What ASER says about quality of learning in India

The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2018 published by education non-profit Pratham shows the prevalence of learning deficit and the poverty of basic reading and arithmetic skills among students in Indian schools. Mint analyses the highlights of the report.

What does the ASER 2018 report say?

The report shows that Indian students, especially those in elementary school (Classes I-VIII), are not learning enough. To cite one metric, only half (50.3%) of all students in Class V can read texts meant for Class II students. There seems to have been some improvement in learning levels, especially among students of Class III and Class V, in 2018 compared with those of the previous five years. However, the improvement is not visible at a higher level, for example among students of Class VIII. The latest report collected data from 596 districts by surveying 546,527 students from 354,944 homes.

Is this learning deficit prevalent only in government schools?

The deficit is across government and private schools. Traditionally, students in private schools have fared better than their government school counterparts, but that’s a relative situation. For example, while 40% of Class VIII students in government schools can do simple division, the figure is 54.2% in private schools. But this success rate is three percentage points below that of 2012 and the same as in 2014. “Private school students are believed to have a better family background, both in economic and education front. That’s a key differentiator,” said Pratham chief executive Rukmini Banerjee.

Why is learning level in schools important?

The quality of the learning level bears directly on India’s future workforce, its competitiveness and the economy. India’s demographic dividend depends on the learning level of students.

Are learning levels improving in government schools?

Yes; there is a gradual improvement in some segments and in some states. The reading ability among Class V students in Kerala jumped 10 percentage points in 2018 from that in 2016. In Himachal Pradesh, the growth is nearly 8 percentage points and in Chhattisgarh and Odisha, it is around 7 percentage points between 2016 and 2018. Still, data from states such as Jharkhand, West Bengal, Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Tamil Nadu shows a marginal dip in the same criterion for the same cohort.

Do private schools have more students?

The situation has been almost static in the last five years. While 30.9% of students in the 6-14 age group were in private schools in 2018, the figure was 30.6% in 2016 and 30.8% in 2014. This is less than a percentage point growth since 2014. In Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, there is a two percentage point drop in private school enrolment. In Gujarat, Bihar, Jammu, and Kashmir, it has risen by a similar margin. Private school dependence in Manipur (70.4%) and Haryana (55.3%) is much higher than the national average.

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Global Education Monitoring Report 2019: Migration, displacement and education: Building bridges, not walls

UNESCO’s 2019 Global Education Monitoring Report, Migration, displacement and education, is released in the presence of the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay today in Berlin. The report shows that the number of migrant and refugee school-age children around the world today has grown by 26% since 2000 and could fill half a million classrooms.

The Report highlights countries’ achievements and shortcomings in ensuring the right of migrant and refugee children to benefit from quality education, a right that serves the interests of both learners and the communities they live in.

Highlights of the report:

Literacy levels in rural households of India dip with seasonal migration

In India, 10.7 million children aged 6 to 14 lived in rural households with a seasonal migrant in 2013. About 28% of youth aged 15 to 19 in these households were illiterate or had not completed primary school, compared to 18% of the cohort overall.

About 80% of seasonal migrant children in seven cities lacked access to education near work sites, and 40% are likely to end up in work rather than education, experiencing abuse and exploitation.

Inter-State migration rates have doubled between 2001 and 2011. An estimated 9 million migrated between States annually from 2011 to 2016. The report also warns of the negative impact on education for children who are left behind as their parents migrate.

The construction sector absorbs the majority of short-term migrants. A survey in Punjab state of 3,000 brick kiln workers in 2015-16 found that 60% were inter-State migrants. Between 65% and 80% of all children aged five to 14 living at the kilns worked there seven to nine hours per day. About 77% of kiln workers reported a lack of access to early childhood or primary education for their children.

What has been done in this regard?

  • India has taken steps to address the issue.
  • The Right to Education Act in 2009 made it mandatory for local authorities to admit migrant children.
  • National-level guidelines were issued, allowing for the flexible admission of children, providing transport and volunteers to support with mobile education.
  • The policies were attempted to create seasonal hostels and aiming to improve coordination between sending and receiving districts and states.
  • Some State governments have also taken steps for migrant children’s education.

