India news: April 2008

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IITs and IIMs to adopt distance education
The Government allowed the top engineering and MBA institutes to offer courses to students through distance and mixed mode, a move that could prove to be a major breakthrough for high quality distance learning.

The University Grant Commission (UGC), All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and Distance Education Council (DEC) are three regulatory and approval agencies that will jointly monitor the process. The joint panel also aims to minimize the usual long drawn out bureaucratic process. While the AICTE will be in charge of the technical institutes and courses, the UGC will handle other universities and the DEC will take care of overall regulation.

The panel will also design curriculum and learning methods along with certain standards to promote uniformity in open  and mixed (distance plus institutional) education.

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Delhi budget for education increases
The Delhi budget announced an additional INR 238 crore ( INR 809 to 1,405 crore) for education, a development indicative of the Government’s intention to improve the educational infrastructure of the national capital of India.

The Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (DSIIDC) is being entrusted with an upgradation project at 198 schools in the next two years backed by a budget of  INR 250 crore.

The budget also increased the uniform subsidy from INR 300 to INR 500 per annum thus allowing children to buy a winter jersey. This will also be extended to students admitted under the freeship quota along with the payment for books. Free braiile books will also be provided for both government and private schools.

Among other measures outlined, the government also plans to establish a Delhi Knowledge Development Foundation to develop and enhance distance learning in technical education.

India’s ICT spend still behind
The allocation for education in Budget 2008-2009, amounts to 0.8% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (including the contribution by the states, this goes up to 3.57% of GDP) and by the end of the eleventh five-year Plan, it is expected to increase to 6% of the GDP (this would include contribution by the states).

Meanwhile, as far as enrolment in higher education is concerned, the gross enrolment ratio (GER) in higher education is expected to increase to 15% by the end of the XIth Plan, from the current GER of 10%, according to a senior government official. The government will also establish 16 central varsities in the hitherto uncovered states. Despite this, the overall allocation for the higher education sector is only 0.37% of GDP according to Ernst & Young-EDGE 2008 report on ‘Globalising higher education in India,’ whereas Brazil spends 0.91% of its GDP, Russia —0.62% and China, 0.50% of its GDP on higher education. Developed countries such as Australia spends 1.19% of its GDP on education, Canada (1.88%), the UK (1.07%) and the US (1.41%) — therefore, these countries spend on an average 1.39% of their GDP on higher education.

In India, according to a recent HRD ministry document, the target for XIth Plan is to achieve 80% literacy rate while at the same time, reducing the gender gap in literacy to 10%. According to a senior government official, the aim is increase allocation to education to 6% of the GDP by the end of the XIth Plan. The Ernst & Young report states that percentage of GDP allotted to education in India, is way below the ‘planned 6% of GDP as stated under the National Policy of Education in 1968. It stresses that India requires to ‘substantially increase public funding on higher education and/or look at boosting private funding in higher education’.

DU airs programmes on its FM to help students keep exam stress at bay
The Delhi University has started an initiative to keep its students free from exam-related stress. The varsity has begun airing programmes for students on its radio channel FM 90.4 to deal with stress during exams.

The programmes started with the community radio broadcasting tips on how to deal with exam stress, apart from answering exam queries.

It started a series of phone-in programmes in which students could call up psychiatrists for answers to their queries. However, all phone-ins on exam are done randomly without any fixed dates or even names for them.

Distance learning courses for spoken English
Former Maths teacher Ganesh Ram, a graduate from Madras University embarked on a small journey to provide tutorials for spoken English in 19848 Now he is one of the biggest national players in the field of open distance learning with close to 3,000 students being enrolled per day. He established the Vivekanand Institute in 1984 (now renamed Veta).

One of the biggest challenges faced by many students was difficulty English speaking. His most innovative contribution in the field was teaching English through the use of local languages like Tamil, Telagu and Malyalam. A few years later, Ram expanded to over 200 training centres covering Kolkota, New Delhi and Mumbai and a corporate training centre in Singapore training over 20 lakh students. The other challenge lying ahead of the entrepreneur is tackling the neighbourhood teacher or the unorganised sector.

Taking into consideration a recent Nasscom survey stating that only 10 % of Indian graduates have the requisite proficiency in English speaking as needed by IT/BPO sectors and the rapid market growth, the future for this venture started by ram holds immense opportunities. Moreover, Ram plans to capture 50-60 % of this market in the next five years and is planning another 300 centres to
achieve one Veta centre for every 1 lakh plus town.

Govt to set up 6,000 schools with private participation
The government has fast-tracked its plan to invite private money into schools and hospitals through public-private partnerships (PPP). It has set a target of opening 6,000 well-equipped schools across the country by the beginning of next fiscal.

There would be one school in every block offering classes up to XIIth standard. The proposed schools are expected to change the way education is imparted in the country, particularly in rural areas. The ministries of higher education and finance are working on the norms to bring together private sector’s efficiency and the government’s commitment to society.

The scheme would also allow the private partner to leverage the idle assets in government facilities to raise additional revenues and provide better services to students. They would also be entitled to government grants.

To give a boost to the social sector, the government intends spending INR34,400 crore in the next fiscal, 20% more that the funds earmarked for the current fiscal. It had also announced in this year’s Union Budget a plan to set up several thousands of high-quality model schools with INR 650 crore.

