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Trying to ensure no child drops out of school during Covid-19 pandemic: Farana

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The nationwide lockdown hit the vulnerable community the most. There are many lives on hold. Millions of children from poor families studying in government and municipal schools in the country are staring at disorders in their studies without access to mobiles, Internet and laptops or desktops. Farana Tamboli, education coordinator, Miracle Foundation India, speaks to The Daily Guardian and talks about challenges, steps and future of underprivileged children’s education in India.

Farana Tamboli, education coordinator,
Miracle Foundation India.

Q. What are the challenges faced by underprivileged children in terms of education during this pandemic?

A. The biggest challenge being faced by these kids is a lack of access and knowledge of technology. Especially for the children who have gone back home, connectivity is a big issue as well due to poor internet access. There is also a lack of awareness about online education and elearning opportunities within the community. Additionally, several children and their families do not have smartphones. In some cases, the children are also facing a shortage of educational aids like books, stationery, etc. Regular education was disrupted suddenly in the month of March. Uncertainty of when their classes will resume has also led to anxiety amongst the children which we are helping them through by providing counselling support.

 Q. What topics are covered under the education programme being run by your NGO?

A. We are giving priority to ensure that no child drops out of education during this time. We are making efforts to keep the children engaged in educational activities. Teachers, trainers, and instructors are conducting sessions remotely. The children have access to the computer lab and some children who have gone home have smartphones. For the children who do not have smartphones, we are attempting to get donors to support them for the same. Computer classes are being held online by the computer instructor through Skype or Zoom. Revision of syllabus taught prior to the pandemic is also done. Wherever possible, aptitude testing, career counselling is also continuing online. Online career counselling has especially been conducted for children who have taken their 10th class examinations. Children are encouraged to take up online spoken English courses and brush up their conversational skills. Smart classes are being conducted remotely by coaching teachers. They connect through WhatsApp group or video calls and guide the children through their lessons.

Q. Tell us about the methods/steps being taken to teach the students during the lockdown.

A. Peer group learning is being practiced for the younger kids within the Child Care Institute (CCI) along with having the older children guiding them. House parents are also involved in the process of engaging the kids to prevent a setback in academic progress or a loss of interest in studying. Social workers conduct quiz, debates, art and craft sessions, story reading sessions, dance and drama competitions to keep the children productively occupied. All activities are conducted keeping in mind the social distancing norms. Coaching teachers record their lessons and post them on WhatsApp groups. The children then study through these videos, note down their queries and send these to the teachers in the form of written messages or short videos. For those who do not have smartphones, the teachers assign homework by SMS. A lot of the kids who have gone back to their families do not have phones and often use their neighbour’s phones. To ensure that the children are engaged, we also ask them to make videos representing different topics like their hobbies, showcasing talent, etc. Additionally, computer instructors are conducting sessions on cyber bullying and security.

 Q. What safety precautions are you taking to avoid risks of Covid-19 infection?

A. We are actively taking measures to create awareness regarding hygiene and social distancing to keep the children and staff safe. Repeated training and awareness sessions are being conducted on Covid-19, the importance of hand-washing and social distancing, maintaining cleanliness and hygiene, and frequent sanitisation of campus. In many CCIs, the local doctors conducted these sessions. The CCI staff is supervising and ensuring that all learnings from these training are implemented and the same is followed during mealtimes and other activities. We conduct WASH programmes (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) in all CCIs as a series of training modules and follow-up is being conducted remotely

Educationally Speaking

Make an impact with a career in jewellery design

Aditi Amin

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Many emotions motivate the art of designing jewellery, including the desire for perfection, the need for recognition, the need to please or display dedication. The need to express reverence, loyalty or remembrance has driven jewellery designers to dream since the beginning of time. For example, artisans designing jewellery have produced representations of spirituality and religion to represent faith. They also crafted jewellery symbolising marriage and lifetime engagement, as well as symbolic jewellery reflecting loyalty to family or organisations. Creations were made in memory, memorialising fallen loved ones, and of course bringing out the pure beauty of a gem. So, it is reasonable that any conversation about jewellery design should begin with an inspiration. Previously, jewellery designing was restricted to only a few skilled people. Being a highly skilled profession, it was passed through generations as family traditions and no other person outside the family could learn or practice it. So, the skill lied only in a few hands making it a profitable family business.

