Monthly Archives: January 2010

How are rural kids learning in India?

What do we know about how rural kids of India are studying in the Government schools???? The Annual Status of Education Report, 2009 by ASER Centre, which is facilitated by Pratham, an NGO tells the story..

Do visit the below link for details. Even the complete report and also state-wise results are available for download.

http://www.asercentre.org/index.php

Also, watch this report in NDTV profit about the same.

http://www.ndtv.com/news/videos/video_player.php?id=1194854

A few glimpses from the report. But before that, a short note on the scale at which this has been done. Its astounding. 25,000 volunteers visiting about 16 randomly selected villages in 575 districts of the country and speaking to 700,000 children have gathered the data. Enormous given the fact that it is not the government that has done this. It forms a solid piece of statistical data that even the planning commission acknowledges and uses.

96% of children in the age group 6-14 are enrolled in schools.

75% is the attendance rate on an average.

68.8% of children in standard 1 can recognise alphabets

69.3% of children in standard 1 know numbers 1-9

But then,

As we go higher up the classes, the learning levels of children does not grow as it should.

ONLY 50% of children in 5th standard can read as much as per levels expected for standard 2. &

ONLY 36% of children in 5th standard can solve division sums.

Given the fact that students are not failed upto 7th standard as per the government school norms, they keep going up the classes (when they dont drop out. Drop out rates are high after 5th standard, as much as 50-60%) but keep lagging behind. So, finally, even if you have a kid who has reached 8th standard, he/she would probably know just as much as a 4th standard kid should know.

Is this what we want to give our Nation’s children? Even thew new Right to Education Act, 2009 does not make any serious infrastructure build up plans that can amend these issues. There is vision to improve the quality of education in this act and government school teachers are also expected to reach required levels within 5 years but then where are the funds going to come from? We await the budget of 2009 to see how much money goes for education? We spend just about 3.4% of our GDP on education as against consistent recommendations of about 6% starting from the Kothari Commission of 1966.

But faulting the government is not going to improve things by itself. Lets see what we can do to help the government school teachers or may be the children themselves directly. We do pay our taxes and even the education cess but thats not where our responsibility ends. True investment can only be in the education of the lives of children of our country. Else, we would continue grappling with the situation as we have today of lot of people awaiting employment but few being really employable. Where would our GDP go? It makes sense for one and all to invest, each in their own way towards the education of children in our country. IT companies can help build e-governance tools that can highly increase transparency and drop corruption. This in itself would be a major contribution. Others can pitch in to advocate to the government to put more stress and resources. Others can simply pay our due taxes correctly at least…. Each of us have our duty. May we do our best……

Jai Hind !!!

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Ashraya’s Neelbagh Rural School…

Crossing from 2009 to 2010 for me was a very new and delightful experience… Not often would one find a smile on my face in the usual life here in Bangalore but Neelbagh saw me with a smile for a large part of the day… Smiling to the unconditional and instantaneous love from the children…… 🙂

I wonder: What prompted the children to invite me to their villiages, their houses and their classes at school to teach them? I dont find an answer apart from the instantaneous bonding that the children develop to anyone who bothers to give them a smile and an ear to listen to them… That was the only little effort I had put.

The highlight was the New Year Day which is celebrated little differently there than other places. Here, its the children who are at the giving end. Imaging recieving more than a 100 chocolates from as many kids with new year wishes. It was simply wonderful. And to add to this, we had a fancy dress competition (where i sat as a judge too 😉 ) , a dance by the students, a special lunch and a cricket match which I too played. Cant ask for a better Day to remember. Quite easily, the most memorable New year Day I have experienced.

Having known Ashraya’s excellent work in the field of Adoptions, especially inter-country adoptions, I had visited them and came to learn about their work at the Neelbagh rural school located at Rayalpad, close to Madanapally, but just within the Karnataka border (kolar district to chitoor district). It is essentially a school with residential facility for the not so privileged children of migrant labourers, of construction labourers and also of local residents. With LKG to 10th std, kannada medium and state board syllabus, they adress the needs of the people quite comprehensively. English too is taught quite well, thanks to their own commitment and also to volunteers from across the globe who come to help.

