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Government of India and World Bank Sign $1006.20 Million Agreement to Improve Learning Outcomes and Retention in Elementary Education

Education, Outcomes


The World Bank

NEW DELHI, May 29, 2014 – The government of India and the World Bank today signed a $1.006 billion ($1006.20 million)  credit agreement to improve education outcomes of elementary school children (covering Grades 1 to 8) in India. The project was approved by the World Bank Board on May 16, 2014.

The credit agreement for the Third Elementary Education Project or Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) III was signed by Nilaya Mitash, joint secretary, department of economic affairs, ministry of finance, on behalf of the government of India and Michael Haney, World Bank’s operations advisor in India, on behalf of the World Bank. 

India has made significant progress in meeting its education goals at the primary level. India passed its Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, which became effective from April 2010. Through this Act India has mandated elementary education (age group 6 to 14 years) as a fundamental right of every child. The World Bank has supported the SSA with two IDA credits totaling $1.85 billion – $500 million in SSA1 (2004-2007) and $ 1.35 billion in SSA II (2008-12).

In 2012-13, the number of out-of-school children had declined to 2.9 million, down from 32 million in 2001. The number of children enrolled in elementary education in India has reached 200 million and nationally India has brought down the proportion of out-of-school children to less than 5 percent. During this period, the Net Enrolment Ratio (NER) for the primary level (Classes 1-5) has improved significantly from 82 percent to 99.8 percent, gender parity has been achieved and the enrolment of children from scheduled castes and scheduled tribes has also increased. Despite these gains, several challenges related to pupil attendance and retention; poor learning outcomes; and need for effective school performance remain.

With more than 95 percent children now having access to schools, SSA III will see a significant shift in focus from SSA I and II. The key thrust areas will be on improving education quality to enhance learning outcomes, strengthen monitoring and evaluation to improve teacher accountability, and continue to enhance access and retention for disadvantaged children.

The government of India has been investing in primary education for a very long time. These investments have resulted in more elementary graduates. This project will support the vision, goals and activities of SSA by focusing on improving quality, equity, access and institutional reforms in elementary education,” said Nilaya Mitash, joint secretary, department of economic affairs, ministry of finance, government of India.

Special attention will be given in improving learning outcomes. As part of SSA III, the National Council for Education Research and Training (NCERT) will develop learning indicators at the national level to measure children’s progress in acquiring knowledge and skills at different grade levels for states to adapt. The project will focus on enhancing the quality standards for early grade learning and mathematics and science teaching at the upper primary level.

SSA III will strengthen the National Assessment Survey (NAS) conducted by the NCERT as well as the state level assessment systems by building their capacity to get reliable data. The project will also promote the use of NAS results for improving teacher training and school performance. National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA) will be supported in developing a robust Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE). This system will be established in every district in the country to provide school-based information related to access, retention, quality and teacher training. NUEPA will also develop standards for school performance to improve the management competence of school head masters and education administrators.

“SSA – now the largest ongoing Education for All (EFA) program in the world – has been remarkably successful, particularly in achieving greater access to elementary education,” said Michael Haney, World Bank’s operations advisor in IndiaHowever, access alone is not sufficient for inclusive growth. The country needs all their young people to get good quality education in order to sustain economic growth over the long term. It is an opportunity for the World Bank to support the government of India in focusing on building effective systems for improving quality and retention levels for children in elementary schools,” he added.

SSA III, signed today, will directly benefit about 200 million children enrolled in elementary schools and 4.5 million teachers. Girls are expected to be about 48.4 percent of the beneficiaries.

“We expect that activities under SSA III will lead to a greater percentage of children attending and completing elementary education,” said Shabnam Sinha, senior education and institutional development specialist and the World Bank’s task team leader for the project.  “Efforts to improve quality will not succeed unless the quality of instruction is improved through capable and accountable teachers and functional schools working towards improved learning outcomes and holistic growth of children. The program will encourage and provide resources for improved systems performance, strong accountability measures and community engagement in elementary education,”she added.  

The Project will be financed by a credit from the International Development Association (IDA) – the World Bank’s concessionary lending arm – which provides interest-free loans with 25 years to maturity and a grace period of five years.

