Private school heads condemn exam marking

Exam hall

The heads of leading independent schools say the exam-marking system for GCSEs and A-levels is “not fit for purpose”.

Chairman Chris King will tell the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference “urgent reform” is needed to improve the reliability of exam grades.

Last year more than 400,000 exam papers were challenged, with more than 77,000 grades being changed.

The joint exam boards body says markers are doing a “fantastic job”.

But Mr King says: “The current situation is untenable.

“We are facing a perfect storm, of both decreasing public confidence and increasing pressure in the system, as the greater emphasis on end-of-year exams creates even more work for examiners over the summer,” he will tell the HMC’s annual conference at St Andrews in Fife.


Mr King, head teacher of Leicester Grammar School, says marking remains a “cottage industry” that is unable to cope with the scale and stresses of the modern exam system.

Pupils can receive “frankly unbelievable marks or grades”, he says, which can mean missing out on university places.

And even if grades are improved on appeal, he says that it can be too late to take up university places, which will have already been allocated to someone else.

Chris King

The most recent figures, from 2014, show that inquiries about exam grades rose year-on-year by 48%, with a 42% increase in the number having their grades changed.

Mr King will say that the numbers of grades being changed is “shocking” and he says that if 6% of examiners are rated as “inadequate” by regulators, that “vast numbers” of marks could be affected.

But he says that there could be an even wider problem, as state schools might lack the funds to pursue challenges against a “byzantine” inquiry system.

The HMC says there needs to be more consistency across different subjects and exam boards and a bigger workforce of better-trained markers.

The independent school heads also want a more transparent process for appeals.

‘Robust processes’

But the Joint Council for Qualifications, representing exam boards, says the grades changed on appeal represent only 1% of entries.

“Our examination system relies upon the 50,000 teachers who each year mark over 15 million papers. They do a fantastic job and receive training from exam boards and ongoing monitoring to ensure high standards are maintained,” said director general Michael Turner.

“Where mistakes do happen, in what is a large and complex system, there are robust processes to correct them as soon as possible and often within days.”

A spokeswoman for the exam regulator Ofqual said that the quality of marking is “generally good”.

“Nevertheless, there is room for improvement. We have already conducted substantial research in this area and we will soon be launching a consultation on proposed changes to the appeals system.”

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “Parents, teachers and young people need to have confidence that the grades they receive are an accurate reflection of a pupil’s performance. That’s why we’re pleased that the regulator is taking steps to improve the quality of marking.”

IIT study on merging arts, heritage with science

KOLKATA: In a bid to merge science with heritage, IIT Kharagpur has started a new project in which various themes of fine arts, meditation and social work had been merged with science to find out that the analytical mind and intuitive mind are complimentary to each other. The focus is to develop interface between science and heritage and how the economic regeneration can take place through 16 themes.

MHRD is sponsoring the project as it is an inter-institutional and people centric approach, said Prof Joy Sen of IIT Kharagpur’s architecture department, a key official of this project who aims to explore the possibility of how to improve the right brain for a person whose left brain is more developed. “As left brain development means better aptitude for science, so with right brain development he can lead a more balanced life.” Moreover, the areas of researches in this project include meditation and how the brain is affected with it and how it helps in the healing.

Prof Sen said that the left brain development means one is more analytical and logical while those with right brain developed are more creative and has holistic thinking and can visualise better. So, the study aims to bring the brain development more towards the middle path, so that one can go for meditation. He added that all psycho-somatic diseases along with life style diseases are interlinked with brain development and all these are parts of the research.

“IIT Kharagpur’s director Partha P Chakraborti is heading this project as it is a scientific approach to network and designing of heritage interfaces aiming to recognize our heritage through science,” Prof Sen said. This project was started a year ago and it will take over year to be completed. “In the meanwhile to create awareness about the on going developments a pictorial exhibition is going to be held at ICCR from September 11, to make the students aware,” said Prof Sen.

