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What was considered while drafting the National Education Policy draft?

A look at the current education scenario in India and what forms the foundation for the recommendations of the TSR Subramanian.

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The past 2 months has seen a flurry of activities in conjunction with the HRD Ministry to create a draft National Education Policy. The formulation of a committee and mass public consultations are efforts that have been taken for the first time to create a truly nation-facing policy. When finally the draft of the policy was out, media was rife with news about the tussle between the head of the committee T.S.R. Subramanian and the HRD minister Smriti Irani over making the recommendations of the public consultations public.

Amidst all this, the committee recommendations have been made public. Here we try to peep into the mind of T.S.R. Subramanian – the man of the moment and the head of the committee tasked with assisting the ministry in formulating the policy. The following thoughts belong to Subramanian.

For most people the images of flagrant mass copying at Bihar examination centres are firmly etched in their minds and are synonymous with the state of Indian education in 2015. Then, the “topper” scam was revealed in the media last week; again, originating from Bihar and quickly became the symbol of all that is wrong with the examination system. However, spare a moment to think, is this only a Bihar phenomenon? What is the state of education in the rest of India?

In terms of sheer size, the Indian education system is among the largest in the world, with about 26 crore children enrolled in Classes I to XII located in 36 States and Union Territories, 683 districts, about 7,300 blocks and more than 82,000 clusters, covering more than 15 lakh schools; the total number of teachers functioning in the system (in public and private schools) is to the tune of 80 lakh. These figures don’t include enrolment figures from higher education institutions, which cover more than 3 crore students. In many senses, this is one of the largest areas of direct contact between the state and the citizen, with nearly 20% of the population directly involved daily in the teaching or learning process.

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The National Education Policies of 1968, and 1986 as modified in 1992, had endorsed a norm of 6% of the gross domestic product (GDP) as the minimum expenditure on education. However, this target has never been met. The expenditure by Education Departments of the Centre and the States has never risen above 4.3% of the GDP, and is currently around 3.5%.

As compared to a meagre 12% in 1947, the overall literacy rate in India in 2011 was 74%, with a male literacy rate of 82.1% and a female literacy rate of 65.5%. However, having travelled such a long road we are still below the world average literacy rate of 84%, and India currently has the largest illiterate population in the world.

Let’s look at the state of Elementary education (Classes I-VIII) today

The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan programme launched for the universalisation of education (Education for All), along with the no-detention policy, has resulted in a significant enhancement both in the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) to over 95%, and in the enrolment of girls.

In 2014-15, there were 14 lakh schools in the country imparting elementary education, with a total enrolment of 19.77 crore. Of these, government schools numbering 11 lakh accounted for an enrolment of 11.9 crore students at the elementary level.

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In 2014-15, the retention rate at the primary level was 83.7% and it was as low as 67.4% at the elementary level. Roughly, 40% children enrolled in Class I were leaving school before completing Class VIII (U-DISE, 2014-15).

Focussing on the Quality of education

NGO Pratham’s The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2014 survey found that nearly half of the Class V students were not able to read at Class II level; nearly the same proportion of Class V students did not have basic arithmetic skills, which they should have learned by the end of Class II (ASER 2015). It is a telling sign of the quality of education being imparted today. Here a special mention needs to be given to Gunotsav, a mass assessment process, first introduced in Gujarat in 2009, which is now being implemented with variations in some other States as well.

All the surveys reveal that at an all-India level, the percentage of older girls (in the 11-14 age groups) not enrolled in school has dropped from 10% in 2006 to close to 5% in 2014. Except for Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, the figure has dropped significantly for many States, with Bihar showing the steepest decline from 17.6% in 2006 to 5.7% in 2014. In fact, if we were to account on ground figures attendance rate checked randomly at government schools stood at about 71% of enrolled children, though these figures need to be taken with a pinch of salt.

