Category: Education

SC declines pleas to cancel NEET-UG 2024

No Comments

The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to cancel the undergraduate National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET-UG) 2024 held on May 5. The Supreme Court stated that there is no material on record “at the present stage” to prove that a systemic leak of question papers has destroyed the sanctity of the exams held annually for medical admissions across the country.

“At the present stage, there is an absence of material to show that the result of the exam stands vitiated… Data produced city-wise, centre-wise and comparison of results in 2022, 2023 and 2024 do not show a systemic leak of question paper which indicates a destruction of the sanctity of the exam,” Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, heading a three-judge Bench comprising Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, reasoned.

The judgment seemed to agree with the arguments of the government and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), both represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, that the leaks “so far” looked “localised” to Hazaribagh and Patna in Bihar. The ongoing CBI probe has led to several arrests.

Seeking re-test

However, the lead counsel for the petitioners seeking a re-test, senior advocate Narendar Hooda, countered that the main accused of the gang behind the paper leak was yet to be arrested. Mobile phones used to relay the leaked question papers had not been recovered. He said the government’s confidence that the leak was limited to Patna and Hazaribagh was unfounded. The sanctity of the exam remains questionable unless the Court is convinced that all the tainted persons have been identified.

“The situation is still evolving… NEET-UG 2024 is a patient who has suffered a multiple organ failure,” Mr. Hooda argued. He urged the Court to hold true to its principle that the sanctity of an exam was lost even if one student had benefitted from an illegality. The Chief Justice responded that an entire exam cannot be cancelled, putting the future of over 23 lakh students who appeared for NEET-UG across 571 cities in peril, on the mere hypothesis of the petitioners that the leak was not confined to Hazaribagh and Patna. “Today, we do not have anything before us to show that the leak spread to other parts of the country,” Chief Justice addressed Mr. Hooda.

The Bench acknowledged the government’s viewpoint that cancellation of the exam would have serious consequences on the 23 lakh students, including disruption of the admission schedule of the medical courses, cascading effects on the course of medical education, prejudicial impact on the availability of qualified medical professionals in future besides being a source of serious disadvantage to marginalised students who would have to bear the expenses and logistics of a re-test.

However, the Court made it clear that students identified in future as beneficiaries of the paper leak in the ongoing CBI investigation should not profit from the illegality and be barred from admission.

Change in scores

With the court declining the re-test, the counselling process, which was set to begin on July 24 as informed by the government in court, may commence. However, the rank tally may undergo a change with the apex court endorsing a report from the Indian Institute of Technology (Delhi) that an “ambiguous” Physics question had only one correct answer and not two “possible answers”. The IIT(Delhi) panel had concluded that the two answers mutually excluded each other.

Over 4.20 lakh candidates who opted for the wrong one of the two “possible answers” may now lose the grace marks awarded to them. The previous hearing in court on Monday on the issue revealed that 44 students had achieved the perfect score of 720/720 solely owing to this grace mark. In its order, the court did not follow up on its oral suggestion, made during the hearing, to forego the negative mark for the wrong answer to the question. A negative mark would mean that students who chose the wrong option for that “tricky” Physics question stand to lose a total of five marks.

Further, the court did not intervene on a re-test held for 1,563 candidates who were given extra marks for the time they had lost after mistakenly being given the wrong question paper at their exam centres.

During the hearing, Mr. Mehta informed that only 813 out of 1563 had appeared for the re-test on June 23. “The rest would have decided to not appear for the re-test in June as the court had given them a choice to either attempt the re-test or retain their original results minus the compensatory marks,” he explained.

Budget provides ₹1.48 lakh cr for education, employment, skill: FM

No Comments

The Union Budget for 2024-25 will provide ₹1.48 lakh crore for education, employment and skilling in the country.

Presenting the Budget in the Lok Sabha, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said it will focus on employment, skilling, MSMEs and the middle class.

She added that the government has extended the PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana for five years, which is benefiting 80 crore Indians.

As mentioned in the interim budget, there is a need to focus on poor, women, youth and farmers, the minister said.

She added that people have given a unique opportunity to the Modi government to take India on the path of strong development, and all-round prosperity.

Geojit announces scholarship scheme for professional courses

No Comments

Geojit Financial Services Ltd has announced education scholarships for deserving students from economically weaker sections of the society, to help them pursue career-oriented courses across diverse disciplines. As a part of the scholarship, Geojit will provide up to ₹25,000 per annum to selected students towards their tuition fees, examination fees, etc.