Particularly the project is going to focus on music and science through algorithms – as modern and ancient music of India has much links with algorithms. “Indian classical music is traditionally taught by Guru-Shishya parampara and student imbibes the finer nuances of a raga by hearing the renditions of the teacher, but is not feasible in the modern context. This project brings together researchers from diverse fields — signal engineers extracting melodies and notations from recorded music, computer scientists studying formal language theoretic interpretations of ragas and how they are rendered, machine learning experts who are looking for hidden features that characterize the stylistic aspects of rendering a raga, communication researchers and psychologists who are exploring the relation between language, music and cognition.”

SC asks NAAC to grade deemed universities

SC asks NAAC to grade deemed universities

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) to issue grade certificates to 41 deemed universities which have come under its scrutiny for allegedly failing to fulfill various criteria required for getting recognition.

A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C Pant directed the Council not to insist on 2010 regulation framed by UGC while deciding the grade of the universities. It asked all the education institutions to file self appraisal report within 10 days before the Council which would grade them within two months thereafter.

The bench made it clear that any decision taken by the Council would be subject to the final outcome of the proceedings pending before it.

The Centre is bringing new system to grade universities after holding consultation with various stake-holders including University Grant Commission (UGC), All India Council for Technical Education(AICTE) and NAAC.

The court, which has been examining the status of deemed universities since 2006, said the universities should not suffer because of accreditation and asked the Council to grade them as per its rules.

Odisha to formulate own education policy

Odisha to formulate own education policy

BHUBANESWAR: The Naveen Patnaik-led BDJ government in the state is going all out to be one step ahead of the NDA government at the Centre by working on formulating its own education policy even as consultations are on in Delhi for a new policy at the national level.

A nine-member state-level committee under the chairmanship of Fakir Mohan University (FMU) vice-chancellor S P Adhikary met here for the first time to evolve the draft policy on Monday.

Adhikary said the major thrust of the state policy would be to create enabling provisions to ensure quality of education in all spheres including medical and technical education and from schools to post-doctoral studies.

“Today’s discussion was a preliminary one. A workshop will be held shortly for wider consultation with all stakeholders including academics, education entrepreneurs and students,” he said.

Directors of higher education and technical education besides academics and administrators from both government and private sectors are members of the committee.

Adhikary said he hoped the committee would give final shape to the draft policy within the next three months. He said the state policy would be within the broader perspective of the proposed national policy. However, specific needs of the state, keeping in mind the socio-economic and cultural situation of Odisha would be given importance in it, he said.

Just like the national policy, the state policy too would lay greater thrust on job creation, research and financial self-reliance of campuses, he said.

Sources said the meeting discussed 20 major points. It emphasized on resource generation for the colleges and universities, promotion of research and compulsory periodic training of teachers to ensure quality faculty members.

The panel members also discussed how there could be policy intervention to create more scope for campuses to explore getting funds from outside, perhaps from corporate bodies through tie-ups and funding agencies for specific research instead of depending solely on the government.

According to the preliminary discussion, the draft policy would suggest broadly uniform syllabi for various study programmes offered by varied institutions. Scholarships for students would be wider and more institutionalized. Greater emphasis would be laid on the job prospects of graduating students, the sources said.

The state draft policy is likely to be ready before the draft national policy, which is expected by the year-end, government sources said.

Since the central education policy, likely to be implemented next year, is anticipated to bear the larger saffron family footprint, it would be interesting to see if the Naveen government’s policy tries to de-saffronize it to bolster its secular credentials, said an academic who did not want to be named.

A member of the committee, however, said he didn’t think there was any political motive from the BJD in bringing in the new policy. “The central policy may not fit into the state’s scheme of things in its entirety. The state policy would be in sync with the Centre’s with some variations to suit state needs,” he said.

The committee will give final shape to the draft policy within the next three months. The state policy will be within the broader perspective of the proposed national policy. However, specific needs of the state will be given importance.

Hrushikesh Senapaty to be NCERT’s new director

Hrushikesh Senapaty to be NCERT's new director
NEW DELHI: More than a year after Pravin Sinclair was unceremoniously ousted as NCERT director, HRD ministry has finalized the name of Hrushikesh Senapaty as her likely replacement.

Senapaty is an old NCERT hand and currently principal of its Regional Institute of Education, Bhopal.