While these are encouraging figures, the quality of education, in terms of learning outcomes, is undeniably poor, particularly in the government school system. This figure is of grave concern because approximately 80% of all recognised schools at the elementary stage are government-run or supported. Reading is a foundational skill; without being able to read well, a child cannot progress in the education system and it is found that reading outcomes are unacceptably poor, particularly in government and rural schools.

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For example, ASER 2014 found that over 75% of children in Class III and over 50% in Class V could not read texts meant for the Class II level. At the national level, children in rural schools in Class II who could not even recognise letters of the alphabet increased from 13.4% in 2010 to 32.5% in 2014. Further, when compared year-on-year, reading levels for children enrolled in government schools in Class V showed a decline between 2010 and 2012. While reading levels in Class V in private schools were also not very high, the gap in reading levels between children in government schools and private schools appears to be growing over time.

In sum, half of all children in Class V have not yet learned basic skills that they should have learned by Class II. Close to half of all children will finish 8 years of schooling but will still not have learned basic arithmetic. However, it is also important to know that the Indian child, given the opportunity, is a fast learner—a fact which cuts across every district in every corner of India. The failure to provide the opportunity for a decent education to every child, even 7 decades after Independence, is a severe indictment of our governance standards.

Noteworthy news from recent times is that the Allahabad High Court took cognisance of the poor quality of education in government schools and directed all government servants in Uttar Pradesh to send their children only to public schools run by the State Basic Education Board.

Let’s move on to understand the state of the Secondary & higher secondary education (Classes IX to XII)

At the secondary stage, the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) is the most important programme rolled out by the HRD Ministry. It has the twin aims of enhancing access to and improving the quality of secondary education in the country.

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Enrolment numbers are sought to be increased by establishing a secondary school within a reasonable distance of all habitations and by removing gender, socio-economic and disability barriers to education.  A list of prescribed infrastructural and physical facilities is already present including adequate number of classrooms, laboratories, libraries, art and crafts rooms, toilet blocks, drinking water availability, electricity connection, telephone and Internet connectivity and disabled-friendly amenities. However, the fact is that even minimum infrastructure standards are not available in most schools, particularly in the hinterland.

Bringing equity in the system is important and that aspect is addressed by focusing on micro-planning and opening schools in areas with concentrations of Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes/Minorities. Undertaking a special enrolment drive for the weaker sections, providing more female teachers in schools and separate toilet blocks for girls are some of the other significant moves.

The RMSA aims at achieving a GER of 100% by 2017 and universal retention by 2020. While the first target could be seriously addressed, it is highly doubtful if it would be realistic to retain the “retention” target by 2020, even if major remedial steps are urgently undertaken.

The spread of secondary education throughout the country remains uneven. Regional disparities continue as do differences in access depending on the socio-economic background of students. Absence of teachers, lack of incentives and low academic standards in government schools has contributed to the rise of the private sector in secondary school education.

Where does Higher education stand today?

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There has been a virtual explosion in the number of universities and colleges in the country. Many students join university courses merely to obtain a degree, which has come to be considered as a sine qua non for white (and even blue) collar employment and social status.

At last count, there were 46 Central universities and 128 deemed-to-be universities in the country (UGC Annual Report 2014-15). The Indian higher education system, which includes technical education, is one of the largest in the world. The number of universities has grown from 27 in 1950-51 to 621 in 2010-11 and further to 712 in 2013-14. The number of institutes has grown from 11,095 in 2010-11 to 11,443 in 2012-13.

The private sector is playing a more active role in the growth of colleges and institutions in India. In 2011-12, 63.9% of the total number of colleges and institutes were in the private sector and 58.9% of the total number of students were enrolled in private colleges and institutes. State institutes accounted for 35.6% and Central institutes for 0.5% of the total number of colleges and institutes.

Even today the utility of higher education in assuring employment is questionable. Many graduate and postgraduate students do not get jobs in their respective fields even after spending several years in acquiring higher education. While the problem of educated unemployed youth remains acute, there is also, paradoxically, a shortage of skilled manpower in the labour market.

