Monday, February 19, 2018

If Opportunity Does Not Knock,Remove The Door


In this article I would like to touch upon two important questions. One- what is more important opportunities or facilities and two- can research aptitude be sown in college or universities students without giving kids opportunity for the same at schools level?

In the present times technology is advancing at a supersonic speed. Parents want their kids to be abreast with all the developments and advancements taking place around them. Their focus is that the child might not miss any opportunity due to lack of facilities. The question arises- “Do opportunities exist only amidst the abundance of facilities?”  I strongly believe that the answer is NO.

Let us look into the meanings of these two words. Facility means- a special feature of a service or machine, which offers the opportunity to do or benefit from something/ absence of difficulty or effort.” This clearly indicates that facilities aim at cutting down on efforts. In the present times, whether it is parents or school, everyone is focusing at providing the kids with endless facilities. With facilities at home like access to internet, house help, home tuitions and other luxuries to smart classes and AC classrooms and buses in school; kids have the ease and comfort to do things as per their comfort. The excess of facilities have made the kids lazy and dependent on technology and other external help. With so many “prepared” solutions to textbook questions and exercises, the ability of the students to use their brains to find out solutions and research on a topic and frame answers creatively, is diminishing. This dependence on facilities makes the students unable to recognize opportunities and create them when required. Well, I am not anti-facilities, but excess of anything should be avoided, especially when facilities become a hindrance in research aptitude and originality of creativity.

Now let’s look at the term opportunities. It refers to favourable time/occasion/moment, right set of circumstances. When we look at this definition we assume that opportunities can be created only with facilities. This attitude often leads to the tendency of blaming the situations in case of bad performance. We need to teach our kids that opportunities can be created and they have to be seized with constant efforts. We also need to teach them to recognize the opportunities as sometimes the opportunities are right there in front of their eyes but they do not see. For grabbing opportunities kids will need to come out the comfort zone of facilities. A multitude of opportunities is constantly in front of their faces, passing by them as they hesitate to recognize and reach out for them. For them to grab these opportunities they have to lose the fear of rejection. They should be taught to take risks and accept failure. In all seriousness, stepping out of their comfort zone and snatching possibilities doesn’t come easy and is understandably an immensely frightening endeavor. But one cannot make such endeavors cocooned in the vast covers of facilities. 

Let us look into some success stories which prove that success doesn’t come when one waits for facilities instead of creating opportunities.
Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, an Indian scientist and the 11th President of India from 2002 to 2007, has faced insurmountable odds in his path to becoming the leader of a Nation. Dr. Abdul Kalam hails from a poor family and started working at an early age to supplement his family’s income by distributing newspapers after school to financially contribute to his father’s income. In his school years, he had average grades, but was a hardworking student with interest in mathematics. Even during his senior class project while in college, the Dean was dissatisfied with the lack of progress and threatened revoking his scholarship unless the project was finished within the next three days. He then worked tirelessly on his project and met the deadline, impressing the Dean. From there on, Dr. Kalam joined Aeronautical Development Establishment of Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) as a scientist and went on to head the organization. The rest is history.

Narayana Murthy, who is described as the father of the Indian IT Sector and listed by Fortune Magazine among the 12 greatest entrepreneurs of our time, has not always been successful with his ventures. Narayana Murthy’s first venture, a company named Softronics, failed in about a year and a half after its start. After the failure of his first venture, Narayana Murthy joined Patni Computer Systems and worked there for about five years. He then founded Infosys in 1981 along with six software professionals and a meagre capital provided by his wife Sudha Murthy. Infosys is today India’s fifth largest publicly traded company and the third largest Indian based IT Services Company.

