Random Thoughts

A Chat With Gyankriti Founders

posted Oct 8, 2019, 6:26 PM by Prashant Bhattacharji   [ updated Oct 9, 2019, 12:43 AM ]

Gyankriti is a new school in Indore. They've adapted various activity based ideas into their curriculum. This is how they describe their journey so far! 
You can email your journey to anyone of us and if we feel there's something in it for other educators to learn, we will definitely publish it here. 
You may send your mail to any of these IDs, preferably the first. [email protected][email protected][email protected] 
Recently, similar insights were mailed to us by the founder of a montessori school. 

The journey so far:

Gyankriti was founded by two IIT Bombay alumni, Akshay Gupta and Yograj Patel, in the year 2013. They opted out of campus placements to setup a chain of preschools in Indore and nearby districts. Thrusted by a small round of seed funding, Gyankriti was able to open 8 preschools in Indore and Dhar region.

However the founders soon realized that the reality is far more difficult from the media hype they were getting. The parents would see preschools only as a parking space for 6 months to 2 years and later moved on to bigger schools. Secondly, it was extremely difficult to manage high quality of education and teachers across multiple physical locations. We then rolled back to a much more conventional setup with a big school at a single location. Eventually all the preschool branches were merged and all students were offered to shift to the new campus.

The new Gyankriti school campus is ideally located, away from the hustle and bustle of Indore city. The core concept of the campus building is to keep the raw materials like bricks and RCC exposed. It conveys a feeling of warmth and character and adds texture to a large blank space. The building is being developed as a Learning Aid (explained in detail here - BaLA), it  aims to use the built elements like the floor, walls, pillars, staircases, windows, doors, ceilings, fans, trees, flowers, or even rainwater falling on the building as learning resource.

Currently the school is offering classes Nursery to Grade 4, we are increasing one class every year and wish to affiliate with the CISCE.

How we are different from most of the schools in India

The most challenging part of being an edupreneur in India is that people will often ask how you are different from the rest of the schools, but they will be scared to put their children in any school which is actually different from others. The courage to be a part of any experiment is lacking in our society. However thanks to our experience with the preschool chain and many of our existing fan following continuing with us, we were able to sail through with some hiccups.  Gyankriti School has developed a fresh perspective on education to enhance the value and quality of education. Here we present the education philosophy of the school:

YouTube Video


  • Individual Attention through education technology:

    • Active Learning in a child centric classroom: We enroll only 15 students per section in the early years (Nursery to Grade2) and 25 students per section in Grade3 and above. This is really helpful in implementing innovative teaching models like ‘active learning’. The students in our school don’t sit in linear pattern facing the board, instead they sit in groups of 4-6 students. The teachers are less into lecture mode while classroom discussions are encouraged. The ultimate aim is to make all the days interesting for children and totally eliminate rote learning.

    • Use of ICT tools: Starting from Junior KG classes children are trained to use the necessary evil of computing devices in productive ways. Ubuntu education software packages like Gcompris, TuxMath, TuxPaint, Tangram, Geogebra, Scratch e.t.c are extensively used. We are following the computer science curriculum developed by Prof. Sridhar Iyer of IITB, where children start coding from Grade3. Apart from this, the school is also adapting Google Apps for Education, where all parents and teachers get a google account. All communications to parents happen online through gmail and google groups, teachers also use Google Drive to manage their classroom planning. We are using the Google Classroom app for home assignments, sharing documents e.t.c. We believe that the job of the school is to make children ready for the future and not for present circumstances. ‘Education for tomorrow’ theme is visible in each and every process at Gyankriti. For example, the name of our google group for Grade2 is [email protected], signalling the parents everyday that their children will complete schooling in year 2030 and hence we need to think from that perspective.

    • Ongoing experiments: We are also experimenting the blended learning models in our primary classes. One of the objectives is to reduce the human intervention, due to the continuous crisis of quality teachers. The idea is to use tools like KhanAcademy, Mindspark e.t.c. for subjects where students generally face problems like in English and Mathematics. We are working on both Station Rotation (groups of children doing different stuff in the same room, some working on devices while some learning from teachers) and Lab Rotation Models (part of the lecture delivered in class while follow up activities taken in the computer lab).

  • All-round development: 50% times for core academics. 25% for Sports. 25% for Arts. Performing and visual arts are taught as an extension and integrated with the languages and mathematics. This way children enjoy the arts throughout the year instead of limited period activity for annual days.

