No students in this school: Sanskrit institute with four teachers in dire straits

From a distance, this government-run Sanskrit school in Sikar district of Rajasthan appears like any other run-down school with the building in need of paint. But once you enter the premises, it becomes clear that something else is amiss. The school is erringly quiet – there are no children on the small playground or, for that matter, in the classrooms.

The Government Upper Primary Sanskrit School in Pratappura village has six classrooms, four teachers — but not a single student. The teachers report for work at about 8am, water the plants, read newspaper, chat among themselves and leave after 2pm. They get their salary on time, but are not happy about the state of affairs.

“We feel ashamed to be sitting idle the whole day. It was once a thriving school with more than 50 students, but things changed a few years ago,” Sanwarmal, the school’s head teacher, told HT.

The school, which was established in 1998 attracted children from the neighbouring villages. In 2005, the student strength peaked to 55 and then gradually began to decline. In 2015-16 academic session, only four students were left and their parents also withdrew them last year.

(From left) Sanwarmal, Krishna Verma and Prabhudayal Sharma- teachers of Upper Primary Sanskrit School in Pratappura.

“A few years ago, the neighbouring villages did not have schools so the children used to come to Pratappura. Now, there are three middle schools within 1-2 km range, and so this school has been deserted,” village sarpanch, Balram Verma, said.

Pratappura has a population of about 300, and in most households the head of the family are employed in other towns and only the elders have stayed back to look after the ancestral home.

“The village has only six to seven students from class 1-8 who now study in other schools in the neighbouring villages,” Sanwarmal said.

All the teachers are now sick with boredom. “There is nothing to do here. We even encourage the village elders to come and chat with us so that we are able to pass the time,” Krishna Verma, who is the sole female teacher, said.

A retired army man, Kashiram and a farmer, Ghanshyam Singh, are regular visitors.

The teachers have approached the education department in Jaipur to shift them on deputation to other nearby schools where there is vacancy for Sanskrit teachers. “We gave a written request many months ago, but no action has been taken in this regard. We were told that deputations have been stopped for now,” Sanwarmal said.

The school has a glorious past, said Prabhudayal Sharma, who joined as a teacher in 2003.

“Some of the students have become doctors and engineers and one of them is a senior police official. But now there is little hope. The chances of the school’s revival are very slim,” he said.

As if to emphasise his point, a stray dog wanders inside the premises to be quickly shooed away by one of the teachers.

New highlights of school education in Pune: Going beyond rote learning, including those left behind & using technology

If the number of schools is any indication, then the education sector in the city has seen nearly 100 per cent growth in the last two decades. From 2,626 schools affiliated to the state board of education in 2004, to 3,405 schools in 2017, the number has seen a sharp rise. Add to that, over 95 CBSE schools and 36 ICSE and ISC schools today — there were less than 30 schools earlier — and the establishment of about 10 IB board affiliated schools after 1997.

Educationists say that the methodology and outlook towards imparting education has changed significantly.

Around the same time the city saw the setting up of more international and non-state board affiliated schools, the concept of making learning interesting through classroom activities became popular, and even the state board realised the need to revamp its style. A programme of teachers’ training was put in place to make learning ‘joyful’, said Suman Shinde, former deputy director of education. Education is no longer only about imparting textbook knowledge, but it is about moving beyond the text.

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From rote learning to experiential learning

Devyani Mungali, an educationist whose career spans several decades, remembers how 20 years ago, teachers would restrict themselves to teaching what was in the textbooks, emphasising on retention value of the subject matter for students.
“At that time, teachers were the sole source of information. As English teachers, we concentrated on the writing skill of students and comprehension… most of it was functional learning. Even evaluations were based on textbook material… learning was mostly rote-based. Over the last few years, with exposure to technology and ICT material, the teachers’ role changed from being the sole giver of knowledge to being a facilitator. During this time, the syllabus started undergoing changes and so did the evaluation patterns… Students were scored on their skills and projects… they started seeking knowledge beyond textbooks that was encouraged by new marking patterns,” she said.

