Newsletter on the Education Emergency
August 2022
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Education Emergency.
The NCEE is organising the first ever national consultation on the State of Access to Education for Children of Migrant Workers on August 17, 2022 between 3-5 PM IST. To attend the consultation, write to us
Did you know that one in five internal migrants in India is a child? Can we even begin to imagine what their plight must have been like when they were forced to walk back home with their parents almost two years ago as the pandemic set in? The kind of mental, physical and emotional trauma that they would have suffered?

At the NCEE, we thought to ask a deeper question. What about their education? Their supposed ticket to a better life, perhaps, better than that of their parents? We couldn't find any conclusive answers. Because you know what, very little data exists on the education of migrant children in the first place. They might as well be the 'invisible children'.

Most migrant children spend an average of six months in cities/towns with their parents who migrate to these places in search of better opportunities. For these six months, the children may or may not be enrolled in a nearby school and even if they are, they may be learning in an alien language and trying to cope up with peers who have the advantage of studying in the same classroom for an entire year or more. When they go back with their parents, yet again, they may or may not go to school. If they do, they may be learning completely different concepts. And the cycle continues.

Could we take a moment to think about how the almost-two year exile would have been on their learning levels? They did not even have access to whatever make-shift/temporary educational institutions they could attend even as their families plunged deeper into poverty.

It is time to give these children back their right to quality education. Together, let us fight for their right to a better life.
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The Education Emergency is more urgent than ever!

The National Coalition on Education Emergency (NCEE) had an insightful second plenary meeting on May 28, 2022 to decide on a definitive course of action ahead to combat the education emergency that has become more pronounced. All of us working closely as part of the NCEE have witnessed the widening of social inequities brought on by the pandemic and exacerbated further by inaction and apathy. Concerted and consistent action on several fronts is the only option we have to ensure education recovery and attempt to right social wrongs that have not only impacted childrens’ education but also their health and well-being.

The NCEE will continue to focus on four primary areas of action:

Education Support
This arm will continue to work towards building a space for educational discourse to address issues affecting the educational recovery process – through resources, awareness building and capacity building.

Social Mobilization, Communications and Outreach
This arm will focus on building and supporting a network of like-minded organizations to have more feet on the ground talking to relevant state and social actors. The NCEE will also double down on leveraging the media to create conversations around the education emergency so that our work can go beyond the confines of organizations and individuals we work with.

We are representative only if we are able to raise issues that children are facing in real time. The research arm helps stay tuned to issues on the ground by conducting surveys, producing research studies, and developing policy tracking tools to create awareness, persuade governments and inform programs, guidelines and policies.
EdTech Watch
This wing will strive to bring in critical perspectives on issues concerning EdTech to build a deeper understanding of its benefits and harms, and tease out principles that should underlie its adoption.

In the near future, NCEE will continue to raise awareness around the fact that the education emergency continues, despite schools resuming physical classes, through multi-pronged efforts. We will need to advocate the need for using education as a tool for social justice while continuing to push for discerning use of edtech in classrooms.  

The Education Emergency needs all of us to act now!
For the highlights, presentations and videos of the second plenary meeting, click here. To join the NCEE and contribute to the mission, write to us.
NCEE makes headway with Telangana Education Department

The NCEE had a substantive meeting with the Principal Secretary of the Telangana Education department that centred around the value of technology to resolving crucial challenges in the education sector. The discussion revolved around the fact that using ‘smart classrooms’ or ‘personalized devices’ was not the answer to addressing learning needs. Rather, the focus needs to be on providing quality education through conscious use of teaching-learning resources, of which technology-led aids could become an integral part. Instead of hooking children onto devices, digital technology can actually be used to aid development of teachers; facilitate peer-to-peer sharing and to create and sustain networks of teachers, educators and experts.

To join the NCEE and contribute to the mission, write to us.
A Future At Stake - NCEE Guidelines on Education Recovery Appreciated

A Future at Stake: Guidelines & Principles to Resume and Renew Education, a comprehensive document put together by the NCEE, on the ways in which education recovery for the marginalised and vulnerable groups can be brought about, has been appreciated by stakeholders across the country. More than 250 million children who had no access to structured learning over the two years of the pandemic have been moved up two grades with little or no additional educational support. A Future at Stake puts together actionable perspectives and valuable resources on what schools, teachers and civic institutions can do.
The Divisional Commissioner of Nagpur was presented a copy of the guidelines by Venkat Reddy of MV Foundation, and it was well received. To download A Future at Stake and contribute to education recovery, click here

