Thursday, March 26, 2015

Two sides of a coin



In the previous article, I wrote about the board exams and the final exams of the schools and advised the students and the parents to take the results positively and move forward. This is absolutely fine not to get distressed because of an average or below average performance but one should definitely try to look into and analyse what might have gone right and what might have gone wrong in their efforts. In this context, I would like to discuss about two words which are taken very negatively by most of the people and these two words are stress and failure.  Yes, many will agree that stress and failure should not come in their life ever. Also many people struggle to understand whether stress is the cause of failure or failure is the cause of stress? All will have their own opinion but this is for sure that most of the times fear of failure is the major cause of stress and this might lead to failure definitely. There are many educationists and psychologists who do not consider stress and failure to be negative but both the words can be made the launching pad for success. Some people say that stress can be of two types; one positive and the other negative. Others do not agree with this and for them stress is stress and cannot be divided into two groups. I tend to agree with the second school of thought. Stress can be said to be positive if it yields positive results and negative if the results are otherwise. Being absolutely stress free is also not good for progress and improvement. Let us try to understand what stress is. In the simplest way this can be said as the response of an individual to any form of demand. This demand can be internal or external and the amount of stress will decide what is going to be the result. If the stress taken is extreme, then there is always a possibility of negative result and hence such stress will be termed as negative stress. On the other hand, if the stress taken is in a controlled measure, then this will definitely boost the performance of an individual and such stress will be termed as positive stress. Stress can be due to both, external demands as well as internal demands. In case of students, this is mainly exam related but there are many other reasons also. I would like to confine this with regard to the examination only. The stress related to exams is due to the demand of getting good marks or qualify one particular examination. Till this demand is within the limit, the stress caused by this will be very useful and the person will be able to perform to the optimum as per the potential of that individual. But if the demand goes beyond the limit then the result will not be positive and this demand will turn into negative. If the students are absolutely stress free then they may not work that extra mile which might help them better than what they could have done with a bit of stress. Some amount of stress will always help the children to concentrate and focus before and during the examination. But the stress should be short term only because long term stress will cause problems to all. The external demand like from parents and teachers which may be much more than the potential of the child will always have negative impact and cause problems to the child. If a child has a bit of stress that he should not fail in the exams otherwise his mother may not be very happy with that and this makes him to study harder, then to me, this stress is worth taking because this will help the child to focus and concentrate on his studies. Short term stress and a controlled amount would help the children however if it is long term and a great deal then it will be detrimental for the growth of the child. My advice to all children and adults is not to create undue and unnecessary stress. But always have this demand from self that you should get the result as per the potential gifted to you by the Almighty.
Now let us talk about another word mentioned above and that is failure. Failure in a very simple manner can be said as to be the situation in which we are not able to get the desired result or could not reach to the goal envisaged by us. Not achieving the desired goal is not necessarily a positive thing but this cannot be termed as absolutely negative also. The result is very important but the journey to reach or get that result is more important. Take the example of Arjun who could shoot the eye of the fish with his arrow in the first attempt which is one incident but to reach that a lot of things would have happened. He must have failed so many times while practicing and in the test conducted by his teacher but he would have certainly learnt FROM THE MISTAKES COMMITTED BY HIM DURING THE LEARNING. Even the mistakes committed during learning or in the form of negative result are also the steps of learning. The ones who could know their own shortcomings and mistakes became a better person in future than the ones who could not know their shortcomings. Take another example from nature. A child learns to walk only by falling and getting up on his own. People learn riding bicycle or motorbike by trying continuously. From these examples we realise that to achieve perfection we need a lot of practice. In the book ‘Outliers’, the author talked about ten thousand hours practice which made many people succeed in their profession (I wrote about the same in one of my earlier articles). If a child tries a question a number of times and still does not get the correct answer it does not mean that he has failed because now he knows it very well that this question cannot be solved by these methods which he has been applying till now and there is a possibility that the new method used by him might give him the correct answer. To me this child has learnt more than the one who would have got the answer in the first attempt only because this child would not know those methods by which that question cannot be solved. This does not mean that we have to always fall short but what I meant to emphasize by mentioning the above example is that failure is not necessarily negative if one learns a significant lesson from that and attempts to solve the problem by different method. Failure is inevitable and every one faces this genre of circumstance in life. Those who learn from the failures and do not repeat them, succeed in life and others who curse the failure might get into depression due to the stress of the word ‘failure’. Failure should be taken in a manner that it helps us to perform better in future than holding us back. We all fail so many times during the day but many a times try to avoid the things done in the same manner which lead us to fail in the task. The most important thing which I always emphasize is to learn from the mistakes which might have been committed during the journey in spite of cursing and getting into depression due to the negative result. I strongly believe that life is full of uncertainties and that is the beauty of it and we must enjoy that. So, try to be happy in every situation but focus on your target and enjoy the journey to reach that target. You may fail many a times during the journey but if you are focussed then you will definitely achieve your goal. Make failure also as the weapon to achieve success.
