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.”







Friday, November 30, 2018

FOCUS ON BASIC CONCEPTS WILL TRANSFORM EDUCATION


       
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Education aims at imparting knowledge, understanding and skills that can help one use the same for acquiring a better standing in life. But these life skills and knowledge often bear the brunt of stagnant syllabus that the teachers are forced to complete in a given time period and students are forced to learn, memorize and earn grades based on it. Martinus Hendrikus Benders observes that our school systems are focussed on a single objective: to produce model citizens for society in order to feed this machine and prevent its breakdown. That’s why our school systems have no interest in developing models that actually require and stimulate useful values in people, such as courage, imagination or inventiveness. “In the twenty-first century, we use a nineteenth-century school model with twentieth-century values. There’s clearly something wrong with this picture.” 
The system fails to focus on the significance of basics in any subject. Whether it is Mathematics or English language (grammar), a particular concept is introduced under a given topic but rarely the students are able to use the concept when required in the higher classes. They often fail to solve basic arithmetic questions. They remember the structure and formula but when it comes to application they seem confused. During an interaction with one of the sections of class X, I asked them a basic mathematical question, “Which of the given numbers is greater: 2/3 or 3/5?” Only three students were able to give the correct answer and out of them only two were able to logically justify their answer. Recently, some students were asked about Nobel Peace Prize recipient Kailash Satyarthi. A few of them weren’t aware of his achievements. I wonder why such important information cannot be integrated in classroom teaching. It is also quite noticeable that CBSE affiliated schools have been conducting some or the other significant event on a weekly basis (National Unity Day and Cleanliness Drive to mention a few). Certain activities are organized and reports are submitted. Although I appreciate the initiative, I still doubt the impact of these events. I feel if such information is incorporated in the syllabus the impression on the students would be long lasting. Students are not able to recall and remember basic information because it is not interconnected or related with other information they have already acquired. Effective learning cannot take place if basics are taught in isolation.
“No subject is ever well understood and no art is intelligently practiced, if the light which the other studies are able to throw upon it is deliberately shut out.” For example, Statistical Methods are used to calculate and to know the Volume of Trade, Trend of Import and Exports, Economic Forecasts, Trade Cycles. All these calculations are only possible with the help of Mathematics which therefore, becomes an integral part of Economics. To read about a civilization in History you need language; when you trace a scientific achievement, you automatically become acquainted about its history; to measure the amount of rainfall in Geography you need Mathematics. There could be endless examples to prove that no subject can be taught in isolation.
Giving credit where it’s due I would appreciate the inclusion of the chapter ‘Adventure’ in class XI English course by CBSE. The chapter interestingly deals with Catastrophe Theory and Quantum Physics and helps language teaching connect with Physics. It becomes the responsibility of the teachers to reach out and try to bring in General Knowledge, General Science, basic calculations and correct usage of language in every subject they teach.
A book titled “Mission High” explicitly talks about the loopholes in education system. Mission High is an organization in USA which caters to the needs of students from different nationalities and ethnicities. The aim of this organization is to prepare the students (the immigrants seeking admission in renowned schools/universities in USA) in every field whether it is sports, performing arts or debates. Discussing a particular case of a Chinese student, the book elaborates that this child scored 12th rank all over China in class VIII. Aspiring to get admission in one of the renowned institutes, he came to USA. He was taken aback when he failed in one of the language papers conducted for the admission test. It is interesting to note that he had always been a top scorer in English language in his country. Due to this he couldn’t get through any renowned school. Although he was overcome by utter despair, he got a chance to get enrolled in Mission High. There he wasn’t just taught, what happened with him was a holistic grooming. He played basketball and took part in extracurricular activities. His language teacher made sure that he passes his exam in flying colours. Learning became a process of exploring himself by getting involved in a myriad of activities.
In the present times, information is just a “click” away. Memory and calculations suffer due to this facility. Not allowing the kids to use the advanced means wouldn’t be the right way to go but we need to make sure that students do not completely rely on technology and search engines. There is a wealth of data at society’s fingertips and students should have a strong focus on learning how to research and parse this information. Memory and practice can never become outdated. The chapter titled ‘शीक्षावल्ली’ of the ‘तैत्तिरीयोपनिषत्’ gives an idea of the methodology, premise & context of Gurukul system of education. It approached knowledge based on area of study, rather than based on books. The system emphasized on discussion, on acquired information and consistent practice of basic concepts through their practical usage. Students were taught to learn from their mistakes. These days “We stigmatize mistakes and we're now running national educational systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make -- and the result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities.” 
