Thursday, June 13, 2019

GOOD UPBRINGING MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE


“There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.
In many of my articles I have touched upon the styles of parenting and the importance of good upbringing. It is said, “When you hold your baby in your arms the first time, and you think of all the things you can say and do to influence him, it's a tremendous responsibility. What you do with him can influence not only him, but everyone he meets and not for a day or a month or a year but for time and eternity.  The way a child is raised influences his entire life and marks the course of his existence. I don’t believe in the idea of ‘parenting experts’ but I do believe in the significance of values and good upbringing. Parenting isn’t just an idea; it’s a bold and daring adventure. It is a journey of shaping a life. Every word, facial expression, gesture, or action on the part of a parent gives the child some message about self-worth. It is sad that so many parents don't realize what messages they are sending. There are times as a parent when you realize that your job is not to be the parent you always imagined you'd be, the parent you always wished you had. Your job is to be the parent your child needs, given the particulars of his or her own life and nature.” I have already talked about the dangers of cocooning our children in every situation and helicopter parenting. I believe, “At every step a child should be allowed to meet the real experience of life; the thorns should never be plucked from his roses. At the end of the day, the most overwhelming key to a child's success is the positive involvement of parents.”
Recently, I finished a book which taught and confirmed my belief about the impact of upbringing on the children. Though the book is based on some entirely different topic but the characters mentioned made me to think more of the result of the parenting and influence of the events in the childhood. Three characters in the book have been presented right from their childhood and events thereafter. These children were raised in different environment. The boy was sandwiched between a hardworking and not very social father and ambitious and wanting to be a ‘party person’ mother. One girl was exposed to the best (rich and well-connected people) of the social gatherings in which people from most affluent background were always present. The other girl is also from affluent family of a big city in central India and her parents moved to metro for better prospects but she received good education and values from her mother and father both. One of them was instilled with the qualities of lovegenerosity, gratitude and compassion and the other wasn’t lucky enough to be instilled with these values; while one was raised in an environment enriched with values and discipline, the other just learnt the significance of materialistic accomplishments.  Their upbringing is thereby reflected on their married lives. While the first one is able to keep her family together with love and care, the other fails to do so. She isn’t able to deal with challenges and couldn’t bring herself to guide her family out of difficult situations.
It is the early experiences that causes some people to go on to illustrious success while others languish, some people seem to defy all odds and excel, while others, despite opportunities and benefits, never seem to get off the starting block. These early experiences are nothing but childhood situations. The interactions of the children with their parents play a crucial role in shaping their lives. Children raised by parents who are consistently responsive tend to have better emotional development, social development and mental health outcomes. The parents become the key authors in the book of their child’s life. Values cannot be taught from a textbook. Real life situations are often learnt practically. Laurence Steinberg in his book, Beyond the Classroom, states and research confirms that children raised in supportive, warm, affectionate homes in which there are clear and consistently reinforced rules are less likely to engage in at-risk behaviour and are more likely to be successful. 
So, it becomes important to give your child more than basic physical needs, security and education. Apart from biological needs, children also need affection from their parents. This makes them feel loved and appreciated and keeps them from feeling lonely and isolated. Always make sure that your child’s affection is reciprocated to encourage an affectionate behaviour not only towards you but towards other people. Besides, giving the child love and affection also make sure that he feels valued. This means that his worthy opinions should be praised. Your child wants to be seen and heard. When you demonstrate patience, you are also giving your child the message that he is validated. And when you lose patience, you can create stress and frustration for your child. Also, encourage your child’s interests from an early age. Being a good parent means you need to teach your child the moral in what is right and what is wrong. Setting limits and being consistent are the keys to good discipline. Be kind and firm when enforcing those rules. Focus on the reason behind the child’s behaviour. And make it an opportunity to learn for the future, rather than to punish for the past. Loving a child doesn't mean giving in to all his whims; to love him is to bring out the best in him, to teach him to love what is difficult.
Finally, and most importantly, “Children are educated by what the grown-up around is and not by his talk.” The motto ‘do as I say and not as I do’ does not apply to parenting. It is important to practice what you preach if you want your kids to develop good behaviour and manners. If your child sees you being respectful to others, your child will follow suit and do the same thing. It is also important to be respectful when it comes to dealing with your child. Showing respect goes both ways even between parent and child and no matter how huge the age difference is. If you treat your child, and others, with respect, your child will also grow up to be a respectful person.
We are living in the age and time of AI (Artificial Intelligence). Its usage and involvement in our lives is inevitable. Children are getting used to ordering ‘Siri’ or ‘Alexa’ without using the basic terms of courteousness like, ‘please and thank you’. Therefore, it has become all the more important for the parents to spend time with the kids to instill moral values in them because at the end of the day, “The relation between parents and children is essentially based on teaching.
In the end I would like to advise parents that they welcome the newly born in the family and realize that they have tremendous responsibility to bring up the child in such a manner that she/he is future of so many people around her/him and not only the support for them in their old age.