  • Self-Learning instead of Spoon-feeding: No homework in preschool years. Creative assignments in primary years. No tuition policy.

  • No Exams till Grade2: Following the continuous evaluation process to help evaluate the child’s development better by continuous day-to-day monitoring and feedback. The core principle is that we do “assessment for learning” instead of “assessment of learning”. Only the students are not assessed, the performance of teachers is also reflected from the detailed analysis. We are also developing the ethical values in students, contrary to what we see in our society where every one is running after marks. We don’t keep any invigilators during exam hours and children follow the honour code. We have not found any significant issues so far.

  • Parent-School partnership: Workshop every month. Sometimes we do it through video chat or youtube, when it is done offline at the school all parents use public transport instead of personal vehicle (School Bus facility). The workshops are helpful in understanding our unique or sometimes weird methods.

  • Community service is mandatory: Children clean the dining hall, wash clothes, wash utensils, gardening etc. once a week. We have our own farm too.

  • Children own the school: The children plant trees and sell their artwork to develop school facilities. They love to come to their ‘own school’ and read from their ‘own library books’.

  • Enjoyable learning experiences: Diverse activities, puzzles, field visits, worksheets, projects etc. makes learning a much more enjoyable and enriching process.

  • Learning beyond classrooms: learning becomes much more effective and relevant through hands-on experiences, dramatizing concepts learnt, applying the learning’s in real life experiences.

  • Modern Gurukul: Children learn about Indian History and heritage. Starting from Grade1 they all learn to speak in Sanskrit language. 

  • All this freedom comes with a lot of responsibility: A common problem with private schools these days is that parents interfere too much in the school curriculum and market driven schools often compromise the school syllabus to satisfy the parents. We were very clear from the beginning that parents are not our customers, the children are. Hence we should do what’s right for children and not what is asked by the parents.  We have strict guidelines for discipline, quality control, safety of children, standard norms and procedures applicable to everyone in our parent community. An undertaking of the parent handbook is signed by all parents at the time of admission. Everyone is made clear at the time of joining that school will follow its own curriculum and methodology.

Other links you can explore:

  1. http://smallscience.hbcse.tifr.res.in/category/view-from-the-classroom/gyankriti-school-indore/

  2. http://teachersofindia.org/en/article/understanding-lunar-cycles-help-indian-calendar

  3. Our main website www.gyankriti.com

PS: We are also open to any edupreneur or school visiting Gyankriti and taking inspiration (or even copying) our concepts or curriculum. It is like Free and Open Source Software. We just want this virus to spread, as we know we may not be able to personally open more branches of Gyankriti. http://gyankriti.com/en/network-schools/

How to select UG Programs: BA, BCom, BTech, BSc, BArch: A problem of plenty?

posted Aug 22, 2019, 6:53 AM by Prashant Bhattacharji   [ updated Sep 10, 2019, 4:28 AM ]

How to select a college or an appropriate UG program. Things which a high
school student should know before entering college or selecting a program
- Factoring in and balancing our personal aptitude, family or peer pressure, long
term career goals etc

A post by Abhinav Janak

Many young students in India are grappling with a problem of plenty situation when they
are suddenly bombarded with a barrage of career options all of a sudden when they are
in class 10 leaving them very little time and space to really think what they really want
become in life and what really suits them in greater proximity keeping their interests and
a practical sense of options in real time. So is having a range of choices to choose from
really healthy or detrimental to a young 16 or 17 year old’s psyche passing out plus 11
or plus 12 when he or she has to choose a right UG option. Don’t you think the young
minds are too over burdened to dissect, assimilate and process so much information all
at once together with a sword of damocles hanging on their heads to decide a particular
course to move forward and for life to go on as normal?

We in India are known to have a herd like mentality in following what’s really tried and
tested since decades .ie., in taking up career choices which have been taken up in the
past by our parents and their parents and so on and so forth. Are the younger lot really
making a right choice or has our system shaped them in a manner where they make a
choice only to impress the society and to earn money? We more or less come under the
glaring scrutiny of peer pressure and more often succumb to it as we think that’s the
beaten path which has rewarded laurels to our yesteryear generations. Is this the way
forward? Is this healthy to think this way in a modern current turbulent world where new
age careers have emerged and are encouraged, where changes in technologies are
faster than expected. I personally observe when I see people around me take up the
usual engineering and medicine fields as if other fields don’t exist. News paper articles
have cited closure of many engineering and medical colleges in recent times due to lack
of filling of seats. But still youth continue to prepare of grueling engineering, medical and
CA entrance exams as if they are on a death sentence.

