Altaf Hussain Haji
For the sustainability of social justice and equality, learning for all is a global agenda. Thus, education is the single important tool for achieving social justice and equality. The education system aims to benefit children so that no child loses any opportunity to learn and excel because of circumstances of birth or background.
As we know that the Indian education system and government policies have made steady progress towards bridging gender and social category gaps in all levels of school education, disparities still remain, especially at the secondary level. It is particularly true for Socio Educationally Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs) that have been historically underrepresented in education. ,
There have been various successful policies and schemes, such as targeted scholarships, conditional cash transfers to incentivize parents for sending their children to school, etc. Also, providing bicycles for transport and other such incentives have significantly increased participation of Socio Educationally Disadvantaged Groups in the schooling system in certain areas. These successful policies and schemes need enhancement across the country as per the data available.
The new policy on education reaffirms that bridging the social category gaps in access, participation, and learning outcomes in school education may continue to be one of the main goals of all education sector development programmes for equitable and inclusive education.
In view of the New Education Policy (NEP) 2020, the various critical problems and recommendations made for equitable and inclusive education by the government for foundational literacy and numeracy, access, enrolment, and attendance are particularly relevant and necessary for underrepresented and disadvantaged groups.
The official and administrative data show that some geographical areas contain significantly larger proportions of Socio Educationally Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs). These areas have been identified as aspirational districts and require special interventions for promoting their educational development. Hence, it is recommended that regions of the country with a large population from educationally disadvantaged groups should be declared Special Education Zones (SEZs), where all the schemes and policies are implemented to the maximum through additional concerted efforts, to truly change their educational landscape keeping in mind gender-based quality education.
In addition, the Government of India will constitute a ‘Gender-Inclusion Fund’ to build the nation’s capacity to provide equitable quality education for all girls and transgender students. The fund will be available to States to implement priorities determined by the Central government critical for assisting female and transgender children in gaining access to education. These funds will also enable states to support and scale effective community-based interventions that address local context-specific barriers to female and transgender children access to and participation in education. Similarly, inclusive fund schemes should be developed to address access issues for other SEDGs. In essence, this policy aims to eliminate any remaining disparity in access to education (including vocational education) for children from any gender or other socio-economically disadvantaged group.
Education for Children with Disabilities
Ensuring the inclusion and equal participation of children with disabilities in early childhood care and education (ECCE) and the schooling system will also be accorded the highest priority. Children with disabilities will be enabled to fully participate in the regular schooling process from the Foundational Stage to higher education.
According to NEP 2020, schools or school complexes will be provided resources for integrating children with disabilities, recruiting special educators with cross-disability training, and establishing resource centres, wherever needed, especially for children with severe or multiple disabilities.
It is to mention here that different categories of children with disabilities have different needs that the barrier-free access for all children with disabilities to enable as per the RPWD Act 2016. The children with benchmark disabilities shall have the choice of regular or special schooling. Resource centres in conjunction with special educators will support the rehabilitation and educational needs of learners with severe or multiple disabilities and assist parents or guardians in achieving high-quality homeschooling and skilling of such students. Home-based education will continue to be a choice available for children with severe and profound disabilities who are unable to go to school. The children under home-based education must be treated as equal to any other child in the general system. There shall be an audit of home-based education for its efficiency and effectiveness using the principle of equity and equality of opportunity. Guidelines for home-based schooling shall be developed based on this audit in line with the RPWD Act 2016. While it is clear that the education of all children with disabilities is the responsibility of the state, technology-based solutions are to be used for the orientation of parents/caregivers along with wide-scale dissemination of learning materials to enable parents or caregivers to actively support their child’s learning needs will be accorded on priority.
Schools and school complexes will work for providing all children with disabilities accommodations and support mechanisms tailored to suit their needs and to ensure their full participation and inclusion in the classroom. In particular, assistive devices and appropriate technology-based tools, as well as adequate and language-appropriate teaching-learning materials, will be made available to help children with disabilities integrate more easily into classrooms and engage with teachers and their peers. Most classrooms have children with specific learning disabilities who need continuous support.
It is the duty of teachers to help identify such learning disabilities early and plan specifically for their mitigation. Specific actions will include the use of appropriate technology, allowing and enabling children to work at their own pace with flexible curricula to advantage each child’s strengths, and creating an ecosystem for appropriate assessment and certification. Assessment and certification agencies, including the proposed new National Assessment Centre, ensure equitable access and opportunities for all students with learning disabilities. This will also apply to all school activities, including arts, sports, and vocational education.
In the NEP, it is also recommended that all scholarships and other opportunities and schemes available to students under SEDGs will be coordinated and announced by a single agency to ensure that all students are aware of, and can apply in a simplified manner through a ‘single window system’ as per the eligibility.
