Monday, July 21, 2014

Seeking honest and ethical minds

A news report related to the students of a medical college in Rajasthan should have disturbed many people in the society including the students in question, their parents and teachers. The case here is that more than thirty students of this college have been debarred from appearing in the examination because they did not fulfill attendance requirement. I am sure the college administration must have warned them and their parent before also (I am not definite about this but this is what is expected) but they might not have taken it seriously. The question arises whether this is an isolated incident or it is there in other institutions also. I came across another interesting issue lately. I tried to think about it critically whether this should be discussed or not because this includes the child, the school and the coaching center. An advertisement published in a daily newspaper had mentioned a regular student of that school who topped entrance examination for a premier institution. The school fraternity was rightly proud of the achievement of their student. After a few days the coaching institute also gets an advertisement published and claims for the success of the same child. The paradox here is that the child was claimed to be the regular classroom student in a city known as the education city of the country because of large number of coaching institutes (unfortunately coaching institutes are being claimed to be the part of our education system which perhaps is not right). Now the question is, how a child can be a regular student at two different places? The two cities (one in which the school is situated and the other where the coaching institute is situated) are at quite a distance from each other. This is not possible for the child to travel from one city to the other city every day. We do not know whose claim is right! Almost everyone knows that this problem is not confined to one city or one school or one coaching institute but it has spread all over the country. The two incidents which I mentioned here should be viewed seriously by all concerned. Does bunking of the classes by the students of the medical college have anything to do with the issue of coaching institute? There are rumors(which may be true also) that there are dummy schools available to the coaching institutes where the children are enrolled in classes XI and XII but they do not need to attend the school and concentrate only on the coaching institutes. This is not something new because the national board of the country had taken action against some schools in the so called education city few years back. The reason the government thought of considering the marks of class XII for the IIT admission was also based on the inputs that the children were in the habit of ignoring schools and focus on the coaching only. The size and number of ads published in the newspaper explains the influence of the parallel industry in the name of education. However, efforts were made to curb the same but this seems to have little impact on this issue. Now the question is who is responsible for the same? I think it is the parents, students, schools, coaching institutes and also the government agencies. But ultimate sufferers are the children and the nation. The children who develop the attitude of achieving things irrespective of the means used by them continue doing the same in their future life also. The concept of the ethics and respect for others becomes meaningless for them. Did the students of medical college in discussion develop the habit of bunking the classes while they were aspiring for medical entrance examination? This needs to be studied not only in this case but in other colleges and universities also. Why should school become the party to something done unethically? I know there are number of schools which do not allow dummy attendance but that number seems to be decreasing now. The reason is that their students leave their school after class X because the ones who are focused for coaching, want excuse from the school attendance and such schools do not allow that. This is a severe problem not being looked at sincerely. I make a request to the parents and the children to ensure that they achieve things and positions by making use of fair means and not resorting to the methods they would not like others to use. I know a few cases where the parents would like high moral values to be developed till their child is in class X but the views change drastically when the child comes to class XI. At this stage they rather demand for dummy attendance in the school and if told no then withdraw the child and put him in some other school which might have agreed to their request. Everyone may make a lot of hue and cry that there is corruption in government department but in reality the immorality originates from individuals. I cannot say much about corruption, but what is this when someone is shown present in the school but is actually absent? I know it very well that some people will feel offended by what I am stating but if they are honest why should they worry. We must realize that the objective of education is to produce citizens who will be responsible not only for themselves but also the society. The service of the society should be placed before self. If our ancestors would have been selfish we would not have been living in an independent country. They sacrificed everything for the cause of the nation and we must be indebted for it.
I was reading the book, Five Minds for the Future by Howard Gardner in which he talks about what should be focused in education to provide the society with best of the citizens in plenty. I take this more in context of the school education. The first three minds are based on cognitive achievements and the next two are very relevant to the topic in discussion. These are respectful and ethical minds. We must focus on these two minds and most of our problems related to violence and corruption would be solved. These minds can be developed when the parents and the teachers (school) think and are developed that way. In the race of going ahead of others we should not let our children lose sight of respect and ethics. This is not easy but not at all impossible. The schools should ensure that they do not do anything which might put them in an awkward situation if children or parents ask them some uneasy question and vice versa. Education is one of the noblest professions and efforts should be made to keep the trust of the society intact. If we respect all the people in the society then this mad race of pursuits would take a different route. Making efforts to progress is not wrong but the means employed are the ones which make things good or bad.
