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Schools must give 25% seats to poor from this year

Access to education, Licenses and Regulations, Reservation of seats, Right to Education

MUMBAI : The state government , in a bid to ensure implementation of the Right To Education (RTE) Act, has made it mandatory for schoolsto admit 25% students from weaker sections and disadvantaged groups from neighbouring areas at the entry level from this year . A decision to this effect was taken during a meeting presided over by chief minister Prithviraj Chavan on Monday. The government will initiate action against schools that do not adhere to the norm .

While a few private schools have set aside seats for these categories , a senior education department official said many others claim to have nearly completed the admission process for this year . Managements of such schools will have to prove that they had enrolled the students before the apex court’s order on April 12. “If the school management fails to prove this, it would amount to contempt of court ,” the official said . “Action will be initiated against such schools.”

The SC had ruled that all schools, with the exception of unaided minority institutions , willhavetoset aside 25%of the seats for students from “weaker sections” and “disadvantaged groups” at the entry level . The norm is applicable to IB schools and those affiliated to ICSE and CBSE boards .

Schools will have to enroll such students either at the preprimary level or Class I.The state cabinet will meet soon to define “weaker section” and “disadvantaged group”. It will also fix the individual share of each category. Debate is on on whether to include families residing below the poverty line or set another income ceiling (between Rs 40,000 and Rs 1 lakh ) in the “weaker sections” category . In case of “disadvantaged group” , the bone of contention is whether to include the creamy layer in the Scheduled Caste /Scheduled Tribe and other castes . Orphans and children of commercial sex workers are likely to be included in the “disadvantaged category”.

“There is a projection that students from some government and civic schools will switch over to private schools on implementation of the norm ,” said the CM. The state plans to use a lottery system for the admissions .

The Times of India, 15 May 2012

Comment

How the RTE can make the Budget performing Schools extinct

Budget Private Schools, Finances & Budgets, Licenses and Regulations, Right to Education

The Right to Education Act (RTE) which came to effect on the 1st of April 2010 provides a rich laboratory for those wishing to study the unintended consequences of affirmative action in social choice literature. The government has promised free and compulsory education to all children between the age of 6 and 14.

The public education system suffers from systemic problems which breed a culture of low learning outcomes. This is why many parents have opted for private provisions for education at a low and affordable cost. In light of this choice by parents we have seen a mushrooming of budget private schools all over the country. However, the RTE changes the equation considerably. The provisions for recognition of private schools under Section 19 of the Act imposes severe infrastructural regulations on private schools and also places market distorting price floors on teacher’s salaries. Standard economic theory would predict that such regulations adversely impact efficiency and wages thus decided, do not reflect market clearing levels.

These provisions work to destroy the comparative advantage of budget private schools which historically lay in their capacity to efficiently utilize locally available resources and cheap human capital to provide quality education to thousands of children. The RTE takes away the cost advantage these schools maintained by hiring dedicated teachers from the local community and using effective on the job training and monitoring.

This blog uses a research study conducted in Delhi by me for The Centre for Civil Society to estimate the cost incurred by budget private schools in complying with the RTE norms which has two components. First, the capital expenditure component which includes specific dimensions of classrooms, playgrounds, library, separate toilets for boys and girls and even specifies the number of these toilets based on the number of students enrolled. Second, the variable monthly component which comprises of monthly variable expenditure based on increases in teacher’s salary and an increase in the number of teachers hired as a result of the stipulated teacher-pupil ratio. In order to break even on his investment the owner will be forced to pass the burden of this expenditure to students by increasing the fee charged. This concept is used to estimate the increase in the per-child fee if these improvements were to be undertaken.

The data from the aforementioned research is used to assess the consequences of these norms on the budget performing schools which aims to provide access to education for all children.

