Volume 20 - Issue 15, July 19 - August 01, 2003


A leader in education


Maharashtra has an impressive list of colleges and other institutions that offer quality higher education in various disciplines.

The Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai.

FOR a developing country, India has a higher education system that is vast and impressive. According to the Department of Education of the Union government, the country has 234 universities, 12,600 colleges and approximately 7.1 million students.

Maharashtra is one of the States that are in the forefront in the matter of higher education. The State offers numerous graduate and post-graduate courses of study in the arts, science and commerce streams as well as in professional courses such as medicine, engineering and management.

Apart from Mumbai, the State has colleges in Navi Mumbai, Thane, Nasik, Pune, Ahmednagar, Nagpur, Aurangabad, Sangli, Osmanabad, Vasai, Jalgaon, Dombivli, Kolhapur and Karad districts. The Bharatiya Vidyapeeth colleges form a prestigious group in the State's educational network. Medical colleges including colleges of Ayurveda and Unani, engineering colleges, law colleges, colleges for arts and fine arts, and institutions offering courses in pharmacy, management, commerce, home science, social work, physical education, architecture and education (Bachelor of Education or B.Ed) have earned Maharastra a premier place in the educational map of the country.

The growing importance of Information Technology (IT) made the State government launch the Maharashtra Knowledge Corporation, investing Rs.5 crores. The main objective of the Corporation is to provide IT-enabled education in all universities, colleges and other educational institutions. Efforts are under way to impart computer and IT-related knowledge and skills to the poor and underprivileged rural youth at reasonable costs. The State government has established, with private participation, Network Access Centres in all educational institutions. The centres offer the Maharashtra State Certificate Course in Information Technology (MSCIT) to build basic computer skills in young people. In the academic year 2001-02, around 6,000 additional seats were introduced in IT and related courses in engineering colleges and 3,000 additional seats in polytechnics. Five training centres were set up at the Mantralaya, the State's seat of power, and a programme for training one lakh employees was launched.

Software Technology Parks such as the International Infotech Park, New Mumbai; Millennium Business Park, New Mumbai; Pune Infotech Park, Pune; and the Santacruz Electronic Export Processing Zone (SEEPZ), Mumbai, were also set up. A hardware park is being established near the Jawaharlal Nehru Port in New Mumbai. It has been decided to link Pune and Mumbai through a `knowledge corridor' by means of optic fibre cable.

The Mumbai Educational Trust (MET), established in 1989, is a professionally managed educational organisation in the State. Its fully integrated complex in Bandra houses its institutes of pharmacy, life sciences, IT and management studies. Its founder member and Vice Chairperson Sunil Karve says: "When we started, we realised the need for good, quality education. The vision was to develop an institute that would be a temple of knowledge." A chartered accountant by profession, Karve now spends all his energy for the institution, "where the thrust is not just on academics but on the development of personality and the inculcation of values," according to him.

The institute offers a diploma as well as a degree programme in pharmacy, a master's degree course in management studies, and a postgraduate diploma programme in management and business administration. A one-year course in medical laboratory, a diploma course in optometry technology, a personality development course for medical representatives, and hi-tech courses like Diploma in Advanced Computing (DAC), Diploma in Advanced Computing Arts (DACA), Diploma in Information Technology, and Master of Computer Applications (MCA) are also offered here.

The MET plans to set up a nursing college, which would be attached to the Leelavati Hospital in Mumbai, and also an Institute of Sustainable Development, which would include in its syllabus subjects such as environment development and pollution control.

"MET has been granted the United Nations Economic and Social Council's special consultative status - a first-of-its-kind achievement for any educational institution in the country. The status was granted at the 22nd meeting of the U.N. Committee on Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), held recently at its New York headquarters," said Karve. This means that the institute will "help the U.N. to formulate policies for the uplift of rural areas through the participation of civil society," he said. At the U.N. meeting, MET presented a paper on the uplift of the tribal people of Vasai taluk in Thane district.

This January, MET was given an ISO: 9001-2000 certificate for its quality education system. Says Karve, "Here, we believe that just growing big is not enough. Growing strong is what we aim for."

AMONG the Parsi trusts catering to higher education is the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, which was established in 1932. The trust promotes six pioneering institutions of national importance. Four of these were established in Mumbai: the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (1936), the Tata Memorial Centre for Cancer Research and Treatment (1941), the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (1945), and the National Centre for the Performing Arts (1966).

The Tata Institute of Social Sciences is considered to be a pioneer in the Asia-Pacific region in the field of social work education. It has made significant contributions in social policy, planning, intervention strategies and human resource development. It offers post-graduate and doctoral programmes in social sciences, personnel management, industrial relations and health, hospital management and social work. The institute is well-equipped, and has nine teaching departments, eight research units, two resource units, and resource cells.