The global ranking of universities is a useful indicator of their institutional performance, based on a relative assessment in the areas of research and teaching, reputation of faculty members, reputation among employers, resource availability, share of international students and activities and other factors. Hence the recommendation of a rating scale for higher education institutes on a scale of 1-8.

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In conclusion, the most noteworthy point that emerges is that while issues of accessibility and enrolment have dramatically improved in the past decades and much progress has been made in relation to equity in opportunities, issues relating to quality of education at both school and higher levels have not been addressed adequately either in policy or in practice; indeed, there is a secular decline in the overall quality of education. Necessarily, issues of equity, as also of quality have to be the main focus of any new national policy.

Serious reforms are imperative and brook no delay. Major new directions now need to be taken. Issues of immediate concern and administrative constraints should not be allowed to override the medium- and long-term measures essential for major reforms. The country is now looking to the Government of India to give a new direction in the field of education. The steps taken now will determine if India will be a leading nation in the world this century.

This post is based on an article originally published here.

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Questioning the Trend of Lavish Farewells- #FarewellFiasco

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The image is generated using AI

Imagine your child is attending their Year 12 farewell. It is a night they have been looking forward to, marking the end of their school journey and the start of something new. The atmosphere is charged with excitement, laughter, and the bittersweet feeling of saying goodbye. As the evening wraps up, the buzz does not fade; it shifts to the streets. A group of friends, adrenaline still running high from the night’s celebrations, decide to extend the farewell with a car rally. Among them is Aarav, driving his family’s SUV, a vehicle too powerful for his inexperienced hands.

The city sleeps as the convoy of cars snakes its way through the deserted streets, the hum of engines breaking the night’s silence. Aarav, feeling the thrill of the chase, pushes the pedal down, the speedometer needle climbing higher and higher. His friends, in the car beside him, cheer him on, the competition heating up as they approach the ring road. It is a wide stretch, seemingly perfect for their race, away from the prying eyes of the night.

But in a heartbeat, the night turns tragic. Aarav loses control. The SUV, now a projectile, careers off the road, skidding and tumbling for what seems like an eternity. The aftermath is a scene of devastation. The vehicle, unrecognisable, lies in ruins, and silence once again claims the night, now heavy with the weight of consequences.

By the time the first light of dawn touches the sky, the police are at the scene, piecing together the events. The accident leaves one young soul lost to the night and another battling for life in hospital. Questions swirl around the circumstances that led to this moment. Was it the rush of speed, a momentary lapse in judgement, or something more? The community is left reeling, grappling with the reality of a celebration turned catastrophe.

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As the investigation unfolds, the police sift through CCTV footage, trying to trace the sequence of events and the other vehicles involved. Speculations arise that the tragedy was the result of a high-speed race gone wrong. Amidst this, a family mourns the loss of their child, a farewell that was meant to be a celebration now a memory marred by loss and regret.

This story, though actual, has been anonymized to protect the identity and privacy of the student involved. It highlights a critical issue prevalent in communities worldwide: the trend of extravagant farewells escalating into dangerous activities, posing threats not only to the students but also to society as a whole.

As we reflect on this story, it compels us to ask: Is the pursuit of a grand goodbye worth the price of a life? How do we balance the celebration of milestones with the responsibility we owe to our children’s safety and to each other? This tale, inspired by true events, leaves us pondering the traditions we uphold and the lessons we impart to the young minds we are nurturing for the future.

To read more on such trends that need to be called out and #un-trended, head to the April issue of our magazine here

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STEMpedia Successfully Completed Codeavour 5.0- India’s National Innovation Fest

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STEMpedia, in collaboration with ART PARK@IISc, India’s premier AI & Robotics Technology Park, established by the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru, successfully concluded the national level event of 2023’s biggest innovation fest, Codeavour 5.0 International. This year’s event, supported by leading organisations including AI Foundry, Startup India, and INDIAai, witnessed participation from 300,000 students across 70 countries, underscoring its global impact and the cumulative achievements of the competition to date.