In the end, I would like everyone to please consider stress and failure as the part of life nonetheless do not allow them to be hegemonical and master you rather you master them and accomplish your goals.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Hone your strength



The internal exams of most of the school going children are either over or will be over in the next few days. Same is the situation in case of board exams. The results of internal examinations will be declared shortly or would have been declared by the time this article is published. This is the time of the year when may parents and children are anxious to know the result of their hard work put in during the year and especially the last few months. This is true that the result in most of the cases will be as expected by the students but there can be some cases where the children many not be able to perform well and might fail. Some students would be unhappy as the marks obtained by them might be lesser than what they expected. But all are advised that once you have written your examination paper, you should get over the worry and think of the future. The worry now may not be of any help rather might create dilemma in the future. If someone has not been able to pass the examination then also he/she should see something positive in that (though I do not mean that failing is good but remember that every failure is a bigger lesson learnt than success). The individual must try to analyse about what went wrong? Was it the lack of hard work or the individual was not keeping well during the examination or the academic year? The role of parents and teachers is very important in such situation. Even the relatives should be careful while interacting with the children who would not have done well. It is expected that nobody should pass negative remarks now because even the adults who are intelligent enough tend to get carried away by the situations. The remarks like, “you were told a number of times to work hard and be sincere but you did not listen, now see the result”, should be avoided. I know the parents do feel bad when the children do not pay heed to their advice. But once the result is already out and the children themselves must have been feeling bad about it, then further nonconstructive remarks from the parents, relatives or the teachers might deteriorate the situation. All must understand that failing in one examination is not the end of life because there are many examinations which one has to pass through in life. This failure might change the thought process of the child for the better, if supported by the adults. No child feels good for not having done very well, even the one who would not have studied at all. This time of result declaration is such that invariably everyone has stress so the adults must rather dilute it than adding fuel to the wood. My advice to all concerned is that any result should be taken in a positive manner and this should also be taken as a learning experience. The mistake committed this time should not be repeated and if one is able to do that then this failure will certainly not be a failure.
Though the results of class X board examination will be declared in the month of May/June but there are many schools which admit the students in class XI on provisional basis. Everyone knows that till class X all students study almost the same course but in class XI they have to make a choice of combination of subjects as offered by the schools. We still say that there are streams in this class like Science, Commerce and Humanities with wide choices of subjects especially in CBSE affiliated schools. Think about the plight of the children seeking admission in class XI. They have just finished their class X exams and do not worry about subject options. I always advise the parents and the relatives that they should not impose their choices on the children on such issues. The children should be allowed to choose the subjects of their aptitude in which they feel comfortable. All individuals are different and we should accept it. If the elder child was good in Maths or Hindi and has got a handsome job because of these subjects that does not mean the younger will also be able to do equally well in it though he/she does not have any interest for that subject. I would like to take the example of the subject Mathematics. Most of the people think that this subject is very important in the life and I fully agree with this stand. That is the reason every child studies it up to class X and after that they can decide to opt for this or drop it. Sometimes, I hear people saying that if their child did not study Mathematics in Classes XI and XII then there would be no life. And mostly it has been found that if the child did not have any interest in maths and was forced to opt for it, it then becomes a nightmare for him. The statement of a teacher seems to be appropriate in such situation that the parents ruin the life of the child by forcing him to study maths. There are many children who opted for unconventional subjects (From the point of those who always professed the conventional subjects only) and did exceedingly well in class XII and later in their lives. So, my suggestion and advice to all students and parents is that the children should be allowed to choose the subjects of their interest in which they can do well and succeed in their future life.   

