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NIIT launches ‘Cloud Campus’ to create new-age skills

Autonomy

The Indian Education Review

08 May 2013

NIIT Limited has launched ‘Cloud Campus’ by making available new-age skills, to students across the country. Through this, NIIT aims to offer over 100 courses across 300 locations by the end of 2013, thus enabling coverage of over 500,000 students by 2014.

NIIT will offer training programs in IT, Banking, Global Finance, Management, Digital and Social Media Marketing, through Cloud Campus with innovative learning features.

Speaking on this announcement Rajendra S Pawar, Chairman, NIIT Ltd. said, “This pioneering initiative from NIIT will help take high quality educational programs to the remotest corners of the country, NIIT Cloud Campus will take students beyond the traditional classroom teaching. It seamlessly blends classrooms, Cloud enabled classrooms and collaborated learning into India’s first Cloud Campus.”

Vijay Thadani, Chief Executive Officer, NIIT Ltd. said, “Cloud is undoubtedly the future of learning. NIIT will empower the youth of the country by providing new age skills in domains across IT & emerging technologies, Banking, Global Finance, Management, Digital & Social Media Marketing.”

“With smart phones and tablets becoming more affordable, most Indian youth are accessing internet through their handset. According to a mobile survey conducted by IPSOS & Google, Indian smartphone users are accessing the Internet more than their counterparts in the US. The survey reveals that 36 per cent of all smartphone owners in India are in the age group of 18- 29,” he said.

G Raghavan, Chief Executive, Career Building Solutions, NIIT Ltd., said, “The pioneering ‘NIIT Cloud Campus’, will be rolled out to 300 locations by end of 2013, and will reach over 5,00,000 students by 2014. We will offer almost 100 courses, including many new-age courses, under the Cloud Campus. Backed by powerful technologies, this cloud and collaborative platform puts the power to learn in the hands of the students by making “learning with buddies” and “learning anytime and anywhere” possible.”

Comment

CBSE adds weightage of 20 marks to ASL

Autonomy

The TImes of India

Apr 29, 2013,

Abhishek Choudhari

30-Apr-2013 :  NAGPUR: As per the curriculum document 2015 for Secondary School (Volume I), a weightage of 20 marks has been added for assessing Speaking and Listening Skills (ASL) in Std IX and X in the following courses of English in the Summative Assessment – I and Summative Assessment – II.

Accordingly, the written paper will be of 70 marks. The assessment of Speaking and Listening carries 20 marks i.e. 70+20 = 90 marks in SA I and SA II respectively.

However, as per the Curriculum 2014 guidelines, only 10 marks had been added in a written paper of 80 marks in Std IX and X. The guidelines to conduct the Speaking and Listening Assessment (ASL) had been uploaded on the CBSE Academic Website www.cbseacademic.in vide circular no.: 63 dated 12, September, 2012. It is expected that all the schools affiliated to CBSE have conducted the Speaking and Listening Assessment as per the guidelines uploaded at school level in Std IX and added the marks in the SA I and SA II papers of English.

The modified syllabus under Section D of both English Language & Literature (Annexure-I) and Communicative Course (Annexure-II) for class X (2013-14) with Values Based Questions is attached with this notification.

The CBSE has asked schools that the assessment of Speaking and Listening (ASL) has to be conducted by every school in class X (2013-14) also. The weightage of 10 marks will be added in the written paper of 80 marks to make it 90 marks for each Summative Assessment respectively. As part of evidence of Assessment schools are expected to maintain the files of audio recording of the Speaking Assessment of students to be sent to the CBSE along with the Award list of Speaking and Listening for SA II Examination. The modified guidelines of the Speaking and Listening assessment are being uploaded on the CBSE Academic website very shortly.

All the head of schools may schedule the conduct of the school-based assessment for Std X for SA-II from November 15 till December 15 each year, to avoid any inconvenience. The monitoring of the school based assessment of speaking and listening skills will be done by the CBSE with the help of trained Monitors and Oral Examiners.

Comment

CBSE may offer health education next year

Autonomy

ET Bureau May 7, 2013

NEW DELHI: A new independent subject on ‘health’ may be introduced as part of school education under the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), according to a senior health ministry official. ‘Health Education’ is likely to be taught between class 4 and class 10.

