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With 20k Attendees & 5 Experts, ScooNews Hosted a Webinar on Sustaining Schools After COVID-19

A webinar hosted by ScooNews where 5 esteemed guests from the education sector discuss schools, teachers and parents’ plight.

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With over 20,000+ attendees streaming live, ScooNews hosted yet another successful webinar on 7th May 2020. The panel discussion was about sustaining schools during and after COVID-19, challenges and way forward.

Moderated by Col A Sekhar, Soldier Educationist, the list of panellists included:

  1. Damodar Goyal, President, Society for Unaided Private Schools of Rajasthan
  2. Kulbhushan Sharma, President, National Independent Schools Alliance (NISA)
  3. Dr Swati Popat Vats, President, Podar Education Network and Early Childhood Association India
  4. Vishnu Karthik, Director, The Heritage Schools

Excerpts

Col A Sekhar: Share your individual perspectives regarding what the schools have seen and are yet to encounter post-COVID-19.

Dr Swati Popat Vats: I like how swiftly the schools caught the rhythm of online education during the Coronavirus outbreak. It’s commendable to see how teachers, especially those belonging to the early childhood education sector, have handled the situation with younger kids. However, I strongly feel that the post-COVID-19 scenario is going to be difficult and that will decide how successful we will be in surviving. 

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Damodar Goyal: For now, schools should focus on how differently they can emerge to resolve the matters. With this, the government’s intervention in deferment of fees should not be misused. A midway is needed to be found at the earliest. 

Col A Sekhar: What are the significant challenges that are faced by the schools?

Vishnu Karthik: A school’s sustainability is in question currently and it needs revenues to solve this issue. What will the future look like, how will the limited resources be used, what is the liability and risk involved are some of the existing worries. Our school, for example, is concerned about how to bring the entire community (parents, educators, professionals) together and help sustain each other. 

Col A Sekhar: So, what are the possible solutions that can be considered by the school management across India? 

Kulbhushan Sharma: The private schools are under a lot of pressure, they have received less than 20% of the total due fees. Problems are alike everywhere but the private school budget is in deep trouble. According to my survey, it is a chain reaction. As parents refuse to pay the fee, the schools will ultimately fail to generate any revenue. And if these teachers don’t get paid on time, both the education and our economy will suffer. The only solution right now is to be considerate and work together during the pandemic. Sadly, there are some parents who can easily pay the fee but are refraining to do so. If this lot decides to come forward, we can support our teachers. I wish they considered education essential, too. 

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Vishnu Karthik: This is honestly not a situation in which we can draw a solution from the past. In my opinion, instead of thinking when school should reopen, it’d be wise if we start focusing on resolving the issues teachers are facing right now. 

Dr Swati Popat Vats: In India, preschools are not considered necessary, which is a very wrong attitude. It’s about time we acknowledge the efforts preschools, and their teachers are putting in to keep their bond with the little ones strong. It is not easy when you're only communicating virtually, let me say. We are supporting our teachers by paying them their deserving salaries on time.

Col A Sekhar: Looking from a parent’s perspective, what do you have to say?

Damodar Goyal: It is not about the incapacity of the parents to pay the fees, but the uncertainty of the present situation that is worrying them. By saying so, I think schools need to show empathy to understand the problems of such parents in distress. A clear conversation between the two parties can solve a lot. 

Col A Sekhar: Talking about the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA), when parents are in fear and are uncertain themselves, how can school owners convince them to pay fees?

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Damodar Goyal: Let’s get this clear to the parents that private schools are not looking for a profit in this tenure. As the management, you need to conduct transparent talks with the parents and tell them you need them to pay the fee. Let them know that not paying will eventually lead to no salary of the teachers, which is unfair. After all, education is not to be counted in expenditure but one's investment for a better future of their child.

Vishnu Karthik: If you've noticed, the fee cut began much before the government asked to waive it off. The shut down also came at the beginning of the quarter and hence, schools could not collect the pending fees at that time. So far, schools have been understanding and have been responding to parents’ concerns. 

