Random Thoughts

Inputs to the New Education Policy

posted Aug 16, 2019, 8:59 AM by Prashant Bhattacharji   [ updated Aug 16, 2019, 9:00 AM ]

We linked to some of the old articles authored by Prashant.



Here is a summary of suggestions.
This is largely a consolidation of points already made by several observers of the Indian education system.

1. Repeal the Right to Education and replace it by a voucher or direct-benefit-transfer system such as the one being proposed in Andhra Pradesh. the presence of aadhaar, makes it simpler to create systems like these.

2. Extend Article - 30 to all groups to bring parity and fairness in institutional autonomy. 
OR: enforce a strict defintion of a minority institution where at least half the teachers and students are from the minority community. Currently, it is a loophole being flouted brazenly to avoid regulations which are 
heaped solely on honest players who don't have a route to wriggle out.

3. Do not make any tweaks in the language policy. Learning outcomes are very poor inMathematics and Science and the first language itself and making 3 languages compulsory
right from 1 to 12, will take away valuable time and bandwidth and might have a retrograde impact on the subjects and languages which already exist.

4. Boards are in a race to inflate scores and pass-rates. Force them to release a percentile score or a positional grade on the marksheets as the current scores are meaningless. 
There is data related to score-inflation in this article: https://www.orfonline.org/research/great-indian-exam-debacle/

5. Having modular board exams is a good idea but keeping it too open ended will create utter chaos. 
Keep a few basic rules: for example, a student can take the class 10 exam for a few subjects, right after class 9. Or: a student may take the class 12 exam for 2-3 papers,
right after class 11, if he or she is prepared and wants to get done with a few subjects. 
It might be worthwhile to take ideas from the conduct of the A-level examinations in the UK where students are allowed to take a few papers (AS level) before the school leaving year.

6. Avoid a centralized curriculum, except for grades 11-12. Even for grades 11-12, only prescribe minimum standards (schools should be allowed to teach over and above the minimum standards)
Different parts of the country; different socio-economic groups: all of them have their own preferences. The average rural child might not be able to handle the syllabus of an IGCSE or ICSE school, for instance.

7. Liberalize the board regime. The monopoly like status of CBSE has been extremely damaging for the sector. 
Allow groups of school to form their own board as long as they have in excess of, say, 20000 students per batch. 
Boards will compete and better systems will emerge. 
As things stand, we have an absurdity where foreign boards like IB/IGCSE are running a curriculum and syllabus which Indians are not permitted to provide in the form of a new Indian IGCSE/IB like board functioning at an Indian price point.

8. As long as institutions have basic infrastructure and security, remove the NOC requirements. No NOC should be required from the state government, for affiliation to central boards - this
leads to demands for bribes and the harrassment often discourages from serious players from entering the space.

9. The NCMEI injects sectarianism in the NOC regime: this body can be scrapped.

10. Mandatory education till class 12 might not make sense in an economy like India. By grade 8 a student has been taught the basics of language, math and science necessary for real world tasks.
For those in rural areas for instance, education beyong class 8 might actually have a retrograde effect, of making them reluctant to stick to agriculture which requires work with the hands rather than just the mind.

11. There should be no form of government aid to theological institutions or educational institutions run by religious trusts, or faith based schools. This is neither acceptable nor desirable in a secular nation.

12. Avoid any sort of coercion as far as the medium of instruction is concerned. Allow parents to choose the medium they find best for their kids. 
While there is evidence to suggest that students learn best in their "mother tongue" this mother tongue varies from place to place and community to community and person-to-person in India. 
English medium schools can be a problem if the quality of the school and the teachers is the problem: this often has little to do with English as the medium. 
Waging a war on English medium education will have disastrous effects not just on our education system but also on our economy in the long run.
The domain knowledge for various subjects right from sciences to social sciences and technology, is held (almost) entirely in English, in our country.

13. There is a lot of meddling in education policy by NGOs which receive foreign funds, corporates vying for PPP funds, as well as foreign
citizens who often represent vested interests of various organizations. By all means take ideas from data-driven research of experts or academicians
or researchers, from all over the world - but as things stand, there are too many inputs from disruptive elements who often have
ideology driven agendas. As things stand, there is little one can do against an NGO activist who walks in with a print out of the RTE,
and brings an institution to a screeching halt. It will be more meaningful, to list primarily to Indian players (directly involced with institutions here)
Indian stakeholders and well-regarded researchers with evidence based, data-driven inputs.

14. NCERT is not required for any task other than framing minimum syllabus requirements and for periodically assessing learning levels in
different parts of the country (NAS surveys). NCERT textbooks are of a very poor quality in comparison to those sold by reputed private players.

15. School league tables should be published annually - indicating the mean or median score of students in various subjects (or in the aggregate score).
Such information empowers parents and helps them select better schools for their children. It also sets up an incentive for schools to compete.

16. Infrastructure requirements for CBSE/ICSE affiliation need a re-think. Efficiently used space, with vertical architecture (5-7 floors) is the only
practical way to run schools in many of our towns and tieis where land prices are simply too high to construct and run an affordable school with
current land requirements (1 acre+). There should also be some provision for schools to be able to share playgrounds or rent them out for
specific time intervals. Currently, many are unable to get affiliation, because of land requirements - while many schools have large playgrounds
which are unused for several hours a day.

17. Teachers evaluating board examination answer sheets should be remunerated suitably given the amount of effort put in by students to write 2-3 hour
exams which are currently marked and graded by disinterested, tired, over-burdened and/or unqualified teachers. There should also be a thorough screening
and training session for teachers who evaluate answer scripts. Currently, boards are paying a pittance (between 5 and 30 Rs) for the assessment of answerscripts
into which candidates have put in years of effort and hard-work.

18. Currently, many of our board papers require 15-20 pages of handwritten answer scripts which are corrected carelessly. The accuracy of assessment could
improve if these examinations are partly computer graded (computer based testing or OMR/OCR sheets) - with a few pages requiring handwritten answers
which can then be marked with greater thoroughness and care. This will also bring down the man-hours of manual assessment required in the process,
thereby making it possible for a smaller but more knowledgeable group of teachers to correct the answer-sheets.

19. When it comes to scholarships which are often offered by central and state governments, discrimination based on caste or religion should be a strict no-no.
Such invidious schemes exacerbate social tensions between different groups, based on their identity. Similarly, segregated schools such as those in Telangana,
catering primarily to specific groups based on religion/caste, should be forbidden by law. Such institutions alienate marginalized groups instead of integrating them
with society. A parallel maybe drawn with the US Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court
in which the Court ruled that American state laws establishing racial segregation in public schools are unconstitutional, even if the segregated schools are otherwise
equal in terms of funds or quality.

There should be a strict check on discriminatory schemes which are often used by politicians for drawing support from various social groups seen as "vote banks":
such provisions lead to an insidious partitioning of society along identity-based lines.

Thank you


posted Aug 13, 2019, 7:00 AM by Prashant Bhattacharji   [ updated Aug 13, 2019, 7:04 AM ]

A child’s early year’s development is what will help shape them into well rounded and broad-minded individuals. There will be countless influences on child’s early life which will inevitably be both positive and negative and how a child responds to the influences can be attributed to numerous factors but, in essence, it is down to neuroscience. This is something that shouldn’t be over complicated but it needs to be fully understood to understand a child’s development. One key contributor to the subject is Mine Conkbayir.