 However, breaking away from stereotypes, jewellery designing has grown into a field that can land you in promising careers. Jewellery designing is thriving as a professional trade, compared to yesteryears. The career path is highly rewarding, particularly for individuals with great creative minds. Jewellery was historically known as a sign of prestige and a source of financial security. Today, however, it has become a fashion statement that gives it a wider scope and opportunities for growth. Training from a reputable institute plays a significant role in career building for a student of jewellery design. Clubbed with abstract knowledge, realistic experience adds to a student’s advantage.

 Courses available 

Apart from the skills discussed above there are few courses which can be pursued to make a career in jewellery design. Some courses like Post Graduate Diploma in Jewellery Management, Diploma in Jewellery Designing & Management, Certificate in Gemmology, Micro Pave Setting, Master Model Making, Certificate in Embossing and Manual Design, Jewellery Design Foundation Course, Industry Oriented Design, Computer-Aided Design/ Rhino, Styles of Jewellery, Jewellery Technology Diploma- Basic, Jewellery Technology Diploma- Advance, Jewellery Technology Diploma, Diamonds and Diamond Grading, Coloured Gemstone Identification and Diploma in Gemmology enable students to opt for jewellery designing as a full-fledged career. 

Career opportunities

 Fashion jewellery designer: Designing jewellery has always fascinated the design community. Ensembles today are crafted with different jewellery styles in mind. Most fashion and jewellery designers work closely together to make exquisite ornamental objects. There is enormous room for working as a fashion jewellery designer. Jewellery designing for shows, parties and red-carpet events is something a jewellery designer should look forward to doing in such a setting.

 Entrepreneur: Pursuing a jewellery designing course can also lead you to work as an independent designer. A course in jewellery design equips you with the knowledge and skill you need to become a successful entrepreneur. The practical and theoretical knowledge imparted at professional institutions in running a jewellery business, can develop entrepreneurship skills. This creates a great stepping stone for your career. Accessory designer for movies: Movies, especially period movies, need jewellery accessories for actors that are clearly researched and designed flawlessly for best impact. This shows the relevance of jewellery in representing history. For so many films being released every year (historical and other), jewellery designers have plenty on their plate. Accessory designing plays a critical role in successfully raising a film’s appeal and authenticity while designing jewellery like finger rings, anklets and waistbands. 

Manufacturer: With the right course in jewellery designing, it becomes easier to either run a small unit or a mass production house. This can help market their own line of branded jewellery. It is a great option for people who already come from a background of jewellery designing. 

Gemologist: In order to become a gemologist, a student must receive education in jewellery design. To be a gemologist, you need to know about the various types of gems, metals and precious stones. Through a gemmology course, you can specialise in the subject. It can also be a module in a jewellery design course as it is related to it like a sub-domain. With so many career options in jewellery designing, all you need to do is make the choice of the career you want to pursue. Let your career in jewellery design shine bright! 

The author is an ace jewellery designer and founder of Uncut by Aditi Amin.

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Educationally Speaking

Mind Wars launches online general knowledge Olympiad

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Mind Wars launches online general knowledge Olympiad Mind Wars, a multi-platform knowledge programme has announced an online general knowledge Olympiad 2020  to identify, encourage, and promote students towards achieving a better tomorrow. The national-level championship will begin in November 2020, and it is open to students from classes 4 to 12, from all education boards across India. The 20-minute exam comprises relevant and interesting general awareness questions across 5 topics per class. The students can also practice seamlessly 24×7 for the online Olympiad test while getting an opportunity to be recognized as the national champion and win the prize worth Rs. 1 crore. The exam dates are 22nd, 28th & 29th November and 5th, 6th, and 12th December 2020. Students can participate in the competition by visiting the official website ( https://www.mindwars.co.in/olympiad/).