The key findings of the study are summarised below

• The average increase in fee charged if RTE norms were followed in the Chauhan Bangar (urban), Karawal Nagar (peri-urban) and Libaspur (rural) areas of Delhi surveyed was 394.17%, 533.62% and 352.49% respectively, using the most conservative estimates costs based on government determined circle rates for property and construction costs. The corresponding figures at market rates were 775.95%, 1044.06% and 2458.79% respectively.
• The change in absolute terms corresponds to fee increases from 370 INR, 302 INR and 295 INR in the three areas is INR 1458.43, INR 1611.53 and INR 1039.85 respectively using the most conservative estimates. The corresponding figures at market rates are 2871.02 INR, 3153.06 INR and 7253.43 INR respectively.
• The monthly variable component of the expenditure namely teacher’s salary according to the RTE regulations, alone accounted for increase for around 100% of the present fee in all three areas.
• Hardly any school owner could undertake these improvements without financial help as their capital base is very thin and they do not have access to bank loans and other sources of finance.
• Parents who send their children to school often struggle to pay the school fee thus any substantial increase in the fee would drive these parents outside the ambit of quality education.
• However, it must be mentioned that in most cases it is physically impossible to undertake the improvements stipulated by the RTE as there is no open space available for school playgrounds and adequately sized classrooms. All area in the neighbourhood has been divided and sub-divided into plots for housing purposes.

These results should be viewed in conjunction with the fact that the average monthly fee charged in the urban, peri-urban and rural areas under study was 370 INR, 302 INR and 295 INR respectively. However, if these schools were to undertake RTE improvements and pass on the burden to the students, the fees are likely to inflate by many times their present levels as already mentioned. This would deny access to most poor parents who can presently afford private education. In such a scenario when a school undertakes these improvements not only does it cease to be a budget private school, it also ceases to cater to the poorest of the poor. A direct outcome of the same would be to push these poor people outside the ambit of quality education or to force them to turn towards public schools. However, these parents had already rejected the option of public schools as they view these as adding little value to their child’s development and learning. Thus it is more probable that many such parents opt out of the education system as a consequence as they cannot (any further) afford the education they value (private schools) and they do not value the education they can afford (government schools)

The functioning of budget private schools comes as close to a pure market transaction as possible. However, the RTE distorts this transaction. As with several other government interventions, it creates dead-weight loses, produces by-products which people do not value (fancy playgrounds and highly paid teachers) and more importantly pushes some consumers out of the market by artificially raising the price of the product (fee) above the market clearing levels. This framework summarises the case of RTE infrastructure norms and its counterproductive impact of reducing access to education for thousands of poor parents. Thus in reality the RTE denies the poor citizens of this country to chose for their children the education they have reason to value.

At a recently held workshop by RTE forum in Delhi, it was quoted that only 5% of all the schools in India (Govt. + pvt.) follow all the RTE norms. All the infrastructure regulations are only applicable on the private unaided schools. As you are reading this blog, more than 20% government schools in Hyderabad are being run in rented building with no proper rooms, let alone the playground.

On one hand these regulations are not applicable on government schools, and children in government schools are still studying in rented buildings and on the other hand, private schools are burdened with these unfounded regulations. It might be a political masterstroke to eradicate the greatest competition to the government schools leaving parents with no alternative. Whatever happened to the doctrine of increasing competition and choice!!

Kartik Misra, School Choice Campaign, 18 April 2012

1 Comment

India’s education crisis tied to unaccredited universities

Higher Education, Licenses and Regulations, Quality

ALIGARH, India – After studying for two years to be a teacher, Anam Naqvi found out that the degree her school offers is worthless. Now, instead of attending classes and finishing a mandatory internship, she and her classmates protest daily outside the university gate in the northern city of Aligarh.

It is a story being replayed across Indian cities. Poorly regulated, unaccredited, and often entirely fake colleges have sprung up as demand for higher education accelerates, driven by rising aspirations and a bulging youth population.

“New colleges are mushrooming everywhere, but many are flouting norms,’’ said Nilofer Kazmi, director of the government’s regulatory commission for higher education. “Many are conducting courses that have no approval or accreditation from the government regulators.’’

More than 5 million Indians enter the 15-to-24 age group each year, adding a demographic thrust to the demand for more colleges and universities. Properly educated and employed, these young people could bring the country a demographic dividend, the sort of surge in growth that buoyed many of the Asian “tiger’’ economies from the 1960s to the 1990s. But if India does not create high-quality colleges for youths, it risks reaping a demographic disaster.

