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Policy

Landmark judgement proclaims student can seek refund even if fees are non-refundable.

Due to collective amnesia and the passage of time, it was held that a student could not file a consumer complaint for deficiency in services by educational institutions. A landmark ruling by the Maharashtra state commission has differentiated between services rendered by educational institutions

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Unwittingly, a wrong precedent was set in the legal corridors of India. Due to collective amnesia and the passage of time, it was held that a student could not file a consumer complaint for deficiency in services by educational institutions.

The decision by the Supreme Court, in the Bihar School Examination Board v/s Suresh Prasad Sinha case, held that a student was not a consumer in respect of conduct of exams by boards and universities. This decision through distortion came to limit the ability of a student to fight against the deficiency in services by educational institutions.

However, better sense has prevailed and a landmark ruling by the Maharashtra state commission has differentiated between services rendered by educational institutions and conducting of exams by boards and universities.

The case that changed it all

Chitralekha Bendke’s 2 children secured admission to Seven Square Academy by paying the requisite fees of ₹7,800 per child. Unfortunately, due to medical reasons she wanted to cancel the admission and apply for refund of fees. When the school refused to refund the fees, she filed a complaint before the Thane District Forum, which ordered the fees to be refunded.

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The school appealed against this order on 2 grounds. Firstly, it contended that the consumer complaint was simply not maintainable since imparting of education could not be termed a service and a student could not be considered a consumer. Secondly, the school also challenged the maintainability of the complaint against it instead of against the Trust which ran the school.

The state commission rightly differentiated between imparting of education by educational institutions and conducting of exams by the applicable board. It pointed out to the school that the complaint was in respect of non-refund of fees, and not about conducting examinations.

The commission shared several precedents, including a 5-member bench judgment of the National Commission in the case of Bhupesh Khurana &Ors. V/s Vishwa Buddha Parishad, where it was held that imparting of education by educational institutions for consideration falls within the ambit of service. Hence, complaints about deficiency in service in respect of non-refund of fees, running of courses without recognition or affiliation, etc. would be maintainable before consumer fora.

On the school’s second contention, the commission observed that the receipt for fees paid by Bendke was issued by the school and not by the Trust. Hence the complaint against the school was held to be maintainable.

Further, the commission observed that the fees were paid in January, and request for refund was made within a few days, well before commencement of the academic year in June. The school had ample time to fill up the seats which had fallen vacant. When demanded, the school also failed to produce any documentary evidence to show that the cancelled admission had resulted in the seats remaining vacant for the academic year.

The commission admonished the school while pointing out that it is well known that the number of candidates far outnumber the available seats. Yet, educational institutions make a false plea that the cancelled seat remained vacant throughout the year. The schools are doubly enriching themselves by admitting another candidate without refunding the fees of a student who has withdrawn. Such institutes have become commercial shops, and there cannot be any worse form of unscrupulous and unfair trade practice in the field of education. The objective of the Consumer Protection Act is to curb such practices where students and their parents are exploited.

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Accordingly, by its judgment of July 1, delivered by judicial member Ushal Thakare for the bench along with Dhanraj Khamatkar, the Maharashtra state commission concluded that a clause stating that fees once paid shall not be refunded is unconscionable and void, as a service provider cannot retain the money when no service has been rendered. The school's appeal was rejected.

The judgement has far reaching implications as students can now seek a refund even if the fee receipt of schools state that the fees are non-refundable.

Images used for representational purposes only

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Education

Salient Features of NEP-2020

The National Education Policy 2020 proposes various reforms in school education as well as higher education including technical education.

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Ministry of Education, Government of India

National Education Policy 2020 was announced on 29.07.2020. The National Education Policy 2020 proposes various reforms in school education as well as higher education including technical education. A number of action points/activities for implementation in school education as well as higher education are mentioned in the National Education Policy 2020. Details of the salient features of NEP 2020 are as follows-

  1. Ensuring Universal Access at All Levels of schooling from pre-primary school to Grade 12;
  2. Ensuring quality early childhood care and education for all children between 3-6 years;
  3. New Curricular and Pedagogical Structure (5+3+3+4);
  4. No hard separations between arts and sciences, between curricular and extra-curricular activities, between    vocational and academic streams;
  5. Establishing National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy;
  6. Emphasis on promoting multilingualism and Indian languages; The medium of instruction until at least Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond, will be the home language/mother tongue/local language/regional language.
  7. Assessment reforms – Board Exams on up to two occasions during any given school year, one main examination and one for improvement, if desired;
  8. Setting up of a new National Assessment Centre, PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development);
  9. Equitable and inclusive education – Special emphasis is given to Socially and Economically Disadvantaged  Groups (SEDGs);
  10. A separate Gender Inclusion fund and Special Education Zones for disadvantaged regions and groups;
  11. Robust and transparent processes for recruitment of teachers and merit based performance;
  12. Ensuring availability of all resources through school complexes and clusters;

(xiii) Setting up of State School Standards Authority (SSSA);

(xiv) Exposure to vocational education in school and higher education system;

  1. Increasing GER in higher education to 50%;

(xvi) Holistic and Multidisciplinary Education with multiple entry/exit options;

  1. NTA to offer Common Entrance Exam for Admission to HEIs;
  2. Establishment of Academic Bank of Credit;

(xix) Setting up of Multidisciplinary Education and Research Universities (MERUs);

  1. Setting up of National Research Foundation (NRF);

(xxi) ‘Light but Tight’ regulation;

  1. The single overarching umbrella body for the promotion of the higher education sector including teacher education and excluding medical and legal education- the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI)-with independent bodies for standard setting- the General Education Council; funding-Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC); accreditation- National Accreditation Council (NAC); and regulation- National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC);
  2. Expansion of open and distance learning to increase Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER).
  3. Internationalization of Education
  4. Professional Education will be an integral part of the higher education system. Stand-alone technical universities, health science universities, legal and agricultural universities, or institutions in these or other fields, will aim to become multi-disciplinary institutions.
  5. Teacher Education – 4-year integrated stage-specific, subject-specific Bachelor of Education
  6. Establishing a National Mission for Mentoring.
  7. Creation of an autonomous body, the National Educational Technology Forum (NETF) to provide a platform for the free exchange of ideas on the use of technology to enhance learning, assessment, planning, and administration. Appropriate integration of technology into all levels of education.
  8. Achieving 100% youth and adult literacy.
  9. Multiple mechanisms with checks and balances will combat and stop the commercialization of higher education.
  10. All education institutions will be held to similar standards of audit and disclosure as not-for-profit entities.
  11. The Centre and the States will work together to increase the public investment in the Education sector to reach 6% of GDP at the earliest.
  12. Strengthening of the Central Advisory Board of Education to ensure coordination to bring overall focus on quality education.

NEP 2020 aims to increase the GER to 100% in preschool to secondary level by 2030 whereas GER in Higher Education includes vocational education from 26.3% (2018) to 50% by 2035.

The Central Sector Scheme Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya National Mission on Teachers and Teaching (PMMMNMTT) was launched in 2014 to address comprehensively all issues related to Teacher Training/ Capacity Building and Professional Development of Teachers. Under the components, a total of 95 Centres were established throughout the country through which faculties/Teachers have been trained. Currently, The Standing Finance Committee has appraised the Scheme and recommended it for continuation till 2025-2026 with a total outlay of Rs. 493.68 crores. Under the PMMMNMTT Scheme Centres are established on the basis of the proposals received from education institutions, their screening by the Screening Committee, and approval by the Project Approval Board.

The information was given by the Minister of State for Education, Dr. Subhas Sarkar in a written reply in the Lok Sabha on 1st August 2022.

Here is a set of infographics highlighting the fundamental principles of National Education Policy 2020:

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Policy

Cabinet approves continuation of Samagra Shiksha Scheme for School Education

The scheme covers 1.16 million schools, over 156 million students, and 5.7 million teachers of Govt. and Aided schools (from pre-primary to senior secondary level).