Sushil Kumar, renowned Indian World Champion wrestler, won the gold medal in the FILA 2010 World Wrestling Championships, a silver medal in the 2012 London Olympics and a bronze medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He hails from a lower-middle class family and his father was a DTC bus driver and his mother is a housewife. Despite the minimal funds available, poor training facilities and lack of dietary supplements, Sushil Kumar has become a world-renowned Wrestling Champion through hard work and sheer determination.
(Source:https://www.indiafilings.com/learn/indians-who succeeded-against-all-odds/)

Arunachalam Muruganantham, is a social entrepreneur from Coimbatore in Tamil NaduIndia. He grew up in poverty after his father died in a road accident. His mother worked as a farm labourer to help in his studies. Today, he is the inventor of a low-cost sanitary pad-making machine and is credited for innovating grassroots mechanisms for generating awareness about traditional unhygienic practices around menstruation in rural India. His mini-machines, which can manufacture sanitary pads for less than a third of the cost of commercial pads, have been installed in 23 of the 29 states of India. He is currently planning to expand the production of these machines to 106 nations. In 2014, he was included in Time magazine's list of 100 Most Influential People in the World.[3] In 2016, he was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India. (Source: Wikipedia)
Had these personalities waited for opportunities to knock at their door and blamed the lack of facilities, they wouldn’t have reached these heights. 
As I have discussed in one of my recent articles, Indian youth is oriented more towards becoming businessmen and employees in big companies for handsome packages. The facility based bringing up conditions them towards earning money and acquiring these facilities for their future generations. Therefore the aptitude towards research has considerably gone down. To encourage research in the country Prime Minister’s Fellowship Scheme for Doctoral Research has been initiated under which 100 Doctoral Research Fellowships will be given every year. It is aimed at encouraging young, enthusiastic and passionate scholars to take up industry related research. The scholars will get double the JRF/SRF as scholarship. While this is a brilliant initiative let us hope that this attracts scholars who really want to make ground breaking discoveries and not those who would just come in for the money. This move is a great example of facility moving hand in hand with opportunity. This has to be grabbed by the scholars to prove their metal. But at the same time it is very important that the children are encouraged at school level towards the same and the one having aptitude for the same are given opportunity at college or university level. There is a simple thing for schools to do that the children are taught not for marks but new learning. Rote learning must be discouraged and the children should be encouraged to find different solutions of the same problem or different process to reach the same solution. In this regard I recall another excellent initiative in the form of ATL in schools. We hope this will manifest the potential possessed by the children in abundance but If not implemented by the schools chosen effectively then the wonderful scheme launched by the government may not yield desired result. In the end I would like to say that lack of facilities should never be the reason for not starting something innovative. The need of the hour is to create opportunities rather than waiting for one to be served to you on the platter of facilities as one should always remember that-
Many negatives - pressure, challenges etc - all can be converted into opportunity to rise.”




