  • Also read:Bahwan CyberTek announces ₹25-lakh scholarship for Ethiraj College students

The annual family income must be below ₹3 lakh.

Geojit spokesperson said, “Financial constraint often prevents youth of the country from realising their career goals. Empowering youth by helping them gain higher education will lead to the betterment of not just their lives but the society as well. We hope the selected students have a bright future”.

The scholarships will be processed through Geojit’s CSR arm, Geojit Foundation. The last date for application will be August 31, 2024, a press release said.

We will continue to explore new acquisitions, says Veranda Learning’s Suresh Kalpathi

No Comments

Veranda Learning Solutions Ltd, the Chennai-based education technology company founded in 2018 by the Kalpathi AGS Group, has over the years grown mainly through acquisitions. For instance, in May 2023, it acquired seven companies valued at ₹400 crore. The total number of students trained by the Veranda Group for FY24 stood at 6,93,874. The company’s Executive Director and Chairman Suresh Kalpathi says there is scope for more acquisitions. In this interview, he talks about the sectors where acquisition is possible, and the financial roadmap for the current fiscal. Excerpts.

Looks like Veranda now has a broad spectrum in the education space?

We divide ourselves into possibly three parts. One is what we call academic formal education; test prep and training. On the academic side, we do manage K-12 schools. We manage an international school. We manage about 8 to 10 colleges which do B.Com, BBA, BSMS. On the test prep side, we do commerce coaching under the brand of JK Shah classes. We do State, Central government exams under the brand of Veranda Race. We do software education under the brand of Edureka and we work with many of the IITs, IIMs, Purdues of the World, Cambridges of the world to deliver certification diploma degree programmes jointly with them.

The acquisition of the 15-year-old coaching institution Race in 2020 is an interesting turnaround story, right?

It was one of the businesses that we acquired. It used to be called Chennai Race and they were largely into offline education. Fantastic results and a ten-year-old entity. But I think when Covid came they were not sort of ready for it. So a lot of the physical locations got shut down. So we set up studios in one of the facilities; set up ten studios, built them out at record speed and involved some people from our production business to speed things up and got them launched as an online program under the brand of Veranda Race. As Covid slowly started retreating, we went back, opened up a lot of the online centres and built them out. So a business that almost went down to doing ₹20-30 lakh a month at the peak of Covid, this year is expected to deliver as a whole about ₹150 crore. Our acquisition cost was very little, but we were at the right time and a great deal.

Any new sector in the education sector that interests you to acquire?

One of them is a pre-school because it feeds into a system we are already building. The other one is study abroad because a lot of students who we have today, the aspiration to go abroad is pretty significant. So over the last 40 years, you can see the change. It’s symptomatic of how India has moved. Affordability, affluence has gone up. There are more people, not just NBFC even banks have come forward to provide loans for people who are going abroad to study. The awareness is significantly gone up.

How is this fiscal going to be for you ?

We see ourselves at a minimum going towards about ₹550 crore of topline. There are a few things that we are working on. If some of them should turn out well, it could add to ₹600 crore.

BYJU’S Financial Update: May 2024 Salaries Processed Using Business Collections

No Comments

Edtech firm BYJU’S has processed employees’ May salaries from the month’s business collections, sources close to the company said on Monday.

Last year, the founders of the edtech firm had to pledge their house to raise debt to pay employees’ salaries.

“The salaries for the month of May have been processed for BYJU’S employees and will be credited today. This milestone is particularly significant for BYJU’S as the salaries have been paid from the company’s collections for the month,” a source said.

  • Read: Lessons from Byju’s saga 

The company also raised various debts in the past month to cover the salary expenses as it has not been able to use the USD 200 million raised through rights in February.

“Over recent months, BYJU’S has implemented a series of strategic initiatives aimed at optimising operations and strengthening its financial health. The ability to cover salary expenses from the monthly collections underscores the positive impact of these measures,” the source said.

A group of four investors — Prosus, General Atlantic, Sofina, and Peak XV — along with support from other shareholders, including Tiger and Owl Ventures, had approached the NCLT against the company management and the rights issue.

The hearing in the matter before NCLT Bengaluru is listed on June 6.

Mahindra University opens School of Design Innovation

No Comments

Mahindra University, which is promoted by the Mahindra group, has launched School of Design Innovation at its campus here.