The Tata Institute of Fundamental Research offers graduate studies and research opportunities in mathematics, natural sciences and computer science.

The Tata Management Centre, inaugurated in 1966 by J.R.D. Tata, is one of the leading management training institutes of the country. The centre aims to improve organisational performance through the dissemination of up-to-date knowledge and skills among practising managers, development of learning organisations, and facilitation of their attitudinal and behavioural changes.

Yet another Paris trust, named after the founder of the Tata Group is the Jamshedji Tata Trust, set up in 1974. It bestows grants in areas where innovative efforts are made. The J.N. Tata Endowment, established in 1892, funds higher education for deserving Indian scholars. The latter trust has supported 3,500 scholars and awarded more than Rs.68 million to promising students from various strata of society.

The Lady Meherbai D. Tata Education Trust, set up in 1932 by Sir Dorabji Tata in memory of his wife, Lady Meherbai Tata, helps women graduates go abroad to study social work. It has thus far supported 228 women (with a total disbursement of Rs.30,70,000). The Sir Ratan Tata Trust, established in 1918 in accordance with the directives in Sir Ratan Tata's will, utilises its funds in five areas including basic and advanced (post-graduate) education; primary and preventive health; rural livelihoods and communities; arts and culture; and public initiatives. Preference is given to projects based in rural India, and those that involve the advancement of women and children. The R.D. Tata Trust, set up in 1990, promotes the advancement of learning by way of institutional grants, apart from backing social welfare projects and philanthropic activities.

Among the institutes offering higher education in technology are the Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute (VJTI) and the Vivekanand Education Society's (VES) Institute of Technology. In architecture, the Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute for Architecture and the Pillai's College of Architecture offer quality education. The Mumbai-based S.P. Jain Institute of Management and Research is among the top management colleges in the country. It offers courses in marketing, information management, international business, finance and so on. The institute also offers courses in family-managed business programmes, and e-commerce. The Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies, which was awarded the Best Management School of the Year Award in 1999-2000, is another much-sought-after institute. Among the other institutes offering management courses are the K.J. Somaiya Institute of Management Studies and Research and the N.L. Dalmia Management Institute of Studies and Research.

Volume 20 - Issue 15, July 19 - August 01, 2003

Schools to empower women


Maharashtra has evolved various models for women's education to suit the recipient's needs, amply supported by the State's NGOs.

The Government of Maharashtra has declared January 3, the birth anniversary of Savitribai Phule, Women's Liberation Day. Savitribai, along with her husband and social reformer Mahatma Jyotirao Phule, had pioneered women's education in India with the goal of social development and women's liberation in a male-dominated society. She opened a school for `untouchable' girls in 1852. She and her husband promoted widow remarriages. Her life was a struggle against the evils in society.

This successful legacy of social reform, focussing on women's education, has been a motivating factor for women's formal and non-formal education promoted by the State government, private foundations and voluntary organisations in Maharashtra. Centres for women's studies in the universities in the State provide platforms for constructive dialogue to eradicate the hurdles in the way of women's empowerment through education.

As per Census 2001, Kerala has the highest literacy rate for women (88 per cent) and Maharashtra the second highest (68 per cent). During the death centenary year of Savitribai Phule, 1997, the State had made two-thirds of its female population literate. Within 15 years of the introduction of the State government-sponsored Savitribai Phule Foster Parent Scheme, which involves the combined effort of the State government, school authorities, proactive teachers and citizens to promote and financially support girls' education in schools run by village councils, tehsil councils, district councils and municipal corporations in Maharashtra, millions of girls from the marginalised sections have successfully completed formal education. In the secondary and higher secondary examinations in the State held in March 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003, girls performed better than boys. In the SSC examination in 2000, 53.34 per cent of the girls and 47.45 per cent of the boys passed, while in the HSC examination, 68.02 per cent of the girls and 55.92 per cent of the boys passed. Increasing numbers of middle- and upper-class girls are joining engineering, medical and law colleges and business management schools.

Human Development Report, Maharashtra, 2002 recommended the empowerment of women by stressing better compulsory elementary education. The Maharashtra State Education Policy, which has made a provision for free education for girls up to Class 12, has proved to be a boon for the development of the State.

As per a survey conducted by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) in 1996, the ever-enrolment rate in the State (the proportion of children who ever got enrolled in school, at any level, in the 6-14 years age group, at the time of the survey) was 82.3 per cent for girls and 88.1 per cent for boys. The average discontinuation rate (percentage of ever-enrolled children who discontinued studies at any time in the age group of 6-14 years) in the State was 8.4 per cent for girls and 5.9 per cent for boys.

The attendance rate for urban women in schools is higher (84.6 per cent) than that for their rural counterparts (75.7 per cent). One-fourth of the total girl children in the State do not attend school because they are required at home to do household work and look after younger siblings, or for outside work for payment in cash or kind, or because their parents find schooling too expensive, and so on.

