100,000 people apply to go to Mars and not return: Project

More than 100,000 people have applied for a one-way trip to Mars, as a part of the ambitious multi-billion dollar project that aims to colonize the Red planet starting in 2022.

While it remains questionable how humans would be able to survive on Mars, it has not stopped a whopping number of people from signing up for the The Mars One project.

“There is also a very large number of people who are still working on their profile, so either they have decided not to pay the application fee, or they are still making their video or they’re still filling out the questionnaire or their resume. So the people that you can see on-line are only the ones that have finished and who have set their profiles as public,” said Bas Lansdorp, Mars One CEO and co-founder.

Lansdorp did not specify how many have paid the fees, completed their profiles and configured them as private.

The application process specifies anyone 18 or older may apply, but the fee depends on a user’s nationality. For US citizens, the application fee is USD 38, ‘CNN’ reported.

The company said it sets the price based on the gross domestic product per capita of each nation.

“We wanted it to be high enough for people to have to really think about it and low enough for anyone to be able to afford it,” Lansdorp said.

As far as the first crew is concerned, the mission will cost USD 6 billion, Lansdorp said.

He said the idea is for it to be funded by sponsors and media that will pay for broadcasting rights of shows and movies documenting everything from the astronauts’ training on Earth to their deployment and colonisation of Mars.

Mars One said, out of the applicants, it will select a multi-continental group of 40 astronauts this year. Four of them – two men and two women – are set to leave for Mars in September 2022, landing in April 2023.

One more group of four will be deployed two years later. None of them will return to Earth, according to the mission plan.

The astronauts will undergo a required eight-year training. They will learn how to repair habitat structures, grow vegetables in confined spaces and address “both routine and serious medical issues such as dental upkeep, muscle tears and bone fractures,” according to the project site.

Lansdorp said each lander the project sends will be able to carry about 5,511 pounds of “useful load” to Mars.

Despite the risks of space travel, the Mars One founder said he is convinced of the viability of the project.

However, some space travel experts have said the risks are far too high to carry out these manned missions to Mars, a distance that humans have never travelled.

MTech in aviation: Pune varsity to hold entrance test on September 15

The maiden international-level entrance exam for University of Pune’s (UoP) newly introduced MTech (Aviation) course will be held on September 15 at six centers across the country and at Frankfurt in Germany. “The process for submission of application forms for the same is set to go online from August 13,” AdityaAbhyankar, dean of UoP’s faculty of technology, told TOI on Monday.

The university had announced on July 17 the signing of a memorandum of understanding with Germany’s top pilot training and flight school, Fachshule Fur Luftfahrzeugfuhrer (FFL), to launch the first-of-its-kind two-year MTech (Aviation) course. The first of the four semesters will be conducted at UoP’s department of technology while the remaining three semesters would involve onsite training at FFL facilities in Frankfurt, Germany; eventually leading to a European flying licence by German aviation regulator LBA.

The UoP, which will award the degree, is also in talks with India’s civil aviation regulator, the director general of civil aviation (DGCA), for facilitating the issuance of their licence which will make the course pass outs eligible to fly in the Asia-Pacific region.

Abhyankar said, “The aspirants can visit the UoP’s website: www.unipune.ac.in for submitting their forms online. The application fees is Rs 3,000 each for open category candidates and Rs 1,000 each for reserved category candidates from Maharashtra state only.”

“After online submission, the candidates need to take a printout of the form and furnish it to the university’s department of technology by September 12. Candidates from outside Pune can send a printout of their forms by post or email a scanned copy to the department. They will have to present the hard copy at the time of appearing for the entrance exam,” he said.

Regarding eligibility, Abhyankar said, “Students who have completed their bachelor of engineering or technology (BE/BTech) or BS with engineering specialization from any recognized university are eligible to appear for the entrance test. The final admission will be based on overall performance in the written test and interview.”

Students who have completed their BSc (aviation) course will also be eligible to apply for the course although they will be required to undertake a one-year pre-requisite course at the UoP department of technology before starting with the MTech (Aviation) studies. “This because the BSc (aviation) course, offered only by the universities of Mumbai and Kolkata, is of three-year duration as against the four-year BE/BTech or BS (Engg) courses,” he added.

