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Covid-19 unmasks state of education in various states: Bijaya Kumar Saho



Dr Bijaya Kumar Sahoo, advisor to the Odisha government and founder & chairman of SAI International Education Group, talks to The Daily Guardian on how Covid-19 has impacted India’s education system, especially in the rural areas, and the way forward. Excerpts:

Q. Most schools are running digital classes but do you think this will suffice?

A. Technology will always be an enabler in the teaching and learning process. We were already using technology in our classrooms as smart-classes; however, the difference today is that students are not there in the school for that we had to take the classrooms to the homes of the children with the aid of digital technology. This is the new normal and the future of education will be blended learning with an ideal mix of online and offline teaching and learning process.

At the Odisha Adarsha Vidyalayas, the Odisha government-run CBSE, English medium schools, one in each block of the state, we have imbedded technology in the teaching and learning processes by using all mediums, starting from Zoom and Google Meet virtual classes, reaching out to students through WhatsApp, cell phones, YouTube. We have been able to cover 60-70% students as most of our schools are present in most interior and forest covered remote areas of the state.

Q. What are the current challenges before schools especially in rural areas?

A. As per the ASER survey report 2019, almost 90% of rural children in the age group of 4-8 years have started going to school. But at the same time the report also indicates that more than 50% of the students in 5th standard attending rural schools are not capable of reading a second standard textbook and are not able to solve simple mathematical problems. While when we talk about the education scenario during the pandemic in the rural areas is a little unprecedented and the Covid times have surely unmasked the state of affairs in various states of India. The school shut down has impacted the economically weaker sections of the society. After recovering from the pandemic, the second huge challenge for the students will be the completion of course. The time of the lockdown will take the student back to knowing nothing. The less privileged school children have minimum access to technology even in the 21st century. It is difficult for schools to bring in online learning platforms. For the reasons of minimum grants to set up technology enabled remote classes and the inability of students in remotely accessing online platforms.

Q. The primary and pre-primary students need parental guidance during e-classes. What should be done so that young students don’t miss learning during the pandemic?

A. Since we have moved the classrooms into homes, parents are taking up the primary role in ensuring that the e-classes are conducted seamlessly as a facilitator of e-learning. Yes, indeed students need parental guidance during e-classes. Much has been spoken about raising the EQ (Emotional Quotient) in children, but now is the time to introduce DQ (Digital Quotient) among the parents as well as the children. DQ is the awareness and application of existing and emerging digital technologies, capabilities, practices and strategies and how to be friendly with it. In the digital world the DQ will play a major role in shaping the future generation.

 Q. Schools are facing a financial crisis. Meanwhile parents too are unable to pay fees for their children. What should be done to find a middle ground?

A. The pandemic has brought about a financial crisis for everyone, including the institutes; however, they need to be maintained so as to keep them ready to welcome the students when the lockdown is lifted. Normally the fixed cost of schools is 85% to 90% of the revenue; we all need to be mindful of the fact that private schools are not funded by the government and survive on fees collected from parents. Parents also have their financial crisis, loss of jobs and loss in business, etc, so there needs to be a middle path. A path on which both parents and schools can walk hand in hand. There needs to be an atmosphere of positive co-existence of partnership between parents and the institutions for the bright future of the students.

Q. What changes do you suggest in current policies to ensure better learning in schools?

 A. I feel India has a long way to go to transform the education system. A few changes, I feel, that can bring about a change are:

1. Not just rote learning: More focus should be given on blended learning rather than on rote learning; the emphasis should be on head, heart and hand than on reading writing and arithmetic;

2. Student-centric learning: The teaching should be from the students’ perspective and the teacher’s role should shift from a mere a teacher to a learning curator who will enable learning and guide the students in the right direction;

3. Changing assessment system: This will allow students to follow their passion without the fear of failure and they will be assessed based not just on the marks obtained but on the various other factors such as their logical and analytical skills, their creativity, their aptitude, their skill sets which may vary from student to student and not make it look quantified;

4. Experiential Learning: Learning with experience or learning through reflection of doing, by applying the theory to get the realworld experience. This will help students comprehend topics and also help them retain them.

