Archive for the ‘education’ Category
The finance minister, P. Chidambaram, presented the union budget in parliament yesterday. The total expense budgeted is INR 16,65,297.32 crores; a 16.4% increase over the revised budget of 2012-13. INR 10,56,330.70 crores of this is revenue, with taxes coming to INR 8,84,078.32 crores, ie, 53% of the budget. The rest are capital expenses, including a debt of INR 5,42,498.62 crores, which is 32.6% of the budget. This is down from the 34.4% of last year, but not yet at the level of 31% from the year before.
- Plan outlay is INR 5,55,322.00 crores, 33.35% of the total budget. This is down from 35% of the budget in the last two years. The difference has gone to various non-plan expenses. Public enterprises are supposed to contribute INR 2,61,055.39 crores to the center’s plan expense, bringing the total available for the plan to INR 8,16,377.39 crores. Of the plan outlay, INR 1,36,254.00 crores (16.7%) will go to states, leaving INR 6,80,123.39 crores with the center for the plan.
- Health is allocated INR 32,745.00, which is 1.97% of the budget. This has remained a stable fraction of the budget.
- Of this, education is allotted INR 65,869.00 through the ministry of Human Resource Development. This is 3.9% of the budget, down from 4.1% of last year.
- The allocation to science and technology has been cut by one third! INR 17,586.79 crores is channeled through three ministries and departments (S&T, DoS and DAE). This is 1.06% of the budget, down from 1.6% of the previous year’s projection. However, it is higher than the actual amount spent on science last year.
- All social services put together are allocated INR 1,90,574.66 crores. This is 11.4% of the budget. There is a huge increase in spending on arts and culture, water supply, urban development, and information and publicity. These look like election year spendings, and have come at the expense of long term goods like education and science.
- The non-plan budget will be spent more or less as before.
- Debt servicing will take up INR 3,70,684 crores (22.2%) of the budget, up by 1% from the previous year. This is also 33.4% of the non-plan outlay. In actual terms, this is INR 54,010 crores more than last year.
- Defence is projected to take INR 2,03,672 crores (12.2%) of the budget. This is an increase of INR 25,168 over last year. As always, defence has increased by more than the amount required by inflation.
- Petroleum subsidies will take INR 65,000 crores (3.9%) of the budget. This is a massive cut from being 6.8% of the budget last year. These savings have been essentially passed on to non-defence capital expense and to state governments.
If you want to compare this with the last year’s projected budget, you could take a look at the post on the union budget of 2012.
IE noted that this is an election budget:
Presenting his eighth annual Budget in Parliament, P Chidambaram, while increasing the total expenditure (Plan and non-Plan) to R16.65 lakh crore, tried to strike a chord with all major votebanks, doling out sops to women, youth, poor, minorities, disabled, elderly as well as the SCs and the STs.
Besides proposing a public sector bank that would lend mostly to women and their businesses, he also offered to set up a R1,000-crore fund in the wake of a spurt in crimes against them. “We have a collective responsibility to ensure the dignity and safety of women. We stand in solidarity with our girl children and women. And we pledge to do everything possible to empower them and keep them safe and secure,” said Chidamabram.
In recent years Maharashtra has fallen far from the pinnacle of progress which once made it the envy of other states. The slide has been most dangerous in the areas of education and health. Here is a comment on the latest bizarre development by Health India:
The Maharashtra state government today announced that non-allopathic doctors – the homeopaths, unani docs and ayurvedic doctors – will be allowed to practice allopathy or traditional medicine in the state. An ordinance will be issued in this respect next month. The alternative doctors will have to pass a one year course before they can practice though.
The members from the treasury and opposition benches raised the issue saying that this move could alleviate the woes of patients from rural areas. Medical education minister Vijaykumar Gavit announced in the state assembly on Friday that though the existing laws don’t allow such a practice, the state government wished to change the law. He said that the doctors, however, will have to complete a one-year course to practice other streams of medicine. “We want to amend Maharashtra Medical Practitioners Act, 1961, and an ordinance in that respect will be issued by the end of August. After that, doctors from homeopathy, unani and ayurveda would be able undergo a one-year course of pharmacology and start practicing allopathy from next year,” said Gavit.
We think this is a rather bizarre move by the ministry. The principles of allopathy, homeopathy, unani and ayurveda are all very different and to allow docs to practice streams different from their own could be downright dangerous. Doctors have to study for years before they reach the level of expertise that allows them to treat patients and a one year course can not give them that expertise. Also this move might see students who want to practice regular medicine but couldn’t get through medical school opt for alternative courses and then practice regular medicine.
TOI reports how the decision was framed to bypass normal checks and balances:
The minister said in a written reply that the decision to introduce the one-year pharmacology course was made on the advice of the attorney general, who suggested that it could be done by amending the Maharashtra Medical Practitioners Act, 1961. But when it was referred to the state law and judiciary department, it pointed out that a mere amendment to the Act will be of no use as under the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, the assent of the Medical Council of India (MCI) is mandatory.
