What is KLP?

The Karnataka Learning Partnership was formed as a framework for nonprofits, corporations, academic institutions, and citizens to get involved in improving government schools in Karnataka. Our work has touched thousands of children in the state.
Visit our website: www.klp.org.in

Friday, August 27, 2010

Right to Education Act in Plain English


The content of this article is primarily based on the RTE Act (Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009), its schedules and The RTE Model Rules (Model Rules under the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009) prescribed by the central government. The topics have been selected based on a subjective assessment of the key issues related to the Right to Education (RTE) in India for the common man. In order to keep the discussion easy to understand suitable simplifications and approximations are made without compromising on the spirit of the RTE Act.

Introduction

Despite the fact that many of the folks reading this article may never have encountered a government school, the private schools account for educating just 20% of the children in the country. To get a sense of numbers, India has about 12.5 lakh primary (class 1 to VIII) schools catering to approximately 20 crore primary school going age children.

School Type

Numbers

%

Government

10.35

82.8

- Dept of Education

8.33

6.6

- Local Authorities

2.01

1.6

Private

2.49

19.9

- Government Aided

0.58

4.6

- Completely Private (Unaided)

1.42

11.3

Total

12.50

100

(lakhs)

Since private schools are mainly entrepreneurial ventures with just a few institutions under a given management as opposed to government schools that are department run social programs that cater to a vast population, the dynamics at play in these two set ups are fundamentally different. Anecdotal evidence suggests that private schools have better success at providing future opportunities to their students. On the other hand, government schools are responsible for educating a majority of the Indian population. In this context it is important to evaluate the right to education from both a private school as well as a government school lens.

Aims of universal elementary education

· Inclusion: Quality elementary education like air or water should be available with the same quality to all children. Discrimination, especially for the girl child, socially and economically marginalised children is not acceptable in any civil society. Unfortunately the chance of getting quality basic education decreases exponentially if you belong to SC/ST/Minority communities (and despite all the reservations this is still true!) and for girls. If you are from a poor family, your chance to access a good school again reduces dramatically.

· Access & Retention: Schools should be in the neighbourhood of a child’s home. Each school should have basic infrastructure such as class rooms, functioning toilets, drinking water, playground, etc. They should have teachers that are capable (trained) and motivated to teach. Government pays primary school teachers better than most of their private school colleagues (in hand salary for a government primary school teacher in Karnataka starts at about 10,000pm which 2 to 3 times the starting salary of a primary school teacher in a private school) and still is unable to get good output from them due to inefficiencies in the government school system. Many government schools even today function without classrooms, drinking water, toilets or electricity. These issues can be better appreciated on a visit to a government school (especially a rural school).

While enrolment of children in school is the first step, more important is to ensure regular attendance and making sure that they complete their elementary school education. The incentive structures in the education system encourage inflated enrolment numbers. Attendance is dismal either because the schools are not able to pull the children or because they have to help their families in different chores including agricultural help, or even household work. Children drop out before completing their elementary education in large numbers for similar reasons.

· Learning: Children should achieve minimum levels of learning appropriate to their age. World over governments very actively track the literacy and numeracy levels of elementary school students to evaluate the effectiveness of the school system. While India has no large scale government mandated evaluation, nationwide annual surveys by Pratham (Annual Status of Education Report, 2009) reveals that only about 50% of student in class 5 can read a class 2 level text and only 30% of them can solve a simple division problem.

· Monitoring: Community (especially parental) monitoring of schools is perhaps the best way to ensure quality functioning of schools. This is a key difference between private and government schools. Parents of children going to government schools have not been able to demand accountability from teachers. While some of this may be due to parental apathy, a significant factor contributing to this is the lack of mechanisms for parents to get involved in their child’s education. When the parents and community do not demand accountability from education officials, there is very little motivation for them to act on any of the goals above. Government schools being tax payer funded resources should have mechanism for parent (community) to monitor and participate in the functioning of these schools.