Monday, May 13, 2019

The Creative Adult is the Child who Survived


The Creative Adult is the Child who Survived
Recently, CBSE declared the results of classes X and XII. Students across the nation proved their mettle, especially in class X as 13 students scored 499/500. TV channels and newspaper reports were flooded with the photographs of children who scored more than 90%. This is an annual event which horrifies most of the parents and children rather than relaxing them, as some children are unable to cross a standard score, overshadowing the fact that these children might have done exceedingly well in other areas such as sports, arts etc.
I recently got an opportunity to meet an executive, working as Director Operations and out of curiosity I inquired about his experience at school and what could have been changed if he was in a position to do. He was very enthusiastically shared his experience.  He told that he actively participated in endless curricular activities at both school and university levels. He won many accolades in various sports activities and headed the student council at the boarding school. While giving the details of his marvelous accomplishments he did state something that left me baffled. He said that though he di very well in all the activities of the school but still was an average student. When asked why average and the answer was because he could not score 90% or above. I told him that he would have been average in studies but was not an average student. The question is why have we made marks only the measure of a child`s potential?
This is something that needs to be changed. A student’s calibre should not be judged on the basis of marks obtained in mainstream subjects. The overall achievements of a child makes him a complete human being. Here, I would like to share with you the theme of the annual function 2019 which was celebrated in the school during the same time when the results were declared. Although our students have scored tremendously well in the CBSE examinations, I would like to discuss their magnificent performance in the annual function. The event was titled “Sangam Manobhavo Ka” which manifested the importance of various emotions and the need to attain a balanced amalgamation of all the navrasas in our lives. It was a beautiful effort by the Headmistress, teachers and students to let people know that it is very important to have a balance of emotions otherwise life would be very stressful. It was a soul-stirring portrayal of Karuna, Vibhatsya, Veer, Shringar, Shaant, Hasya, Raudra, Bhayanak and Adbhut rasa on stage. The students could not only depict these emotions but also felt them deeply and lived them. The event commenced with a few students revisiting their school after having achieved great heights in their life. They meet their teacher and share with him the daily hustle and monotony of their lives which has left them unsatisfied and perturbed. The teacher takes them on a roller coaster of emotions which had been largely missing from their frantic, urban and social media driven lives.
It gives me immense pride to acknowledge the undeterred and passionate zeal with which the students made this event a grand success. Their dedication and diligence knew no bounds as the annual function neared and their flawless execution on D–day left everyone enchanted. What made the event euphoric for me was watching the students grow and transform in the course of 15-20 days as they prepared for the event. There were many groups and every group had different teacher and student managers to ensure the proper execution of the acts. It was so satisfying and amazing to watch the students taking the lead and managing things with unbelievable patience and immaculate management. Some of these students have had a hard time managing themselves in the classrooms quite often but with responsibility at hand they showed remarkable transformation. They not only learnt how to manage the groups but made sure that they come across as a good example for others to emulate. So, the question is what changed within these 20 days that transformed them.
The very first reason is the sense of trust that the teachers had on them. Once they realized that they could be trusted with something they made sure to give their 100 percent. They did not shy away from responsibilities which they were generally reluctant about in the classroom activities. From maintaining discipline to making sure that the participants have been informed about the practice sessions, from arranging the props to ensuring the placement of participants on stage as well as backstage, they were ready to take any responsibility. So, what was so unique about the event that made them active and earnest? Well, it was the creative and practical side of it. It was the freedom that it provided to them. They could not only decide things on their own but were also able to take lead and be creative. It was practical as well as emotional nature of the event which required students to actively explore their capacities.
When I talk about the performers, it’s difficult for me to find adjectives to appreciate their tireless efforts. Throughout the practice sessions they never complained of being tired and managed the classroom attendance as well. Some acts, especially the ‘Chhau and Tandav Dance’ required rigorous practice but the children did not relax till the time they perfected the dance forms. The way both these acts were showcased on the stage left the audience enraptured and they couldn’t believe that they weren’t watching trained professional dancers. The young generation which is often blamed for being insensitive and emotionless was able to touch the emotional cords of the audience. What induced this untiring zeal and dedication? Why were the students incapable of showing the same in the classrooms sometimes? The system of education is broadly text based which doesn’t give the students much scope to be creative on an everyday classroom level. Quite often they have to follow the lecture and learn on the set monotonous guidelines without getting a chance to explore or initiate learning. They are seldom made to realize that they are responsible for their academic growth. This makes them reluctant and disinterested.
Here, let me mention circular no Acad-12/2019 dated 08.03.2019 issued by the Academic unit, where the CBSE has mandated that all schools affiliated to the Board to focus on art integrated education, aside from art education being a compulsory part of the curriculum in classes 1 to 10. The intension is quite clear; education has to be made creative. Creative education is when students are able to use imagination and critical thinking to create new and meaningful forms of ideas where they can take risks, be independent and flexible. Instead of being taught to reiterate what was learned, students learn to develop their ability to find various solutions to a problem. Coming up with various out-of-the box solutions is known as divergent thinking and ART could be one way of cultivating this skill.
“The increasing interest in creative education is due to the need for more critical thinkers in business science, politics and every subject to be able to solve complex problems. This soft skill of creativity has been identified as a competency for a successful enterprise in the future. When students have more say in their education, they become more engaged which helps facilitate learning. Research has found that there are many benefits for students using art and creativity in education. It makes learning more fun for students where they can learn faster and can increase their performance; students’ dislike for science, mathematics, and social studies can be diminished and a significant improvement can be brought in student achievement.” (SOURCE: Wikipedia)
According to the World Economic Forum’s The Future of Jobs Report, ‘creativity’ is one of the top three skills required to thrive in 2020. This is a profound prediction when understanding why the creative arts are important in education. So, the need of the hour is to assimilate art and creativity in any possible form in classroom teaching of every subject so that students can take interest and explore their full potential.
This annual function was indeed, such an artistic and creative attempt where students took the lead to convey a beautiful message, “Mahatvapurna hona acha hai parantu acha hona zyada mahatvapurna hai”. This dialogue would ring in the minds of the audience forever and I hope they would be able to value this message given by the future leaders of our country.

I would like to conclude by advising all parents and students that marks only are not the measure of your potential and never consider yourself average just because of that because you are good and top in many other fields. Celebrate your efforts and not necessarily the result because efforts stay with you for life and not the result as the same keeps changing.  

Sunday, April 14, 2019

WITH FOCUS AND PERSEVERANCE YOU CAN FLOURISH ANYWHERE


“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don't adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.”

