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Asian Countries Beat Western Nations In 2014 Global Education Index With South Korea On Top

Education

02-06-2014

International Business Times

Many Asian countries fare better than their Western counterparts in imparting education to their citizens, thanks to clear targets set for the educational system and a strong culture of accountability among all stakeholders, including parents and students, according to a new report.

South Korea topped the rankings in the latest edition of the Global Index of Cognitive Skills and Educational Attainment, published in the Learning Curve 2014 report from the Economist Intelligence Unit. South Korea was followed by Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong in the report, which compared trends in 39 countries. Other countries that made it to the top 10 include the UK, Canada, Netherlands, Ireland and Poland, while the U.S comes in at number 14, followed by Australia and New Zealand.

“The clarity of goalposts and alignment of the instructional system with them is more important than high-stakes testing, and something we can learn from Asian systems,” Andreas Schleicher, deputy director for education at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, said in the report.

Finland, which was the leader in the 2012 edition of the index, fell to fifth position due to its performance in reading, math and science literacy tests, while Sweden slipped from 21st to 24th position, “fuelling the debate over the country’s free schools policy,” according to the study.

The index based its rankings by testing reading literacy, learning trends in math and science, as well as cognitive skills across the population, including the assessment of international students within the system.

“Some conclusions from The Learning Curve can clearly be reached,” Michael Barber, chief education adviser for Pearson, which published the study, said in the report. “One is the continuing rise of a number of Pacific Asian countries, such as Singapore and Hong Kong, which combine effective education systems with a culture that prizes effort above inherited ‘smartness’. Another is the significant challenge of improving skills and knowledge in adulthood, for people who were let down by their school system.”

The report also recommended that developing countries improve their educational systems by focusing on creating an army of effective teachers and giving them the freedom and autonomy to perform, while exploring new ways to engage in educating the adult population.

“Adults whose subsequent employment or training opportunities don’t make full use of their skills lose them more quickly than those who use them to their full extent in the course of their work” South China Morning Post quotedBarber as saying. “Therefore, it is vital that governments put the structures in place to slow the decline of skills in adults, irrespective of the position they hold on the index – skills need to be used continuously if they are to be retained.”

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#GirlsEdu: Equality and Education from Ground Up in India

Education

Urvashi Sinha

Brookings

Last month, India emblemized its role as the world’s largest democracy as over 800 million eligible voters went to the polls in what may have been the largest democratic event in history. High on the list of priorities for all contesting parties was women’s empowerment, women’s equality and overall safety for women. In fact, surveys show more than 90 percent of Indian voters see combating violence against women as a priority and 75 percent of men and women believe that the political promises made to advocate women’s rights have been inadequate so far.

There is good cause for Indians to be concerned that not enough has been done for women in their country. According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau, more than 25,000 rape cases were reported across the country in 2012 alone. Out of these, almost 98 percent were committed by a relative or neighbor. Additional statistics are no less troubling: latest estimates suggest that a new case of rape is reported every 22 minutes in India, a dowry death occurs every 77 minutes, and a case of cruelty committed by either a husband or husband’s relative occurs every 9 minutes. Forty-seven percent of girls are married by 18 years of age, and 18 percent are married by 15 years of age, resulting in around 39,000 child marriages taking place each day. From a global perspective, 40 percent of the world’s child brides are from India.

Even before girls reach their teenage years, they face distressing challenges in India. Many more girls than boys die before reaching the age of 5. And with female feticide approaching nearly 1 million a year, fewer girls are born. Indeed, our sex ratio is at 914 women to 1,000 men, the lowest it has been since independence in 1947.

Domestic violence and gender disparities are especially pronounced in India’s northern states. Women and girls In Uttar Pradesh, in particular, suffer physical abuse at rates of 18-45 percent, non-consensual sex at rates of 18-40 percent, and physically forced sex at rates of 4-7 percent.

These are terrifying statistics. While the government has tried to boost girls’ education and has made some significant gains (females are now enrolled in primary school almost at parity with men), girls are still far from equal in India. Only 40 percent finish 10th grade. Ultimately, the social climate at home and in communities is too discriminatory to allow for girls being educated or becoming autonomous, equal persons.