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The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has given its approval for the continuation of the revised Samagra Shiksha Scheme for a period of five years i.e., from 2021-22 to 2025-26 with a total financial outlay of Rs.2,94,283.04 crore which includes Central share of Rs.1,85,398.32 crore.

Benefits:

The scheme covers 1.16 million schools, over 156 million students, and 5.7 million teachers of Govt. and Aided schools (from pre-primary to senior secondary level).

Details:

The Samagra Shiksha scheme is an integrated scheme for school education covering the entire gamut from pre-school to class XII. The scheme treats school education as a continuum and is in accordance with Sustainable Development Goal for Education (SDG-4). The scheme not only provides support for the implementation of the RTE Act but has also been aligned with the recommendations of NEP 2020 to ensure that all children have access to quality education with an equitable and inclusive classroom environment which should take care of their diverse background, multilingual needs, different academic abilities and make them active participants in the learning process.

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The major interventions, across all levels of school education, proposed under the scheme are: (i) Universal Access including Infrastructure Development and Retention; (ii) Foundational Literacy and Numeracy, (iii) Gender and Equity; (iv) Inclusive Education; (v) Quality and Innovation; (vi) Financial support for Teacher Salary; (vii) Digital initiatives; (viii) RTE Entitlements including uniforms, textbooks, etc.; (ix) Support for ECCE; (x) Vocational Education; (xi) Sports and Physical Education; (xii) Strengthening of Teacher Education and Training; (xiii) Monitoring; (xiv) Programme Management, and (xv) National Component.

Following new interventions have been incorporated in the revamped Samagra Shiksha based on the recommendations of the National Education Policy 2020:

  • In order to enhance the direct outreach of the scheme, all child-centric interventions will be provided directly to the students through DBT mode on an IT-based platform over a period of time.
  • The scheme will have an effective convergence architecture with various Ministries/ developmental agencies of the Centre and State Governments. The expansion of vocational education will be done in convergence with the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship and other Ministries providing funding for Skills. The existing infrastructure of schools and ITIs and Polytechnics will be used to ensure optimum utilization of the facilities, not only for school-going children but also for out-of-school children.
  • Provision of training of Master Trainers for the training of Anganwadi workers and In-service teacher training for ECCE teachers.
  • Provision of up to Rs 500 per child for Teaching Learning Materials (TLM), indigenous toys and games, play-based activities per annum for pre-primary sections in Government Schools.
  • NIPUN Bharat, a National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy to ensure that every child achieves the desired learning competencies in reading, writing, and numeracy at the end of grade III and not later than grade V has been launched under the scheme with the provision of TLM up to Rs 500 per child per annum, Rs 150 per teacher for teacher manuals and resources, Rs 10-20 lakh per district for assessment.
  • Specific training modules under  NISHTHA  by NCERT to train Secondary teachers and Primary teachers.
  • Strengthening of the infrastructure of schools from pre-primary to senior secondary, earlier pre-primary was excluded.
  • Incinerator and sanitary pad vending machines in all girls' hostels.
  • Addition of new subjects instead of Stream in existing senior secondary schools.
  • Transport facility has been extended to secondary level @ up to Rs 6000 per annum.
  • For out-of-school children at 16 to 19 years of age, support will be provided to SC, ST, disabled children, up to Rs 2000 per child per grade to complete their secondary/senior secondary levels through NIOS/SOS.
  • Financial support for State Commission for Protection of Child Rights @ Rs 50 per elementary school in the state, for protection of child rights and safety.
  • A holistic, 360-degree, multi-dimensional report showing the progress/ uniqueness of each learner in the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains will be introduced in the form of Holistic Progress Card (HPC).
  • Support for activities of PARAKH, a national assessment centre (Performance, Assessments, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development)
  • Additional Sports grant of up to Rs. 25000 to schools in case at least 2 students of that school win a medal in Khelo India school games at the National level.
  • Provision for Bagless days, school complexes, internships with local artisans, curriculum and pedagogical reforms, etc included.
  • A new component Appointment of Language Teacher has been added in the scheme- components of training of teachers and bilingual books and teaching-learning material added, besides support for the salary of teachers.
  • Provision made for all KGBVs to be upgraded to class XII.
  • Enhanced financial support for existing Stand-alone Girls' Hostels for classes IX to XII (KGBV Type IV) of up to Rs 40 lakh per annum (earlier Rs 25 lakh per annum).
  • Training for 3 months for inculcating self-defense skills under 'Rani Laxmibai Atma Raksha Prashikshan' and amount increased from Rs 3000 to Rs 5000 per month.
  • A separate provision of stipend for CWSN girls @ Rs. 200 per month for 10 months, in addition to student component from pre-primary to senior secondary level.
  • Provision of annual identification camps for CWSN at block level @Rs. 10000 per camp and equipping of Block Resource centres for rehabilitation and special training of CWSN.
  • Provision for Establishment of New SCERT has been included and new DIETs in districts created up to 31st March 2020.
  • Setting up of assessment cell preferably at SCERT to conduct various achievement surveys, develop test materials & item banks, training of various stakeholders & test administration, data collection analysis, and report generation, etc.
  • The academic support of BRCs and CRCs has been extended for the pre-primary and Secondary levels also.
  • Support under   Vocational  Education extended to Government aided schools also in addition to Government Schools and grant/number of job roles/sections linked to enrolment and demand.
  • Provision of Classroom cum workshop for Vocational Education in schools serving as Hub for other schools in the neighbourhood. Provision of transport and assessment cost for schools serving as spokes has been made.
  • Provision of ICT labs, Smart classrooms including support for digital boards, smart classrooms, virtual classrooms, and DTH channels have been provided.
  • Child tracking provision included for students of Government and Government aided schools
  • Support for Social Audit covering 20% of schools per year so that all schools are covered in a period of five years.

Implementation Strategy and Targets:

The Scheme is implemented as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme through a single State Implementation Society (SIS) at the State level. At the National level, there is a Governing Council/Body headed by the Minister of Education and a Project Approval Board (PAB) headed by the Secretary, Department of School Education and Literacy. The Governing Council/body will be empowered to modify financial and programmatic norms and approve the detailed guidelines for implementation within the overall framework of the scheme. Such modifications will include innovations and interventions to improve the quality of school education.

In order to enhance the direct outreach of the scheme, all child-centric interventions will be provided directly to the students through DBT mode on an IT-based platform over a period of time.

The Scheme covers 1.16 million schools, over 156 million students, and 5.7 million Teachers of Government and Aided schools (from pre-primary to senior secondary level) by involving all stakeholders of the school ecosystem i.e. Teachers, Teacher Educators, Students, Parents, Community, School Management Committees, SCERTs, DIETs, BITEs, Block Resource Persons, Cluster Resource Persons, Volunteers for providing quality, inclusive and equitable education. Further, the scheme will have an effective convergence architecture with various Ministries/ developmental agencies of the Centre and State Governments. As envisaged in NEP 2020, there will be a greater focus on imparting skills among the students. The expansion of vocational education will be done in convergence with the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship and other Ministries providing funding for Skills. The existing infrastructure of schools and ITIs and Polytechnics will be used to ensure optimum utilization of the facilities, not only for school-going children but also for out-of-school children.

Major Impacts:

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The Scheme aims to universalize access to school education; promote equity through the inclusion of disadvantaged groups and weaker sections, and to improve the quality of education across all levels of school education. The major objectives of the Scheme are to Support States and UTs in:

  1. Implementing the recommendations of the National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020);
  2. Implementation of Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009;
  3. Early Childhood Care and Education;
  4. Emphasis on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy;
  5. Thrust on Holistic, Integrated, Inclusive and activity-based Curriculum and Pedagogy to impart 21st-century skills to the students;
  6. Provision of quality education and enhancing learning outcomes of students;
  7. Bridging Social and Gender Gaps in School Education;
  8. Ensuring equity and inclusion at all levels of school education;
  9. Strengthening and up-gradation of State Councils for Educational Research and Training (SCERTs)/State Institutes of Education and District Institutes for Education and Training (DIET) as the nodal agency for teacher training;
  10. Ensuring a safe, secure, and conducive learning environment and maintenance of standards in schooling provisions and
  11. Promoting vocational education.