The higher education commission recently released a list of 21 “fake universities,’’ many of them no more than a mailing address or signboard hanging over a shop, temple, or hole-in-the-wall office space. A government regulator that focuses on technical schools named 340 private institutions across India that run courses without its accreditation. Of more than 31,000 higher education institutions, only 4,532 universities and colleges are accredited.

“India’s university system is in a deep crisis,’’ said Devesh Kapur, director of the Center for the Advanced Study of India at the University of Pennsylvania, who has written extensively on the subject. “There are so many regulatory barriers to setting up a college or university that it deters honest groups but encourages those who are willing to pay bribes. Millions of young Indians will have high expectations, paper credentials, but will be poorly educated. We can be absolutely sure that it is not going to be pretty.’’

India aims to raise its college enrollment rate to 21 percent in five years, up from 13 percent now. In contrast, the enrollment rate is 23 percent in China and 34 percent in Brazil. Kapur said that to reach its target, India would have to open one new college every working day for the next four years.

With much of the government’s money directed toward combating rural illiteracy by boosting primary school education, the private sector has filled the gap for colleges. Even so, many of India’s colleges and universities – both private and public – face acute shortages of faculty, ill-equipped libraries, outdated curricula, and poor infrastructure, according to a report last year by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and Ernst & Young.

The government is working on at least nine higher education bills to reform the sector, including one that would enable international universities to set up campuses here.

But two Indian rules – that universities operate as not-for-profit entities and that foreign universities must start with seed money of more than $11 million – might prove prohibitive. So far, only a few universities, including Virginia Tech and the University of California Davis, plan to set up research centers in India.

Meanwhile in Aligarh, Naqvi and other students are consulting a lawyer to take Mangalayatan University, a private school, to court.

“Where do we go now? People laugh at us and say, ‘Oh, you are the ones with the useless degrees?’ ’’ said Naqvi, 22. “The university has played with our dreams. Now we are not even capable of dreaming.’’

The university’s vice chancellor, S.C. Jain, said a delay in getting government approval for the teaching course was causing “anxiety among students.’’ But Vikram Sahay, a senior official in the education department in New Delhi, said that the university should not have begun classes without the approval and that the degrees are not valid.

The Boston Globe, 01 April 2012

Comment

Education act pits parental rights against human rights

Global news, Licenses and Regulations

This isn’t about just home-schooling families and this isn’t about hate. This is about taking away parents’ rights to decide what is fundamentally right or wrong in their children’s lives and having the right to opt out.

A school is a means to deliver education. It isn’t a parental body that guides the way of the child based on personal principles and beliefs. That is for the parents to decide.

I am tired of being labelled homophobic because I am teaching my child that homosexuality is not something our family supports. We also don’t support adultery, premarital sex, drugs, having sex with children under the age of 14 and a litany of other things. It doesn’t make me hateful because our family believes in these things any more than it makes others hateful because they don’t support what we believe.

Do you want your child’s school board or teacher deciding on your behalf what those lessons will be? What if your teacher supports legalizing marijuana and other drugs?

Rita Kirsch, Spruce Grove

Broad-basedcoalitionRe: “Frenzy over education bill misplaced; Misinterpreting proposal isn’t helping debate,” by Paula Simons, March 22.The citizens and organizations that collectively have met under the umbrella of Citizens for Diversity in Education (CDE) represent a very significant percentage of Edmonton’s population and have representation from public schools, private schools and several large cultural groups which include Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and even those who are not of any faith community.

These people have come together as a result of what they see as a fundamental flaw in the text of the proposed Bill 2.

We agree absolutely with Paula Simons that vicious letters and death threats have no place in a civilized dialogue. It is a travesty however, to lump the comments of a fanatic fringe, who have been responsible for a handful of irresponsible comments, with the reasoned arguments of upstanding and informed citizens.

We would like to address a few points in Simons’ column.

First, there is a clear implication in the column that it is only those of the home-school community who were critical of the Section 16 of Bill 2. In fact, there is concern from a broad base of citizens from secular, religious and cultural perspectives. Hence CDE has spoken out against Section 16 of the act. Further, the Alberta Catholic School Trustees also oppose Section 16 and asked the government to publicly recognize the role of the parent as the primary educator.

This is far from being only a home-schooling issue.

