Monday, 16 November 2015

Overhaul education system

In the good olden days, education was regarded as a noble profession. Education was imparted to all those interested without prejudices of caste and creed. Education was imparted free of cost and out of courtesy and affection of the gurus that it was disseminated to the students. Money was not the sole criterion with regard to their profession of education. In contrast, the present education system is not knowledge-oriented. It is rather commerce-oriented to the core.
The education system has of late become a tool in the hands of politicians and policy makers to exploit students right from the kinder garden level to the university level. The hopes and aspirations of the parents who send their wards to schools and colleges to mould the lives of their wards are belied. Standards are so poor. In the end, the knowledge the students acquire is not of any concrete use in the country, nor is it beneficial for them to pursue further employment or education abroad.
Although primary education in the country has been made free and compulsory for all children, in practice such a provision ensured by the government has no takers by a larger section of society in view of thelackadaisical attitude of the government and authorities in implementing the scheme. It is high time that the present education system is overhauled, reviewed and revised suitably and appropriately to suit to the opportunities and convenience of the present day generation of students. Teaching methodology and curriculum standards should be upgraded to world-class quality so that the knowledge acquired is makes them employable as well as value-based.
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Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Aadhaar can be a boon for India’s education system

An Aadhaar-linked academic record can enable each new school to be confident that it knows what previous education each student has received, prior to attendance
An Aadhaar-linked academic record can enable each new school to be confident that it knows what previous education each student has received, prior to attendance
(Dinesh Krishnan/ Fobes India, April 13, 2011)

Most would agree that Aadhaar is India’s most revolutionary technological endeavour in recent history, second only to mobile telephony in its scale and impact. What other technology or service has shown such impressive growth anywhere in the world – from zero to over 80 crore (800 million) users in under six years? If you ask a room full of people, “Who has an Aadhaar card?” most will raise their hand. But if you ask them if they’ve ever used their card, few hands go up. I believe Aadhaar has implications far broader than the financial services with which most people currently associate it with. This under-utilised asset is ready to improve education, create jobs, and grow the economy.

To understand its potential in education, one must first grasp how Aadhaar works in the most well-known application: The Aadhaar-enabled payment system. This system essentially allows anyone with an Aadhaar ID to go to a micro-ATM and check their balance, withdraw money, deposit cash, and transfer funds to another person with an Aadhaar number. The Aadhaar system also allows the government to send payments electronically to beneficiaries – even those who may not have previously had bank accounts – without concern for the fraud that currently plagues direct payment schemes. Simply put: Aadhaar’s ID’s are attached to real people, and reliably allow transactions of all kinds to happen between clearly identified citizens and the institutions that serve them.

While payment services enabled via Aadhaar have clear value in “financial inclusion” and save money by eliminating fraud and corruption, they are not fundamentally changing an industry. The impact on education will be different. India’s education sector, which broadly includes K-12 and university education as well as vocational training, is ready for Aadhaar to improve via a fundamental disruption: Long term tracking and certification of results, all tied to reliable IDs. India currently lacks a formal system of tracking a person’s school record, training certifications, or employment history. As a result, the academic performances of Indian students have limited documentation and are not tracked over a student’s career; data that is tracked cannot be verified, and service providers and employers in India’s job market lack an efficient means to properly match the most qualified job candidates of specific skills sets to the jobs that most require candidates with those qualifications.

India’s youth are increasingly mobile, moving with their parents as they seek economic opportunities, and then moving to larger towns and cities to get better educational opportunities. An Aadhaar-linked academic record can enable each new school to be confident that it knows what previous education each student has received, prior to attendance. As a result, policymakers and curriculum designers can track academic results of students over time, even as they move between school systems in different states, in order to determine the outcomes of various improvements made to educational systems at the local or national level.