Now a few points for the students who are appearing in board exams. Many of them will also appear in some competitive exams. For example, the JEE (Mains) is to be held on 4th April followed by many more. So, the candidates have got to be calmer and more composed than the students who appeared in school based internal exams. Some of the students might not have performed to their potential in a few subjects but that should not affect their performance in competitive exams. Every one must try to expunge their performance of the board exams and have positive approach towards such examinations in which they will appear. Those who would have been through the board exams should concentrate on topics which they consider themselves strong in. This is advised that you should not try to lay your hands in new things or in which you would have struggled rather brush up all that you know already. Students must ensure that they exploit every bit of their strength to the best of their ability and avoid getting bogged down with certain areas they might not be good in. But at the same time the students must take care of their health also because it must have been quite a hectic time for most of them. You are advised to take proper rest and eat balanced diet so that physical health problem does not add to the mental fatigue. Physical stamina and proper rest will help you to perform better rather than feeling uncomfortable during the exams on account of ill health. I would like to strongly advise the students and the parents that they should be very well aware of the negative marking if it is there in any of the exams and attempt the paper accordingly. If there is no negative marking then try to attempt all questions. The students should also practice to darken the circles of correct answers as required in most of the exams.  The most important of all is that the students should reach the examination centre well in time and should take into account all possibility and unexpected things which might happen while commuting to the centre, for example the problem of traffic jam or diversion or the break down of the vehicle. It is generally observed that students prefer to reach the given centre on the day of exam, which should not be practised, rather check the location of your centre a day prior to the exam and that will comfort you more and you will feel settled.
These points may seem to be simple and unimportant but play a significant role in your performance up to the potential. I wish all the students good luck and May the Almighty help you achieve your goal.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Quality in education



The mathematics paper of CBSE class XII is in news for being tough and the children found it very difficult and lengthy. The issue has been raised in parliament by honourable members and all are really concerned about the plight of the innocent students. Some people have raised a very pertinent and relevant question that up to class X the children are stress free and all of a sudden in XII, why the question papers should be so complex? Before we pass any statement on this, the expert committee of the people involved in setting question papers should look into the problems raised by the students and teachers. Those who have not even seen the question papers and do not have any idea about the pattern and setting of question papers should not jump to any conclusion. As I mentioned in the past also that the quality of question papers is important and so is the teaching and learning in the schools. Those who are so much concerned about the students’ plight now should pay serious attention to that aspect also. The standard of the education should not be diluted in the name of making students stress free.
I express all sympathy towards the problems of the children and strongly advocate that education should not be a stressful exercise but a joyful journey towards the betterment of the children. Not only the teaching learning process but also examination should be enjoyed by the students. As suggested by the honourable Prime Minister Mr Narender Modi, that the examination period should be celebrated as a festival and not in the way of quandary. Though this is easy said than done,  still can be tried. For this it is not necessary that we set easy question paper but prepare our students well that they do not find any question paper difficult. This may seem to be ideal but achievable if the teachers and the school function as desired and expected. In the paper under discussion also there are many students who have done quite well and do not have any complain but nobody would like to speak it out publically because they might be considered selfish or against the interest of other students. As I said earlier the paper was difficult than the previous years but all should remember that the standard of the question papers of UP board, Rajasthan board and many other boards used to be much higher than what it is of this paper. Generally people say that ICSE board papers have higher standard than that of CBSE.  Though I am not in a position to state which is better but definitely want to convey to all that diluting the standard of the question paper and evaluation is no answer to the problems of the children. Many people will agree that even after getting the graduation degree many candidates applying for a job are not able to write proper application in English or Hindi. Though the point which I am raising may seem to be out of context but extremely important to be mentioned. In the name of reforms the standard of the languages specially English and Hindi has been diluted which is affecting the students negatively, though they seem to have been scoring more marks than what students used to get before. So, is it the scoring of more marks that is important or understanding and learning a concept. We all need to think about it seriously.