Devika Nadig, an educationist, said she feels that teacher-capacity building has been the most important change in the last few decades. “While a lot of people talk about ICT, a decade ago, corporates and others began looking at the way schools were run. One of the things revealed in the studies was that we rely heavily on rote memorisation… that perlocated down to teaching, as it was simply to memorise and the assessment was based on how the students could recall. The gamechanger was moving children to application-based learning… The other wave that came in around this time was the international schools – IB and other boards… As school education got more expensive, parents became consumers, earlier they demanded only marks, now they demand better teaching,” she said.

Introduction of technology in classrooms

However, educationists agree that one policy that has led to a sea change in the school education sector and transformed it completely is the integration of technology into classroom teaching. From state government projects to identify tech-savvy teachers to initiatives by private schools to introducing smart boards or tablets, integration of ICT into school education is the reality of today.

Lakshmi Kumar, director of The Orchid School, says that in the last two decades, one of the major changes in classroom teaching has been the introduction of smart boards, laptops, tablets with pre-loaded content, and introduction of YouTube into tutorials. “… Today, with ICT-enabled classrooms, a 40-minute explanation can be done in 10 minutes. Conceptual doubts are easier to resolve as students can be engaged through digital content and shown things practically. We have an opportunity now to move to the next step of the learning process, beyond mere recall and retention of concepts, to application and analysis… Even government-run Zilla Parishad schools are part of this digital evolution …,” she said.

Technology has also changed the relationship between parents and schools. Stating that school administrations have gained hugely from the use of technology, Kumar pointed out different ways of how it worked.; like instantly reaching out to parents, sharing information via e-circulars, and more.

RTE, regulatory laws and child-centric policies

Educationists unanimously agree that if there was one law that changed the way schools function, it was the introduction of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education. On one hand, it opened a window for quality education for all by reserving 25 per cent seats for students from low-income families; on the other hand, it also introduced child-centric policies like stricter laws on corporal punishment. “Until RTE was introduced, people viewed only physical harm to a student as child rights violation. But RTE mandated that no child could be mentally harassed…” said Shinde.

Shinde said it was the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, which became operational around 2001, which started off the process before the RTE Act. “Through that programme, schools which were dilapidated or had no classrooms or toilets started getting funds, improving their condition,” she said.

Inclusive education

Another parallel movement working towards inclusion was trying to bring students with special needs into mainstream education. Not only did the RTE Act mandate a non-discriminatory policy, but various school boards rose to the occasion by introducing a slew of concessions. “In the late 1990s, if you had a special child, very few schools would dare to admit them… Now, with the concessions by boards, the RTE rules and general awareness among schools, the scenario is far better…,” added Kumar.

Educational game apps for your children for over the school holidays

School holidays are the ideal time for children to unwind and refresh themselves in preparation for the upcoming school holidays.

But how often do parents have to hear the classic line, “I’m bored, what can I do?”

Well, thanks to technology, there is a solution.

Here are 10 educational gaming apps you can download on your tablet for your children to enjoy these holidays.

apps

1. Ant Smasher

This is a free application where children can bash away at ants. While it might seem somewhat senseless, this game can be addictive for children from the ages of four upwards and helps with their reflexes.

2. How to make Paper Airplanes

This is a great game for children and adults alike. This app teaches you how to make amazing paper planes that should technically fly like a dream.

3. Duck Duck Moose, Inc

Duck Duck Moose is a developer studio with just over half a dozen games which will have your children building trucks, learning Math, and going on adventures.

While the games are aimed mainly at younger children, they include simple concepts, and adorable animal characters.

4. Endless Alphabet

Endless Alphabet is a word game where your kids have to unscramble letters in order to figure out what the word is. When your child is finished, the word will pop into an animation to show them what the word means.

The game comes with over 100 words to learn and it also doesn’t keep score or register failures. The free version lets you demo the game and the paid version gives you the whole experience.

