A video of the Delhi government’s Director of Education addressing school students in their classroom, telling them to “attempt every question even if it means just copying out the question again”, has raised eyebrows and become a subject of public disdain. Later, on being queried, a senior member of the Education Department clarified that the official’s statement should not be “misinterpreted” and that it is part of an attempt to encourage students in “a very bad year” as lots of them have lost out on their writing practice, and that the official was trying to tell students to “not be disheartened, not worry about the CBSE or anyone else, and just write”.
However, no clarification can justify the statement which was made. It was negative and discouraging for teachers who made Herculean efforts to complete the syllabus and also for the hardworking students who, despite the lockdown, used all available digital tools to study.
The year-long lockdown has been a matter of deep worry for one and all, especially for students, parents, teachers, administrators and law makers. A large number of questions were raised in both the Houses of Parliament during the current session about the impact of the lockdown on education and students. For instance, Ram Nath Thakur, asked a Starred Question (No.117) on 11.2.2021 in the Rajya Sabha to Ramesh Pohkriyal Nishank, Minister for Education, about the closure of schools due to COVID-19 and the action taken by the government to compensate for the loss of study hours. There were also questions in the Lok Sabha by Prathap Simha and Tejasvi Surya (SQ No.81 on 8.2.21) regarding online education. The minister informed the Parliament that education being a concurrent subject, his Ministry had taken a whole range of initiatives in the best spirit of cooperative federalism to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. Instructions were issued to the States and UTs from time to time for ensuring continued education with quality and equity.
The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) conducted a survey in July 2020 with the help of Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS), Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (NVS) and the CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) to understand the scenario of online learning among school students including girls and the children of migrant workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The NCERT prepared an ‘Alternative Academic Calendar’ and Students’ Learning Enhancement Guidelines. The guidelines suggest models for the following three types of scenarios to ensure that no student is deprived of the reach to education during the pandemic: learning enhancement for students without digital devices, learning enhancement for students with limited accessibility to digital devices, and learning enhancement for students with digital devices.
Further, a multi-pronged approach has been adopted by leveraging technology to reach the students. Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing Digital infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing (DIKSHA), Study Webs of Active-learning for Young Aspiring Minds (SWAYAM), SWAYAM PRABHA (32 TV channels), MANODARPAN for psychosocial support to students, teachers and families for mental health and emotional wellbeing, PRAGYATA (Plan, Review, Arrange, Guide, Yak (Talk), Assign, Track and Appreciate), etc. have been put to good effect. Guidelines on digital education, e-textbooks using e-pathshalas web portal and mobile apps for Android, iOS and Windows are being used by schools, colleges and universities to provide learning facilities. Where internet facility is not available, SWAYAM PRABHA—one class, one TV channel—is being used to impart education. Besides, community radio stations and a podcast called Shiksha Vani by the CBSE are also being used effectively in remote areas where online classes are difficult. The Ministry is also implementing Samagra Shiksha, under which a number of initiatives for the promotion of education are being taken viz., opening of schools in the neighborhood to make access easier.
To a question in the Rajya Sabha (USQ No.1177 on 11.02.2021) by Elamaram Kareem on the reduction in syllabus by the CBSE, the Minister replied that the CBSE has rationalised the syllabi for major subjects of classes IX-XII only for the purpose of summative examinations 2021 as a one-time temporary measure to mitigate the effect of school lockdown. The CBSE has reduced the syllabi by 30% for the purposes of the 2021 Board examinations for classes X and XII. The concept of ‘Fail’ has also been done away with and replaced by ‘Essential Repeat’ with effect from the 2020 Board exams.
To a question by Sanjay Singh (USQ No.1164 on 11.2.2021), the Minister replied that online classes are being conducted at schools by employing various digital tools. Various efforts have been made for the creation of a digital infrastructure which would not only be helpful in the current circumstances but would also be a valuable asset for online learning in the future. The steps taken by all the states are in the report, India Report Digital Education June 2020. Learning programmes were also started in the form of offline learning tools – radio, community radio and CBSE podcasts, toll free numbers, missed call and SMS-based requests for audio content, localised radio content for edutainment, etc. The mediums of TV and radio have been used for students who do not have digital means, besides the learning enhancement and online education guidelines which were issued on 19 August 2020 for the benefit of all stakeholders.
