Sunday, October 25, 2015

Accelerated learning mooted for academically weak students

MUMBAI: From the next academic year, students who are academically weak may be able to opt for an accelerated learning programme, which will teach them three to four years’ curriculum within one year, and help them catch up with their peers.
The principal secretary of the state school education de partment, Nand Kumar, has put forth this proposal to reduce the number of students failing in Class 9 and to arrest the dropout rate in secondary sections.
Cur rently, t he state has the highest dropout rate in Class 9- it stands at 8.9% as per the latest U-DISE (Unified District Information System for Education) report. This is much higher than dropout rates for other classes, which range between 1% and 3%.
According to officials, schools fail a large number of students in class 9, and as a result the students drop out. This trend has been aggravated with the introduction of the no- f ail policy in 2010, which provides for automatic promotion from class 1 to class 8.
“We are studying accelerated learning programmes that have managed to teach four-and-ahalf year’s curriculum to students in just one year,” said Kumar. “It was implemented for primary students by a private non-profit organisation.”
The department will rope in officials, educationists and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) working for education to provide their suggestions to the proposal. “The idea is at a nascent stage right now, we will finalise the details after consulting with experts,” said Kumar.
But educationists raise concerns over the benefits of an accelerated learning programme for secondary students. “Such programmes can be done easily for students in primary sections, as students are able to grasp concepts better at a young age, but it will be a little difficult for 14-15-year-olds to study at that pace,” said Farida Lambay, cofounder, Pratham, NGO.
City school principals welcomed the proposal. “Owing to the no-fail policy, children have lost the practice of writing and are hence unable to score in exams in higher classes,” said Father Francis Swamy, principal, St Mary’s School (ICSE), Mazgaon, and the joint secretary of the Archdiocesan Board of Education that runs 150-odd schools in the city.

At IIT Bombay, decade-old mentorship plan bears fruit


It gives protection from ragging, stress and offers solace to newbies

MUMBAI: Akanksha Yadav, a first-year engineering student in Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-B), recalls a recent incident. “One of my batch-mates had fared poorly in the Chemistry paper. She was feeling very low. Fortunately, one of our seniors consoled her and talked her out of the phase,” she said.
The senior student is one of the ‘mentors’ appointed as part of IIT-B’s Student Mentor Programme (SMP). The decadeold programme, launched with the primary objective of protecting newcomers from ragging, has matured into a larger campus acclimatization initiative.
This year the institute has appointed 80 mentors to cater to more than 900 freshers. “This year, we had received around 350 applications from those aspiring to mentor,” said Yamini Bansal, one of the coordinators of SMP. The mentors were selected after a round of interviews. A website launched by the group a few months ago had received more than 70,000 page views, say the group members.
These mentors have been tasked with guiding the firstyear students in their academics, helping them cope with stress, and making them acquainted with the institute’s culture. “The students come from various backgrounds and different parts of the country. SMP helps them navigate through IIT’s culture and even helps them with their personal problems,” added Bansal.
The IITs are known for their exhaustive curriculum and vigorous training, which often takes a toll on newcomers. To help these students, the SMP coordinators sometimes organise special stress management sessions.
Most of the freshers find their mentors to be very helpful. “When we come to IIT, we are clueless about most things here. So, whenever we get stuck with some problem we reach out to our mentors, who are always willing to help,” said Ajay Kotwal, a first-year student. “The mentors make it a point to visit us once in a while. In any case, they are just a phone call away, if we need any help.”
According to Bansal, the mentor-mentee relationship often develops into a valuable friendship. “Many of the mentors continue guiding the juniors even after graduating from IIT. It’s their way of giving back to the institute,” she said.

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