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Early Childhood Care & Education – Quality Standards as a tool to promote equitable quality

Dr Kamini Prakash Rege believes in the need for Quality Standards as a tool to promote equitable quality ensuring optimum developmental opportunities for children

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Acceptable Standards

At present, in India, as in many other countries, there is a great diversity in the nature of programmes available for ECCE. The number of players in the field is increasing; this multiplicity of service providers has led to diverse models of ECCE entering the field, bringing with them a multitude of philosophies of childhood and education, often without examining the cultural and contextual relevance of the models. However, there is no certain qualification for an individual to enter the field of ECCE, and there have hardly been any attempts made to lay down some guidelines to ensure that the ECCE services offered are of the right quality and serve the best interests of the young child. At times, many of these ECCE provisions are detrimental rather than being beneficial to the young child. Therefore, it follows as a logical corollary to set some acceptable standards for ECCE in order to ensure improved quality across all the programmes and provisions available to the young children across the country.

Professional Development

In India, the role and functioning of the nature of programmes available for ECCE are changing and so is what is expected of teachers. Teachers are asked to teach in increasingly multicultural classrooms; to place greater emphasis on integrating students with special learning needs in their classrooms; to make more effective use of information and communication technologies for teaching; to engage more in planning within evaluative and accountability frameworks, and to do more to involve parents in schools.

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No matter how good pre-service training for teachers is, it cannot be expected to prepare teachers for all the challenges they will face throughout their careers. Education systems, therefore, seek to provide teachers with opportunities for in-service professional development in order to maintain a high standard of teaching and to retain a high-quality teacher workforce.

Effective professional development is on-going, includes training, practice, and feedback, and provides adequate time and follow-up support. Successful programmes involve teachers in learning activities that are similar to ones they will use with their students and encourage the development of teachers’ learning communities. There is growing interest in developing schools as learning organisations, and in ways, for teachers to share their expertise and experience more systematically.

The development of teachers beyond their initial training can serve a number of objectives including:

  • to update individuals’ knowledge skills, attitudes and approaches towards the new teaching techniques and objectives, new circumstances and new educational research and recent advances in the area;
  • to enable individuals to apply changes made to curricula or other aspects of teaching practice;
  • to enable schools to develop and apply new strategies concerning the curriculum and other aspects of teaching practice;
  • to exchange information and expertise among teachers and others, e.g. academics, industrialists; and
  • to help weaker teachers become more effective.

Ensuring Quality

The approach of Quality Standards is informed by the principle that quality is a multifaceted concept and its enhancement should be seen as a dynamic and a continuous process and not an end in itself, wherein organisations move towards optimum by adopting a cumulative approach towards quality improvement. This would lead to continuous improvement in the services offered by centres in a manner that meets the needs of the young child. It is a tool to promote equitable quality. A graded approach is being adopted wherein the essential criteria will be laid down in a graded and weighted form.

The purpose of the Quality Framework is to provide directives for areas known to be important for ensuring the optimum developmental opportunities for children. It also involves developing appropriate support mechanisms to ensure that quality is achieved and maintained.

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Standards and norms are crucial:

  • To promote professionalism in the field
  • To promote, reinforce and safeguard quality services for all young children
  • For the systematic development of this field

Services and programmes for the children in the age group of 0 – 8 years have to be developed keeping in mind the developmental abilities i.e. developmental domains, milestones and needs of the child.

Pedagogies used in ECCE programmes should emphasize the holistic development of the young child, also keeping in mind the needs of special children. Both care and education are important, and the linkages between them need to be explored and drawn on. Interlinkages across domains should also be addressed as the domains of development are not exclusive to each other.

The pedagogy should reflect the learning of the child in his/her context. Transactions should be based on an understanding of the context of the child and the social background of the family.

It is important to recognize the family as the first context where learning and development for all children take place. The family and parents are of paramount importance in the delivery of ECCE programmes and services. A harmonious relationship with positive linkages to the family and parents ensures that the best interests of the child are kept in mind for optimum development.

The child is an active agent in learning, and this has to be encouraged and facilitated in order to allow him/her to develop his/her full potential. The child should be free to make choices, explore and experiment, for which the child should be provided with such opportunities in the surroundings. The voices of the children, along with the voice of the special children, need to be listened to, in order to ensure that their interests are being met by the practitioners, researchers, teachers, professionals and various stakeholders.

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Quality ECCE programmes should value and respect diversity of all kinds – cultural, linguistic, caste, gender, class, disability etc. Quality programmes should promote a sense of belonging among children from the varied Indian cultural heritage whether from high socio-economic strata or from low economic strata, abled group or disabled group. Programmes should embrace diversity by introducing a variety of rich and varied experiences, thus allowing children to value and respect diversity.