Responding to the question of Derek O’ Brien (USQ 1145 on 11.2.2021) in the Rajya Sabha about displaced migrant workers’ school-going children, the Minister replied that his ministry issued guidelines to all the states and UTs for the identification, smooth admission and continued education of migrant children on 13.07.2020. States have been asked to identify and enrol all children of migrant workers without any procedural hassles and maintain a database of the migrant children admitted. The Minister said that he had a series of meetings with the states/UTs where he reiterated the whole range of measures, outlined above, that have been taken to meet the challenges. Also, during the pandemic period, mid-day meals in the form of food security allowance/dry ration have been provided to students at the elementary level.
A comprehensive initiative, PM e-VIDYA, has been launched for infusing technology with equity. This overarching initiative covers in its ambit DIKSHA, Swayam Prabha, comprising of 32 dedicated channels, of which 12 channels are “one class, one TV channel”, e-content for Open School, extensive use of radio, community radio and podcasts, and e-content for visually and hearing-impaired students. DIKSHA has 1,65,204 pieces of e-content and during the pandemic period between March to October 2020, it had over 5000 million page hits and over 450 million QR scans for the e-content of textbooks. Hundreds of videos on maths and science prepared by the teachers of JNV and KVS have also been uploaded on DIKSHA. There were 70 crore total learning sessions as on 18 October 2020. Under the Vidya Daan scheme, teachers, private bodies and experts contributed 38,206 contents, of which 29,069 have been approved and are available to students. Open Virtual Labs (Olabs) too were tied up with to facilitate practicals for senior students. E-comic books were released to continue learning joyfully and imbibe critical thinking skills. Measures were also instituted to address the issues of cyber safety and prevent cyber bullying.
Under online MOOCs, there were 92 courses and 1.5 crore students enrolled, On Air-Shiksha Vani, DAISY (Digitally Accessible Information System) by NIOS for the differently-abled, e-Pathshala, National Repository of Open Educational Resources (NROER) to develop e-content and energise books, telecast through TV channels, e-learning portals, webinars, chat groups, distribution of books and other digital initiatives. Besides, states also managed the critical task of providing digital education at the doorsteps of the students. Social media tools like WhatsApp groups, YouTube channels, Google Meet, Skype, e-learning portals, TV, radio, etc., were used to the hilt. A total of Rs 5784.05 crores was allocated under Samagra Shiksha alone to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 during the current fiscal year. An online course for 42 lakh school teachers has been launched too, wherein 16 lakh teachers were trained as on 22 October 2020 and 17 crores courses conducted on the DIKSHA platform.
My conversations with the Education Ministers of states like Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Manipur, Karnataka, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan and with the senior officials of many states have made it emphatically clear that in areas of poor connectivity, other available means were put to use effectively with the willing cooperation of the community. To everyone’s delight, the attendance percentage was higher than the usual school attendance. This proves beyond any manner of doubt that despite the pandemic, our students and their parents, the teachers, the line departments and the community made wholehearted and sustained efforts to learn and impart education, thanks to India’s fast expanding digital architecture. Our students are well-equipped mentally and emotionally to write the Board exams.
Thus, the talk of ‘copy the questions’ is absurd and undermines the self-esteem and ability of our students and the honest efforts made by the teachers to impart education. In the hoary tradition of India, meditation, concentration and self-study occupy preeminent place. Eklavya’s story is more apt and inspirational in these pandemic times. Our students have faced the challenges of the pandemic with grit, determination and great perseverance, made full and proper use of digital tools and they will surely come off with flying colours in the exams. Exams are like festivals—let us celebrate them instead of fearing them.
The author is former Additional Secretary, Lok Sabha, and a scholar of comparative governments and politics. The views expressed are personal.
