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Schools comply with education act

Budget Private Schools, Per Child Funding (PCF)

PATNA: Around 300 CBSE and ICSE-affiliated private schools in Bihar have already complied with the provisions of Right To Education (RTE) Act, 2009, to reserve 25% seats for poor students, joint director of primary education, R S Singh, said on Thursday.

Commenting on the Supreme Court ruling on the RTE Act, Singh said the state government had directed all the private schools early last year to comply with the provisions of the Act.

However, the SC verdict on Thursday, exempting the unaided minority schools from compliance with the RTE Act, brought relief to the management of unaided minority schools who had earlier got stay order from Patna high court against the state government’s directive to reserve 25% seats for poor students.

Singh told TOI that the state government would provide Rs 3,077 per student per annum to all the CBSE and ICSE affiliated private schools for bearing the cost of education of the students admitted under the 25% reserved category. He said 95% schools in the state were being run by the government, providing free education to the children under the provisions of RTE Act.

Singh clarified that under the provision of RTE Act, the government would provide the same amount to the private schools as was being spent on education of per student per annum in government schools. Once the amount per student changes, the same would be given to the private schools as well, he added.

The unaided private minority schools in Bihar not admitting 25% poor children were mostly the Christian minority schools which had contested the government directive in the high court. These schools include St Michael’s School, Loyola School, Notre Dame Academy, St Joseph’s Convent, St Xavier’s School, St Karen’s School and St Dominic Savio’s High School, in Patna.

Meanwhile, in compliance with the state government directive, two unaided minority schools, Patna Muslim School and Shatabdi School, Gaya, had already admitted 25% poor students in 2011 itself, said honorary secretary of Patna Muslim School, Abu Rizwan. He said the Patna Muslim School management might take a decision to continue with the 25% admission of poor students.

All the DAV schools in the state have started admitting 25% poor students from 2011 itself to comply with the RTE Act provisions.

The Times of India, 13 April 2012


RTE may spell end for colony schools

Autonomy, Budget Private Schools

NEW DELHI: If Right To Education norms are earnestly implemented, the regulations can place privately run neighbourhood schools, currently filling a crucial gap between government-run facilities and elite private schools, at the mercy of an inspector raj.

Provisions of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act are fairly draconian in derecognizing schools that fail to fulfill conditions such teacher-student ratios and physical infrastructure within a three-year period since the enactment of the law that will end in March 2013.

With recent reports like the RTE Forum’s study pointing out that barely 5% of government schools meet the Act’s norms for facilities like playground space, toilets and laboratories, the neighbourhood school is not likely to fare much better although it meets a felt need, albeit imperfectly.

The Act’s intent to set out minimum norms and make running of schools less exploitative – capitation fees and underpaid staff are common – is seen as laudable but in the absence of a reliable oversight mechanism and a lack of planned development in most cities, the regulations can throttle private enterprise.

Section 19 of the Act clearly states that recognition to schools will be withdrawn where a school fails to adhere to the norms and standards and any one who violates this stipulation can face a fine of Rs 1 lakh. New schools must meet the norms.

It has been left to the local authority to provide free and compulsory education as well as ensure availability of neighbourhood schools. The local authority is to also track compliance by ensuring children from weaker sections are not discriminated against and in general “monitor functioning of schools in its jurisdiction”.

The rapid growth of private schools has been driven by a hunger for education, particularly in English, with the Annual Status of Education Report pointing out that nearly 50% of rural children pay for their education in private schools or to a private tutor. The figure is higher for cities.

In north India, the levels of private enrollment are around 30% and rising while the percentage for northeast is 40%. In states like Bihar and Orissa, where there is a larger deficit in private schools, students opt for additional private tuitions. It has even been seen that children enroll in government school for exams but actually attend private tuitions, only visiting schools for midday meals.

Despite hefty increases in government spending on education, parents are “voting with the feet,” noted Pratham, pointing to the trend of private schools finding favour with nearly all social classes.