Legal Framework

The right to free and compulsory education for all children between 6 to 14 years of age (roughly equivalent to class 1 to 8) is a fundamental right enshrined in the Indian Constitution. This mandates the government to take all steps: enacting new laws, launching new government programs, changing how education is administered etc., to ensure that this right is realized. Each and every citizen can demand the implementation of this right either for himself/herself or (if done in good faith) even for other citizens who cannot make such demands on their own. The breach of fundamental rights is a constitutional violation and can be heard directly by highest courts of the country.

Education is a joint responsibility of the centre and the states, with the centre primarily setting standards for education, and, states responsible for running the school system. The RTE Act is the law that the central government has enacted to enable the implementation of this fundamental right to education. Any law enacted by the centre is binding on all the states in India.

As the administration of education is primarily done by the state government, specific implementation and administrative provisions regarding the RTE Act are defined in what is referred to as the RTE rules. These are defined by the state government and have legal force in that state. In order to ensure that these rules are uniform across the states and the spirit of the RTE Act is not diluted by the states in setting up these rules, the centre has authored “Model RTE Rules” to guide the states in framing these rules.

Administration of Education

The setting up and running of schools is mainly done by the state education department. The administration of schools is mainly managed at the Taluk or Block level with oversight from district and state level officials. These coincide with administrative Taluks (with some exceptions). The official responsible for managing all the schools in a Taluk is the Block Education Officer (BEO). When schools are managed by local bodies (Municipal Corporation/Council, Zila Parishad, Nagar Panchayat), a similar executive structure is set up within that context.

The block is further divided in what are called “Clusters” for ease of administration. The schools located in a cluster are under the oversight of cluster education officials (called Cluster Resource Persons or CRPs).

The schools can either be Lower Primary Schools (LPS) covering classes 1 to 5 or Higher Primary Schools (HPS) covering classes 1-8. About 70% of the schools in the country are LPSs. The schools operate in multiple vernacular mediums of instruction as per the state policy. In Karnataka, there are about 200 blocks that are further divided into about 2,500 clusters. Under them are approximately 47,000 government schools operating in Kannada, Urdu, Tamil, Telugu and (in rare cases) English medium of instruction.

Apart from government and private schools under the control of state administration, there are private and government schools that are under the central and international boards (e.g., CBSE, ICSE) that function fairly independent of the state education machinery.

Two other areas where the state education departments play a key role is in the design of curriculum / text books as well as training of teachers. Both these functions are performed by the Department of State Education & Training (DSERT) in each state. The Centre sets standards for the curriculum design (National Curriculum Framework 2005 is a good example) as well as teacher training, but the implementation mainly rests with the state government under the banner of DSERT.

RTE Act: Key provisions

Standards for Schools

· Every child is entitled to free and compulsory education from 6 to 14 years of age (class 1 to VIII).

· RTE mandates setting up of neighbourhood schools, which implies that every child should have access to a LPS within 1 Km from his/her residence and an HPS within 3 Km from his/her residence.

· It lays down standards for school infrastructure. Every school has to have at least as many class rooms as teachers and a multipurpose room as office/store/ Head Master’s (HM’s) room. The school should have separate toilets for boys and girls and also have provision for safe drinking water. In addition, it should have playground, library, fencing and accessibility for disabled children. If mid-day meals are served in the school (as is the case for most government schools) it should have a kitchen for cooking & storing food. No new school can be started until it complies with these norms and the existing ones that do not, have to comply with these requirements within 3 years (by 31 March, 2013).

· RTE lays down standards for a maximum pupil to teacher ratio (PTA) for lower primary (1:40, excluding head master) and higher primary schools (1:35, but a minimum of 3 teachers , one each for math/science, social studies & languages, excluding head master ). Whichever schools do not have sufficient teachers as per this norm have to recruit the desired number of teachers within 6 months (i.e. by 1 October, 2010). These teachers have to be qualified as per the standards set by the Nation Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) for any fresh recruitment in government or private schools. All teachers already in service have to acquire these qualifications within 5 years (i.e.by 31 March,2015).

