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India must regain its past glory in education: President

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ANI  |  New Delhi, June 6, 2014 Last Updated at 12:19 IST | Business Standard

President Pranab Mukherjee has expressed disappointment over the fact that not a single modern Indian educational institution is amongst the top 200 educational institutes in the world, whereas from 3rd century BC to 12th century AD, for a period of 1500 years, India was the leader in higher education in the world.

A Rashtrapati Bhawan press release said the President, underlined the fact that it is not impossible to return to the days of our past glory “If we can make the necessary effort by creating teams of inspired teachers; by establishing linkages with the global educational fraternity; through the maximum use of

Information Technology; by placing emphasis on research etc, results will follow. He said some institutes have already started making efforts and progress is evident.

The President was addressing a function organized to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Acharya Satis Chandra Mukherjee organized by the National Council of Education, Bengal in Kolkata yesterday.

Paying rich tribute to the Acharya, the President highlighted that by taking a few lessons from the life of this great educationist, we must improve our educational system by imparting quality education. The President said Satis Chandra made education his mission and channelized all his energies in establishing educational institutions to produce ideal students for the country. Dr. Rajendra Prasad, who was a student of Satis Chandra, had recorded his indebtedness to his teacher and mentor in his autobiography.

The President expressed hope that the celebration of the 150th Birth Anniversary of Acharya Satis Chandra Mukherjee would be a suitable occasion to explore ways and means to propagate his thoughts and ideas. He called upon people to rededicate themselves to the causes for which this educationist, social thinker and crusader devoted his life.

Acharya Satis Chandra Mukherjee was a contemporary of Swami Vivekananda and Brahmabandhab Upadhyay. He was one amongst the galaxy of luminaries Bengal produced in the nineteenth century.

He was a great teacher and a remarkable educationist. In 1906, Satis Chandra was the main force behind the establishment of the first college of the National Council-the Bengal National College.

Earlier, in 1897, he started editing and publishing the famous Dawn magazine.

 

Original URL: http://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ani/india-must-regain-its-past-glory-in-education-president-114060600358_1.html

 

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National Education Policy Soon, Sports to be Part of School Curriculum

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U Anand Kumar | Published: 10th June 2014 06:00 AM |  The New India Express

NEW DELHI: Emphasising its priority on social sector, the NDA Government would soon formulate a National Education policy. The policy would be aimed at setting up IITs and IIMs in each state and establishment of AIIMS-like institutions in every state as well as providing 33 per cent reservation for women in legislature.

Addressing the Joint Session of Parliament on Monday, President Pranab Mukehrjee said that the government was committed to making all minorities’ equal partners in India’s progress and that a dedicated Van Bandhu Kalyan Yojana for the Scheduled Tribes would be launched.

In his address, which enlisted the agenda of Narendra Modi Government for the next five years, Mukherjee said, “The government will strive for transition from Youth Development to Youth-led Development. It will set up Massive Open Online Courses and virtual classrooms and formulate a National Education Policy aimed at meeting the challenges posed by lack of quality, research, and innovation, in our educational institutions.”

“With the motto of ‘Har Haath ko Hunar’, the government  will strive to break the barriers between formal education and skill development, and put in place a mechanism to give academic equivalence to vocational qualifications. With the goal of Skilled India, my Government will also launch a National Multi-skill Mission,” the President added.

Recognising the important role that women play in the development of society and growth of the nation, he said, “The government is committed to providing 33 per cent reservation to them in the Parliament and State Legislative Assemblies. With a commitment to ‘Beti Bachao – Beti Padhao’, we will launch a mass campaign for saving the girl child and enabling her education.  The Government will have a policy of zero tolerance for violence against women, and will strengthen the criminal justice system for its effective implementation.”

