Restructuring the public school system

The state governments should act as facilitators to the process of school rationalization. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

The state governments should act as facilitators to the process of school rationalization. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Indian public schools are seeing a systemic decline in enrolment, resulting in the massive growth of small and tiny government schools. According to a recent article by economist Geeta Kingdon, 419,000 (40%) of government schools had total enrolment less than 50, and 108,000 schools (10.3%) were “tiny” schools with enrolment of less than 20. Although the Indian public school system has addressed the problem of access, it has failed to withstand competition from private schools. These failures of the public school system call for an overhaul of the structure of schooling in India, especially at a time when the new education policy (NEP) is being drafted by the Kasturirangan committee.

Physical access to neighbourhood schools is now a reality, with 96% of the villages having an elementary school within a radius of 3km. However, physical access does not ensure adequate learning. Ten years of annual survey of education report (Aser) surveys and national achievement surveys by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) have revealed a nationwide learning crisis. The first to exit dysfunctional public schools are those from better socio-economic classes, and the disadvantaged suffer. Studies have revealed that students drop out mainly because schools are not attractive physically and pedagogically. Better learning outcomes need functional schools—not just mere physical access.

The right to education (RTE) Act has defined norms for providing functional access such as pupil-teacher ratio, teacher qualification and infrastructure facilities such as availability of toilets, drinking water, library and playgrounds. However, in addition, we need enough teachers and staff per school, subject teachers in the higher grades, and pedagogical support for the teaching-learning process to make the schools functional.

The complex school organization structure across different levels, such as primary, upper primary and secondary schools, and multiple managements (within government and private) break the continuity in schooling, leading to higher dropout rates. There is no need to have separate primary-only schools when the constitutional mandate is completion of primary and upper-primary classes up to class VIII. With universalization of secondary education on the table, schools from primary to secondary should be integrated and secondary education should integrate vocational education to provide gainful employment.

Composite schools can be created through vertical integration across levels and a consolidation of neighbourhood schools to increase school size, ensure better rationalization of teachers and avoid multi-grade teaching. Consolidation brings efficiency, provides better facilities, trained teachers, more comprehensive curriculum, broader extracurricular activities and diverse social experience.

Many states such, as Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Odisha, Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra, have attempted to consolidate the schools (under names such as school rationalization, mainstreaming, amalgamation and integration) at the primary and upper-primary levels. Rajasthan has undertaken school mergers on the largest scale. About 17,000 schools were ordered to be merged, out of which 12,944 primary and 1,728 upper-primary ones had been merged as of 2016. However, these attempts have been made without adequate study of the need for consolidation and its impact on children in local communities.

School location decisions have to consider the optimal match of schooling demand with supply in the neighbourhood without compromising functional access. The following guiding principles could be followed for consolidation and restructuring: 1. Create before you destroy—construct a functional school infrastructure and appoint teachers in the consolidated school prior to shutting down schools; 2. No child left behind—school consolidation should not result in denial of access to any child; all possible transportation options should be explored, in case consolidation leads to difficulty in physical access; 3. Consult before consolidation—consolidation must be done with the consent of the community through consultations, and the alternative must include consensus on school location, transportation, etc.; 4. Vertical integration—school consolidation should ensure vertical integration across different levels.

Current norms for neighbourhood limits for schools are at different levels: primary schools within 1km, upper-primary schools within 3km and secondary schools within 5km. A common norm for all levels of schooling, with adequate flexibility to suit local conditions, could ensure vertical integration. Administratively, this requires the merger of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) at the Centre (which the ministry of human resource development is contemplating), and primary and secondary education bodies under the departments of education in states.

The Central and state governments should act as facilitators for consolidation and desist from taking a one-size-fits-all approach. Consolidation should be a local exercise—best decided by local authorities. The state governments should act as facilitators to the process of school rationalization by providing technical and financial support and capacity-building of local authorities.