Col A Sekhar: How do we possess a better communication with the parents and get their perception right about private schools?

Dr Swati Popat Vats: Schools have a huge role to play when it comes to contributing to the economy. Communicating with the parents one on one is better than sending them generalized circulars. Getting parents on board is very important. Similarly, parents need to communicate with the schools as well. 

Col A Sekhar: What do you have to say about the teachers who are handling online pedagogy and household chores with great responsibility?

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Vishnu Karthik: A teacher is a teacher first and a teacher last. It is not unknown to the world how much teachers value their profession. To recognise their efforts and understand their plight, it’s crucial we support them. These unsung warriors haven’t been appreciated enough but I think this attitude is going to change now. 

Dr Swati Popat Vats: To recognize these unsung heroes, the school management can do its bit by not putting extra pressure on them. Our schools, for example, have asked them to ease into the online teaching schedule slowly and steadily. Apart from this, we’ve made videos for those educators who were not comfortable going online and talking on the screen. We have given them guidelines, reassurance.

Col A Sekhar: Is there a trust deficit between parents and school because of COVID-19 panic? How will it affect children and education in the long run?

Damodar Goyal: Maybe. Schools will now be required to work hard and rebuild this lost trust if that’s the case. On the other hand, parents need to come forward and take responsibility. In my opinion, both need to ensure that their ward’s studies are not getting affected in any way.

Col A Sekhar: How can the government and central/state boards help schools?

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Kulbhushan Sharma: I think the government should step up to help with soft loans provided to either schools or parents.

Dr Swati Popat Vats: Preschools do not benefit from boards, they do not come under them. Also, boards do not intervene in such matters. In short, the government should not tell parents to pay and not pay the fee, instead, let the schools decide about the waive-off themselves. 

Col A Sekhar: In your opinion, what are the positive pedagogical interventions within the schools that can sustain schooling for the next 12-24 months?

Vishnu Karthik: First, do not go back to the old ways. Use the opportunity to push through and thereby come up with better reforms. For example, let online classes make students independent leaders who make and follow a routine on their own, with limited surveillance. This new role will become a unique kind of student-lead project in schools. Also, this will make them focus only on meaningful tasks. 

Dr Swati Popat Vats: I would like to say this to all the leaders out there, reach out to others, be empathetic, have backup plans. It is important to have a leader with good leadership qualities, amidst this crisis.

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Col A Sekhar: What is your final appeal to the parents?

Vishnu Karthik: Please recognise the efforts of teachers and schools, do not have negative assumptions, but reach out to us. Be mindful of the type of relationship you want with the schools for the sake of your child.

Damodar Goyal: Believe that schools will provide the full value of money when it comes to your child's education and future.

Kulbhushan Sharma: Appreciate your child’s teachers and schools, help them help you during this trying time. Lastly, pay your due fees.

Dr Swati Popat Vats: I would like to speak from the preschool and daycare’s perspective. Remember, once the lockdown is over, you would need preschools & daycares for your ward’s initial growth. So, appreciate them. Preschools provide a good foundation in the early years. Please know that they are not options, they are essential.

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The conclusion of this heartfelt, very extensive session comes out to be rather straightforward. Both schools and parents need to talk directly to each other instead of presuming negatively. Remember we are in this together, and together is how we can be triumphant.

Education

UNESCO Report Highlights Need for Boost in India’s Upper Secondary Education

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The recent UNESCO report, “SDG 4 Scorecard Progress Report on National Benchmarks: Focus on Teachers,” reveals that while India is excelling in primary education, the upper secondary education sector requires significant improvements. The report, published by UNESCO, shows that India’s primary education completion rate is at an impressive 94%, nearing its 2025 benchmark of 99%. However, the upper secondary completion rate lags at 51%, against the 2025 benchmark of 84%.