The school has tied up with the Pininfarina Design Academy (Torino, Italy), and Shenoy Innovation Studio IDC IITB. It will allow students to be mentored by some of the best design brains from India and abroad.

  • Also read: Mahindra University opens media school

The first academic session will commence from August 15, 2024, with a Bachelors programme in Design.

“The curriculum will provide students with a combination of design fundamentals, including sketching, engineering labs, prototyping, and digital tools,” Yajulu Medury, Vice-Chancellor of Mahindra University, said.

The course will culminate with a Capstone Project that is aimed at solving real-world challenges in the industry.

Students with 10+2 are eligible to apply. The school will provide a 25 per cent Chancellor’s Scholarship, amounting to ₹1 lakh every year to the first batch.

Nudged out owing to current controversy: Congress on UPSC chairman resignation

No Comments

With UPSC chairman Manoj Soni resigning citing personal reasons, the Congress on Saturday said he was apparently “nudged out” given the current controversy in which the Commission is involved.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge alleged the BJP-RSS is systematically indulging in an institutional takeover of India’s constitutional bodies, thereby damaging their reputation, integrity and autonomy.

“The multiple scandals that have plagued the UPSC is a cause of national concern. PM Modi and his Minister of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions must come clean. Numerous cases of unqualified individuals faking caste and medical certificates seemed to have duped a ‘foolproof’ system,” Kharge said in a post on X.

This is a direct affront to the genuine aspirations of lakhs of aspirants, including SC, ST, OBC, EWS candidates who work hard, burning midnight oil in preparing for the Civil Services Examinations, he said.

“It is disconcerting how the UPSC Chairperson has resigned prematurely, five years before his term ends. Why was his resignation kept secret for a month? Is there any connection between the numerous scandals and the resignation?” Kharge said.

“This ‘blue-eyed-gem’ of Modi ji was brought in from Gujarat and promoted to being the Chairperson of UPSC ” he said.

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel had referred to the civil servants as the ‘Steel frame of India’, but the Modi government’s desperate attempt to control every aspect of governance has punched holes in the same, Kharge alleged.

“This needs to be thoroughly investigated at the highest level so that such cases of fraudulent malpractices in UPSC admissions don’t happen in the future,” he said.

Congress general secretary in-charge communications Jairam Ramesh also slammed the government, saying the sanctity and autonomy of all constitutional bodies have been badly damaged since 2014 — the year Narendra Modi became the prime minister.

Soni has resigned citing personal reasons before the expiry of his tenure in May 2029, official sources said on Saturday.

His resignation is “not in any way connected to controversies and allegations surrounding the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) after probationary IAS officer Puja Khedkar issue came to the fore,” they said.

Reacting to the development, Ramesh said, “The sanctity, character, autonomy, and professionalism of all constitutional bodies have been badly damaged since 2014. But at times even the self-anointed non-biological PM is forced to say enough in enough.”

He said, “Mr Modi brought in one of his favourite ‘academics’ from Gujarat as a UPSC member in 2017 and made him chairman in 2023 with a six year term. But this so-called distinguished gentleman has now resigned five years before the expiry of his term.

“Whatever the reasons that may be given, it appears clear that he had to be nudged out given the current controversy in which the UPSC is involved,” Ramesh added.

Many more such characters have populated the system, he said and wondered why the chairman of the NTA remains untouched so far.

“The UPSC chairman had tendered his resignation citing personal reasons over a fortnight back. It is yet to be accepted,” a source said.

Eminent educationist Soni, 59, took over as a member of the Commission on June 28, 2017. He took oath as the UPSC chairman on May 16, 2023 and his term was to end on May 15, 2029.

Sources said Soni was not keen on becoming the UPSC chairman and had requested to be relieved. However, his request was not accepted then.

They said Soni has now desired to devote more time to “socio-religious activities”.

The development assumes significance as the UPSC on Friday said it has lodged a criminal case against Khedkar for faking her identity to fraudulently avail attempts in the civil services examination beyond eligibility and taken steps to debar her from future selections.

Antier’s EduBlock Pro uses blockchain to prevent exam paper leaks

No Comments

In India, the persistent issue of exam paper leaks has long undermined fair competition and meritocracy, causing widespread concern. This rampant problem, affecting millions of students and eroding public trust, now has a promising new solution. Mohali-based blockchain firm Antier has unveiled EduBlock Pro, an innovative blockchain powered platform designed to safeguard the integrity of examinations through cutting-edge blockchain technology.