Why does life seem so crammed up for youth at that sensitive age of 15 to 18 where they
are so stressed to make a decision at gun point? What’s wrong if they just take a
year or two away from regular life ( Which is messy more often ) and indulge in activities
they like,  for example sports, Arts, Music, Entertainment/acting/modeling,
Sketching/Drawing, Architecture etc. Its so tough for children to reply when suddenly
asked what are their long term career goals. I have known CEO’s of companies who
have become CEO’s by a regular mechanism but who really do not know themselves
well as to what they really wanted to be! Gosh…please spare the poor young child of 14
or 15, imagine how his brain gets heated up when suddenly asked what he really wants
to become, he in his anxiety to impress the opposite person blabbers a regular usual
line which many have taken, but does he really want that is the question? We as a
society are to be blamed for this for creating an environment of beaten paths which suck
many a kid into it with not even knowing his true likes and dislikes.

I would recommend good career counselors to pitch in, be a part of the school and
observe students carefully making a note of each kid’s likes, dislikes, his mental
aptitude, his psychology, his behavioral patterns etc in order to help students select an
appropriate UG programme. Students should be encouraged to read newspapers and
magazines regularly to get a real time pulse of what’s happening around them , but they
must’nt get influenced by the society in getting pushed into a regular line which may not
be to their liking! Students must be groomed to develop their own independent thinking
and individuality to put forward their own thoughts and to help them come to their own
finalizations regarding a course which they would take after a good introspection of

If the whole world were to have taken up only engineering and medicine, then we
wouldn’t have a Leonardo Da Vinci, a Sachin Tendulkar, a Pablo Picasso or a Sylvestor
Stallone etc. There’s more to life than being an Engineer or a Doctor. World doesn’t
come to an end if one doesn’t take these branches. I myself regret that had I known
myself well, I probably wouldn’t have done Engineering and an MBA, currently as I have
dabbled my self into Acting. Modelling, Writing, Photography, I perhaps ought to have
taken arts, Visual arts, performing arts, Editing, photography etc. These are the new
age careers which have caught the imagination of the world in delivering sheer joy
interms of having a day to day satisfaction especially if they are artistic and playful by

Not everyone is studious. Not everyone is cut out for the rigorous rigmarole in-order to
prepare for intense entrance exams which majority of them turn out to be an eliminating
form. These entrance exams are precisely designed to eliminate majority of students
and not a selective procedure. I myself know how much stress I underwent along with
nervousness when I had to write my engineering entrance EAMCET twice.

One has to beware on his or her selection as one has to live by the decision he made to
undertake an arduous study programme of 3 to 4 years. If they are not enjoyable, then
one is again forced to change their path after finishing under grad programme and
becoming an ineligible graduate to face the world. The corrections required later on will
seem stiff if they have made wrong choices in selecting their UG programme. For this
not to happen, I advocate all youth not to compare themselves with anyone. Every kid
or every adult is unique with his or her own built of personalities together with their
pshyche and emotions and the emotions play an important part in choosing professions.
What’s the gut feeling of the student? How assertive is he in indicating his likes towards
particular professions. How important is it for parents not to dictate to their children what
they want out of them to score brownie points in the society. Does society really care?
Are we all living a life to impress the society or to really do what we love?

Way forward for upcoming generation is to really do what he or she really likes and
loves doing cause the real joy and happiness is in doing what we love to do rather than
getting imposed by society.

Choosing Subjects and Streams after Class 10: Science (Medical/Engineering), Commerce, Humanities/Arts, Vocational

posted Aug 22, 2019, 2:32 AM by Prashant Bhattacharji   [ updated Aug 22, 2019, 6:40 AM ]

(An aggregation of points from multiple people)

Deciding on a stream after Class 10, can be one of the most challenging decisions in the life of a 15 year old student in India. 
There is a lot of pressure on many students to opt for the Science stream. There is no-size-fits-all rule for selecting streams. 
What is the best subject combination for you, could be terrible for another student. You need to account for several factors, weighted appropriately.

