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Michael Gove is right: we must do better

Global news, UK

Say what you like about the British education system, but when it comes to passing the buck, it remains world-class. When business and industry complain – as they so frequently do – about the quality of the graduates they are asked to find jobs for, the universities tend to blame the secondary schools for not preparing students adequately for the demands of higher education. The secondaries, in turn, blame the primary schools for failing to equip pupils with the basic skills needed at GCSE or A-level. The primaries presumably excuse themselves by arguing that they have to invest too much time in repairing the damage inflicted by the nurseries.
In his review of the National Curriculum in primary schools, Michael Gove, the increasingly impressive Education Secretary, is attempting to ensure that the secondaries and universities have rather better material to work with. Instead of the vague “areas of learning and development” introduced under Labour, there will be a renewed focus on core subjects, facts and learning. Foreign languages will be pushed up the agenda, but the highest priority will be given to English, science and maths – a reflection of the decline in numeracy that prompted this newspaper’s Make Britain Count campaign. Study of poetry and literature will be mandatory; proper grammar will be taught; and the most glaring gaps in the present curriculum, such as the failure to teach the use and multiplication of fractions (a vital precursor to studying algebra), will be addressed.
Mr Gove’s critics will doubtless claim that teachers are already trying their hardest, and that micro-managing classrooms further, and putting more pressure on pupils, will be counter-productive. Why should it matter, they will say, that an 11-year-old only knows their 10 times tables, rather than their 12? This, of course, is to miss the point spectacularly. A touchy-feely insistence on letting children learn at their own pace, and a lazy tolerance of low standards, have blighted the lives of millions. They have also had calamitous consequences for the economy: witness the damning comments of firms surveyed recently by the CBI. In the hyper-competitive world of the 21st century, the only way to prosper is to possess a highly skilled, highly educated and highly motivated workforce. The Government argues that its draft proposals – which will, once finalised, be adopted by non-academy state schools from September 2014 – are a match for the best and toughest curricula adopted by our rivals. By challenging Britain’s teachers and pupils to do better, Mr Gove hopes to turn around decades of educational under-performance. Let us hope he succeeds – and, indeed, that it is not already too late.

The Telegraph, 11 June 2012

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Why are Migrant Students Better Off in Certain Types of Educational Systems or Schools than in Others?

research, Research

Authors: Jaap Dronkers, Rolf van der Velden and Allison Dunne

Abstract: The main research question of this article is concerned with the combined estimation of the effects of educational systems, school composition, track level, and country of origin on the educational achievement of 15-year-old migrant students. The authors focus specifically on the effects of socioeconomic and ethnic background on achievement scores and the extent to which these effects are affected by characteristics of the school, track, or educational system in which these students are enrolled. In doing so, they examine the ‘sorting’ mechanisms of schools and tracks in highly stratified, moderately stratified, and comprehensive education systems. They use data from the 2006 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) wave. Compared with previous research in this area, the article’s main contribution is in explicitly including the tracks-within-school level as a separate unit of analysis, which leads to less biased results concerning the effects of educational system characteristics. The results highlight the importance of including factors of track level and school composition in the debate surrounding educational inequality of opportunity for students in different education contexts. The findings clearly indicate that analyses of the effects of educational system characteristics are flawed if the analysis only uses a country level and a student level and ignores the tracks-within-school-level characteristics. From a policy perspective, the most important finding is that educational systems are neither uniformly ‘good’ nor uniformly ‘bad’, but they can result in different consequences for different migrant groups. Some migrant groups are better off in comprehensive systems, while others are better off in moderately stratified systems. Click here to read more.

Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration, 2012

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Education free, but what about accessories?