Sunday, February 11, 2018

Raise Kids Without Gender Bias


In one of his recent speeches in Rajya Sabha, honourable Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi raised the serious issue of increasing crimes against women and children. He questioned that why do parents and teachers ask only the girls to come home early for their safety and not ask the boys to do the same. Why should such hypocrisy continue? Why should a girl’s safety be her own responsibility while boys are set free to do whatever they want till late in the night?
When I looked at the news headlines the next day, to my dismay, there was no mention of this issue of great importance. They rather took interest in taking a dig and jibe at what all was said about the opposition and the comments and counter comments related to that. Well, as I have often stated that we as a society have time and again failed to discuss the relevant issues and their consequences; I thereby take this opportunity to elaborate on this sensitive issue and focus on how we can make an effort to overcome the ever deteriorating situations faced by our mothers, sisters and daughters.
We live in the times of dilemma and hypocrisy. On the one hand women and girls are being motivated to work and be at par with men and boys and on the other hand the crimes against women are increasing, putting a question mark on their well-being and security. In this state of confusion some girls think that equality refers to everything the boys do even if it’s absolutely wrong for the boys too. We are failing in giving equality a fruitful and meaningful direction.
The issues related to this topic are innumerable but I would try my best to put forth my perspective. The world is changing and we are “modernizing”. We boast about the way women have improved their social situation all over the world. They have fought for and won the right to vote, they have “been given” the right to drive, they have been “allowed to work” as far as they can fit in the periphery of patriarchy. They are in space, in politics, in performing arts, in sports and so on. It has been a long and eventful struggle but women have earned for themselves a significant standing in the society. And yet the gravity of these achievements turns into snowflakes when while walking through the corridor you find a boy laughing at another calling him a “girl” and at the same time calling our little girls “mera beta” isn’t a matter of laughter but a reference of pride and honour.
Aren’t we sowing the seeds of difference from the very beginning? The way a girl is raised is quite different from how we raise a boy. And we justify this with “biology”. The rules of social behaviour are different for little boys and girls. This doesn’t allow the girls and boys to grow as their own self. Therefore, boys who express emotions and cry are laughed at even when we know that crying is an emotion which is not restricted to a specific gender. Just because of our society’s hypocrisy boys and men have had a hard time in being confident as dancers, chefs, makeup artists and being in other professions which are considered “appropriate” only for women. As parents and teachers, we need to raise our kids as individuals and not as two separate genders. A boy can be feminine and a girl can be masculine. And this should not make the parents uncomfortable. Things go awry when the individuality, the uniqueness of the child is denied in the service of meeting the needs of the parents and society.
The problem is deep rooted. An act of courage by a girl will be complimented as “very manly” but will it be treated with honour when an act of kindness or sacrifice by a man or boy is complimented “very womanly”? Look at the problem with this example; we subconsciously relate courage with men and kindness with women. While growing up, boys aren’t taught tenderness. We don’t try to inculcate it in them. Similarly girls are not taught negotiation and spirit to fight for their rights. Why does it matter? Well it does. The crimes against women might not even exist if boys are raised with tenderness. Justice Leila Seth said and I quote, “Bring up your sons like you bring up your daughters, so that they learn the tenderness.” Well this says a lot about how we are raising our kids. If boys are taught the values of empathy and respecting consent, the scenario might change in the coming years.
People should ask boys “what’s wrong?” when boys are upset. Boys should be encouraged to show emotions and should know that their emotions are valid and they are nothing to be ashamed of. And definitely boys cannot be allowed to be rowdy just because they are boys. “The boys will be boys” attitude will have to change if we have to stop crimes against women and girls. Fathers will have to respect the opinions, decisions and views of mothers so that the girl child is raised with confidence and the boys are taught equality in the real sense.
We need to encourage girls to follow their dreams instead of telling them that “it’s a boy thing”. Boys and girls should have same rules and regulations to be followed at home. If boys are expected to earn and support themselves even girls should be encouraged to do so. The breaking of the stereotypes should start at home and school level, only then it can happen at the societal level. We need to strive to be gender-neutral and to treat your sons and daughters equally.
Though there are very real safety issues that will dictate some decisions, try as often as possible to make the same decisions for both your sons and your daughters. Thus far, note what researchers say:
Sons are permitted to work outside the home at an earlier age than daughters, thus providing them with earlier independence.
Girls do more housework than boys, sending the message that the home is a woman's domain, and teaching boys a “learned helplessness.”
Fathers are more encouraging to their sons about participation in competitive sports than they are to their daughters.
Teens perceive that boys get to use the family vehicle more often than girls, thus granting them greater independence.
(Source: https://www.familyeducation.com)
In her book, The Courage to Raise Good Men, psychologist Dr. Olga Silverstein puts forth a theory that more and more experts are espousing: boys are pushed away from the family too soon, and the greatest gift parents can give their boys is the ability to acknowledge their feelings. In her book, Dr. Silverstein relates a touching story about a teenage boy who wanted to live at home for an extra year after high school; he didn't feel he was ready to move away yet. As a therapist, her chore was to help the father understand that his son's choice didn't mean the boy was a failure.
Thus looking at both the sides of the coin we realize that it isn’t a war between the sexes, it’s not boys v/s girls. Nature has not differentiated them. It has just given then certain roles to play which they can play according to their capacities and aptitudes. Both the genders play a significant role in the working of the world. It isn’t about superiority and inferiority.
In the Indian culture women are worshipped as Goddesses. I honour this reverence but before we could put them on the pedestal and fight our political and religious battles in the name of their honour; we should first treat them as individuals with their own ideas, perspectives and opinions. If we fail to do so and the crimes against women and girls keep on piling up then in no time this culture will become nothing less than a farcical representation of a farfetched situation.
At the same time we should not try to interfere in certain things which naturally occur and distinguish between boys and girls. There are certain things for which God gave the privilege to females and some for male hence we should not try to change that. Also the females should not try to get involved in those wrong/negative things which are done by the other sex just because to show self-equal to men. So this is the responsibility of parents to ensure that both the sons and the daughters be given equal status and the traditional view of letting the boys have privilege to do anything and the girls only made to learn and imbibe values should be stopped. Otherwise we are almost forcing the girls to be vulnerable.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Discipline - Bridge between Goals and Accomplishments



