New Education Policy: Non-inclusion of teachers in core committee deprived panel knowledge of on-ground challenges

Editor’s note: The draft New Education Policy, which intends to introduce broad reforms, is now open for public scrutiny. In this three-part series, Firstpost examines the structural efficacy of the proposed policy. This is the first part of the series.

“When was the last time you used a quadratic equation in your life?”

I have not used it in at least seven years. I am not suggesting that learning quadratic equations is not important, because it is, for a small set of people. But why is every child grilled through the same, then?

 New Education Policy: Non-inclusion of teachers in core committee deprived panel knowledge of on-ground challenges

Representational image. Reuters

Looking back, I would have benefited more if the school years taught me how my identity shapes my actions, how I may have been less misogynistic (#YesAllMen), handing rejections without being harsh on myself, normalising writing gratitude letters and learning to disagree without being bitter or losing the fondness for the other.

I believe I would have benefited more by combining music and science, history and physics, and computers and environment. I think others too would have benefitted from these. Instead, we were learning quadratic equations’ formulas.

It is in the context of such a disconnect between our individual as well as collective needs that having examined the specific provisions of the policy, I zoom out to examine the broad principles and approach of the New Education Policy.

New Education Policy is a piece of mixed news. It has its fair share of good news and a fair share of areas where the committee disappoints.

Several studies including the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) shows that more than 50 percent of our class 5 children are unable to read the basic text and perform basic arithmetic. This is a national emergency that is neither adequately discussed nor acted upon. With the majority of the children unable to read basic text, it is difficult to predict the future of these children or India because there does not seem to be one.

In that context, the New Education Policy lays emphasis on building foundational literacy and numeracy. The policy goes on to recommend sound measures such as dedicated time for foundational skills, reviewing textbooks for primary grades, redesigning teacher education modules to reorient focus towards building foundational skills, among others.

The committee acknowledges that the syllabus currently imposed on students is unwarranted. Harvard professor Lant Pritchett has demonstrated negative consequences of overambitious curricula.

Ours is not only ambitious but disconnected. Recall the last time you used trigonometric equations? He showed that two countries with exactly the same potential learning could have massively divergent learning outcomes just because of a gap between curricular and actual pace—and the country which goes faster has much lower cumulative learning.

Ironically, the learning could go faster if curriculum and teachers were to just simply slow down, the research proved. Therefore, the recommendation of the committee to reduce the content curriculum making space for critical thinking and the arts is a progressive step forward.

The policy, however, falls short of establishing the connection between our national needs with that of its proposals. One of the most significant challenges our democracy faces today is the menace of fake news. The responsibility of building citizens that can identify the difference between fake and real news, facts and fiction, campaign and propaganda lies in our schools. The menace is eating up our democracy with no foreseeable sign of it relenting. In that light building institutions that can resist and counter to this menace is the key responsibility that the committee has failed to even take into account.

The committee that drafted the New Education Policy did not have a single school teacher in it. One is unable to understand the reasons and explanation for it if there can indeed be any. There are nearly 80 lakh teachers in India and they remain the most important unit of effecting changes proposed in the policy. Without their involvement and considerable say in the making of the New Education Policy, it remains to be seen as to how the teaching community responds to it. The fate of the No-Detention Policy is well-known because the teachers did not want it. Within two years of Right to Education, a review committee was set up and within seven years, the provision has been diluted significantly.

Not one school teacher can be found in the list of 217 eminent persons the committee consulted. However, the committee rightfully laments the loss of prestige of teachers and its approach provides evidence for it.

 The author works as a Secretary-rank officer in Delhi Commission For Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR), Government of Delhi.

Your guide to the latest cricket World Cup stories, analysis, reports, opinions, live updates and scores on Follow us on Twitter andInstagram or like our Facebook page for updates throughout the ongoing event in England and Wales.


Travesty of education

Sujata recorded the conversation with the principal and shared it on her social media, which went viral in just the matter of a few hours.

Sujata recorded the conversation with the principal and shared it on her social media, which went viral in just the matter of a few hours.