Pending Issues:

  • Most interventions are focused on keeping children in home communities instead of actively addressing the challenges faced by those who are already on the move.
  • There is the growth of slums and informal settlements where schools are often scarce due to migration as a challenge. The report shows there is only one urban planner for every 1, 00,000 people in India, while there are 38 for every 1, 00,000 in the United Kingdom.
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Dr. Satya Pal Singh Launches Leadership for Academicians Program (LEAP) and Annual Refresher Programme In Teaching (ARPIT) for higher education faculty

Dr. Satya Pal Singh, Minister of State, Ministry of Human Resource Development, launched two new initiatives; Leadership for Academicians Programme (LEAP) and Annual Refresher Programme In Teaching (ARPIT)  at New Delhi.

About the Leadership for Academicians Programme (LEAP):

Leadership for Academicians Programme (LEAP) is a three weeks Flagship leadership development training programme (2 weeks domestic and one-week foreign training) for second level academic functionaries in publicly funded higher education institutions.

The main objective is to prepare second-tier academic heads that are potentially likely to assume leadership roles in the future.

The programme would provide senior faculty, with high academic credentials, the required leadership and managerial skills including skills of problem-solving, handling stress, team building work, conflict management, developing communication skills, understanding and coping with the complexity and challenges of governance in HEIs, financial & general administration.

The implementation of LEAP Programme will be through 15 NIRF top-ranked Indian Institutions namely. The foreign Universities identified for the training are also within the top 100 in the world global rankings.

About Annual Refresher Programme in Teaching (ARPIT):

Annual Refresher Programme in Teaching (ARPIT) is a major and unique initiative of online professional development of 15 lakh higher education faculty using the MOOCs platform SWAYAM.

For implementing ARPIT, 75 discipline-specific institutions have been identified and notified as National Resource Centres (NRCs) in the first phase, which is tasked to prepare online training material with a focus on latest developments in the discipline, new & emerging trends, pedagogical improvements and methodologies for transacting revised curriculum.

ARPIT will be an ongoing exercise so that every year NRCs will continuously develop new refresher module in their earmarked discipline each year. The training materials will be uploaded and made available through SWAYAM. NRC will publish the list of the faculty who have been certified. The NRCs will revolutionize the professional development of faculty by catering to massive numbers by leveraging ICT and online technology platform of SWAYAM.

NRCs are located in a mixed range of institutions such as, Central Universities, IISc, IUCAA, IITs, IISERs, NITs, State Universities under the Ministry’s Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya National Mission on Teachers and Teaching (PMMMNMTT); UGC’s Human Resource Development Centres (HRDCs), National Institutes for Technical Teachers Training (NITTTRs), IIITs and IGNOU.

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Cabinet approves setting up of Central Tribal University of Andhra Pradesh

The Union cabinet approved setting up of ‘Central Tribal University of Andhra Pradesh’. It will be established in Relli village of Vizianagaram District.

The proposed university will come up after necessary amendment in the Central Universities Act, Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

“The ‘Central Tribal University of Andhra Pradesh’ will be set up in Relli village of Vizianagaram District as provided under the Thirteenth Schedule to the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014.

“Cabinet has also approved the provision of funds of Rs 4.2 billion for the first phase expenditure towards the establishment of the Central Tribal University,” the government said in its statement.

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Union HRD Minister launches the web portal of the Scheme for Promotion of Academic and Research Collaboration (SPARC) in New Delhi

The Minister of Human Resource Development, Shri Prakash Javadekar launched   the web portal of the Scheme “Scheme for Promotion of Academic and Research Collaboration (SPARC)” in New Delhi

About Scheme for Promotion of Academic and Research Collaboration (SPARC):

The Government in August 2018 had sanctioned the scheme “Scheme for Promotion of Academic and Research Collaboration (SPARC)” at a total cost of Rs.418 Cr for implementation up to 31.3.2020.

Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur is the National Coordinating Institute to implement the SPARC programme. Details may be viewed at www.sparc.iitkgp.ac.in.

The scheme aims at improving the research ecosystem of India’s higher educational institutions by facilitating academic and research collaborations between Indian Institutions and the best institutions in the world.

Under this Scheme, 600 joint research proposals will be awarded for 2 years to facilitate strong research collaboration between Indian research groups with the best in class faculty and renowned research groups in the leading universities of the world, in areas that are at the cutting edge of science or with direct social relevance to the mankind, specifically India.

This Scheme is expected to have a major impact in providing the best international expertise to address major national problems, expose Indian academicians to the best collaborators abroad, enable international faculty to stay in India for a longer duration, provide Indian students an opportunity to work in the world class laboratories, to develop strong bilateral relationships in research, and improve the international ranking of Indian Institutes.