I have often touched upon the topic of discipline in my articles. Of late, student’s indiscipline has assumed alarming proportions. It isn’t wrong to conclude that this violence is arising from utter lack of discipline. Almost every third day we read in the newspapers, reports of students being indulged in violent activities. The issue becomes even more important to be discussed as there is increase in horrifying cases of breach of discipline by school going kids. In a recent case reported in the capital city, a child of class IX lost his life over a small issue between two groups of school students. Before we try to look into the topic of the article, let’s ponder upon some incidents.
In the first incident, a child got hurt while playing and the school’s nursing staff immediately took care of it as per SOP (Standard Operating Procedure). As a precautionary measure, the child was taken to the hospital for professional medical care and the parents were informed. The parents arrived when the child was being taken to the doctor’s chamber. The father acted in a very aggressive manner and without even trying to find out the condition of his child he started blaming the school and shouted in the hospital premises. He tried his best to keep blaming the school and didn’t even try to find out how did the child get hurt, this behaviour was really surprising.
In another incident two students had an argument in the bus. It was taken care of by the bus attendant and the issue was resolved then and there. One of the kids involved in the argument went home and narrated the entire incident to his parents, exonerating himself of his part of the fault, entirely blaming the other child. The next day, his father came to the bus and slapped the other child without even trying to know his side of the story. I wouldn’t elaborate on this but you can understand the consequences of such incidents where parents involve themselves without realizing that their child can be at fault too.
There are numerous examples that we come across on daily basis where children correct their parents on their outbursts of anger on very small issues. These incidents and the discussions on TV channels about the incidents including violence by school kids are still failing to look at the root cause of these problems, which is ‘the breach of discipline’.
The problem of indiscipline in schools has persisted over the years. These acts have either been carried out individually by the students or as a group which results in rioting or revolts (the present case scenario of our country is even worse). There is no doubt that indiscipline generally militates against effective teaching and learning and production of useful acceptable members of the society. The adolescents of today lack “the gift of a good start” (Colin Powell). The foundation plays a very important role in development. If we don’t invest in good bringing up of kids, we are going to face difficulties. And this is exactly what we are experiencing with teenagers today.
Interestingly, a child’s holistic development starts with discipline in every bit of his/her life. Discipline is the key to let the kids know their purpose in life and making them realize from a very young age that whatever they do effects those around them therefore their actions should be self-speculated and mindful. If you read any scholarly article on the problem of indiscipline, you will find a deeply researched study that how parents, education system and society is responsible for the lack of discipline among students and there is data to support the rise in violence with the graph going higher every year. Well, I do not deny that we do have to take the responsibility but I strongly believe that it is high time that we as parents, teachers and society as a whole change our approach to deal with this problem. Before I elaborate on the remedies let us look into the problem in detail.
The causes of indiscipline among students:
Where do parents fail?
It might sound a little rude but discipline is sowed, nurtured and inculcated; it is a slow and consistent process where ease and casual attitude has no place. Indiscipline creeps in when we take little things casually. It has become quite “ok” these days to skip school if the child was not able to wake up early. Some parents do not insist on a healthy lifestyle anymore. School attendance and regularity is not being taken seriously by many. Most of the children do not have a proper waking up or sleeping routine. A lot of them do not indulge in any physical activity and have no breakfast at all before they come to school. Gradually the important aspects of a good lifestyle are eliminated and this mismanagement takes away the peace of mind that a growing child needs and results in irritation, short temperedness and aggression. Some parents have failed to make their kids realize that whatever one gets in life is earned, even a small word of appreciation. Most of the parents today are working and have no time to discuss vital issues with their sons and daughters. They try to compensate for time with money. But money cannot help instil good values. The fear barrier no longer exists in our society and parents easily give way to children's repeated demands without realizing the consequences. This is a dangerous sign of decadence and anti-social ills. Providing a child with expensive gadgets and facilities isn’t star parenting. Unfortunately, with everything being served on the platter we let the kids take privileges for granted. They end up knowing all about their rights and the duties of their parents and know nothing vice-versa. 
Where does education system and teachers fail?
Although one of the many definitions of education includes the idea of holistic development but education system today has reduced to grades, marks and promotion. With 5 subjects at hand and tests, assignments, homework, exams and coaching; students are participating in an endless and tedious rat race. With periods after periods of studies and extracurricular activities there is no time left with the teachers to inculcate sensitivity through talks and stories, conversations and sharing problems. All this is expected to be done during the teaching of the subject through “value based questions”. Classroom teaching focuses on completion of course, meeting deadlines, cramming the same content in the name of revisions and following the lesson plans and unit plans. In this race most of the student’s clumsiness regarding submission of the projects, wearing proper uniform, raising their hands before answering, standing straight in front of the teachers, seeking permission etc. is neglected. If not neglected, it is often corrected with negative reinforcements which are often met with aggression. There is no time left for real conversation or inculcating discipline through positive reinforcements. Answers have become more important than how a child stands or carries himself before he delivers it.