AtmaNirbhar Bharat:

Recognizing the crucial role of Foundational skills in the national development, it was announced under the 'AtmaNirbhar Bharat' campaign that a National Foundational Literacy and Numeracy Mission will be launched, for ensuring that every child in the country necessarily attains foundational literacy and numeracy in Grade 3 by 2026-27. In this context, the "National Initiative for Proficiency in Reading with Understanding and Numeracy (NIPUN Bharat)" has been launched on 5th July 2021 under Samagra Shiksha.

Details and progress of scheme if already running:

The Scheme is being implemented as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme in partnership with State and UT Governments to support the States and UTs in universalizing access and improving the quality of school education across the country. The achievements of Samagra Shiksha are as follows:

•      During 2018-2019 to 2020-2021, 1160 schools have been upgraded at Elementary, Secondary, and Higher Secondary level, 54 new residential schools/ hostels have been opened, 41180 schools have been strengthened (including Additional classrooms), 13.51 lakh schools have been provided library facilities, 13.14 lakh schools have been provided sports equipment facility, 12633 schools have been covered under ICT & Digital initiatives, 5579 schools have been covered under vocational education, 783 KGBVs have been upgraded from class VIII to class X, 925 KGBVs have been upgraded from class VIII to class XII and 11562 separate girls toilets have been constructed.

•      In addition, during 2018-2019, 4.78 lakh out of school children have been provided special training at the elementary level, 4.24 lakh children have been provided transport and escort facility, 16.76 lakh children have been covered under Section 12(l)(c) of the RTE Act, 6.96 cr children have been provided free uniforms, 8.72 cr children have been provided free textbooks at the elementary level, 0.74 cr children have been provided remedial teaching, 14.58 lakh teachers have been trained, 69173 schools provided self-defense training to girls, 3.79 lakh CWSN girls have been provided a stipend and 23183 special educators have been provided financial assistance.

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•      Also, during 2019-2020, 5.07 lakh out of school children have been provided special training at the elementary level, 6.78 lakh children have been provided transport and escort facility, 21.58 lakh children have been covered under Section 12(l)(c) of the RTE Act, 6.89 cr children have been provided free uniforms, 8.78 cr children have been provided free textbooks at the elementary level, 1.76 cr children have been provided remedial teaching, 28.84 lakh teachers have been trained, 166528 schools provided self-defense training to girls, 3.22 lakh CWSN girls have been provided a stipend and 24030 special educators have been provided financial assistance.

•      Also, during 2020-2021, 3.23 lakh out of school children have been provided special training at the elementary level, 2.41 lakh children have been provided transport and escort facility, 32.67 lakh children have been covered under Section 12(l)(c) of the RTE Act, 6.57 cr children have been provided free uniforms, 8.84 cr children have been provided free textbooks at the elementary level, 1.44 cr children have been provided remedial teaching, 14.32 lakh teachers have been trained, 81288 schools provided self-defense training to girls, 3.52 lakh CWSN girls have been provided a stipend and 22990 special educators have been provided financial assistance.

Background:

Union Budget, 2018-19 has announced that school education would be treated holistically and without segmentation from pre-primary to class XII. It is, in this context, that the Department launched the Integrated Scheme for School Education, Samagra Shiksha in 2018 by subsuming the erstwhile Centrally Sponsored Schemes of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), and Teacher Education (TE). The scheme treats school education as a continuum and is in accordance with Sustainable Development Goal for Education (SDG-4). The scheme not only provides support for the implementation of the RTE Act but has also been aligned with the recommendations of NEP 2020 to ensure that all children have access to quality education with an equitable and inclusive classroom environment which should take care of their diverse background, multilingual needs, different academic abilities and make them active participants in the learning process.

Images used for representational purposes only.

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Policy

Indian Educationist Col Sekhar Investigates The Consequences Of School Shutdown So Far

He also proposes effective ways for government and school administrators to create an economic environment for the educational institutions to survive in the academic year 2021-22.

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"It's a complete loss of a physical school year….OMG."

"Ek saal school nahi gaye toh kaunsa pahaad tootne wale hai…kya farak padta hai?"

"Online fatigue is rising and the consequences are beginning to affect all of us…"

(reference: https://theprint.in/india/education/as-online-classes-drag-on-fatigued-students-losing-interest-becoming-asocial-say-parents/542253/)

"We have managed to save substantial fees for a year…invaluable when our incomes have collapsed….our children will make up next year."

"100 lakh teachers and staff not paid, over a lakh school have collapsed…suicides…"

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The above quotes, from a school Principal, a male parent, media article, a female parent and from a deeply distressed budget school association leader, respectively, sum up the reality of schooling in India today.

Gingerly, some states have reopened schools this month for grades 9-12. The vast majority of states are unwilling, or more pertinently, less focused on this issue, for lack of even basic understanding of the challenges involved and revealing a severe lack of understanding of the long term consequences to India as a nation, when its 320 million students (Schools and Colleges together) have not been to their physical temples of learning since 25th March 2020.

Financially, a World Bank Study quoted by The Hindu of 12 Oct 2020 paints a grim picture:

“The extended closure of schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic could dent India’s future earnings by anywhere between $420 billion and $600 billion, as depleted learning levels of students will translate into poorer productivity going forward, the World Bank has said.”

After extensive conversations with informed stakeholders, my distilled understanding is that, for the scholastic world, it is almost a perfect storm – governments unwilling to see reason or make parents see reason, parents using this once in a lifetime opportunity to settle scores with “profiteering private schools", vested interests fishing in muddied waters, creating confusion, fear and organized disinformation.

Online learning has not quite been the nirvana it was purported to be; scratch below the surface and it is easy to see that the tech companies are also in deep business trouble. Excluding the Googles and Microsofts, of course. 

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Some of the consequences for students are beginning to be visible as enumerated below:

  • Lockdown fatigue
  • Online fatigue
  • Socioemotional challenges
  • Anti-social behaviour
  • Physical, verbal, psychological violence
  • Visiting inappropriate sites
  • Learning and understanding challenges
  • Overweight and obesity issues increasing by the day
  • Increasing disobedience and indiscipline
  • Claustrophobia and irritability

The above illustrative points coupled with increased sexual violence on children and significantly increased child labour and malnutrition (with school meals not available) have the potential to make our present demographic dividend rapidly hurtle towards a disaster.

Schools, within the limitations they are in, have done a remarkable job in getting schooling online under very difficult circumstances, yet the lack of money combined with teacher-motivation drops have made the situation worse.

The COVID situation has settled down; to expect schools to reopen only after zero cases are reported is silly. Does that mean, in the future, if there is one case of flu in the district, all schools will remain closed?

The Finance Minister has had many stimulus packages christened like Atmanirbhar Bharat 1, 2, etc.

Now is the time for the Finance Minister, in close conjunction with the Education Minister, to create a special package for the education industry named Shikshanirbar Bharat, with its prime focus on unlocking physical scholastic establishments and creating an economic environment for the institutions to survive. The following proposals are highlighted:

  1. Reopen schools one day in a week for every student (with COVID protocols) at the earliest.
  2. Form district-wise oversight committees of eminent educators and public health specialists to monitor school protocols and improve upon them.
  3. Gradually, after due diligence, extend them to two days in a week till March 2021.
  4. Create a special economic package for the over 1 lakh schools which have gone bust.
  5. Work out a vaccination programme between February and May 2021 for students.
  6. Get schools to buy into the programme fully and make them responsible.
  7. Introduce special vacation classes for accelerated learning.
  8. Reset the next academic year as – 3 days of face to face classes, 1 day of bagless school,1 day of online classes, and keeping Saturday as a half-day for tests and other activities.
  9. Reorganize/revise the syllabus. In this, the 2021-22 academic year is the distilled best of 2 years of learning compressed into one, in order to minimize the learning gaps.
  10. Involve quality NGOs that are doing stellar work.
  11. Consult with the State Governments and evolve a workable consensus.