About the entrance, Abhyankar said, “The written test will be of total 50 marks; featuring 50 multiple choice questions that will examine the analytical abilities; logical reasoning; knowledge of relevant engineering branch; physics; mathematics and fundamental knowhow about the field of aviation.”

Candidates, who will clear the written test will appear for interviews that will also focus on aspects like hand-eye coordination; aptitude test; technical and medical tests, said Abhyankar.

The sSchedule

August 13 to September 10: Online submission of application forms. Website URL: www.unipune.ac.in.

September 12: Last date for physical submission of printout of online application form at the university.

September 15: MTech (Aviation) entrance exam.

September 16: Result of entrance exam.

September 17 and 18: Interviews of candidates declared successful in the entrance.

September 25: Commencement of classes.

(Note: Candidates from outside Pune can send a printout of their online application form by post or can email a scanned copy of the same to the university department of technology. They have to present a hard copy of the printout on the day of the entrance exam.

1,000 Posts Vacant Even after yr-long Teachers’ Recruitment

Already reeling under staff crunch and after a long, drawn out appointment process spread over a year, the Education Department has failed to fill in nearly 1,000 posts of Mathematics and Science teachers for government upper primary schools across Gujarat. The department now has to undergo the entire process by re-advertising these posts.
“The department will try to fill these 1,000 vacant posts that will take nearly two months. The re-advertising for recruitment will be opted after calling in the candidates in the waiting list. The department hopes to fill in these vacancies at the earliest,” said Deputy Director of Primary Education Dr Bharat Pandit.
These are the subjects where the state board senior secondary results reflected maximum failures by students in recent years. This was one of the major reasons that the department decided to exempt these two subject teachers from the charge of principal. In case these subject teachers want to take the responsibility, it would be granted only after they give an undertaking in writing that the result of their class will be more than 75 per cent in the state board examinations.
Based on poor results — defined as below 30 per cent by the department — the teachers of these two subjects under whom students scored below 30 per cent were issued show cause notices and subjected to transfers, mostly out of their home districts, coupled with suspension of three to five increments.
Against 8,800 vacancies in primary schools, including Gujarati and other mediums like Urdu, Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu and Oriya from Class VI-VIII, the department received applications from 26,600 candidates who had cleared the state conducted Teachers Eligibility Test (TET).
Of the total 8,800 appointments of primary teachers, 3,000 posts of Mathematics and Science teachers were to be filled by the department by August first week. The remaining posts included 3,500 for Social Studies for zila panchayat and municipal corporations-run primary schools, and 2,300 shortlisted for various languages like Gujarati and English.

IGNOU Launches New two-year Diploma Courses for Students

The Indira Gandhi National Open University’s (Ignou) School of Education (SOE) has launched a new, two-year diploma in elementary education (DElEd), offered in ODL mode, for in-service teachers to enhance their understanding and competency at elementary level teaching.

The announcement was made during an MoU signing ceremony between Ignou and Arunachal Pradesh government at the university’s headquarters in the Capital today.

“When we are signing an MoU with the state government, then we are sure of its competency and effective results. Taking into consideration hilly areas like Arunachal Pradesh, ICTs should be effectively and largely used. There will be a regular ICT interaction schedule from the headquarters to the regional centre at Arunachal Pradesh for effective monitoring,” said M Aslam, vice-chancellor, Ignou.

Mahendra P Lama, pro vice-chancellor, Ignou, felt that this MoU shall have wider and deeper implications as it will affect the school going children. Talking about the memorandum, Srikanth Mohapatra, director, regional services division, Ignou, said, “The arrangement is being made by the state government in order to meet the deadline set by the Right To Education Act, according to which, all the in-service, government, untrained elementary teachers should be professionally trained by March 2015 through a two-year DElEd programme as per the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) norms, failing which, they may lose their jobs.”

“In terms of the percentage of untrained teachers in Arunachal Pradesh, the figures are highest. Now, because of RTE, it is mandatory for teachers to undergo a two-year degree recognised by NCTE. Ignou has taken up this challenge to train 9,000 in-service teachers in Arunachal Pradesh. For this, we are activating new centres (approved by NCTE), which are called Block Resource Centres (BRCs) only for DElEd programme,” said Joseph Kuba, regional director, Andhra Pradesh, Ignou.

