The perils of e-fixation
A new study carried out by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has generated sufficient evidence to say that computers in schools do not necessarily contribute to higher achievement levels by children. The study compared different OECD countries in terms of the average daily time spent by children in computer-assisted learning in the classroom. It used this data to review the achievement levels of children in these countries in the surveys conducted under OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). The findings have received worldwide attention, both in the daily press and scholarly circles.
In India, however, the news of this study aroused no interest. Like all Western countries, India has invested a vast amount of public funds for the supply of computers to schools. Since the 1990s, State governments have spiritedly promoted the use of computers in teaching. In private schools too, the idea that computers enhance children's academic achievement has been assumed to be true. The OECD study compels us to revisit this assumption and the policies based on it.
The OECD study uses two kinds of data from different countries. One set of data consists of children's scores in the PISA tests of reading and mathematics. The other set of data is about the availability and use of computers and Internet in schools and homes. These two kinds of data have been analysed to find out whether computer-based teaching in the classroom improves children's ability to read purposefully, and their performance in science and mathematics. The analysis leads to mixed results.
East Asian countries score
In countries where computers and the Internet are used frequently in the classroom, students have not consistently achieved high scores in digital reading, maths or science. On the other hand, countries like South Korea, Japan and Singapore, where classroom use of computers and the Internet is relatively limited or minimal, students have achieved consistently high scores over the recent years. This finding has understandably raised some basic issues and questions about the policies followed in major European countries with the OECD's inspiration and guidance. The finding also causes a dilemma.
It is an accepted fact that young people need to be competent in the use of computers and Internet in order to do well in the job market. If the new study means that German or British schools are fulfilling this at a high price, what should they do to reduce that price? As a first step, the OECD study implies, the European world needs to learn from countries like South Korea, Singapore, Japan and the Shanghai region of China where the highest PISA scorers live.
It is not just the OECD that has seen cause to be impressed by teachers in some of the East Asian countries. Scholars and travellers have been telling stories of a similar kind for years. These are stories of better-managed school systems and more focused policies. Of course, there are contradictions too, and it is not easy to believe that East Asian children are significantly less vulnerable to the problems that easy access to the Internet create. As noted American child psychologist David Elkind has pointed out, these problems are both cognitive and emotional. He has advised caution in the use of new digital tools for teaching children.
The OECD study suggests that East Asian countries are exercising this kind of caution. In any case, the policy environment across East Asia is a lot more positive as far as teachers are concerned. Imagine teachers being lathi -charged in Singapore or being underpaid, as they are in the State of Madhya Pradesh.
As a nation, India has persisted in meting out shoddy treatment to children and their teachers. State policies have become increasingly inexplicable. How would you explain, for example, the distribution of free laptops to thousands of children in Uttar Pradesh? Ultimately, the State government stopped the distribution and admitted that it was a mistake because it had not yielded the expected electoral dividend. States like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar and Maharashtra have pursued equally bizarre ideas in their curriculum policies.
In many regions of India, lack of focus and volatility characterise both routine and reform activities in education. The two things that count in childhood — health and education — have become scarce, expensive commodities. Yet, in all States, equipping schools with computers is treated as a reliable short cut to higher quality. This is why it is important that the OECD study is read and discussed in State-level Directorates of Education.
One important message the OECD study conveys is that teachers matter even more in computer-equipped classrooms. The digital environment requires a greater engagement between the teacher and students over any subject matter. This necessity arises out of the nature of tools involved in the new information and communication technologies (ICTs). Both the speed at which the technologies respond and the quantum of information they provide need dexterous negotiation by the user. Students using a computer with Internet need to develop considerable experience and skills of mindful reading to be able to spot important points and trace how they have been arrived at. When a variety of sources are available, students need to know how to distinguish reliable sources from the rest. Skills of this kind require painstaking guidance by a competent teacher. Indeed, the engagement expected between the teacher and the student would be higher in a computer-assisted lesson than in a conventional lesson.
Indian administrators lack vision
This is not the way government officers in India look at ICT in education. Over the years, they have treated the computer as a device that can make the teacher dispensable, even disposable. Millions of rupees have been spent on equipping schools with computers and millions more have been saved by reducing expenditure on teacher recruitment, emoluments, and training. The administrators responsible for educational planning and implementation have no idea or vision of their own, and they seldom stay in their post long enough to witness the consequences of their decisions.
