‘Focus on 10 institutions will be a game changer’

TOI file photo of HRD minister Smriti Irani.

Claiming there has been a substantial hike in budget allocation for higher and school education, HRD ministry on Friday said proposals to establish Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) and turning 10 public and private institutions into world class educational institutions could be a game changer.

 Education secretary Vinay Sheel Oberoi said the broad framework of how 10 institutions each from public and private would be selected will be worked out in the next few months. “The idea is to create enabling environment for these institutions. These institutions should be multi-disciplinary.
 Also it should not only have foreign qualified faculty but even foreign faculty,” he said, giving instance of how under Global Initiative of Academic Network (GIAN) more and more institutions are availing foreign teachers. HRD minister Smriti Irani said, “Framework for each institution will vary. We are not in favour of one-size-fits all policy.” Identification of these institutions will take some time, Oberoi said.
 As for Uchchatar Avishkar Abhiyan, additional secretary R Subramanyam said, “It has been very successful as 160 proposals have come. They are worth Rs 623 crore of which industry will contribute Rs 156 crore. In the first year only IITs were involved. This will give a big push to government’s Make in India programme.”
 In school education, Irani said opening of 62 new Navodaya Vidyalayas — 11 in Chhattisgarh —will give a big push to taking quality education to rural India Asked about the discontinuation of highly successful Mahila Samakhya programme, school education secretary Subhash Khuntia said, “Mahila Samakhya will be taken over by the National Rural Livelihod Mission of Rural Development ministry.” However, when told that rural development ministry has refused to make it a part, a senior official later said, “We will bring it back in HRD then.”

Another IIT aspirant ‘kills himself’ in Kota

Representative image.

In yet another case of suspected suicide due to academic pressure, a 19-year-old student of one of Kota’s IIT coaching institutes was found hanging in his rented room, on Thursday night. Seventeen coaching students had committed suicide in Kotalast year. Arvind Kushwah, a resident of Bhind in Madhya Pradesh, stayed as a paying guest in Indra Colony, part of Kota’s Vigyan Nagar area. Although police did not recover a suicide note, they have not ruled out the possibility of him taking the extreme step under academic pressure.

 Arvind’s landlord Karan Kumar Prajapati said the boy was last seen outside his room on Thursday morning. Nobody noticed his absence in the mess at lunch time. The landlord presumed he had eaten outside and was studying, as the room was bolted from inside, said a police officer.
 But when Arvind skipped dinner also, the landlord and the other tenants came to check on him. They called police on not getting a response from inside. A police team from Vigyan Nagar police station broke open the door and took the boy’s body down. He was declared dead on arrival at a hospital. “We didn’t recover a suicide note.
 We are recording statements of other hostellers and his teachers at the coaching institute. The boy was an introvert. He was good at studies, but was keeping to himself for the past few days,” said the officer. Arvind’s body was handed over to his family after a post-mortem on Friday.

Kota goes the yoga way to counter stress among students

A US court on Friday ruled that yoga taught in a California school was "devoid of any religious, mystical or spiritual trappings" and didn't violate students' right to religious freedom. (Thinkstock photos/Getty Images)

Students studying in various Kota coaching centers were in for a pleasant surprise on Saturday morning. Reason: Special yoga sessions had been organised for them. The district administration, in association with Isha Foundation, had organised these classes for over 2,000 students and 1,000 teachers at a private coaching institute and UIT auditorium in Kota.

The move was initiated by the Kota district collector Ravi Kumar Surpur to evoke spiritual intelligence among students and teachers to counter stress due to the heavy pressure of studies and excelling in different subjects. This was also done to control the suicides by students who come here for coaching, the number has been quite high in the past few months.

 “Such sessions will bring creativity, insight and compassion which eventually will curb negativity from one’s self. The exercises taught to them will certainly bring positive energy and a change among them,” said Surpur, who added that this event is also in continuation with their efforts to destress.
 The yoga classes were held in two sessions — morning and afternoon. The first session was held at 6 am and the second one at 12.30 pm. Both the sessions were moderated by the Isha Foundation gurus. During the sessions, students were also given tips on how to keep themselves happy peaceful, explore their inner selves and be joyful.
 Several students who participated in the yoga sessions expressed their happiness and excitement. “I felt very light during the session and was deeply engrossed into the yogic activities. They gave tutorials CDs to us which I will share with my friends,” said Ravi Sanghi, a student.
 Earlier, Surpur had held ‘Masti Ki Pathshala’ in all the coaching institutes simultaneously by asking every coaching institute to organize fun-filled activities for their students. In the year 2015, Kota witnessed 19 suicides and this year three suicides have already rocked the coaching town. Surpur has left no stone unturned to counter the stress among the young impressionable students which then culminates into severe health hazards and sometimes even into suicides.

IP varsity students face threat for joining stir

IP varsity students face threat for joining stir

While Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal expresses solidarity with dissenting students in JNU and elsewhere, there is a problem in his own backyard. Section of students protesting against fee hike over the past week in a Delhi government-run university have alleged that they have been threatened by private colleges affiliated to the university.