The State has evolved various models for women's education that are suitable for different life situations and cultural backgrounds. Some of the successful non-governmental (NGO) models in non-formal methods of imparting education include:

Youth for Unity and Action (YUVA)

The main thrust of the Anubhav Shikshan Programme of the Youth for Unity and Action, Maharashtra is on community-based youth activities through the critical examination of firsthand experience; learning from the literature produced by marginalised sections of society; unlearning sexism, casteism and communalism through exercises such as role-play and role reversal; and having mutuality in the relationship between the teacher and the taught.

Vidhayak Sansad is doing similar work in the rural and tribal villages of Thane district.

Stree Mukti Sangathana and Granthali

Since 1974, the SMS has been involved in women's education through songs, skits, ballets, plays, carnivals and mobile exhibitions, to promote gender-awareness. By 1985, the SMS managed to go high-tech by marketing its productions through a series of audio and video cassettes, through the mainstream media, and through several publications including its mouthpiece in Marathi, Élan of Women. Its plays on the social uplift of the girl child, dowry and so on, have been staged across Maharashtra. Since 1992, the SMS has made special efforts to reach out to the minority communities through active participation in the literacy mission of the State government.

Granthali is a library movement spearheaded by the secular intellectuals of Maharashtra. The most attractive aspects of this movement are the publication of original Marathi works, translation from other regional languages and English, and the distribution of books through mobile exhibition-cum-sale. Educational material produced by Granthali has been found to be useful for classroom teaching and teachers' training on issues of social development.

Inspiring Projects for Girl Students

Young, underprivileged girls in the age group of 9 to14 years are getting education about real-life issues and an identity of their own among other things, thanks to the Mumbai-based NGO Vacha's Bal Kishori Action Research Project. Vacha regularly organises educational melas for adolescent girls, which deal with health, mathematics, accounts and English.

Prerana, an NGO based in Mumbai's red-light area, is trying to rehabilitate children of commercial sex workers by providing them with education and shelter.

Sahayog of Mumbai started a school in June 2000 for adolescent girls who had dropped out of middle school and high school. The girls are now preparing for open school examination.

Role of Distance Education in Women's Social Development

Distance education departments of universities in the State are attracting thousands of women who want to pursue higher education. Contact lectures conducted by the University Grants Commission (UGC) in its "countrywide classroom" programmes on Doordarshan are watched by the distance learners. Documentaries on women's studies, telecast by Education Media Research Centre (EMRC), Pune, are also found to be useful educational tools.

Street children, child workers and child prostitutes who have been rehabilitated cannot cope with formal education. Hence many NGOs have started open schools for them, which offer a wide range of creatively designed courses.

Jeevan Nirvah Niketan (JNN) is an open school in a slum in Mumbai started by a retired school principal in the early 1990s. When Snehasadan established 15 homes for street-children in the same area, it had to adopt a multi-pronged approach as regards their education. Those who managed to pick up fast were admitted to the formal school. Those who could not were admitted to the open school. In 1996, when the Mumbai Police rescued child-prostitutes from red-light areas and sent them for rehabilitation to shelter homes in the same area, the necessity for an open school for girls who could not adjust with the mainstream education came up. The third category of students in the open school are the child workers from the locality. The shelter homes constructed a new building to house the open school. Now, the open school has a huge building with all modern amenities, well-equipped units for technical and vocational training, and school buses. It provides placement for the students in professional social work institutions. The success story of JNN has inspired the State government to replicate this model in all educationally deprived areas of the State.

Pratham in Mumbai believes in providing a forum for collaborative efforts among the Brihan Mumbai Municipal Corporation, voluntary organisations and the corporate sector. Pratham has focussed on issues of easier and safe access to education, better attendance in schools and the creation of an interesting teaching-learning experience through its hundreds of volunteers.

A mobile crèche is providing custodial care for the children of migrant construction workers. Primary school education is also made available for the children.

According to the National Family Health Survey (1998-99), of the total female population in Maharashtra, 38.6 per cent were illiterate, 18.1 per cent were literate (though they had not completed primary schooling), 17.8 per cent had completed primary schooling, 10.8 per cent had studied up to middle school, 7.9 per cent had passed the secondary examination and 6.9 per cent had passed higher secondary and above.

The government of Maharashtra has adopted effective strategies to reduce gender disparities in education. Some of them are:

* Lowering the direct and indirect costs of girls' education for parents.

* Developing relevant and gender sensitive curricula.

* Advocacy of girls' education that includes awareness generation about social and economic benefits of girls' education.

* Promoting training and recruitment of women teachers.

* Improving access to schools, especially by providing safe transport.

