Monday, November 17, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
Thursday, November 6, 2008
This year the award was given to 374 teachers but nowhere have I found the names of these meritorious individuals. I can’t think of any reasons why the names should not be published. In fact, I feel it should be national front page news—something everybody gets to read the first thing in the morning on the 5th of September. Why not? When we can glorify our movie stars, sportsmen, TV actors, singers etc, why can’t we make a grand affair of the best men and women who make a real difference in our lives?
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
That apart, the strike is such an unfortunate thing to happen for school children as if the holidays round the year aren’t enough! I was told that most teachers cannot finish their syllabus usually for whatever reasons, and this academic year with a very low number of working days and the strike still on, are we in for a grim pass percentage? And I say percentage because that’s the way we measure our students’ progress and their performance. I hope JACTO (Joint Action Committee of Teachers’ Organizations) and the Government will come to a consensus soon.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
We are also running around, meeting different organizations for more schools. And phew! by next week we will have 2 more schools with Virtual Classroom. I will sure be writing about this.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
This Portal will offer resources related to:
1. Education Perspectives (Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology, Economics)2. Classroom Practice (Principles of Pedagogy, Pedagogy of Language, Science, Mathematics, History, Geography, Political Science, Economics, EVS, Art, Music, Dance, Sports) including manuals, activities, modules, tools, etc.3. Subject Content (Language, Science, Mathematics, History, Geography, Political Science, Economics, EVS, Art, Music, Dance, Sports)4. Stories, Songs, Games that teachers can use in class5. Reading Resources (including links to other websites/portals/on line library6. Research Information7. Specific Case Studies
The following will also be available:1. Information on organizations/Individuals/Resources (district-wise)2. Career Information (government recruitment details and opportunities available in organizations and institutions)3. Teacher education courses – both short term and long term4. Workshops and Conferences5. In-service training programs6. News/information/articles on relevant current events7. Awards (honors)8. Calendar of events
I quite appreciate the effort. However, to make this functional and accessible to all teachers, it is necessary to also publicize the effort well, to make teachers aware of the ways in which it can help them. Needless to say, Internet in schools is essential too. But if the launch is planned carefully and implemented successfully, the cooperation and participation from the teachers, and above all their enthusiasm will no doubt sustain this effort effectively.
"For conducting online interactive classrooms, we are setting up a virtual classroom hub at our Noida campus"
According to officials, the upcoming hub will beam teaching programmes to nearly 12 institutes that would have direct access.
The institutes will then extend the online facility to at least 25 colleges located in their vicinity.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
SBI recognizes the special position sanctioned for teachers in our society and is proud to introduce Teacher Plus - a special scheme for teachers placed under State and Central Governments as also under the deemed universities. Through Teacher Plus, you can avail of concessions in the rates of interest, processing charges and margin amounts in the following schemes:
* Personal Loan
* Car Loan
* Festival Loan
* Housing Loan
Get the details from here.
P.S: When you click the 'apply now' button, it takes you to the 'report a complain' page. It’ll be more helpful if you contact your nearest SBI branch.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Just a couple of days back, teachers’ day was celebrated in
My primary math teacher-- my favorite, who taught me arithmetic, because of whom I had fun with numbers, the utmost pleasure of calculating... however, is no longer a teacher. He told me that he is suffering from throat cancer and will not be able to teach any more. I was saddened by the news—sorry for the many students who will not be able to experience the joy of learning from him. Nevertheless, he has done his job and did it so well.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Started in 2000,
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
ICICI pledges through this initiative that they will educate 1,00,000 children at the elementary level by partnering with major NGOs in this field. By December they plan to reach out to a hundred thousand children.
I hope this initiative will not be only about reducing the drop-out rate but also about quality education—a wholesome drive to give EDUCATION its true meaning.
Monday, September 8, 2008
The ‘idea ad campaign’ has been catching a lot of attention these days. While many people appreciate the ad, there are some who dismiss that it is silly and absurd and that they are ‘abusing education’ and giving false hope to poor people to promote their product.
Both sides have a valid point. The ad in itself is good, creative, and appealing to the masses.
But I wouldn’t take it literally and assume that teaching through phones is going to become a reality. There are issues of cost, or pedagogical effectiveness, and, of course, great as it sounds, if one teacher is going to educate “a million students” in a single classroom, they might as well use a TV, considering the level of interactivity these classes would have. I just think of it as a clever, well-meaning ad and leave it at that.