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EROS HOTEL CELEBRATES 25 YEARS OF HOSPITALITY
The date 6th December 2021 marks the silver jubilee year for Eros Hotel New Delhi Nehru Place. The hotel began its journey in the year 1996 with the vision of delivering the finest Indian hospitality experiences to the guests. Today, Eros Hotel stands tall as an iconic stand-alone 5-star deluxe property offering contemporary design and comfort paired with old-world hospitality charm.
“Anniversary is a great occasion of recollecting and cherishing memories. This one is more special, as today we celebrate our hotel’s 25th anniversary” said MD of the company, Satish Sood.
“Going back in history, I would like to bring forth the vision and foresight of Late Mr. J. R. Sood. The organisation started with millions of dreams, hope and immense enthusiasm and for me, it’s a matter of great pride to see our company growing, embracing good value system and achieving milestones as we thought of,” he added.
“Over these years, CSR campaigns, sustainability initiatives, celebrating key occasions with team members and families, delivering wow experiences to our patrons through exceptional customer services, have created great memories for all of us and have contributed to hotel’s glorious journey,” he added.
Davinder Juj, General Manager of the hotel, said “We are delighted to carve a host of activities on 25th anniversary, which will be offered to make our guests and team members feel special. This is to express our heartfelt gratitude for their continued patronage and loyalty and for our teams to offer the best of the services”.
Odisha tourism conducts 12th International Sand Art Festival
The 12th edition of five days International Sand Art Festival that started on December 1 is underway at Chandrabhaga beach in Konark, Odisha.
Every year, the tourism of Odisha conducts the Chandrabhaga International Sand art festival for the sand artists to show their art and talent to the world to see. Here the immense beach is a canvas and an artists’ deft is the palette. Artists from all over the world participate in the festival, but due to Covid-19, strict protocols were followed.
Sudarsan Patnaik, organiser of the festival told ANI that due to Covid-19 fear, this year international artists couldn’t participate but a total of 100 artisans from Odisha and 12 other Indian states including Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat, West Bengal, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and more have participated with full enthusiasm.
He also informed that different themes were provided to the artists every day and on December 3, Friday, the theme assigned to them was ‘eco-tourism and environment’.
Gauri, a sand artist from Odisha who is participating in the festival for the second time in her life said, “It’s a very good topic. We have to understand nature is very important and we have to save it too.”
She also told that this is her second time participating in this event, after ten years. “I am glad to see how the event has developed in the meantime. It is only stated to organise such festival where all sand artists get exposure and we are able to show our art.”
The International Sand Art Festival was started in 2015 on the Chandrabhaga beach, a short distance from Konark. It was a part of the Konark Dance Festival that is organized during the same time. Every year, the theme for the Artists hover around the burgeoning issues of the Earth.
RAHUL MITTRA BECOMES ARUNACHAL’S BRAND ADVISOR, SANJAY DUTT IS BRAND AMBASSADOR
On the occasion of the golden jubilee celebrations which mark the 50th year of the naming of the state—the BJP led Arunachal Pradesh Government has appointed former journalist, award-winning filmmaker and branding expert Rahul Mittra as Brand Advisor, and Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt as Brand Ambassador.
This announcement was made by Chief Minister Pema Khandu and Assembly Speaker Pasang Sona Dorjee at a packed function in the presence of both Sanjay Dutt and Rahul Mittra. On Monday afternoon both these personalities arrived from Mumbai by chartered flight to Dibrugarh and then by helicopter to the picturesque valley of Mechuka. On the arrival of Sanjay and Rahul, hundreds of residents made a beeline to get a glimpse of the celebrities.
A big media campaign conceptualised and executed by Rahul Mittra Films and shot by top ad-filmmaker and drummer Pentagram Shiraz Bhattacharya was kickstarted on this occasion, featuring Sanjay Dutt as a youth icon, nature lover, de-addiction proponent and an ever-evolving individual catering to the niche target audience for Arunachal tourism. Filming is currently taking place on a large scale across the state covering Ziro village, Pakke valley, Dambuk, Namsai, Parshuram Kund, Pasighat, Mechuka and Tawang. The campaign will be unveiled on the occasion of the month-long celebrations commencing on January 20 next year at Ziro where Arunachal Pradesh first got its name and Union Territory status in 1972.