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U.N global survey: Education top priority despite wealth




Education is a top priority among developed and third-world nations alike, beating political freedoms and gender equality, according to a new global poll.

Of the more than 2 million people who responded to the “My World” survey, a United Nations project, two out of three identified education as their top priority. Topping the list of other priorities was better healthcare and an honest and responsive government. Bottoming the list are political freedoms, phone and Internet access, reliable energy at home, and action on climate change.

“Education has consistently been a top issue for people around the world, no matter their country, sex, age or socioeconomic status. This data backs up what the UN and experts have seen through related research and experience – that education is a key driver for development issues,” said Corinne Woods, director of the UN Millennium Campaign.

“The ‘My World’ survey allows all global citizens to have a voice, where we can move towards our goals collectively,” she added. “It takes the momentum of many people to bring about change, including governments, civil society, parliaments and citizens working together. Nobody can do everything but everybody can do something to make a difference.”

The survey is an ongoing project using crowdsourcing to better understand global development issues and trends.

The survey results are broken down by age, gender, country, etc. The first-of-its-kind survey allowed global citizens to choose their top six priorities from 16 topic areas. Participants filled out surveys via mobile phones, websites, paper ballots, and even face-to-face meetings.

The voting data is broken down by region, age, gender, socioeconomic status. etc. Never before has the U.N. had this much information from citizens available in real time, gathered through mobile, online, paper ballots and face-to-face meetings. The data is being given to relevant governments and NGOs so they can take citizens’ wishes into account as they do their planning.

Some of the more telling details gleaned from the survey involved gender issues. Girls under the age of 15 tended to rank gender equality higher than all women in most country groups.

“This suggests that attitudes have changed over time in most richer countries, whereas attitudes in poorer countries are shaped less by social change over time and more by changes in individuals lives,” according to a statement by the U.N.

The survey’s analytics, available at www.myworld2015.org, is interactive, and users can toggle between various filters. You can compare the priorities of a group of 31-to-45-year-old men from Burkina Faso to its counterpart in Fiji, or a 16-to-30-year-old girl from Croatia to her counterpart in Hungary.

“My World” aims to survey 15 million people by 2015.

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India-Israel to strengthen cooperation in education sector



The Times of India

NEW DELHI: Alon Ushpiz, the ambassador of Israel to India met Smriti Irani, minister of Human Resource Development, on Thursday to discuss strengthening of educational relations between India and Israel.

Recalling the close ties in different fields like science and technology, education, culture, economic, commercial between India and Israel, the minister stressed that education is an engine of growth and collaborative knowledge creation is very important for building a better world.

During the discussion the new joint research programme between India and Israel was taken up in which both countries have pledged to take up joint research programmes amounting up to USD 5.0 million per year. It was highlighted that in the first round 66 joint research proposals have been received and the evaluation by the experts from both the sides will start today and will be completed by June, 2014.

Ushpiz informed that Israel offers 200 post doctoral fellowships of which about 80% are availed by the Indian students. He also highlighted that Nobel Laureate Ada E Yonath, who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Dr V Ramakrishnan will be visiting India during March, 2015. Irani directed the officials that apart from academic conferences and seminars, India should facilitate meetings with young students who would be inspired and motivated towards research in basic sciences due to an interaction with Yonath. The ambassador invited Irani to visit Israel.

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



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


Urvashi Sinha


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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China needs education revolution to compete



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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The Federal Government Hasn’t Improved Education After Trying for 50 Years



The Foundry

The federal government has been trying to improve educational outcomes for 50 years, but according to a recent study, we have little to show for it — and in some areas, it is getting worse.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society initiatives, the goal of which was to help low-income Americans move toward self-sufficiency. Among the measures enacted under Johnson’s “War on Poverty” was the first major federal intervention in education: the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965.

The anniversary adds context to this month’s release of the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) “Report Card,” which detailed the academic achievement levels of high school seniors. The results weren’t promising – which has been true for the last five years the report card assessed and the last 50 years of federal intervention in education.