Childhood education and neuroscience are extremely closely linked but it is alarming how rarely the two are discussed in the teaching of neuroscience with inconsistency frequently occurring.

As an example, a superb early year’s international school with a British curriculum in Bangkok is Kidz Village. The school recognises the relationship with neuroscience and helping youngsters with their early childhood development.

Students and practitioners are encouraged to embrace the theoretical teachings from leading people in the sector including Piaget and Bowlby with explanations about how these concepts can be introduced into international schools with the British curriculum. All groups are encouraged to understand how learning environments and a teachers’ interaction with pupils influences very young children. When it comes to neuroscience, the same emphasis is not placed, overlooking that the two are closely interrelated. Understanding how a child’s brain develops in the earliest of years is crucial to their development.

Why is neuroscience so important?

Knowing how a child’s brain works helps us to understand how we should take care of the child and educate them. We need to understand what works and what doesn’t. When we adopt this approach, it becomes very easy to appreciate how the learning environment and interactions have a direct impact on how infants learn. Here are a few reasons why:

1.    The first five years of life is when the most prolific synaptic activity occurs

It is during this period when a child acquires many skills that will be required in future life. This includes social skills, behavioural skills as well as being able to develop their language skills and start to learn about their environment. They will start to become aware of different cultural influences; something that plays an even more crucial role in an international school teaching the British curriculum. Teachers, parents and carers play a vital part in supporting and aiding healthy brain development in these early years.

2.    The first five years is when plasticity is most rapid

We often hear the phrase that “a child is like a sponge, they are soaking everything up”. This, of course, exposes them to both positive and negative experiences to which they are extremely sensitive. Certain places and environments will quickly become familiar to a child and they will start to form neural connections. Teachers and parents must be fully aware of the potential these associations have in later life.

3.    Cortisol and toxic stress

Cortisol is the stress hormone that is present in all humans and will have a compelling impact on early childhood development. Babies and young children must not be continually exposed to situations where they feel threatened or under stress. Their emotional and attachment needs must be satisfied along with the need for affection. If these needs are constantly not met, they will develop a hyper-reactive stress response. These forms of response, damage a brain's development which harms learning and the child’s development.

4.    Brain physiology, cognition and learning are extremely closely related

The relationship between all three factors demonstrates that emotional well-being is essential to early childhood development. It is the foundation for cognition and learning ability. Parents, teachers and carers should endeavour to create a positive learning environment understanding that these influences are intertwined. This is crucial with the under-threes and should be carefully considered by international schools teaching a British curriculum.

Neuroscience and education

It is now vital that neuroscience is embraced within the education system. It is an alternative way of theorising and fully appreciating early childhood development and needs to be adopted by schools and education practitioners. However, neuroscience should be seen as part of our understanding of brain development and not the only tool. It adds a contemporary dimension to existing ways of thinking that is perhaps more in keeping with the modern world.

Early brain development and neuroscience are starting to be accepted if not embraced by early year’s teachers and practitioners. A greater discussion needs to be encouraged to fully understand child development, especially in the under threes although this is certainly not embedded in professional qualifications. A review by Professor Cathy Nutbrown emphasises this point as she identified the problem, explored it, but didn’t go into any depth.

There are some fantastic primary school teachers at international schools with British curriculum who often have excellent qualifications. However, merely filling a school with superb graduates isn’t a complete answer. Rarely have they been trained about the role of early brain development so it escapes their thinking when planning curriculum, activities and the learning environment.

Nursery education is now globally recognised as being essential in child development with Save the Children calling for all nurseries to be led by a qualified teacher. The teacher should incorporate neuroscience into the school to ensure that early childhood brain development is not threatened or hampered.  Embracing the latest ideas and concepts from neuroscience and including cutting-edge theories can only improve early years’ brain development. Child development will be supported by teachers and practitioners who, in turn, will lead to creating an all-round educational experience for children.

Dowling (2004: 4) has called for the importance of utilising neuroscience in parenting, education and care stating:

“The challenge of understanding how the brain develops and how that understanding might help in raising the next generations to the best of our and their abilities is key to the future of humankind.”

AffordablePapers.com Review: Superior Quality Papers You Can Afford

posted May 24, 2019, 7:54 AM by Prashant Bhattacharji   [ updated May 24, 2019, 7:55 AM ]

There is no student who has never suffered from a lack of time. Today, it is not a problem anymore. Lots of writers offer their help online. No need to go out anywhere. You can get homework assistance right here and right now. Getting professionally done papers has become a piece of cake. The only problem is that you need to know who to entrust your assignment not to fail.

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Best Rated Online Resources & Tips For Doing Homework For Students Of Arts, Sciences and Biology

posted May 23, 2019, 1:50 PM by Prashant Bhattacharji   [ updated May 23, 2019, 1:50 PM ]

It’s 21st century outside and it seems like we know everything – any unresearched field soon becomes the ground we can firmly stand on. But the irony is in the following fact: the wider is our database the harder it gets to find the right info.

That’s especially crucial for those who need precision. And order. Hmm… An order isn’t a favorite students’ word.

That’s why we suggest collecting helping websites which could be useful for any ‘type’ of student – whether for a daydreaming musician or a nerdy biology learner.

For the Creatives

Artists and all creative trades have a special world. As Einstein said, –

                    ‘Fool tidies up, a genius rules over chaos’

This chaos sometimes needs to turn into something, well… presentable.

  1. Adobe Portfolio. Irreplaceable for bringing it all to order, with the ability for individual personalizing and connection to other services. Make a few clicks and suddenly you are ready to show off your best works.

  2. This is Colossal. The name speaks for itself; art-lovers from all over the world are attracted to it like bees to honey. Or flies. Anyway, if you study art, this place is bursting with innovations.

  3. Moonfruit. Who said art is only on the canvas? Web design is also a worthy form of beauty, so if you’re in, check it out and be in the center of the design world.

  4. Noteflight. Struggling musicians will understand me if I say that music is something out-of-this-world. But at the same time, it demands hard work.

This app is a unique helper; once you learn how to add and edit notes, everything will clear up. Moreover, here you may share and sell your masterpieces.

To Young Mathematicians

Students of sciences also need online apps to deal with data, numbers, graphs, etc. Here are some sites to store and organize this stuff:

  1. Socratic.org. If you are facing math or physics problems, there’s free ehelp. The quick homework solver features live guidance with mathematics, chemistry, algebra and even English; you take a photo – the app gives answers.

  2. Quickmath.com. With simple interface, even kids can figure out and advanced tutoring at home, this will become a definite time- and grade-saver.

  3. AssignCode.com. There are moments when homework tips for students are of no use and you need personal assistance or urgent technical assignment help online. Find a tutorial, call to a helpline, and any work will be done from A to Z. With AssignCode.com, you’ll break free from worries and achieve excellence in every technical assignment.

For Nature-Lovers                    

  1. Cells Alive. Biology is exciting, and so are life processes. Here you can delve into the details and, model cells and make animations to illustrate your knowledge. Such efforts will develop creativity and improve grades!

  2. Bio Coach. The special place to work with a tutor on any aspect of science as well as get online homework help. More advantages include giving tips for doing technical assignment and help with rather complicated theory.

  3. Edheads. Kids will immediately fall in love with this interactive award-winning resource. The phrase ‘I don’t wanna do my project for me

    ’ will be forgotten if you give way to exploring the service.

