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Reforming Education — Where to Start?



Huff Post

When faced with challenging issues, we all know that a good way to compile a selection of possible solutions is too look around and see how others have dealt with comparable matters. By sharing educational knowledge, experiences and policies, countries can gain key insights for how too address challenges in education. This may also inspire new ideas, help reflect on the best ways to implement policy reform and motivate change, while avoiding risks and possible pitfalls.

In reality, even when countries address similar educational reform issues, policy possibilities and perspectives may vary widely. For example, Chile, Finland, Mexico and Norway have all made early childhood education and care a priority, yet they have used different methods in accomplishing their respective goals. Chile and Mexico have increased funding and focused on quality — aiming for widespread coverage; Norway has invested in increasing accessibility, funding and staff; while Finland has defined a core curriculum and moved early childhood education and care from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health to the Ministry of Education and Culture.

Certainly, many countries are concerned with responding effectively to the educational needs of youth from disadvantaged backgrounds. Finland has been successfully implementing a preventive approach to target low-performing students earlier on, relying on both the support of schools and welfare staff. Australia and Ireland have targeted disadvantaged students through educational strategies that identify and support schools and communities by giving additional resources. Additionally, Chile has chosen to address the needs of disadvantaged students through financial incentives, which are either targeted at schools via grants, or directly at students in tertiary education with a comprehensive scholarship programme.

Similarly, ensuring that all students complete upper secondary education is another major priority for many countries: Finland, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway and Turkey have focused on improving their secondary school completion rates, as well as the transitions both into higher education and to joining the labour market. Mexico and Turkey have introduced reforms to lengthen compulsory education, while also reforming their secondary education. Finland and New Zealand have implemented an initiative to increase the engagement of youth and to ensure qualification completion and employment. Norway has aimed to increase the completion of upper secondary education with a specific measure that motivates low-performing students.

The transformative power of an excellent teacher is something everyone understands and appreciates on a personal level. High-quality teachers are essential for school improvement and extremely valuable for students’ learning. Looking to the future, Chile, Czech Republic, Finland and Norway all want to attract high-quality teachers. Finland has developed teacher training into a selective and highly qualified profession, which is provided at university level, is research-based, having both a strong theoretical and practical content, as well as instilling pedagogical knowledge. For that reason, they only accept about 10 percent of candidates who apply to primary teaching studies and these teachers all acquire a master’s degree. Chile introduced an incentives-based full scholarship to attract high-performing students into teaching. Norway introduced a new campaign that uses short films and a website to promote the teaching profession and this has helped increase applications by almost 60 percent. Mexico also recently introduced policies that aim to enhance the selection, appointment, promotion and future occupational possibilities for teachers.

Indeed, learning about these countries’ experiences inspires reflection and action: countries may use them as support opportunities to map out specific educational reform processes and to explore co-operation with similar systems.

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CBSE grants 30 minutes extra for open book exams



