Thursday, 28 August 2014

Applying education reforms in true spirit

Applying education reforms in true spirit

Srinivas K Saidapur, Aug 28, 2014, DHNS:
Declining educational standards in the recent decades, poor or obsolete infrastructure, crunches in funds and faculty, huge increase in the number of eligible youth seeking higher education are universally known truths.
Srinivas K Saidapur looks at how different states and institutions can be instrumental in the fruitful implementation of RUSA...

Declining educational standards in the recent decades, poor or obsolete infrastructure, crunches in funds and faculty, huge increase in the number of eligible youth seeking higher education are universally known truths.

It is heartening that the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) felt the need to initiate the steps that are needed to build global level of infrastructure and faculty so as to develop competency and skills needed to withstand global competition. At the same time, there is a need to give due regard to access, equity and excellence as well as enhance enrolments of all eligible youths to higher education. 

These ideas have been the major concerns of various reports of the commissions on higher education. With this background, the government of India through MHRD proposed a new scheme called “Rastriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan”  (National Higher Education Mission), popularly known as RUSA, in the recent past. It aims at supporting colleges and universities that are funded by UGC under its Act (Clause 12B and 2(f)) as well as those not falling under these criteria of eligibility for funding by the UGC. 

Purpose of the scheme

The RUSA scheme is meant to usher good governance at the state and institutional levels for bringing in academic, administrative and financial reforms in a big way so as to achieve autonomy, freedom, flexibility as well as accountability at the levels of both – the states and the institutions.

RUSA therefore denotes a well thought out scheme of central funding for higher state education. It has also suggested the constitution of various governing bodies and structures at various levels.
RUSA funding is performance based. It is a scheme for planned expansion of access, equity and excellence in higher education. The ratio of central and state funding varies depending upon the institution; 90:10 for northeastern states, 65:35 for other states and union territories; 50:50 for private aided institutions.

The funds are given for both infrastructure and quality improvement. Institutional perspective plans, commitments of the state and the recipient institutions are key elements to attract RUSA funding. The State Higher Education Councils (SHEC) have a major role in bringing about reforms not only in its structure and functioning but also for the entire state machinery.

As per RUSA norms, SHEC is “an autonomous body that will function at an arm’s length from the state government”. Apparently, this requires considerable will on the part of the State governments. Not all States have their SHECs in place. Even if they have one it is often not structured as per RUSA norms. This could be one major problem in implementing RUSA scheme in States.

Given commitments and reforms in the governance of states and SHECs with appropriate mechanisms in place, the institutions can then formulate their vision plans and submit the proposals to the SHEC. The various plans so received in a state are aggregated by the SHEC and also place a super layer of its own ideas and then send it to MHRD for its final consideration.

Accreditation of institutions by appropriate/ recognised agency such as National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) is a must to be eligible for RUSA funding. 

This is non-negotiable. Base funding is decided based on student population, backwardness of the state, performance on access, equity and governance indices while competitive funding depends on the sum total of score of the state/ institutions on all norms.

At present, scope of the programme spreads to about 300 varsities (of the 574) and 8500 colleges (of the 35,539). RUSA components include: 

New universities
Upgrade of autonomous colleges to universities
Conversion of colleges to cluster universities
New model colleges
Upgrade of degree colleges to model colleges
Infrastructure grants to universities
New colleges (professional)
Infrastructure grants to colleges
Research, innovation and quality improvement
Equity initiatives
Faculty recruitment support
Faculty improvements
Research universities
Vocationalisation of higher education
Leadership development of educational administrators
Institutional restructuring and reforms
Capacity building and preparation, data collection and planning
Management of information system

Objectives of RUSA revolve around faculty issues (filling vacancies, creating new posts, faculty improvement), establishing specialised inter-university centers, innovation incubators, linkages with industries/ varsities/ research institutions/ civil societies through PPP models and enhancing overall quality of higher education (teaching, research and innovation). 

The states must have not only a SHEC but also its perspective plans, commitment of contributions as per cent of their own GDPs (GSDP), commitment to adhere to timelines for fund release, agreement to create separate RUSA fund, filling faculty vacancies, accreditation reforms, affiliation and examination reforms, institutional governance reforms etc. Likewise, similar plans and commitments are needed from the institutions. 