I did not mean to hurt somebody but raise an issue which should be discussed in the earnest and efforts be made by all concerned to tackle it effectively. Let us help our children develop respectful and ethical minds so that the country and the world are benefitted by them.

Friday, June 27, 2014

All hopes from new government

India has new government in office and the people of the country have lots of hope and expectations from the prime minister and other ministers. The focus of the government might be on reducing the inflation, curbing the corruption and bringing the economy of the country on the right track but other areas are also to be looked into seriously and should be in the priority list. One of those is, the education and in that too the school education. The country witnessed some changes in the form of RTE Act and the reforms introduced by the central board of secondary education New Delhi. I wrote it before also that we must assess the impact of the reforms and the right to education act and must make amendments wherever necessary. Our prime minister said that the countrymen should be ready for some difficult decisions which would bring the desired improvement in different fields. I agree that the government should think for the entire country and all the people and not only for the people in groups. Our country has great culture and the same is to be restored. To do the same, the most important medium is the education. We must move away from narrow thinking of pleasing the people based on their caste, region and religion but have broader thoughts as Indian and important members of the global world. The children at school level need to be exposed to a balanced view of the past and the future and not an inclination towards so called right or left. It is heartening to know the views of the young and dynamic HRD minister in terms of futuristic approach. Though this is too early to say anything about her approach but the people in the field of education have high hopes from her that she will take concrete steps to lift the quality of our education system. She is expected to lead the nation in a manner that all stakeholders feel as they own the education system in force, in the country. She should involve maximum number of the people to revamp the system and no suggestion be considered less important. We must try to explain the motive and goal of the education to all. Should it be the degree only or the skill development also? I am quite impressed by the thoughts of the prime minister that skill development should be the focus of the education at secondary and senior secondary level. The chief minister of our state Smt. Vasundahra Raje has already started working on improving the quality of education in the state. All states should do the same. But this cannot take us to desired goals till the central government sets the goals of education with new zeal and open mind. Everybody understands the importance of education but the goals and objective are to be clarified further in this very fast changing world. We must be clear about the vision and the mission regarding the education in our country. We must clearly know how our education systems will improve the life of the citizens of the country because this is the education only which will eradicate the poverty and bring about the positive changes in the society. Education cannot be and should not be used to promote factionalism but the unity. This should help people come together than drifting away. We expect the government to take care of both the aspect of the education: quantity and the quality. Considering the size of our nation, government alone may not be able to do the most, so private sector should join hands with the government. The concept of PPP should be revived and the lack of trust between private sector and public sector should also be restored.  The entire private sector should not be viewed with doubt though there may be some elements not doing the work honestly. Such elements should be identified and removed from the system. There should be objectivity and transparency in the system. This should be very clear to all concerned that the objective of the education is very noble and this should not be taken as business because schools and universities cannot be equated with factories and offices. The educational institutes do not produce machines but wonderful human beings and the values inculcated cannot be worth any amount of money offered. The Government schools should have better infrastructure and the teachers teaching there should be avoided from asking them to do such work which distracts them from the real job they are appointed for. The promotion and transfers of these teachers should be on merit and the criterion of the same should be well defined and well known to all. This should not be left to the discretion of individuals. At the same time the interests of the private institution teachers should also be protected. The government must ensure that they are paid at least equal to the teachers of government schools. The norms decided for the private schools and colleges should be enforced seriously and any deviation from the norms should not be allowed irrespective of the brand name or the position of the promoters of such institutions. The organizations which do well should be rewarded and the others should be given opportunity to improve. The other important aspect is that the teachers must be given due recognition and regard in the society. This is very important to protect the children`s right and ensure that they grow as confident and respected citizens of the world but the teachers also deserve better place in the society and the concept of poor master should be done away with henceforth. The government must promote teaching as an important and front running profession and not to be the last choice for the people. I am of the firm opinion that if the teachers are respected and valued by the society then they will do the same to their students. One odd case or person who did not deserve to be teacher and did something wrong should not become a general concept that all teachers are of the similar worth. The devoted teachers should be talked about and be given recognition so that many children value them as their ideals and get motivated to choose teaching as their profession.