5. Kids Numbers and Math

Aimed at younger children, this games offers your child the basic stepping stones into the world of numbers. The app is hugely entertaining and children will enjoy learning the numbers 1-20 with the variety of exercises on offer.

6. Classic Simon

This is an entertaining, challenging and excellent game for building memory skills.

7. Sketchbook Pro

If your child loves art, then this is the ideal app to download.

The free version includes an extensive tool set with more options available in the premium version. Users can organise their work into albums and can backup their creations to the cloud.

8. Hakitzu Elite: Robot Hackers

Play against friends while learning to code, with this fun robot combat game. Hakitzu Elite teaches players the basics of JavaScript through single and multiplayer missions and is available for iOS and Android devices.

9. Scrabble

The ultimate word game is sure to keep your child busy for hours on end, while ensuring their language skills are on par.

10. Mind Games

This is a game with a variety of different games, including puzzles, memory games, word games and Math.

Education department to lead ‘mission Aadhaar’ for school children in UP

The primary education department has been tasked with making Aadhaar cards of students of classes 1 to 8 in Uttar Pradesh.

A government order issued by special secretary, (primary education department) Dev Pratap Singh says the students who still do not have an Aadhaar card issued in their name will be provided one latest by July 31, 2017. The order is dated July 3, 2017.

Two computers and a kit, comprising iris scanner and finger printing machine, have been provided at each of the 852 development blocks present in Uttar Pradesh.

For accomplishing the task at the state level, the secretary, primary education department, has been made the nodal officer of the programme. At divisional level, the divisional assistant primary education director has been made the nodal officer. The basic shiksha adhikari has been made the nodal officer at the district level. The Khand Shiksha Adhikari has been made the nodal officer of the programme at the development block level.

The exercise will help in doing away with several discrepancies.

Chief minister Yogi Adityanath had announced making Aadhaar cards mandatory for primary and secondary school students, after which the UP Board had made Aadhaar card necessary for admission to class 9 and class 11.

The exercise will help in doing away with several discrepancies including fake enrolment which is largely done for fraudulently seeking benefits of various welfare schemes for students like mid day meal, free uniform and textbooks.

The initiative will help in assessing the exact count of students in primary schools up to class 8, besides providing accurate information about school drop-outs.

The recently released Comptroller and Auditor General’s report says there were around 20 lakh drop-outs per year between 2010-11 and 2015-16 from class 2 to 7. The figure was obtained on comparison of data from the District Information System for Education (DISE) with household survey data. Accurate data will be available once Aadhaar cards are made for every student in government schools.

Princesses to presidents’ daughters: Find out what they’re learning in this Swiss finishing school

Glion, Switzerland Eight women sit primly around an elaborately set table making pleasant small-talk about the weather, as immaculately starched waiting staff stand at the ready.

But as one of the servers steps forward holding a silver soup tureen with white-gloved hands, an instructor helps her adjust the angle of the bowl to make sure the ladle is facing the diner.

And a second tutor whispers in the ear of another diner to lower her elbow as she brings the spoon to her mouth.

The women are not at a fancy restaurant or a high-end social club, but at Switzerland’s last finishing school, learning to master good manners, strict etiquette and how to avoid a fatal faux pas.

Women learn dining etiquette at Switzerland's last finishing school, Institut Villa Pierrefeu  in Glion, Switzerland

“I realise now that I have been mixing the French style of eating with the British style,” said Institut Villa Pierrefeu student Heba, asking that her last name not be given.

With some embarrassment, the 34-year-old Egyptian national explained that she had placed her knife on her plate even though she had not used it during her meal — a no-no in French dining etiquette.

Heba is among 30 students from 14 different countries taking an intensive Pierrefeu summer course, lasting either three or six weeks, and offering classes like international business etiquette, floral art and staff management.

Princesses not in majority

Women learn how to serve a dessert during a lesson. (AFP)

The students are a diverse crowd, according to Viviane Neri, who took the reins of the school in 1972 — nearly two decades after her mother founded it.

“Obviously we have daughters of presidents and princesses, but those are definitely not the majority,” she said, her warm smile offsetting the strictness of her impeccable attire.