In the present times, both the fields of education as well as profession have become revolutionary. Students are exposed to a plethora of opportunities and options. While this gives them the freedom to explore their potential and talents, at the same time they are inclining towards the tendency of making a switch from one option to another without much speculation. The moment they face difficulty or discomfort, they try to look for more “achievable” options instead of trying persistently and patiently. Perseverance is a quality which is hard to find these days. It is time to talk about qualities like ‘repeated and tireless efforts and focus on a particular and well-thought goal’. Many millennial aren’t goal-oriented. Of course, there are exceptions. Some have done well. But the big picture is less promising. I watch kids paying more attention to their smart phones and social media instead of developing career skills and face-to-face relationships. They lack a sense of identity and fulfillment. Exploring one’s potential isn’t wrong but it should not be done, keeping the sense of pertinence and stability at stake. Isn’t it ironical that the present generation is more focused on finding balance and inner peace in this overwhelming world and yet they somehow cannot focus when it comes to career and job opportunities?
“Our access to information is unprecedented and ever-increasing. The Attention Economy notes that one Sunday New York Times edition contains more factual information than the entirety of written material that 15th-century readers could access. Their problem was not “finding time to read, but finding enough reading to fill the time.” Our new wealth of information has created “a poverty of attention,” as political scientist Herbert Simon put it. But there’s another, maybe bigger, reason we’re distracted: what’s important for modern humans and society has changed, and it’s now instinctively hard to recognize and prioritize. Our attention problem is due to both lack of focus and focus on the wrong things.” I cannot stress this more that the present generation requires to set goals and prioritize the significant things in life.
So, it is time to take inspiration. In this article I would cite the examples of the intellectually prolific minds who teach us exemplary focus and persistence, a tendency to work incessantly till the goal is achieved. I am talking about none other than the Indian scientists. Our scientists working at ISRO, DRDO, CEERI and many more such research institutes have revolutionized the way people look at the scientific calibre and power of a developing country. The remarkable scientific achievements that our country proudly celebrates wouldn’t have been possible without their single-minded dedication and commitment to their work. I extend a heartfelt gratitude these gems on behalf of every Indian. They have sacrificed their youth and the comforts of personal life to give us a worthy standing on the world map. All this has been possible due to their undeterred and indefatigable focus and devotion.
India scripted history when it successfully put the Mars mission in Mars orbit. With this, India became the first and the only country to pull something of this magnitude leaving China and Japan behind. Many of scientists involved in this humongous achievement weren’t interestingly from the renowned institute of technology- the IITs. Now, being an IITian is a matter of great pride and accomplishment but in this article I would like to mention the scientists who did not study in these so much sought after chain of institutions. The reason behind this is that their focus and dedication towards their purpose made them no less of a hero than the IITians present in the ‘Mangalyana team’. They have the same professional and social standing and intellect that is required to be where they are.
P. Kunhikrishnan (born 30th May 1961) is a space scientist from India, currently the Director of U.R.Rao Satellite Centre (URSC), in BengaluruIndia. He completed his Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Payyanur College in 1981 and later completed BTech in Electronics&Communication engineering from College of Engineering, Trivandrum in 1986. He joined Indian Space Research Organisation in 1986. As Mission Director, he was was responsible for 13 consecutive PSLV launches including the launch of India's prestigious Mars Orbiter by PSLV-C25. Dr. S. K. Shivakumar was an Indian scientist who was part of the team that developed the telemetry system for Chandrayaan-I, India's first lunar exploration mission. A native of Mysore in the state of Karnataka, he completed his B. Tech and M. Tech from IIS Bangalore. He was responsible for designing the deep space communications equipment.  He has served as director of ISAC and ISTRAC, two centres of Indian Space Research Organization. He departed for the heavenly abode on 13th April 2019. M.Y.S. Prasad is an Indian scientist and the former director of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre Sriharikota Range (SDSC-SHAR). He is currently serving as the Vice-Chancellor in India's one of the top private universityVignan University located in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh. He completed Bachelor of Engineering (Electronics and Communications) in 1974 from Government College of Engineering, Kakinada, Ph.D. from BITS, Pilani in the subject of "Interference in Satellite Communications" in 2005 and holds 39 years of experience in Indian Space Program, steering various activities and programs in different Centres and Units.

Another feat of the Indian Scientists is India's unexpected launch of an anti-satellite missile which sparked surprise (and some alarm) among international and aerospace-industry experts. The test's success makes India the fourth country capable of destroying an enemy satellite, after the U.S., Russia and China. In an operation called ‘Mission Shakti’, the Defence Research & Development Organisation demonstrated India’s ability in offensive defence capability. Now, if I talk about, Dr G. Satheesh Reddy, Secretary, Department of Defence R&D and Chairman, DRDO; he graduated in Electronics and Communication Engineering from JNTU, Anantapur and received his M.S & Ph.D from JNTU Hyderabad. He joined Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), Hyderabad in the year 1986 and subsequently joined Research Centre Imarat (RCI), the brain child of Dr Kalam, after its formation. From a young navigation scientist and System Manager he rose steadily and after his multiple significant appointments and decades of sustained contributions to Defence R&D, was elevated as Distinguished Scientist in Sep 2014 and was appointed as Scientific Adviser to Defence Minister in May 2015. So, even the Chairman of DRDO doesn’t hail from IIT as the other noteworthy scientists mentioned above. The only reason I mentioned the accomplishment of the non-IITians here is just to throw light on the fact that if you are focused and determined you can write your own destiny. Of course IITs have contributed a lot in the field of education but we should not forget the other institutions which are producing youth, equally capable of creating history.

