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Sunday, 25 September 2016

The students of agricultural engineering of the education needs R&D push

A few years ago, five M.Tech students of agricultural engineering from one of the top agricultural universities of Maharashtra came to our Institute for a four-month internship. One day, during their internship, we had some visitors to whom I was showing our electric trike. While running it, a knob came off its switchboard. To fix it, I asked one of the interns to get me a plier. He brought me a spanner instead! He did not know the difference between the two.

These students during their B.Tech and M.Tech had never worked with their hands or had even seen farm machinery and did not know anything about simple workshop equipment. They had passed engineering examinations without learning anything of practical value.

According to the latest statistics, only 6-7 per cent of India’s engineering graduates are employable in the core engineering sector and these interns clearly were part of the trend.

I feel that it is not the students’ fault but that of a corrupt and broken teaching system, which fleeces them. There are few good teachers of engineering, but by and large most are mediocre (even in IITs) and the stress is more on passing examinations rather than a hands-on learning experience.

In university after university and in various IITs, I have found that most of the students do not want to do any engineering but opt for MBAs, civil services and software-oriented programmes. The main reason is that they are not challenged to do any hardware-oriented engineering because of the lack of good teachers.

The teaching in most of the engineering colleges, including IITs, has been deteriorating for the last 20-30 years and is currently quite mediocre with most of the faculty not up-to-date in engineering research. In fact, IITs are consistently rated quite low in international university rankings.

Four years of engineering education is a sufficiently long time to inspire the students to take up a career in engineering. The fact that only a handful of students who pass out every year opt for an engineering or a research career shows that very little of good engineering is taught.

Most of the engineering colleges have ad hoc staff and fresh graduates become teachers. Even in IITs around 50 per cent of faculty positions are vacant. The government, in its wisdom, thinks that giving higher pay will help attract good faculty to these Institutes. This is a myth because great teachers are not attracted only by pay but by the scholarship environment of doing good research and teaching. Great engineering colleges the world over produce a good number of excellent researchers, some of whom also become great teachers.

Also, some of the problems with engineering education have been created by information technology (IT) companies themselves. In the past, these companies have heavily recruited from IITs and other good engineering college campuses. In fact, not long ago there used to be a saying “anything that moves in IIT gets a job in Infosys”. This resulted in making most of the students complacent and bunking classes since they knew that they will be taken by IT companies irrespective of their grades. With this attitude, it becomes very difficult for students to learn anything.

So, what needs to be done? One of the ways forward is to create a great research and scholarship environment in IITs and engineering colleges. This can happen when faculty and students work on problems of India — especially for rural areas. Providing basic necessities to 60 percent of our rural population is a huge technological challenge and R&D on this should come from good engineering colleges. At the same time, emphasis should be laid on faculty spending time in industry. This trend is prevalent in European and American universities and needs to be emulated in India.

Another way is for excellent engineers both in India and abroad to be invited to give lectures in engineering colleges. In addition, there are a good numbers of Indians who work as engineering faculty abroad in good schools and come on a yearly visit to India. The HRD Ministry should create systems where both groups are encouraged to teach in engineering colleges at their convenience.

A good way for students to be involved in R&D is for them to spend one or two years doing work or internships in industries and in rural science and technology NGOs. If they understand real-life problems, they will be able to provide practical solutions to them.

Once the R&D bug gets into their head, it will automatically manifest itself in innovative solutions. This R&D bug should be put into these students even during their school days by following the US-based Maker Movement (MM). The US had an old tradition of youngsters tinkering in their garages on amateur radios, making small household items, etc. With the computer revolution, youngsters stopped tinkering and moved into playing with their iPads, iPods, phones and the like. With 3D printing technologies, US schools are now making students interested in creating designs, toys and new inventions. Once bitten by this bug, it is assumed that the students will be more involved in engineering by innovating and creating hardware-oriented products during their college days.