NAEP provides nationally representative samples of achievement levels of American students and selected demographics, providing an indicator of overall student achievement. The 2013 report revealed that performance in math and reading has stagnated or worsened among America’s 12th grade students and that academic achievement gaps have grown since the last report in 2009.

“[S]tudent achievement at the high school level has been flat in recent years. Just as troubling, achievement gaps among ethnic groups have not narrowed,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan in response to the report.

Secretary Duncan is right. But these results are not merely indicative of our academic health over the last few years; they’re part of a national trend in educational stagnation that has persisted for the last half-century.

This wasn’t supposed to happen.

“We have begun a campaign to unlock the full potential of every boy and girl – regardless of his race or his region or his father’s income,” said President Johnson when he signed the ESEA law in 1965. When first enacted, ESEA was 31 pages long and cost $1 billion. By 2002, the seventh reauthorization of ESEA (known as No Child Left Behind) had morphed into a law costing nearly $25 billion annually, containing 60 competitive grant programs and nearly two dozen formula grant programs. Americans have spent $2 trillion on education since the enactment of ESEA.

Considered within that context, the NAEP results are even more troubling.

Federal intervention in education has largely failed to achieve its stated mission of eliminating the achievement gap between low-income students and their peers.

So what do we do?

Where federal intervention has failed, research suggests that school choice has been one of the greatest tools in increasing educational opportunity for all students.

In 2009, Stanford economist Caroline M. Hoxby conducted a multiyear study of New York City charter schools and found that from kindergarten to eighth grade, the students who attended charter schools nearly matched the achievement levels of their peers in suburban communities. She calls this phenomenon the closing of the “Harlem-Scarsdale” achievement gap.

The Washington, D.C., Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), which provides vouchers to low-income students in the nation’s capital, has shown impressive improvements in educational attainment. In a random assignment evaluation of the program conducted by University of Arkansas professor Patrick Wolf, more than 91 percent of OSP students graduated from high school. That’s 21 percentage points higher than the graduation rate of a control group of students who applied for a scholarship but did not receive one.

More than 90 percent of OSP students enroll in a two-year or four-year college. And over 92 percent of families in the program are satisfied with their children’s scholarships. It’s a testament to the power of school choice.

President Johnson’s Great Society programs have not delivered the educational opportunity they promised. If Americans hope to see improvements in educational performance, we must look toward policies that empower families, not those that grow federal intervention and a distant, unresponsive bureaucracy.

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Brown v. Board of Education at 60

Education, Minority Education


The Huffington Post

Supreme Court decisions are important not only for what they decide but for the reasoning that produces or explains the ultimate result. That is particularly important in iconic decisions such as Brown v. Board of Education, decided 60 years ago.

Brown, of course, unanimously held that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. In reaching that result, it also articulated or relied on other basic principles including that fair educational opportunity is essential to the American Dream, that America should be one nation for all citizens, not separate nations racially divided, and that the Constitution’s meaning evolves over time as experience informs and shapes its content.

Yet among the principles central to Brown was the basic American ideal that majorities should be sensitive to the rights, interests and reasonable perceptions of minorities, and that public policies which offend that imperative may be constitutionally offensive even when they formally treat majority and minority citizens the same.

Brown addressed that problem in the context of public education, specifically the practice in some states of providing “separate but equal” public schools for white and black children. Typically, of course, the schools for black children were inferior in tangible respects so they were not only separate but very unequal. But in Brownlower courts had found that some of the racially segregated schools were equal or becoming so in material respects, a finding which forced the Court to consider whether state sponsored separation itself was constitutionally impermissible even when the schools were equal with respect to buildings, curriculum, teacher qualifications and salaries and other measurable criteria.

The Court found that racially segregating children in public schools by itself deprived African-American children of equal educational opportunities. It reached that decision based on its conclusion that racial segregation signaled to African-American children that they were inferiors, outsiders in the American community, and that this message caused them constitutional harm. Indeed, it was widely understood that “separate but equal” was a strategy a white majority imposed to keep blacks apart.