In short, RUSA is a new innovative scheme meant to enhance quality of higher education and increased access to it in view of the projected rise in the population of youths in the years to come as per the fast changing demographic scenario. If we fail to foresee the demand for higher education (access), quality of education (excellence) and equal opportunity to socially and educationally backward communities, future of the country will be at stake. 

Therefore, the onus of making RUSA a successful venture lies on the leadership of the state education ministers, chief ministers, SHECs and their administrative staff. The states need to provide dynamic/ proactive leadership (providing awareness of RUSA scheme, setting up needed mechanisms and reforms in governance and a worthy SHEC) with well planned timelines, lest the entire scheme be fruitless.

(The author is former vice-chancellor, Karnatak University, Dharwad)

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

A strong case for classroom learning

A strong case for classroom learning

P M Mathew, Aug 28, 2014, DHNS:
Of late, an unprecedented technological dynamism is being witnessed in the education sector. With the introduction ofMassive Open Online Courseslike Udacity and the Coursera, knowledge and information are at one's finger tips.
Of late, an unprecedented technological dynamism is being witnessed in the education sector. With the introduction of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) like Udacity and the Coursera, knowledge and information are at one’s finger tips. 
The mushroom growth of open universities and correspondence courses makes it possible to acquire any degree from any country. 

Considering the importance of formal education in the formation of generations and the advantages of organized institutions in imparting formal education, the large scale adaptations of latest technologies to facilitate the transmission of information should not be by downsizing the relevance of classroom teaching.

Most innovative technologies like MOOC only facilitate collection and transmission of information. They cannot be substitutes for the teaching and learning processes that happen in classrooms. Education involves a much more comprehensive learning approach than just transmitting facts. Formal education in classrooms is one of the ways by which a society invests in its human capital. The two main returns from this investment are its future earnings component and the present enjoyment component. 
 
The great contributions of teachers in classrooms help in character building and value inculcation. Teachers exert tremendous influence on one’s love or hatred towards a subject. Teachers from different backgrounds and trained in different universities can bring in their rich experiences and the best practices in their universities.

As posted in the Certification Magazine, “In a classroom, students can ask questions, request clarification or explanation when it’s needed and interact with a knowledgeable instructor who can help them understand concepts and terminology in terms of their own frames of reference. The biggest asset of a classroom is the instructor. 

A qualified and talented instructor’s insight, knowledge, flexibility and leadership are what make a class great. An instructor’s ability to elicit feedbackfrom his students and turn it to the class’s advantage is what makes classroom training so valuable.”

In a regular classroom set up, students get the added advantages of peer review and peer group learning. This helps them have a broader life perspective and exposure to different cultures. Each class can be an enriching experience. In approaching a course curriculum, mere completion of the syllabi from an examination point of view must not be the goal. 

Each course is a journey with the teacher in which the teacher too gets an opportunity to learn new things. For the teacher, taking up the responsibility of the conduct of a course should be a challenge. In a classroom environment, a dedicated and committed teacher can do wonders. He or she can help his students to integrate their social, emotional and intellectual growth and can contribute to the holistic development of the student’s personality.

In a classroom environment, there is great scope for education beyond curriculum. The teacher can bring to the classroom real life cases and discuss them with students. A proper blend of class workshops, seminars and debates can enhance the students’ learning capabilities. A proven successful strategy for a one hour session is to combine instructor led learning, class workshops and movie clips of equal time duration. 

In addition to class activities, students get opportunities to engage themselves in subject associations, intra-collegiate and inter-collegiate subject festivals and competitions. One of the greatest advantages of a regular college course is the opportunities students get through sports, games and cultural activities.

A classroom provides a great space for a dedicated, innovative teacher whose main interest is the holistic growth and welfare of the students in his class. For him students are not mere numbers in his attendance register.

Each student is different and unique in their personalities and the success of the teacher depends on his capabilities and preparedness to understand the specific learning requirements of each one of his students.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

UGC roots for special attention to teachers' education

UGC roots for special attention to teachers' education
,TNN 
PUNE: Chairman of University Grants Commission (UGC) Ved Prakash has appealed to the vice-chancellors of all universities to extend their personal attention to matters related to strengthening and improvement of teachers' education in the university campuses.

Aligning teachers' education courses with the regulatory provisions of the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE), promoting and running integrated teacher education programmes (TEPs), creating revised modules for refresher as well as orientation training for teacher educators and encouraging and supporting specialization within the domain of teacher education are some of the steps Prakash has listed in his letter sent on June 30.