Second, Simons suggests that parental rights are already enshrined in the Alberta Human Rights Act in Section 11.1 of Bill 44. In truth this is the very section that is at risk. Parental rights, or the role of parent as primary educator, have been recently challenged. Consider a motion passed by a major urban school board on Dec. 13, 2011 to “ request that Section 11.1 … be repealed.”

Premier Alison Redford has indicated she is favourably inclined to review Bill 44, specifically in reference to parental rights and ostensibly to making such an amendment subsequent to the passing of Bill 2.

Third, Simons states that home-schooling parents would never be called before the Alberta Human Rights Commission as it would require their own children to lodge a complaint. The AHRC’s complaint form and guide states that anyone can launch a complaint if they believe that someone has discriminated against them. They can even make a complaint on behalf of someone else.

With such criteria, intended or not, it is easy to imagine a flood of complaints from concerned citizens on any number of grounds. The history of the courts correcting judgments of the Alberta Human Rights Commission should rightly give any parent or teacher significant cause for concern.

Finally Simons did not address the natural erosion of the authority of elected school boards or elected members of the legislature as an appointed human rights commission begins to supersede the authority of elected officials.

That said, we could not agree more with Simons when she states, “I fundamentally oppose the use of quasi-judicial bodies such as the human rights commission to police education.”

Perhaps Simons and CDE are on the same page after all.

Stuart Wachowicz, Citizens for Diversity in Education, Edmonton

Parents rightto be alarmedAs a parent who has been involved with the protest against Bill 2, I find the sordid portrait of the average protester painted by Simons to be unrecognizable and her unsupported hearsay regarding “death threats” and an “unspeakably vicious campaign” dubious.

Are we alarmed by the association of the Alberta Human Rights Act with education? Yes. Do we buy the assurances of Simons and Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk that parents and teachers will have the freedom to disrespect certain behaviours and practices under this bill? No.

Geraint Roberts, Calgary

Opposition iswidespreadPaula Simons’ March 22 column is an inaccurate and incomplete representation of the facts.

It is not just home-schoolers who are concerned about the implications of Bill 2, the Education Act. At a March 19 rally, a representative of the Citizens for Diversity in Education (CDE) spoke strongly against this bill. The CDE represents people from many different cultural and religious backgrounds, the Association of Christian Schools International, REAL Women of Canada, a number of large Christian churches in the city and a majority of the Christian school programs within the Edmonton Public School District and greater Edmonton. The Alberta Catholic School Trustees Association is also strongly against the bill.

Simons seems to have forgotten that Premier Alison Redford has expressed the view that Section 11.1 of the Alberta Human Rights Act (Bill C-44) should be altered to remove parental rights regarding what is taught in all schools. The executive of the Alberta Teachers’ Association takes the same position: that educators, not parents, should have the final say in what children are taught. No wonder a vast number of Albertans are concerned about the proposed Education Act.

Bruce W. Wilkinson, professor emeritus, University of Alberta, Edmonton

Column misses point

I have no problem with Paula Simons invoking the Alberta Human Rights Act in her March 22 column. I do have a problem with her failure to grasp the fundamental reason for the concern of parents, Catholic school trustees, and some teachers in Alberta’s public schools.

Section 16 of Bill 2 places the determination of the acceptability of content, teaching resources and instruction under the Alberta Human Rights Act.

If Bill 2 is passed as it stands, the interpretation and enforcement of the Education Act will no longer fall under the purview of education minister or even the elected legislature, but rather into the hands of the non-elected Alberta Human Rights Commission.

Once approved, teachers accused of any assumed discriminatory act, behaviour or attitude by a student or parent will no longer be judged by their peers — the discipline committee of the Alberta Teachers’ Association. They will not be able to appeal to the minister for a hearing.

Instead, the matter will, by statute, be turned over to the Alberta Human Rights Commission, which has repeatedly been censured by the courts for its blatantly wrong interpretations of the law.

The real target of our virulent social engineers is not the home-schoolers, but rather students in the tax-supported public and separate classrooms across the province.

Leif Stolee, Edmonton

Freedomof religionOn the matter of whether one religion or another should be taught in schools, it should not be overlooked that the United Nation’s Charter of Rights, of which Canada is a signatory, guarantees the right of parents to educate children in the religion of their choice.