The future of India belongs to the younger generation. All of us have to do our bit to get them involved in improving the lives of Indians. If we do not do so, there will be serious social conflicts. Unless we can provide basic amenities so that the rural poor can live a meaningful life, we will never become a great nation. This is a great challenge for all young engineers and it is my dream that they will take it up to make India a better place to live and work.

This policy premise that crept into higher education policy in India

Economies are no longer built by physical and natural resources alone. In the knowledge-based global society of 21st century, economies are increasingly built upon human resources. Thus, never in the history of human civilisation, knowledge has acquired so much productive potential for development, both for the individual and the society at large.

In fact, primary education is critical for human development. But, in the emerging knowledge economy, mere primary education does not suffice. Higher education is equally important. But, in the pyramid of Indian education, both the bottom and the apex are weak. Therefore, the imperative of higher education need not be emphasised again.

There are certain crucial questions that need urgent attention in the higher education policy formulation in India. They include Access versus Equity, Proliferation versus Standards, Skills versus Knowledge, Autonomy for Capital versus Autonomy for Knowledge, Social goods versus Commodity, Private Knowledge versus Public Knowledge.

India enjoys a demographic dividend with over half of the population below the age of 25 years. If we can impart high quality education to them we can reap the dividend. Otherwise, as warned by the plan documents, it would lead to demographic nightmare. Weak foundation Indian higher education is built on a fragile foundation with quantity and quality of education offered at the primary stage still remaining abominable.

Unacceptably higher levels of illiteracy, wide gender gaps in literacy, still prevailing higher levels of school dropouts, low levels of teaching and learning outcomes etc., illustrate the weak foundations on which higher education outcomes have to be ensured. This critical relationship between school and higher education are often ignored in the policy formulation resulting in juxtaposing the one to the other.

This policy premise that crept into higher education policy in India has not strengthened school education but threw open higher education to market forces. This has led to unprecedented inequalities in both school and higher education sectors. Inequalities are the root cause of poverty. One form of inequality would lead to another. The educational inequality would lead to income inequality. Thus, education which should be an instrument of overcoming the social and economic inequalities has further accentuated these inequalities.

Access versus Equity Even the Draft New Education Policy too acknowledges the low levels of Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) as one of the key challenges in higher education in India. The enrolment ratio in higher education was 23.6 per cent in 2014-15 and the target is to increase GER to 25.2 per cent in 2017-18 and further to 30 per cent in 2020-21.The draft policy states, “Reform higher education system in order to ensure equitable access to tertiary education, including technical and professional education, narrow group inequalities in access to higher education.”

The diagnosis is fine. The objectives are laudable. But, the prescription is irrational as the draft policy states, “Instead of setting up new institutions, which require huge investments, priority of the government will be to expand the capacity of existing institutions”.Given the wide difference in the prevailing GER and enrolment ratio expected of an economy of size and vigour like India, the expansion of higher education is not possible with capacity addition alone without opening new institutions of higher learning.

This also infers that new education institutions in higher education would only be opened in private sector. None can deny the importance of private sector especially in tertiary education given the magnitude of challenge. But, government abdicating its responsibility for this crucial sector is fraught with grave implications.  Public versus Private Private sector accounts for  62 per cent of the total enrolment in higher education in India. The massive privatisation of higher education would deprive a large section of Indians from the ambit of higher education.

This would result in some sort of internal apartheid as the products of higher education lead the nation in all spheres of life. The access to higher education for socially and economically underprivileged sections would be severely constrained by such a policy dispensation. The mushrooming private institutions in country where regulation is often weak will open the flood gates for teaching shops as exemplified by the experience of deemed universities.

There are certain private institutions known for their outstanding standards. But, they remain islands of excellence in an ocean of ignominy. The private sector can at best supplement but not supplant the public sector effort in education sector given its largely non-profit character if it has to serve the needy.

Meanwhile, social and regional inequalities in access and quality of higher education are humongous. For instance in 2011-12, GER in higher education ranged between 8.4 per cent in Jharkhand and 53 per cent in Chandigarh. The GER in higher education is 24.5 per cent for boys, 22.7 per cent for girls, 18.5 per cent for SCs and 13.3 per cent for STs in 2014-15.