5. Integrating AI into education: Covid has proved that learning is possible even while staying at home. AI-augmented learning is the need of the hour in the education system so that learning becomes uniform and equal for both urban and rural children.

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The Indian Coast Guard, Ministry of Defence, has released an official notification regarding the recruitment process of Navik, the domestic branch (cook and steward). All the interested and eligible candidates are requested to visit the official website, i.e.,, to read the notification, and apply, once the process starts. As per the notice, there are a total of 50 vacancies. The online application dates are 30 November to 7 December. Candidates have to pass class 10th with 50% marks in aggregate from a board of Education recognised by central/state government (5% relaxation in above minimum cut off will be given for SC / ST candidates and outstanding sportsperson of national level).

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Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) CA exam admit cards can be downloaded from the official website using the registration numbers and other required details. The CA foundation, intermediate and final exams will be held from 21 November to 15 December. “Candidates for ICAI Exams starting from November 21, 2020, are informed that exams will be held as per schedule,” the ICAI said, adding: “They [candidates] should only concentrate on exam studies and not be misled by any false propaganda/incorrect statements made and should only refer to announcements at”

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The University of Delhi will commence the postgraduate level entrance exam and merit-based admissions for over 54 courses offered by the university from Wednesday. “The admission to some of the courses is either based only through entrance or through both entrance and merit. All the applicants whose final year results have been declared by the University must update their marks on their dashboard. Applicants whose final year result of the qualifying examination has not been declared yet should wait to update their marks.”

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Covid-19 has jolted the global economy and sent ripples across various sectors, including education. The nationwide lockdown led to the closure of schools and colleges. The B-schools too have taken a major brunt of the situation, with their admission timelines, classes, and placements getting severely impacted. Most government and private B-schools postponed classes, semester examinations, convocations, and group discussion (GD) and personal interview (PI) rounds, following the guidelines that were laid down.


Many B-schools deferred their placement process, cancelled semesters, and suspended internships as they wait for some semblance of normalcy to be restored. Apart from the pedagogical and infrastructural challenges, the management institutions are faced with the task to reinvent themselves so that they can future-proof students for tomorrow.

The ongoing crisis has mandated a shift to the digital medium for every B-school so that any future disruptions do not hamper the education system, as it happened now due to poor preparedness. Going digital has been troublesome because nobody was ready for such a turn of events. The pandemic has raised a need to adopt more innovative ways to impart education services at all levels.

However, a few challenges are in order before a smooth transition to online takes place. First, uninterrupted access to the Internet is yet to be achieved in tier-2, tier-3, and remote cities in India. Second, we lack a comprehensive policy regulation that can lead to ambiguity and vagueness with regard to the operational framework. Also, online learning needs to take cognizance of the different learning patterns and pace of students so that customised solutions can be devised for them. Additionally, the concerns around increased screen time and stress and anxiety triggered due to the continuous use of electronic devices will also have to be addressed.


Given the current circumstances, online classes have become the most pragmatic solution to ensure continuous and seamless education. Various schools and universities have developed an intranet system due to which they could adopt video broadcasting tools like Zoom and Google Hangout. Such video solutions can help educators organize live stream classroom sessions for students. Video broadcasting enables learning through recording, live video, audio, real-time Q&A chat via mobile app or website.

Asynchronous learning programs can be leveraged to allow students to complete courses without any compulsions to be present at a particular time or place such as in discussion boards. These technologies are student-friendly and student-focused. In addition, social media channels and their feature of real-time messaging can be harnessed by leading B-schools to address remote learning challenges. This can help education reach every student’s doorstep. Social Media Channels are helping colleges and other institutions provide information with a legit multiplier impact so that the ‘learning anytime, anywhere’ ideology can be embraced effectively.