India’s performance in pre-primary participation is also notable, scoring 91%, close to its target of 95%. Conversely, the country struggles with out-of-school rates and lacks sufficient data to assess minimum learning proficiency accurately.

In terms of school internet connectivity, India is making average progress across all educational levels, indicating room for enhancement. The country performs well in the pre-primary teacher training sector, meeting its 2025 benchmark of 95%.

Overall, while India’s primary education sector is performing well, the secondary education sector, especially the upper secondary level, needs focused attention to meet the set benchmarks. The report highlights that 79% of countries have submitted national targets for SDG 4 indicators, with India making strides in some areas but still requiring significant efforts in others.

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Workshop on Writing Textbooks in Bharatiya Bhasha for Higher Education Inaugurated by Dr. Sukanta Majumdar

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Image Source- PIB

The Minister of State for Education, Dr. Sukanta Majumdar has inaugurated a workshop for Vice Chancellors on the writing of textbooks in Bharatiya Bhasha for higher education in New Delhi. Organised by the University Grants Commission (UGC) and Bharatiya Bhasha Samiti (BBS), the event saw the presence of eminent academicians, including Shri K. Sanjay Murthy, Prof. Chamu Krishna Shastry, and Prof. M. Jagadesh Kumar.

Dr. Majumdar emphasized the importance of developing study materials in Indian languages to reflect the country’s linguistic diversity and ensure accessible education. He highlighted the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020’s role in inspiring youth and expressed gratitude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan for their visionary leadership.

Prof. Chamu Krishna Shastry and Prof. M. Jagadesh Kumar shared insights on developing a Bharatiya Bhasha Ecosystem. During the valedictory session, Shri K. Sanjay Murthy launched three projects: ASMITA, Bahubhasha Shabdkosh, and Real-time Translation Architecture. These initiatives aim to produce 22,000 books in 22 scheduled languages, create a grand repository of multilingual dictionaries, and enhance real-time translation capabilities.

Over 150 Vice Chancellors participated in the workshop, organized into 12 groups to plan and develop textbooks in 12 regional languages. The discussions focused on creating new textbooks, establishing standard vocabularies, and improving current textbooks with an emphasis on Indian Knowledge Systems (IKS). The event concluded with a Q&A session addressing queries from participants.

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Education

Nurturing Natural Skills: Empowering Youth for the Future

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Image Source- Pexels

On World Youth Skills Day celebrated on 15 July globally, it’s essential to recognize the incredible potential children inherently possess. Children are naturally curious, energetic, and less afraid of taking risks—qualities that, if nurtured correctly, can form the bedrock of their future success. By identifying and developing these skills, we can empower them to become resilient and adaptable adults ready to face the challenges of the future.

Curiosity: The Catalyst for Learning

Curiosity drives children to explore, ask questions, and seek out new experiences. This innate desire to understand the world around them is a powerful tool for learning. Encouraging curiosity through inquiry-based learning and fostering an environment where questions are welcomed can significantly enhance their educational experience. For instance, project-based learning allows children to dive deep into subjects that interest them, promoting critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Energy: Channeling Enthusiasm into Productivity

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Children are bursting with energy, which, when directed correctly, can lead to incredible productivity and creativity. Schools and parents can harness this energy by providing varied activities that challenge both mind and body. Extracurricular activities like sports, music, and arts not only keep them engaged but also teach them discipline, teamwork, and perseverance. Moreover, incorporating movement into learning, such as through kinesthetic activities, can help maintain their focus and enhance memory retention.

Fearlessness: Embracing Risks and Learning from Failure

Children’s fearlessness and willingness to take risks are qualities that can drive innovation. Creating a safe environment where they can experiment, fail, and learn from their mistakes is crucial. By teaching resilience and the value of perseverance, we can help them develop a growth mindset. Activities that encourage trial and error, such as coding, robotics, and creative writing, can instill confidence and the ability to view failures as opportunities for growth.