I ask the parents to remember that to become a distinguished scientist or eminent businessman, your child doesn’t have to be a dummy student for two precious years of his school life. The need of the hour is to inculcate the sense of focus and dedication and most importantly a sense of affinity and responsibility towards the career choices the youth is making these days. Once they learn to explore their potential and dedicate themselves towards it they are going to do well in life. As the Boards results are about to be declared soon, many students would be aspiring to get enrolled in the renowned colleges and universities. My advice to the parents would be to decide the course based on the aptitude and interest of the child. Do not run after a brand name when it comes to future and career.

 At the end of the day it’s their achievement that the world is going to remember and not the college they went to. Always remember kids, “You control your future, your destiny. What you think about comes about. By recording your dreams and goals on paper, you set in motion the process of becoming the person you most want to be. Put your future in good hands - your own.


Wednesday, March 27, 2019

THE DAWN OF THE AGE OF CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION



“When you can do a common thing in an uncommon way; you will command the attention of the world.”
“The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE), 2009 entitles every child in the age group of 6–14 years to quality education. Quality improvement in education focuses on the all-round development of learners. The Preamble of the ‘Learning Outcomes at Elementary Stage’ document of NCERT says, “Most often, teachers are not clear about what kind of learning is desired and the criteria against which it could be assessed. They use textbooks as the complete curriculum and assess children using questions given at the unit end exercises. The contextual variations in textual material and variations in pedagogy adopted are generally not taken into account, for there are no criteria to assess them. The learning outcomes for each class not only help the teachers to direct their teaching-learning in the desired manner but make other stakeholders, especially the parents or guardians, School Management Committee (SMC) members, community and the state functionaries to be responsible and alert towards their role for ensuring quality education. The learning outcomes defined explicitly can guide and ensure the responsibility and accountability of different stakeholders for its accomplishment by expectations in different curricular areas.” The system of education, therefore, needs to ensure enabling conditions to allow each child to learn and progress. Hence students and teachers should be aware of the learning outcomes at each stage of the teaching -learning process. This will enhance the quality of learning in schools, by enabling teachers to ascertain learning skills more accurately and take corrective steps without delay. It also provides effective learning opportunities to all students including children with special needs. In the present scenario, besides students and teachers, parents, community members and educational administrators are also keen to know about the learning of students and thus, monitor the progress of learning of their wards. In view of this, NCERT has developed a document named “Learning Outcomes at Elementary Stage”.
(Source: F.1028/CBSE/Dir(Acad)/January 18, 2019; Circular No. Acad-05/2019)
These set of learning outcomes suggested by CBSE focus on two major aspects of the education system i.e., creative/ experiential pedagogy and Innovative practice(s).
On the same lines, in a bid to move away from rote learning and involve more experiential learning and innovative methods, the board has decided to allow creative ways of answering a question. Senior officials from the board say evaluators have been trained for the purpose. Talking to indianexpress.com, CBSE spokesperson, Rama Sharma said that the move is being implemented to give a boost to conceptual learning and curb cramming. “Students are habitual of writing answers as written in the textbooks. It is important that they develop their own style of writing and not mere reproduce what the books say. Thus, we have issued instructions to give consideration to students who adopt their own writing style.”
“As long as a student writes the correct answer, their mode of expression or language should be considered. This would help them to focus more on concepts and promote innovation, expression and conceptual learning,” she added.
So, why is there so much focus on creativity? The right mix of creativity along with curriculum helps students to be innovative and also encourages them to learn new things. In fact, creative expression plays a key role in a student's emotional development. Creative education is when students are able to use imagination and critical thinking to create new and meaningful forms of ideas where they can take risks, be independent and flexible. Instead of being taught to reiterate what was learned, students learn to develop their ability to find various solutions to a problem. In his TED Talk “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” Sir Ken Robinson said that instead of growing into creativity in school, we grow out of it. Students all over the world have had more years of schooling than they care to count. During this process, students are taught that making a mistake is a sin. We have planted in our students’ minds a picture of a perfectly, carefully drawn life. The cycle of sitting still, memorizing, testing and getting a job have existed for a long time now and few dared to challenge it. However, those who dared to challenge the status quo like Albert Einstein, the Wright brothers, and Walt Disney have changed the course of history. This is the reason that these steps taken by CBSE are commendable.
Today, we are living in an innovation age, and creativity is more important than ever before in history. Graduates today need to maximize their own creative potential, because jobs that don’t require creativity are being outsourced or automated. All of the research shows us that there’s no creativity without sustained hard work, skill, and expertise. That’s why we can only reach a creative society with the active contributions of schools — the schools of the future, redesigned based on the latest psychological understandings of creativity and learning. Creativity and innovation becomes all the more important as India is emerging as a strong hub for startups and entrepreneurs. According to Union minister for commerce, industry and civil aviation, Mr. Suresh Prabhu, startups should build solutions which can solve crucial matters like water insufficiency in households or bring mass healthcare solutions to the rural areas. Testifying the efficacy of startups in propelling India towards growth and development, he iterated that the power of ideas can transform the lives of the people in India. He further enumerated the importance of converting ideas into business models to make them work and survive.
I recently picked up this book; I Love Mondays, by Mala Mary Martina. It talks about these new-age careers that people have taken up and pursued. The author calls them ‘Yellow Collar Careers’. She talks about doing what you love to avoid the Monday blues and instead turn them yellow by pursuing your own passion. According to Forbes, 81 per cent of the people in the world today hate the jobs they are in. This means, only 19 per cent of them have made the right career choices. According to the All India Council for Technical Education, between 2012 and 2015 as much as 44 per cent to 47 per cent of engineering graduates across India were placed in jobs that were not necessarily jobs they loved. The next generation of careers would need people who can be creative, instead of those who simply try to do what a machine can accomplish more quickly and with better accuracy. (Source: The Hindu)
So, it is the need of the hour to welcome creativity and innovation in education with open arms so that our youth can not only grab a desirable job but is also able to produce or create job opportunities.  Recently, I got a chance to interact with one of the ex-students of the school. She is presently studying in reputed School of Arts and Commerce in Delhi. She shared that she has been working with a non-profit organization which helps the underprivileged to explore their talents and generate source of income, judiciously using the limited resources available. It makes me feel so proud that she is contributing to the society as she continues with her formal education. The reason that she is successfully able to balance her formal education with this is the opportunity she got in the school to express her creative flair freely.
To conclude I would say, “The pace of cultural change is accelerating more quickly than ever before. In some biological systems, when the environment is changing quickly, the mutation rate goes up. Similarly, in times of change we need to pull up creativity levels — to generate the innovative ideas that will keep the future of our children afloat.”

