was on getting good marks. Younger readers may relate to her sense of loss, and the pressure to do well academically, particularly in year 12. Do you have any advice for how students can cope better with that pressure?

I don't think it is up to kids to work out how to cope better with the pressure. It is up to the adults in their lives, their parents, their teachers, and the leaders of their society — all of us — to work out ways to reduce that pressure and to seriously question what the pressure is for. This calls for a wholesale reimagining of the system.

While we're waiting for the adults to get their acts into gear — which could take some time — kids can make time in their schedules to do the things they love, creative things, hobbies, or just being bored for hours on end. Just being kids. Their parents need to support them in this.

They also need to remember that these narrow definitions of success, these grades, these numbers, don't describe who they are, and actually that knowing themselves, being strong in themselves, is much more important in the long run.

We need a revolution in education, you say. We've needed reform for decades, and it's more important now than ever because the pressure on kids has gotten so much worse. But what does reform actually look like?

It looks like valuing the whole child. It looks like broadening our ideas of success and broadening what we teach.

It might mean measuring non-cognitive skills, like character, ethics, or social responsibility.

It might mean teaching wellbeing, and actively fostering strength in our kids at school.

It probably means upsetting power balances in schools, giving kids more control over their learning.

It certainly starts with shaking up all the accepted wisdoms that we hold about education.

So then what is standing in the way of change?

Nostalgia is a big brake on innovation. A lot of adults look back at their own experience and think, 'It was good enough for me, and that's the way it is, so just get through it, kid'.

People are reluctant to 'experiment' with their kids and so they play it safe.

Politicians often think about short-term fixes and what can be achieved while they are in power rather than thinking long-term. And the bureaucracy in the system hampers change, too.

Also, I think we are having the wrong conversations about education, what it should be, and what success in education means.

You were excited to discover that there are actually a handful of mainstream Australian schools, like Templestowe College in Melbourne, that are a great example of what the 'future of education' could be. What does Templestowe do that other schools don't?

From a practical point of view, there is no such thing as year grades — kids progress through the curriculum when they are ready, working at their own pace.

Philosophically speaking, they believe kids can create and can be in charge of their own education, so it is true student-led learning. It has transformed a school, and its students.

It makes a lot of sense, when kids are making the journey to adulthood, to give them more responsibility for their learning.

It gives them a sense of control and power, and keeps them engaged. It also makes them feel like they matter.

If you could wind back the clock 10 or 15 years, how might you approach your own kids' education differently, knowing what you now know?

I would pay closer attention to the individual natures of my kids and not just accept that they should conform to fit the system.

I would have been braver to ask questions about the way things are done.

I would have cared less about grades and outcomes and more about whether they were engaged with their learning, enjoying their learning, and thinking creatively and independently.

I so wish I knew back then what I discovered in the writing of this book!

The indian graduates unemployable and 50% Education minister

Patna: Bihar education minister Ashok Choudhary on Friday said India is producing army of "unemployable youths" from its educational institutions and 50% graduates do not have the required skill to do any professional job. "India has a unique problem. At one hand, industries do not get skilled persons for particular work and on the other, the country has huge unemployment. It seems we are producing 'unemployable youths' from our educational institutions," Choudhary said while addressing a programme organised by the Bihar government on the occasion of World Youth Skills Day here on Friday. CM Nitish Kumar and three other cabinet ministers were on the dais when Choudhary was making a "frank assessment" about the country's education system.

Referring to a last year's incident of Uttar Pradesh, Choudhary said altogether 23 lakh educated people applied when a neighbouring state advertised for 368 posts of fourth-grade in its secretariat. Of the 23 lakh who applied for the posts of peon, 250 candidates were PhD holders, 25,000 post-graduates and 1.5 lakh graduates. "Our situation is not too much different from the neighbouring state. The question arises as to why so many highly educated people applied for the post of peon? Simple fact is that our youths are not skilled enough to engage themselves in productive works," Choudhary said amid clapping from the audience.