Further, under the aegis of the Ministry of Defence, opening NCC wings in their secondary and higher secondary schools, including those located in tribal-dominated areas of different states, will be encouraged. This will enable harnessing of the natural talent and unique potential of students, which in turn would help them to aspire to a successful career in the defence forces.
For all the above policy points, special attention is to be given to reduce the disparities in the educational development of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe students. As a part of the efforts to enhance participation in school education, hostels in dedicated regions, bridge courses, and financial assistance through fee waivers and scholarships be offered to talented and meritorious students from all SEDGs on a larger scale, especially at the secondary stage of education, to facilitate their entry into higher education.
All the above policies and measures are critical to attaining full inclusion and equity for all SEDGs, but they are not sufficient. What is also required is a change in school culture. All participants in the school education system, including teachers, principals, administrators, counsellors, and students, will be sensitized to the requirements of all students, the notions of inclusion and equity, and the respect, dignity, and privacy of all persons. Such an educational culture will provide the best pathway to help students become empowered individuals who, in turn, will enable society to transform into one that is responsible towards its most vulnerable citizens. Inclusion and equity will become key aspects of teacher education, including training for leadership, administrative, and other positions in schools. Efforts are needed to recruit more high-quality teachers and leaders from SEDGs to bring in excellent role models for all students.
In the end, according to NEP 2020, students are to be sensitized through this new school culture, brought in by teachers, trained social workers and counsellors. As well as through corresponding changes to bring in an inclusive school curriculum. The school curriculum will include, early on, the material on human values such as respect for all persons, empathy, tolerance, human rights, gender equality, nonviolence, global citizenship, inclusion, and equity. It would also include more detailed knowledge of various cultures, religions, languages, gender identities and more to sensitize and develop respect for diversity. Any biases and stereotypes in the school curriculum will be removed, and more material will be included that is relevant and relatable to all communities. The above important mentions will also help to achieve success in process of quality education of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is the main thrust for development and wellbeing at this stage of each UN member country for their nations.
Altaf Hussain Haji, ISS, is Deputy Director General National Statistical Office, Shimla. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
NIRF-2023 ranking: SKUAST-K 9th best agri institute in country
Srinagar, June 5: Further enhancing its rising graph of accomplishments, Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Kashmir has secured ninth best agriculture institute rank in the country assessed under the National Institutional Ranking Framework-2023 of Union Ministry of Education.
The ranking and results of the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF)-2023 were announced by the Minister of State for Education and External Affairs, Dr Rajkumar Ranjan Singh in New Delhi on Monday.
In the category of ‘Agriculture and Allied Sectors, SKUAST-K is the fourth state agricultural university (SAU) which has figured among the top 10 farm institutions of the country along with IARI, NDRI, IVRI, and CIFE with a total score of 59.50. This recognition has further solidified the university’s upward trajectory of success placing it in the league of elite agricultural institutions of the country.
The NIRF ranking is the third successive national-level achievement of the SKUAST-K after being declared the country’s 6th best state agricultural university by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and categorised as the ‘Band Excellent’ under Atal Innovation Ranking last year.
Vice Chancellor, SKUAST-K, Prof Nazir Ahmad Ganai, complimented the faculty, students, and non-teaching staff of the university for the tireless efforts they are making in achieving the highest standards in research, innovation and education, the reason for getting the top rank. Calling it the result of teamwork, he said, “This is the beginning of the new era and we aim to be among the top five agri-institutions of the country.”
SKUAST-K has taken a lead role in evolving a working model of NEP-2020 as well as projecting itself as a potential destination for higher education. The improved ranking is a result of the improvement of academic standards and achievements of faculty and students at national and international levels.
Classrooms brim with learning anew
CRY-RILM project unites kids with books
Inayat Parvaiz was a decent student in school, till the pandemic struck. His father, the only earning member in the five-member family, lost his job and was struggling to make ends meet. The young boy was forced to join his brother at a sand digging/extraction site near his village, Baniyaree Sharkie, in the Bandipora district of Jammu and Kashmir.
Inayat is among the millions of children across the country going through a huge learning lag, all because of the prolonged closure of schools during the pandemic. CRY and Rotary India Literacy Mission (RILM) carried out a study based on responses of 4000 children, in the age group of 7-14, from 4 states in the country – Jharkhand, West Bengal, Manipur and Jammu & Kashmir – to assess the quantum of loss, and also started a slew of remedial centres to assist the children make up for the lag. There are 39 such centres across the four states.
