School is liberating young women, society is holding them back

 

On a sunny afternoon in April, Deepmala, Jyoti Maurya, and Priyanka Rai, made a triumphant return to the Government Girls’ Senior Secondary School in C block, Sangam Vihar — a year after they graduated as the toppers of their batch.

Growing up, the girls reflected, is a strange experience of simultaneously expanding and contracting horizons: the growing possibilities of adult life tempered by the restrictions of what the girls called “societal mindset.”

At a time when it is fashionable to speak of education solely in terms of employability, the battles of Sangam Vihar’s young women reveal how a liberal education can loosen, if not completely break, the shackles of patriarchy.

For Priyanka, her first encounter with the “mindset” was when her father told her she couldn’t go to college.

“He said, girls lose their values when they go to college,” Priyanka said, “In my community, women aren’t allowed to work – the only acceptable job is that of a school teacher.”

And so Priyanka, who topped school with 95.6%, signed up for a two-year diploma to train as an elementary school teacher, rather than study economics – as she had hoped to.

Deepmala, Jyoti Maurya and Priyanka Rai, who topped their respective classes in the Government Girls’ Senior Secondary School speak of their struggle to get an education.

Shrinking workforce

Mass schooling programmes enacted under the Right to Education have pushed up women’s literacy in India, but women’s participation in the workforce has dipped precipitously — from 37% in 2005 to an alarming 27% last year.

In urban India, the participation rate is only 20%. Data analysed by the World Bank suggested proportionally fewer women are joining the workforce, later in their lives, and dropping out earlier.

Some of the drop in employment is down to shrinking jobs in rural India, but as the girls in Sangam Vihar realised, a lot of it is down to a patriarchal mindset that arbitrarily decrees what sorts of jobs are suitable for women.

Deepmala was more successful in her fight with her family. She made it to a Bachelors of Commerce degree at Gargi College in Delhi University; but the mindset had already forced her to drop mathematics in Class 10, because her family wouldn’t let her go for tuitions. This meant she had to settle for a BCom general degree instead of the Honours programme she had in mind.

“My father is very open-minded, but he is easily influenced by tauji, his elder brother,” said Deepmala, who uses only her first name. “Tauji said, when a girl comes home late, people start asking where she’s been. So I couldn’t take tuition.”

When Deepmala got into Delhi University, she said, “There was a big fight in the family, but my father finally told tauji that he was going to let me go to college.”

Jyoti said her family, and particularly her father, consistently supported her education.

But when I came to class 11, again that mindset. In our school, girls in the morning shift aren’t offered science as a stream, but boys in the evening are.

– Jyoti Maurya

So Jyoti topped her commerce class and is now studying for two degrees at the same time – B.Com (Honours) at Kamala Nehru, and chartered accountancy.

A welcome freedom

College, both girls said, was disorienting, but liberating.

“I’m the only girl from a government school in my class in college,” Jyoti said, “It feels strange. I sit in the front row in accounts class, but I sit in the last row when its time for the English period.”

Very often, Jyoti said, she knows the answer to a particular question but hesitates.

“The English words won’t come out,” she said, “I’ve lost some confidence, I’ve developed a stammer — which I never had before. But I’m going to master English and then I’m going to learn French, or Spanish.”

Their education has liberated Priyanka, Jyoti, and Deepmala (left to right), but society continues to hold them backTheir education has liberated Priyanka, Jyoti, and Deepmala (left to right), but society continues to hold them back

When Deepmala joined college, she decided to do something she had never done before — dance.

“I was a very shy girl in school,” she said, “In 12 years, I didn’t participate in a single extracurricular activity. All I did was study.”

Dance, she felt, was one way to shed her inhibitions about many things – about studying in a government school, about living in Sangam Vihar, about wearing a salwar kameez.

“In school, I was inspired by Priyanka,” Deepmala said, “She did everything — dance, recitation, elocution, sports – and she still came first.”

The dance society rejected her at first — “There were all these weird movements they made me do” — but the second time they took her just on her enthusiasm.

Priyanka listened quietly as her former classmates excitedly discussed college. It has been difficult for her to watch her friends pursue the dreams that she had always wanted for herself.

“Maybe I can go to college after my teacher training,” she said, “For now, I’m beginning to like my course.”

Teaching in elementary school was important, Priyanka concluded, “it is the first step in changing the mindset.”