The question arises, if we know what the problem is, then why we aren’t finding a solution. The reason is that the education system revolves round marks and grades. A resume needs good scores and high percentage to be considered authentic. Can you imagine what would have been the scenario of education system without grades and scores? “Grades really cover up failure to teach. A bad instructor can go through an entire quarter leaving absolutely nothing memorable in the minds of his class, curve out the scores on an irrelevant test, and leave the impression that some have learned and some have not. But if the grades are removed the class is forced to wonder each day what it’s really learning. The questions like: What’s being taught? What’s the goal? How do the lectures and assignments accomplish the goal? , become ominous. The removal of grades exposes a huge and frightening vacuum.” Running after the grades students have stopped focusing on the basics, whether it is basic science, general knowledge of language.
What becomes important and inevitable here is the role of the teachers. It is the aura and panache of a teacher that works wonder on the students. They can bring changes in the existing system by moulding the classroom teaching based on correlation and integration of various subjects, general knowledge and basic information. Interestingly, cinema has brought up these real life stories of teachers dealing with the system in their own ways. Whether it is October Sky, Goodwill Hunting, Hitchki or Rough Book; these movies showcased the power a committed teacher possesses.  Inspired by Brad Cohen’sFront of the Class: How Tourette Syndrome Made Me the Teacher I Never Had, (co-authored by Lisa Wysocky), ‘Hitchki’ tells us a tale of a teacher who makes learning practical, and simple to the students who lacked facilities and resources, by teaching them basic concepts in ways full of fun.
Rough Book is a hard look at the education system in India. Though, one of the finest systems in the world, the lacunae in the system has created issues that are threatening and clogging the channels of learning in contemporary India. The story revolves around the division among students on the basis of their grade. It is based on actual experiences of parents, teachers and students told through the eyes of a teacher, Santoshi Kumari, a teacher of Physics. Her pupils are in the D division — "D" sarcastically refers to Duffers in the school by students and teachers. How Santoshi tackles a system to set her own terms for her students forms the bulk of a simply told, thought-provoking and urgent film. The rebellion of the teacher and her students are internalized to question the stereotypical system of education.
It gives me great pleasure to mention that I recently met a few IIT pass-outs who served as teachers for a significant period of their life. Perturbed by the monotonous course that disregards the value of basic concepts and focused on grades they decided to come up with such apps that will encourage students to solve basic mathematical questions with ease and interest. They are planning to develop more such apps which will involve the basic knowledge related to other subjects and language too. Teachers all over the country must realize that the main purpose of learning is acquiring life skills and this could only happen if every subject is approached with a keen focus on basics and correlation with other subjects and life itself.
So, the responsibility and power lie in the hands of the teachers. They need to ensure that basics are not only inculcated but also embedded in the system so that they keep on strengthening with every class the child passes. Teachers know that the system has given them a class of multiple intelligence, varied interests, and diverse set of IQs, SQs and EQs. A teacher with a heart filled with love, a mind keen and pragmatic and a soul dynamic and dedicated can set straight any flaw in the system.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Self-Directed Learning in the Classroom and Beyond


Shrimad Bhagwat Geeta is a great lesson on education. In this epic, Arjuna is the pupil whom Shri Krishna educates. He gives Arjuna no set of predefined directions but asks him to know himself and direct himself towards his duty. We all know that education is a holistic process. It is not confined to just securing elite ranks and getting high grades. It aims towards making pupils self-sufficient. Many a times we come across cases where a student gives 100% to a particular subject or concept but is unable to get desired results. The major problem students go through is shortcomings in the existing strategies and failure in developing a new approach of learning.
Problems in learning arise when students fail to assess the complexity of a concept and keep on applying the same old approach every time. The book, ‘How Learning Works’ discusses a very important principle of learning, “To become self directed learners, students must learn to access the demands of the task, evaluate their own knowledge and skills, plan their approach, monitor their progress, and adjust their strategies as needed.” Here, it is quite significant to mention Metacognition. It refers to the process of reflecting on and directing one’s own thinking. “Helping students to improve their metacognitive skills can hold enormous benefits. The benefits include not only intellectual habits that are valuable across disciplines but also more flexible and usable discipline-specific knowledge.”