 The government must try to evolve a system to evaluate the teachers and the institutions in an objective and comprehensive manner. We can take advantage of Dubai government which has made the school inspection mandatory every year and the schools are graded and guided accordingly. The inspection of the schools is carried by KHDA (Knowledge and Human Development Authority) and it has helped schools improve the quality. The role of KHDA is not to find the short comings only but to help the schools how to perform better. This way all concerned remain alert and do not take things lightly. They improve in terms of academic achievement and also the confidence of the teachers and the students is consolidated. The ones who are not able to sustain the pressure will have to move away from the system. Such inspections inform the schools about the strengths' and the weaknesses'. Based on this information the schools can design the training of the teachers and that helps in their professional development. But before that the standard and the quality of teachers training institutes must be improved and they should be able to attract the better talent into their folds.
The government has many challenges but we expect them to live up to the expectations of the citizens of the country. But at the same time we as worthy citizens should also be ready to contribute for the development of the nation especially in the field of education. I request the teaching community and the society to respect the very noble profession of teaching and do not take it as a job only. I bring my thoughts to a close here, with lots of hope that our education system will also have good days in the near future.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Assess the reforms

It has been almost five years when CBSE New Delhi introduced the new pattern of assessment and evaluation popularly known as CCE. There were apprehensions and problems related to the proper implementation of the system. This was same for all whether it be a student, teacher or the parents. The then HRD minister was very fond of this and wanted to give autonomy to the schools so that comprehensive evaluation could be done and the performance card reflects complete picture of the child`s personality and gives a fair idea to the child and the parent about the areas of strength so that they could work to build on the strengths of the children. Another important reason was to reduce the stress of the school going children and make learning an enjoyable exercise. In the first two years CCE was expanded with different words, confusing everyone how to implement it. Though CBSE tried to its level to provide best possible assistance to the schools and the teachers and a number of schools and teachers have been able to implement this scheme quite successfully. However, there are many schools which are struggling to comprehend and finding it very difficult. Unfortunately, such people do not raise their voice in public (as some students do not ask questions in the class fearing that he/she may be ridiculed by the teacher or other students for not understanding or knowing that also) but they do express their issues in private and informal chats. There are a number of parents who complain that the stress of their children has increased because the children remain busy all through the day and do not get much time to enjoy. The CCE pattern advocates learning informally, not necessarily in a structured manner but that is not happening in all cases. The projects, assignments, activities have become so monotonous and being repeated in many cases that the children have started losing interest.
 CCE has been in place for quite some time so it becomes important to assess the impact of this on the learning of the children and to understand whether the objectives behind are achieved or not and if yes then up to what extent and what more is to be done. For this the concerned authorities should do serious study and share the results with all stakeholders. Till this is done it will be difficult to satisfy the people about the results of these reforms in regard to the evaluation particularly. Though I have not done any survey or study (I think I do not have the expertise in that) but I would like to share my observations and what I come to know while talking to the teachers, parents and the children. As mentioned in my earlier article also everyone feels that the implementation was done in hurry and the ripples have not yet settled. What we did was to feed a child without letting him feel hungry and in such cases the children vomit whatever may be the quality of the food being fed. I always felt the stakeholders must have been prepared to realize the need of CCE and in spite of forcing them to follow this they should have been made the part of the change. The teachers feel that their work load has increased because of so many records that are to be kept for the reference of inspection etc. The children find that the stress of the work has increased in contrary to what was expected to happen. The parents still say that they are not able to understand the progress of their child though one of the objectives was that this evaluation method will give clear picture to all regarding the progress made by the children. These three stakeholders are the key to success of any reform and if they feel so then the success of the scheme seem to be in doubt. I said in the beginning only that these are my observations and may not be true necessarily but I can say with confidence that these give us trend of what is happening.