Where does society fail?
Where society was once a force that brought people together and symbolized unity and civilization, today it has reduced to a parameter of judgments and conventional dictates with the young generation being under its constant speculation. It judges success in terms of marks and positions and happiness in terms of money. It chooses to stay in the stagnant water of orthodoxy rather than understanding the needs of the changing times. This makes a teenager rebellious and aloof. The crowd has taken the place of sensible and logical thinking. Any incident taking place in any of the school becomes the talk of the town and most of the times the rioters vandalise the school building or the buses without realising that it would not serve any purpose.
When do peers become a pressure?
In an alarming revelation it came up that an average teenager’s bag has a lot of inappropriate items. Why do they need them? Why are they required in school? Self-esteem is a trait which starts to take shape quite effectively during teenage. Kids go to any extent to prove their arguments. They want to show that they are better and acceptance in the eyes of friends becomes the most important thing. These statements are common among teenagers, “My behaviour changed due to my friends influence, I and my school friends often decide to stay away from school, I want this because my friends have it” etc. Their friends become the pivot around whom their lives revolve keeping discipline at stake.
How to inculcate discipline among students as a personality trait?
What can parents do?
Learning about consequences (what happens when we do something) is an important part of discipline and will help teach your child responsibility. When you set rules everyone needs to be clear about the consequences. This is best done when you're feeling as calm and in control as you can be. Giving lots of attention to behaviour we don't like can often reinforce it (lead to it happening more often). Make sure that you notice more of your child's good behaviour and comment on this rather than the bad behaviour. For example, are you missing what your child is doing well - cleaning his teeth, getting dressed for school, eating his dinner, playing happily with his friend, sharing with his brother? Look for it and comment. Children need discipline. It is about teaching and learning. It works best when you have a good relationship with your child. You can discipline without using physical punishment. Set rules and talk to other parents about their rules.  Spend energy on the really important things and learn to overlook minor irritations.   (Source: http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetails.aspx)
Also, look try to be your child’s friend (without crossing the line as parent and child) and try to find out the reasons of their aggression and keep an eye on the company they are in so as to save them from the ills of peer pressure. Most importantly, parents need to understand that they do not have to submit to the unjust demands of their kids. The child may cry and nag for some time but if you succumb to his/her wishes and fail to teach him that crying isn’t a solution and one cannot have everything they wish for; then the child may “cry” his/her entire life.
What can teachers and schools do?
Both the home and school environment should be made exciting and conducive for learning to the children (students), and other educational requirement such as library, laboratory, workshop should be provided and equipped by parents, teachers, government and all stakeholders in education. Cordial relationship should exist between parents and schools authorities. The mass and electronic media should be used to enlighten all stakeholders in the areas investigated on the effect of indiscipline in the society. There should be reward for good conduct and punishment for bad conduct at home, school and society at large by parents. Schools can give away awards to disciplined students every year to encourage more students to emulate the winners. It is the responsibility of the school to let the child realize that discipline is the key that shapes their talents and helps them attaining success. All schools should have a competent professional Guidance Counselor. Teachers should spend more time in talking to the kids about their problems and consistently talk to them about the importance of good company.
What can society do?
Acquaintances, relatives and neighbours need to appreciate the kids around them when they abide by the rules and follow instructions successfully. They need to appreciate a child for being properly dressed up or wishing them more often. These little gestures will motivate the child to be disciplined and will make him/her realize that being a disciplined child is as worthy as doing well academically. Society must abide by rules and regulations of the place the way it is expected from the children/students.
How to deal with peer pressure?
Parents and teachers will have to come together to help the kids from succumbing to peer pressure. Teach the kids to say no firmly. Help them challenge themselves for doing the best for themselves and not follow the goals of a group. Teach the kids to frame their own opinions and voice their opinions out loud. Give them the courage to evaluate their friendship and search out for friends who share their values and interests.
I would like to culminate with an inspiring example of the United States Navy’s “Sea, Air and Land” Teams, commonly abbreviated as Navy SEALs. Dainik Bhaskar, in one of its reports, elaborated that the training the officers go through, under SEAL is difficult and challenging. It enables them to become patient, competent, analytical and quick decision makers. They could achieve all this with strict adherence to discipline. “Discipline is therefore the refining fire by which talent becomes ability.” and “To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one's family, to bring peace to all; one must first discipline and control one's own mind. If one can control his/her mind he/she can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him/her.”


