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Oldest recorded zero in Indian text is centuries older than initially thought

Hindustan Times, London | Sep 14, 2017 | Prasun Sonwalkar |

The surprising results of the first ever radiocarbon dating on the Bakhshali manuscript, which contains hundreds of zeroes, reveals that it dates from as early as the third or fourth century, some five centuries older than previously believed.

The 70 leaves of birch bark that make up the Bakhshali manuscript are housed in this specially designed book at the Bodleian Libraries’ Weston Library, Oxford.(Image courtesy: Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford)

The idea of ‘zero’ – crucial to mathematics and all calculations – is widely believed to have originated in India, but carbon dating at the University of Oxford has now proved that an Indian text mentioned it as early as the third or fourth century – much earlier than thought. Considered the oldest recorded origin of ‘zero’, its mention in the Bakhshali manuscript dates it to a period hundreds of years than previously thought. It was found in 1881 in a field in Bakhshali village near Peshawar, and has been in the Bodleian Library of Oxford since 1902. The library said on Thursday that the surprising results of the first ever radiocarbon dating on the Bakhshali manuscript which contains hundreds of zeroes reveals that it dates from as early as the third or fourth century – approximately five centuries older than scholars had previously believed. This means that the manuscript in fact predates a ninth century inscription of zero on the wall of a temple in Gwalior, which was previously considered to be the oldest recorded example of a zero used as a placeholder in India. The findings are highly significant for the study of the early history of mathematics, it said.

“The zero symbol that we use today evolved from a dot that was used in ancient India and can be seen throughout the Bakhshali manuscript. The dot was originally used as a ‘placeholder’, meaning it was used to indicate orders of magnitude in a number system – for example, denoting 10s, 100s and 1000s”, the library said. While the use of zero as a placeholder was seen in several different ancient cultures, such as among the ancient Mayans and Babylonians, the symbol in the Bakhshali manuscript is considered particularly significant for two reasons. First, it is this dot that evolved to have a hollow centre and became the symbol that we use as zero today. Secondly, it was only in India that this zero developed into a number in its own right, hence creating the concept and the number zero that we understand today. This happened in 628 AD, just a few centuries after the Bakhshali manuscript was produced, when the Indian astronomer and mathematician Brahmagupta wrote a text called Brahmasphuta siddhanta, which is the first document to discuss zero as a number.The document will be displayed in the ‘Illuminating India: 5000 Years of Science’ exhibition at the Science Museum in London from October 4. It is part of a season of exhibitions and events that celebrates India’s contribution to science, technology and mathematics.

One of the pages of the Bakhshali manuscript, which was found in 1881 in a field in Bakhshali village near Peshawar. (Image courtesy: Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford)

Although the Bakhshali manuscript is widely acknowledged as the oldest Indian mathematical text, the exact age of the manuscript has long been the subject of academic debate. The most authoritative academic study on the manuscript, conducted by Japanese scholar Hayashi Takao, asserted that it probably dated from between the eighth and the 12th century, based on factors such as the style of writing and the literary and mathematical content. The new carbon dating reveals that the reason why it was previously so difficult for scholars to pinpoint the Bakhshali manuscript’s date is because the manuscript, which consists of 70 fragile leaves of birch bark, is in fact composed of material from at least three different periods. Marcus du Sautoy, professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, said: “Today we take it for granted that the concept of zero is used across the globe and is a key building block of the digital world. But the creation of zero as a number in its own right, which evolved from the placeholder dot symbol found in the Bakhshali manuscript, was one of the greatest breakthroughs in the history of mathematics”. “We now know that it was as early as the third century that mathematicians in India planted the seed of the idea that would later become so fundamental to the modern world. The findings show how vibrant mathematics have been in the Indian subcontinent for centuries.” – Courtesy

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UGC’s approved journal list has 111 more predatory journals

The Hindu | Srinivasan Ramani |  R. Prasad  |  Chennai, September 14 |

Directory of Open Access Journals flags them “for suspected editorial misconduct”