Dissatisfied with the government’s efforts, NGOs, women’s movements, journalists, economists, academics and lawyers are promoting their “Womanifesto,” a six-point plan, first drafted last year, that details what needs to be done within the next five years to improve conditions for India’s women and girls. First on the list is “Educate for Equality.” It reads, “We will implement comprehensive, well-funded and long-term public education programs to end the culture of gender-based discrimination and violence. These will include: SMS, radio and TV public service campaigns, accessible lesson plans for schools, and modules for training teachers. To this end we will reach men, women, boys and girls in both urban and rural areas.” Significantly, it specifically speaks of education “for equality,” and not a more watered-down, paternalistic “education for girls.”

The group that I’ve founded, Study Hall Education Foundation (SHEF), has been doing just this. In the last decade, we have adopted the motto of “educate for equality,” understanding that not only is mere enrolment not enough but a gender-neutral academic education is not sufficient to empower girls and will not necessarily lead to better life outcomes. We embed strong, focused, rights-based empowerment programs within schools’ curriculums with very encouraging outcomes. Teachers are led to examine their own gendered mindsets and trained to become advocates for girls’ rights. The teachers then help girls become advocates for themselves and for all girls’ rights. They have a large parent community that they can influence and they use all their interactions with parents as platforms of advocacy.

Our program has reached out to 4,000 adolescent girls, 300 teachers and over 16,000 parents. Teachers have started using their parent teacher meetings to discuss issues like gender discrimination, child marriage, dowry, girls’ right to education and violence against girls. Girls participate in these meetings, using drama to give voice to feelings of oppression and to stake their claim to their right to equal personhood. Interestingly, parent attendance at these meetings has increased 55 percent since the teachers began using them as platforms to discuss gender issues. Teachers report that parents are finding the meetings much more meaningful and are engaging actively in discussions centered on issues that are close to them.

As part of SHEF’s efforts to educate wider communities on gender, we organized a large campaign against child marriage, which impacted approximately 16,000 teachers, students and members of the community. The month-long campaign brought critical dialogues into the classroom, and kicked off discussions with parents at parent teacher meetings. It culminated in a student and teacher-led march through the community, where students and teachers from 43 schools across four districts in Uttar Pradesh shouted slogans against child marriage and for girls rights, performed street plays in the villages and enlisted support from community adults via signature campaigns.

If India is to become a better place for all of its children, then it is vital that we value and respect our daughters. We must move the conversation of girls’ education from “learning outcomes” to “life outcomes” and take up “education for equality” as our mantra across the country. We should include gender education in our curriculum for both boys and girls. And we should teach these lessons not just to our students, but also to their parents and communities in order to construct an egalitarian gender perspective. This is imperative if India is to fulfill its constitutional promise of gender equality.

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Teacher Tuesday

Public Private Partnerships (PPPs)

08-04-2014

The Times of India

Teachers from all over the world have stories to tell. Stories that are so different from each other, and yet so very similar. At the heart of the teaching and learning miracle lies the connect between the teacher and the student via the material. I have always maintained that teaching is a sort of energy transfer, where a teacher passes on the love for learning to the student. The rest is mere content.

For the past 7 weeks, thanks to UNESCO’s superb EFA team there has been a blogging revolution taking place. Each week we listen to, and talk to teachers from all over the world. Each week a different teaching challenge is observed and discussed. It has been a phenomenal ride, from the war torn Syria to the very organised Netherlands.

We explored the universal problem of teacher shortages and how a teacher from Malawi understands the issues to the challenges of bilingual teaching in the hondurasall the way to the challenges of including more girls in education in Afghanistan, especially when schools had restrictions and then on to teaching in poverty in Africa.

It is not over yet. We are yet to meet more teachers, and authors all over the world read into their stories and share what struck them most. For me, the universality of the teaching experience despite challenges has been the greatest learning. And the fact that I learn to respect Indian teachers even more – each one of these situations is  reflected in some part of India. There are areas that are strife torn and have been for decades. How do teachers manage over there? Poverty? We have both government and private schools serving extremely poor communities, educating children often with little or no resources. Bilingual teaching is a reality that desperately needs to be acknowledged by Indian examination boards and of course pedagogical processes and textbook authorities. Most classes in the younger years are de facto bilingual and the advantages are well known. Each of these challenges has a different solution in parts of the world. Some specific to the teacher, some systemic.