The norms set out by RTE, the RTE Forum pointed out, included a separate toilet each for girls and boys, a playground and a library for every school with sufficient reading material, electrification of the school building, ramp access for disabled students, and computers.

On the whole, Indian schools, with government running close to 80% of them, woefully lack facilities. One in 10 schools are deficient in drinking water facilities, 40% do not have a functional common toilet while another 40% lack a separate toilet for girls.

Some 60% of schools are not electrified and few have computers. Close to half have student ratios higher than the norms prescribed by the Act.

The Times of India, 16 April 2012


India: School revolution on the way?

Access to education, Budget Private Schools, Learning Achievements, Quality, Right to Education

NEW DELHI, India — In a landmark judgment this week, India’s Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a law that requires almost all private schools to reserve 25 percent of their seats for poor students.

The decision potentially paves the way for huge changes in primary and secondary school education here.

In a country where a quarter of the population is illiterate and the caste system is still alive and well, the move is lauded by some as an equalizer on par with the decision to desegregate American schools in the 1960s.

“I see this entire process as the beginning of a revolution,” said Ashok Agarwal, a lawyer affiliated with an organization called Social Jurists, who says previously fewer than 1 percent of private schools made a sincere effort to admit poor students.

According to a recent survey conducted by Pratham, an NGO, 96.5 percent of Indian children between the ages of 6 and 14 are enrolled in schools.

But with private players charging as much as $200 per month compared to less than a dollar in fees at those run by the government, there are vast differences between the schools they attend.

Though India has more than a million goverment-run schools and only around 250,000 private ones, with rare exceptions only the very poor attend government institutions. The division reinforces a broad socio-economic gap between the haves and have nots. And some argue that the failure to educate the poor threatens to derail India’s economic miracle before it really gets rolling.

A recent survey conducted by The Program for International Student Assessment, an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) unit that tests students’ literacy reading, mathematics, and science, for instance, ranked India’s 15-year-olds second from the bottom among some 74 countries.

While the 25-percent quota will be difficult to implement — and some argue that it impinges on the rights of the private schools that have previously refused government aid — the move would see some of the nation’s wealthiest students sitting side-by-side with the poorest.

More from GlobalPost: India’s own Ivy League?

The Right to Education Act, passed in 2009, guarantees free and compulsory education for all children between the ages of 6 and 14. Answering a challenge to the act, the court directed all privately run schools to admit at least 25 percent students from socially and economically depressed families beginning this academic year. Only boarding schools and minority institutions that don’t receive government aid are exempt.

The right to education act places “an affirmative burden on all stakeholders in our society,” the court wrote on Thursday, in a 2:1 majority judgment upholding the provision.

High cost of reform

The Supreme Court’s move is causing tremors. Parents worry that admission to elite private schools will get even tougher. Schools worry about the administrative and financial burden of admitting more poor children.

But even the most optimistic proponents of the right to education law warn that there are still many hurdles ahead.“The judgment removed the uncertainty about the 25 percent, and we now know where it applies and where it doesn’t,” said Parth Shah, president of the New Delhi-based NGO, Center for Civil Society. “The hard work of figuring out the design, implementation, monitoring and assessment now has to be done.”

Already, for instance, private schools have argued that the plan to reimburse them only for the amount charged by the dismally failing government schools will expose them to a huge financial burden. Some are threatening to raise fees for paying parents. And nobody has thought too hard yet about the intricacies of integrating children from such dramatically different circumstances – like bringing poor children who only speak Hindi or Tamil into a school where classes are taught in English.

Meanwhile, in Delhi, where the battle is a little older because the state had earlier tied land grants for private schools to an agreement to take on poor students, streetfighters like Social Jurists’ Agarwal have already confronted schools that try to game the system.

Because the rules require schools to admit 25 percent poor students only in the first year, for instance, some schools dramatically reduced the total number of first graders they admitted, and then added double or triple the number of full-tuition students in the second year. Others took a more direct approach, simply offering parents of poor children cash — as much as $4,000 — to pull their kids out of class.

