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Punjab, Uttarakhand poorest on pupil-teacher norms

Learning Achievements, Management Contracts, Right to Education

None of the states in the region is close to meeting the student-teacher ratio and infrastructure targets set by the Right to Education Act (RTE), which completed two years today.

When the Act was rolled out on April 1, 2010, the deadline for schools to meet pupil-teacher ratio, teacher-classroom ratio and infrastructure goals, was kept at March 31, 2013.

As of 2011, half of all rural government schools in India have no boundary walls. Only 40.7% schools have met the pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) norms of two teachers for every 60 students (class I to V) and one teacher per 35 students (classes VI to VIII). The goal of ensuring that every teacher has a classroom is also unfulfilled. Nationally, 74.3% schools have achieved this target so far.

In the region, Uttarakhand and Punjab are the farthest from meeting the PTR targets with only 16.3% and 30.4% rural government schools complying. This is below the national average of 40.7% schools. J&K is the best with 87.5% schools complying. Himachal is next with 65.3% schools in compliance followed by Haryana with 41.2%.

On teacher-classroom ratio goals, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Himachal have performed better than the national average of 74.3% schools complying. Uttarakhand leads the region here with 84.7% rural government schools meeting the target. The percentages for Punjab and Himachal are 82.2 and 77.4, respectively. J&K is the farthest from meeting this target with only 49.8% schools having met it by 2011; Haryana’s percentage is 70.7, less than the national average.

Under the head of infrastructure, the law mandated the provision of specified facilities by March 31, 2013. But an analysis of schools’ RTE achievements on the basis of indicators listed in the 2011 Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) reveals that nationally only 54.1% schools have constructed boundary walls; 62.6% have playgrounds; 49.1% have usable toilets; even lesser 43.8% have separate girls’ toilets.

On infrastructure, J&K is the weakest in the region with only 28.7% schools fenced; one third (36.3) have usable toilets; 22% have girls’ toilets; only 52.7% have playgrounds. Half of all J&K schools (50.7%) have libraries but they are being used in just 26.8% cases.

Even in Punjab, which posted the best learning outcomes nationally in 2010, only 58.7% schools have functional toilets for girls. The state was the most lethargic on the target of providing assistive devices to special children and delayed inordinately on placing orders for these devices. Nationally only 6.1% schools have provided disabled friendly toilets as of 2011.

The analysis of ASER data from 14,283 schools of India further shows that though nationally, RTE Act should have led to improved teacher and students’ attendance, this hasn’t happened. In 2009, 89.1% teachers were present in primary schools on the day of the visit. In 2011, only 87% were present.

In 2009, 74.3% of the enrolled primary students were present, whereas in 2011, only 70.9% were present.

At upper primary level, the percentage of enrolled student attending school on a given day was 77 in 2009. It is 71.9 now.

The Tribune, 01 April 2012

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Macmillan ordered to pay $17m for corruption in South Sudan

Finances & Budgets, Management Contracts

Macmillan Publishers has been banned from participating in World Bank tenders for a minimum of three years after being ordered to pay more than $17.7m (£11m) for paying officials to win an education deal in South Sudan.

The order by the high court followed a two-year investigation by the Serious Fraud Office over payments made by part of its education business, Macmillan Education. The World Bank first reported the attempted bribery of officials overseeing a tender for educational materials in South Sudan – a contract Macmillan did not win. The report led to raids by the City of London police and, in March 2010, the company itself took the case to the SFO.

In addition to the three-year ban on taking part in World Bank tenders, Macmillan has decided to cease all live and prospective public tenders in its education division business in east and west Africa, regardless of the source of funds.

“I am pleased with this outcome,” said Richard Alderman, the SFO director. “Civil recovery allows us to deal with certain cases of corporate wrong-doing effectively. It delivers value for money to the public by saving the cost of lengthy investigations and protracted legal proceedings and removes any property obtained as a result of the wrongdoing. At the same time it forces the company to reform its practices for the future.”

Macmillan last year signed a settlement agreement with the World Bank over allegations connected to its Southern Sudanese contract.

The company further co-operated with the World Bank and the SFO by instructing external lawyers to conduct an independent investigation into publicly tendered contracts won by Macmillan in Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia between 2002 and 2009.

“The materials were supplied by publishers, often following the issuing of a public tender by the national government of a country,” said the SFO on Friday. “Such public tender processes were susceptible to improper relationships being formed and corruption taking place. It was impossible to be sure that the awards of tenders to the company in the three jurisdictions were not accompanied by a corrupt relationship.”

In a statement, Annette Thomas, chief executive of Macmillan, said: “Macmillan is a business with strong values rooted in education and development, which we hold dear. We will not tolerate any form of potentially unlawful behaviour, as our approach to the SFO has demonstrated.”