Just when the world is busy paying tribute to fathers on Father’s Day, a mother has learned its importance in a hard way. In a rather surprising state of events, Sujata Mohite, a single mother from Nerul, has alleged that principle Saira Kennedy of St. Lawrence School in Vashi had denied admission to her son on the grounds of her being a single parent. Sujata recorded the conversation with the principal and shared it on her social media, which went viral in just the matter of a few hours.

“My son was studying in Poddar School which is a part of ICSE, and I wanted him to study in the State board so I chose this school. I am a working parent and can afford my child’s education,” says Sujata, who is a sales manager in a real estate firm and had separated from her husband four years ago.

Reiterating the incident, Sujata shares that she inquired about a vacancy in the school in April and was informed by the administration about a spot. However, when she went to the school with her son, the principal refused to admit him stating that there’s no vacancy. Later, Sujata approached her friend whose kids were studying in the same school. “I asked one of my references to check if there’s a vacancy in standard two for my son. There was one and when I went there the next day; they asked me to wait outside and called my friend in the office. She told my friend that they would not give admission to my son because I am a single parent. Later when I went to her cabin she was extremely rude,” she recalls. Despite this bias, Sujata was still ready to leave the place quietly but because the principal was rude and her ground for denying the admission was not legally right, she felt it necessary to post it on a public forum and recorded the video. “My son is just in second class, he has to study further. If my son has to go through this every time, then how will he cope?” she says.


So far, the country’s education system doesn’t have a rule of denying admission on this ground. However, in the video, the principle is seen reiterating that they don’t give such admissions as it becomes difficult to handle single parents. “Who made this law? As a school, they need fees and I am capable of paying. My monthly salary is equivalent to the entire year’s fees of my son,” she assures. She also tried to validate her statement by producing all her documents but was still denied the admission. Sujata in her video also questioned about the scenario when the father dies or parents get separated after the admission. The principle is seen responding with ‘it is then unfortunate but we don’t give admission in your cases’. “If the government has made the law that a mother can have the custody of a child, then why is the school denying the admission? Who is she to decide the criteria?” she asserts.

Many people including some mothers on the Internet have shared the video. A user named Khushboo had even asked if the principle has the same rule for Army kids. “Principal of St Lawrence high school in Vashi Navi Mumbai is denying to take admission for single-parent students. Does the Principal have the same rules for our Army kids??? Raise your voice against such rules by the school.”


A decade of blogging: Making sense in the cyber highway

BLOGGING is currently the prevailing practice by individuals who have the passion to write and tell stories about places, people and events using advance technology as the fastest and most effective channel of communication.

Before technology dominates the cyber world, people had a hard time communicating. Even in relationships, one has to physically visit the person who is the love interest. It involves a lot of hard work because one has to court the whole family only to win their hearts and eventually the heart of the love interest.

People used to communicate either by letters or phone calls (landline), through friends and through mutual interactions. Those were the old days.

But now, with the advent of technology, everything is made easy even in courtship, business, and family relations.

Petty quarrels even occupy the interest of the cyber community, which is quite a downside. But people become more conscious about their looks, clothing, behaviors, and language and have all the reasons to celebrate in most if not all occasions.

But here comes blogging, few individuals put together their passion and formed a group named the Negrense Bloggers. Their group rings a bell in the corporate world. They just marked their 10th anniversary on May 25.

The Negros Bloggers started in May 30, 2009 with pioneers Ruby Caberte, May Castro and Glady Tomulto, who felt the need to professionalize their craft of blogging.

They held meetings and sponsored blogging seminars to gather and network with other bloggers based in Bacolod City.

Soon, through blog hopping, link exchange and social networking, the group grew by leaps and bounds, attracting many Negrense bloggers based in Bacolod as well from other parts of the country.

This has led to the creation of the Negrense Blogging Society, Inc., a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)-registered, non-profit, non-stock association.

Negrense Blogging Society, Inc. is the juridical personality behind the Negros Bloggers.

Their mission is to promote, preserve, and develop the arts, culture, business, environment, tourism, and history of the Negrenses in the blogosphere.