Data for enrolment by category showed that those not belonging to the Scheduled Castes (SCs), the Scheduled Tribes (STs) or the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) dominated higher education in the country, occupying 60 per cent of seats in all universities, 72 per cent in Central universities and 58 per cent in State public universities.

Members of the SC communities accounted for just 10 per cent of all university seats nationwide, STs 4 per cent and OBCs 26 per cent. Within Central universities, their representation was 11 per cent, 4 per cent and 13 per cent respectively (University Matters, Ramesh Chakrapani Frontline, March 18, 2016).

Mere capacity addition in the existing institutions or promoting private institutions will not correct this milieu as serving underprivileged regions and social groups is not profitable to attract private investment. Besides implications for access and equity, indiscriminate and unbridled privatisation of higher education will have an adverse impact on the generation and dissemination of knowledge in the era of intellectual property regime.

As the World Bank in its report on 'knowledge based global societies' observed, there is more research done on slow ripe beautifully looking tomatoes rather than nutritious wheat. Similarly, greater research takes place on cosmetics than finding a cure for diarrhea.

This vividly explains the stark difference between public knowledge and private knowledge. The higher education has to perform two clear objectives in society. First, making original additions to knowledge and transmitting knowledge from one generation to the other. Withdrawal of the State from higher education can result in corporate enclosure of knowledge. Thus, inequalities in access and quality of higher education have a potential to create inequalities in the knowledge system having far reaching implications.

Internationalisation of Higher Education No Indian university figures in the top universities of the world. This results in migration of Indian students abroad to pursue higher studies resulting in drain of precious foreign exchange. This challenge has to be fought through massive upgradation of standards in Indian universities.

Instead, the governments find an easy route to invite foreign universities to set up campuses in India. The draft New Education Policy states, “If required, steps will be taken to put in place an enabling legislation. Rules/ regulations will be framed so that it is possible for a foreign university to offer its own degree to the Indian students studying in India”. This policy shift intends to stem migration of students from India to study abroad.

Estimates suggest that about 75,000 foreign students come to India, including for short duration study programmes, less than 20,000 international students are enrolled in degree programmes in the country, most of them in under-graduate programmes, largely coming from South Asia.

In contrast nearly 3 lakh Indian students study abroad, mostly in post-graduate and doctorate programmes, spending about Rs 60,000 crore per year. The annual spending by Indians for studying abroad is twice the amount allocated in the Union budget for higher education, and nearly 20 times what the Indian higher education institutions spent on research collectively (Report of the Committee for Evolution of the New Education Policy).

But failing to take certain precautions would prove to be catastrophic. The NEP report itself warns of this when it says, “The Committee feels that indiscriminate opening of Indian education field to foreign universities will be counter-productive – there is a danger that foreign degree shops (of which there is no shortage), will exploit the Indian demand for higher education, and ‘craving’ for a foreign degree”.

This report rightly suggests some precautions. The migration of some of our best students to foreign universities can be reduced if we create educational institutions and research facilities of comparable quality, with employment opportunities commensurate with their qualifications.

Encouragement should be given to high quality foreign universities and educational institutions to collaborate with Indian partners, and establish an Indian presence. The foreign university should be in a position to offer their own degree to the Indian students, studying in India, which will be valid in the country of origin.

The collaborating foreign partner would be among the top 200 Universities of the world. The opportunity should be used to ‘globalize’ Indian higher education without compromising the basic needs of access, equity and quality for the Indian student.

The phrases like ‘comparable quality,‘ ‘collaboration,’ ‘top,’ and ‘without compromising’ are very critical. But, experience of deemed universities that turned to be teaching shops suggest that these caveats in policy do not stand during the implementation as market forces rule the roast.

Foreign universities should be allowed to offer courses which their Indian counterparts do not. The suitable mechanism should be put in place so that access does not suffer due to prohibitive cost of foreign degrees.