Thursday, February 21, 2019

ASER REPORT 2018


“Our contribution purely depends on our consciousness and our willingness to support those in need, to show vulnerability and accept the support of others, to share without expecting the credit, to give it our all and allow our hard work to decide the outcome, to understand that control can only be achieved with a shared responsibility.”
Introduction:
ASER (Annual Status of Education Report) 2018 is a nation-wide household survey that provides a snapshot of children’s schooling and learning for a representative sample of children across rural India. Children in the age group 3 to 16 are surveyed to find out their enrollment status in school or pre-school. Children in the age group 5 to 16 are assessed one-on-one to understand their basic reading and arithmetic abilities. ASER continues to be the only national source of information about children’s foundational skills across the country. The methodology and content of ASER 2018 continues the pattern followed each year for the first decade of its existence (2005-2014), during which ASER reached almost all rural districts in India and generated district, state, and national estimates of foundational reading and arithmetic abilities of children in the age group 5 to 16 years. A national survey was not conducted in 2015. Starting its second decade of existence in 2016, ASER surveys now use Census 2011 as the sampling frame. In addition, in 2016 ASER changed to an alternate-year cycle, conducting the ‘basic’ ASER in one year and using a different lens to examine new aspects of children’s learning the following year. Thus, ASER 2016 followed the ‘basic’ model, sampling children age 3 to 16 and testing reading, arithmetic, and English for children age 5 to 16. In 2017 it conducted the first alternate-year design known as ASER ‘Beyond Basics’, focusing on youth in the 14 to 18 age group in 28 districts across India. ASER 2017 inquired about what youth are currently doing and aspiring to, in addition to assessing their foundational skills and their ability to apply these to everyday tasks. In 2018, ASER returns once again to the ‘basic’ model. A total of 546,527 children in the age group 3 to 16 years were surveyed this year. ASER 2018 is the thirteenth ASER report.
The Testing Process:
The testing process addresses ASER’s central question - are children acquiring foundational reading and arithmetic skills? The process is designed to record the highest level that each child can comfortably achieve. That is, rather than testing grade-level competencies, ASER is a ‘floor test’ focusing on basic learning. Testing is conducted at home, rather than in schools, so as to include out of school children and children attending different types of schools. All children in the 5-16 age group in a sampled household are tested using the same tools, irrespective of age, grade, or schooling status. Children are assessed on basic reading and simple arithmetic. In 2018, ASER included a ‘bonus tool’ that tested children in the 14-16 age group on their ability to apply basic arithmetic skills to some everyday tasks.
The Need to Realize its Importance:
ASER helps the education system (especially rural) of our country to reflect where we actually stand in terms of basics. It was disheartening to observe that this report which comprehensively showcases the alarming educational scenario wasn’t considered worthy enough to be extensively and explicitly discussed on significant NEWS channels except a few. Political parties which are busy framing new agendas and welcoming new faces to justify their significance to voters do not seem worried about the need to ponder on the conclusions of this report. ASER 2018 gives the torchbearers and policy makers of the educational arena, a wakeup call. I fear if we do not respond and make amends as per the situation, the repercussions would be worse. I would also advise the urban schools to take this report as a reality check and work towards the improvement of basics and fundamentals before leaping towards greater goals.
The Constant Struggle between Curriculum and Performance:
Now let us understand the report in detail. Although ASER does not analyze the causes of poor or improved learning levels, it is but natural to correlate changes with probable causes. Passage and implementation of the Right to Education Act in the 2009-10 period has to be correlated with the decline of subsequent reading ability at the national level and in most states. The learning levels of children are indicators of effectiveness or productivity of the education system. Anyone looking at the levels in 2008 and 2018 would conclude that its productivity is down by nearly 9 percentage points, or about 18 percent. As we have noted in previous reports, while the productivity of the government school system has declined overall, the effectiveness of the private schools has not changed as dramatically. In 2008, 68% Std V children in private schools could read a Std II level text. This went down to 61% in 2012 and then went up again to 65% by 2018.
The important thing to note is that in 2008, the percentage of Std II level readers in government schools was at 53%, or 15 percentage points lower than the 68% children in private schools. By 2018, this gap has widened to 21 percentage points on a national scale. At the same time, the proportion of children enrolled in private schools in rural India has gone up from 22% in 2008 to 30% in 2018. There is no doubt that thanks to the poor reading ability at Std V, the overall ability to deal with textbooks in higher standards is that much poorer as the curriculum becomes increasingly ambitious and texts become complex in more than one way. The highest level of reading that ASER measures is at Std II. So, we do not know if those who learn to read by Std II improve their skill with age or additional years in the school.
