Thursday, June 11, 2015

Wishes (for) granted



The results of the public examinations have been declared and the students who have qualified are running from pillar to post for the admission in higher class. Those who qualified senior secondary are trying their luck in different universities and colleges and the ones who passed class X are searching for the subjects of their interest. Nobody is sure of getting what they will get in college or the school. This month or the time is very crucial for the students wanting to pursue their higher education. In our country, the choice of the subjects at senior secondary level decides which field one will pursue one`s future career. And this is the reason, the parents and the students are very much concerned and at times if allowed to say confused about the subjects to be chosen. Every year the principals of the schools do face the difficulty of balancing their act between the interest and the liking of the child and wish of the parents. As always the same is true for me as well and it is difficult to convince many parents and students about the choice they should make. In smaller cities, the parents and the children are yet not very much aware of the aptitude test conducted by the counselors to provide a fair idea about the interest and the strength of the child. Even if they are made aware of the same many of them do not like it and want the child to opt for the subjects of their (parent) choice. I would like to share two incidents (examples) with no offence to anybody. The Parents of a child have their own business set-up and are very well off. They wanted their child to opt for science stream because that is required for the profession they are involved in. They want that the child would be having a better and secure future because of the infrastructure already in place. But the child was not at all interested in all that already existed. The parents were concerned about their child`s interest and the liking but still motivated him/her to opt for the subject what they wanted. They discussed the same with the principal and counselor and decided to allow the child to opt for the subject of his/her choice. I would like to let everyone know that once this issue was resolved as per the choice of the child, there was an absolute peace in the mind of everyone in the family and the child`s face blossomed (the parents shared the same with the principal).
In the second case, the parents are in service and they wanted their child to pursue science because this has better future and also the children who study science are more logical and analytical (this is what they argued in favor of forcing their wish on the child). The elder child of the same parents was also forced to do what the parents wanted and he is not at all happy with that even after six seven years of that decision thrust upon him. He is with the younger child and not wanting him/her to suffer the same way as he did. They were also counseled and encouraged that the child should be allowed to opt for the subjects of his/her choice. Though the father admitted that the child should not be forced but he was not willing to accept the choice of the child. They left the office of the principal undecided with the promise that they will consult the counselor and then make a decision. They neither consulted the counselor nor talked to the principal again and the veto power of the parents was accepted by the child. I do not know what is stored in the future of the child but one thing is sure that the child would not be able to enjoy these two years of his senior secondary education and nothing can be said of after that. The child seemed so depressed that it was difficult to face him/her. This was a situation of helplessness for the child and the teacher both. These two examples explain the fate of almost all the children who have to make a choice at this intersection of their life.
I do not know whether parents of the child in the second case are right or not but if seen from their point of view then difficult to blame them also because most of the parents do worry about their child`s future and want to ensure that they do well later in life and do not suffer the want of anything which the parents would have suffered. I agree that the children of age 14-15 may not be able to decide what is good for them but one thing is almost certain that they know the subjects of their interest and if allowed to opt for those subjects they will enjoy their studies and do their best without much of stress. The parents should understand that in today`s era no subject is inferior in comparison to the other subjects. The only thing required is the aptitude of the child in those subjects. There are thousands of options available to the children and let them explore those options. Also this is important to make education a path to earn living in future but that should not be the only objective. I am sure that all children will be able to do that on their own if allowed by the parents. The parents should have faith in the ability of their children and help them to perform best in the fields of their choice. Some people do say that it is easy to lecture others but difficult when it comes to your own children. I would like to inform them that there are so many parents who give a lot of importance to the interest of their children and have not forced their wish on the wishes of the children. The parents are happy and the children are doing very well in their life though they would not have been mentioned in the newspapers for their selection In IIT or AIIMS etc or would have been congratulated for the package of a crore or so.  But one thing is very sure that the parents and the children are very happy and enjoying their life.
