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Monday, 27 April 2015

Special needs educators bring lessons from India to Trinity

Jean Kingery, co-founder of proVISION ASIA in Bangalore, India, asked her former colleague and award-winning author, radio host and international advocate for people with disabilities, Joni Eareckson Tada: “What is the best school for students with special needs?” She replied, “The Imago Dei School at Trinity Classical Academy, without question.”

Kingery and her colleague, Krupta Paulsen, manager at Mitra Special Needs School in Bangalore, India, were determined to find an exemplary school that serves students with special needs, integrating them successfully into the general education population on a daily basis.

They approached Megan Howell, the principal at Imago Dei School inside Trinity Classical Academy, to establish a relationship where the Mitra Special Needs School could learn how to model their school similarly, and successfully prepare their students for eventual independence through academics, educational therapy and integration.

“We opened the Mitra Special Needs School a couple of years ago and are now ready to form a partnership with a school, opening the door of communication to share strategies, concepts, therapies and interventions,” explained Kingery. “The Imago Dei School targets the students’ underlying causes of their learning disabilities, as opposed to treating behaviors. This type of learning environment gives us great excitement for our students’ future, vocationally and socially.”

Kingery and Paulsen were able to discover first-hand how the Imago Dei School’s techniques, curriculum and individualized therapies enhance the students’ overall intellectual, academic, spiritual, social, emotional and vocational skills.

Coming from a country that greatly lacks any programs for students with developmental and learning disabilities, partnering with Imago Dei will greatly benefit their students, enhance their curriculum and introduce them to techniques that could improve the overall wellbeing of their student body.

In 2011, Trinity Classical Academy launched The Imago Dei School – Latin for “image of God” – a unique kindergarten through 12th-grade school within a school for students with learning and developmental disabilities.

“Unlike most schools, the Imago Dei student benefits from academic instruction in small, specially designed classes with a low student-to-teacher ratio, an average of 3:1, while also being fully integrated into the vibrant Trinity mainstream student culture for their social and spiritual goals,” explained Howell. “Our skilled faculty and staff strive to assist each student to successfully access the rich variety of learning and social opportunities provided to them, as well as utilizing specific individualized therapies targeting their unique disabilities.”

Over the last 14 years, Trinity has grown from 28 students to more than 550 in transitional kindergarten through 12th grade, making it one of the largest classical schools in the country – and the perfect environment to integrate students with special needs into the school’s general education culture seamlessly.

Trinity’s mission has remained consistent: to offer a challenging education, grounded in the Christian faith and the classical tradition; to produce young men and women of virtue, wisdom, purpose and courage.

The Imago Dei School is committed to providing an environment that helps develop students academically, as well as socially. To help navigate the often challenging terrain of social situations, academic and community integration, Trinity Classical Academy developed the Noble Knights and Peer Mentor programs to provide Imago Dei students with support, friendship and guidance from other students at their grade-level, as opposed to the traditional aide or adult behaviorist.

In junior high and high school, Imago Dei students are academically mainstreamed where appropriate and thrive alongside their peers. The Imago Dei curriculum includes Bible, composition, science, literature, math, world history, geography and physical conditioning.

Imago Dei students participate in Group Education Therapy sessions, which focus on four key components: cognition, perception, academics and emotions, and include a variety of techniques designed to improve the student’s overall ability to think, reason and process information. These techniques emphasize basic skill areas such as reading, writing, spelling, and grammar with reasoning skills within each area.

Upper School Imago Dei students are fully integrated into the general education extracurricular activities like Trinity Knights junior varsity and varsity football, basketball, cheer, cross country, volleyball, softball, swim and soccer.

They also actively participate in Trinity’s general education Fine Arts programs including orchestra, band, and vocal ensembles, as well as perform in Trinity’s Rhetoric Theatre productions. The most recent production, “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare: The Comedy of the Bard!” was such a success that all the Imago Dei student’s will return to the stage for this spring’s “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”

With students with both physical and intellectual disabilities ranging from 4 to 11 years-old, Mitra Special Needs School’s – Indonesian for friendship – mission is to inspire hope by providing an environment that fosters transformation through practical life-skills training, as well as provision of mobility aids, physiotherapy, job placements, education sponsorships, computer training, counseling and government advocacy.