President added that the children and youth of the country need avenues of recreation to develop them constructively and keep them fit. “The government will launch a ‘National Sports Talent Search System’ to facilitate development and promotion of Indian sports, particularly rural sports. Sports will be popularised by making it an integral part of the school curriculum and providing educational incentives,“ he said. Maintaining that a holistic health care system that is universally accessible, affordable and effective, is the need of the hour, the President said, “To achieve this objective, the government will formulate a New Health Policy and roll out a National Health Assurance Mission. It will promote Yoga and AYUSH.

To address the shortfalls of health care professionals, health education and training will be transformed. AIIMS-like institutes will be established in every state in a phased manner.”

Mukherjee said that a “Swachh Bharat Mission” would be launched to ensure hygiene, waste management and sanitation across India.

Keeping in mind the welfare of the people belonging to the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes and the weaker sections, Mukherjee said that the government would take steps to enable an eco-system of equal opportunity in education, health and livelihood.

The President also said that the government would especially strengthen measures to spread modern and technical education among minority communities and that a National Madarsa Modernisation Programme will be initiated.

Original URL: http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/National-Education-Policy-Soon-Sports-to-be-Part-of-School-Curriculum/2014/06/10/article2271864.ece

 

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Teacher training weakest link in education chain

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Subodh Varma, TNN | Jun 9, 2014, 05.43 AM IST | Times of India

One of the most important streams of higher education is teachers’ training. It is from here that thousands of young men and women spread out to teach children in schools, virtually holding the destiny of the future generations in their hands. Yet teachers’ training remains one of the most chaotic, neglected and deficient sectors of India’s vast education system.

Sadhana Singh of Kanpur discovered this last month when she tried to enroll for the B.Ed program in Delhi. The eligibility conditions laid down by the National Council for Teachers Education (NCTE) are straightforward: any graduate with at least 50% marks can apply for admission. Since the NCTE is the apex regulatory body for teachers’ education, setting down the rules for everything from eligibility to facility standards, Sadhana was confident that she would get admission in Delhi’s prestigious B.Ed programs in Delhi University or Jamia Milia.

She couldn’t have been more wrong. For both these universities she was declared not eligible because she was a commerce graduate. She is not alone in this — there are thousands of commerce graduates who are denied admission to BEd programs, although such rules are in direct violation of NCTE norms and regulations. Similar complaints have been received from Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan.

Rama Mathew, director of Delhi University’s Central Institute of Education (CIE) where BEd and MEd courses are taught says that the eligibility conditions were arrived at after past experience and approved by the university Academic Council. She was unaware that NCTE norms do not allow this prohibition of BCom graduates.

“It appears that there is a disjunct between our university and the NCTE. We will write to them to change the eligibility conditions,” she said after the violation was pointed out.

Her colleague in CIE, Poonam Batra is heading a committee set up by the NCTE on the Supreme Court’s advise to reformulate all norms and rules of the NCTE. In the new recommendations, the committee has maintained the previous eligibility conditions of any graduate with 50% marks.

Poonam Batra, who was a member of the Verma Commission set up in 2011 on the SC’s orders to look into teachers’ education, was aghast when TOI told her that her own institute was not allowing commerce graduates. She asserted that as per both existing and proposed norms, all graduates should be allowed.

Venita Kaul, a professor in Ambedkar University Delhi who was initially nominated to the Batra committee but resigned, told TOI that commerce is not taught in classes up to 10th and so there is no need for commerce graduates to be admitted.

“Moreover, NCTE norms are guidelines, states can adjust according to their local conditions,” she said. This is clearly not the case: the NCTE is a statutory body and it lays down the law for teachers’ education.

Farida Khan, professor in Jamia Milia and member of the Batra committee was also surprised that her own university was not allowing commerce graduates in violation of NCTE norms.

A senior teachers’ education professor in Rajasthan, who wished to remain unnamed, told TOI that this confusion among the top brass of the NCTE and the blatant flouting of rules at the ground level is rampant across the country.

“Earlier Rajasthan too did not allow commerce graduates to enroll for BEd but after a high court order in 2005 where the NCTE’s supremacy was upheld, the state government started allowing them,” he told TOI.