 

West Bengal Class 10 and 12 board exam results expected on May 10 and May 16

 

Education boards in West Bengal are expected to release the results of the madhyamik or Class 10 board examination and uchha madhyamik or Class 12 examination on May 10 and May 16 respectively.

Education boards in West Bengal are expected to release the results of the madhyamik or Class 10 board examination and uchha madhyamik or Class 12 examination on May 10 and May 16 respectively, officials said on Thursday.

The results of both the exams will be available on the state school education department’s official website. The results will also be uploaded on the respective websites of West Bengal Board of Secondary Examination (WBBSE) and West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education (WBCHSE).

The number of girls, who took the madhyamik or secondary and higher secondary or uchha madhyamik exams in the state, exceeded that of boys this year as in 2016.

Nearly 6 lakh girls appeared for the madhyamik exam, 23% more than the number of boys at 4,80,000. The trend was similar in uchha madhyamik exam in which 3,79,698 girls and 3,64,809 boys took the exam.West Bengal Board exam results

West Bengal education minister Partha Chattopadhyay said the Kanyashree scheme, a pet project of chief minister Mamata Banerjee, has been instrumental in encouraging girls to continue their education.

The scheme encourages families to keep their daughters in school rather than marrying them off at an early age.

“Kanyashree has been a visionary idea by our chief minister, the positive impact of which can be felt in the sharp increase of female examinees in these two board examinations,” Chattopadhyay said.

Last year, the madhyamik pass percentage was 81.80 and that of uchha madhyamik was 81.33%.

“This year, the figure is expected to be somewhat same,” an official of the state education department said.

 

Lawmakers grapple with lunker education bill

 

TALLAHASSEE — At the insistence of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, numerous major changes to education policy for Florida’s K-12 public schools — from teacher bonuses and daily recess, to testing reforms and expansions for charter schools — were crammed into a single mammoth bill Friday, with $414 million in spending attached.

All of the policies in the 277-page bill will pass or fail as one. Lawmakers cannot make any changes and they have less than two days to make sense of it before they must cast an up-or-down vote Monday afternoon — when they also vote on the annual budget.

The sheer size and scope of the new version of HB 7069 caught many lawmakers by surprise — even those closely involved in negotiating the compromise between both parties and both chambers.

Several senators, in particular, were troubled by the process and said the bill wouldn’t automatically have their support.

“I’ve yet to read it to see what the final terms of it are,” said Altamonte Springs Republican Sen. David Simmons, who as pre-K-12 education budget chairman helped craft the compromise bill. “It’s something that, I think, lends itself to problems, and it restricts the ability of the senators to be able to change things that they would like to change, to fine-tune the policy.”

“It’s less than optimal, for sure,” said Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa.

Despite repeated promises that the public and the Legislature would have time to debate the bill, the rewrite was done in private and the final language was released online just minutes before a public meeting noticed one hour in advance. Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, and Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, discussed the bill for 10 minutes before formally accepting the compromise they’d struck in secret.Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, left, and Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, celebrate success on a public school recess plan.

Many of the policies now in the bill — such as school recess or efforts to improve students’ civics education — have no impact on the budget.

“It’s probably a more extensive deal than I’ve ever seen before, and I’m very hopeful we don’t do that again next year,” Senate Appropriations chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, told the Times/Herald.

The bill’s two main features are $140 million to help perpetually failing schools improve and $233 million toward teacher bonuses. The bonuses are not only through the “Best & Brightest” program, which lawmakers will keep as-is until eligibility criteria would change in 2021.

For 2018, 2019 and 2020, all “highly effective” teachers would get a $1,200 bonus and all “effective” teachers would get an $800 bonus.

“So every teacher that is not being fired is receiving a bonus for the next three years,” said Hialeah Republican Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., the House Pre-K-12 education chairman.

Latvala and other senators said Corcoran demanded that the K-12 policies all be lumped into a single budget policy bill as a condition to even begin the formal budget conference negotiations last week. Corcoran’s spokesman did not return a request for comment.

But many lawmakers were in the dark that that was what was going to happen.

Broward County Rep. Shevrin Jones, the top Democrat on the House Education Committee, said he learned Friday that there would be a single education budget bill that had ballooned to 277 pages.

“It’s a lot. You can’t get everything you want and you’re not going to agree on everything,” said Jones of West Park.