In a meeting of the search-cum-selection committee on August 24 headed by Md. Akhtar Siddiqui names of Senapaty and Anil Shukla were shortlisted. Shukla is professor in the department of education in Lucknow University. HRD sources said Senapaty has been preferred over Shukla because of his wide experience within the NCERT system. “He has never served in Delhi and is expected to bring a fresh perspective to the NCERT that is known for groupism and political affiliations of faculty members,” a ministry source said.

The search committee consisted of G C Tripathi, vice-chancellor, Banaras Hindu University, I K Bhat, director, NIT, Jaipur, Shyama Chona, former principal, DPS, RK Puram and M K Sridhar, professor, Canara Bank School of Management Studies (CBSMS) and member of Karnataka Knowledge Commission.

The immediate task, sources said, before Senapaty will be to accelerate the process of consultation on the proposed New Education Policy. NCERT has been tasked to take forward few crucial components of the NEP. He will also have to take a stock of the review of text books as well as formulate the new curriculum framework. The last curriculum framework was devised in 2005 for a decade.

An alumnus of BJB College, Bhubaneshwar and Ravenshaw College, Cuttack, Senapaty did his doctorate from Devi Ahilya University, Indore and has been a Unesco fellow who worked on information and communication technology in education (ICTE).

Principals to get more power

NEW DELHI: Delhi Government is set to give more powers and freedom to principals of the schools it runs. School heads will no longer have to move files to the department for minor work in their schools. Steps will also be taken to ensure basic amenities are made available fast.

The education minister, Manish Sisodia was speaking at the State Teachers’ Award function at Thygraj Stadium. Seventy-five of Delhi’s teachers were awarded as the Government School Teachers’ Association protested outside.

Although there’s constant effort to provide the basic facilities in government schools, there are delays due to complicated administrative processes, said Sisodia. “Whenever I go to any school and ask why it doesn’t have desks, why the lights are broken, toilets are in a bad state and why there are no fans, the principal invariably replies that the file’s been sent to the department. When I ask department officials, I’m told the file’s with finance. Files related to even very minor matters travel from department to department, from desk to desk, for months and kids have to suffer unnecessarily.” He said that the government is in favour of making principals, school committees and teachers “self-reliant” and will permit them to take decisions on small matters without having to wait for administrative approval.

Sisodia explained that he discusses matters related to school with eight-ten principals every week and that one of them had pointed out to him that the school receives a fund of Rs. 5,000. What it’ll be spent on is pre-decided and the school has to seek the permission of the Deputy Director before spending any part of it.

“We can tell from this that in the current set up, not only are principals and school administrations helpless, but the DDE’s time is wasted too,” he observed. “I believe,” he continued, “That if it is already decided what the fund is to be spent on, the principals should be allowed to spend it. We trust our principals completely and will give them full freedom. If anyone misuses, we’ll take strict action.”

He spoke of complaints related to security and sanitation, both services have been outsourced to private agencies. He said that if the principals give a negative report, the government will stop the payment for the relevant agencies and also fine them.

The chief minister spoke of the increased budget allocated to education. “It is said that we can revolutionize education by allocating 6-7% of our total budget. We have given education 25% of ours but just increasing allocation will not help. The real revolution in education can be brought only by you (teachers),” he said.

Meanwhile, scores of teachers were stationed outside the stadium, participating in a protest organised by the Government School Teachers’ Association. The GSTA has been protesting for days now demanding, among other things, full implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations. They point out in a statement that many goverment schools lack even the basic facilities. “Despite the great shortage of teachers in the government schools, the government seems to be spending the increased budget allocation on model schools,” says their statement. They also dismiss the government’s getting the President to teach a class on teachers’ day as a “show.”

AP inks MoU with TISS to increase employability of students

AP inks MoU with TISS to increase employability of students

HYDERABAD: The Andhra Pradesh government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).

The MoU envisages implementation of programme activities of ‘Andhra Pradesh University Students Employability Skill Development Programme,’ a flagship initiative of the state government.

The MoU was signed in Visakhapatnam yesterday on the occasion of Teacher’s Day, in presence of chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu and minister for HRD Ganta Srinivas Rao, an official release said.

