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Archives – March, 2010

Education Becomes a Fundamental Right of Every Child

RTE becomes a law from today, April 1st 2010, making education a fundamental right of very child in India (official Act). It took 60 years but nevertheless it’s here and now onus lies with the government, NGOs and public  in general to oversee the proper implementation of Right to Education. PM Manmohan Singh addressed the nation today regarding this new fundamental right. This was again for the first time any PM addressed the country on introduction of a specific law, but then again  it was no ordinary law, it was introduction of a new fundamental right. I am very excited about RTE but also keeping my fingers crossed.

HRD Ministry has set some Model rules for RTE implementation as well as clarified the definition of neighborhood school. As per the model rules finalized now, a neighborhood school for class I to V means an institution that exists within one kilometer. For class VI to VIII, neighborhood schools will be within three kilometers. The rules also ask the states to upgrade the existing class I-V schools to include classes VI-VIII.The model rules also state that the period of admission can be extended six months from the date of commencement of the academic year. Only schools run by a society, not-for-profit trusts and open to government inspection can be given recognition. The schools should not be used for commercial or residential purpose except for employees. (Source TOI)

The challenge lies in improving the quality of education and not just increasing the enrollment of children. Quality of education lies in the quality of teachers and improved infrastructure which requires adequate funds from Center and State both. Currently, more than 1.2 million additional teachers will be required for proper implementation of RTE across the country. But not being a skeptic here, I am very excited and it’s a great step forward. Next step is monitoring the implementation of this act as well focusing on improving the quality of primary education in India. Say what you may like to say about Sonia Gandhi and her minions but she along with Dr. Manmohan singh has been instrumental in making laws like RTI, RTE, NREGA a reality.

Well now time to talk about some of the things missing in the RTE:

  • – Only kids from age group 6-14 come under RTE, what will happen to who graduate from 8th class? What abut kids  below age of 6?
  • – No clear mention about facilities for kids with disabilities. The act mentions only mobility related disabilities, so what about kids with listening and vision disability?
  • – No mention about how to get back those kids into school  who are involved in child labor
  • – RTE provides for 25% reservation for children of low income group in private schools, that will cover the fee and possibly books but what about other expenses in these private  schools. RTE does not mention anything abut it and without those expenses kids from lower income group can not cope up in these schools.
  • – Adequate funds for implementation of RTE is another issue. But here is an interesting fact mentioned by Dr Viond Raina that many states such as UP, Bihar, Assam, West BEngal and Orissa are not even able to use up the allocated funds (there is an excess of Rs 10000 crores underutilized by these states from previous year). So, maybe funds will not be that much of an issue, proper implementation is an issue.
  • – Proper training of teachers is a must. The bill stipulates for hiring and deploying of teachers in next 6 month from now. More than 1.2 million additional teachers will be required to meet RTE requirement of student to teacher ratio (30:1). These teachers need to be trained in next 5 years to national norm.
  • -Also, another concern is that RTE allows for govt school teachers to be deployed in activities such as election duties, census etc. So who will teach kids in these schools esp in the schools with just 1-2 teachers?

There is a lot of scope for improvement and many amendments need to be made in coming times. Organizations like Asha and other NGOs need to keep pushing for that and we also need to monitor the implementation of this act with the help of our project partners and volunteers back home. But anyway, its a next step in forward direction.  RTE is in effect from today and we need to monitor its proper implementation and see how things unfold. Quality of education in Govt schools is of most concern and lets hope that it is given due importance by hiring and training teachers properly.