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HRD Ministry launches schemes to promote science, social science research

The Centre announced the formal launch of two schemes to promote higher education research in India: IMPRESS, dealing with social science research projects and coordinated by the ICSSR, and SPARC, involving foreign collaboration mainly in science research, coordinated by IIT Kharagpur.

Asked whether proposals critical of government policies would also be accepted after perusal, the Minister answered in the affirmative.

Asserting that selection would be merit-based from present and retired faculty from quality public and private institutions, the Minister said the shortlisted areas for research include state and democracy, urban transformation, media, culture and society, employment, skills, rural transformation, governance, innovation, and public policy, agriculture, science, social media, politics, law, and government, etc.

SPARC — Scheme for Promotion of Academic and Research Collaboration — he said, would entail a spending of ₹418 crore on 600 research proposals. There categories of projects — worth below ₹50 lakh, ₹75 lakh, and ₹1 crore — would be cleared on a merit-based basis.

Those universities that are in the top 500 in QS or top 100 in NIRF — and departments in the top 200 in QS — are eligible to participate, Mr. Javadekar said.

The research areas — where the selected teams of eight, a mix of top Indian and foreign institutions, would undertake research — include fundamental research, advanced electronics, communication, structural genomics, and affordable health care, among others, he said.

SPARC will see India collaborate with 28 countries.

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Cabinet approves merger of National Council for Vocational Training, NCVT and National Skill Development Agency, NSDA to establish National Council for Vocational Education and Training, NCVET

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the merger of the existing regulatory institutions in the skills space – National Council for Vocational Training (NCVT) and the National Skill Development Agency (NSDA) into the National Council for Vocational Education and Training (NCVET).

NCVET will regulate the functioning of entities engaged in vocational education and training, both long-term and short-term and establish minimum standards for the functioning of such entities. The primary functions of NCVET will include -recognition and regulation of awarding bodies, assessment bodies, and skill related information providers;

  • approval of qualifications developed by awarding bodies and Sector Skill Councils (SSCs);
  • indirect regulation of vocational training institutes through awarding bodies and assessment agencies;
  • research and information dissemination;
  • grievance redressal.

The Council would be headed by a Chairperson and will have Executive and Non-Executive Members. Since NCVET is proposed to be set up through the merger of two existing bodies, the existing infrastructure and resources will be utilized for the most part. In addition, a few more posts will be created for its smooth functioning. The regulator will follow the best practices of regulatory processes, which will help ensure that it performs its functions professionally and as per the applicable laws.

This institutional reform will lead to improvement in quality and market relevance of skill development programs lending credibility to vocational education and training encouraging greater private investment and employer participation in the skills space. This, in turn, will help achieve the twin objectives of enhancing the aspirational value of vocational education and of increasing skilled manpower furthering the Prime Minister’s agenda of making India the skill capital of the world.

Being a regulator of India’s skill ecosystem, NCVET will have a positive impact on each individual who is a part of vocational education and training in the country. The idea of skill-based education will be seen in a more inspirational manner which would further encourage students to apply for skill-based educational courses. This is also expected to facilitate the ease of doing business by providing a steady supply of skilled workforce to the industry and services.

In an effort to realize India’s demographic dividend, its workforce needs to be equipped with employable skills and knowledge so that they can contribute to economic growth in a substantive manner.  In the past, most of the country’s skill training needs were met through courses offered by the Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) and under the Modular Employable Scheme (MES), regulated by NCVT. Since this infrastructure was not enough to meet the increasing skill requirements of the country as well as the skilling needs of the growing workforce, the Government took a number of initiatives to scale up the skilling efforts. These efforts resulted in a large expansion of training infrastructure much of which is in the private sector. At present, there are 20 Ministries/ Departments implementing skill development programs mostly using private sector training providers.

However, in the absence of adequate regulatory oversight, numerous stakeholders have been offering training programs of varying standards with multiplicity in assessment and certification systems which are not comparable, with serious consequences for the vocational training system and thus the employability of the country’s youth. An attempt towards some measure of regulation was made with the establishment of the National Skill Development Agency (NSDA) in 2013, to coordinate and harmonize the skill development efforts of the government and the private sector. The primary role of NSDA has been to anchor and operationalize the National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF) to ensure that quality and standards meet sector-specific requirements.

Composition:

The Council would be headed by a Chairperson and will have Executive and Non-Executive Members.