Here I would like to advise those students also who might not get the college of their choice or the subjects what they wanted due to their performance in qualifying examination. They can still do well in the college they get admission in and the subjects they are offered. Remember life does not come to an end here rather this is the beginning. So work hard and enjoy what you do. I wish all of you best of everything in your future and a humble request to the parents not to force their wish on the children when it comes to selecting the subjects or the profession.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Develop tolerance and patience



            The news of a youth thrashing a DTC bus driver to death in the presence of 30-40 passengers should be an eye opener for all, parents, teachers, educationists, psychologists and child protection groups. Unfortunately, this incident will also be forgotten after a few days and the stakeholders will be back to usual thoughts and same views regarding the treatment of the children at home and in the schools. The suggestions and advice of the school counselors and the psychiatrists will be divergent in their approach towards facing these issues. Other issue is that in the race of projecting self, as the champion of the rights of the poor and the children, many of us tend to ignore the real predicaments and blindly favour the weaker group without realizing the facts. This is true that in majority of the cases the poor and the weaker suffer but in the process of helping them the other group should not be blamed and made victim of the extreme acts done by the so called weaker group of the people. In India, the teachers and parents have been respected for centuries and their place in the minds of the children has been equivalent to God. Their advice was taken as a command or an order and that made things really worthwhile to the children and the society in those days. Now, in the last few years, things have changed and the children have been given a lot of freedom to question the parents and the teachers. This has been good but the questioning by the children did not come with responsibility. The excuse given by the schools and the parents for small incidents of indiscipline in the name of consideration made children become habitual of playing with the rules and regulations. In the past if any child reached school late, then he would be either given some punishment or sent back home so that the same is not repeated in future. Any child not letting the teacher teach in the class was liable to be sent home with the parents so that he understood the importance of being sincere in the class. But now things are not the same. The parents and the psychologists treat sending the child back home or some form of punishment as the action which might disturb the child. This has a point but look at the repercussions of not taking some action against the acts of indiscipline. I do not endorse any action which may be detrimental to the progress of the child but that does not mean that every negative action of the children should be ignored. Now the psychiatrists and the educational psychologists are advising that the schools and the family of the children should treat this problem. Right but what should they do? The teachers find themselves in catch twenty two situation. Though some people may feel offended but the truth should be shared and accepted that in many cases the teachers and the parents are helpless and do not know what to do. When the children are asked by the parents to come back home in time many children question that too. If the teachers ask them to do their work following a schedule and do not get indulged in certain things not of their age, again queries are raised by the children. The impact of the film songs related to party all night and words openly used to glorify alcohol, impress them more than the advice of the parents and the teachers. Though all this may not be only because of the freedom given at home and in the schools but this has been a major contributor to the loss of patience and tolerance. Children at the age of four and five demand and the word request seem to have lost its meaning for them and hence they learn to push their way through in all cases. For this the blame may not be on the children but the society, parents and the teachers should share it. The other problem is that nobody wishes to raise a point which might put the children in some difficult situation. The truth and the fact is that for doing and learning good all need to go through difficult times and situations. The good and the positives are not achieved without difficulty.
             The problem of intolerance and impatience is the most serious problem which should be tackled at the earliest and everybody must work in unison to get a solution for the same. The word punishment may not seem to be very good to many so let us term it as reforming somebody for doing good. The psychologists and the teachers should ensure what is good for the children. They should find out the ways by which the defiant children understand their mistakes because without making them realize their mistakes, no reform will help. The parents and the teachers should be firm and fair in their approach towards the issues related to indiscipline. Many people share their experience that during their school days if they were punished by the teacher they never dared to tell the same to their parents. The reason for this was that parents would never like them doing anything which was against the norms of the school but the situation is just reverse as on today. If our children have to develop patience and tolerance then the teachers and the parents will have to take the lead. The children are the reflections of the society and in case of school going children, society is the school and the home.  I would like to suggest few things which might help our children not falling prey to the violent behavior which darkens the prospects of their future.
