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Premji’s Gift and the Future of Education in India

Azim Premji, chairman of the international tech giant Wipro Ltd., just pledged US $2 billion for the improvement of Indian education. By far the largest charitable donation in the country's history, it will no doubt spur further philanthropy and accelerate the pace of education reform. But what will that reform look like, and will it work?



Azim Premji, chairman of the international tech giant Wipro Ltd., just pledged US $2 billion for the improvement of Indian education. By far the largest charitable donation in the country's history, it will no doubt spur further philanthropy and accelerate the pace of education reform. But what will that reform look like, and will it work?

At the forefront of India's reform debate is the Right to Education Act, which went into effect in April of this year. Among its most talked-about provisions is a mandate that all private schools must set aside one quarter of their places for poor students whose tuition costs will be subsidized by the government. This has been hailed both domestically and abroad as the world's largest "school voucher" program in the making.

But there's a catch: in addition to subsidizing poor students' access to private schools, the RtE Act demands that those institutions conform to a vast array of regulations within three years or face closure.

The Premji Trust, which invests the funds donated by its namesake, supported the RtE Act, and in fact advocated the imposition of even more detailed and stringent regulations than those ultimately included in the law. But what does the evidence say about the role of government regulation in improving school performance in India and elsewhere?

The most regulated schools of all are those operated directly by the state. Teachers are required to have government credentials, there is an official curriculum, the number of days of teaching per year and hours of classes per day are all codified. Yet it is no secret that, despite reams of such regulations, Indian state schools have tragically failed the nation's children. A decade ago, researchers with the Center for Development Economics visited government schools in 200 villages around the country. They found that only half of these had any teaching activity going on in any of their classrooms. A third of headteachers were simply absent. The same sorry pattern has been found repeatedly by researchers in the years since.

Given that regulations have failed even to ensure that teachers show up for work, it should come as no surprise that they have also failed to ensure quality. In the Old City slums of Hyderabad, for instance, education scholar James Tooley found that children in the parent-funded unrecognized private schools were academically outperforming those in the vastly higher-spending government schools. He has found this to be true, moreover, all across the developing world: from India to China to Africa.

Tooley's findings are not unusual. When I reviewed the worldwide research comparing government and private schools for the Journal of School Choice last year, I found that the least regulated, most market-like education systems consistently outperformed centrally planned and heavily regulated government systems. Competitive market pressures force private schools to be accountable to parents in ways that government schools and government regulations simply cannot replicate.

Unfortunately, these higher-performing low-cost private schools do not have the certified teachers or large playgrounds required for official recognition, and could not afford them even with the subsidies envisaged by the RtE Act. If the rules of the RtE are enforced as written, the most effective group of schools serving India's poor will be destroyed.

This looming catastrophe has been recognized by the New Delhi-based Center for Civil Society, which, among other groups, has filed suit to block the RtE Act regulations that would eradicate low-cost entrepreneurial education in India. But such matters needn't be decided in a courtroom. The evidence that government regulation fails to improve educational quality is extensive and readily available. Just as clear is the successful and growing role played by entrepreneurial unrecognized private schools that are held accountable directly by parents. The law can be changed to reflect these realities if the people demand it.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this writing are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of League of India, its Editorial Board or the business and socio-political interests that they might represent.

This article was first published on The Huffington Post here

Andrew Coulson directs the Center for Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute, in Washington, DC, and is author of the peer-reviewed journal article “Comparing Public, Private, and Market Schools: The International Evidence.”  He is author of Market Education: The Unknown History, the only book to address contemporary education policy questions by drawing on case studies from across the entire span of recorded human history.

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Avani Chaturvedi Creates History for the Indian Air Force



Flying Officer Avani Chaturvedi becomes the first Indian woman to fly fighter aircraft MiG-21 Bison solo.

Chaturvedi flew a MiG-21 bison in her first training solo sortie, in Jamnagar, Gujarat.

She completed the half-an-hour long solo flight in the Russian-origin jet in the skies over Jamnagar Air Base. “This is a major milestone in training of a fighter pilot and first time an Indian woman has flown a fighter aircraft solo. It demonstrates IAF’s enduring commitment to ‘Nari Shakti’,” IAF spokesperson Wing Commander Anupam Banerjee said.