As you see, studying can and must be breathtaking.

No matter whether you are a beginner or an already seasoned learner, there is room to develop for each of you.

It all depends on your willingness to grow, expand and every day become better in whatever you are doing. Who knows, maybe one of you will become the word-changer who will bring the innovations we all wait for?

[Sponsored Post] 5 Mistakes Students Make When Choosing Their Career Path

posted Jan 31, 2019, 3:34 AM by Prashant Bhattacharji   [ updated Feb 2, 2019, 10:04 PM ]

Someone has said it right – choosing a career that is both rewarding and pays well is no easy task. It is tough to decide what someone wants to do for the rest of their lives. The apprehension of making the wrong choice is always there on the back of the mind. What if the decision turns out to be miserable? What if of all the b tech courses this one is less rewarding? What if the industry collapses? Multiple what-ifs often become a hindrance in choosing the right career path.

To your rescue, here we have listed some of the common mistakes that students make. These mistakes are not limited to engineering streams and BTech courses but go far ahead of them. Take a look!

Going by Their Parents Choice

Many students commit this mistake of choosing a career that their parents want them to pursue. This is one of the biggest mistakes and backfires badly if the student is not interested in the field and career the parents choose. So, in order to avoid a good portion of regret, students must walk the path that they like. There are a certain set of questions that can help weigh the decision:

  • Is this what you really want to do?

  • Will this career choice make you happy?

  • Is it only for the parents?

Overseeing Industry Decline

There are only a handful of career options that are vary of market fluctuations and don’t get affected by any external factor. However, many aren’t as bulletproof. For example, the buggy whip industry was at its peak until the automobile became popular and convenient. Students are advised to research thoroughly, look at the industry trends and then opt for a career path.  

Not Keeping the Prospects of Growth in Mind

The prime reason that we work is because we want our lifestyle to move in the upward direction. When choosing a career path, one must keep the prospects of growth in mind while analysing the growth chart of the company. After all, no one can be content with a career where there are no power shifts and promotions. To avoid a flat career path, keeping the prospects of growth in mind are vital.

Not Taking an Informed Decision

Many students opt for a career path merely because of their friends. They must understand that what their friend might be able to do in a breeze may put them in a tiff. Not all individuals and their strengths are the same. So, it is advisable for students to make an informed decision to give their career the right direction.

Choosing the Easy Way Out

Well, it is pretty easy to choose a path that has fewer hurdles when compared to others. But this easy path may become an obstacle in career growth before one could even realise. So, instead of taking a route that looks easy, one should opt for the one that really interests them and has the ability to take them to new heights of success.

Final Words!

It doesn’t matter whether you have picked from any of the b tech courses or any other stream, when it comes to making a career-related decision, a hurried one may backfire. One must remember that there is no room for error when it comes to choosing a career path. Students must also understand that it all starts with the college and university that they choose to study. Universities like UPES analyse a student’s potential and then drive them in the same direction for a great placement and fruitful career.

Why Test-Tech will never be welcome in our Class 10/12 Exam System: India's Education Mafia [Exam Officials]

posted Jan 6, 2019, 6:14 AM by Prashant Bhattacharji   [ updated Jan 18, 2019, 6:16 AM ]

**Warning: this is a long read, 4000+ words**

ION Digital Zone is one of the best things ever, to happen to the Indian testing and assessment scene. These are large, wired computer rooms for computer based testing: currently handling entrance examinations. While there are certain academic limitations of computer-gradable question formats, given the ease which there can be a standardized evaluation at a very large scale, it does make sense to ensure that a section of the testing happens in this format as this is extremely noise-free. It is hard to find well qualified and trained script-markers. Where the services of ION Digital are really required is our class 10 and 12 exams. Even if it means just a simple SAT like paper focusing on basic reading and math and reasoning skills. This can serve as a coarse filter and help identify the extreme cases who simply shouldn't pass the class 10 or 12 examinations. But this is where it will not happen anytime soon.

Apparently, from the coming year, India's ancient pen-and-paper board exam format is going to switch to one where encrypted question papers with water-marks for each center are going to be electronically dispatched and then printed out. One wonders how this experiment is going to work out with millions of students involved. We will eventually get to the disastrous consequences of the breakdown of India's outdated exam system and its direct results: average schools charging nearly a lakh, overpriced books and an unemployable youth population which considers it fine to cheat and copy. For now, let me talk about a somewhat comical episode where I tried my best to put the entire country through a mathematics re-examination over a paper leak; in a fit of rage partly with myself, at leaving an answer just short of the finish line and losing my shot at scoring a tropy 100/100 in an examination which was, for all practices, inconsequential to me. 

It was 2001, and I had just turned 17, the last lap of Class 12 was in progress: the relatively inconsequential Class 12 exam and the IIT JEE in May. I had worked hard till that point, but the syllabus for both examinations combined, is a lot. Things had started to spin out of control and I figured that it’d be easiest to take it easy with the board exam: a 75% or a 95% wasn’t going to make a big difference in my scheme of things. I was just prioritizing out of compulsion rather than choice: the investment going into the JEE was huge, in terms of both time and money; I was willing to make do with a dismal Class 12 score but I didn’t want to be sitting around at home preparing for entrance exams for yet another year. There were, however, two papers which I figured I could ace: Mathematics and English. It was my school leaving record after all, and something had to look good on the final marksheet. For some weird reason I cared deeply about “maxing” the Math paper. 100/100 or maybe 99/100. From what I remember, no one ever scored 100/100 back in the day. 

Anyway, we fast forward to March, and the exam begins. The first paper was either English Language or Literature. I clearly remember a register with some sort of model paper and also an essay in the hands of a student of another section, while waiting in front of our school auditorium (the exam hall). It was either an essay, or perhaps an essay-like answer describing a specific incident from our literature syllabus. I remember chuckling and making a snide remark to myself, wondering what someone aimed to accomplish by memorizing an essay right before the exam. Till I entered the exam hall and saw the paper about 10 minutes later. And. 

Jawdrop. That same essay topic (or essay-style question) was right there. 

From what I remember, each of these used to account as much as a quarter (or perhaps a fifth) of the total marks (100); so knowing such a topic beforehand was bound to be a big thing. And then it dawned, that the model paper was most likely, not a model paper at all. In all likelihood, it was a copy of the actual exam paper. Well, anyway, I did that paper just fine and I did not mention this model paper episode to anyone because the extent of any paper leak could exacerbate if people became curious and I most certainly did not want a re-examination at that point as it could potentially ruin the last month of preparation before the entrance exam, the IIT JEE. The more widespread the leak, the greater the chance of someone finding out and deciding to cancel exams, if not for the entire country, at least for our school. 

After that we had the remaining English paper and then, one of the Science theory papers - perhaps Chemistry. I did quite badly in it, but I was not too perturbed. I think this was the day that a few more students had managed to access the paper before the exam happened and right after the exam, someone showed the students a copy of that day’s question paper, of which he already was in posession since the night before. The cat was finally out of the bag. I knew about this entire episode and was myself offered the remaining three papers for a surprisingly low price - maybe 2000 Rs - but I had very little interest in seeing the papers. I was uncomfortable with the idea of accessing such papers for a variety of reasons: a mix of honesty, fear, laziness (running around in the middle of the night) and an active conscience at work. In fact I don’t think I gave the whole thing a second thought at all, but I was genuinely worried about the headache of a re-examination. Well, till that point. 

