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School Participation in Rural India


Authors: Drèze, J and Kingdon, G.G

This paper presents and analysis of the determinants of school participation in rural north India, based on a recent household survey which includes detailed information on school characteristics. School participation, especially among girls, responds to a wide range of variables, including parental education and motivation, social background, dependency ratios, work opportunities, village development, teacher postings, teacher regularity and midday meals. The remarkable lead achieved by the state of Himachal Pradesh is fully accounted for by these variables. School quality matters, but it is not related in a simple way to specific inputs. Click here to read more.

The Development Economics Discussion Paper Series, August 1999


What’s taught in school vs what industry needs

Curriculum Development, Quality

SINGAPORE – They may hire the cream of the crop of graduates in India, but during his visits to some globally competitive companies in India, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam found that these companies still took pains to set up in-house colleges to retrain these “exceptionally-capable minds”.

Mr Tharman said that the chief executives told him they hire people based on entry tests but the graduates do not come with the skills required to “operate in the real world”. These companies, therefore, have “put in an intensive structured training programmes to help them adapt”, he said.

Mr Tharman was responding to a question on how to tackle the gap between what is taught in schools and industry needs at the inaugural Asia Pacific Pan Indian Institute of Technology dialogue yesterday,

Identifying this lack of “practice orientation” as a gap in the Asian education system in general, Mr Tharman, who is Minister of Finance and Manpower, said: “This is true both for institutions at the pinnacle, like the IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology), as well as for institutions that should be providing high quality technical education for the needs of industrialising economies as well as the needs of the modern economy.”

The IITs are a group of elite technology and engineering-oriented institutes of higher learning in India. They are represented by more than 200,000 alumni globally under the umbrella Pan IIT organisation, with about 1,000 of them in Singapore alone.

In Singapore, Mr Tharman noted that the education system’s “technical orientation” started in the 1970s. About 65 per cent of each school-leaving cohort now progress through the technical route either via the Institutes of Technical Education or the polytechnics, he said.

“It doesn’t matter what they do later in life, but starting off with the applied orientation allows them to maximise the talent and skills they have because most people in any population, their minds work very well when they are working on something practical.”

Mr Tharman also touched on the need for greater intellectual and cultural linkages between Singapore and India, noting that the connection – while understandably weaker compared with the relationship between Singapore and China – presents great opportunities for development.

Singapore could help India with urban solutions, like clean water and the environment, he said.

“The challenge in India, in this regard, is to develop urban solutions that provide a standard of living that is acceptable to a broad mass of people and can spur economic growth both in manufacturing and services,” he said.

When asked how Singapore IIT Alumni association can contribute, Mr Tharman called on the grouping to create networks between India and East Asia “with Singapore being a gateway of sorts”.

This could mean allowing IIT students to visit Singapore universities through deeper collaborations than what is currently available, while providing opportunities for Singapore students to go to India, he said.

Today, 08 April 2012


Education for all still a distant dream in J&K: CAG

Access to education, Right to Education, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan

The Comptroller and Auditor General has pulled up the Jammu and Kashmir government for financial irregularities, fund diversion and non-monitoring of Central education programmes, saying that it has resulted in education for all a “distant dream” in the state.

“Despite all efforts of Government of India (GoI) and State Government, education for all still remains a distant dream,” the CAG report for the 2010-11, which was tabled in J&K Assembly recently, said.

The CAG painted a grim picture of the Centre’s flagship programmes Sarva Shikhsha Abhiyan and mid-day meal in the state as the government failed to implement these schemes.

“Non-preparation of long and short term plans based on ground realities, non-monitoring of schemes at all the levels and inadequate internal control mechanism had hampered the implementation of the programmes at school and zonal levels,” the report said.

The auditor further revealed that government has conducted a mid-term appraisal of the ongoing Sarva Shikhsha Abhiyan and mid-day meal schemes for possible corrections.

“Cases of financial irregularities, advances paid and await adjustment accounts, diversion of funds, abandoned school buildings resulting in unproductive expenditure were noticed in a large number of cases, which had dented programmes implementation,” it said.

The official auditor also found the huge unspent balances at every level.

The report revealed that 3,256 habitations (12 per cent) at the state-level were without any schooling facility.

Though the teacher-pupil ratio in test-checked schools was 1:12 and within the prescribed norm of 1:40, 718 schools out of the 7,016 institutions were run by one teacher only, it added.