"As per data, 50% graduates do not hold skill or eligibility to do any professional job. Moreover, the industry experts believe 80% engineering graduates are not fit for any job in industrial sector. Even engineering students are not aware about the basics of their trade. Whenever they go to seek job with their certificates, the companies put them on one to two years of job training," Choudhary said.

He added that as per 2011 census, 58% population in Bihar is below the age of 25 years. "The average age of Bihar is around 30 years," Choudhary said. He called upon the youths to get proper training to ensure their employability in job market.

Earlier, the state's labour resources department signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Maharashtra Knowledge Corporation Ltd (MKCL) to run skill development training centres across Bihar. The MoU, which was signed by state's labour resources department's principal secretary Dipak Kumar Singh and MKCL's chief executive office Vivek Sawant, aims to carry out skill development of the youths.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

The student organisations in the state called for education bandh today

Hyderabad: Several student organisations in the state called for an education bandh on Thursday demanding that the K Chandrasekhar Rao government fulfil his promise of implementing 'KG to PG' scheme from this academic year. Student organisations such as Students Federation of India, All India Students Federation, Telangana Vidyarthi Vedika and PDSU and others called for the bandh.

In view of the bandh called by the student unions, some schools have declared a holiday on Thursday. However, most CBSE and ICSE schools have decided to take a call on Thursday morning. "During the month of June-July, such calls for bandhs are common. Although we had a discussion among ourselves, we will take a call on declaring a holiday only in the morning depending on the atmosphere," said the principal of a CBSE school. Last year when some student unions had called for a similar bandh. Last year, while a few state-run schools had shut down, there was no major impact on the CBSE and ICSE schools in the city when some student unions called for a band.

The student unions have also raised issues such as school fee hike, fee reimbursement arrears to junior colleges among others issued related to the education sector.

The government of education sector continues to remain unpopular amongst foreign students in Indian

Despite various government endeavours, India continues to score poorly in making India a popular education destination. Of the targeted 4.5 lakh foreign students only 31,000 turned towards India to seek higher education.

 A report prepared by Association of Indian Universities (AIU) that works under the aegis of the Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry reveals that newly-established private universities and deemed universities attract more foreign students in comparison to public-funded universities.

 While Maharashtra tops the list as the most sought after destination, pre-Independence era universities in Uttar Pradesh including Aligarh, Banaras and Allahabad also make it to the top of the list.

The AIU study reveals that of the 31,000 students who took admission in the academic session in 2013-14, 24.9 per cent of the students were admitted in Maharashtra alone, followed by Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. Gujarat's contribution to foreign students remain as low as 1.38 per cent.

The report also raises serious concerns on the contribution of public-funded universities in catering to foreign students. Private and deemed universities including Symbiosis International University Pune, Lovely Professional University, Punjab and Sharda University Uttar Pradesh and Manipal University in Karnataka cater to more foreign students in While Maharashtra tops the list as the most sought after destination, pre-Independence era universities in Uttar Pradesh including Aligarh, Banaras and Allahabad also make it to the top of the list.

The AIU study reveals that of the 31,000 students who took admission in the academic session in 2013-14, 24.9 per cent of the students were admitted in Maharashtra alone, followed by Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. Gujarat's contribution to foreign students remain as low as 1.38 per cent.

The report also raises serious concerns on the contribution of public-funded universities in catering to foreign students. Private and deemed universities including Symbiosis International University Pune, Lovely Professional University, Punjab and Sharda University Uttar Pradesh and Manipal University in Karnataka cater to more foreign students in  comparison to any government-funded institution.

"It has to do with the facilities including hostels, food and good publicity that these universities probably draw more students towards themselves," said Navid Khan, one of the former board members of Sharda University. Khan also informed that as a part of their marketing strategy, private universities send their representatives to various countries to publicise their universities and bring in students. The public-funded universities, however, do not make any such effort.

Students from 164 countries come to study in India, while Asian countries attract the maximum students followed by Africa, US and Europe.