* Supporting NGOs working in the rural and tribal areas, such as Vidhayak Sansad in Thane district, Manavlok in Aurangabad district, Abhvyakti in Nasik district, Janarth in Dhule district, and SEARCH in Gadchiroli district, which are promoting women's education along with gender-sensitive socio-economic development.

* Developing a flexible school calendar and converting one room of the school into a crèche where girl students can keep their siblings, attend their classes and finish homework.

* Promoting literacy training of parents through television programmes such as Akshardhara and community radios.

* Using a multiple delivery system - formal, non-formal and alternative.

Social movements have provided alternatives to attain the goal of "Education for Gender Equality", in terms of non-hierarchical methods of education, linkages between formal and non-formal education, gender-sensitive input in curriculum revision, preparation of textbooks for teaching totally new subjects such as environment and women, human rights, gender justice and law, and methods of counselling.

Dr. Vibhuti Patel is with the Centre for Women's Studies, University of Mumbai.

Latur's great leap


The Latur pattern of education has helped many a student from the region do well and gain admission to professional colleges.

The Rajarshi Shahu College in Latur.

THE rank lists of secondary as well as higher secondary school examinations in Maharashtra are considered indicators of certain realities in the State. For four consecutive years - from 1998 to 2001 - the toppers in the HSC examination were from Dayanand College, Latur. The merit list for medical as well as engineering seats also had more than a hundred students from Latur district.

The success of Latur is truly amazing. While western Maharashtra progressed economically and socio-culturally Vidarbha and Marathawada regions remained backward as far as education was concerned. Latur, one of the seven districts of drought-prone Marathwada, was a part of Hyderabad State before Independence. Until 1950, students from Marathwada had to go to Hyderabad to attend college. The then Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Y.B. Chavan, encouraged the establishment of schools and colleges in rural Marathwada. Gradually, some of these educational institutions came to have well-equipped laboratories and excellent libraries, apart from good teachers.

The decade of 1970-1980 was a critical period for the majority of the colleges in Marathwada. The University Grants Commission (UGC) offered grants in proportion to the number of students. This compelled colleges to send its teachers to the villages in search of students. Dr. J.M Waghmare, the founder principal of the Rajarshi Shahu College, urged fellow teachers to go to the villages and help people overcome their fear of college education. Dr. A.S. Jadhav, the Vice-Principal of the Rajarshi Shahu College, exhorted his colleagues to cut short their vacations and utilise it to teach students. This idea clicked. With teachers devoting personal attention to each student, success became a hallmark of the Rajarshi Shahu College. The working spirit evolved by Waghamre and Jadhav is maintained even now.

With academic competition becoming fierce in the 1980s, teachers in Latur also decided to improve the curriculum and teaching pattern in their colleges. The Rajarshi Shahu College and later the Dayanand College adopted innovative teaching techniques. Every student was given personal guidance after his/her capabilities were evaluated. Parents were briefed and consulted. Suggestion boxes were kept near classrooms so that students could offer their evaluation of the performance of their teachers. Teachers thus became accountable to the students. The Shahu method of education was later adopted by the Mahatma Gandhi College, Ahmedpur, near Latur.

In 1987, the Supreme Court, in a landmark judgment revoked the restrictions based on geographical regions in the matter of admission to professional colleges. Until then, a student from Marathwada or Konkan could join only colleges in their own region. Now 70 per cent of the total intake in professional colleges are from that particular region and 30 per cent from outside the region, on the basis of merit. From 1988 to 1999, students from the Shahu College accounted for about 120 seats in all government medical colleges and 80 seats in the engineering colleges, in the merit quota. Students of the Dayanand College and the Mahatma Gandhi College were not far behind. Thus Latur grabbed 90 per cent of the open seats in professional colleges across the State year after year. This brought Latur to the limelight in the State. Candidates from the neighbouring districts of Marathwada began to seek admission in Latur colleges.

In 1999, the government of Maharashtra decided to conduct common entrance tests (MH-CET) for all medical colleges. Four years of the test has seen students from the Shahu College leading the lists of successful candidates. The Principal of the Shahu College, R.L. Kawale, says: "The kind of preparation needed for MH-CET is taken care of only in Latur and Ahmedpur." This year 150 students from Latur secured seats in medical colleges.

But there is a lot of debate about the overall quality of education in Latur. Dr. Jadhav admits: "The so-called `Latur pattern' is a technique for getting good marks in HSC examinations. It is not at all ideal education. Parents crave to put their children in medical or engineering colleges and hence this is a demand-driven programme that has nothing to do with the multi-faceted development of a student.''

The real beneficiaries of the Latur system are the rural lower middle class students. Today students from Latur have made their way to the Birla Institute of Technology in Pilani or the Regional Engineering Colleges. They also come back to Latur once a year to guide HSC pass-outs in selecting the right colleges and disciplines.

Copyright © 2003, Frontline.