But a senior official told TOI that the government does not need an approval from the Medical Council of India to start a “certificate course” as the state has the requisite powers under the concurrent list. “Only a degree or a diploma course needs a mandatory approval from the MCI,” the official said.
A state which has stopped caring about education will continue to take the easy path downhill.
IBN Live reports on Kapil Sibal’s successful attempt to reserve the IITs for an elite:
The prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) have agreed on a compromise formula on the common entrance exam for undergraduate courses after several weeks of face off with the Central Government, particularly HRD Minister Kapil Sibal. At a meeting of IIT Council in New Delhi on Wednesday the directors of all the 15 IITs agreed to implement the new admission format from 2013.
The entire process will consists of two exams – main and advanced – to be held on separate days. While the main exam will be conducted by the CBSE, the advanced exam that is likely to take place about a month after the main exam will be conducted by the IITs. The top 1.5 lakh students from the main exam merit list can take the advanced entrance exam. To be eligible for the IIT merit list the score of the advanced test as well as the condition that the aspirant is in the top 20 percentile of his/her board will be taken into account.
The IIT examination system was perhaps the ultimate meritocratic system that one had in India. It was working, and there was no need to fix it. Mr. Sibal claimed that he had to change it because he wanted to reduce the exam load on school-leaving students. This ostensibly less-demanding system now has two exams instead of one, in addition to a new emphasis on the broken system of state board exams.
Under the old system there were inspiring stories of students from extremely poor families, who passed out of terrible schools, but went on to sit for the exam and get through. Students from barely functioning village schools now have the system stacked against them. Charitable funds which could give a year’s coaching to students in order to place them into a meritocratic elite of the IITs will not have the means to improve whole schools.
Which meaning of the word “fixing” is one supposed to read in this context?
IBN Live reports on the youngest person ever to make it through the IIT entrance examination:
A 12-and-a-half-year-old boy from Bihar has cracked the highly competitive Indian Institute of Technology-Joint Entrance Examination (IIT-JEE). Satyam Kumar of Bakhorapur village in Bhojpur district qualified from the Mumbai zone with an all-India rank of 8,137.
“I am happy to crack IIT-JEE but I will not join IIT this year because of my poor rank. I will attempt next year for a good rank,” Kumar told IANS over telephone Saturday.
Kumar is still awaiting his class 12 results. According to the father, Kumar passed the Class 10 board exam from Modern School in Kota, Rajasthan.
IIT graduates of a certain age, who wax nostalgic over the Agarwal or Brilliant classes of another era, have nothing but contempt for the coaching schools of Kota. Caravan recognizes that this is a democratization of elite schools which is changing the lives of students as well as the villages where the schools are:
You could make a decent living here, gathering discarded leaflets off the ground and selling them to a waste-paper collector, or perhaps even back to the respective institutes so they can be handed out and discarded again. On my last morning in Kota I walked past a woman doing just that: efficiently collecting leaflets from the side of the road—only the less-soiled ones—and adding them to the inches-thick stack she balanced in one hand. The economy of Kota these days, I had heard from teachers and doctors and tea-stall owners and friends, revolves around coaching students for the Indian Institute of Technology entrance exam (IIT-JEE) and other tests. Hard evidence of that, in what this woman was up to.
In a town where coaching has boosted all kinds of professions, it has also created a new one. Consultant guardians are folks who, for a fee, stand proxy for a child’s absent parents. Who better to take along to help argue marks not awarded, if you’re far from home, than a consultant guardian? The senior administrator told the girl she had no case, but if she still wanted to argue it, she needed to come back with a parent. A real parent.
Walking around Kota, I got a sense of the range of professions and enterprises, beyond consultant guardians, ancillary to the coaching business.
Bike rentals? Check. Tyre puncture repairmen? Check. Roadside stalls selling “bread omlet”, “chaumeen”, “maggie noodles” and minuscule plastic cups of tea? Check. Do the same stalls also sometimes stock SIM cards? Check. Rickshaws with these words painted on the side: “Daily Up-Down Service to Allens, Bansals, Resonance, etc”? Check. Women collecting discarded leaflets off the roads? Check. Other stalls selling notebooks, loose paper, pens, pencils, erasers and forms for each of BHU, VIT, AIPVT, KIIT, AMRITA, WARDA, whatever those are? Check.
T HE KOTA COACHING CLASS PHENOMENON traces its origins to 1981, and to a dining table. VK Bansal (always “Bansal Sir”), then an employee of JK Synthetics who lived in the JK housing colony, discovered he was suffering from muscular dystrophy. As a degenerative disease, it would eventually leave him unfit for his job. He needed something else
to do, but what?
Someone suggested teaching, which struck an immediate chord. Bansal began helping a seventh standard student from the area—an indifferent student—with his schoolwork. As Sachin Jha writes in It All Adds Up, his biography of Bansal, the boy “had broken into the stratified ranks of the top ten” in his final exams that year. “This was no ordinary feat.”