If you already know that you want to pursue undergrad programs in technology, computing, engineering or medicine or natural sciences
There is nothing much to ponder over: you will obviously choose physics and chemistry - with mathematics or biology or both. 
Choosing the fifth subject can be a challenge at times. Try to pick something which is reasonably light, enjoyable and useful in the long run.
CS and informatics practices are understandably popular subjects at the class 11 and 12 level. There is always a lot of value in studying a new 
language as well (foreign or Indian). Avoid picking subjects like economics which involve a lot of pointless workload: the economics syllabus 
of Indian boards, is focused on economic history instead of the basic principles of economics. It is not of much use in the long run.
You should, however, pay attention to your grade 12 mathematics and statistics, if you're interested in a long term career in economics.
Also keep in mind, that its quite easy to switch from science to other fields after class 12. It is much harder (often impossible) to switch from
arts to a science and technology oriented field. However, there are plenty of career options, even on the technomanagerial front, for those 
who pursue commerce with mathematics or computer science. 

If you neither like science and mathematics, nor can manage it 
You have been in school for more than ten years, and by now you have a fair idea about where you interest and aptitude lies: and where it doesn't lie. 
It makes no sense opting for the science stream in this case. Pick something you like and can excel in. 

If you don't like science and mathematics, but can manage it 
This can be a tricky one. Having science in class 11 and 12 does give you a bit of a base required to understand the social sciences much better,
at the college level. For example: economics requires a significant amount of statistics and linear algebra. A good foundation in biology and/or chemistry
can help understand neuroscience and neurochemistry which is so very foundational to the study of human psychology. 
If you scored well in science and math in class 10, you could pursue the science stream with a non-technical fifth subject (or sixth subject) such as
psychology or economics. 

If you scored poorly in science and mathematics, but want to take in in class 11 and 12
This can be a tricky one. The class 10 science score doesn't reveal or indicate very much but a score less than 75 in math should be a bit of a yellow light. 
Physics is very dependent on mathematics and calculus in grades 11 and 12. The jump in physics and mathematics is extremely steep, after class 10.
A lot of students opt for science out of pressure and then regret the choice when they find the workload unmanageable. They end up performing poorly
in class 12 and this restricts a lot of their choices. 

Opting for the humanities with mathematics can open doors to careers related to law, via the well regarded CLAT examination.
Journalism is also a good option after humanities. But be aware that humanities in high school will restrict various options at the time
of college admissions.

Unless you are really unable to handle it, avoid dropping mathematics, regardless of the stream you choose.
Many of the country's top colleges require mathematics as a compulsory subject, at the grade 12 level, even for fields such as commerce and economics. 
This should come as no surprise: commerce requires a fair bit of commercial math and the social sciences (economics, psychology, political science) are
increasingly switching to quantitative and data-intense methods to generate truly evidence-backed research; instead of qualitative research which is often
more prone to human biases. If you drop mathematics in class 11 and class 12, a large number of doors will be slammed in your face at the time of college
admissions post-class-12. And, chances are, that even if you do get admitted to programs like economics - the lack of sufficient math background might 
be a serious impediment in your mastery of your chosen college major. Try to opt for mathematics, at least as an additional sixth subject, in case you
feel that you might not manage a great score in it in your class 12 examinations. The NDA examination also requires mathematics. 
Opting for mathematics at the grade 11-12 level also makes it much easier to understand the physics portion of the medical entrance examination. 
Many of those who perform well in the NEET, opted for both mathematics and biology at the class 12 level. 

Of course: if you have really hated mathematics and struggle with it, do not force yourself to opt for it. 
There are plenty of BA programs in languages and history and fine arts, which do not require mathematics at the class 12 level. 
The only thing is that you should be aware of the doors which will close because of dropping mathematics. 

Try to opt for Computer Science or Informatics if your school offers it. 
Try to opt for one of these subjects regardless of your stream. The software industry is seeing a massive boom and data analysts are in demand. 
Often, many of these jobs do not require an intense STEM background. Basic skills in programming, data structures and algorithms, can take you a long way. 
Even a BA Economics with programming skills can be a good fit for business-analyst and data-analyst roles. The programming exposure in school
is very basic in nature, but it is sufficient to make you comfortable writing some elementary code. It'll also give you a fair sense of whether you'd like to
do this for a living at some point. Some basic programming skills can be extremely useful if you choose to pursue economics or psychology or linguistics - 
econometrics, psychometrics and computational lingustics are fields which involve a mix of computing, statistics and social sciences/symbolic systems. 
In addition, CS has been a very scoring elective in the last couple of decades. A lot of software work is in the space of business related information systems. 
So, computer science can be a great elective for commerce students as well. 