Mushrooming penetration should be avoided. Proliferation versus Standards The proliferation of educational institutions does not mean proliferation of standards. The quantitative expansion of higher education is not commensurate with the qualitative change.

The draft NEP fails to adequately address the quality concerns. The Approach paper to the 12th plan itself acknowledges in no uncertain terms “State Universities and Colleges suffer from under funding by State Governments with as many as 50 per cent of faculty positions unfilled, forcing frequent resort to contract teachers and an adverse impact on the quality of teaching”. The NEP reiterates accreditation and assessment as the quality monitoring mechanism. But, the accreditation process is plagued by corruption and inaccuracies in assessment. The draft NEP is silent on this.

Large vacancies of teaching positions, poor infrastructure, unproductive and unprofessional work culture, bureaucratisation of university administration, inadequacies in institutional infrastructure like labs, libraries, technology adoption etc., are the factors that dampen quality in institutions of higher learning.

Universities have to perform three functions - teaching, research and extension. But, the research intensity in Indian universities is a matter of concern. V V Krishna in an article, “Science, Technology and Innovation Policy 2013, High on Goals, Low on Commitment”, Economic and Political Weekly, 20 April.

2013, states , “Our academic sector continues to suffer due to low policy priorities when it comes to R&D… Even though universities accounted for over 52% of total cumulative national research publications for the decade 1997-2007, they were allocated just 5% of GERD.

Universities in the OECD countries accounted for 20% and Japanese universities accounted for around 15% of GERD in the last decade. Even Chinese universities increased their share of GERD from around 5% in the 1990s to over 12% currently.

The GERD refers to gross expenditure on research and development. The article further says, “Hardly 15% of our universities come under the label of teaching and research universities. Around 85% of our universities are just teaching institutions at different tiers of teaching standards and levels. The bulk of our higher education sector is yet to attain what is known as the Humboldtian goal of teaching and research excellence”.

Social goods versus Commodification The universities are churning out graduates who turn out to be unemployables. The industry-university linkage is abysmal. The draft NEP rightly focuses on skill development. But, the skill formation is not the sole objective of education.

While emphasis on skills is a welcome feature, any obsession with it ignoring the basic purpose of universities would degenerate them into mere polytechnics and industrial training institutes. The commodification of knowledge severely restricts its access to the commoner.

Madhu Prasad of All India Forum for the Right to Education warns: “Unlike knowledge, commodities are produced primarily for exchange for profit rather than for any intrinsic value. In highly developed systems of commodity production all market exchanges are affected by scarcities, monopolies, manipulated tastes and more or less accidental variations in supply and demand”.

Universities should be the commanding heights of intelligentsia where fundamental questions on knowledge and society are raised. Universities should promote the adventure of ideas.  Universities performing the role of social critics   should produce men and women of high academic caliber and integrity who perform the role of public intellectuals.

Monday, 19 September 2016

The quality education stressed on importance

Hyderabad:  “The face of the Indian Defence sector is changing rapidly with a strong focus on indigenisation and make in India initiative is also gaining steam” said Director General DRDO Dr S Christopher, during seventh Convocation of GITAM University held here on Saturday.

Dr Christopher stressed the need of giving much importance on quality education. He said it was essential for making India stronger by equipping it with world-class defence systems and technologies.

Make in India aims at transforming India into a global hub of manufacturing, whose share in GDP would rise to 25 per cent by 2022. The programme has identified 25 sectors that would get incentives support and has promised to align policies to boost investments in them,” he said. Dr Christopher appealed to the budding engineers graduating at the Convocation to make the country strong by their skills and innovations.

GITAM Vice Chancellor Professor M S Prasada Rao shared the progress report of the university at the event. BTech, MTech and MBA degrees were awarded to 750 graduates, while 19 gold medals were presented to the toppers of both Hyderabad and Bengaluru

President medals were awarded to two students, who stood over all toppers. GITAM Pro Vice Chancellors Professor K. Sivaramakrishna, Professor N Sivaprasad and Professor P V Sivapullaiah, Registrar Professor M Potharaju, Bengaluru Campus director Professor K Vijaya Bhakar and members of Board of management and directors were also present at the convocation.