Neighbours noticed. The next year, two more boys joined Bansal’s fledgling effort. The year after that, there were 15 kids. At that stage, Bansal was teaching for free—and yes, sitting at his dining table. But the parents persuaded him to accept fees. One thing led to another, and before long Bansal was giving tuitions to IIT aspirants. In 1986, the first of these made it through the IIT-JEE and went on to attend IIT Kanpur. This too was no ordinary feat. The JEE has always been one of the most competitive exams in the world: in 2011, nearly 500,000 students took the test. Less than 10,000 got through.
By the mid-1990s, Bansal was teaching 150 students. Dozens were getting through the JEE, so clearly he was doing something right. In 1998, he upgraded from his dining table, Jha writes, “and started to take his lectures in packed classrooms”—first in his refurbished garage, and eventually in the flashy Gaurav Tower on Road No 1.
Nitin Jain of Vibrant shares my engineering alma mater, Birla Institute of Technology & Science (BITS) Pilani (though he was several years junior to me). While I spent 20 years in industry after graduating, Jain stopped after two and started teaching at Bansal’s. In 14 years, “Ninja”—as his students called him—built a reputation as one of Bansal’s best physics teachers. So when he and six others left in 2009, it was a big blow to Bansal.
Chatting in his office on the first floor of the Vibrant tower, Jain spoke at length about faculty in Kota, explaining in an oblique way the constant ferment among the institutes. “The teachers here,” he said, “are of outstanding calibre. You can’t compare them to school teachers.” They need to be that good since they are teaching “students of the highest calibre”. So most of them are like him, graduates of the country’s best engineering colleges, BITS and IITs included.
But it’s not enough to merely hire such graduates. “We also have to keep working on new things,” he said. “We have to be innovative.” To that end, they follow mathematics Olympiads, watch lectures online at great universities like MIT, and are always on the hunt for new problems. This is how they differ from teachers in schools—“those guys are not knowledge seekers”—where the management does not invest in such things. But at Kota’s coaching institutes, said Jain, “our horizon is not limited to just books. We have to perform, or students will go elsewhere.”
Kota does not deserve the infamy that it has generated. It is merely a symptom of the blind reliance on exams that is the result of decades of underspending on education by most of our governments. In a better planned system the number of places in higher education would have risen in proportion to the population; by roughly a factor of 5 since independence.
Almost three years ago an extended strike by college teachers in Maharahstra demanding the salary structure due to them is being reprised because the government has apparently failed to meet several of the commitments made then.
DNA has a detailed report on the reasons and extent of the strike:
With the college teachers boycotting assessment of answer papers, results of the graduation examinations all over the state are likely to be delayed.
Maharashtra Federation of Universities and College Teachers Organisation (MFUCTO) called the boycott from April 1. The teachers have demanded regularisation of non National Eligibility Test (NET) and State Eligibility Tests (SET) qualified teachers appointed between 1991 and 1998 in the state.
Over 24,000 teachers from nine universities, namely Shivaji University (SU, Kolhapur), University of Mumbai, University of Pune, Solapur University, Nagpur University, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University, Sant Gadgebaba Amravati University, Swami Ramanand Teerth Marathwada University (Nanded) and Shreemati Nathibai Damodar Thackersey Women’s University have heeded to MFUCTO’s call.
The University Grants Commission (UGC) in 1991 released regulation making the NET and SET mandatory for the college and university teachers. However, the state government released the statute only in 1998. In this period, as many as 10,000 teachers not clearing NET or SET were appointed in the different colleges.
These teachers have been given ‘ad hoc’ status denying promotion benefits.
In August 2009, MFUCTO boycotted colleges for 6th pay scale and regularisation of ‘ad hoc’ teachers from the date of their appointment. The government later accepted 6th pay scale for teachers and assured accepting UGC’s directions in case of ad hoc teachers.
“We approached human resource development minister Kapil Sibal who on August 16 and August 26, 2010 ordered regularising the ad hoc teachers. However, on December 2, 2011 the education department officers approached the UGC seeking revision of the order instead of accepting Sibal’s orders. Therefore we have launched the agitation,” Sudhakar Mankar, co-ordinator of SU Teachers’ Association, the branch of MFUCTO under SU, told DNA.
The Maharashtra government’s lack of interest in higher education is apparent from the fact that it took them 7 years to operationalize a recommendation by the UGC. The teachers appointed due to the government’s oversight are being penalized 20 years on, and more than halfway through their careers. This again speaks of complete disregard for education as a profession.
Around 2,000 teachers across the city are boycotting paper corrections for the final year undergraduate exam papers, raising the possibility of delayed exam results. Members of the Bombay University and College Teachers’ Union (Buctu) will boycott paper corrections following the
government’s refusal to look into their demands. Their demands include that teachers be paid their Sixth Pay Commission scale salary arrears and regularisation of the appointments and promotions of thousands of teachers exempt from NET/SET rules, which came into effect from 2000.