When it comes to preparing children and teachers for the problems and demands that the digital environment poses for education, India's policies seem to be unabashedly romantic. Purchase and supply of technology to schools appear to be the only challenges the government worries about. At what age children need introduction to ICT and how their progress is to be guided have received considerable attention in national-level resource institutions, but who cares for their advice? In the States, directorates do as they wish or as the Ministers wish. New equipment has been conventionally valued for its toy value. The market, in any case, perceives schools as a legitimate target for bulk sales.
So, we now have schools without water in their toilets but CCTVs fitted all over. Conventional resources like maps and libraries receive no attention anymore. The new-age administrators believe that the Internet can address all pedagogic needs. They do not understand curriculum policies or examination reforms. Nor do they appreciate the progressive initiatives taken under the Right to Education (RTE) law. The Delhi government is busy deleting chapters from textbooks and the Rajasthan government is ready with an amendment to the RTE so that its provision for no-detention can be dropped. In the middle of such determination, it is difficult indeed to imagine that the OECD study will receive any attention in India. Yet, it is just as relevant for us as for any other country. It reminds us that learning at school needs sober planning. It also points out that some of the most popular ideas and assumptions of our time require further reflection and fine-tuning. This advice is, of course, not new. Teachers and educational theorists all over the world have been counselling caution for years. How the new digital order affects childhood is a subject no one can claim to know or understand fully. The OECD study asks us to reflect on both the potential and limitations of the new tools now available for learning and teaching.
Psychologists started to decipher the process of learning in childhood more than a hundred years ago. Jerome Bruner, arguably the most respected living psychologist today, wrote in an article a few years ago that a century of research on learning tells that we know very little about it. That means we need to be modest in our hopes, and substantially worried about the tumult our children are facing in a world that looks radically different from the one their parents know and live in.
( Prof. Krishna Kumar is professor of education at Delhi University and a former director of NCERT .)
Governments have treated the computer as a device that can make the teacher dispensable. Millions have been spent on equipping schools with computers and millions more have been saved by reducing expenditure on teacher recruitment
A recent OECD study shows that better technology in classrooms does not always translate into better learning outcomes. It is time Indian policymakers gave up their over-reliance on technology when it comes to school education and focus on teacher training instead
The new-age administrators believe that the Internet can address all pedagogic needs. They do not understand curriculum policies or examination reforms. Nor do they appreciate the progressive initiatives taken under the Right to Education law
Students need to know how to distinguish reliable sources from the rest. Skills of this kind require painstaking guidance by a competent teacher in a computer-assisted classroom
Serious and immediate danger.
Force or oblige (someone) to do something.
Of or relating to cognition.
Demonstrating neat skill, especially with the hands.
Done with or employing great care and thoroughness.
Able to be replaced or done without; superfluous.
(of an article) intended to be used once, or until no longer useful, and then thrown away.
A salary, fee, or profit from employment or office.
Not embarrassed, disconcerted, or ashamed.
Based on or in accordance with what is generally done or believed.
Of or relating to teaching.
Not affected by alcohol; not drunk.
Convert (a text written in code, or a coded signal) into normal language.
A loud, confused noise, especially one caused by a large mass of people.
· Meted out: to give in portions
Bank of Baroda fraud poses new challenges for PSU banks.The alleged fraud in Bank of Baroda is no small matter, even though the amount that is reported to have been remitted abroad illegally has been scaled down by the bank from an earlier estimate of Rs 6,100 crore to Rs 3,500 crore. There are many reasons why this fraud could have happened. First, the bank does not appear to have made a loss in this matter - one reason, perhaps, why officials concerned could have been lulled into complacency. This is all the more an issue at a time when public sector banks are being asked to pull up their socks and take care of their troubled bottom line. The modus operandi of the perpetrators of the fraud appears to have been simple enough - send out small amounts which do not require immediate reporting to the Reserve Bank of India as advance remittance for imports, which were eventually never made.
The key issue that arises is: what happened to the bill of entry prepared by the Customs indicating that the goods had actually come in? Established banking procedures required that a document must be submitted to the bank handling the transaction in the case of advance remittances. Obviously either these were forged or not submitted at all. All this points to palpable negligence on the part of the bank officials concerned. Their job is not just to follow the rules but also to ask questions on seeing suspicious behaviour. For example, why should innumerable small transactions be put through over a period adding up to a sizeable sum? Most importantly, due diligence does not appear to have been done in the case of both the bank's customers, the importers, and the exporters in Hong Kong.