 IIIT-Delhi holds online convocation ceremony 

IIIT-Delhi conducted its 9th convocation ceremony online. During the event, the institute conferred degrees upon 237 B.Tech, 203 M.Tech, 2 M.Tech (dual) and 12 PhD students. Raghav Sood and Shravika Mittal were awarded the Chancellor’s Gold Medal, whereas Pulkit Madaan (B.Tech. CSAM) and Raghavv Goel (B.Tech. ECE) were awarded the Best Academic Performance award. Raghavv Goel (ECE) also won the coveted All Round Performance Medal along with Abhishek Agarwal (CSAM) and Tanish Gupta (CSE). M.Tech students, Aditya Khandelwal and Prateek Singh, received the Gold Medal for Excellent Academic Performance. 

UpGrad, MICA host online valedictorian ceremony

 Online higher education company upGrad in partnership with MICA, Ahmedabad hosted an online valedictorian ceremony to celebrate the successful completion of PG Certification in Digital Marketing and Communications of around 1,300 learners. These learners included seasoned working professionals with an average work experience of 3-25 years, with organisations including Fortune 500 Companies. MICA and upGrad also recognised over 20 learners who scored the highest CGPA and those who went beyond the academic curriculum including those who went out of their way to help their peers, some set inspirational benchmarks for others, pushing them to do better, while many achieved stellar career transitions. 

New Zealand-India Education Week from next week

 Education New Zealand is all set to host its first-ever New Zealand-India Education Week from 5 to 9 October 2020. The online series will bring together researchers, experts and academia from across New Zealand and Indian education and business landscape. The week-long event will strengthen the education relationship between both countries through a range of academic collaborations and student activities across India. The week will feature exclusive panel discussions, specialist master classes, alumni engagement, daily trivia, and a showcase of New Zealand’s Maori culture.

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Educationally Speaking

Govt needs to look into gaps in NEP 2020

There are many areas in which the government needs to rethink and find solutions if it wants to truly create a document that will not only transform the education sector but also make India an education hub in the world.

Rustom Kerawalla

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The new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is a path-breaking document that will transform the entire educational system in the country. The new policy has many firsts to its credit including bringing pre-primary education and vocational studies into mainstream education while aligning Indian education with global trends to bring it up to global standards. At the same time, it has highlighted the rich heritage of Indian education which will continue to guide the future generations. 

One of the key takeaways of the policy is that it effectively takes the initiative to distance Indian education from the age-old rote learning process to a more logical, inquiry-based, projectled ecosystem of education and talks about creating an enabling framework for this. What is heartening to see is that there is a strong emphasis on promoting digitisation, and technology integration in the classroom. The policy also highlights the need for online education which has become so important in the times of Covid-19. However, there are many areas in which the policy leaves gaps which need to be filled considering the needs of society today. While digitisation and technology have found preference in the policy, the policy seems to have fallen short in taking them to their logical conclusion.

 While the policy pushes for the use of technology in the classroom, there is no mention about the use of technology in schools beyond mention of three things: Gamification and apps, online teacher training and smart class. Leveraging technology specifically for online teacher training is good. But the policy is not talking about technology in the schooling section. There should have been more thought on technology in classrooms which has become so relevant in today’s time and will become increasingly important and part of education going forward. Schools will also need to embrace ed-tech widely to avoid dissonance with higher education curriculum in the future.

 Next is the inclusion of vocational studies in mainstream education. While this is a welcome move and will help train students in vocational skills right from the school level, there is no mention of vocational training beyond the school level where it is important to train students for jobs. About 280 million job hopefuls are expected to enter the job market by 2050 and they would need to learn newage skills. In this scenario, a clear roadmap for vocational studies beyond schools was required. The policy is pretty silent on this aspect. 

One of the biggest disappointments in the new policy is regarding its funding. By all means the policy makes Indian education a highly regulated but poorly funded sector. The policy has increased the funding for education to 6 percent of the GDP. This is a welcome step considering that we are currently spending a little over 4.5 percent of the GDP on education.

 However, considering the ground realities and requirements of today’s times, especially at a time when integration of technology and digitisation has become a necessity, it is too little too late. The government’s intent on increasing digital intensity in education needs to be backed by adequate fund allocation. Most developed countries are spending up to 20 percent of their GDP on education.   