Another news, which had a lot of attention paid by the news channels and many people, was related to the mass cheating in the board examination of a state which used  to be a role model for rest of the world in the field of education. Many people saw those pictures and videos of the individuals climbing the walls and trying to help their wards. In some cases, even the police personnel were also seen involved in that. The minister of that state expressed his inability to stop this because as per his statement this could be stopped only by using force and he did not want his people to be killed by using bullets. He was heard blaming somebody else as it might be the fault of a person who ruled the state for the last few months and all this happened because of his negligence. Why did the honourable minister not take the responsibility to ensure that the children of the state get quality education. Why should he have not said that corrective measures will be taken and this type of chaos would not be allowed to be repeated in future? These children might pass with good marks by using unfair means but will that make them or help them to be responsible and productive citizens of the country? My intention is not to blame an individual or few people but an urge to all concerned to ensure that our children are not deprived of their right to quality education. Please do not make them the bearer of a paper carrying marks or grades only.
To ensure quality education, the government should think of constituting an autonomous body of the people from different fields and allow them to work independently under the guidelines framed by the government, keeping in mind the requirement and future of our country. The educational policy should not be attached to the ideology of a group of the people or the party in power but it should be only in the interest of the country.  The controversies related to the appointment of Chairmen of boards, Vice chancellors of universities and IITs etc., should be above party politics. For this clear and objective guidelines related to the qualifications should be known to all so that nobody can raise a doubt on the sanctity of such institutions. I might have seemed to drift away from the topic but all these issues are related to providing quality education to our children. We can move our face away by putting the responsibility on somebody else. Nevertheless, everyone must collectively plan and work in the interest of the children and future of the country. 
I am sure our students of class XII who took their mathematics examination paper on 18 March might have come out of the astonishment and would be fully prepared for the future papers. They should not really ponder upon it too much as life is full of uncertainties and we should not feel defeated in any situation. I am positive that the problem faced by the students has been noted by all and corrective step will be taken so that the children do not suffer for the fault of somebody else. The concerned board should also learn a lesson and ensure that such problems are not repeated in future.

Credibility of Question papers

This is the month in which, almost all school going children appear in their final examinations. Many of them take school based exam but few of them appear in board examination conducted by different boards of the country. The media attention most of the time is on CBSE and ICSE board examinations because these two boards are considered having good reputation at national and international level, specially CBSE which has its presence in almost all the states of the country and now has extended itself from smaller townships to international boundaries. Also, CBSE is considered to be taking lead in innovation and implementing new things before any other board in the country.
CBSE has been advocating that the examination should not drive the students towards stress which I think all the people agree and appreciate. But making examination a stress free concept does not necessarily mean that there is no examination or they set easy question papers so that most of the children pass even if they had not studied hard or not understood the basic concepts of the subject concerned.