“Our strike will remain on until the government gives in to our demands,” said Tapati Mukhopadhyay, general secretary, Maharashtra Federation of University and College Teachers’ Organisations (MFUCTO), that is coordinating the state-wide strike. Nine other universities across the state are also part of the strike. MFUCTO will be holding a day-long protest at the university on April 16 and has called for a Jail Bharo Andolan on that day. The striking teachers have alleged, that as a result of their strike, unqualified teachers are being recruited for corrections.
TOI reports that the strike is working:
Madhu Paranjpe, Bombay University and Colleges’ Teachers Union (BUCTU) general secretary, said, “No one is reporting for assessment work, apart from a handful of temporary teachers all are supporting the boycott. Even college principals are supporting us.” There are close to 6 lakh answer booklets waiting to be corrected by close to 1,100 commerce teachers. Since the CAP began on March 26, only two or three ad hoc faculty members are reporting for assessment.
S M Suryawanshi, in-charge controller of examination, said, “To date, teachers’ attendance each day has been around 0.1-0 .5%. Those present are either temporary faculty or contract teachers who are not affiliated to any union. The few permanent ones who come for assessment , spend an hour or two at the centres. It will be very difficult to declare results if they do not co-operate . The university has no role to play in their demands,” he added.
Minister for higher and technical education Rajesh Tope said, “We have received a clarification from the UGC and will forward it to the finance department. The issue will be later taken up by the cabinet.” Regularising teachers and paying them arrears will cost the state about Rs 400 crore.
It seems that the teachers are especially incensed because after every strike they have to work overtime to make up for teaching or examination time lost, only to find that the government goes back on commitments given to end the strike.
If there were any doubt about the Maharashtra government’s lack of concern for education, it would be dispelled by the report by IE on a simultaneous strike by school teachers:
Over 500 teachers owing allegiance to Maharashtra Rajya Shikshak Parishad (MRSP) will stage a dharna at Azad Maidan on April 18 demanding non-salary grants to aided schools, permanent posts and better wages to shikshan sevaks, teachers of night schools and schools for disabled be treated on par with the regular school teachers.
Members of the parishad, led by Ramnath Mote, Bhagwanrao Salunkhe and Nago Gaanar — the MLC’s from teachers’ constituency — will hold a day-long protest at Azad Maidan urging the government to resolve problems faced by school teachers.
The schools claim that they have to face lots of problems in the absence of non-salary grants. The government schools have not been paid non-salary grants by the state government since 2008. The grants only finance expenses such as electricity bills, water charges, property taxes and other establishment expenses.
Elsewhere IE reported that the school teachers are adopting the same tactics as the college teachers:
Even as the boycott of assessment duty by over 21,000 teachers of unaided junior colleges across the state continues, the Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher and Secondary Education (MSBSHSE) authorities on Friday said there will be no delay in declaring the results.
The state Permanently Unaided High School Teachers’ Action Committee, seeking 100 per cent aided status for their institutes, have been boycotting the HSC and SSC exam paper assessment.
“These teachers had returned bundles of answers papers given for correction. Till now, more than 45 bundles of answer-sheets have already been returned to the respective divisional board offices,” an MSBSHSE official said. Over seven lakh students go to 8,644 un-aided colleges across Maharashtra. Teachers from these colleges constitute 20 per cent of the total assessors out of which over 21,000 represent the action committee.
While one is in complete agreement with the philosophy of the right to education act, the actions of the government indicate that the state will probably use it to loosen further its already tenuous ties to education.
April 27, 2012
The minister of education does not seem to have the time to resolve what the newspapers call a crisis. He met the union after 27 days of the strike, and 11 days after the morcha. This reprises the delays which marked the resolution of the strike in 2009; which was prolonged because the same man in the same post was busy in his constituency and could not meet the teachers’ union for weeks. TOI reports that the meeting was fruitless:
Over 250 teachers protested at Azad Maidan over non-receipt of their Sixth Pay Commission arrears. The protest was called overnight after talks with the government failed yet again.
C R Sadasivan, Bombay University and College Teachers’ Union (BUCTO) president, said, “Even after a nine-hour meeting with Rajesh Tope, the minister of higher and technical education , and after discussing our demands in detail, education secretary Sanjay Kumar refused to sign the official document. I understand that the students are getting affected for no fault of their own but the fault lies with the government,” he added.
Maharashtra Federation of University and College Teachers Organization (MFUCTO) general secretary Tapati Mukhopadhyay said, “On April 25, they told us it would be resolved in half an hour; the next day it get postponed to Saturday.”
Interestingly, the pay commission arrears have been given to other categories of state government employees already.
April 30, 2012
TOI reported two days ago:
The protest continues even after an eight-hour meeting between higher and technical education (H&TE) minister Rajesh Tope and the Maharashtra federation of universities and college teachers’ organisation (MFUCTO), the apex body of the teachers, ended inconclusively on April 25.