Teachers’ education has been plagued by sub-standard institutions and policy confusion for years.

India is facing a double crisis of both quality and quantity of school teachers. According to the 12th five year plan there is an estimated shortage of 12.58 lakh teachers just at the elementary level. In addition, several States face an acute problem of untrained teachers. Tight fisted state governments are merrily employing contractual teachers at low pay scales sacrificing quality and discouraging talent.

Original URL: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Teacher-training-weakest-link-in-education-chain/articleshow/36269730.cms

 

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World Bank to offer transition support of $3.5 billion to India for infrastructure, education initiatives

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Deepshikha Sikarwar, ET Bureau | 10 Jun, 2014, 04.00AM IST | Economic Times

NEW DELHI: The World Bank will continue its concessional lending meant for poorer countries to India and has also significantly upped the country’s single-borrower limit, looking to provide a helping hand to the new government in taking forward its agenda on infrastructure, skilling, river cleaning and tourism.

“We have concluded IDA-17 (July 2014-June 2017) negotiations. India has got a transition support of $3.5 billion,” World Bank country director for India Onno Ruhl told ET.

Under the IDA, concessional credit at little or no interest with repayments stretched over 25 to 40 years, including a grace period of five to 10 years, is given to the poorest countries to help them eradicate poverty.

India has crossed the threshold of $1,260 per capita income and is not technically eligible for the funding. However, since the country is still home to a large number of poor, a transition support has been provided.

“I think there will be an interesting conversation with the new government. How do you build model cities….Rural connectivity and obviously education and skills…You have to get people ready for work. Scale at which skilling needs to be done, it needs a national dialogue…. We are working in solar energy and I think India is well positioned to become a global power house in solar,” Ruhl said.

The bank has committed $5.2 billion in the year ending June, 2014 to support a number of initiatives including the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor, Ruhl said.

Ruhl cautioned against any let-up in fiscal consolidation as advised by leading economist Arvind Panagariya. His suggestions to the new government include subsidy rationalisation and continuation of fiscal consolidation, shift to goods and services tax and modernisation of tax administration.

“Total subsidies in India are actually enough to be handed over to everybody in the poverty line….So working on the targeting is a high value thing to do,” he said.

Ruhl said any relaxation on fiscal front could stoke inflation, which is the “bane” of the economy. “I do not think it (pause in fiscal consolidation) is a good idea…Growth will be above 5% next year and over 6% the year after. So I do not see need to take the risk of not doing fiscal consolidation… It’s just not necessary to take that risk and recent history in India has showed that it did not work and it did not even bring back growth,” he said, adding that high inflation not just hurts po ..

On the fiscal side, the previous government made effort to contain fiscal deficit but it wasn’t done very elegantly, he said, adding that the new government should focus on the quality.

“The initial signal we have got from the new government is that they are committed to restrained fiscal policy….I think it’s also important to look at quality of expenditures and reining the deficit in the right way….With a new government in place, it can be more systemic in reviewing expenditures and making choices than rather cutting across the board,” he said.

Ruhl emphasised on cutting down on transaction costs by reducing inspections, switching to self declarations and creating flexible working framework for new employees to improve the business climate.

Original URL: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/finance/world-bank-to-offer-transition-support-of-3-5-billion-to-india-for-infrastructure-education-initiatives/articleshow/36314937.cms

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Letter to Smriti Irani: Five steps to take India’s education system from mediocre to world class

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Ashish Dhawan, Anu Aga & Amit Chandra | Jun 10, 2014, 12.08 AM IST | Times of India

Dear HRD minister,

Congratulations on BJP’s victory in the general elections. We now eagerly await the measures that your government will take to drive socio-economic prosperity for the country. As the government prepares for such measures, it is important to note that for any growth model to be successful we need an educated and skilled population. That’s why PM Narendra Modi placed skills at the head of his “skill, scale and speed” formula to transform India.

As you assume your newly assigned responsibilities, we take this opportunity to share our perspective on five big reforms that could transform India’s education system from a mediocre to a world-class system.