Education in our country is under provincial jurisdiction, but each province is a member of our Canadian federation.

Rene D. Benoiton, St. Albert

AlbertavaluesBill 2 takes the parental rights to teach children as parents see fit and gives it to the state.

Premier Alison Redford says her government is just putting into law a requirement that we teach our kids “Alberta values” ­— specifically, the Alberta Human Rights Act. The fact that the Alberta Human Rights Act has been used repeatedly by activists to ruin people’s finances and careers was completely glossed over.

The province already sets the curriculum; it doesn’t need a new law to do that.

By definition, parents already teach their kids Alberta values. Does the government think it knows which values are more Albertan than others?

Every new law and regulation takes away a little more of your freedom.

The Edmonton Journal, 24 March 2012

Comment

Bengal coins its own definition of corporal punishment

Licenses and Regulations, Right to Education

New Delhi, March 2
For school-goers in Bengal, protection from corporal punishment is a distant dream. No matter what the Right to Education (RTE) Act says about a stress-free environment in classrooms, the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC-Congress combine has its own definition of corporal punishment. So, fining children, punishing them with extra homework, removing them from class for being unruly and barring them from sports and other activities on grounds of indiscipline don’t constitute corporal punishment in the wisdom of the West Bengal State Education Department.

The state, while framing rules under the RTE Act, has granted teachers several safeguards from the punitive provisions contained in Section 17 of the Act.

The RTE Act bars all forms of corporal punishment that may cause physical stress or mental trauma to a child aged six to 14 years.

But the West Bengal School Education Department has coined its own definition of harassment. It has issued a notification listing certain actions which “won’t be considered as physical punishment or mental harassment if taken by teachers, administrators or school authorities to regulate, control and check disciplinary activities of a disobedient child”.

The notification, while seeking to protect children from corporal punishment, ironically exempts teachers from a range of punitive actions in the name of discipline.

Teachers’ actions that won’t be considered as corporal punishment in West Bengal are: imposition of fine and penalties not contrary to the spirit of free education; punitive requirement of extra academic work; removing a child temporarily from class when his presence is disrupting the class functioning; prohibiting a child from participating in sports and other co-curricular activities on disciplinary grounds; referring a disobedient child to a counsellor; intimating parents of the activities of children with respect to disciplinary matters and calling them for meetings to enable them to understand the emotional and academic needs of a child.

“Every school shall take every effort to enable all concerned to understand that discipline is an integral part of education,” the notification states.

Speaking to The Tribune, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) member VK Tikoo said the notification goes against the spirit of the RTE Act and the state had been directed to rectify it.

“We have issued instructions to the state. We have taken serious objection to the use of the word disobedient in context of children. The Act talks of an enabling environment. Nothing that causes trauma to a child can be tolerated,” he said.

Vikram Sen, Education Secretary, West Bengal, told The Tribune, “We have sent the notification to the Law Department for advice. The NCPCR has said that it is in violation of Section 17 of the RTE Act. We have exempted from the definition of corporal punishment fines and penalties that are not contrary to the spirit of free education.”

Out of 1,150 complaints regarding RTE Act violations which the NCPCR received in the past year, 80 pertain to corporal punishment. “We have received a spate of corporal punishment complaints from Bengal,” Tikoo said.

The suicide by Rouvanjit Rawla, 13, a student of La Martiniere School, West Bengal, is still fresh in public memory. He had been physically harassed by teachers.

The Tribune, 03 March 2012

Comment

Banning term-time days off is not the answer to truancy

Global news, Licenses and Regulations, UK

Yes, missing school is damaging, but we should let parents take a few days out while cracking down on unauthorised absence.

One morning when I was about seven my dad packed us all into the car for school as he did every other school day of the year. It was just an ordinary morning until my mum got in the car as well and they announced that we were all – including my dad, who would usually have gone straight to work after the school run – bunking off and going to Whipsnade safari park for the day. That memory is a mixture of unbridled joy heightened by the complete shock that we were collectively, as a family, throwing the rule book out of the window.