Sometimes solutions cannot wait for systems. And this week’s story is about one such school and teacher. She is Masammat, and she teaches in a solar floating school in Bangladesh. The school is owned and run by a philanthropic trust and is connected by internet to the rest of the world. Why is it on a boat? Because through a quarter of the year when the monsoon strikes this part of Bangladesh is flooded and children cannot reach school. Simple – if the children cannot come to school, let the school go to them.

Masammat has not received much teacher training but is an experienced teacher and gets support to improve her teaching practice. She teaches class 2, and has ten years of schooling and ten years of teaching experience. She teaches 4 hours a day – each class is 30 students and they do 3 batches a day. The school has 90 students, in three shifts. The boat travels from one village to another to give access to the students. Solar roofs, internet connectivity and monsoon resistant, this school provides education throughout the year to students who would have been left behind otherwise.

As I read her story I wonder – how do the teachers get support? How do they assess themselves and their students. In Massammat’s own words –

“All teachers attend a two-week long orientation training at the beginning of their work here. The training covers the project overview, floating school, curriculum, parents meeting and reporting guidelines. Also, there are day-long refresher training sessions every month. They cover next month’s syllabus and teaching guidelines, parents meeting agenda and extracurricular activities. At the monthly training, we discuss also about the school performance during the previous month, challenges, and required educational materials (we receive primary textbooks – grade 2 to 4 – from Upazila Education Offices of the Bangladesh Government). We also share feedback received from the parents.”

These are students in remote areas who would be left bereft of literacy if such initiatives and private schools did not exist. What is encouraging here is the public private partnership that we see – books coming from the state, the infrastructure from a trust. And the big story here is the technology that meets the gap – there is enough proof from around the world that show how technology in its various forms has helped bridge the last mile problems faced by children and communities in rural areas. Of course it can never be a complete solution to a perfect well trained and passionate teacher but in areas where teachers and teaching equipment is in short supply this goes a long way to bringing basic education to students.

One of the things I do is run a monthly online chat on education issues in India (called #EduIn) – an egalitarian discussion on issues that matter in education. The chat on technology in education had a clear outcome – technology was but a tool, it could never be a substitute for teaching. Yet, its value was immense and blended learning did improve learning outcomes. In remote areas like the place Massamat teaches at there is a more basic requirement for technology to be useful for learning – literacy. As the UNESCO report points out both adults and children need to have the skills necessary to manage information in digital environments. Massamat and her school provide just that first link in a lifelong journey into learning, skills and employability for these students.

(Footnote: India too has some great stories about technology bridging the last mile. Too many to tell here. But the journey has just begun and there are many more who will grow into being denizens, and active citizens in this digital age)

The lesson for us teachers? Time to step up and be included in the digital age, by including technology in what we do. Demand more and better from your providers by telling them what works best in your classroom. Do tell us more – what helped your students learn better?

As for Teacher Tuesday? We still have a few more weeks with great stories from around the world. Join us on twitter for the chat (#teachertuesday) or follow the blogs to learn more about teachers around the world.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.
This blog was originally posted in The Times of India.
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Private Schools for the Poor – Educating Millions in the Developing World

Budget Private Schools

Authors: James Tulloch, Aline Kramer, and Lisa Overbey

Endeva Working Paper 03

April 2014

Abstract: Low-cost private schools can help the poor bridge the basic education gap.  Indeed, they already play a significant role in educating the children of millions of poor families throughout the developing world – charging the equivalent of just a few dollars a month in tuition fees.  The bottom-up, demand-driven nature of low-cost private schools allows them to meet the specific needs of poor parents, many of whom choose to send their children to fee-paying private schools rather than have them attend free public schools.  Low-cost private schools succeed where poor parents believe public schools frequently fail – meeting their demands for Affordable and Accessible education for their children, provided by teachers and administrators who are held Accountable for the quality of instruction and educational outcomes.  This “Triple-A rating” that families are giving low-cost private schools suggests that they are an educational choice for low income parents that is here to stay.