· It mandates a minimum of 200 working days (800 instruction hours) for LPS and 220 working days (1000 instruction hours) for HPS. Teachers have to work 45 hours/ week (for instruction, preparation, training etc.)

· The Central government will define standards for a national curriculum (though NCERT) and teachers qualification (through NCTE) that would be applicable to all the schools in the country. The state governments would be responsible for designing the curriculum and training teachers as per these standards.

· One glaring omission in the RTE Act is the lack of standards to ensure that the children learn as per their capabilities. An early 1990s report from the central government laid the minimum standards of learning for each class and the national curriculum framework incorporated these standards in curriculum design. However, they find no mention in the RTE act, making it an input focussed legislation without any guarantees of outputs (learning). Interestingly, Karnataka draft RTE rules have a provision for a 3rd party evaluation of learning levels for 5% of the schools every year.

Social Responsibilities of Private Schools

· While the government schools have to provide free education to all students (and provide free uniforms, textbooks, writing material and mid day meals), private schools too will now have to provide 25% seats free of cost to economically & socially backward students of the neighbourhood. They have to admit these kids in class 1 (or in Kindergarten if they have a preschool) and then support them through the 8 years of schooling. They should not charge anything from these students and also provide them free uniforms, text books & writing materials (Karnataka draft model RTE rules also expect them to provide free mid-day meals). These students cannot be segregated or discriminated from other students in that school. The state government will compensate these schools at the rate that the state spends (likely to be in the range of 700-800 Rs/month/child) on providing these facilities (or less if the school charges lesser fee from other students) to students in government schools. This obviously is a red flag for private schools – from the obvious loss of revenue, as they charge much higher fees than what the government would compensate them for, and also the pain of getting money from the government department (because of corruption) . There is also the issue of how the so-called high / upper middle class parents take to the fact that their wards are now mingling with “poor” kids. These parents also fear that they will have to indirectly bear the financial burden for these new children. Although it will just be a very small portion (less than 5% to be precise) of children who will avail this benefit, this provision has generated the most amount of controversy.

Enforcing Standards

· The responsibility of setting up schools as per the standards set in RTE is the responsibility of the state government either through its department of elementary education or through the local authorities when these schools are managed by them. The Central government will share the costs of setting up and running these schools with the state government / local authorities.

· The BEO is responsible for notifying neighbourhood school(s) for all the areas in his block, which are within the prescribed distance, where children can seek admission. This will mandate a geographical school mapping of the block to ensure compliance to this norm.

· Every local authority is responsible for an annual household survey in its jurisdiction to perform a census of children (0 to 14 years) and ensure the data is publically available for anyone to verify. This will be used by schools to ensure 100% enrolment and attendance of these students. Draft Karnataka Model rules pass on this responsibility down to the schools. This would mandate an additional responsibility on schools to keep a track of children and it is not clear where are the hands to do this work as well as systems to collect and disseminate this information.

· Every school (other than government schools) has to be certified by the District Education Official and in case it does not comply with the standards set above, can be derecognised and the students transferred to other neighbourhood schools. This obviously brings back the images of inspector raj and the ensuing corruption for private schools especially CBSE / ICSE schools who till now had remained relatively free from such interference. The state education department recognised private schools are already under this regime and their experience is predictably dismal. To add to this Draft Karnataka RTE Rules specify the BEO will decide on a calendar of events for admissions that every school in his jurisdiction has to adhere to. The Model rules have an elaborate procedure for de-recognition under this clause to make it difficult for government officials to do it at their whims (thereby reducing the possibility of corruption). Draft Karnataka RTE Rules have removed many of these safeguards and made the district officials / BEO primarily responsible for this decision. Curiously, there is no mechanism specified to monitor these standards for government schools and it is not clear what would happen to government schools that do not comply with the standards after the mandated 3 years.