“We also have people who save money to finance their stay because… they realise that this will give them extra knowledge that very few people have,” she said.

It is not cheap. Depending on the formula chosen, a six-week course, with exams and board at the school’s majestic manor houses, can cost close to 30,000 Swiss francs ($31,000 or 27,000 euros, more than Rs 20 lakh).

A teacher shows a cup during a lesson. (AFP)

The current students, aged between 18 and 50 and ranging from professional businesswomen, to doctors and housewives, do not reveal their last names to each other to ensure equal treatment.

Half a century ago, the students at Institut Villa Pierrefeu, which overlooks the picturesque town of Montreux, were among thousands attending a plethora of finishing schools dotting the hills around Lake Geneva.

Back then it was common for girls and young women from wealthy, upper-class families to attend so-called “charm schools” to polish their manners and social graces.

Britain’s late Princess Diana was among the famous alumni of since shuttered finishing schools in this area.

Some were ashamed

But today, Pierrefeu is the only one left, after the industry was decimated by the 1968 student revolution and rise of feminism.

“There was a huge dip in attendance right after the student revolution,” Neri said, adding that “the few who came said they were going to a languages school. They were ashamed.”

Neri attributes her school’s longevity to its broad international focus and its rigorous efforts to keep the course material, including textbooks available only to Pierrefeu students, constantly up-to-date.

The students learn and practise the proper etiquette and protocol of 20 different countries, as well as cultural taboos to be avoided.

“Cultural differences you are not aware of can create conflicts for very silly reasons,” Neri said, pointing out for instance that in Japan it is rude to blow your nose in public, while in Germany it is rude not to.

She suggested that many journalists could use a Pierrefeu course to avoid “embarrassing” articles like those criticising US First Lady Melania Trump for not covering her head during a recent trip to Saudi Arabia.

More lessons. (AFP)

“She doesn’t have to because it is not compulsory for non-Muslims who come to Saudi Arabia. That’s protocol,” she said.

The students seem to enjoy delving into such details, although some expressed surprise at the intensity of the course.

“I don’t know if, when you hear finishing school, you take it as seriously as I think we all do now,” said Taylor, a 34-year-old American student, who also refrained from giving her last name.

“It is very rigorous,… very comprehensive,” she said, adding that she felt she was “becoming educated here in a very rounded way.”

No snobbery

Unlike the post-1968 generation, she and others said they proudly boasted of attending the school.

Former student Nadine Abou Zahr, 46, said she had been sceptical when she first heard about the school while attending university nearby two decades ago.

But the French-Lebanese former fashion magazine editor, who declined to reveal her current occupation, said in an email that she could not be more delighted with her experience.

“Learning good manners in my opinion is not about snobbism or superficiality. It’s about respect, for yourself and others,” she said.

The course is not about creating “dramatic” career or life changes, she said, but, rather, designed to broaden cultural horizons and teach the importance of paying attention to detail.

Shift in attitudes

Neri said she had noted a clear shift in attitudes towards the need for good manners.

“I think people, after two generations of no etiquette, realise that it is so much easier when people share the same codes,” she said.

The shift has led Neri, along with her son and would-be successor, Philippe, to explore a range of expansion options.

Three years ago they opened shorter seminars to men. They are also looking into reinstating a full school year and online courses.

At the same time, Neri is working to clear up common misunderstandings about what finishing schools actually represent.

Far from seeing girls walking gingerly with books balanced on their heads, or being focused on how to find a husband, her finishing school provides for in-depth learning and opening up of the mind, she said.

“I always say we don’t finish them (the students), we start them,” Neri said.

“We open their eyes to the diversity there is.”

Feeling blue: Your children can ‘catch’ stress from friends and teachers in school

Are you feeling stress out? Blame it on your fellow batch mates or colleagues. New research suggests that if students and teachers of a school appear to be stressed, the chances of the same feeling percolating to a new colleague are quite high. The study, published in the journal Teaching and Teacher Education, found a significant link between burnout among early-career teachers and exposure to both a school-wide culture of burnout and burnout among the young teachers’ closest circle of colleagues.