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The University Grants Commission’s (UGC) approved list of journals or white list appears more grey than white. In June this year, the UGC released a revised list of 33,112 approved journals in which university/college faculty and students may publish papers. It has now come to light that UGC’s revised list contains 111 potential predatory or fraudulent journals. Last week, The Hindu reported that the revised list contains 84 predatory journals that are found in librarian Jeffrey Beall’s (University of Colorado, Denver) list of “potential, possible, or probable” predatory journals, bringing the total to 195. The journals from the UGC white list (45,925, including inactive journals at ugc.ac.in) were “web-scraped” and individually “string-matched” with the list of journals in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) flagged as “suspected editorial misconduct by publisher”.

Earlier, the same list was compared with Mr. Beall’s list. An exact string match between the names of journals in the lists was taken as the criteria to flag the journal as predatory. Of the 586 journals that the DOAJ had recently removed from its directory on grounds of “suspected editorial misconduct by publisher”, the UGC list contains 114. Three of the 114 journals have an overlap with Mr. Beall’s list. By all accounts, the probability of the revised list containing more predatory journals cannot be ruled out. For instance, the UGC list has included some journals, which have all the tell-tale signs of predatory journals. They are neither found in Mr. Beall’s list nor are they among the DOAJ’s rejected journals.

 Malpractices aplenty

A few of the predatory journals that have been removed from the DOAJ database want the authors to assign copyright to the journals, which goes against the grain of open access, while a few others offer an e-certificate to authors of published papers and a hard copy of the certificate for a fee. One journal also offers authors a unique payment option — by paying a registration fee of ₹3,000, authors will be allowed to publish multiple articles without paying any article processing charge. Most journals have fake impact factors (an indicator of importance of the journal in the field). In a sting operation in late 2012, a “mundane paper with grave errors” was sent to 167 journals included in the DOAJ database and 121 from Mr. Beall’s list. While 82% publishers in Mr. Beall’s list accepted the questionable paper, nearly 45% of DOAJ publishers did not reject the paper. About six months after the results of the sting operation were published in October 2013 in the journal Science, the DOAJ began its mammoth exercise of removing the bad apples. The DOAJ has cleaned up its database by removing nearly 3,800 journals. Following the introduction of new criteria for listing in March 2014, DOAJ has received 1,600 applications from Open Access journal publishers in India, which is the “highest number” in the world. But of the 1,600, only 4% (74) were from genuine journal publishers and accepted for inclusion in the DOAJ directory. – Courtesy

All set for NIRF ranking exercise next year: NIRF 2018

The Hindu |  Vikas Pathak | NEW DELHI, September 13, 2017 |

The Centre has set the ball rolling for a more comprehensive ranking of higher educational institutions in the next round of the National Institutional Ranking Framework in 2018. The idea: instead of institutions choosing to take part in the exercise, they are being auto-registered through a large online database — the All-India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) portal — of institutions available with the Ministry of Human Resource Development. The institutions, however, have to provide details like patents, publications, research projects and campus placements that are not available on the portal. The NIRF — begun in 2016 — ranks higher educational institutions in India on the basis of a variety of parameters. The idea is to be able to gauge their relative standing and also help students make informed career choices.

The 2016 and 2017 NIRF lists reflected the ranks of only those institutions that had taken part in the exercise. The number was about 3300 in 2017. Among universities, Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore was ranked first and Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi was second. Miranda House in Delhi was ranked India’s best college. Many top colleges like St Stephens College, Delhi; Hindu College, Delhi; Delhi School of Economics; Ramjas College, Delhi; and Hansraj College, Delhi, did not take part in the exercise. With the changed process, such institutions will be part of the next year’s list. With this, the number of institutions that will figure in the NIRF exercise is expected to jump three-fold to at least 10,000, an official said. – India Rankings 2018 : Registration starting soon –  Courtesy

UGC Invites proposal for Institutions of Eminence (IOEs)

ND TV | Education | Pres Trust of India |  September 12, 2017 |

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has rolled out an application process for varsities and institutes seeking the “eminence” tag.