“We are in advanced talks with officials of ministry of human resource development and National Council of Educational Research and Training to make this happen,” said Jagdish Prasad, director general, health services.

The basic framework and contents for the course are already being designed and developed by National Institute of Health and Family Welfare, a think-tank under the health ministry. It is likely to take four to six months to finalise the shape of the textbooks.

“We are hopeful that the course would get introduced as soon as next academic session. We intend to keep the content simple,” said Prasad on the sidelines of a CII conference, which launched a platform to explore feasible public-private partnership models in the area of diabetes.

Once the subject is launched by CBSE, the government plans to begin consultation with the state governments to introduce it in different state boards.

FINNISH MODEL

In integrating education on health as part of mainstream curriculum, the government is learning a few lessons from Finland, a Nordic country, which has successfully implemented a similar programme of health teaching through its school curricula. Finland is also one of the best-performing countries globally on health indicators.

“Health education is integrated into environmental and natural studies in grades 1-4; in grades 5-6, it is integrated into biology and geography and into physics and chemistry. In grades 7-9, health education is an autonomous subject,” said a case study of Finland government and World Health Organisation Regional Office for Europe.

The case study cites main themes of health education in Finland as growth and development, health in everyday choices, resources and coping skills, and health, society and culture.

Comment

Open access: Four ways it could enhance academic freedom

Access to education, Autonomy

Guardian

22 April, 2013

The power of funding alone should not be enough to override academic freedom, argues Curt Rice, nor does open access automatically skew the world of scholarship.

Are politicians stealing our academic freedom? Is their fetish with open access publishing leading to a ‘pay to say’ system for the rich? And will the trendy goal of making publicly financed research freely available skew the world of scholarship even further towards the natural sciences? I don’t think so. But it took me a while to get there.

The freedom to choose

Academic freedom lets scientists choose the research questions they want to ask. They can pursue their hypotheses however they like. Their results and reasoning can be discussed without any fear of reprisals from governments or universities. The frontiers of knowledge move forward without political interference or personal risk because of academic freedom.

The Norwegian government recently wrote about open access publishing as a potential threat to academic freedom: “All research that is publicly financed should be openly accessible. This principle, however, must not hinder the academic freedom researchers enjoy to choose their preferred channels of publication.”

How could academic freedom be impeded by a requirement to publish in open access journals? Doesn’t it seem just a bit too luxurious to turn this principle into something about the business models of journals? Maybe. But experts writing about academic freedom recently asserted a right “to decide how publication shall happen”.

This, I think, is where academic freedom and open access policies may collide.

The cost of knowledge

The possible conflict becomes clearer if we turn the question around. Could a researcher refuse to publish in for-profit journals? Thousands have: Elsevier’s excessive profitability triggered the Cost of Knowledgeprotest. Do professors with academic freedom have the right to boycott a publisher?

What if a government supported the boycott and refused to let publicly funded research appear in Elsevier’s journals? This would prevent researchers from publishing in the Lancet or Cell, to mention two of the group’s most important titles. Would that prohibition violate academic freedom?

If you answer yes to these questions – as I do – then we must also accept accept the idea that there could be a conflict between a requirement to publish in open access journals and academic freedom.

Open access policies

Important policies have emerged from the National Institutes of Health, the European Commission and the UK Research Councils, to mention a few prominent examples. As far as I can see, not one of these mentions academic freedom – in contrast, for example, with Communia’s progressive recommendations about open access policies. The Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research therefore deserves praise for raising the issue.

The power of funding alone should not be enough to override academic freedom. The route to enhanced use of open access, in other words, is not exclusively through compulsion.

Enhancing academic freedom

How can universities and governments nudge their researchers forward? Is there no carrot that can help? Here are four ways in which open access publishing enhances academic freedom:

1) Copyright In open access journals, authors retain copyrights while in the traditional system, they must sign over the copyright to the publisher.Stuart Shieber at Harvard University elaborates: “Traditional publishing infringes academic freedom. Authors assign copyright to publishers as part of the publication process. With this control, publishers can and do limit access to the scholar’s writing. Scholars are therefore not free to disseminate their academic work in the broadest way.”

2) Interference Open access journals can be cheaper to run, which can increase editorial independence, according to Stanford’s John Willinsky and his colleagues in Doing Medical Journals Differently: Open Medicine, Open Access and Academic Freedom: “Open access enables a new journal to become part of the larger academic community immediately, without first having to convince a major corporation or organisation to sponsor it or having to assemble sufficient resources to sell initial subscriptions through some combination of advertising and agents. (One estimate sets the price of securing 500 subscribers at roughly US $50,000).”