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Indian Universities- Need Immediate Attention


 “As long as we discourage young talent, encourage an obsolete examination system and remain indifferent to research, we will continue to lag behind the West.”
Former President Pranab Mukherjee has given a significant statement reflecting upon the education system of our country. While addressing the faculty and students in an event in Chittagong university he said that the renowned institutes like IIT are producing professionals who are turning out to be salesmen, working for MNCs. Emphasizing on research in higher education, he said that it’s time that South Asian Universities reflect on and analyse their goals and vision. When it comes to global reputation, Indian universities continue to fail to make it to the top 100 list. Since its launch in 2011, not a single Indian university has ever made it to the THE ( Times Higher Education top 100 world reputation rankings, including the recently released ranking.
Let us tread a little in the long lost lanes of history. It is a historical fact that the first university in the world was established sometime in the 7th century B.C. at Taxila (then in India and now in Pakistan). The original name of the place was ‘Takshashila’ which means ‘carved stone’. Taxila university was followed by the second university founded in Nalanda in India in the 5th century B.C. Taxila’s glory ended with its total destruction by the Huns after functioning as a great educational centre for more than ten centuries. It taught some of the most illustrious students like Chanakya, well-known Sanskrit grammarian Panini and Patanjali, the great Yoga exponent. Nalanda was destroyed in an Afghan attack in 1193, shortly after the beginning of the Oxford University and just before the initiation of the Cambridge University. Had Nalanda not been destroyed and had it managed to survive to our time, it would be, by a long margin, the oldest university in the world.
Nalanda’s aim was to create the most intellectually and spiritually mature individuals who would become qualified to contribute to every aspect of society for its overall being. Admission to Nalanda was strictly based on merit and the aptitude of the student. In spite of this hard and rigid test, at its heyday Nalanda had on its role nearly 10,000 students from all over the world. The teacher student ratio was 1:5. According to both Hsuan-Tsang and I-Tsing, even though there were several men and women in the University and belonging to different nations, there was not even a single case of misbehaviour or breach of rules and regulations. This exhibits the high moral fibre of the students who studied at Nalanda. The curriculum included both sacred and secular learning. According to Hsuan-Tsang, “Two hundred villages in and around Nalanda University contributed freely the requirements of ghee, butter, milk and such other daily provisions to the entire population of the University”. (Source: The Speaking Tree)
What has happened to this beautiful culture of education in our country? Instead of focusing on research, Indian Universities are producing men and women suitable for mass recruitments in MNCs. Instead of scholars they are producing breadwinners.
Now, let’s look into the problems faced by Indian universities which are making it difficult for us to attain the glorious global reputation our universities once possessed.