It is pertinent to mention here that MiG-21 Bison has the highest landing and take-off speed in the world – 340 kmph.

She is one of the three in the first batch of female pilots, besides Bhawana Kanth and Mohana Singh, who were inducted in Indian Air Force fighter squadron on June 18, 2016.

Speaking to news agencies, Air Commodore Prashant Dixit said, “It is a unique achievement for Indian Air Force and the country.”

She is from Rewa district in Madhya Pradesh.  She completed her training at Hyderabad Air Force Academy. She did her schooling from Deoland, a small town in Shahdol district of Madhya Pradesh. Completing her Bachelors in Technology from Banasthali University, Rajasthan in 2014, she passed the Indian Air Force exam.

Chaturvedi is inspired by her brother who is in the Army.

She was declared as the first combat pilot along with two of her cohort, Mohana Singh, and Bhawana Kanth.

Mohana Singh and Bhawana have also completed training to fly a fighter plane and will soon fly fighter planes. All three were given training in January.s inducted into the Indian Air Force fighter squadron on June 18, 2016. They were formally commissioned by then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.

Chaturvedi, who is posted to No. 23 Squadron (Panthers), is from the first batch of three women officers who were commissioned as fighter pilots in the IAF in June 2016. Till last week, she had undertaken flights in twin-seater training jets, accompanied by Qualified Flying Instructors of the IAF. After completing her basic flying training on a Pilatus aircraft at the Air Force Academy, Chaturvedi underwent six months of training on Kiran trainer jets at Hakimpet, which was followed by a year-long training stint on Hawk advanced trainer jets at Bidar Air Base.

Only selected countries, such as Britain, the United States, Israel, and Pakistan, have allowed women in the role of fighter pilots.

It was in October 2015 that the Government took the decision to open the fighter stream for women. Meanwhile, combat roles in the Army and the Navy are still off-limits for women, due to a combination of operational concerns and logistical constraints.

On December 16, 2017, two women from the second batch to enter the fighter stream of the Indian Air Force were commissioned after graduating from the Air Force Academy, Dundigul.

It was only in 1992 that the armed forces began recruiting women to streams, other than the Medical stream. Since 1993, women officers have been inducted into all branches and stream as Short Service Commissioned Officers except in the fighter stream. However, IAF has revised Short Service Commission scheme to induct women into the fighter stream on experimental basis for five years.

The IAF has already selected the next batch of three women trainee pilots for the fighter stream.


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Kindergarten Girl Vows to Clean Dal Lake



A five-year-old girl from northern Jammu and Kashmir has taken upon herself to clean up the state’s picturesque and iconic Dal Lake.

Raw sewage, land encroachment and years of neglect have been threatening the survival of a lake where visitors from Mughal emperors to George Harrison once enjoyed the idyllic stillness of its waters surrounded by Himalayan mountains.

Thousands of tonnes of sewage spew into the lake, feeding weeds and choking the lake and its aquatic life of oxygen. Moreover, lily pads, that cover vast swathes of the lake, hamper the movement of ‘shikaras’ or houseboats.

However, Jannat, a kindergarten student, heads out, armed with a net basket in her hand, with an aim to restore Dal’s aesthetic beauty.

“My daughter used to see me cleaning and this is how she picked up the habit of cleanliness. Dal is the essence of Kashmir and now she has taken the entire responsibility on her shoulders”, said a proud father Tariq Ahmed.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also moved by the “passion” of the five-year-old towards cleanliness.

The state of Jammu & Kashmir is considered one of the most popular tourist destinations in India. Once dubbed the Switzerland of the east, Kashmir was heaven for skiers, honeymooners and film-makers, who were drawn to its soaring peaks, fruit orchards and timber houseboats on the Dal lake in Srinagar.

