Edu amendments may fix nursery mess but spell trouble for teachers

NEW DELHI: The changes proposed in Delhi School Education (Amendment) Bill, 2015 are proving to be a mixed bag not least because they are being interpreted very differently by the government and others.

The bill to amend the 42 year-old Delhi School Education Act, 1973, has already been passed by the cabinet and is likely to be tabled in the assembly this session. Section 10 (1) that required private school teachers to be paid on the same scale as government ones has been replaced with “The salary and allowances payable to, and the terms and conditions of service of employees of recognized private schools shall be such as may be prescribed.” Lawyer-activist Ashok Agarwal believes this will “reduce private school teachers to bonded labour.” “The pay parity clause had come after great agitation,” he says.

The replacement provision leaves scope for the government to “prescribe” and the chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has said the government is like to specify a certain percentage of the school’s revenue to be allocated toward staff salaries. However, these details will come through rules and notifications.

Agarwal, however, “welcomes” the changes proposed for nursery admissions likely because in his interpretation – significantly different from the government’s own – they effectively abolish management quota and the points system. The bill re-defines entry-level class as “pre-primary or pre-school class for admission of a child below six years of age” and brings in provisions from the Right to Education Act to define “screening” thus: “”Screening procedure” means the method of selection of admission of a child, in preference over another other than a random method.” “Management quota is out; criteria such as alumni, sibling and others are also out; as per this even distance is out,” is how Agarwal sees this. Kejriwal’s reading, however, is very different. He’s earlier said this provision is meant to prevent interviews – addressed by another clause in the bill – and the government will decide criteria later. Atishi Marlena, advisor to Deputy CM Manish Sisodia on education, has said that the amendment will bring more power to the state to decide on admissions. Perhaps she was referring to the proposal to drop the phrase “with the previous approval of the Central Government, and” from Section 28 (1) of the 1973 Act which is, “The Administrator may, with the previous approval of the Central Government, and subject to the condition of previous publication, by notification, make rules to carry out the provisions of this Act.” One of the areas the government is given the power to formulate rules on is admission.

So far, following an older High Court decision, nursery admissions were being conducted on a “points system.” A school was free to select a number of criteria – distance from school, children of alumni, siblings of enrolled kids being the most common – and assigned points out of 100 to each of the parameters. The total points a candidate had – based on how many of the criteria he or she met – determined their chances. Those with maximum points found seats automatically, if there were more candidates than seats, schools would draw lots. The High Court had ruled that the RTE was not applicable to general category admissions (75% seats with the remaining 25% going to EWS-DG candidates) but this amendment, believes Agarwal, will bring the process for general category admissions closer to that of EWS ones. Agarwal has long maintained the points system is itself “screening.

Agarwal is critical of the penalty too. “We had wanted punishment. The government has kept provision only for a fine, that too compoundable. It’ll be passed on to the parents ultimately.” Where the bill does get it right, though, is in section on offences and penalties. It inserts a “27A” after Section 27 and this says, “Save as provided under this Act, whoever contravenes the provisions of this Act except section 16A* shall, on conviction, be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to a period of three years or fine which shall not be less than one lakh rupees but which may extend [to] five lakhs rupees or both.” The DSEAR 1973 originally permitted imprisonment to a maximum period of three months. The amendment allows a variety of punishments that will hurt — “stoppage of aid”; “imposition of fine”; “in case of embezzlement or school fund or concealment of income generated from the fee, order for recovery of said amount”; “suspension of admission at any class for a particular year or with cumulative effect”; “taking over the management”; and “withdrawal of recognition.”

It also adds that “The offences under this Act shall be non-cognizable and bailable and no court shall take cognizance of any offence under this Act except on the complaint of an officer not below the rank of such officer as the government may authorize in this behalf.”

*On capitation fee and screening for which the penalties are already specified.

ICRISAT, IIT Bombay launches free online agriculture course

HYDERABAD: The National Virtual Academy for Indian Agriculture will launch an online course on diseases of horticultural crops and their management in collaboration with the International Crops Research Institute for Semi Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Hyderabad, and the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay.

