Thursday, February 02, 2006

Free Electron - free software to your liking

http://www.hindu.com/edu/2005/12/27/stories/2005122700110200.htm Free Electron - free software to your liking

N.J. NAIR

Here is how open source software can be used as an educational resource for the benefit of all, particularly resource-starved institutions.

In a significant attempt to promote innovation and help educational institutions conserve resources and overcome the limitations arising from the use of proprietary software, the Society for Promotion of Alternative Computing and Employment (SPACE) and the free software cell of Government Engineering College at Barton Hill in Thiruvananthapuram have jointly developed Free Electron, a GNU/Linux distribution package, mainly meant to meet the creative pursuits of electronics engineering students and teachers.

Free software

The proponents of free software have taken up the project to make it a valuable resource in education. The curbs imposed by proprietary software companies often hinder young talent from innovating. Either they would have to go for innovation ignoring the rules set by the companies or relinquish such ventures for want of funds.

A boon

Free Electron has come as a boon for all those who strive to make unique contributions in this realm. Setting up an electronic laboratory is rather a tough proposition for Government educational institutions and it is here that the Free Electron package comes to their rescue.

According to R. Deepak, a lecturer in electronics at the Government Engineering College, Barton Hill, in addition to the typical desktop applications, Free Electron has the professional typesetting tool TEX, computer numerical application suite `ocatave,' computer algebra system `xmaxima,' electronic design automation suite gEDA and many more simulators, emulators and compilers required for various kinds of electronic design and simulation.

The use of propriety software often limits IT education. Hence, the Government should adopt a policy against using proprietary technologies in educational institutions. Sensitising students should be the first step in creating an empowered society with free software and the creation of packages like Free Electron would set the trend in securing for the students more freedom to break new ground, he says.

They can design tools and by having the customised CD they can practise at their convenience. They can also distribute the software among themselves totally free of cost.

The software

Free Electron comprises editors, electronic design tools, graphics, Math, a high-level language primarily meant for numerical computations, a multi-platform office productivity suite, `OpenOffice.org,' programming, typesetting, tools and viewers.

Along with the customised CD, a detailed installation guide has also been prepared for the users. It is also available as an OpenOffice file in the directory `doc' in the CD.

Academicians have made remarkable contributions for the development and popularisation of free software and Free Electron too is a step in this regard, says Vimal Joseph, an activist of SPACE. It gives the students as well as the teachers the right to copy and use it as one's own property, to study, modify and also to redistribute in an unrestricted manner.

Highly adaptive

Free Electron being highly adaptive, can be put to various uses without incurring any financial burden, says Joseph.

SPACE is planning to widen its network on the campuses in an effective manner and make it accessible to more people within a very short span of time.

As part of its awareness drive among students, the society has decided to give an assistance of Rs.50,000 each for the projects taken up by students.

The society also has plans to set up cells in more educational institutions in the State. The society is encouraged by the warm response from the students and teachers.

Almost all institutions would soon have such cells, says Mr. Joseph.

CII Shiksha... computer education, and Goa

Antonetta Noronha <antnor@sancharnet.in> a principal from Our Lady of Perpetual Succour school in Cortalim informs about the visit to Goa of Narinder Bhatia of Shiksha CII <narinder.bhatia@ciionline.org> in mid-January.

In Panjim, the Goa Chambers of Commerce and Industry hall is expected to be the venue on January 18, 2006 for the meet, focussing on schools, and computer education.

If you'd like more details, contact Antonetta (above) or check out the Knowledge Initiatives Trust mailing list in Goa, which is at http://mail.knowledgeinitiatives.org/mailman/listinfo/kitrust_knowledgeinitiatives.org

Below is an note written some time back:

Daryl Martyris <dmartyris@hotmail.com> an expat in the US informs us that he has made contact with CII (Confederation of Indian Industry), which provides educational software relevent to the Indian curriculum free of charge to schools. Says Daryl: "If interested, please email the address below and inform Narinder Bhatia <narinder.bhatia@ciionline.org> where to send the academic content curriculum."