The MoU was signed by Rajesh Kumar Mishra, IAS, state project director, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan Rajya Mission, Arunachal Pradesh and SVS Chaudhary, registrar, administration, Ignou.

New IIT admission system good: Shashi Tharoor

Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor on Wednesday said the new system for admission to IITs which takes into account school board exam marks is a “good system” for fair comparison of different school boards.

“Percentiles are a good basis of comparing different boards and they are non-discriminatory,” Tharoor said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha.

“They take into account the variations in examinations conducted by different boards. Based on this year’s examination data, the cut-off percentile score for top 20 percentile varies from one board to another. Since different boards evaluate differently, percentiles have been used to ensure a fair comparison of students belonging to different boards,” he said.

Explaining the new system of admission to the IITs, the minister said in the new scheme of the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) (Advanced), only the top 1.5 lakh candidates (including all categories) based on their performance in the JEE (Main) qualify to appear in the JEE (Advanced) examination.

The admissions to the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are based only on their category-wise all India rank in JEE (Advanced), subject to the condition that such candidates are in the top 20 percentile of successful candidates in class 12 examinations conducted by their respective boards in applicable categories.

The admission to the National Institutes of Technology (NITs) are based on combined merit list created by giving 40 percent weightage for performance in class 12 Board marks normalized on percentile basis with the remainder 60 percent weightage for performance in the JEE (Main).

This system has been applied uniformly to all the candidates, and, therefore, the chances of students getting affected does not arise, he said.

National talent search examination on November 17


The National Talent Search Examination (NTSE) conducted by the National Council of Education Research and Training ( NCERT) will be held on November 17 across the state. The purpose of the scheme is to identify talented students and nurture them.

The examination is for students of standard X. The stage one of the exam is scheduled on November 17 and stage II will be held on May 11, 2014.

A total of 1,000 scholarships, each carrying Rs 500 per month will be given to students. Of the total scholarships, 15% will be reserved for students belonging to the scheduled caste category, 7.5% for students belonging to scheduled tribe category and 3% for physically challenged students.

The exam will be based on mental ability and scholastic aptitude test which will include language-based questions.

A Report on Higher Education and Technology

The contrast between the private sector and the state sector in Universities is stark when you look at the investments in technology. A large proportion of university classrooms look as they have for decades – large rooms, with seating arranged in traditional rows and columns, lit by a few bulbs and tube lights and a blackboard at the front. Yes, of course, they have been ‘computerised’ and many do have projectors in their classrooms. At least some classrooms. Students, in many of them have access to computers, though often it it is rationed access. Contrast this with the investments of the private sector in their universities who use these amenities to attract students to their campuses. Classroom conditions are better – acoustics, climate control, lighting, net access and of course projectors and microphones.
 Using technology in education is not just about bringing Mahomet to the mountain, it is also about the mountain moving to come to Mahomet. Both, educators and technology need to move closer to each other to work effectively. Education technology has now, just about, come of age and become accessible in more ways than one. Not only has the cost gone down, both in absolute terms and relative to average income levels, but also technology has become more user friendly.
 I clearly remember the first computer to be allocated or purchased by our school, that year a Kendriya Vidyalaya. Decades ago. It came in a box, mysterious processes that we did not see had conspired to send this magical box to the school. No instructions. No support systems. No training. Well, at least not before the box arrived. It was a PC. The youngest teacher in the school, the yoga instructor was handed the box – the others too old or ‘experienced’ to deal with these new fangled ideas. He plugged it in. Spent hours figuring out how to connect the keyboard, monitor and ‘box’. Switched it on. A green dot blinked. He pressed a key on the keyboard. The cursor.. well still called a dot/line since nobody knew any more.. moved down. And blinked. I was called to help. Why me? Because I lived on a campus where they had been using a mainframe computer for years, and I had visited the grand rooms (airconditioned) where the mammoth machines were kept. And had handled punch cards (anyone remember those?). 
 We have come a long way from those days. Sugato Mitra’s hole in the wall experiment, years ago, surely offered more than a blinking screen to the slum kids – which enabled their learning. A new device today offers so much more in terms of usability – it has walked a few steps towards the educator. The educators too have moved on from a phobia of computers to grudging acceptance of its usefulness, especially after the internet proved that access and communications were much more effective than earlier methods. Even so, many professors in higher education do little more than email or create their papers and presentations on the computer. Despite having so much at their disposal. Often, even simple tasks like printing out a paper (why print at all??) or sending out an email are delegated to a younger assistant. 
 One of the biggest challenges in India today is helping educators get on to the technology bandwagon. Many use sophisticated smartphones, have access to good technology, are and badgered by vendors offering them customised products and services. Some, indeed many, have their own websites. At the same time it is also true that higher education institutions have been unable to build and use systems that make learning seamless and effortless. Having a website, or offering a static list of information is not really using the potential of technology to its fullest. A step forward is to use it for marketing the institution – both for potential students and as an ambassadorial tool. Some offer learning materials online, including lesson videos. It is time to do that and far more to create a vibrant learning habit. For the mountain to go to Mahomet.