The event, which also enjoyed backing from entities like AWS, NITI Aayog, and STEM.org, focused on fostering hands-on learning and innovation among next-gen participants. They were encouraged to create projects using PictoBlox that would contribute towards making the world a better place, aligning with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Dhrupal Shah, Director and CEO of STEMpedia, reflected on the journey and the fest’s objectives, saying, “Five years ago, we initiated Codeavour with the intention to empower young innovators and equip them with the necessary skills for the future workforce. This year, we are thrilled to announce that the top 20 winners will be awarded a trip to Mexico to participate in the FAB24 Event, accompanied by their mentors.”

The fest not only highlighted the technical skills of young minds but also provided them with a platform to showcase their creative solutions to real-world problems. In addition to the innovation and entrepreneurship track, participants competed in the AI-Robo City Challenge, demonstrating their prowess in applying AI and robotics to urban development challenges.

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The panel discussion titled “AI EduFusion Conclave: Shaping Global School Education with AI, Robotics, and Policy Insights” was a highlight of the event, featuring experts like Dr. Sreejit Chakrabarthy from GEMS Dubai American Academy and Mr. Pankaj Verma from STEMpedia. The discussion provided insights into how governments and educational institutions are integrating AI and robotics into school curriculums to prepare students for future job markets.

The event culminated with the National Innovation Awards, where participants presented projects that tackled environmental challenges and proposed sustainable solutions. Winners from the event will now proceed to the International Showdown in Dubai, hosted in partnership with Dubai American Academy.

As Codeavour 5.0 International wraps up, its success marks a significant step forward in integrating technology and education, inspiring the next generation of innovators and leaders to think critically and act creatively. The continued expansion of this fest promises to keep pushing the boundaries of what young students can achieve in the fields of AI and robotics.

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Reviving School Education: Countering the Coaching Centre Dominance

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In recent years, a troubling trend has emerged within the educational landscape: the rise of “Dummy Admissions,” where students formally enrolled in schools are effectively abandoning the classroom in favour of coaching institutes. This phenomenon, particularly prevalent from the 11th standard onwards, sees students dropping out of school to prepare for competitive exams under the tutelage of coaching centres, which were originally intended to supplement, not supplant, school education.

The shift has been stark. Coaching, once a support system, has transformed into a parallel education industry, with some arguing it overshadows the broader developmental benefits of traditional schooling. This evolution poses a critical question: How can schools reclaim their role not just as preparatory grounds for board exams but as sanctuaries of holistic education that truly prepare students for life?

The Diminishing Role of Schools

The primary role of any educational institution is to foster an environment conducive to learning, curiosity, and personal growth. Schools are meant to be arenas where young minds receive a balanced education — academically, socially, and emotionally. However, the allure of scoring top marks in competitive exams has tilted the focus sharply towards rote learning and intensive exam preparation, often at the expense of holistic development.

The Coaching Conundrum

Coaching centres operate with a laser focus on results, primarily targeting competitive exams like the JEE, NEET, and others. This narrow approach prioritises immediate academic results over long-term learning and personal development. Students, driven by the pressure to excel in these high-stakes environments, often find themselves estranged from the broader educational experiences that school offers — experiences that are crucial in shaping well-rounded individuals capable of adapting to life’s varied challenges.