However, this ad does convey the message that there is a lot you can do with connectivity and technology. That distance isn’t a barrier anymore, that with technology, nothing need be distant or impossible.
Every time I catch this ad on TV, I’m reminded of my grandma who finally had some idea of how EFF works—for her, it was a question of whether the Education for Free project was similar to this. The explanation is altogether a different story, but I’m thankful that there is something we can take away from this ad campaign—even if it is not teaching through phones.
Saturday, September 6, 2008
It’s partly because I’ve started to admire Obama’s oratory skills, and enjoy the way he uses rhetoric effectively. What has impressed me most is the way, regardless of who the candidate is or what the party is, education is one of the key concerns that everyone tries to address.
For example, in a major speech titled “a more perfect union” Obama declared:
At this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, "Not this time." This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.
Don’t you just love the rhetoric--measured, rhythmic phrases all balanced together? Obama has some concrete plans too--check the section dedicated to education.
Which brings me to my point: I’m no expert, but I’ve always taken a reasonable amount of interest in Indian politics and Indian elections. And I honestly cannot recall, off-hand, a single instance where education was part of any election agenda or any political debate surrounding an election. I wonder if this has happened at all.
Off the top of my head, I can think of religion, caste, taxes and subsidies and reservations, linguistic identities, and regional identities as the issues that dominate our elections. I know it’s easy enough to say something like “We Indians don’t have that maturity yet,” and explain away why our elections are never about our schools and our children, but why DON’T we have the maturity? Why do we really never ask about drop-out rates and about schools without classrooms when electing our representatives?
The situation is genuinely surprising, because Indian parents typically spend most of their energy and time trying to ensure a better life for their children. It is hard to think of another goal that an average Indian couple aspires to as strongly.
And that's why I’m puzzled. At the personal, domestic level, everything is about--and for--the children. But the public, political part of our lives is solely an adult world where children are not even a presence, let alone a minor one.
There must be some way of ensuring that even the political, social processes we are involved in begin to address the needs of our children, and not just of us adults. Some way of making sure everyone realizes that while as individuals we can do a lot for our children, as a nation working together, we could do a lot more for all the children, and not just our own. And that we need to speak up, and talk about the problems our children face and what we want for them, and then elect someone who is willing to do something about it.
Friday, September 5, 2008
UNESCO defines an illiterate person as one who cannot, with understanding, both read and write a short, simple statement on their everyday life. By that definition, i fear that fewer than half our population would really qualify as literate
What is missing is not just financial resources, but a commitment on the part of our society as a whole to tackle the educational tasks that lie ahead.
How are we going to cope with the 21st century, the information age, if half our population cannot sign their name or read a newspaper, let alone use a computer keyboard or surf the Net?
Happy teachers’ day to all the teachers out there…this is the day to honor you for all that you have done to educate the nation. Today, as you receive flowers, presents, cards and hugs remember that “a better tomorrow” is in your hands. Teach in a way that our children not only listen but also learn and grow up to be responsible citizens.
Monday, September 1, 2008
The similarity is striking. But then again, not quite. Rushi is recommending the satellite route to cure many of the ills—set up the hardware in rural schools, and beam quality content via satellite.
While I do not doubt that such an arrangement will benefit students, I’m not sure to what extent it will fix the problems we face. After all, good education can only be facilitated only in an environment where there is open interaction between teachers and students, and where students participate in their education, rather than just “undergo” it.
I suppose satellite can allow two-way interaction too, but I doubt if that will be financially viable in terms of equipment required, as well as in terms of scale.
On the other hand, using the Internet to achieve the result is far more practical and cost-effective. And with Internet spreading into various corners of the country at a dramatic rate, more and more schools—and children—are in a position to benefit from the Education For Free initiative every year.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Eenadu, a Telugu newspaper, one of the most popular in Andhra Pradesh wrote about Education For Free this morning. For those of you who cannot read Telugu, I'll have a translated version soon. While the lucky ones can read the story here.
Picture Courtesy: Eenadu
Friday, August 29, 2008
It took us quite a while to read and sort all the emails we received from almost all over the world. Majority of the writers were from India, USA, UK, Canada, Australia, Dubai and Germany. We also had lone representatives from Korea, Rome, Maldives and Saudi Arabia.