From ensuring success in any field to understanding any concept, we need to first assess the task at hand. For example, students are given an assignment in writing skill, i.e., to write a short story. The teacher gives instructions as to how to proceed with the task. The purpose of the task is to enhance their creative skills. As the first step, it is imperative for the students to develop a rough framework of the story. The second step in this case would be evaluating one’s own strengths and weaknesses. But remember this should be in context to the task or the problem at hand. Here I take an example from subject of English. The students would have to then analyze their strong areas, for example, whether they have an upper hand in vocabulary or creating an original plot. In this aspect, a problem often arises that the students tend to overestimate their capabilities. As in this case some students might just cram few phrases and words and try to forcefully incorporate that into a simple storyline instead of framing an original plot. So, it is important for the students to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. If the students have a flair for original plot they should work on their grammatical skills and if they are confident about their language they should read more often to enhance their creativity.
Once the students have a plan and begin to apply strategies that implement their plan, they need to monitor their performance. Now, coming back to the example, the students will have to practice writing stories based on various question types. For example one strategy could be reading a short story and then trying to recreate it. Then they should check the difference in language and expression. Through regular practice of this strategy they could monitor their performance effectively. “Research on the effects of students’ self-monitoring activities has highlighted two important findings. First, students who monitor their own progress and try to explain to themselves what they are learning along the way generally show greater learning gains as compared to students who engage less often in self-monitoring and self-explanation activities. Second, when students are taught to ask each other a series of comprehension-monitoring questions during reading and practicing, they learn to self-monitor more often and hence learn more from what they read and write.
Research has shown that good problem solvers will try new strategies if their current strategy is not working, whereas poor problem solvers will continue to use a strategy even after it has failed (National Research Council, 2001, p.78). Similarly, good writers will evaluate their writing from their reader’s or in this case the teacher’s or examiner’s perspective and revise the parts of their work that do not convey the desired result. This is nothing but reflecting on and adjusting one’s approach as needed.
Now, the question arises that how can we apply these strategies in the classroom (source: How Learning Works):
For helping the students assess the task successfully, teachers will have to be more explicit in explaining what they seek from the students. The instructions must be given articulately and comprehensively. Teachers must also tell the students what objectives they are going to accomplish with the given assignment. Also, instead of emphasizing on what is wanted, clarify at the onset, what is not required. For instance, in the example discussed above, teachers can clearly ask the students not to portray the story as a narrative. Teachers must also check, ‘student’s understanding’ of the task. They can ask them to jot down a framework of the story before they begin. It is also very important to provide the performance criteria with the assignment. In this case you can tell the students that they would be evaluated on the basis on content, expression, fluency and accuracy.
For helping the students evaluate their strengths and weaknesses the teacher will have to provide the students with ample practice and timely feedback. Another important thing here would be providing opportunities for self assessment of assessment of the peers. This will not only increase their confidence but also help them enjoy the assignment.
To help the students plan an appropriate approach, teachers will have to encourage the students to implement a plan provided by them. Students can be given cues or an entire framework of the story to start with and later the teacher can have students create their own plan.
Teachers can follow certain simple steps to help students apply strategies and monitor their performance. They can provide simple heuristics for self correction. For example, help the students pick out the spelling errors and making them do the corrections. The students can be further guided towards self assessment and peer review or reader response. This could be done by dividing the class in pairs and asking each of them to evaluate each other’s stories.
The book emphasizes that the teachers need to show students how they themselves would approach an assignment and walk them through the various phases of their own metacognitive process. Let them hear the teacher “talk out loud” as they describe the way they would assess the task, their strengths and weaknesses, plan their approach, monitor their progress, and adjust their strategies as needed.
“A strong learning community is one that is built by self-directed learners who contribute powerfully to supporting, elevating, and empowering each other. In order to create this level of inclusion and innovation, all learners (students and teachers alike) need to know how to learn and how to collaborate effectively by taking ownership of their own contributions. Self-directed learning will always exist without our trying to force it into the curriculum, but a curriculum that illuminates and seeks intention through self-directed learning will take our communities to the transformative level.”