This, despite a “broad consensus” worked out at the meeting, on key issues like regularisation of services of nearly 10,000 non-NET/SET qualified teachers, who were appointed between September 19, 1991 and April 3, 2000 at various universities and colleges, and the payment of the 6th Pay Commission arrears.
A blame-game has started as the MFUCTO members have criticised H&TE secretary Sanjay Kumar for “delaying” a solution by withholding his signature on the minutes of their meeting with Tope.
“The government is not serious about the issue despite the prospects of the university results getting delayed by two to three months and a further delay in the 2012-13 academic year activity,” MFUCTO general secretary Tapti Mukhopadhyay told TOI on Saturday.
Kumar said a proposal relating to the teachers’ demands has been moved to the state finance department. “It’s an inter-departmental matter which can be resolved through coordination between the two concerned departments,” he added.
“In the meantime, we have requested teachers not to boycott till these issues are resolved. The H&TE department will act as soon as its proposal is cleared by the finance department,” he said.
Is Sanjay Kumar’s statement an admission by the Higher and Technical Education (H&TE) department that the request for pay commission arrears had not been sent for finance approval for two and a half years? A snail’s pace would have taken a file between the two departments faster.
May 3, 2012
Financial Express reports:
The representatives of the unions had a meeting with Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and Higher and Technical Education Minister Rajesh Tope.
“MFUCTO cannot withdraw its boycott as the government is not sending officially signed documents which reflect the actual points on which we had agreed. They had agreed that arrears (of the Sixth Pay Commission) would be paid to the teachers within a month. They had also agreed that a government resolution will be issued in two months to regularise appointment of teachers affected by National Eligibility Test (NET) or State Level Eligibility Test (SET). The government has not given us any concrete date for payment of the arrears or resolution of the NET/SET issue. We have sent a note to the state, which conveys our reaction and our decision to not end the stir,” said a MFUCTO representative.
Hema More of Pune University Teachers’ Association said, “Our representatives met the CM and the education minister. We were to get the minutes of the meeting after the discussion. But we got an unsigned document and we cannot accept that as an official confirmation of our demands by the government.”
May 17, 2012
As college and university teachers intensified their agitation on Wednesday, the state government swung into action and drew up a detailed plan on when their demands would be met. The state also promised to bring up the matter before the cabinet within a week. Yet, the final call on whether the strike would be called off will be taken on Friday afternoon.
Early on Wednesday, the Maharashtra Federation of University and College Teachers’ Organization (MFUCTO) received a letter from the state government accepting all their demands with a timeframe in place on when they will be paid the cash component (arrears of the Sixth Pay Commission).
The arrears of the VIth Pay Commission-a total of Rs 431 crore-will be released in a phased manner: The first instalment will be paid in June and the second in April 2013, stated the letter. The state will also bring up the issue of regularizing teachers affected by the National Eligibility Test (NET) or the State Eligibility Test (SET) in the cabinet within a week. The teachers’ strike began in the first week of April, which in turn has affected the evaluation work of exam answer books at most state universities.
The University of Mumbai may take pride in the fact that it has managed to speed up evaluation, but faculty members are worried about the quality of correction work. In a letter to the governor, the head of statistics department has demanded that the process be started all over again once the strike is called off. Ulhas Dixit, statistics HoD, said correction work was possible only because the eligibility of assessors was “manipulated”. Asking the chancellor of universities K Sankaranarayanan to intervene, Dixit said, papers of TYBSc (Computer Science) and TYBCom, among others, have been assessed by teachers who have only one year’s experience. “According to Mumbai University’s rule, a teacher should have more than three years of experience to be an examiner. This rule was highly diluted,” the letter said. Dixit said that several teachers met the vice-chancellor over this issue.
This is now documentary evidence that the Maharashtra government delayed the payment of arrears to teachers, when most other departments had made the payments already. This no longer surprises us; nor does the dilution of exam standards. One expects that this strike will soon be over.
May 18, 2012
Asian Age reports that the strike is over:
The Maharashtra Federation of University and College Teachers Organisation (MFUCTO) on Friday withdrew their agitation and called-off their indefinite strike after the government assured that their demands would be fulfilled by June.
Earlier in the day, the Bombay high court had directed the Maharashtra government to file an affidavit by May 25 on what steps had been taken against the teachers of different universities who had resorted to striking indefinitely.
MFUCTO general secretary Tapati Mukhopadhyay, while replying to the court, said that the strike was their last resort since the government did not heed their demands for a long time.
IE reports one of the most far reaching judgments handed down by the Supreme Court:
The Supreme Court has upheld the Right to Education Act and its 25 per cent quota for children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds in all schools — public, private and in-between (except minority unaided institutions). It dismissed the petition of certain private schools, which argued that the directive to admit these children was unconstitutional, cut into their autonomy, and interfered with their capacity to be “centres of excellence”. The real constitutional concern, as the court has said, is providing quality education to all children between 6 and 14, as promised by the RTE — an obligation that all educational institutions must pitch in to fulfil. This does not mean shifting responsibility from the government — private schools will be compensated by the state to the extent that it spends per child in the public system (and how this will be managed is crucial).