A Hindi version of A Future at Stake is now available for dissemination in Hindi-speaking states. You can access it here or write to us to receive a copy.
NCEE Finance Policy Tracker in the Parliament

Shri Gaurav Gogoi, Member of Parliament, referenced the NCEE’s Policy Tracker : State Education Finance in his question to the Minister of State in the Ministry Of Education on the decrease in Education budget allocations for 2020-21 by 12 states. The response from the Minister, however, only referred to the education budgets from 2015-16 to 2019-20 and made no mention of the budgets for the year in question i.e. 2020-21. There was no further follow-up by the MP.
NCEE supports Bihar Kalam Satyagrah
The Bihar Kalam Satyagrah is a movement that is seeking to bring together citizen awareness on the quality of education in the state. It has been established beyond doubt that poor quality of education further leads to unemployment, rise in crime and unrest, among other things.

Bihar often features at the bottom of the list when it comes to quality of education despite being the state with the largest population of youth in the country. Bihar’s education system is impacted by underinvestment by the state government. The state’s per-child spending on education is INR 8,526 (2015-16), compared to the national average of INR 14,615. Further, National University of Educational Planning & Administration (NUEPA) revealed that a mere 21% of all primary school teachers in the state had passed the 10th grade. The clincher: the state has decided to shut down over 8500 schools while it is posited that by 2025, given the growth of population in the state, there will be a need for at least 60,000 more schools.

This surely calls for a state-wide, even a nationwide movement at that, on where the state is headed when it comes to providing students and youth with a constitutionally guaranteed right. Envisaged as a series of meets and discussions across university, district, block and village levels, the Bihar Kalam Satyagrah seeks to use positive mobilisation as a tool to empower both citizens and youth to make the state accountable for the quality of education it provides.  

We need more such movements in the country that focus on sensitising and involving citizens in demanding and maintaining the quality of education provided in schools.

To work with Bihar Kalam Satyagrah or support them, you can reach out on Facebook or Twitter.
Tête-à-tête at Perumathura: Getting back to school

It was a motley bunch of boys and girls, from Classes 9 and 10, who met our research associate at Perumathura in Thiruvananthapuram district in Kerala in June 2022. There was excitement about getting back to school after a long time but there was also the fear of how they would cope with ‘regular’ school after almost two years of online classes. Those in Class 10 were worried about how they would appear for the board exams.

The effectiveness of online learning looms large. Almost all of them had been part of WhatsApp groups or some kind of online platform that had been set up by the school for disseminating learning during the lockdown and beyond when physical schools hadn’t opened up. Yet, not all of them were confident of having ‘learnt’ a lot during that period. Almost all of them had found at least one subject challenging to learn through an online mode.

Uninterrupted access to devices was a challenge for many. While there were students who had managed completely on recorded audio/video lessons sent to them over WhatsApp, there were those who had to share a device with siblings for attending classes. If both siblings had school at the same time, one would just log in for attendance and hand over the device to the other for attending classes.  

Social interactions too had been minimal during this period, especially for the girls. Most boys had been meeting each other at playgrounds on a regular basis but the girls largely interacted with their friends over WhatsApp or video calls.  

Overall, the group had largely mixed feelings about returning to physical school. Excitement, apprehension, misgivings, feeling of being left behind were among the predominant emotions experienced.
Education First, Technology Later

Let us clarify at the outset that we are not against the use of technology in imparting education. What we are against is the bandying around of technology as the ‘only’ solution to what can be seen as a failure of the system to address learning needs.

If the technocrats are to be believed, the entire education system as we know it today is suspect. And the tool that will lead our children to learning salvation is technology. Mind you, the technology that these technocrats deem fit and at the price they say. At a time when the call for ‘personalised education’ (read: one device per child) is gaining greater ground, we need to pause and think about what value technology is actually adding to our children’s learning.

In order to bring to the fore critical and constructive perspectives on Ed-tech from those in the domain, and other actors such as educators, activists, scholars, NGOs, government representatives, etc., a series of webinars/panel discussions on various themes related to 'Ed-tech' are being planned in the upcoming days. As a first of this series, a webinar on “Right Digitalization" in Education?” was held on 23rd April. Click here to read the note summarising the rich and insightful discussions from the event and suggestions for further action

Do you resonate with our perspectives? If yes, join the NCEE EdTech Watch on Telegram for updates and to contribute to the mission, visit the NCEE website or write to us
NCEE to undertake research on effectiveness of SATS & DIKSHA