However, there is plenty of room for improvement…

The complete working paper can be accessed here.

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Rating colleges is ‘like rating a blender’ – Education Department official

Education Loans, Outcomes

26-05-2014

Washington Post

This is what  Jamienne Studley, a deputy under secretary at the Education Department, told a group of college presidents who were meeting to talk about President’s Obama’s plan to rate colleges with the apparent aim of driving out of business schools that don’t meet the administration’s definition of success, as reported by The New York Times:

“It’s like rating a blender. This is not so hard to get your mind around.”

And this is what Cecilia Muñoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, said in the same article about whether it is possible for anybody to persuade the administration that their plan is a terrible one for many reasons, including the fact that rating a college is not really like rating a blender:

For those who are making the argument that we shouldn’t do this, I think those folks could fairly have the impression that we’re not listening. There is an element to this conversation which is, “We hope to God you don’t do this.” Our answer to that is: “This is happening.”

And there you have it. It doesn’t seem to matter what anybody else thinks. Though there are many definitions of success, the Obama administration is going to use its own to develop the rating system no matter how many people oppose it. They know better. Just ask them.

In this case, we are talking about a plan  to rate (not rank) colleges on criteria that could include average tuition and how much graduates earn even though many higher education leaders have said it is a terrible idea.

The administration says it will rate colleges by “mission” as well as institutional type, and wants to link federal student aid to the rankings, giving more to schools that score highly, and thus ultimately driving out schools that do poorly on the ratings system.  (The federal student aid piece involves congressional approval, which isn’t likely.) How much it is going to cost? Not known.

The administration thinks this will serve students well by revealing important data to families so they can better make college decisions. Critics say that all rating systems present a limited view of any institution and that the government already publishes a mountain of information on institutions of higher education. (See below for other problems with the plan.)

One of the critics is Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California system who had been Obama’s U.S. homeland security secretary; she said last December that she is “deeply skeptical that there are criteria that can be developed that are in the end meaningful.” The administration, apparently, doesn’t care much what its own former Cabinet member has to say.

This may seem painfully obvious but, for the record:  Blenders mix things together. That’s it. They may do it on different speeds, but mixing things is what they do. Colleges do countless things for students, and people go to them for many different reasons, with many different goals. The administration’s focus seems to be on financial rewards after college, but that’s not why everybody goes.

Yes, some students want to go to Wall Street and make a fortune. But some want to go to college to become teachers and not make a fortune. Some students want to be poets, engineers, sociologists, urban planners, nurses, etc. Some go for a religious education. Some go without knowing what they want to be but want to expand their understanding of the world and develop analytical thinking, which, incidentally, can be done in just about any area, not simply the sciences but also philosophy and music and the whole range of humanities.

Schools are highly complicated institutions with countless moving parts. Unlike a blender.

Besides, there are a host of problems associated with the plan.  The Education Department asked for public comments about its plan, and the National Association for College Admissions Counseling responded with some of the most interesting. I’ve published some of these comments before, but here they are again:

*Ratings and rankings can be skewed by the methodology used to create them.

* The federal government has major constraints in its ability to oversee data submission from colleges and “as a result, it may take years before institutions are held accountable for violating program integrity standards, including reporting false data to the Department of Education.”

At a minimum, a college ratings system in the current environment of program integrity enforcement would suffer from inaccurate and potentially misleading information if unscrupulous institutions are able to avoid accountability for reporting inaccurate information. At worst, decisions about the allocation of federal student aid will be made on information that has been manipulated to ensure continued eligibility for federal student aid programs, with little or significantly delayed corrective action.

* A rating system could create incentives for schools “to focus disproportionate resources on data elements that can change rankings without necessarily changing the quality of the institution.

* It is “virtually impossible to develop a ratings system that includes affordability as an input variable without also making an evaluation of the state funding mechanisms for higher education.”

* The administration suggested that  colleges and universities would be classified in its ratings system by “mission” as well as institutional type, but schools “differ widely within some of these categories.”

* Using as a data point the number of students from low-income families with Pell grants is problematic because “some institutions that enroll the largest number of Pell grants are also the institutions with the worst track record for serving students.”