Now I would like to elaborate on what is shared by the three stakeholders. The children say that the amount of work given to them in the name of FAs is too much and they get little time to do other things. Most of the times, the parents help their kids to search for the information required. Probably the idea of learning to explore self even if forces you to try many times but the children try to give the most correct answer otherwise their grades may go down. In many a cases, the children are assessed on the way task is presented than the real learning which could have taken place in the process. There are many tasks given where the internet connection is required but there may be many kids who may not have the same at their home and the parents would not allow them to go to internet café. The teachers and children feel that they get little time to cater to the needs of every child because of the size of the class (the number of students may be up to 80-90 in some cases and the duration of the period 40-45 minutes).
The teachers are finding it difficult to cope up entering the marks/grades in the diary or registers and the time which could have been used for preparing the lesson plan as per the need is wasted. This they find difficult mainly because of the number of children in the class. They also say that as the training provided to them has not been a rigorous one so they were not fully equipped to take up this task. They feel more time is needed to prepare for the classes they have to teach (the number may range from 4-6 classes everyday).There are many parents who share that they have not been able to understand what is learned by their children. The frequent changes in the policy of promotion are also contributing to the confusion. One such issue raised by many is the PSA conducted by CBSE and FA 4 replaced by those in classes IX and X both. Some people have raised the question that in the name of giving autonomy to the schools reverse is being done because earlier there was no role of the board in class IX. The OTBA is introduced that also has enlarged the stress on the children. Many people question the tendency of assessing everything particularly in case of ASL introduced this year.
These are some issues which I have mentioned but lot more is required to be attended and taken care of. Unfortunately, not many people want to be tagged as being against the reforms so do not come forward to share their concern and problems. We must discuss the problems openly. In this regard CBSE has been very open and a link has been created on their website where all stakeholders are free to send their views. But again, not many people have come forward to do the same. Now the onus lies on CBSE to take the task of assessing the impact of the implementation of CCE pattern and make necessary amendments wherever necessary. My personal views are in favour of CCE but with some improvement as per the requirement of our society and the available resources. Stress should not be considered negative always but be changed into positive to make the children learn more which is retained by them for long and not forgotten after the test/examination is over. I think this is the right time to assess and do the required amendments. Let us focus on good things of CCE and try to reduce the negatives and that can be done only when we are sure of the factual and practical issues regarding this.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Teach them to be strong

March is the month every year when most of the families are focused on the final examinations of the students (school as well as the college/universities) and everybody prays that the students succeed. Earlier it used to be in case of public examinations only but now this custom has started even in primary classes also. Though there have been reforms introduced to reduce the stress of the parents and the children but it had little impact. Though we keep getting inputs that the children are less stressed now but the real picture does not match with this.