Promising to evolve generation after generation India's education system

BENGALURU: Promising to evolve generation after generation, India's education system is perhaps moving out of the conventional girdles and into areas that teach the importance of staying fit and culturally sound. However, Anuradha Vikranth, classical dancer and creative director of Drishti Art Foundation, believes that much more needed to be done to make dance a permanent and significant part of the Indian education system.

She was speaking at the Day 2 session of ThinkCiQ conference on emerging trends in education which commenced in the city on Saturday. The event was presented by the Times of India and Times NIE was the educational partner.

"Education is most important to any society but how much of a scope are we giving our students to grow creatively? Today's education system doesn't give the kind of priority to express human emotions which can always be brought out through the medium of classical dance," the A graded Doordarshan artist said. According to her, dance innately exists within every child from the minute they are born; classical dance provides that nurturing variable to the child which will enable him/her to be in sync with the entire body and remain fit.

"Dance is a creative art form which is all about emotions. Not just the mind body and soul, dance is also about expression and stimulating one's mind and inculcating values in them," she said.

She felt that though the education system has been evolving and a lot of importance is given to cultural activities and physical education, it is yet to be structured. "Structure is crucial. When a baby moves rhythmically, it shows signs of dancing. Once we structure it, it becomes dance. Structuring classical dance into the curriculum will make the real difference to students. Given the present education system, how emotionally strong is a child? How well capacitated are they to handle the every day pressures? These are the things that classical dance helps one master," said the dancer.

Dance education, as Anuradha puts it, "is the development of kinesthetic intelligence, expressions, values, physical fitness, stress management and appreciation of your body."

Having taught dance at the foundation for 16 years, Anuradha teaches Bharatanatyam to over 350 students aged between 6 and 50.

Felicitating teachers for their unique approaches to education and recognizing their passion, motivation and commitment to teaching, the third edition of the ThinkCiQ confluence came to a close on Sunday. Geethanjali Kumar, Krishna Ranganathan and Sangeetha Arul were the Awakened and Innovative Minds (AIM) award-winning mentors who were given a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh, Rs 75,000 and Rs 50,000, respectively.

Speaking to TOI on the effectiveness of the two day seminar,

"Every teacher is wise in his/her own classroom but not all of them want to come out of the shell, share views and learn from others around them. We wanted to provide them a platform where they can take advantage of understanding educational techniques followed in different parts of the world," M Srinivasan, founder, Gear International School, said.

"The biggest difference we have seen in the past three years since we began conducting this seminar is that there have been considerable changes in teaching practices in schools right from nursery to class 12. Teachers have accepted and changed their attitude, recognizing creativity and innovation as an integral part of academics. Today, the conference has come to a level where more teachers and schools want to participate and network," said Mansoor Ali Khan, member, board of management, DPS.

Friday, 16 September 2016

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation India will be 50 years in achieving universal education goals

New Delhi: India will be 50 years late in achieving its universal education goals, according to a latest report released by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation or UNESCO.

With 11.1 million out-of-school students in the lower secondary level, India’s target of achieving sustainable development goal of providing quality education to every child by 2030 is far behind schedule, as per the Global Education Monitoring report 2016.

Going by the current status, India is likely to achieve universal upper secondary education by 2085, half a century late, says report.

The upper secondary education comprises of the age group of 14-17 years which is, students in standard 9 to standard 12.

However, as of 2013-14, there has been an overall increase in the gross enrolment ratio at almost every level of education, which signifies that student enrolment to the corresponding eligible age group in a given year has increased, the study shows.

Enrolment Of Girls In Schools Has Increased

Gender disparity in schools has largely been addressed as the enrolment of girls in higher education increased from 39 per cent in 2007 to 46 per cent in 2014.

An increase in single-sex toilets in schools has led to an increase in the enrolment of adolescent girls and female teachers, the UNESCO study shows.