The declining productivity of schools leads to a substantially smaller number of students learning to read basic texts by the time they reach Std V every year. But, the fact that the proportion of 'readers' grows 1.4 or 1.5 times by the time they reach Std VIII means that as children continue to use books, more children learn to read fluently even if not at the desired level. It also suggests that while efforts have to be made to ensure that 100% children are reading fluently by the time they reach Std V, efforts to improve reading ability should be continued even after Std V. As in reading, it is apparent from the report that the proportion of children who can solve division sums (and hence, we conclude, all basic arithmetic operations) almost doubles between Std V and VIII in government schools. In private schools too, this proportion increases but it does not quite double. Every year about 4 to 6 percentage point more children in each cohort learn to do division. But, between 2008 and 2018, the proportion of ‘division solvers’ in Std V in government schools went down from 34% to 22.7%.
Further, as we saw in ASER 2017 ‘Beyond Basics’, only 15.4% of young adults had the ability to do simple financial calculations involving computation of simple interest. This means that not only are we not creating a sufficiently literate population, but that most of our population is functionally illiterate. The fact that we are seeing some improvement in learning outcomes now, is a welcome change, assuming that the improvement will continue. But, first of all, the positive change is slow and uncertain. It has to be understood that we are struggling even with basic literacy and numeracy.
Some Important Questions:
ASER 2018 Report raises some important questions. We are far from becoming an educated nation. Can our country take an educational quantum leap? But, which way are we to jump? Should we leap-frog over some curricular goals? Do we have different options in terms of the goals we want to achieve? Or, are we going to continue on the path of linear improvement of the system and all of its components?
These are difficult questions to answer. We have a system of education and we are dependent on it although it is dysfunctional to say the least. There is a curriculum - it expects teachers to teach and children to learn.  The government is talking about unburdening the children by cutting down the curriculum. It sounds like a good idea. But is it? Will the curriculum be cut horizontally, lowering standards in each subject? Or vertically, by dropping certain subjects altogether? Will the curriculum for the various competitive entrance examinations be cut down to half? That seems unlikely given the need to select 'the best' candidates out of hundreds of thousands who compete. If that curriculum is not reduced but the school curriculum is, some children will effectively have to choose a watered down curriculum, while the others go for the higher level of education through coaching classes for competitive examinations.
Analysis:
Rukmini Banerji in her piece “Behind the Headlines” suggests that acknowledging and accepting a problem is the most important step. It is now well recognized that learning levels are low and that they are not changing much as years go by. In fact, for a few years, we even saw distinct declining patterns. What is also known is that although children continue to add years of schooling to their portfolio, for many, learning trajectories remain relatively flat. As Pritchett (2017) puts it, "if a learning profile is flat, schooling only measures ‘time served’ and not ‘skills gained’. The next step beyond acknowledging and recognizing is understanding; which in turn requires going behind the headlines. The World Development Report 2018 argues that when issues of learning are taken seriously, and learning becomes a high priority, then progress can be made towards solving the learning crisis.
She states that as a country, we have acknowledged that we have a crisis of learning on hand. Now it is time to understand the contours of the problem and take decisions accordingly, so that year on year there is progress. The first step to lift up the learning trajectory of children is to ensure foundational skills. To enable millions of children to learn how to read, to comprehend and to calculate we need a massive ‘catch up’ effort. This ‘catch up’ needs a ‘push forward’ and not a ‘hold back’. We need to believe that the real right to education is not only in terms of years of schooling but ‘value added’ in terms of learning; first foundational skills, then higher level capabilities and knowledge, and finally to being able to cope with a dynamic and changing wide world beyond.
Wilima Wadhwa in ‘Equity in learning? points out that the debate has always been around learning levels and whether they have moved up or down, but what about equity? In the context of education, we can think about inequality across three dimensions. First, we can use the lens of school type to examine differences in outcomes. Second, we can look at the entire distribution of learning outcomes. And, third, we can use the lens of geographic location to look at inequality across states. The all India figures move slowly, but hide a lot of variation across states. Just a few days ago, the second amendment to the RTE did away with the no-detention policy in Std V and Std VIII, giving states flexibility to detain students if they did not pass the relevant examinations. But, as states embark on achieving the goals of RTE 2.0, they must ensure that all children participate and gain from the process.
Conclusion:
I definitely appreciate the comprehensive effort but we still have a long way to go if we have to answer the above raised questions. Education is the pivot around which the future of any nation revolves. Piling up reports and unanswered concerns can prove dangerous to our nation. What I believe is; ASER and its findings should be the major concern of the present government and those aspiring political powers. This should be the agenda and focus of Prime Time NEWS reports and discussions. It is time for us to wake up as a country and work together to give our future generation better educational scenario which fosters basic and fundamental clarity, experimentation and research more than questions and concerns.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

