Sunday, September 16, 2012

'Do not teach English prematurely to kids'
MUMBAI: In the Programme for International Student Assessment ( Pisa) international competition for children learning, India came 72nd out of 73 countries. The Annual Status of Education Report (Aser 2011) reveals that the proportion of Class 5 children able to read a Class 2 text has fallen from 53.7% in 2010 to 48.2% in 2011.The proportion of Class 3 students able to do simple subtraction sums is down from 36.3% to 29.9%.India is bidding to be a superdunce rather than superpower.

The governments two flagship programmes,Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the Right to Education Act,emphasize huge spending on school infrastructure and teacher training.But learning outcomes have not improved at all despite Rs 100,000 crore of extra spending in the last five years.

One answer is to make teachers more accountable for results.But politicians of all parties fear teachers unions,and dare not discipline them. Instead,politicians pretend that higher spending is the solution. Desperate parents find free governments schools so bad that they have shifted massively to private schooling.The proportion of children in private schools is up from 18.7% to 25.6%,with another 26% going for private tuitions.The puzzle is that not even the huge shift to private paid education shows up in improved learning outcomes. Many research studies (eg.Muralidharan and Kremer,Tooley and Dixon) have found that private schools yield better learning outcomes.But this is not vindicated at the national level in ASERs surveys.

Can so many researchers be wrong Can millions of parents be wrong We need more research to find answers.Maybe research studies so far have focused on relatively strong states.Maybe outcomes have improved in higher classes but not yet in elementary schools. Maybe the shift to private schools will improve outcomes with a lag. A fourth possibility is that states and private schools have shifted prematurely to teaching English,or teaching in the English medium.

Poor parents desperately want their children to learn English.Thousands of private schools have come up,especially in the Hindi belt,with outlandish names like Saint Convent School,or evenPopatlal Convent School.But not even the teachers in such schools know decent English. Some state governments have made English compulsory in Class 1.But premature teaching of English may worsen all learning. Educationist Helen Abadzi writes people must be able to read one word per second,or per 1.5 seconds at the outside,to be functional readers.If they read more slowly than that,they find that they have forgotten the beginning of their sentence by the time they reach the end... If they cannot read fast enough,then all their mental attention is taken up in decoding the letters. If a child cannot read quickly,it cannot follow what textbooks or teachers are conveying.All schooling can bypass such children.They can spend eight years in school and remain functionally illiterate.

This sound so much like India! Elite children enter school with a vocabulary of 3,000 words,and can read easily.But poor children start with a vocabulary of just 500 words,and struggle to read.Teaching English in Class 1 compounds the problem.Here again elite children speaking English at home can easily cope.But a new language devastates poor children,who struggle to read even in their mother tongue.They may fail to acquire the minimum required speed (one word per second) for comprehension.Such children will obviously have poor learning outcomes. But children who learn to read fluently in their mother tongue can easily learn English later.In an experiment in Zambia,some children were taught both English and the local language in Class1,while others started English writing only in Class 2.

The difference was astounding.The first group had reading scores two grades below the standard benchmark in English,and three grades lower in the local language.But where English was introduced later,English reading and writing scores shot up 575% above the benchmark in Class 1,2,417% in Class 2,and 3,300 % in Class 3.

Scores in the local language showed leaped up too.This system was extended to all Zambian schools. Lesson: start with mother tongue,and introduce English later.The issue in India is not Hindi vs English.Rather,a good Hindi foundation improves English learning later.The trap to avoid is premature introduction of English,or teaching in the English medium to children who dont speak it. Is premature English teaching an important reason for the failure of high government spending and private education to improve learning outcomes I suspect so. But we need fresh research and experimentation to find out.

Vinoba Bhave University to start defence management courses

HAZARIBAG: Vinoba Bhave University (VBU) will begin teaching defence management courses from the next academic session, making the varsity first in the eastern zone and third in the country to start such courses.
Vice-chancellor R N Bhagat made this announcement on the eve of the university's 21st anniversary celebrations on Saturday.
The courses to be taught are bomb disposal, disaster management, rescue operation and radar technology. "Details about the defence management faculties were discussed with the BSF and police authorities here who welcomed the starting of the eight courses in VBU Hazaribag," Bhagat said.

Education has to be qualitative: Supreme Court
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has said the government and private educational institutions should provide qualitative education to children and the eligibility criteria for appointment of teachers must be strictly adhered to. 