Against the 31,000 students coming to India, 2 lakh Indian student go abroad each year. The HRD ministry in its various forums has raised concerns over emigration of students and has been vocal about bringing them back to India. Weeks before moving out of office, former HRD ministry Smriti Irani had tweaked the rules to allow Indian universities to get into tie-ups with foreign universities.

The Indian higher education sector caters to 33 million students. The government has targeted getting at least 15 per cent students, close to 4.8 million students from foreign countries. "Against the targeted 15 per cent we cater to only 0.64 per cent. There is a lot of potential in this sector. We have prepared our report, it is now for the universities and institutions to open avenues for foreign students," said Professor Furqan Qamar, Secretary General of AIU.

Global movement of students studying abroad: 5 million

Student coming to India: 31,000

76.8 per cent foreign students get admitted to undergraduate courses

16.30 percent foreign students get admitted to postgraduate courses

Delhi University, Banaras Hindu University, Aligarh Muslim University, Allahabad University and Jamia Millia Islamia are the top five central universities catering to foreign students

Monday, 11 July 2016

Prakash Javadekar as the new HRD minister in India

Over the last two years, education in India was often in the limelight for the wrong reasons. Whether it was the debates around the HRD minister’s educational qualifications, the suicide of Rohith Vermula and subsequent events at Hyderabad University, the fracas at JNU and absolute disregard for student agitation, the sacking of two university vice chancellors, and evolving saffronisation, education across the country found itself appropriated by one absurdist controversy after another.

Instead of using her assertive personality to bring tangible shifts in a sector that could change India’s growth trajectory, Smriti Irani was often seen oscillating between social media spats, or on the defensive or the offensive over one banal controversy or the other. Her personality often preceded her department’s policies, and its detrimental consequences were heard resonating across university campuses including the IITs and IIMs.

Prakash Javadekar’s appointment as the new HRD minister is at the midpoint of the Modi government’s term. His tasks include cleaning up the previous minister’s pending items and finding his own moorings in this ministry. He will need to work at three levels which include policy, politics and ideology. At the policy level, there are defined outcomes expected of the minister, the most significant, according to reports, being resolving the logjam between the PMO and the HRD ministry over the autonomy the proposed universities under the “world-class universities” project should have. The second would be to finalise the National Education Policy, which was to be released by Irani prior to the shuffle. The third would be to complete the establishment of the National Academic Depository, to maintain national-level databases of all academic qualifications. Other pending items include establishment of a Vedic Education Board for ved pathshalas and gurukuls, initiating a review of the school curriculums along with drafting a language policy.

So far the most significant HRD ministry decisions have been with respect to higher education. Attention to some of the micro-issues with respect to school education within and outside of the mandates of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan is necessary. As the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) has found, even after the annual government spending per child increased, learning outcomes did not improve. There needs to be more focus with respect to teacher training, infrastructure development and improving syllabus across schools. Reading levels across schools remain low, and math levels have declined in almost every state. Teacher shortage in government schools — there are over seven lakh vacancies — also needs urgent attention of the minister.

A government that has built a reputation for being “anti-intellectual”, will find it in its own interests to consider the opinions and criticisms from academics and intellectuals across the ideological spectrum, especially in designing new policy initiatives and curriculum.

At the political level, the new minister will need to manage and work with state governments where policy implementation will have to precede politics. The minister’s office should take precedence over his personal identity and political affiliation. Irani’s lack of tact in handling controversies clouded her significant achievements, such as the completion of the Swachh Vidyalaya target, of having over four lakh toilets in government schools. Managing criticism without resorting to pettiness, working in collaboration with the state governments, and allocating work across bureaucratic verticals are aspects of the job.

Most significantly, the new minister needs to ensure that ideology does not percolate and hijack the reformist agenda. Poor policies can be redesigned or rolled back. Ideological indoctrination, however, can have grave consequences. Tampering with academic syllabus, distorting historical facts, deleting historical figures who don’t align with contemporary political agendas, and an unreasonable promotion of tradition over scientific reasoning are reducing education to a single perspective and a farce. The purpose of education is to open minds and new vistas; not to force students to live in an imagined golden past or within the wastelands of the known.