 “Without prioritizing children, we could lose an entire generation as evidence mounts that the number of child labourers, child marriages, school dropouts and child slaves has increased as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe." – Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Laureate             

Need I say more?

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About the author: Colonel A Sekhar is a Soldier and Educationist Leader

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Policy

What The Progress Report Promises To Look Like & How That Can Take Place: NEP 2020

What we must remember as we imagine this report card of our student, is that if we want to see critical thinkers and problem solvers emerging from our schools, they must have ample opportunities to practice agency.

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The tail that has been wagging the dog called education is the Board Examination. This end-of-school summative public examination, that is taken by a miniscule percentage of students who enrolled in class 1 and managed to stay in school till Grades 10 and then (even less) 12, has been responsible for most of the resistance by teachers and parents, to changing methodology and curriculum.

The National Education Policy (NEP) initially speaks about aligning assessment to learning outcomes, but then takes a bold stand by stating that “The primary purpose of the assessment will indeed be for learning…” (my emphasis). Indeed if that word tells a story, it is that the apex body too knew that assessment was not primarily “for” learning and was failing its students!

The examination has been used by most schools as an instrument of terror. When the Right to Education Act 2009 disallowed the retention of students in the same class, a Principal complained about his inability to fail students so that the others were frightened into studying. I asked him whether he thought those students had taken admission in order to fail and become the symbol of disdain. To his credit, he reflected on my question and responded with “no, they take admission to learn”. This is what the NEP 2020 appears to be saying when it talks about a ‘progress card’ for every student rather than a ‘report card’.

What it also needs to describe, is what repercussions would be felt by a school if students are not seen making progress. Would the school and teachers be viewed as failing its students? Would the school leaders be required to ask their teachers why the students were not learning? How would the “excessive exam coaching and preparation” be removed from the student’s ecosystem if the school is unable to deliver the experiential learning that the NEP 2020 dreams for all students?

Instead of speaking about school accountability, NEP 2020 makes the Board examination ‘easier’ and less ‘high stakes’. The flexibility of ‘level’, readiness, choice, time, types of questions, promise to make the new National Assessment Centre a benign uncle who wants the nation’s young minds to feel secure and uses the State Achievement Survey (SAS) and the (NAS) as validation instruments that will “monitor and improve the school system”. The National Assessment Centre will set the standards, norms and guidelines for student assessment and evaluation, and even has an apt name – PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development).

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Then comes the all-important catch: “…any student who has been going to and making a basic effort in a school class will be able to pass and do well in the corresponding subject Board Exam without much additional effort” (NEP 2020, 4.37). 

Who determines “basic” and “additional” effort is not clearly stated. It could sound a lot like teachers who exhort their students to “work harder”, assuming that the student’s grades reflect lack of effort on the part of the student, not a lack of understanding. What basic effort can a student be making in a didactic class in which the teacher makes little or no effort to engage students? Just as the examination system has till-date encouraged rote learning, so has the teacher. If students who in the coming years do not make it through the school exams are categorised as “did not make a basic effort”, then the change in assessment would have accomplished very little.

School examinations will be “conducted by the appropriate authority” at the end of classes 3, 5, 8 to enable schools to track and report on their students’ progress. These key-stage assessments will inform the schools, students, teachers, parents whether the expected learning outcomes have been achieved and also help them plan improvement through remediations. The assessments would focus on testing core concepts, HOTS and application of learning in real-life situations.

While this would ensure that there are no surprises at the end of class 10 & 12, the question is whether the tail is truly changing teacher delivery and student engagement and whether it has the capability to wag the dog differently.

10 years ago, the idea of continuous comprehensive evaluation (CCE) was introduced as part of the Right to Education Act 2009. The view that “evaluation should be viewed as a component of the curriculum” and “as a part of the teaching-learning process” was considered revolutionary only because it had consistently been seen as desirable, but never before actually implemented. Unfortunately, the manner of the implementation only served to be a self-fulfilling prophecy that proved why “not failing” students would “not work”. A system built on examination fear as the driving force that would impel students to study and ‘pass’, does not change easily.

The NEP 2020 makes a second attempt to bring back this purpose of assessment in section 4.34. The key words once again are “regular and formative”, “competency-based”, “promotes learning and development” “tests higher-order skills, such as analysis, critical thinking, and conceptual clarity”. School owner Pankaj Bhalla of Little Scholars School, Uttarakhand welcomes the change “…targeting the early stages of development for pre-schoolers, building the right attitude while in the later years of schooling. The student can now channel their intelligence in accordance with their aptitude and career options at an earlier age. Technology allows the students access to information in a manner that is more easily understood.  NEP-2020 will lead to a change where memorizing and manual dexterity will decline and the student will be assessed on their analytical thinking, creativity, originality and initiative.”

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The ability to actualise this promise will depend heavily on the teachers’ clarity regarding these terms. What they mean with regard to daily classroom practise, will need to be detailed through video, audio and text resources. A common vocabulary and a common understanding will need to be developed across teachers. This agreement will also be required across the teacher education faculty, both pre-service and in-service. 

Since the NEP is contingent on all schools, private schools who already work on a common vocabulary are also welcoming of this approach. Shubadra Shenoy, Principal, Little Angels' International School says, “The NEP proposes well towards formative assessment of learning. At LAIS, these steps are a part of every lesson planning. As a leader, I'm quite content with what the NEP is proposing as the pedagogy is already in process in our schools. The concern is about the formal examination that it proposes for grades 3, 5 and 8. I’m unsure if this will create pressure on the teachers, learners and parents. The benchmarks are still not defined. I’m waiting to see what PARAKH has to offer. How much of this is going to affect the private schools and other boards is a big question.”

This time around, will the States see these progressive schools as resources? NEP suggests each private school should be buddies with a government school and work closely together. One of these shared projects could be the progress card. Section 4.35 of the NEP 2020 describes this progress card and its usage in detail. “The progress card will be a holistic, 360-degree, multidimensional report that reflects in great detail the progress as well as the uniqueness of each learner in the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains.” (NEP 2020, 4.35). Again, as in the CCE, we see the attempt to assess the ‘whole’ learner rather than specific subject knowledge possessed by the learner.

The cards will add up over the years, to become progress books, with complete profiles of the students, their strengths and the areas where they have to work on.  “It will include self-assessment and peer assessment, and progress of the child in project-based and inquiry-based learning, quizzes, role plays, group work, portfolios, etc., along with teacher assessment”. (NEP 2020, 4.35)

Rajesh Malhotra, school leader of a low-cost private school in New Delhi (Sainath Public School) agrees that the multi-dimensional assessment sounds good, and wonders about “…the implementation process and the time that will be needed to reach that stage. Where would help to transform come from? The existing teaching staff would need a stretched hand-holding and the absence of the fear of being judged. Is there enough time for all this to happen? Will the government acknowledge these challenges and offer ready help/guidance for reaching there? For the school leaders, it is a huge wake-up call that must be followed with concrete action steps. This would mean organising marathon awareness sessions on NEP, and investments in infrastructure up-gradation, teacher training and a dedicated support system.” 

School leaders like Rajesh know that it takes an enormous effort for the teachers to change and deliver the teaching and learning. The NEP offers help by reducing the syllabus to essential learning outcomes and core concepts and the introduction of higher-order thinking skills (HOTS). By doing this, it appears to make two assumptions. One, that teachers were not able to deliver inquiry-based and project-based learning because of the volume of information to be imparted. Two, that changing the nature of the questions would enable teachers to change their delivery and make use of their 50 hours of PD on online platforms.