A Friday surprise, too, was the inclusion of myriad policies the Senate passed off the floor just Thursday. Miami Republican Sen. Anitere Flores, who had spearheaded that legislation, said she was surprised to learn through “rumors” that her work would be folded into the budget bill.

Neither she nor many other lawmakers had even glimpsed the final bill by Friday evening. But Flores said one aspect in particular was disappointing: While school recess is included in the bill, it comes with a carve-out for charter schools.

Only traditional public schools would have to provide 20 minutes of recess each day, not the 650 charter schools that serve more than 250,000 students.

“That is a surprise,” Flores said, saying the intention of parents who advocated for the recess policy was very clear — that it should apply to all public school students.

“So many times in this building we say how charter school students are public school students and we shouldn’t treat them differently for other reasons. I think to treat them differently for this is disappointing,” Flores said.

Contact Kristen M. Clark at kclark@miamherald.com. Follow @ByKristenMClark.

Lawmakers grapple with lunker education bill 05/05/17 [Last modified: Friday, May 5, 2017 9:49pm] 
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Chennai students bag third place at UK-India Social Innovation Challenge 2017

Students of Chennai-based Loyola Institute of Business Administration have won the third spot in the recently held UK-India Social Innovation Challenge 2017 for their project that can provide clean water to villages affected by fluoride contamination.

The challenge was a UK-India Social Entrepreneurship Education Network (UKISEEN) initiative and witnessed a total of 50 submissions by students from universities throughout the United Kingdom and India. Eight Indian projects were shortlisted among the top 10.

The challenge was to propose a business model for a social enterprise that could tackle the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal No 6: Clean water and sanitation.

Claire Scott from UK-based Cranfield University won the top prize and her project A BCD Egg focused on reducing the risk of using unsafe drinking water. The first runner-up was University of Southampton’s Alexandre Beardshall for ‘Juamaji’, an Enactus Southampton project providing a reliable source of water and fish using solar distillation to communities in Kenya and Malawi.

A cash prize of £1,500, £1,000 and £500 was awarded to the first, second and third place holders respectively. Scott will also receive a 6-month mentorship from members of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) – CII’s director and head-UK Shuchita Sonalika, deputy high commissioner of India to the UK Dinesh Patnaik and head of European and Global Engagement, Innovate UK, David Golding.

The project of the team from Loyola focused on two solutions – providing domestic water filter based solutions and providing defluoridated water for agricultural and irrigational purposes using fly ash as the raw material. The team was supported by their institute as well as the Chennai Water Board.

“It was a great experience for the team, we got the exposure which has heightened our confidence in our purpose. Our success has given us the hope to implement this project on a commercial scale now,” Monica M, one of the 6 students from the Loyola, said.

This was the first competition launched by UKISEEN with the aim to find, fund and support innovative and sustainable solutions to the global problem of providing clean water and sanitation.

It was a collaboration between the Social Impact Lab at the UK-based University of Southampton, the Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras, the open innovation platform Babele, the British Council and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

“The UK-India Social Innovation Challenge shows how our two countries can work shoulder to shoulder to tackle the pressing challenges of our age. Clean water and sanitation is an urgent problem for our world, and through this challenge, we hope to find some game-changing innovations which can improve the lives of millions,” Pathik , director of Social Enterprise at the University of Southampton and the founding director of its Social Impact Lab, said.

The challenge was open from January 17 to February 24 and students could participate in the competition either as an individual or in a team.

 

Education secretary has long history of financing politics

 

Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump’s education secretary, built her political resume by raising and contributing millions of dollars to support the cause of giving parents choices on where their children go to school.

The daughter of one wealthy businessman and the wife of another, DeVos has headed a series of groups that help rich contributors spend large sums on elections, including one that was assessed the biggest fine ever by the Ohio Elections Commission.

A look at her political activities.

———

WHO IS BETSY DEVOS

DeVos is the daughter of an auto parts manufacturer who married into another wealthy Michigan family, the one that runs Amway.

Her family is steeped in politics. Her father, Edgar Prince, was a major early donor to the Family Research Council. Her husband, Dick DeVos, lost a 2006 run for governor of Michigan, and DeVos herself served as the chairwoman of the state Republican Party. Her brother, Erik Prince, is the founder of the security company Blackwater, which has had key government contracts.

Her education experience is mainly through advocating for school choice. She attended private Christian schools. Her children, now grown, were educated through a combination of private schools and homeschooling.