Under Michael Gove’s plans to crack down on truancy my parents would have been automatically fined. Gove wants to scrap the current system whereby parents can legally, with a school’s agreement, remove their children from school for up to 10 days in any school year. This is supposed to be for illness, bereavement and if they can’t get to school because of the weather, but increasingly some families have used this time for holidays out of the horrendously expensive peak season of school holidays. Gove wants to scrap the distinction between these “authorised” absences and unauthorised absences and toughen up the penalties.

My memory of that day my family bunked off is stronger than any individual lesson I remember from school. Having that day off didn’t undermine my parents’ usual no-nonsense insistence that school was a non-negotiable thing – we knew exactly how naughty we were being.

I had this in mind when I tweeted a suggestion that instead of a blanket outlawing of absences, parents should be given five days a year when they could take their child out of school, no questions asked, in return for a wider tougher crackdown on truancy. These two things – advocating a set number of days off while simultaneously condemning unauthorised days off – might seem at odds but I think it could be a practical solution.

There is lots of evidence that missing school is damaging educationally. The Youth Cohort Study found that 38% of persistent truants did not get any GCSEs, compared with 3% of those who did not truant. It’s not clear whether that educational underachievement was a cofactor or caused by truancy, but it’s widely accepted that truancy is damaging. What’s more, the gap between children from educationally rich homes and those from educationally impoverished homes widens during school holidays meaning that truancy can exacerbate inequalities further.

As an education correspondent I spent a day with the police and council officers doing “truancy sweeps” in local high streets and I saw that the bulk of the problem of truancy wasn’t engaged families like mine taking a once in a lifetime day out. I saw lots of kids with their parents who said they were too ill to be at school but were out shopping anyway, some bunking off with their friends and claiming to have “study periods” and one who had to attend a benefits meeting with his mother to act as a translator.

As a school governor I know that there are many families who simply can’t afford to visit relatives overseas or spend time abroad at all during the holidays. The last government tried to do deals with travel companies to make it more affordable, but to no effect. Should families that struggle to afford it be barred from those experiences?

There is clearly a problem with parents advocating truancy, but perhaps the answer isn’t just to criminalise parents further but to strike a new deal whereby they can take a limited amount of time off to avoid the extortionate airfares and spend time with family – time that might, just occasionally, be more valuable than school. In exchange parents would be expected to send their child to school every other day in the school calendar perhaps even with tougher penalties to help enforce it.

At the moment some parents take the whole 10 days off, which is a substantial chunk of school to miss while others are criminalised when they allow their children to truant – or fail to stop them. I think we need a more transparent system with an acknowledged deal between schools and parents that strikes a compromise between the child’s right to a consistent education and a family’s right, within reason, to make its memories.

The Guardian, 20 February 2012

Comment

Centre calls state education ministers to set reform agenda

Licenses and Regulations, MHRD, Right to Education

Meeting will also debate the need to bring skills education in schools as well as the implementation of the RTE Act.

New Delhi: The Union government has called a meeting of state education ministers to build consensus around its plans for education reforms before the 12th Five-Year Plan kicks off in a couple of months.

On the agenda for discussion is a proposal to introduce a common entrance exam for all science and engineering colleges and another to start community colleges on the lines of those in the US and Canada.
The meeting called by human resource development (HRD) minister Kapil Sibal on Wednesday will also debate the need to bring skills education in schools as well as the implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act across the country, as per ministry documents. Mint has reviewed a copy of the discussion agenda.

An HRD ministry official, who did not want to be named, said that while a number of legislative initiatives on education, including the Foreign University Bill and the Education Malpractice Bill, face opposition in Parliament, some reforms can be rolled out through executive decisions and here “taking states into confidence would be of paramount importance.”

The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government “has to take reform measures in the next two years before it starts preparation for the general election due in 2014. With education being a subject that touches mass lives, the ministry would like to put in place some visible reforms,” the official said.

An HRD ministry spokesperson confirmed the meeting of state education ministers, but didn’t divulge details.

The Union government has come under attack from many states for not consulting them while formulating policies and initiatives, resulting in reforms initiatives being held up.

In that context, meetings such as the one proposed with the education ministers are critical for building consensus, said Yamini Aiyar, director, accountability initiative, at the Centre for Policy Research.