School Administration

The RTE Act defines various norms that are to be enforced by schools in their day-to-day administration (government or private):

  • Cannot use any physical or emotional punishments.
  • Teachers to deploy continuous and comprehensive evaluation for each student and maintain a student record.
  • Teachers are required to conduct regular parent teacher meetings.
  • Teachers cannot be engaged in non-teaching duties (except for some very specific functions such as census, election duty etc.).
  • Teachers cannot take private tuitions.

So far so good, but also...

  • Schools cannot charge capitation fees. While this may be unpalatable to private schools it is still not a show stopper for them. For government schools this is a non issue.

And the provocative ones ...

  • Schools cannot use any screening procedures to admit students in any class nor can they deny admissions to anyone if they have spare capacity (even if the students arrives at its doors within 6 months from the start of the academic year). This provision (and to some extent the next two as well) results in what are referred to as “multi level” classrooms, a class where the students may be at vastly different levels of learning (a typical class 4 may have students whose learning levels are equivalents to the expected learning levels of students of class 1, class 2, class 3 & class 4). This has been a difficult management problem for teachers and curriculum designers alike (some pedagogies such as Montessori method have very effectively used these situations to the advantage of children). Government schools have constantly grappled with this issue while most private schools have by-passed the issue altogether by screening the child during admissions.

A special case is that of mainstreaming children who have never been to schools. As per the RTE Act they have to be admitted in the age appropriate class after special remedial education (in special residential institutions for up to 2 years is required). The onus for this is put on to the school management committees who have minimal capacity to implement such measures. Private schools do not have to share this responsibility as they admit children only in class 1 (or kindergarten).

  • Schools cannot hold back a child in a class i.e., cannot fail anyone in a class. This stipulation does not prevent teachers from evaluating children. In fact continuous and comprehensive evaluation is mandated by the RTE Act as seen earlier. These should help teacher / student to plan remedial measures to bring back the child on track, but even if after all this the child does not have the capacity to understand the topics in higher classes, he will still have to be promoted nevertheless thereby making that classroom a multi level class.
  • School cannot expel anyone from school for any reason. For private schools, the threat of expulsion has been an effective stick to beat up the parents / children to improve on discipline / academic performance. While private school managements have been raising the bogey of their inability to expel “delinquent” kids as a threat to effectively managing the schools, these provisions in RTE are clearly aimed at ensuring that schools do not weed out the children that lag behind in learning and that the schools “own up” to the children. It would have been good to have a specific reference permitting expulsion/ suspension for disciplinary reasons being allowed in RTE Act.

Most developed countries have similar standards in place for elementary education and are able to run an efficient school system. It is also important to see these provisions in context. These are only applicable for children till they are in VIIIth class.

Community Monitoring

· All government schools will set up a committee (School Monitoring Committee or SMC) comprising mainly of parents (75% of the members have to be parents) to oversee the affairs of the school such as monitor teachers, monitor finances (including mid day meal scheme), monitor enrolment/attendance and ensure that no child is discriminated against. This committee also prepares a 3 year development plan for the school that defined strategies for future growth and the finances needed for the same and submit it to local authorities for consideration.

Enforcement Mechanisms

· RTE Act has notified National Commission of Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) as the monitoring body for RTE implementation. NCPCR has already set up a RTE monitoring cell where any concerned citizens can send in their complaints. Complaints can also be taken directly to courts as education is a fundamental right.

How should the civil society participate in making RTE a reality in India

Despite many rough edges, RTE is a significant leap for ensuring education for all in India. It also opens up many mechanisms by which concerned citizens can demand the implementation of this right. We look forward to hear from you on what are the specific actions citizens can take to make sure RTE is implemented in letter and spirit.