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Women Aviators to be Felicitated Today, on International Women’s Day



As part of the year long events to celebrate the centenary year of Civil Aviation in India, and on the occasion of the International Women’s day on 8th March, 2011, the Ministry of Civil Aviation will highlight the role of women aviators in civil aviation in India. The Ministry of Civil Aviation will felicitate women aviators, who have contributed significantly to the civil aviation in India.  Shri Vayalar Ravi, Union Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs and Civil Aviation, Smt Ambika Soni Minister of Information and Broadcasting and Smt Jayanthi Natarajan, Member of Parliament, will be present on the occasion.

The women who will be felicitated are :-

Pioneer Pilots:

Late Capt. Prem Mathur – First woman to obtain Commercial Pilot License.
Capt. Durba Banerjee – First woman Commander of an airline.
Ms. Chanda Budhabhatti – Pioneer Pilot and Founder of Indian Women Pilots’ Association.


Ms. Bhubaneshwari Gautam – First woman Aircraft Maintenance     Engineer.
Capt. Aruna Kandarpa     – First woman Helicopter Pilot.
Capt. Sonica Chhabra – First woman Instructor/Examiner in airlines.
Ms. Harpreet A De Singh – First woman Technical Ground Instructor and First Head of Quality Management Systems of an airline.


Ms. Tulsi Mirchandani – CEO, Blue Dart.
Capt. Shobha K Mani – CEO, North-East Shuttle.


Ms. Tuhinanshu Sharma – First woman ICAO auditor from DGCA.

Airports Authority of India:

Ms Kalpana Sethi, General Manager, (architect) AAI
Ms K Hemalatha, General Manager (Finance), Chennai
Ms Aryama Sanyal, Jt General Manager (ATC), Ahmedabad
Ms R. Vasundara, Deputy General manager (CNS), Chennai

Cabin Crew of IC-814(Kathmandu – Kandhahar hijack flight):

Ms. Sapna Menon
Ms. RajniChandrasekhar
Ms. Kalpana Mazumdar
Ms. Tara Debnath
Mr. Anil Sharma
Mr. M.A. Satish

As part of the event presentations would be delivered on the occasion highlighting the contribution being made by women in all fields of civil aviation as well as the new opportunities that are emerging in the sector.

In continuation with the historic tradition of planning ALL WOMEN FLIGHTS on International Women’s Day, and encouraging women efforts in all walks of life, Air India has also organised flights with all women crew together with women dispatchers, women load and trim staff, women engineers, women staff at check-in counters, women doctor for crew breathalyser test, women staff for security checks and women conducting LOSA safety audit.

The following flights are being planned on the Women's Day i.e. 8th March 2011.

The non-stop flight AI-187 on Delhi- Toronto sector will be operated by commanders Capt Rashmi Miranda and Capt Sunita Narula and First officers Capt Varsha Sheoran and Capt. Nidhi Suri.  The flight is being despatched by women despatcher Ms Rashmi Verma.

There are also other flights which are being operated by all-women crew:

AI-409/410   Delhi-Patna-Delhi
AI-469       Delhi-Raipur-Nagpur-Delhi
AI-811/812   Delhi-Lucknow-Delhi
AI-603/604   Mumbai-Bangalore-Mumbai
AI-569       Chennai-Mumbai
IX-671       Chennai-Colombo-Chennai
IX-302       Kozhikode-Mumbai-Kozhikode

Air India's foray into all-women crew flights dates back to November 1985 when Capt. Saudamini Deshmukh and Capt. Nivedita Bhasin operated an Indian Airlines Fokker Friendship flight from Kolkata to Silchar, followed by the first jet flight when they operated a B737 from Mumbai to Goa in 1989.   In erstwhile Air India, the first A310 flight with all-women crew was operated on March 8, 2004 to Singapore with Capt. Rashmi Miranda in command and Capt. Kshmata Bajpai as co-pilot.

It may be recalled that Air India had organised an all women crew flight last year.The B777-200LR Nonstop flight AI-141 from Mumbai to New York at midnight on March 8, 2010 took off which created history when an all-women crew operated an ultra long-haul flight. In 2010, Air India operated a record 22 all-women crew flight across its domestic and international network.

As part of the event, presentations will be delivered highlighting the contribution being made by women in all fields of civil aviation as well as the new opportunities that are emerging in the sector.

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