A handful of weeks back, in the ACER PISA test – the OECD's annual global assessment of students' skills (for South and South East Asia) – India came second from the bottom defeating Kyrgyzstan while China topped the list. This acts as the final nail in the coffin of India’s dented education system. In spite of arrays of pan-Indian educational programs, India still has not been able to make education inclusive for all. On the contrary, China since the last four decades has been rolling out ambitious plans to revamp their education system, which is evident from the way they are storming into global rankings.

Chinese education is a very consistent blend of Confucian theories and modern concepts mixed with Chinese national developmental policies. Chinese education, unlike ours, focuses on both socio-cultural and political aspects of the nation. The current Chinese education system extends from the guidelines that Premier Zhou Enlai gave in 1974; guidelines that are popularly known as sì gè xiàn dài huà or the 'Four Modernizations'. And what are these? The education system in China revolves around agriculture, industry, technology and defense – that, as per the Chinese, are pivotal for the country’s development. China today has installed key schools meant for highly academically inclined students. China has adopted a policy of providing nine-year compulsory education to all with a special emphasis on vocational training and higher education. This nine year of compulsory education makes a child conversant with mathematics, science and Chinese literature.

Interestingly, even rural students undergo similar training; and by the end of the ninth year of education, the rural student is at par with his urban counterpart. Contrast this with India, where a high-school student is unable to solve a basic mathematical problem or frame a sentence on his own. Moreover, Indian rural schools are mired with problems of infrastructure and above all suffer largely from the curse of teachers' absenteeism. On an average, more than 30 per cent of teachers are found absent in rural schools. In order to curb this menace, China pays their teachers based on student scores. Thus, a large component of teachers’ salaries depends on their students’ performance. Yet, there’s a balance. The better the school (based on the students' score) more is the fees they charge, thus increasing competition and quality both at the same time. Back in 2007, an article published in BBC stated, “China is now the largest higher education system in the world: it awards more university degrees than the US and India combined... The rate of university expansion has been beyond anything [that] anyone in the West can easily imagine.”

Millions of Chinese students are now abandoning colleges and are opting for vocational schools. These vocational schools are backed up by Chinese industrialists and known for producing ready-for-job candidates. In 2007, China allocated 14 billion yuan to be spent on vocational schools over the span of four years. Vocational education in China, unlike India, is not just confined to manufacturing but encompasses sectors like information technology, tourism and medicine. Vocational training was introduced in China so that educated people wouldn’t have to face the brunt of unemployment and relevant skill development is achieved so that qualified individuals have guaranteed jobs. The government has also introduced projects like the State Project 211, State Project 895 and State Project 111, where special importance is given to top top 100 higher education institutes to enhance the quality of their graduates. The Chinese ministry of education is also striving to meet global standards by inviting the world’s best researchers to work in these institutions, thus attempting to benchmark internationally. India too stressed on higher education – particularly in the tertiary sector – but faced with strong impediments in terms of funding, India is falling in terms of percentage of overall spending. The private sector too plays an important role in India in assuaging the demand-supply gap.

Back in 2003, China invited foreign universities to set up campuses; India passed a similar bill seven years later. Foreign universities have not only brought in global teaching pedagogies into China but have also elevated the level of education in the country. Consequently, China is doing exceedingly well in global rankings of late! In 2009, the Paris based Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development, representing 34 countries, released its Program for International Student Assessment, where the Shanghai region outperformed everyone else to be the top performer in all academic categories! According to OECD, China’s success is more because of its special emphasis on elite schools (key schools) where one is expected to shine par excellence. In 2003, the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) ranking showed that there were 23 Chinese universities amongst 35 featured in total. The top 3 Chinese universities that entered the top 200 worldwide university ranking included National Taiwan University, Chinese University of Hong Kong and Tsinghua University. There are more on the list of the top 500, including institutes likes Beihang University (formerly known as Beijing University of Aeronautics & Astronautics) and Beijing Normal University, which entered the ranking for the first time.

In comparison, India produced a big blank sheet! Not only does India not figure anywhere in ARWU, but it is also invisible in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and QS World University Rankings. India is way behind China in terms of even the number of universities. There are 545 universities in India compared to 2,236 in China. Even in medical colleges, there are about 630 colleges in China compared to 251 in India. The total enrollment in Indian universities is only 4.7 million compared to 11 million in China. The situation was similar some years back too when, in 2004-05, India churned out 464,743 engineering graduates while China produced 600,000 for the same year.     Read More....

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I have often said that the future of India depends largely upon the future of education in our country. The demographic dividend that so many of us so proudly talk about, will actually be a mirage and also be counterproductive, if we continue with the kind of education system that we currently have in India. Along with eradication of needless delays in the judicial system and a the required massive investment in health, I would rate reforms in education as the most important vision that we need to implement in order to reap dividends out of this young demographic. And we really don’t have much time left.

After six long decades, India finally realised the importance of declaring education as our fundamental right, which was waiting its materialisation since Independence. This, I believe is not only very critical in revamping the entire education system of the nation, but also acts as the stepping stone towards education reforms. Starting with the Sarva Skhisha Abhiyaan program launched in 2001, this process has culminated in a policy that mandates free and compulsory education for all Indian children under the age of 14.