During a 2001 appearance at a retreat of Christian philanthropists, she said, “Our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God’s kingdom.”

———

GIVING TO POLITICS

DeVos personally contributed at least $2.3 million to candidates and political action committees from 2007 through last year.

Her family, including husband and one-time Michigan gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos, mother Elsa Prince Broekhuizen, brother Erik Prince and father- and mother-in-law Richard and Helen DeVos contributed a combined $19 million in that same period.

———

RAISING SOFT MONEY

Twenty years ago, DeVos wrote an opinion piece for the Washington publication Roll Call in which she said her family was the leading contributor of “soft money” donations to political parties. Unlike money given directly to a candidate, money given to the political parties is largely unregulated, thus the term “soft money.”

“We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues,” she wrote. “We expect a return on our investment; we expect a good and honest government.”

———

PROMOTING BALLOT MEASURES

In 2000, DeVos was a key player in a ballot initiative fight in Michigan over whether the state would allow vouchers for private schools.

She and her husband contributed nearly $1.6 million to the losing effort. The couple and their relatives paid for more than one-third of the campaign overall.

———

TROUBLE IN OHIO

In 2006, DeVos’s school-choice group, All Children Matter, had a political action committee in Virginia, where contributions are unlimited. The group raised $17.8 million that year, and more than 40 percent of it was contributed to affiliated PACs in other states.

The group asked Ohio campaign finance regulators if it would be OK to shift money from Virginia to Ohio, a state with strict campaign contribution limits. The state said it would be illegal.

The committee made the shift, anyway. All $870,000 spent by the Ohio operation of All Children Matter that year was funneled through Virginia.

Ohio campaign finance regulators in 2008 ordered the group to pay $5.3 million in fines, an amount it still has not paid.

———

INDEPENDENT EXPENDITURES

In recent years, DeVos’s groups had significant independent spending on political races.

Generally, groups can spend without limits as long as they don’t coordinate with campaign committees. In most places, they’re not required to disclose the individuals who fund them, which is why some of this kind of expenditure is known as “dark money.”

According to tax filings from 2011 through 2015, groups DeVos ran or that were subsidiaries of those she ran — American Federation for Children, American Federation for Children Action Fund, Great Lakes Education Project and Students First Pennsylvania — combined for nearly $20 million in political spending. Some of that money may have been double-counted after being passed from one of the organizations to another.

It’s not clear how much of that money was from DeVos herself.

———

BENEFITING FROM DARK MONEY

At least two groups that do not report their donors ran ad campaigns to support DeVos’s confirmation.

Those groups are Club for Growth, a major supporter of conservative candidates across the country, and America Next, which was formed by then-Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal in 2013.

 

A silent revolution in education

I am one to believe that in 2013 the sun did not shine on the education sector. A lot has been done over the decades and over the past 20 years education has seen good progress, especially in support services.

In my view, there was a lot of good but also a lot of room for improvement. I think the system was rigid and dull, not truly engaging students but giving them an experience which students did not relate to. One of my priorities was to fix this, because there was clear evidence that the one-size-fits-all model, whereby you’re offering the same experience to different people with different characters and abilities, was not delivering.

Of course, you had a lot of students doing well and moving to greener pastures, but there were also a huge number of students being left behind. The educational experience being offered was not engaging and they were out of sync with the rest of the class.

Over the past four years, we have introduced alternative pathways to cater for these young people. The Alternative Learning Programme is a vocational alternative to the traditional educational system where we offer hands-on experiences to secondary level students. It has been a great success, we’ve had remarkable turnarounds in young people, who changed from disillusioned and unmotivated to high-risers.

I can say that seeing their parents so proud when they graduated from this programme was an immense joy. In politics, you get a lot of toxic language and unfair criticism but days such as these make it all worth it. Building on this, we’ve opened further pathways for young people, such as the Prince’s Trust. We’ve also introduced focused safety-net programmes such as the Gem16+ for those who didn’t get enough ‘O’ levels but would like to have another go, and revision classes for those who didn’t do well in the May ‘O’ level session and need more tuition, free-of-charge, for the September session.. The Alternative Learning Programme is a vocational alternative to the traditional educational system where we offer hands-on experiences to secondary level students

After these building blocks, we launched the My Journey proposal a few months back, which will see the vocational and applied elements found in other programmes being injected further into the secondary level. This will mean that students in secondary schooling will have a much more diverse menu of experiences, with the ultimate goal being that there is something which fits the different abilities of young people.