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The Foreign Education Regulatory Bill has been a hot topic of discussion

Higher Education

27-05-2014

DNA

To an Indian student, there is nothing more prestigious than an international qualification. While statistics and common belief may show that US and UK as education hubs are drying up, there is popular demand for qualifications from these two countries. For a country with a population of 1.2 billion, who aspire an international degree without leaving their homeland, the University Grants Commission’s (UGC) ordinance on the Foreign Education Regulatory Bill comes as a ray of hope.

According to the ordinance, unlike as proposed in the Bill, foreign universities will be allowed to operate independently, set up campuses and offer degrees as well without partnering with any Indian partner institution. “Pursuing higher education abroad comes with an exhorbitant price, if foreign universities open campuses in India, fees will be paid in rupees and not dollars proving beneficial for Indian students, says Debashish Sanyal, dean, Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies. Suresh Advani, chairperson, international operations, SP Jain Institute of Management and Research agrees. “If grade A institutions set up campuses in the country, it will only prove to be beneficial to all—students and faculty members.” He believes that this will give an opportunity to first class faculty members to up their talent and find lucrative options.

However, there is a strong debate on whether foreign educational institutions will finally be allowed to operate. There is a belief that the ordinance will usher in a new competitive era of quality education there are opponents who argue that this will lead to commercialisation and limit the access of quality education to those few who can afford it.

The PRS Lesgislative Research website which discusses the 2010 Bill questions whether there are as many foreign educational institutions willing to collaborate with universities in Indian given the strict guidelines. Advani points out that education sector in India functions very differently from its international counterparts. “Most of our education institutes have politicians as decision makers and so whether this will ever see light is doubtful,” he says. The PRS website also discusses that, these foreign education providers will have to maintain a corpus fund of about Rs 50 crore. And that upto 75 per cent of any income generated has to be utilised in developing the institute’s Indian campus and the rest has to be invested back in the fund.

Though educationists welcome the proposed Foreign Education Regulatory Bill they have reservations. “Why would any institution want to set up campuses, invest in infrastructure and faculty when they are not allowed to pass on any income to their home campus?,” questions Sanyal. According to Advani, even educational institutes though in the noble profession of teaching are looking at profitable business opportunities.

About the few international institutes who run capsule programmes in India he says, “They are here for their non-profitable modules, for faculties which are not necessarily money generating.” He points out that 65 per cent of our graduates are not fit for employment many still cannot afford basic higher education leave alone the quality programmes offered by the world’s best. “It is too early to celebrate and believe that we are such a huge market that everyone will run to our country,” he cautions.

Indian students make up to 13.1 per cent of total foreign students population studying in US. There is no doubt that international exposure is critical and has a better impact. “Just as much as we need good institutes to cater to our young population, international institutions as well need good students,” says Sanyal. However, with so many restrictions there is doubt as to how many will finally offer their programmes in India? Academicians are hopeful as we inch closer to a new government offering new policies. “What was discussed five years ago will hopefully materalise in the future,” hopes Advani.

A study conducted by the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) says there are…
631 Foreign Education Providers were operating in the country
440 were functioning from their respective home campuses
5 had opened their own campus in India
60 had programmatic collaboration with local institutions
49 were operating under twinning arrangements and
77 had arrangements other than twinning or programmatic collaboration

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Modi donates Rs 21L for education of daughters of Guj drivers, peons

Girl Child Education

23-05-2014

The Indian Express

Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi has donated Rs 21 lakh from his personal savings for the education of daughters of drivers and peons working with the Gujarat government.

In posts on social networking site Twitter, he said educating the girl child is an issue which is very close to him.

“As CM, I always looked forward to Kanya Kelavani Abhiyan across Gujarat….Before leaving Gujarat, I gave Rs 21 lakh from my personal savings to educate daughters of drivers and peons working with Gujarat Government,” he tweeted.

In another tweet, Modi expressed optimism that “this small contribution will be a part of a corpus fund that will hopefully grow in future and empower our daughters”.

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The impact on education

Access to education

26-05-2014

Dawn

WHAT must it feel like to have armed men burst into your classroom and tell you that what you’re studying is forbidden under Sharia? How much worse is that feeling than the realisation that your state is unable — or unwilling —- to keep you safe from such intimidation while you pursue your education?