They are also a community of bloggers who help one another develop and professionalize their craft, foster camaraderie and friendship, while at the same time gather other Negrense bloggers together through link parties, seminars and guest posts. They help each other look for new opportunities that may benefit their readers.

They are governed by the core values of honesty, integrity, excellence and ethics in our blogging. We build mutually beneficial linkages with other bloggers and blogging networks in other cities and provinces in the Philippines and around the world who share our values, passion, and philosophy.”

Ruby Caberte, founding President said, “It’s been ten years since we started Negrense Blogging Society, Inc. It makes me really happy and very proud that they have come a long way and have become one of the premier blogging organization in the country today. To my Negrense Bloggers family, keep on shining and growing! Cheers to the next 10 years and more!”

Glady Reyes said, “After 10 years of blogging, we want to give back to the community by mentoring the youth who want to go into blogging as platform for their advocacy and business.”

Couple bloggers Dennis and Sigrid Lo are grateful of their blogging and their organization.

Sigrid said, “I’m grateful to be part of the Negrense Blogging Society. While we may be called bloggers, we uphold blogging ethics and journalistic values by reporting only facts and sharing opinion based on facts. It has been our group’s goal to be a channel of change and positivism in the city, promoting Bacolod to the world through our websites.”

Dennis said, “We are against fake news and together we stand to share only information about our society and about life that is helpful and true.”

They even had influence on their kids Shawna Din and Dorothy Shane who also have their YouTube vlog channel: sistersactkidscantell.


‘Game of Thrones’: ET Will Be Live Blogging the Series Finale!

Image result for 'Game of Thrones': ET Will Be Live Blogging the Series Finale!It’s here.

Get ready to sing “Jenny’s Song” because Game of Thrones is officially coming to an end. After eight glorious seasons, the HBO epic is set to conclude on Sunday — and we’re still not sure who will end up on the Iron Throne.

After last week’s shocking penultimate episode, in which Daenerys ignored King’s Landing’s surrender and instead lit the place up, it’s become clear she’s not the benevolent ruler she wanted to be. Most of the Lannisters are dead — Tyrion, however, remains shocked by his queen’s actions — but the Starks are alive, and may be coming for Dany’s crown.

Despite fans’ petition to have season eight remade, we’re pretty sure this is the season eight we’ve got. ET will be live blogging Sunday’s episode from start to finish as we learn our favorite characters’ fates. Circle back when the episode starts for minute-by-minute updates of what’s going down.


Forget Sats – find a true measure of education

pupils sitting an exam

 ‘The way we evaluate schools, as well as the way we teach and assess pupils, have to be rethought,’ writes Mary Bousted. Photograph: David Jones/PA

Amanda Spielman may be warning the wrong people about exam anxiety, certainly as far as younger kids are concerned (Ofsted chief says teachers can cause ‘subliminal’ exam anxiety, May 14). My 10-year-old is not worried because I have told him Sats are irrelevant to his life. His secondary school will determine how best he will fit in, based on its own testing, when he gets there in September. I did ask him to do his best in sympathy with the people who are sweating it out this week: his excellent teachers, whose lives – and the rating of the school – depend on how he does at rote nonsense.

Meanwhile, the true quality of his education is illustrated by the year 6 leavers’ scrapbook year after year, which always tells the same story: the stellar moments each child remembers are extracurricular experiences such as acting in plays, spending a week together on Exmoor or learning about Mary Anning in Lyme Regis. We parents can also play our part – as a lawyer, I have supervised the trial of three teachers for “murdering” the headteacher, with the local police arriving to oversee the investigation. (They were all acquitted by exemplary 10-year-old jurors, I am glad to say.)

