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Wednesday, 14 October 2015

We need to get comfortable with sex education

My first experience of sex education was scary – and over very quickly. I left the lesson worried that if I went anywhere near a penis I would end up either pregnant, with a sexually transmitted infection (STI), or dead.

When I divulge this to Goedele Liekens – the Belgian sexologist who presents Channel 4’s new show Sex in Class – her response is, unsurprisingly, one of horror.

“It’s terrible and understandable,” she says. “Your teachers would have had the same goal as me: they don’t want young people to rush into things they’re not ready for. But teaching abstinence doesn’t work because young people love risk. If you tell them not to do something because it’s dangerous, it just makes them curious.”

This straight talk is typical of Liekens, whose mission to improve sex education in the UK has already won her legions of fans. She is currently filming in the Hollins Technology college, in Accrington, Lancashire, where her frank style – which includes bringing vulva puppets into class and giving female students mirrors to examine their vaginas – has won praise from students and teachers.

“Britain is opening up,” she says. “If you see the tweets I get after the show, there are thousands of people saying that they need this in schools but don’t know how to get it. They need help to develop a better approach to sex education.”

But talking candidly about sex can be tough for people in Britain, says Liekens. “There are still too many who think if you shut up about sex it won’t happen,” she says. “We think by doing sex education you’re stimulating kids to start having sex at a younger age, but that’s nonsense. The more sex education you have from an earlier age, the later people start having sex.”

But her lessons are not only about tackling tricky topics, such as STIs and unwanted pregnancy. Liekens believes that we need to approach the subject in a holistic way, talking about the emotional dangers of unprotected sex as well as the physical.

“The emotional dangers and feeling forced into things, not always physically, but emotionally through peer pressure, is a big part of it, especially for young adults – it’s the part we’ve forgotten for far too long.”

For this reason, Liekens says, sex education needs to involve discussing pleasure and knowing your body. “It’s not for a joke that I sent the girls home with a mirror – you have to get to know your own body and feel confident touching it and exploring what you don’t like. This means you can say stop when you don’t enjoy something.”

Liekens suggests that this confidence is especially important in a world where most young people’s – especially boys’ – views about sex come from pornography.

“Porn gives lots of young people misconceptions about how to be a good lover,” she says. “We have to tell young adults that porn is made up. When children watch violent films we tell them when the blood is fake and the violence isn’t real but no one does that for porn. Adults know it’s not real but children don’t.”

Liekens says it’s “now or never” in terms of providing effective sex education – young people are picking up misinformation from the internet, so the adults around them have a duty to address it. Some of their misconceptions, however, can at least raise smiles. Liekens remembers one group who thought that there was a little ball inside you that looked like a cherry, and that the first time you had sex it popped and blood came out.

“They thought that’s where the expression ‘popping your cherry’ came from,” she says, “all of them”.

A lack of effective teaching materials can also be a problem, but Liekens says organisations such as Rutgers in Holland and Brook in the UK can help. The Dutch approach involves using props such as board games and vagina cushions, as well as sequences from feature films. This adds an essential element of fun, Liekens says. “Teachers have to make it a bit humorous, without causing too much giggling. Lighten it up. That’s why I bring a cushion and throw a ball around.”

But approaching sex education in a light-hearted way isn’t always easy. “Once a 16-year-old asked me if I gave blow jobs to my husband,” she recalls. “You have to be prepared for these questions. I asked him right back, what would you think of women who do it? Or of those who don’t? That puts the topic itself back at the centre of the discussion and flips the question back to them.

“Students will test and tease the teacher, especially with personal questions. The best answer is always to make that question a topic of discussion. So if you’re asked about how many sexual partners you’ve had, ask the group how many they think is OK. Is the answer the same for girls and boys?”

Does she have any other advice? “Make sure your voice doesn’t crack when you say the words penis or clitoris. Teenagers will feel your embarrassment. If you find it embarrassing, just say so. Tell them it’s awkward for you to talk about it too.”

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

JLL India MOU with Manpower group and EMPI Business School to offer certificate programmes in facilities management

Property consulting firm JLL India has tied up with Manpower group and EMPI Business School to offer certificate programmes in facilities management (FM) -- one of the fastest-growing real estate services verticals.

With Indian real estate advancing towards increasing corporatisation, there has been an increased demand for industry-ready facilities management professionals. However, this domain has so far relied heavily on ‘learn-on-the-job’ apprenticeships.

Sandeep Sethi, Managing Director - Integrated Facilities Management, JLL West Asia, said this project would be a key differentiator for the facilities management talent landscape. The new certification programme will address this gap and would initially be launched in Delhi and Bengaluru.

These co-created training and certification modules will be delivered by combining classroom learning with live apprenticeships in leading corporates. The three firms would jointly develop and deploy the education and placement programme.