Such student tracking is well established in the US. As of 2010, all 50 states are using a statewide student identifier that remains with a student throughout his or her primary and secondary education career. And 33 states now have the ability to follow student progress into post-secondary education. They can do so by connecting primary/secondary records of individual students with each state’s respective records in its state public higher education system. Creating a similar tracking system based on Aadhaar IDs is well within the reach of the more centrally-managed Indian education system over the coming years.
Aadhaar’s unique IDs can also be used by the vocational education sector as a tracking mechanism that can link to a record of a person’s vocational skill set as well as his or her academic and employment history. For example, a mechanic who specialises in a specific field will be able to charge proper fees for being the most qualified mechanic to best diagnose and fix a problem.

Qualification will be determined by verified skills, certifications, and reputation rather than by word of mouth and anecdotal stories. Having the ability to track the academic and professional history of each person and increase the efficiency of the matching process in services and employment markets will ultimately incentivise citizens to lead more productive careers. Service providers and job seekers will be able to conclusively certify their knowledge, skill sets, experiences, and thereby be rewarded accordingly. To date, people have been expressing their capabilities on resumes, websites, and sign boards. Nobody could easily know how truthful such claims were. Now, skills claims linked to Aadhaar IDs will be verifiable – they will be a new, higher value currency.

Aadhaar-linked skills marketplaces are already being created. In August 2013, the Indian government launched a new programme called the National Skill Certificate and Monetary Reward scheme through a training company, Centum Learning. In order to create a stronger skilled and employable workforce, this new scheme grants government monetary rewards, called Standard Training & Assessment Rewards, to its programme graduates. Training programmes under the scheme are intended to develop and certify skills against industry standards. The assessment and certification processes involved are based on rigorous norms as per National Occupational Standards. Under the scheme, Centum Learning offers skills training on industry recognised courses in order to orient and skill the youth on diverse job roles across priority employment sectors, including, sales in telecom and organised retail, customer service skills in BPO, telecom installation & fault repair, telecom tower equipment operations & maintenance, gems & jewellery, etc. The rewards are directly transferred to the graduates’ Aadhaar-linked bank accounts.

Therefore, in order to be a part of this programme, the government requires that each candidate be enrolled in Aadhaar, ensuring that funds go where they are intended, and that participants are rewarded accordingly.

Leveraging Aadhaar to track students and electronically certify academic and employment histories can certainly contribute to the growth of India’s economy while realising the “demographic dividend” and improving income opportunities across the population.

- By Will Poole, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Unitus Seed Fund

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Friday, 16 October 2015

Online education is the way-forward in India

Internet bandwidths are revamping traditional modes of education with new dimensions and a better reach. Distance is no longer a barrier. Choice of course is no more a hindrance. If you prefer a course, online education-service providers will ensure that you get the best through innovative interactive means, no matter where you are.
At the recently concluded EdTech.Now conclave in Delhi, organized by WizIQ, the discussion aimed at understanding the challenges and opportunities for online education service providers.

“The whole purpose of creating a premier conclave in the form EdTech.Now was to bring together thought leaders, innovators, industry experts, educators and content providers on a common platform. We are providing ‘do-it-yourself’ platforms to online education service providers across the globe,” said Harman Singh, Founder and CEO, WizIQ.
According to Aakash Chaudhary, Director, Aakash Education, technology can enhance the abilities of teachers and make them more accountable. He said that technology can help teachers become better teachers.

Also, present during the discussion, Vikalp Jain, Co-Founder, Acadgild, online-service provider from Bengaluru said, “Online courses don’t solve problems for majority of people. We have to bring human element in online courses. Along with this, duration of the online course plays an important role in retention of the student.”
The overall opinion echoed during the discussion – interaction is the way-forward in the changing education culture in India. Brick-mortar models are not completely passe but online courses are gradually gaining ground owing to their flexibility and low cost.
The online course offered by Aakash Institute, for instance, costs 1/4th the price of the offline course.

Plus, it comes with live tutoring mechanism, which allows students to access course without aid of any teachers. Students can later submit their doubts, which will be clarified by subject-matter experts through online mode. The company runs such virtual classroom models in Kota, Malda, Kharaghpur, Cuttack and Chandigarh.
Running on virtual classroom format is another Startup Embibe. Started in November 2012, the company helps students prepare for engineering and medical exams, through a completely online mode.