Vikas Maniar

vikas@akshara.org.in

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Unique ID System for Public Education

We recently wrote a piece for the Mint on why we believe a unique identity scheme is needed in the public education space.
Now that the Union government has announced a programme to provide unique identity cards to every Indian—the idea behind Aadhaar is to improve the common man’s access to not just welfare payments, but also everyday social services such as healthcare and education—it’s time to think of bringing this unique approach to primary education.
It is our belief that a universal and unique identification system will help in improving quality outcomes in a significant manner. What this means is that there is a need for a unique identity that is assigned to a child from birth through till the end of her education, and this unique ID will help in ensuring that all her rights as a child are available to her and that she receives quality education
 You can read the full piece here and we would like to hear your thoughts on comments on this as well.

Source: "A unique way to ensure learning", Ashok Kamath & Gautam John

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Read India in Mysore

The Pratham Mysore team writes in about the launch of Read India in Karnataka.

Karnataka joined the “Read India” campaign during the last week of July 2010 when a group of young volunteers from remote villages around T. Narasipura, one of the educationally backward blocks of  Mysore, came together and pledged to make every child read, write, and do basic math.

Read India launched outside Karnataka as back as 2007  has created the largest nationwide impact and is already producing impressive results. In 2008-09, the campaign reached 33 million children across 19 states. It covered 305,000 out of the 600,000 villages of India and mobilized 450,000 volunteers. Over 600,000 teachers, officials and government workers have been trained. In most states, out of the children who were a part of the intervention, the proportion of those not able to read alphabets is down to zero. Likewise, the proportion of children able to read simple sentences is up by almost 20%.

The volunteers  who attended training sessions in T. Narasipura for five days in order to become familiarized with the model and the Teaching Learning materials will carry out the campaign in a block of 100 villages without any monetary compensation. Dr. T. Padmini and her team of Master Resource Persons oriented  the volunteers to handle the well tested Reading and Math packages of Pratham, Mysore. The volunteers will engage in  the Campaign at  their respective villages by working either inside or outside the school for two hours every day . While the Reading programme(Kannada Vachana Karyakrama -KVK) will aim at building language skills in children of grade 1-7   to correct the graded difficulties at different levels  of reading and pronunciation, the  math programme (Nagu Nagutha Ganitha – NNG)  marks a significant shift  from the   conventional  teaching  methods towards a child  led model of learning which focuses on fostering thinking strategies among  children so that  they  explore different ways of  arriving  at mathematical solutions.

The campaign will run in two phases from Aug-Nov 2010 and Dec –Mar 2011 reaching out  to nearly 10000 children in the block .

In villages with low learning levels, focus will be to ensure that there are no children lagging behind and villages with high level learning will start focusing immediately on grade specific learning. Efforts will be made to promote the concept of Education for Education, a skill building training to add value to the volunteer so that he can face the competition in the job market with better confidence.

Monday, August 9, 2010

BBMP schools producing a miserable 33% SSLC passes, here's why

Via Citizen Matters
When the results of the SSLC examination were announced back in May, BBMP schools in the city had fared so poorly it was almost as if the Palike itself had flunked the public examination. The thirty-three high schools under the Palike secured a pass percentage of 33 per cent -- its most abysmal result in the last few years. To put this figure in perspective, the state average was 68 per cent -- more than double of what the BBMP schools secured this year, and a far cry from the ambitious target of 75 percent set in the 2009-10 BBMP budget.

These dismal results have come about despite the Palike spending Rs 32 crores on all of its 133 schools during 2009-10. Many believe that the per child expenditure at BBMP schools is nearly double that of schools under the state education department -- a study done a few years ago by Akshara Foundation found that the then BMP spends Rs 10,370 per child, while the state education department spends about Rs 6,500 per child.

Though SSLC results are not the sole criterion by which to judge how the Palike runs all their 133 schools, it is emblematic of the negligence that these schools have faced for the past few years. Here's a look at some of the problems.

If there is one single reason to pin down the poor academic performance of BBMP schools, it would have to be teachers. As the 2009-10 budget documents show, there are about 326 teaching posts that have remained vacant in BBMP schools. That is almost nearly half of the sanctioned teaching posts at the BBMP.