The Times of India

CBSE director Sadhana Parashar wrote to schools saying, “It has been provided in the circulars that OTBA questions will be in addition to usual questions set for three hours. In view of the above, schools are directed to give time of 3-3½ hours to the examinees in each of the subjects where open text based assessment has been introduced. This time will be in addition to the 15 minutes allotted to read the question paper.” TOI was the first to report in July 2012 itself that CBSE was planning to introduce the open book concept. The board officially announced it a year later. OTBA will be conducted only for Class IX and XI as part of the final exams in March. For Class IX the OTBA material has been released for all main subjects like English, Hindi, Mathematics, Science and Social Science. For Class XI, the text material is for Geography, Economics and Biology. OTBA will be applicable only to these subjects this year. As reported by TOI earlier, in OTBA students will be given text material months in advance. Later, during the exam, students will be allowed to refer to it while giving the test. However, the CBSE has ensured that OTBA’s format does not dilute the process of conducting an exam. The board has also reworked the marks distribution to accommodate OTBA scores in the main subject marks itself. The question papers in main subjects at SA-II will be of 90 marks (in English, of 70 marks + 20 marks for assessment of speaking and listening skills) based on prescribed syllabus and question paper design. The question paper in each main subject will have a separate section of 10 marks for OTBA. The OTBA section will comprise text material accompanied by two or three questions based on that text. The questions based on text will be of HOTS requiring students to apply to the situations given in the article/ report/ case study and draw inferences/conclusions from. The questions based on the text will be open ended, extrapolative, inferential and look at personal response justifying a point of view. What is in the text material? – Text material for each subject is between 12-18 pages long – Material is inclusive of diagrams and illustrations – Text material for each subject is divided into two themes – Themes are relevant not only to existing syllabi but also recent events – Uttarakhand tragedy is discussed for the theme ‘Environment and Development’ – Theme in Mathematics discusses about area and distance through planning of garden layout How will the exam be conducted? – OTBA only for Class IX and XI – OTBA will be part of Summative Assessment – II – 10 marks (out of 100) will be for OTBA – OTBA question paper will have maximum of three questions – Each school will have to prepare its own question paper – Text material will be made available to students inside exam hall for reference

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Parental Valuation of School Attributes in Developing Countries: Evidence from Pakistan


Pedro Carneiro
University College London, Institute for Fiscal Studies and
Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice
Jishnu Das
World Bank
Hugo Reisy
University College London

June 2013

A surprising explosion of private for pro t schools in very poor settings has been recently documented for areas of India, Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya by (among others) Tooley & Dixon (2005)1 and Dixon (2012), and for Pakistan by Alderman, Orazem & Paterno (2001) and Andrabi, Das & Khwaja (2010). These are areas where the majority of children attends a large number of small private schools. Much of this growth in private schooling appears to be driven by rising discontent with the quality and availability of public education, even when it is freely provided, and even in environments where parents are very poor. Even though we think of education policy as mostly geared towards the public sector, this research shows that private schools are increasingly playing a central role in the education of poor children. Unfortunately, there is little research on what drives school choices among the poor, when there exists an abundance of choice possibilities (one exception is Alderman, Orazem & Paterno (2001)). Without knowledge of what drives parental choices it is impossible to understand the role of the private sector in this market, and to inform education policy. This paper studies the demand for primary school attributes in Pakistan. We use a rich dataset with information on parental characteristics and their school choices, and a detailed set of attributes for all schools in various education markets (villages), as well as all their costs. We estimate a model for the demand of di erentiated products (Berry, Levinsohn & Pakes (1995) and Berry, Levinsohn & Pakes (2004)). Based on the resulting estimates we compute the marginal willingness to pay for di erent school attributes, and we simulate the welfare implications of abolishing or regulating private schools. Finally, we assess whether the school attributes most valued by parents are strongly correlated with student success. We nd that the distance between a student’s residence and each school is a verystrong determinant of choice. The average distance between home and school (for those enrolled) is 500 meters for girls and 670 meters for boys. A 500 meter increase in this distance decreases the likelihood that a school is chosen by 5.1 percentage points for girls, and 4.2 percentage points for boys.

In contrast, an increase in annual tuition by USD$1 (from an average of USD$13 for private school) leads to declines of only 0.64 and 0.37 percentage points in the likelihood that a school is chosen, for girls and boys respectively. A 10 percentage point increase in the proportion of teachers with 3 years of experience (from an average of 60%), or a 10 percentage point increase in the proportion of teachers with a university degree (from an average of 25% for girls and 31% for boys), have less than a 1 percentage point impact on the probability that a school is chosen. Increases in the average test scores of students or the average test scores of teachers in each school have almost no impact on school choice (except for the poorest girls), perhaps because they are difficult to observe (when compared to the other attributes we consider). More generally, there is some but imperfect correspondence between the school attributes that are more strongly associated with student performance within each village, and the school attributes that are most valued by parents.