3) Citations There is a growing literature suggesting that open access articles are read and cited more. This enhances academic freedom by allowing you to better fulfill the responsibilities that go with it. Increased citation also enhances your academic freedom through its quality control function – the use and evaluation of your work by others will give you a sturdier basis for determining what questions to ask next. (I leave aside here the challenges traditional publishing models are facing as they lose their grip on quality control.)

4) Archiving A bizarre consequences of for-profit digital publishing is that the responsibility for archiving scientific articles has been transferred from libraries to publishers. A library that subscribes to an electronically published traditional journal cannot simply keep an archive of what it subscribes to. The publisher does that. At least until it decides not to. Or goes out of business.

With open access publishing, archiving becomes possible for independent non-profit institutions wanting to take on that responsibility. A natural extension of the notion of academic freedom is the right to have your published work remain available.

In fact, the archiving issue represents the very core of the distinction between traditional and open access approaches to publishing, namely accessibility. Surely scientists concerned about academic freedom agree that the longer their words are accessible, the greater their potential contribution and impact. And isn’t this, after all, exactly what academic freedom is intended to facilitate?

There is a connection between open access policies and academic freedom. It’s subtle and it requires our reflection. From my perspective, the balance tips strongly in favour of open access when we ask which model strengthens academic freedom. I hope ministries and research councils soon will make this case, too.

Curt Rice is vice president for research and development at theUniversity of Tromsø – this is an edited version of an article first published on his blog.

Comment

Private schools shy away from seeking government recognition

Access to education, Autonomy, Right to Education, School Recognition

Chandigarh Thousands of private schools in Punjab have refused to get registered with the education department defying the Right To Education Act.
Out of the total 9,800 private schools functioning in Punjab, only about 3,000 have approached the education department showing their willingness to be registered and recognized under the RTE Act.

Majority of the other schools have written to the government that they do not need to get recognised by the education department as they are already affiliated with the Punjab School Education Board.

“These schools have to understand that affiliation is different from recognition. A school seeks affiliation of a board as the board is primarily an examining body. But the RTE clearly states that every private school, which intends to teach students beginning from class 1 had to be recognized by the state’s education department. Moreover, since RTE states that there will be no examination for students till class VIII, it does not matter if the school is affiliated to a board or not. What is more important is that every school has to be recognized and if the school is teaching classes beyond class VIII, it will also be affiliated,” said Hussan Lal, principal secretary school education.

Sources said that a large section of the schools which are avoiding being recognized by the education department are doing so as in that case they would have to meet the various norms laid down in the RTE Act.

A large number of unrecognized schools are running from shabby make shift complexes, small buildings and single rooms in villages while the RTE makes it compulsory for the private schools to provide the basis minimum infrastructure. This includes all-weather school buildings, one-classroom-one-teacher, a head teacher’s office room, library, toilets, drinking water, kitchen sheds, barrier free access, playground, fencing and boundary walls.

Other than infrastructural requirements, these schools also have to ensure one teacher for every 30 students. With most private schools following the teacher pupil ratio of 1:40 to 1: 60, they will have to employ many more teachers to comply with the provisions of the RTE Act.

In addition teachers to be employed under the RTE Act can be recruited only after they clear the requisite teachers eligibility test conducted by the state government.

Every school, which is registered by the education department will be inspected by a team to access the compliance of these norms. “The inspection process of the 3,000 schools, which have filled and sent the self declaration forms will begin shortly. For the rest of the schools we are yet to take a decision,” added Hussan Lal.

The secretary added that the Act provides for strict punitive action against private schools in case they continue to teach students without seeking recognition. “The Act provides for closure of such schools and an immediate fine if Rs 1 lakh. Such schools would, however, be given some time before they can comply with the Act within a stipulated time failing which they would be fined at the rate of Rs 10,000 a day for each day of non-compliance beyond the stipulated date,” said Hussan Lal.