Partnering with proVISION ASIA, they serve by offering a hand up, not a hand out, which encourages people with disabilities to recognize and utilize their own abilities, empowering them to make a significant contribution to society.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Why Repaying Education Loan is Important to Yours

Sachin Khare, a resident of Mumbai, recently saw an advertisement for a 3 BHK apartment in Mumbai's upcoming suburb.

The apartment was all Sachin had ever dreamt of, plush locality, modern amenities and close to his place of work and most importantly fitting his budget. Sachin an MBA with honors from a reputed management school was a topper of his class and got a job at one of the leading technology company in Mumbai.

Having started with humble beginnings from Satara in Maharashtra, a home in Mumbai was Sachin's dream come true.

However, despite his salary and job credentials, to Sachin's astonishment, his loan application got rejected basis his CIBIL report and low CIBIL TransUnion Score.

A distraught Sachin couldn't fathom the reasons behind the rejection and at first thought it could be a mistake due to his name being a common one.

On accessing his CIBIL TransUnion Score and report from CIBIL, Sachin realised that his score was low as he had not paid the EMI's on the education loan he had taken for completing his MBA course.

It then dawned on him that in his aim to own his dream house and save money for it, he had completely neglected paying his education loan, thereby costing him his home in Mumbai.

Like any other loan, it is vital to know that an education loan is a credit facility provided to help one pursue his/her higher education. Like any other form of credit, education loans have to be repaid once one completes his/ her course and gains employment. Also like any other loans and credit cards, education loans are also reported to the CIBIL and get reflected in the borrower's CIBIL report.

Repayment of an education loan generally starts within six months of the student taking up a job or one year after the course ends, whichever is prior.

An education loan default occurs when the borrower fails to repay the education loan EMIs. Defaults on repayments of education loans will reflect in the borrower's CIBIL report and negatively impact his/her CIBIL Transunion score and hence like in the case of Sachin, if one defaults on an education loan it could impact the chances of getting a loan for many more important milestones in the future like the dream home or the car he/she aspires.

Also, in more developed economies, an individual's CIBIL Report and CIBIL Transunion Score is critical reputational collateral and used for multiple purposes by various institutions. Employers review it before recruiting a new employee; landlords require it before renting out an accommodation and of course telecom providers check an applicant's credit history before assigning limits.

Duly paying your education loan installments on time, each month, is the best thing that could be done to maintain a good CIBIL Transunion Score. Nevertheless, if you find it difficult to re-pay your education loans, consider an option of negotiation. Banks are open to negotiation. Request the banker to increase your loan repayment term and settle for a lower EMI. This may help reduce your loan burden significantly.

It is never too early to start thinking about your financial future. All these tips will pay off, and definitely help you avoid hurting your CIBIL TransUnion Score and CIBIL Report and thus safeguarding your dreams.

Principals learn the tech way to education

Principals, heads of institutions and teachers from around 100 city schools attended a seminar on 'transforming education with technology and innovation' recently. The Times of India, in association with Think & Learn, held the Times NIE Principal's Seminar at the Galaxy, The Park. The three distinguished speakers who addressed the gathering were Kalyan Kar, co-founder and managing director, Inthink Knowledge Ventures; Rajib Basu, partner, KPMG and Kevin Nethercott, managing director, employer engagement, Knod.

"Technology is changing our lives like never before. Principals and heads of institutions have to understand that today's students are empowered and they have to adapt themselves to the changes," said Kar.

Rajib Basu said, "We are embracing everything that is global and the principal driver here is technology, which is breaking down barriers. Technology will change the core areas of education in days to come."

"Less than 50% employers feel that our learners are not fit to be employed. We need to bring the employers into the classroom," said Nethercott.

Principals and school representatives found the seminar enriching.