Teaching poor kids about McDonalds

“In India, people have the attitude of ‘How can my son sit on the same bench as my driver’s son?’ That’s what’s scaring me,” said Anouradha Bakshi of Project Why, a non-profit that runs supplementary afterschool education programs for the poor.

To prove that poor children could excel, Bakshi sent eight slum kids to an elite boarding school. But it took more than the money for tuition to ensure they excelled. She first rented a flat and moved the kids in with her, going the extra mile not only to teach them English but also skills that they’d need to fit in — such as how to eat with a knife and fork and find their way around the menu at McDonalds.

“In one of these uber-rich schools where the child has to go back to his slum or his little house in the evening, it’s easier said than done,” said Bakshi. “Who’s going to help that little child with homework and hold his hand?”

That’s a fair point, and implementation has never been India’s strong suit. But even a bad experience at a good private school is likely to be better than the grim reality of the government-run alternative — which is why more and more of the poorest Indians already send their kids to grassroots private schools in the slums that cost a few dollars per month.

“In Delhi, for instance, the schools run by muncipality are really in a bad state,” Bakshi said. “There’s practically no teaching. The classes are overcrowded. There are schools with no buildings. Those that have buildings have no bathrooms, or no bathrooms for girls, and the teachers are not interested.”

More from GlobalPost: Old problems plague new India

In rural areas, students at government schools are lucky if the teacher even shows up.

Yet with private schools already receiving as many as 1,500 applicants for 25 seats in a class, there’s also a chance that desegregating the posh institutions will allow the government to continue to shirk its responsibility to the vast majority of parents and children.

“As usual, laws are made without thinking,” said Bakshi. “It’s time that we started thinking about these children longterm, not just jumping up and down and saying now these poor children are going to go to these rich schools. Why is the government putting so much money into private schools?”

School choice advocates like the Center for Civil Society’s Shah say that the answer is to empower parents and facilitate the building of more private schools. Through a school voucher system, for instance, the government could help to identify qualifying students and give them power to choose the school where they send their kids — creating a financial incentive for schools to teach the poor.

And by streamlining a system that requires some 36 different licenses to open a school in Delhi and creating incentives for banks to finance education startups, the government can help private players bridge the gap between supply and demand.

“All the things we are talking about how to make businesses easier to open and operate can be applied to schools,” Shah said. Maybe. But if private schools emerge as the backbone of India’s education system, this will be the first country where that has happened.

Global post, 15 April 2012


South Africa education crisis fuels state school exodus

Budget Private Schools, Edupreneurship, Global news

South Africa’s education and finance ministers are being taken court over poor standards at state schools. The BBC’s Karen Allen investigates the education crisis and why some parents in Eastern Cape province are opting to send their children to private schools despite the cost.

“We are not a flashy family – I’m just an ordinary kid,” says Simanye Zondani, 17, as he pores over his maths homework in the subdued light of his home.

Since his parents died, his aunt has given up her smart “bachelorette” flat in Queenstown and opted instead for a house in the township. It means she can now just about afford the £700 ($1,100) to send her nephew to private school.

Five thousand children, most of them from black families on modest incomes, are switching to independent schools annually.

The quality varies, but in Gauteng province alone, South Africa’s economic hub, more than 100 new schools have applied for registration in the past year.

It is a response to a sense of failure in the state sector, argues Peter Bosman, the principal of Getahead High School, the low-cost private school which Simanye attends. “Parents want consistency and quality,” he says – not with a sense of schadenfreude but resignation.

The irony is that significant numbers of parents who send their children to private schools are themselves teachers in the state sector. For the past few years, the school has achieved pass rates of 83%-100% for the secondary school-leaving certificate known as metric. It is an impressive figure and is replicated among other low-cost private schools in deprived areas.

Nationally, fewer than half of all school leavers pass that exam – an indictment of an education system that is dysfunctional, critics say.