Reservation of seats, Right to Education

BANGALORE: When Mohsina Begum, a mother of three, was told about the Right to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE), her joy knew no bounds. Already burdened with the responsibility of educating two children, Mohsina was finding it difficult to get her third child admitted in a school.
“I was paying the tuition fee for two children and was left with no money to invest in my third child. Then I was told about RTE and free education to Economically Weaker Section (EWS),” says Mohsina, who appears to have hit a roadblock despite RTE being in place. “I was elated that my child can study now as education is free. I went to the New Citizen School in Kushalnagar and filled up the application form. Everything was going well, till yesterday, when the school demanded Rs 3,705 for the textbooks and the school uniform. I have hit a roadblock once again. The maximum that I can arrange for right now is Rs 1,000. If the school does not agree, I will have to pull my child out,” says Mohsina.
There are many like Mohsina, who are disappointed. According to Mohsina, eight families went ahead with the process of admission under the Act, but are now planning to give up, looking at the huge sum being asked for textbooks and uniforms. “Most of the schools are charging exorbitant amount for textbooks and school uniforms.
Some say, they are planning to get imported material to be stitched, while some claim that since they have placed the orders a year ago, they can’t reduce the charges. Whatever the reason, many poor families are all set to opt out,” says Yasir Mohammed, a social worker, who has been facilitating the admissions under RTE.

WHAT SCHOOLS SAY

In the absence of guidelines on the maximum amount that can be charged for textbooks and uniforms from poor children, schools have fixed different amounts. Some are charging for the computer sessions and smart classes as well.
“We are charging Rs 2,000, excluding textbooks and stationery. We are already running on very minimum charges and cannot dip beyond this point. The amount should be anywhere near Rs 3,000, including textbooks. We will not be able to help poor children here,” says Salma Khatoon, principal, Excellent School. Many schools say that although they are charging money for accessories, parents are fee to go out and buy on their own. “We are charging around Rs 2,000. But we are also giving parents the option of purchasing from outside,” says Ashraf Ulla Khan, principal, New Citizen School in Khushalnagar.

The Times of India, 09 June 2012

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Rajasthan education department tells schools to admit orphaned children under RTE

Implementation, Right to Education

JAIPUR: The education department on Monday issued notices to schools asking them to admit orphaned children through lottery system for filling 25% seats as per RTE provisions. So for, orphans were deprived of the benefits under Right To Education Act as they were told to bring parents’ income certificate and caste certificate as per RTE rules.
TOI had first reported the plight of such children.
Going a step further, the education department directed the schools that if orphaned children do not get admission through lottery, then they shall be given admission in schools by creating extra seats. They will be given admission on the basis of the affidavits submitted by wardens or superintendents of orphanages or care homes.
Jaipur district education officer SC Meena said: “I issued a letter to all the schools today mentioning that the orphans should not be left out when it comes to Right to Education Act.”
The stringent provisions of Right to Education Act, 2010, make it mandatory for all to produce income certificate, caste certificate, BPL card and birth certificate, making it difficult for orphans to get admission. Schools were not admitting them as they want these documents which the orphaned children can never produce.
Following this, principal secretary, social justice and empowerment, Aditi Mehta, had also written to the education department to issue clarification on income certificate for orphans, so that such children will be benefited under RTE without any hurdles.
Now, principal secretary, education issued the letter clarifying it. An official of education department said: “Directions have been issued by the education department that affidavits submitted by wardens and superintendents of such organizations and orphanages regarding age, income and other kind of certificates would stand valid.”
Aashraya Care Home superintendent Sushila Morthiya, said, “I am happy as the education department has issued the orders. Earlier, the schools were showing reluctance to admit the orphans as they needed various kinds of certificates. But, now as the education department issued the directions, I think the orphan children at my Aashraya Care Home will be able to go to school from next session beginning from July 1.”

The Times of India, 12 June 2012

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Schools get more time to fill RTE seats

Implementation, Reservation of seats, Right to Education

MUMBAI: The state education department on Monday gave schools a two-week extension on their deadline to enroll children from weaker sections in the 25% seats reserved for them under the Right to Education (RTE) Act. Schools claimed that they did not get enough applications to fill the quota by
June 10, the deadline the state government had previously set. Principals said that they had not received enough applications owing to lack of awareness among the beneficiaries of 25% quota.
“We will give schools at least two weeks to comply with all the norms under the RTE Act, which also includes the 25% reservation. If they do not follow the deadline, they could be de-recognised,” said Sanjay Deshmukh, director, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. The decision to extend the deadline was taken after a two-day conference organised by UNICEFand the state government in Lonavala.
At Anjuman-i- Islam’s Saif Tyabji Girls’ High School in Byculla, the school has reserved 25% seats for poor students, but the school has not received a single application. “We have extended the date and will keep seats till June 20. If we still do not find applicants, I will be in a fix,” said Najma Kazi, the principal.
However, some principals claim they do not have vacant seats to enroll the students. “Our admission procedure started last November and all seats were filled in December,” said Kavita Aggrawal, principal, DG Khetan International School, Malad.
According to the Act, schools were also supposed to re-affirm their recognition with the state education department. They have a month to do this.