Despite an increase in the number of government schools, the enrolment of students had decreased, it said. Private schools are given preference by parents owing to the lack of infrastructure in government schools.

Regarding basic amenities in schools, CAG findings revealed that despite the liberal funding by the Centre, 69 to 86 per cent government schools did not even have toilets, drinking water and electricity facilities, playground and book banks for students.

“The funds meant for replacing school equipment such as blackboard, sitting mats, dusters, registers and other office equipment were not released timely. Also, the State Implementing Agency (SIS) of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan had retained funds and parked it in saving bank accounts during 2006-11.

“About 32 to 72%t of the funds were released by the SIS to implementing agencies at the fag end of the financial years,” the CAG lamented.

Introduction of mid-day meal programmes did not have the desired impact due to inadequate infrastructure, deficient survey for preparation of annual plans and less procurement of food-grains from FCI, the report said, adding that “monitoring of programmes was virtually non-existent”.

The report disclosed that despite the Central funding for construction of kitchen-cum-store under mid-day meal scheme, there were inadequate kitchen utensils in the schools surveyed.

The CAG concluded that non-preparation of plans based on ground realities, non-monitoring of schemes at all the levels and inadequate internal control mechanism had hampered the implementation of the programmes.

Daily News and Analysis, 07 April 2012


Post Aakash, tablet makers eye lucrative education sector


Once viewed as a corporate tool for busy executives, tablet PCs are fast metamorphosing itself into an essential tool for students. Buoyed by increasing demand in the education sector, scores of vendors have launched tablets targeting students over the last one year. The latest entrants: Micromax and HCL Infosystem.

Earlier this week, Micromax unveiled its tablet PC called Funbook, it is priced at Rs 6,499. The launch comes just a day after HCL Infosytem introduced its MyEdu Tab (priced at Rs 9,999).

According to CyberMedia Research, the country saw sales of about 475,000 units of media tablets in the last calendar year. Report from research firm Frost & Sullivan says the tablet PC user base in India has increased from 60,000 units in 2010 to 300,000 in 2011. It added that the overall tablet PC user base is likely to grow at a CAGR of 107 per cent to reach 23.38 million by 2017.
The Indian market has become very competitive in the five quarters since 4Q of 2010, when Samsung introduced the first tablet model in the country. Then, the launch of Aakash tablets and the initial response its commercial launch last year received has encouraged other vendors to tap the market.

Aakash, termed as the world’s cheapest tablet PC, was launched in October 2011 by Union minister Kapil Sibal. Coming with a price tag of Rs 2,276, it is being supplied to students at a subsidised rate of Rs 1,500. Sibal’s Human Resources Development Ministry is also planning to come out with an upgraded version of Aakash (Aakash II) in May this year.

“The competition is expected to intensify further, with new vendors launching their products during 2012,” according to Naveen Mishra, lead telecom analyst, CyberMedia Research. “For now, education seems to be the vertical, with highest priority of adoption and a large number of models are positioned at this segment.”

The vendors are not only launching the hardware, but also bundling their product with education content providers for making it a full package for the student community.

For example, Micromax has partnered with Pearson and Everonn to make educational contents available to the students. It has also partnered with BigFlix, Zenga and Indiagames to provide entertainment and gaming contents.

HCL’s MyEdu tab K12 version will have NCERT K12 Mapped Content, which will have animations and text in 2D and 3D other than solved examples, chapter quizzes, key revision points and free NCERT text books. The MyEduTab will have a version which will provide Hindi and English content for standard I to V students, and general knowledge content for junior classes.

WishTel’s IRA tablets (priced between Rs 4,000 and Rs 5,500) comes with eBook reader app, course content for ICSE, CBSE and state boards apart from engineering, medical, and other higher education offerings.

The Manufacturer’s Association for IT Industry (MAIT) says there is heightened interest among vendors following a drastic fall in the prices of tablets. “Besides, there is increased focus on use of computing devices to impart education,” notes MAIT president Alok Bharadwaj. “The state governments are also looking at providing laptops and computers to the students. Instead, now if they offer tablets to the students, their cost would come down.”

However, analysts caution that the success in adoption of media tablets will largely depend on product performance, availability of relevant content and applications apart from affordable and widespread 3G services.