Leave a Comment March 31, 2010

Grandma and the Baby

Amazing artwork by Chase. Loved the expressions: sense of satisfaction on grandma’s  face and curiosity on baby’s face looking at the blue earth from the spaceship. In fact, it reminded me of one of my own experiences during one of my India trips. I was traveling from Atlanta to Mumbai via Amsterdam and my co-passengers in my neighboring seats were a two-three year old girl with her father on one side and an old lady (in her 80s) on the other side. The old lady had not traveled much but now she wanted to travel and wanted to see all her friends all over the world and she loved to talk. While the baby girl was very restless and her father read to her all the story books possible, played along with her various dolls during the 8-hour flight to Amsterdam. In the morning when the sun was shining in between the clouds, it was an amazing scene and both the baby and the old lady watched the sunrise through the window with a similar expression as depicted in this pic. The old lady was so happy to see the beautiful sunrise and said that if not she would have decided to travel, probably she would have missed this moment in her lifetime, while the baby girl after watching the sunrise with curiosity and calmness, went back to her restless ways.

Leave a Comment March 30, 2010

Are you a Flexitarian?

Yesterday while having dinner with friends came across this new word, which I had never heard of- Flexitarian! Well, Webster defines a Flexitarian as someone who is vegetarian but occasionally eats things that are not standard vegetarian fare (i.e. steak, chicken, fish, etc.) Or a vegetarian who is flexible enough to occasionally eat meat or fish. The word was first coined in 1992 and then was voted as most useful word by American dialect society in 2003 (can’t figure out why). On similar lines, there are other words– Pollitarian ( person who eats only poultry besides being vegetarian) and pescatarian (person who is vegetarian but occasionally eats fish). But once you have meat in your diet, even occasionally, I dont think you can call yourself being a vegetarian or flexitarian or use any other hybrid term. But nonetheless, I learned a new word- Flexitarian.

Leave a Comment March 28, 2010

Playlist of the Day

Phir DekhiyeRock On

I dont know how I missed this song when I watched the movie Rock On. I heard this song recently and have been loving it– the lyrics, the guitar and the soothing voice. Rock On Caralisa Monteiro and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy!!

Hey JulieFountains of Wayne

This song I heard for the first time in one of the Scrubs episodes and has been on my plalylist since then. There are whole bunch of other songs from scrubs which I would be adding soon.

New SlangThe Shins

One of my favorite songs from the movie ‘Garden State’ and as Natalie Portman says in the movie, this song will change your world :).

Boulevard of Broken DreamsGreen Day

I walk this empty street On the Boulevard of broken dreams Where the city sleeps And I’m the only one and I walk alone I walk alone

Holes to HeavenJack Johnson

Jack Johnson’s song describing his surf trip to Port Blair in India. Awesome song. Thanks to Bret for introducing me to music of Jack Johnson and Mason Jennings!!

Yellow TaxiMatt Costa

Similar style as Jack Johnson’s. Cool Acoustics.

Say Na NaCouples Retreat- A R Rahman

The song was nominated for Oscars this year, not one of the best works of AR Rahman, but still not bad either.

Hey, Soul SisterTrain

I heard this jingle in the new Samsung LED TV ad and so had to find what song was that, so here it is…

Ma RewaIndian Ocean- Kandisa

I like it in second half of the song where they pick up the pace, also I lived very nearby to the place, Amarkantak, which is mentioned int the song. River Narmada originates from there.

Yeh Jo Des Hai TeraSwades- AR Rahman

Swades soundtrack is just another masterpiece by Rahman. The song also reminds me of our first Asha UFlorida event….

Young BloodNorah Jones

Young Blood by Norah Jones

Leave a Comment March 28, 2010

RTI- You can do it

Right to Information filing is so easy even a school kid can do it- yup it’s true. Recently a 3rd grade kid, Aishwarya, in Lucknow filed a RTI application for removal of garbage which was piling up in front of her school and endangering the health of the kids. Even though the Lucknow Municipal corporation has still to act on her application for removal of the garbage, but atleast, it has been noticed and, hopefully, in coming days they will take care of it. As Aishwarya says, RTI is something which can make wrong things right. Read the full story here

(photo and story- TOI)

Leave a Comment March 28, 2010

Earth Hour- Mar 27 8:30 PM

Hi folks, Dont forget to turn off your lights for an hour on March 27th, 8:30 PM! I know switching off the lights just for one hour is not enough to save the planet, but it’s just a way to show solidarity with the movement. The hope is that all if us, including me, will continue to make efforts to save energy each and every day wherever and whenever possible and ultimately hope that the Governments will make policy changes regarding indiscriminate use of fossil fuels and save our planet. Earth hour is a good way to kickstart the upcoming Earth day activities as well.