 I was forced to raise this issue because of the problems faced by the students who are appearing in the board examination of class XII conducted by CBSE, New Delhi. They have complaints about three subject papers i.e; physics, business studies and mathematics. The issue of mathematics paper is very recent and many teachers and schools have questioned the pattern of the paper and I tend to agree with them but have some points to put forward for the consideration of all. Is it necessary that some children must score hundred percent marks and if that is not there, will there be problems? If the question paper is set based on the syllabus already known and taught to the students the crisis does not arise. Yes I would consider the problem of the question paper being lengthy and the students are unable to attempt all questions in the given time duration. A trend has been observed in the past that all the boards are trying to increase the pass percentage of their students and in this process all legal methods are employed but how much is done to raise the standard of teaching learning in the schools. I agree that the students should be tested for what they know and not what they do not know however, that  does not mean to reduce the difficulty level to a very low level and students get disillusioned that they have learnt that subject so well while the fact is otherwise. And this trend was started by the elite board of the country. This board created a situation in which large number of students started scoring more than ninety five percent and those who got eighty percent or so found themselves nowhere and that created a situation in which the cut off percentage for admission in reputed college of the country reached to a hundred. The children who got ninety five or so were depressed that even after scoring high percentage of marks, they failed to get admission in the college of their choice. By stating this, I do not want to contradict or hurt those students and teachers who are stressed and unhappy with the pattern of the board papers about which I mentioned above. Rather I endorse the questions that they have raised but all must try to understand how and why we reached to this situation.
I think the people in the responsible position should understand that the teaching learning process is more important than the examination and the marks obtained by the children in board or school examination. If seriously paid attention to, there will be a plenty of examples where the people who did not perform well in the examinations were very successful in their life. I should not be misunderstood to denounce the sanctity of the examination system but over dependence and craziness’ of everyone for the marks obtained by the children in the examination is insurmountable. Unfortunately, in the name of reducing the stress on the students the standard of the question had been brought down in the last few years. In the process, some students started taking the examination lightly and still they could manage to get good marks in the examination and were appreciated by all.  Even the teachers were quite happy with this because they were also appreciated for something which they did not necessarily deserve but the marks scored by their children ensured that appreciation. Again I would like to clarify that the increase in the marks obtained by the children was not only due to the standard of the papers being low but also a lot of hard work put in by many students, their parents and the teachers. But we cannot deny the fact that the pattern of the question papers in the past few years had been such that all children score a good percentage.
I always say that the learning by the children is more important than anything else. I would like everyone to pay heed to the pattern of question papers of this year of CBSE class XII. Three papers I already mentioned above but what I understood that the papers of English and Chemistry were conventional and quite easy. Majority of the students were quite happy and expect to score very good marks whereas in Physics and Mathematics they are not happy at all. Now if the marks obtained by them are in accordance with the thought we have today will they be considered more intelligent in Chemistry than Physics? One thing should be ensured that the standard of the question papers should be almost the same and the students should be made aware of it because they tend to get deceived by the pattern of the previous year question papers. This concept that only two questions were from NCERT book and rest from outside should be done away with. The NCERT or any other book is a tool to understand the concepts and the subjects and not necessarily that the question papers are set from NCERT books only. Certainly, the questions should be based on the contents of NCERT books and from the syllabus prescribed by the board.  The people should avoid creating hype if the students find a question paper difficult but not out of course. Yes, we should try to assess what is learnt by the students but should not let them be misguided only on the basis of marks.
This is high time that too much reliance on the marks is done away with and all pay more attention to more effective teaching learning process in the class rooms. The students should be encouraged to be present in the schools than spending more time in coaching or tuition centres ( I think all understand this serious issue and  concern). The board should pay attention to the points raised by all but should not succumb to the pressure of those who want every student to pass though he/she may not deserve that. If no child gets full marks in some subjects, that should also not be taken as a blemish because hundred marks are the maximum somebody might get but it is not mandatory that you should get that. I take an example to elaborate on this. A physicist named Carnot proposed an engine having efficiency hundred, but till date we have reached to an efficiency of about sixty to sixty five. Hundred percent is an ideal situation and one should try to achieve it but by working hard and not bringing down the quality and standard of the engine.

In the end I would like to advise all students not to worry about the marks they would score but do their best in the papers they will appear now. I also advise them not to be distressed by the pattern of the paper and be happy with whatever they have attempted. Always have positive attitude and think that if you have not been able to do that well as expected, perhaps others would also have done equally appalling or good. I wish you all the best and pray to Almighty to bless you all with immense success in life.