LEARN TO LOVE KIDS WITHOUT CONDITIONS



“There is more to children than what parents see. Inside every child lies a heart that beats. And sometimes it screams, refusing to take defeat. And sometimes his/her father's dreams aren't big enough, and sometimes his/her mother's vision isn't long enough. And sometimes the child has to dream his/her own dreams and break through the clouds with his/her own sunbeams.” 
The parent-child relationship is one of the most long-lasting and emotionally intense social ties. The emotional, mental, physical and financial investment that the parents make for their children is unfathomable. Once a child is born, the life of parents starts revolving around him. With endless love and care come expectations. As parents make all the choices and decisions for the child when he is young, it becomes difficult for them to let go of this habit as the child grows up. Although often positive and supportive, this tie also starts experiencing feelings of irritation, tension, and ambivalence. The parents start to feel that their child has grown adamant, indifferent and irresponsible when the child refuses to follow their decisions regarding his life. On the other hand the child feels disconnected and pressurized when he is forced to follow his parents without having the chance to put forth his perspective.
I once discussed the significance of realizing the fact that “your child is also an individual”. You cannot govern his/her life and completely avoid the influences that he experiences from the outside world. I have explicitly discussed the various kinds of parenting styles in one of my articles and yet I believe that there cannot be a “perfect” way of parenting and maintaining a relationship as intricate as a parent-child relationship. There are so many factors that lead to differences between parents and children.
Sometimes the problem may be  the differences between parents and grandparents. When a child observes that his parents aren’t able to resolve their arguments with his grandparents he finds it difficult to do the same in his case. The same happens when he observes rift between his father and mother. Here, I must clarify that I am not saying that there cannot be arguments and difference of opinion. It is natural for parents to feel concerned about the impact their arguments may have on their children. But it is normal to argue or disagree sometimes, and in fact children respond well when parents explain or resolve - in an appropriate way - what an argument was about. Indeed, where parents successfully resolve arguments, children can learn important positive lessons which can help them navigate their own emotions and relationships beyond the family circle. When parents understand how their relationships affect children's development, it sets the stage for healthy children today - and healthy families in the future.
Life has not only become competitive for the children but also for parents. No one can escape the vicious cycle of expectation that comes with it. Parents expect their child to do well in as many fields as possible. I once met a parent who wanted her class II child to join dance classes as she got a B in dance and A in all the other activities and academics. I wonder that this parent would ever be able to accept that an individual has certain aptitude and he must be encouraged and nurtured accordingly rather than trying to make him a “jack of all trades”, which might lead to failure and frustration in future. It is important to understand that it’s not only children who are under pressure. The children are actually experiencing the burden of expectations that the society is putting on the parents. An individual stops being an individual as soon as he becomes a parent. His social standing and prestige starts revolving around the fact that how successfully is he raising his child and whether his child is an all rounder or not. We as a society need to stop this comparison. These expectations are turning parents into “disordered” parents. A disordered parent sees their child as an extension of themselves and not as an individual.
Every relationship needs time as well as space. A balance of time and space leads to a successful relationship. Instead of giving a child all the advanced technological equipment, parents will have to replace these gazettes with themselves. I know that life is busy and it is difficult to spend time with the family every day. But when you become a parent, it becomes important for you to become the link that brings a family together. You will have to bring your parents and your children together. It is only then your children will be able to see the importance of familial bonds through you. Now let’s talk about space/boundaries.
Last but not least is the refusal of the older generation to respect the boundaries of the child/parent relationship. A majority of boundary crossing is rooted in a parents' inability to believe in their children. Ask yourself, "Why would my child make a bad choice? Did I not teach him the tools needed to make good decisions?" If your immediate response to is to think, "I did teach them to make good decisions but they've made so many bad ones in the past," your inability to accept your role in their repeated bad decisions is having severely adverse effects on your relationship. At some point, the older generation must trust they have raised their children to make good decisions and respect those decisions. It can be wrenching to let go of the old parental omnipotence and not be able to fix everything. But when grown kids cope with these ups and downs, they develop into resilient, self-sufficient people with the confidence that comes from standing on their own feet.
I have heard children complaining that their parents do not let them spend the New Year eve with their friends and they insist on spending it with their family and relatives. Parents on the other hand complain that their child avoids social gathering and avoid meeting relatives at social functions. Now, let us look at both the situations and try to change the context. What if instead of New Year eve and social gathering it is a family emergency? In case of an emergency if your child is by your side, I think you did a good job raising him. “If you love someone, set them free. If they come back they're yours; if they don't they never were.” Now, let us discuss the presence of child in social gatherings. Try to find out the reason of his discomfort instead of pressuring him. It is very toxic when a child is dragged to a social ceremony and then exposed to comparison and comments on his appearance and academic behaviour. What parents don’t understand here is that it is too much for a teenager to take. Before you take a child to a social gathering please make sure that the child feels accepted there and this is your answer to why he wants to spend more time with his friends; it is because he feels himself in their company, away from judgemental opinions and “advices”.
Students often complain that they are nagged and instructed constantly to sit properly and study for more hours even when they aren’t feeling well. Parents happen to create an image of the child’s personality in their mind and then behave accordingly with them. While talking about balance I would advise the parents to analyze their child’s situation before heedlessly imposing instructions. At the same time, I would warn them not to be blindly reliant on the kids. What parents need is to maintain a balance between supervision and trust; a balance between “helicopter” parenting and “uninvolved” parenting. It is the need of the hour to connect with your kids and establish an attachment based on empathy and understanding.
So, sometimes we have to let go of certain expectations and let our loved ones realize our worth. Let us give each other the gift of understanding and hope to nurture better relationships.
“Parents rarely let go of their children, so children let go of them. 
They move on. They move away. 
The moments that used to define them are covered by 
moments of their own accomplishments. 
It is not until much later, that 
children understand; 
their stories and all their accomplishments, sit atop the stories 
of their mothers and fathers, stones upon stones, 
beneath the water of their lives.”