Now came the Mathematics paper. Half the class, if not more, had the paper in advance and I could sense the joy on people’s faces as they received the question paper in the exam hall. I quickly scanned the questions and I sensed that I’d manage an easy 100; so it didn’t really didn’t matter to me that many others had seen the questions and I had not. I remember being extra cautious; checkind and double-checking every small step and answer. I had to get that 100, you see.
This was really the only paper where I cared deeply about what I scored though it was really a quest for purely ornamental purposes. I don’t remember anything about the questions in the paper, but to this day, I have vivid memories of the last fifteen minutes and the last question I was attempting. It was related to the statistics section; finding a correlation coefficient. Now these are trivial questions of a formulaic nature. But they involve columns to be made, lots of numbers moved around from here to there and even with a calculator (still remember the Casio Fx-82) it takes a while to work out ranks and key in several numbers. I managed to draw all the columns, write all the formulas, fill up a good section of the table. But as luck would have it, I ran out of time and never really got a chance to complete the last few cells in the table and so I never computed the final coefficient. 

Ouch! I wasn’t going to get my 100. I knew that I wasn’t going to lose more than a mark or two, but so what. It wasn’t a 100. From the several hundreds of exams I must have written in my school years, this is the one and only question and answer which I clearly remember. Time was up and the answer script was literally snatched out of my hands. My state of mind was similar to that of a kid hollering for an ice-cream cone which broke and fell off halfway. 

There was something enigmatic about my [failed] and obsessive quest for 100s in Mathematics all throughout school specially when I was quite comfortable with practically any score in any other subject. I used to often end up just a few marks short of this 100, making that one slip. And then finally, in the Class 10 board exam I got everything right, but even there it showed up as a 98. Things are fairly simple till Class 10 anyway, and with some care, there was nothing that remarkable about such a score. Maybe they deduct a mark or two as they get strict about things like presentation and neatness as you approach the perfect score. It was only in my very first term in Class 11 that this 100 stopped behaving like the an ever elusive chimera, and I actually scored a 100 and at that time it was actually considered an achievement of sorts as there used to be a sudden jump in standards between Class 10 and 11, with calculus playing spoilsport for many.
And so, the very thought of losing even two marks in this last Mathematics exam was infuriating. In contrast, I had zero concerns about genuinely turning in a complete blank for about a fifth of the Chemistry paper which had been held before this one. I slammed the desk shut when I left the exam hall that day. I wanted that 100 by hook or by crook and in that state of mind I zoomed in on the most inane and risky way to go around it, if not downright dangerous: I figured that the leak needed to be announced and I wanted a Math re-exam to happen. The first thing I did when I returned home, was to shoot an anonymous email to the ICSE board. A few hours of cooling down, and it started to dawn on me, that it was a terribly impolitic thing to do; but this genie was out of the bottle. I even tried to Google for ways to retract a dispatched email but that was obviously in vain. 

A few references to that leak still exist on Facebook! Inserting to give readers some confidence in my story. 

The next day, or perhaps two days later, the board management made some sort of a panic visit to the school. I was now trying to work out the risk-return factor for myself. What was the ideal situation for me? Put hundreds of schools across the country through a re-exam specifically for Math (hide the rest of the Pandora’s box), get another shot at that 100: or shut up and steer clear because (a) a very real risk that the entire exam could be re-conducted; this had happened in the past and/or (b) what if I ended up losing more marks in the re-exam :) At least Math did not need any specific last-minute memorization or preparation, so I figured that I wouldn’t mind it, if several hundreds of schools all over the country had to re-take that one paper, so that I could get another shot at a 100. 

This is where it gets interesting. When I came to school to see what sort of “investigation” was in progress, students had accepted that questions had leaked out, but it also became quite obvious, that the people running the board were more interested in disproving that any such thing happened and were repeatedly making a spurious insistence for “evidence”. It was quite clear that they were more interested in suppressing any news than in addressing the issue.
I was still in a dilemma about which way I wanted the ball to roll, and it struck me that some semblance of “evidence” was likely to be lying in a dustbin: I rummaged inside the dustbin and Voila! I quickly found one page of the leaked questions which had been floating around. And it was quite visible that it was not from the question paper itself. I was now in a self-congratulatory mode and so very proud of my find that I proudly walked up to the head of the board and put this page right into his hand. Next to him, there was this lady who was the head of the Class 12 exams. Three days later I regretted the whole thing because I figured that the headaches for me were bound to be far greater than any benefits, specially while chasing a score with no concrete benefits to myself. I was hoping that the dust would settle, aka, the episode forgotten in true Indian style, and that is exactly what happened. 

Of course, after the exam is held, a copy of the “leaked” paper is hardly direct evidence. But, when cases of copying or cheating or any other malfeasance are prevalant at a center, it immediately shows up in data. If one observes a huge jump in the number of perfect-scores from a center, or a stunning increase in the mean score (relative to their class 10 performance) it is a red flag indicating compromised systems. 

There’s generally a fair bit of a gap between Class 12 papers and there were still two papers left after this Math paper. The curious thing is that both those exampapers were leaked as well. No effort had been made in replacing question papers with new sets. On the last day, in fact, a newspaper in Dehradun published Hindi questions right before the exam. Though I did not have Hindi, at this point I was really terrified of the ordeal of going through any re-examination. The results were declared in time and the school advertised its “brilliant results” by distributing copies of the entire result sheet for the Class 12 batch, to everyone it could. 

Mr Francis Fanthome was one of the officers who had come for inspection was the head of the board at that time, who (as it turns out) was later thrown out for running a racket of taking cuts from publishers and permitting them to use his name as a co-author in all sorts of books ranging from English to Computers. Using an official’s name in books obviously gives them greater acceptance in the marketplace. His most damaging contribution was to Indian computing education in particular, where he teamed up with software vendors and push MS Office in the name of “computer education” in tens of thousands of schools all over the country. The government appointed a committe to probe his disproportionate assets; may he rest in peace in the comfort of his ill-gotten wealth. He was also an alleged sexual predator. 

The other office bearer - another crook - with him was not any nondescript education officer, but the wife of former Principal of St. Stephen’s college - Mrs. Rita Wilson. Both husband and wife were present on the board and in what was obviously a brazen conflict of interest case; Anil Wilson’s books were presecribed as mandatory books across all their schools (must’ve surely made kickbacks from this process). And don’t even get me started about the serious conflict of interest when the head of one of the most prized colleges in India simultaneously holds an appointment in an exam board the marks from which are the primary instrument in entering the college headed by him. Ideally, this lady should have been jailed for suppressing something as critical as a paper leak at the Class 12 level. Remember, just 500 students having access to leaked papers is sufficient to leave almost none of the coveted seats in prized colleges like St. Stephen’s and SRCC. If the data for 2001 entry (maybe other years as well?) is closely scrutinized for these colleges, I strongly suspect the malfeasable will be evident in the form of an unnaturally high percentage of students from ICSE schools in the Western-UP/Uttarakhand belt. Don't even get me started on what a serious crime it is to suppress information about paper leaks. 