The two month free online course, which begins on November 30 and concludes on January 29, 2016, is an initiative by a team of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in agriculture and educators from the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and its partners together with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay.

“Complementing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of a Digital India where – Quality Education reaches the most inaccessible corners driven by Digital Learning, we are excited to see the launch of MOOCs (Part-II) in India, which offers high quality learning opportunities for students across the country,” said Dr David Bergvinson, Director General, ICRISAT.

“The course materials have been methodically planned and prepared by highly experienced team of educators and professors in the agricultural field, who have devoted their time and effort to educate the Indian masses on sustainable agriculture practices,” said Dr Sumanthkumar, Scientist – ICT for Development, ICRISAT.

The Part-II course will cover distribution, symptoms, causes, disease cycles and management of diseases of important horticultural crops and their economic importance. The course can be used as a supplementary study material at the universities in the current semester where “Diseases of Horticultural Crops and their Management ” course is being offered, said an official statement from ICRISAT.

Earlier, the NVAIA had completed its first Massive Open Online Course (MOOCs) in agriculture. The Part- I of the free online course (Diseases of Horticultural Crops and their Management), which was announced on February 2 in Chennai by Professor MS Swaminathan, Father of India’s Green Revolution and Emeritus Chair of the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) concluded on April 27. The course witnessed over 900 enrolments from learner participants from across the country ranging from participants holding degree from junior high school to doctorate level.

Valson Thampu proposes major amendments to St Stephen's constitution

Valson Thampu proposes major amendments to St Stephen's constitution

NEW DELHI: The principal of St Stephen’s College, Valson Thampu, has now proposed amendments to the institution’s 102-year-old constitution including granting power to the principal to take disciplinary action against student or staff irrespective of the governing body’s opinion.

In a draft amendment circulated by Thampu to a select college teachers, he has proposed giving a major say to the Church of North India (CNI) in the functioning of the college.

The draft which will be placed in the governing body (GB) meeting scheduled on November 23, also says that the admission of students and appointment of faculty be handed over to the college’s supreme council (SC), which consists of six members of the CNI.

Thampu, who retires in February 2016 after completing a nine-year tenure full of controversies, has also proposed empowering the principal to take disciplinary action against students or staff, independent of the governing body, which till now had a say in the matter.

The amendment also plans to replace St Stephen’s College Trust, which currently runs the college, with a proposed St Stephen’s Educational Society which will have the power to establish Stephen’s-like private institutions across India.

As per the draft, the Governing Body will have to “control the policy, development and direction of the institution and administer the finances and control the income and expenditure of the institution”.

It has also been proposed to remove the minimum teaching experience needed for an applicant to apply for the post of principal, to increase the powers of the principal and the supreme council and to reduce the number of teacher representatives in the governing body by half.

Earlier, 15 years of teaching experience along with a PhD in the relevant subject was the criteria for selection of the college principal. But, according to the draft, an applicant needs to be a “senior teacher of repute”, and Indian national and a member of the Church of North India.

If the draft constitution is approved, the principal shall also have the power to decide “which staff members shall reside in the institution’s staff quarters” and also recommend for increments.

Making the governing body toothless, the draft has also proposed granting the power to the CNI to “veto, over-rule, supersede, amend, modify, and/or suspend any decision taken by the governing body.”

Thampu’s proposal is likely to spark another controversy with a section of teacher’s claiming it to be an attempt to “establish his already prevalent dictatorship”.

He, however, claimed that it was the supreme council’s decision only to amend the constitution.

Thampu had been at the centre of controversies over issues like allegations of forced conversion of an administrative officer to Christianity, fake degree used for his appointment, banning of e-zine for not seeking permission on content and shielding a professor accused of sexual harassment of a research scholar.

CBSE issues guidelines to schools on singing national anthem

CBSE issues guidelines to schools on singing national anthem

CHANDIGARH: CBSE has asked schools to sing the national anthem in proper manner and sing it as stated in the constitution of India. Board has given guidelines on how to sing the anthem including time duration in which the national anthem is to be sung.