Developing These Skills into Strengths

To turn these innate skills into lasting strengths, it is essential to provide continuous support and opportunities for development. Teachers and parents play a pivotal role in this process by:

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  1. Providing Diverse Learning Experiences: Exposure to various subjects and activities helps children discover their interests and strengths. This broadens their horizons and fosters a love for lifelong learning.
  2. Encouraging Collaborative Learning: Group projects and team activities teach children the importance of collaboration, communication, and empathy. These skills are invaluable in both personal and professional settings.
  3. Promoting Self-Reflection: Encouraging children to reflect on their experiences helps them understand their strengths and areas for improvement. This practice can build self-awareness and intrinsic motivation.
  4. Integrating Technology: Leveraging technology in education can make learning more engaging and accessible. Interactive tools and resources can cater to different learning styles and keep children excited about their educational journey.

By recognizing and nurturing the natural skills of curiosity, energy, and fearlessness in children, we can transform these qualities into powerful strengths. This approach not only prepares them for future challenges but also equips them with the resilience and adaptability needed in a rapidly changing world. On World Youth Skills Day, let’s commit to fostering these attributes, ensuring that the youth of today become the innovative leaders of tomorrow.

 

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Global Education Crisis Demands Immediate Action, Says UN Secretary-General

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Image Source- UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferre

On 11 July 2024, during a Special Event on Transforming Education at the High Level Political Forum (HLPF), UN Secretary-General António Guterres highlighted the urgent need for a “dramatic shift” in global education. This call to action aims to create a more peaceful, sustainable, and just world through genuine learning environments from childhood to adulthood.

The event serves as a precursor to the upcoming Summit of the Future in September. Guterres emphasized that the current state of global education is inadequate, with 84 million children projected to be out of school by 2030 unless significant changes are made. This situation jeopardizes the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4), which seeks to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all.

Currently, only one-sixth of countries are on track to meet the SDG4 target of universal access to quality education. Guterres pointed out several critical issues, such as slow secondary level completion rates, insufficient skill development for a changing world, and the optional status of early childhood and adult learning. He highlighted the alarming statistic that 70% of children in sub-Saharan Africa cannot read a basic text by age 10.

Financial constraints further exacerbate the crisis. UNESCO estimated that developing nations need to invest $100 billion annually to achieve SDG4, with an additional 50% required for digital education transformation. Guterres noted that many countries spend more on debt servicing than on education or health.

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Despite commitments from over 140 countries at the Transforming Education Summit in 2022, progress remains slow and uneven. Guterres proposed a four-point plan to address the crisis, focusing on closing financing and access gaps, supporting teachers, and revolutionizing education systems. He stressed that education is essential for sustainable development, peace, and human rights.

President of the General Assembly, Dennis Francis, echoed Guterres’ sentiments, emphasizing the need for inclusive, equitable, and lifelong learning opportunities. He highlighted the dire state of education in South Sudan, the denial of girls’ education in Afghanistan, and the impact of conflict on education in Ukraine and Gaza.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed reinforced the message that education is crucial for achieving common goals in sustainable development. She urged global leaders to take decisive action to end the education crisis.

Guterres concluded by stating, “Education is the single-most important investment any country can make. In its people. And in its future. Let’s come together to end the global crisis in education.”

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Education

Maharashtra Government Announces Free Higher Education for EWS, SEBC, OBC Girls

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Maharashtra's CM Eknath Shinde | Image Source- PTI

Ahead of the upcoming assembly elections in the state, the Maharashtra government has announced free higher education for girls from Economically Weaker Section (EWS), Socially and Economically Backward Classes (SEBC), and Other Backward Classes (OBC). The policy, which also waives tuition and examination fees for orphaned students regardless of gender, was formalised through a government resolution (GR) during a cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde. The initiative will commence from the academic year 2024-25 and is projected to cost Rs 906 crore.