Business Standard, 08 April 2012


New York to consider making teacher evaluations available to parents

Global news, Teacher performance, US

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said they plan to take up the issue of whether to make teacher evaluations private or available to parents only, rather than allow the general public access to them.

Cuomo and Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, have said in recent days that they are considering making the records available on a limited basis.

“My inclination is the parent has a right to know the evaluation information of the teacher, so I think the parent’s right to know is important and should be protected,” the governor told reporters late last month.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, said it wasn’t immediately clear whether there would be discussions on the issue after lawmakers return from their spring break April 17.

As new teacher accountability measures take effect across the country, policymakers are grappling with how best to balance government transparency and school personnel’s right to privacy. New York is implementing an evaluation system that factors in student growth on standardized tests for the first time. Unions, which oppose releasing evaluations, have philanthropist Bill Gates and other high-profile leaders on their side.

Nineteen states exempt teacher evaluations from disclosure, according to an Education Week report published last month. But a few states have moved to restrict access. Florida now requires districts to notify parents of children whose teacher has received more than one poor evaluation, and Michigan will implement a similar policy in 2015, the report said.

A bill to prohibit the release of evaluations to parents and the public is making its way through the Tennessee Legislature. At least 18 states, including New York, allow access through open-records laws, Education Week found. Other states disclose records only with permission of the teacher or a third party, such as a school district.

The issue came to the forefront in New York when the state’s highest court ruled against the United Federation of Teachers, which had sued to keep confidential the records of 18,000 teachers who were part of a pilot program to improve instruction. Several media outlets that had sought the records under the state’s Freedom of Information Law made them available to the public.

Richard Iannuzzi, president of New York State United Teachers, said making the records public is an “abuse of the rights of teachers” and has no purpose other than to shame them.

The evaluation process is designed to support effective teaching and help professionals whose performance is less than stellar to improve, Iannuzzi said. If they don’t step up their performance, they should be removed, he said.

School officials and unions are in the process of agreeing on terms for the new teacher and principal evaluations, which have to be implemented if districts want to collect the aid increase included in the new state budget.

Gates wrote in a recent op-ed for The New York Times that he supports efforts to measure teacher effectiveness, but he disagrees with education advocates who want evaluations to be made public.

“Developing a systematic way to help teachers get better is the most powerful idea in education today,” he wrote. “The surest way to weaken it is to twist it into a capricious exercise in public shaming.”

The National Council on Teacher Quality doesn’t support making evaluations public, not even to parents, said Kate Walsh, the group’s president. That information should be between the principal and teacher, she said.

Principals are responsible for identifying and working with unsatisfactory teachers and taking appropriate action, Walsh said. Those who don’t act “should be held accountable for not holding teachers accountable,” she said.

Lawmakers and the governor will have to weigh privacy rights against parents’ rights to information about teacher and school performance, Silver said in a recent interview with WAMC public radio. Teachers currently are the only public employees in the state whose evaluations have been made public, he noted.

“I think you probably need a method by which parents can know how a particular teacher or a particular grade performs in a particular school,” he said. “But it doesn’t mean that some newspaper should have a picture of a teacher and their evaluation … on the front page of that newspaper.”

The state School Boards Association generally supports “transparency,” but in this case it might recommend waiting a year or two for personnel to become familiar with the new system and make sure information is reliable and accurate, spokesman David Albert said. It’s important for parents to know how well their child’s teacher is performing, he said.

The group hasn’t taken a position yet on whether evaluations should be available to the general public or just parents.

“They’re very important and once someone has kind of been publicly branded as an ineffective teacher, will we ever be able to change anyone’s mind about their performance, even if they improve dramatically?” Albert said.

Democrat and Chronicle, 08 April 2012


RTE in place, but no water or toilets

Government run schools, Right to Education

NEW DELHI: Little seems to have changed in the city since the Right to Education was implemented exactly two years ago. A large number of schools still lack basic facilities promised under the new constitutional right. A study by Delhi RTE Forum-an umbrella body of 20 non-profit organizations-says denial of admission and absence of basic facilities in schools pose a hurdle in proper implementation of the RTE. The forum had surveyed 207 schools in south Delhi’s Madanpur Khadar and different areas of east Delhi, including Trilokpuri and Kalyanpuri, in November last year. It found that only 5% of the schools had provision for clean drinking water and as many as 30% of the schools did not have proper toilets and playgrounds.