"Technology is part and parcel of today's world. We should understand that technology is not replacing anything. Rather it is facilitating the teachers by equipping them to teach the students better. Technology has also helped average and below average students to improve," said Bratati Bhattacharyya, secretary general, Shri Shikshayatan School.

Principals then turned into students and join Byju's Classes Challenge with Praveen Prakash, vice-president, marketing, Think & Learn, as their teacher.

The "students" had to take the Think & Learn Challenge, where they answered questions on Samsung Galaxy tabs.

For the next 20 minutes, principals counted lines, gave the approximate weight of the tab they were holding and solved screen puzzles. Joyita Majumdar, principal, Asian International School came first, winning a Samsung Galaxy Tab. Chandan Basu, principal, Mother International School Salt Lake, came second while Suchitra Bhattacharya, principal, Army Public School, came third. They were given gift vouchers.

Friday, 17 April 2015

A.P. to set up centres for Eamcet in Hyderabad

Andhra Pradesh government will set up 30 to 40 centres in Hyderabad for AP Eamcet to be held on May 6, said HRD Minister Ganta Srinivasa Rao.

The HRD Minister spoke to Telangana Chief Secretary and Education Minister and sought their approval for setting up AP Eamcet centres for the convenience of at least about 30,000 students, including girls residing in Hyderabad, without having to travel to Vijayawada. The students could choose their options on the web till April 21. The Eamcet results would be announced on May 26.

The HRD Minister, who held a review meeting with the Higher Education department officials here on Thursday, said grades would be given to engineering colleges in the State based on their performance and academic standards.

The department would take measures to check irregularities in engineering admissions under Category B and the government rejected above category seats in 14 engineering colleges for violation of rules, he said.

Disclosing that the Private Universities Bill will be introduced in the Assembly soon, he said a committee appointed for the purpose was studying all aspects of private universities and he inquired officials about the status of committee report.

The government would also bring amendments to the Andhra Pradesh Universities Act, 1991 to address the loopholes in the system to bring in more accountability and a conference would be held with the Vice-Chancellors on May 21 to discuss the proposed amendments.

Mr. Rao said that a special recruitment board on the lines of APPSC would be constituted to fill vacancies in universities without giving scope for corruption. About 75 per cent of vacancies in universities would be filled soon, he added.

Indicating plans to make Andhra Pradesh an Educational Hub, he said as a precursor, three education cities would be developed in Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada and Tirupati in an extent of 1,000 acres to 2,000 acres each to provide land to the private universities, institutions set up in Public Private Partnership mode to suit the requirements of industries being set up in the State.

Basic infrastructure facilities like road, medical facilities would be provided in these educational cities. At least one such educational city would be developed first, he added

National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) Introduces Special Education Course for B.Ed and M.Ed

The syllabus for B.Ed and M.Ed courses has been revised to include a mandatory paper on special education this session onward. This paper, introduced by the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE), will focus on how to teach students with special needs. To visit more at

The NCTE monitors the regular B.Ed and M.Ed programmes, but the courses on teaching people with disabilities are regulated by the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI). And so, NCTE signed an agreement with RCI last week in order to formulate the syllabus and modules for the compulsory paper to be included in these programmes.

This decision has been implemented after the National Sample Survey of Estimation which found that approximately 60.41 lakh children aged 6 to 13 years did not go to school last year, and out of these six lakh were physically or mentally challenged. This survey was conducted in 2014 by the NGO Social and Rural Research Institute in collaboration with the PSU Educational Consultants India Ltd.

In January this year, the NCTE decided to go back to the two year format for B.Ed and M.Ed, starting from the 2015-16 academic year. In accordance with this change, the RCI has agreed to increase the duration of special education courses from one year to two years.

A special committee has been set up by NCTE and RCI for this purpose. Headed by Professor N.K. Jangira, of the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), this committee will prepare the curriculum for the two years' special education course. It will also put forward recommendations for the special education examinations in B.Ed and M.Ed.