Leave a Comment March 26, 2010

Happy Pi Day

It’s March 14th today, 3/14, mathematicians celebrate this day as Pi day to mark the importance of constant (3.14) in mathematics and science. Today is also Einstein’s birthday!! Geeks celebrate this day eating pies and discussing the importance of number pi. Till now pi’s value has been determined to 2.7 trillion digits after decimal. There are people who have memorized pi’s values to hundreds and thousands of digits after decimal. Current world record is held by Lu Chao who memorized and recited the value of pi to 67,890 digits, pretty impressive!! As we all know pi is an irrational number and any string of number will be present in number pi somewhere. Try this pi search engine to find where your date of birth or any string of number lies in pi.

Some more pi trivia:

  1. Symbol of pi first used in 1706 by William Jones, but was popular after it was adopted by the Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler in 1737.
  2. Historical evidence suggest that Pi was known and approximated by Greeks and Indian mathematicians around 1900 BC.
  3. Professor Hans-Henrik Stolum, an earth scientist at Cambridge University has calculated the ratio between teh actual length of rivers from source to mouth and their direct length. Although the ratio varies from river to river, the average value is slightly greater than 3, that is to say that the actual length is roughly three times greater than the direct distance. In fact the ratio is approximately 3.14, which is close to the value of the number pi… The ratio of pi is most commonly found for rivers flowing across very gently sloping planes, such as those found in Brazil or the Siberian tundra.
  4. Pi truncated to 50 decimal places 3.14159 26535 89793 23846 26433 83279 50288 41971 69399 37510
  5. MIT usually sends out its acceptance letter to students on pi day.

So how will you celebrate the pi day? I might use this as an excuse to eat some more strawberry pies from nearby Servatii bakery !!

2 Comments March 13, 2010

Where does cosmic ray come from?

All of us involved in spectroscopy have witnessed random sharp peaks arising in the measurements which are due to some random cosmic ray or “extragalactic high energy particles” including Gamma rays making all the way from outer space to earth’s atmosphere and finally finding our detectors. Cosmic rays entering earth’s atmosphere consist of many energetic particles of which only 1%  consists of Gamma rays.  But where do these high energy Gamma rays come from? Thanks to Fermi Gamma ray Telescope , we might be able to answer this question. Fermi Telescope which was launched in 2008, has  started sending data and initial data has already debunked few assumptions or the explanations for the source of Gamma rays. It was suspected that black-hole-powered jets from active galaxies were the majorsource of these Gamma rays but the recent data shows that these active galaxies can account for only 30% of the Gamma rays .Of the many objectives of Fermi experiments, one of the objective was to study and map the Gamma ray sky and to understand its origin in the space.   The picture shown here has been taken by Fermi telescope during the course of one year observation and blue color represents the Gamma ray background as seen by the telescope. The orange color is the rate at whihc the telescope sees the Gamma rays from different sky directions.

So where is the rest of contribution coming from? Maybe Dark matter? What exactly is dark matter and what are it’s properties? How do they interact to produce Gamma rays? Fermi will be able to provide answers to these questions, hopefully, in coming days…  Read more about Fermi

2 Comments March 12, 2010

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October 20, 2020
1632 Sir Christopher Wren
1822 Thomas Hughes
1884 Bela Lugosi
1889 Margaret Dumont
1918 Anton Diffring
1925 Art Buchwald
1926 Lord Montague of Beaulieu
1934 Timothy West
1963 Anatoliy Khrapatiy