Try to opt for six subjects if you are in the commerce or humanities stream
If you are in the commerce or humanities stream, you probably don't have to worry too much about entrance examinations or lab work. 
If you're in a reasonably good school which offers a variety of electives, use this time to opt for six subjects instead of five. It'll broaden your horizons
and give your education a certain breadth which college may or may not be able to provide. Apart from mathematics and CS (highly recommended)
and English Core (compulsory) and 2 standard humanities/commerce electives; you may also use this phase to explore a vocational subject 
or a foreign language such as French or Mandarin which could make you an invaluable asset in the international expansion plans of various businesses.
Six subjects can also be a blessing at the time of college admissions. Many colleges such as Delhi University, use the score from four subjects (the best four,
including 1-2 which need to be mandatorily included). If you end up with a low score in one or two papers, chances are that your "best four" can be computed
without using these 1-2 scores which ended up bringing down your overall score. 

Commerce with a humanities elective maybe better than the humanities stream
The syllabus for commerce subjects is well structured and rigorous in both CBSE and ISC. 
The same cannot be said for humanities: the syllabus is badly diluted for most subjects and many reputed universities such as 
Oxford or Cambridge, don't accept school leaving certificates from the humanities or arts streams of Indian boards. 
In addition, because of subjectivity, the inter-examiner variability is often high in the humanities or arts subjects; and there is a high degree of 
unpredictability in what scores you'll be awarded. Of course: if the arts and humanities are what truly interest you, that is what you should go ahead with.
There is no point coercing yourself into taking a stream you're not interested in.

Vocational subjects and fine arts
Certain subjects such as computers, informatics practices and biotechnology have a fairly well developed course structure and syllabus. 
It is meaningful to study this. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the hundreds of vocational and fine arts electives which CBSE offers. 
Painting, art, music and engineering-oriented courses are great subjects to learn: but the syllabus is substandard and the assessment is erratic
as there are often insufficient teachers with the training to evaluate scripts of such subjects in the board examinations. 

There is no one-size-fits-all rule which can be applied while selecting subjects. 
You need to factor in your interests, your aptitude and the career paths opened up (or closed) via the subjects you choose in grade 11 and 12. 
Avoid making a decision based on peer pressure or parental pressure because the consequences of this selection of subjects, will often last and reverberate lifelong. 

Choosing a school
If you want to prepare for entrance examinations, it is best to take admission in a school which isn't too particular about attendance. 
Some schools make you sit through half a dozen pre-board examinations: they serve you no purpose, avoid them. 
You could also pick a school which runs an integrated program with FIITJEE Pinnacle and the likes. 
Otherwise: pick a school which has a reputation for good results in the board examination. There are various benefits in being able to claim
that you're an alum of a well known school. "Dummy" schools and dummy admissions should be avoided, as far as possible. 
With CBSE cracking down on the non-attending/dummy business, it is also going to be very risky to enroll in dummy schools.
There is no real need for students to switch from ICSE to CBSE: the syllabus is more or less the same and the former has a more reliable examination system. 
And is perhaps more generous than CBSE in grade 12. However, some ICSE schools are very strict about attendance. Avoid them like the plague.

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.

Here we're going to make a review of one of the best custom writing services. AffordablePapers.com

cheap essay writing service is a place where you can get the expected quality for your money. Are you interested in what has made AffordablePapers.com the favorite helper for most students? Keep on reading this AffordablePapers.com review, which is aimed at helping you to make the right decision.

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  • Essay (any type)

  • Book review

  • Case study

  • Dissertation

  • Term paper

  • Critical thinking

  • Lab report

  • Coursework

The list can be continued because they accept any academic paper order. This feature makes AffordablePapers.com a reliable helper able to assist with any task.

The Best Price-Quality Ratio

Another important criterion that plays not the last role in the choice of a writer is the cost of services. If you buy a paper here, you will be pleasantly surprised by the prices they charge. The initial price starts from $9 per page, which is the cheapest price ever. The paper cost depends on three factors here. They are an academic level, the number of pages, and the urgency.

Experienced Writers' Team

AffordablePapers.com has a team of writers, each of which has completed thousands of academic essays. They have over ten years of experience. During the period of work, over two million pages have been already written by their experts. Sounds impressive, doesn't it? You can be sure that all writers are well-educated. All writers pass a serious test before they are hired. Moreover, each essay writer and editor improve their knowledge and skills on a regular basis to offer top-notch quality assistance.

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What differs this essay writing service is that they offer to give your money back if something goes wrong. This option is the best quality guarantee for a customer who doesn't take risks at all. The guarantee to provide a client with the full money-refund is the 100% evidence of the trustworthiness of AffordablePapers.com writing and editing service online.

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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

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