New Delhi: The University Grants Commission (UGC) has rolled out an application process for varsities and institutes seeking the “eminence” tag. The establishment of 20 world-class institutions, 10 public and the rest private, is one of the flagship projects of the Ministry of Human Resource Development for internationalisation of Indian campuses and creating world class universities. The government will invest Rs. 10,000 crore in 10 public higher education institutions to be shortlisted with a mission to make them “world-class” and the investment will be done over a period of 10 years, which is over and above the regular grants. The UGC today announced the initiation of the 90 days application process from interested public and private institutions. By March-April 2018, 20 (10 each from public and private category) institutions will be according the status of “Institutions of Eminence” with a mandate to achieve world- class status over a period of 10 years.

“The process for setting up of Institutions of Eminence gets underway from September 13 with the invitation for applications. “The institutions which can apply are divided into three categories – existing government educational institutions, existing private higher educational institutions and sponsoring organization for setting up of private institutions,” Kewal Kumar Sharma, Secretary, Ministry of HRD told reporters. As per the guidelines issued by the UGC, institutions in the top 50 of the National Institute Ranking Framework (NIRF) rankings or those who have secured ranking among top 500 of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, QS University Rankings or Shanghai Ranking Academic Ranking of World Universities are eligible to apply. New institutions need to submit a 15-year vision plan to be among the top 500 globally ranked institutions, while existing institutions among the top 500 would have to offer a plan to improve their ranking to be among the top 100 in the next 10 years.

“The mission is to set up universities with all India character and with international standards. For a large country like India the possibility of providing globally recognized best education is what we are trying to create,” said Mr Sharma. The institutions declared as Institutions of Eminence will be free from the usual regulatory mechanism to choose their path to become institutions of global repute with emphasis on multi-disciplinary initiatives, high quality research, global best practices and international collaborations. Unlike the other institutions in the country, these institutions will have the liberty to enroll upto 30 per cent foreign students. Moreover, selected public institutions will be able to recruit upto 25 per cent foreign faculty, while there will be no such limit for selected private institutions. “The universities will have the freedom of devising their own courses, create centres without coming to UGC, fix their own fee structure, but with a need blind mechanism so that the best students are not denied education for fund crunch,” a senior UGC official said. The HRD Ministry will set up an empowered expert committee which will process the application and the process of shortlisting the institutions is likely to be completed by March-April 2018. – Courtesy   /   UGC Circular – Published on 12/09/2017 : UGC Invites proposal for Institutions of Eminence (IOEs) 

UGC Drafts New Policy to Check Plagiarism in Academic Research

ND TV | Education | Anisha Singh | September 07, 2017 |

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has released the Draft UGC (Promotion of Academic Integrity and Prevention of Plagiarism in Higher Education Institutions) Regulations, 2017. As the name suggests, the aim of the draft is to create academic awareness about responsible conduct of research and prevention of misconduct including plagiarism in academic writing.

New Delhi: The University Grants Commission (UGC) has released the Draft UGC (Promotion of Academic Integrity and Prevention of Plagiarism in Higher Education Institutions) Regulations, 2017. As the name suggests, the aim of the draft is to create academic awareness about responsible conduct of research and prevention of misconduct including plagiarism in academic writing. The draft also seeks to establish institutional mechanism for promotion of academic integrity and develop systems to detect and prevent plagiarism. The draft directs every Higher Education Institute to instruct students, faculty, and staff about proper attribution, seeking permission of the author wherever necessary, acknowledgement of source compatible with the needs and specificities of disciplines and in accordance with rules and regulations governing the source. The Higher Education Institutes are also required to conduct sensitization seminars and awareness programmes on responsible conduct of research, project work, assignment, thesis, dissertation, promotion of academic integrity and ethics in education for students, faculty and other members of academic staff.