To read more http://ipl.econ.duke.edu/bread/papers/1013conf/carneiro.pdf

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Education needs a compromise

Global news, Other


Business Day

FIRST we tried to fix the disparities apartheid-based education delivered by moving to outcomes-based education, despite the fact that it was not working in the UK. When we woke up to the fact that outcomes-based education produced nicely adjusted youngsters who were functionally illiterate and innumerate, we tried to fix the problem by dropping university entrance standards, raising unrealistic expectations for tertiary achievements and leaving universities to try to patch things up with bridging courses and other initiatives.

At one point we focused on preparing youngsters for matric. Now we are working on getting preschoolers ready for the “three Rs”. But where does that leave the crop of schoolgoers who are between Grade R and Grade 12? We are still light years away from producing a workforce capable of competing in the world economy.

The ills of the system have been diagnosed to death — uneven access to textbooks, technology and nutrition; the lack of a culture of reading; patchy teacher quality; limited exposure of children to ideas and role models and innovative ways of thinking; huge disparities in teacher capability.

Teachers, who must implement the changes that are decreed, will be at the heart of any school improvement programme. But as the Gauteng Online project showed, you can put in all the technology you like; without people who can use it, there is no point. So dotted around Gauteng are schools that still have computer rooms that remain unused, where teachers have no idea how to use them and will not try for fear of breaking something.

Any reforms the National Development Plan puts in place must be driven by teachers. But how do we get them to where they can offer all that is needed to stock the economy with competitive workers?

Singapore focuses systematically on teachers’ professional development, evaluating educators frequently, rotating them between teaching and ministry posts, and emphasising career pathing.

Finland lets teachers create their own curricula, and draws business into schools through its system of apprenticeships. Their teachers are exceptionally well-trained and in touch with what business needs … and well-rewarded.

The interview with Deputy Basic Education Minister Enver Surty, carried in Business Day on Monday, revealed that the department is clear on what needs fixing. But all is lost if teachers themselves remain unable to master their curricula and inculcate a love of learning. They are at the heart of the solution.

Continuous professional development (CPD) programmes, now a way of life for medical professionals, accountants and others, would provide the stepping stones to get teachers up to speed. But making them the basis for pay increases also makes them a grudge activity. The South African Democratic Teachers Union, rather than seeing CPD and performance-based pay as providing a foundation for inspired teaching, sees them as a massive threat to its underpaid and underinspired membership.

South Africa has already lost a generation to outcomes-based education. The current cohort need not be lost, but will be if teacher unions and the department do not find a workable compromise.

It would be counterproductive to take out the big stick and attempt to force the teaching unions to drop their opposition to such initiatives, although it does no harm to remind them that reforming the education system is a national imperative. The department could give teachers a period during which to get up to speed and achieve attainable “stretch” goals. And more attention could be paid to helping teachers in the most disadvantaged schools improve their pedagogy, content, technology use, and knowledge.

It is not too much of a stretch of the imagination to see teacher education as the liberation tool the economy requires. Neither the department nor the unions will achieve this alone. A rational compromise must be reached.


The Great Indian Education Jugaad




Saurabh Chandra

Looking for a quick fix jugaad to plug the employability gap needs to make way for more concrete and long term solutions in education.

We are all aware of this momentous opportunity in India’s history. Over the coming years we will either reap the promised demographic dividend with lakhs of youngsters entering the working population (10 lakh every month as of now) or a demographic disaster of lakhs of ill-educated, unemployed youth. Unlike other issues of such import, this one cannot plead neglect and has been discussed at length in forums public, private and all combination thereof. Of all the solutions suggested to tackle this issue, it is generally agreed that we need all of them. In this regard it is a unique issue in which all solutions that work are much needed – private, public, adult, vocational, research, combinations of all – and all in great scale. However, education done well takes an awful lot of years and since we are already at the precipice of this demographic surge, we need some quick solutions.