In fact, the judgment impacts the interpretation of constitution, because it holds that a right to education is part of the right to life. The Hindu reports:
A Bench of Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia and Justice Swatanter Kumar while upholding the law, however, held that it would not be applicable to unaided minority schools. Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan, gave a dissenting judgment.
The majority judgment said: “We hold that the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 is constitutionally valid and shall apply to a school established, owned or controlled by the appropriate Government or a local authority; an aided school including aided minority school(s) receiving aid or grants to meet whole or part of its expenses from the appropriate Government or the local authority; a school belonging to specified category; and an unaided non-minority school not receiving any kind of aid or grants to meet its expenses from the appropriate Government or the local authority.”
The CJI who wrote the judgment said: “It will operate from today. In other words, this will apply from the academic year 2012-13. However, admissions given by unaided minority schools prior to the pronouncement of this judgment shall not be reopened.
“By judicial decisions, right to education has been read into right to life in Article 21. A child who is denied right to access education is not only deprived of his right to live with dignity, he is also deprived of his right to freedom of speech and expression enshrined in Article 19(1) (a). The 2009 Act seeks to remove all those barriers including financial and psychological barriers which a child belonging to the weaker section and disadvantaged group has to face while seeking admission.”
The Bench said: “To put an obligation on the unaided non-minority school to admit 25 per cent children in class I under Section 12(1) (c) cannot be termed as an unreasonable restriction. Such a law cannot be said to transgress any constitutional limitation. The object of the 2009 Act is to remove the barriers faced by a child who seeks admission to class I and not to restrict the freedom under Article 19(1) (g).
On the important issue of the state’s contribution to primary education, TOI reported:
The schools will get a subsidy from the government for giving free education (65% of the subsidy will come from the Centre and 35% from states), but the subsidy is not expected to meet the full cost. The government subsidy will be based on the expenditure per student in government schools or Kendriya Vidyalayas, while many private schools spend (or at least, charge as fee) much more.
According to estimates, the government spends Rs 3,000 per child per year for primary education. The Centre has given states the freedom to implement its own grants and aids, but many states are financially broke and the grants vary from state to state. For instance, Delhi gives about Rs 1,200 per child per month, while Haryana doesn’t give any aid to schools.
According to 2007-08 statistics quoted by the Supreme Court, out of the 12,50,755 schools imparting elementary education in India, 80.2% were government run, 5.8% private aided and 13.1% private unaided. Of these, 87.2% of the schools were located in rural areas.
Unless the government system of compensating schools works in a timely and efficient manner, private schools will need to pass on any financial burden to paying parents. These views are very clearly stated in an article in Deccan Herald:
Ameeta Wattal, principal of Springdales School said the endeavour will not be successful until there is full co-operation from both government and private schools. “This is a historic judgement which will provide a platform for children to gain good education. But does the onus of providing quality education lie only with private schools?” said Wattal
“The government should strengthen its schools in such a way that people do not feel the compulsion to send their children only to a private school,” she added.
She added that the government has not paid for students who are admitted under the EWS category in last three years.
“How are we going to support non-fee paying children if the government does not support us? Schools cannot raise fees arbitrarily. The government needs to ensure adequate support for better implementation of this judgement,” she said. Sujit Bhattacharya, director of Indus World School in Greater Noida echoed similar views.
Then there are schools which turn a tidy profit, and these are unable to take the judgement as the last word. So one can expect that school education will become more litigious in the coming years. One can see portents of the future in this quote taken from the report by India Today:
Arun Kapur, director of Vasant Valley School, welcomed the judgment, saying: “One needs to note that the Supreme Court has given split verdict on the issue. The majority judgment is silent on a lot points that have been discussed detail by Justice Radhakrishnan his dissenting opinion.”
Highlighting one such instance, he said: “The minority judgment states that provisions regarding the proof of age, denial of admission and age-appropriate admission are directional and not mandatory, and the majority judgment says nothing about this. Presuming that the minority judgment prevails on issues that the majority has chosen to remain silent on, I think the verdict provides great clarity in areas that were causing a lot of concern to the private schools.”
There are clearly many issues to be ironed out in getting to a workable system. The union government cannot walk out of the education sector on the strength of this act. To the contrary, it must expand its spending on school education. Over the years this will put a welcome spotlight on the woeful record of state governments in the area of education. However, the judgment brings a very good perspective on the issue: it sets the rights of the child above that of school management.
There are lessons for India here. Finland sits consistently at the top of the PISA rankings whereas India is at the rank bottom. Here are important highlights from NYRB:
First, Finland has one of the highest-performing school systems in the world, as measured by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which assesses reading, mathematical literacy, and scientific literacy of fifteen-year-old students in all thirty-four nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), including the United States. Unlike our domestic tests, there are no consequences attached to the tests administered by the PISA. No individual or school learns its score. No one is rewarded or punished because of these tests. No one can prepare for them, nor is there any incentive to cheat.