The young CM Pema Khandu thanked both Sanjay and Rahul for their support and spelled out the various activities being undertaken by the state government for the 50-year celebrations. Sanjay Dutt urged the youth to stay away from drugs and get high on life while Rahul Mittra promised to put Arunachal on the world map in terms of visibility through this campaign, amidst a thundering response from the audience.
CROWN GROUP REAFFIRMS ITS COMMITMENT TOWARDS ‘ATMANIRBHAR BHARAT’ FOR INDIAN NAVY
On the glorious occasion of Navy Week 2021, the Crown Group, which is a technology provider and a strategic partner to India’s defence sector, reaffirms its commitment to provide its best contribution and impetus to the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ mission for the nation as envisaged by Hon’ble PM Narendra Modi by augmenting indigenous product and services support to the Indian Navy.
The group is professionally managed, having skilled technical and operational experts, with the Group President, Vice Adm Paras Nath (Retd.), AVSM, VSM, based at the Delhi Headquarters. The Crown Group has appointed Commodore Rakesh Anand as the Head of Marine Division to spearhead and boost the division. Commodore Anand is a retd Indian Navy veteran who was also the Chairman & Managing Director of Mazagon Dock Ltd. prior to joining the Crown Group, and was responsible for the launching of three Scorpene submarines and three Destroyers/Stealth Frigates. He also delivered two Submarines, Kalvari and Khanderi to the Indian Navy besides undertaking major modernisation of the shipyard. Commodore Anand will be heading the marine companies of the group – ‘Dynatron Services Private Limited’ and ‘OSK India Pvt. Ltd’.
Speaking on the occasion, Commodore Anand said, “Keeping with the GoI vision of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’, the Marine division of Crown Group has enhanced its maintenance facilities in Mumbai. The Marine division is also working towards establishing the capability for manufacturing propulsion shafting and Magazine Fire Fighting System (MFFS) for warships and submarines in collaboration with the foreign OEMs.
We can proudly claim that Dynatron Services & OSK India are one of the only organised and fully equipped players in India that are present across all the coastal cities catering to the MRO and servicing of Indian naval ships. We are also a unique Group that provides both Marine Engineering and Weapons system MRO support to Indian Navy & Coast Guard.”
Group President said, “Our Karwar facility has the biggest workshop near India’s main naval base spread over 5 acres with facilities for repair and overhauling of all aero-marine components, manufacture of spares along with Mechanical, Electrical and Electronics workshop. The workshop is supporting MRO activities for the aircraft carrier, warships and the submarines at the Naval base.”
Dynatron and OSK India, have been dedicating themselves for taking on MRO activities. OSK India has recently repaired critical weapon equipment modules for the Indian Navy. Dynatron has a long-term partnership with many foreign OEMs including JSC Sevmash. Dynatron also has sole authorisation for repairs and maintenance of Gearboxes & thrusters from ZF Marine (Germany) and an exclusive partnership with Kubota engines Japan coupled with Mase Generators, Italy.
On the occasion of Navy Day, Crown Group rededicates itself towards the success of Atmanirbhar Bharat. Navy Day is observed on December 4 every year, since it was on the day in 1971 that missile boats of the Indian Navy launched a daring attack on the Karachi harbour, paralysing Pakistan’s entire coastal defence apparatus.The year 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of the 1971 Indo-Pak War – the historic victory of India’s armed forces in which the Indian Army made the Pakistani’s surrender.
VIRGIL ABLOH: AN INDELIBLE LEGACY
As the founder of the iconic brand Off-White and the artistic director for Menswear, Louis Vuitton, Abloh, a first-generation Ghanaian American, was a pioneer in the global fashion scenario— his indomitable influence as a creative prodigy transcended the boundaries of clothes.
The terrain of fashion today credits a majority of its aesthetic sensibility to the boundless creativity of Virgil Abloh. The designer, who died from cardiac angiosarcoma, a rare form of cancer, at the age of 41 on November 28 in Chicago, was called the fashion visionary, but there was no denying that his prodigious work shaped the present. As the founder of the cult brand Off-White and the artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear division, Abloh, a first-generation Ghanaian American, was a pioneer in the global fashion scenario—his influence transcended the boundaries of only clothes.