Far from being well-endowed with land and smart buildings, Getahead High is situated in a disused warehouse. It offers computers and sports facilities, which the vast majority of children who attend state schools can only dream of. But the principal insists it is not about bricks and mortar, but the quality of teachers.

Many of the staff have returned from retirement to teach at the school and earn 10% less than their counterparts in the state sector. About 30km (18 miles) down the road, a rural state school, Nonkqubela Secondary, is struggling with outdoor pit latrines which have fallen into disrepair, while a third of all teaching posts remain vacant.

“We used to have good results, but we are short of maths teachers, science teachers and when staff look at our facilities they decide not to come here,” head teacher Khumzi Madikane laments. He says he cannot blame parents who can afford it, migrating to the private sector. But most of his pupils are dirt poor.

Education in the Eastern Cape is in crisis, and the central government has taken over the running of the department after allegations of corruption and mismanagement. It is a sad indictment of a rural slice of South Africa which in the past century gave birth to some of the greatest minds in history, including Nelson Mandela and the late freedom fighter Walter Sisulu.

But the Eastern Cape is not alone. The growth of low-cost primary schools, in response to a lack of faith in the state sector, is a trend that is spreading across the country. The independent sector has grown by 75% in the past decade.

“It’s been driven by parent demand,” argues Ann Bernstein from the Johannesburg-based think tank, Centre for Development and Enterprise.

The crisis no longer a dirty little secret, with the government itself admitting that 80% of state schools are failing.

In a recent speech, Basic Education Minister Angie Motsheka revealed that 1,700 schools are still without a water supply and 15,000 schools are without libraries.

Last week, campaign group Equal Education launched a court case to force the government to provide equal infrastructure at all schools.

Ms Motsheka has already promised reforms and investment in infrastructure, but it is a Herculean task.

It also requires political courage, argues Ms Bernstein.

“We have research from various communities, and increasingly from government, saying that in many places, teachers are not in school on Mondays or Fridays, that many teachers have other jobs simultaneously and the actual amount of teaching going on in the classrooms is a fraction of what it should be,” she says.

Political courage, it would seem, means tackling the unions.

Yet education in South Africa still suffers from the legacy of apartheid, where black children suffered inferior education to their white counterparts and were banned from certain subjects and deprived of good facilities.

Simanye’s family have had to make sacrifices to send him to private school
But more than 17 years after the end of white minority rule, observers argue that South Africa is struggling with more recent phenomena: Poor teacher training, corruption and maladministration, a highly unionised teaching profession and low morale.

Back in the township, opting for a private school has come with huge sacrifices for Simanye’s aunt, Nokwezi.

“I’ve really had to squeeze myself but it is worth it – in state schools, if they have a disagreement the teachers go on strike,” she says.

The surge of low-cost private schools shows no sign of slowing down. Thousands of other grandmothers, brothers and sisters are scraping together the funds to send a child to school.

Yet the vast majority of South African children have little choice but to opt for the local state school.

Despite the best efforts of some committed staff, the exodus from state schools could see a generation of underachievers left behind.

BBC News, 12 March 2012


Will wait indefinitely for conversion of unclaimed RTE seats: School body

Budget Private Schools, Private schools, Right to Education

Chandigarh Contrary to its last week’s communication to the UT Administration, the Independent School’s Association (ISA), on Sunday, decided to await the conversion of unclaimed seats reserved for less priviledged children under the Right to Education (RTE)Act 2009 into general, a little longer.

However, ISA has not specified any “deadline” for the conversion, this time. In a communication sent to the DPI (Schools) last week, ISA President, H S Mamik, had stated that the department must provide clarity on child-mapping survey, notification of reimbursements by Central government, clearance of last year’s reimbursements and filling the government school nursery seats first, by February 20.

“In the absence of guidelines on the above said duties by February 20, we will be left with no option but to explain our point of view to the eligible students and their parents through a public notice in newspapers,” stated the communication.