Hindustan Times, 12 June 2012

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Cotton creates dropouts in Vidarbha

Child Labour, Right to Education

It is the beginning of June and 14-year-old Somirao Kavdu Madavi from Yavatmal’s Madhavpur village is getting ready with his bags. But he is not going to school. A Standard 4 dropout, he is set to leave for a cotton farm where he works all year around. His family gets Rs. 25,000 for his 12 months of work. The amount, he states, is difficult for his family to let go.

As agriculture is not specifically disallowed for children under 14 under the Child Labour (Prevention and Regulation) Act 1986, farmers across Maharashtra employ children: sometimes as full-time labourers like Somirao, otherwise as daily labourers as and when they need them.

Activists say it leads to children missing out on education altogether. Vidarbha is a glaring example of this.
Somirao is not the only one in his tribal village of Kolam Adivasis who has had to drop out of school to help support his family. His work includes everything — from sowing to spraying pesticide to cotton picking. “I had just come home for a three-day holiday,” he said.
He struggled to recollect when he had dropped out of school. “I studied till Standard 4,” he said, which would mean till the age of 9. For the last five years, he had been working.

“We have no other source of income. I am probably earning more than anyone in my family. What can my parents do when there is poverty to face?” His parents, who do not own any piece of land, work as farm labourers in nearby villages.
“While the amount of children working in agriculture, and thus losing access to education is more in Yavatmal, there is largely a societal ‘sanction’ for using children for farm work all over Vidarbha,” says Suresh Bolenwar, a farmer-activist with the Vidarbha Jan Anolan Samiti (VJAS).

Yavatmal is one of the worst-affected districts of the agrarian crisis, he adds. “Rs 25,000 is more than what the parents would earn through the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, if it is implemented fully. It is difficult to pull the children out when the needs of the family are concerned.”

In the nearby Hiwra village, 13-year-old Gajanan Uike tells a tale similar to Somirao’s. He works in a farm for Rs. 25,000 which, he states, is the ‘going rate’ this year. He has studied till Standard 3, till the age of eight, and dropped out later to “support the family.”

But not everybody is lucky to get jobs that guarantee to pat for the whole year, says Gajanan’s 15-year-old friend Ajay Meshram. He works as farm labour whenever there is a demand. He has studied till the Standard 7.
“I get Rs. 100 a day. I also work in my own farm. If I find someone who will keep me on their farm for the whole year, I will go. Now, I barely earn Rs. 1,500 a month. You will call it child labour, but at least we get steady income,” he stated.

Asked if they would have liked to continue studying, both Ajay and Gajanan said they now wished they were pushed to study more. “But what is the guarantee? People who have studied more than us have no jobs,” Ajay adds, as an after-thought.
Girls too are part of the many children in the region dropping out of school at an early age. Vrinda Atram, Surekha Rampure and Parvati Tekam of Ambezari village have said they are enrolled in ashramshalas meant for tribal children, but their attendance is irregular as they have to travel to different villages to find work. The day this correspondent met them, they were waiting at a bus stop, with food and clothes to last them for a week, in search of work.
“Someone told us we could find work in the chilli fields here, but everyone has finished picking chilli. Now we have to wait till we find something else,” says 13-year-old Surekha. She and Vrinda have dropped out after Standard 6, while Parvati is still studying in Standard 9. “The school does not care if we don’t show up. For everyday of work that we get in the field, we get Rs.100-150. So nobody complains,” Vrinda, 13, said.
The NGO, Save the Children, has been working in some of the districts in Vidarbha, trying to encourage farmers and parents to stop children from working, in order to complete their education up to the age of 14, as mandated by the Right to Education Act. In the last three years, the organisation claims to have mainstreamed more than 12,000 children in 986 villages: some had completely dropped out while some were irregular for months. And yet, villages across Yavatmal are untouched by intervention by any organisation.
In the villages that are supported by Save the Children, farmers say the number of child labour has gone down, “but it is difficult to refuse needy parents.”
In Amravati’s Dadhi village in Bhatkuli taluka Dudarao Telmore, a landless labourer stated that his daughter Kiran had to give up education at 12 years to help feed the family. “There is no other way. The school is six km away. She cannot do both: work and go to school,” he said. Kiran, now 16, works on the fields in the cotton-growing season and otherwise settles for odd jobs.