Also, throughout all of Mrs Rita Wilson's tenure, ISC marksheets had the "missing marks" phenonomenon where many scores were simply not attained in any subject, by any student all over the country, for several decades. Perhaps a computer glitch or a bug. The issue was only fixed as recently as 2017 without the board offering any insight into what had gone wrong and what was fixed. Such is the character (or characterlessness) of officials in India's exam boards.
What is even worse is that these low integrity officials get invited as Chief Guests to schools and get projected as role models to impressionable kids! They also get invited to all sorts of conferences organized by gullible panels who are unaware of the "true service" of these people. The issue is explained in detail here, the gist of it is: for several years (going backwards from 2016 to at least 1997) none of the million (or more) students who took the ISC/ICSE examinations scored various marks like 91, 93, 89, 87, 85, 84, 82, 81, 80 etc. in any subject. There was obviously a computer bug which was affecting the result but it also revealed that the board was editing marks without offering any insights into how it was done. This would be criminal anywhere. Not only that, school managements were keeping their own representatives as the "head invigilator" for their own students taking board exams: they had a license to allow their own students to cheat. 

500 students with a copy of the leaked papers is all that it takes for a major chunk of Delhi University's seats to be grabbed, even now. 

YouTube Video

Anil Wilson (late), head of St. Stephen’s college in Delhi was te editor of several ICSE text-books like this, this and this . Why on earth does the board need to prescribe a version of Julius Ceaser edited by a specific person? It’s not so hard to comprehend: his wife, Rita Wilson, held a rather senior post in the board at that time. Similarly, why did the board need a compilation of standard poems, edited by a specific author and sold by a particular publisher? The vicious cycle of cuts and commissions is not to difficult to spot. Rita Wilson’s successor, Gerry Arathoon, has also succumbed to this enterprising temptation and after a brief expulsion for this bad behavior he is back in business. Such is the degree of characterlessness of this white-collar mafia which runs India’s exam boards. 

To be very clear, I don't have serious issues with board members prescribing their own books: these are private schools and a private board and no one's forced students to join these schools. 
The point where it gets not just murky but also unacceptable, is when malfeasance creeps into the public examinations they conduct. 


I think there’s a gradual realization that a general acceptance of varying shades of cheating, bribery and dishonesty in India has gone well beyond the point of being a mere fairness and honesty issue, to one which is now a very real economic threat. Probably because of the relatively relatively insular nature and sterilized surroundings which characterizes IT corridors (despite the general urban mess which much of India reels in), I haven’t personally experienced day-to-day corruption but my one main experience with relatively high profile scamsters needs to be documented. You will have to excuse the incendiary language used against the protagonists in this episode: it is entirely justified for what was egregiously criminal behavior by people in public office, in-charge of administering a very crucial school leaving examinations. 

One of them is now no more (RIP) but the evil of certain men - and women - lives after them, so we should not hesitate in discussing it. The episode above itself is actually a bit funny, unless you happen to be the person I have tagged, but on the whole, it is part of the greater tragedy of dishonesty and cheating which eclipses India. Also, this story fits as a piece of a jigsaw with exteremely serious implications for the country, right from our unemployable millions to the insane fees being charged for very ordinary schooling; I will explain the dynamics of it right at the end. I want to pen down these things before I forget it all. This post might also help answer some perpetual puzzles about why our school and exam systems are stuck in the horsecart era and remain so archaic and technology-free: tech will decimate the cuts and commissions and kickbacks which can be made by corrupt characters currently involved in our affiliation and exam processes. 

People have started referring to the "private school mafia", "publisher mafia" and it is indeed true that so many schools with fancy buildings, have negiligible teaching or learning going on, and they still manage to charge over 50k, 1L for a year! There has been a lot of cartelization but "mafia" is an inappropriate term to use for a sector which the population has decided to choose on their own: after all, they could always go to the closest government run school and they don't. 
The real reason why very shady schools exist, charging extremely high fees, is because they can: the exam-board system has broken down completely, and teachers need to do very little to make sure that results are "good".  Results and pass-rates are simply not indicating any sort of effective learning. So there is no real signal about learning - or the lack of it - for parents, and for that matter, even school-managements. If we have honest assessments or examinations in place, a large fraction of students will end up failing, and only a very small fraction of true achievers (<5%) will score high marks (90%). But this is not happening. So it is indeed possible for schools to do practically nothing other than collect the fees, and still end up with fairly okay results, by doing the bare minimal, that too only in grade 10 and 12. So we are stuck in a visious cycle of cheating, copying, misreporting and inflation of marks, paper leakage and substandard pedagogy. 
Simply clean up the exam boards and their assessments, and a large chunk of substandard schools will either improve and ensure serious teaching, or vaporize after a couple of cycles of dismal results and pass rates. The same goes for substandard textbooks and publishers who exist largely because of cartelization and connivance with dishonest board officials who ensure that a few board-paper questions appear from those textbooks; to keep alive the market for those substandard books, in exchange for cuts or commissions. Our legal regime only exacerbates the issue.

Clean the top - the exams and the boards - and you will see an excellent cleanup of the entire sector without doing much more. Excellent education till Grade 8, can easily be provided for an annual fee within 40k, for a school without a heavy land loan to pay off.  

While I was glad there was no re-exam, and frankly, I hadn’t even invested that much effort in the Class 12 exam, that episode was an eye-opener about the complete lack of fairness with the conduct of examinations in India. What I experienced (while inconsequential to me) is a widespread phenomenon in school leaving examinations all over India. Cheating, leakage and a blatant inflation of scores by boards, largely for political reasons has led us to a situation where hundreds of millions of students have exit the school system without the basic ability to write one or two coherent plages; much less solve a basic differential equation or write a 50 line program or write a meaningful report related to a social sciences topic. 

Apart from that, it gives young minds the unfortunate idea, that cheating is acceptable in the real world. Students look for opportunities to bribe or lie simply because it hasn’t been drilled into them that all these things are wrong. Contrary to the common image, cheating is not merely confined to rural areas in remote Bihar or Uttar Pradesh. Not at all. It happens in the most upscale of systems (where marks are simply falsified) and the players involved are often your most educated and sophisticated of academicians as is the case of Mr Ganguly, Mr Fanthome and Mrs Wilson; described above. The very first step towards creating a more honest society based on trust, is to ensure that exams are conducted with absolute fairness in schools.

Such dishonest educators also skew the publication landscape for books. Schools start to choose books, not based on the quality of the content, but based on the likelihood of board-exam questions coming from that book - this of course, is highest for books which exam-board officials have authored or co-authored; a signal of ratification by the exam-board even if no textbook is actually specified. This creates a downward spiral where good books by serious and knowledgeable authors are unable to grab any marketshare, simply because board officials promote specific books, not for their quality, but for monetary benefits from those who publish them. 

After two decades, our exam systems and curriculum are nearly the same! An overdose of technology has been thrown into primary classes, with fancy and expensive digital boards jazzing up the classroom, despite very little useful content for any of these mediums. On the other hand, there has been a visible reluctance to inject technology into processes which actually matter. Involving a bit of computerization and computer based testing, or computer-gradable testing, at least as a portion of our examinations, will drastically reduce chances of malfeasance, paper leakage and cheating which has wrecked our examination system. But this will slice into the pie of the powers that be and hence we see a status quo. Technology can also be used to capture and analyze data and discover patterns. These insights can serve as a useful component of a feedback loop which helps bring in informed decisions to improve the school systems. 
Sadly, none of these uses of technology are likely to be big-ticket projects with a scope for kickbacks and commissions and hence we will not see such projects ever see the light of day. 