Earlier, Narinder Bhatia wrote in to say that CII has an initiative known as Shiksha, which "assists schools in integrating technology effectively in their teaching-learning process".

Shiksha, he clarifies, is a not-for-profit initiative and all the resources are offered totally free to the schools. "We have divided the CII-Shiksha >programme into various components which are mentioned below: 1. Shiksha content Computer Basics (Mouse & Keyboard) - Academic content (lessons in Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Maths and Geography) 2. Coaching, whereby we conduct workshops and trainings for headmasters/principals, teachers on various I.T. topics 3. Communication, where we try connecting Shiksha schools through our bi-monthly newsletter."

Bhatia says there's a lot CII-Shiksha offers to schools to aid the Technology Integration Process which could be explained better through personal interaction. He writes: "Would be great if you can forward me some local contact address of India where i can send in the Shiksha details alongwith demo Cd. We would certainly be keen and willing to help the cause of ICT enabled >education. Please feel free to seek any further clarification." His mobile number is 09810698688 (and I hope it's okay to share this information with other educators across India).

Offtopic: Do check out this network from Goa trying to promote IT education in schools: KITrust mailing list KITrust@knowledgeinitiatives.org http://mail.knowledgeinitiatives.org/mailman/listinfo/kitrust_knowledgeinitiatives.org

Hope this info-sharing is of some use to someone, somewhere. FN

http://www.ciionline.org/social-initiatives/178/default.asp

Ever since 1995 CII's Social Development Council has undertaken modest steps to work in the area of Education. Since Education is the hub of all human development, it has been a high priority concern for CII as well.

CII works very closely with the government, industry and the community. In the area of Education CII has a National Committee on Primary Education and Literacy. The members of the Committee include Corporates, International Organisations, NGO's and representatives of the Government. CII's platform is thus a very unique vibrant platform that mobilises Public- Private partnership for the achievement of common goals in the area of Education

CII's perspectives, strategies and initiatives are all aimed at sensitising, motivating and empowering the Corporates to contribute by way of expertise, technical assistance and financial support for strengthening Primary Education. CII also aims at establishing business norms that instill a responsible attitude and above all cultivating quality lives of people. CII has been focusing on not only motivating Business Houses for the achievement of 100% Literacy for the industry's workforce but has also gone one step further by motivating Industry to to strengthen Integrated Education Programmes for underprivileged community people.

The CII literacy Program, in association with various NGOs, offers reading and writing skills through professionally trained volunteers, to adults and children whose literacy skills are inadequate for them to be able to find employment. These programs allow students to advance in their occupation, acquire skills and participate as informed and active members of the community.

http://www.ciionline.org/social-initiatives/483/default.asp?Page=Initiatives.htm

Recent Inititaives:

Shiksha has associated with Hindustan Times through its HT PACE program and is reaching out to 12 government schools (in the initial stages) for implementing Shiksha project

Shiksha has pilot tested its content at NIIT's Madangir kiosk and the results have been very encouraging. As per the feedback, Shiksha was at no. 2 spot in the list of ten most accessed applications at the kiosks. Now talks are on to have the content deployed at other kiosks being run by NIIT

Shiksha has tied up with DPS (Delhi Public School) Society for deploying the content in 32 of their Shiksha Kendras (afternoon schools for the underprivileged children ) spread across India as a pilot and also for broadcasting Shiksha's content over their satellite based programme "Edu Links"

Shiksha is working out on an association with NDMC for deploying the content in their schools. NDMC has approved to implement the Shiksha project in 5-6 schools as a pilot beginning the new academic session.

Shiksha has worked out an association with Azim Premji Foundation (Wipro) where Shiksha would help them in their content deployment in government schools in Delhi and other states as well.

Shiksha is working on an association with NIC (National Informatics Centre) where Shiksha content would be deployed in various CICs (Community Information Centres) being run majorily in North-Eastern States and also in few schools under NIC's supervision.

Shiksha has tied up J&K state government to deploy the content in various schools. In the pilot phase the project would be carried out in 5-6 schools.