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However, Kirsten A DSouza, Academic coordinator of a Somaiya school in rural Karnataka points out, “Teachers have to first change their mindset and understand what true education is and what it means to achieve the higher segments of Bloom's taxonomy. They will need to focus on improving a student's real potential to create something new rather than on what they are told to do. Also, schools must provide infrastructure and the resource for a student to grow in his/her area of interest. Parents must realise marks are not the only way to assess the growth and potential of a child. Students must want to master a skill, pursue their own interest while also acquiring knowledge.”

The Holistic Report Card includes self, teacher and peer assessments. “The holistic progress card will form an important link between home and school and will be accompanied by parent-teacher meetings in order to actively involve parents in their children’s holistic education and development. The progress card would also provide teachers and parents with valuable information on how to support each student in and out of the classroom.” (NEP 2020, 4.35).

While parent engagement has been identified as having a significant impact on 30-40% of students’ learning outcomes, it is AI that can pick up on where a student “is” and take them to the place where they would like to be. “AI-based software could be developed and used by students to help track their growth through their school years based on learning data and interactive questionnaires for parents, students, and teachers, in order to provide students with valuable information on their strengths, areas of interest, and needed areas of focus, and to thereby help them make optimal career choices.” (NEP 2020, 4.35).           

What we must remember as we imagine this report card of our student, is that if we want to see critical thinkers and problem solvers emerging from our schools, they must have ample opportunities to practice agency. If databases full of information about students are deployed to make their decisions for them, then we can rest assured our education system will continue to send out students who are afraid to think for themselves. AI must only act as a GPS does, guiding the students to where they want to go, not determining the goal and not deciding the route.  

For students to be able to choose for themselves, make mistakes, and reflect on and learn from their own decisions, their teachers, parents and data scientists need to understand how to step back and be supportive. Schools must remember that students enrol to learn, not to be graded. And that their primary job is to enable independent, critical thinkers who collaboratively and respectfully take care of themselves and the planet. 

About the author:

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Kavita Anand is the co-founder of Adhyayan Quality Education Services Pvt. Ltd. and Adhyayan Quality Education Foundation. Adhyayan is a movement and network of Indian and international educators, dedicated to systemically improving the quality of leadership and learning in schools. Adhyayan has worked with 7000 schools across 26 states in 11 languages, impacting more than a million students. She can be contacted at [email protected]

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OPINION: New Education Policy – Do We Need a Policy or an Action Plan?

This opinion piece looks at the rationale for a new policy in the school education sector.

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The first Education Policy was formulated in 1968. Thereafter, it was followed by the second one in 1986. Now a Committee has been constituted under the chairmanship of Dr K. Kasturirangan to formulate a new Education Policy. However, the key question is whether there is a need for a new Education Policy? It is undoubtedly true that what has so far happened in the education sector leaves a lot to be desired. However, whether the dismal performance is on account of the policy gap or there are other factors that are responsible for the current state of affairs. This paper looks at the rationale for a new policy in the school education sector.

Let us first try to understand what has not happened in the education sector. Why has it not happened? How can it happen (whether through policy intervention or otherwise)?

Two things have certainly happened during the current millennium. The infrastructure (school buildings) has certainly shown remarkable improvement though there is still a long way to go. And, thanks to the mid-day-meal, we have managed to get the child to the school. However, what is appalling is the poor quality of education that is imparted in most of the government schools. This is evidenced by the fact that the learning outcomes have actually come down during the past decade despite an enormous amount of investments. The number of teachers has gone up substantially and the average pupil-teacher ratio comes close to the required levels. However, this does not solve the problem of quality. To begin with, a large number of teachers are not qualified to teach, yet they are teaching. According to a rough estimate, out of 8 million teachers, around 1.4 million fall in this category. Politics has seeped into this cadre in the most insidious manner resulting in a skewed distribution of teachers in most of the states as the tendency is to hang in and around urban areas.

The Right to Education Act did precious little to salvage. In fact, in some cases, like no-detention policy and mandatory provision relating to qualification and number of teachers, it created more problems than it solved. A tedious process of the amendment had to be resorted to correct some of the wrongs.

Most of the action relating to education lies in the states. In any case, the country is too diverse to consider a single mandate by way of policy for the entire country. If a teacher does not go to a school in Kerala, he could well be “lynched” but in some of the states of northern India, they consider it their right not to go to the School. There are instances of these regular teachers employing a “substitute” to represent them and even teach on their behalf.

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Can a Policy solve the problems that beset this sector? In fact, as mentioned above, problems vary from region to region. In any case, if policies were to solve the problems of the country, they would have been solved long ago. There should be just a short policy statement outlining the objectives: “providing quality education to every child in the country”. What is actually required is an action plan clearly outlining: What needs to be done? How it will be done? Who will do it? And, by when it will be done? The roles of respective entities should be clearly defined so that the performance can be assessed. One has often wondered why should only the central government assess the performance of states? Why can’t it be the other way round?

The action plan needs to focus on the teacher who plays a pivotal role in imparting education. The entire value chain needs to be looked at, understood and interventions clearly outlined. Beginning with pre-service training, to the selection process, to in-service training, to transfer and posting, to the engagement of teachers in non-educational activities, to their promotional avenues and morale will need to be looked at. Action plan for each state will have to be worked out in detail, clearly outlining the roles of the central government and the respective state government. Intervention for each state will vary from state to state. Unlike the present dispensation, there will have to be sufficient flexibility in the central schemes to accommodate the differences among states. The whole approach has to be outcome-based rather than input-based as has been the case so far.

Our country has been obsessed with the western world. We had looked at Finland, England, Scotland, Holland and all the lands of the world but not at motherland. A lot of wonderful work is being done within the country but has so far gone unnoticed. “Policy” can not help in this regard. What needs to be done is to facilitate identification, understanding and scaling of successful practices. If these homegrown practices have succeeded in the prevalent objective conditions, the chances of their replication and scaling are pretty high as compared to an ‘imported’ idea or practice. What is also required is to learn from states, like Rajasthan, that have turned it around through some remarkable state-level interventions both administrative and financial.

Policy debates provide food for intellectual stimulation but what matters is what is done on the ground. Hence, the dire need for an action plan, policy debates can continue. 

Mr Anil Swarup is Former Secretary, School Education, MHRD, Govt. of India and Author of ‘Not Just A Civil Servant’

 

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Image courtesy: Indianfolk.com

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UNICEF “State of the World’s Children Report 2019”

As per UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children Report 2019, the Under 5 Mortality Rate in India is 37 per 1,000 live births against Global average of 39 per 1,000 live births in 2018, which translates to more than 8 lakhs under 5 deaths in India.

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Image attribution – UNICEF/UN0321726/Mejía

As per UNICEF's State of the World's Children Report 2019, the Under 5 Mortality Rate in India is 37 per 1,000 live births against Global average of 39 per 1,000 live births in 2018, which translates to more than 8 lakhs under 5 deaths in India.

As per the Sample Registration System (SRS) 2010-13 report of Registrar General of India, major causes of child mortality in India are: Prematurity & low birth weight (29.8%), Pneumonia (17.1%), Diarrheal diseases (8.6%), Other non-communicable diseases (8.3%), Birth asphyxia & birth trauma (8.2%), Injuries (4.6%), Congenital anomalies (4.4%), Ill-defined or cause unknown (4.4%), Acute bacterial sepsis and severe infections (3.6%), Fever of unknown origin (2.5%), All Other Remaining Causes (8.4%).

As per the UNICEF 2019 report, Globalization, urbanization, inequities, humanitarian crises and climate shocks are driving unprecedented negative changes in the nutrition situation of children around the world.

The Government of India has launched POSHAN (Prime Minister Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nourishment) Abhiyaan, to address malnutrition challenges in India by engaging all the important stakeholders in a convergent approach. The goals of POSHAN Abhiyaan are to prevent and reduce stunting, underweight and low birth weight by 2% per annum and the reduction of anemia by 3% per annum.