Emerging technologies that will play a critical role in the enhancement of the online education model include artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR). AR and VR can provide smart and immersive interactive experiences to students. Video calls between students and professors with a real-time experience can give ground-breaking results in terms of engagement and knowledge retention.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) recreates the human intelligence procedure. It helps in the grading of tests as it can eliminate the risk of human errors and unjust biases. It can also assist educators in creating online tests in various formats such as multiple-choice questions (MCQ), skills, essays, aptitude-based questions, and typing. On the evaluation front, these automated solutions are in-built with an intuitive multi-section window where the evaluator can change to various settings to convey explicit evaluations. The AI-empowered video interviews help generate extensive and detailed student reports based on internal score and performance.


The newly-enacted National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 couldn’t have come at a better time. The policy is a positive re-imagination of India’s education system with an aim to overhaul it into a progressive, practical, and equitable regime. Effective execution of this policy requires the re-prioritization of budgetary resources. The policy envisions revolutionary structural reforms for higher education. It promotes a flexible three- or four-years degree programme structure at the undergraduate level, allowing multiple exits to learners even after 1 year with certification.

The departure from the current three-year model is meant to encourage and inculcate a research component at the undergraduate level, which in turn, will lead to a degree with research by the time of its completion. Students who are mid-term dropouts would be awarded credit for the term they completed and an option to complete their degree after the break. Colleges will not be affiliated to any university. The deemed university status will also be put to an end. Over the next 15 years, graded autonomy will be extended to colleges to provide degrees.

NEP 2020 has its eye set on designing a multi-disciplinary curriculum that is touted to be a game-changer. The top-rated global universities would be encouraged to come to India while top Indian universities will be motivated to go global. Creative combinations of subjects and vocational education will be the primary focus. The policy emphasises teaching ‘21st-century’ skills like mathematical thinking and creative temperament that will go a long way in preparing students for the competitive professional world.

The new education policy, in a nutshell, seeks to upskill management graduates in areas that will help them future-proof themselves and be relevant to the changing job market scenario.


In times of economic distress, sound education becomes more important than ever. Due to the disruption caused by Covid-19, there is a rise in the demand for tailored courses keeping in view the changing economic and social dynamics of a post-pandemic world. The coronavirus crisis has shown students many new employment possibilities.

As large amounts of the economy move online, technologies like big data and cloud have helped businesses manage data more efficiently, indicating the opening up of more lucrative job positions. The surge in data usage will lead to more demand for data engineers, data analysts, data scientists, and ML/AI engineers. Short-term programme by FORE of 5 Months is helping a lot on the same.

As remote working becomes popular, skilled IT students who can serve as security architects and ethical hackers will be more sought-after. More management graduates will be needed to manage such high-tech businesses, as well as more managerial positions across other verticals, are bound to open up.


We are living in tough times. Many of the students and graduates will be the first ones in a new generation to make the most of their recently-acquired education and skills in a post-coronavirus world. Therefore, it goes without saying that skilling, hard work, and targeting the right opportunities will be the key factors in the success and adapting to change.

The writer is director, FORE School of Management.

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The MBA-IB offered by the IIFT is a much sought-after programme for students across the country. However, to make your way to the top of the admission list, a few pointers have to be kept in mind.



The Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT) is the only institution among the top B-schools in India which is currently offering an MBA programme in International Business (MBA-IB). IIFT institutes are located at two locations, Delhi and Kolkata, with a proposition of launching its new Kakinada campus with 60 seats in 2021. The Dar-es-Salaam campus of IIFT has also started operating.

The NTA conducts the IIFT entrance exam in online mode for candidates interested in pursuing its flagship programme of MBA-IB. But there are a few things to be kept in mind for the entrance exam in 2021.


The 2021 entrance exam will be a computer-based test and not a paper-based test. The timings have also undergone a change: the test will now be held from 3 PM to 5 PM, as against the previous 10 AM-12 PM slot.

The IIFT exam consists of multiple-choice objective type questions and will have four major sections in its 2021 instalment, instead of the earlier six. Each section has a different number of questions. VARC, Quant, DILR will have the same scoring pattern, while GK will have a different one. At least 4-5 reading comprehension passages of moderate difficulty are also to be expected.

The IIFT 2021 edition will be a single session test and the exam will be held in 68 cities across India on January 24, 2021.