The lack of qualified and appropriate teachers is also visible in several other ways. At CHS Malleswaram, classes for both English medium and Kannada medium schools are held together for all sections: Class 8, 9 and 10.

School officials also offer another reason for the poor performance.CHS Shivajinagar Principal N Raja Reddy, in his late forties, says that more than staff shortage, his biggest concern is the quality of students coming to the Corporation schools. He says that students who seek admission are those who don't get in anywhere else. "What this has meant is that there a lot of students in our school with out even basic knowledge of the subjects", he adds.


cc licensed flickr photo shared by premasagar

But what makes this argument moot is that despite facing the same problems, there are a few success stories such as the Corporation Girls High School at Sriramapuram. For the past two years, this school has secured a pass percentage of higher than 80 per cent. And this despite 6 out of the sanctioned 18 teaching posts filled with temporary teachers. As headmaster Munishamappa reveals, the school is all geared towards ensuring success. He says that for students in Class 10, they have to attend special classes from 7 am to 10 am, regular classes from 10 am to 4 pm, and special classes again from 4 to 6 pm. "We start these measures right from the first day of the academic year", he says.

When it comes to infrastructure, BBMP schools are beset by schools without enough classrooms, classrooms without electricity, lack of drinking water, lack of toilets, and rickety benches.

Intriguingly, the BBMP, unchastened by their foray into education, has plans to take over all government schools in the city. Currently, the bulk of government schools in the city -- around 3000 in number -- are run by the state government's Department of Public Instruction(DPI).

While Corporations in cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, and Chennai run a large number of schools, with enrolled students running into lakhs, the BBMP needs to make amends before it can be entrusted with the remaining schools. A little more alacrity towards fixing staff shortages and infrastructure could go a long way towards rebuilding this trust.

Read the entire article here.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Affordable School Lunches: Breakthrough Innovation, Measurable Impact

Via blogs.hbr.org

Can you imagine living on a budget of $28 for lunch at work for a whole year?

The Akshaya Patra Foundation in India has found a way to feed a child daily for the entire school year on just $28. Add an average government subsidy of 50 percent, and $28 ends up feeding two children for the year. This is a fraction of the cost of similar programs in other parts of the world.

To offer high-quality meals at such low prices, Akshaya Patra followed several principles that may be useful to other organizations throughout the world.

High efficiency, low cost, and quality. Specially designed kitchens use technology to cook large amounts of food in a short time and keep costs low. These kitchens use steam cooking, which not only cooks food faster but helps vegetables retain nutrients. Most other processes — cutting vegetables, preparing bread, loading containers — are mechanized, which increases speed, decreases overhead, and protects against contamination. In addition, vehicles that transport the food to the schools are custom designed to allow for optimal storage and minimal spillage. Akshaya Patra also adheres to high standards of quality in cooking and hygiene that meet International Standard Organization (ISO) guidelines.

Public/private/NGO partnerships. Akshaya Patra serves as a model for partnerships among public, private, and non-governmental organizations in India and elsewhere. The three stakeholders collaborate closely to ensure that school lunches are cooked and distributed effectively. The government provides school lunch subsidies directly to Akshaya Patra to help keep costs low. They also provide land, water, and tax breaks where possible. The private sector brings discipline and best management practices to the NGO organization, and works with government officials to help with Akshaya Patra's operations and expansion.

Impact. For many of the children served, this is the only complete meal for the day. The meal program gives them an incentive to come to school and stay in school; it also provides them with the nutrients they need to develop their cognitive abilities and focus on learning. When AC Nielsen performed an impact assessment, they found increased enrollment, better health, and improved performance among students who received school lunches, especially among the female students. For example, the report showed a 13.8 percent and 34.2 percent improvement in enrollment for boys and girls, respectively, in participating Bangalore schools.

Akshaya Patra is a powerful example of a breakthrough innovation.

Read the entire article here.