However, there is still a large disparity in achieving basic skills such as reading and math, where there has been a decline in learning outcomes, highlights the report.

Absenteeism Among Teachers Remains A Problem

Almost 24 per cent teachers were absent during random visits to rural schools, according to a September 2015 study by the University of California.

Steps By Government To Tackle Absenteeism

The government has not established any bonus to incentivise teachers and principals, the Minister of Human Resource Development informed the Lok Sabha in April 2016.

E-pathshala, launched in 2015 and aimed at promoting e-learning through e-resources like textbooks, audio and video material, was among the steps taken to tackle the shortage of good teachers, the minister said.

Stunting In Children Needs To Be Addressed

As many as 39 per cent or 61.8 million Indian children who are five or younger are stunted, IndiaSpend reported in July. This is 15 per cent higher than the global average.

Another sustainable development goal that India is likely to miss is the goal of having only 100 million children stunted in 2025.

The current trends suggest that there will be 127 million children stunted in 2025.  Lack of local and global funding are the reasons for the same, an IndiaSpend study points out.

British Council India launched the third year of Education UK Alumni Awards in 2017

British Council India launched the third year of Education UK Alumni Awards that will honour the outstanding achievements of business professionals, entrepreneurs and community leaders across the globe.

UK university alumni from the 14 participating countries can apply from September 7, 2016. The nominations closes on October 16 and applications on October 31, 2016. The winners will be announced in March 2017.

The awards are open for the UK alumni from India, Egypt, Ghana, Greece, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Turkey and the USA who are currently residing in one of the 14 countries participating in the awards and have graduated in the last 15 years.

Award winners and finalists are leaders in their fields who have used their experience of studying at a UK university to make a positive contribution to their communities, professions and countries. The Alumni Awards celebrate and showcase the impact and value of a UK higher education and raises the profile and reputation of UK alumni, their former universities, and the whole of UK education.

Monday, 12 September 2016

The Delhi Government organised the first ever 'SMC Sabha' for School Management Committees parents and education department

The Delhi Government organised the first ever 'SMC Sabha' for School Management Committees (SMCs) of Government schools located in the Burari Assembly constituency. Strengthening and empowering Delhi's SMCs has been a top priority of the government for more than a year. The SMC Sabha was one more step towards making the government accountable to parents of children studying in government schools.

SMC members from 15 schools of Burari had assembled in the Rajkiya Pratibha Vikas Vidyalaya (RPVV) - Civil Lines, to share their grievances with government officials. The concept of the SMC Sabha was to provide a platform to parent SMC members to voice their issues with the schools to the concerned officials, in order to ensure effective and speedy resolution.Deputy chief minister of Delhi, Manish Sisodia graced the event with his presence and encouraged parents to speak up about the problems they were facing. "The government is very keen on involving parents and the community in school administration. SMCs are playing a very constructive role in improving the condition of government schools today. This is an extraordinary event, since it is the first time that government and parents are meeting together, discussing and resolving problems as one team," said SisodiaThe minister sought tighter deadlines for completion of work and pulled up officials who were found to be lax. He will personally follow-up all the commitments made by officials to ensure works get completed on time. When a parent complained of poor grain quality in mid day meals, Sisodia immediately inquired with the contractor, and gave him a one-week deadline to improve food quality. He also ordered that the contractor would be penalised and replaced if he failed to meet the deadlines.


On another occasion, when a group of parents from the Mukundpur School in Burari complained of a delay in construction of classrooms, the minister asked both PWD and Education Department officials about it. When he found that the necessary files were stuck between the two departments, he asked both of them to convene a meeting on Monday and finish the paperwork by the end of the day.Apart from the Sisodia, the advisor to Dy CM Atishi Marlena, Burari MLA Sanjeev Jha, advisor to Director (education), Shailendra Sharma, district magistrate (North East District), Deputy Directors (education), and officials of PWD, Delhi Jal Board, MCD and Delhi Police were also present to answer queries and resolve department-related problems faced by parent SMC members.


