Education: We need a national strategy – by @MeetaSengupta

@Meeta Sengupta in LiveMint talks about the need for a national strategy for education. There are various problems at various levels with our education system. Here are her suggestions on what the government needs to do to improve things:

  • Unbox Learning: […] Build on existing programmes to push content via multiple channels, create open libraries, let village school buildings become community learning centres after school time with open access to solar-powered connected computers. Commission science and reading vans, convert bus stops into educational game corners. Invest in creativity and research attitudes from the very beginning. Let learning be open to all, not just those who wear uniforms.
  • Unbind the education sector from these regulatory constraints, allow the private sector to participate and compete, and take on the role of good governance via agencies to ensure relentless focus on improving quality.
  • Build synergies between ministries. Let the digital literacy mission be integrated with the teachers’ mission. Vocational training and employability are inextricably linked with the labour ministry. Untangle the threads that do not allow student finance to flow freely, whether as loans, scholarships or vouchers.
  • The Bharatiya Janata Party’s manifesto and speeches spoke of maximum governance, minimum government. This is what education needs. Let the government provide oversight, not necessarily run operations

Read the full article where she goes into much more detail.

InnoVidya Event: Ground Water Governance in India

InnoVidya and IUCAA present a talk by Dr. Himanshu Kulkarni, on Groundwater governance in India: an ecosystem perspective to participatory aquifer management, on Saturday, 19 July, 2014, at Bhaskara 3 Hall, IUCAA. This is the next talk in the InnoVidya/IUCAA SPARK lecture series.

About the Speaker – Dr. Himanshu Kulkarni

Dr. Himanshu Kulkarni creates space for implementing the science of groundwater in the practice and policy on groundwater management. His system of aquifer-based participatory groundwater management is slowly bearing fruit on many fronts in India. He has been actively involved in the advocacy for stronger programs on groundwater management in India, through his inputs, more recently as Chairman, Working Group on Sustainable Groundwater Management for India’s 12th Five Year Plan. ACWADAM, which he co-founded with some of his teachers & peers, is working actively with various groups, networks and committees dealing with water resources across the country. Groundwater resources have held Dr. Kulkarni’s interest for nearly 30 years now. His work, both on the science of groundwater as well as on its application to socio-economic and ecological sectors is known and acknowledged in academic and development circles. He is currently working on groundwater management across India’s diverse hydrogeological typology. His work blends experience from his stints with academia, the corporate sector and, in his current position, with ACWADAM. He has travelled extensively, including to the US on a Fulbright Scholarship and to Austria as a UNESCO scholar. He has conducted hydrogeological fieldwork in all types of geological terrains in India and overseas. Dr. Kulkarni continues to publish his work extensively while providing various levels of mentorship in the field of groundwater management.

Abstract of the talk:

Groundwater governance in India must combine science, participation and regulation. India’s current groundwater scenario is a consequence of the scale and diversity of aquifers, the varying degrees of groundwater use and the significant degree of our groundwater dependence cutting across demands by agriculture, industry and household need. Developing a framework for groundwater requires an interdisciplinary perspective, although ‘hydrogeology’ remains the platform on which such a framework is built. Given India’s diverse hydrological and hydrogeological settings, the proposed approach considers fundamental principles of groundwater governance from other parts of the world, at the same time giving due importance to India’s social, economic and environmental peculiarities. This talk provides emergent contours of groundwater governance as well as a preliminary framework that is in synchronization with the fresh paradigm of water resource management enunciated in India’s 12th Five Year Plan. The approach proposed here is based on establishing that sustainable national development is only possible through groundwater governance taking an ecosystem perspective that is inclusive of both ‘aquifers’ and ‘people’s participation’.

About the InnoVidya IUCAA Spark Program

The SPARK program is a series of events jointly conducted by InnoVidya and IUCAA. These are special events that <spark> imagination & curiosity of our young, build bonds between participants of different disciplines, catalyze interactivity & promote peer links

If you’re interested in the state of education in India, please subscribe to get updates by email

Event Details

The event is on Saturday, July 19, 2014, at 11am, at Bhaskara 3 Hall, IUCAA, University of Pune Campus.

Fees and Registration

This event is free and open for anybody to attend. Register here.

India’s higher education needs to be saved from the rule of babus?

Business Standard has an Opinion Column by Devesh Kapur arguing that India’s higher education needs to be saved from the rule of babus?. He basically compares India with China and points out that China has very quickly become a major contributor to Science and Technology in the past few years, and India is falling behind.

This rise of China is not just about quantity: they are also improving their quality and capabilities:

Make no mistake: if a foreign institution wants to establish itself in China, it has to have a meaningful collaboration with a Chinese institution that can learn, copy and improve over time, just as Chinese businesses have done. But this self-confidence is lacking in India. If India’s political elites have been apprehensive of globalisation, the country’s intellectuals have been, for the most part, hostile; they have viewed themselves as valiant defenders of the nation against marauding foreigners. Patriotism is the best cover for self-interest.