Image Source

A Government School Where Right To Education Is Far From Reality

Via The Times of India
The joy of learning is killed right at the entrance to the Government Urdu Higher Primary School at Jigani. Kids balance their satchels as they gingerly tread over the shaky stone slab that barely covers an open drain. Two steps and there's the classroom - a dark, dingy place that can hardly accommodate 25 students, its dreariness enough to dry up all their impishness.

The room is partitioned by a wooden screen and has a small window for a ray of light to enter. As your eyes adjust to the darkness, you can spot six students and two teachers on one side and 10 students on the other.

There are four desks on one side of the classroom and the rest is filled with utensils used for mid-day meals, sacks and wooden planks. Is it a storeroom or classroom? With an asbestos sheet for a roof, life becomes unbearable as temperature soars. ``We feel like running away during summer,'' says Tarannum Ara, a teacher.

This is supposed to be a building housing seven classes -from 1 to 7. Luckily, there are only 30 students, half of them absent. The building, constructed in 1937, looks as if it might crumble anytime. ``It has no electricity connection, or water and toilet facilities. After the mid-day meal, we go to the nearby tank to clean our plates. Also, we cannot take lessons as it disturbs the other class,'' Tarannum explains.

A few kilometres away, a Government Higher Primary School is in equally pathetic condition. The front portion of the building is almost crumbling. Steps are worn out and the door of the room is supported by a stone.

These are just a few examples of government schools on the outskirts of Bangalore, but the private `English' medium schools are no better. Nobel English High School, which follows CBSE curriculum till Class 7 and state syllabus for high school, has a school van, uniform complete with tie and shoes, but children sit in a place resembling a huge godown! Though headmistress Soujanya V did say this is a temporary arrangement and the children would be shifted later to a permanent building just 1 km away. ``We do not have fans because of continuous load-shedding. Sheet roofs are a concern to parents but we have assured them that there is no leakage during monsoon,'' she added.

SHORTAGE OF TEACHERS

Ironically, some schools have all the facilities but no teachers. For example, at the Government Model Primary School in Jigani, the three computers are cobwebbed and disconnected, while brand new ones are lying unused. ``There are no computer science teachers for our students. Our subject teachers, too, haven't learnt computers,'' said headmistress Yashodhamma.

VEGETABLES DISAPPEAR

Government Urdu Higher Primary School faces a unique problem __ stealing of vegetables. ``We have a kitchen garden where the greens grown are used for cooking. However, many a time, they are stolen, forcing us to go to the market,'' said Shamsunissa, headmistress.

It's not only vegetables, even the dish antenna was taken away. ``We have 12 cassettes on various subjects, including environment and health. A television set has been provided to screen them, but people steal the antenna.'' With private schools being set up in the vicinity, attracting children to government schools is a herculean task. ``This year, admissions dropped as two private school with transportation facilities have been set up,'' she said.

In these areas, schoolchildren have to eat what is prepared by the school cook, unlike in Bangalore and other parts of the state, where Iskcon supplies variety, nutritious food.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Open Data and Education

Alok and Shivangi were part of an interesting event last week. As part of David Cameron's flying visit to Bangalore, senior officials from the British government (including those behind http://data.gov.uk) were in Bangalore and were keen on learning more about the situation of open government data and civic
hacking in India/Bangalore.

There was discussion on the technology tools people in India have been working on with government data, and the difficulty of obtaining that data after which there was a session on coding/modifying into existence available government data.

They came up with a beautiful visualization to capture the work we do in schools:
There is also a write-up in the Guardian:

The key event of the trip was a hackday hosted by Google India in the southern central city of Bangalore.
I have to confess a slight colonial attitude going into the meet. Thinking of the UK as a great hacking nation and leading data port, I was expecting to be helping the collected Indian IT professionals and activists improve their skills and give them fresh ideas on how to bootstrap their democracy.
However, our Indian counterparts very quickly astonished us with brilliant and powerful data projects and grass roots hacks using simple tools and technologies to solve everyday civic issues. Some of which I wanted to exhibit here.

We'd like to thank Pranesh from CIS India for inviting us to be a part of this event.