While there is a spurt of institutions to cater to the “fast-food” approach of preparing students for job-oriented qualifications, there is a real dearth of efforts to support research and development of teaching skills in base subjects under science and humanities
Last year legislative measures were initiated for providing free and compulsory education for children in the 6-14 age groups. Union minister Kapil Sibal exhorted agencies and organizations, both in public and private sector concerned with education, to make joint efforts to realize the objective of the legislation that would make a difference in the lives of millions of children. After all, the noble intentions were clearly spelt out in our Constitution by its able authors.
Ensuring universal education, which alone can bring about a change in the quality of governance also, must at this stage graduate into a massive movement supported by political will, whole-hearted participation from all households, legislatures, local bodies and educational institutions, failing which, the present effort also will remain a restatement of noble intentions with no specific ground level results.
The Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009, making free and compulsory education a fundamental right was notified on 27 August 2009 for general information and the relevant notification for enforcing the provisions of the Act with effect from 1 April 2010 was issued on 16 February 2010. It mandates that every child has a right to elementary education of satisfactory and equitable quality in a formal school which satisfies certain essential norms and standards. Considering the current pattern of school enrolment, it may be necessary to slightly modify the definition of the “target group” under the RTE Act to cover the age group of 3-18 from the present bracket of 6-14.
Literacy rate varied across states. There were 11 states with literacy rate below the national average of 74% in 2011 (see Table). These states together accounted for 55.76% of the population (121 crore-provisional). Kerala, Lakshadweep and Mizoram had literacy rate above 90%. Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Delhi, Sikkim, Nagaland, Tripura, Daman & Diu, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Andaman & Nicobar Islands had literacy rate between 80% and 90%. Literacy rate in the remaining nine states/UTs was above national average, but below 80%.
Mention need to be made also about the gender bias in promoting literacy. The Economic Survey 2011-12 dwelling on Saakshar Bharat (SB)/Adult Education had this to say:
“The literacy rate according to the 2001 Census was 64.83%, improving to 74.04% in 2011… While the literacy rate of males rose by 6.9% from 75.26% to 82.14%, it increased by 11.8% for females from 53.67% to 65.46%.”
Experience shows that higher literacy rate has a direct relationship with improvement in other human development indicators like poverty level, healthcare and even in governance. Considering this, the Government of India (GOI), mustering support from state governments and up to the level of gram panchayats, endeavour to ensure near 100% literacy across geographical regions, communities and income-stratas. In fact, Kerala has made headway in this direction long back and while the “Kerala model” may not be acceptable to the present dispensation in other fields, the methodology adopted by that state to move to near 100% literacy is worth emulating by other states. One simple method to ensure participation by all in adult literacy efforts was insisting on parents to write their names and sign leave requests of students in primary classes. It worked.
While there is a spurt of institutions to cater to the “fast-food” approach of preparing students for job-oriented qualifications, there is a real dearth of efforts to support research and development of teaching skills in base subjects coming under science and humanities. The emergence of technology and science as preferred subjects for entering the job market with confidence has resulted in mostly ‘unskilled’ candidates pursuing subjects coming under the broad head of humanities.
One is tempted to fear that there are some vested interests like an interest in keeping unskilled labour cheap and still worse, showing higher percentage of children passing out of schools and joining colleges (such statistics would better the country’s position in international assessments!) which keep the drop-out level before Standard X alarmingly high. The targets for Gross Enrolment Rates at secondary level can be achieved with ease if pass out percentage at primary level is low!
As regards higher education, there is a felt need to have a comprehensive “Educational Plan” integrating the needs of various sectors and segments of economy and society. Lopsided priorities of the government and other stakeholders in the “business of education” and the field of higher education being left to the market forces without the necessary policy guidelines and absence of systems in place for self-regulation consistent with national priorities has resulted in non-availability of talent in various crucial technical and academic areas. No wonder, we are running short of experienced teachers in institutes of higher education, where talent combined with dedication and competence to deliver is most needed. The flow of people who can perform better to for-profit organizations has adversely impacted the capacity of educational institutions in India to deliver results. We have to start thinking beyond budgetary provisions and integrate public and private sector efforts in education to achieve the national priorities.
Last June, a World Bank study found out that newly hired engineering graduates were lacking skill sets. Though the World Bank report was telling the obvious, such studies become relevant, as, beyond occasional announcements about doling out some money out of budgetary provisions for different disintegrated schemes to promote compartmentalized projects, we do not hear much about an “Educational Plan” integrating the needs of various sectors and segments of economy and society. This World Bank report reinforces the need for a comprehensive review of priorities of government in the field of education. The result of leaving the field to market forces is evident in the form of non-availability of talent even in the faculty positions, where talent combined with dedication and competence to deliver is most needed. The adverse impact of the imbalance at the top percolates down to the stage of deciding curricula and selection of candidates for various specializations/branches.
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Irrespective of their educational background till graduation, aspiring youth with some analytical ability and ambition today try and transform themselves as managers, IT specialists or any such professionals leaving areas like civil service, teaching and government/public organizations to remain satisfied with the rejected seconds in the employment market. The position can be reversed only by having a National Education Plan which factors in, among other things, the following aspects
For any effort in this direction to be effective, one will have to accept that market forces will not accept self-regulation and in the national interest, policy guidance should come from the government, to the extent necessary.
