Thursday, 27 August 2015

Exam or No Exam ,That is the Question

Section  16 of the Right to Education Act  ,2009 says that no child admitted in school  shall be held back in any class or expelled from school till the completion of elementary education.It  provides for no detention policy for students from class one to eight.This was enforced  in 2010 to ensure holistic development of students.
On  August 19,2015,the newly constituted CABE(Central Advisory Board of Education),the top body advising the government on education  in its meeting  considered the report of its subcommittee (Geeta Bukkal  sub committee) on  detention policy.Reportedly,there was a broad consensus for revoking the no-detention policy.This would mean that the policy  of automatic promotion of students in classes one to eight is likely to come to an end.No detention policy has been found to adversely affect  students' learning.
                      If the central government  and the state governments come to the decision that  no- detention policy is to be scrapped, it will require an amendment of the RTE Act.It makes me wonder  how and why this provision  was included in the first place ,in the fundamental law relating to elementary education .There is something seriously wrong  with our process of formulating policies and laws.This fundamental flaw in our governance system needs to be corrected on priority.And I have a reason to believe that  there  is a need to revisit  most of  the provisions of the Right to Education Act ,2009 .

Thursday, 20 August 2015

I and Thou by Martin Buber

I and Thou was written by Martin Buber  between 1919 and 1922 and was published in 1923 when he  was only 45 years old .He spent next four decades in explaining , arguing and explaining his ideas.
    Human beings possess two types of attitude towards the world which are indicated by the concepts of I - It and I-Thou.These are two  word pairs.There is no singular I.No I isolated from thing , person or God.No autonomous or independent  individual.It is a fundamental challenge to the western conception of self or individual.The I of the basic word I-Thou is different from the I of the basic word I-It.Persons appear by entering into relation with other persons.      The  basic word I-Thou can be spoken only with one's whole being.The concentration and fusion into a whole being  can never be accomplished  by me, can never be accomplished without me.I require a Thou to become;becoming I, I say Thou.All real life is meeting. I and Thou precedes I.I  and It  comes after I.Through the Thou,a man becomes I.Without It , a man cannot live.But he who lives with It alone , is not a  man.

       When two free and rational   human beings encounter each other and treat each other equals , then an I-Thou relation is possible between them .Though  it is difficult to develop such a relationship, it is real and perceivable.Examples of such relations  are :two lovers, two friends , a teacher and a student. No aim,no lust,and no anticipation intervene between I and Thou.(Pages 25).
           The important point is the close connection of the relation to God with the relation to one's fellow man.  Whoever abhors the name and fancies that he is godless,when he addresses with his whole devoted being  the Thou of his life that cannot be restricted by any other , he addresses God.
                           Spirit is not in the I,but between I and  Thou.Man lives in the spirit,if he is able to respond to his Thou.He is able to do so ,if he enters into relation with his whole being.Only in his virtue of his power to enter into relation is he able to live in the spirit.Spirit does not germinate and grow in man's world without being sown,but arises from this  world's meeting with the other.
                         The Spheres in which the world of relation is built are three.First,our life with nature.Second,our life with men.Third,our life with spiritual beings.He who loves a woman,is able to look in the Thou of her eyes into a beam of eternal Thou.You cannot both truly pray to God and profit  by the world.
               "There is a hierarchy of deceptions.Near the bottom of the ladder is journalism:a steady stream of irresponsible distortions that most people  find refreshing although on the morning after, or at least within a week ,it will be stale and flat.
At the top ,we find fictions that men eagerly believe , regardless of the evidence , because they gratify some wish."
       "There is a divine meaning in the life of the world of man , of human persons of you and me.Creation happens to us, burns itself into us, recasts us in burning-we tremble and are faint, we submit.We take part in creation, meet the Creator, reach out to Him,helpers and companions.Through the Thou, a person becomes I".
                I  must admit that I have to read this book a number of times before I find its full meaning.But I am certain that it is a great book.The person who translated this book from German into English, Ronald Gregor Smith says:" To the reader who finds the meaning obscure at a first reading, we may only say that  I and Thou is indeed  a  poem.Hence it must be read more than once and its total effect allowed to work in mind" I totally agree.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