The Indian Express, 14 May 2012

Comment

Making lemonade from lemons – The RTE edition

Access to education, Autonomy, Budget Private Schools, Right to Education

Education consultant Lawrence Uzzell had pointed out that school reformers throughout the world can be broadly grouped into two groups – neo-pluralists and neo-centralists. The neo-pluralists believe in allowing various pedagogies, teacher arrangements, profit- and non-profit governance models, and different social contexts for the children. The neo-centralists, on the other hand, push for the homogenizing of schooling in the name of socio-economic solidarity and prioritize the state’s preferences over that of the parents and the child. The neo-pluralists, who we have sympathy for, are not against prudential regulations or subsidies – indeed, many of them support scholarships or vouchers for the children from disadvantaged sections of society to study at private schools.

Unfortunately, the Right to Education (RTE) Act has been successfully pushed by the neo-centralists in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and the National Advisory Council (NAC). The Supreme Court of India has upheld the law, declaring the reservation of 25% of admissions in private unaided schools for underprivileged classes and castes to be constitutional. In other words, RTE is here to stay, and economic liberals must, just like with the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act or the Food Security Bill, reform from within.

Yet, many think that most opposition to the RTE Act stems not from any philosophical or economic angle, but from an elitist bias because of which well-to-do parents do not want their children to study with children from poorer families. This could of course be true in many cases although some commentators have also written about the mixed psychological effects on poor children of growing up along children from much richer households. But the supporters who cite the Western common school systems as examples of social egalitarianism and integration should know that they are actually referring to governmental schools in the West, and hat in many countries like the United States, private schools are allowed to run without quotas.
Liberals do not oppose RTE based on prejudice; they oppose it primarily because of its focus on centralized statism. RTE is first and foremost against private property and free association. The question is should individuals in an ostensibly free country be allowed to select unaided schools for their children, even if based on apparent class prejudice? Should Rabindranath Tagore not have been allowed to start Patha Bhawan in 1901 with just five students? Should he really have been asked to have labs, playgrounds and the right socio-economic demographics in his new school?

Yet, the liberty argument against centralization does not cut ice with some, so let us consider more pragmatic arguments. Economist Bibek Debroy had succinctly summarized his opposition to RTE in The Indian Express. “58% of enrolment in urban India is in private schools and the figure is 32% in rural India…The RTE imposes high compliance costs on budget private schools and drives them out. It thus hinders, rather than furthers, the cause of school education”. Indeed, most schools in the country are not RTE-compliant as of now (simply in terms of infrastructure, not admission policies).

As Kartik Misra, a researcher at the Center of Civil Society (CCS), notes that in the three parts of Delhi state he studied, the fees at various low budget private school would have to increase from the current Rs. 295-370 per month to anywhere between Rs. 1040-1612 if all the RTE regulations were to be followed. Many such schools of course could not expand to get the requisite playgrounds etc, because there is simply no land around. Such budget private schools have been observed by James Tooley in Hyderabad and Delhi (as written in his book The Beautiful Tree) and by us in Rajasthan and Kolkata. Indeed, Tooley noted that Delhi’s unrecognized private schools had significantly smaller classes, higher average math raw scores, and lower per-pupil teacher cost than government schools! This is not a surprise to anyone who understands incentives – in private schools there is accountability, whenever the government comes in we just have sinecure jobs.

Most of the fee increases and “crowding out” of low-cost private schools would be because of a forced increase of teacher salaries, and to a lesser extent by newer infrastructure. This is a clear bid by the government teacher unions to prevent the bifurcation of the teacher union movement into government and private ones. Apparently, having a B. Ed. is no longer enough for a teacher in an officially recognized school to teach – which is another implicit admission of government-provided education’s failures as the state now tries to increasingly control the salaries, fees and admissions in private schools.

While the RTE would force the low-cost schools to either close shop or pay more bribes, the super-elite in the country is even more likely to defect abroad – starting with high school now, instead of university. But why should we then allow rich Indians to send their kids to Raffles, Andover or Harrow for schooling? Should the government not detain them at airports? Of course not, that would be wrong. Yet, within the country we must push for social engineering, say RTE proponents.

But why then does the RTE not apply equally to state-funded madrassas? It is sad to note that while the Supreme Court had exempted the unaided “minority” schools – religious and linguistic – from RTE while unfairly regulating the unaided non-minority ones, the Parliament has gone ahead one step and also exempted some of the aided minority schools (mostly in the religious category, it seems). That is, if state-enforced norms are good for one community, why not for the other – and if it is too homogenizing for one, then why not for the other? Clearly, where integration was perhaps most needed – the government has predictably blinked.