JLL India will provide vital inputs to the curriculum, comprising of four months of classroom training and two months on-job internship. Manpower group will collaborate to ensure placements and job opportunities for the graduates, whose academic interventions will be conducted at the various EMPI campuses, a joint statement said.

“The aim of this collaborative career programme is to bridge the skills gap in India’s thriving FM sector, as well as provide candidates with the skill sets and opportunities to mould a successful career within the FM domain,” Manpower Group Director - Staffing Vishnu Dev said.

“We look forward to seeding this new area of Facilities Management in India, jointly with two global corporates such as JLL and Manpower Group”, EMPI Business School Vice President Pankaj Saran said.

Learnings from Germany growth to indian skilled developments

The new-found trust between India and Germany is a step forward in laying a strong foundation for the progress and economic growth of both the nations. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Bangalore visit for strategic discussions with Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a testimony to our strengthening bilateral ties. It is not a surprise, therefore, that many MoUs were signed and business links established by numerous organisations of the two nations during the Merkel visit. And this is just the start of an era which can witness a snowballing effect of high growth and larger value-creation.

Germany is an important investor for India. The bilateral trade stands at 60 billion euros, with over 1,600 German companies operating in India. However, this is but a scratch at the surface; the investment, growth and value-creation opportunity is much larger. India is home to more than 1.25 billion people with approximately 50% under the age of 25 years, and a lot of them need to be skilled for the jobs that will be created as the economy grows.

German education system is regarded as one of the best in the world, best suited to produce workforce for a global work environment, with keen focus on academic excellence, learning and preparation for work life. Closer ties and collaboration in the education space between both the countries will ensure thinning of boundaries between the teaching-learning community and increase in the number of student/faculty and knowledge exchange programmes.

India has emerged as a strong knowledge economy over the years with a highly skill potential workforce. Adapting to skill requirement for the German industry, it is crucial for Indian academicians and institutions to work closely with German counterparts to develop a sustained supply of manpower suited to the industry.

Further, the Indian schooling and higher education system is one of the largest in the world and is growing at a healthy rate. In FY15, the government increased the budget allocated to education by 12.3% over FY14, with huge emphasis by the Modi government on skill development. The government has plans to provide easier access to education loans and interest subsidies to boost higher education in India. In addition, the Digital India initiative is a statement in itself by the government towards a transformed, digitally-empowered India. All these facts are indicators of the huge growth appetite and potential India has in the education and academic space.

Development of strategic relationships with countries like Germany would play a key role in shaping India of the 21st century. We need to focus on easing trade and market entry norms for companies from such countries. We also have to work in unison as far as exchange between academia and inter-country joint efforts in research, skill development and information/practice are concerned. Further, exchange between teaching/learning community at the university, institution and school level will play a major role in transforming and developing the education system in India.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Two Indian institutes have for the first time to the top 200 list of the world's best universities

Two Indian institutes have for the first time made it to the top 200 list of the world's best universities.

The Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, has taken the top spot among its Indian counterparts, bagging the 147th rank. The only other Indian institute to make it to the top 200 is Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, ranked 179th this year. It has made great progress from last year when it was ranked 235th in the world.

According to the QS World University Rankings 2015, there are 14 Indian institutions in the World University Rankings and half of them are among the global 400. The bad news is that the University of Delhi and the University of Mumbai have lost ground.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is the world's top university, closely followed by Harvard. The University of Cambridge is tied to Stanford University for the third place. London is the only city in the world with four universities in the top 50, more than Boston and New York (3) Paris, Sydney, Hong Kong and Beijing (2), with the London School of Economics and Political Science making the top 40 for the first time.

In an exclusive interview to TOI, Ben Sowter, QS head of research, said, "India has two institutions in the top 200 this year, which has occurred as a result of QS evolving its methodology to be more even-handed across subject areas and it has revealed strength in research in engineering, technology and the natural sciences. If you want to compare India and China, the primary shortfalls are money and consistent policy leadership."

Thirty-four countries are represented in the top 200.

First national education policy meet a success: Smriti Irani

Union HRD minister Smriti Irani on Saturday termed the first zonal-level consultation meeting for a new education policy held in Agartala on Friday a success.

She said the draft policy will be published in December after a nationwide consultation of the draft policy. "This is for the first time in Independent India, that a collaborative effort has been made from the grassroots level to formulate a national education policy involving teachers, students, district magistrates and other sections of society," Irani said.

Representatives from the NE states came up with a few suggestions on universalization of education, expansion of the ambit of Right to Education Act and increase in budget allocation. Irani said that following the launch of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan, the infrastructure of schools across the region has improved and there has been adequate recruitment of teachers. Hence, there is no need to increase the budget allocation at this stage.

She said the HRD ministry is emphasizing on the quality of education, teachers training, expansion of basic amenities and strong monitoring of the functioning of schools. It is planning to launch mobile apps that would allow parents and ministry officials to monitor the functioning of schools.

