Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Schooling crisis in India

"Struggling to Learn" about sums it up. The 2006 visit by De and colleagues was a follow-up to a 1996 survey of "primary schools in about 200 villages in undivided Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh". A decade later the team found "many signs of positive change": enrolment rates, gender disparities, infrastructure, cooked mid-day meals - all showed improvement.

But quality of teaching remains a big worry: "barely half of the children in Classes 4 and 5 could do single digit multiplication, or a simple division by 5". These results reinforce the abysmal findings of the ASER 2007 report about which I'd blogged in passing, in November 2008.

De and colleagues report on the continuing plague of insufficient teachers and teacher absenteesim, also noted by filmmaker Umesh Aggarwal in his documentary on the dismal condition of schooling in Rajasthan. Indeed, the Andhra Pradesh government is currently recruiting over 47 thousand teachers - how did they allow such a huge shortfall to build up?

Meanwhile, Krishna Kumar, head of the national education council NCERT, recently revealed that India currently needs 500,000 teachers; a number that he said will shoot up to 6 million in the near future. An April 2008 report in The Guardian said that the "world needs to find and fund an extra 18 million teachers by 2015 to cope with its burgeoning pupil population".

In India's 2009-10 budget estimates, outlay for all education - primary, secondary, higher, technical, agricultural, scholarships - all education, constitutes 7.86% of the total central plan outlay: 326,680 m out of 4,156,910 m rupees. "School Education and Literacy" constitutes 71.03% of the total education outlay, or 5.59% of the total central plan outlay.

Is 5.59% enough to address the crisis?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Language Diversity on the Internet - New studies

About the language diversity on the internet, a friend summarizes Daniel Pimienta's study to say that between 1996 and 2007, the proportion of English-language websites went down from 75% to 45%, and the proportion of English-language users from 80% to 32%. According to my friend, the study also has "figures for the proportion by country of people using French, Spanish, Portuguese, and English (where the US is massively dominant)".

Pimienta's paper is in French, which I don't know at all. It would therefore be very useful if someone could (dis-)confirm or nuance the conclusions above. The paper was presented in January 2009 at a conference in Mali; here's the list of presentations - in French and in English.

In another study, Languages and Cultures on the Internet - 2007, Pimienta and his colleagues declare that because of the rapid growth of pages in the internet (especially in Asian languages), and because of the growing use of context-dependant advertising (like Google AdSense), search engines can no longer represent accurately the distribution of languages on the internet. Depending on the search engine one gets dissimilar figures on the language diversity on the internet. The research group, in fact, concludes that it would be a good idea to have a separate search engine for Romance languages. Should Esperanto, for example, be included there?

This last study I translated into English using Google's Translation tool. The research results can also be read in Catalan, Italian, Portuguese, Rumanian and Spanish. But not in English: are they trying to rub in the point that the internet is no longer only or mainly in English?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Esperanto: A tool for decolonizing the mind

"Esperanto: A tool for decolonizing the mind" is the English version of the talk "Esperanto - ilo por la malkoloniigo" - that I gave at the 34th Catalonian Esperanto Congress in December 2008. Comments welcome!