Wednesday, December 26, 2018

LET 2019 BE THE EPITOME OF CREATIVITY AND SELF RELIANCE

LET 2019 BE THE EPITOME OF CREATIVITY AND SELF RELIANCE
“January 1, 2019 is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.”
Penning down thoughts and ideas has been an utter source of pleasure and expression for people around the world in various fields and professions. My write-ups have been a way of connecting with the students, parents and teachers. They give me the space to show my concern, share my thoughts and ideas and motivate and encourage my students, who are the source of my pride and a reflection of the coming future. Around thirty articles this year showcased an assimilation of the above mentioned. Encouraging my students to look into their hearts and define their success through their passion, I shared with them the significance of freedom, Indian culture and values. I also got a chance to express my concern towards the deteriorating state of Indian universities. Through a few written pieces I was able to reach the parents, teachers and students regarding certain important topics such as importance of discipline, opportunities, how dirt (outdoor activities) is good and the need to understand privilege. Another set of articles focussed on issues such as role of teachers, how they can learn from their mistakes, self directed learning, importance of basic concepts, problem of brain drain, importance of mother tongue etc. Certain unfortunate events around the country which involved school students shook me a little but when it comes to the faith in the innate goodness in children, I stand undeterred and hopeful. I got an opportunity to share with my readers various parenting and teaching styles and the importance of raising self sufficient and reflective kids. Through a few of them I tried to constructively criticize a few educational policies like possibility of reduction of syllabus by 50%.
With each passing year the scenario of education in our country has changed. The year gone by was the reflection of the same. It is no longer implicit on a student to transact everything in the classroom, we could support the learner to reach other sources of knowledge, and in the process, learn how to sift information and extract knowledge and skills out of it. As a part of educational reforms, the HRD Ministry is also in the process of scrapping the two-year B.Ed course and plans to replace it with a four-year integrated programme. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) have been initiated under the SWAYAM scheme and online degrees have also been approved. A single testing agency has been setup, called National Testing Agency and has successfully conducted one national level exam.. The new education policy, which is in the making, may be finalised before 2019. New Higher Education Regulatory Council (HERC), subsuming all current regulatory authorities, such as University Grants Commission (UGC), All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) is underway. But we are still struggling. While adult literacy rates are rising, only six per cent of Indians graduate from college, though in absolute terms, the numbers enrolled in colleges and universities are about 31.56 million. Dropout rates are also on the rise. Moreover, it is frustrating for the youth who come out of colleges and don’t get jobs. (Source: TOI)
Speculating all the reforms and persisting problems, my focus still remains on inculcating skills and nurturing creativity through classroom teaching, extracurricular activities and sports. If the students are taught to be self sufficient they would be able to find their calling with confidence.
In the Indian tradition of the knowledge quest, ‘yavadjeevait adhiyate viprah’ was propounded much earlier. Teachers of today and tomorrow would do well if they recall the wisdom of Socrates: “I cannot teach anybody, I can only make them think.” Essentially, teachers need to be prepared to comprehend the imperatives of assisting the learner in the development of total personality and comprehensive abilities to enable him to contribute creatively in socio-economic, cultural, political and technological sectors. This would be feasible only when teacher preparation institutions realise their transformed role to help student-teachers acquire the skills of developing, what is now known as ‘multiple intelligence’. Teachers thus prepared would not only complete the syllabus in time but will also make it interesting and enjoyable. I believe that the focus of the educational arena in 2019 should be emphasis on skills and creativity.
“A good classroom environment always has some elements of creativity which makes the lessons more interesting and interactive. The right mix of creativity along with curriculum helps students to be innovative and also encourages them to learn new things. Students can grow up as good communicators in addition to improving their emotional and social skills.” Creative classrooms can really transform the way students acquire education and how they apply it in their real life. In fact, creative expression plays a key role in a student’s emotional development. Whether it is debate or classroom discussions or field trips, students have the chance to come out of their shelves and become a part of it. “This freedom of expression gives them a sense of goodness and happiness. Making some contributions in the learning sessions gives them a sense of satisfaction too. It can stimulate imaginative thinking capability in students. That is why teachers should promote activities such as open-ended questions, creative team building activities, brainstorming sessions and debates amidst busy curriculum schedules. This also triggers group problem solving and shared learning that gives them a feeling of togetherness. Creative persons have an upper hand in triggering future opportunities than those with a mere academic skill set. They can express freely during knock out rounds and the way they present themselves really matters in this competitive phase.” (Source: Pioneer)
During a TED talk, Sir Ken Robinson raised the utmost significance of creativity in today’s education when he told “It is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.” Every child has some inbuilt creativity in them and proper guidance from the teacher coaxes and cultivates it to help them grow up as creative individuals. In school, those who can write a good story or draw beautiful pictures are considered the special ones who are creative. But research shows that all people are creative. In fact, it is one of the most important characteristics of being human. It is one of the main traits that make us successful as individuals and as a species.
The world is changing so rapidly now that just learning a specific skill set and following it exactly won’t get us very far. What prepares students for life beyond the classroom is learning how to be more creative, which includes flexibility in perception and execution of tasks. Schools have started acknowledging the importance of creativity in classrooms. Courses in creativity are now provided by academia because it is now common knowledge that only creativity can help students succeed in the 21st century. It is no longer relegated in the classroom to subjects like English, art, or music. Teachers and professors are beginning to emphasize creativity in the sciences, as well.
Hans Zimmer, the Oscar winning German composer apparently was an unruly child at school. He was thrown out from eight schools. When his parents took him to the ninth, the head teacher figured out how to get Zimmer involved in education just by talking to him. The head teacher organized for him to study music because Zimmer said he liked music. This led to his successful career. Not just Zimmer’s music but the teacher and her teaching methods are also creative. This again is proof of the importance of creativity in educators. Zimmer was lucky as the head teacher was creative in her teaching methods. The world needs more such teachers.
The need of the time is to inculcate in students essential skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, agility, adaptability, taking initiative, and effective oral and written communication, accessing and analyzing information, curiosity and imagination, ability to network and empathize, build resolution rather than resentments.  
Let us allow our kids to be the best version of themselves rather than being best in everything. Rejection, failure and unfairness are a part of life. It is time to teach our kids that no matter how tough or unjust their circumstances are they can always take positive actions. Motivate them to focus on what they have to offer the world rather than what they can gain from it. Let’s teach them how to face their fears head-on and come out of their comfort zone. I would request the parents to change their approach and involve the kids in decision making while giving them appropriate duties. This will help them gain mental strength which they need to become responsible citizens. So, Let us start the New Year with a new approach filled with positivity and acceptability.
“A New Year. A fresh start. A new chapter in life waiting to be written. New questions to be asked, embraced, and loved. Answers to be discovered and then lived in this transformative year of delight and self-discovery. Today carve out a quiet interlude for yourself in which to dream, pen in hand. Only dreams and hard work give birth to change.”