Relevant and timely

Thanks for your cover story on India’s first early child-hood education conference held in Mumbai, and for reproducing the excellent speeches made on the day by ECE experts (EW August). As you write, pre-school educa-tion is indeed an area of darkness with any utrained housewife allowed to promote a pre-school in her garage/ backyard.

Given the critical importance of foundational pre-school education — it was a revelation that 70 percent of brain development happens between 0-3 years — there’s an urgent need to prescribe minimum learning standards, safety guidelines, teacher training and play infrastructure requirements. Preferably, the setting of acceptable standards, as TISS’ Dr. Vrinda Datta in her speech ‘Regulation in pre-school education’ has suggested, should be done by a peer group. Government intervention should not be solicited as it will lead to corruption and dilution of standards.

Also special educator Varsha Hooja’s plea to make pre-school education inclusive is very relevant and timely. Inclusion of disabled children should begin in pre-school as early inclusion will help them develop educationally and linguistically.
Lakshmi Rajan

Class-biased feature

It’s sad that a magazine which cham-pions the cause of quality education for all children — not just the 10 percent who are enroled in private schools — didn’t include a speaker/topic on quality pre-schools for the poor in its first global conference on early childhood education (EW August). It seems that you have been swayed by commercial interests, and are over-impressed by the booming growth of franchised pre-schools which pamper middle and upper middle class children in fancy classrooms.

Although you do mention in your introduction the failure of the Central government-sponsored ICDS progr-amme, and the denial of early childhood care and education to an overwhelming 90 percent of children in the 0-6 age group, I looked in vain to find a single line by the expert speakers endorsing the need to create a level playing field in pre-school education, and ways and means to provide education to socially and economically mar-ginalised children.
Ajay Sharma

Clear message need

It’s sad that it took the tragic suicide of Rouvanjit Rawla (Education News ‘Zero tolerance message’, EW August) for the West Bengal government to wake up to the menace of corporal punishment in schools. Hopefully the newly formed state-level Commission for Protection of Child Rights won’t end up as another of the many government commissions doling out recommendations and pious statements, and will be legally empowered to impose its directives on all educational institutions.

In particular the commission must take serious note of the large scale preval-ence of corporal punishment in government schools. Government school teachers are notorious for inflicting cruel punishment upon children for flimsy reasons. This must stop and the newly formed commission must send out a clear message to all teachers — including government school teachers — that any infringement will invite not just suspension from service but also imprisonment.
Priya Chatterjee

ICDS hoax

Your excellent cover story (‘ECE: Grave challenges, Great opportunities’) highlights the criminal neglect of India’s demographic wealth. I noted with interest that the 2009-10 outlay for the Central government’s ICDS programme, which is delivered through 1.3 million anganwadis is Rs.6,067 crore. This works out to an outlay of Rs.51,584 per anganwadi (crèche) per year. Almost the entire allocation per anganwadi is likely to be consumed by way of crèche workers’ salaries.

In the circumstances, are you surprised that 46 percent of the country’s under-5 children are severely under-nourished? What a hoax!
Ramanujam on e-mail

Ugly face champion

Re your postscripts (EW August), thanks for exposing the ugly face of capitalism. All three of your subjects — Keshub Mahindra, Montek Singh Ahluwalia and George Fernandes — are ugly capitalists in their own way. But I seem to recall that you were a champion of private industry and capitalism in your previous avatar as the editor of Business India and Businessworld.
Arindam K. on e-mail

Keep trucking

Brilliant cover story (‘Lessons from the Singapore Way’, EW July). How Lee Kuan Yew and his successors have transformed this Mumbai-style slum city into the world’s cleanest and greenest  and a hub of education, should be an object lesson for our squabbling politicians and venal bureaucrats. The pity is that this example is likely to be completely lost on this country’s greedy, loot-hungry public servants.

But keep trucking, Bro. Yours is a long road!
Ashok Sadhu on e-mail

Hard truth

I read prof. Jandhyala Tilak’s essay ‘RTE Act 2009 — illusory promises’ with interest (EW July). It seems Prof. Tilak wants a common school system and the disappearance of private schools. Yet the hard truth is that the people have no faith in government-run schools typified by appalling infrastructure, chronic teacher absenteeism, vernacular language teaching and abysmal learning outcomes.

That’s why even the poorest families scrimp and save to send their children to private schools.
Santosh Kumar on e-mail