It will be entirely unsurprising, even even another two decades from now, we'll still be straddled with our horse-cart era examination systems of physical papers being dispatched and stored in unreliable zones; examination halls which encourage students to cheat and copy; and arbitrary assessment systems where scripts are graded by ignorant, uneducated and ill-qualified script-markers. The reason is very simple: any injection of technology and objective assessment in our school leaving exams, will destroy the economy of corruption which is thriving around these tests. 

My preferred solution: 
Liberalize the board regime. The state boards are dismal and both the national boards have a near monopoly status. There is no need for such a large country to be straddled with the ancient CBSE, CISCE or state board systems.
Allow groups of 5-10 schools to constitute their own board: there can be some general outlines of basic standards (like Common Core in the US) without micro-specifying the exact sub-topics in the syllabus.  Allow boards to innovate. 
Discuss some sort of marking or grading scale; or percentile based reporting; so that the results from different boards arrive in a format which can readily be cross-compared by colleges and universities. 
Anchor the Class 10 or Class 12 "passing" standards, to a common SAT-like test, taken by every student in the country, which avoids going into specifics, but checks for general reading, writing, reasoning and numeracy standards. 
This is also India's only way at developing modern systems catering to kids with extremely diverse aspirations and abilities. Poorer quality exam boards will quickly die a natural death as people vote with their feet. 
This will also create some variety: we have 20 million, or more kids per batch. Some are interested in creative pursuits, some in fine arts, some in sports, some in traditional STEM subjects. We need a variety of systems which can cater to kids with a large spectrum of interests, to bring out the best in all of them. It will be a form of streaming. 
Publish the annual performance of schools in centralized assessments or board examinations like these CBSE and ISC/ICSE tables. This will motivate them to compete and to improve their results. 

(It is entirely co-incidental that in the process of mining school data over the last 6 years, I again opened up a pandora's box related to our examination boards.) 

How much is the fees for good schooling in India?

posted Dec 16, 2018, 5:57 AM by Prashant Bhattacharji

Describe Photon Shot Noise in Physics and Optics!

posted Nov 13, 2018, 3:14 AM by Prashant Bhattacharji   [ updated Nov 13, 2018, 3:15 AM ]

Photon is significant particles that come in whole numbers. The camera can’t gather a fraction of photons. Photon shot noise is an electronic noise modeled by poison procedures. Shot noise occurs in optical devices while counting photon. In this situation, shot noise is linked with the speck nature of light.

Shot noise defines the fluctuations in the number of detected photons because of their independence occurrence. In case of energy in an electromagnetic field, this is an outcome of discretization. In Geiger mode, detection of each photon is essential. The similar source of noise is available with higher intensities of light. Photodetectors detect this kind of sound.

Physical Phenomenon

The photon shot noise of an optical beam is a physical phenomenon. This phenomenon reflects the quantum fluctuation in an electromagnetic field. In a photodetector, shot noise is attributed to zero variation of a quantized electromagnetic field.

Photon shot noise is not a distinctive feature of a quantized field. Though semiclassical theory explains it, it doesn’t predict the squeezing noise. Shot noise has a lower bound on the sound of quantum amplifiers that preserve the optical signal phase.  

Walter Schottky introduced shot noise in 1918 for the first time while studying the variations of current in different vacuum tubes. The finite sum of particles can dominate this noise while carrying energy. It is similar to electrons in photons or electronic circuits in optical devices. These particles are small, so uncertainties are possible because of Poisson distribution. Poisson distribution describes the happening of random events independently. It is essential in fundamental physics, optical detection, telecommunications, and electronics.   

Causes of Photon Shot Noise

Photon shot noise results from the Poisson dispersal of photons. The photons make noise as they reach a sensor. Real-world photographers have to understand this concept. With the increase in ISO, the potential for signal drops. For each increase in ISO, the maximum signals drop by a dual factor. Electronic noise sources can affect deep shadows and exhibit pushing exposure. It can lift shadows to a particular degree. Assuming a sensor with a capacity of 60,000 electrons.

At 200 ISO, the head of business development for infrared imaging company would prefer a MaxSat of almost 30,000e-, ISO 3200/1875e-, ISO 800/7500e-, ISO 400/15,000e-, and ISO 1600/3750e-. Increase in ISO can decrease the potential of signal and noise ratio.  

Choosing the type of camera is essential. A full-frame sensor offers large pixels as compared to APS-C sensors of the similar pixel. For low-light superior performance, head of business development for infrared imaging company will prefer the full-frame sensor. A decrease in megapixels can increase the size of the pixel, and it will have a direct impact on the noise at higher ISO settings.

Photon shot noise is a signal ratio that drops with the increase in signal strength. Photon shot noise may remain constant. With the five units of standard deviation and 5-signal strength, the image will create maximum sound. With the signal strength of 10 units, the SNR will be 50 percent. The image will be still noisy, but you can get a distinct structure and shape.

Image result for Writing

For the head of business development for infrared imaging company, the shot noise depends on a sensor. Read noise is measure by post-ADC or digital units (DU) or signal charge, electrons. Shot noise depends on particular goals. If you want to shoot in low light or require high shutter speed, find a camera with the large pixel to produce the finest characteristics of noise. To get more information, consider free essay and journals in the libraries and institutes.  

Quotas, Exceptions and Exemptions: India's Education Space: Right from school admission woes to Delhi University cutoffs

posted Oct 14, 2018, 11:51 PM by Prashant Bhattacharji   [ updated Jan 22, 2019, 12:22 AM ]

**Warning: Long read ahead**

Though this site (or blog, or data dump or whatever one may call it) have mostly been a clumsy repository of data and tutorials, it is not possible to contribute to the Indian education space without clearly discussing the most fundamental layer of noise and distortion: the legal regime of the Indian education space which is split into multiple dimensions; by religion, caste, language and region; approximately in that order. I personally don't blog anymore or even Tweet frequently in person anymore (maybe 10-20 a week) but we keep the Twitter account alive because it hosts the most vibrant debates and discussions (and we often manage to plugin relevant data from our site and generate a degree of interest which is impossible on any other platform; for India specific data). Repetition is also key. There is good reason why the classics remain relavant across generations: even if generation X has read them, generation X+1 and X+2 have a lot to gain for them, for them that wisdom is new. Hence we are gradually automating our Twitter handle to keeping RTing (or making very simple responses) to various tweets which it considers our "core" domain, education at both the school and tertiary level and the absurdly regulatory and sectarian nature of the legal regime under which it operates. We also try to use automation to be able to repeatedly plugin certain articles and pages from our sites into conversation threads where they may be relevant (they are often old but 99.99% of the world hasn't read them). Automation helps when there's a repetitive theme or agenda. A big thanks to the young and brigh sparks helping with our Twitter TL and assisting in troubleshooting my clumsy scripts. 

This post heavily borrows from the musings of Pratap Bhanu Mehta (whom I've been following since the time of the OBC quota) as well as an extremely popular Tweeter (Reality Check India) . Please check his blog as well, much of our post is a presentation of his ideas (from slightly different angles). There is another brilliant blog which is relevant here,  maintained by Hariprasad. The main theme of this post is uniformity and consistency of rules and laws. Exceptions and exemptions based on identity should be made only in the most extreme cases. We have unfortunately dissected ourselves to the extent that exceptions, exemptions and quotas have become the norm rather than the exception.  What scholarship amounts you avail, what cut-offs you need to gain admission to premier colleges or government jobs, what degree of autonomy you have while running a college or a school: all of these are now a function of your identity (decided by religion or caste). 