           The parents and the teachers should define the dos and don'ts to the kids and convince them of the consequences. They themselves should be following what they want from their children. The psychologists and the NGOs should not blame the parents and the teachers for everything wrong done by the children. The children must be made aware of the results of their actions and they should face the consequences. The children from well to do families should not be allowed to exhibit their wealth in the form of costly shoes, watches, pens etc in the school. The parents should ensure that their children do not drive vehicles if they do not have driving license. The schools should not differentiate among the children based on their family background or position held by the parents. The values are never taught but learnt by the children so the parents and the teachers should be the role model for their children. They should know it well that if they do not follow the norms of the school or behave well at home they are in for a reprimand.
           The most important of all, do not ignore anything done wrong by the child. This does not mean that they are to be punished for everything done by them but they should be conscious that the parents and the teachers are aware of that and they are not really happy with the action.
               As mentioned in my earlier articles also the teachers and the parents should have a strong bonding with the children and spend as much quality time as possible with them otherwise the access to the violent video games by the children will add to the problem. If the parents and the teachers leave or create space between them and the children, then this space will definitely be filled by some undesirable entities which might take the children in a wrong direction. The child protection groups and organizations should also help in this direction to restore the trust between the child, the teacher and the parents and not to add to the mistrust or alienation which has already caused a serious damage to this wonderful relationship.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Role of teachers in regulating regular schooling



I happen to attend a seminar on the topic education and role of the teachers in which the speaker talked about Indian education at length and expressed her concern that the basic ethos of the ancient education system are lost somewhere due to many reasons known to all of us. The other speakers spoke about the place of the teacher in the society and the teachers in India not given that respect as they deserve or were given in the past. One speaker was of the firm opinion that the teachers at university and college level will have to take responsibility on themselves and drive for the improvement and Indianisation of education. The audience was particularly impressed by her emphasis on the solutions to the problem than talking about the problems. If we ponder upon the past, we recall about the Gurukuls in our country and the students used to be away from the parents to get education from their Gurus. This occurred after the children had their initial education from their parents and family. That time education was not classified as pre primary, primary, middle, secondary and senior secondary, rather this was divided as per age. Age was important but not as rigid as in today`s time. The children focused on learning and there were no distractions of any kind because the children were away from the society issues and they learnt the lessons of the life with their Gurukul mates and the teachers. The learning was more practical and they were made to learn the value of hard work and live a life which was same for all the students. In the Gurukuls, all were equal and there was no distinction based on the family or economic background. In this situation chances of the children`s learning improved. The Gurus were impartial and they also did not favour the ones coming from the influential families. The gurus devoted their entire life for the cause of their disciples without expecting anything in return. As change is the law of the nature and so has been the case with the Indian education system also. The involvement of parents has become very important in this era and those who are not able to be a part of the learning of their children, curse themselves. This involvement of the parents up to a limit was alright but in the present context, this seems to be crossing the limits and the teachers experience their involvement as interference. The teachers are finding it difficult to handle those children who get undue support of their parents. Some parents insist that their child can never be wrong and this was the teacher or the other children who are responsible for any problem which might be there. The violent behavior of the children is on increase which causes problems to the other children. The bullying in the class or the school bus is causing a lot of problem to many children who come to the school to gain knowledge and not merely to be certified that they were studying in that elite school. These problems are in other schools also but the gravity of the same is not that much in the so called elite schools. The children learn abusive language or come across awful words from their friends in the class. This is a common complain to the schools that parents make that their children were using foul words which are never spoken in their family. The problem got multiplied because the teachers found themselves deficient in handling such situations properly. Lack of schools is forcing the schools to admit more children than what can be taught properly. A responsible person shared his experience of visiting a school in which the children were writing their examination outside the class rooms. When the principal was asked why the children were sitting outside in the open, he replied that there were 135 students in the class whereas only fifty students can be accommodated in the room. During the days of the examination, all children come while in normal teaching days only 30-40 percent are present, hence they are accommodated in the rooms which is not possible during examination. I understand that this is not the condition of one school but thousand of them. Then there is shortage of teachers which multiplies the problem.  Also, the commitment of the teachers towards this noble job desires a lot and that is forcing many parents to think about home schooling for their children.