Protecting Children

We teach our young children all sorts of ways to keep themselves safe. We teach them to watch the hot stove, we teach them to look both ways before they cross the street, but more often than not – body safety is not taught until much older – until sometimes…it is too late. Talk to your children. It is never too soon. It doesn’t have to be a scary conversation. Don’t wait another day. Start these conversations today. Here are the 10 most important areas to cover:

  • Talk about body parts early: Name body parts and talk about them early – very early. Use proper names for body parts – or at least teach your child what the actual words are for their body parts. I can’t tell you how many young children I have worked with who have called their vagina their “bottom” and other various names. If a child needs to make a disclosure of abuse – this can make their story confusing.
  • Teach them that body parts are private: Tell your child that their private parts are called private because their private parts are not for everyone to see. Explain that mommy and daddy can see them naked, but people outside of the home should only see them with their clothes on. Explain how their doctor can see them without their clothes because mommy and daddy are there with them and the doctor is checking their body.
  • Teach your child body boundaries: Tell your child matter-of-factly that no one should touch their private parts and that no one should ask them to touch somebody else’s private parts. Parents will often forget the second part of this sentence. Sexual abuse often begins with the perpetrator asking the child to touch them or someone else.
  • Tell your child that body secrets are not okay: Most perpetrators will tell the child to keep the abuse a secret. This can be done in a friendly way such as, “I love playing with you, but if you tell anyone else what we played they won’t let me come over again” or as a threat – “This is our secret. If you tell anyone I will tell them it was your idea and you will get in big trouble!” Tell your child that no matter what anyone tells them, body secrets are not okay. Let your child know that they should always tell you if someone makes them keep a body secret.
  • Tell your child that no one should take pictures of their private parts: This one is often missed by parents. There is a whole sick world out there of pedophiles who love to take and trade pictures of naked children online. This is an epidemic and it puts your child at risk. If you only talk about body safety you might be missing a risk factor. Tell your child that no one should ever take pictures of their private parts.
  • Teach your child how to get out of scary or uncomfortable situations: Some children are uncomfortable with telling people “No” – especially older peers or adults. Help give them excuses to get out of uncomfortable situations. Tell your child that if someone wants to see or touch private parts they can tell them that they need to leave to go potty.
  • Have a code word your child can use when they feel unsafe or want to be picked up: As children get a little bit older, you can give them a code word that they can use when they are feeling unsafe. This can be used at home, when there are guests in the house or when they are on a playdate or a sleepover.
  • Tell your child they will never be in trouble if they tell you a body secret: Children often tell me that they didn’t say anything because they thought they would get in trouble too. This is often reiterated by the perpetrator. Tell your child that no matter what happens – when they tell you anything about body safety or body secrets they will NEVER get in trouble.
  • Tell your child that a body touch might tickle or feel good: Many parents and books talk about “good touch – bad touch” – but usually, these touches do not hurt or feel bad. Try and stay away from these phrases, as it can confuse a child that is “tickled” in their private parts. I prefer the term “secret touch” – as it is a more accurate depiction of what might happen.
  • Tell your child that even if they know someone or even if it is another child – these rules are the same: This is an important point to discuss with your child. When you ask a young child what a “bad guy” looks like they will most likely describe a cartoonish villain. Be sure to mention to your child that no one can touch their private parts. You can say something like, “No one should touch your private parts. Mommy and daddy might touch you when we are cleaning you or if you need cream – but no one else should touch you there. Not friends, not aunts or uncles, not teachers or coaches – no one. Even if you like them or think they are in charge, they should still not touch your private parts.”

ECE Awareness

Overall, the attitude of the parents in India about the importance of Early Childhood is found to be moderately favourable towards schooling and education of their children. The fact is that there is growing awareness regarding literacy and education; persistent campaigns through mass media around the country and attempts at mainstreaming have significantly affected all sections of the society, including the tribal population. The value attached to schooling and education of children has substantially improved compared to earlier times when lack of literacy and negative attitude towards education were the main barriers to sending children to preschool. Previously education was considered as wastage of time and money since its outcome was perceived to be uncertain and unimportant. Presently, the importance and the outcomes of education are highly appreciated by people through persistent efforts at compulsory education and increased awareness through information and technology revolution. The favourable attitude of the parents refutes the earlier findings that parental attitude and involvement is generally negative or low in minority and low socioeconomic status characteristics of households, in particular, parental income, wealth, education and occupation, have long been known to be major determinants of educational enrolment and achievement in both developing and developed countries. The family stimulation is the resultant of the influence of cultural and educational profile of the family and active parental attitudes regarding education and attainment of their children.

Family involvement is the strongest predictor of child educational outcomes. This dimension associated significantly with children's motivation to learn, attention, task persistence, receptive vocabulary skills, and low conduct problems. Family involvement in education has been identified as a beneficial factor in young children's learning. It is, therefore, a key component of national educational policies and early childhood programs. Much of the research on parent involvement, as it relates to children's outcomes, has emphasized the relationship between specific parent involvement behaviours and children's achievement. Parental involvement at school (e.g., with school activities, direct communication with teachers and administrators) is associated with greater achievement in mathematics and reading. Higher levels of parent involvement in their children's educational experiences at home (e.g., supervision and monitoring, daily conversations about school) have been associated with children's higher achievement scores in reading and writing, as well as higher report card grades. Parental beliefs and expectations about their children's learning are strongly related to children's beliefs about their own competencies, as well as their achievement. Parents who evidenced high levels of school contact (volunteering in the classroom, participating in educational workshops, attending meetings) had children who demonstrated greater social competency than children of parents with lower levels of school contact. Home-based involvement would be most strongly associated with positive classroom learning outcomes and that direct school-based involvement would predict lower levels of conduct problems. Home Based Involvement activities, such as reading to a child at home, providing a place for educational activities, and asking a child about school, evidenced the strongest relationships to later preschool classroom competencies. These activities were related to children's approaches to learning, especially motivation and attention/persistence, and were found to relate positively to receptive vocabulary. The attitude of the parents signifies that the supporting nature of family in their children’s education. The parental attitude can be negative or positive. The negative attitude of the parents regarding education and schooling can prevent their children from getting an education. With less parental support in school work, low level of motivation and poor self-esteem of children can result Positive attitude of the parents can be beneficial to their children in many cases and can be reflected in the improvement in class performance, creating interest among children to learn, and higher achievement scores in reading and writing. The growing awareness regarding education makes many families value their children’s education and act favourably towards early years and education of their children. They become a part of the decision-making process of school and decide their children’s future regarding higher education.