The move assumes significance in the wake of a growing concern about the quality of teaching at higher education institutions. The UGC chief's letter has been posted on the commission's website. "We are yet to formally receive the letter but we will go through the suggestions before taking a call on initiating the required steps," a senior official from the University of Pune's education and extension department told TOI on Tuesday.

The UGC chief has also called for special efforts to strengthen postgraduate programmes in the education department besides ensuring that teacher education curriculum is aligned with the National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education (NCFTE), 2009 of the NCTE.

"The UGC has been regularly taking up the matter of strengthening of existing education departments and establishment of new education departments in all universities. In fact, all the universities which are receiving grants from the UGC were requested to include the proposal for establishment of education departments in their XII Five Year Plan proposals," Prakash stated.

"In this context, I request for your personal attention in ensuring the suggested steps to promote teacher education," the UGC chief appealed to the VCs. He has also called for a feedback from the universities on the suggested measures.

In a separate letter to the directors of the academic staff colleges (ASCs), who are responsible for teacher education in the university system, Prakash has sought steps to include teacher education related activities in the ASC calendar and significant slots for refresher and orientation programmes for teacher education. This also includes modules for training teacher educators with the involvement of senior teacher educators.

Towards Strengthening Teacher Education

Align existing curriculum with national curriculum framework for teacher education

Teacher education courses should be in line with regulatory provisions of NCTE

Promote and support specialization in teacher education

Strengthen postgraduate courses in education departments

Devise ways and means for running integrated courses in teacher education

Revised modules for refresher and orientation training for teacher educators

EACH TEACHER TO HERSELF


INDIA: When there is no dearth of schools, students, teachers or infrastructure in the country, when numbers show increasing enrollments, why is it that Indian students lack skills even after graduation? The problem is a combination of factors— quality of teachers, actual teaching time, student- teacher ratio, method of testing and lack of political will to correct the system, said Vimala Ramachandran, national fellow and professor at National University for Educational Planning and Administration, Delhi. 

After Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan was introduced in 2003, huge money was spent to train teachers, but it was all a sham, said Ramachandran, delivering the fifth Jacob Kuruvila memorial lecture on 'Promoting excellence in school education' in the city on Sunday. She said 90% of this was wasteful expenditure. It is an open secret that the National Council for Teacher Education made a lot of money by giving licences to private teacher training institutions. 

"Every school and every teacher should be held accountable for a child's learning. This will make teaching innovative and active," said Ramachandran, delivering the fifth memorial lecture of the on Sunday. The initiative was launched in 2004 in memory of Jacob Kuruvila who was the headmaster of Madras Christian College High School between 1931 and 1962. The initiative is managed by his old students who work with schools and teachers to adopt innovative teaching methods. 

"Something drastic has to be done at the primary level of education and for that we need political will," said Ramachandra. India has more than 200 million children in the elementary school age, according to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER). "Even if half of them are not learning at a basic level, it is a crisis of mammoth proportion. Close to 52% drop out before Class 9 because they can't cope," she said. 

Underscoring the need to decentralise the system by giving teachers and schools more freedom, she said they will have to reach a desired level by Class 8 mastering language, basic math and science before making their syllabus common. This is how Poland turned their education system around from 1999 after having followed a failed Soviet system. "Teachers will then innovate on their method of teaching. Right now we just measure how much syllabus is covered but not how much the child has learned," she said.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

What ails most Indian Universities?

What ails most Indian Universities?
DH, Aug 14, 2014 :

Prof R L M Patil looks deep into causes plaguing our education system at the higher levels .

T o look into how numerous maladies at our universities are misinterpreted, we can glance at an example from recent times: In August 2012, two representatives from the Karnataka Council of Ministers went on an inspection to the Bangalore University campus.

The root cause of the prevalent problems, they said, was the bad condition of toilets in the university. The explanation, no doubt, is bizarre and ill-inferred. Instead of visiting the hostels, they ought to have religiously read the reports by reputed academicians who have diagnosed the ills of the Universities and suggested remedies for them. 


Reports of the MR Srinivasan Commission, NR Shetty and Chidananda Gowda Committees, and recommendations of the Central Government Commissions like those of Yashpal and Sam Pitroda are all there for those who care to read, to reflect and to act on. But what one has witnessed all these years is nothing but scant respect to these valuable suggestions.