More rural, women students have cleared JEE this time, claims CBSE

Faced with widespread criticism of the normalization method in JEE Mains, CBSE has now claimed that due to the new pattern, representation of students from rural backgrounds as well as of girl students has shown remarkable improvement.

In 2013, there were 136 students with rural background among the top thousand rankers. In 2012, there were only 90 students from rural India. Urban student representation went down to 864 this year from 910 in 2012. Rural representation also showed gradual growth among first two, three and four thousand rank holders. Among the top 5,000 rankers, there were 861 students from rural background. In percentage terms, 17.22% students among the top 5,000 were from rural India compared to 13.4% last year. Urban representation among the top 5000 came down to 82.78% in 2013 from 86.6% last year.

Female students, CBSE figures showed, increased their presence among the toppers. This year, among the top thousand rankers, there were 136 female students, and 749 among the top 5,000 rankers. Male representation among the top thousand rankers came down to 864 (86.4%) in 2013 compared to 904 (90.4%) last year and 924 (92.4%) in 2011.

Students from government schools are also beginning to make a slow but steady presence among the top rankers. But the rate is slower. Last year, 89 government school students were in the first one thousand. In 2013, it went up to 117. In the top 5,000, there were 624 students from government school background, up from last year’s 545. Private school students continue to dominate. This year, of the first one thousand rankers, 883 students were from private schools, a marginal decline from last year’s 911.

Meanwhile, the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata, which had put out a detailed story about the evolution of normalization method, removed the link from its website under pressure from the HRD ministry. But the damage was done as the link has been downloaded and is all over social media sites.

IIT-M faculty may play truant, officially

Faculty members at IIT-Madras focusing on research projects may soon be able to forego classroom duties. Teachers at the institution, proposing various solutions to promote research and deal with increasing workload on faculty members, suggested that researchers be spared from spending long hours in classrooms if they are working on intensive projects.

They also said the number of courses that faculty members take should be divided among two or more teachers.

They made the suggestions to an expert panel following the recruitment of 22 teachers last month. Some departments have already adopted individual models to focus more on research . IIT-M estimates that a faculty member spends a minimum of six hours in classrooms a week and teaches three courses each semester. Every faculty member has five research scholars to guide. But faculty members usually spend much more time than in just guidance of research scholars as they have related work like evaluation as well as administrative duties.

Similar suggestions in the past could not be implemented because of staff shortage. IIT-M has 530 faculty members and 7,800 students. It has a sanctioned strength of 800 faculty members. The institution decided to enroll more students in 2010, resulting in a 54% increase in admissions, but faculty strength remained at 450, roughly the same as previously.

“If a department has more than one faculty member for a specialisation, one can be spared from classroom duties in the first semester and another can be given the same opportunity the next semester,” a professor said.

IIT-M director Bhaskar Ramamurthi indicated that the proposals may only be implemented as a stop-gap arrangement and said the institution did not plan to introduce them at the policy level.