Out of the 1800 emails, there were about 20 individuals and organizations willing to adopt schools. There were others who came to meet us directly. These organizations will need teachers and we’ll have the Education For Free volunteer teachers helping them out.
To help us with our plans, implementation, coordination, we have formed an Education For Free group comprising people from all professions, students, homemakers, and retired folks.
A quick update of what we are up to so far:
We are working on our Teacher For Free portal which will be launched soon. This will be a place where volunteer teachers and schools will register. A place for schools and volunteer teachers to find each other.
We are also looking for sponsors to fund about 20 schools. For each school we need about Rs. 60 thousand for the equipment (projector, computer, webcam).
We are working on putting up a process in place to train new volunteer teachers, training and deployment technical support, coordination between teachers and EFF etc. This will eventually be automated from the TFF (Teacher For Free) portal.
And btw, we have a full time Education For Free Virtual Classroom teacher, Ambica Ayla, who after reading the article in The Hindu came to our office soaked in rain asking if she could volunteer for a day in a week—her only day off from work. Her enthusiasm and passion for children and education touched us so! We interviewed her the next day and if I had a math teacher even half as good as her, I would have been flying saucers today. :)
She teaches math, physics and chemistry to 9 and 10th graders.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Now working as a governess and teaching and looking after children, Susan, an important character in the book, recalls her childhood and upbringing and realizes:
It had been a good education, too. But it had only been later that she’d realized that it had been an education in, well, education. It meant that if ever anyone needed to calculate the volume of a cone, then they could confidently call on Susan Sto-Helit. Anyone at a loss to recall the campaigns of General Tacticus or the square root of 27.4 would not find her wanting. If you needed someone who could talk about household items and things to buy in the shops in five languages, then Susan was at the head of the queue. Education had been easy.Susan’s education is of the affluent kind. But, as Terry Pratchett observes, even with plenty of resources, education can suffer from basic, nearly intangible mistakes.
Learning things had been harder.
In India, schools would be lucky to have problems at this level though. In the government schools that EFF is targeting, there is at present too much dependence on textbooks of average quality, too much focus on studying for the annual examinations, and there is practically no focus on the actual learning.
You could say that most school-level education in India is focused on just helping students survive the system of education itself, and not on learning things.
With its potential for effectively combining learning with exposure (to the world, to people, to means of communication, to just about everything), we hope that the Education For Free program will help a number of schools eventually rise to a level where they tackle higher level problems regarding the concept of education, its purpose, and the like.
Friday, August 15, 2008
I hope some day, soon enough, we 'll be proud of India, a free India in soul and spirit.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
- More work load the day after
- Unfinished task to worry about
- Break in the flow
- Add more
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Monday, August 11, 2008
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
K Chandrika (name changed), a student of class 10 in a Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) syllabus school will consider herself lucky if she can procure all her textbooks by September-October.
A survey of bookshops selling school books in many parts of the city revealed that textbooks for many classes are not available. Sources said this year, syllabi of class 3rd and 7th standards have changed and hence books of these classes are yet to be made available in the bookstores.
Like all school-going children, 13-year-old Atyaab Hussain of
carries a bag to school. However, instead of books, this sixth grader carries a bottle of water in it. Quami SchoolUrdu schools in are battling a resource crunch. At the heart of the crisis is a pressing shortage of teachers and textbooks. Delhi
Parents of children studying in different schools here Monday expressed concern over the shortage of textbooks of various classes published by Punjab Textbook Board. A parent in
said that he went to buy books of Class 8th for his daughter and Science book of Class 6th for his son but was disappointed on their non-availability. Rawalpindi
The problems dogging the field of education seem far from over. After the recent class XIth admission fiasco, now, primary and secondary students are confronted with the problem of shortage of text books. The text books approved by
Maharashtragovernment, as prescribed by the state board for most of the classes are not easily available.
Contrary to the claims of Chairman Sindh Text Book Board, some forty three books for both English and Urdu medium are short in the market, as the academic session started Friday after two-month summer vacation in the province.
Plus-One and Plus-Two students of
in Panakahalli in Thalavady Union face a peculiar problem: they study without text books. Government Higher Secondary School
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Before we started developing the technology that we have right now, we did a lot of research—going to villages and talking to teachers, parents and students. We were aware of the various problems that have crippled the Government schools in India but getting a first hand experience of the whole scenario put things in a much better perspective for us.