In addition, the RCI has declared that out of the 17,000 B.Ed and M.Ed courses that run across the country, it will coach at least one teacher in special education every session.

The NCTE is set to introduce three more courses this academic session, apart from the special education course. These are gender studies, yoga and information and communications technology

Easier education visas to Canada now?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper have identified education as a 'key area' for bilateral engagement, with the two leaders recognising that India is a 'priority country' under the North American nation's International Education Strategy.

In the joint statement released by the two leaders, Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Harper agreed to focus on greater student, faculty and people-to-people exchanges, affirming that cooperation in education should focus on building the quality of human resources in both countries.

The two leaders welcomed Canada's partnership in the Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN) of India to enable Canadian researchers to cooperate in learning, research and teaching in select Indian educational institutions. They also welcomed the first co-funded student exchange programme through the Ministry of Human Resource Development's Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme and Canada's Mitacs Globalink Program.

Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Harper also noted the socio-economic opportunities inherent in India's ambitious goals of skills development and welcomed the MoUs between the Indian National Skill Development Council and 13 Canadian colleges, institutes, and Sector Skills Councils in the fields of agriculture, apparel and textiles, automotive, aviation, construction, green economy, healthcare, hydrocarbons, IT, telecom and electronics, sports sector, and water.

The two leaders also agreed to renew the Canada-India MoU on Higher Education on a rolling basis.

Earlier in the day, the Prime Minister met Canadian Governor General David Johnston, before holding a tete-a-tete with his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper.

He also attended a ceremonial reception before being accorded a guard of honour.

Addressing the press, Prime Minister Modi later said that the agreement between the two countries on the procurement of uranium from Canada for India's civilian nuclear power plants launches a new era of bilateral cooperation.

Prime Minister Modi's trip to Canada is the first bilateral visit by an Indian Prime Minister in 42 years.

Prime Minister Modi arrived here after concluding a successful visit to France and Germany.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Inaugurated TSPSC website and logo at Hyderabad

Telangana State and Andhra Pradesh Governor Narasimhan launched TSPSC logo and TSPSC website at Raj Bhavan on Saturday. Telangana IT Minister K.T. Ramarao, TSPSC chairman Ganta Chakrapani and TRS leaders were attended for this event. See at Telangana State official website

Monday, 13 April 2015

The Must Attend Event for Education Technology Investors

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — To observe the major forces at play in the education technology sector, one needed only to stand near the marble fountain in the Phoenician Resort lobby this week.

That’s where hundreds of venture capitalists and executives attending an annual ed tech industry conference arranged — in full view of their rivals — to meet one another privately.

From coveted perches at cafe tables and couches in the plush hotel lobby, for instance, investors watched as Aaron Skonnard, chief executive of Pluralsight, an online skills training company for technology professionals, sat down with David Blake, chief executive of Degreed, a start-up that helps companies track, analyze and manage the skills development courses taken by their employees.

“Degreed has the best content-scoring algorithm for online courses,” said Michael Staton, a partner at Learn Capital, a venture capital firm that finances education start-ups, as he observed the tête-à-tête from across the room. Then Mr. Staton sighed. “I was hoping we’d invest in them,” he said, “before Pluralsight acquired them for $100 million.”

The annual ASU+GSV Summit conference here, an effort put on by Arizona State University and GSV Capital, an investment firm, started six years ago as a modest event in the desert where investors came to hear company presentations from about 50 education start-ups.

The conference has since become the central event for investors and companies scouting for the next big thing in education technology — a melting pot for executives from McGraw-Hill Education and Pearson, Google and Microsoft, Kapor Capital and the NewSchools Venture Fund, and start-up entrepreneurs.

This year about 270 companies are presenting, all represented by either their chief executives or founders. Among them are companies like Degreed, which developed in an ed tech accelerator financed by Kaplan, the test-preparation company. Degreed has attracted angel investors including Mark Cuban, the investor and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, and Deborah Quazzo, a managing partner at GSV Advisors.

“It’s a place where it’s all senior people,” said Ms. Quazzo, one of the conference organizers. “So conversations can occur at a high level.”