Another important miss by the policy is in implementation of the proposals. While it makes many recommendations for transforming the education sector, it has not provided a roadmap for their implementation without which the proposals will remain on paper. And while the new policy talks about the role of the private sector in Indian education, it has not gone into implementation of many of its proposals in the ‘Public-Private-Partnership (PPP)’ mode. The policy also lays a lot of emphasis on higher education, but there seems to be little thought on primary and secondary education which is the foundation of education for students. There is not much in the policy which talks about this. Plus, even while there is emphasis on higher education, what is of concern is that today there is an under-supply of quality education especially at the higher education level. Today 26 percent of Indians go for higher education. The target is to double it by 2035 but the roadmap or supply has not been defined making it uncertain as to how this will be achieved.  

The policy talks about augmenting physical infrastructure. That is not what the education sector needs today. There is an adequate amount of infrastructure present in the Indian education sector which can be effectively utilised. Plus, with the coming of GST, many taxes have been subsumed within it making many offices redundant and making a lot of physical infrastructure available. All that can be repurposed for the education sector rather than spending resources in creating fresh infrastructure. Resources should be used in creating digital and technology infrastructure in schools.

 The NEP rightly puts a lot of emphasis on the role of the private sector in Indian education. While this is a welcome move and will improve Indian education in a large way, what is conspicuous by its absence is the sheer lack of attention to government schools which is required at the moment, especially in context of technology and e-learning. Government schools have been lacking in improving their technology and digital infrastructure and are far behind private schools in this respect. The policy should have laid emphasis on this aspect to bring them at par or closer to that of private schools.  The other important aspect is the proposal to teach in three languages. While this and education in the mother tongue are progressive moves, there are practical difficulties. Some states like southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu may have difficulties in the three-language policy and may be opposed to it. This could bring in serious centre-states issues. Similarly, the interdisciplinary approach, which has been borrowed from developed countries like the US, sounds pretty good on paper but may have implementation nightmares. Although this will take time to settle down in India, there will be issues in implementing this in specialized technical institutions like the IITs and IIMs or in medical colleges.

 There are many areas in which the government needs to rethink and go back to its drawing board as far as the NEP is concerned and find solutions if it wants to truly create a document that will not only transform the Indian education sector but will make India one of the most progressive education providers in the world. 

The author is an educationist and chairman of Ampersand Group.

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Educationally Speaking

Pearl Academy brings home studio kits for students

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While education delivery has shifted to the virtual mode, practical classes have taken a hit because campuses and campus infrastructure like labs/studios are currently shut. As a solution to this problem, Pearl Academy has come up with the idea of providing kits to its students to set up functional home studios. Nandita Abraham, president, Pearl Academy, says: “We thought if students are not allowed to come to the campus and access labs, why not help them set it up in their homes. We took a long-term view of the situation and realised that a home studio is a great way to enable them to learn at their own pace even after the re-opening of campuses.

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Educationally Speaking

IIIT-Bhubaneswar develops unique ventilation device

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Given the surge in the number of Covid-19 cases, the demand for ventilators has hit an all-time high with governments and hospitals struggling to meet the demand. To address this shortage, a group of engineering students from IIIT-Bhubaneswar have developed SWASNER, a first-of-its kind helmet-like ventilation device for patients suffering from Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). Unlike regular devices, SWASNER can be used without a ventilator by directly plugging in to available oxygen ports at hospitals and thereby help reserve the existing ventilators for the critical patients. In fact, according to research conducted by University of Chicago Medicine, patients demonstrate a better recovery rate by wearing helmet-shaped ventilator masks than regular ventilator support. Further, the team has conducted trials at a hospital in Cuttack, and has also applied for a patent for the design and technology.

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Educationally Speaking

VLCC launches online course in hairstyling

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VLCC has launched an online certificate course in hair styling. The 90-hour, 6-week course is timely given the work-from-home trend brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. Individuals can avail training at the safety of their houses while adding new expertise in their resumes. Course content also includes intensive segments for hands-on practice and styling consultation skills. The course covers a wide range of topics including hair cutting, hair colouring technique, client consultation, hair product knowledge and trendy hair styling. The course also emphasises on the Covid-19 related safety and hygiene protocols that need to be followed and preventive measures while delivering hair services. It also comes with live demonstration classes by VLCC experts and unlimited Q&A opportunities

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