Here is a far from exhaustive list of the main problems we saw in the Indian public school system:
- Too many students and not enough teachers (Recruitment is slow, and there are many vacancies that go unfilled for years. Result? Unfair workload for existing teachers and corresponding decline in the quality of teaching.
- Teachers need to work for all government programs, from election duty to pulse polio campaigns. At the expense of the children who come to school to learn.
- Teachers are made to attend way too many training programs.. These mandatory programs need to fit into an already busy calendar, and teachers invariably do it at the expense of their students. Moreover, this training is often based on theories that do not take the real situation into account. With the real situation that teachers have to deal with-- the large number of students, the limited time available, the examination oriented focus of education, and the lack of facilities—this training proved to be irrelevant for the teachers.
- Very high percentage of teachers are absent from schools. The reasons are varied, and include infrastructure, corruption and motivational issues.
- There is supposed to be a teacher for every 40 students. Most administrators follow this to the letter: if a school only has 120 students then they only get 3 teachers even if the school actually has 5 classes or grades.
- Serious infrastructure issues like power, lack of classrooms, lack of study material (Even textbooks--the minimal study material available to children--are usually delayed by 2-3 months every year.)
- Lack of basic amenities like drinking water and toilets. It turns out that the lack of toilets is a major reason for female students’ absence from school.
- Students do not put in any effort at home. Everything from lack of family encouragement to working after school, to lack of infrastructure at home (privacy, space, light, books) conspires to prevent children from studying at home. While many of these factors are not within the direct control of the teachers or of the educational system, little effort has been made to find an effective substitute for the system of assigning homework.
- A very small percentage of the students coming out of our primary schools has basic reading and writing skills.
The list could go on, and I will be sure to elaborate on these various problems, as well as their impact and the urgent need for solutions in the near future. I’ve identified problems specific to the rural education system. Satya Meva Jayate’s detailed article offers a more general critique of the Indian education system in general.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
With an acute shortage of qualified and experienced teachers, both in primary as well as higher education institutes, the education system in Uttar Pradesh finds itself severely crippled.
Most alarming is the condition of the primary schools, where out of the total 2.82 lakh sanctioned posts, 1.8 lakh posts have no takers.
So is the condition of the universities and colleges providing professional degrees in the areas of aviation, medical, engineering and agriculture, where about 50 per cent of the teaching work is either done by part-timers or ad hoc teachers...
Read the story here
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
and they see me--loud and clear :)
as I teach away from the comfort of my desk...
Interaction at its heights. They love to talk. Like teacher like students.
(Click on the image for a better view.)
Some basic symbols: Geometry, math, shapes etc.
(Click on the images for a better view.)
Thanks to excellent results, low costs and upgraded technology, government schools in Chandigarh are way ahead of private ones when it comes to attracting the brightest brains.
In most parts of India, state-run schools are associated with poor infrastructure and unsatisfactory results. But that's not the case in Chandigarh where admissions began Tuesday.
With many students from the region preferring to opt for top government schools in the city, especially Classes 10, 11 and 12, getting admission in them is all the more difficult.
Even the students of elite private institutes opt for the government schools of Chandigarh when it comes to seeking admission in Class 11. Students from states like Haryana, Punjab, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are also applying to government schools here.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
“I’m impressed by the fact that these girls are very keen learners and refuse to let any learning opportunity be wasted. They had lots of questions and as a group they made sure that everything that needed clarification was in fact clarified then and there.As a teacher with previous classroom experience I also felt comfortable using the virtual classroom which provided all the essential elements that a classroom needs. In less than ten minutes I was comfortable using the technology, was extremely pleased with the high level of interactivity, and at the end of the class came away convinced that I could actually teach using virtual classroom for an entire year.”
Monday, July 21, 2008
I opened my EFF journal, where I have been making notes on our progress, and jotting down hopes and concerns. This was a good way to remember how we got here—the journey hasn’t been easy but at the same time, the generous contribution of some special people made EFF possible. We started working on EFF last year in the month of June and today we have the Virtual Classroom technology in place. This would not have been possible without the help of some generous and like-minded people who shared our vision and went out of their way to help out.