So we now have a situation where the Indian state deals with groups rather than individuals, empowering the group-leaders, rather than the individuals. This of course is an ideal arrangement for political powers who now have to work in a B2B manner instead of a B2C manner; as everyone knows, the former is much easier to handle once you get the ball rolling. What ends up happening is, that parties end up pitting groups against other groups. The most atrocious behavior of this kind, in recent times, was demonstrated by the UPA govt between 2004-2014. India is largely an impoverished country. And while there are legitimate greivances in terms of some groups being oppressed by others, it is preferable to stick to identity-free tools of social justice, such as tax, which flows from the rich to the poor. One could also learn from the light-touch affirmative action model of the US and the HBCU model where blacks get institutional control.

There are specific pre-matric scholarships based on your religion (awareded only to "minorities"). These are higher than pre-matric scholarships determined on the basis of caste, which in turn are higher than scholarships available to general category students. Such scholarships create extreme resentment between youngsters, specially those from poor families, who spot this anamolous teatment based on identity. We're just getting started. 

Then come the government schools themselves. Ideally, a lot of our legal anamolies wouldn't have mattered as much as they currently do, if we had a functional government school system up and running. Kendriya Vidyalayas, JNVs and Army Public Schools do an okay job. We all agree. But unfortunately, other than the JNVs which have a filtered intake,  these are more a case of schools run by the government, (mostly) for kids of the central government employees. These are not public schools. What makes it particularly appalling is that KVs are run on public money. The government schools in India, which are open to the public, have several problems. The teachers are unionized, there are quotas in the teaching body leading to groupism and parochialism, the pay is needlessly high, the teachers are unionized and it is impossible to fire the underperformers without creating ugly scenes such as mobs and unions creating a havoc. Majority of these schools are often affiliated to the state boards where the goal is often to indoctrinate young minds and to swing opinion in favor of ruling incumbents in the state. The pass rate of UP board has fluctuated all the way between 40 and 80 percent, depending on the party in power. West Bengal has seen a capture of textbooks by the left parties and Tamil Nadu has seen a capture of textbook content by Dravidian parties. Absured ideas like the hidden contintent of Lemuria have been given space in TN textbooks. 

So India's government schools are doomed, not necessarily because they are run by the govt (public systems have flourished elsewhere) but because our constititonal and legal provisions make it extremely hard to expect any semblance of performance from the teachers in these schools. The political nexus of teachers also runs deep and they carry significant clout as many MLAs are ex-teachers. Teachers are also the ones who end up with election duty and political parties try to please them, with the hope of swinging public opinion in their favor. Add to this a teacher cadre divided along the complex faultlines of caste quotas, and we have gone and created a molotov cocktail which is most focussed on social engineering, indoctrination and the promotion of political agendas; instead of academic excellence. People look at the public schools in the US and wonder why we can't replicate their success. The public schools in the US are run on locally collected taxes and they are accountable to local bodies. There is frequent testing to assess the performance of students as well as their teachers. In our case, there is no trace of any accountability from govt school teachers. 

The only reason I gave government run schools so much space is, to illustrate how hard it is to have any expectations from this system. Unless of course, we have a bold and focused political party, which is ready to change the laws as well as the constitution, at the risk of inviting the wrath of unionized teachers. As things stand, government schools are a lost cause. The sooner this clarity dawns on those in power, the better it'll be for the students and their parents and for the country at large. This leaves us almost solely reliant on private schools. And this is where another pandora's box opens up. 

First of all, private schools can only exist as non-profits in most states. This itself restricts the entry, primarily to philanthrophists and religious trusts. It discourages any major "investment" despite all evidence that companies like FIITJEE, Vidyamandir Classes, Resonance and Allen could very well be running large schools delivering quality education at scale. The fact that only a handful of schools are directly run by any of these companies is an indicator that they find it easier (and lucrative) to educate kids as coaching companies, rather than schools. Keeping in mind our failed system of government schools, a lot of capacity has never really been created, simply because quality players have found it hassle free to educate kids in the form of coaching chains. Philanthrophists: there can only be a very small number of such schools. Religious trusts are the only "scalable model" and over here, we run into the sectarian foundations of India, where many major Hindu temples do not really have much control on their old funds (while other places of worship do) and are unable to start schools in the name of the temple trust. It is also much harder for them to get an NOC to run schools, while other religious trusts, can get NOCs within 90 days, by using the NCMEI which is another kangaroo-court, an arbitrary and sectarian body, meant to speed up NOCs specifically for "minority" institutions. 

Secondly, within the private schools, the major divide is the "majority-minority" divide. Religious minority communities (Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, Parsees) and linguistic minority communities (based on language: Gujarati in Maharashtra, Keralite in Bangalore and so on) are practically exempt from all major regulations such as the RTE. We now have an absurdity where a so-called secular nation recognizes madrassa certificates as equivalents of grade 10-12 certificates and in states like Kerala, funds the clergy of the Church and provides them aid to run "minority" school beyond the domain of regular laws. Given that there is practically no restriction on the minority schools, restricting their intake to (mainly) minority students, we now have a situation where many mission schools as well as Church run schools, not only have less than 5 or 10% Christians - but even most of their teaching body and staff is non-Christian, and increasingly, even the Principals!  I know of a school run by the Catholic Church where not only the Principal, but even a major fraction of the teaching body, are active RSS members. I have reasons to suspect that there are many more cases like this. 
Now, what kind of a minority instution is this. 

So effectively, the legal regime is partitioned without partitioning the markets they are permitted to cater to. This kind of a partitioned regime, also sets up a perverted incentive for players with protection, to 
choke off other players by heaping more and more laws onto them.  I could go on, but one has to stop somewhere. For India to take one last shot at modernity, rules with "exceptions" need to be the exception rather than the norm. Some sort of light touch affirmative action is fine. But this regime of  minority exemptions, quotas and identity-based scholarships, needs to go. It is also necessary to unshackle the tempes and allow them to setup trusts which can get NOCs and run schools and colleges with the same degree of autonomy as those run by the Church. Theological education of any sort (madrassas) should not qualify for grade 10 or grade 12 level certificates. 

This partitioning of the population into multiple groups, has channeled all the energy of various groups, in a negative direction as groups clamor and compete for schemes and laws and programs specifically favoring them. 
Only when the concept of group-wise laws breaks down, will the state start to deal with individuals rather than pandering to groups. This social engineering by splintering Hindus into disparate groups is dangerous as is evident by the continuous protests such as those seen by the Marathas, Jats and Lingayats for which the state does not have any principled response: what is the objective criteria by which group X is treated differently grom group Y. 

Why haven't people risen up against this remime? The reason is very simple: all power players who can push paperwork, find solace in some sort of linguistic minority status. The Ambani School in Mumbai, the school run by the Bombay Dyeing group (Singhania), various branches of DPS and Poddar; are all exempt and protected via Article 30. As one moves north, Jains and Sikhs are in any case the power players running much of the top tier capacity. Boarding schools, such as Doon and Welham and Sanawar are exempted from the RTE quota of 25%. Let's be careful here: there is nothing wrong in what these institutions are doing. They are just exempting themselves from a crushing legal regime which makes it nearly impossible to run institutions. 