We’ve looked at a number of educational systems when we’ve proposed these changes. The Finnish and German models were particularly interesting, however this is a Maltese system and not a copy-paste model. It deals with the local realities and needs and fits with the local narrative of what educators, parents and children have long been asking us to introduce.

Bridging the educational side with the employment end is also a priority. We’ve worked tirelessly to introduce initiatives such as the Youth Guarantee and Active Labour Market Policies, which have been a rounding success. Unemployment levels have gone down, and youth unemployment in Malta is among Europe’s lowest. The skills gap is still relevant – we have to challenge the underemployment issues in the labour market. But we can only do that if we provide even more training and up-skilling programmes that provide the incentives for people to build their skills and provide more value, and, in turn, an improved competitive edge, in their jobs.

We have done a good deal these past four years. We’ve made a lot of progress and we’ve achieved many goals. Education is part of a long list of achievements of this government. Health, civil rights, the economy, cleaner air, social justice are among the areas where more has been done than was expected. But more can be done. More can be achieved, and we should not stop half way. In education, we’ve had a silent revolution which needs to continue. Ultimately, it’s about not turning the clock back.

Evarist Bartolo is minister for education and employment

Without urgent investment in education, Iraq’s future generations risk being left behind

 

BAGHDAD 21 May, 2017 – The future of Iraq, its economic security and prosperity depends on increasing investment in education today.

And while the price of investing in Iraq’s education sector is high, failing to do so will cost the nation far more in the future.

“The Cost and Benefits of Education in Iraq” a UNICEF-supported report released today by the Ministry of Education estimates that Iraq lost almost US$1 billion in unrealized wages from school dropouts from the 2014-2015 school year.

Lack of investment threatens the future of millions of Iraqi children. 3.5 million school-aged Iraqi children are missing out on education, which means they are at increased risk of early marriage, child labour and recruitment into armed groups.

Half of all school buildings in Iraq need urgent repairs. Children are dropping out of school while others are repeating grades.

“Children in Iraq are suffering from protracted periods of conflict. Without equitable access to quality education, children are at risk: we are talking about losing a generation of children.” said UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Geert Cappelaere.

“Investing in education is meeting a fundamental human right for every boy and girl, and is essential for a country’s development and is the best possible medicine against extremism.”

An accompanying UNICEF-supported report on “Child Poverty in Iraq” shows that one in five poor children who dropped out before completing primary school did so for economic reasons.

Ongoing conflict and displacement in Iraq has hit children the hardest. Poverty affects almost 40 per cent of displaced families. Nearly half of internally displaced children in Iraq are out of school. In areas heavily affected by violence, more than 90% of children are not in school.

“All of Iraq’s children should have the resources they need to fulfil their educational potential, whether that means new classrooms, accelerated learning programmes, motivated teachers or school materials,” said Cappelaere.

For 2017, UNICEF has appealed for US$32 million for its programmes to support education in Iraq and has received only half of its required funding.

Notes to editors:

Multimedia assets available here: http://uni.cf/2r6mdlT

About UNICEF
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook

For more information contact:
Sharon Behn, UNICEF Iraq, +964-782-782-0238, snogueira@unicef.org
Tamara Kummer, UNICEF Regional Office, +962 797 588 550, tkummer@unicef.org

 

St. Charles students IGNITE passion for technology

 

Tyson Rousseau, Bradlee Renton and Erich Zappel created a path which their Sphere-O bot follows based on the math and speed analysis the students have developed on their iPad, during the recent IGNITE Technology Fair that took place at St. Charles College last Thursday. Photo supplied

St. Charles College students participated in IGNITE, the first annual technology fair, last Thursday.

Students have been incorporating their math, science and computer skills into using innovative and advanced technology to create projects. The fair allowed them to show off their work and present the new technology that is available for use in secondary schools within the Sudbury Catholic District School Board.Tyson Rousseau, Bradlee Renton and Erich Zappel created a path which their Sphere-O bot follows based on the math and speed analysis the students have developed on their iPad, during the recent IGNITE Technology Fair that took place at St. Charles College last Thursday. Photo supplied

The technology allows students to use their math and computer skills in a hands-on setting, engaging in more advanced projects that improve their overall knowledge. Students have been using computer systems and cameras that align with GoPRO and Green Screens, creating interactive, professionally-made videos for class projects.