Second, from an American perspective, Finland is an alternative universe. It rejects all of the “reforms” currently popular in the United States, such as testing, charter schools, vouchers, merit pay, competition, and evaluating teachers in relation to the test scores of their students.
Third, among the OECD nations, Finnish schools have the least variation in quality, meaning that they come closest to achieving equality of educational opportunity—an American ideal.
Fourth, Finland borrowed many of its most valued ideas from the United States, such as equality of educational opportunity, individualized instruction, portfolio assessment, and cooperative learning. Most of its borrowing derives from the work of the philosopher John Dewey.
US policymakers have turned to market-based solutions such as “tougher competition, more data, abolishing teacher unions, opening more charter schools, or employing corporate-world management models.” By contrast, Finland has spent the past forty years developing a different education system, one that is focused on improving the teaching force, limiting student testing to a necessary minimum, placing responsibility and trust before accountability, and handing over school- and district-level leadership to education professionals.
To an American observer, the most remarkable fact about Finnish education is that students do not take any standardized tests until the end of high school. They do take tests, but the tests are drawn up by their own teachers, not by a multinational testing corporation. The Finnish nine-year comprehensive school is a “standardized testing-free zone,” where children are encouraged “to know, to create, and to sustain natural curiosity.”
Sahlberg recognizes that Finland stands outside what he refers to as the “Global Education Reform Movement,” to which he appends the apt acronym “GERM.” GERM, he notes, is a virus that has infected not only the United States, but the United Kingdom, Australia, and many other nations. President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law and President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top program are examples of the global education reform movement. Both promote standardized testing as the most reliable measure of success for students, teachers, and schools; privatization in the form of schools being transferred to private management; standardization of curriculum; and test-based accountability such as merit pay for high scores, closing schools with low scores, and firing educators for low scores.
In contrast, the central aim of Finnish education is the development of each child as a thinking, active, creative person, not the attainment of higher test scores, and the primary strategy of Finnish education is cooperation, not competition.
Language magazine reports:
The second International Summit on the Teaching Profession opened today in New York. The summit is a two-day conference with representatives from 23 countries and regions who have high performing education systems. The summit will address issues such as teaching training, professional development, and 21st century skills.
The summit is hosted by the OECD, the U.S. Department of Education, and Education International (EI). A number of delegations are confirmed to attend, including representatives from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong SAR, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the People’s Republic of China, Poland, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, opened the summit with a set of opening remarks.
“High performing countries have more collaboration, more high quality professional development for teachers, and do a better job of recruiting teachers and retaining them,” said Duncan. “Other nations not only out educate us, but also out prepare and out respect us.”
Above all else, the Finnish educational model reminds us that the greatest asset for learning outcomes is teachers. Until and unless the U.S. populates its schools with teachers who we can claim are our best and brightest, and who are well trained in content areas, and until and unless we give these valued professionals the responsibility and trust they deserve to carry out their noble profession and assess their students based not on national, standardized bubble tests, but rather on the teachers’ own meaningful assessments of their students’ skills, knowledge and critical thinking capacities, we should not expect to see our standing among the world’s schools increase very much.
Finding such teachers won’t be easy if we continue to demand twice the time Finnish teachers put in for the same pay; if we continue to undermine teachers’ intelligence and professionalism by dumbing down their curricula and forcing them to teach to standardized bubble tests, leaving them little autonomy in their teaching; if we persist in denigrating their profession and reducing the benefits that supplement their modest salaries; and if we fail to educate them well enough so that they, in turn, can educate the next generation in a changing, complex world.
The union budget of 2012-13 gives a sense of deja vu. Very little has changed since the previous year. Given that the GDP growth has been the lowest in 8 years, essentially due to a slowdown in manufacturing, this indicates that the government believes that fundamentally everything is in place, and a continuing emphasis on infrastructure building will carry the country past the current low.
Total expenses budgeted for are INR 14,90,925 crores. This is 13% more than last year. 34.4% of this will be financed by borrowings.
- Interest payments take INR 3,19,759 crores, ie, 21% of the total; the same as last year. Debt repayment takes away INR 1,24,302 crores. Between the two, 30% of the budget is accounted for. This is almost the same fraction as last year.
- Defence gets INR 1,93,408 crores, which is 13% of the budget. In fractional terms this is marginally more than last year. But because the budget has increased this is an increase of 18% over last year’s outlay, and therefore is an actual increase even allowing for inflation.
- Total plan expenses are INR 5,21,025 crores, ie, 35% of the total; exactly the same as last year.
- The health outlay remains unchanged in real terms. The plan outlay is INR 30,477 crores, ie, 2.0% of the budget. This is 14% up from last year’s outlay of INR 26,760 crores, so stable against inflation.