A bench of justices B S Chauhan and F M Ibrahim Kalifulla said that life of democracy depends on a high standard of education which must be maintained at all costs. 

"It is a well-accepted fact that democracy cannot be flawless but we can strive to minimize these flaws with proper education. Democracy depends for its very life on a high standard of general, vocational and professional education. Dissemination of learning with search for new knowledge with discipline all round must be maintained at all costs," the bench said. 

"Education and particularly that of elementary/basic education has to be qualitative and for that the trained teachers are required. The Legislature in its wisdom after consultation with the expert body fixes the eligibility for a particular discipline taught in a school. Thus, the eligibility so fixed require very strict compliance and any appointment made in contravention there of must be held to be void," the bench said. 

The court passed the observation while adjudication a case pertaining to termination of job of a teacher who was not having requisite qualification. 

"Provision of free and compulsory education of satisfactory quality to children from disadvantaged and weaker sections is, therefore, not merely the responsibility of schools run or supported by the appropriate governments, but also of schools which are not dependent on government funds," the court said. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Amartya Sen appointed chancellor of Nalanda University
Patna: Nobel laureate Amartya Sen was on Thursday appointed as the first chancellor of the upcoming Nalanda International University in Bihar, an official said.

"Decision to appoint Amartya Sen as first chancellor of the university was taken on Thursday in its meeting of the board of governors here," said the official of the state education department.

The meeting also decided that the process of recruitment of acclaimed and renowned faculty for the university will begin in July 2013 and the academic session of its two schools - historical sciences and environment and ecology - will start from April 2014, the official said.

The university in Bihar's Nalanda district, about 100 km from here, will be fully residential, like the ancient Nalanda university. It will offer courses in science, philosophy and spiritualism along with social sciences. IANS

Education, skill development top priority of 12th Plan,_skill_development_top_priority_of_12th_Plan_15817/
Kolkata: Education and skill development would be the "overriding priority" of the 12th Five Year Plan even as India's current slow economic growth rate might affect total outlay of the plan, said a member of the plan panel on Monday.

Allocation for the 12th Plan period (2012-17) would be declared in a month and the total size of the planoutlay would be "commensurate with the growth rate", said Planning Commission member Narendra 

While in 2011-12, the economy grew at 6.5 percent, according to Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deficient monsoon could pull down the growth rate to close to 6 percent.

Ahluwalia recently said the Planning Commission might lower its ambitious growth target for the 12th Five-Year Plan to 8.2-8.3 percent from 9 percent.

Jadhav, however, said education and skill development followed by healthcare and infrastructure will remain the top priorities in the plan period as prior to the 11th Plan, the central government did little for the sectors, resulting in a "large backlog". IANS

Indians second-most curious about education - Study
New Delhi: Indians ranked second in search queries related to education, a study released here by search engine Google India said on Wednesday.

The list, topped by the US, says India has risen to second spot from the eighth position over the last four years.

"From eighth rank in 2008, there has been an explosive growth in education related searches in 
India in last 3-4 years. It is even ahead of China," said Rajan Anandan, vice president and managing director, Google India.

The study was conducted by Google search query patterns along with an offline study by TNS Australia. The study sampled 2,229 students between 18-35 years of age across New Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, AhmedabadKolkata, Hyderabad andBangalore.

The study observed a 46 percent year-on-year growth on education related search on Google in India.

"There has been 135 percent year-on-year growth on educational queries comingfrom mobile. Thus making mobile phone a source of 22 percent of the total educational queries," the study added.

Higher education ruled the roost as nearly 40 percent of the total queries were based on higher education courses and institutes.

"Indian students are making large part of their decision based on the information available on the web," Anandan said.

About 60 percent of Indian students, who have access to internet use it as their first source of research for information related to education courses and institutes, he said.

Interestingly, India's premier institutions such as Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and Indian Institute of Management (IIM) have been the "most searched institutions" between Jan to June.

"The study shows a list of most searched institutes on Google from Jan 2012 - June 2012 which includes IIT Delhi and IIT Chennai among engineering colleges and IIMAhmedabad among management institutes," the study noted.

Among private universitiesSikkim Manipal University and Amity University were the most searched. IANS

Alka Yagnik, Javed Akhtar unveil literacy anthem,_Javed_Akhtar_unveil_literacy_anthem_15841/
New Delhi: Bollywood celebrities like Alka Yagnik, Javed Akhtar and Lalit Pandit, along with Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal, on Monday launched a new literacy anthem as part of the campaign of promoting adult literacy in India.