The institutes have also been instructed to implement adequate software and other mechanisms which would ensure that thesis, dissertation or any other such documents submitted are free of plagiarism. Students in their turn are also required to submit an undertaking that the document has been prepared by him/her and is an original work free of any plagiarism. Institutes are also required to develop a policy on plagiarism and get it approved by the relevant statutory body of the University. The Institutes are also required to submit soft copies of all M.Phil. and PhD dissertations on INFLIBNET. The Institutes have also been asked to form an Academic Misconduct Panel (AMP) to investigate any allegation of plagiarism and submit report to the Plagiarism Disciplinary Authority (PDA) of the concerned institute. The detailed draft is available on the UGC website and stakeholders can submit a feedback on the same to UGC on pgmhei.2017@gmail.com on or before 30 September 2017. – Courtesy –  Published on 01/09/2017 – UGC Public Notice reg.: Draft UGC ( Promotion of Academic Integrity and Prevention of Plagiarism in Higher Educational Institutions ) Regulations, 2017

Exams on an app: Colleges are taking semester tests mobile

Hindustan Times |  Aug 31, 2017 |  Gayatri Belpathak |

Results are instant, as is feedback. Assignments, lecture notes, notices and attendance records are virtual too.

Nineteen-year-old Deep Parekh, a third-year BCom student at K J Somaiya college, gave his last semester exams on Offee, the official mobile app of his college. The exam consisted of multiple choice questions. “It was very quick; pen and paper can slow you down,” he says. The exam option of the app was introduced in March and is compulsory for all students. A total of 3,000 students at the college for Arts and Commerce used it in the last term. “We decided on an app because it is a more efficient way to administer exams and score papers, both from the teachers’ and students’ perspective,” says Rajan Welukar, provost at Somaiya Vidyavihar. “Students get their scores almost immediately after the exam. The app is also equipped with features that prevent plagiarism and cheating.” The app also analyses the class score to identify what areas seem to have been most confusing or misunderstood, and this feedback is used by teachers back in the classroom. “Colleges and classes are also using it to create a virtual library of e-books, hold video-based lectures after hours and share notes with and among students,” says Amit Shah, a former student of Somaiya Vidyavihar, who is now an app developer and built Offee. Urmi Dhanak, 19, uses the app mainly to refer to lecture notes. “In case I have missed a class or need to understand a topic better, I refer to the app. It can even be accessed offline,” she adds.

IT’S TIME

As class sizes grow, this is the only sustainable way forward, says Kameshwari Chebrolu of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) of IIT-Bombay. “Technology is going to play an increasingly important role to improve learning and teaching,” she adds. “Smartphones are widespread, powerful and can realise many new ideas in the education space.” IIT-B uses an app called SAFE (Smart Authenticated Fast Exams), developed in-house by faculty and students. “The app enables ‘cheating-free’, ‘auto-graded’ exams via student smartphones in classroom settings,” says Bhaskaran Raman, professor at the CSE department. Nihal Kumar Singh, 19, a third year undergraduate student from the Civil Engineering Department, has used the SAFE app twice, and appreciates the transparency. “The app is pretty intuitive and has a clean design which makes the usage simple and easy,” says Singh. “My favourite part is that the invigilator’s interface shows a complete log of all activity on every connected device in real time, allowing the invigilator to catch hold of a student trying to make a call or switch apps. After the quiz, the statistics are instantly available, which makes it so easy to point out common mistakes or where most students went wrong.” Here too, the app offers feedback on which mistakes were most common and which concepts were most misunderstood. “The app is extremely flexible. It can be used for a 5-minute class test or a 90-minute exam,” says Raman. “In the current semester, SAFE is being used across five courses for a total of over 750 students. We’re looking to scale up further,” adds Bhaskaran. Use of SAFE is dependent on the instructor and the class dynamic, so there’s no central push to get all IITB students on the app.