“Most of those schools lacked basic facilities promised under RTE. We spoke to nearly 1,200 students from 32 schools as part of a focused group discussion. Many of them said they did not go to school as it didn’t help them in any way,” said Saurabh Sharma, a member of the forum. The survey also found that 22% of the schools did not have proper fencing or boundary walls, and 30% of them did not have separate toilets for boys and girls. Sharma said most schools did not have a School Management Committee (SMC) as the government notified the rules only in November 2011.

All of the schools surveyed are run either by MCD or Delhi government. The forum also surveyed 5,006 households selected randomly in various parts of east Delhi in June last year while the admissions for 2011-12 session in the Delhi government schools were still on. The forum found that 3.3% of the children surveyed did not go to school. Nearly 7% of the children out of school had special needs. “Though RTE ensures equal opportunities for children with special needs, the school authorities are completely unaware of their needs. As a result, many drop out or not get enrolled at all,” the survey report says.

The Times of India, 02 April 2012


Govt invites private companies to start secondary schools

Private schools, Public Private Partnerships (PPPs), Quality, Uncategorized

Govt seeks expressions of interest from firms to open 2,500 secondary schools over the next five years

Following a road map laid out in the budget, the Union government has invited proposals from companies to open secondary schools, amid increasing concern over the quality of education being imparted in India’s class rooms.

The human resource development (HRD) ministry, which oversees education, has sought expressions of interest from companies in joining the public-private partnership (PPP) project to open 2,500 schools over the next five years.

Private entities will procure the land, and design, develop, operate and manage the schools, the HRD ministry said in a document outlining the proposal. The government will offer a 25% infrastructure grant and the recurring cost of education for students sponsored by it.

Under the Right to Education Act, at least 25% of a school’s students can belong to underprivileged families and are entitled to free education.

The government will pay for their schooling.

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, in his 16 March budget speech, outlined a proposal to open 6,000 model schools, including 2,500 on the PPP model, in the 12th Five-Year Plan period that began on 1 April.

The budget pegs an outlay of Rs.972 crore in 2012-13 for the model schools.

The 2,500 secondary schools, to be modelled after the Central schools run by the HRD ministry, will be planned as joint ventures between the Union government and private firms.

This is the first such move by the government, which has repeatedly said that the public sector on its own will not be able to boost the country’s education sector.

According to details in the ministry’s documents, even companies without any experience in education can bid to open schools. “A corporate entity would be eligible for one school for every Rs.25 crore net worth subject to interest bearing deposit of Rs.50 lakh each for up to three schools and Rs.25 lakh per school thereafter,” it said.

An education firm already running at least one Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) school—from which at least two consecutive batches have graduated from class X—can qualify for three schools under the PPP project.

Firms with schools that have not scaled up to the class X level will be eligible for one school, the ministry said in the document explaining the eligibility framework.

A company can qualify for three schools if it has run educational institutes for five years and can deposit Rs.25 lakh for each school. While the interest from the deposits will accrue to the government, the capital will be released to the company in three annual instalments after the school starts operation.

“I think this is the best way of leveraging both the government and private sector to solve the education challenge. Let’s hope they (government) make some real progress in the next one year,” said Satya Narayanan, chief executive of CL Educate Ltd, which runs a chain of schools and test preparatory centres across India.

He added that the documents seem to suggest that interested players need to have “reputation and a track record or net worth. In a way, even if you are a liquor company, you can still bid for it (a school). However, the interest-bearing deposit clause seems like a guard against non-serious players.” He said his company “would definitely participate in the process to open PPP schools”. There are an estimated 290 million students enrolled in kindergarten to class XII (K-12) schools in India, of whom 7.4 million attend private schools in the cities, according to Parthenon Group, an international consulting and advisory firm.

Of the private school population, about 7.1 million students pay less than Rs.40,000 in annual fees, the firm said in a recent report.

India’s education market was worth $40 billion in 2008, of which the K-12 segment was worth $20 billion, according to securities firm CLSA.

Though updated data wasn’t available, CLSA had predicted in its report that by the end of 2012, the K-12 segment alone would be worth $29 billion. It also said the school and private college segment had huge growth potential.

At a meeting of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) nations on Thursday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reiterated India’s focus on education and job creation.

“In India, for example, we need to create 8-10 million jobs every year over the next decade to absorb the expected growth in the labour force. We are working on ambitious programmes of skill upgradation and education and creation of an environment conducive to an expansion of productive job opportunities,” he said. “We would like to learn from the experiences of other Brics countries on how they are dealing with these problems.”