Sadly, students in Panjgur, Balochistan, have had to answer these questions in recent weeks following threats and attacks against private and co-educational schools and English learning centres. The Tanzeem-ul-Islam-ul-Furqan, a previously unknown group, has been circulating written threats against schools with female students and teachers, warning against “vulgar, Western” education. The group has also targeted van and taxi drivers who transport girls to school. To make sure the point was well taken, the group on May 14 shot at and burnt a van on a school run.

The extremist assault against education is not a new phenomenon in Pakistan — more than 600,000 students are believed to be out of school in KP because of militancy in recent years.

Just last month, the provincial assembly debated the extent to which militancy had impacted education provision in KP. The education department claimed 160 primary and secondary schools in the province, including 13 in Peshawar, remained closed owing to the activities of militant groups. Others contested the figures, saying they were as high as 385 closed schools, including 295 for girls. The numbers are likely much higher, and do not account for the dozens of schools that have been destroyed through bomb attacks by militants since the mid-2000s.

The situation in Panjgur has invited comparisons with the activities of the Boko Haram in Nigeria, currently in the international media spotlight following the kidnapping of over 200 school girls.


Closure of schools in Panjgur will give more room to madressahs.


It has also highlighted how militant groups are able to take advantage of the poor security situation in Balochistan, exploiting the uncertain environment to serve their own ideological agendas despite the significant military and paramilitary presence in the province. And it has once again raised troubling questions about the capacity and willingness of the government and state security forces to push back against militancy.

The school closures have no doubt taken a psychological toll on Panjgur’s population, making the future imposition of obscurantist ideas on a historically moderate society easier. But it is worth highlighting the more cynical motives behind the militants’ focus on schools. The closure of private, co-ed and English-language schools is likely to create greater space for madressahs, and by extension, more support for militant activities.

Recent intelligence reports from Islamabad have reiterated the connection between madressahs and violent extremist groups. Not only do madressahs provide new recruits and attract funds that are often diverted to militancy, they also play an important networking role, helping militant groups connect with each other. There are reportedly already 2,500 registered and 10,000 unregistered madressahs in the province.

In this context, the rise of the Furqan group brings credence to recent claims that state security forces are giving increasing leeway to extremist groups in Balochistan in the hopes that religious ideology might trump growing nationalist sentiments.

There is no shortage of reasons why the government should eradicate militancy, but its impact on education is certainly among the more compelling ones. Protests in Panjgur against government inefficacy in the face of the militant threats are an important reminder that ours is still an aspirational society, one that seeks progress and opportunity. The failure to check the impact of militancy on education will lead to the unnecessary loss of a generation.

(Admittedly, the poor state of education in Pakistan is not only a fallout of the security environment — it is well-known that the state does not consider education to be a priority. Think of interior Sindh, where the incidence of extremist militancy remains low, but where every seventh school is a ‘ghost school’.)

The negative outcomes of militancy’s chilling effects on education cannot be understated: democracy cannot function without the contributions of a literate population equipped for civic participation and critical thought. Without receiving an education, Pakistanis will also lack the skills needed to contribute to the globalised economy and thereby reap the demographic dividend. The chances of international employment for Pakistanis will also decline, dealing a blow to an economy that relies so heavily on foreign remittances. Moreover, the fact that schools in KP and Balochistan have been harder hit could fuel further inter-provincial tensions as the discrepancies in development indicators with other provinces widen.

As such, in addition to its more obvious toll in the form of loss of lives, militancy can put indirect pressures on the polity, and is likely to do so, unless checked.

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Reforming higher education with transparency

Higher Education

23-05-2014

University World News

Is the Indian institute of technology a university? What is the difference between a deemed-to-be-university and a state private university? How does the University of Pune ‘affiliate’ more than 600 colleges? How does the authority and control of multiple regulatory bodies differ?

These are some of the confusing and frustrating questions that researchers, policy-makers and foreign institutions who areinterested in India have to confront. They expose the complexity of the current condition of higher education in India.