In a recent circular the Central Board of Secondary Education stated that ” in its framework of the values education lists the Article 51(A) of the Indian Constitution- Fundamental Duties that contains 10 principles and the first one is “to abide by the constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the national flag and the national anthem. The board has framed four behavioral descriptors for students for this principle. The second descriptor entails singing of national anthem with decorum.”

In a further link in the circular the board has given the wordings of the full version of the anthem and its playing time which is approximately 52 seconds. “A short version consisting of the first and last lines of the national anthem is also played on certain occasions,” it stated.

Playing time of the short version is about 20 seconds. Board has further defined occasions on which the full versions or the short version will be played.

The full version of the anthem shall be played on the following occasions including “civil and military investitures, national salute, during parades, on arrival of the President at formal state functions, When the national flag is brought on parade, when the regimental colours are presented etc.

The full version of the anthem must be played accompanied by mass singing on the unfurling of the national flag, on cultural occasions or ceremonial functions other than parades and on arrival of the President at any government or public function, the instructions read.

In all schools, the day’s work may begin with community singing of the anthem. School authorities should make adequate provision in their programmes for popularizing the singing of the anthem and promoting respect for the national flag among students.

Limited powers to parents in Delhi's Edu Bills: Critics

NEW DELHI: On Friday,amid much drama, education minister Manish Sisodia tabled two bills that he evidently believes will alter the education scene in Delhi. Incidentally, the critics of the bills believe that too but for entirely different reasons. While intended to bring relief to parents and children, some who have reviewed the bills say they have “no role for parents” in them.

Lawyer and education activists Khagesh Jha “welcomes” the provisions on capitation fee and screening in nursery admissions but feels the The Delhi School Education (Amendment) Bill, 2015 is shoddily drafted and lifts safeguards on admissions into other classes. While the bill prohibits “screening” and “capitation fee” at entry-level, it says the “head of school may subject the child to any screening procedure for admission in class beyond elementary level.” This being placed in the act, argues Jha, effectively nullifies Rule 145 of the Delhi School Education Act and Rules 1973 that addressed admissions till Class 12 and contained provisions for admission tests. “Now schools can admit on the basis of your shirt-colour. There are schools that add entire sections after elementary,” says Jha. He also adds the definition of “entry-level” as “pre-primary” or “pre-school” may lead to schools adding classes at age two. “That is permissible by law.”

In Jha’s interpretation, the bills “don’t have any role for parents or children.” The proposed insertion, Section 27A (2), says offences shall be “non-cognizable and bailable and no court shall take cognizance of any offence under this act except on the complaint of an officer not below the rank of such officer as the government may authorise in this behalf.” Then, section 16(A)(3), says “Director (education) shall be the competent authority to impose the fine mentioned in section 16(A) (on screening and capitation fees).” “What this amounts to,” explains Jha, “is the directorate will complain, inquire and judge all cases related to capitation fee and screening.” The authority to impose fines was, till now, with the High Court by default. Jha further adds that no violation on the screening and donation front will lead to imprisonment as section 16(A) which addresses these has been excluded from the purview of section 27(A) on “offence and penalties.”

The complaints mechanism proposed in the Delhi School (Verification of Accounts and Refund of Excess Fee) Bill, 2015, is problematic too. Lawyer Ashok Agarwal had earlier described the proposed mechanism as “a trade-union negotiating and industrial dispute.” Section 7(1) of the bill says, “Any complaint relating to utilization of school fund or non refund of excess fee in terms of the order issued under sub-section (2) of section 6, may be made by parents of at least twenty students or one fifth of the total strength of students in such school, whichever is less, before the committee in such manner as may be prescribed.” “It is hard to fine one parent willing to challenge a school’s authority,” said Agarwal.

Permanent affiliation to private schools in Punjab

Permanent affiliation to private schools in Punjab: Govt

CHANDIGARH: Punjab government today said it has decided to grant permanent affiliation to all the private schools of the state to relieve them from the cumbersome process of applying for affiliation every year.