We should deliver a token of our respect and thanks to the anxious teachers when the Sats end on Thursday. Meanwhile, when will the government accept that teachers should be allowed to inspire, rather than having to cram tedious material down the throats of their enthusiastic goslings? Perhaps begin by allowing them a free day a week to seek out the child’s passion.
Clive Stafford Smith
Symondsbury, Dorset

 Fiona Millar warns us of the risks of abolishing Sats and says we should not go back to the pre-testing days of the early 1990s (Education, 14 May). But no one in the debate reignited by Jeremy Corbyn and Layla Moran is advocating a system without assessment. The right kind of assessment matters, because we need to support pupils’ learning more effectively. It matters because we need to identify problems in schools and put them right. There is no dispute about this.

What Corbyn and Moran – like the OECD and many national governments – have pointed out is that the system we have neither supports learners nor provides useful information about schools. That’s why it needs to change. Nor is anyone suggesting that changes to assessment alone will be enough to mend the damage done to our primary schools. The way we evaluate schools has to be rethought, as does the way we teach and assess pupils. To this end, we need to think boldly and comprehensively. Millar’s approach, which points to the size of the problems as a reason to doubt the capability of reformers to address them, falls short of what is required.
Dr Mary Bousted
Joint general secretary, National Education Union

 Most present and past teachers, like myself, could confirm the sense of the research finding in your report (Teacher assessment could take place of many tests, study says, 13 May). Most have been arguing for years about the negative effects of excessive testing and league tables.

Teachers work closely with students to help them make progress in their learning, while nurturing their wellbeing. It is their job – in my case, a vocation and what I spent four years training to do. I hope politicians will heed this research.
Ann Moore
Stocksfield, Northumberland

 Not long after I read your report on research suggesting that replacing exams with teacher assessments “would arguably benefit the wellbeing of students … and help to bring joy back to the classroom”, my son told me that after his first GCSE paper on Monday some of his fellow students found it so difficult that they were in tears. It wasn’t so long ago that he said he wasn’t being taught to learn, more to pass exams. Add the drop in students doing foreign languages because the papers are too hard – people should look at maths too – and it’s easy to conclude that our education system is deeply flawed.


‘Indian Campuses Under Siege’ Says Fact-Finding Jury of Human Rights Defenders

'Indian Campuses Under Siege' Says Fact-Finding Jury of Human Rights Defenders

New Delhi: In the last few years, the number of universities in Gujarat has swelled from 15 to over 50. “But these universities have no buildings, professors, vice chancellors, clerks, registrars, etc. Several of them are said to be in primary government schools or in tehsildar’s office.”

Professor Hemant Kumar Shah, of the well-known H.K. Arts College of Ahmedabad, stated this to a fact-finding jury put together by a nation-wide collective of human rights defenders called the People’s Commission on Shrinking Democratic Space in India (PCSDS), to delve into the state of university campuses since 2014.

Professor Hemant also added that the shortage of teachers “was so bad” in his state that he was asked by his head “to teach environmental science to all second semester students in the college together in the hall which has a seating capacity of 735 people, since the college didn’t have enough teachers to take division-wise classes”.

In February, Shah was in the news for resigning from his post as the in-charge principal of the college protesting the trust body’s decision to cancel an event in the institution featuring its alumnus Jignesh Mewani.

Ramakant, a student of the fine arts department of Patna University could identify with Shah’s outlook on the shortage of teachers in government-funded universities and colleges, mainly stemming from an increased cut in funding. Ramakant and fellow students have been demanding the appointment of permanent teachers among other facilities in their university for some time now. He told the jury members comprising PCSDS’ People’s Tribunal on Attacks on Educational Institutions in India that,

“The university doesn’t have any permanent teacher and even the ad-hoc teacher has been removed.”

The report, 'Indian Campuses Under Siege' Credit: Special Arrangement

The report, ‘Indian Campuses Under Siege’ Credit: Special Arrangement

The state of Delhi University is marginally different, he said, because although there are 5000 vacancies, “almost all are filled with or operated by ad-hoc teachers.”

Such testimonials of students and teachers – of as many as 50 institutions and universities from across 17 states – are now a part of a one-of-a-kind report on the condition of various university campuses under the Narendra Modi regime. The report, titled ‘Indian Campuses Under Siege‘, was launched in New Delhi on May 7, 2019.