How does India fare in comparison?

Not only is meritocracy a much more contested terrain in India, but the idea that there should be clear links between academic productivity, salaries and tenure, as in China, would meet fierce resistance from a vocal interest group, namely faculty. The University Grants Commission (UGC) rules, that faculty members in public institutions should automatically get promotions based on the length of service and have a common salary structure linked to civil service salaries set by an anachronistic authority called the Pay Commission, have reduced faculty to the status of babus. It is not surprising that so much of higher education in India – both overall regulation and the internal governance of universities – is what Pankaj Chandra, former director of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Bangalore, termed “babudom” – a regime of, for and by babus.

He goes on to lament that a very few babus in our government control the leadership positions in all our top institutions, and this can only lead to bad things:

Why should the HRD ministry have a role in the selection of an IIT or IIM director, or in the appointment of the vice-chancellor of a central university? The key stakeholders are the campus community (faculty, students and staff), alumni, and, yes, the national government. At the same time, an alumnus of an IIT has a far greater emotional stake in the success and future of his alma mater than a dozen bureaucrats in the HRD ministry or the selection panels they appoint.

Read the full article

Bowler who

Bowler who got hit 4 sixes in T20 final gets a pick and Number 1 bowler in T20 and ODI doesn’t even get a bid? This tells me the poor standard of this league. No wonder Big bash and PSL are more interesting and have much better matches and standards. IPL has now become all too commercial.

It fine to think and/or say something, but when it turns into an action, then that crossing the line. Sticks and stones will break your bones, but words will never hurt you, unless you a weak minded simpleton and have paper thin skin. They already trying to take away our right to bear arms and now, our freedom of speech.

At this point we’ve reviewed quite a few high end AC routers, including tri band routers, flagship dual band models, and even the latest MU MIMO devices too. However, the one portion of the market we https://www.cheapsoccerjerseyspurchase.com/ haven’t covered much is the one that exists on the more affordable end of the pricing spectrum. We all know there are quantifiable differences between a $100 GPU and a $300 GPU, but is that also true for 802.11ac routers as well? After all, they’re all branded as AC routers, and have similar features and specifications..

Fox and Hoch were also interested in learning how cherry picking varies depending on whether the store Wholesale NBA Jerseys is the shopper’s primary grocery outlet or a secondary preference. “The reasoning for this analysis is that it is one thing to be a shopper’s primary store, where every so often the shopper cherry picks [the store’s] competition and thus spends a bit less money in [the primary] store that week as compared to a non cherry picking week,” the researchers write. “It is another thing to be a secondary store the one which is actually being cherry picked.

Said it had nothing to do with cruelty, they were just smuggling heroin, Tedisco said. This bill does is make it clear that if you harm a companion animal while committing another crime, you face an additional penalty. But the bill says animals, and a state appellate court once upheld a felony cruelty conviction under the current law of a man who stomped a goldfish to death..

But what really angered me were the scornful wisecracks the review directed at the organization called Solidarity described in my book. It is a temp agency in Baltimore owned and run by the temp workers themselves in cooperative fashion. They earn a dollar or two more per hour than other temp workers, they have health care coverage, they share the profits.

Problem is that the Chinatown Night Market, put on by the [Chinatown] Merchants Association, is a commercial event, he points out. Not a civic event, so it there to make money and that doesn work with some of the city aspirations. Says what the city can do is continue to promote and invest in developing Chinatown, and he feels life is starting to come back to the community.

Five steps to take India’s education system from mediocre to world class

The Times of India has published an open letter from Ashish Dhawan, Anu Aga, and Amit Chandra to HRD Minister, Smriti Irani, giving her advice on Five steps to take India’s education system from mediocre to world class.

Here are the main points made by the letter:

First,:

our education system currently suffers from an apparent ‘Licence Raj’ that restricts entry and operation of private players. Even policies such as RTE neglect that private schools are a large part of the education ecosystem (already 40% of school students and 60% of college students are enrolled in private institutions). These norms have led to the shutdown of a large number of affordable private schools that serve low-income students. The government must deregulate school education and treat government and private schools as equal partners in solving India’s education crisis.

Second,:

it is important not only to invest more in education but to do so more strategically. Central government should invest more resources in teacher education and development, principal training, ICT in education and assessments.

Third,:

improve quality standards through nationwide assessments. Assessments need to be at the core of any planning exercise for improving India’s education system.

Fourth,:

equip school principals to become efficient school leaders. Great leaders make great institutions, in every sphere. In schools principals are the highest point of leverage, yet their role is often restricted to administrative functions. There is a need to reimagine the role of the principal — as an instructional leader, rather than an administrator.

Fifth,:

improve teacher quality for better learning outcomes. It is unfortunate that teaching today does not attract the best talent. We need public awareness campaigns in India that are able to effectively project teaching as a rewarding and meaningful profession.