“We aim to transform Andhra Pradesh state into a knowledge hub by providing quality education and giving opportunities for students to develop employability skills among the Universities and Colleges in the state,” Naidu said.

The MoU involves strategic partnerships with civil society organisations, public sector bodies, private sector institutions and social entrepreneurship organisations, etc., to complement the efforts of the AP State Knowledge Mission, and accelerate its progress for achievement of the mission objectives, it added.

TISS has been designated for the implementation of National University Student Skill Development Programme (NUSSD), which aims to enhance employability skills of university students. Currently, it is being implemented across 11 universities in India.

A comprehensive skill development model has been developed that will have elements of english communication and soft skill, digital/computer skills, analytical skills, financial literacy, legal literacy, entrepreneurship, leadership development.

The model will also add on a specialisation in a specific domain to make the graduating youth employable, it said.

The programme will be carried out through Jawahar Knowledge Centres (JKC) across the state and will also include some of the best courses and practises from National University Students Skill Development Programme.

IIT-Dharwad to admit 250 students next year

IIT-Dharwad to admit 250 students next year
BENGALURU: IIT-Dharwad, which will have 250 students in its first batch next year, is likely to be handheld by either IIT Bombay or IIT Hyderabad. Initially, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Dharwad will function from a temporary campus, sources in the Union HRD ministry said.

The ministry is fine-tuning the aspects of launching the institution, notwithstanding the demand over shifting it to Raichur. Initially, IIT-Dharwad will offer BTech in computer science and electronics and communication, given the spiralling demand for engineers in these disciplines across the country.

It will function from the Water and Land Management Institute (WALMI) building in Dharwad till a permanent campus is built.

A senior MHRD official told TOI that the intake of students will be increased in later years. “IIT Bombay or IIT Hyderabad will mentor their Dharwad sibling,” he said adding that the board of governors of IITs and the mentor IIT would look after the recruitment of professors.

On the demand for shifting the IIT to Raichur, the official said, “The site selection committee has chosen Dharwad. It has been finalised as Dharwad has the necessary facilities among the three places identified by the state government.”

India tops Asia in sending scientists and engineers to US

India tops Asia in sending scientists and engineers to US: Report

WASHINGTON: Among Asian countries, India continues to be the top country of birth for scientists and engineers who have made the US their destination for key research and development, latest data has revealed.

With 950,000 out of Asia’s total 2.96 million, India’s 2013 figure represented an 85 per cent increase from 2003, according to a new report from the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES).

From 2003 to 2013, the number of scientists and engineers residing in the US rose from 21.6 million to 29 million.

“An important factor in that increase over the same time period, the number of immigrant scientists and engineers went from 3.4 million to 5.2 million,” the report noted.

Of the immigrant scientists and engineers in the US in 2013, 57 per cent were born in Asia while 20 per cent were born in North America (excluding the US), Central America, the Caribbean or South America.

“While 16 per cent were born in Europe, six percent were born in Africa and less than one percent were born in Oceania.

“Immigrants went from making up 16 percent of the science and engineering workforce to 18 per cent,” the NCSES statement read.

In 2013, the latest year for which numbers are available, 63 per cent of US immigrant scientists and engineers were naturalised citizens, while 22 per cent were permanent residents and 15 per cent were temporary visa holders.

Since 2003, the number of scientists and engineers from the Philippines increased 53 per cent and the number from China, including Hong Kong and Macau, increased 34 per cent.

The NCSES report found that immigrant scientists and engineers were more likely to earn post-baccalaureate degrees than their US-born counterparts.
In 2013, 32 percent of immigrant scientists reported their highest degree was a master’s (compared to 29 per cent of US-born counterparts) and 9 per cent reported it was a doctorate (compared to 4 per cent of US-born counterparts).

“The most common broad fields of study for immigrant scientists and engineers in 2013 were engineering, computer and mathematical sciences, and social and related sciences,” the report revealed.

Over 80 per cent of immigrant scientists and engineers were employed in 2013, the same percentage as their US-born counterparts.

Among the immigrants in the science and engineering workforce, the largest share (18 percent) worked in computer and mathematical sciences, while the second-largest share (eight percent) worked in engineering.