Abloh’s creative genius spread across myriad mediums and defied conformity. His mother was a seamstress which influenced him to sew his own clothes as a teenager before he set forth to pursue fashion. He also studied civil engineering and obtained a degree in Architecture.
Off-white, Abloh’s iconic streetwear brand, brought the excitement of a much-hyped collaboration to the world of high fashion and luxury. With Off-White, he collaborated with many premium brands and companies, including Rimowa, Mercedes Benz, the NBA, Levi’s, Moncler, Jimmy Choo, Kith, Timberland and Byredo. His most notable collaborative relationship, however, may have been with Nike, with which he did multiple collections, one of which netted him the “Shoe of the Year” award at the 2017 Footwear News Achievement Awards. With Nike, he also designed competition outfits for Serena Williams. Abloh’s talents were also in high demand by many of his celebrity friends, who commissioned bespoke creations running the gamut from Hailey Bieber’s Off-White wedding dress and veil that read “Till death do us part” in Abloh’s signature irony quotes to Drake’s personal plane that he had Abloh customise with an ethereal blue sky and cloud pattern. Although Abloh’s body of work was often dictated by his talent to capture the essence of an era, his gift lies with his expensive curiosity and unflinching desire to create.
The Louis Vuitton Miami show was a visual tribute (and an emotional one at that) to Virgil Abloh, as friends, collaborators and fans paid homage to him under fireworks and a drone light show. The Spring/Summer 2022 Men’s show marked Abloh’s historical last as the celebrated Creative Director for Menswear.
The front row included longtime supporter Kanye West, who sat next to Kim Kardashian and their daughter North. Other front-row attendees were Rihanna and ASAP Rocky, Pharrell Williams, Joe Jonas, Ricky Martin, Venus Williams, Bella Hadid, 21 Savage and Joan Smalls.
Just before 7 PM, as the mood shifted from somber to party mode, a dazzling light show filled the sky. It began as a paper plane (a predominant icon in Abloh’s collections), before fluctuating into avatars of the Louis Vuitton monogram, a palm tree and the initials “L.V.,” which turned into “V.A.” For the finale, the drones spelled “Virgil was here” (goosebump-inducing); within moments, these mesmerising visuals of tributes went viral on social media.
MISSION TANDRUST PUNJAB TO KICK OFF RESEARCH PROJECTS WORTH RS 7 CR
Mission Tandrust Punjab, with a zeal to start research and development in various fields, has now planned a 360-degree chart for different research projects comprising clean air, clean water, healthy soil, waste management, green Punjab, safe food, road safety, khelo Punjab, nutrition, preventive health.
These all are the sub-missions that are spearheaded by a lead department supported with different line departments. “The mission has undertaken various activities since it was revamped and launched by the Punjab government in June 2021, under the administrative control of the Department of Science, Technology, and Environment,” IFS Saurabh Gupta, CEO Mission Tandrust Punjab, told The Daily Guardian.
To achieve the objectives of the mission, the first meeting of the Steering Committee headed by Chief Secretary Punjab was held 2nd December 2021 in which Dilip Kumar, Principal Secretary, Department of Science and Technology and Saurabh Gupta, CEO of the Mission made a presentation in which the innovative research projects for about Rupees seven crores were discussed and approved. Reiterating the importance of the mission, the Chief Secretary appreciated these research projects developed by the Directorate of Environment and Climate Change by involving prestigious institutions like IIT Ropar, AIIMS, Punjab Agriculture University, Punjab Biotechnology incubator, Punjab State Council for Science and Technology. The Chief Secretary said that these interventions shall help in ensuring good health of the people through the provision of safe food, clean water, etc.
An awareness project for the Mission was also approved to be implemented in the Pushpa Gujral Science City, Kapurthala.
The Chief Secretary suggested that more such innovative research projects are required under this mission for which the State Govt. shall provide adequate funds. The projects approved have been time-lined for 18 months added Gupta.
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