The full article has much more detail.

Skilling will power the India growth story (but there are challenges) – by @MeetaSengupta

@MeetaSengupta has an interesting article in the Hindustan Times talking about the challenges facing skills development in India

The first thing she does is point out that skills enhancement is extremely important for India, and our Demographic Dividend is useless unless we can educate all those people:

Skills development for employment and growth is on the front burner with a million new people to be trained and employed each month in India. The rise of this trained workforce is critical to India’s growth story — else who will power the engine? Without this soft infrastructure all investments in hard infrastructure are futile

Clearly, no one will disagree that across India people are interested in improving their skills, and that there are lots of companies interested in charging for training. In other words:

There is demand and supply, and yet the conversion to higher value addition  is lagging. What stands in the way?

Here are some of the problems as she sees them:

First: Accreditation

Who certifies that the skills that trainers provide are adequate and transferable across the industry? Certification must (i) be mobile, and (ii) provide an income boost.
[…]
Till the accreditation network is in place, operational and credible, few skills certificates have a market.

Second, Prior Learning Certification.

Experienced workers will not hop on to the skills bandwagon if you equate them with young starters. Give them credit for what they know, help them upgrade.

Third, Assessments.

Excerpt:

For example, the skills certification for driving licences in India has suffered because few believe it to be a credible test of skill.

There is more. Read the full article

How @BillGates caused a major education policy shift in the US: common standards

The Washington Post has a long article on how Bill Gates pulled off one of the swiftest shifts in US education policy – the common core revolution which asks for common standards of education across the various states and schools in the US.

Apparently, the problem they have is the opposite of the problem India has. Our education system is sluggish because of too much centralized control; their problem is the complete lack of centralized standards:

Coleman and Wilhoit told the Gateses that academic standards varied so wildly between states that high school diplomas had lost all meaning, that as many as 40 percent of college freshmen needed remedial classes and that U.S. students were falling behind their foreign competitors.

                      The pair also argued that a fragmented education system stifled innovation because textbook publishers and software developers were catering to a large number of small markets instead of exploring breakthrough products. That seemed to resonate with the man who led the creation of the world’s dominant computer operating system.

The biggest problem in any such major shift in education policy is that it is usually a highly politicized issue with lots of stakeholders all pulling in different directions, and hence any substantial change is almost impossible to push through the mess. That’s where Bill Gates, and the Gates Foundation comes in:

The Gates Foundation spread money across the political spectrum, to entities including the big teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, and business organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — groups that have clashed in the past but became vocal backers of the standards.

                      Money flowed to policy groups on the right and left, funding research by scholars of varying political persuasions who promoted the idea of common standards. Liberals at the Center for American Progress and conservatives affiliated with the American Legislative Exchange Council who routinely disagree on nearly every issue accepted Gates money and found common ground on the Common Core.

What exactly is the common core? Here is an example:

The math standards require students to learn multiple ways to solve problems and explain how they got their answers, while the English standards emphasize nonfiction and expect students to use evidence to back up oral and written arguments. The standards are not a curriculum but skills that students should acquire at each grade. How they are taught and materials used are decisions left to states and school districts.

Read the full article

US Government to introduce a College Rating System

The New York Times has an interesting article about how colleges in the US are rattled as President Obama Seeks a Rating System for Colleges in the US. The basic idea is that colleges and universities receive about $150 billion in loans and grants from the government, and the government wants to see what all that money is buying.

What is this rating system?

The rating system is in fact a radical new effort by the federal government to hold America’s 7,000 colleges and universities accountable by injecting the executive branch into the business of helping prospective students weigh collegiate pros and cons. For years that task has been dominated by private companies like Barron’s and U.S. News & World Report.

How would this rating system work?

The rating system, which the president called for in a speech last year and is under development, would compare schools on factors like how many of their students graduate, how much debt their students accumulate and how much money their students earn after graduating. Ultimately, Mr. Obama wants Congress to agree to use the ratings to allocate the billions in federal student loans and grants. Schools that earn a high rating on the government’s list would be able to offer more student aid than schools at the bottom.

Of course there are problems, and lots of the colleges are complaining:

Many college presidents said a rating system like the one being considered at the White House would elevate financial concerns above academic ones and would punish schools with liberal arts programs and large numbers of students who major in programs like theater arts, social work or education, disciplines that do not typically lead to lucrative jobs.They also predicted that institutions that serve minority and low-income students, many of whom come from underfunded schools and have had less college preparation, would rank lowest in a new rating system, hurting the very populations the president says he wants to help.

Overall:

“As with many things, the desire to solve a complicated problem in what feels like a simple way can capture people’s imagination,” said Adam F. Falk, the president of Williams College in Massachusetts. Dr. Falk said the danger of a rating system is that information about the colleges is likely to be “oversimplified to the point that it actually misleads.”

Read the full article