Escalating majoritarianism, the uncontested goal of saffronisation, dilutes democracy and promotes bigotry. The new education minister must steer clear of this path and try to reassure detractors that this government is serious about its growth and development agenda outside the ambit of ideological authoritarianism.

Tradition and cultural values no doubt are important, but the primary purpose of a modern education is to boost intellectual, social and economic growth and spur innovation and employment. In the long run, a country cemented on false ideals of nationalistic pride and ideology will become like Pakistan, which is fast disintegrating because of the influence its indoctrinated madrassas and agenda-driven and state-approved curriculum wields on education. A modern and holistic education cannot be framed if it is confined to local or even national culture or a single set of disciplines. It will need to encompass aspects of scientific reasoning, liberal values, analysis and progressive ideologies.

The new minister has asserted that his priority is to “raise the quality of education and ensure that it encouraged innovation”. This is an encouraging sign. One hopes the rhetoric is matched by protracted action. It will require him to balance policy design and implementation, political management and ideological pigeonholes.

The education start-up aims to turn India into HR powerhouse

ConnectEd Technologies, founded in 2015 by three young professionals—Lehar Tawde, Haren Paul Rao and Lavin Mirchandani—aims at enabling the youth by making quality educational and vocational training content accessible to them, using technology. In a short span of a year, the start-up’s efforts have resulted in support from the government of Maharashtra and a few corporates. This has led to their maiden project in the Palghar region of the state, which, they say, has impacted thousands of school students. In an interview with FE’s Vikram Chaudhary, the founders—all of whom are NMIMS alumni—add they want to become an integrated solutions provider which not only offers world-class educational and vocational training content to the rural youth, but also gives the industry access to individuals whose measured competencies match their requirements. Excerpts:

Your website claims your motto is “to turn the world’s youngest country into a human resource powerhouse.” That’s a tall statement…

We aim to enable the youth—particularly those in rural areas—by deploying tailor-made, hyper-scalable educational and vocational training solutions on the behalf of corporates, NGOs and governments. We also seek to enable industry make data-driven human resource choices, by providing them access to individuals whose measured competencies match their requirements.

The task isn’t easy. India is a huge country with a large population and complex systems. However, efforts by the government, telecom operators and ISPs, coupled with the entry of low-cost, internet-ready mobile devices, are improving internet penetration, thus opening up a channel of information exchange that offers numerous possibilities. Add to that a sensitised environment—where the need for quality education is recognised by all the stakeholders—and it means players like us have an opportunity to demonstrate what our products can achieve.

What are your products?

Our primary product is the Smart Classroom System, which enables educators to integrate multimedia educational content into daily teaching practices. We have received a phenomenal response from all the quarters, including the education ministry of Maharashtra, allowing us to deploy it in schools catering to thousands of children in Palghar.

How does this System work?

It’s a standalone, solar-powered, dust-and-damage resistant teacher-aid product. It’s a simple device—it starts at the touch of a button and can be operated using a remote control. Now, traditionally, a teacher would spend all her time delivering a lecture. With the Smart Classroom System, she can do that in half the time. The rest can be used for discussions or exercises, as suggested by the System.

Is the device expensive?

We have priced it reasonably; we’re aware that audiences in rural areas are price-sensitive. Small, private schools can easily afford it. In fact, we’ve been able to provide the System to government-aided, zila parishad and even tribal welfare schools, which cannot usually afford such infrastructure upgrades as they are unable to pass on the expense to students’ families. We have encouraged corporates to fund the deployment of the System across schools, as part of their CSR spend.

Recently, the Maharashtra education ministry launched a campaign called EkShiksha…

Yes, EkShiksha is a collaboration between corporates, NGOs, school managements and educators to improve learning environment and academic performance across Maharashtra’s remotest schools. The campaign, initiated by us, aims at providing children in rural schools access to world-class education. At the heart of EkShiksha lies our Smart Classroom System, powered by our educational content.