Other related issues
Market-related living wages will have to be paid to teachers and those in government and government-owned organizations. Public policy should protect public interest and measures to ensure this should not be interpreted as control.
Workers and service providers have earned a negative reputation for their attitude to customers and clientele. Here, workers’ education can play a significant role. State governments, through the departments concerned, local self-government authorities and willing non-governmental organisations, should take up workers’ education as a priority and bring about attitudinal changes in workers and service providers. The possible steps could be:
Creating awareness about right behaviour and conveying the message that following the right rules will be beneficial to one and all will go a long way in ensuring discipline at public places.
We have to start thinking beyond budgetary provisions and integrate public and private sector efforts in education to achieve the national priorities.
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(MG Warrier is a freelancer based in Mumbai. He can be contacted at [email protected].)
The rating agencies' concern emanate as corporates, which are mandated to rate themselves, pull a particular agency into litigation because of their discomfiture with the rating and commentary thereof
India has excellent fund managers. Their performance would have been even better if they paid some attention to the governance of companies they invest in.
Over the last few years stocks such as DLF, Kingfisher Airlines, Deccan Chronicle Holdings and Housing Development & Infrastructure (HDIL) have taken a huge beating as these companies turned out to been mis-governed. Even if you had not invested in these stocks directly, you would have been exposed to these stocks through mutual funds. Which funds had bet on these stocks at different points? We analysed the portfolio of mutual fund houses to see which fund houses have invested in these stocks and when.
Shares of DLF tumbled by over 33% over the last two years. And just recently it went down even further amid allegations by social activists Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan that Robert Vadra bought property worth crores of rupees between 2008 and 2010 with an “unsecured interest-free loan” of Rs 65 crore given by DLF. Over the last week the stock slid further by nearly 10% from Rs240 per share to Rs217 per share as on 15 October. DLF has been a controversial company for years, given how it tried to short-change minority shareholders when it got delisted; how it over-expanded with public money into ambitious projects in the real estate and hospitality sectors.
Which funds were betting on DLF? Out of the mutual fund that have disclosed their portfolios for September 2012, DSP BlackRock Mutual Fund led the list with over 4 lakh shares followed by Sundaram Mutual Fund having nearly 2.03 lakh shares of DLF in its portfolio. Franklin Templeton had a much lower holding with 52,704 shares. DSP BlackRock Top 100 Equity and Sundaram Select Focus had over 3.5 lakh shares and 1.5 lakh shares in their portfolio respectively i.e. a market value of Rs8 crore (2.5% of assets) and Rs4 crore (0.73% of assets) approximately.
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The shareholders of Housing Development and Infrastructure (HDIL), a real estate company, which has major operations in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, have suffered a value erosion of 70% over the past two years. Over the last two months, except for Motilal Oswal Mutual Fund, there have been no other takers of this stock. However, in 2010, Principal Mutual Fund held nearly 3 lakh shares of the company for more than a year before finally exiting the stock. But in June 2012, Principal Mutual Fund again picked up, this time nearly seven lakh shares and SBI Mutual fund picked up five lakh shares when the price was around Rs70 per share. Both the fund houses disposed of the shares in the following month when the price was around Rs80 per share. There were no fundamentals supporting this move. The net profit of the company fell by 51.01% to Rs96.67 crore for the quarter ended 31 March 2012 as compared to Rs197.31 crore for the quarter ended 31 March 2011. The total income decreased by 61.87% to Rs208.81 crore for the quarter ended 31 March 2012 from Rs547.62 crore for the corresponding previous quarter. Not surprisingly, HDIL posted a fall of 44% in its net profit in the first quarter of the current fiscal ended 30 June 2012.
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The Deccan Chronicle stock came under renewed pressure this week, as it lost its franchise battle. The Board of Control for Cricket in India has terminated the Deccan Chargers franchise from the Indian Premier League for failing to provide a bank guarantee. Earlier Deccan Chronicle Holdings, the team’s owner, announced that it had sold the franchise to Kamla Landmarc Real Estate Holdings. The deal fell through after Deccan Chronicle Holdings failed to provide a Rs100 crore bank guarantee to the BCCI within the stipulated time. The Bombay High Court had declined to grant more time to Deccan Chronicle Holdings to provide the guarantee to the cricket body. Over the last two years the stock of has eroded by nearly 95% of its value. Trading at nearly Rs164 per share at the beginning of 2010, the stock is now trading at around Rs10 per share.
Over the last quarter there have been no fund houses which have bought this company. However, Sundaram Mutual Fund bought 11 lakh shares of the company in July 2010 and increased its holding to 17.5 lakh shares in the coming months when the stock peaked to around Rs145 per share. By the time the fund house exited its holding in January 2011, the stock price had dipped to Rs100, nearly 31% down from its peak. UTI Mutual Fund had been holding shares of the company prior to 2010 and was a shareholder until June 2012, when it sold all the shares of the company.