Using a combination of math and speed analysis, students have also been working with robotics and coding, allowing them to create movements for robots such as Sphere-O bots and Ozobots.

Technology used in the IGNITE fair is made available to students in each Secondary Learning Hubs. Learning Hubs are located at Bishop Alexander Carter Catholic Secondary School, St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School, St. Charles College and Marymount Academy.

Trump Administration Considers Moving Student Loans from Education Department to Treasury

 

Betsy DeVos, the secretary of education. Her consideration of transferring the loan program led the student aid chief to resign. CreditMaddie McGarvey for The New York Times

The Trump administration is considering moving responsibility for overseeing more than $1 trillion in student debt from the Education Department to the Treasury Department, a switch that would radically change the system that helps 43 million students finance higher education.

The potential change surfaced in a scathing resignation memo sent late Tuesday night by James Runcie, the head of the Education Department’s federal student aid program. Mr. Runcie, an Obama-era holdover, was appointed in 2011 and reappointed in 2015. He cut short his term, which was slated to run until 2020, after clashing with the Trump administration and Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, over this proposal and other issues.

Elizabeth Hill, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, declined to comment on his departure or on talks with Treasury.

“The secretary is looking forward to identifying a qualified candidate to lead and restore trust in F.S.A.,” Ms. Hill said, referring to federal student aid.

A shift in handling federal student aid is being weighed as the Trump administration and Ms. DeVos consider overhauling the Department of Education. Mr. Trump’s proposed budget for 2018 slashes funding for the department by nearly 50 percent. Moving one of its core functions to Treasury would significantly diminish the agency’s power. It could also alter the mission of the student loan program.

“The reason the federal student aid programs live within the Education Department is because that’s the agency that has as its goal increasing educational opportunities within the United States,” said David Bergeron, who left the Education Department in 2013 after 35 years. “That is not the Treasury Department’s goal. Its job is to pay for the business of the government.”

Scrapping or shrinking the Education Department has long been a popular Republican goal, dating from the Reagan administration. President Trump embraced the idea, saying in his book “Crippled America” that the department should either be eliminated or have “its power and reach” cut. In February, a House Republican introduced a bill to terminate the agency.

In his resignation memo, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Runcie said that senior members of his department had met that day with Treasury officials and discussed “holding numerous meetings and retreats” to outline a process for “transferring all or a portion” of the student aid office’s functions to the Treasury Department.

“This is just another example of a project that may provide some value but will certainly divert critical resources and increase operational risk in an increasingly challenging environment,” Mr. Runcie wrote.

Moving the federal student aid unit probably would require congressional action. But even in a fractured Congress, it could win bipartisan support.

Photo

The Stanford University campus in California. The Education Department holds more than $1 trillion in student debt. CreditMax Whittaker for The New York Times

The federal student aid office has been a lightning rod for criticism over the effectiveness and expense of its debt collection programs. Several government audits took issue with the department’s handling of its student aid programs. In 2015, for example, the Government Accountability Office faulted the agency for not doing enough to make students aware of all their repayment options. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has also pressed for changes in how the department manages its loan servicers.

The Education Department backs and originates $1.4 trillion in student loans. Since 2010, the government has directly funded the loans, cutting out the private lenders that previously doled out government-backed aid. But the agency outsources the work of collecting payments on the loans, and the companies it works with have a troubled record.

During the Obama administration, the idea of shifting responsibility for the student loan program to the Treasury Department had some supporters. As the number and dollar amount of student loans grew, the Education Department found itself managing more than a trillion dollars in assets, a portfolio bigger than most banks.

“The Education Department is a policy shop with a trillion-dollar bank on the side,” said Rohit Chopra, a former student loan ombudsman at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau who also briefly worked for the Education Department.

For students, the move under consideration could simplify the convoluted process of applying for federal student aid and repaying loans. A growing number of borrowers are using income-based repayment plans, which require students to submit information on their earnings. Putting federal student aid in the same department as the Internal Revenue Service could make that easier. (A tool intended to help students automatically import their tax information has been disabled for months because of a security problem.)

“I think it’s a good idea,” said James Kvaal, a former deputy under secretary of education in the Obama administration. “Because the Education Department and the I.R.S. are separated, we’ve built these clunky systems that get in the way of achieving the goals of the income-based program. Linking the two would be much easier for students, and have stronger integrity for taxpayers.”