According to Anil Chaudhary, the convener of PCSDS, a total of 130 testimonies of students and faculty members were received from these states between April 11 and 13, 2018. They spoke to the jury comprising Justices (retired) Hosbet Suresh and B.G. Kolse Patil, professors Uma Chakravarty, Amit Bhaduri, T.K. Oommen, Vasanthi Devi, Ghanasyam Shah, Meher Engineer and Kalpana Kannabiran besides journalist-columnist and The Wire‘s public editor Pamela Philipose.

It points out the drastic cut in funding universities, leading to a shortage of teachers and a steep hike in course fees (in some cases from Rs 5,080 to Rs 50,000, triggering the drop-out of students from mainly to SC, ST and OBC groups). Other key findings include centralisation of the admission process; increased privatisation of institutions through policy changes; distortion of history, syllabus and saffronisation of education; appointing loyalists as university heads; the rise of Hindutva forces within the campuses; suppression and criminalisation of dissenting voices; and use of legal measures to curb students’ protests.

The report records, in detail, many cases of students and faculty members who have had to bear the brunt of it, several of them belonging to marginalised sections of society.

The report also says,

“Testimonies presented by students and faculty before the jury revealed a socially exclusive and unjust system prevailing in the higher education institutions, designed to replicate the marginalisations in society. As revealed from the testimonies, the attacks of privatisation and authoritarianism in the campuses have changed in the social composition of students on campus, directly impacting the marginalised sections of society, in particular, the SC, ST and OBC. Coupled with this, the educational institutions have failed to address the systems of oppression and discrimination faced by students both inside and outside the campus on the basis of caste, language, gender, secularity, religion and region.”

From the launch of the report in New Delhi. Credit: Special Arrangement

From the launch of the report in New Delhi. Credit: Special Arrangement

Recording his testimony before the jury, Abhay Flavian Xaxa from the Campaign for Dalit Human Rights said ‘intellectual lynching’ of ST, SC and OBC students is occurring during the present regime. This, he said, is done in three ways: “physical discrimination, fiscal discrimination and barriers put up against the policies meant for the educational development of ST, SC and OBC students.”

Offering an instance, Xaxa pointed out that under a new directive on reservation for faculties, “in the Indira Gandhi Tribal National University at Amarkantak in Madhya Pradesh, they advertised 52 positions for professors, assistant professors and associate professors. However, not a single post has been given to ST and SC candidates.”

The jury felt, “there has indeed been a systematic onslaught on the very idea of higher education in India…this is deliberate since an educated gentry can put questions to those who rule and is essential for the furthering and deepening of democracy.”


Delhi government facilitates expansion of educational institutions in the national capital

Another project put forth by DTTE received a nod by EFC, which involves the construction of six building in NSIT Campus in Dwarka, which is estimated to cost Rs. 202.12 crores.


Delhi govt facilitates expansion of educational facilities (Representational Image)  |  Photo Credit: Getty Images

New Delhi: The Delhi government on Friday approved proposals at a meeting of the Expenditure Finance Committee (EFC) that will facilitate the expansion of educational institutions in the national capital.  The committee approved the Directorate of Training & Technical Education’s (DTTE) proposal for the construction of Smart classrooms in Netaji Subhas University of Technology (NSUT) Campus in Dwarka. The project is estimated to cost around Rs 26.79 crore.

The project was approved as the name of Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology (NSIT) was changed to Netaji Subhas University of Technology (NSUT) in 2018, leading to an increase in the number of students in the campus. The building will now be able to accommodate an additional 1500 students. Accordingly, a consultant has been appointed to prepare detailed drawings of the classrooms.

Another project put forth by DTTE received a nod by EFC, which involves the construction of six building in NSIT Campus in Dwarka, which is estimated to cost Rs. 202.12 crores.

DTTE contented that the present infrastructure is planned for 2650 students, while the total strength is 3500, therefore, to cater to the increased student strength at the campus, infrastructure is required.

For this, approval of Delhi Urban Art Commission (DUAC) has also been received, while other approvals such as Fire, Environment, forest clearance are being pursued.