The IIFT exam will have three stages to be cleared by the applicant. The first is the writing skill assessment round, meant to check the writing skills and critical analysis capabilities of the candidates. The ones who mark their place in the cut-off list of IIFT 2021 will be eligible to sit for this round.

The topic for writing will be given on the spot, and candidates will be told to complete an essay within the stipulated time. The topic can be about any topic under the sun, including politics, business and the corporate world, the Indian or global economy, sports, media and communication, social reforms and the society and law and amendments.

The topic and time duration will be set by the admission selection authorities of the IIFT and any query regarding the round must be brought up to the authority without delay. After the completion of this round and declaration of the results, selected candidates will be sent for the next round of the selection procedure, which is a group discussion (GD).

The motive for the GD round is to test the thinking capabilities, levels of knowledge, and skills for speaking and debating. The topics for the round can emerge from any prominent subjects, mostly including economics, management, business, politics, science and technology, media and mass communication, law, sports and literature.

Selected candidates will be given time to prepare talking points on the topic and asked to discuss it in groups of seven or eight people. The trick to succeeding in this round is to counter question the points put forth by other candidates and make sure that valid and correct arguments are used to do that.

The candidates who perform well in the GD will be cleared for the personal interview (PI), the final round in the selection process. The main aim of this round is to judge the candidates’ understanding of the course they are about to opt for along with their interest in the subject matter.

Candidates can expect a panel of judges to ask them questions from any field, including the personal life of the candidate. Answering their questions with confidence is key for this round. The candidates’ responses will be examined on terms decided by the judges, and those deemed fit will be put on the final list of students selected for admission.

The GD and PI will take place in February 2021 in various cities, including Mumbai, Lucknow, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Delhi, Chennai and Bengaluru.

Shortlisted candidates will have to submit a Statement of Purpose (SoP), considered a significant criterion for the IIFT selection procedure, and pay the requisite fee. Later, the candidates can choose a campus (either in New Delhi or Kolkata), based on which, seat allotment would be carried out. However, the candidates who get selected in the IIFT entrance examination will be given first preference during the seat allotment.


Firstly, it is important to identify strong and weak areas and work on them. This would include regular practice and solving questions and mock tests, and developing a proper understanding of the basic concepts to help apply advanced tricks. It is also important to establish a balance between speed and accuracy. Neither should be too low. Moreover, it would help a candidate to read as much as they can to improve language and comprehension skills.

Since sectional cut-offs are important in the IIFT tests, taking a section-wise approach can also be really helpful. For instance, candidates may prepare for Reading Comprehension and Verbal Ability in ten days, Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation in ten days, and Quantitative Analysis and General Knowledge in another ten-day period. Identifying any usual types of questions by going through previous years’ papers and practising them on a daily basis can also help.

For Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning, which is a time-consuming section, timed practice tests would improve reading speed. The Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension sections can be mastered by building proficiency in English grammar, syntax and vocabulary, phrases and idioms, and reading skills. The Reading Comprehension section generally has 4-5 passages, so it is impractical to attempt all of them are they are likely to be lengthy. Keep in mind that at least two passages would be easier than the rest, and candidates can maximise on their scores by reading fast and going through the questions before answering.

For the Quantitative Aptitude questions, candidates would need to enhance basic mathematical skills and practise topics like time, distance, work and heights, simple and compound interest, mensuration, permutation and combination and geometry.

The General Awareness paper holds the least weightage, but the section is still important in proving the merit of a candidate. To proceed with it, first, one should divide the section in two parts: static and dynamic. Then, read the Manorama Yearbook and daily newspapers thoroughly, with a focus on current events, business and trade and policies of India with other countries.

The writer is a senior faculty member at T.I.M.E. Delhi.

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The registration process of the Odisha NEET Counselling 2020 began on 10 November on the official website of Odisha Joint Entrance Examination Committee. Candidates who wish to register for it can do so by visiting Only those candidates who have cleared the NEET exam can register for the Odisha NEET Counselling 2020. The registration process would begin at 12 noon and would end at 11:59 pm on 18 November 2020. Candidates must also note that the choice filling and locking window would open on November 23 and would close down on 24 November 2020. Candidates can also check the detailed schedule on the official website of OJEE—

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