So, are we dissing the need for social justice? Not at all. This posts merely flags the dangers of identity-based tools of social justice. It is safer and it is far more principled to stick to time-tested identity agnostic tools of social justice such as taxation (and spending on infrastructure or public health or education; or voucher systems for those) which automatically redistributes wealth by taking from the richer groups and helping uplift the poorest groups. Even communist regimes adhere to the basic principles stated above (not that it's a route I'd be comfortable with) so this should not be misconstrued as a "right" wing issue as it does not get into left-right issues at all. Extrapolating global trends, the most logical extrapolation from our current legal regime, will be the rise of violence from multiple extremist far-right groups, each with their own set of interests. The time to pull the rug on the current identity-based legal regime, is now. 
I am not even completely opposed to quotas, as long as it doesn't go to more than a tenth or a quarter of the total number of seats available. And in such cases, quotas should be very tightly monitored and they should go to groups which sociographic data clearly flags as relatively "backward" in terms of HDI metrics. 

The first step is to cut loose all groups to run their institutions with the level of autonomy which currently only minority-institutions have. It is egregious to choke players, and that too in a sectarian manner. 
Schools like the top ones in Delhi are routinely over-subscribed to, during nursery admission time, with application to seat ratios of 50:1. All of this is indicative of a capacity crunch which has been caused by choking off private philanthrophy from 80% of the population. 

Similarly, during college admissions, minority institutions like St. Stephen's can tweak their criteria and add their own layer of screening and interviews. Such autonomy should be extended to all. 
In an era of grade inflation, top colleges like Lady Sri Ram, SRCC, Hindu have lost their ability to control the quality of their intake. It is an extremely difficult gamble to gain entry to high quality college programs after class 12.
Grade inflation, with different boards inflating in different ways, has made the playground extremely unfair. 

Once everyone is on the same side of the law, strategic and commercial gaming and activism from NGOs will automatically stop. 

There are also places, such as NCR and Uttar Pradesh, where there is no evident capacity shortage, but there is a massive shortage of good quality schools, even though there are hundreds of CBSE schools in each city. 
There are just a few schools like DPS, Sanskriti, Shri Ram etc. where everyone, who can afford it, wants their kids to study.
Schools charge above 50k, often above 1L and they still provide very substandard education. How do these players (exempt or non-exempt) manage to exist in the first place? 

The reason for this is the unprecedented dilution of CBSE standards in the last 15 years, mainly at the Class 10 level, but also in Class 11 & 12 where standards are actually okay, but marks have been falsified by inflating scores by as much as 10 to 15% and misreporting them in the name of "moderation". Assessments and examinations are not just meant for the student: they are also meant to be instruments to keep a check on individual schools and teachers. By keeping practically an open gate at the Class 10 level, a lot of CBSE schools which were well-respected institutions till the nineties, are getting away with practically no serious education all the way till middle school. If there are 100-200 CBSE schools in various UP towns, barely 5-10 of them are attempting to do a serious job: the reason is, that the rest can afford to do very little and still spoonfeed kids with question banks right before the Class 10 examination, and present okay looking results which provide misleading and dishonest signals about school quality. In this process, the genuinely serious players among the CBSE schools are putting up their price.  Informed parents can spot these issues very quickly and differentiate between serious and non-serious players. CISCE has also seen a similar inflation of marks, but their syllabus has increased over the years particularly on the STEM side and retaining the board exam at the Grade 10 level (despite the inflated scores) kept a check on their schools from falling into the abyss. Some schools under CISCE have unfortunately milked the current situation with a flood of non-serious players, in a very distasteful manner, collecting massive capitation fees.

In short, a compromised exam system, has allowed fly-by-night players to remain in existance and the good ones (maintaining standards on their own volition instead of any pressure from the examboards) are putting up their price in the process. 

Constitutional Articles of interest: 
Article 30: Enables religious and linguistic minorities to setup "institutions of their choice". This wording is too vague. Minority institutions need to be very, very, specifically: institutions by the minority and for the minority. 
93rd Amendment:  Article 15(5) Exempts minority institutions from quotas. This was passed as a precursor to the OBC quota. 

Court cases of Interest: 
- The Kerala Edu Bill case which proposed a public edu system in place of the church run edu system in Kerala. 
- The St Stephen's College case of 1992 which permitted the college to use its own criteria and give it 20% weightage, in addition to the board exam. 
  They were allowed to do this being a minority institution whereas other DU colleges can't do this. This permission matters a lot, in times of these, where grade inflation is rampant. 
  That 20% weightage, is like a big, big deal. Board exams are high scoring and have a long tail to the left (many bunched closely in the top 5 percentile).
  If the 20% test is really, really tough: it can throw up a score distribution with a long tail to the right, therefore being the main entrance criteria, as long as students were within the top 5 or 10 percentile in the board examination. 
  One wonders if the judges even understood the consequences of their actions. Scores from different assessments can only be clubbed after being normalized into distributions which have similar mean and standard deviation. 
  SRCC, Hindu and Venky have no such autonomy and are unable to erect barriers of their own correct the influx of students from the most grade-inflated boards (south boards, followed by CBSE/ISC). 
- TMA Pai: first time a different stand was taken and it established that minorities had the same right (and nothing special) as the majority had under Article 19(1)(g) - the right to profession. 
- Rajasthan Unaided Schools case (exempted "exempt" institutions from the 25% quota)
- Pramati (declared that "exempt" institutions are completely outside the ambit of the RTE) 

Indeed You Can Win The Student Loan Game With SL Account Management

posted Oct 9, 2018, 4:49 AM by Prashant Bhattacharji   [ updated Oct 27, 2018, 4:03 AM ]


When you think about using the services offered by SL Account Management, you might be tempted to think of it as a "no brainer". In truth, however, the exact opposite is the case. The real "no brainers" are the people who aren't utilizing SL Account Management to manage their student debt load. Why wouldn't these people want to consolidate their loans, lower their payments, and reduce their annual finance charges? Because, apparently, they have no brains. Or at least they are not using their new college-trained intellect to its highest potential.

A lot of people went to college in the belief that they could greatly enhance their earning power upon graduation. With this thought in mind, it was easy to justify adding a little bit of debt load onto the equation. For many recent graduates, and also for those who chose not to continue their education to its completion, the job offerings available to them have failed to meet either their own expectations or the rosy projections offered by guidance counselors and advisers. It may even be true that the starting salary they expected to make has been achieved, but that the debt load has drawn more out of their paycheck than they had fully anticipated.

Faced with an ever-widening gap between their salary and the payments they have to make on their student loans, these suffering people soon discover the other gotcha part of the student loan game-- namely, that there is no escape short of joining the French Foreign Legion under an assumed name. Bankruptcy will cure a lot of debt problems, but student loans are not among the things which can be remedied by this activity. What this means is that you have to handle it one way or another. You cannot simply ignore the problem and hope it stays away until you win the lottery.

The truth is that there are a lot of ways in which you can re-organize your student loans. You can consolidate them so that you are only making one lower monthly payment rather than several higher ones. You can defer them so you have time to get on your feet before having to make payments. You can have even them forgiven under certain circumstances. The problem is that most people do not know how to go about finding these options, much less choosing among them and getting all of the requisite paperwork filled out properly.

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