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Febuary 2008

India news

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India targets 80 % literacy  by 2012
The central government is targeting 80 percent literacy by 2012, against the present 65.38 %, with a whopping INR850 billion ($21 billion), five times the budgeted allocation from the previous five-year plan budget, earmarked for education during the 11th Five Year Plan. The bulk of it is for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the ministry’s flagship programme.

According to  A.K. Rath, Secretary, Secondary Education and Literacy in the human resources development ministry, India will witness a complete literacy by 2015. He claimed that the dropout rates had also come down and that the government was committed to enhancing the reach of the SSA by emphasizing on quality, equity in the ongoing 11th Plan. It is also  looking at improving basic learning for students, computers, infrastructure in schools and improve teaching standards.

Spare the rod, keep child in school

Corporal punishment severely affects the human dignity of the child, thereby reducing his/her self-esteem and self-confidence. According to the latest Unicef Global Statistical Review, of every 10 children in primary school in India, four drop out by Class V. India, a signatory to the UN’s Education for All by 2015  goal, shows ‘insufficient progress.’     In 1986 the National Policy on Education explicitly mentioned that corporal punishment should be firmly excluded from the education system. Yet, 20 years later, a countrywide study by the Centre in 2006 had revealed that two out of every three students in India were a victim of physical abuse at school. In between, the Supreme Court, in 2000, banned corporal punishment. Delhi High Court upheld the ban the same year while Calcutta High Court banned caning of students in 2004. But despite the apex court’s decision, only Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh amended their education laws in 2003 and 2002, respectively, to implement the ban.   The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) had in the past issued a circular to all affiliated schools, asking them not to resort to physical punishment. Affiliation bylaws of the CBSE were recently amended to empower the school management to punish teachers guilty of physical abuse of students. The ministry has now asked state education boards to emulate the CBSE reforms.

Rural South India slipping in maths education: survey

Contrary to the claims of the government, the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) for rural India by Pratham, an NGO, is not on the expected lines. According to ASER (2007) findings, in the rural areas of Tamil Nadu, only 24.8% children in the age group 6 to 10 could listen to a specific subtraction problem and answer. Only 7.8 % children in the same age group could answer specific  division problem.

Among the children in the age group 11 to 14, 40% could answer specific subtraction problem and 37% could answer division problem. Similarly, in the rural areas of Karnataka, ASER 2007 reported that only 21.3% children in the age group 6 to 10 could answer specific subtraction problem and 5.4 % could answer division. 34.3% children in the age group 11 to 14 could answer specific subtraction problem and 37% could answer specific division problem.

In the rural areas of Andhra Pradesh, ASER 2007 findings reported that 25% children in the age group 6 to 10 could answer specific subtraction problem and 18 percent children could answer division problem. Among the children in the age group 11 to 14, 27% could answer specific subtraction problem and 54% could answer division problem.

India, France ink 21 agreements in education

France is now aggressively courting Indian students and linking up with educational institutes here with the establishment of an Indo-French educational consortium to initiate projects of joint research and enhanced cooperation at the Masters degree level and signing of 21 inter-university agreements in the field of student and faculty exchanges at masters and undergraduate levels.

The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi inked a deal with Groupement des Ecoles des Mines for cooperation in the field of advanced research at the doctorate level in applied mathematics and physics. Similarly, one of France’s best known institutes in political studies, Sciences-Po Paris signed two separate agreements with University of Madras and Delhi’s St. Stephen’s college for exchanges in social sciences and economics.

Mobile TV in India

Mobile TV, the advanced technology is soon to debut in India and is a natural evolution in technological innovation as it will enable consumers and users to watch television on mobiles or cellphones. It also assures to open improved opportunities for governments to provide enhanced services such as education, healthcare, safety and security to all citizens. In India it is expected to launch this year.

The country is expected to announce the 3G policy, a vital requirement for introducing this innovative technology. GPRS edge or 3G, based on Java application, is the fundamental or basic requirement for launching mobile TV. Through this consumers can access all the channels provided by the subscribers.

Ericsson and BPL mobile manufacturers are keen on establishing the Mobile TV platform for telecom patrons in India. BPL is signing a partnership with China´s ZTE to make the innovative technology of Mobile TV possible on GSM platform. Nokia, the world´s largest mobile phones manufacturer, is planning to establish manufacturing hubs in India and China for manufacturing N-Series-Mobile  TV Phones. Reliance Infocom has already started offering news  channels through video streaming on its CDMA network.

States fail to utilise funds for ICT in higher  education

While the clamour for more attention to technical education is getting louder by the day, a number of states haven’t even spent a single penny from about INR 211.67 crore released during the calendar year 2007-08 for introducing information and communication technology (ICT) for higher education.  Delhi, Bihar, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and Lakshdweep, Arunachal Pradesh, Orissa, Manipur, Pondicherry and Meghalaya haven’t so far utilised the funds allocated for this purpose. Andhra Pradesh has spent the highest with INR 37.5 crore during the year on ICT while Karnataka spent INR 45.58 crore. Uttar Pradesh spent INR 31.15 crore. Nagaland INR 12.99  crore and Goa  INR 57.15 crore.

The non utilisation of allocated funds is significant as finance minister P Chidambaram has slapped an  additional cess of 1% on the name of secondary and higher education. This is in addition to the 2% cess that has been in place, which aim to fund the efforts to universalise elementary education.

Computer  connections to make big impact in small village

The village of Chahalka, 50 kilometres from New Delhi, with a population of about 3,000, will soon have a new computer school, thanks to volunteers of four Newfoundland Rotary Clubs who help complete a computer school to bolster the economy of a small village in India.