First, our education system currently suffers from an apparent ‘Licence Raj’ that restricts entry and operation of private players. Even policies such as RTE neglect that private schools are a large part of the education ecosystem (already 40% of school students and 60% of college students are enrolled in private institutions). These norms have led to the shutdown of a large number of affordable private schools that serve low-income students. The government must deregulate school education and treat government and private schools as equal partners in solving India’s education crisis.

Second, it is important not only to invest more in education but to do so more strategically. Central government should invest more resources in teacher education and development, principal training, ICT in education and assessments. It is also critical for the ministry of human resource development to rework its results framework document (RFD) to include student learning outcomes. Furthermore, a portion of the budget allocation to states should be contingent upon the adoption of progressive education policies and improvement of outcomes. There is an opportunity to create version 2.0 of the central education budget that shifts focus from inputs and outlays to outcomes and impact, while holding states accountable.

Third, improve quality standards through nationwide assessments. Assessments need to be at the core of any planning exercise for improving India’s education system. The government should introduce statewide learning assessments that are undertaken at regular periods during a child’s school journey, which can also contribute to remediation and improvement in teaching. Additionally, a school rating system should be instituted to set targets for school level improvements. The National Achievement Survey (NAS) should be revamped such that it becomes a barometer for student learning and the de facto benchmark for state performance.

Modi’s government in Gujarat has already taken a lead in this regard with the Gunotsav programme, an accountability framework for quality of primary education that includes learning outcomes of children as well as co-scholastic activities, optimal use of financial resources and community participation. This model can be replicated in other states.

Fourth, equip school principals to become efficient school leaders. Great leaders make great institutions, in every sphere. In schools principals are the highest point of leverage, yet their role is often restricted to administrative functions. There is a need to reimagine the role of the principal — as an instructional leader, rather than an administrator. Moreover, we need to institute stricter guidelines for recruitment of school leaders that prioritise merit over seniority. Gujarat has again taken the lead by establishing the headmaster eligibility test for selection of its principals. The government should set up centres for school leadership in every state and mandate induction as well as ongoing training for all principals.

Fifth, improve teacher quality for better learning outcomes. It is unfortunate that teaching today does not attract the best talent. We need public awareness campaigns in India that are able to effectively project teaching as a rewarding and meaningful profession. Centres of excellence need to be created for teacher education in prestigious universities across India. Our Teacher Education Institutes (TEI) capacity is extremely fragmented with over 11 lakh seats in 14,000 TEIs. Most of this capacity is of poor quality that has been created through non-transparent, poorly formulated TEI recognition procedures. Government should build and scale high-quality institutes at top 10 central universities and strengthen SCERTs and DIETs.

We believe that every child in India deserves excellent education. We also believe that given the vastness and diversity of our country we can only succeed with thorough experimentation and analysis, rather than a mere adoption of predefined rules. Our country needs bold reforms and focused implementation with clear targets for learning outcomes to achieve this goal.

Our emerging market peers — China, Brazil and Poland, among others — have made education reform a priority as they recognise it as the surest path to sustained economic development. In the run-up to elections we circulated a letter signed by leading citizens — Cyrus Mistry, Kumar Birla, Anand Mahindra, Gurcharan Das and 30 others — that highlighted the need for prioritising education in the policy agenda and suggested reforms. The future of 240 million children is at stake, and as concerned citizens we urge your attention to these bold steps that can truly improve their lives.

Thank you.

Anu Aga is a Rajya Sabha MP and Chairperson, Thermax; Ashish Dhawan is Founder of Ashoka University; Amit Chandra is Board Member of Akanksha Foundation.