“It’s critical to have dialogue with states. The Centre should facilitate, build consensus and set the standard rather than impose,” Aiyar said, adding if the Union government takes suggestions from the states in the right spirit, “implementation will be much better.”

Several committees set up by the Union government have suggested a common entrance exam for all science and engineering colleges, according to HRD ministry documents.

A plan is being devised to merge the Indian Institute of Technology’s Joint Entrance Examinations (IIT-JEE) and the All India Engineering Entrance Examination (AIEEE) conducted by the Central Board of Secondary Education, for admissions into 15 IITs, 30 National Institutes of Technology and other central science and engineering colleges.

Since at least 95% of engineering and science colleges fall under state jurisdiction, any plan to create a common entrance test for these disciplines needs the support of state governments.

India has nearly 8,000 engineering colleges.

“The above methodology does not curtail the autonomy of Universities/Institutions and the States to structure their own admission process but provides for a standardized frame of reference for evaluating inter-se merit amongst applicants,” the ministry says in its note, adding, “The prevalence of categorization (reservation for castes, sports quota, ex-servicemen quota, etc.) in the admission process can also be continued unhindered…”

The HRD ministry also has plans to introduce some 100 community colleges—industry-oriented institutions with one or more specializations and with a high employment-generating potential.

“…it would be better if Community Colleges are started on a pilot basis (about 100 or so) in 2012-13 and then after evaluation scaled up gradually…,” the ministry says in its note. “Accordingly, in 2012-13, 80 colleges from the UGC list …and 20 polytechnics in the government system may be identified by UGC-AICTE (University Grants Commission-All India Council for Technical Education) in consultation with the respective state governments for implementing the Community College Programme.”

With regard to RTE, the ministry believes that since education is primarily a concern of the states, the Act cannot become a success without their support.

Only 19 states have so far put in place a monitoring mechanism for RTE. States that are yet to put in place an RTE protection authority or state commission for protection of child rights include Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland.

“States are requested to initiate steps to set up a Grievance Redressal mechanism under the RTE Act,” the ministry says in its document.

Livemint, 20 February 2012

1 Comment

Michael Gove: Academy school critics ‘happy with failure’

Curriculum Development, Licenses and Regulations, UK

Education Secretary Michael Gove has accused those who oppose his academies programme of being “happy with failure”.

Mr Gove wants more schools in England to become academies, which are state-funded but semi-independent and outside local authority control.

In a speech in London, he said some of those who opposed the academies programme were “enemies of promise”.

A union leader has described the comment as an “insult” to teachers.

Head teachers say academy conversion does not raise standards in itself.

Up to 200 schools are being told they have to become academies because they are not meeting government standards.

In a speech at an academy in London, Mr Gove said while most local authorities were “being co-operative” about their schools making this change, some were “being obstructive”.

Under the academy programme, the influence of local authorities over schools is reduced.

Critics – such as Labour opponents and the teaching unions – say the programme will lead to a fragmented system with little local accountability.

The government says it cuts bureaucracy, frees head teachers and will improve standards.

Mr Gove said: “The same ideologues who are happy with failure – the enemies of promise – also say you can’t get the same results in the inner cities as the leafy suburbs so it’s wrong to stigmatise these schools.

“Let’s be clear what these people mean. Let’s hold their prejudices up to the light. What are they saying?

“If you’re poor, if you’re Turkish, if you’re Somali, then we don’t expect you to succeed. You will always be second class and it’s no surprise your schools are second class.

“I utterly reject that attitude.”

‘Forced conversions’
There has recently been an outcry in the London borough of Haringey over moves to make some schools become academies.

Downhills Primary in Tottenham, north London, faces being made an academy by 2013, but the head and some parents are campaigning for it to remain a community school, more closely linked with the local authority.

Ofsted gave the school 12 months to improve its performance earlier this year.

The government has said it wants England’s 200 worst-performing schools to become sponsored academies next year, meaning that they will have a sponsor – usually a top-performing academy school or a group already running other academies.

Continue reading the main story

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They are not the “enemies of promise” but professionals dedicated to improving the lives of young people”

Brian Lightman
ASCL
Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “The assertion that the opponents of the government’s forced academy programme are ‘happy with failure’ is an insult to all the hard-working and dedicated teachers, school leaders, support staff and governors in our schools.