With more than 2,000 attendees this year, the conference is an indication of the high political stakes involved in education and of the big money businesses hope to reap in the sector. The event also now serves as an important stop for policy makers seeking to broadcast their commitment to industry growth.

On Tuesday, for instance, Arne Duncan, the United States secretary of education, made an appearance here. He heartily endorsed data-driven technologies known as “personalized learning,”  websites and apps that display different math problems or reading assignments to individual students, based on an analysis of their particular abilities.

The hope is that such individually tailored products will improve students’ learning, grades, test scores, graduation rates and, ultimately, employment prospects.

“We must make learning more personalized,” Mr. Duncan said.

As was typical in other years, dozens of companies at this year’s  conference presented personalized or adaptive learning systems for students.

Despite the promise of such tailored lessons — and the fact that millions of students already use such products — few ed tech start-ups have conducted and published rigorous studies to demonstrate that their novel technologies aided learning more than established methods. One controlled study conducted by Kaplan found that showing videos to students — which the company had expected to be more engaging for learners than traditional methods — was less effective than providing students with traditional text-based problems to solve.

In an effort intended to address the paucity of ed tech outcomes data, two groups here, including Kaplan, discussed their coming efforts to study education technologies. They each said they wanted to help school administrators choose learning products with proven effectiveness.

Kaplan announced plans for a new ed tech accelerator intended to identify pressing educational problems and the products that might solve them.

“Every C.E.O. will tell you their product is great and it works,” said Maia Sharpley, Kaplan’s vice president for strategy and innovation. “Well, let’s test it and pilot it and have the data to show that it works or it doesn’t.”

Another new accelerator project, financed by USA Funds and the University of Virginia Curry School of Education, has just introduced a similar effort to identify and rigorously test promising ed tech products aimed at filling concrete needs for schools.

“Are there really companies willing to hold themselves up to that level of scrutiny and accountability?” said Bart Epstein, chief executive of the new company, called the Jefferson Education Accelerator. “They are out there. They are a minority. And we want to hold them up as examples of companies doing it right.”

In its short history, the ASU+GSV conference has also acquired a reputation as the meet-cute spot for ed tech investors and executives seeking to develop relationships with start-ups that could lead to acquisitions.

Last year, for instance, Mr. Skonnard, the chief executive of Pluralsight, the professional technology course provider, had a 15-minute meeting in the Phoenician lobby with the founder of Smarterer, a skills assessment and scoring start-up.

“As we were leaving, I said to my C.F.O., ‘This is a company we need to talk more to,’ ” Mr. Skonnard recalled during a chat with a reporter in the industry-thronged lobby. “Ten months later,” he said, “we completed the acquisition” of Smarterer for $75 million.

When asked whether Pluralsight now planned to acquire Degreed, the company whose founder he was seen meeting with earlier this week, Mr. Skonnard was enigmatic.

UNESCO report lauds India’s progress

The efficiency of public spending in India comes in for criticism, as does the expansion of contract teaching jobs in public schools.

India has made remarkable strides towards ensuring education for all, a new global monitoring report shows. While access is now close to universal, the quality of education remains a major challenge, it says.

In April 2000, the governments of 164 countries adopted the Dakar Framework to deliver Education For All commitments by 2015. On Thursday, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) published the Education For All Global Monitoring Report to evaluate the progress of countries on these goals.

India is likely to reach the EFA’s first goal of 80 per cent enrolment in pre-primary education by 2015, has already reached the second goal of universal primary enrolment, and will fall just short of universal youth literacy by 2015, the report said. The one measurable goal India will not reach is to reduce its adult illiteracy rate by half (it has reduced it by 26 per cent). The country’s major success has been in reaching gender parity for primary and lower secondary enrolment, the only country in South and West Asia to do so. It has also made progress towards improving the quality of education, but major gaps remain.