“If you are surrounded by people who are downcast or walking around under a pall of burnout, then it has a high chance of spilling over, even if you don’t have direct contact with these folks,” said Kenneth Frank, Professor at Michigan State University in the US.

If you’re surrounded by people who are stressed out, you are likely to be affected too.

“This study is one of the first to provide evidence that the organisational culture in schools can make a notable difference for early-career teachers’ burnout levels,” Frank added.

The researchers analysed the survey data on burnout of 171 teachers who were in their first four years in the profession and 289 experienced teachers who served as the young teachers’ mentors or close colleagues. Frank said teacher burnout is also tied to the current education policy environment.

Controversial policies such as evaluating teachers based primarily on student test scores, merit pay for teachers and lack of voice in assignment of students to teachers can bring added pressure.

HC notice to CBSE rule saying teachers not to accompany kids in school buses

New Delhi The Delhi High Court on Monday issued a notice to the city government and Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) on a plea challenging the board’s amended rule that teachers will not accompany students in school buses and not be allotted non-academic work.

A division bench of acting chief justice Gita Mittal and justice C Hari Shankar sought a response from the CBSE and Delhi’s Directorate of Education (DoE) by November 6.

The plea filed by NGO Angika Development Society through advocate Arjun Harkauli challenged the CBSE’s October 2016 circular and sought its quashing.

Schools

The CBSE, the country’s biggest school board, had asked private schools affiliated to it to ensure that their teachers are not saddled with non-teaching duties such as travelling with children in buses and managing canteens.

Harkauli argued that pursuant to the Supreme Court directives, the Delhi government had already formulated detailed directives that “teachers and bus monitors should accompany students in school buses and hence it is not the domain of the CBSE to issue any directives on this subject as it merely an examination board”.

The plea said that the administration of school and terms of service of teachers does not fall within the domain of the CBSE but under the authority of the administrator under the Delhi School Education Act.

“Similarly in the respective state the relevant state school education Act applies. The impugned circular suffers from the vice of ‘excessive legislation’ beyond the scope of its authority,” the plea added.

“In any event, even the government resolution that created the CBSE does not grant it powers to frame rules regarding administrative running of school, service conditions of teachers and safety of children.”

It added that teachers are the qualified persons to travel in buses for the safety of the students as children have inherent confidence and trust in a teachers.

“Parents feel confident when there is teacher in charge of a school bus, who can handle child psychology and well equipped to deal with emergencies and capable of effectively communicating with parents, school, local authorities, bus staff in case of an emergency,” the plea stated.

No-detention policy in school may be scrapped from next academic year: Union minister

The no-detention policy might be scrapped from the next academic year as the policy has negatively impacted affected quality of basic education in the country, Union minister of state for human resources development Mahendra Nath Pandey said on Thursday.

“Many states have expressed worry over declining education quality due to the no-detention policy and supported to remove it. Eyeing this, a decision has been made where the Centre approved that the no-detention policy can be uprooted from the next academic year,” Pandey told the media at the BJP headquarters in Agartala.

The minister said the state governments will decide if they want to continue with the policy or remove it.

Under the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009, no child admitted in a school will be held back in any class or expelled till the completion of elementary education covering classes 1 to 8.

HRD Ministry

“There has been a unanimous decision of withdrawing the no-detention policy from the Right to Education Act 2009,” the minister said.

He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decided to transform 20 universities of the country into world class ones and the ministry was working in this direction.

During his two-day visit, Pandey visited the Sanskrit Institute and the National Institute of Technology. He also assured to extend support for upgradation of the engineering institute.

Pandey also expressed pleasure over growing popularity of the BJP in the Left-ruled state. “I hope BJP will be the new parivartan (change) in Tripura in the 2018 assembly election,” he said.