Jugaad is much celebrated and maligned at the same time. It is celebrated as creating a nation of innovators and tinkerers who can find frugal solutions to pressing needs. It is maligned as a subvertor of excellence, a short-term ‘make-do’ instead of aiming for the best in efficiency and productivity. But what does one do when there is no time, no money but the wheels have to keep moving? In education, the great Indian jugaad manifests itself in the skill development programme. The private sector version of the same is the finishing school. It is also called as bridging the employability gap and some call it making students industry ready. It hopes to fix 14 or 18 years of bad education in 3 to 12 well-packaged months. It is one of the largest and most ambitious programmes of the government that aims to provide skills to 50 crore people by 2022.

To give you an idea of these skills – I received this email a few days ago from the Telecom Sector Skills Council that operates under the National Skills Development Council and has all major telecom companies and handset manufacturers as partners apart from IIM-A. The email was to encourage industry participation in training people. The council has created certifications in skills such as In-Store Promoter, Mobile Repair Technician, Customer Care Executive (Call Centre/ Relationship Centre/Repair Centre), Field Sales Executive, Sales Executive (Broadband), Distributor Care Executive, Mobile Tower Technician, Optical Fibre Splicer and Technician. Every candidate who passes the certification gets an incentive of Rs 10,000.

The idea of naming each skill and creating certifications is good and much prevalent in  developed markets. It helps both the job seeker and the enterprise agree upon what it takes to do a job. In the same vein, there are finishing schools that bridge the gap between an engineering graduate coming from a college and a programmer that many of the IT companies desire. I was talking to a finishing school founder a few years ago sharing our requirements. We discussed many of the tools, languages and processes that the finishing school will acquaint the students with before they join. The founder asked me for a further wish list and I said something to the tune of ‘We would like engineers who are articulate and excellent in problem solving skills’. The founder looked at me and said that articulation is a skill that takes a very long time to learn. Long? Yes, 10 to 15 years.

Skills and qualities that really matter such as discipline, ability to delay gratification, focus, articulation, working in a team, empathy, regard for safety, ability to learn new concepts are all things we learn over 10 to 15 years. The industry jargon to distinguish these from technical skills is traits.The conventional wisdom is that skills can be taught but not traits. At the timescale at which industry operates, that is true. But we must not forget that these are still learnable qualities, albeit over a longer period of time.

Like many of the solutions on offer for the education sector in India, the focus on skills is also one amongst all others. However, it is a jugaad that may only service immediate needs and we should recognise it as such. For starters, the catalogue of skills and certifications will only be a subset of what the economy needs. Today’s fast paced economy will see most demand from areas where even the job titles (heard of customer success engineer yet?) are still evolving. Also, people entering the workforce today will need to learn and relearn new capabilities through the lifetime. What we require is the ability in our work force to imagine new jobs and not just perform them.

The real, excellence based non-jugaad solutions lie in fixing our school education where year after year, assessments are showing falling standards in basic reading and math skills. We are not even measuring the right traits that are needed and not yet asking if all our schools are equipped to provide them. And while we apply our immediate jugaad, how do we bridge the real gap in our adult workforce. As a nation we can’t afford to give up on the 50 crore citizens that as of now we aim to merely skill technically. How do we impart those important skills missed over the long years of growing up? Sure, many of them will learn in the school of hard knocks called life as they do today. This school doesn’t work very well for everyone though and has no remedial classes for folks left behind. Peter Norvig wrote a landmark essay on how to learn programming in 10 years. We need to think on those lines to see how the hard working 20-year-olds entering the workforce today become the super smart 30-year-olds.