The CRY-RILM-Jammu Kashmir Association of Social Workers (JKASW) team identified Inayat as “out of school” and visited his father. They realized that the boy was willing to pursue his studies but could not do so, because of compulsions in his family. Although reluctant at first, his parents decided to let him attend the local Asha Kiran Centre in a flexible manner. He started attending classes and also started participating in various other activities. After his initial assessment, he was enrolled in Level 2 at the Asha Kiran Centre. But regular attendance and diligent efforts meant that the boy made an appreciable improvement. After his final assessment, he was mainstreamed into Class 6 at Govt. Middle school, Gund Prang. He attends school regularly and makes it a point to attend remedial classes at the Asha Kiran Centre to compensate for his deficiencies.
Classrooms brim with learning anew, the CRY-RILM project unites kids with books!
There are nine Asha Kiran Centres in three panchayat blocks of Bandipora district. Of the 565 children who joined these centres, around 16.81 per cent had dropped out of school because of the pandemic and related reasons and 64.8 per cent were found to be officially enrolled in school, but without age-appropriate learning levels. Around 44.1 per cent of the kids were found to be “poor” (learning levels at least two years behind their age-appropriate class) in basic reading skills and 45.1 per cent in basic calculations.
The stark ground reality in J&K mirrors the findings across the three other states in the country. Around 3.9 per cent of the 4000 children had been found to have dropped out because of the pandemic-induced school closure and more than 75 per cent of the children were found to be “poor” in basic reading skills and calculations.
CRY (North) Regional Director Soha Moitra is hopeful that change will happen, step by step. “The learning loss has been unparalleled, the exact ramifications of which will take longer to fathom and make up. In this post-COVID world, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to addressing the educational needs of children from underserved communities. Every community, every child and every context is unique. It is important to adopt and embrace contextually relevant and inclusive approaches that take into consideration the diverse needs and aspirations of children,” Moitra said.
Over the past eight months, the teachers at the Asha Kiran Centres in J&K have managed to bring back the children into some sort of a study environment, with regular classes, innovative Teaching-Learning Methods, extra-curricular activities and more. Students like Inayat, Tawfeeq Ahmed and several others have benefitted enormously from these classes and are showing appreciable improvement in the periodical assessments.
“The post-COVID learning assessment of 4,000 children across 4 states in the country, by CRY and Rotary India Literacy Mission, presents evidence on the severity of the learning losses incurred during school closures, and also charts out a path of recovery, phase by phase. It’s a journey full of lessons and experiences and a sustained campaign that has impacted not only the kids, but also the teachers, volunteers, parents and extended community. Kudos to the ‘change-makers’ who are making it happen,” said Kamal Sanghvi, Chairman, Rotary India Literacy Mission.
Apart from the classes, the project team has held community meetings with teachers of local schools, local panchayat members and parents, all to create a comfortable space that will help the children overcome their learning gaps and get back into mainstream education.
Tawfeeq’s father Javed Ahmed was initially reluctant to send his son to the Asha Kiran Centre. But he is happy that he had finally paid heed to the advice of the project team members who had visited him. A few months on, the proud father says: “Asha Kiran Centre me mera beta bahot kuch sikh raha hai. Use yahan aana achha lagta hai (My son is learning a lot at the Asha Kiran Centre. He loves to come here).”
SKUAST-K to hold 2-day international conference on impact of viral infections
Srinagar, Nov 1: Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Kashmir is going to hold a two-day international conference on the impact of viral infections at the Shalimar campus on November 5&6 (Saturday and Sunday), 2022.
The international conference ‘Emerging and Re-emerging Viral Infections Impacting Humans, Animals, Plants, Fish and Environment’ will be part of XXX Annual Convention of the Indian Virological Society to be held at SKUAST-K this year.
Renowned virologists and scientists including, Dr RK Ratho, PGI Chandigarh; Prof Parvaiz A Koul, SKIMS, Soura; Dr Pragya Yadav, NIV, Pune; Prof NN Barman; AAU, Assam; Dr Anirban Roy, IARI, New Delhi; Dr Amit Pandey, Bhimtal; and Dr Manoj Kumar, Hester Biosciences Limited will be keynote speakers at the conference.
The conference on viral infections is being held against the backdrop of the emergence and re-emergence of viral outbreaks like Covid-19, severe liver inflammation in kids, monkeypox, polio, and “tomato flu” etc.
The recent outbreak of the LSD virus has killed over 1 lakh cattle and is still unabated. Each viral disease appears to be the result of unusual manifestations and proliferation of viruses previously known.
The conference on viral infections will bring scientists from different disciplines at National and International levels to discuss preemptive measures for anticipating such outbreaks, control measures to be taken, and readily available diagnostic and therapeutic measures. The keynote speakers will talk about research going on emerging and re-emerging viral diseases and the policies surrounding them.
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