It is important to note here that once the approach of self direction is inculcated in the students, it will surely help them beyond the periphery of the classroom. They will be able to use the same principle while choosing their career and solving any personal problem. This approach will bring stability and poise in their personality which will further help them deal with difficult situations in life.
As mentioned somewhere above, I clearly understand, what has been suggested for the students apply to the teachers and for that matter any adult in their approach to solving problems related to any area of life. Because Math or English problem solving is real life experience of approaching to handle any issue in life and that should be the real purpose of education.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Save School Children And Education


“Education is a purposive, conscious or unconscious, psychological, sociological, scientific and philosophical process, which brings about the development of the individual to the fullest extent and also the maximum development of society in such a way that both enjoy happiness and prosperity.” This suggests that education system is dynamic and requires constant reforms, speculations and assessments on various levels across the world. 
Considering the world as a Global Village, a substantial effort was initiated in the year 2000, which is known as Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). India and China became a part of it in 2009, for the first time. Out of 74 countries which participated that year China secured the first position and India settled for 72nd rank. Hopeless and despair-ridden, India decided to withdraw and had never been a part of PISA since then. After speculating on this matter and discussing it on many levels, the present government has decided to be a part of this prestigious exam once again, which is conducted at an interval of three years. It will be conducted next in 2021, in Chandigarh. Fifteen year old students who have completed the 6 year curriculum are eligible for this exam. This is quite exciting for the students of the entire nation. It is a two hour exam comprising subjects such as Science, Mathematics and General Reading Ability. Analytical questions, based on research and experiments are asked instead of theoretical questions. The aim behind this is to test the understanding and creativity of the students. (Source: Dainik Bhaskar)
According to Mr Prempal Sharma, Former Member of NCERT Syllabus Committee, education is the foundation stone of development and progress of nations. He believes that such exams cannot be done away with as they play a significant role in analyzing our education system and determine our place on the world platform. It becomes quite important as India struggles to maintain a decent position in the recent QS World University Evaluation Rankings. India could only manage 6 positions in top 250 universities across the world.
The initiative to be a part of PISA once again, is undoubtedly appreciable as a global exam like this will motivate us to work harder and prove our worth on an International level. On one hand the government is striving hard to improve the educational scenario of our country and on the other hand there is an entire system which is draining the young minds out of their capacity to think and analyze critically. Well, I am referring to the epidemic of coaching institution which has made our education system hollow and sick. Numerous and endless efforts have been made from the primary level to the university level but situation remains pathetic. We are falling behind in terms of producing young analytical and scientific minds which have an instinctive inclination towards research and inventions. The coaching institutes are indeed “coaching” them well to fall in the rat race of securing ranks in institutions and focusing on grabbing a six digit salary package. The number of research oriented minds has steeped drastically.
Education is a systematic procedure which requires clear understanding of concepts at both primary and higher levels with a genuine increase in critical thinking and curiosity. This is the correct approach as it encourages students to solve their problems themselves using their knowledge and applying appropriate skills. Coaching institutes on the contrary train the students to cram the formulas and concepts and fail to teach their correct application as the purpose or the end they want to secure is marks and ranks. Students are not only being deprived of the ability to solve the problems through analysis, but they are also forced to do extra work. In order to acquire more enrollments these institutes start teaching the course which is a level higher for a particular class. With this approach they try to claim that they are “competitive exam oriented”. This easily lures the naïve students and parents. Once a child is enrolled in the institution, they make sure that the child is weighed down with excessive work so that it appears that the coaching institutes are worth the money that is being spent on them. This overburdens the child and the parents decide to sacrifice his/her school education. And those who try to balance both school and coaching are purposely over laden so that they give up on school education. Some tutors of these institutes stoop to the level of passing de-motivating comments on those students who try their best manage both school and coaching. Under extreme pressure many students are left with no choice but to leave school when they aren’t able to cope up. This hinders the holistic development of the child which is quite essential at the age he/she is in.