Apparently, fictitious addresses were given when the accounts of importing companies were opened. Banks have well-established drills, which if followed would have identified the misleading actions. Equally important is the guarantee that the banker to the importer has to take from the banker to the exporter in cases where advance remittances are made, in order to ensure that a genuine exporter is in fact exporting the goods. Also, the remitting bank should have asked why the importer was transferring rupee funds to the remitter from his accounts in other banks when those banks should have come forward to grab a part of the lucrative remittance business. True, the fraud was detected by the bank's own auditors but this still keeps open the question of adequate supervision of branches by controlling offices and proper systems and processes being in place and followed. The latest fraud reiterates the well-known truth that frauds in banks do not take place unless the dealing officials in them are complicit and controlling offices are sleepy.
The fraud poses troubling questions for the government, which is after all the owner of the bank. It was left headless for 14 months. What does this do to internal morale and discipline? What does the fraud do to the morale of other public sector banks? Its impact on the public sector banks' lending operations could be adverse as more officers would now be wary of their actions. There is also the issue of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's electoral promise to bring back huge amounts of black money. The amount declared under the government's scheme in question is pathetically low - and now there is a massive fraud which points to big money still going out.
A sum of money sent, especially by mail, in payment for goods or services or as a gift.
· The public was lulled into complacency.
<a momentary complacency that was quickly dispelled by the shock of cold reality>
: a feeling of being satisfied with how things are and not wanting to try to make them better : a complacent feeling or condition
· modus operandi
>a particular way or method of doing something
(perpetrate) perform an act, usually with a negative connotation; "perpetrate a crime"; "pull a bank robbery"
Able to be touched or felt.
Too many to be counted (often used hyperbolically).
Involved with others in an illegal activity or wrongdoing.
Feeling or showing caution about possible dangers or problems
>without a head.
>having the head cut off; beheaded.
?>having no leader or chief; leaderless.
a headless argument.
A tax too far
Prodded into action by Delhi's worsening air quality and pollution, the Supreme Court last week approved the imposition of a green tax on commercial vehicles entering the city. A bench led by Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu modified the National Green Tribunal's October 7 order, which had proposed that this "environmental compensation charge" be levied on top of the municipal tax paid by such vehicles. But while the courts have been at the vanguard of the movement to reduce pollution and nudge the government into taking action to improve environmental indicators, the raising of new taxes by the judiciary runs the risk of trespassing into the executive's turf.
It is, of course, not difficult to see why the courts might feel compelled to act. The WHO has deemed Delhi the most polluted city in the world. A spate of studies has chronicled the catastrophic effects of air pollution on public health. Air pollution is already estimated to be the fifth-largest killer in India. Another study calculates a dramatic loss of 3.3 years from life expectancy at birth. Most alarming was the Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute's finding, that almost half of the children between the ages of four and 17 in the capital are growing up with irreversible lung damage. Earlier this month, the CJI lamented that his grandson "looks like a ninja" because of the mask he is forced to wear due to Delhi's poisonous air.
Central and state governments have failed to mount an adequate response. Back in April, when concern over ambient air quality in Indian cities was at its peak, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a national air quality index. Yet, little appears to have happened since. The courts have previously filled the vacuum when dithering governments failed to discharge their duty. But taxation is not a judicial power, and the courts should explore other means of compelling the government to act.
Poke (someone) with a finger, foot, or pointed object.
A group of people leading the way in new developments or ideas.
Prod (someone) gently, typically with one's elbow, in order to draw their attention to something.
Enter the owner's land or property without permission.
Force or oblige (someone) to do something.
Not able to be undone or altered.
A conventional way of describing someone who has died or something that has been lost or that has ceased to exist
· a situation created when an important person or thing has gone and has not been replaced — usually singular
Her death has caused/created/left a vacuum [=void] in our lives.
A new leader is needed to fill the vacuum left by his retirement.