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Reclaiming the Sanctuary of Education

For schools to regain their central place in the educational journey of students, they must evolve to meet the diverse needs of their students. Here are a few strategies that could help schools reassert their relevance:

  1. Integrated Curriculum: Schools could integrate aspects of competitive exam preparation into their regular curriculum, thus reducing the need for external coaching. This would allow students to prepare for exams without missing out on the broader educational offerings of the school.
  2. Focus on Skill Development: Beyond academic prowess, schools should enhance their focus on developing critical life skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, and communication. These skills are crucial for success in professional and personal life and can make schooling more relevant.
  3. Counselling and Support Services: Enhanced counselling services can help students navigate their educational pathways and career choices effectively. Schools should equip students with the tools to make informed decisions about their futures.
  4. Experiential Learning: Schools must emphasise experiential and contextual learning, making education a more engaging, practical, and enjoyable experience. This can be achieved through project-based learning, internships, and real-world problem-solving scenarios.
  5. Parental Engagement: Engaging parents in the educational process and informing them about the importance of a balanced education can help shift the focus from mere exam preparation to overall development.
  6. Promotion of Arts and Sports: Encouraging participation in arts, sports, and other co-curricular activities can enrich students’ educational experience and support the development of a wide range of skills.

As the educational landscape continues to evolve, the challenge for schools is not just to prepare students for exams but to prepare them for life. In a world increasingly dominated by coaching centres, schools must innovate and broaden their educational offerings to ensure they remain valued not just as conduits to board results but as launchpads for the futures of students. It’s about striking a balance between academic rigor and holistic development, ensuring that schools remain the nurturing grounds for the leaders of tomorrow.

To read more on such trends that need to be called out and #un-trended, head to the April issue of our magazine here

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CBSE to Initiate Pilot for National Credit System in Grades 6, 9, and 11

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The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) is set to launch the pilot for National Credit Framework for students in classes 6, 9, and 11, commencing in the 2024-25 academic session. This innovative step, aimed at fostering a seamless integration of school, higher, and vocational education, aligns with the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020’s vision for a holistic and flexible educational system.

Under the new scheme, students will have the opportunity to earn credits through a variety of learning avenues, including classroom teaching, laboratory work, projects, sports, performing arts, NCC, social work, vocational education, and experiential learning. These credits will be accumulated in the Academic Bank of Credit (ABC), linked to the student’s APAAR ID and DigiLocker, ensuring a cohesive and secure record of their academic journey.

The introduction of the National Credit Framework marks a significant shift towards competency and outcome-based education, aiming to bridge the gap in achieving learning outcomes. It encourages students to engage in additional courses, programs, or projects beyond the mandatory 40 credits, offering them the flexibility to tailor their educational experiences to their interests and career aspirations.

To facilitate the smooth implementation of this framework, the CBSE has developed draft guidelines, which have been refined through multiple workshops and received approval from the Union Ministry of Education. “To further test, refine, and assess their effectiveness in real-world contexts, a pilot implementation of these guidelines has been planned in schools affiliated with CBSE,” stated a letter from the CBSE to school principals.

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Schools interested in participating in this groundbreaking pilot program have been invited to register their interest, marking a collaborative effort to enhance the educational offerings for students across the nation.

This initiative not only promises to transform the way students learn and earn qualifications but also paves the way for a more inclusive and flexible education system that caters to the diverse needs and aspirations of India’s youth. As the CBSE embarks on this ambitious journey, it sets the stage for a future where education is not just about accumulation of knowledge but the holistic development of every student.

(Source- PTI)

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The Role of Marketing in Education: Navigating the New Educational Landscape

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In an increasingly competitive and interconnected world, the concept of marketing, once synonymous with businesses and industries, has found its place within the realm of education. As educational institutions vie for attention amidst a cacophony of voices, the need for strategic marketing and public relations (PR) efforts has become paramount. While the moral implications of marketing in education may spark debate, there is a compelling argument for incorporating marketing concepts into the educational curriculum, equipping students, teachers, and parents with the knowledge and skills to make informed decisions in an ever-evolving educational landscape.

Gone are the days when educational institutions relied solely on their academic prowess to attract students. In today’s digital age, where information is abundant and attention spans are fleeting, the ability to cut through the noise and communicate effectively has become a prerequisite for success. From crafting compelling brand narratives to leveraging social media platforms, educational institutions are embracing marketing strategies to enhance their visibility and appeal to prospective students and stakeholders.