“We try to provide private virtual teacher to every student through data sense driven engine. Our goal is to help students learn and score higher by identifying their weaknesses which could be related to time management while appearing for exams, overcoming careless mistakes or gaining better clarity over concepts,” said Aditi Avasthi, CEO, Embibe.
She added that through this platform, she is trying to help students become confident individuals by helping them realize their true potential.


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Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Importance of technical education in India

India is witnessing the age of science and technology. In our everyday life and in every sphere of our life the influence of science and technology is becoming so pervasive that man’s existence in this world is simply inconceivable in their absence today. The pattern of life evolving in this age is very much different from the one we would find in our society even some fifty years back. This is why, to train our people in response to the need of the time, our education must be reorganized to give it the necessary practical and technical bias. Such education alone can produce the specialized armies for making and operating the modern machines. Technical Education imparts knowledge of specific trade, craft or profession. Technical Education can meet the expanding demands of expanding society and to meet its multiplying demands. The industries, mechanized systems and scientific research centers all over the world prove beyond doubt that our tie with the past is snapped and instead of bare hands we must use machines and technological devices for all-round development and regeneration of human society. So there is huge demand for technical education in modern age.
In India, the education was thoroughly reorganized stressing on the importance of science and technology. The present education system in India mainly comprises of primary education, secondary education, senior secondary education and higher education. Elementary education consists of eight years of education. Each of secondary and senior secondary education consists of two years of education. Higher education in India starts after passing the higher secondary education or the 12th standard. Depending on the stream, doing graduation in India can take three to five years. Post graduate courses are generally of two to three years of duration. After completing post graduation, some of the students do research work.
Technical Education plays a vital role in human resource development of the country by creating skilled manpower, enhancing industrial productivity and improving the quality of life. The Technical Education refers to post secondary courses of study and practical training after 10th in Polytechnics and after 12th in Engineering colleges/NITs/IITs etc which are aimed at preparation of technicians to work as supervisory staff. The term Vocational Training refers to lower level education and training for the population of skilled or semi-skilled workers in various trades after 8th or 10th in ITIs.
Technical Education is instrumental in making the remarkable contribution to economic growth of the Developing Countries by way of suitable manpower production according to the needs of the Industry, Society and the Global World as a whole. To produce fully skilled manpower/ knowledgeable technocrats in the present era of science and technology is the need of the hour.

Technical Education covers degree and diploma courses and programmes in engineering & technology, management, architecture, town planning, pharmacy and applied arts & crafts, hotel management and catering technology.

Polytechnic education has responded to the challenges of industrialization for self-reliance. Most of the polytechnics in the country offer three year generalized diploma courses in conventional disciplines such as Civil, Electrical Mechanical, Automobile Engineering. During the last two decades many polytechnics started offering courses in other disciplines such as Electronics, Computer Science, Medical Lab technology, Instrumentation & Control, Architectural Assistantship, Leather Technology, Textile Technology etc. Many diploma programmes are also being offered exclusively for women in Women’s Polytechnics such as in Garment Technology, Beauty Culture and Textile Design. Polytechnics are meant to provide skills after class X and the duration of diploma programmes is three years, which means, the trainee becomes employable at the age of 19 years.  The aim of the polytechnic education is to create a pool of skill based manpower to support shop floor and field operations as a middle level link between technicians and engineers. The pass-outs of Diploma level Institutions in Engineering & Technology play an important role in managing shop-floor operations. It is further an established fact that small & medium Industry prefer to employ Diploma Holders because of their special skills in reading and interpreting drawings, estimating, costing & billing, supervision, measurement, testing, repair, maintenance etc.

For the economic development and to ensure a place for India in the community of prosperous nations technical education was given the due importance. Besides this, in this age of unemployment, only technical education can assure one of a job and a comfortable living. Those who are still in the conventional institutions, passing examination that have little relevance in the modern systems, find no opportunities of employment. And, quite naturally, they are victims of frustration and find themselves alienated from the mainstream of modern world. With their stereo-typed general education without any specialization and professional skill they acquire nothing to contribute to the progress and prosperity of the human society. They are quite aware of this and this awareness leaves them demoralized.