Oct 15 2015 : The Times of India (Ahmedabad)
Run River Run
China is damming the Brahmaputra, India needs a water sharing agreement
Operationalisation of the $1.5 billion Zangmu Hydropower Project marks the beginning of a series of Chinese dams on the Brahmaputra and other rivers originating in the Tibetan plateau. Disruption of water flows is not an immediate concern as the Chinese have assured that this is a run of the river project without any reservoirs to store water. But in the long term it is a serious concern for India, Bhutan and Bangladesh through which this mighty river flows on its long journey to the sea. The large number of dams China has planned on the Tibetan plateau will have major repercussions on environment and climate in the region.
Though India has made known its concerns about this, the Chinese have not been very responsive. Till now all that India has achieved is an agreement on the sharing of hydrological information on the flows of the Brahmaputra.But this is clearly not enough given that China is planning to build a few hundred new power projects in the Himalayas, including some major ones which plan to divert the water flows to eastern China, the repercussion of which could be disastrous for its neighbours.
This means that India must make the sharing of waters from the Himalayan rivers a priority issue with China, along with the boundary dispute and the trade imbalance. India has negotiated successful water sharing agreements with Pakistan and can repeat this with China. This would not only help build confidence on both sides for much bigger deals, including one that involves settling the boundary dispute, but will also diffuse the possibilities of waging new water wars as the scarcity of the resource intensifies in the coming decades.
Build a dam across (a river or lake)
An unintended consequence occurring some time after an event or action, especially an unwelcome one.
Spread or cause to spread over a wide area or among a large number of people.
Carry on (a war or campaign).
Oct 15 2015 : The Economic Times (Mumbai)
PM Says it Right,
Now Let's Move On BJP should heed Modi's Dadri statements Two statements by the Prime Minister over the last few days on the Dadri incident have done much to restore equilibrium in political discourse. Both his statements, at a campaign rally in Bihar and to a vernacular daily , were unambiguous in their condemnation of the crime in Dadri and the subsequent attempts to stoke tension.Even the severest critics of Narendra Modi can't now critique him of not intervening by using his high office. The debate over whether he should have spoken earlier or not can carry on endlessly , but the important point really is that the Prime Minister has made his stand clear. Now that the PM has firmly spoken his mind, the political class, including BJP, should move on. Police investigation into the terrible tragedy must carry on and, hopefully, the Samajwadi Party in UP ensure a free, fair and quick police procedure. National political conversation must, however, get back to the point where what one eats no longer becomes a political issue. BJP as a party must take the lead from its Prime Minister and enforce strong discipline on errant elements, and get the message across to the so-called fringe outfits as well. It will be in BJP's interest to send the message that any untoward statement will be met with forceful counterstatement from the ruling party .The Opposition on its part should not attempt to keep the issue alive, provided, of course, BJP follows Modi's example and continues to say the right thing. The Prime Minister, BJP's biggest political asset by far and whose personal popularity remains of a fairly high order, can perhaps instruct the party to keep it sensible.BJP isn't the only party that hosts people prone to making unacceptable statements. But no other party has as much to lose. The PM understands this and doubtless he can make his party understand it, too. Especially this: as the economy shows signs of revival and as Bihar gets ready to deliver a crucial electoral verdict, BJP has much to do as India's ruling party . India's multicultural society is ideally suited for economic dynamism arising from diverse interactions, provided that diversity is respected.
Pay attention to; take notice of.
Written or spoken communication or debate.
The language or dialect spoken by the ordinary people in a particular country or region.
The expression of very strong disapproval; censure.
An ornamental border of threads left loose or formed into tassels or twists, used to edge clothing or material.
view on Europe and Belarus: engage without illusion
vetlana Alexievich, who won this year's Nobel literature prize, knows a thing or two about the Soviet and the post-Soviet mind. In her books, she has beautifully explored the words, anxieties, hopes and life experience of those who lived under the communist dictatorship and then saw the end of the USSR. She also stands out as the most powerful voice today relaying the democratic aspirations of Belarus, the country where she grew up – a society that remains in the grip of Europe's last autocrat, Alexander Lukashenko.
This was not just a wise Nobel prize, but a timely one. It came just days before Mr Lukashenko, who has been in power for over two decades, sought a fifth presidential mandate for himself. Quasi-Soviet official results were announced on Monday, handing him 83% of votes. Meanwhile, street demonstrations broke out in the capital, Minsk, in protest against what all independent observers describe as a fraudulent electoral process.
The paradox is that, as Belarus's electoral masquerade unfolded, the EU signalled its intention to ease some of the sanctions it had imposed 10 years ago in response to Mr Lukashenko's repressive methods. That amounted to ignoring Ms Alexievich's warnings about the vote, which she flagged up by recalling an old Stalinist saying: "It's unimportant who votes for whom, what matters is who counts the vote."