The national literacy anthem "Humko padhna hai aage badna hai" has been written by Akhtar, composed by Pandit and sung by Sonu Nigam and Yagnik.
The song marked the launch of the National Literacy Mission's new mass adult literacy awareness campaign "Saakshar Bharat Abhiyan", which aims to educate non-literate people at the grass root level.

A video of the literacy anthem featuring actors Shah Rukh Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Shabana Azmi, Farhan Akhtar, Kareena Kapoor and Anil Kapoor was also showcased at the occasion.

"The song composed by Lalit Pandit and sung by Alka Yagnik and Sonu Nigam is so heartwarming that all those people who would hear it, will automatically get inspired to come together and support the cause," Sibal said here at the launch programme on the Red Fort grounds.

"It is of utmost importance to fight against illiteracy. If we don't educate the women of our country, India will never rise. I would like to congratulate the people behind 'Saakshar Abiyaan', who have been able to successfully move ahead with their adult education programme.

"As many as two crore adults, especially women, have given their literacy exams and according to assessment of National Institute of Open Schooling, 1.5 crore people have cleared it, of which 70 percent are women. This is in itself a big achievement," he added.

Sibal called for the support of common man as well as Bollywood celebrities to help eradicate illiteracy from the country.

"Actually this initiative won't be successful, if all of us don't come together to work towards the cause. We need the support of volunteer teachers, gram panchayats, parents and society too. We need the support of those Bollywood celebrities also, who can inspire common man," he added.

Also present at the occasion were Minister of State for Human ResourceDevelopment D. Puransdeswari, Anshu Vaish, secretarydepartment of school education and literacy in the ministry and National Literacy Mission Authority chief Jagmohan Singh Raju. IANS

Azim Premji Foundation re-launches teachers portal

BangaloreAzim Premji Foundation, set up by IT czar Azim Premji on Wednesday marked Teachers Day by launching "a new and significantly improved version" of the 'Teachers of India' portal.

"The portal is a free and open platform for teachers across the country to hone their professional capabilities and get access to quality teaching aids and digital resources," thefoundation said in a statement.
"The portal is a free and open platform for teachers across the country to hone their professional capabilities and get access to quality teaching aids and digital resources," thefoundation said in a statement.

The portal, originally developed by the foundation in collaboration with the National Knowledge Commission, has expanded to become a space for teachers to interact, discuss, reflect, create and share academic resources and thus foster an inclusive community of teachers across the country, it said.

"The genesis of the portal lies in the need to support the 5.5 million practicinggovernment school teachers of India," the statement said.

The portal's goal was to support teachers in their academic efforts and facilitate improvements in teaching and learning.

The portal's content is available in Hindi, Kannada, Telugu, Tamil and English.

Premji, head of the IT major Wipro, set up the foundation in 2001 as not-for-profit organization "to contribute to a just, equitable, humane and sustainable society in India."

In December 2010, he transferred 213 million Wipro shares worth Rs.88.4 billion (around two billion dollars) to the foundation. IANS
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Single Entrance Exam for IITs to be held in two parts
New Delhi: With a view to reducing the burden, in terms of time, finances and the stress caused in scheduling and preparing for multiple entrance examinations, on both, the students and parents, the Council of Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) had, in its meeting on 14.09.2011, endorsed 'in-principle' the proposal of a Common Entrance Examination for admission to undergraduate programmes in Engineering.

Based on the discussions held amongst the various stakeholders, including those from the IIT system, it has been decided to hold a Joint Entrance Examination from the year 2013 for admission to the undergraduate programmes in engineering in two parts, JEE-MAIN and JEE-ADVANCED. 

Only the top 1,50,000 candidates (including all categories) based on the performance in JEE-MAIN will qualify to appear in the JEE Advanced examination. Admission to IITs will be based only on category-wise All Indian Rank (AIR) in JEE-ADVANCED,subject to condition that such candidates are in the top 20 percentile of successful candidates in Class XII examination conducted by their Boards in applicable categories. 

Admission to NITs will be based on 40% weightage for performance in Class XII Board marks normalized on percentile basis and the remainder 60% weightage would be given for performance in JEE-MAIN and a combined AIR would be decided accordingly.

This information was given by the Minister of State for Human ResourceDevelopment , E. Ahamed in a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha on Friday. IANS