Fundamental right to education also ensures that all schools (be it private or public) have some seats reserved for the underprivileged class of society. This will ensure that all children born in India are more or less assured of at least basic education. However, we need to make sure that school under SSA should have basic infrastructure along with dedicated service providers (read: teachers). Even today there is a shortage of around 3 lakh classrooms at elementary level and 1.70 lakh classroom at secondary school level with more than half of all schools lacking basic sanitary and water facilities.

However, the above steps would reap partial results and would only benefit a single class of society if we fail to bridge gender discrimination in education. Thus, the second critical step that we need to consciously take is to invest massively in education of girls and women. Worldwide, study after study has proven that when the women are educated, the social and economic benefits that accrue to a country are enormous-including the minimization of social evils. One of the key reasons behind the state of Kerala having such envious indicators of Human Development is the high literacy rates for females.

Many state governments have already taken huge steps to encourage the education of girls, the efforts just need to be intensified.

Shortage of teachers is something that ails the entire system. Not only technical colleges like engineering and medical but even secondary education system is facing a dearth of academic staff. The third major reform step that we need to take is to educate or create educators. It has been proven time and again that the quality of pedagogy and teaching in India is abysmally poor. That is because of the ivory tower approach we have taken towards education. Teachers in our system are expected merely to mouth whatever has been prescribed in the syllabus - which itself is often completely obsolete and outdated. It is important for teachers, particularly in colleges, to keep abreast of the latest developments and trends and include them in their teaching modules. That is the only way we will produce graduates who are employable.

The fourth step is that the government needs to implement a more transparent and fair system to evaluate the performance of teachers and educators. Currently, even the worst and laziest of teachers know that they have a lifetime job guarantee with annual increments and much more. A professor at a university in India knows that he will never lose his job. This perverse system actually makes victims out of genuine hardworking teachers who suffer at the hands of absentee teachers who waste time keeping education administrators happy.

Going by official estimates, there is a shortage of 6.89 lakhs teachers for SSA programme and 6000 for Kendriya Vidhyalayas and more than 3,000 teachers for IITs and NITs. Why not have a system where students and parents rank the performance of a teacher?

Next in line is a step that I would recommend as a noble one, and it is the fifth in line. We already spend tens of thousands of crores every year on schemes like the MNREGA. I would be really happy if the funds allocated for such schemes actually go towards the construction of durable school and college buildings in rural areas and small towns. Currently the work done under these schemes provide no long-term social infrastructure. The people working for schemes like the MRNEGA would have an incentive when they realise that it is their children who will eventually study in these schools and colleges.     Read More....

For More IIPM Info, Visit below mentioned IIPM articles.

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When I was growing up in one of the better schools of Delhi, it was most common to see teachers slapping students. Scales being broken on our knuckles was as common a sight too, and as early as in class fifth, though luckily I always escaped. When I reached class sixth, I wasn’t that lucky. In one of the sculpture classes, an assistant came around and with his hard hands, slapped me hard on my head, because in all my creative excitement, I was engaged in talking to my friend Partho Saha, who was someone I looked up to when it came to creativity (I still do; and today he heads most of our technology projects at Planman, along with being a Dean at IIPM). I was furious. I wanted to hit back. I controlled myself, but went back home and told my father that he must do something about it. He was from the same school of thought as mine – rather, I had inherited his points of view. So the next day, my father took me to the principal of our school – a legendary name in education those days, R S Lugani – and told him that physical punishment is not what he would allow his son to go through in school.

So after discussions, it was decided that I would from then on carry a letter in my pocket, which mentioned that if any teacher had a problem with me, it could be written down and subsequently sent to my father, but the teachers couldn’t hit me. And the letter bore a stamp of the Principal’s office. I think it was the most unique exception that our principal had ever made. And from thereon, till I passed out of school, no teacher could ever physically hit me! (Incidentally, my grandfather too had obtained a similar letter for my father during his school days, which allowed my father to escape all kinds of physical punishment). However, like I mentioned, this was an exceptional case. The reality was that students were getting beaten up regularly almost by all male teachers and by a third of female teachers. The solace that students used to find was from the one or two good words these rank bad and rude teachers used to tell them. And thus the word used to spread about specific teachers, that they beat students up – mercilessly at that – but had a very kind heart. I found it sickening. So much so that when I got promoted to class eleventh and took up the commerce stream, there was a teacher who was known for keeping hockey sticks in his room and beating students up with them. But again, the word was that he otherwise had a very kind heart!

The truth is that by hitting anyone – especially a child in school – we only display our lack of education. We display the fact that we aren’t fit to be teachers in the first place. Because if we want a world where peace stands a chance, where road rage doesn’t happen and where people are more tolerant and loving towards each other, we have got to show peace, love and tolerance from the very beginning to all our children in schools. We have to see to it that they grow up seeing no violence.

In my sixteen years of experience as a teacher, I can say very confidently that there can be absolutely no reason for which a teacher is required to physically punish a student inside a classroom or in front of others. If a teacher is good, and committed to teaching – and not churning out mechanical morons who mug up topics – he enjoys the process so much that even for students, it becomes akin to recreation. Learning becomes fun and the question of forcing any student doesn’t arise. In fact, in IIPM, when any teacher comes and complains that some particular section of students is uncontrollable and bad, I drop the teacher. Because it’s my firm belief that no, absolutely no student is bad. Those are teachers who are bad, boring and less passionate about changing lives. So they don’t teach well; and students therefore are not attentive. Finally, the teachers blame the students.     Read More....

For More IIPM Info, Visit below mentioned IIPM articles.

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