Original URL: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/opinion/edit-page/Letter-to-Smriti-Irani-Five-steps-to-take-Indias-education-system-from-mediocre-to-world-class/articleshow/36312444.cms

 

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Public Rules on Private Schools: Measuring the Regulatory Impact of State Statutes on School Choice Programs

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Author: Andrew D. Catt

The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice

May 2014

Abstract: This report provides a framework for understanding the impacts of state government statutes regulating private schools, regulations distinct to a given school choice program, and any regulatory growth over a program’s lifespan.  Examining school choice programs in operation for at least a few years provides important context and comparisons for policymakers considering additional regulations on current programs, as well as for school choice advocates pursuing new or expanded programs.

The complete paper can be accessed here.

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Achieving Education for All in a ‘Hot, Flat and Crowded’ India

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Uttara Balakrishnan

Recent reading of two seemingly disparate issues made me question if they might be connected after all?  The first was in Thomas L. Friedman’s 2008 book – Hot, Flat and Crowded: Why the World Needs a Green Revolution and How We Can Renew Our Global Future. In his book, Friedman says that the earth is heading towards a new era. We’re no longer in a ‘post’ world – post-colonial, post war, post-Cold War. We’re at a turning point – where the problems of energy demand and supply, climate change, biodiversity loss and energy poverty are no longer those we can return to – at a later date in time. We have to address these now, for there to be a later. The second reading was a news piece which uncovered that in Sasaram in Bihar, children study under the dim lights of the railway station at night. Power in this district of Bihar is erratic and unreliable. A majority of the homes here do not have power for more than ten hours a day and the evenings are the worst.

When I look at these two observations together, it becomes more and more obvious to me that while achieving universal education is India’s goal; what should be our priority is achieving this in an India where the pressures of global warming, globalization and population explosion – are upon us. As I see it there are four important issues that need to be considered.

One, the health impacts that increasing energy stress are causing are reducing the ability of many people to access education. There are two aspects to this. First, indoor air pollution is one of the biggest health hazards in rural India. Biomass cooking, according to the World Health Organization causes around 5 lakh deaths in India, mostly women and children. Second, without access to clean water, parents are increasingly reluctant to send their children to school. This affects young girls disproportionately more. This means that for education to be a choice in the first place, we need to simultaneously (a) ensure clean and safe alternatives to biomass cooking (b) guarantee availability of clean water and sanitary conditions in schools across the country and, (c) provide sustainable, long term alternatives of energy consumption.

Two, in a world that is more globalized and competitive than ever before, being highly skilled is more of a necessity than an option. The RTE Act leaves the education of children post-grade 8 a question mark. This Hindustan Times article makes the point starkly.  For many Indians, education after Class 12 is still inaccessible and unaffordable. There is a massive demand-supply gap in higher education. This makes their ability to contribute and collaborate limited. In such a scenario innovations don’t happen and productivity doesn’t accelerate. Focusing on (a) novel and affordable solutions in secondary and higher education for the poor and, (b) enabling them to access information technology and better wireless connectivity (by providing green sources of electricity) to make the most of these opportunities, must be of our main concern.

Three, to achieve inclusive education and ensure that the real beneficiaries of any policy actually benefit from it means that we need to invest in and develop our villages. Our cities are stretched beyond capacity. Population pressures are leading to crumbling infrastructure and decreasing quality of life. Developing villages by investing in infrastructure and assuring provision of clean, sustainable and long term energy sources will, by creating the necessary supply conditions, encourage the increased proliferation of private schools in these areas. Demand for such schools already exists. This means that everyone, including the economically disadvantaged, will have the ability as well as the choice to empower themselves.

Lastly, the poor – the ones who have contributed the least towards the present unstable climate, are the worst prepared for and most affected by extreme events such as droughts, famines and floods. This constant struggle to battle climactic forces reduces their ability to participate in education. For those who do attend schools, drop outs are common and this is one of the many reasons for poor learning outcomes for India’s school going children. Research has indicated that if the predictions of the IPCC’s (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) predictions on global warming were to come true, India’s GDP could decline by as much as 9%. The effects of this on the education sector would be catastrophic.