MOBILITY MATTERS

At GLA University in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, the official mobile app – Glads – allows students to take exams, submit assignments and access other educational content. “They can also access their attendance records, see all notifications and university-related information and view academic performance in real time,” says university treasurer Neeraj Agarwal. “Students can also communicate with each other, faculty and management.” OP Jindal Global University is deploying a mobile app, CollPoll, that will allow students and faculty can raise a request for IT or hostel support. “Students will be able to see their results and download transcripts on the app shortly too,” says chief innovation officer Anirudh C Phadke.

CONNECTING THE DOTS

“When we look at how students interact and engage with their faculties and courses, it’s easy to see the shift away from textbooks and “chalk and talk,” says Nitin Putcha, CEO at the ITM Group of Institutions, which has been using shared online docs for assignments and quizzes for three years. “I believe the paper/pencil final examination is an obsolete assessment tool. Certainly, mobile apps can be used for assessment as long as institutes move away from the old mindset, into continuous assessment practices.” At Manipal University, a customised tab even allows students to ‘write’ their answer paper — complete with redo, undo, cut, copy and rough note features. The answersheets are then sent to the cloud, reducing paperwork and making assessment and even archiving much easier. “We have about 20 institutions and over 33,000 students. Between regular assignments and sessional or end-semester exams, there was a lot of paper being used and it was an uphill task for faculty and administrators to deal with the voluminous answer scripts,” says Manipal University registrar Narayana Sabhahit. “Now, we have a dedicated platform to track all our students’ submissions.” One drawback, of course, is that such systems are necessarily based on a BYOD (bring your own device) model and works only in wi-fi or intranet-enabled institutes — which means it is not scalable across large parts of India.

Phone it in – Indian institutes that incorporate apps
  • KJ Somaiya college: Their in-house app, Offee, lets you take exams on your smartphone, analyses the class score to identify what areas seem to have been most confusing or misunderstood, and allows teachers to learn from the feedback.
  • IIT Bombay: SAFE (Smart Authenticated Fast Exams), developed in-house by faculty and students, is designed to conduct ‘cheating-free’, ‘auto-graded’ exams via student smartphones. You can use it for 5-minute class test or a 90-minute exam.
  • GLA University: The institution in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, has an official mobile app, Glads, so students can take exams, submit assignments, access attendance records and view academic performance in real time.
  • OP Jindal Global University: The Haryana institution’s app, CollPoll, will allow students and faculty to raise a request for IT or hostel support. Students will also be able to see their results and download transcripts.
  • Manipal University: The official app allows students to ‘write’ their answer paper — complete with redo, undo, cut, copy and rough note features. Answersheets are saved in the cloud, reducing paperwork and making assessment and archiving easier. – Courtesy

Gadgets an integral part of learning in colleges

The Hindu | Tamil Nadu | August 24, 2017 | Karthik Madhavan | Opinion |

Institutions offer wi-fi connectivity across the campus

Image result for Gadgets in education

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At a management class in a city college, the faculty asks students to do a ‘pecha kucha’ presentation. The students respond, ‘What is it?’. The faculty replies, ‘Google’. In no time, the students searched online and as they lunged forward to answer, the faculty asked two among the students to move to the front to explain it to the rest of the class. In the next two minutes, the entire class got to know what the presentation was and in the next few minutes thereafter, the students had their own ideas. The college students would do a ‘pecha kucha’ presentation next week. This would not have been possible if the students had not used gadgets – mobile phones, tablet computing devices or laptops – in the class.The college is not alone in city in allowing students to use gadgets in classrooms, only for academic purpose though. It has become an integral part of the classroom usage, what with colleges offering wi-fi connectivity across the campus, says an academic. But this comes at a time when a study suggests that use of gadgets hinders learning and could lead to reduction in grades as well. The Brookings Institution, U.S., has said that a growing body of evidence suggested that when students used computers or tablets during lecture, they learnt less and earned worse grades.