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Concerns & Challenges

Commercialization of the education: Urbanization and industrialization have not even left the educational sector untouched. One can witness this boom with mushrooming of child-related centers in every nook and corner of the country. Big brands and companies have now entered the market with the motive of making profits. These companies through their marketing strategies provoke people to take up these ventures but at times these people are not themselves well equipped/ qualified. Commercialization is becoming a major concern which if not handled properly could lead to serious consequences. The professionals should be responsible while planning and developing for young children’s education programmes. They should be responsive towards child’s diverse needs since it is not possible to develop a quality program without understanding the basic needs of a child.

Quality of preschool education: For decades we have known that something is amiss in early care and education. Years ago, it was observed that the field was facing a “trilemma”- a nearby inescapable tension among programme quality, staff compensation and affordability of care. Today’s reality is that even with increased communities to ECE from without the government, quality remains embarrassingly poor. Staff salaries are inadequate and high-quality care is not affordable for most parents. While inadequate resources are absolutely the first and major problem, they are not the only issue. How the resources are spent is also critical. In spite of maybe important efforts to improve quality, funds have been inadequate and strategies insufficiently comprehensive to make a real difference in the quality of care most children receive. It is as though we keep planting seeds in the same flower bed year after year without fertilizing the soil, and then wonder why the flowers do not thrive.

Multi-culturality: Considering our own country India, the land of multiculturalism and diversity with so many languages, different attires, cuisines and various codes of conducts. A country that has distinct cultures right from Kashmir to Kanyakumari sometimes creates challenges for the preschool teacher. They have to deal with a number of culturally and linguistically diverse children in a single classroom, thus providing them appropriate education and care and also have to work effectively with their families. Despite numerous efforts in schools, administration, and teacher training still the majority of classroom teacher believe that they are not able to meet all the needs of the children and families from diverse backgrounds.  Hence measures are required in this field to train the teachers working with such group of students. They should be sensitive enough to bring best out of a child despite of his/her limitations.

Decreasing Age Range of the child in preschool: Previously, the family system in India was the joint family system, the mothers used to be with the child for most of the time, but the times have changed now, the families are not only becoming nuclear but even the mothers are stepping into the jobs. This leaves them with less time to be spent with their children. Today, the parents have found an easy solution to escape from this liability by getting their child enrolled in a preschool at a very young age even when their child’s separation anxiety has not got settled. For their own professional gains, they are neglecting their roles as parents. Thus, the age range instead of going upwards it is going downward.

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Teacher’s qualification: It is recommended that all groups of young children (age 3 and older) should have a teacher with Bachelor’s Degree including Early Childhood Specialization. It should be seen that Early Childhood teachers have training and professional competence. Teachers with comparable qualifications and experience should receive the same salary and benefits, whether teaching in a public elementary school or in early childhood education. Staff should have a range of formal qualifications, with a portion of centre teachers and family child care teachers holding bachelor’s degree and administrators holding advanced degrees. Entry level positions should be maintained so that pre-service qualifications do not become a barrier to individuals from low socio-economic strata or minority groups seeking to enter the field.

Wages do matter: In today’s time when everybody is after money, the wages in this sector are not satisfactory enough to motivate professionals to enter this field. Early care and education staff should earn wages linked to those earned by public elementary school teachers, with salaries varying depending on locale. The starting hourly pay for a child care teacher with a Bachelor’s degree should be equal to that of an elementary school teacher with the same levels of training, professionalisation, and work responsibilities. This is one of the primary reason that male professionals are not keen to enter in this field as in our society they are considered to be the main bread earner and with such low wages, it will be difficult for them to meet the required parameters of their family sustainability.

Parent Involvement is essential: Parent involvement with child’s education has become a major issue in this era of increasing concern about the quality of education. Parent involvement includes several different forms of parental participation in child’s life, education as well as his/her daily tasks. Parent involvement during early childhood period helps the child to form and shape his or her own academic self-concept. Pre-school and pre-school teachers play a vital role in involving the parents with the child’s curriculum thus; they should be well trained to do so. But it is often found that lack of planning and lack of mutual understanding between teachers and parents results in ineffective parent involvement.

About the author:

Dr. Kamini Prakash Rege is Assistant Professor, Department of Human Development, College of Home Science Nirmala Niketan, Affiliated To University Of Mumbai – India. She is also Treasurer, Early Childhood Association – India. Email: [email protected]

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Education

National Safety Day: The Importance of Teaching Good Touch and Bad Touch in Schools

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Teacher teaching good touch and bad touch to children using colourful graphs
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In the light of National Safety Day observed on the 4th of March each year, there’s a crucial aspect of safety that demands our attention—not just physical safety but the safety of our personal boundaries. This calls for an essential conversation about teaching children the concept of good touch and bad touch in schools, a topic that extends beyond the basics of traffic and environmental safety to the core of personal security and dignity.

Why, you might ask, is it vital to introduce this topic in the educational ecosystem? Simply put, knowledge is power. Educating children on the difference between a ‘good touch’ and a ‘bad touch’ empowers them to understand their rights, recognise inappropriate behaviour, and importantly, speak up. In an era where the safety of children should be paramount, this education acts as a shield, protecting their innocence and integrity.