[“Source-livemint”]

Ryan School murder case: CBI questions Class 11 student, no evidence against bus conductor

Demonstrators protest outside Ryan International School in Gurgaon as they demand action against the school. File photo: PTI

Demonstrators protest outside Ryan International School in Gurgaon as they demand action against the school. File photo: PTI

New Delhi: A Class 11 student who allegedly wanted the parent-teacher meeting and exams to be postponed has been apprehended in connection with the killing of a seven-year-old boy in Gurgaon’s Ryan International School, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said on Wednesday.

In a sensational twist to the case, the high school student, who is about 16 years old, was apprehended late last night for allegedly killing his junior inside the school, said a CBI spokesperson.

Pradyuman, a Class 2 student of the school, was found dead with his throat slit by a sharp-edged weapon on the morning of 8 September.

Officials in the agency said the crime was committed in just three to four minutes. The CBI has not found any evidence so far against bus conductor Ashok Kumar, who was the Gurgaon Police’s sole accused in the gruesome killing, CBI spokesperson Abhishek Dayal said.

The murder weapon, a knife, was found in the commode of the toilet where the killing allegedly took place, he said. It was the same knife seized by the Gurgaon Police.

According to the agency, the Class 11 student, believed to be weak in his studies, allegedly slit Pradyuman’s throat to get the school to declare a holiday in order to defer a scheduled parent-teacher meeting (PTM) and an examination.

The CBI spokesperson said the minor student was apprehended last night at 11.30 pm in accordance with the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act. “His parents were kept in the loop and all measures in accordance with the JJ Act were complied with. He remains our prime suspect.”

He said the agency analysed CCTV footage, showing the movement of people in and out of the toilet, on the basis of which it narrowed the list of suspects. The agency has not found any evidence of sexual assault, he said.

The CBI was able to piece together elements of the crime by analysing CCTV footage, scientific and forensic examination, analysis of the crime scene and by questioning students, teachers and staff of the school.

Based on CCTV footage and crime scene analysis, the agency examined all potential suspects and witnesses. The list included 125 teachers and students, officials said.

Ryan Pinto, owner of the Ryan International School chain, is yet to be questioned in the case. “The probe is still on. The first task was to identify the killer. It was a tough case. By the time the case was given to us, many persons were allowed to use the bathroom. We are questioning the teenager only between 10am to 5pm as per JJ Act provisions,” said an official.

The mobile records of all the suspects were scrutinised and examined by the CBI’s special crime team. Although the Class 11 student had planned a killing on 8 September, the “child in conflict with law” had not identified his target, Dayal said. It was a coincidence that Pradyuman reached the toilet and became a victim of senior student’s ghastly plan, officials added.

The father of the high school student told a television channel that his son was innocent and they had been cooperating with the police from day one. “My son didn’t do anything. He informed the gardener and teachers after finding Pradyuman’s body. He stayed in the school the entire day, and appeared for the exam. There was not even a single spot of blood on my son’s clothes,” the father said, his face pixellated to avoid identification.

Giving details, he said Tuesday was the fourth time they were called. “I reached there around 11am… I left from there at 2am and CCTV footage can be seen for that,” he said.

The CBI’s findings will be a major embarrassment for the Gurgaon Police, which had blamed Ashok Kumar and alleged that he was waiting in the toilet with a knife. The police had formed 14 SIT teams.

Kumar, a resident of Ghamdoj village in Sohna, was hired by a school bus contractor around seven months before the killing. Villagers in Ghamdoj had said Kumar had been framed and he had no previous history of being involved in any crime. “Now that they have arrested this student, it is proof that the doubt we had about the police investigation was right,” Pradyuman’s father Varun Thakur told the media.

[“Source-livemint”]

New school offers education ‘salvation’ for Syrian girls in Lebanon

Image result for New school offers education 'salvation' for Syrian girls in Lebanon

BAR ELIAS, Lebanon (Reuters) – A new girls’ school for Syrian refugees in Lebanon’s poor Bekaa region is aiming to give girls from conservative backgrounds the chance at a formal education.

Syrian refugee girls take a photo with Noura Jumblatt, founder of the NGO Kayany Foundation, at a school for Syrian refugee girls, built by the foundation in Bar Elias town, in the Bekaa valley, Lebanon October 19, 2017. Picture taken October 19, 2017. REUTERS/Aziz Taher

Gaining access to education in general is difficult for Syrian refugees in Lebanon, but for girls from socially conservative families who disapprove of mixed schools, it is even harder.