India has one of the largest technical manpower in the world. However, compared to its population it is not significant and there is a tremendous scope of improvement in this area. In India, the emphasis has been on general education, with technical and vocational education at the receiving end. This has resulted in large number of educated people remaining unemployed. This phenomenon has now been recognised by the planners and hence there is a greater thrust on vocationalisation of education.

During the last decade, India has seen a tremendous increase in the number of Engineering Colleges at Degree level and Polytechnics Colleges at Diploma level throughout the country.

Another shortcoming in the area of technical and vocational education is that till now, the number of engineers graduating is more than the diploma holders. This is creating an imbalance, as more workforces are required at the lower level. Hence more polytechnics and Institute for Industrial Training (ITIs) are being opened now. Under Government of India scheme of “Sub-mission on Polytechnics” new polytechnics has been set up in every district of the state. In our State in the year 2012, 18 new polytechnic college were opened in each uncovered district. The vocationalisation of education has received a boost with present Govt of India allocating more funds for the purpose under skill development. Besides, it is also being ensured that the marginalised sections of the society, including women, get adequate representation in these courses. It can thus be hoped that Technical and vocational education will play a major role in improving the lives of the people of India.
(The author is Principal Government  Polytechnic College Kathua)

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Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Only 28.84% schools in Telangana have internet

HYDERABAD: At a time when the Centre is rooting for a digital India, a report by Ministry of Human Resource Development says that only 28.84% schools in Telangana have computer and internet facility, leaving more than one crore students across the state unexposed to the World Wide Web.
The recently-released report as part of the Flash Statistics 2014-15 for Secondary Education in India highlights the poor condition of schools across the state in terms of basic facilities.
In Telangana, only 30.09% secondary schools and 23.17% higher secondary schools have computer and internet facility. Adding to the woes, less than 40% schools in the state have fully-equipped physics, chemistry, biology and computer labs. Apart from this, only 24.96% secondary schools have integrated science laboratory. "For subjects like science, chemistry and physics, practicals are must as they develop a permanent image of concepts in a students' mind," said G Dakshinamurthy, convenor of Forum for Protection of Values in Education.
Although 91.39% schools have library facility, only 8.86% have librarians. Apart from this, 24.29% schools in the state do not have playgrounds.As far as health and hygiene is concerned, a measly 34.09% schools have hand-washing facility near toilets and only 67.56% schools have done medical check-ups during the previous academic year.
Lack of facilities in schools clearly reflect the results as the transition rate from secondary to higher secondary has dropped from 76.80% between 2012-13 to 69.21% in 2013-14. While GO Ms. 246 issued by the erstwhile government of Andhra Pradesh mandates constitution of parent-teachers association , the data reveals that only 27.16% schools in the state have adhered to the norms. "Every school needs to consult PTAs before taking any major decisions. However, schools are clearly flouting norms, due to which issues such as fee hike and poor development have come to the fore," said Ashish Naredi, executive member of the Hyderabad School Parents Association. While 99% schools in the state have buildings, only 46.04% schools have ramps and are accessible to students with special needs.

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Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Google launches online IT degrees in India

BANGALORE, India - Search engine giant Google and online education company Udacity on Monday launched IT courses in India, branching outside the US to tap the country's millions of software developers scrambling for jobs.
The pair teamed with Indian conglomerate Tata to offer online technical training courses, focusing on teaching software developers to build apps for Android, the Google-backed mobile operating system.

Costing 9,800 rupees (US$148) a month, the degrees will take between six and nine months to complete, with lessons from Google instructors based in the United States. Students will get 50 percent of tuition costs back on graduation.

Google is looking to cash in on skilling up many of India's 3.6 million developers, the second largest number worldwide, while at the same time seeking more developers who can programme for Android devices.