Best wishes, FN

SITEWATCH: http://ei-india.com

http://ei-india.com/

A lot of "learning" that happens in our schools and children today, turns out to be rote memorisation with very shallow introduction to ideas. To contribute meaningfully in tomorrow's world, students and schools need to shift from FACTS to SKILLS.

Educational Initiatives offers products and services that help to accurately measure learning, promote self-learning in children and empower educators and school leaders.

EI's flagship offering is ASSET - a diagnostic test for students of classes 3 to 12 - which helps pinpoint their strengths and weakness and also provides a benchmarks with their peers. Over 1 lakh students from 550 schools across India, the Gulf, Singapore and Nepal have taken ASSET since 2001. With a database of over 10 million student responses, ASSET is a unique repository of the state of learning in India today.

This December it will be 4 years since the ASSET tests were launched. If ASSET were just a test, there would be nothing very special about this. But ASSET is more - it is an attempt to genuinely understand what children need to learn? What they are learning well? And what they are not? What are the causes? And how the problems if any, can be solved? ASSET is an attempt to genuinely understand the above mentioned questions... More..

ASSET is a unique test that gives you specific feedback that helps you to improve. With a detailed analysis of performance on the different skills in different subjects. This information gives a clear picture of strengths and weaknesses and helps the student focus on improvement. An overall analysis of how the student has performed based on the difficulty level of the questions is also provided. But How does a student interpret the ASSET Results!!!! Let's begin our journey into the analysis which will answer some of your questions. More..

Unesco's new literacy portal

http://portal.unesco.org/education/en/ev.php-URL_ID=40338&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html

Literacy today is a world preoccupation

Literacy empowers and nurtures inclusive societies and contributes to the fair implementation of human rights. In the case of mothers, literacy leads to an enhanced quality of life for their families and improved education outcomes for their children. Nevertheless literacy remains a low priority for national governments and the donor community. Worldwide, 771 million adults are illiterate and about 100 million children are out of school.

A large number of those who enrol drop out before attaining literacy skills and some of those who complete primary education remain illiterate.

Literacy is an indispensable means for effective social and economic participation, contributing to human development and poverty reduction.

The Literacy Portal aims to provide a platform for information-sharing on literacy projects and activities undertaken around the world and enhance UNESCO’s capacity in coordinating the United Nation Literacy Decade (UNLD) in building partnership at all level.

This portal will be developed progressively through the contribution of all literacy actors; including UNESCO Field Offices, UN Agencies, bilateral and multilateral Organizations, Member States, Institutions, Non-governmental Organizations and Literacy workers. It will be a working tool to provide them more visibility and networking possibilities.

News Inter-regional cooperation in promoting mother tongue literacy programmes December 6-10, 2005 - Officials from African and the Caribbean region participate in a workshop in Asia More

Round table of UNLD Resource Persons: Literacy Strategies and UNLD Action Plan for Africa November 18, 2005 - Participants discussed innovative approaches to expand literacy, adult education and NFE programmes in Africa within the UNLD framework. More

gmr.jpgLaunch of the Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2006: "Literacy for Life" October 26, 2005 - Literacy suffers severe neglect in national and international policy, keeping hundreds of millions of adults on the sidelines of society and limiting progress towards the six Education for All goals and overall poverty reduction, says the new edition of the EFA Global Monitoring Report, to be launched in London on November 9. More

Just Published: Study of Literacy and Secondary Education in Botswana

justpublished_botswana.jpg “Improving the Quality of Literacy Learning in the Content Areas: Situational Analysis of Secondary Level Education in Botswana” underscores the importance of continuous literacy development in order to maximize secondary school students’ learning opportunities.