Family Welfare Department (FWD) proposal for the construction of G+22+ double basement building at Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital, estimating Rs 533.91 crore was also cleared in the EFC meeting. The building will be used as Medicine, Maternity and Advanced Paediatric Centre.

At present, the total number of beds in the hospital is 2550 and another 1570 beds are proposed to be added. Statutory clearances from DUAC, Fire Department and Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) for the project has been obtained, while environment clearance is under process.


Securing the “internet of things” in the quantum age

MIT researchers have developed a novel chip that can compute complex quantum-proof encryption schemes efficiently enough to protect low-power “internet of things” (IoT) devices.

MIT researchers have developed a novel cryptography circuit that can be used to protect low-power “internet of things” (IoT) devices in the coming age of quantum computing.

Quantum computers can in principle execute calculations that today are practically impossible for classical computers. Bringing quantum computers online and to market could one day enable advances in medical research, drug discovery, and other applications. But there’s a catch: If hackers also have access to quantum computers, they could potentially break through the powerful encryption schemes that currently protect data exchanged between devices.

Today’s most promising quantum-resistant encryption scheme is called “lattice-based cryptography,” which hides information in extremely complicated mathematical structures. To date, no known quantum algorithm can break through its defenses. But these schemes are way too computationally intense for IoT devices, which can only spare enough energy for simple data processing.

In a paper presented at the recent International Solid-State Circuits Conference, MIT researchers describe a novel circuit architecture and statistical optimization tricks that can be used to efficiently compute lattice-based cryptography. The 2-millimeter-squared chips the team developed are efficient enough for integration into any current IoT device.

The architecture is customizable to accommodate the multiple lattice-based schemes currently being studied in preparation for the day that quantum computers come online. “That might be a few decades from now, but figuring out if these techniques are really secure takes a long time,” says first author Utsav Banerjee, a graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science. “It may seem early, but earlier is always better.”

Moreover, the researchers say, the circuit is the first of its kind to meet standards for lattice-based cryptography set by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce that finds and writes regulations for today’s encryption schemes.

Joining Banerjee on the paper are Anantha Chandrakasan, dean of MIT’s School of Engineering and the Vannevar Bush Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and Abhishek Pathak of the Indian Institute of Technology.

Efficient sampling

In the mid-1990s, MIT Professor Peter Shor developed a quantum algorithm that can essentially break through all modern cryptography schemes. Since then, NIST has been trying to find the most secure postquantum encryption schemes. This happens in phases; each phase winnows down a list of the most secure and practical schemes. Two weeks ago, the agency entered its second phase for postquantum cryptography, with lattice-based schemes making up half of its list.

In the new study, the researchers first implemented on commercial microprocessors several NIST lattice-based cryptography schemes from the agency’s first phase. This revealed two bottlenecks for efficiency and performance: generating random numbers and data storage.

Generating random numbers is the most important part of all cryptography schemes, because those numbers are used to generate secure encryption keys that can’t be predicted. That’s calculated through a two-part process called “sampling.”

Sampling first generates pseudorandom numbers from a known, finite set of values that have an equal probability of being selected. Then, a “postprocessing” step converts those pseudorandom numbers into a different probability distribution with a specified standard deviation — a limit for how much the values can vary from one another — that randomizes the numbers further. Basically, the random numbers must satisfy carefully chosen statistical parameters. This difficult mathematical problem consumes about 80 percent of all computation energy needed for lattice-based cryptography.

After analyzing all available methods for sampling, the researchers found that one method, called SHA-3, can generate many pseudorandom numbers two or three times more efficiently than all others. They tweaked SHA-3 to handle lattice-based cryptography sampling. On top of this, they applied some mathematical tricks to make pseudorandom sampling, and the postprocessing conversion to new distributions, faster and more efficient.

They run this technique using energy-efficient custom hardware that takes up only 9 percent of the surface area of their chip. In the end, this makes the process of sampling two orders of magnitude more efficient than traditional methods.