Right to Homeschooling vs Right to Education


Jandhyala B G Tilak

Economic Political Weekly

Many attempts have been made during India’s post-Independence period to fulfil the constitutional directive of universal elementary education through a number of education systems such as government and government-aided schools, local body schools, recognised and unrecognised private schools, non-formal education and open schools. According to an important clause in the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 (RTE), elementary education shall be provided only through recognised government and private schools. Private unrecognised schools, non-formal education and other alternative forms of education are no longer valid.

In the context of a petition fi led in the Delhi High Court (Shreya Sahai and Others vs Union of India and Others/WP(Civil) No 8870 of 2011), the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) of the Government of India submitted an affidavit (dated 16 July 2012) in which two important statements were made that go contrary to the wider understating of the RTE ACT: (a) ” parents who voluntarily opt for systems of homeschooling and such alternative forms of schooling may continue to do so. The RTE does not come in the way of such alternatives chooling methodologies or declare such form of education as illegal”; and (b) “the Act is with regard to the rights of children and does not compel children to go to a neighbourhood school…The compulsion therefore is not on the child but on that Government”.

Click here to read more: http://www.epw.in/system/files/pdf/2012_47/41/Right_to_Homeschooling_vs_Right_to_Education.pdf


PM’s greatest legacy: Initiative on education launched with Barack Obama



The Economics Times

PM Manmohan Singh, who, later this month, is scheduled to make what may be his final official visit to Washington, is one of the architects of the much-trumpeted India-US civil nuclear deal, signed in October 2008. But Singh’s greatest contribution to the India-US relationship might not be the nuclear deal that his government painstakingly negotiated with the administration of President George W Bush.

In fact, his greatest legacy in bilateral relations may be the education initiative he launched with President Barack Obama. The two nations have cooperated very closely in higher education and have made huge strides in the past four years.

The signature Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative, announced in 2009, has been quietly bringing together dozens of higher educational institutions from both countries. Well Begun At the outset, the initiative is a very ambitious enterprise launched with very modest resources.

So far, each side has committed $5 million apiece over five years to facilitate partnerships between institutions of higher education in the two countries. The quality of institutions that have already become part of initiative, and the scope of their partnership, speaks volumes of its potential.

From the US side, in the first year, it attracted heavyweights such as Rutgers, University of Montana, Cornell University, University of Michigan, Brown University, Duke University, Plymouth State University, University of PittsburghBSE 0.90 %, Virginia Tech and Drexel University. In the second year, the initiative roped in Harvard School of Public Health, Ohio State University, University of Massachusetts (Amherst), University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), Tennessee Technological University, Washington State University, University of Minnesota (Minneapolis) and University of Nevada (Las Vegas).

The Indian partners include Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, Mahatma Gandhi University, Banaras Hindu University, IIT-Kanpur, IIT-Delhi, Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore, University of Pune, Aligarh Muslim University and Annamalai University. Together they are doing research in a number of cutting-edge areas including renewable energy, sustainable development and agriculture, and food security, among others.

Ohio State is teaming up with Aligarh Muslim University to train faculty members in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Montgomery College, a community college just outside of Washington, DC, is helping India set up 200 community colleges in the country.

These “will begin primarily as workforce development units,” said Indian-American Sanjay Rai, vice-president and provost of the Germantown Campus of Montgomery College, in a recent interview. “We have targeted specific sectors of the job market – like healthcare and nursing – that need employees and have jobs to fill, for the students,” he added. Community colleges, which are government-funded two-year schools, are a huge part of the U.S. higher education system.

With their emphasis on skills training, no doubt, these colleges have the potential to change the educational landscape in India. Of course, Montgomery College will not be the first American school to help set up quality educational institutions in India.

Two similar previous experiments had stunning successes in India: the IIT system received a lot of help and encouragement from the MIT during its founding days; Wharton School of Business was involved in the setting up of the IIM. If Montgomery College’s initiative is half as successful as that of its two illustrious predecessors it would be a remarkable accomplishment.