I have always liked Maths and Physics a little more than most other subjects and so when Ashraya said they would like me to teach a little Math to the 10th standard students who were to face the board exams in April, I was quite at home. Just that I had to teach to students who study in Kannada medium but that did not prove to be difficult since I knew a little kannada, the students a fair bit of English and the Maths teacher there who was ever willing to help…

The students of the Rural school in terms of the academic pursuit had only one difference and that was ‘Home Work’. Most of the students being day scholars, (200 / 300) had little opportunity to revise what they learn at school when they reach back home. Most are first generation learners. They also have some little chores or even bigger works to attend to when back from school. This means that what they learn at school is what they know. Given the same attention and support at home, I am sure they would do as well as city kids.

The 10th std students were 20 of them with an almost equal proportion of boys and girls. One could easily see the interest in music and dance among girls and sports among boys as the primary interests apart from studies. They learn also many vocational skills like carpentry, pottery, tailoring, music and dance, bee-keeping, paper craft etc apart from their regular classwork. Too much??? Well, this is one of the real key and strong points of Neelbagh. These are really valuable life skills which lend strength to the students. I have seen some very good work in these areas by the students and quite likely that this would support those who dont make it to the next stages of studies after 10th due to financial or other reasons. In Math itself, there were some who were average performers and some who were quite good with their knowledge, just as we would see in any other place. The main positive aspect the students had was their energy level to learn. They were ever ready to come to classes (I was teaching about 2-2.5 hrs a day apart from their regular 6 hr schooling) and ever ready to write tests and ever ready to get doubts clarified.

I hope that the students have gained a bit from what I could teach them and hope to interact further…….(2 weeks is not much).  May all of us wish that they do well and more and more students from rural areas do well. I feel that investing time on children is the best investment one can make for having a prosperous India…

I have not written all of what I could… The 2 week experience was so big… Do write back if you need any further info….

Jai Hind !!!

Convicting people for criminal negligence…

“Do we have courage to convict people in Sub-Inspector Vetrivel’s case? “ is the question i think. I have read through our Indian Penal Code and this is what is relevant. This is regarding the recent incident of Sub Inspector R.Vetrivel who was hacked to death and when nobody including many responsible people helped him soon enough to save his life.

I quote below Sec 304 A and General Explanation no. 32.

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General Explanation no. 32. under Chapter II of IPC, 1860

32. Words referring to acts include illegal omissions
In every part of this Code, except where a contrary intention appears from the
context , words which refer to acts done extend also to illegal omissions.
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Sec 304A. Causing death by negligence
Whoever causes the death of any person by doing any rash or negligent act not
amounting to culpable homicide, shall be punished with imprisonment of either
description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.
######################################################################

My personal belief from what little I know is that we can theoretically convict people for criminal negligence leading to death of a person… But…

If only someone has the courage to file an FIR against the responsible people, and if some police station is ready to register the same or if a Magistrate under Sec 200 of the Criminal Procedure Code is ready to take a direct complaint and if a lawyer is ready and if evidences are forthcoming and if an honourable judge or a bench of honourable judges are ready to pronounce a conviction, we can see some light. Else, we remain in this gloomy scenario….

I understand that we, general citizens of the country do not have a direct Locus Standi in this case but I note that possibly Sec 304A of the IPC when read along with ‘General Explanations’ No. 32 under Chapter II of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 as mentioned above are sufficient grounds for convicting the people who showed little responsibility to save the life of the brave officer.

It is very disheartening as a citizen of India and more so as a Tamilian to note such incidents and also see that so many people go scot free despite showing such little respect for a human life and that too a police officer. Reading and seeing such news, I wonder which youth would like to join the police and serve honestly. Respect for the Honourable court and for the Law of the land takes a beating if nothing is done in such cases.

Posted on : 11th Jan 2010.

Jai Hind !!!