Splitting the data

On the hardware side, the researchers made innovations in data flow. Lattice-based cryptography processes data in vectors, which are tables of a few hundred or thousand numbers. Storing and moving those data requires physical memory components that take up around 80 percent of the hardware area of a circuit.

Traditionally, the data are stored on a single two-or four-port random access memory (RAM) device. Multiport devices enable the high data throughput required for encryption schemes, but they take up a lot of space.

For their circuit design, the researchers modified a technique called “number theoretic transform” (NTT), which functions similarly to the Fourier transform mathematical technique that decomposes a signal into the multiple frequencies that make it up. The modified NTT splits vector data and allocates portions across four single-port RAM devices. Each vector can still be accessed in its entirety for sampling as if it were stored on a single multiport device. The benefit is the four single-port REM devices occupy about a third less total area than one multiport device.

“We basically modified how the vector is physically mapped in the memory and modified the data flow, so this new mapping can be incorporated into the sampling process. Using these architecture tricks, we reduced the energy consumption and occupied area, while maintaining the desired throughput,” Banerjee says.

The circuit also incorporates a small instruction memory component that can be programmed with custom instructions to handle different sampling techniques — such as specific probability distributions and standard deviations — and different vector sizes and operations. This is especially helpful, as lattice-based cryptography schemes will most likely change slightly in the coming years and decades.

Adjustable parameters can also be used to optimize efficiency and security. The more complex the computation, the lower the efficiency, and vice versa. In their paper, the researchers detail how to navigate these tradeoffs with their adjustable parameters. Next, the researchers plan to tweak the chip to run all the lattice-based cryptography schemes listed in NIST’s second phase.

The work was supported by Texas Instruments and the TSMC University Shuttle Program.


Former Astronaut Jumps Into Australian Internet of Things Startup

Shuttle flight STS-120, which Pam Melroy commanded, is most famous for helping to repair a torn solar array on the International Space Station. Pictured here is NASA astronaut Scott Parazynski.NASA

Pam Melroy was commanding a space shuttle crew at the International Space Station in 2007 when a big problem occurred. The astronauts were unfurling a solar array when they saw something seriously wrong — a tear was forming between the solar panels. The “fix” NASA decided on was a spectacular spacewalk, where Scott Parazynski rode a robotic arm to carefully stitch the array together with a tool the crew fashioned in orbit.

It’s an experience that Melroy will draw upon in her new position, as a board advisor to Myriota — an Australian company planning to build an Internet-of-things platform where devices can connect directly with satellites above. It’s a technology that could create efficiencies in farming crops or sending information, Melroy argues, and it all starts with creating the right culture as a team.

Space teamwork skills easily translate to startup teamwork skills that Myriota will need, Melroy said. The company is at a point where it is scaling from a small group of key people to a larger employee base, due in large part to closing a Series A round of $15 million last year. Hiring people needs to be done strategically, with business goals in mind, Melroy argued.

Melroy added she has faith the company is on the right path, after many conversations with co-founder and chief executive Alex Grant. The company is starting pilot programs, and they now have a satellite of their own that is dedicated to the IoT technology, she said.

Myriota plans a rapid ramp-up of its customer base from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands in the next year, Melroy added. She says they will most likely hit that target as Australian companies tend not to make announcements until the infrastructure is in place to support their claims. (She joked it is a different situation from the United States.)

Former NASA astronaut Pam Melroy during training for her last mission, shuttle flight STS-120.NASA

Melroy has a broad base of experience to draw upon as she works in Australia, which she visited several times in the past year to advise industry and government on growing their space program. (It was during this time that she first met Myriota, joking “I couldn’t stump” the executive team with hard questions.)

From her time at NASA supporting other astronauts and flying three shuttle missions, as well as her decades of experience in the U.S. Air Force, Melroy said she received “a lot of leadership experience at all levels, including the executive,” especially in building culture.

Melroy was the deputy director of Lockheed Martin’s Orion program immediately after leaving NASA, between 2009 and 2011. She then joined the Federal Aviation Administration in 2011 as a senior technical advisor and director of field operations for the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation. “That gave me the insight into regulatory and policy aspects, especially as it impacts new technology,” she said.