This truth is simple, but difficult to grasp for those who are responsible for the downfall of our university system. The chancellor-governor, chief minister, ministers, MLAs, MLCs, MPs, VC, registrars, faculty and the students are all to blame for the ills of a university.
Interference

Even the University Grants Commission (UGC) and its various counterparts, the so called regulatory bodies, have been reckless in their interference in the functioning of our higher education system. They have all reduced through their zealous efforts a university to place where – as a cynic has put it – “non-motivated students are taught irrelevant courses by incompetent teachers to prepare them to face inconsequential examinations, all supervised by an unfit vice-chancellor.”

New universities have been set up one after another without planning, vice-chancellors (VC) and registrars are appointed without examining their academic merit and commitment, members of a Syndicate are usually nominated for considerations other than academics, teaching posts (30 to 40 per cent) lie vacant for years, the so called ‘guest faculty’ positions fetch a paltry salary and to cap it all, many legal battles are waged against the actions of VC and even the chancellor.
The syndicate

A Syndicate, appointed as a support system to a university, works as a supervisory mechanism as well. It is the most critical subsystem which has of late fallen in prestige and credibility. A few government and IAS officers and legislators are also members of the Syndicate, but are hardly seen attending deliberations in the Syndicate.

In the UGC, for example, there is no one on the governing body to take care of the interests of the states. The UGC’s budget hardly befits the federal obligations. The norms/ guidelines issued by the UGC which breathe down the neck of the state universities are hardly in consonance with local interests.

The UGC makes important decisions on various aspects of the state university’s functioning (the central universities do not attach much significance on the UGC mandate) and frequently goes back and forth on issues like NET and PhD, causing endless confusion and difficulties. The central universities obtain a generous funding while all state universities put together can manage but a trickle.  Meetings are held once in two or six months. In the meetings, only an eminent few take deliberations seriously. It is given to understand that some VCs are handicapped by their lack of proficiency in English, which hinders their effective participation. The council therefore becomes a redundant ornament rather than fulfilling its original mission of a think tank. Though it is agreed that the VC
is the key functionary in the higher education system, not much thought has been given to a proper selection method for the head of the system.

 Some VCs have caused embarrassments to the posts they hold by indulging in misdemeanors like forgery and corruption, protection to scandalous elements (marks cards and sexual harassment), favouritism and politicking. A few of them are suspected to owe allegiance to the head of the system personally.

To cite an example from Andhra Pradesh, it is said that the Rayalaseema University year awarded 2,600 PhDs in two years. The 23 universities setup by the Y S Rajashekar Reddy admitted 38,000 PhD candidates and succeeded in awarding 13,000 PhD degrees in five years!

Solutions

An approach towards bettering the existing system needs to be sustained and innovative. It must incorporate certain strategies like:

n  Stringent norms are required to be laid down and adhered to while forming the Syndicates/ Boards of Management. An active and mature mind is desirable for nomination to the Syndicate. Perhaps an age limit (50-65 years), is also desirable. Only such a person who is considered to be an experienced administrator, an expert in any academic field, without a clean record, or without any conflict of interest with the university system should be selected for the body, either by the chancellor or the government.

If only the IAS and senior-level officials were to attend the Syndicate/ BoM meetings the resolutions passed there would not have been questioned by under-secretaries or deputy secretaries. It is a pity they choose not to attend such meetings.

n  If one were to look for relief in this kind of a situation, a few groups of suggestions can be offered. Firstly, overhaul the state university system, and, secondly, overhaul the structure and procedure of the bodies like UGC in tune with other states without any narrow political consideration. Thirdly make our Universities units of socio-economic changes in the society.

n  There are two views on bringing in outsiders like IAS/ KAS officers as registrars. Those in favour this practice argue that such officers discharge their duties impartially and effectively. On the other hand, the insider professors who are appointed to these posts may cost deeper fissures in administrations as they have their own following, and have future ambitions. This apart, it would also cause loss to the teaching faculty – in number and in quality.

n  A common board of selection of teaching faculty at all levels for all universities in the state. The common selection body could comprise VCs, experts, representatives of states etc. A similar body can also be set up for the purpose of choosing non-teaching/ administrative staff.

n  A number of problems arise in university administration. Student admissions, examinations, migration, fees, campus facilities, teacher recruitment, promotion, salary, seniority, transfer, funding research and conference-attending, pension and disciplinary matters, appointment of non-teaching staff’s, confirmations, postings, promotion, salary etc are some to be mentioned.