"While India has millions of software developers, we still lag behind in creating world-class apps," Google India managing director Rajan Anandan told reporters in India's IT hub of Bangalore.

The companies will also offer 1,000 scholarships and all graduates will be invited to a job fair next year hosted by Google in India.

The launch comes as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi heads to Silicon Valley this weekend as part of a visit to the US, seeking foreign investment in India's plethora of start-ups as well as financial tieups with US tech giants.

Modi, who will meet Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg, is expected to reassure IT CEOs of efforts to reduce red tape and make it easier to do business in India, a massive market of 1.26 billion people.

India also boasts a large number of engineering and IT specialists who have left the country to rise to the top of the US corporate world, including Google's new chief executive Sundar Pichai and Microsoft boss Satya Nadella.

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Monday, 21 September 2015

PhD students applying for peon jobs in UP: The real problem is with the Indian education system

In the USA, a PhD scholar, researching on pure sciences, has to sweat it out with the committee before which she has to defend her thesis, having to undergo severe challenges spanning more than five years. Publication of papers related to the area of research in reputed journals is part of the requirement before a candidate is proudly allowed to take the ‘walk’ — a bantering and light hearted Americanese for convocation.

It is not only the patent regime that insists on novelty but also the fastidious regime obtaining for making the grade for the coveted doctorate though the US patent regime has come for criticism for granting patents too readily and too easily even for marginal improvements to an existing product or service. Be that as it may.

Against this backdrop, the collective mourning by the Indian media for the sorry plight of some 250 PhD scholars who are among the 23 lac applicants for 368 vacancies for the peon job in the Uttar Pradesh government misses the woods for trees.

Narayanamurthy, one of the founders of the India iconic IT Company Infosys, bemoaned the employability of our engineering graduates. His grievance, shared by many of his peers, was they required a prolonged induction training spanning six months at considerable expenses to the employer before they learnt the ropes and tricks of trade.

Representative image. Agencies

PhDs languishing without jobs is only a heightened manifestation of the same festering problem which has been addressed only half-heartedly, if at all, by a few companies like L&T by setting up their own vocational training schools.

The deemed universities that have mushroomed all over the country are more at fault. Academic rigor is sorely absent in the entire process culminating in awarding of PhD degrees. In fact, many of their teaching staff insidiously complete their doctorates on laughably simple issues sans novelty value — thesis on double entry system of accounting to wit. These universities oblige their own staff more because it serves their purpose as well as education regulators in India insist on PhD degree for professors.

The lucky ones soldier on in the universities and academia sans academic rigor but many not able to land teaching jobs, seek employment as generalists like the ones applying for the peon jobs in UP.

The malaise indeed has deep roots in the system of education in the country. Small wonder boys and girls going abroad for higher education are viewed as prized possessions by Indian companies when they return home armed with a foreign PhD degree on an esoteric subject.
The UP government would do well not to indulge the psycho-babbling of the PhD scholars by giving them the peon jobs which while giving them immediate succor would see them sulking in the long run with the resultant shoddy performance coming to haunt the government sooner than later besides affecting the overall morale of the establishment.
The universities that gave them PhD degrees at the drop of the hat must be taken to task by the education regulators so that in future they don’t trivialize with such coveted degrees. Benign guides with winking universities have been the bane of our PhD dispensation. It is not difficult to set right this malady because PhD is not a regular classroom course but the one where the candidate and guide are supposed to think out of the box. The UGC must mandate that the committee before whom a candidate presents his research paper must be drawn from the who's who of the experts on the field, and as far as possible be the ones with whom the candidate cannot curry favor or cozy up to.

It is time our employers, while prescribing the minimum qualifications, also prescribe the maximum qualifications so that the supposedly overqualified do not apply. Meanwhile the PhD scholars who have applied for peon’s position with the UP government must seek solace elsewhere.

To be addressed as ‘Doctor Sahib’ is ego-boosting but it can cause incalculable harm if it dawns later on that the appellation was not earned but gotten thanks to the indulgent education system.

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