Although some have claimed that Brown stands for the principle that classifying based on race is never permitted (not even to achieve diversity or remedy past discrimination), the Court’s words in that celebrated decision refute that interpretation. The Court characterized the issue for decision as whether racial segregation in public schools “deprive[s] the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities,” not whether racial segregation or racial classification hurt white children or all children. The reason racial segregation was offensive was that separating minority children “from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone.” These words and this rationale would have made no sense in 1954 as applied to white children. Brown did not proscribe all racial classifications but simply those that subjugated minorities.

Jim Crow segregation which Brown addressed was not, of course, a product of good faith reasoning. Its message of black inferiority, and of white superiority, were natural consequences of white supremacist thinking.

Yet Brown did not reject majority messages of black inferiority solely when produced by malevolent intent. Instead, the Court articulated a broader principle regarding the rights of racial minorities in America.

In our democratic system, majorities often prevail but subject to various structural arrangements to make law-making difficult. And even when majorities work their will through the legislative process, judicial review constrains majority preference.

Brown suggests that in exercising judicial review it’s often important for courts to consider the impact on minorities of programs majorities impose. It’s not simply that minorities are often subjected to prejudice and are not well-positioned to prevail in the political process, although those factors certainly are important.

It’s also because most of us are a lot better at seeing the merit of our own views than at understanding the perspectives of people different from ourselves. It’s relatively easy to convince ourselves that our own views are reasonable, even right. It’s harder, often even for people of good will, to see the world through the eyes of those situated differently vis a vis various laws or practices.

That simple fact of human nature makes it likely that majoritarian solutions will often undervalue the just concerns of minorities and may produce arrangements that seem appropriate to majorities but are unfairly hurtful to minorities. Sometimes the harm is deliberately imposed but often it reflects subconscious biases or comes from the failure to understand, rather than from any desire to hurt. America’s mistreatment of African-Americans presents, of course, the most egregious example of discrimination against a minority but instances of this phenomenon have hurt other less powerful groups including those based on gender, religion, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, alienage and disability.

The 60 years since Brown have brought considerable progress in recognizing, and in trying to remedy, a range of injustices against African-Americans and against other minority groups. Those years have shown that many of these problems are not easily resolved. They also confirm that America has an enormous stake in continuing that quest, not only to fashion a more just society but also one which benefits from the talents of all, not simply those who are privileged. Quite clearly, much remains to be done.

Government and its citizens must continually be sensitive to how majoritarian solutions impact minorities and whether social arrangements send a message that they are lesser members of society, and should act to remedy such affronts. That is one of the implications of a pluralistic society and one of the enduring lessons of Brown.

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Education Protects Women From Abuse



The Atlantic

The horrifying kidnapping of nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls by the extremist group Boko Haram was made even more horrifying by the fact that the group specifically targeted the girls for trying to improve their lives. Boko Haram went after the girls for the same reason the Taliban went after Malala Yousafzai: Extremists fear smart women.

“If you want to mire a nation in backwardness, manacle your daughters,” Nick Kristof wrote in a recent column.

Kristof listed some of the better-known positive externalities of having an educated female population: Fewer children, and thus less risk of a “youth bulge” and, later, civil war. Not to mention a more skilled labor force and a stronger economy.

But a new report suggests that the benefit of girls’ schooling extends even further—that it has a protective effect against domestic violence, rape, and child marriage.

“No place is less safe for a woman than her own home,” reads a World Bank report released this week. Roughly 30 percent of the world’s women have experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of their partners, and across 33 developing countries surveyed by the organization, nearly one-third of women said they could not refuse sex with their partner.

Share of Women Who Have Experienced Physical or Sexual Violence by an Intimate Partner

“Yes, it’s normal, being beaten, yelled at. If you tell [anyone], your peers will ask you, is this your first time to be beaten? Some of us are used to it, just like the way we are used to eating ugali,” one Tanzanian woman said in a World Bank focus group.

To make matters worse, one in three women said they thought wife-beating was justifiable, and women who condoned domestic violence were more likely to experience it.

Change in the Percent of Women Who Believe a Husband Is Justified in Beating His Wife if She …

But the Bank also found that better-educated women were more likely to not be sexually or physically abused. Each additional year of schooling was associated with a 1-percent increase in their ability to refuse sex with their partner.