Thus, while achieving education for all needs to be one of the most important policy focuses, we need to be cognizant of the inter-dependence between energy and education. We are unlikely to truly achieve equitable quality education at all levels without also focusing our attention on green solutions to the energy problems facing us. The question is not whether global warming projections will come true or not. The point is, if they do, we will have the capacity to meet them and if they don’t we will have moved on to a more efficient and sustainable way of living. ‘Energy poverty’ as Friedman terms it, is going to make it much harder for those at the bottom of the pyramid to access educational opportunity and unlock their potential. While we cannot undo the damage that has been done, what we can do – by acknowledging the existence of and acting on this multi-faceted challenge – is ensure a brighter, more certain and more able future for those who need it the most, while innovating along the way. After all, isn’t that what great revolutions are made of?

This article was originally posted on Spontaneous Order.

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Education department starts drive against unrecognized schools

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23-Oct-2013

The Times of India

Sixty eight nursery and primary schools without the mandatory state recognition have been issued notices by the department of elementary education. If they do not comply and obtain recognition, they will be sent a second round of notices by the end of November. If these continue to function further without the required certificates, they will be directed to shut shop before March, so that the students in these schools could be admitted in other schools. Officials believe that most of these schools will not be able to meet the conditions mandated by the government and will have to be closed down. P Jeyaraj, district elementary education officer (DEEO), said after a meeting of assistant education officers (AEO)s on Tuesday that unauthorised schools were issued notices in the last few weeks. “About three months ago, head masters of government schools were asked to identify schools in their locality. Notices were sent to those schools that were found to be functioning without approval,” he said. They have been asked to get the various certificates required to run a school. A team of officials from the education department will visit these schools next week and hold inspections and note the progress made with regard to the required norms. Certifications including stability certificate, fire and safety certificate as well as certificates from the department of health and the city corporation are necessary to run a school. Most important of these conditions is the minimum land required to run a school. Schools in corporation limits should have a minimum of 33 cents, in municipality areas 55 cents, town panchayat an acre and village panchayats three acre to function. If these schools fail to comply with all the norms, they will be directed to close down before the end of the academic year. According to S Mayadevi, president, private school welfare association, many schools have not renewed their licences as they do not have the required land. The criterion on minimum land was imposed only a year ago. Obtaining an acre to three acres in the rural areas has become impossible, she said. She also said the closure of schools will affect the students. Around 30 schools were closed at the start of this academic year for similar reasons. “This had affected the students who found it hard to get admission in other schools. A similar situation could arise,” she said. She wondered how many government school followed the norms. However, Jeyaraj insisted that all the unauthorised schools will be closed down before March, so that students can obtain admission in other schools. The certificates required for schools Stability certificate Fire and safety certificate ‘D-Form’ certificate from tahsildar Sanitary certificate from the health department Approval from Local Planning Authority (LPA) for building plan Minimum land as mandated by the state government

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Foreign technical varsities will still need AICTE’s nod: Shankar S Mantha

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17-09-2013

Business   Standard

The government might have decided to allow foreign universities to operate independently in India and set up campuses but Shankar S Mantha, chairman of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), says they would still require the regulator’s approval. In an interview with Kalpana Pathak, he also talks about what AICTE is doing to check the quality of educational institutions. Excerpts:

With foreign varsities allowed to enter India under the new Companies Act, would international B-schools need AICTE’s permission to be here?

Anybody operating under the definition of technical education requires AICTE’s permission to be here. Within the AICTE Act, Section 2(H) says technical educational institutions — engineering, management, hotel management or architecture — need AICTE’s approval, unless, of course, these are explicitly exempted from certain provisions of the AICTE Act itself, or by another Act of Parliament. They are bound by the existing rules of the land.

But would that not discourage international institutes from coming to India?

I don’t think so. All I am saying is, any international technical institution coming to India should abide by the rules here. They cannot operate without my permission.

In that case, what is AICTE doing to check quality of Indian institutions?