“Departments come up with internal arrangements so teaching and research are not compromised,” he said. “Teaching and research should go hand in hand. We had 600 doctoral scholars in 2007 and the number had now gone up to 1,800. Our PhD and MS students make up 30% of the student strength. Increasing enrolment has also resulted in IIT-M acquiring more faculty members and PhD students.”

Not all faculty members support the proposal to reduce classroom hours. A senior professor said IIT-M’s academic freedom allowed teachers to start new programmes in specialised fields.

“The rationale is to give students the opportunity to work on projects with their teachers while also attending classes,” the professor said. “If an ambitious professor doesn’t want to teach students, it will be a loss to the student community. Unlike institutions like Defence Research Development Organisation , IITs are part of the public education system.”

Trained Teachers Should Get Pension as per their Grade: Bombay HC

The Bombay high court has ruled that trained teachers should be given pension applicable to employees in their grade as it would be illegal and unjustified to give them pension of untrained teachers.

Accordingly, justices SJ Vajifdar and MS Sonak recently directed the civic body in Mumbai to pay pension to an assistant trained teacher, who retired from the same post after 27 years of service in a municipal school, on the basis of the pension applicable to a trained teacher.

Charumathi Kannappa Mudaliar, right from the date of her appointment and up to the date of her retirement, i.e. upto October 31, 2009, was paid salary and other benefits payable to an assistant trained teacher.

There is no dispute that the service conditions of Mudaliar entitled her to draw pension upon superannuation. However, for a period of about two years, no pension was paid to her. Ultimately, pension payments commenced on the basis that she had superannuated as an assistant untrained teacher.

There is a difference in the pay scales of Assistant trained teachers and assistant untrained ueachers. This difference naturally persists in the pensionary benefits as well.

After hearing the arguments, the court ruled that she is entitled to pension applicable to trained teachers and hence asked the municipal authorities to pay pension accordingly.

They have been asked to pay her the difference in the pension amounts of trained and untrained teachers and also pay interest of 12 per cent on these arrears by September 2015.

The impugned action was defended, saying Mudaliar’s initial appointment as an assistant trained teacher was defective. The qualifications for appointment of assistant trained teacher was SSC/HSC with Diploma in Education (D.Ed), while she had B.A. and B.Ed (Physical Education and History) degrees.

Mudaliar’s qualifications were not only valid in the relevant field, but were higher than requisite qualification. Despite the same, her initial appointment 27 years prior to the date of her superannuation was not only virtually annulled, but the respondents even sought recovery of the difference in pay between trained and untrained teachers.

They also resisted payment of pensionary benefits commensurate to the post of a trained teacher.

The high court quashed and set aside the impugned communication of December 29, 2011, which directed recoveries from the petitioner as regards her salary and other benefits.

“In our judgment, the action of respondents is totally unreasonable, arbitrary and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India”, said the judges.

“There is no dispute that the petitioner possessed qualifications of B.A. and B.Ed, which are higher than the minimum prescribed qualifications of SSC/HSC with D.Ed. It is not the respondent’s case that holding higher qualifications disqualifies a candidate from occupying the post,” they said.

“Nor has it been contended that the qualifications possessed by the petitioner are either not appropriate or have no nexus with the post held by her for almost 27 years. The petitioner’s appointment was duly approved and the petitioner throughout her service period was treated as an Assistant Trained Teacher, which clearly she was,” observed the bench.

The petitioner during her entire service period has been paid salary of an assistant trained teacher. “In these circumstances, we find absolutely no justification on the part of the respondents even to suggest that the petitioner’s initial appointment, made 27 years prior to the date of her superannuation, was in any manner defective,” the judges said.

The judges said they found no justification in permitting the respondents to recover any alleged arrears or to deny pension or pensionary benefits commensurate to the post of the assistant trained teachers to the petitioner.

Any attempt to recover the difference from the petitioner, on the basis that she should have been appointed only as assistant untrained teacher is ex facie illegal and unjustified, the judges held.

“So also, the denial of pension and pensionary benefits commensurate to the post of assistant trained teacher, in which post she has actually discharged the duties for a period of 27 years prior to her superannuation, is also arbitrary, illegal and unjustified,” the judges ruled.