Millions of dollars of international aid have been pumped into South Sudan through a multidonor trust fund managed by the World Bank, established in 2006 to fund post-conflict reconstruction after two decades of civil war in the region.

The company admitted that a representative of Macmillan Education made “improper and unauthorised payments” to local officials in its unsuccessful bid to win a multimillion-pound contract to print English language teaching and school curriculum materials. The tender was part of a $45.9m project to develop the school curriculum, train thousands of teachers, build 100 schools and refurbish a further 50.

The Guardian, July 25, 2011

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If IAS babus can do it, why not B-school grads?

Edupreneurship, Management Contracts

Kapil Sibal’s brand new proposal of posting business graduates as head masters of rural high schools to run them effectively has evoked curious, guarded and mixed reactions.Considering the pathetic conditions of government high schools in the countryside, some people hope the new idea will click. There is equal scepticism that B- graduates normally lack rural background and may better fit schools in the metros.

“Business graduates cannot comprehend the complex rural problems and stark realities. Schools are not corporate houses to run at the whims and fancies of business graduates. It is an impractical proposition for North Karnataka,’’ remarked Basavaraj Diggavi, who runs a state-of-the-art residential school, including separate swimming pools for boys and girls. He points out that in the rural areas absenteeism and dropouts during harvest season is more but the authorities maintain perfect account of mid-day meal scheme! There is an inherent understanding between the schools and rural folk.

Arun Kumar Oza, who runs a CBSE school, salutes Sibal. He asks if an IAS officer can manage all the affairs of a district, why can’t a B-graduate run a school efficiently? “These days youth from all disciplines such as arts, science and commerce opt for MBA. It will not be difficult for them to administer rural schools.’ he insists.

“If the new initiatives tighten the noose on private institutions, I will be happy,” says Dr P S Verma, Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at University of Rajasthan. It will put a check on a number of technical and non-technical colleges who manage to get accreditation through window dressing but actually have neither senior faculty nor adequate infrastructure.

“New measures are welcome but it would be wise to ‘examine’ and learn from past failures, e.g. the Navodaya School experience. Besides, what pains me is gross neglect of rural technology and agriculture sector by Sibal. Agricultural education should be given equal or more weightage at least in rural areas,” he said.

Sudha Acharya, English lecturer in Bhilwara, welcomes reforms but is worried about the implementation. We first need basic infrastructure – library, labs, building, computers and electricity – before experimenting with linking classroom teaching with outside activities, she said.

On the proposed common syllabus for Science and Maths, Bihar School Examination Board Chairman Prof A K P Yadav said students in the State would not feel the diffe rence of uniform curriculum. “In Bihar, the Class XI and XIIth syllabi are already based on NCERT syllabus since 2007. So students from Bihar will benefit as national level competitions like IIT-JEE and CBSE Joint Engineering Entrance Test are based on NCERT syllabus.”

‘B-grads are welcome’

“Administering a village school where the students hail from a different socio-economic background is far more challenging than managing a corporate company. Teaching is not merely delivering academic knowledge to students. A teacher is expected to have thorough understanding of student psychology and should enlighten the students on socio-economic realities like poverty and casteism. MBA graduates from ivory-tower B-schools are sure to fail in village schools,” say Nagendra G K of Mylimane village and Shashi N of Siraguppa, both teachers.

Poornaprajna, SDMC member of Government school, Belur village in Sagar taluk, feels: “The exposure and skills of B-school graduates will benefit rural students. A head master’s job involves multi-tasking, decision making and crises management. Hiring B-school graduates is not a bad idea at all.”

Raising the bar

Hail Kapil Sibal for the slew of innovative ideas to pitchfork the hackneyed Indian education system into a global standard. However, given the Indian context, some of these concepts appear divorced from reality. Specially the proposal to bring B-graduates to head village schools is grandiose and part of a window-dressing exercise that does not take care of the dust and slick just below the window.

“Why will a B-school passout opt for serving a village school when he will have lucrative offers?” wonders Nitin Sarkar, head of Department of Education, Vidyasagar University. “Assuming he does, things will go from bad to worse. For, neither will he have the  required tools which he applied in his learning, nor will the students gell with him.”

In fact, one is tempted to refer to the beautiful poem ‘The Deserted Village’ by Oliver Goldsmith. It would be a colossal waste of talent. While his “words of learned length and thundering sound” would amaze ‘the gazing rustics ranged around’, the latter would still gaze and their wonder would grow as to how “one small head could carry all he knew.”

Inputs: Prasanta Paul in Kolkata, Srinivas Sirnoorkar in Gulbarga, Abha Sharma in Jaipur, Abhay Kumar in Patna, Veerendra P M in Shimoga.

Deccan Herald, 22 Feb 2010

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