Singh and Obama should be credited for making education one of the centerpieces of the India-US relations, given that it is not what many pundits would consider a “big-ticket item,” which would be endlessly debated and dissected on television. But keen students of the bilateral relations would know that educational cooperation has historically played a huge role in bringing the two countries together.


Creating World Class Education Infrastructure

Global news, Other, Quality

Digital Learning


“India is playing a highly constructive role in Afghanistan. Other countries in the neighbourhood should look at the kind of relationship that exists between India and Afghanistan and learn a lesson from it,” says Shaida Mohammad Abdali, Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to India, in conversation with Mohd Ujaley

Despite many challenges, education sector in Afghanistan is gradually improving. How satisfied are you with the achievements made so far? Education in Afghanistan is making exemplary progress. Rather, we should say achievements in education are beyond our imagination. In last eleven years, a revolution has taken place in education. Large pool of students are moving for education within Afghanistan and beyond. For example, over 7000 students are currently studying in India and there are 10.5 million children who are attending school in Afghanistan. But, I understand that we need to strike more to make further progress in terms of quality and quantity. You also have to take into account the fact that no country has gone through the kind of trouble we faced. We have started from scratch and I am proud to say that by now we have made substantial progress. We are a country of 30 million people; about 75 percent of population is below 25 years of age, which means we have the youth energy to take our country far ahead.

What kind of enthusiasm for education do you see in the Afghan people when you meet them? Let me tell you a real story, when I was the Deputy National Security Advisor and Special Assistant to the President of Afghanistan, I met a man from rural part of Afghanistan who was totally under the influence of radical groups. I asked him how he and his children were doing and where they went to school. I was quite surprised to know that despite all the problems of the security, he was sending his kids to school. And, when I asked him – are not you afraid? He said, he wants his son to be dead rather than uneducated. That is the kind of mood about education in Afghanistan and this is leading to increased enrolment.

“Equity, inclusion and quality are big challenges for the developing countries of the world”

Channelising the energy of young people in right direction is a challenge. What initiatives are you taking to ensure development in terms of equity, inclusion and quality? Equity, inclusion and quality are big challenges for the developing countries of the world. In Afghanistan, we are in the process of making seminal improvements. Every year we are making new progress; there is improvement in quality, capacity and new infrastructure is being created. Equity and inclusion are directly related to availability of venue for education for each and every individual. We are coming up with new schools and creating in institutions for higher education. As far as, quality is concerned, we are focusing on teachers training. Earlier, we did not have enough qualified teachers but now the trends are changing. Our teachers are being trained in Afghanistan and elsewhere. For me, the most important thing is that these initiatives have raised the interest of the people in bringing their children to schools.

75 percent of our population is below the age of 25 years and over 7000 students from Afghanistan are studying in India”

The proportion of girls’ enrolment in Afghanistan has risen from zero to 42 percent. Most interestingly around 35 percent of teachers are women. What are the reasons behind this achievement? It is the inspiration of the people that has led to this achievement. Young population of Afghanistan has, during the last few years, witnessed the consequences of lack of education due which they did not progress, did not have their own voice and did not have the potential to shoulder the responsibility for developing their country. After the bitter experience of the last two decades, they want our people to be fully equipped with education.

India is playing an important role in re-building of Afghanistan. How do you look at Indo-Afghan relationship? I am very pleased with what India has done in Afghanistan during the last 12 years. India has contributed immensely. I am thankful to India and Indians for the way they are sharing their own bread and butter with the Afghan people. We are grateful to India for helping in developing developing new infrastructure in Afghanistan. India is building the Parliament, Salma Dam and other important infrastructure projects. I think, in the long run, the biggest impact of the help that comes from India will be in the area of education. Currently, we have around 7000 students studying in India. They are very bright, very happy and highly motivated. We would like to have more scholarships especially in medical, engineering and professional education.