The GR states that female students seeking admission to recognised vocational courses through the Centralised Admission Process in government colleges, aided private colleges, semi-aided private colleges, non-aided colleges, polytechnic, autonomous government universities, and open universities will benefit from this scheme. The courses covered include those run by the departments of higher and technical education, medicine, pharmacy, agriculture, animal husbandry, pisciculture, and dairy development. However, students from private autonomous universities, self-funded universities, or those enrolling through management and institutional quota will not be eligible for the scheme.

Female students whose annual family income is Rs 8 lakh or less and who belong to the EWS, SEBC, and OBC categories are eligible for the fee waiver. Both new admissions and current students pursuing their degrees can avail of this facility. This initiative is part of a broader women-focused policy by the Maharashtra government, aiming to enhance educational access and opportunities for underprivileged female students in the state.

(Source- PTI)

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Chhattisgarh Introduces Local Language Primary Education in Tribal Areas

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Image Source- Envato Elements

In line with the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, the Chhattisgarh government has embarked on an initiative to provide primary education in local languages and dialects in remote tribal regions. Chief Minister Vishnu Deo Sai has directed the State Education Department to develop and distribute bilingual books in 18 local languages free of charge. This initiative aims to enhance the quality of educational resources and ensure that children receive education in their mother tongue or local language up to the fifth standard, as recommended by NEP 2020.

During the state-level ‘Shala Praveshotsav’ programme at Bagiya village in the tribal-dominated Jashpur district, Chief Minister Sai highlighted the importance of this initiative. He emphasised that providing education in local languages will not only improve educational outcomes but also help preserve local culture and traditions.

The ‘Shala Praveshotsav’ is an annual event aimed at encouraging school enrolment at the start of the academic session. This year, the event was moved from Raipur to Bagiya, the CM’s hometown, to underscore the significance of the new initiative.

An official from the Education Department mentioned that in tribal areas, primary school exams can now be taken in local languages and dialects. However, exams for higher classes will continue to be conducted in Hindi and English. This move is part of a broader effort to boost the literacy rate in Chhattisgarh, which currently stands at 70.28 percent, below the national average of 76 percent.

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Education

NCERT Introduces ‘Poorvi’ For Class 6: A New English Textbook With Indian Focus

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The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has launched a new English textbook for class 6 titled “Poorvi”. Unlike its predecessor, “Honeysuckle”, which predominantly featured stories by non-Indian authors, “Poorvi” includes nine prose pieces by Indian authors and five poems by non-Indian authors, as reported by the Indian Express.

This new textbook aligns with the National Curriculum Framework 2023 and the National Education Policy 2020, incorporating revised chapters that reflect an Indian context. The previous textbook, “Honeysuckle,” contained eight poems (seven by non-Indian authors) and eight prose pieces (five by non-Indian authors), along with stories by Indian authors Munshi Premchand and Ruskin Bond.

Significantly, the term “Bharat” appears for the first time in an NCERT textbook, mentioned 19 times in a chapter titled “Culture and Tradition,” while “India” is mentioned seven times. This chapter also features a section called “Hamara Bharat, Incredible India!” emphasising India’s identity as “Bharat.”

Additionally, “Poorvi” includes chapters on the uses of spices beyond cooking and the benefits of yoga, highlighting aspects of Indian culture and tradition. NCERT had initially planned to release new textbooks for classes 3 and 6 earlier this year but encountered delays. The class 3 textbooks are now available.

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Joseph Emmanuel, Director (Academics) at CBSE, advised schools to adopt these new syllabi and textbooks for classes 3 and 6 in place of the previous NCERT textbooks until the year 2023, as per a statement to PTI.

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Education

National Teachers’ Award 2024: Self-Nominations Open Until 15th July

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Image- Instagram/eduminofindia

Online self-nominations are now being accepted for the National Teachers’ Awards 2024 via the Ministry of Education’s portal until 15th July 2024. This year, 50 exemplary teachers will be selected through a three-stage process at District, State, and National levels. The prestigious awards will be conferred by the President of India on Teachers’ Day, 5th September 2024, at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi.