Yet, this is where the lemon starts potentially looking like a lemonade. The Rajya Sabha, when it partially exempted Muslim religious school from RTE, also exempted some “Vedic Schools” to not appear blatantly pseudo-secular. It is unclear to us at this point if, and to what extent, would this also include schools run by the Ramakrishna Mission and various Sangh schools like the Shishu Mandirs. Therefore, instead of attacking the conservative Muslims and their appeasers in the Congress party, the Hindu right would be better off exploiting this opening. Already, to take an example, Jain minority institutes have been useful for Hindus in some states to escape government over-regulation of education. A sustained legal and political movement should single-mindedly aim to de facto liberate many more private unaided schools by increasing their minority quotient in terms of religion, language or any other factor that would serve the purpose.

As American libertarian Grover Norquist writes in his book Leave Us Alone, “The (center-right) coalition also includes those Americans whose central concern is practicing their religion and raising their children in that same faith…This confuses the heck out of the establishment press that cannot understand how evangelical Protestants, conservative Catholics, Orthodox Jews, Muslims and Mormons can all cheerfully be in the same political movement. Shouldn’t they be fighting each other? …They don’t have to. They realize that if they are to practice their faith their way they need to stand politically with others of different faith who want the same freedom… Over the years the aggressively secular left has created a more ecumenical right” Another author Paul Weyrich noted that “This was the nexus between social conservatism and opposition to big government”.

The second lemon-to-lemonade possibility is within the reimbursements promised by the government for the 25 percent of reserved seats in private schools. If the refunds – which are to be linked to average per-student government costs – are higher than the school’s fees, we already have a de facto voucher program! This is what Swaminathan Aiyar had already noticed, but the problem was that for most elite private schools, this government transfer would still be a pittance. For the budget schools on the other, this could be a windfall – except that most of them are not recognized, and after RTE’s requirements of high salaries and full playgrounds, even fewer are likely to satisfy the regulatory requirements.

This is where Gujarat’s recent game-changer comes in, as documented by Parth Shah of the Centre for Civil Society. School recognition in that state will now be contingent on more sensible factors: Learning outcomes (absolute levels of student learning, and improvement compared to past performance) – 70 % weight; Inputs (including facilities, teacher qualifications) – 15% weight; Non-academic outcomes and parent feedback – 15% weight. Under this formula, most budget schools are likely to become recognized, and hence eligible for RTE’s “eminent domain” – but with a compensation very favorable to them. Look out for better educational results, more empty government schools (and better bang for the buck for taxpayers) if this remarkable model is replicated by other states.

Indeed, concentration on outlays and not outcomes has been the bane of most Indian public policy – the vast portion of government schooling expenditure in India has been on the salaries of the teachers and administration. Unions have been “the biggest barrier” to reform, according to Abhijit Banerjee, an economist at MIT. Therefore, today it is increasingly true what Pranab Bardhan had noted in a larger context that “the left, while talking about the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat, has given us instead the dictatorship of the salariat’”. Government teachers, like most Indian public servants, have no incentive to perform because of job security and lack of performance pay.

Today when social entrepreneurship is the new buzzword, would not for-profit school be amongst the best examples of that? Indeed, profit would allow schools to legally scale up. As movies like Taare Zameen Par and Three Idiots have documented at a popular culture level – our education system need a huge infusion of innovation. Unfortunately, centralized statist systems are rarely innovative. Moreover as the Internet change our entire lives, our education system continues to be almost exactly the same as it was pre-Independence.

Poor parents also have voted with their small pockets and have said no to a “free” government option, because they know that private schools give a better education. We all agree that quality schooling should be available to one and all, then why only subsidize government-run schools? We should have choice and competition. We should fund students, not schools. Once we subsidize more private schools, albeit indirectly through students – even more new schools will be created. While primary school enrollment has increased, studies by Pratham and PISA show that quality still remains extremely dismal. Already, good work is being done by NGOs like Pratigya in Jharkhand – they follow the voucher model and support students to attend budget schools, instead of starting schools or donating to them. Similarly, dramatically more educational spending by Delhi is not fiscally possible, and repealing RTE is not politically feasible. Therefore, we must now push for as many exemptions as possible within the RTE, while getting more budget schools recognized for reimbursements.