Home schooling is the concept which is not new but has been in practice from ancient time. Earlier it used to be for the likes of Eklavya, but now those parents who can afford their children in the best of the schools are deciding in favour of home schooling. This saves the travelling time of the children and also the parents feel that the exposure of the children to the negatives like abuse and bullying etc is also avoided. The parents advocating home schooling are of the opinion that their children unlearn good things in the schools and learn bad ones. This may be true up to some extent and in some cases but this cannot be universalized. Also home schooling may not be possible for all the parents and for a long time. Home schooling cannot be a substitute to proper schooling. Though the suggestion of such parents that the children should be exposed to curricular and extracurricular activities in the schools and academics can be taken care of by the children still makes a sense but can we divide academics from co curricular and extracurricular activities? The recent concept of home schooling came from Europe specially Germany and now having its presence felt in Metros in our country. When we tried to understand the reasons behind the same, it was revealed that some parents are losing faith in proper schooling system that forces them to think for home schooling. This reminds me of a forceful statement of the speaker that the teachers will have to make all possible efforts so that the faith of the parents and the society in the education system is restored. The politicians and the policy makers might be framing the policies but when it comes to making the children learn and imbibe values, the teachers have all the freedom and autonomy to do that. Even in the present system if the teachers work hard and with sincerity, there is no reason why the parents will think of home schooling.  Undeniably, man is a social animal, hence the proponents of regular schooling believe that the children should stay together, work together and learn together to acquire some social skills important for survival in the society. Not unless they sit in a group will they learn to conduct themselves and become confident or convincing. Whether it be problem solving, team work or relationship building, it is the regular school that gives them an environment to hone all such skills. Students in a regular school are exposed to a wide range of ideas and concepts which does not happen in home schooling. Besides, the ladder of success cannot be scaled unless there is a competition among peers. That feeling of competition arises in the company of peers. Regular schooling has benefits beyond imagination only if its few disadvantages are restricted. Here comes the role of a teacher rather an effective teacher.
This submission to all of you does not mean anything against home schooling but the importance of regular schooling is undisputed from the ancient time. The sample size of home schooling is very small and no studies has yet been conducted on the difference between the children schooled at home or in the school so it may not be appropriate to comment on this in real or authentic way, but regular schooling is very important and the teachers and school managements should make all possible efforts that no child feels terrified coming to the schools. They must ensure that the parents have faith in them and the country is given a civilized and intelligent citizen to look after her. The teachers must do everything possible to gain the same respect as was given to them in the past. The parents can make mistakes, society can be pardoned for the same but the teachers cannot afford not to perform their duties as expected in the interest of the children and the country. This humungous responsibility lies with them and it should be fulfilled without nonchalance.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Low morale of teachers



An article in one of the web magazines portrayed a very gloomy picture of the condition of the teachers in USA. As per the report, the morale of the teachers is all time low and this is proving negative to this once known noble profession - teaching. I was prompted to write this article by another incident in which I was asked an innocent question. During a program organized to felicitate the teachers who had excelled in their profession, the response of the audience was not quite up to the mark. One person asked, why there was least enthusiasm in this program whereas in a similar program yesterday there was a lot of happiness and energy. I recalled the article mentioned above and realized what was reported with reference to other country`s reference, was that also true for our country? This thought scared me because the teacher in the country of Saints and Sufis have always been given importance and were considered to be more important than God or the parents of the children they were given charge of. This forced me to read the article again and I realized what is happening in that country today would happen with us in near future. The morale of the teachers is very important for the better future of the country and the society at large. The study done shows, a large number of teachers are leaving the profession and not many university graduates are motivated to join the teaching profession. There may be many reasons for this situation but a few of them mentioned by the writer are the recent ones. The reforms introduced in early eighties of the twentieth century in which more measurable objectives were introduced opened the door for the people outside teaching community to enter in this area. The smart class rooms became more important than the teachers. The policy makers moved from human resource to software/hardware resources. The entry of the corporate and the businessmen added to the wound and the problem became more serious over a period of time. The role of a teacher was reduced to be the helper in the classrooms and the teaching learning process was taken over by the machines. The teachers who used to be the part of curricula were reduced to mere spectator to what was to be done by them. The flexibility which the teachers used to have was tightened by the requirement of achieving measurable learning objectives. This left teachers as almost unwanted entity in the life of the students. Slowly and gradually the society also started ignoring the very important role played by the teachers in the life of the students. In this age of information, knowledge was pushed to the second place.