Eligibility:

  • School teachers and Heads of Schools from recognized primary, middle, high, and higher secondary schools run by State Govt., UT Administrations, local bodies, and Private schools affiliated with State/UT Boards.
  • Teachers from Central Govt. Schools like Kendriya Vidyalayas, Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas, Sainik Schools, schools run by the Atomic Energy Education Society, Eklavya Model Residential Schools, and those affiliated with CBSE and CISCE are eligible.

Objective: The award aims to recognize the unique contributions of outstanding teachers who have significantly improved the quality of school education and enriched their students’ lives.

For more details and to submit your nomination, visit the Ministry of Education’s portal.

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Education

Australia’s Doubling of Student Visa Fees to Impact Indian Applicants

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Image Source- Envato Elements

Australia has more than doubled its international student visa fee from AU$710 (approximately ₹38,000) to AU$1,600 (approximately ₹86,000), a move set to significantly affect Indian students, who represent the second-largest group of international students in the country. The increase is aimed at curbing migration and funding key initiatives in education and migration.

Australia’s Home Minister, Clare O’Neil, stated that the changes, effective from July 1, 2024, are intended to restore integrity to the international education system and ensure a fairer migration system. This hike comes amidst other measures to curb the misuse of student visas and migration loopholes.

India remains a crucial source of international students for Australia, with 122,391 Indian students enrolled during January-September 2023, according to the Indian high commission in Canberra. The fee hike, therefore, is expected to have a significant impact on Indian students planning to study in Australia.

Recent measures by the Australian government to address migration issues include shortening the duration of temporary graduate visas, reducing age eligibility, and ending “visa hopping” practices. Additionally, the government had previously relaxed work-hour restrictions for student visa holders to address workforce shortages, but these restrictions were reinstated in June 2023, limiting work to 48 hours a fortnight while studying.

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The increased visa fees will help fund several educational and migration initiatives, such as financial support for apprentices and their employers and the implementation of Australia’s migration strategy. Furthermore, the temporary skilled migration income threshold (TSMIT) has been raised from AU$70,000 (₹3,790,000) to AU$73,150 (₹3,960,000).

This significant fee increase reflects the growing value of education in Australia and the government’s commitment to maintaining the integrity of its international education sector. Indian students planning to study in Australia will need to factor in these changes, which are significantly expensive, as they prepare for their higher education journey.

(with inputs from Reuters) 

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Prerana Students Chart Career Paths with Target Publications’ Event

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Students from grades 9th to 12th, beneficiaries of Prerana, participated in an engaging career counseling session co-organized by Target Publications Pvt. Ltd. and Prerana, an organisation combatting human trafficking. The event, held at Prerana’s Night Care Center on Falkland Road, Mumbai, was led by Dr. Shantanu Deshpande, a distinguished career counsellor from Pune.

Dr. Deshpande, a doctorate in Management Science and BOLT awardee, provided comprehensive insights into various academic paths, including Science, Commerce, Management, and Humanities, highlighting the diverse job opportunities each field offers. He inspired students by sharing stories of celebrities and individuals who have overcome challenges.

The session also emphasised the importance of spoken English for interview confidence and suggested learning foreign languages like German and Japanese to enhance career prospects in teaching. The interactive nature of the session allowed the 50 attending students to actively participate and ask questions about their chosen paths.

Prachi Naik, Project Manager at Prerana, expressed gratitude for the valuable career guidance provided. “This session empowered our students with invaluable career guidance,” she said, highlighting the students’ active engagement and curiosity.

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Tushar Chaudhari, Executive Director of Target Publications, remarked on the honour of partnering with Prerana. “This session undoubtedly equipped them with the knowledge and tools to choose their ideal career paths,” he said, thanking Dr. Deshpande for his contributions.

Dr. Deshpande expressed pleasure in conducting the session, noting the students’ interest in both courses and essential skills for future prospects. He conveyed his desire to stay connected with the students to support their future achievements.

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