This was based on evidences from a series of randomised trials in both college classrooms and controlled environments. Vice Principal, GRD College of Science and Commerce, K.K. Ramachandran says use of gadgets/ technology only enhances learning, provided the faculty knows how to leverage those. It brings in audio visual element in to the class, which does not necessarily happen in a chalk-talk environment. As for the reduction in attention span in students because of the use of gadgets, the contrary can also be argued in that in a lecture session, the students are physically present but mentally absent. The saying is that the average attention span is just seven minutes. He adds that there are also studies to suggest that chalk-talk sessions don’t help. An engineering college principal says that the college infrastructure is so designed and curriculum so framed that use of computers/tablet computing devices becomes inevitable. – Courtesy

Niti Aayog’s Three Year Action Agenda: ‘Focus on higher education, greater skills must for raising employability’

The Indian Express | Sunny Verma | New Delhi | August 26, 2017 |

Niti Aayog also suggests reforms in the Right to Education Act as well as the University Grants Commission, and a comprehensive & continuous evaluation system to bring in improvement in learning outcomes.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, along with Union Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan, Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog Arvind Panagariya and CEO, NITI Aayog, Amitabh Kant releases the book “India: Three Year Action Agenda” at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi. (Source: PTI Photo)

In a series of proposals that might lead to improvement in the higher education infrastructure and skill development of individuals in urban regions, the Niti Aayog in its Three Year Action Agenda 2017-18 to 2019-20, released on Thursday, said that the government needs to create 20 world-class universities, provide autonomy for top colleges and universities, reform the regulatory system, establish system of project-/researcher-specific grants and increase focus on vocational and profession-led education. Stating that the skill development initiatives by the government have not yielded the desired result and the country still faces a challenge of training a large workforce, it recommended that for those who undergo skill training, the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) should target a placement rate of 80 per cent or more by 2020. In its agenda report, it said that there is a need for greater focus on improving quality higher education. “An assessment of 1,50,000 engineering graduates in 2016 found that only 18 per cent of engineers were employable in the software services sector in a functional role, only 41 per cent in non-functional business process outsourcing and only 4 per cent in software engineering start-ups. The government’s strategy on improving higher education should focus on autonomous governance and transparency, and outcomes are critical components of a vibrant and successful higher education sector,” the agenda said.

The Aayog has suggested a series of measures to improve learning outcomes and improve skills for jobs. It has recommended changes in the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act to focus on learning. Improving quality of higher education and NSDC working on achieving an 80 per cent placement target are among the other suggestions given by the think-tank, to improve education and skills of people. Among the regulatory reform, the Aayog has pitched for overhaul of the University Grants Commission (UGC). “The UGC Act, 1956, is in dire need of reform. The UGC’s position as an overarching regulator of every aspect of higher education from student fees to curriculum to teaching and course hours keeps India’s higher education system from responding to the changes and challenges that it faces in a fast-evolving world. Various professional councils further complicate the regulatory environment in higher education. We should introduce a system of regulation that focuses on information disclosure and governance rather than micro management of universities. This requires an overhaul of the UGC as a regulatory system and a rationalisation of the role of professional councils,” the agenda said.

Skill development

The Aayog noted that despite a numerous skill development initiatives by the government that have been undertaken till date, the country still faces a challenge of training a large workforce. Estimates suggest that only 2.3 per cent of India’s workforce has undergone formal skill training, compared to United Kingdom’s 68 per cent, Germany’s 75 per cent, USA’s 52 per cent, Japan’s 80 per cent and South Korea’s 96 per cent, the report said. According to estimates for the period 2013-14, India’s annual skilling capacity at around seven million is significantly lower than the workforce entering the market annually, while the quality of skills imparted is also a matter of concern, it said. According to the Skill Development Sector Achievements report, December 2016, the NSDC partners skilled 24.9 lakh people, of which 12 lakh were placed in 2014-15. This translates to a placement rate of below 50 per cent. “It is recommended that a target of a placement rate for 80 per cent or more should be set for 2020.