The Civil Services Board . . . . an ineffective institution in governance

                    I would not have written this piece  but for a news item  that   there is a proposal to  change the procedure to be followed by the CSB(Civil Services Board) .The CSB was created  on the direction in 2013   by the Supreme Court  to protect civil servants from  premature transfers.
  In Indian Administrative service (cadre) Rules ,1954, a new schedule was added on January 28,2014.This schedule provided for the composition of CSB as follows:
1.Chief Secretary  .. .Chairman
2.Senior most Additional Chief Secretary,or Chairman ,Board of Revenue or Financial Commissioner
or officer of equivalent rank and status . . .Member
3.Principal Secretary , department of Personnel in the state government . . .Member Secretary
Procedure followed by the CSB  is to be as follows:The CSB
 (1)shall consider the report of administrative department along with any  other inputs it may have from other reliable sources.
(11).Obtain the comments or views of the officer proposed to be transferred based on the circumstances presented to it in the justification of the proposal
(111)Not make recommendation of the transfer of the  cadre officers  unless it has been  satisfied itself of the reasons of such premature  transfer.
 The Rules of 2014 provide that  minimum tenure of  civil servants is two years , but a civil servant can be shifted before two years from a post  if the CSB   recommends  the proposal.  
                In the first week of August ,2015, the Central government circulated a proposal  to change the existing  rules of procedure  followed by CSB, that make it mandatory  for the CSB to  get a report from the  department concerned and hear out the officer  before clearing  a premature transfer.The new  proposal  says that in such cases ,the CSB  may"obtain  such information  from the relevant  sources" as it desires.In other words,there is a proposal to delete  first part of  clause (1) and  full clause  (11) above. The Centre's  communication to the states  makes it clear that  the changes were proposed by the Government of Uttar Pradesh.The U.P. Government had given the suggestion at a conference of states earlier this year(2015).
                  The constitution of a CSB  headed by  the Chief secretary and having other senior   officers serving under the state government  makes it totally vulnerable to the dictates of the political executive.Such a CSB  " recommends" all premature transfers  which are  decided beforehand  by the Chief Minister ,in case of all India services(IAS,IPS , IFS).I do not know what the supreme court had in mind when they directed the clearance by such a CSB.A pliable , subservient and vulnerable CSB  is completely ineffective in  stopping the premature transfers done  on the grounds of  political expediency or the "dictates of the sovereign".It  forces the chief secretary and his colleagues to take the responsibility for recommending proposals which  they may not find reasonable or feel satisfied about ,but which they are forced to recommend because they want to continue in the senior key posts like chief secretary  and other equivalent posts, for  the reasons of their own .Let us face it .What is the value addition of such a CSB to good  governance? Practically none.I agree that there is a hypocrisy  in  most of the  areas of public  life in India , but when such a hypocrisy has the indirect sanction from the highest offices , the search of the people of India for good governance is just a cry in wilderness.
          The step of trying to change the procedure  to be followed by the CSB is just an indication that we want to drive the last nail in the coffin of the CSB(which is dead ,in any  case.).The fact that this nail has reportedly  come from my own state of  Uttar Pradesh makes me  feel concerned.I also wonder if this was the intention of the supreme court.  What good governance do we expect from civil servants who are not sure how long they will remain in their present post, and which next morning , they will read in the newspapers ( along with million with others) that they have been transferred prematurely to a new post in a new place.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Servant Leadership : A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness

I just finished reading  the 25th Anniversary Edition of this book(368 pages) by Robert K.Greenleaf , with a Foreword by Stephen R. Covey and Afterword by Peter M. Senge.Servant Leadership is difficult to be established as a scientific theory.It is reasonable to see it as an emerging leadership philosophy.
                    In fact,the book is  a collection of 12  essays  written by Greenleaf in sixties and early seventies  about  Servant Leadership  .The book was originally published in 1978.The core of servant leadership is  moral authority.The essence of moral authority is  subordinating one's ego to a higher purpose.It also implies that means as well as ends must be good.
                    The idea of the servant as leader came out of reading  Herman Hesse's Journey to the East.The servant  Leo in this book is a servant leader.MacMurphy ,the tough ,gutter-bred patient  in   One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kessy , is another example of servant leader.The best test of servant leader is what needs of other persons are being served by him.Do those served grow as persons?Do they  become healthier,wiser ,freer,more autonomous,more likely themselves to become servants?Do the less privileged in society benefit or at least not be further  deprived?(page 27)
                  Our educational structure devotes very little care to nurturing leaders.Greenleaf says that the goal of education should be to prepare students to serve and be served by the present society.
                           Also ,one needs a lifestyle that keeps one in touch with"the unsearchable and secret aims of nature(page 312).Make a motto on your wall;"Lord,grant that I may seek not so much to be understood as to understand"(Prayer of Saint Francis)
 The last chapter entitled An Inward journey is devoted to explain the  profound meaning of the poem  Directive by Robert Frost."Directive offers a promise to those who do aspire:When we have gone back out of all this now too much for us,when we are lost enough to find ourselves and have pulled in our ladder road behind us ,then we shall have the opportunity to drink of the waters of wholeness"(Page 338).This is a hopeful hypothesis at a time when hope is dim.
                         Servant leaders are those who care for both persons and institutions , and who are determined to make their caring count.
                      Though somewhat repetitive, this book is  full of  a new way of looking at leaders and leadership .I recommend you to read it .

Monday, 3 August 2015

Should schools run as Not for Profit enterprises only?

                                     The Uttar Pradesh Right of Children to Free and Compulsory education  Rules , 2011, Rule 11 requires fulfilment of  the condition(among other conditions) that the school is not run for profit to any individual,group or association of individuals or any other persons. A school has to be  Not for Profit.In other words , profit is a dirty word as far as school  education  is concerned.The Model Rules  circulated by Government of India  under the Right of Children to free and compulsory Education Act ,2009  in Rule 11 carries the same provision .This has been carried as such in the RTE Rules of the states   Uttarakhand,,Orissa,Karnataka,Maharashtra,Kerala ,Delhi ,Punjab,West Bengal and Chattisgarh.The three states Gujrat,Haryana and Himachal Pradesh  have  not included this provision in their State RTE Rules , indicating that in  these states for-profit schools can legally operate.
                      One issue which is likely to  dominate the education debate for some time to come  is whether schools should be run for profit.Should profit making firms be allowed to run failing schools?Introduction of for profit schools has the great potential of bringing new investors into education , thereby increasing the much needed capacity.Permitting profits can promote competition between schools, provides extra incentive to improve results.It can also encourage schools to seek efficiencies,There are philosophical objections to for profit companies to make profit from education , which is publicly funded.Education is regarded as a public good , rather than an industry, to be used to earn profit.Many people think that for-profit schools will channel money from students into private pockets.
                For profit schools are being run int USA,Sweden , the UK and many other countries but with mixed results. In these countries , private schools are generally set up in one of two ways:As for profit entities, or not for profit entities.The for profit version is used  by either a corporation  or a private individual  in order to make a profit  but they will not be eligible for contributions  which are permitted by law to be tax-deductible.Not for profit schools can make money but also receive contributions  which the law permits to be tax-deductible.They are also exempted from federal . state and local taxes  . It is not that they are not allowed to generate surplus or that they cannot hire salaried staff.It is that they  cannot permit their surplus to be distributed as dividends to the owners or promoters .This means that the promoters of schools have to be persons  whose predominant needs are the needs of esteem , respect, recognition and self-actualisation(to quote Maslow's hierarchy of needs.)Both types of schools , for-profit and not for profit , are legally permitted in these countries . It is not possible to say which type of schools gives better  education.It depends how well the school is managed  educationally , financially and strategically.
                    But what is surprising is that  many state  governments in India   ,through  their RTE  Rules  , have made for -profit schools  illegal.This is not  in the interest of attracting new investment in education sector.A review of this policy is needed in the context of  ever expanding but deteriorating school education in  these states of India.