Very unfortunate news was telecast yesterday which must have disturbed all the people who are concerned about the children of this nation and I am talking more in context of India. As per the news two girl students of a school in Bengaluru died (some say committed suicide) and the reason quoted for that is, that they were stopped from playing Holi in the school. The reports suggest that they were scolded by the principal and a teacher. The girls could not take the humiliation and took the extreme step. We have all the sympathy for the family and stand by them in this hour of grief. But a very important question is to be answered by all of us and probably then only we shall be able to stop or control such unfortunate incidents. The question which comes to my mind is - what is the aim of education? Is this to prepare the children for getting good grades and marks only or the something else? Should we not work in such a manner that our children get prepared for different phases of the life and do not get disturbed or lose everything in difficult situations? This world is not static and would never be. So should we not teach our kids the same and let them know that there would sometimes be tumultuous situations and they will have to learn how to survive even when the going is not good or comfortable. The life has two sides and we must know that well. There are times when everything is so good and enjoyable but the next moment it can be the other way round also. I want to submit for the consideration of all that taking decisions and reacting to situation without realizing the long term impact does not help anybody. The children learn a lot from adults’ activities and thoughts and I know that all parents and other people do face some challenges in their life almost on daily basis. There can be nobody who would not have encountered difficult situations and difficult people in life very often. I raised this point before also that the children of the day are being brought up in a manner that they are becoming intolerant towards listening to any ‘NO’ whether that is for their good or not for good. We come across a number of cases where the parents express their inability to handle the children because they want to do and have the things of their choice only and do not like parent`s advise(which the children take as the interference in their life). It is not the case with every child but the number seems to be increasing every year. The people who are at the helm of affair are trying to find short term solution for this serious problem. The life of every individual is precious and we should not allow it to be lost on useless kind of pretext for that matter not on any pretext. But they should not forget that society is the building block of such small units known as individuals and the children are included in that. No building can be strong even if one unit is not strong enough and does not adjust with rest of the units. One cannot be considered to be more important than the other one but all to be blended and put together so that overall strength is great. What I want to say is all must understand the importance of every member of the society and the family. The parents and teachers must ensure that the children become strong to face the challenges of the life not only physically and mentally but emotionally also. What I can gauge is that such incidents occur only when the individual is emotionally weak, as the magnitude of the problem was not so great here. Also the children must be taught from the beginning that if they have some problems,  it should be shared with the parents and teachers in whom they may have faith and belief. This is the responsibility of the teachers and the parents to behave and act in a balanced manner even if they feel the act of the child was not pardonable. We must realize that the children do what they learn from us as individuals and the part of the society. In such cases the society and our education system should also share the responsibility and these incidents should not be brushed aside as one odd incident which took place in a city of the country.
At the same time we have to look at the big picture. If our children are not able to listen to what is told by the parents and the teachers, that situation is also not good. They must be made aware that the parents would not like to do anything against their children and if the teachers and parents teach them discipline, then this is not an offence. Discipline is the key to the success of an individual and also the society. If all are allowed to do the things and behave in a manner as they like then there may chaos and pandemonium in the society. The children should also be taught to live in peace and harmony with everyone around them. They cannot be and should not be allowed to do things which neither help them nor others. The parents need to be more aware about the behavior of their kids and should not budge and give in to unjust demands of their children. If they are consistent in their approach towards the children then there should not be any problem. Sometime we as parents become so emotional in providing the children those things also which they have not asked for and also do not need. Even in schools the system should be such that all are aware of the rules and regulations and that should not be for the sake of being into existence but practical also in its implementation. We must be careful while dealing with the individual children because they all are different from each other in terms of their response to any situation. All cannot be treated with the same rule all times. Sometimes they do it only for the sake of fun or in spur of moment without having any ill feeling towards anybody. In such cases, the teachers and the schools should be more sensitive and handle the situation accordingly. The habit of making somebody happy all the time is also not good and let our children learn that they should face all the phases with courage and should not give up things easily. Let the children also learn how to solve the problems and the teachers and parents should be judicious in offering solutions every time.
These children who are nowadays treated with utmost care by the parents would take some important responsibility tomorrow such as politician, bureaucrats, managers, CEOs and also the teachers. Though we require all those roles to be played well by our children when they grow, they should be capable of becoming excellent teachers in schools and colleges. Good teachers will be able to help children become good and responsible citizens of the country. If the teachers would not be emotionally strong then the whole community would have problems. Similarly, if the CEOs, politicians, bureaucrats, doctors, engineers, judges and lawyers etc are not able to cope up with the difficult situations and stress then also there will be problems in the society. So, this is very important that our children grow with balanced personality and they help the society become better. For this the teachers, parents and the education system will have to play proactive role and make our children strong enough so that such incidents do not take place. The parents and teachers should listen to the problems and the views of the children and if they have different point of view then the children should be told in a polite and dignified but firm manner.
Remember that the children are our reflection and we should not put all the blame on them. So, the onus of understanding our own children lies with us so as the responsibility of their valuable lives. May God help us in doing something which stops such incidents and God`s wonderful gift to the world in the form of the children blossoms in the garden of the society.