Furthermore, all NSDC partners should be required to report on the additional metrics…including the per cent of certified candidates employed, longevity of certified candidate in their chosen job field, wage difference between certified and unskilled candidates, number of entrepreneurs created through the vocational training ecosystem and number of certified candidates employed in overseas vocational jobs,” it said. The Agenda also recommended a national-level Overseas Employment Promotion Agency that should be set up under the Ministry of External Affairs to consolidate all the promotional initiatives of the government.

Improving outcomes

The agenda said that the challenge in front of the Indian school education system is to improve learning outcomes. Through initiatives like the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the RTE Act, the Indian school system has focused on measuring and delivering inputs. The gross enrolment ratio (GER) in 2015-16 for grades I-V was 99.2 per cent and for grades VI-VIII was 92.8 per cent. Pupil-teacher ratio at national level for elementary schools was 24:1 and for secondary schools it was 27:1. “Unfortunately, this success in getting more children into schools with more teachers has not translated into more education. The proportion of children in grade-III who can read at least a grade-I level text dropped from 50.6 in 2008 to 40.3 in 2014, before increasing marginally to 42.5 in 2016, according to Pratham’s Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) data. The proportion of children in grade-III who can do at least subtraction fell from 39 per cent in 2008 to 25.4 per cent in 2014, and again increased slightly to 27.7 per cent in 2016. Poor learning outcomes are reflected in multiple other sources as well, including the National Achievement Survey (NAS), which found worse results in Class V Cycle 4 (2015) compared to Cycle 3(2012),” the Aayog said in its report.

These are not the only results, which suggest that a focus on inputs does not help improve education. Data show that the traditional levers — more or better infrastructure, lower pupil-teacher ratios, higher teacher salaries and more teacher training — by themselves have not been effective in improving student learning outcomes. “The most critical missing pieces that evidence has shown to be effective are pedagogy that focuses on teaching at the right level, outcome-linked incentives and governance that enables the system to operate smoothly,” the report said, while pitching for these changes to improve outcomes. It said that between 2010 and 2014, public schools increased by approximately 13,500 in number but total enrolment in them fell by 1.13 crore, while private school enrolment rose by 1.85 crore. “This shift has been accompanied by hollowing of an alarmingly large number of public schools…public schools with fewer than 50 students (and an average of 29 students per school) stood at 3.7 Lakh schools in 2014-15. They represented 36 per cent of all public schools. High rate of teacher absenteeism, limited time spent on teaching when the teacher is in class and generally poor quality of education are among important reasons for this emptying out. Outcomes are worse in government schools than in private schools, and those who can leave are voting with their feet,” the agenda report said.

Quality improvement through improved governance is one way of slowing or reversing this process. These measures include a focus on school leadership, administrative tenure, basic monitoring by administrators to resolve school level issues such as teacher absenteeism, and transparency in teacher appointments and postings/transfers. One way to improve learning outcome is to modify the RTE Act to actually make it a ‘right to learning’, instead of being, as it currently is, a ‘right to go to school’, the Aayog said. The recent amendment of Rule 23(2) under the RTE Act, which makes it compulsory for all state governments to codify expected levels of learning for students in classes I to VIII, is a positive step. It requires states to prepare “class-wise, subject-wise learning outcomes for all elementary classes” and devise “guidelines for putting into practice continuous and comprehensive evaluation, to achieve the defined learning outcomes”. In implementing this mandate, states should begin by devising their learning indicators and planning a state-level measurement system for every child, the report said. – Courtesy

Mixed reaction to MHRD move on Ph.D. doctorate rule

The Hindu | R. Krishnamoorthy |  TIRUCHI, August 17, 2017 | Tamil Nadu | Opinion |

Ph.D. may become optional at UG level to gain promotions

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There is mixed opinion among the academic community here on the move by Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry to make changes in the Academic Performance Index (API) to make Ph.D. optional for college teachers at the undergraduate level to gain promotions, and to increase their involvement in community activities instead. One section emphasises that Ph.D. as an entry level requirement was a must to retain and improve quality of education, while another section strongly believes that the quality of Ph.D. has taken a beating due to the stipulation. “Deterioration of the standards of higher education must not be permitted. Relaxation of the Ph.D. requirement for college teachers would be a retrograde step,” K. Anbarasu, Director of National College, said.