However, the incorporation of marketing into the educational sector extends beyond mere promotional efforts. At its core, marketing is about understanding the needs and preferences of your target audience and delivering value accordingly. By teaching marketing concepts to students, educators empower them with critical thinking skills and an understanding of consumer behaviour, enabling them to navigate the complex marketplace of ideas and opportunities.

Moreover, marketing education goes beyond the classroom, extending its reach to teachers and parents alike. Educators, tasked with shaping the minds of future generations, can benefit from an understanding of marketing principles to engage students more effectively and create meaningful learning experiences. Similarly, parents, as key stakeholders in their children’s education, can make more informed decisions about school choice and educational resources by understanding the marketing strategies employed by educational institutions.

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Critics may argue that the commodification of education undermines its intrinsic value and fosters a culture of competition at the expense of collaboration. While these concerns are valid, it is essential to recognize that marketing, when approached ethically and responsibly, can serve as a powerful tool for positive change. By promoting transparency, accountability, and accessibility, marketing can help bridge the gap between educational institutions and the communities they serve, fostering a culture of trust and mutual respect.

The integration of marketing concepts into the educational curriculum represents a paradigm shift in how we approach education in the digital age. By equipping students, teachers, and parents with the knowledge and skills to navigate the complexities of the modern educational landscape, we empower them to make informed decisions and drive meaningful change. As we embrace the potential of marketing in education, let us remain mindful of its ethical implications and strive to harness its power for the greater good.

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From Overwhelmed to Empowered: Strengthening Educator Skills for Success

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In the corridors of any classroom, teachers stand as pillars of guidance, tasked not only with imparting knowledge but also with nurturing the holistic development of their students. However, the onerous burden of managing a multitude of responsibilities within resource-constrained environments poses a formidable challenge, underscoring the urgent need for enhanced teacher training programmes.

At the heart of this challenge lies the staggering class sizes prevalent in Indian schools. With classrooms often overflowing with 35 or more students, the task of catering to diverse learning needs while maintaining order can seem insurmountable. Effective classroom management techniques, tailored to accommodate large cohorts, are essential for fostering a conducive learning environment and mitigating stress for both teachers and students.

Moreover, the complexity of the modern educational landscape necessitates a multifaceted approach to teaching. From addressing academic gaps to promoting socio-emotional well-being, educators are expected to wear multiple hats, often without adequate training or support. Enhanced teacher training programmes must equip educators with the pedagogical tools and strategies necessary to navigate this intricate web of responsibilities effectively.

Central to the need for better teacher training is the imperative of managing workload and stress. The relentless demands of completing the curriculum, crafting assessments, and addressing administrative tasks can take a toll on educators’ mental health and overall well-being. By providing teachers with comprehensive training in stress management techniques, time management strategies, and self-care practices, we can empower them to strike a balance between professional duties and personal wellness.

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Addressing the point of the topics that should be touched upon, these teacher training programmes must encompass modules on effective assessment practices and differentiated instruction. By equipping educators with the skills to design assessments that cater to diverse learning styles and abilities, we can ensure that every student receives the support they need to thrive academically. Similarly, training in differentiated instruction enables teachers to tailor their teaching methods to meet the individual needs of each student, fostering a more inclusive and equitable learning environment.

In addition to addressing immediate challenges, enhanced teacher training programmes must also focus on future-oriented skills and competencies. With rapid advancements in technology and pedagogy, educators must be prepared to adapt to changing educational landscapes and embrace innovative teaching methodologies. By providing training in digital literacy, collaborative learning, and project-based instruction, we can empower teachers to harness the potential of emerging technologies and create engaging learning experiences for their students.

Ultimately, the need for better teacher training is not merely a matter of professional development; it is a moral imperative. By investing in the growth and well-being of educators, we invest in the future of our nation. Because one teacher’s well-being will lead to the well being of those 35 other kids in a classroom.