Speaking with ET, students of the Delhi government-run Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University claimed their private colleges have threatened them with rustication, filing of defamation cases, ruining of careers, for participating in protests against fee hike. The issue relates with an order of fee hike issued by the Delhi government last month, which provoked several localised protests at the college level by students who called it “arbitrary” and “unfair”.

Some of these protests were organised by the RSS-backed Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). While Kejriwal announced a withdrawal of fee hike after protests on Sunday, it appears colleges have been threatening protesting students for over the past week.

At least one of the colleges continued to threaten students on Monday for taking their woes to the chief minister. Teachers in some colleges have issued warnings in open classrooms against joining protests, claim protesting students and ABVP activists.

 Most students not part of ABVP requested anonymity for themselves and the names of their colleges out of fear of adverse action.
 Consider the case of this first year mass communications student from a college in Dwarka.
 She said, “The college authorities called up my mother and warned her that, if I joined protests like I did at the Chief Minister’s residence on Sunday, I will be rusticated. And my career will be destroyed. This call came today (Monday).” According to her, the “classroom teacher” had threatened students on March 2 for participating in protests. She was wondering, why, if, the chief minister had backed them and withdrawn fee hike, were they “being threatened like this? Please help us.”
 Another student of a Narelabased college said, “An email was sent out by the college asking us not to join protests over fee hike. Their strong displeasure was made clear to us.”
 ABVP’s Vishal Singh Sisodia, himself a student, said, “We have received information from students of at least four-five colleges where students were threatened for protesting against the fee hike.”

‘Smart Class’ being introduced in Jharkhand goverment schools

A teacher teaching in a “Smart Class” in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. (Representative TOI file photo by P Sreedharan)

“Smart Class” in government schools is being introduced in a phased manner, Jharkhand education minister Neera Yadav told the state assembly on Tuesday.

 In the first phase, “Smart Class” (teaching through modern communication) was introduced in 203 Kasturba Gandhi Residential Girls Schools and there are plans to introduce the same in other schools in a phased manner, she said in a written reply.

Yadav was replying to ruling BJP MLA Biranchi Narayan’s short notice question whether the government has any plan to bring the standard of education between government and private schools on par.

 Replying to his supplementary query, the minister appealed all MLAs to adopt one government school each and added the standard of education in government schools was improving under the leadership of chief minster Raghubar Das.

Maharashtra’s private medical colleges can’t have own entrance test

The SC move is aimed at checking deliberate suppression of vacancy position in PG seats by the states.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a plea by the association of Maharashtra’s private medical colleges to be allowed to conduct its own common entrance test (CET) for medical and dental college admissions.

 It means students will be admitted to state as well as private colleges on the basis of a single test conducted by the state CET cell.
 The Maharashtra Unaided Private Professional Educational Institutions (Regulation of Admission and Fees) Act, 2015, that lays down the state CET clause, was challenged by the Association of Managements of Unaided and Private Medical and Dental Colleges in the Bombay HC in August 2015, and the case finally reached the SC. Though this petition was meant only for the medical postgraduate entrance test, the order is being seen as precedence for all other entrance tests that will be conducted by the state under the provisions of the new act.
 A petition challenging the law itself is still pending in the HC. Association chairman Kamal Kishore Kadam said the apex court has asked them to wait for the outcome of the main petition, challenging the law. “We will see if it is possible to file a fresh petition in the HC. The government is taking away several powers given to us by a past SC order. They do not give us any money to run the institutes, how can they seek control over them?” asked Kadam. “Some of our institutes are ready to run into losses, but we will not fill our seats with students allotted by the state government,” he added.
 A potential standoff seems brewing with a government official saying the state may act against institutes that refuse to admit students allotted by the competent authority as per the provisions of the existing act.


Copernicus, Pythagorus not removed from textbooks, Smriti Irani says

HRD minister Smriti Irani. (TOI photo by Sanjeev Rastogi)

The government on Thursday denied that the names of historic western intellectuals like Nicolaus Copernicus and Pythagoras had been removed from school textbooks, terming reports on the issue as “factually incorrect”.

It also made it clear that there was no proposal under consideration for “cleansing” the textbooks from foreign influence.

“There were newspaper reports in February 2016 about new Rajasthan textbooks having dropped western writers. However, the state government has denied this and stated that on the contrary, there are certain chapters where the western intellectuals find expression in the new textbooks,” HRD minister Smriti Irani said in a written reply.

Replying to supplementary queries, she said the reports are “factually incorrect”.

“This is an answer I have based on communication from the state government. Let me categorically state that the subjects like mathematics and science are universal in nature. And to say that Thomas Edison can be divorced from subject like this would be a great anomaly,” she said.

She further said that in area like social sciences, historians and intellectuals like Megasthenes and Copernicus — all find a mention in the social science books.