But critics, including a high level official from Mr. Obama’s Treasury Department, warned that the move could hurt students.

“Moving the agency that is supposed to provide stewardship for student loan borrowers to an agency that is working on a shoestring with a skeletal crew strikes me as a recipe for a policy disaster,” said Sarah Bloom Raskin, who was the deputy Treasury Secretary under President Obama.

Others worry about how students would fare under the Treasury Department.

The Treasury Department recently conducted a pilot project in which its employees tried to collect on defaulted loans, a job the Education Department contracts out to private companies.

The experiment, which began in mid-2015, did not end well.

The Treasury Department hoped to increase collection rates and help borrowers better understand their repayment options. It failed on both goals. A control group of private collectors recovered more money and got more borrowers out of default.

For now, even without the shift, some at the federal student aid office are rattled, according to one person who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. After Mr. Runcie resigned, at least one employee was in tears, the person said.

BA aims to resume most UK flights after IT failure

 

British Airways says it is aiming to run a “near normal schedule” at Gatwick and the “majority of services” from Heathrow on Sunday after a “major” IT failure saw all flights cancelled.

Serious problems with BA’s systems led to thousands of passengers having their plans disrupted on Saturday.

Passengers described “chaotic” scenes at the airports, with some criticising BA for a lack of information.

The airline apologised and said it was refunding and rebooking customers.

BA advised customers to continue checking the status of their flight on its website www.ba.com before travelling to the airport.

The airline said there was no evidence the computer problems were the result of a cyber attack.

Media captionMark Birt has been left waiting in a bereavement room at Dublin airport

The company’s chief executive Alex Cruz had said it was believed “the root cause was a power supply issue”.

Other airlines flying in and out of the two airports were unaffected.

The IT failure had affected check-in and operational systems, including customer service phone lines.

BA said although some of its IT systems have returned, “there will be some knock-on disruption to our schedules as aircraft and crews are out of position around the world.

“We are repositioning some aircraft during the night to enable us to operate as much of our schedule as possible throughout Sunday.”

  • BA passengers ‘trying not to cry’

A BA spokesman added: “We are continuing to work hard to restore all of our IT systems…

“We are extremely sorry for the huge disruption caused to customers throughout Saturday and understand how frustrating their experiences will have been.

“We are refunding or rebooking customers who suffered cancellations on to new services as quickly as possible and have also introduced more flexible rebooking policies for anyone due to travel on Sunday and Monday who no longer wishes to fly to/from Heathrow or Gatwick.”

Delayed luggage

Earlier, the airline said most long-haul flights due to land in London on Sunday were expected to arrive as normal.

The GMB union had suggested the failure could have been avoided, had the airline not outsourced its IT work.

BA denied the claim, saying: “We would never compromise the integrity and security of our IT systems”.

Heathrow Terminal 5 disruptionImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionPassengers were left stranded outside Heathrow Terminal 5 on Saturday as a result of the IT failure

Aviation expert Julian Bray told the BBC the IT failure had an impact on planes taking off, as well as baggage systems, and staff access to computers.

“This is a very serious problem, they should have been able to switch to an alternative system – surely British Airways should be able to do this,” he said.

BA aircraft landing at Heathrow had also been unable to park as outbound aircraft could not vacate the gates, which resulted in passengers being stuck on aircraft.

Delays were also reported in Rome, Prague, Milan, Stockholm and Malaga due to the system failure, which coincided with a bank holiday weekend and the start of the half-term holiday for many people in the UK.

Some passengers reported having to leave Heathrow without their luggage on Saturday.

BA confirmed the IT failure had led to a “significant number” of bags being left at the airport. It urged passengers not to return to collect their luggage, saying it would be returned to them via courier free of charge.


EU flight delay rights

Heathrow flight information boardImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
  • If your flight departed the European Union or was with a European airline, you might have rights under EU law to claim if the delay or cancellation was within the airline’s control
  • Short-haul flights: 250 euros for delays of more than three hours
  • Medium-haul flights: 400 euros for delays of more than three hours
  • Long-haul flights: 300 euros for delays of between three and four hours; and 600 euros for delays of more than four hours
  • If your flight’s delayed for two or more hours the airline must offer food and drink, access to phone calls and emails, and accommodation if you’re delayed overnight – including transfers between the airport and the hotel