The country’s education system has faced significant challenges with 41 reported cases of exam leaks across 15 States in the past five years, affecting nearly 1.4 crore job applicants. These incidents have delayed appointments and severely damaged public confidence in the system.

  • Read: SC orders NTA to publish NEET-UG 2024 results by July 20 noon

EduBlock Pro, Antier’s blockchain-powered platform, addresses this critical issue. It was recently deployed in a government recruitment exam for the Punjab State AIDS Control Society (PSACS), according to Antier.

“Our duty is to implement systems that transition towards machine-driven processes, eliminating emotional and human factors,” said Vikram R. Singh, Founder and CEO of Antier.

“Through blockchain, we aim to establish a de facto protocol for e-governance systems that are impartial and contribute to societal welfare. Our vision is to make India the Web3 capital of the world, providing fair and transparent solutions like EduBlock Pro for critical sectors such as education,” he said.

Multi-layered security

EduBlock Pro employs a multi-layered approach to security, beginning with encrypted student registration and secure question uploads. The exam board uses a public and private key infrastructure to lock and validate questions. On the exam day, invigilators decrypt and unlock papers for secure distribution.

Beyond preventing leaks, EduBlock Pro aligns with UNESCO’s Sustainable Development Goal 9, promoting inclusive industrialisation and resilient infrastructure. By ensuring fair and transparent assessment processes, the platform contributes to equitable governance in the education sector.

The successful implementation of EduBlock Pro in the PSACS hiring drive marks a significant milestone. Hundreds of candidates participated in the examination, confirming the system’s integrity, accuracy, and efficiency.

With high-profile exam leaks, such as the recent NEET-UG paper leak in Bihar, making headlines, solutions like EduBlock Pro offer a ray of hope. Education system observers note that these solutions not only secure exams but also help restore faith in the education system, ensuring a level-playing field for all students.

Antier, with a team of over 700 professionals and a track record of delivering more than 1,000 projects, stands as India’s largest blockchain development company. It is paving the way for a future where technology safeguards the pillars of education and fair recruitment.

EduBlock Pro exemplifies how blockchain can address real-world problems, potentially transforming the landscape of educational assessments in India and beyond, they added. 

Telangana Government aims to strengthen Govt schools in next 3 years

No Comments

Telangana Chief Minister A Revanth Reddy instructed the Education Department to prepare plans to strengthen all government schools in a period of three years.

Reddy directed the officials to come up with constructive proposals to open semi-residential schools along with integrated residential schools and prepare proposals to provide education up to the third standard in Anganwadi centres on the lines of play schools. Recruitment could also be taken up to have one additional teacher in each Anganwadi centre, he added.

  • Also read: Telangana issues GO for ₹35,000 crore farm loan waiver scheme

The State Government is also planning to establish semi-residential schools to offer education up to the fourth standard. Transport facilities should also be provided for students who study in semi-residential schools, the Chief Minister suggested. Officials have been asked to seek opinions of educational experts and prepare plans to take up the pilot project in one or two mandals.

Reddy also advised the Education Department to utilise CSR funds apart from government allocations to improve better facilities to the students in government schools.

Edtech giant Byju’s challenges insolvency proceedings in NCLAT

No Comments

Edtech company Byju’s has challenged the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) order that initiated insolvency proceedings against the startup in the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NLCAT). The appellate tribunal is expected to hear the appeal on July 22 though the company sought an urgent hearing.

businessline previously reported that Byju’s would try settling the matter out of court while challenging the NCLAT order.

  • Also read: Tribunal admits BCCI’s insolvency plea against Byju’s; edtech to seek out-of-court deal

“The company remains solvent with thousands of employees. I am prepared to commit to depositing the entire ₹158 crore in one installment within one month.” senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing Byju’s, told NCLAT.

Byjus was dragged to court following a plea raised by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) with the NCLT, alleging non-payment of ₹158 crore sponsorship for the Indian cricket team jerseys.

  • Also read: NCLT tells Byju’s to pay salary dues to employees or face audit

The NCLT order led to Byju Raveendran losing control of the company. The tribunal appointed bankruptcy officials to oversee the operations of the company. Additionally, Pankaj Srivastava was appointed as the interim resolution professional (IRP).

The NCLT also dismissed Byju’s request to refer the dispute to arbitration and issued a ruling prohibiting Byju’s from transferring assets during the insolvency proceedings.