Melroy subsequently worked at DARPA as deputy director of the tactical technology office, a position that she says helped her gauge if a technology is really cutting edge. She also talked with businesses and startups while at DARPA, which helped her “gain an appreciation of what some of their challenges and opportunities are.”

Myriota’s differentiator, she said, is offering is direct-to-orbit services, bypassing the base station that other IoT companies provide. It not only is more convenient for the end user, but it also drives down costs.

“The agriculture here in Australia, there’s an estimate that it could be 50 percent more productive with an integration of IoT technologies,” she said, as farmers get more refined information about soil moisture and animal locations. “But from a productivity standpoint, for almost every industry, this is also a big deal.”



Is distance learning the future of education?

Is distance learning the future of education?

Online learning was once frowned upon and thought to disturb the normal learning process students were accustomed to in the classrooms, but with the impact technology has on the life of every individual nowadays, that’s not the case anymore.

Online courses can help students reach the depth of different subjects without having to take an excessive number of classes in a semester as they can do it at their own pace in a familiar environment and with all the help they would get in a normal study group.

Numerous studies have been conducted over the years, to determine whether online learning is more effective than face-to-face courses or should it only be used as an additional method, in parallel with conventional classes.

The results were varied and while some students did better with online classes, others reported their grades were significantly worse. In 2017, a study showed that online classes are a poor option for students who did not have an advanced knowledge of the subject and the dropout ratio was bigger. However, other studies showed that online courses are the best option for students who have a more challenging life such as working full time or raising a kid.

Research conducted on students from rural schools that lack specialised and advanced courses for those more advanced than their peers, shows that online courses can be an excellent addition to conventional studying. The study showed that students who took the online courses did better than those who stuck to the curriculum.

Online teaching has no geographic boundaries
Another advantage that has been brought up when discussing online classes is the cultural diversity and the chances students have to connect with either colleagues or teachers from all over the world. Students have more time to discuss and exchange opinions with other individuals from different cultures, without the pressure of a ticking clock.

Coming in contact with people with a different background can have a huge impact on individuals, as they learn to communicate and listen to different opinions. This increases their opportunity to familiarize themselves with the way other communities see things, an experience they would not have in a classroom.
For instance, an individual from Cyprus can choose to take an online chemistry tuition form a teacher in Singapore, an option that would not normally be available in a conventional classroom.

A way of reaching the masses
Studies have shown that distant learning benefits those less fortunate, who have limited access to education. Whether we are talking about rural communities or individuals who have difficulties attending regular classes due to various reasons regarding time, distance or particular situations at home, online courses come to their help. Children from less developed communities, who have limited access to resources like textbooks or attend schools who suffer from a deficit of personnel now have the opportunity to fathom the subjects they are interested in. They can this way prepare for higher education without feeling they are missing out on vital information.

What do professors think? 
While most studies and discussions about distance learning focus on the students, it’s worth knowing what opinions do teachers and counselors have about it. Teachers who embraced the idea of online tutoring want to remind others that learning communities can also be found online. They say the process is much more complex than just downloading 100 pages of content and uploading their final paper at the end of the course. Communication plays a huge role in effective teaching and the online community knows it.
Other professionals say that online teaching helped them enhance their teaching abilities. They learned how to construct their courses and now have a better understanding of the education system and their institution policy, skills they did not develop with just working in a classroom and following a strict curriculum.

What will the future bring? 
It is becoming more and more obvious that online education is going to continue to change and adapt to suit our needs and lifestyle. But what direction is it taking and how will it look in the future, as special education apps are no news and courses are already available everywhere? Will it one day replace the conventional classroom?

Researchers say that online learning is going to be based more on projects than papers, as technology nowadays makes it really simple for students to present and broadcast their projects with the use of a mobile phone.
While online education will not replace classroom education anytime soon, there are many reasons why they should work together, to compensate one another. Teachers should be more open to the idea of bringing their teaching into the present day and adapt to the ever-changing needs of students.