The menace that they are, the negative impact of these coaching institutions is quite apparent. It is surprising that the government, the administration and the lawmakers who quite enthusiastically implement and execute educational reforms; aren’t taking any steps to curb the havoc created by these institutions, in the lives of the future of our nation. If High Court can pass a decision directing CBSE that schools affiliated to this board should not give any homework to the students of up to II class, which is welcome step for saving the childhood of the children, then why can’t it take a step to put an end to the “business” of coaching institutions? Do children of age till 18 also need to develop other skills and have some time for physical and recreational activities?  Why is this parasite, which is dwindling, the very foundation of our education system, since last 20 years, being nurtured? If these institutes which are ruining the future of the kids by “training” them to cram the concepts without understanding the basics, are allowed to flourish, what would the benefit of being a part of such platforms as PISA? If creating talent and scientific aptitude were the cup of tea of these coaching institutes, India would have been flourishing in the field of research, but unfortunately this isn’t the case.
We need to understand that students need someone who can guide, motivate and explain, in accordance with the needs the child rather than broadcast mechanism that operates in a big lecture hall. A child needs a guru not a professional trainer. A guru, who understands the requirements of the subject, gives help and provide customized guidance, use diagnostic tools to pinpoint the loopholes and propose learning and practice. But most importantly our children need motivation and positive reinforcements to inculcate in them the confidence which is required to flourish in this competitive world. Can money and a lecture hall with 200 students provide all this to a child inculcating a scientific and research oriented aptitude? Are aspects like multiple intelligences and differential learning taken into consideration by these institutions which are responsible for killing critical thinking?
Though the schools and educators can play a vital role in reinforcing the importance of school education over these coaching institutes but it cannot be denied that some schools (private) might let financial profit overshadow their purpose as a school and submit to the coaching institutes, promoting dummy enrollments.
Still, I urge the teaching community to come forward and ensure that school education does not become a play thing in the hands of the coaching institutes. Even if they cannot do away with the coaching centers altogether, I make an appeal to the government and law makers to ensure that at least school students are strictly and officially prohibited to enroll in any coaching centres.
If research, inventions and critical aptitude has to flourish, the entrapment of these, profit-oriented institutions, needs to be tackled with sincere efforts and dedication. I still beam with hope and positivity as I see that there are many educators who stand united and committed to this purpose. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Importance of Mother Tongue


The mother tongue of a child is part of the personal, social and cultural identity. It brings about the reflection and learning of successful social patterns of acting and speaking. It is basically responsible for differentiating the linguistic competence. Research indicates that having a strong mother tongue leads to a much better understanding of curriculum as well as a more positive attitude towards school, so it is vital that children maintain their first language when they begin schooling in a different language.
In spite of growing evidence and parent demand, many educational systems around the world insist on exclusive use of one or sometimes several privileged languages. Some educators argue that only those countries where the student’s first language is the language of instruction are likely to achieve the goals of Education for All. Rachel Cooper states that the push for teaching in universal languages such as English has been shown to hinder children’s educational progress in developing countries.
Many education advocacy organizations are supporting the International Mother Language Day Campaign, a U.N. program focused on implementing multilingual learning. This campaign is a part of the Global Campaign for Education to ensure mother tongue education for all students. The campaign also holds governments accountable for improving mother tongue policies in schools. Governments in developing countries are resisting the campaign because there aren’t many teachers who are able to instruct in minority languages. Putting mother tongue education in place can often be a costly and time-consuming process.
However, studies show that local language policies decrease dropout rates and increase academic achievement. It is interesting to note that six “underprivileged” countries have reported success after making the switch to mother tongue education; they are Nepal, Bolivia, Zimbabwe, Madagascar and Rwanda. The developed countries which have prospered par excellence with the use of mother tongue are China, Russia, and France to name a few.
So, once we have established that it is significant to be well versed in our mother tongue; let’s talk about the land of diversity, India. India is a multilingual nation with two official languages i.e. Hindi and English. There are 22 officially recognized languages in India of which Hindi is the most used. The number of native Hindi speakers is about 25% of the total Indian population. However, including dialects of Hindi termed as ‘Hindi languages’, the total is around 44% of Indians. Other Indian languages are each spoken by around 10% or less of the population.
The constituent assembly of India adopted Hindi as an official language on 14 September 1949. It is a unique language. Every possible sound in the world can be written down in Hindi by simply making use of the alphabet. The beauty of this language is that its script is purely phonetic; words are pronounced exactly as they are written. (Source: TOI) Today, Hindi is prospering on International level. It is the third most spoken language in the world after Mandarin and English. Whether it is magazines or journals, movies or theatre, music or media in India; Hindi stands on a pedestal so high that no other language can imagine outshining it.