However, speaking to Newsline, on Sunday, Mamik, said, “We had communicated our concerns to the Administration and requested them to decide everything quickly. Since they have now assured us that everything will probably be finalised at the earliest, we have decided to wait as long it may take.”

As per ISA’s records, there are no takers for over 50 per cent of about 3,000 seats reserved under RTE across 73 private schools.

The Administration, meanwhile, is in the process of examining the land allotment letters issued to each of the schools to finalise the amount of reimbursements to be provided to specific schools.

Under Chandigarh’s land allotment rule, schools are supposed to teach certain percentage of children from Economically Weaker Section (EWS) for free, in lieu of availing land on concessional rates.

The Administration had, last year, declared that those schools which have been allotted land after 1996, will not receive reimbursements for all the 25 per cent children EWS children admitted under RTE.

For instance, if a school is supposed to teach 15 percent EWS children for free under land allotment rule, then it will receive reimbursements only for the education of the remaining 10 per cent EWS children. The schools had challenged the Administration’s move in the Punjab and Haryana High Court and the matter is still subjudice.

DPI (Schools) Sandeep Hans said, “We are waiting for the schools to send in details of application received against the reserved seats. Our finance department is in the process of finalising the per-child-expenditure to be reimbursed and the amount of reimbursement for each school.”

“We will provide reimbursements in accordance with the percentage included in land allotment rule. We will provide them with the remaining amount later, in accordance with the court’s decision,” Hans added.

ExpressIndia, 20 February 2012


‘Clamp down on pvt schools will compromise quality education’

Access to education, Budget Private Schools, Quality

AJMER: As the education department issue strict warnings to public and private schools against flouting provisions of the Right To Education Act, 2009, from the coming academic session, authorities of these school rued the clampdown saying quality education would be compromised if the government ended their autonomy.

The department’s directive came at a time when the public and private schools are awaiting a Supreme Court verdict to decide on their autonomy. These schools are now waiting for a favourable decision from the apex court to exempt them from the compulsory free admission of 25 per cent of their total seats for students from the deprived category.

Recently, the department organized a district-level workshop here at zilla parishad office and instructed the private schools to implement the provisions of RTE from next coming session.

Reacting to the department’s directive, Damodar Goyal, president of the Rajasthan unaided and private schools association, said, “The government is now finishing the autonomy of these schools and that means quality education is in danger.”

Goyal argued that since only 20 per cent schools are private, the rest are government schools, “the government should improve their schools first if it is serious about imparting quality education”. He added that the hearing in Supreme Court on the issue was over in last August and now the schools are waiting for the verdict.

Private schools accused that the department is only concerned with the admission of 25 per cent admission but not give importance on other regulations in the Act. “We, too, are concerned and wanted every child of the state to get quality education but finishing the private school set up in the process will only pull them down to the level of government schools,” a principal of a public school claimed.

However, the nodal head of the RTE in the state, Rajeev Tiwari, said, “They have to follow the rules and we are watching them now. We have asked them to submit their process of admissions.”

Earlier, the department had issued notices to all public and private school and warned them that their registration will be canceled if they do not follow the regulations of RTE. “Besides checking on private and public schools, we have also constituted teams to look into schools running in streets and in few rooms. Every principal of a senior secondary government school is the nodal head who will check the papers and infrastructure of that school. If it is found that they are not registered with department, criminal case will be registered against them” Tiwari said.

“We are hoping that everyone, including local people and parents, will support the cause,” said education officer Bhagchand Mandawaliya.

Under the RTE Act, schools have to give 25 per cent seats to the weaker section of society in their starting classes report to the department. “The government will provide the budget for the efforts of these schools in this social cause,” Tiwari added.

The Times of India, 04 February 2012


Educating the poor in India: lessons for America

Access to education, Budget Private Schools, Private schools

A fascinating story in the New York Times about schooling in India has a few things to teach American educators; mainly, that the poor really do want a good education. (I have had extended discussions with colleagues about the question of educating the poor (see here, here, and here) and Kathleen Porter Magee’s The “Poverty Matters” Trap is a must-read for anyone investigating the subject.)