As part of NCEE's focus on edtech, a research project is being undertaken in Karnataka to analyse the impact and effectiveness of the Student Achievement Tracking System (SATS) & Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing (DIKSHA) platforms against their stated objectives and expected outcomes, following which policy recommendations can be made to the government.
Teachers in Karnataka government schools spend significant amounts of time furnishing data about their students and schools on a daily basis on the SATS portal. The research on SATS will focus on exploring the following: what are teachers' experiences; who is really benefiting from all this data collection, is it being used as was intended, has it benefited the government in identifying out-of-school children post-COVID and bringing them back to the education fold.
With respect to the DIKSHA portal,which is an online resource repository and learning platform consisting of educational content, tools and courses for teachers, examination preparation material, etc., the study will look at whether and how teachers are using and benefiting from it, the relevance and contextuality of the resources on the portal for teaching-learning, and challenges faced by teachers in using the portal will be explored as part of the research to study the effectiveness of DIKSHA.

To know more about the research study, write to us
NCEE urges due diligence by Government of Andhra Pradesh before implementing MoU with BYJU's

With multiple states joining the BYJU bandwagon, we ask: Are personalised devices the answer to addressing learning gaps?

The Andhra Pradesh government, in a move that will cost the state exchequer INR 500 crores, has signed an MoU with BYJU’s to include the edtech player’s online classes as part of the school curriculum. The funds will be used to procure and provide 4.7 lakh devices to government school students. A similar MoU has been signed by the Maharashtra government for BMC schools in Mumbai.

As an immediate measure, the NCEE has sought that the MoU be made public and that the government discuss the dangers of implementing edtech programs without detailed assessment of the costs/harms and benefits to students, teachers and the public school system. As our opinion piece in this newsletter on edtech and education explains, we are not against technology in education. But we are against “personalised devices and learning” provided by technocrats and edtech conglomerates being seen as the panacea to addressing learning needs and quality of education.

To read the NCEE appeal to the AP government, click here.

To contribute to the mission, join the NCEE Edtech India Watch Telegram group and, visit the NCEE website or write to us
In modern India, myth = fact

If the position papers on various subjects shared with the Karnataka state government for inclusion of topics in textbooks under the New Education Policy, 2020 are to be believed, then the Pythagoras theorem is a fake. Also, Newton apparently did not discover the law of gravity when sitting under an apple tree. Gurumurthy Kasinathan, Member, NCEE was in conversation with India News Ahead on how, increasingly, the lines between mythology and fact are being blurred to show ‘ancient Indian’ wisdom as superior at any cost.

Watch Gurumurthy’s interview here
NCEE seeks review of Andhra Pradesh Government's MoU with BJYU'S

The National Coalition on the Education Emergency (NCEE) has asked the government of Andhra Pradesh to review its collaboration with BYJU’s and have a team of experts assess the same. Read the coverage here
Image credit: Rubin D'Souza |
Primary Schools: Merger Muddle - Frontline

India's mass closure of schools is leaving lakhs of students stranded -

While ‘rationalising’ small schools makes absolute ‘logical’ sense on paper, what does it mean for children like Phoolmati who now have to walk more than an hour to the ‘new’ school? Will her family, that survives on sale of mahua alone, prioritise her education over everything else? What about the one square meal that she was sure to get as part of the mid-day meal program in her neighbourhood school? As state governments decide to shut down schools for ‘greater efficiency, how many more Phoolmatis are going to be deprived of a fundamental right?
Image credit: The Hindu
Karnataka study shows eggs in mid-day meals help children’s growth - Education News, The Indian Express

Egg-spelled: Why eggs keep disappearing from midday meal menus - The Economic Times

Amidst heated debate, protests and discussions, the Karnataka government has decided to include eggs in mid-day meals in the state for 46 days through the year. It is neither the only nor the first state in the country to include eggs in meals provided to children. It has also been proven that mid-day meals, and nutritious ones at that, ensure regularity of attendance and also positively impact the health of children. Where is the opposition to eggs coming from? Parents of children? The organisations who make and serve mid-day meals? Politicians?
Governments are ignoring the pandemic's disastrous effect on education - The Economist

Schools across the country have opened up after an almost-two year long hiatus. But unlike popular opinion, things have not gone back to ‘normal’. Unlike children who were ‘connected’ to education through online platforms, there are lakhs of children world over who have had no access to learning of any kind over this period. They will need much more than ‘remedial support’ and ‘bridge courses’ if they are to meaningfully grasp concepts being taught in the grades that they have been ‘promoted’ to. The education emergency is real. And it needs us all to act now!
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Media articles are updated regularly and available on the Education Emergency portal
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