The group will refurbish two buildings and set them up with 10 computers, a computer teacher and staff in the village of 3,000 people. In the community, people as young as 12 years of age work to make some money for their families and are unable to attend school. The group, which is comprised of an international team of Rotary members and people associated with them or the project, will also bring sewing and weaving machines to the community to be used by members to produce commercial products. The cost of setting up and running the school is expected to be about USD 50,000 US. Of that money, USD 22,000 goes towards salaries for people teaching and running the schools for this year.

CAT to go online from November 2009

The directors of the seven Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) will meet to discuss details of a proposal to take the Common Admission Test (CAT) online by 2009. The CAT exams may also be formatted on the lines of the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) so that the scores are valid for two to three years.

The move could benefit thousands of students. In 2007, around 2,30,000 students took the exams. This year the number is expected to exceed 3,00,000. For online CAT exams, the IIMs could outsource the project to an IT firm specialising in education and training services. The IIMs may also conduct a preliminary test for students to be eligible to take the CAT. The format of group discussion and personal interviews will, however, be the same. Taking CAT online stems from IIMs’ concern over the chaos that occurs during declaration of results. Last year, heavy traffic caused the website to crash when the results were declared. Besides the seven IIMs, which conduct the exams, the CAT results are also used by other 124 management institutions to enroll students.

One-laptop project to debut in Maharashtra

MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project has finally found its way to India. The project, which aims to provide digitally-enabled education through the use of low-cost laptops to children in developing countries, will see its first deployment in Maharashtra.

About 500 XO laptops, as the laptops are called, would arrive in February for deployment in various schools in the state. The laptops have been localised and come with the keyboard in Devanagari. So far, a few XO laptops had been given to school children in a village called Khairat in Raigadh, Maharashtra under a pilot project started in September-October last year. India plans to open Central Schools in Gulf India is planning to open central schools (Kendriya Vidyalayas) in Gulf countries to provide affordable and quality education to the large Indian expat population in the region.

The HRD ministry is consulting Indian embassies in the region in this regard to explore the possibilities of opening such schools. Currently, the gulf region is home to around hundred CBSE affiliated schools. However most of the schools are managed by private groups which generally demand high fees.

UK gives fillip to education in India

Giving a big fillip to cooperation in the field of education, Britain announced an 825 million pound grant for India, a major chunk of which will be spent on improving the educational infrastructure in the country over a period of three years.

The British Premier Gordon Brown, on his visit to India, at the end of his bilateral talks with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh, made the announcement. Elaborating on the grant, he said that around 500 million pounds would be dedicated to improving education and health care. The two sides also agreed to initiate specific measures such as setting up an Education Forum and enter into a Memorandum of Understanding on an India-UK Higher Education Leadership Development Programme.

IIT Chennai steps in to improve science education in schools

IIT Chennai, has now tied up with number of schools to enhance high school science education in the country. According to  Dr. T S Natrajan of IIT-Chennai, young Indian students are conditioned to answer questions in examinations without being able to relate the concepts to the real world around us.

The National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) to enhance the quality of engineering education in the country, the new ‘Science Enrichment Programme’ is first direct initiative of the institute for betterment of school education. Under the new programme, IIT Chennai will provide consultancy and develop Science Enrichment Program for classes Five to Twelve in Physics and Chemistry by planning and developing problem based worksheets and activities which will make science fun and easy for children.

States lobby for 30 world-class universities

Several states are competing with one another to house one or more of the 30 world-class universities mooted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to upgrade the higher education system and serve as ‘launching pads’ for India’s rightful place in the knowledge economy.

In a bid to upgrade institutions of higher education, the government also plans to upgrade the 19 existing central universities, such as Jawaharlal Nehru University, Benareas Hindu University, Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi University and Visva Bharati, that are funded and maintained by the central government. The larger blueprint also includes an upgrade of the existing eight Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), seven Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and five Indian Institutes of Science (IISc) and research establishments. Also on the cards are 14 additional IITs and IIMs across the country, for which the human resource development ministry has prepared a blueprint and which has been submitted to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Planning Commission.

Budget 2009: INR 31,000 Crore to develop skills

The Union government is setting up a INR 31,000 crore skill development mission in the Union Budget for 2008-09. Expected to be operational in the next fiscal year, the programme is to extend training facilities to 10 million people a month, up from 2.5 million a year at present.

The mission, accorded top priority by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, is expected to oversee and facilitate the entire process, which the government will run in collaboration with the private sector.

While the mission will be headed by the Prime Minister, Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia will be its vice-chairman. Heads of industry associations are expected be part of the mission’s general body. Besides, 17 Union ministries, which are already associated with skill development projects of some sort, will help implement the programmes.

The government has projected that 70 million jobs will be created during the 11th Plan (2007-12) and proposes to spend INR 31,000 crore during that period. The mission will oversee short-term vocational courses ranging from six months to two years, which will be provided by both government and private sector institutions as also certification of such courses. More than 8,000 vocational training institutes run by the government together with those run by the private sector are expected to facilitate the mission and will play the role of sub-missions.

NDMC for quality education accreditation

The New Delhi Municipal Council has for the first time approached the Quality Council of India for accreditation of its schools.According to a memorandum of understanding signed by the Navyug School Education Society on behalf of the NDMC, the Quality Council would prescribe the educational quality management standard for schools and grant accredited status to them if they qualify according to the prescribed standards.

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