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Posts Tagged ‘kapil sibal’

I think this is a key challenge, not only in India, but across the world. It is every bit as important as the quality of educational technology and content in our classrooms.

I am, so far, largely untouched by what I see in India (and maybe I have limited experience).  The first problem, and the most important one that I see, is the lack of open dialogue. Yes, we have conferences, retreats and closed door discussions where people sit together and make policy or strategy. But these are only that – closed and non-transparent.

We need a system that encourages dialogue. But not in the way handled traditionally viz. by stating platitudes like comments are always welcome and it is a big challenge and we need all the help we can get. We need a concerted effort to create academic and professional spaces for educators which brings down barriers and allows at least the new generation to explore the issues, deliberate on them, propose specific solutions and generate consensus.

The starting point will be to do a volte face and state that we do not understand the problems, far less the solutions. The mindset today is that everyone is an expert in educational matters in India (and some probably can hold this claim). But like in all crises, there will be key influencers who, through popular media, will shape the popular opinion.

Today’s news provides a lucid example of what I am trying to say.

The piece on the left talks about a group of 200 central and state university vice-chancellors pulling their weight on the implementation of a semester system and an assessment of teachers by students. The writer’s opinion, substantiated, h/she claims by the HRD Minister, Kapil Sibal, is that these suggestions were lofty and the minister recognized the difficulty in implementation of these ideas.

The writer also expressed another shared (with Sibal) surprise. Sibal had to remind the VCs about their big miss on recommendations on the reform of the examination and admissions processes.

I think the first audit that must be immediately done is of the skills of our educators, their credentials and contributions – whether in government or outside. Apparently leadership is lacking. The VCs in the news report are making this statement in the midst of anti-semester system protests by a large number of teachers.

Pitroda, Chairman, Innovation Council, India, in the clip on the right, distils his experience and wisdom by saying “Only technology and innovation can save (obsolete) higher education in India” and thinks incubation centres and longer working hours are the key to success.

If we don’t have good leaders manning the institutions, we are cutting off our legs and trying to run. Just wondering if anyone has studied how many educational administrators India really has. Off the cuff, about 30,000 would be heading universities and colleges; at the district level, across the 600 districts, there should be 8-10 key people; add about 100 per state others in and across boards, councils etc. (say) 3000 and add in another 5000 in other key positions – that should make it close to 50,000 educational administrators. I think that would be an understatement, but like the number of crows in the city of Akbar and Birbal’s Agra, this is just a guess.    

We must build an open and structured dialogue that acknowledges inputs globally and presents a cogent forum that represents both problems and possible solutions. It is immediately critical to evaluate between competing Educational Futures for India. Rhetoric will see us missing the boat once again, creating far higher unemployment and divides.

There is only the difference of an “i” between “running and ruining” our future. Let us subsume the “I”.

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Another news item provokes a sense of deja vu. As part of the EDGE2011 report, I had pointed out the dismal state of affairs in collecting and analyzing educational data in India. In Higher-Ed specifically, the HRD ministry is undertaking a unique, first of its kind survey to collate data and to update it on an annual basis. The task has been entrusted to NUEPA.

I am sort of hoping it won’t be the same as DISE. Yash Aggarwal, NIEPA (why does this exist at all if NUEPA exists or vice versa?), has an undated (I am presuming less than a decade old) report on the Revitalisation of Educational Statistics In India.

The 2008 Sathyam Committee report, constitued at the behest of the MHRD (another good initiative), goes so far as to state about DISE that:

DISE makes substantial use of the technological advancements. But its main weakness has been inadequacy of M.I.S. staff.

Imagine that! The system is broken.

I am wondering though what would happen to the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) reports on Higher Education? They have an elaborate review system that include peer review and an appeals system.

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Another example of how we want more order. Apparently, there are 47 different Boards of Education in India and COBSE (Council of Boards of Education, India) is a body that:

…provides academic support to its member Boards on:

1.     Setting and maintenance of educational standards.
2.     Curriculum planning
3.     Preparation of Curriculum materials and transaction
4.     Evaluation in Schools
5.     Public examinations

COBSE has 3 office bearers, six Vice Presidents, 17 consultants, 2 nominated members and a 15 member Executive Committee! It also has 9 associate members spanning worldwide bodies like the World Bank (?) and Education boards from countries like Mauritius and Nepal. According to the website, its major functions are:

(i) Provide a forum to its members to discuss issues of mutual interest and to learn form each other for improving quality of education
(ii) Curriculum reform and improvement in evaluation systems.
(iii)Respond to national concerns like Population Education and Disaster Management.
(iv) Professional Development of officers of the Members-boards.
(v) Interactions with NCERT / NUEPA on Professional issues.

Interesting…they have been around since 1979 and have just 12 publications (none of which are online). Do check out their news page.

Anyway, what sparked off my research was the following newspaper article (also covered here) which talks about a common national curriculum for science, maths and commerce:

In March, 2010, there was an article outlining some dissent by prominent people in the NCERT and NCTE stating there was a duplication of effort. Here is Kapil Sibal, Minister, HRD’s 2009 speech to COBSE in case you are interested.

I would love to see Kapil Sibal strike a similar vein as James Hacker trying to tackle the excessive British administration and Sir Humphrey. Of course, would like to see strikingly different results!

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Finally! Indian minister for HRD, Kapil Sibal, has announced the start of an initiative, to be completed in 2011, of pushing all academic qualifications from school to Post Graduation, to a secure, authenticated online depository. The ostensible aims are to provide electronic access, reduce the forgery of certificates and link schools and academic institutions directly to the depository. This is indeed a welcome step from many perspectives.

The initiative will spawn an entirely new set of opportunities. For example, IMS Learning Profile and IMS Reusable Competency Definitions standards could be effectively used to model the data in a standard way. Other enhancements could include things like a Learning Styles Inventory, eportfolio summaries (projects, internships data) and extending it onwards, employment information. Obviously, securely used and properly modeled, this could also provide an amazing amount of research information that will help us improve our education system as well.

This could simplify things drastically. Whether it is transferring from a school to another, seeking internship or project work, applying for a job or any other process requiring verification of these records (like maybe a visa application), a secure, signed certificate with these credentials would remove the hassle and authenticity issues at one go.

Obviously, privacy and authenticity would still be major concerns. I would not want this metadata to be turned over to a telemarketing agency, nor would I want to hire someone whose credentials are not proven (in fact there are companies offering just these verification services).

This means that an effective digital rights management programme, a registrar and an ombudsman would definitely need to be incorporated.  

Information could be personally stored and updated on student/employee ID cards as well that could connect up to the depository and be use to “swipe”  information into a form when required.

This is certainly a good initiative in a country of this scale. I would like to see some more thinking around the possible benefits and linkages that this depository could provide, maybe also track teachers and their ongoing certifications/publications as well. Kudos!

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