An academic institution cannot be expected to drive the alleged victims of injustice and unfair play to the courts for relief. One should think of setting up a Tribunal with different wings to look into the grievances of members of university community and come up with quick and fair solutions.

The state of higher education in Karnataka is disconcerting. A number of commissions and committees have come and gone but the quality of our educational system has remained unsatisfactory. What is required today is a strong will on the part of our statesmen both at the central and state levels. And a drastic reform of the UGC and other regulatory agencies.

(The author is a nominated member of the Karnataka State Higher Education Council)


Sunday, 10 August 2014

PSTTI WISHES ALL A HAPPY 68TH INDEPENDENCE DAY 2014


What is the significance of 15th August in India

The republic of India gained its independence from the rule of the British on 15 August 1947. Since then, this date of 15 August is celebrated as the Independence Day in India to commemorate its freedom from the 200-year-old British government.



For India, 15 August is a day of her re-birth, a new start. At the midnight of 15 August 1947, the British rulers handed the country back to its Indian leaders, ending a remarkable struggle that lasted years. It was 15 August 1947, the historic date, on which sovereign India's first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru unfolded the tricolour flag of the nation on the glorious Red Fort. The day is significant in the history of India as bringing an end to the British colonial rule in India.

History of 15th August 

In 1757, after the British victory in the Battle of Plassey, the rule of East India Company started in India. By 1858, the British Crown had assumed control over India. The situation after World War I was marked with suppressive and exploitative laws by the British. This led to revolutionary calls for independence, and sparked the phase of non-violent and non-cooperation movements followed by civil disobedience. 

The enduring leader and a national symbol for all these movements was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi- the Father of the Nation. The next decades were marked with constant struggles between the Indians and the British for freedom. Many movements and acts were carried out by the Indian National Congress, freedom fighters and the people of India. 

In the year 1946, the Labour government, the exchequer of Britain thought of ending their rule over India because of their exhaustion of capital post World War II. The British government announced, during the early 1947, that they intend to transfer power to the Indians by the month of June 1948. This approaching independence could not decrease the Hindu-Muslim violence in Bengal and Punjab. This led to Louis Mountbatten, the then Viceroy of India to propone the power hand-over date, owing to the fact that the unprepared British army could not cope with the increased violence in the country. In the month of June in 1947, the prominent Indian leaders like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Abul Kalam Azad, Master Tara Singh and B. R. Ambedkar agreed for a partition of India. Finally, at midnight of 15 August 1947, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru proclaimed India's independence by reading out his famous speech known as "Tryst with destiny". During this speech, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru said "Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we will redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes, but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. We end today a period of ill fortune, and India discovers herself again."

15th August Celebrations in India

Every year, India's Independence Day is celebrated by all proud Indians. The day is observed as a national holiday for the country. Though, local governments conduct the ceremony of flag hoisting all over India, the venue of main celebration is the Red Fort in the capital city New Delhi in India. The celebration starts every year with the unfurling of the tricoloured national flag by the Prime Minister of the nation, followed by a televised speech. The speech generally reflects the present condition of the nation along with the achievements in the previous year and the future development plans. A tribute is even paid by the Prime Minister to freedom fighters of India by declaring the day as a national holiday. Post the flag-hoisting ceremony, patriotic programs by children from schools based in different states is one of the main attractions. 
In northern and central cities of India, kite flying is celebrated as an event associated with the Independence Day. People symbolise their patriotism towards the country with the use of national flags of different sizes. They decorate their cloths, cars, household, etc. with the tricolour flag. The Indians in various parts of the world also celebrate the Independence Day with parades and pageants. Several cities in the United States have declared 15 August as 'India Day'.

Almost every school, college, university and government organization hoist the national flag on 15 August. Nowadays, many housing complexes, clubs, societies, group of friends, etc. even observe the flag-hoisting ceremony within their premises with ease, joy and honesty. This just shows the togetherness of Indians, who never forget to pay a tribute to their ancestors who sacrificed their life for the betterment of the country.