As it turns out, public schools in India, like many in the U.S., are apparently lousy – “in many states,” write Vikas Bajaj and Jim Yardley about India, “government education is in severe disarray, with teachers often failing to show up.” But unlike the U.S., where charter schools and vouchers have begun to offer alternatives, In India the poor have turned to a network of private schools to educate their children. It is much as James Tooley described it in a 2005 story in Education Next (and his subsequent book, The Beautiful Tree), recounting amazing stories from around the world:

[T]he poor have found remarkably innovative ways of helping themselves, educationally, and in some of the most destitute places on earth have managed to nurture a large and growing industry of private schools for themselves.

Checker wrote about this phenomenon in India in 2008:

I confess: I was impressed–and slightly sheepish, too, considering I’ve lived and traveled in India and other “third world” countries over many years and worked in the education field forever. Yet, until now I had allowed my gaze to pass over signs of the presence of hundreds of these schools without really noticing them, much less seeking to understand how they work.

This thriving private school market probably has as much to do with the general lassitude of Indian education laws as it does with the human drive to better one’s lot, but what is so tragically familiar in the Times’ story is that India’s new Right to Education Act, which “enshrined,” says the Times, “for the first time, a constitutional right to schooling, promising that every child from 6 to 14 would be provided with it,” has a dark side for those motivated poor private schoolers. As the Times notes,

Few disagree with the law’s broad, egalitarian goals or that government schools need a fundamental overhaul. But the law also enacted new regulations on teacher-student ratios, classroom size and parental involvement in school administration that are being applied to government and private schools. The result is a clash between an ideal and the reality on the ground, with a deadline: Any school that fails to comply by 2013 could be closed.

America, of course, went through its educational my-way-or-the-highway period in the early 1920s when states began passing laws requiring that all children go to public schools – a not-so-veiled attempt to shutter the Catholic education system. It took a Supreme court decision, in 1925, Pierce v. The Society of Sisters, to declare unconstitutional an Oregon law that required public school attendance.

But it’s interesting to note that so-called progressive education practices and principles, like class size and parent involvement, could kill off the private schools in India — and with it an avenue of choice, however decrepit that avenue is, to tens of thousands of dedicated parents.

Let’s hope India will learn something from the United States and create a system that not only educates the poor but does not deny them the chance to educate themselves. But let’s also hope that the United States might learn something about the power of pent-up education demand among the poor — and the risks of too much top-down education rules and regulations. One size doesn’t fit all, especially when that size is determined by just a few.

Flypaper, 02 January 2012


Steering education revolution from Azamgarh shacks

Budget Private Schools, Community Schools

Azamgarh (Uttar Pradesh): A single bamboo stick holds the thatched roof together, the discoloured floor serves as both bench and chair, the kids sit in neat rows and a man sits on a printed mattress. It is from humble rooms like this that a quiet education revolution is unravelling in this eastern Uttar Pradesh district that was associated in public memory not long ago for alleged involvement of some of its youth in extremist activities.

Tanzeem Al-Farooq, an NGO formed in 1987 with just Rs.10 as initial capital by some youngsters, has set up at least 300 such primary schools in villages in Azamgarh, about 220 km from the state capital Lucknow, and nearby areas that have a substantial number of Muslims.

The founding members, who were then working in the Gulf region, have managed to educate over 50,000 kids who would have otherwise forever remained illiterate. Some of these members came back to India while some pledged their support sitting abroad.

One of the founders of Tanzeem Al-Farooq, Asrar Ahmed, embarked on the idea of identifying micro-rural, small and unknown villages of the district that don’t have schools or any other arrangement for primary education. These villages sometimes have as few as 15 houses.

The modus operandi is something like this: the NGO identifies a village, convinces the locals for the need of an educational institute, builds a school and then hands it over to a village committee.

Only those villages where government-run schools are rare and people hesitate to send their children to schools due to lack of quality and different medium of instructions are chosen.