What kind of content do you produce?

We produce multimedia educational content, which adheres to the state board curriculum but is tailored to improve the learning environment in rural classroom. The material covers every subject and chapter in the language of instruction followed by the school. We have a team of educators, scriptwriters, animators, translators, voice-over artists and editors who produce the content, which is pushed through our Smart Classroom System.

What made you choose Palghar for your project?

We chose to enter Palghar since it is a newly-formed district, is moderately-sized and easily accessible from Mumbai. Also, we had learnt that the local authorities were extremely encouraging of developmental projects. Every stakeholder we interacted with supported us, and that allowed us to conduct primary research in this region, encompassing 570 schools.

We must add that our efforts to augment the state’s rural schooling set-up are a glimpse into the kind of role we can play in the ecosystem by creating valuable products and uniting key stakeholders towards their deployment.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) holds high-profile event to influence India’s education policy

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is gearing up for a last-ditch effort to stamp its influence on India’s new education policy and pressurise the government to include suggestions such as compulsory daily prayers in schools and colleges, sources said.

The Bharatiya Shikshan Mandal (BSM), an affiliate of the RSS, is organising a seminar next Tuesday to discuss the proposals, in which Union human resource development minister Prakash Javadekar will be one of the speakers.

The high profile event will be attended by Muralidhar Rao, the BJP national general secretary. This will possibly by Javadekar’s first public interaction after taking charge on Thursday.

“The HRD ministry has made some parts of the policy public and we will discuss the policy with experts and give our suggestions too,” said Mukul Kanitkar, organizing secretary of the BSM.

The attempt is likely to re-ignite charges by the Opposition and many activists that the government is trying to saffronise education.

The accusation gathered steam this year after former HRD minister Smriti Irani asked IITs to teach Sanskrit and senior BJP leaders batted for revising the history syllabi and including modules on ancient India.

The draft education policy formulated by the TSR Subramanian committee ran into controversy last month over its suggestions to curb campus politics, forcing the ministry to do a U-turn.

The BSM gave a number of suggestions to the committee, but sources said, many of them weren’t included in the final draft.

“Now that the ministry is giving a final shape to the policy, all significant issues that have not been taken care of will be discussed at the forum,” said a source.

Other than daily prayers, the BSM wants students to pay regular tributes to Indian heroes, have an eight-year general education plan and the government to fund NGOs that teach children up to Class 8.

A significant suggestion included in the draft policy was bringing minority institutions under the fold of the Right to Education Act (RTE), under which 25% seats are reserved for poor students.

The BSM had said minority-run institutions misuse the privilege given to them by the Constitution and often admit more students from the majority community.

The June 12 discussion will be held at the Constitution Club, which will also see in attendance former NCERT director JS Rajput, who was criticised a few years ago for alleged saffronisation of the school curriculum.

The higher education in India is at ‘cross-roads’: C Rangarajan

Former Chairman of Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister C Rangarajan on Friday said higher education in India is at “cross-roads”, and needs radical changes.

Speaking at the sixth convocation of ICFAI Foundation for Higher Education here, he said agricultural, industrial and scientific growth of the country depend on creating a “corps” of well-trained professionals in these areas, and it would happen only with good quality higher education.

“It is cliche to say that higher education in India is at crossroads. But this hackneyed and overused phrase still contains an element of truth. We have reached a point where the need for bringing about some radical changes in higher education has become urgent.

“The excellent quality of the best students of our universities and colleges is well recognised at home and abroad and is not in doubt. But, it is the average which is causing concern,” Rangarajan, who is the chancellor of ICFAI University, said.

Read more: Politics killing India’s higher education system

Modernisation of syllabus or curriculum is imperative in today’s world, he said. S M Datta, former chairman of Hindustan Unilever Limited, in his address highlighted the importance of various qualities managers need to be successful in a dynamic environment.

He also advised the students on the importance of strategies to overcome major obstacles and coping up with limitations during their career.

As many as 1,438 students including 516 girls received degrees at the convocation.