By checking quality, if you mean more number of institutions coming up, I don’t think there is a direct relationship between the seats remaining vacant and the closure of institutions. In a country where the gross enrolment ratio is hardly 19, you need more people to come into the system and you should really look at the supply side. Access is very important. Just because I stay in a slum, it does not mean I should be deprived of access to education. Talk of bringing in quality are fine but if, in the name of quality, I do not provide a college for these fellows, what happens? I am depriving them of basic education. In fact, the rate of enrolment is increasing every year. If that is the good point, how does it matter if institutions are closing? In fact, the bad ones should close. I am not worried about seats going vacant and new colleges starting.    Turn to Page 5 >

But industry says AICTE is responsible for approving new institutions and seats going vacant…

Our Constitution says every person has the right to practise one’s profession. When a private enterprise puts in money, provides for land and says it is ready to follow all the rules of the regulator, under what pretext can I say I will not allow him to start a college? Suppose you give a theory that there are too many colleges and quality is an issue. The entrepreneur says why AICTE presupposes he will not be able to provide quality. And then, he will go to court and say AICTE is stopping him from setting up an institute. Here, the biggest role is that of the university.

How do you say that?

Every university has a University Development Council. Their job is to create a perspective plan and find out — where, for instance, in a particular area, does one need a women’s college or a minority institution; in what streams are students enrolled, how many students are enrolled in a particular category, etc. But how many University Development Councils have created such perspective plans? Not even one. All these perspective plans need to be collated to create a state perspective plan. When such state perspective plans come to us, we create a national perspective plan. But nothing comes to us. Recently Maharashtra sent us a plan, but it is highly sketchy. If I go to court with that report, court will throw me out. We need a scientific study that clearly talks about our student outflow from the 10th and 12th class. That will stand its ground in court and help us determine the number of students who can be accommodated in the higher education system and the number of institutions needed in a particular area or stream.

So what is AICTE doing about bringing in quality?

We have a policy of self-disclosure to put in a self-regulatory mechanism. If you are a good citizen, the police will not come after you. That is what we are trying to do in the technical education space. Self-regulation will bring in quality much faster and in a better manner than policing around. If you give me wrong data, you will be liable to penalty. In a self-regulatory system, colleges will close. Five years ago, there was no system, no transparency and no accountability.

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CORE Education and Technologies is bringing global education systems to Indian education

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Education News

May 21, 2013

While Indian students were coming up trumps in tests, excelling in classes, and generally wowing the western world, there was one Indian company trying to make western students in the US and UK better as well by improving their education systems. Sanjeev Mansotra had been working in the family business of mining and iron ore trading since he was 17. It was in 2003 that he got the opportunity to buy out a young software company that was creating software for offshore clients.

It was this company, along with two others a little later, that would go on to become CORE Education & Technologies Ltd-a million-dollar end-to-end education services firm that now operates in 15 countries including the US, UK, India and has recently ventured into the Middle East and Africa.

It provides end-to-end solutions for the education sector which includes teacher training, technology solutions for assessment and examinations. It also provides consultancy on IT requirements for schools, colleges and for quality of education.

Kick-off “We didn’t have a vision or anything at the time [we started]. We did not plan to enter into the education sector either,” he says. That was by chance, as one of the companies Mansotra bought later was based in the US making software for the education sector.

“In the US, we started by helping the government with compliance, which is to say that we had software that could track the utilization of funds allocated to state governments for education. We were measuring the end result in terms of enrollment, dropouts, etc,” he says, adding that this was basically a data management service built for the government.

In the UK, the company’s biggest business is teacher training. “There is a big demand in UK for temporary teachers. We provide training to teachers and provide temporary teachers to schools in case of absenteeism,” Mansotra explains.

Anshul Sonak, President of the company, adds that “teacher absenteeism is looked at very seriously abroad. Supplying alternate teachers is a big business in the UK and we have a tie-up with Oxford University for the same.”

In 2008, an acquisition of the K-12 Division of Princeton Review Inc., a company that is an offshoot of Princeton University, gave CORE its flagship product-of formative assessment for the K-12 segment in the US. Here, students from kindergarten to the 12th grade are assessed via online programs to see which subjects they are weak in and then provide intervention or specialized attention accordingly.

