School Choice National Conference 2011: RECAP
Created by nupur.spriha on Sun, 2012-01-29 22:44
The third School Choice National Conference titled Catalysing Education for All: Intention, Innovation and Implementation took place on December 21st, 2011 at India Habitat Centre, Delhi.
It started with Prof. Geeta Gandhi Kingdon’s Keynote Address. She emphasized that it’s the quality of education that matters. There is high enrollment of students but because of the low quality education, actual attendance is very low. As a diagnosis she suggested that teacher training and teacher qualifications are of vital importance. That we lack evidence based policy was one of her concerns and that there is low level of accountability and poor management/control by the government. An obstacle in increasing teacher’s accountability is the fact that they stand as a strong and powerful group in the form of educated electorates, they being at poll booths, census collections etc.
In his opening address Mr. Dilip Modi, president ASSOCHAM, said that there are three stakeholders in the education system today - the government, education entrepreneurs and students. He raised the questions that whether education should be for profit or non-profit? Whether private sector would like to invest in it or not? He then said that these days efforts are made to make the third stakeholder i.e. the students as less stressed as possible like no board exams, early holidays etc.
Mr. Sudhir Mankad, former Chief Secretary of Government of Gujarat, said that government has most number of schools so it should focus on accountability and ownership. Once ownership is bought the situation of these schools will improve tremendously. He also said that for RTE Act we can implement what is good and then bring about an amendment if need be.
Mr. Sem Haokip’s CEO of Society for Promotion of Tribal Welfare and Development (SPTWD), an NGO actively engaged in education, livelihood, peace building and grassroots leadership development on Delhi and North East states, concern was that RTE has not taken into account rural and geographic conditions, for ex: in Nagaland and Mizoram, schools use local people who are mostly class 12th pass. The rural and geographic conditions also do not allow big playgrounds etc. That RTE has no incentive for such schools and no provision to support them but rather to close them down.
Mr. Michael Latham, Regional Director at South Asia, Centre for British Teachers (CfBT) talked about the importance of School Management Committees (SMCs).
Mr. Amit Kaushik, the Chief Operating Officer at Educomp said that after TMA Pai Foundation v. State of Karnataka (2002) 8 SCC 481, it is impossible for any educational institution to declare that it is profit based. The guidelines laid down in the landmark TMA Pai Foundation's verdict passed by a 11-judge bench provided that private schools, while free to set their fees, cannot do so with a view to profit from it nor can they can charge capitation fees. Court said that education has not been regarded as a trade or business in our country where profit is the motive. Mr. Kaushik then further said that under RTE Act, taking reimbursement from government would open the private schools for CAG scrutiny. He also talked about the need for evidence based policy making.
The panel I found most interesting was of Session IV: Disruptive Innovation in Education: Looking to Technology.
Mr. Ashish Dhawan, Co-founder Chrys Capital Investment Advisors said that technology has been more accepted now than in past, for example earlier best teacher’s content was restricted only to classrooms but now with new technologies it has moved out of the classrooms, ex: Megastudy, Khan Academy, Mind Spark etc. He said that Star teachers can now broadcast themselves like any other Star!!
Mr. Sugata Mitra, Professor at Newcastle University, brought to our notice the fact that 12 years ago children had to be taught how to use the computer, but it is not the same now and if left with computers they can learn new things by themselves. He cited various examples of experiments done by him, ex: HIWEL experiments (http://www.hole-in-the-wall.com/) or how Tamil speaking children in Indian village learnt about biotech DNA by themselves in two months when left with computer. He concluded by saying that group of children with a friendly and not so knowledgeable instructor can learn 30% to 50% of anything on their own.
Mr. Suneet Singh Tuli, CEO at Datawind said that education isn’t just limited to classroom, that technology empowers the students and with that content gets richer. He also said that if every student gets his/her personal computing devices it would be easier and a faster way to learn. To this there were concerns that children might use it to play games rather than for studies. However, with the examples given by him of how his son learnt to write alphabets faster through his touch screen handset than on paper and also the current rate by which bookings for world’s cheapest tablet by Datawind are breaking records it seems we are going to see a technological revolution in education very soon.
I liked this session because it suggested a way out, a good solution to the problem faced today of quality education, teacher student ratio, etc. Facts put forward by Mr. Sugata Mitra that there are, and will be, places in the world, where schools cannot be built and where good teachers cannot, or do not want to go (http://schoolchoice.in/scnc2011/ppts/sugata-mitra.pdf) were thought provoking and may be this is the reason why we lack quality education. So, the solutions in the form of virtual classrooms where teachers from any corner of the world could teach the students or every student having tablet PCs as suggested by Mr. Suneet Singh Tuli seemed practical to me. We have already tried and experimented with a lot of policies, laws etc. but all that has not lead to much success yet. So, one chance can be given to this technology based approach to enhance the quality of education.