India has a labour pool of about 429 million that is likely to grow by around 12 million every year, according to the Economic Survey 2011-12. Here, the education and training of this workforce will be a key challenge for the country, which spends less than 4% of its gross domestic product on education, the survey report said.

Livemint, 03 April 2012


Silver bullets in education

Government run schools, Learning Achievements, Quality

Last year, Dileep and I were in a cab headed to Columbia University. After the cab driver learnt that we work in school education in India, we were lectured loudly by him. It started with some curt advice to Dileep about his lovely dark blue kurta: unless he dressed properly (in trousers and shirt) no one would take him seriously.

He wanted us to be taken seriously —with a purpose. The Chinese were taking over the world. He didn’t like it. In his assessment the only people who could stop the Chinese were us, the Indians. And we were messing up by not fixing our school system. Our school system could be fixed easily, by being tough with the teachers: we should fire the 20% who don’t show up for work and also those who don’t improve performance in a year.

His face glowed with satisfaction from having given sound advice, as he helped us with our bags. He reminded Dileep about the kurta, and waved a cheerful goodbye.
I go through this kind of a cab driver moment very often. People hold strong views about how to improve schools in India. They expect action to be taken, and quickly. And they get exasperated even by the faintest suggestion that their solutions may be inadequate or that the problems that they are prioritizing may not be so important.

This happens not just with cab drivers in New York, but also in India: with business people, government officials, politicians, harried parents of school-going children, i.e., just about anybody. Many such people are passionate believers in their silver bullets, which are often trivial pursuits. In the 80:20 principle, these will not figure in the vital few.

Such belief in silver bullets is often harmless, but sometimes not. That is because powerful politicians, key bureaucrats, public figures and business people often influence what happens in the education system.

In this piece I am listing the most common five silver bullets, as I have seen. I call them trivial pursuits because of many reasons: simplistic diagnosis, over-estimation of importance, underestimation of complexity of solutions, ignoring the integrated nature of educational and social issues, inadequate from a learning and pedagogical stand-point and just plain wrong.

First: “Let’s fix the policies”. This is the catch-all one. A belief that somehow the ills of our schooling can be fixed by changing policy is widespread. Some policies can certainly be improved, but for the most part, the issue is in the implementation of the education policies. And like all implementation, the devil is in the details, which by its very nature is so diffuse that no silver bullet can fix it.

Second, the enthusiasm of the New York cab driver about fixing education by fixing the teachers who are habitually not in school is shared by many. Whatever the absenteeism number might be, two facts are often overlooked. That a vastly larger number show up to work and teach. And people not showing up to work (or not working) is not just in schools, but in many of our other public systems. It’s a wider issue of governance, with socio-political roots.

Third: “Let’s improve teacher salaries to get better people”. While salaries of teachers in a large percentage of private schools are very poor, government schoolteachers across the country are reasonably well paid; often in the top quartile of their socio-economic milieu. A key issue in “getting teachers” is the kind of places teachers have to live in. We now have schools in 0.8km of 98% of our habitations. It’s the perceived (and real) hardship of living in a particular village, a specific block, a region that is often the big obstacle for getting teachers.

Fourth: “Let’s use technology to improve teaching, address the problem of teacher attendance, to deliver interesting learning material, etc.” The reality is that the vast majority of our schools are amid basic infrastructure which limits the use of technology. This is about availability of electricity and basic service delivery. However, even in the best of circumstances, technology has a limited role to play in the teaching-learning process with children. This is not a limitation of technology, but simply the nature of learning, which is best nurtured for a child by a personal human interaction and relationship.

Fifth: “Let’s privatize the schooling system”. The words chosen may differ, but that is what it means. What it ignores is that our schooling system is already rapidly privatizing, which is not helping matters. Just for now, let’s ignore all other problems of privatizing schooling, the fact is that on learning outcomes our private schools and government schools are alike.

It’s obvious that I have taken the risk of being shot by those whose silver bullets I am calling trivial pursuits. Most of these people are good-intentioned. But these good intentions miss the fundamental issues, e.g., teacher and school leader capacity, school and education system culture, curricular issues, assessment (testing) systems.

It’s the fundamental issues that we need to work on—on a sustained basis for a few decades, and not get distracted by silver bullets.

Livemint, 04 April 2012


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