Though we do not have any such study conducted in India but the general feeling among the people and the teaching community is no different than what has been reported from USA. Similar probably is the situation in other so called developed countries and also those developing countries that follow the developed countries blindly. In the past two three decades, the role of the teacher has been redefined in India also. There is nothing wrong in changing with time but going diametrically opposite is not good. The role of the teachers cannot be replaced by the technology as some of the countries are doing. We have been hearing in the training programs about the teachers being told (rather threatened) that change yourself otherwise robots will come to replace you. This is really humiliating for the teachers. Why should people not think that if the motivator has low self esteem  then how can he/she motivate the students? There are so many things which have been taken away from the teachers. The so called software companies claim to have produced something which can do miracle with the children. In the name of making the question paper setting and evaluation easy the teachers have been left without doing anything self. The people who have never been to the classroom direct the teachers to administer test set by them. The most unfortunate part of the entire change process has been the testing part. I have been mentioning the same frequently in some other context also that testing became more important than real learning. We should have fair idea of the progress made by the students but doing it every day does not make any sense. The children and the teachers should be given ample time to overcome the problems they might be facing. Judging the teachers only on the basis of the measurable objectives has led to the low morale state of the teachers and also the children became the tool for experimentation.
For this condition the teachers themselves are also to be held responsible. Some of them felt quite happy when a portion of their job was taken by the machines. They created a distance from their students, interacting with them to the least and never understanding them. I would put it in the form of example from physics. The Hubble`s law states that the speed of galaxies moving away from each other is directly proportional to the distance between them. As this distance was created by chance (in the name of change and reforms) but then it became a permanent feature. We know it very well that most of the problems come up due to communication gap and that is what precisely has happened. While undergoing the teachers' training we were told about the behavioral objectives to be achieved and that to me was the most important goal to be achieved by the teachers. But now evaluation at every step is eating away the life of the students and the teachers. Again let us take an example. There was a child who was not able to perform well in the examination though was always present in the school and respectful towards the teachers. One of her teachers realized that the child was not able to copy something from the board. She advised the parents to get her check up done and a problem was discovered soon after which was treated immediately. With the follow up and the treatment, the child started performing well. Interestingly for the poor result of the same child the teacher in the previous class was given a memo. What I want to emphasize here is that assessing the children and the teachers everyday or very often would not lead us to better situation. The evaluation and assessment is important but excess of everything is bad. The policy makers and the society should realize that there would be no stable learning without motivated teachers. The teachers should also sit and realize, what made them less relevant in the life of their students. We should do away with the desire of quantity and try to focus on quality of learning. The use of technology is important but that should not drive the people towards depression. The policymakers and the government should take initiative to bring back the glory of teaching profession. Most important role in this regard can be played by the teachers themselves. We know that any society will flourish if there are good, committed and motivated teachers around. The teachers’ who sacrifice for the cause of their students. The civil society should also remember that no technology would have been available if there were no human teachers to guide those students. Let us try that our teachers do not lose their morale and remain fully prepared and motivated to achieve the goals set for the betterment of the children and the nation.