Need:

A need was felt for an overarching regulatory authority which could tend to all aspects of short-term and long-term skill-based training. In view of this, NCVET is envisaged as an institution which will perform the regulatory functions so far vested in NCVT and NSDA. Regulatory functions currently being carried out by the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) through the Sector Skill Councils (SSCs) will also be housed in the NCVET.

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India to Participate In International Students’ Test After 9-Year Boycott

India had taken part in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2009 and bagged the 72nd rank among 74 participating countries.

Then UPA government had boycotted PISA, blaming “out of context” questions for India’s dismal performance.

India is applying with Kendriya Vidyalayas, Navodaya Vidyalayas, and all schools, private and government, in Chandigarh for the 2021 test. The whole application process takes three years.

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NCTE amendment Bill passed

The Lok Sabha passed the National Council for Teacher Education (Amendment) Bill to grant retrospective recognition to Central/State institutions that are conducting teacher education courses without NCTE approval.

This has been done as a one-time measure to ensure that the future of students studying in these institutions is not jeopardized.

The National Council for Teacher Education (Amendment) Bill, 2017

The National Council for Teacher Education (Amendment) Bill, 2017 was introduced by the Minister of Human Resource Development, Mr. Prakash Javadekar in Lok Sabha on December 18, 2017.

The Bill amends the National Council for Teacher Education Act, 1993.  The Act establishes the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE).  The NCTE plans and co-ordinates the development of the teacher education system throughout the country.  It also ensures the maintenance of norms and standards in the teacher education system.  Key features of the 2017 Bill include:

Retrospective recognition of certain teacher education institutions:  The Bill seeks to grant retrospective recognition to institutions: (i) notified by the central government, (ii) funded by the central government or state/union territory government, (iii) which do not have recognition under the Act, and (iv) which must have offered teacher education courses on or after the establishment of the NCTE until the academic year 2017-2018.

Retrospective permission to start new courses:  The Bill also seeks to grant retrospective permission to start a new course or training in teacher education to institutions: (i) notified by the central government, (ii) funded by the central government or state/union territory government, (iii) which have satisfied certain conditions required for the conduct of a new course or training in teacher education, and (iv) which must have offered teacher education courses on or after the establishment of the NCTE until the academic year 2017-2018.

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Govt child rights body to recommend 10% cap on fee hike in private schools

Bringing relief to parents beset by frequent and arbitrary increases in school fees, a government commission is likely to suggest a 10% yearly cap on the fee hike permissible by private, unaided schools, with provisions for penalties in case of violations, two officials familiar with the development said.

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), a statutory body, is in the process of making a recommendation to that effect to the human resource development (HRD) ministry, the officials said on condition of anonymity.

Although fixing school fees is the domain of state governments, in the absence of a standard fee policy for unaided schools, there has been a growing clamor for central regulations.

India has 3,50,000 private, unaided schools — 24% of all schools — where 75 million children, or 38% of all students, study. Such schools do not receive any grant from the government and have to generate their own revenue for sustenance.

Many cities across India have of late seen parents protest arbitrary fee hikes by such schools. In Delhi and Mumbai, for instance, the fee hike in private, unaided schools in last year varied between 10 % and 40 %.

Inundated with complaints from parents, NCPCR, the country’s apex child rights body, has drafted regulations to put in place a uniform fee framework for unaided private schools. It will propose setting up a district fee regulatory authority in states to monitor school fee increases.

The draft regulations will also suggest a formula for determining fees, based on a school’s location, costs incurred, revenue earned, student strength, and other parameters. “We will send the draft regulation to HRD ministry shortly for action,” said a senior NCPCR official.

The framework:

The framework is for private unaided schools – which are 23% of the total schools in India and cater to 36% of the total population of children attending school.

The framework is a model document that may be recommended to states where the fee regulation mechanism does not work effectively.

According to the draft regulations, if a school violates the norms provided in the uniform fee framework, the respective government can bar the school from taking new admissions for the next academic year or impose a fine equivalent to 10% of the total revenue generated by the school or society or trust in the preceding year.

Recommendations:

A 10% yearly cap on fee hike in private, unaided schools.

Set up a district fee regulatory authority in states to monitor school fee increases.

About NCPCR:

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) was set up in March 2007 under the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005.

It works under the administrative control of the Ministry of Women & Child Development.

The Child is defined as a person in the 0 to 18 years age group.

The Commission’s Mandate is to ensure that all Laws, Policies, Programmes, and Administrative Mechanisms are in consonance with the Child Rights perspective as enshrined in the Constitution of India and also the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

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