But the conversation doesn’t stop with the children. It extends to the educators themselves. In the process of enlightening the young minds about safety, it’s equally critical for teachers to undergo training on the same subject. This dual approach serves a twofold purpose: a) it equips teachers to handle disclosures of inappropriate touch with sensitivity and the seriousness it demands, ensuring the right steps are taken to safeguard the child and b) it makes educators aware of their own actions, ensuring their interactions with students are always appropriate and beyond reproach.

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, implemented in India, underscores the importance of such education. The Act provides a legal framework to protect children against offences of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and pornography while safeguarding the child at every stage of the judicial process. Incorporating awareness about the POCSO Act in school curriculums and teacher training programs reinforces the legal and moral responsibilities we hold towards our children.

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Integrating this education into schools demands sensitivity, age-appropriate language, and a nurturing environment where children feel safe to express their concerns. It’s about building trust, ensuring every child knows they have a voice and that voice will be heard and respected.

For educators, this training should be an integral part of their professional development. Understanding the nuances of child psychology, the impact of their actions, and the legalities of child protection are essential components of their role. This knowledge not only protects the children but also the educators, fostering a safe and respectful learning environment.

Now, over to you, dear readers. Engaging in this dialogue is the first step towards change. Schools must be sanctuaries of learning, not just academically but socially and personally. As parents, educators, and members of the community, it’s our collective responsibility to advocate for and implement this crucial education. Share your thoughts, experiences, and suggestions. How can we, as a society, better protect our children? Your voice matters in shaping a safer future for our youngest citizens.

This conversation is not just necessary; it’s urgent. Let’s not shy away from it. Together, we can create a culture of safety, respect, and understanding, making every day a step towards a safer tomorrow for our children.

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Education

Confronting the Crisis: Addressing Student Suicides in Kota and Beyond

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Addressing the student suicides in Kota and beyond
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In a deeply troubling trend that underscores a crisis in India’s educational system, recent statistics paint a harrowing picture of the mental health challenges faced by students across the country. With reported cases of suicide linked to academic pressure on the rise, the urgency to address this issue has never been more critical. In the early months of 2024 alone, there have been distressing reports from prestigious institutions like IIT Kanpur, IIT Delhi, IIT Roorkee, and IIT BHU, totaling 5 incidents of student suicides.

Kota, often dubbed as India’s coaching capital, has become synonymous with the immense pressure faced by students preparing for competitive exams. The town witnessed an all-time high of 26 student suicides last year, a stark indicator of the unbearable stress these young minds are subjected to. This year, six students in Kota have already succumbed to the pressure, including an 18-year-old JEE aspirant who deemed herself a “loser” for not being able to meet the expectations set by the highly competitive exam.

These incidents are not isolated to Kota or the IITs; they are symptomatic of a larger, systemic issue plaguing educational institutions across India. A 17-year-old intermediate student in Telangana’s Adilabad district, for example, took his own life after being denied entry to an exam for arriving late, a decision that pushed him towards a tragic end.

The narrative emerging from these incidents is clear: the educational system, coupled with societal expectations, is creating an environment where failure is not seen as a part of learning but as an insurmountable setback. This mindset is contributing to a dangerous escalation in the student suicide rate, particularly in coaching hubs like Kota, where the pressure to succeed in exams such as NEET, UPSC, and JEE is immense.

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It is high time that schools, universities, and parents across India recognize the gravity of this issue. The relentless pursuit of academic excellence at the cost of students’ mental health is an unsustainable and harmful practice. Educators and caregivers must foster an environment where failure is acknowledged as a step towards growth and where students are encouraged to explore their passions without the fear of judgment.

Moreover, the implementation of comprehensive mental health programs and the promotion of open conversations about failure and resilience can significantly mitigate the risks associated with academic pressure. It is crucial for educational institutions to partner with mental health professionals to provide students with the support they need to navigate the challenges of their academic journeys.

So what is eventually required of the education sector? the alarming rate of student suicides in India is a call to action for all stakeholders in the educational sector. The tragic losses experienced in places like Kota serve as a stark reminder of the need to reevaluate our approach to education and student well-being. By cultivating an environment that values individuality, encourages exploration, and provides robust support systems, we can work towards a future where the pursuit of knowledge is not marred by the fear of failure but is celebrated as a path to personal and intellectual growth.

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Education

World NGO Day: Including Social Service and Philanthropy in Curriculum

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On World NGO Day, celebrated each 27th of February, we’re reminded of the pivotal role NGOs play in fostering social change and development. It’s an opportune moment to reflect on a critical gap in our education system—integrating social service into school curriculums. While Indian schools commendably cover moral science and discuss the multifaceted challenges of poverty, they often skirt around a crucial lesson: the importance of giving back to society, a principle that acknowledges our inherent privileges.

The privilege of accessing education and enjoying life’s luxuries is not a universal given; it’s a blessing. Recognizing this privilege entails acknowledging our responsibility to contribute positively to society, underscoring the necessity of philanthropy in our educational ethos. However, mere acknowledgment isn’t enough; action is imperative. This is where the collaboration with NGOs becomes invaluable.

Consider the transformative potential of inviting NGOs working in education into our schools. These organizations, such as Pratham, Akshaya Patra, and Teach For India, are not just entities; they are repositories of real-world experiences and agents of change. By partnering with these NGOs, schools can offer students more than theoretical knowledge; they can provide them with hands-on experiences in social service, embedding the value of giving back into the fabric of their education.

Imagine the impact of integrating assignments that require active participation in social causes—organizing donation drives, participating in animal welfare activities, or contributing to environmental conservation efforts. Such initiatives do more than inculcate a sense of responsibility; they foster empathy, cultivate a sense of community, and prepare students to be conscientious citizens.