Indian higher education has expanded at a break-neck speed. Between 2007-08 and 2010-11, post-secondary student enrolments grew by nearly five million students.

In the same five-year period, the number of institutions increased by nearly 10,000. But this much needed expansion came at the expense of quality, primarily due to an inadequate and incoherent policy and legal framework.

One of the most challenging problems facing Indian higher education institutions is funding mechanisms. According to the policy framework, institutions are required to have a non-profit structure, irrespective of how they are funded – by public or private sources.

At the same time, degree-awarding powers rest only with universities as specified by the University Grants Commission, or UGC, under section 22(3) of the University Grants Commission Act, 1956.

A complex system

The act has resulted in a unique and complex system of hundreds of ‘teaching’ colleges – private or public – ‘affiliated’ with public universities. Public universities themselves can be funded by state or central sources.

To achieve the goals of expanding access to higher education within the constraints of public funding, privately-funded universities were allowed. These private universities in turn can be approved by state acts or the central authority, UGC.

This complex framework resulted in four types of universities in India – central universities, state universities, private universities and would-be universities which are mostly private.

The complexity is further compounded because of the large number of regulatory bodies that sometimes have overlapping scope, resulting in power struggles and additional confusion for stakeholders.

Consider the recent example of the conflict between the UGC and the All India Council for Technical Education, or AICTE, on the regulatory jurisdiction for management programmes.

The previous minister of human resource development, who is also responsible for higher education, attempted to address these challenges by proposing a dozen legislative bills, including the Foreign Educational Institutions Bill 2010, the Higher Education and Research Bill 2011 and the Prohibition of Unfair Practices in Educational Institutions 2010.

Unfortunately, most of the bills are still far from seeing the light of day and have remained unapproved because of political divisiveness and general elections in 2014.

The Foreign Educational Institutions Bill, which had been talked about in its various forms for nearly a decade, became a topic of discussion again in 2010 but no progress was made as the bills had been languishing in a political stalemate.

Regulatory bodies are seeking ways to work around the politics of Indian higher education. In May last year, the UGC announced that existing and future partnerships would require their approval to offer any joint degrees or twinning arrangements.

The policy vacuum resulted in many twinning partnerships and a few branch campuses starting without any regulatory oversight. Unsurprisingly, quality is at risk and students are often deceived by the high cost and the lack of recognition of the degree they earn.

Transparency of information for students

Overall, the regulatory environment for Indian higher education is complex and fails to improve its quality and address deficiencies. One of the key solutions for addressing the challenges of higher education is to improve accessibility to credible, consistent and current information about institutional performance.

The current policy reform directions are seriously limited by the government’s political approach of using control and bureaucracy as a way of assuring quality rather than using transparency for empowering students and fostering competition.

One specific recommendation for achieving transparency goals is to mandate high standards of institutional performance data disclosures by institutions. These data could be uploaded to a user-friendly and easy-to-use national database. Hence, students would be able to make informed choices based on the data they have obtained.

Consider the case of regulation in the financial system. How is transparency ensured in publicly traded companies? It is through mandatory and easily available audited financial reports coupled with strict oversight by the financial regulator.

In contrast, the parallel information of institutional performance for higher education institutions is unavailable. This results in all sorts of academic, financial, regulatory and marketing malpractices.

Transparency of the US system

As applied in the US, transparency through data reporting and information sharing is an important policy-tool enforced by the US Department of Education where the National Center for Education Statistics collects, collates, analyses and reports on American education.

Data reported by the institutions are uploaded to a free website, namely College Navigator, enabling students to search and compare colleges based on various parameters.

Since the students have easy access to comparable information on each college’s institutional performance, they can decide on the programmes they wish to pursue and in the process create a state of enhanced competition among institutions. In addition, policy-makers and researchers also have access to rich data and this can help improve the education system.

Consequences of rapid growth

Indian higher education has expanded at a fast rate and the policy framework has failed to adapt and change its complex system. The system has remained embroiled in the politics of policy-making and suffered in terms of quality.

Given the pace of growth and unmet demand, the success of higher education lies in finding adaptable and innovative solutions.

A focus on enforcing higher standards of transparency should be the first step in enabling a stronger institutional accountability and addressing the complexities and challenges of Indian higher education.