The study sheds light on the critical issue of transitional challenges between primary and secondary levels of education. It argues that solid competencies in literacy are required for a truly participatory and student-centred approach to learning at the secondary level. * Improving the Quality of Literacy Learning in the Content Areas (in PDF)

* UNESCO’s Literacy Portal

* UNESCO has just launched a new Literacy Portal for sharing information on literacy projects and activities around the world. Literacy Initiative For Empowerment -- LIFE

* Find out more about UNESCO’s Literacy Initiative for Empowerment, a 10-year initiative that targets the 34 countries that are home to 85% of the world's illiterates. United Nations Literacy Decade (UNLD) (2003-2012)

* UNESCO is the lead agency in the United Nations Literacy Decade. 2006 Global Monitoring Report: Literacy for Life

Read the 2006 edition of the Global Monitoring Report dedicated to the topic of Literacy.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Films on education! Fascinating....

Manish Jain -- shikshantar at yahoo.com -- recently informed that Shikshantar is putting together a two-day film festival called "Re-membering Nai Taleem – Real Learning for the 21st Century". As the title indicates, the festival will feature films which inspire new directions for "deepening our imagination about learning societies". The festival will be screened at B.Ed colleges, NGOs, teacher training programmes, educational institutes, etc. around India and Pakistan. Organisers are looking for films which explore natural learning, deschooling, community learning, self-directed learning, alternative education, democratic education, creativity, local knowledge systems, human cognition, consciousness, unlearning, uplearning.... Jain writes:
"We would greatly appreciate it if you could share any films that you have made or suggest some appropriate films that you have come across. If you are interested in participating in or hosting the film festival in your community, please let us know by January 15, 2006."
Contact details: Manish, Shikshantar: The Peoples' Institute for Rethinking Education and Development, 21 Fatehpura, Udaipur, Rajasthan, INDIA Tel:91-294-245-1303 Fax:91-294-245-1949 www.swaraj.org/shikshantar Films on education! Fascinating...

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Spark-India... explaining an unusual concept (By Sheel)

An interesting experiment from Hyderabad, described below...

Spark-India... explaining an unusual concept By Sheel

Spark-India is a partnership firm started by three women with over 50 years of teaching experience between them in Jan 2003. The Managing Partner Ms. Lakshmi Rameshwar Rao has been a teacher for over 25 years, and has also been in the publishing industry for over 17. Ms. Tanvir Iqbal, another partner, is a practising speech therapist with over 20 years experience and a special educator conducting remedial classes for school-going children. The third partner is me, Sheel. I have an M.Phil in English and have been a teacher variously at college and other institutions, while participating in teaching non-formally at school and other institutions. Currently I am an in-house writer and editor at Spark-India; I am also in charge of Teacher Plus.

Spark-India was launched in Feb 2003, bringing out the first Spark BIG BOOK A Pot of Light, Spark Junior Geography and a set of two English language teaching VCDs called The Art and Craft of Teaching. Since then, we have published a second BIG BOOK, Under the Bed, a second geography book titled Spark Geography, and an Empathy Book called The Helping Hand.

Spark BIG BOOKS are lavishly illustrated large format books (about 14 inches wide and 19 high!) for group reading. A concept developed in New Zealand, Big Books have been used effectively in the Reading and English Acquisition Programme (REAP) in Singapore as well as in the Middle East.

Spark BIG BOOKS are designed to be a pre-primary and primary teacher’s resource, a tool to teach reading and help children acquire the English language. These are original Indian stories that children will enjoy and can relate to. The large, vivid illustrations help children understand and predict the story, and in the process developing an understanding of what comes before and after. Details of illustration stimulate thought and discussion on indirectly related topics, and they learn to listen, learn and express themselves.

The stories also familiarise children with simple as well as uncommon language structures, thereby building up language skills. The large font familiarises them with words and helps develop sight-reading. Some activity ideas to enhance listening, reading and speaking skills, as well as to enhance motor and social skills are suggested in a note to parents and teachers at the end of the books.

A pre-reading activity that helps assess the child’s reading readiness is also included in each. A Pot of Light (author Sheel; illustrator Mithila Maniketh) is priced at Rs. 175, while Under the Bed (author Usha Raman; illustrator Sarada Natarajan) is priced at Rs. 200.