Girishwer Mishr, Vice- Chancellor, Mahatma Gandhi International University, raises the concern that Hindi lags behind in our country as it is not the medium of instruction in almost all private schools and many governmental schools. It is quite unfortunate that renowned universities, like Guwahati University does not accept research papers in any language other than English. India’s neighbouring countries like Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, and Bangladesh have prolific users of Hindi. When Hindi was declared as an official language it was believed that gradually all the translations will be done in Hindi and later when all the states would agree, it will become the National Language. Years have passed since then but this never became a reality.
At the same time we have to accept the fact that we cannot do away with English as an official language. So, when it comes to education we will have to make space for it. This is actually not a bad thing in a long run but research has shown that children’s first language is the optimal language for literacy and learning throughout primary school (UNESCO, 2008). Therefore, I firmly believe that a child’s primary education should be strictly conducted with their mother tongue as the medium of instruction. From secondary school onwards both the official languages can be introduced in the curriculum explicitly.
When it comes to Hindi, the need of the time is that it should be promoted and love for it should be inculcated in our kids. Let us start with the endeavour of welcoming Hindi as an everyday ritual. Expose your kids to the stories of Mahashweta Devi, Shivani, Manu Bhandari, Mahadevi Verma, Premchand and Manto and the poems of Sumitranandan Pant, Harivansh Rai Bachhan, Subhadra Kumari and Neeraj. Bring back the culture of bed time stories and let these stories be in Hindi. Although the critics might claim that the origin of various words in various languages including English is Hindi itself but a lot of our kids are still not exposed to Hindi in its “purest” form. Even if a child gets the privilege to own a little library at home or gets books as birthday present, it is mostly in English language. Parents take pride when their kids speak in English. Everybody wants the mother tongue to flourish but no one is making any attempts. Language is pious and significant. It is quite like values, which cannot be inculcated just through formal education.
This year’s Hindi Diwas celebration at school was awe inspiring. It paid tribute to legendary Hindi poets, Neeraj and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and their revolutionary impact on Indian readers. The way the play and recitals were conducted, clearly indicated that the students were comfortable with the language and possessed great command over it. After the event, when I got a chance to interact with the students, I found out that most of the participants had a keen interest in the language. The reason was their genuine love for the language and its abundant cultural value. The Chief Guest of the event, Dr Vyas addressed the gathering of 500 spellbound students who keenly relished his words of wisdom which were poured onto them in effortless Hindi. The impact was such due to the language as Hindi undoubtedly has the soulfulness to touch hearts and students could connect with easily.
My question is that why Hindi is confined to just as a subject in schools. When I ask a Science teacher, the aim of teaching science or Mathematics teachers the aim behind teaching the subject, I get specific answers. The beauty of Hindi lies in the fact that it is a language and not a subject. Therefore, you cannot confine it to specific marks-based and career-based goals. It is unfortunate that we need ‘Hindi Diwas’ or ‘Hindi Pakhwada’ to reinforce the significance of Hindi.  I agree with Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi when he says that Hindi needs a purpose. The teachers of Hindi need to not just teach but pour the messages of Kabir and Sumitranandan pant in the hearts and souls of the students. If science is teaching the structure of atom, Hindi at the same time is teaching the power of nature on atomies. It is time to establish this connection so that the future brilliant scientist remembers the values that were inculcated in him through Hindi poetry and stories as he experiments and invents. Society isn’t structured by scientists, doctors, engineers etc. it comprises humans. Hindi makes you human; it teaches us how to live.  Hindi in itself is a celebration of humanity and we need to celebrate it every day and every moment. Here the CBSE and other educational boards and mainly NCERT should take initiative to give Hindi and other Indian languages the same respect and place as these had before. The subject has been equated with maths and science for the sake of awarding more marks to the children in the exams. The quality of the text and the question papers must be brought back what it was 20 years back. I know this is the time of data and economics (dealing with numbers only) but the values and real love for mother tongue and motherland is utmost importance. Countries like Bhutan are not very strong economically but they have for their mother tongue, their religion and their motherland. We have the culture which is considered  to be among the oldest hence must be kept intact and the key for that lies in our languages Hindi and Sanskrit.