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Tamil Nadu tried to reform its schools – but made them much worse

the concluding part of our story on TN’s school education system.

A former official in the state examinations department traced the disarray to a handful of factors – among them the decision to do away with exams, the obduracy of matriculation schools, and rising pressure on the education department to show good results.

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Tamil Nadu’s schools are in crisis (but nobody is talking about it)

How good are Tamil Nadu’s schools?

If you take a look at the exam results in the state, you would get the impression that they are in sound shape.

Between 2010 and 2016, the percentage of students passing the state’s tenth standard board exams rose from mid-eighties to mid-nineties. So did the scores and the tally of students getting a centum, or 100%.

In the same period, twelfth standard results showed a similar trend. The pass percentage increased from 85% to 91%, along with the average marks and centums.

However, these numbers clash with the findings of the National Achievement Surveys.

Conducted by the Central government’s National Council for Education, Research and Training to track learning outcomes, the survey conducts classroom tests every three years for students in the third, fifth, eighth and tenth grades in all Indian states and Union territories. Its assessment of India’s tenth standard students in 2015 placed Tamil Nadu’s students close to the bottom in every subject.

The second — and concluding — part of this story will be published tomorrow.

What a primary school in Keonjhar tells us about Odisha’s misplaced government spending

Pradip Kumar Behera is trying to beat the odds.
A bespectacled man in his late thirties, he is the headmaster of the government school in Unchabali, a village in Odisha’s mineral-rich district of Keonjhar.
Under his watch are 144 students, mostly from the poorer families in the village, studying in classes from the first grade to the eighth. The school has a tree-filled playground and pucca buildings for its classrooms, but just four teachers.
Behera is trying to cope by running four – not eight – classrooms. Students in the first grade share a room with those in the second. The third and fourth graders sit together, as do those in the fifth and sixth, and the seventh and eighth grades.
While the seventh graders sit to the left of the aisle, the eighth graders sit to the right. The teacher spends an hour with the seventh graders, gives them an assignment, moves to the other side of the room, gives the eight graders an assignment before swinging back to the seventh graders.
The solution is unsatisfactory and troubles Behera. The school runs between 10 am and 4 pm – that’s six hours, not counting the time taken out for the midday meal. “The kids are getting an education for less than three hours every day,” he said. “The education we got was better. We need at least six-seven teachers.”

It’s the same story in health as well. Which leads to the inevitable question on why state funding of health and education is so low in Odisha.

ps: have reached Punjab now. State 3. 🙂

why odisha’s empty engineering colleges hurt students and not their owners

As colleges go, Krutika Institute of Technical Education is certainly educative.
Located on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar, this private engineering college works out of a half-built red and cream building with iron rebars bristling from its top. The lobby stands unfinished with its girders exposed. Similarly unfinished, the water fountain in front is no more than a square pit filled with rainwater, with wild grass like the local white-topped kasatandi growing around it.
The college library is housed in a large hall that is mostly empty. Bookshelves stand at the far end, occupying a rectangular patch the size of a living room.
KITE, as the institute is known in Bhubaneswar, is a college whose plans have gone awry.
According to its faculty, the college was set up about five years ago in the hope of attracting 300 engineering students a year. However, it has been affected by an abrupt collapse in the demand for Odisha’s engineering courses. This year, 31,000 of the 46,000 BTech seats offered by government and private colleges in the state have stayed vacant. At KITE, just 30 students have joined the 2015 class, a faculty member revealed on the condition of anonymity.

The CBI must understand trains and bogies if it aims to crack the Vyapam scam

out today, this story which looks at how exam rigging was done in madhya pradesh’s #vyapam scam.

As the number of gangs grew, the market evolved further. First, students began shopping for lowest prices between gangs. This gave rise to a set of disputes which, by 2009, had resulted in the gangs dividing up Madhya Pradesh among themselves in order to avoid competition. Take Sagar. According to Rai, he started in Bhind but was forced to leave by another person in the same business called Deepak Yadav. It is after this dispute that Sagar based himself in Indore. Another doctor, called Tarang Sharma, added Saklecha, operated out of Bhopal.

vyapam continued for long. why did checks and balances not kick in? who is responsible? all questions that the CBI needs to answer.

Vyapam’s hidden costs: Broken dreams and a health system staffed by dodgy doctors

In 2009, Poonam Sharma finished school and turned her thoughts to medical school.
The daughter of a junior police officer, Sharma left home in Shivpuri, in the northern reaches of Madhya Pradesh, for Gwalior, home to coaching centres that promise to help candidates crack all kinds of entrance exams. She enrolled for a year-long coaching programme and began studying for the medical college entry tests in earnest.
It was an intense, immersive time. “I studied for 14 hours every day,” said Sharma, who was 19 at the time. “I would stay up studying till 2 every night.”
However, it soon became clear that something was wrong. “Some students were very sure they would make it,” Sharma said. “They said they had paid money: Rs 12 lakhs if they were in the general category and Rs 3 lakh-Rs 4 lakhs if Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe.” On the morning of the exam, around 4am or 5am, she said, a white van picked up these students and took them to the exam centre. “We later learnt that they had been given the question papers to read,” she said.

A report from Madhya Pradesh about its highly egregious #Vyapam scam.

Why medical workers are taking personal loans to keep Mizoram’s healthcare system running

One late evening in April, a senior official with the Mizoram health administration sat in his office in Aizawl, frustrated and angry. It was dark outside. Most of his staff had left for the day. “If they delay it by two months it is okay, if they delay it by three months we may manage, but it is four months now,” said the official, with discernible worry. The Mizoram Health Society, which decides how healthcare funds get used in the state, was to get Rs 25 crore from the treasury last November. That was the third and final instalment for the year 2014. Even today, the society is waiting for the funds transfer.

While the official watches helplessly, all around him the healthcare system is collapsing. Funds are needed for running hospitals and clinics, for programmes fighting malaria, tuberculosis and disease control, for immunisation, family planning, childbirth and care of new mothers. The delay is disrupting them all. “It’s not that our funds don’t come,” the health official said. “They eventually do. But the problem is the mismatch between the routing of funding and the needs of the schemes.” To tide over these shortages, he added, “We are telling staff to take loans to keep the work going. That we will reimburse them when the money comes.”