It is highly probable that after the withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan, the dynamics of the region will change. What kind of changes do you see in the foreign policy of Afghanistan? If you look at the past history of Afghanistan, you will realise that this is a nation whose foreign policy has never been dictated from outside. Those who try to influence Afghanistan’s foreign policy are always defeated. My advice is to learn from the past, whether it is Pakistan or any other country. Afghanistan is not going to succumb to any pressure from any country. We have a mutually beneficial strategic partnership with India, and that we hope will continue in future. Afghanistan wants to have a good relationship with all its neighbours and with every other nation. Other countries in the neighbourhood should look at the kind of relationship that exists between India and Afghanistan and learn a lesson from it. Is there any plan to develop a deeper collaboration between universities in India and Afghanistan? We are keen to develop relationship between the universities of India and Afghanistan. Recently, I met Dr P R Trivedi, the chancellor of Global Open University. We discussed in detail about the ways by which we can revive the relationship in the area of education. We need more exchange programmes for students and professors. We are planning to open Global Open University in Kabul; eventually more such institutions will be opened across Afghanistan. We also had a very productive meeting with Dr Shashi Tharoor, Minister of State for Human Resource Development. During the meeting we decided that a consultive body must be created to improve collaboration between the two nations in higher and school education. We are also in discussion with many other countries including USA for improving the quality of education in our country.

– See more at: http://digitallearning.eletsonline.com/2013/09/creating-world-class-education-infrastructure-q/#sthash.5PPXwPkC.dpuf


India must regain leadership position in education: President




President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday said there was a time India had renowned seats of learning which attracted scholars from far and wide and the country has to regain its leadership position in education.Speaking on the occasion of Teachers’ Day, Mukherjee said: “There was a time when we had renowned seats of learning like Takshashila, Nalanda, Vikramshila, Valabhi, Somapura and Odantapuri.” “They attracted scholars from far and wide. The powerful minds who taught at such universities created an exalted position for our ancient education system. We have to regain our leadership position. We look towards teachers to guide the way,” he said. Mukherjee honoured 378 teachers from across the country on Teachers’ Day, which is celebrated on September 5, the birth anniversary of India’s second president Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. Mukherjee emphasised the need to create systems for continuous assessment of the quality of education and the outcome of country’s educational inputs.”Since we won our independence, we, in India, have done very well in the fields of science, technology, innovation and economic development. Yet, we find that despite our accomplishments, we cannot claim to have evolved into a truly developed society,”he said.Mukherjee said development is not only about factories, dams and roads but about people, their values and their faithfulness to their spiritual and cultural heritage.”An inclusive approach is critical for achieving our developmental goals. We have to empower our children, their parents and communities in every part of India,” he said.Expressing “sadness” over the male-female gap in literacy, Mukherjee said: “Nothing is more saddening than the sight of a girl child being denied education.”


Are we digging in the dirt or is there really a way out?


Revati Laul


August, 2013

Professor R Govinda heads the one institution set up in the 1960s to map India’s trends in education with a view to using that data to turn things around. Given how unresponsive successive administrations have been to putting any real change in place, it could make a cynic of the professor. Instead, a conversation with him injected a strong jet of hope, both in what he’s trying to do on the ground now and the stories he has to tell of teachers in remote villages in India and the exemplary work they’re doing to turn the system around. He tells Revati Laul that all is not lost yet, provided we act now.


Your university National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA) collects data on from every district in the country. Is this data collected by the district administration and state governments? In that case, won’t the states do their best to ensure the data looks good? Yes, it is the state machinery that collects data. But we’re talking about 1.5 million schools. How many people will you send out every year to collect data? Only schools can fill out the data and send it. That’s how it’s done all over the world.

How do we know what we’re getting? For instance, the government of Rajasthan claims in your data that 93 percent of the girls in primary schools have functional toilets and 92 percent of primary schools have drinking water facilities. But when we go to these schools, it’s difficult to believe this data. I went to Nagaland a few months ago. In the city area, around Dimapur itself, the school had been given money under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan for toilets but there were none. So this kind of data has to be seen only as broadly indicative. The basic problem is really the reliability of the data at the source.