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The benefits of integrating social service into school curriculums extend beyond moral and ethical development. They equip students with critical life skills—teamwork, leadership, problem-solving, and empathy—preparing them for the challenges of the real world. Moreover, these engagements offer tangible experiences of impact, teaching students that their actions can indeed make a difference. For example, organising donation drives and animal welfare camps where students can be the volunteers for a better, bigger cause is a great way to include social services into our curriculum.

The partnership between schools and NGOs can take various forms, from guest lectures and workshops to long-term projects and internships. These collaborations provide a platform for NGOs to raise awareness about their causes and for students to engage with these issues deeply and meaningfully.

By making social service an integral part of the curriculum, we can ensure that education transcends academic achievements to include the development of well-rounded individuals who are aware of their social responsibilities. It’s about creating a culture of giving back, fostering a generation that is not only educated but also empathetic and engaged with the world’s pressing challenges.

So, let’s commit to enriching our educational systems with the values of social service and philanthropy. Let’s embrace the opportunity to partner with NGOs and transform our students into not just scholars but also compassionate contributors to society. In doing so, we pay forward our blessings and take meaningful steps towards building a more equitable and caring world.

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Education

Education or Profit? Bombay High Court Calls for Accessible Learning for All

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In a recent statement that hits home for many, the Bombay High Court pointed out a harsh truth: education, once considered sacred in our culture, has now become something many can hardly afford. The court stressed that it’s the government’s duty to make sure everyone in the country has access to good quality education, highlighting the importance of education in the growth and development of society.

Judges AS Chandurkar and Jitendra Jain shared their thoughts during a case involving a request to open a new college. They mentioned a concern that only letting groups with previous experience in education open new colleges could unfairly keep new players out of the game. This could lead to a few big names controlling the education sector, which isn’t fair to everyone else. Yet, they also acknowledged that experience is important to make sure these new institutions can actually provide good education. While acknowledging the importance of experience in managing educational institutions, the justices called for a more balanced approach. They suggested the establishment of clear, quantifiable parameters for evaluating applications for new colleges, thereby ensuring a fair and competitive educational landscape.

This judicial intervention is a stark reminder of the ongoing transformation of the education sector into an ‘education industry,’ where the pursuit of profit often overshadows the noble mission of disseminating knowledge.

With tuition fees skyrocketing and private coaching centers popping up everywhere, education is becoming more about money and less about learning and growth. It’s a wake-up call for those running educational institutions to remember the real reason they’re in this field – not to make a profit, but to educate and shape future generations.

This scenario demands a reevaluation of our priorities. Education should not be a luxury only a few can afford. It’s a fundamental right that paves the way for a better future for individuals and society as a whole. It’s time for educational institutions to reflect on their purpose and for the government to take action to ensure that quality education is accessible to everyone, regardless of their financial status. This entails not only regulating fees and ensuring transparency in the functioning of educational institutions but also investing in public education to enhance its quality and reach.

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“Although ‘education’ is a pious in our culture but with change in time it has taken a different colour and has become unaffordable. It is the State’s Constitutional responsibility to ensure quality education reaches all the citizens of this country to achieve the growth and development of humanity”, the court said. 

The Bombay High Court’s remarks are a crucial reminder for us all. It’s a call to action to prevent the commercialization of education from overshadowing its true value and to work towards a system where education is seen not as an industry, but as a vital service that nurtures humanity’s growth and development.

(With inputs from Livelaw.in)

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Inspiration

Hidden Figures: A Film Every Student Should Watch and Why

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In the vast tapestry of cinematic storytelling, few films carry the weight of transforming our understanding of history and the unsung heroes within it quite like “Hidden Figures.” This masterpiece not only unfolds the extraordinary tale of three African-American women who were pivotal to NASA’s success in the space race but also serves as a beacon of inspiration for students across the globe. As the world recently celebrated the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11th February, it is imperative to delve into why “Hidden Figures” is a must-watch for every student.

“Hidden Figures” brings to light the incredible journey of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, portrayed with compelling depth by Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae, respectively. These brilliant minds overcame the dual hurdles of racial and gender bias to lay the groundwork for John Glenn’s historic orbit around Earth. Their story is not just a chapter of NASA’s triumphs but a testament to the indomitable spirit of those who dare to dream big and defy societal constraints.

For students, “Hidden Figures” is much more than a history lesson; it is an exploration of the values of perseverance, integrity, and teamwork. The film adeptly captures the essence of these values, showing that success is not the reserve of a privileged few but achievable by anyone with the talent and determination, regardless of their background. This is the story of three strong women who are independent, making a way of their own in a time where people do not even believe that NASA hires women and that too women of colour. When they ask for what they deserve, they are frowned upon and rejected. They are expected to know what their place is and what is the way to look like a white person. Still, these women thrive. Today, the situation has improved for better but our students should understand what it took for the trailblazers and women like these three to bring the world where it is today.

The narrative rhythm of “Hidden Figures” mirrors that of an underdog story, making it relatable and engaging for a younger audience. It offers a linear and steady progression, showcasing the personal and professional challenges these women faced, their initial setbacks, and their ultimate triumph. Furthermore, the film’s emphasis on education and intellectual prowess as tools for breaking barriers is a critical takeaway for students. It highlights the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education and the role it plays in shaping the future. “Hidden Figures” demonstrates that knowledge and skill are powerful agents of change, encouraging students to pursue their interests in these fields with zeal.