The platform is used by students and teachers but CORE sells the product to governments, both in India and the US, and not directly to schools or colleges.

The desi experience The company entered the Indian market in 2007 with a software project for the Jharkhand government that tracked every child’s enrollment, nearest school, basic data etc. This data was collected on ground by an agency and then made available to the government in the form of a report that could be accessed via CORE’s software platform.

CORE also had its eyes on the government of India’s move to allocate a budget for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) education, which the firm already had experience in handling in the US and UK. “However, the component of services was lower in what the government was looking for in India and there was a higher demand for hardware, which is why we didn’t bid initially,” Mansotra says.

Mansotra’s belief was that the services component would be more in demand soon as providing computers wasn’t going to be enough. Creating a curriculum, managing the training among others was what interested Mansotra more. “But the government wanted to have something they could see, they wanted companies to set up computer labs,” he says. His gamble proved right. The government’s demand for services on ICT education went up and he was in business. CORE now has 12,000 schools in India where it provides ICT education services-providing content, or training teachers among others. The plan is to grow that business to 20,000 schools by the end of the year.

Mansotra was also keen on the government’s introduction of the Model Schools Scheme, wherein it would go the Public-Private-Partnership way for 2,500 public schools in the first phase of the project. Here, the private sector was to provide for infrastructure as well as manage the schools. CORE has bid for 50 schools under the Model Schools Scheme through the Ministry of Human Resource and Development. But this business is yet to take off for the company.

CORE has also moved into the vocational training space in India. “Vocational training had been looked at separately from the formal education space. But there now is a greater demand for integrating employability into the formal education curriculum,” Sonak says.

In the US, CORE has a tie up with the East Valley Institute of Technology for vocational training. The company is trying to replicate the vocational training model followed there to suit India. In India, vocational training programs are provided to rural youth through the Ministry of Labor and Employment.

The government gives out tenders to companies for the programs and CORE has been working on retail, hospitality, IT or ITES sector contracts here.

CORE is also looking at vocational training for students in schools, but Sonak says that is something which has not taken off in India in a big way. Outside of its range of education services, the company gets 23 percent of its revenues from IT services, wherein it makes software for accounting, enterprise resource planning etc. for schools and other educational institutions.

The books One of the challenges for CORE now, Mansotra says, is raising capital. By acquiring a listed company in 2003, CORE came on to the BSE from its inception. The company raised capital through foreign currency convertible bonds in 2006, 2007 and 2010, for a total of $175 million. Mansotra claims that the company has an order book of Rs. 1,500 crore in India alone now. The company’s revenue for the year 2011-2012 stood at over Rs. 923 crore.

One of the advantages Mansotra says he has over competitors is that he has kept away from the capital intensive business of setting up schools. “We are a services company and that has helped us keep our investment in capital low,” he says.

The challenge for the company, Sonak identifies, is working with the Indian government.

“Coordinating with different departments of the government is a big challenge. Also, the emphasis on quality of education is not very high in India. In the US, parents demand higher quality every day. In India, the bottom-up push is not there,” he says.

Narayanan Ramaswamy, Head, Education at KPMG says: “The government is oblivious about what technology can do for education. They released a tablet, had some initiatives in ICT, but mostly these have been disjointed efforts. Unless the government has a clear vision and plan, working with the government for companies like CORE will be a challenge.”

Ramaswamy also says that the opportunity is huge in the space that CORE operates in.

In India, there is a need to create human resource of value which will benefit when better technology is brought into the education sector, he adds. For a company that has made 13 acquisitions so far, Mansotra says that a big strength has been team management.

Another strength Mansotra identifies is that having worked with schools in developed countries as well as in India, they have an advantage going into the Middle East and Africa.

“Associating with state governments in the US provides us a fillip, while the experience of working with challenging circumstances in India give us the ability to work in these economies as well,” he says.

 

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