"I have received a very positive feedback and some suggestions from the states during the meeting," she said. The initiative is to reach out every possible stakeholder before adopting the national education policy, she added.

She advised the NIT authorities in Agartala to invite at least one foreign academician to the institute for delivering lectures and teaching the students at least for 15 days. She asked the authorities to furnish a list of foreign academicians to the ministry.

IDP Education Fair-UK and Canada` from Tomorrow

It offers students opportunity to explore the various study options available in four countries, under one roof. “Short-listing universities and working through the application process can be  challenging for students, and pursuing higher education abroad entails a high investment.

IDP Education India, a leading student placement service provider and co-owner of IELTS, will organise the ‘IDP Education Fair-UK and Canada’ here on Monday.The fair, to be held at Holiday Inn Hotel, is meant for students aspiring to pursue higher education abroad.At the fair, institution representatives and faculties from the UK and Canada will come together to attract Indian students to their countries for higher education.

Admission is open in over 15 leading universities and institutions in the UK and Canada, for 2016, to courses such as Business Management and Finance, Hospitality, IT, Engineering and Computer Science, Pharmacy, Biological Sciences, Public and Health Administration, Law, Medicine and Nursing, Art and Design, Mass Communication and many more.IDP will organise education fairs in various cities across the country. It offers students opportunity to explore the various study options available in four countries, under one roof.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

The e-learning market in India is estimated to be around $3 billion and it is growing

India’s education system — be it primary, secondary or higher levels — is fraught with quality and quantity challenges: There is a shortage of quality teachers, an enabling environment for students and infrastructure, just to point out a few.

These hurdles are not going to go away soon even though there is a surge in the number of students at all levels and an increasing demand for quality education. There is also a corresponding demand from industry for skilled human resource.

But this thirst and demand for quality education and trained personnel will not be easy to quench because it takes time, funds and quality human resource to set up good institutions.

Then there is the rule book: Starting a school or a college in India needs magical levels of energy and perseverance.

In such a scenario, online education could be a boon for those who do not have access to quality education or are keen to reskill.

The e-learning market in India is estimated to be around $3 billion and it is growing. Take, for example, the massive open online course (MOOC) provider Coursera.

With one million users, India ties with China as its biggest source of online learners after its home base, the US. That the market expectations from this business model are robust can be gauged from the fact that the firm has raised $49.5 million, coinciding with the US-based firm’s plans to tap the Indian market to increase its user base.

The UTV Group is in talks with top institutions such as IIMs, IITs and even globally to start these courses. A few months ago, IIT-Bombay launched three MOOCs. The world of online learning is attractive not only because learning is no longer tethered to a classroom and timetables, but also because software programmes can “seamlessly integrate social media, making it possible to create online communities that are course specific”.

Along with the traditional textbooks, blogs, tweets, podcasts, webcasts, online chats, discussion boards, virtual study jams ensure that learning becomes multidimensional. Online courses can also help all those who are already in jobs to reskill and remain competitive without taking time off from their careers.

There is evidence that a majority of those registering for these courses have an undergraduate degree or higher and the courses are not being accessed by those who could benefit from education — women, the less educated and the poor.

India’s challenge, say experts, will be to make these facilities reach these social groups. India truly cannot afford to miss this bus.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Google India Celebrating India's educators this Teachers' Day 2015

New Delhi: Around the world, teachers and students have found that they can support their teaching and learning with technology in the classroom. Whether it’s collaborating on stories or projects with Google Docs, or going one-to-one with students using Chromebooks.

Here in India, teachers have also been using technology to enrich student learning. From giving rural students access to new online tools, to developing online resources for other teachers to use, or finding new ways to help gifted students accelerate. This Teachers’ Day we wanted to celebrate some of these teachers from across India who are championing technology in the classroom and helping their students thrive.

Bringing web-based education to rural areas

Dipak Tatpuje is a senior lecturer at Satara Polytechnic with over 30 years teaching experience. He has pioneered technology in rural classrooms and trained over 150 rural teachers on how to use free online tools. He believes technology can be a great equalizer and says that empowering rural students through technology “allows them not to spread their wings and walk further in life.”

Balaji Jadhav is another rural teacher who supports teachers. A few years back Balaji taught himself HTML on YouTube, then developed a series of interactive, HTML-based online tests which are now used by over 500 teachers everyday. He launched a blog for fellow educators in Maharashtra, and is now an advisor for five state government departments and trains teachers in 36 school districts about how to use blogs for teaching.