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The film does not shy away from the harsh realities of the era it depicts but chooses to focus on the triumph of intellect and determination over discrimination and adversity. This balanced storytelling approach makes “Hidden Figures” an educational tool that transcends the classroom, imparting lessons of equality, respect, and the pursuit of excellence.

Hidden Figures is more than just a film; it is a catalyst for change, inspiring students to recognize and challenge the societal limitations placed upon them. It encourages a deeper appreciation for the contributions of women and minorities in science and technology, urging a more inclusive recognition of achievement in these fields. For these reasons and more, it is a film that every student should watch, serving as a reminder that history is made by those who dare to believe in the possibility of the impossible.

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Education

Empowering the Future: The Success of Beti Bachao Beti Padhao in Girls’ Education

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As we commemorate National Girl Child Day and International Day of Education on 24th January, we celebrate the profound impact of the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign, an initiative that resonates deeply with ScooNews’ vision of nurturing potential and fostering empowerment. Launched by the Government of India in 2015, this campaign represents a significant stride towards dismantling the societal barriers that hinder the progress of girls and women in our nation.

Spanning 640 districts, the campaign’s influence is evident in the marked improvement in the Child Sex Ratio (CSR), which rose from 918 in 2014-15 to 934 in 2019-20 in the focus districts. This positive trend reflects a societal shift away from the discriminatory practices of sex-selective abortions and towards a future where every girl child is valued.

Central to the campaign’s success is its emphasis on education as a transformative force. Beti Bachao Beti Padhao has catalyzed an increase in the enrolment and retention of girls in schools, thanks to a suite of holistic interventions. These include providing scholarships, enhancing educational infrastructure, and introducing innovative learning methodologies. The results are encouraging: the gross enrolment ratio of girls at the secondary level escalated to 81.32 in 2018-19, while the dropout rate decreased to 14.53, showcasing the campaign’s tangible impact on girls’ education.

Moreover, the campaign has ignited a nationwide discourse on gender equality, challenging deep-rooted biases and advocating for a society that respects and upholds the rights and dignity of girls and women. Through various platforms, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao has sensitized communities, engaged stakeholders, and celebrated the achievements and potential of girls and women.

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However, the journey towards gender parity is not devoid of challenges. Deep-seated social norms and attitudes continue to undermine the status of girls and women, necessitating a persistent, multifaceted approach to drive change.

  • Amplifying resources and ensuring the integration of the campaign with other governmental initiatives will provide a robust financial foundation and a unified direction for these efforts.
  • Additionally, a robust monitoring and evaluation framework is crucial to accurately assess the campaign’s progress and impact. This will not only facilitate transparency and accountability but also provide valuable insights for future policy formulation and implementation.
  • Fostering collaboration among stakeholders is another critical aspect. By strengthening partnerships between government bodies, educational institutions, civil society organizations, and communities, the campaign can harness collective expertise and resources, thereby accelerating progress towards gender equality.
  • At the heart of sustainable change is the empowerment of girls and women. Creating newer platforms where their voices are heard, their rights are acknowledged, and their achievements are celebrated is vital. Engaging and educating families and communities to challenge and transform discriminatory norms will further reinforce this empowerment, paving the way for a society that values and invests in every girl.

As we reflect on the journey of Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, it’s evident that the campaign has made significant strides in improving the lives of girls and women in India. The achievements are commendable, yet the road ahead demands continued dedication, innovation, and collaboration. ScooNews proudly stands in solidarity with this transformative campaign, advocating for education and empowerment as the keystones for building a society where every girl, every woman, and every future leader can thrive. As we forge ahead, let’s reaffirm our commitment to nurturing potential, fostering equality, and creating a world where the dreams and aspirations of every girl are realized.

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Can Hindi Become the Next Global Language?

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(Photo credit: Twitter/@IBSIndia1)

As we celebrate “World Hindi Day” today let us understand the vast scope of the Hindi language globally and the respect it deserves.

Hindi is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, with about 600 million speakers, including native and second-language users. It is the official language of India, the second most populous country and the fifth largest economy in the world. It is also an official language in Fiji and a recognized minority language in South Africa and the United Arab Emirates. Moreover, Hindi is spoken or understood in many other countries, such as Nepal, Mauritius, Singapore, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, and the United States.

let’s talk about Hindi’s rich history– it’s like the language derived from the core of Hindustan, tracing back to our Sanskrit roots. Imagine it as the dynamic kid in the Indo-Aryan crew of the massive Indo-European language family. Hindi has got some serious flair. It’s not just sticking to its roots; it’s been a major part of the group of prestigious languages like Persian, Arabic, Turkish, Portuguese, English you name it. Yet Hindi has got its distinct style. Awadhi, Bhojpuri, Braj it’s like Hindi’s got a whole wardrobe of linguistic outfits, showcasing the cultural fiesta in India.

When it comes to writing, Hindi leads the Devanagari script. It’s not just a language thing; it’s a script trendsetter, setting the stage for Sanskrit, Marathi, Nepali, and many more. The world has seen many Hindi literary legends. Munshi Premchand whose stories we have all grown up reading. Harivansh Rai Bachchan the poetic genius. These legends aren’t just local stars; they’re global wordsmiths.

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Hindi has great potential to become a global language, as it is the language of a rising power and a vibrant culture. India is a fast-growing economy, with a large and young population, a strong democracy, and a strategic role in regional and international affairs. India is also a major source of culture, innovation, and talent, with a rich heritage of literature, art, music, cinema, and science. Hindi is the medium of expression for many of these domains, and also a bridge for communication among Indians of different linguistic backgrounds.