“Infact, for Class VIII standard English book, we do have, according to Rajasthan government, even the extracts from Robert Frost’s poem ‘Stopping by the woods’,” she added.

Ritabrata Banerjee (CPM) asked if the government has excluded Pythagorean Theorem from mathematics textbooks, to which Irani said: “I recognize that the learned friend has political compulsions to reiterate a falsification.”

“I have said this in my answer that mathematics cannot be devoid of theorems like Pythagorus theorem. …I am reiterating that the theorem cannot be divorced from teaching of mathematics from any classroom, let alone the state of Rajasthan,” he added.

Banerjee asked if the government also plans to cleanse the textbooks from foreign influences, Irani said in written reply, “There is no such proposal under consideration of the government.”

Anil Kumar Sahani of JD(U) asked if names of gurus has been taken out, to which Irani said the state governments have the power to decide their curriculum.

 In fact, letters of freedom fighter Ashfaqulla Khan were part of the class VIII textbooks. National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has also come out with additional reading materials on freedom fighters and great personalities.
 Taking a jibe, Congress member Bhalchandra Mungekar said it was possible that the name of scientist Newton could be removed from textbooks, judging from the situation where it is being said that plastic surgery existed thousands of years ago in India.

He also sought to know if chapters on MS Golwalker and Veer Savarkar would be added in textbooks.

 Responding sharply to the reference to Newton, the HRD minister dismissed it saying that “absolutely baseless allegations” and “insinuations” were being made.

Aptitude test to filter students for JEE put on hold

Idea of having a National Authority for Testing also has been put on hold.

HRD ministry has shelved its plan to reform the Joint Entrance Examination by introducing an aptitude test that would filter students for a single entrance test for admission to IITs/NITs and engineering institutions.

 Government had to drop the idea after HRD’s department of school pointed out that an aptitude test might not find favour with students from rural and semi-urban backgrounds. “We were told that the aptitude test will go against the principle of equity in education. Students belonging to marginal classes would suffer,” an official said.
 The ministry also tried to convince IITs to conduct a single entrance test without the aptitude test but they refused. “IITs do not want to conduct the single test, in which more than 12 lakh students appear. They wanted to conduct something like JEE (advanced) in which fewer students appear after clearing JEE (main),” the source said.

Idea of having a National Authority for Testing also has been put on hold. One IIT director said, “It is a misconception that students from rural background would have lagged behind in aptitude test. They are not so good in language but superior to urban students.” “It is unfortunate that it has been shelved even without trying once.”

 The new system proposed to create a National Authority for Testing that would have conducted an aptitude test to shortlist 4 lakh students who would have appeared for JEE. From JEE, ranks were to be issued to 40,000-plus students who could get admission in IITs and NITs.

RTE mandate fails to achieve even half-mark

Delhi did best and filled 44.61% spots with deserving students who could attend a private unaided non-minority school.

Mumbai: They were supposed to go to school with everyone else. But the move towards equal education has been marred by contorted reasons and handicaps like slow admission process and lack of awareness among families. Schools too have often been unwelcoming in accepting students from all pin codes into one class. At the close of the 2015 admission season, of the 22.9 lakh seats available under the 25% quota for socially and economically disadvantaged children, only 3.46 lakh (15%) were filled.

The mandate though beautiful, said experts, failed to achieve even the half-mark. Delhi did best and filled 44.61% spots with deserving students who could attend a private unaided non-minority school. Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand followed. Of the 1.56 lakh seats under this quota in Maharashtra, 28,028 (17.9%) were filled.
 A report by the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad and other agencies found that states had unclear rules and guidelines to implement Section 12(1)(c) of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, which mandates 25% reservation for children from economically and socially disadvantaged sections in private unaided non-minority schools.
 Ashish Dhawan, founder and chairman, Central Square Foundation, a philanthropy, said, “Awareness is still patchy, especially in rural areas. Once children enter the school system, the provision of supporting and child-tracking is almost non-existent.”
 Ambrish Dongre of the Accountability Initiative, Centre for Policy Research, said, “Out of Rs 1,466 crore that states requested for implementation, only Rs 250 crore was approved by the Centre. Only Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand got assistance from the Centre, indicating that states need to do a lot more.”


India, US launch Fulbright-Kalam Climate Fellowship

India and the US have launched the Fulbright-Kalam Climate Fellowship, in a new initiative to advance bilateral cooperation on climate change, that will enable Indian research scholars to work with American institutions in the field.

The first call for applicants was announced yesterday for the fellowship jointly funded by both the governments and will enable up to 6 Indian PhD students and post-doctoral researchers to work with US host institutions for a period of 6-12 months, according to a press release.
 The fellowship, named after the late Indian President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, is part of a commitment made by the US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to build long-term capacity to address climate change-related issues in both the countries.

The fellowship will be operated by the binational US-India Educational Foundation (USIEF) under the umbrella of the prestigious Fulbright programme.

 Kalam, a scientist and statesman, had long advocated for increasing ties between the people of India and the US.