At a farmers’ gathering in Dabhade village in Amravati district, cotton growers lament that parents themselves are insisting on making their children work. “What the government pays us farmers is not enough, and so we cannot give the labourers enough money. So they eventually get their children to work on the fields too,” says Triambak Raut, a farmer.

“We know that we cannot afford agriculture: the labourers cannot afford to be just labourers. So they have to send
their kids to the farm to work.” For some, it is justified because the parents can then pay for the children’s education and other needs. “The children work in the sowing season in f June, just before the rains. At least then the rest of the year the children can go to school in peace,” Devidas Patil said.
Ashok Pingale, State programme manager of Save the Children, believes that the discrepancy between the Child Labour Act and the RTE is holding back the spread of basic education. “Only if the government bans all forms of child labour for children under 14 under the Child Labour Act, as recommended in one of the amendments, will we be able to realise the potential of the Right to Education Act fully.”

National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) member Yogesh Dube, who recently released a study that said child labour is prevalent in cotton seed farming in Andhra Pradesh, said the Commission was not aware of the children working on cotton fields in Maharashtra. “If we get media reports about the occurrence we will definitely look into it,” he told The Hindu.

The Hindu, 11 June 2012

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‘Right to Education came as divine intervention’

Right to Education

NAGPUR: Naresh Charde, a driver, has applied for sought admission for his daughter, Samidha, as per the provisions of RTE Act. Charde’s wife Nilima is a homemaker as she has to look after their two-year-old younger daughter. Nilima has studied up to Std X. The family resides in a small but pucca house in Manewada, a middle-class locality in the south-east part of the city.
His daughter’s pre-primary education expenses were about Rs 700 per month and Charde sacrificed many things for that. “It was OK to cut back on other expenses because I wanted her to study, but primary education costs were almost touching Rs 1,500 per month and we just could not figure out what to do. I was heartbroken as I could not live to see my daughter missing out on a chance at a better life just like I did. So, when I became aware of the government initiative, I knew this was divine intervention,” said Charde.

This man could very well be the one with a proverbial ‘heart of gold’ as Charde is also bearing expenses for his teenaged nephew. “My brother-in-law lives in a small village and had stopped educating my nephew totally. So, 10 years ago I brought him to Nagpur and got him admitted to a government school and now he will appear for SSC next year,” said Charde.
Deaven Dasture, director of the school where Charde has applied for his daughter’s admission, said, “We are extremely happy to have received the application and have asked Charde to submit all the mandatory documents to us before next week’s deadline. The education department sent a GR on May 25 giving clear instructions on the free seats and we will implement it in letter and spirit. Also, meeting state RTE head Sanjay Deshmukh and district officer Mahesh Karajgaonkar during the TOI debate (June 6) had cleared many doubts.”

RTE data deadline for schools extended

The zilla parishad has decided to extend the deadline till June 12 for schools to submit their admission data, as mandated under the Right To Education (RTE) Act. The previous deadline was ending on Sunday but there was an unofficial demand from schools to extend it further, claiming that they were not aware of it. The ZP has administrative control over the education primary department and has asked all schools, coming under RTE’s purview, to share admission statistics and procedure details. Till Saturday not a single school of the 2,300 in district had provided the necessary information forcing the department to given them a second chance. Education officer Someshwar Netam conducted the second awareness seminar on RTE on Saturday which was attended by about 300 principals from the region.