- The education budget remains unchanged in real terms. The plan expense is INR 61,427 crores, ie, 4.1% of the budget, compared to 4% of the budget last year.
- Science and technology gets INR 5,975, space gets INR 5,615, and atomic energy gets INR 11,673. Together this is 1.6% of the budget. This is fractionally less than last year in percentage terms, so the outlay is stable against inflation.
- Air India gets an equity injection of INR 4,000 crores!
Tax revenue is estimated to be 82.4% of the net revenue, and 51.7% of the budget outlay. 34.4% of the budget will be covered by borrowings and other liabalities, up from 31% last year. So this is more of a populist budget than last year. Social spending remains a stable small fraction of the budget.
The Hindu Business Line is critical of the government’s revenue model:
The Budget’s revenue projections also reaffirm the reversal of the overall post-reform trend of a steady increase in the contribution of direct taxes to the Centre’s revenue kitty. The contribution of direct taxes had grown from less than a fifth in 1990-91 to almost 59 per cent in 2010-11. Since then there has been steady decline and in 2012-13, this share is budgeted at 52.39 per cent of total revenues.
The emphasis on indirect taxes for additional revenue mop up is perceptible, given that Mr Mukherjee expects the indirect tax proposals to result in a net revenue gain of Rs 45,940 crore during next financial year.
Direct tax proposals are likely to result in loss of Rs 4,500 crore, said Mr Mukherjee in his Budget speech.
The increased reliance on indirect taxes is seen as regressive as taxes on goods are paid by the rich and poor alike, while taxes on income and corporate profits are viewed as more egalitarian. Taxing individuals and corporates rather than production and trade would result in less stifling of economic activity, according to economists.
The union budget of 2011-12 can be viewed here.
The usual question asked by a “good” student in India at this time of the year was asked in a different context by Foreign Policy. Considering university education in the US it wrote:
Colorado College, for example, has an annual tuition of $39,900 — and once room, board, and supplies are factored in, that rises to a whopping $52,000 for non-Colorado based students. You have to pay top dollar for a top-ranked school, of course: Colorado College is No. 1 in the nation for being “marijuana friendly,” according to test-prep agency Princeton Review.
While Colorado College’s fees are at the upper end, it is hardly unique. The College Board suggests that more than two-fifths of full-time undergraduate college students attend a college that charges less than $9,000 per year for tuition and fees — but, at the other end, more than a quarter are in schools charging $36,000 or more. Some of those students get a scholarship, many get federal aid — but plenty don’t, or don’t get enough.
Global university rankings, like those from Shanghai University, Britain’s Times Higher Education Supplement, and Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), are hardly free of controversy. And they are rarely centered on the student experience — instead, taking into account things like the number of Nobel prizes awarded to faculty or how many citations the average professor gets in journals that are read by a global readership of 43 (on a good day). Nonetheless, they provide one broad measure of university quality around the globe. And the rankings do suggest the United States remains top dog in terms of world-beating universities. Seven out of the top ten on the Times ranking are American schools, for example. All three rankings have at least two British universities among the top ten, however, and the QS ranking helpfully reports that these universities charge around $22,000 in annual tuition to foreign students — compared to domestic fees of around $38,000 for the top U.S. schools.
That said, 99 percent of U.S. college applicants don’t have a great shot at Harvard and MIT, or have little hope of spending three years shivering in the windswept fens of Cambridge or the fog-bound damp of Oxford. But the good news for prospective students and parents is that the opportunities for bargains get better as you go down the rankings: Canada’s McGill University is ahead of America’s Duke University, for example, and charges about half the fees. And the Shanghai top 500 includes about 37 universities from low- and middle-income economies. Institutions like the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil and Fudan University in China both rank above renowned U.S. establishments like George Washington University in Washington, D.C. or Notre Dame in Indiana.
South Africa’s University of Cape Town beats out Georgetown University on the QS rankings. But Georgetown’s fees are $40,000-plus, compared to an upper end of $8,000 for foreign students attending Cape Town. And only one of the two comes with quality local wine and views of Table Mountain. Or what about the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi — ranked a little above Notre Dame in the QS rankings, but with annual fees somewhere between a fifth and a seventh of the price? Again, on the same rankings, the American University of Beirut beats out Brandeis — for one-fifth the price.
Want to combine a quality education with language immersion? Peking University — No. 49 on the Times criteria, above Penn State — charges between $4,000 and $6,000 in tuition a year. For those wanting to brush up their Spanish, the Catholic University of Chile ranks considerably above Wake Forest, but the fees are 80 percent lower.
But junior won’t just learn language there. The even-better news is that many developing country universities score better on the teaching environment than they do on overall rankings. For example, the Times scores suggests that Peking University’s ranking on teaching is better than all but 15 of the 49 universities above it on the list. That may be why a growing number of foreign students are flocking to universities in middle income countries. In 2009, three developing economies — Russia, China, and South Africa — attracted nearly 250,000 overseas students between them, according to the OECD.