Therefore, Hindi deserves respect and recognition as a language of global importance. It is not a language that students or teachers should look down upon or neglect, but a language to be proud of and promoted. Hindi can offer many benefits and opportunities to students to become great speakers and learners, such as access to a vast and diverse body of knowledge, a deeper understanding of India and its culture, and a wider network of contacts and collaborations.

Hindi is not a threat or a competitor to other languages, but a partner and a friend. It can coexist and cooperate with other languages, such as English, which is also widely used in India and the world. It can enrich and enhance the linguistic and cultural diversity of the world, and contribute to global dialogue and harmony.

Hindi is a language of the past, the present, and the future. It is a language that connects us to our roots, our identity, and our aspirations. It is a language that can inspire us to learn, to create, and to share. It is a language that can make us global citizens. Hence first and foremost, we as Indians, should start giving Hindi respect through our curriculum in schools. 

 

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Empowering Futures: Nurturing Human Rights Advocates in School

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In the dynamic landscape of the 21st century, where tweets can change destinies and TikToks spark revolutions, the knowledge of human rights is like having a superhero cape – powerful, transformative, and absolutely essential. We’re living in an era where this awareness is both a given and, paradoxically, under threat. As we navigate the rollercoaster of global politics and online trends, the need to arm our youngsters with the understanding of their rights becomes paramount.

India, a land of diverse cultures and stories, is also a party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). It’s like being part of a global club that says, “Hey, every child deserves certain things, no matter where they are.” And what are these things? Well, let’s dive into the colourful world of children’s rights.

According to the latest report from our National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), we’re receiving more complaints than we’d like, especially in the kid’s department. Child labour, child marriage, sexual abuse, trafficking – it’s like a list of things that should never be associated with childhood. Sure, we’ve made strides in health, education, and social protection, but there’s still some unfinished homework.

Now, don’t get us wrong; we’re not trying to act like the spoilers of the story. Progress is progress, but if there’s a chance for more, why not aim for the stars? This is where our schools come into play.

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Imagine a classroom where kids not only learn about algebra and the periodic table but also about their right to life, survival, and development. A world where they’re aware that education is not just about acing exams but a key to unlocking their potential. In this utopian classroom, children are shielded from harm, their voices are heard, and they actively participate in decisions that shape their lives.

The right to life, survival, and development is the superhero cloak we mentioned earlier. It means every child has the right to live, grow, and become the incredible human they’re destined to be. A bit like saying, “Here’s your life, and here’s a manual on how to make it fantastic.”

Then there’s the right to education. It’s not just about memorizing the capital of every country but understanding that education is their ticket to shaping a future they dream of. And guess what? It should be free and compulsory because, let’s face it, no superhero pays a fee for saving the day.

Protection is another superhero power – the shield that guards against harm. Children have the right to be protected from all forms of abuse, violence, and exploitation. They should be treated with dignity and respect, a bit like how superheroes should be treated in the superhero HQ.

According to the latest report of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), India received 55,858 complaints of human rights violations in the financial year 2023-24, out of which 9,795 were related to children. The most common issues were child labour, child marriage, sexual abuse, trafficking, and juvenile justice.

Lastly, the right to participation is like giving our young minds a seat at the Avengers table. They have the right to express their thoughts, be heard, and even participate in decisions that affect them. After all, they’re the future architects of this world.

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So, why this deep dive into children’s rights? Because an educated child is an empowered child. As we teach them maths and science, let’s also teach them about justice, equality, and the power they hold as individuals. Let’s create an army of mini-advocates who not only understand their rights but are ready to stand up for the rights of others.

In the end, it’s not just about educating children; it’s about fostering a generation of changemakers. Because when you empower a child with knowledge, you’re not just shaping their future; you’re sculpting the future of an entire society. Let’s make our schools the breeding ground for not just scholars but for compassionate, informed citizens who understand the power of their voice in making the world a better place.

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Education

Irony of the Idiot Box: How Television made Education Smarter?

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Television, often labelled as the ‘idiot box,’ paradoxically stood as a formidable force that reshaped the educational landscape in India. Its influence, both before and after the internet era, was transformative, leveraging the power of visual and auditory stimulation to enhance learning experiences. This medium, with its broad reach, played a pivotal role in overcoming barriers to education, acting as an inclusive educator that transcended geographical, linguistic, and socio-economic boundaries.

Educational programs address issues ranging from social justice to environmental sustainability, instilling values of democracy, diversity, and tolerance. The medium serves as a conduit for raising awareness and sensitizing viewers to the pressing challenges faced by society. One remarkable example is the vast array of educational programs under the PM e-Vidya initiative, with India boasting the largest number of educational TV channels globally, totaling 280. This initiative underscored television’s potential as a tool for democratizing education, making quality content accessible even in the remotest corners of the country.

Television’s impact on academic performance is substantiated by a study from the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), revealing that watching educational TV programs could improve students’ academic performance by a significant 10 to 15 percent. These findings emphasized the educational value embedded in televised content.

The rural penetration of television, as highlighted by a survey conducted by the Centre for Media Studies (CMS), was striking. More than 80 percent of rural households in India had access to television, and over 60 percent of rural children regularly engaged with educational TV programs. This extensive reach underscored television’s role as a key player in disseminating educational content to a diverse and widespread audience.

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India-specific shows further exemplified television’s prowess as an educational tool. The iconic ‘Mahabharata’ and ‘Ramayan‘ adaptations by BR Chopra and Ramanand Sagar, respectively, not only popularized ancient Indian scriptures but also conveyed enduring values to a vast audience. These epics became cultural touchstones, imparting lessons of duty, loyalty, courage, and morality.