The Times of India, 10 June 2012

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‘Right to education yet to be made mandatory’

Implementation, Right to Education

TUMKUR: The former Minister Basavaraj Horatti has alleged that the State Government has failed in making right to education mandatory during this academic year.
Addressing a press conference here on Thursday, Mr. Horatti alleged that the Government had failed in implementing RTE Act effectively. The Supreme Court had ordered reserving 25 per cent seats in all private schools for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, backward classes and minorities but it is not being followed in the State, he alleged.
He agreed that the Opposition parties too had failed in helping the poor get education though compulsory education is in vogue. He said that the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) should have created awareness about Right To Education Act among the people and helped them avail themselves of the facility.
He alleged that the Congress’ silence over this issue showed that it had yielded to the education lobby. He said that according to the order of the Supreme Court all English-medium schools started after 1994 are illegal. But neither the Education Minister nor the Government is looking into the issue.
He said that he would launch an agitation if the Government started imparting education in English-medium from Class VI in government schools. He said that there was no such order to start English-medium instruction in government schools.
He said that he had written to the Chief Minister stating that it was not correct for a Chief Minister to come campaigning for the Legislative Council elections.

The Hindu, 08 June 2012

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Tamilnadu children give inputs for state’s 12th five year plan

Other

CHENNAI: In a first-of-its kind initiative, children from across Tamil Nadu have given feedback to the State Planning Commission on various child-friendly measures like effective implementation of Right To Education that need to be included in its coming 12th five year plan. Over 50 children representing Federation of Children Movements for Rights to Participation from all districts had consultations from May 6 to 8 at nearby Thirukalukundram and discussed various issues. Vice-Chairperson of the state Planning Commission Santha Sheela Nair earlier told reporters that suggestions from these consultations could be incorporated into the plan. Major suggestions of the children include free and compulsory education, setting up of children’s councils and education loan facilities for refugee children. The consultations also included measures to safeguard their interests of SC category, fishermen, migrant communities and children with special needs/disabilities, infected/affected by HIV/AIDS, homeless, tribal communities, refugee families, probation homes, residing in institutional care homes. A task committee with 11 children was also elected at the consultation to interact and follow up these suggestions with officials of the State Planning Commission.

IBN Live, 08 June 2012

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Many clueless about 25% Right to Education quota with a day left

Implementation, Reservation of seats, Right to Education

MUMBAI: With just a working day left for schools to follow the 25% reservation clause under the Right to Education (RTE) Act, most are worried as they have not yet received any application for these seats. Over 15 schools in Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai told TOI they had not received any application.
“We haven’t received applications under the clause and we aren’t sure if we should fill up seats set aside for students from economically weaker sections. Parents and schools are clueless about the process,” said Sandeep Goenka, managing trustee, Billabong High International School, Juhu. Most schools had similar issues and were worried that they will face a penalty even though they haven’t received applications.

“The government keeps talking about circulars, but I have not received any. Most schools and parents are clueless, which is why we have not received a single application. It is a great initiative provided we implement it properly, after creating proper awareness about it,” said Ramakant Pandey, principal, Bansidhar Agarwal Model School, Wadala.
The Euro School management in Navi Mumbai and Thane held meetings to discuss the issue but was surprised no applications came its way. Parents of students from the school, however, shared their problems with the management. “Some parents asked us if they will have to share the financial burden of students who will get admission under the reservation clause. There is too much confusion,” said Natasha Mehta, principal, Euro School, Navi Mumbai.
Schools were told to provide information, including the number of seats, to district education officers. Another issue has been many schools washing their hands of RTE clauses, claiming to be minority institutes. Schools hope the process will be smoother by next year.

Times View

It looks like one of the more important guidelines of the RTE Act may not be implemented in either letter or spirit this year. The government’s delay in getting its act together is responsible for this. Several city schools have, in their own quiet way, been implementing inclusive education for some time. This shows that implementing this aspect of the RTE Act is not such a tall order; a strong will and a little bit of planning are all that is necessary. The government, it appears from the fiasco, lacks both.

The Times of India, 08 June 2012

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