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NCERT Introduces Bridge Month Programme for Class 6 Amid Textbook Transition

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In a bid to revolutionize the educational landscape and foster a more dynamic learning environment, the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has unveiled its Bridge Month Programme tailored for Class 6 students. This initiative marks a significant departure from conventional teaching methodologies, placing a heightened emphasis on interactive sessions and projects aimed at enhancing students’ overall skill set.

Aligned with the National Curriculum Framework for School Education (NCF-SE) and the recently implemented National Education Policy (NEP), NCERT’s Bridge Month Programme is poised to redefine the educational experience for both students and educators alike. By steering away from rote memorization towards a competency-based approach, the programme seeks to cultivate a deeper understanding of various subjects while nurturing critical thinking and problem-solving abilities.

The month-long bridge course is meticulously crafted to equip teachers with innovative pedagogical tools designed to engage students in enjoyable and enriching learning experiences. Through a curated blend of fun-based, play-based, and discovery-based activities, educators are empowered to guide students towards holistic development, transcending the boundaries of traditional classroom instruction.

Central to the programme’s ethos is the integration of vocational skills within the curriculum, commencing as early as Class 6. This forward-looking approach not only broadens students’ horizons but also fosters practical, real-world application of academic concepts. Additionally, the restructuring of the Grade 6 timetable allows for a dedicated immersion period, during which students can delve into a myriad of engaging activities spanning subjects like science, social studies, and vocational education.

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With the impending release of new textbooks for Classes 3 and 6, NCERT’s phased approach ensures a seamless transition to the updated curriculum across all educational levels. As educators and students embark on this transformative journey, the overarching goal remains clear: to cultivate a generation of lifelong learners equipped with the skills and knowledge to thrive in an ever-evolving world.

As reported by India Today.

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Indian Embassy Advocates for India-US Collaboration in Education Sector

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The Indian Embassy in Washington DC has underscored the significance of fostering collaboration between India and the United States in the realm of education. In a recent social media post on platform X, the embassy expressed contentment with the fruitful engagement it had with senior faculty members from esteemed universities in Washington DC.

During the interaction, the embassy stressed the substantial opportunities for bolstering knowledge and research partnerships between India and the US. This joint endeavour aims to bolster educational initiatives and advocate for the well-being of Indian students pursuing studies in the United States.

“Excellent interaction with senior faculty from prominent universities in Washington DC on India-US collaboration and opportunities for strengthening knowledge and research partnership and promote well-being of Indian students in the US,” stated the Indian Embassy in a post on X.

Moreover, amidst recent distressing incidents involving Indian nationals or individuals of Indian origin in the US, US Ambassador to India, Eric Garcetti, has addressed concerns regarding the safety of Indian students studying in the United States. Garcetti urged students to remain vigilant and employ appropriate safety precautions, while emphasizing the importance of staying connected with peers and utilizing campus safety resources to enhance awareness and preparedness.

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In a recent interview with ANI, Garcetti acknowledged the distressing incidents involving Indian students, noting that such occurrences can statistically happen in a country of this scale. He reiterated the importance for students to remain vigilant and take necessary safety measures.

As per reports, five Indian students were reported dead in separate incidents in the first two months of 2024. (Source: ANI)

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Nurturing Healthy Behaviors: The Role of Schools in Shaping Health-Conscious Citizens

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In the landscape of education, schools play a pivotal role far beyond the realms of academic learning; they are instrumental in moulding the future of our society by nurturing health-conscious citizens. This World Health Day, as we embrace the theme ‘My health, my right’, it’s crucial to spotlight the impact of school programs and policies in fostering healthy lifestyle choices among students. This endeavour not only aligns with students’ rights to education about health but also paves the way for a healthier, more informed generation.