According to the report, nearly half of all countries have achieved universal pre-primary, primary and lower secondary enrolment. Only 25 per cent of the countries have reduced by half their levels of adult illiteracy, and women continue to make up two-thirds of the illiterate. Two-thirds of the countries have also achieved gender parity at the primary level, but less than half at the secondary level.

“Overall, not even the target of universal primary education was reached, let alone the more ambitious EFA goals, and the most disadvantaged continue to be the last to benefit. But there have been achievements that should not be underestimated. The world has advanced by 2015 beyond where it would have been if the trends of the 1990s had persisted,” the report says. “A lesson re-emerging over the past 15 years is that while technical solutions are important, gaining political influence and traction is of even greater significance,” it notes.

However, major challenges remain. The efficiency of public spending in India comes in for criticism, as does the expansion of contract teaching jobs in public schools.

Most crucially, the “Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) said that while India’s education system succeeded in enrolling many more children, there were wide disparities in students’ achievement of basic skills across the States, a finding validated in the official National Achievement Survey of grade 3 students,” the report says.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Beware! That online degree may not be valid in India

Ever been tempted to take up an online degree course offered by a university in India? Those who have been taken in by advertisements of such courses in newspapers should be careful because education regulator University Grants Commission (UGC) does not recognise any course offered solely through the online mode.

Many universities are offering such degrees, even though “UGC has not yet recognised any University/Institution for offering distance education programmes solely through the online mode,” writes SK Mishra, deputy director, UGC, in response to a question under the Right to Information Act.

The website of the Karnataka Stake Open University (KSOU), for instance, offers online, correspondence and regular face-to-face programmes in its distance learning package. “In online courses, you get an opportunity to view videos, take assignments, etc. anytime anywhere and from any device,” is the message on the university’s website. Students can take the course entirely online,  the website informs.

KSOU also asks students to submit requests for a particular course. The website states: “The University has planned to launch several courses in the online format very soon. This shall depend on the interest of the students for particular courses. You may want to submit your request, in case the course you desire does not feature in the available list.”

When contacted, Prof MK Krishanan, vice chancellor, KSOU, said he accepted that the degree offered by the university would not be valid for employment as per the Indian education system, but KSOU was offering such programmes to keep up with international trends. “We have signed an MoU with a Mumbai-based website which is imparting online degree courses to students on our behalf. I fully agree that these degrees are invalid but the global trend is towards online education and I don’t think we should lag behind the other players.”

Another major player in the field of distance learning, Sikkim Manipal University (SMU), invites students to join its MBA programmes solely through the online mode. A counsellor from south Delhi centre of IACM, the authorised partner of SMU, informs this correspondent, “You can get online admission, complete all four semesters online and appear in exams online as well. However, the certificate that you are given will not have any mention of online (programme). It will only talk about degree through distance education.”

Prof NS Ramesh Murthy, director, Sikkim Manipal University Directorate of Distance Education, however, denies that the university offers postgraduate degree courses solely through the online mode. “Sikkim Manipal University - Directorate of Distance Education, offers several programmes, all approved by the Distance Education Council (former regulator for distance learning which stopped functioning from 2012) and awards approved degrees only. While the self-learning material forms the basis of learning in distance mode, duly supported by the mandatory face-to-face counselling, the university also supplements the learning with additional material through digital technology,” Murthy adds.

Former officials of the DEC and the present regulator, the Distance Education Bureau under UGC express say they are worried that no regulatory framework is in place for online courses. “DEC did not give any approval to any university to run any course solely through the online mode. Online study material can be a supplementary learning methodology but completing the whole course all through the online mode was never approved by DEC,” says Manjulika Srivastava, who held a senior position in DEC.

A senior DEB (UGC) officer  adds, “We have noticed these developments and have set up a committee to look into the matter. We will see if it’s possible for us to work out a regulatory framework. However, at present, these degree courses are not valid and no university can offer such degree courses.” Academic experts like SS Mantha, former chairman, All India Council for Technical Education say the issue needs to be addressed immediately. “As a regulator for technical courses as well as MBA programmes, AICTE has not recognised any online programmes,” he says.