“It was hard to manage it all, especially in the beginning,” Tanzeem Al-Farooq president Maulana Obaidullah told IANS.

“We start schools with our own expenses but try to educate and spread awareness among locals to take the responsibility further. We have established 300 such schools,” he added.

Though the project started with just Rs.10 investment, close to Rs.1 million is collected through public donations every year.

Sixty-year-old Islam Ahmed, a Class 4 pass-out and one of the founder members of the organisation, thinks it was the need of the hour.

“It is not mere building schools, it is an educational movement. Our aim is to motivate the villagers to teach their children and build schools to preserve their historical inheritance,” Ahmad told IANS.

Mohammed Sadique, a teacher in such a school in Azamgarh’s Aamgaon village, said: “It is hard to be here and survive on a small salary, but I am happy to teach these children.”

Sitting in an open one-room hut of a school on a chilly, foggy morning while wearing a white kurta and lungi with skull cap, Sadique teaches the Quran, Urdu, Hindi, Mathematics and basic English to 30 students — half of them girls.

“If I am not here, then who will teach them? I have been here for three years. Earlier, only 10 percent of the kids in the village would study as the government school was two km away. Now, 50 percent of the village children study,” said Sadique, who hails from Bihar’s Araria district.

The chief motive of the NGO is to provide quality education in micro-rural areas.

“We have lit a small lamp of knowledge and hope for a bright future,” said Obaidullah, who thinks there’s a need for collaboration among primary schools to design a joint mechanism to fight illiteracy and ignorance.

Mohammed Rashid, a farmer and resident of Aamgaon village, sends his two children to the shack school.

“I am an illiterate man, can’t even write my name. I was worried about the future of my children. I thought they would have to follow my footsteps. But thanks to god, the situation has changed,” he says with a smile.

Efforts like these in a place like Azamgarh make a difference in a state where the literacy rate is 69.72 percent as compared to the national average of 74.04 percent.

Azamgarh was in the news some years ago for the wrong reasons as police claimed that diaffected Muslim youth from this distrcit were associated with militant grups and a large number of Azamgarh Muslim were arrested for suspected association with serial bombings in many cities in India. Because of the association, Muslims from Azamgarh, who tried to find rental houses and apartments in other cities in India, found it very difficult do so. But things are now changing for the better.

ummid.com, 05 January 2012


Japan’s cramming schools

Budget Private Schools, Learning Achievements

Testing times A controversial institution has some surprising merits

THE yells of children pierce the night, belting out the elements—“Lithium! Magnesium!”—as an instructor displays abbreviations from the periodic table. Next, two dozen flags stream by as the ten-year-olds shout out the names of the corresponding countries. Later they identify 20 constellations they have committed to memory. Timers on desks push older students as they practise racing through tests. The scene at Seiran Gakuin, a juku or crammer on the edge of Tokyo, repeats itself nightly at 50,000 juku across Japan.

Seen as a brutal facet of Japan’s high-speed post-war growth, crammers are as powerful as ever. Almost one in five children in their first year of primary school attends after-class instruction, rising to nearly all university-bound high schoolers. The fees are around ¥260,000 ($3,300) annually. School and university test-scores rise in direct proportion to spending on juku, often a matter of concern in a country that views itself as egalitarian. The schools are also seen as reinforcing a tradition of rote learning over ingenuity.

Yet the sweatshop image is outdated. As Japan’s population declines, some schools are becoming a source of grassroots policy innovation, says Julian Dierkes, a rare expert on juku, who happens to be at the University of British Columbia. Many juku operators were left-wing activists in the 1960s, later shut out of business and academia.

The share of enrolled students is higher than a quarter-century ago. In a 2008 government survey, two-thirds of parents attributed the growing role of juku to shortcomings in public education. Their service is more personalised, and many encourage individual inquisitiveness when the public system treats everyone alike. “The juku are succeeding in ways that the schools are not,” an OECD report says. In Tokyo, students say, they are a relief from cramped quarters, siblings, television and the internet.