The decision to this effect was taken by Punjab Education Minister Daljit Singh Cheema in a meeting with the officials of the department.

With this decision of the education department, permanent affiliation has been granted to 9,487 schools.

Disclosing this here today, Cheema said earlier, all the private schools of the state were granted affiliation on yearly basis and they had to apply every year to get affiliation under Right to Education (RTE)Act.

He informed that the schools have been granted permanent affiliation, following the guidelines of RTE Act in letter and spirit.

Cheema also appealed to the managements all the private schools not to misuse the big relief granted by the Education Department and always follow the guidelines of RTE Act.

He made it clear that if any of the schools is found violating the guidelines, then it would be strictly proceeded against.

Minister also instructed the departmental officials to keep regular checks on the schools to make sure that the RTE Act guidelines are being adhered to.

In the meeting, Director General School Education Pardeep Agarwal, DPI (Secondary Education) Balbir Singh Dhol, DPI (Elementary Education) Harbans Singh Sandhu and Additional State Project Director Gurjeet Singh were present.

CISCE board revamps syllabus, pattern of question papers

BENGALURU: ICSE schools will go the CBSE way. The Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination (CISCE) board on Friday revamped its syllabus, infrastructure and training methods. The board took this decision in its 58th annual meeting with the objective to centralize education to frame class XII (ISC) question papers on the lines of CBSE pattern from 2018.

TOI was the first to report this last month . Accordingly, the specimen question papers for ISC exams 2018 in the following subjects physics, chemistry, biology, and maths have been prepared as per the pattern followed by CBSE, the specimen question papers deal with questions on recall, understanding, application, analysis and evaluation.

In class X (ICSE) level, syllabi for history, civics, geography, maths and physics have been reviewed for 2018 exams. This is to ensure that in addition to conforming to present day educational trends, the syllabus is also relevant, flexible, and meaningful in content.

Gerry Arathoon, chief executive and secretary of CISCE said specimen question papers have already been prepared on the CBSE pattern and the pattern is framed possibly with an eye on competitive exams conducted by the CBSE.

In keeping with the requirements of many Universities for higher education after Class XII, the break-up of marks of the theory and practical components at the ISC level, for the subjects – computer science, fashion designing, physical education, Indian music (Hindustani), carnatic and Western Music has been revised.

According to CISCE, the existing mark breakup of 50% theory and 50% practical has now been changed to70% theory and 30% practical, in order that these subjects be considered as elective subjects. This change will be effective from the ISC Year 2016 Examination onwards.

The specimen question papers for these subjects have already been sent to schools and are also available on the council website

Delhi University's Indraprastha College wins 2015 Titans Cup

NEW DELHI: It was a high quality, deeply knowledgeable and incisively argued Titans Cup debate on Friday evening as 6 Delhi colleges squared off against each other to debate the motion: “The West’s insistence on strict environmental controls is a death knell for developing countries.” With the UN conference on climate change in Paris just two weeks away, the issues discussed were timely.

While speakers for the motion spoke passionately on the West’s hypocrisy on environmental standards, speakers against the motion argued equally forcefully that climate change was a life and death issue and too important to become hostage to politics between rich and poor countries.

The Titans Cup Debate is an annual debate organized by the Hindu College alumni association and consists of 6 teams of alumni. Each team comprises two members, one speaking for and the other against the motion.

In her opening address former principal of Hindu College, Dr Kavita Sharma spoke of the hallowed traditions of debate at Delhi University and the importance of a robust exchange of views in today’s times. Ravi Burman of the Hindu College alumni association pointed out how the Titans cup debate was growing in influence each year, this year women speakers out-numbering men and a larger number of youthful debaters being showcased rather than veterans.

The debate spanned many issues in the growth versus ecology dilemma. While law student Harsh Jain of SRCC argued that for developing countries its all about roti kapda aur makaan and not following western diktat, Usha Kelkar, Ashoka Fellow and alumna of Indraprastha College said we only target the West because we need an enemy to blame for our environmental failures. “The anti-West discourse on climate change is only a manufactured narrative for strategic reasons,” she said.