Livemint, 02 May 2012

Comment

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

Comment

What about the right to provide education?

Autonomy, Private schools

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009, known simply as theRTE, came a century after Gopal Krishna Gokhale made an impassioned plea to the Imperial Legislative Council for introducing free and compulsory primary education in India.

He said, ‘The state should accept in this country the same responsibility in regard to mass education that the government of most civilised countries are already discharging and that a well-considered scheme should be drawn up and adhered to till it is carried out. The well being of millions upon millions of children who are waiting to be brought under the influence education depends upon it.’

Nine decades after this speech, the Right to Education became a fundamental right, and 100 years later, the Indian government delivered the Act that allowed for Universal Public Education. The Act mandated that education not only be provided by government schools, but also that 25% of all seats in every school in India be reserved for children from economically weak sections. Needless to say, private schools had an objection and challenged the Act.

Last week the Supreme Court upheld the law, but exempted unaided minority schools from the ambit of the law.
Naturally, many are fuming about the restriction of economic choice of private schools and an assault on the right to do business, others are aghast that their children will be studying with the children of their servants, and there is outrage that minority appeasement is being followed by exempting unaided minority schools from following this law.

The first thing to remember is that education, especially school education in India, is not a business. It is not supposed to be run on the principles that govern a business — namely profit. Private schools across the country are run by a myriad of charitable public trusts.

The trusts receive land from the government at low or no cost and are supposed to, by law, reserve seats for economically weak classes, much the same as hospitals that are built on land granted by the government. Neither do. If a SC ruling is needed to ensure that these ‘charitable trusts’ are forced to honour the letter and spirit of their contracts, then so be it.

For those having kittens at the prospect of their children studying with servants’ children, they will get over it. It was probably the same reaction people had when the British Raj mandated that Indians of all castes had access to schools paid for by the government, or that white families had in the Southern American States when the government mandated the end of segregation in schools. The coming together of children from all backgrounds is going to do them all good. The children will possibly take to it a lot better than their parents.

The second, equally important thing to remember is that minority does not mean religious minority. It can mean any minority — religious, linguistic or indeed a sect. Many quality schools in cities fall under this category. The SC has exempted, in addition to religious schools run by unaided trusts, some of the best schools from being part of the RTE. And this exemption is discrimination.

This needs to be challenged because the law of the land applies to all, and there is no such thing as unaided. Trusts are given a wide range of tax exemptions on their activities and it can be argued that these constitute aid by the tax payer. It also needs to be repealed because you will have a slew of educational trusts applying for minority status, defeating the purpose of the law.

If you look beyond the cities, across states, private schools have begun providing education. This means schools run by trusts, and usually those trusts run by politicians. They were granted this to enable the state to provide better education for children. In many cases these trusts have taken over the infrastructure of existing government schools with the promise of providing better quality education. Should these not be required to provide free education to the economically disadvantaged?

Finally, the problem is not with either the RTE or the SC ruling. The problem is with governmental hypocrisy that decrees profit in education to be a ‘sin’.

Maybe, parents and schools should lobby the Supreme Court for allowing businesses to run schools on the principles that govern good business. Not allowing businesses to run schools and perpetuating this sham of ‘charitable trusts’ will stunt RTE, for the right to receive education will be best fulfilled when there is a corresponding right to provide education.

Daily News and Analysis, 16 April 2012

Comment

‘Higher education Bills unconstitutional’

Access to education, Autonomy

Under Tribunals Bill, institutions, teachers and students can’t go to High Court for immediate relief’
Three proposed Bills pertaining to higher education are unconstitutional, as Parliament lacks the legislative competence to enact them, according to the Association of Self-Financing Universities, New Delhi.

The body has appealed to the Union government to put on hold these legislation and hold talks with higher education institutions and other stakeholders on how to deal with the issues they seek to address.

“We consulted three former Chief Justices of India, and their opinion is that these Bills will go against the provisions of the Constitution and the [doctrine of] separation of powers. They will take away the powers of the State government,” Association president G. Viswanathan said in an interview to The Hindu.

The Bills are the Educational Tribunals Bill, 2010 that was passed in the Lok Sabha and is pending in the Rajya Sabha, the Prohibition of Unfair Practices in Technical Educational Institutions, Medical Educational Institutions and Universities Bill, 2010, and the National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutions Bill, 2010.