“If academy status brought the benefits claimed by the government why have so few of England’s schools opted to convert?

“The forced academy programme is about bullying schools into academy status against the wishes of school communities and their local authorities who are best placed to judge what support any particular school may need, not an external sponsor with an eye to the future profits to be made out of the government’s programme of privatising England’s schools.”

Brian Lightman, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “It is not the act of academy conversion which raises standards in schools and ASCL strongly refutes the suggestion that all those who have not opted for conversion are ‘ideologues who are happy with failure’.

“There are many highly successful schools working with their local authority and partner schools; they are not the “enemies of promise” but professionals dedicated to improving the lives of young people.

“The keys to school improvement are excellent teaching and leadership and a relentless determination to stamp out failure.”

Figures just released show there are now 1,529 academies open in England, compared with 200 when the coalition came to power in May 2010. Most are secondary schools.

There are about 20,000 schools in England. The government says 45% of secondary schools are either now academies or are in the process of becoming one.

Under Labour, the programme was mainly aimed at turning around struggling schools but the coalition wants it to be for all schools.

BBC News, 04 January 2012

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Education reforms and 10 other bills pending for more than a year

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This is the case even as the parliamentary standing committee has discussed and the Cabinet has passed most of these bills.

Human resource development minister Kapil Sibal has also met and ensured a buy-in by the opposition leaders in Parliament. The pending bills aim to address vital issues of accessibility, quality and availability of education centres in the country.

In some cases, the legislation has been passed by the Lok Sabha and awaits the approval of the Rajya Sabha. The government has not even been able to list these bills because it does not enjoy a majority in the Upper House, said a senior Cabinet minister, who did not wish to be identified.

“These are matters that need laws and cannot be done through short-term procedures like ordinances,” the minister said.

Economic Times, 8 December 2011

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Over Regulation Keeps Foreign Universities Out of India

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Richard C. Levin
Age: 64
Designation: President of Yale University, Frederick William Beinecke Professor of Economics
Education: B.Litt in Philosophy and Politics (Oxford); Ph.D in Economics (Yale)
Career: Joined Yale in 1974; is on Barack Obama’s council of advisors on science and technology
Interests: Alpine hiking; following the San Francisco Giants baseball team

Q Do you see yourself in India soon, if the Foreign Universities Bill is passed?
Not now. We are trying for a 1,000-student capacity campus in Singapore, and we will see how that goes. Based on the success of this project, and the passage of the Foreign Universities Bill in the Indian Parliament, we can look at setting up a campus here in the next five years, but it has to be on a bigger scale. As of now, I see mostly the middle rung universities coming here.

Q What holds back top foreign universities from coming to India?
One is over-regulation. When we do come, we surely do not want to have a government nominee running the show. We would want to appoint who we think is best to run the university. Second, there is a lack of autonomy. Recently, I had a meeting with some vice chancellors of Indian universities in Yale, and they all said that making more relevant syllabi or courses is so difficult here. That keeps them from having a competitive edge over others, and we sure do not want to be caught in that situation.

Q Having great faculty is critical, particularly for research. How will you ensure that if you set up a campus here?
That is the biggest challenge for us, when we thought of setting up a campus here. It is even bigger a challenge in India than say China. If you see what happened there, you see now star faculty getting four to five times the salary of other teachers. These are talented people whom the Chinese government has succeeded in bringing back to China from senior teaching and research positions in the US. Faculty in two universities is paid four to five times higher. We probably cannot have such a sharp differential in India, unless there is new legislation. It would, therefore, be difficult to bring talented Indian professors here.

Q Currently, all educational institutions must be non-profit. Would that be a deterrent among US universities coming to India?
I think its best to go for not-for-profit universities. If you look at the US, for-profit universities are a small percentage and that too mostly in distance education. Allowing them to come in would make it possible for guys to set up campuses without focussing on the quality of education.

Q The government says that regulations ensure quality.
Regulation that stifles creativity is clearly bad, else your own house would have been in order. Plus, with too much of that, you do not make better universities, you just make sure that the really talented guys go out. We want autonomy in deciding the syllabus and appointing faculty.

Forbes, 5 December 2011

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