Zahra al-Ayed, 14, and her sister Batoul, 17, were from a village in Syria’s northern Idlib province where women were expected to marry young.

But the experience of fleeing war and living in harsh poverty woke her parents to the life-changing importance of education, the girls’ mother Mirdiyeh al-Ayed said.

“My eldest daughter tells me that she will not marry until after she finishes her education. She even wants to travel abroad and learn,” she said.

Human Rights Watch organisation said in its latest report in April that more than half a million refugee children are out of school in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

In Lebanon, international donors paid for 200,000 public school spaces for Syrian children in 2015-2016, according to the HRW report, but only 149,000 children actually enrolled.

Lebanese and international non-governmental organizations have been striving to fill the gap, and to eliminate the legal, financial and language barriers preventing refugee children from getting their education.

For the al-Ayed family, used to Syria’s system of gender segregation after the age of 12, one big barrier to enrolling the girls was the lack of single-sex schools in Lebanon that accept refugees.

Syrian refugee girls are pictured at a school for Syrian refugee girls, built by the Lebanese non-profit Kayany Foundation in Bar Elias town, in the Bekaa valley, Lebanon October 19, 2017. Picture taken October 19, 2017. REUTERS/Aziz Taher

SYRIAN REFUGEES

The new school that Zahra will attend is in Bar Elias in the Bekaa valley and was opened on Thursday by the Kayany Foundation, a Lebanese charity. It educates 160 Syrian girls aged from 14-18 who have missed school for several years.

Those who manage to pass the Lebanese system’s eighth grade exams – usually taken at the age of 14 or 15 – can join the local Lebanese public school in Bar Elias, which Batoul al-Ayed has done.

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The Kayany Foundation school teaches the official Lebanese curriculum, which includes science, mathematics, Arabic and English, in addition to vocational skills.

The school, built from colorful pre-fabricated classrooms, is its seventh in the Bekaa valley, where the majority of the Syrian refugee communities are located in Lebanon.

It was meant to address the Syrian parents’ concerns about sending their teenage daughters to schools for both girls and boys. All its teachers are women and it provides transportation for students between home and school.

“Education is salvation for the refugee girls,” said Nora Jumblatt, head of the Kayany Foundation, at the opening ceremony.

Funding for the school was secured for this year from international charity Save the Children and the United Nations Women For Peace Association, according to Kayany officials.

“I have a dream to become a pharmacist,” Rama, 19, who is preparing to apply for the eight grade exams at Kayany school said. In normal times, Rama would already have been applying for university at that age.

“I still want to go back to Syria and fulfill my dream there, in Damascus University,” she added.

[“Source-reuters”]

IIT Delhi to soon set up School of Design for creative buds

The proposal has already been approved by the IIT Senate and is likely to be placed before the Board of Governors later this month.
NEW DELHI: The prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) here, known for its engineering courses, will soon set up a School of Design for the ones high on creative quotient.

The proposal has already been approved by the IIT Senate and is likely to be placed before the Board of Governors later this month.

“Be it machines or gadgets, what is inside is what engineers design. But for instance, a phone, how should the case be, how should it look like, where and how the buttons should be, this is not something a technocrat can work better upon and there is a need for someone who specialises in product design,” IIT Delhi Director V Ramgopal Rao told PTI.

The proposed School of Design will offer Bachelor of Design (BDes), a four-year-long course, and Master of Design (MDes) of two-year duration.

“For the BDes there is a separate entrance test in the country and we will be a part of it. Of course, for creative designs you cannot test one on concepts of Physics, Chemistry and Maths but on the ability of creative thinking which is not an engineer’s domain,” he said.

The institute presently offers Master of Design but only has four faculty members for the course with a limited intake.

“Once we have a full-fledged school of design, we will recruit more faculty for the Masters course and then start offering the Bachelor’s degree,” Rao said.

“For the practical aspects, design students will work with engineers and design products which we will patent and commercialise in the longer run as we do for the technical projects,” he said.

 [Source”timesofindia”]