The former Chief Justices, A.S. Anand, M.M. Punchhi and K.N. Singh, who were approached by the Association for their opinion on the validity of these Bills, especially in the light of appropriate entries in the Union and State Lists in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, reckoned that “Parliament does not have the legislative competence for matters of universities in view of clear exclusion of universities from Entry 44 in List I (the Union List) and express inclusion in Entry 32 of List II (the State List).”

While Entry 44 in the Union List deals with “Incorporation, regulation and winding up of corporations, whether trading or not, with objects not confined to one State, but not including universities,” Entry 32 in the State List refers to “Incorporation, regulation and winding up of corporations, other than those specified in List I, and universities, unincorporated trading, literacy, scientific, religious and other societies and associations, cooperative societies.”

Mr. Viswanathan, who is also the founder-chancellor of VIT University, said the Educational Tribunals Bill, if enacted, would mean that aggrieved institutions, teachers and students could not go to the High Court for immediate relief, but only to the tribunal. “The State tribunal has no powers to pass interim orders, so we will have to wait till the judgment is pronounced. And even after that, one can go only to the national tribunal, which also has no powers for granting interim orders.”

Noting that prohibiting capitation fees was the original intention of the law, Mr. Viswanathan held corruption as the main reason for institutions collecting capitation fees. “We, as an association, will support the government in abolishing capitation [fees], but unless corruption is eradicated, it cannot be curtailed.”

Asked to elaborate on corruption, he said: “There is corruption at various levels — it begins at the panchayat level, and [is there at] the district level, the State level and the national level. Either departments of the government or the regulatory authorities of the State and Central governments — all of them have to be paid now. And it has to be paid in cash.” If controls were increased, corruption would also increase, resulting in an increase in capitation fees.

Encourage competition

According to him, the solution lay in encouraging competition among institutions and creating enough seats for students. Harassment of those running institutions was a major impediment to the expansion of higher education. “Asking the government to fix the fees of institutions will inhibit competition. Only if there is competition, quality will go up and the cost of education will come down.”

Mr. Viswanathan said accreditation should not be made mandatory, as envisaged in the proposed law, but only voluntary. It should also be done by professionals and not solely by government agencies. “We want the Prime Minister’s liberalisation policy in business and industry to be extended to education.”

He also favoured serious steps to attract talent to the teaching profession. And if at all foreign universities should be allowed to set up campuses in the country, they should be allowed to function with a local partner. They could be asked to bring at least 50 per cent of teachers from their own countries, and only reputed universities should be allowed to operate.

The Hindu. 29-12-2011

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Purta unhappy with education Bills

Autonomy

PATNA: The Patna University Retired Teachers’ Association (Purta) has expressed its deep anguish over the measures envisaged in the two Bills namely, the Bihar State University (Amendment) Bill 2011 and Patna University (Amendment) Bill 2011 passed in the assembly on Wednesday.

The Purta leaders — Bakshi Vidyanand Sinha, S W M Subuktagin and S K Ganguli — said that the sole intention of the state government appears to be abridgement of academic, financial and administrative autonomy of the universities and deprive the statutory benefits available to the retired teachers since 1980.

The main highlights of the Bills are, they pointed out, constitution of a Search Committee for selecting suitably qualified persons for the posts of vice-chancellors (VCs) of the universities of Bihar. Furthermore, the Bills envisage that no Statutes, Ordinances, Rules and Regulations (through which the university is governed) regarding service condition, retiral benefits, etc. shall the effective unless approved by the authority constituted for this purpose. Until such authority is formed, the state government shall function as the authority. It simply means that the main organs of the university will be stripped of the democratic and autonomous governance and will be replaced by the bureaucracy, they said.

The Committee as envisaged in the Bills would comprise a minimum of three or maximum of five members and its chairperson and the member-convener would be appointed by the government and will be answerable to the education minister. The convener of the committee may be in the rank of department secretary or principal secretary. This is fraught with dangerous consequences for higher education, they said, adding that due to regulatory measures, the independent functioning of the Committee is doubtful.

To ensure that only distinguished, dignified, skilled in administration and human resource management with high moral stature are selected to fill the posts of VCs, the Committee should consist of persons of impeccable credentials. Inclusion of any official of the government is against the principle of autonomy of the universities and the UGC guidelines, they added.

Times of India
, 9 December 2011

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