I taught the eighth graders from my office desk while they were seated in their school computer room. I could see them sitting systematically forming a pyramid like shape so that the camera could capture all of them. The moment they saw me in the projector they started giggling and chimed in unison “good morning Teacher”. I did explain how this was going to work but thanks to the ‘idea ad’ on Television, they now had a better idea.
And even before I started with my introductory note, they started asking questions just as in our regular classes. The comfort level was amazing and they sure were incredibly enthusiastic. When I asked how she liked the Virtual Classroom, Soni, one of the students, responded that she felt lucky because she never could even dream of these things being provided in a government school. She says she now looks forward to coming to school more than ever.
We always believed that this is something that would change the face of Indian public school system. And now that we see in action, we are convinced that the “change” is not too far away. Our target is to deploy EFF’s Virtual Classroom in 1000 schools in the next 5 years.Here is a photo of the class in progress:
(more pics and videos on the way :))
Thursday, July 3, 2008
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Some mind boggling numbers from the report:
- Risen from 25,000 in 2000 to 65,000 in 2008 (excluding tuition fees)
- Tuition Fess 35,000
- Another 30,000-35,000 more for a host of 'overheads'
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
I went through the sites and blogs and I list my favorites here: (great find! thanks Christina :))
In a unique way to present the glorious history of
's freedom struggle, the NCERT has resorted to pictorial presentation of the subject aiming to generate interest and inquisitiveness among the students to explore the past. India
Read the complete story here
It has been almost 61 years since we attained independence and we have seen numerous governments come and go and we have heard promises after promises from these governments. But the condition of the school is deteriorating day by day.The school has been facing numerous hardships for some decades now without any government coming to its rescue. Some of the main problems that the school is facing vary from shortage of manpower to the infrastructure.
These children, in my opinion, do not have anything personal and individual, no assets, no home, not even a toothbrush, nothing. It is a totally transient existence. And it is horrible, not to have anything to call your own.
But the idea was, that if they have a locker, with their own locks and keys, it becomes their little piece of home. And that is what we saw, there were thirty lockers and each had been decorated individually by their owners. The key was hung around their necks with a piece of sturdy twine, but some had put up photographs, some had arranged their clothes in pleasing manners, one even had managed to put in a tiny curtain in that locker.
Read the story here.
Monday, June 30, 2008
Last week, I was teaching them the names of the parts of the body--I showed them my fingers and asked them what they were called--"fingers" they chimed. But when I showed them the toes...in a loud angelic voice they answered "leg fingers"! and calf they thought was called "back sheen" Sweet aren't they? I forget my walking woes when I'm with them :)
Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) reaches out to the children of commercial sex workers in a corner of the city in Kolkata as a part of their “Education for All” program.
The social stigma and the fear of ostracism kept mothers from enrolling their children - till the SSA intervened with regular counselling, interaction and awareness drives.
“Children are never made to feel that their mothers are from this disreputable place where I live. Ten years ago, school not have even looked at us, let alone admitted our children to study. So much has changed over the last few years,” said Banita, a sex worker, whose daughter Sona studies at the
Several lakh degree certificates awarded by the University of Madras and a few other state universities through the distance education programme for over 12 years are not valid for getting employment in Central government departments.
Due to lack of infrastructure, students are made to either sit in the verandah or outside the classrooms, irrespective of the weather — rain, heat or cold.The pictures below are students of Rasoolpura Government School Hyderabad diligently taking a test in the veranda of their school.
Despite the absolute negligence by the government towards the school, the students are blessed with an organization called Bhumi--a group of young individuals who have revived the school and have given it a fresh lease of life. In two years, apart from other necessities, they have even managed to built enough classrooms for all the students-- Thanks to organizations like Panterra Networks (formerly Pandora Networks--where I worked last) who in their own way contribute to make this change easier.
Next time around when I visit the school, i'll see a different picture. Literally.
The 7 graders--the girl in glasses (front) stood first in the previous year...this morning she read out a poem in Hindi and translated bits and pieces of it in English for the non Hindi speaking audience :)
The lower graders waiting for their parents to pick them up.
I lifted the red schoolbag just to get a feel of how heavy they were and goodness me!They were as heavy as a ten kilo rice bag!
Buying guava from a fruit seller through the grill of the school gate.
It's 2pm and they are dying to go home but the gate is locked and will be opened only after the long bell is rung :)