So what do we do with this? We’re sitting on false data. The real issue is that the schools don’t maintain any data of their own. It’s difficult to falsify data if each school maintains its records. It’s when they don’t do that the State can easily manipulate the numbers. That’s how data is maintained across the world. We have recommended to the government that we should develop a model set of school records, which include enrolment, teaching data, finances, etc. And these should be maintained by each school.

Speaking of records, your data for 2010-11 (the DISE report) throws up some surprising numbers. For instance, it says that in Kerala, 78 percent of the primary schools work less than 200 days in the year, the worst case scenario of all states in the country. Isn’t that surprising, considering how Kerala is widely believed to be one of the better performing states in ? It’s possible that Kerala is telling the truth and others are not.

Which means it’s very difficult to use your data. You have to look at the macro indices, not individual items. I think we need to investigate much more to find out what the deeper causes are. If children are taught, they will learn. This may mean they are not being taught.

If we look at some macro indices from your data, it shows that the OBC enrolment in primary schools in the past three years has been stagnant more or less. It was 42.15 percent, and it’s become 42.8 percent. And the percentage of Muslims going to schools has been stagnant for more than a decade. It was 13.43 percent in 2001 and now it’s 13.31 percent. Are these indicators believable? These indicators are indeed all believable. Not just macro but even micro-level studies and research done in the hinterland show exactly this. Both, about OBCs and Muslims.

Since the 1960s, your institution has been engaged in not just collecting data, but also in writing policy that should be followed by the states and the Centre. In the past decade, how receptive have various Human Resource Development ministers been to your recommendations? It’s been very inconsistent. There is never a direct relationship between research and policy-making. Certain portions of the data we collect get used and other bits do not. School enrolment data gets picked up to show that things are happening. But when it comes to learning data, it may not be used. Or when it comes to girls’ participation or dropout data, it may not get used. Certain indices are more difficult to use because they require much greater adjustments to be made.

The Centre will always deflect this problem onto the state and then the district. So who should lead us out of the dark, and how? Leadership is no doubt required at all three levels — national, state and district. The bureaucrats and politicians’ engagement on the critical failures in primary is lacking. What is really needed is not macro-level policy but a few million champions in the field.

Where will these few million champions come from? We at NUEPA are developing a national centre for school leadership, which is a thinking body that strategises, develops programmes for states and facilitates their implementation. It has a transformative agenda. For instance, in Uttar Pradesh, we have 1.5 lakh schools. If all of them have to start functioning, we need 30,000 people. And that might not be so hard to find if we look with an open mind. There might be 5,000 retired people living in the vicinity of schools who might be willing to pitch in. There may be others in the schools who may be interested. We need to find local champions.

Alongside that, we have developed a leadership curriculum. And it’s very disaggregated and varied. What does it mean to work in a single-teacher school? What does it mean to bring change to a semiurban school, to a school in a metropolis, a school with 100 children, another with 3,000 children and yet another with 30? We want to develop leadership academies in every state that are thinking institutions.

What will these local-level leaders do? It’s about creating local resource centres for such leaders to use and fall back on. Once, I met a man, a lecturer from the district institute of who is training in Tamil Nadu. He teaches till 1.30 in the afternoon. After that, he goes around the villages in his district on his bicycle. He has created a veritable revolution by just doing small things — talking to teachers in schools and helping them prepare plans. He figured the urban kids in were ahead of these school kids because they have general knowledge. So he prepared general knowledge cards and tied up with a local shopkeeper to have these cards printed for all those kids.

He also introduced something called the morning breakfast in the area because he found the kids come to school hungry at 8 am and need something to eat before the mid-day meal comes at 10.30 am. So, the schools developed a breakfast programme of their own. There are such people around, they just need to be encouraged. They are all champions in my reading.

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