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The Government of India has also launched several schemes under the aegis of Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) to tackle malnutrition in the country including Anganwadi Services, Scheme for Adolescent Girls (SAG) and Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojna (PMMVY) to improve the nutritional and health status of children in the age-group 0-6 years. The Anganwadi Services scheme provides a package of six services i.e. Supplementary Nutrition, Pre School Non-formal Education, Nutrition and Health Education, Immunization, Health checkups, and referral services.

In order to address child mortality and morbidity, the Government of India is supporting all States/UTs under National Health Mission in implementation of Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child, Adolescent health and Nutrition (RMNCAH+N) strategy, which has following interventions:

  1. Strengthening essential newborn care at all delivery points, the establishment of Sick Newborn Care Units (SNCU), Newborn Stabilization Units (NBSU) and Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) units for the care of sick and small babies.
  2. Home Based Newborn Care (HBNC) and Home-Based Care of Young Children (HBYC) by ASHAs to improve child-rearing practices and to identify sick new-born and young children.
  3. Early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and appropriate Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) practices are promoted under Mothers’ Absolute Affection (MAA) in convergence with the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
  4. Universal Immunization Programme (UIP) is being supported to provide vaccination to children against life-threatening diseases such as Tuberculosis, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Polio, Tetanus, Hepatitis B, Measles, Rubella, Pneumonia and Meningitis caused by Haemophilus Influenzae B. The Rotavirus vaccination has also been rolled out in the country for prevention of Rota-viral diarrhoea. Mission Indradhanush is targeted to immunize children who are either unvaccinated or partially vaccinated i.e. those that have not been covered during the rounds of routine immunization for various reasons. Intensified Mission Indradhanush (IMI) 2.0 is rolled-out as per road-map for achieving 90% full immunization coverage across the country.
  5. Nutrition Rehabilitation Centres (NRCs) have been set up at public health facilities to treat and manage children with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) admitted with medical complications.
  6. Defeat Diarrhoea (D2) initiative has been launched for promoting ORS and Zinc use and eliminating the diarrhoeal deaths by 2025.
  7. Social Awareness and Actions to Neutralize Pneumonia Successfully (SAANS) initiative for reduction of Childhood morbidity and mortality due to Pneumonia.
  8. Anaemia Mukt Bharat (AMB) strategy as a part of Poshan Abhiyan aims to strengthen the existing mechanisms and foster newer strategies to tackle anaemia, which include testing & treatment of anaemia in school-going adolescents & pregnant women, addressing non-nutritional causes of anaemia and a comprehensive communication strategy. National Deworming Day (NDD) is implemented bi-annually every year for the deworming of children (one to nineteen years of age).
  9. All the children from 0 to 18 years of age are screened for 30 health conditions classified into 4Ds – Diseases, Deficiencies, Defects and Developmental delay under “Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakaram” (RBSK) to improve the quality of survival and to reduce out of pocket expenditure of families. District early intervention centre (DEIC) at the district health facility level is established for confirmation and management of the 4D’s.
  10. Village Health Sanitation and Nutrition Days (VHSNDs) are observed for the provision of maternal and child health services and awareness on maternal and child health and nutrition education through mass and social media to improve health practices and to generate demand for service uptake.
  11. Name-based tracking of mothers and children till two years of age is done through the RCH portal to ensure complete antenatal, intranatal, postnatal care and immunization as per schedule.
  12. Promotion of Institutional deliveries through cash incentive under Janani SurakshaYojana (JSY) and Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakaram (JSSK) which entitles all pregnant women delivering in public health institutions to absolutely free delivery including Caesarean section, post-natal care and treatment of sick infants up to one year of age. Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) is another maternity benefits programme under which cash incentive is provided to pregnant women and lactating mothers.

The Minister of State (Health and Family Welfare), Sh Ashwini Kumar Choubey stated this in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha.

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NITI Aayog to launch 2nd edition of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) India Index

NITI Aayog will launch the second edition of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) India Index, which documents the progress made by India’s States and Union Territories towards implementing the 2030 SDG targets, on 30 December 2019 at NITI Aayog, New Delhi.

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NITI Aayog will launch the second edition of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) India Index, which documents the progress made by India’s States and Union Territories towards implementing the 2030 SDG targets, on 30 December 2019 at NITI Aayog, New Delhi.

Fig 1 – List of SDGs, (Image courtesy – UN)

The SDG India Index and Dashboard 2019–20 have been developed in collaboration with the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI), the United Nations in India, and the Global Green Growth Institute. It will be launched by Dr Rajiv Kumar, Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog, in the presence of Members Dr Ramesh Chand, Dr VK Paul and Dr VK Saraswat, CEO Amitabh Kant, UN Resident Coordinator Renata Lok-Dessallien, MoSPI Secretary and Chief Statistician of India Pravin Srivastava, and NITI Aayog Adviser (SDGs) Sanyukta Samaddar.

NITI Aayog has the mandate of overseeing the adoption and monitoring of SDGs in the country, at the national and sub-national level. The SDG India Index, whose first edition was launched in December 2018, was the first tool developed by any large country to monitor the progress towards achieving SDGs at the sub-national level.

The SDG India Index and Dashboard 2019 tracks the progress of and ranks all States and UTs on 100 indicators drawn from MoSPI’s National Indicator Framework, comprising 306 indicators. It indicates where the country and its States and UTs currently are on SDG implementation, and charts the distance to be travelled to reach the SDG targets. The Index covers 16 out of 17 SDGs and a qualitative assessment on Goal 17. This marks an improvement over the 2018 Index, which covered only 13 goals.

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A glimpse into the committed new HRD Minister’s vision for education

With some sweeping changes on the anvil, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank appears committed to improving the education sector across multiple levels.

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File Photo: Used for representational purpose only

Teacher, prolific Hindi writer, ex-CM of Uttarakhand and Ph.D., the new Human Resource Development Minister Dr. Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank wears many hats. Succeeding Prakash Javadekar, Pokhriyal hails from Pinani Village, Pauri Garhwal, Uttar Pradesh. Graduating from Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna Garhwal University Srinagar (Garhwal), Uttarakhand in Arts, and acquiring his Ph.D., he also received a Doctor of Letters degree. He started his career as a teacher in Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-affiliated Saraswati Shishu Mandir. Nishank came into the limelight when he defeated five-time Congress MLA and education minister from Karnaprayag, Shivanand Nautiyal, to win the seat for the BJP in undivided Uttar Pradesh in 1990. Pokhriyal served as the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand from 2009 to 2011. After his term ended in 2011, he was out of the political spotlight for nearly eight years despite winning every election during this time. In the recent Lok Sabha polls, he retained the seat from Haridwar and defeated Ambrish Kumar of the Indian National Congress by a huge margin of 2.59 lakh votes, and was chosen to lead the Human Resource Development Ministry.

Here is a glimpse into the committed new HRD Minister’s vision for education and the changes he is ushering in…

Budgetary benefits

Expressing his gratitude to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for giving priority to education sector, HRD Minister Pokhriyal said that the aspirations of all stakeholders in education sector would be met by this budget. He expressed his happiness over the increased allocation of Rs 9,843.64 crore to the education sector from last year. Total allocation for the education sector has been increased from Rs 85,010 crore in 2018-19 to 94,853.64 crore in 2019-20. He also lauded the creation of the National Research Foundation (NRF), which, he said, would play a key role in coordinating the research of all the ministries.

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The central government has provided Rs. 781.42 crore to institutions under Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme (TEQIP) during last three years from 2016 to 2019. He also shared that an amount of Rs. 63.63 crore has been spent on high quality books and learning resources under TEQIP-III, which are being used in regular Teaching-Learning process at TEQIP-III institutes.

Pokhriyal also shared that the government has provided GATE training and Employability skill training to the final year students to improve their employability.
A total of 8,645 and 17,384 students have been provided training during 2017-18 & 2018-19 respectively through TEQIP-III. The newly admitted first year students are provided a 3-week bridge course in Mathematics, Physics, Communication skills and Computer, according to the HRD minister.