Spark Junior Geography is a resource-cum-text book for 7–9 year-olds (Classes III and IV). It presents basic concepts of physical geography in a highly interesting manner designed to attract and fascinate the child and spur an interest in this oft-neglected subject. Unfolding in logical steps, it begins by asking what geography is, and proceeds to explain why we study the subject. It goes on to uncover for the child new perspectives from which to view her/his everyday world, and understand the fundamental role that geography plays in our daily lives.

The book introduces the fundamental objects of the study of geography – the Solar System, the Earth, climate, oceans, etc., and goes on to familiarise children with the tools that geographers use, including the compass, latitudes and longitudes, maps, etc., as well as navigation with these tools. In a unique approach to geography, the book presents text boxes that give additional information, and easy experiments that help children find out facts for themselves, spurring them to learn the subject on their own. The book also has a glossary that serves as an index too, thus helping children learn reference skills. Spark Junior Geography is Indo-centric in its approach, with imaginative four-colour illustrations make geography come alive.

This book is priced at Rs. 100.

Spark Geography is the next book in this series. A resource-cum-text book for 9-12 year-olds (Classes V and VI), this book takes the child forward in her learning of physical geography, exploring the Earth, the Sun and the Moon in greater detail. Rivers and mountains, wind and water, rocks and minerals, maps and mapping, are all explained in clear, lucid language. Concepts that are sometimes difficult to grasp, such as the association of longitudes with time and the latitudes with seasons are simplified in a way easy for the child to grasp. The detailed diagrams add to the understanding.

As in Spark Junior Geography, informative text boxes and easy experiments form a part of the book. This book too is Indo-centric in its approach and has an index. It is priced at Rs.150.

Empathy Books are the latest series that Spark-India has thought up. This series is meant to develop an attitude of understanding and acceptance of differences of various kinds – from disability to adoption to social values to race and culture… the list can go on. The Helping Hand is the first of the series. Aimed at ages eight and above, it tells the story of a girl Komal growing up with a sibling who is different and needs to go to special school. The story tells us how Komal and her brother Tarun grow up, each learning at her/his own pace.

The Art and Craft of Teaching is a set of two VCDs for English language teaching and trainers at the preparatory and lower primary level. This unusual teacher resource demonstrates several teaching techniques with the help of real classroom simulations and helps provoke discussions amongst teachers, educationists and school managements towards discovering and creating more innovative methods of imparting effective language skills.

Progressive steps in learning English are presented as audio-visual modules covering the four language skills – listening, speaking, reading and writing. Comprising fifteen real classroom simulations in all, the VCDs incorporate proven strategies and techniques to help children listen, learn and express themselves fluently, accurately and appropriately. They also include guidelines to stimulate the development of concepts that encourage children to think and work on problems. They also stimulate thought and discussion among peers about distinctive strategies and techniques to meet specific needs in the classroom.

The seven modules on The Art and Craft of Teaching (Preparatory level) are: Story telling Speech practice Talking about pictures Sequenced pictures Pattern writing Letters and sounds How things feel.

On The Art and Craft of Teaching Part II (Lower primary level, i.e., classes I and II ) the modules are as below:

Word order games Action words Conversation skills Following verbal instructions Reading proficiency Dictionary skills Sequencing Poetry writing

The Art and Craft of Teaching is playable on a PC with Windows 2000 and Windows Media player. Each VCD is priced at Rs.250.

We also conduct workshops for teachers.

Besides these, under the imprint OtherWise Books, we have also brought out alternative literature: the gay poet Dr. Hoshang Merchant’s latest volume of poetry Bellagio Blues.

Spark-India is currently working on several other projects, including a history of early civilisations.

CONTACT, FOR MORE DETAILS:

teacherplus01 at yahoo.co.in spark_india at rediffmail.com

View from a Goan village...

