The Telegraph
Saturday , January 12 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Software lottery for school seats no rocket science
- Cradles across state can emulate selection via clicks

ADLS Sunshine School randomly selected 94 general-category nursery students on Friday through East Singhbhum-approved software Saras 2.0, a smooth process that can be a lesson for cradles across the state.

Fulfilling mandatory random selection or lottery criteria under Right to Education Act, 2009, as well as demystifying parental concerns about the process, the school picked students through the software right before guardians and management members and roped in an expert to explain every step of the way.

What ADLS did was the need of the hour as the cradle cleared the air on something that concerns the future of every child seeking admission. According to the Act, children at entry level are too young to be tested and rejected ones bear scars all their lives. That’s why schools must choose children at random. Parents, on the other hand, desperate to admit wards into “good schools” and used to spending thousands on entrance tests for toddlers, are either confused over the new lottery systems or distrustful that they can be rigged.

In this climate of mistrust and misinformation, Friday’s software random selection at ADLS may well be a game-changer.

The school invited management members, randomly selected parents, district education department officials and the media to witness the lottery through Saras 2.0. Though no representative from East Singhbhum district office was present, others were guided step-by-step into the process.

“We fed the entire data of applicants into an Excel spreadsheet, the base for the Saras lottery, and invited parents to make the process transparent,” said principal Indrani Singh.

A representative of Saras manufacturer Jupiter Software and Systems Pvt. Ltd gave a demo to the gathering.

The software was installed in school on Friday, complete with an ID registration and password for the principal to access. Then, Jupiter employee Utpal Kumar checked the list of all the aspirant names.

The next step was shuffling all the names several times for the lucky draw to throw up the final list of 94 selected students from the general category.

Shuffling was done as many as five times, with results of the four trial lists and the fifth final one displayed on the screen for everyone to see.

On the possibility of tampering, Utpal said that midway in the process, the PDF file of the names of the trial list could be rigged, but the original database fed into the software right at the start would not change. During a probe, the discrepancy between the original data and the PDF file will be easily proved, indicting the school concerned.

“The original database locks itself and does not allow you to change or fudge the list. The final printout has the Saras logo as well as time in hours, minutes and seconds. If someone changes it, you can easily tell,” said Utpal.

ADLS, which also enrolled 16 BPL children on first-come, first-serve basis, sent hard and soft copies of the final list of children immediately to the district administration.

The deadline for city schools to reveal final lists of the lucky children it admits via lottery is January 19. But on Friday, one school did prove that luck couldn’t be rigged.

Which mode of school admission lottery do you prefer?


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