The minister also revealed that no other institutions are expected to be selected under TEQIP-III, as the programme is scheduled to conclude by September 30, 2020. There is no proposal to extend similar programmes to Commerce and Social Science Institutions.

School education

In the sector of school education, the Union minister has revealed that all private schools have been mandated to admit a minimum of 25 per cent of their students up to class 1 from weaker sections. Section 12 of the Right to Education Act mandates all private-aided, Special Category schools and private-unaided schools to admit in class I (or below) to the extent of at least 25 per cent of the strength of that class, children belonging to weaker sections and disadvantaged groups and provide free and compulsory education till its completion, he spelt out.

He also added that the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, which came into effect from April 1, 2019, makes it mandatory for government schools to provide elementary education to students. RTE also makes elementary education a fundamental right for all children in the age group of six to 14 years, he reiterated.
Pokhriyal also declared that the RTE Act under section 12 (2) also makes provision for reimbursement of expenditure to schools providing free and compulsory elementary education as specified in Section 12(1)(c). The school shall be reimbursed expenditure so incurred by it to the extent of per-child-expenditure incurred by the state, or the actual amount charged from the child, whichever is less, he added.

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Teacher appointment

Overturning a Supreme Court decision on reservation in appointment of teachers in universities, the Lok Sabha has passed a Bill that proposes to make a university or college a unit instead of a department for the purpose of providing reservation. The Bill is applicable to all Central universities. The Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers Cadre) Bill 2019, which will allow filling of about 8,000 existing vacancies in 41 Central universities and also provide 10 per cent reservation for economically weaker sections from the general category, was introduced to replace an ordinance issued in March this year.
In his reply to a debate on the Bill, HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank has said that the bill will give a major push to reforms in the education sector, making it inclusive and fulfilling aspirations of people from different categories.

Describing the bill as the beginning of a new era in the country’s education sector, Pokhriyal said that the proposed legislation showed the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government’s commitment for the welfare of the last man in the queue. He also said that those opposing the bill had exposed their lack of commitment to welfare of backwards in society.

While moving the bill for passage, Pokhriyal said that it aimed to provide for reservation of posts in appointments by direct recruitment of person belonging to the SC, ST, Socially and Economically Backward Classes and EWS to teachers’ cadre in certain Central Education Institutions. He informed the House that there is also provision of 10 per cent reservation for EWS in this Bill.

Major ‘stride’

The Ministry for Human Resource Development (MHRD) and University Grants Commission (UGC) have unveiled their plan to promote “socially relevant” and “nationally important” doctoral research. The scheme, dubbed ‘Scheme for Trans-disciplinary Research for India’s Developing Economy’ (STRIDE), will focus on integrated research that combines the study of different disciplines. The government has said it hopes to create research that will have “practical use” outside of academia as well. Candidates selected for this scheme will be given grants up to Rs 5 crore for their research projects. The HRD Ministry has said that the scheme would support capacity building for research that can “contribute to national priorities”.

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Union HRD Minister Dr. Ramesh Pokhriyal pointed out that the STRIDE scheme will strengthen research culture and innovation in colleges and universities and help students and faculty to contribute towards India’s developing economy with the help of collaborative research.

The Ministry is also likely to focus on research into Indian languages, with Pokhriyal revealing that the focus on Humanities and Human Sciences will boost quality research on Indian languages and knowledge systems.

STRIDE is divided into three distinct components. The first component aims at identifying young research scholars from across the country who will work towards solving problems that are local, regional, national and global in nature. This first component brings in the “practical” and “problem-solving” part of the scheme and is open to all disciplines with grants up to Rs 1 crore.

The second component aims to work towards research focused on India’s economic development and will involve students collaborating with government organizations, NGOs, universities and industries. Students can get a grant between Rs 50 lakh to Rs 1 crore.

The third and final component will focus on research in humanities and will involve students working with a “national network of eminent scientists from leading institutions”. The disciplines open to this component are philosophy, history, archaeology, anthropology, psychology, liberal arts, linguistics, Indian languages and culture, Indian knowledge systems, law, education, journalism, mass communication, commerce, management, environment, and sustainable development.
The government has set up an advisory committee under UGC Vice-Chairman Bhushan Patwardhan to oversee the scheme. Applications for STRIDE will be accepted from July 31.

Push for Indian members on QS jury

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The HRD Ministry has questioned the methodology adopted by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) to arrive at its world university rankings and has decided to recommend to the agency that it include at least 10 percent Indian members in its jury.

The London-based company, which is one of the most sought-after for judging educational institutes standards worldwide, released the 2020 edition of world university rankings last month where just three Indian universities made it to top 200.

The ministry would be making suggestions to QS on its methodology to reach the global ranking of the universities. It is felt that the QS jury is biased towards the western countries. Hence, it should have 10 percent of Indians on its panel.

The decision to make suggestions was evidently taken during a meeting of HRD Minister Dr. Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank' with the heads of Indian Institutes of Technology, Bombay and Delhi and the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. The three universities have featured in top 200 of the world university rankings table.
For the QS World University Ranking, institutes are scored on six basic parameters – academic reputation, employer reputation, faculty-student ratio, citations per faculty, international faculty, and international students.

Officials said that reputation of an institution accounts for 50 per cent of the marks – an area where the Indian universities lose out the maximum number of marks – due to the absence of Indian representation at QS' panel.

Additional DU campus

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The minister has also informed that the additional campus proposed by the Delhi University, stalled for three decades, may be ready by 2023. Replying to a question on the fate of long-standing proposal for a campus in West Delhi, Pokhriyal said the university has informed the ministry it will construct the campus on 16.79 acres in village Roshanpura of Najafgarh in southwest Delhi. The project will bring significant respite to hundreds of students from southwest Delhi, who at present are forced to undertake a long commute to either the north campus or the south campus, where colleges are scattered over a wide expanse of that part of the city. The project has been in limbo since 1989, due to a tussle between the Delhi Development Authority and Delhi University, ostensibly, over the construction of a road, which each party insists is the responsibility of the other. Hearing the dispute in 2018, the Delhi High Court upbraided the two parties for shelving the project for so long and expressed its concern over the rise in the cost of construction since 1989, the year when the land was allocated to the university.

HECI reforms

Draft legislation for setting up the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) is to be presented later in the year. The HRD Ministry is seeking to replace the University Grants Commission (UGC) with the HECI by repealing the UGC Act, 1951. The ministry had placed the draft Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) Act, 2018, slated to replace the UGC, in public domain for feedback and more than one lakh suggestions were received. The draft has apparently already been prepared and now feedback is sought from various stakeholders and state governments, after approval of which it will be put up in the cabinet. The draft legislation for setting up the HECI will help to comprehensively reform the regulatory system of higher education to promote greater autonomy and focus on better academic outcomes.

According to the draft, the new commission will focus solely on academic matters and monetary grants would be under the purview of the ministry.

Some of the highlights of the HECI Act 2018, according to the HRD Ministry, are less government and more governance, separation of grant-related functions, end of inspection raj, powers to enforce compliance with academic quality standards and to order the closure of sub-standard and bogus institutions.

Regional language boost

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The HRD Minister has shared that textbooks of university-level are being translated and published in 22 languages. In his response to a written question in the Lok Sabha, he revealed, “The university-level textbooks are being translated and published in all the 22 languages of Eighth Schedule of Constitution of India under various schemes of government of India.”

Listing steps to promote regional languages in higher education courses in the country, Pokhriyal said that the Commission for Scientific and Technical Terminology (CSTT) is providing publication grant towards the publications of university-level books in regional languages.

So far books have been published in 11 Indian languages including Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya , Punjabi, Tamil and Telugu, he pointed out.

With some sweeping changes on the anvil, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank appears committed to improving the education sector across multiple levels.

This article was originally published in the 3rd Anniversary (August 2019) issue of ScooNews magazine. Subscribe to ScooNews Magazine today to have more such stories delivered to your desk every month.

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Every child must have the right to education irrespective of their background.