"SMCs have changed the way Delhi government schools function for the better and this effort of the government was to make it directly answerable to parents of children who study in our schools. The turnout at the Sabha is very heartening and SMC members will return home today with even more confidence to perform their responsibilities in their schools," said Atishi Marlena.

This initiative of the government is first of the many such 'SMC Sabhas' to be organised in every Assembly Constituency of Delhi. The Delhi government has always made education its prime area of focus, and has launched several interventions to transform government schools.

The opening of a new higher secondary school

QUEPEM: The opening of a new higher secondary school, allegedly in violation of education rules, in Ambaulim within an 8km radius already dotted with five such institutions has sparked off a controversy in the area.

Though the directorate of education has granted provisional licence to Shree Chandreshwar Bhootnath Shikxan Saunstha to commence only Class XI arts stream from academic year 2016-17, five institutions nearbyMaria Bambina Higher Secondary School, Cuncolim; Pope John Higher Secondary School, Quepem; Cuncolim United H S School, Cuncolim; Vivekanand Higher Secondary School, Balli; and Damodar Higher Secondary School, Guddi, Parodahave filed written objections to the department. Rule 4 (5) (c) of Goa Education Rules, 1986, does not permit the opening of a new higher secondary school within 8km of an existing institution.

In this case, one of the existing institutes, Pope John Higher Secondary School is located less than three kilometres from the new school. Even Maria Banbina Higher Secondary School in Cuncolim had stated in its letter to the education department that their enrolment would be adversely affected as they still have seats available in arts and commerce streams.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

The online educational supplies market in India

You can order food online, buy furniture, book bus, train or movie tickets and now, order stationery online. E-commerce portals dedicated to stationery shopping are increasingly gaining popularity among the tech-savvy students.

While popular shopping websites have been selling the regular products for years, niche online shops are fast becoming one-stop destination for daily educational needs. So now you can order fancy dress costumes, stylish lunch boxes, competitive examination books to sports gear  — everything online.

The online educational supplies market in India is still in its nascent stages but there are certain stores which have begun to make their mark, especially in Tier II and Tier III cities. Here are some of these:Co-founders Geentanjali Khanna and Gaurav Barman felt that abroad, only 10-20 per cent of a student’s energy is spent in procuring stationery supplies whereas in India, it was the other way round. “On an average, people had no knowledge about the various kinds of educational supplies which are available in the market. About 50 to 60 per cent of a student’s time was spent trying to procure products from the market which were not easily available,” Geetanjali says, which is what prompted the need for the e-commerce portal.

Started in 2013, the website services about 5,000 pin codes in the country. “We cater to Tier I and Tier II cities and strive to provide supplies needed right from play school to the post-graduation level,” she says, adding that the website has tie-ups with education institutions, such as the Aakash Institute, for educational

Shalini Mittal started the project seven years ago, when she was looking for such supplies herself as a hobbyist. She realised that art and craft supplies were next to impossible to find in the country. “I found that many people were conservative in sharing details of the products or providing vendor names” she says, which is what prompted the need for the website.

“At that time, Google did not even accept our keywords. Infact, Justdial had to create a fresh keyword especially for us as they claimed that they did not receive any queries for products of our kind. I was charged Rs 22,000 for registration by Justdial whereas the regular price is Rs 5,000,” she says.

The most popular products on are the big shot machine, a sort of printing device which can cut and emboss on any material, plaid sheets, sospeso tapes and stamps.

The website caters to art and crafts supplies all over India, providing details and sometimes videos of how to use them. One can even call the website office on information on how to use some of the materials. Shalini claims that they sell “nothing Chinese” on the website. “All products are obtained from brands and companies and are linked together with others materials they are used with,” she says.

Having grown leaps and bounds, is now the seller to all vendors Shalini was originally buying products from, she proudly

Based out of Mohali, Punjab, began in 2012 by Vikramjit Singh and Gurpreet Singh. The two friends met in a gym in the quaint hill town and decided to capture the online market place with domestic products.