The reasoning of the other section of the academic community is that a college teacher should be mainly engaged in teaching, and that the quality of research has been diluted due to the Ph.D. compulsion. This section of academics cite the acknowledgement made by the Central Government during 2015 in Parliament that no dedicated study for assessing the quality of Ph.D research in the country has been undertaken under the purview of University Grants Commission. The former HRD Minister, Smriti Irani, had gone on record with her statement that there was a mushroom growth of substandard Ph.D. degrees, as it was a necessity for recruitment at entry level and for promotions. Though the UGC had framed the Minimum Standard and Procedure for the awards of M.Phil/Ph.D. Degree, Regulation 2009, to bring about uniformity in the procedure of award of M.Phil / Ph.D. Degree with a view to maintaining standards of higher education, the MHRD had come across instances of universities hiring services of supervisors who were not regular teachers on its rolls or in affiliated post-graduate colleges, in violation of the regulation. Unlike in universities, teachers in colleges are required to spend more time in teaching. “The move to make Ph.D. optional was a step in right direction. In most of the developed countries, there are teaching colleges and universities with varied objectives essential for the overall improvement of higher educational quality,” M. Selvam, Professor and Head, Department of Commerce and Financial Studies, Bharathidasan University, said. – Courtesy

College teachers may skip research, Research not be mandatory for college teachers’ promotions

The Hindu | Vikas Pathak |   NEW DELHI, July 29, 2017 |

They may no longer be required to take up such projects for getting promotions.

Teachers in colleges will soon no longer require mandatory research output for promotions, with the Ministry of Human Resource Development setting the ball rolling to change the guidelines for Academic Performance Indicators (API). However, the research requirement will continue to be mandatory for teachers in university departments for promotions. Laying out the new guidelines, Minister of Human Resource Development Prakash Javadekar said, “Making research compulsory for college teachers [has] harmed research. Thirteen thousand UGC magazines came up. Many colleges made their annual magazines into quarterlies and added them. I said there are so many journals here: do you have Champak too?” The Minister was addressing a conference on “Higher Education Perspectives in India” at the Deen Dayal Upadhyay College here on Saturday.

 Relief for teachers

The change is expected come as a relief for college teachers, as their teaching load is generally higher than university faculty and many have been apprehensive that promotions would become tough as they would not have time to present well-researched publications for quality, peer-reviewed journals. “College and universities teachers are two different kinds of categories with different expectations. College teachers’ primary responsibility should be to teach well. That accountability is required,” Mr. Javadekar said. “We will not make research compulsory for them. We will say, ‘It is your choice’,” he added. – Courtesy

Research not be mandatory for college teachers’ promotions: HRD – Deccan Herald, Press Trust of India, New Delhi, Jul 29 2017

College teachers will no longer be mandated to conduct research to be eligible for promotions but would be required to be engaged more in community activities with students. This announcement was made by Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar today at a two-day national conference on higher education perspective in India. “We are going to do away with the mandatory clause of research for college teachers to get their promotions. An official announcement in this regard will follow soon. “Instead of that, I want teachers to be engaged in student activity. We will make one community activity or student activity mandatory and teachers will be given their scores on basis of that,” Javadekar said. Making changes in the Academic Performance Index (API), a criterion on which teachers get their promotions, the HRD Ministry is working on a plan to make research optional for college teachers.

“Currently college teachers are also required to do research activity to get their promotions, just like university professors. But we must understand that both of them belong to completely different category of teachers. “A college teacher should be mainly engaged in teaching. When we made research compulsory, research stopped completely. Conducting research just for the sake (of it) is taking down the quality of research,” Javadekar said. University teachers who are supposed to teach the post graduate students or guide M Phil and PhD scholars will be required to engage in research, he said. – Courtesy