In India, where diverse cultural backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses often dictate one’s access to health education and resources, schools have a unique opportunity to bridge these gaps. The Midday Meal Scheme, one of the largest school nutrition programs globally, serves as a sterling example. By providing nutritious meals to children in government and government-aided schools, it aims not just to combat hunger but to promote nutritional education and healthy eating habits among young learners. This initiative directly impacts the health and educational outcomes of approximately 115 million children across the country, showcasing the powerful role schools can play in shaping health-conscious behaviours.

Furthermore, the Government of India’s Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK) program emphasizes the importance of adolescent health, targeting the 253 million adolescents in the country. RKSK aims to integrate health education into schools, covering critical areas such as nutrition, mental health, and substance misuse, thereby ensuring that young individuals are equipped with the knowledge and skills to make informed health decisions.

However, the journey doesn’t end with national programs. Individual schools across India are taking innovative steps to encourage healthy behaviours. For instance, several institutions have introduced yoga and meditation into their daily routines, recognizing the importance of mental well-being alongside physical health. These practices not only improve students’ concentration and stress management skills but also instill a lifelong appreciation for holistic health practices.

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Moreover, environmental health has become a growing concern, with schools incorporating lessons on sustainability and the importance of preserving our planet for future generations. Initiatives like setting up organic gardens, recycling projects, and awareness campaigns on water conservation are becoming increasingly common, fostering an eco-conscious mindset among students.

Despite these strides, challenges remain. Access to quality health education and resources is not uniform across India’s vast and varied landscape, with rural and underprivileged communities often at a disadvantage. Addressing these disparities requires concerted efforts from policymakers, educators, and communities to ensure that every child, irrespective of their background, has the right to health education and the opportunity to grow into a health-conscious citizen.

As we observe World Health Day, it’s clear that schools are much more than places of academic pursuit. They are crucial battlegrounds in the fight for a healthier future, where informed, conscious choices are not just encouraged but ingrained. By continuing to develop and implement comprehensive health education programs, schools can truly honor the theme ‘My health, my right’, turning it from a vision into a reality for every student across India.

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CBSE Updates Exam Structure for 11th & 12th Class; Concept-based Questions Now 50% of Weightage

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In a significant overhaul of the examination structure, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has announced changes to the year-end assessment format for Classes 11 and 12, commencing from the academic session 2024-25. The board has decided to enhance the weightage for competency-based questions to 50%, a substantial increase from the previous session’s 40%. This adjustment aims to shift the focus towards application of concepts in real-life scenarios, aligning with the new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020.

The recent circular dispatched to all CBSE-affiliated schools outlines the board’s decision to reduce the weightage for traditional short and long-answer questions to 30%, down from 40% in the 2023-24 academic session. This move is part of the board’s ongoing efforts to foster an educational environment that prioritises critical thinking, creativity, and application of knowledge over rote memorisation.

“Continuing with its practice of aligning assessment and evaluation with the new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 in the forthcoming 2024-25 academic session, the percentage of competency-based questions that assess application of concepts in real-life situations is increased by 10 per cent,” reads the circular issued on April 3.

Competency-based questions will encompass multiple-choice questions, case-based, and source-based integrated questions. According to a senior official from the CBSE, the increment in weightage for competency-based questions has been a consistent annual strategy for the past three years, reaching its peak at 50% this year.

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The CBSE has chosen not to modify the examination format for Classes 9 and 10, maintaining the structure set during the previous academic year. The changes for senior secondary classes reflect the board’s commitment to the NEP’s vision of competency-based learning as opposed to the traditional textbook-driven approach.

“The main emphasis of the board was to create an educational ecosystem that would move away from rote memorisation and towards learning that is focused on developing the creative, critical and systems thinking capacities of students to meet the challenges of the 21st century,” the CBSE conveyed in its letter to school heads.

This reform is a stride towards equipping students with the necessary skills and knowledge to navigate the complexities of the modern world, ensuring they are not only exam-ready but also prepared for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in the 21st century.

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