So why does the EU seem set to engage with Mr Lukashenko? He has, it is true, released political prisoners before the election, and also avoided the sort of violent crackdowns he has been known for in the past. It's true, also, that bringing Belarus in from the cold might be worth a few EU concessions. Russia's aggression in Ukraine has created a completely different strategic landscape. One result is that Mr Lukashenko has become very worried that Russian military adventurism might one day threaten his hold on power. There are plenty of ultra-nationalists in Moscow who might welcome the chance to gobble up Belarus into a Russian imperial pan-Slavic union. Such fears could certainly encourage Mr Lukashenko to seek to break out of Russia's tight embrace, by seeking to end his diplomatic isolation in the west.
The EU should not dismiss this hope, but any diplomatic overture should come with great caution. The EU should not hand Mr Lukashenko the ultimate prize of complete relegitimisation. It's important to stick to an approach where sanction relief comes only in the form of a temporary and partial suspension – not complete cancellation. Strict conditions should be attached for further European moves: the citizens of Belarus, just as those of Ukraine, are entitled to live in a normal democracy. It's also important to remember that across the border, in Russia, democracy activists will be watching closely.
Belarus's dictator has long mastered the art of carrying out a balancing act between a Europe that has rightly shunned him for years, and Putin's Russia, which keeps his economy afloat and is intent on checking the spread of democracy in the region. This is a case where the EU can and must have strong influence. It is in Europe's best interests to make sure the right levers are kept handy, to ensure that good behaviour can be rewarded, and that any dictatorial backsliding will come with a high price. Svetlana Alexievich is right to say Mr Lukashenko cannot be trusted.
· stand by
1. To be ready or available to act.
2. To wait for something, such as a broadcast, to resume.
3. To remain uninvolved; refrain from acting: stood by and let him get away.
4. To remain loyal to; aid or support: stands by her friends.
5. To keep or maintain: stood by her decision.
· stand down
1. Law To leave a witness stand.
2. To withdraw, as from a political contest.
3. To end a state of readiness or alert.
4. To go off duty.
· stand for
1. To represent; symbolize.
2. To advocate or support: stands for freedom of the press.
3. To put up with; tolerate: We will not stand for impertinent behavior.
· stand in
To act as a stand-in.
· stand off
1. To stay at a distance; remain apart or aloof.
2. To put off; evade.
3. Nautical To maintain a course away from shore.
· Stand on
1. To be based on; depend on: The success of the project stands on management's support of it.
2. To insist on observance of: stand on ceremony; stand on one's rights.
· stand out
1. To protrude; project.
2. To be conspicuous, distinctive, or prominent.
3. To refuse compliance or maintain opposition; hold out: stand out against a verdict.
4. Nautical To maintain a course away from shore.
· stand over
1. To watch or supervise closely.
2. To hold over; postpone.
· stand to
To take up positions for action.
· stand up
1. To remain valid, sound, or durable: His claim will not stand up in court. Our old car has stood up well over time.
2. Informal To fail to keep a date with.
· stand a chance
To have a chance, as of gaining or accomplishing something.
· stand (one's) ground
1. To maintain one's position against an attack.
2. To refuse to compromise; be unyielding.
· stand on (one's) head
Sports To make numerous sprawling or dramatic saves. Used of a goalie.
· stand on (one's) own/two feet
To be independent and responsible for oneself.
· stand pat
1. To oppose or resist change.
2. Games To play one's poker hand without drawing more cards.
· stand to reason
To be consistent with reason: It stands to reason that if we leave late, we will arrive late.
· stand up for
1. To side with; defend.
2. To stand up with.
· stand up to
To confront fearlessly; face up to.
· stand up with
To act as best man or maid of honor for (the groom or bride) at a wedding.
A false show or pretense.
(especially of a social or political system) inhibiting or restraining the freedom of a person or group of people.
· flag up >to mention something so that people know about it
They've already flagged up several problems.
Severe measures to restrict or discourage undesirable or illegal people or behavior.
An introduction to something more substantial.
Persistently avoid, ignore, or reject (someone or something) through antipathy or caution.
· gobble up - eat a large amount of food quickly; "The children gobbled down most of the birthday cake"