Former IAS officer Nita Chowdhury disputed this strongly. In a comprehensive and nuanced presentation, Chowdhury said the West’s environmental concerns have to take second place to Indian food security and West-imposed restrictions on fisheries, for example can damage livelihoods of millions.

Former civil servant and founder of Parvez Dewan of St Stephen’s College, likened the West’s approach to environment as a hippopotamus asking a colony of ants to lose weight. Kalikesh Singh Deo, BJD MP speaking for St Stephen’s, said climate change impacts the poor most of all and should be a common goal rather than a divided one.

Speaking for the motion, Piyush Chopra, deputy GM of Essar and alumna of Miranda House, said the rich are the worst polluters while graduate student Yashika Bansal of SRCC said there should be no trade off between economics and environment and India needed to adopt green technologies to grow. Former Oxfam CEO, Nisha Agarwal speaking for Miranda House presented a range of statistics pointing to the seriousness of climate change and said the threat was too real to allow the luxury of political posturing.

In a colourful somewhat unorthodox presentation, TV personality Shivani Wazir Pasrich even spilled black powder on her white sari to demonstrate what pollution and bad air are doing to citizens. Radio Mirchi associate VP Akash Banerjee speaking for Hindu College however said the issue should not be personalized and instead the billion dollar hypocrisy of the West needed to be exposed.

TV anchor Kajori Sen also speaking for Hindu College said rather than create a binary opposition between ecological sustainability and GDP, India should look at ways to leverage the West’s environmental concerns to create high growth.

Psychologist Annima Bahukhandi speaking for IP College asked if the West was serious about climate change where is the money in the climate change funds?

At the end of the detailed and punchily argued debate, the motion was put to vote where the House was split down the middle, half saying the West was forcing the developing world to follow its climate agenda, the other half saying there was no western insistence and climate change was a real and pressing issue for India too.

Indraprastha College was adjudged the best team and won the Titans Cup this year. The runner up was Hindu College. The best speaker award went to Nita Chowdhury and runner-up was Akash Banerjee.

New initiatives transforming education sector in J&K: Deputy CM

New initiatives transforming education sector in J&K: Deputy CM
Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed with deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh. (PTI photo)

JAMMU: Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh today said the PDP-BJP government was according top priority to the education sector and various initiatives have already been undertaken to improve the quality of education in the state.

Singh was addressing a gathering after inaugurating additional classrooms and other related infrastructure at Girl School Dharmkote in Billawar tehsil of Kathua district.

He said the education facilities are being augmented on cluster basis by involving various schools in far-flung areas of the state so that the students do not have to come to the district headquarter for getting quality education.

The Deputy Chief Minister said special attention would also be given to starting evening classes to increase the intake capacity of the institutions and academic performance of the students living in remote areas of the state.

Referring to various initiatives undertaken by the government, Singh said the schools of the district would be provided sports infrastructure and an indoor stadium would be constructed at Billawar.

The Chief Education Officer, Kathua, informed the Deputy Chief Minister that the Kathua district has been divided into 37 clusters to check punctuality, academic standards, teaching practices and the progress is being monitored on monthly basis.

He also took a detailed review of the arrangements being made for the procurement system and directed for making it more efficient so that the problems being faced by the farmers are redressed within the shortest possible time.

He said that agriculture and related activities constitute the mainstay of the state’s economy and necessary steps should be taken to ensure that people related with it get the requisite facilities.

While interacting with the people, the Deputy Chief Minister said that Kissan Mela would soon be organized to create necessary awareness among farmers about the various welfare schemes being launched by the government.

He said necessary instructions have already been given to the officers of the PDD department to undertake the augmentation of electric infra so that the electricity problem, if any, is resolved.

Singh said steps have already been initiated to bring the Billawar and its adjoining areas on the tourist map so that the tourism related activities get a fillip resulting in the uplift of socio-economic profile of the people living in the area.

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