IIM-L ties up with Harvard Business School

Representative image

The Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow (IIM-L) has entered into an institutional alliance with the Harvard Business School after two IIM-L professors recently visited HBS to attend a faculty workshop on ‘Microeconomics of Competitiveness’ held at the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness, HBS.

 Under the alliance, IIM-L like HBS, will offer an elective course on `Microeconomics of Competitiveness’ to students of different programmes from academic session 2016-17. The course will be taught by Prof Ashutosh Kumar Sinha and Prof Sanjay Singh of IIM-L. At present, the MOC course is being taught at SP Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai.
 Not only this, now IIM-L, will be able to use the Harvard expertise in cluster development at local government level too.

Eight things I wish I'd known before starting my A-levels

If you’re studying A-levels you’ll need your friends when the pressure mounts.

If you asked me on GCSE results day what I thought the world of A-levels would bring, I would have been optimistic. But then, I didn’t know what to expect.

Like many students across the country, I spent the last few years learning about Pythagoras’s theorem, and that mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. However I learned nothing that would prepare me for the future beyond my GCSE exams. With the benefit of hindsight, there are a few things I wish someone had told me.

1. The jump from GCSEs is enormous

In fact, it’s anything but a jump – more of a plummet into an alternate universe of sleepless nights and enough work to induce tears. Perhaps if the increase in work-load had been highlighted to me before, I wouldn’t have been as stressed as I was in the initial weeks.

2. Sticking to your deadlines is a necessity, not a choice

Marina Gjoni, a sixth form student at Cedars Upper School, says it’s important to be organised when it comes to your studies. “It didn’t take me long to realise just how quickly work can pile up. I learned how important it is to get everything done in time,” she says. “I found that by writing everything down in a diary and setting up a timetable to meet my deadlines, I felt much more at ease and in control.”

3. There’s more to free periods than social gatherings

I wasted my first month of free periods sat around a table eating Doritos, struggling to get past level 33 on Candy Crush. While I did eventually complete the level, I didn’t finish any of my essays. From the beginning, it’s important to find the right balance between spending time with your friends and dedicating time to your studies.

4. Everyone is too caught up in their own appearances to worry about yours

I admit to being someone who spent more of the first few weeks of sixth form worrying about my appearance than my education. Back then bad grades seemed more appealing than social exile for a bad outfit. However, it didn’t take me long to discover that people are too wrapped up in their own appearance to focus on anyone else’s.

5. Getting work done is down to you, and only you

At A-level, unlike in previous school years, teachers don’t usually chase you up on work you haven’t done and lessons you’ve missed. They’ll expect you to be able to complete tasks and meet deadlines on your own, which is a lot harder than it sounds.

Yasmin Syed, a 17-year-old student at Brighton Hove and Sussex sixth-form college, notes the upside to this newfound responsibility. She says: “Not having teachers badger me for work actually motivates me to meet my deadlines. It also teaches me independence and more efficient time management.”

6. Maintaining friendships is important

Studying A-levels can be stressful. So you’re going to need your friends now more than ever. However, when you first start university it’s easy to become so caught up in your studies that you begin to neglect friendships. While this is unintentional most of the time, it can lead toproblems down the line. If someone had told me this, I would have tried to find a healthy balance between friends and school work from the start.

7. Get involved in everything you can

“I didn’t want to get involved in anything at first,” says Holly Wright, a 17-year-old student at City and Islington College. “But after a while, I began to appreciate that extracurricular activities give you something else to focus on and improve your CV and personal statement.”

If, like me, your strongest achievement is getting through an entire Netflix series in two days, don’t panic. It’s never too late to get involved in a sport or activity, and you’d be surprised how nice it is to have something to focus on other than your next deadline.

8. You’re allowed to have fun.

In the months leading up to September, I was told that the next two years would be some of the toughest of my life academically. This meant that I entered my A-levels with the mindset that my life would be all work and no play. What I was not told, was that I was entitled to having a day off and to time to myself. It’s important to reward your efforts and know your limits, because after all your mental and physical health should always be the priority. This is something that isn’t emphasised enough to students. It can definitely be something that can make or break your success.