Nurturing student’s abilities

As director of the Gifted Education and Research (GEAR) Foundation in Bangalore, Sarvesh Srinivasan champions technology adoption for personalized learning.  He ran a 10-month pilot program with Google Apps for Education for middle schools students to help teachers identify students’ strengths and tailor their teaching for them

Bringing digital tools to urban schools

Sangeeta Gulati is the Head of the mathematics department at the Sanskriti School in New Delhi, and has championed the use of technology in the classroom for over a decade. Recipient of the Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching in 2011, Sangeeta encourages her students to be creative with technology. She is currently focused on building her students collaborative learning skills, and says she finds herself “a stronger, more effective teacher who is connected with her students” using Google Apps for Education and Chromebooks.

A huge thanks to these teachers, and all the teachers across India that use technology to enrich their teaching and their students learning.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

TCS donates $35 million to Carnegie Mellon University

Twice on either side of 1900, Jamsetji Tata traveled to the United States, looking for technologies that would put steel in India's industrial frame.

In America, Andrew Carnegie had "been there, done that" with regards to steel and was divesting some of his fortune into philanthropy, endowing $1 million for a technology school that would eventually become Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). But Tata had already beaten Carnegie on that front, pledging half his wealth (200,000 pounds) in 1893 for an educational endowment that would lead to the setting up of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc).

This week, the two hoary industrial-philanthropic contemporaries are again on the same page with the contribution from Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) of a $35 million gift to Carnegie Mellon University, described as the largest corporate gift to CMU, and the biggest from outside the United States. The donation will fund a new facility, the Tata Consultancy Services Building, which will support education and cutting-edge research by CMU faculty and students, and will also endow Presidential Fellowships and Scholarships, increasing the availability of a CMU education to outstanding students, the two entities announced on Tuesday.

CMU's ties with India and Tata entities have spanned through the century from the time the two titans engaged on steel, leading to the setting up of Tata Steel and Jamshedpur. The University, which already has a billion dollar endowment, is currently headed by Subra Suresh, a former dean of Engineering at MIT, who then was appointed to lead the National Science Foundation, before he moved to Pittsburgh to take charge of CMU.

Year after year, CMU has been named the world's best institution for computer science studies, counting among its alumni half dozen Nobel Laureates, including John Nash, the recently-deceased mathematician who was subject of the Hollywood movie 'A Beautiful Mind'. It also produced eminent techheads such as Vinod Khosla and Andy Bechtolsheim, who co-founded Sun Microsystems. The university is so deeply associated with advances in computer science that the fictional Dr Vaseekaran in Rajnikant's Robot opus was affiliated to CMU.

Among its real-life Indian alum
Former rural development minister Jairam Ramesh, who earned a degree in public policy at CMU's Heinz College, associated with secretary of state John Kerry's wife Teresa Heinz. The dean of Heinz College, Ramayya Krishnan, is also an IIT Madras alumnus like Subra Suresh.

Such ties appear to have led to a gift that may have some people questioning the need for at a time India itself seeks funds for education. Part of the strategy also appears to be aimed at countering the impression that Indian IT companies are merely body shops sucking up American jobs and feeding of the US economy.

"TCS is proud to invest in this landmark partnership with CMU to promote market-driven innovation and accelerate advancements in technology," TCS CEO Natarajan Chandrasekaran said while announcing the gift, explaining the rationale for the gift. "As global leaders, Carnegie Mellon and TCS have the intellectual power, creativity, institutional nimbleness, and global reach to capitalize on new opportunities and have a lasting impact on society and industry through cutting-edge digital research and a long-term commitment to education."

"With our shared commitment to education and research in areas that help address many challenges of our time, TCS' support of Carnegie Mellon is both natural and extraordinarily promising," agreed Carnegie Mellon president Subra Suresh. "Together, our two organizations have the capabilities to make breakthrough discoveries and the capacity to make societal impact on a global scale."

Indeed, TCS, which is present in several US states, has ramped up presence in the Pittsburgh region, leading Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf to join the welcome party. "I'm very pleased to welcome TCS to Pennsylvania," said Wolf. "This is an exciting time as we see more and more companies establish and expand their presence in the state. CMU has been especially adept in attracting cutting-edge businesses to and near its campus, which helps to drive economic growth."

Among the nation's major research universities, Carnegie Mellon ranks first in startups per research dollar, according to the Association of University Technology Managers. Since 2008, CMU faculty, students and alumni have created 215 new companies.

At 40,000 sq feet, the new Tata Consultancy Services Building funded by the gift will house state-of-the-art facilities, providing collaborative spaces for the CMU community. The building will also provide space for TCS staff to interact with CMU faculty, staff and students.

India should allow entry of international education institutes

India should allow international educational institutes to operate in India, G V Prasad, co-chairman and CEO of DR Reddy's Lab, said here today.

Indian students go abroad for higher studies and settle down there, which was a wastage of country's human resources, Prasad said, after inaugurating a campus of Woxsen-School of Business at Kamkole in Medak district of Telangana.

The country needed investments in the educational sector, he added.