Unfortunately in India we have different systems of education. A system for the elite, mediocre, low income groups and the poor. Due to this segregation, quality cannot be ensured.

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The National Convener of the RTE Forum Ambarish Rai is a man who’s not very popular among the politicians as he raised very controversial questions regarding the state of the education systems and policies in the country. Ambarish hails from a landlord family with his father being the chief medical officer in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

Influenced by Julius Fuchik, a Czech revolutionary and Shahid Bhagat Singh, he started his education movement during his student days against the dual system of education in India. He held a rally from Varanasi to Dehradun. He and fellow protestors protested in front of the Doon school considering that this school had introduced the dual education system in the country. They were lathi charged and arrested.

50 years ago the first education commission led by Daulat Singh Kothari recommended a common school system because schools are a place of socialization.  Ambarish says that every child whether rich or poor, upper or lower caste should come under one roof to learn from each other and form a big strong society. Bringing integration in the society has to start from education. Since India still has a segregated hierarchical society he started the education movement.

In a case called the Unnikrishnan judgement he stated as an example, the Supreme Court said that “Education is the right to life”. If people were not educated then they weren’t leading dignified lives. It is the state’s duty to provide quality education to every child upto the age of 14 years, and if resources permitted then that education should go beyond 14 years.

Ambarish Rai formed an organisation in the year 2000 by bringing people together from the society and fought for the fundamental right to education in the constitution to provide education upto the age of 18 years. He brought 40,000 people to the Ram- Leela maidan in Delhi in 2001 to make pre- primary and higher secondary education compulsory.

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If there is no equality then there won’t be quality in education. Quality is not isolated but is a perspective. Improvement in the personality of a child comes from the quality of the environment, quality of the teacher, infrastructure and a good curriculum. This will not be possible if the system is not equal.

Unfortunately in India we have different systems of education. A system for the elite, mediocre, low income groups and the poor. Due to this segregation, quality cannot be ensured. A campaign for common school systems was started to focus on passing a law to provide suggestions to correct the system. The group contained intellectuals, people from the masses, professors, the former foreign secretary, educationists and universities to provide suggestions to the drafting committee.

It was Ambarish’s dream to bring all the children together and there be no discrimination in education. The government didn’t quantify the expenditure needed for it. It would require the full extent of resources and commitment of the state. There should be 75 thousand crores additional funds for the implementation of RTE and if every year up to 5 years, an additional amount of 75 thousand crores were brought to the RTE then education could be universalised. But the government has allotted only 25 thousand crores per year (not an additional fund) in the total budget.

Due to the lack of resources only 9.5% of the schools were made RTE compliant. It is a bad situation. The law that was passed came after a 100 years struggle and should not be allowed to go in vain. So in 2010 Ambarish formed the RTE forum which included 10,000 grass root organisations that had educationists, Dalit movements, minority movements, movements working for displacement, movements working for tribal areas come together. Education is an agenda that brought all the people together and they started the annual stock taking convention and brought state reports annually.

RTE is the largest civil society platform on education in India where everybody comes together and raises issues and submits their recommendations.

ScooNews interviewed him and asked him a few questions.

Have you had an open debate with the MHRD on a public platform?

50 years ago Kothari had said 6% had to be allocated from the GDP for education and 3% has to go to secondary education. Nowadays we are investing less than 4%. The issue that we face today is that there are 5 lakh teacher vacancies and 6 lakhs are contractual teachers. When Rs. 2.5 lakhs is paid as monthly salary for a cabinet secretary and only Rs.3000-5000 is paid a month to teachers, then what is the dignity of the teachers? Teachers work and are overburdened. They are made to do election duties, census, accounts, aadhar cards, etc. Teachers are responsible for making the future citizens of India.

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They have been given a precious job but are demotivated from doing their original duty. Without training or focus on education or child centric teachers or the right qualifications you can’t bring quality education. These are the problems.

The school scenario in India is horrible. The UN has called for the universalization for secondary education. But in India according to the census still 8 crore children are out of schools. The MHRD brought data in 2013 that 6 million children are out of schools and that is a big number. The biggest challenge are the dropouts. Children are not completing their education. 40% of the children drop out before they complete their 8th std and 60% drop out before they complete their 12th std.

Among the drop outs are the Adivasis, Dalits, Muslims, children from the remote areas and mostly the girl child. For the present no road map for education has been declared by the government of India. Resources have also come down. The UPA government has introduced 2% cess to fill the gaps. 65% of the funds come from cess. The original funding for education was declined. So cess has become the basic source for funding. This just goes to show that the people are being cheated.

Private sectors are coming in, but a regulation must be set for the private sectors. Bridge International Academy and Pearsons run the Omega schools. They charge 6 dollars as their monthly fees. I have visited their schools in Nairobi and they are in a bad state with no proper hygiene, qualified staff or even clean drinking water.

Bridge International has just signed a MOU with the Andhra Pradesh government of India. They have decided to give up 4,000 government schools to Bridge International to run them under low cost schools. The government is just abdicating its responsibilities.

There are only 400 teacher training institutes run by the government. 92% of the other institutes are run by private sectors. Parameters have to be set for the government and private sectors. Kendriya Vidyalaya, Prathibha Vidyalaya are government schools but they get 10 times the allocation and the teachers are not duty bound to do any other work.

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You have been demanding RTE for children under the age of 6yrs of age. But research says that children below that age should be left to bloom. How do you handle these contradictions?

Private systems runs nursery schools and government systems run it under the ICDS. It is a big scheme in Asia and deals with malnutrition, health issues and education. The education component in The ICDS is very weak. Children under the age of 6 should have the legal right to education only then the government will invest money across the K-12 sector. The law will ensure the resources for those children and that they have comprehensive legal entitlement for all children upto the age of 18 years.

The biggest challenge are the dropouts. Children are not completing their education. 40% of the children drop out before they complete their 8th std and 60% drop out before they complete their 12th std.

You are from Delhi. How would you rate Manish Sisodia as the education minister?

The Delhi government has done a good job on education. The AAP has increased the education budget by 24% which has been a substantial increase. The focus area that they have chosen is education. There are 27,000 teachers and money should be invested in training them. Bringing teachers from other countries like Finland will not work. But AAP is doing a better job than the rest, but they should be open to suggestions. They brought the Chunauti Program in 3 levels which is wrong. But their intentions are good.

What do you do besides being an RTE activist? How do you earn your daily bread and butter?

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I work as a counsel for social development. It is a reputed research industry. I’m using that research and study to build a national movement. I take a fixed salary which takes care of my personal expenses. We get contributions from the people as we are critical of the government.

I’m sure you have watched the Anil Kapoor movie ‘Nayak’. What would you do if you became the minister for HRD for India? What are the two things that you would change?

I would force the finance minister to prioritise education and I would strengthen and re-organise the education system on the basis of equitable and quality education.

Any political desires in the coming days?

No, I don’t think like that as politics is very volatile.

India has a long way to go to clean up and change the systems that are in place. Though small changes are being made it is instrumental to make sure not to deprive the future generations of the right to education.

This article was originally published in the May 2017 issue of ScooNews magazine. Subscribe to ScooNews Magazine today to have more such stories delivered to your desk every month. 

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Policy

UP Government tells private schools not to hike fees during the term

The Uttar Pradesh government on Friday conducted a meeting with the education department to discuss new policies and rules for monitoring and working of private schools in the state.

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The Uttar Pradesh government on Friday conducted a meeting with the education department to discuss new policies and rules for monitoring and working of private schools in the state.

The education committee, which is headed by the principal secretary (secondary education) Jitendra Kumar, decided that private schools in the state were not to sell school books or uniform.

Additionally, the schools must declare their fee structure on the official website, which cannot be changed during the year on any grounds.

The government is also working on a move that mandates refund of entire fees, if the parents withdraw their child from the school.

The nine-member committee was constituted to suggest ways to curb commercialization of education and excessive fee charged by private schools in the state and will soon hold another meeting in this regard and send its recommendations to the government.

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Image and news source: News18

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