“The strongest correlate of women’s sexual autonomy in a relationship is her level of education,” the report notes. “Overall, 87 percent of women with a higher education say they can refuse sex. Women with some or completed secondary education have an 11 and 36 percent lower risk of violence, respectively, compared with women with no education.”

One of the most lasting, damaging impacts of the Boko Haram kidnapping could be making Nigerian girls nervous about attending class. According to recent interviews with some of the escaped girls, when the group arrived at the school in northern Nigeria, they were shouting, “We are Boko Haram. We will burn your school. You shall not do school again. You shall do Islamic school.”

Of course, it’s also crucial to change social norms and laws in countries with high levels of domestic violence, and working with men’s groups can go a long way as well. But since female education seems to inoculate societies against misogyny, it’s both unsurprising and heartbreaking that Boko Haram would target classrooms.

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India needs an education strategy


Meeta Sengupta

India stands at a cusp today between two governments. The previous one has been serving the nation for the past ten years the new one will hopefully get a mandate strong enough to stand for the next five.

As we stand on this platform between the old and the new (regardless of which party comes back to power, though by now it seems to be fairly clear) it is a time to call for change.

First, it would be graceful to acknowledge what went well, especially in the Education sector. Much was achieved including investments in infrastructure, near universal enrolment at the primary level, acknowledgement of the private sector contribution, the groundwork for the entry of foreign universities to India, the almost universal acceptance of the RTE Act (flawed as it is) and of course the slow but steady entry of technology in education. For each of these I can hear critics harrumphing. I agree, not enough has been done. Progress has been painfully slow. In many cases the slow progress has been a boon because the direction chosen was so obviously flawed. A generation has lost many chances. The current one must not be let down.

The good news is that much of the thinking and debating has been done for years. There are clear opinions and choices on most institutional and policy issues. The path forward is known and the structural gaps are identified. There can be nothing better to inherit for a team that knows that actions often speak larger than words. For example – it is acknowledged that Indian universities need to focus on research and international engagement to ride up the global rankings. (I of course advocate a diversified model for post secondary education that does not require all universities to fight for a spot on the same greasy pole). It is also clear that multiple accreditation bodies need to be set up with the blessings of the sector skills councils that represent the employer’s requirements  – these are to guide the content and certification of competencies to fill the skills gap. At the primary school level we know that qualified teacher gaps are a national emergency – this is already a national mission and must be executed well.

Other issues that always get pushed under the carpet are also acknowledged as being awkward – Foreign Direct Investment in education, private sector provision of primary education, the mess that the current community college model presents (when the answer is obvious to some of us) and of course the very troublesome issue of apprenticeships that falls somewhere in the gaps between the ministries of Human Resource Development and Labour. Many of the issues that need to be sorted out are ideological – tradition pulls policy towards treating it as a public good. Pragmatism and resource constraints, and dare I say it – common sense too – negates that view. At the same time one realises that the current structures, behemoths as they are may be flawed, but are the only vehicles for the distribution of the new national policies. These knots will have to be cut before the new government can begin to make meaningful progress.

Of course, some changes are easier than they look, such as the RTE Act that has been attacked by many. It is enough to acknowledge the RTE 2.0 movement that is ready to move past recriminations and chart a path to better education for all. The RTE comes with fundamental flaws that cannot be allowed to continue into the future but has clearly established the principle of social engineering via education policy. Where it fails is in arrogating private property to the state, in discriminating against the majority institutions and in creating a distrust of government aid. These flaws will only strengthen the suspicion that government wants to play big brother and nanny – a creepy thought at best. The RTE itself has many flaws such as the emphasis on input based criteria rather than on value addition during the school year (though activists cry out for output based norms for schools). Many flaws have been patched over, but fundamentally it remains a noble thought that seems to be designed for flaws to show up in operation.

The new government has all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle in place. They have all been tagged and sorted too. Now it is up to them to create a the picture that they believe will built a better future for the nation. It is time for a national action plan. What India needs is a National Education Strategy.

This blog was originally posted in The Times of India.


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