Oddly, Japan’s education ministry refuses to recognise juku, dismissing them as a mere service businesses. The powerful teachers’ union resists them on grounds of undermining equality. Meanwhile the juku concept is being exported. Japanese operators are expanding to China and elsewhere in Asia. There, too, they may prove a response to broken state systems.

The Economist 31-12-2011


A progressive madrassa in the heart of UP

Access to education, Budget Private Schools, Community Schools, Girl Child Education

Bilariyaganj: Breaking the stereotypes associated with madrassas, a 50-year-old Islamic seminary here teaches subjects like personality development and home science, runs an elaborate teacher training programme, has a higher girl enrolment ratio and has students who are no less active on social networking websites than their counterparts in the metros.

Welcome to Jamiatul Falah, a madrassa in Bilariyaganj town of Uttar Pradesh’s Azamgarh’s district that has kept pace with modern education. The 4,300 students who come here from across the country are taught subjects like personality development, economics, political science and home science — subjects which are rarely taught in Islamic institutions.

Jamiatul Falah, which means University of Eternal Success, also started a mini Industrial Training Institute (ITI) and a public hospital earlier this year.

The institution now wants to start paramedical courses for students.

“Now the madrassa people across the country recognize that there is a need to train teachers because they play a key role in any educational system,” Falah manager Mohammad Tahir Madani told reporters.

“The modern subjects are helpful to understand the religious commandments and create confidence among our students,” he said.

“If our students don’t know other languages, then they won’t know other cultures. Nowadays, if they don’t know English they may feel an inferiority complex,” he explained.

More than 50 percent of the students in the institution in higher classes are comfortable with the Internet and most have a Facebook account.

Shahid Habib, a student, has 425 Facebook friends. “I access the internet easily, send e-mails and get information,” he said.

Of the 4,300 students, around 2,600 are girls and most of the outstation students are from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra and Nepal. The girls’ enrolment ratio in higher classes is even more.

“Educating the girl child is necessary to empower them. The ratio of educated girls has increased now. The poor girls can also get education here,” Falah headmistress Salma Jaleel said.

“If someone is poor, then they don’t have to pay. We will educate them as it is our responsibility,” Madani said.

Falah, which has a monthly fee of less than Rs.100, provides free education, accommodation and meals to at least 30 percent of its students.

The institution’s alumni are pursuing research in various universities in India and abroad.

Its hospital, Al-Falah Hospital, offers allopathy, Ayurveda, Homeopathy and Unani treatment.

It serves at least 100 patients daily and provides free service to poor irrespective of race, cast and religion.

Azam Beg, an alumni of Falah hailing from Rajasthan, went on to study Unani medicine from the Aligarh Muslim University and was twice elected students’ union president.

“Falah is a junction of both curricula, old divine and modern education. I have learnt a lot from here and it is enough to open my heart and mind,” said Beg, who now runs 12 schools and colleges and four madrassas in different parts of Rajasthan.

Stressing on the necessary changes in the educational system of the madrassas, Madani said: “There is an old style of teaching in madrassa system and certain changes are needed in the syllabus.”

“The teaching pattern in madrassas depends on books, not subjects; we have to change it now,” he pointed out.

Falah has a panel to check the quality of education and also conducts a parent-teacher meeting every three months, a rare practice in madrassas.
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One can see several wall magazines in different languages like Arabic, Urdu and also English at Jamiatul Falah.

Mohammad Arif, a doctor of Unani medicine in Al-Falah Hospital, thinks that the madrassas should provide the lead to the community in every field. “There are large numbers of people who follow the madrassa teaching. If the madrassas play such kind of role, then the thinking of people about madrassas would be changed,” Arif said.

Madani states there is a misconception that only Muslim students can study in madrassas. “Our doors are open for students of every religion, cast and area. Hindu students have been part of Falah in the past.”

ZEENEWS.com 30-12-2011

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