Dr Rahul Choudaha is chief knowledge office and senior director of strategic development at World Education Services in New York. He is an international higher education strategist with a focus on student mobility, enrolment management and transnational education. This is an edited version of an articlepublished in the fall 2014 issue of the Comparative and International Education Society’s Higher Education Special Interest Group.

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China needs education revolution to compete

Education

26-05-2014

The Japan Times

Over the last 35 years, China’s strong and sustained output growth — averaging more than 9.5 percent annually — has driven the miraculous transformation of a rural, command economy into a global economic superpower. In fact, according to the World Bank’s most recent calculation of the purchasing power of aggregate income, China is about to overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy.

But in terms of the quality and sustainability of its growth model, China still has a long way to go.

Despite its remarkable rise, China’s per capita income, at $10,057 (adjusted for purchasing power) in 2011, ranks 99th in the world — roughly one-fifth of U.S. per capita income of $49,782. And reaching high-income status is no easy feat. Indeed, many countries have tried and failed, leaving them in a so-called middle-income trap, in which per capita income levels stagnate before crossing the high-income threshold.

Strong human capital is critical to enable China to escape this fate. But China’s labor force currently lacks the skills needed to support high-tech, high-value industries. Changing this will require comprehensive education reform that expands and improves opportunities for children, while strengthening skills training for adults.

To be sure, over the last four decades, the quality of China’s labor force has improved substantially, which is reflected in impressive gains in educational attainment. Gross enrollment rates at the primary level have surpassed 100 percent since the 1990s, while secondary and tertiary enrollment rates reached 87 percent and 24 percent, respectively, in 2012. In 2010, more than 70 percent of Chinese citizens aged 15 to 64 had received secondary education, compared to about 20 percent in 1970.

Furthermore, Chinese students perform well in internationally comparable tests. Fifteen-year-olds in Shanghai outperformed students from 65 countries, including 34 OECD, in mathematics, science and reading, according to the Program for International Student Assessment in 2009 and 2012.

China has also benefited from rapid employment growth, with more than 7 million workers having entered the workforce each year since 1990. This, together with the massive reallocation of workers from rural to urban areas, has supported the labor-intensive manufacturing industries that have fueled China’s economic rise.

But China’s demographic advantage is diminishing quickly, owing to low fertility rates and population aging. According to the United Nations, by 2030, China’s working-age population (15 to 59 years old) will have decreased by 67 million from its 2010 level.

Moreover, higher education in China leaves much to be desired, with employer surveys revealing that graduates of upper secondary schools and universities usually lack the required technical knowledge and soft skills.

For example, in 2013, more than one-third of the Chinese firms surveyed said that they struggled to recruit skilled workers, with 61 percent attributing this to a shortage of general employable skills. How, then, can China expect to achieve the export diversification and technological upgrading that it needs to move up the global value chain?

Clearly China needs to reform its higher-education institutions, including technical and vocational training programs. At the same time, it must expand opportunities for anyone with talent to acquire high-quality secondary and tertiary education, thereby reducing substantial disparities in the accessibility and quality of higher education across regions and social groups. And the children of migrant workers in urban areas must be granted full access to the education system.

Such efforts to reduce educational disparities would help to address income inequality — a significant threat to future economic growth. All of this will require increased public investment in education. As it stands, China’s public investment in education, as a share of GDP, is below international standards across all levels, but especially in senior secondary and tertiary education.

China’s education challenge also extends to quality. Inadequate education is a major driver of rising unemployment among China’s senior secondary and tertiary graduates, not to mention their declining wage premium. This can be remedied through better financing, more effective recruitment and compensation policies, and more decentralized decision-making in school administrations.

Although some evidence suggests that there is an over-supply of university graduates in China, ongoing demographic and sectoral shifts mean that China will encounter a supply deficit of 24 million highly skilled graduates of universities or higher-level vocational schools by 2020. To fill this gap, China must upgrade its fragmented and ineffective technical- and vocational-training programs.

To ensure that its labor force can meet the demands of a rapidly changing economic and technological environment, China must build a more inclusive, higher quality education system. Without it, China may not be the world’s number one economy for long.

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