Right To Education Bill, 2008: 25% quota for poor in private schools at entry level
Private schools across the country will be required to do its part to ensure all children between 6 and 14 receive free and compulsory education. The Right to Education Bill, 2008, makes it mandatory for private unaided schools to set aside 25% of their annual intake at the entry level (class one) for disadvantaged children in the neighbourhood.

Private unaided schools, that is schools that don’t receive funds from the government, will not lose out financially. The government will foot the bill for the disadvantaged students on the basis of what it sets aside per child in government-run schools. The government spends roughly INR 1,700 per child as against an average of INR 1,100 by a private school.

Delhi University goes Hi-Tech, its turn of the librarians
Now that libraries at Delhi University have gone hi-tech, it’s the turn of the librarians. From the next academic session, the Delhi University Library System (DULS) will initiate training programmes for its librarians that will help them acquaint themselves better with the digitalised libraries.The First or “basic” traning will acquaint the librarians with the computer and its uses.

The second level will teach the librarians how to use IT grades and library software package they will learn how to handle databases and catalogues The third and final “advanced” level will teach the librarians how to conduct research online Via Internet.

North East to come under the IT umbrella
Mizoram is soon to become the first north-eastern state to step into the IT fold. With the help of  US based IT training community ‘New Horizons’ and funding from the North Eastern Council, the Mizoram government plans to convert 200 of the educated unemployed youth into IT trained professionals in the coming month. These professionals will then be expected to set up IT businesses in the region or assist the state government to place e-governance in all spheres. Another 200 will be enrolled for the second batch.

New Horizons, which is a certified training partner of companies such as Oracle, RedHat and Microsoft and entered Indian IT Training and education space in 2002 with a joint venture with Shriram Group Companies, Shriram Global Technologies and Education.

New Horizons has set up its centre in the capital Aizawl and trains graduates and 10+2 students along with offering them project based work experience with the Information Communication Technology (ICT) cell of the Government’s Planning Commission. The project also ensures that students pass the international vendor certificate examination to maintain national standards. Although the training is free for students, there is a heavy fine of INR 48,000 or forfeiting of certificates to discourage student from dropping out.

The second phase of this public private partnership involves training of 5,000 students across the north-eastern region. However, one of the major impediments in this public private partnership’s (PPP) noble goal of including the much ignored north-eastern region into the IT realm is the poor Internet connectivity.

IITs sharing faculty
The government appears to have hit upon a novel faculty-sharing solution to tackle the shortage of quality faculty at the premier Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). The shortage will accentuate now that eight new IITs have been announced.

The plan for IITs envisages that professors from the IITs in Delhi, Kanpur and Madras will mentor students at the new IITs in Rajasthan, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh, respectively, by shuttling to-and-fro and taking classes at both the institutes. A similar plan may be later laid out for the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) too.

To begin operations, every IIT would require at least 50 whereas every IIM would require at least 20 faculty members. The faculty crunch at IITs and IIMs is already acute. The seven existing IITs have 2,630 faculty members, according to the HRD ministry). It’s estimated that they IITs require 3,500 to maintain their teaching standards. The situation at IIMs is little better.

Govt plans game kiosks to bring kids to schools
“Khulja Sim Sim”- in a bid to educate more children from slum areas, the Delhi government’s education department is exploring means of introducing education the fun way. In order to get them involved in the learning process the department is working on a project to install computer kiosks in slums offering educational video games for free.

Slim availability of high-quality college education in India

According to ‘ Gartner’s Market Trends: Industry Analysis, India 2004-2009’, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) investments in India are expected to double by 2009, which implies that the need for a skilled workforce is growing exponentially. India has a 1.1 billion population with literacy at 52%, high poverty levels (319 million live below USD 1 per day), wide rural-urban divide. There is a shortage of talent and skills already being felt by India’s mushrooming IT industry. Each year over 3 million graduates and postgraduates are added to the Indian workforce according to Nasscom. However, only 25% of technical graduates and 10-15% of other graduates are considered employable in IT and ITES segments.

The number of technical schools in India, including engineering colleges, has gone up three fold in the last decade as per the All India Council of Technical Education. Part of the skills-gap problem is that a miniscule percentage of India’s youth pursue higher education. No more than 7% of Indians aged 18-25 go to college, according to official statistics. Even a more fundamental level of education is proving difficult with nearly 40% of the people over the age of 15 being illiterate.

In north India alone, studies reveal that there are a significant number of engineering institutes: Delhi 14; Chandigarh 5; Haryana 38; Himachal Pradesh 5; J&K 5; Punjab 45; Rajasthan 56. However, these institutes face problems associated with shortage of skilled teachers, funding, language and outdated syllabi. It is estimated that India would require a workforce of 500,000 capable IT professionals in the IT and IT-enabled services sectors by 2010, according to the Economic Survey. However, over the past 15 years, India has produced 1.6 million professionals and faces the uphill task of producing another 0.8 million in the next two years.

The concept of Khulja Sim Sim is a fallout of the concern over the fact that many children in the Capital’s slums still stay away from school. As per the plan, slums will be surveyed and those with a large number of children not enrolled in schools will be identified. These slums will be top priority. In every assembly constituency, one slum will be identified. This would add up to a total of 70 slums.

In these 70 slums, a government school will be identified and a computer kiosk will be set up within the complex near the entrance of the school. However, this kiosk will not be part of the school and even the entrance to the facility will be through a separate entrance so that the functioning of the school is not disturbed.

With the concept ready, the government now plans to look into the logistics and decide on whether a private or a gover-nment agency will look after them

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