The biggest selling products on the website are white chalks from Mungyo and various products from Reynolds, while about 40 per cent of their clients are repeat buyers.

“The website is a sister concern of — an online portal for unique chess pieces. There is not much demand for domestic items in the country. We wanted to start a portal for stationery products not easily available in Tier II and Tier III cities,” Vikramjit says, adding that it took around two to three months for to get its first order. “It was difficult at first but we have picked up. There is a lot of potential for this market in the near future,” he says.

The company provides free shipping on all products pan India, having tied up with courier companies such as Blue Dart, DTDC and Fed Ex. Asked how the duo maintains a profit margin on the sales, Vikramjit says, “We are not here for profits. Our main concern is building a customer base.”

Based out of Delhi’s bustling wholesale market Chawri Bazaar, started as an extension of Gaurav Arora’s stationery business. “Since the profit margin for these products is very less due to shipping charges, we focus more on B2B than B2C market although we follow both models” he says.

The most popular items on the website are Parker pens and curriculum based textbooks. “We get most of our orders from South Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala which I feel is probably due to the apparent limitedness of such stores in the region,” he says.

Mehul Shah started out as a software developer with Reliance before making his way to HP computers and ultimately establishing with his childhood friend Abbas Slatewala. With its humble beginnings in a stationery shop in Mumbai’s Crawford market, the website has come a long way.

“We wanted to build a niche portal focusing purely on stationery supplies. We started the portal in 2012 and currently deliver to about 7,500 pin codes across the country, in Tier II and Tier III cities as well,” he says, adding that through corporate tie-ups and direct customer service, they are getting a good response from the public.

The most sold items on the website remain oil pastels colour packs as “perhaps these products or not easily available in tier two and three cities,” Mehul says. The website gets most of its orders from Delhi, Bengaluru and Hyderabad. “We have tie-ups with Fed Ex and other courier services which deliver for us,” he informs.

The lack of knowledge about niche educational supplies and craft products, shortage of availability and ease of access to the internet is what is fueling e-commerce portals dedicated exclusively towards stationery shopping. Kids, parents, students, artists and educational institutions alike are now flocking towards online stationery shops for stocking their desks, online shopping providing a hassle-free and time-saving alternative.

Nila Mohanan IAS has been transferred to the education and civil aviation secretary

PANAJI: North Goa collector Nila Mohanan IAS, has been transferred to the secretariat where she will function as the education and civil aviation secretary. Former passport officer Agnelo A J Fernandes, who is currently the commissioner of labour and employment, will replace Mohanan, as per an order issued by under-secretary (personnel II) Shashank Thakur, on Friday.

Sources said deputy chief minister Francis D'Souza, who holds the revenue portfolio, had demanded that chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar transfer Mohanan from the North Goa collectorate after she refused to succumb to political pressure.

D'Souza, when contacted, denied that he had sought Mohanan's transfer. He said he had just returned from Rome and learnt about the development through the media.

Earlier this year, the deputy chief minister had kicked up a fuss over being allotted five secretaries for each of his portfolios and over the transfer of officers from his department without his consent. He had threatened not to continue as a minister and said he would sit as an MLA and do party work instead, if he wasn't consulted on matters. D'Souza had also said that he was not consulted on the transfer of officers, specially revenue personnel, from his department.

Parsekar had later met him personally to pacify him and voided the transfers in keeping with D'Souza's demands.

Mapusa deputy collector Pundalik Khorjuvekar had also been transferred on D'Souza's request.

In other transfers ordered on Friday, director of administration of the Goa Medical College and Hospital (GMC) T S Sawant, will replace Fernandes as labour and employment commissioner. Additional collector, sub-district, Bardez, Sanjiv Gadkar, will be the new director of administration at the GMC and will hold additional charge as NRI director until further orders.

Director of sports and youth affairs V M Prabhudesai, will hold charge as Sports Authority of Goa (SAG) executive director, in addition to his current duties.

Additional collector-II, North, Surendra F Naik, will hold charge of the post of additional collector, sub-district, Bardez in addition to his present duties.