Below are some extracts from a speech by Saligaonetter Albert da Cruz (currently visiting Saligao with family), when he was chief guest at the Lourdes Convent High School annual day:
A school without staff and students is but a structure. Together it becomes an institution for learning, for progress and for enlightenment. In the age of the Internet, if education has any single goal, it is to encourage children to *ask questions* and know how to search for the answers. Every child is unique and every child is gifted by the Creator. It is in the home and at school that it is important to recognise that each child is different. Remember, success comes in cans, not in cannots. It is important to develop a culture of appreciation, where it is imperative to say five positive things before we can say one negative. You will find that the child will grow with confidence, assurance and charm. Children like to experiment and should not be afraid to fail, for failures are the stepping stones to success. Remember, it is better to try and fail then not to try at all. Education today is a partnership between parents and teachers -- both have an interest in the child's welfare and progress.
Nice food for thought. Just thought of sharing it with you all. FN

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Del.icio.us links... to education, FLOSS, etc

Del.icio.us is a useful, social-software tool for sharing your bookmarks. (For more about social software, check this interesting Social Software Blog. Wikipedia says:
Social software enables people to rendezvous, connect or collaborate through computer-mediated communication and to form online communities. Broadly conceived, this term could encompass older media such as mailing lists and Usenet, but some would restrict its meaning to more recent software genres such as blogs and wikis. Others suggest that the term social software is best used not to refer to a single type of software, but rather to the use of two or more modes of computer-mediated communication to engage in community formation.[1] In this view, people form online communities by combining one-to-one (e.g., email and instant messaging), one-to-many (Web pages and blogs), and many-to-many (wikis) communication modes.[2] In many online communities, real life meetings become part of the communication repertoire. The more specific term collaborative software applies to cooperative work systems.
Also see my del.icio.us links here. In particular, please do take a look at the Free/Libre and Open Source Software links in education and others related to FLOSS.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Learning Curve... a newsletter from the Azim Premji Foundation

