Thursday, May 05, 2005

Meanwhile, on the education front ...

Via Kama: This BBC report in pictures about Barefoot College in rural Rajastan is truly inspiring.

This one, on the other hand, is not: UNESCO's Global Education Digest has some sobering information on the current state of education and schooling in India:

The gross enrolment ratio, which measures the number of students at a given level as a percentage of the total population in the relevant age group, stands at 71% at the lower secondary level and 39% at the higher secondary level in India.

Assuming a figure of about 20 million as the population of children at any age, this statistic tells us that only 8 million of them are enrolled in school at the higher secondary level. In an op-ed in the Hindu published a while ago, Prof. Philip Altbach of Boston College said, "India educates approximately 10 per cent of its young people in higher education".

Charukesi has a post on NGOs that are into improving literacy, such as the India Literacy Project and Asha.

Cornelia Dean has a report on Dr. Susan Hockfield, a biologist about to take over as the President of MIT, "one of the world's leading citadels of physics, electrical engineering and other hard sciences", and the most macho of institutions of higher education. (Do catch the report in the next few days before NYTimes hides it behind its pay-wall). Prof. Hockfield, together with the Presidents of Princeton and Stanford, wrote a Boston Globe op-ed titled "Women and science: the real issue" in response to certain remarks on this issue by Larry Summers, the President of Harvard. We have already noted the blogosphere's reactions here and here.

Finally, let me move from education to academia-at-large with some really good news. The NYTimes reports that the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has elected 19 women, the highest number ever, among its 72 new members. You can get the list here. The Academy also elected 18 foreign associates from 14 countries "in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research", and India's very own Dr. R. A. Mashelkar, "CEO" of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research is among them.