Bharat Ek Khoj,’ a historical series based on Jawaharlal Nehru’s book, offered a panoramic view of India’s history, tracing its evolution from the Indus Valley Civilization to modern times. This show served as an educational journey, enlightening viewers about the diverse and complex tapestry of India’s past.

Shaktimaan,’ a superhero series, did not just entertain but also educated a generation. Through the protagonist’s battles against evil forces, the show imparted knowledge on scientific, social, and environmental topics. It stood as a testament to television’s ability to combine entertainment with education, fostering a sense of responsibility and curiosity among its viewers.

Further enriching the educational spectrum was the show ‘Tarang‘ on Doordarshan, which was instrumental in making learning interactive and engaging. ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati,’ the Indian adaptation of ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,’ not only continues to entertain but also encourages millions to expand their knowledge base through a quiz format. ‘Panchtantra Ki Kahaniyan‘ on DD, with its fables and moral stories, contributed to character-building and ethical understanding. In the realm of science, ‘Khud Bud: Khel Vigyan Ke‘ carved a niche. This show, with its focus on scientific principles and experiments, not only entertained but also educated, nurturing a scientific temperament among its audience.

The vastness of television’s reach, has potentially redefined the landscape of teacher education and, consequently, the quality of education imparted across the country. Television, once labeled an ‘idiot box,’ has proven to be a dynamic educational tool, reaching far beyond its initial moniker. It continues to shape the educational narrative in India, bringing knowledge, inspiration, and social consciousness to millions. As we celebrate the transformation wrought by this medium, it becomes evident that the ‘idiot box’ was anything but foolish—it was a catalyst for intellectual growth and societal progress.

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Educational Renaissance: Narayana Murthy’s Visionary Call for a $1 Billion Investment in Teacher Training

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Narayana Murthy, Co-Founder, Infosys

In a seminal declaration, N R Narayana Murthy has thrust the spotlight on a critical facet of India’s education system, urging an annual investment of $1 billion for the comprehensive training of school teachers. This visionary proposition advocates tapping into the wealth of experience harboured by 10,000 retired, highly accomplished educators from both developed nations and India, with a specific focus on STEM areas — Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

At its core, this proposal compels us to reevaluate our educational priorities, directing attention towards the educators who are the architects of our nation’s intellectual foundation. While discussions on educational investments often revolve around students, Murthy’s call resonates with the acknowledgment that the future of teaching lies in the hands of our educators.

The fundamental question that emerges is, why the emphasis on such substantial financial allocation for teacher training? To begin with, investing in teachers is an investment in the very fabric of our society. They are the conduits of knowledge, shaping the minds that will steer the nation’s trajectory. However, despite the crucial role they play, the teaching profession is often undervalued and undercompensated.

The suggested $1 billion annual investment is undoubtedly a substantial figure, prompting some to question the necessity of such a significant financial commitment. It is imperative to recognize that teaching, despite its paramount importance, is often remunerated far less than corporate roles, despite the immense responsibility it carries. This discrepancy in compensation is a deterrent to attracting and retaining top-tier talent in the education sector. Hence, the call for substantial funding is not just an arbitrary figure but a strategic move to rectify the undervaluation of the teaching profession.

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Moreover, this proposal prompts us to reflect on the broader issue of the societal perception of teaching. Teachers, the architects of intellectual growth, deserve not only financial remuneration which is well deserved for their pivotal role in an economy but also comprehensive training that keeps them abreast of evolving pedagogical methodologies and technological advancements. Respect, a commodity sometimes undervalued, is also an integral part of the equation. The proposed investment is not merely a financial allocation; it is a symbolic gesture of acknowledging the critical role teachers play in shaping the future of our nation.

The concept of enlisting 10,000 retired, highly accomplished teachers, both from developed nations and India, is particularly noteworthy. It suggests a collaborative approach, harnessing global expertise to elevate the standard of teaching in India. The focus on STEM areas is strategic, aligning with the evolving demands of the job market and technological landscape.

The ‘Train the Teacher’ program, coupled with the proposed annual expenditure of $1 billion, stands as a transformative initiative poised to redefine the landscape of education in India. Envisaging this as more than a mere financial allocation, the program introduces a comprehensive training approach at the school level. This strategic move is not just about empowering teachers with subject matter expertise; it’s a holistic endeavor aimed at fostering a culture of critical thinking, encouraging experimentation, promoting teamwork, igniting curiosity, and honing problem-solving abilities among educators. By instilling these qualities in teachers, the initiative creates a cascading effect on students, shaping a learning environment that not only imparts knowledge but also nurtures the essential skills crucial for navigating the challenges of the future.

The broader impact of such an initiative extends beyond individual teachers. It gives birth to a ripple effect where enhanced teacher training translates into a more dynamic and effective education system. Students exposed to well-trained educators benefit from a more enriched learning experience, preparing them not just academically but also fostering critical thinking and problem-solving skills essential for the challenges of the future.

In conclusion, Narayana Murthy’s call for a $1 billion annual investment in teacher training is a clear and much awaited call for a paradigm shift in our approach to education. It beckons us to recognize and rectify the undervaluation of teachers, both in terms of remuneration and societal respect. It is an investment not just in individuals but in the very bedrock of our nation’s intellectual growth. As we navigate the complexities of the 21st century, the emphasis on teacher training becomes not just an option but an imperative for sculpting a future-ready generation.

 

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