'Learning Curve' is a newsletter from the Azim Premji Foundation. You can find out more about it by writing to them. The interesting thing is that these guys aren't pushing IT into schools, but actually trying to improve the quality of education itself. In one recent issue (Issue V, March 2005), a number of interesting topics and writers were covered. Ssomeone at APF probably sent me a copy, because we met up recently at the Asiasource camp in Bangalore, and one continues to show an interest in their work -- ITforDevelopment, and education itself. It's nice to see India's best IT brains being applied to local real-world concerns back home (rather than for the export dollar alone... no offence meant, but we all need to get more relevant in terms of where Indian talent gets deployed). Azim Premji Foundation head for advocacy and research S Giridhar argues: "Teachers, the Parent Teacher Association (or the School Development Monitoring Committee) and the parents are three gears of a school system that must mesh smoothly... Systemic accountability requires the alignment of forces -- not just the school but the other two key arms of the system: academic wing and the 'senior management'." J Shankar, head of the foundation's technology initiatives, says: "Today, there is a dire need for us to cut down time spent on satisfying material needs and devote more time for developing abilities, gifts and talents." Civil servant Amarjeet Sinha says in an article on 'education for life': "India has been very successful in allowing individual excellence to grow. It has produced some world class managers and IT experts. As a mass education, however, we do not achieve as much as we ought to, as we do not sufficiently address the issue of relevance and education for life. Three other writers -- Sridhar Rajagopalan, Vyjayanthi Sankar and Mili Chandraker -- from the Ahmedabad-based Educational Initiatives Pvt Ltd -- have a guest column on measuring learning. They say: "Learning is intrinsic and subjective; it is not neat, linear or simple even to understand, let alone measure. Yet efforts to systematically understand it better do yield positive results." They give practical examples to evaluate how children from different school systems perform on the same item -- rural government schools; urban, English-medium schools; private, urban, regional-medium schools; and urban municipal schools. THERE'S ALSO A report on the Child Friendly School Initiative. It involves "a holistic intervention for the all round development of a child through head teachers (school management and leadership in both administrative and academic sides), teachers (subject matter expertise, motivation, higher orientation to child-centric practices), parent body (demanding accountability, relevance of education, and playing an effective role in school management), education officers (effective as change agents), and a focus on issues of sanitation, health and gender." APF says it has a reach of 580 schools in Andhra and Karnataka. TECHNOLOGY INITIATIVES: Think of a single PC with three display terminals, three keyboards and three 'mouses', which can be simultaneously used as if they are three independent computers. This innovative idea from the Azim Premji Foundation is being deployed in the computer aided learnign centre at the Byatarayanapura Higher Primary School in Bangalore South District and in another school. Cost of installation is lower; with a single CPU (central processing unit), the maintainence cost is less. Total cost of ownership -- including power consumption, UPS capacity and battery backup -- is reported as "substantially lower". Five new titles of CDs have also been produced for children in schools. They are: Friendly Animals and Journey on the Clouds (English), Swatantra Divas, Fun with Chinchoo in Mathematics and Khel-Mel (Hindi), released in February 2005. This makes the total number of master titles available at 70. There are now 68 titles in Karnataka, 42 for Andhra, 35 for Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry, 18 for Urdu medium schools, six for Orissa, 14 for Gujarat, three for Punjab and one for Kerala. As an aside, one might add that if this material was made copyright-free, copylefted, creativecommons.org or under a similar license, the good work of the APF could spread in ways it never perhaps anticipated! Other reports come in about computer-based assessment in Andhra Pradesh (50,000 students took part); a learning guarantee programme; and info on the policy planning unit in Karnataka. K Subramaniam argues explains about mathematics education research in an article "What Is It and Why It Is Important?" He argues: "Many different players need to contribute to substantially enahance the general level of learning of mathematics in our (Indian) schools: policy makers, curriculum designers, textbook writers, teacher trainers, researchers and, above all, teachers. It would probably be correct to say that among all these groups in the country, the smallest and least developed is the community of researchers in mathematics education." Foundation research consultant Sujata Reddy writes on the social context of elementary education in rural India. There is a report by Rishikesh BS on an observation study of school practices under the Learning Guarantee Programme-2004. This study found that a school's good performance could be "linked to three broad aspects" -- a head-teacher in command of the situation and leading by example; professionally-behaved teachers who are punctual and create an interactive learning environment; and an active and 'understanding' School Development Monitoring Committee. Gurumurthy Kasinathan of APF closes the issue with a focus on an initiative between Karnataka's (the IT giant firm's home state) and the Azim Premji Foundation. Called Pramata, this is an acronym for the Kannada name for 'Process Reengineering and Officers' Training'. Sounds quite corporate! Finally, this 16-page bulletin ends with very brief but useful one-para reviews of 'Child Labour and the Right to Education in Sought Asia: Needs versus Rights' (Naila Kabeer, et al, Sage India 2003); 'The Emerging Mind, BBC The Reigh Lectures (Vilayanur Ramachandran, MacGuru 2004); 'Shiksha Aur Samajh' (Education and Society, Hindi, Rohit Dhankar, Aadhar Prakashan, Panchkula 2004); Language Disadvantage; The Learning Challenge in Primary Education (Dhir Jhingran, APH, 2005). For this unusual bio -- "Azim Premji (born July 24, 1945) is an Indian businessman, and the richest person in the country (from 1999 to 2005 according to Forbes). He is a graduate in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University, USA. At the age of 21, Premji joined Wipro, his father's vegetable oil business (then) (in 1966) after the sudden demise of his father" -- see the Wikipedia. [8] Wikipedia adds: "In 2000, he was voted among the 20 most powerful men in the world by Asiaweek. He was also among the 50 richest people in the world from 2001 to 2003 according to Forbes." But it's probably unfair to call him the Indian Bill Gates. At least Mr Premji didn't rewrite the rules for as critical a tool as software, which was once freely shared like books and knowledge, but one generation ago began to be treated like "property"! Undeniably, the Indian IT model has gained hugely from proprietorial software, even if that has meant that this crucial tool is mostly too unaffordably-priced for the vast majority in the country itself to afford! Anyway, this job on education deserves to be appreciated for what it is. And if you'd like to join in online discussions about education, do sign-up here. -- Frederick "FN" Noronha, October 13, 2005