Lack of faculty and basic facilities: A prominent TV journalist and activist Ravish, in his very popular and thought provoking “university series” has tried to expose the diseased and treacherous University System of our country. He revealed that under Tarin committee, JAK Tarin gave recommendation andguidelines for universities, which included student-teacher ratio also for various courses in universities. In UG and PG courses there should be one teacher for 25 students for science stream and one teacher for 30 students for social sciences. But the university system has become a mere joke in our country as there are a few universities functioning at present, which have ZERO permanent teachers for over 1900 students. There is also one university that has 10,000 students and 65 teachers with no maintenance of classrooms and washrooms. Some universities have become centre of politics only and destroyed self. There are colleges where students can be seen studying on their own, seated on the ground with no basic facilities, with no guides but mere ‘guidelines’.
Giving an example of another such university, Ravish mocked the Indian university system. There is one university which has 1500 students enrolled for the subject- History and there is only ONE permanent teacher to teach them. He says that in a country where history as a subject stands as such a joke, what issues do you expect the future generations to be fighting on and rallying and protesting about? The question arises- How are these universities even given UGC affiliation and grading by NAAC (National Assessment and Accreditation Council)? It’s a shame that our universities are being carried forward by ad-hoc teachers. None of the community or politician is talking about this horrible state of universities? Switch on your television and read newspapers, we are still discussing issues which are 300 years old. (NDTV: UNIVERSITY SERIES)
Lack of endowment culture: In the US and Europe, alumni give back to their university in the form of grants, donations and sometimes their entire property after death (if they are a loner). This money is harvested in hedge funds, start-ups and other investment avenues make it constantly grow. Harvard alone has $32 Billion in its endowments. Stanford has about $16 billion, Yale about $19 billion. This money funds new infrastructure, research and faculty.
In contrast, entire expenditure on higher education in India by the government is about $3 billion/year and all expenses on all education is about $10 billion.

Top Indian institutions are young: Almost all reputed universities in the UK and US are over a century old. Oxford was founded in 1167 AD, Cambridge in 1209, Harvard in 1636, Yale in 1701, etc. That means they have an accumulated benefit of centuries of wisdom, alumni, infrastructure and international reputation. It takes time to build your name and alumni. India's top institutions are only decades old (first IIT came in 1951). 

Focus on professional education. India's top priority when it comes to higher education is to educate enough of engineers, doctors and managers. This is because we need enough nation builders given our state of the economy. At this stage of development (with a per-capita income hovering around $1200/person/year) it is wise to put our money on educating professionals than research (can be a super-expensive game in many fields that needs a bigger chunk of our meagre budget). But we must now encourage and reward the one who spend time in research. If Indian educated students can be core part of the research elsewhere then if given an opportunity, why not in India.

Poor school education. Given a better schooling system, the undergraduates in good US universities come better prepared and get better resources. Indian institutions often get underprepared students from our poorer schools and it takes a lot of effort on the part of our professors to make many of them realize their potential.

Poor payment to faculty. In India, being a professor is not that attractive a job. A good software engineer could earn 4X of what a faculty at IIT earns. Given the poor payment and horrible politics, people tend to assume that you had no other option before you joined as a faculty. This self-fulfilling vicious cycle provides us poor faculty (both in payments and quality) although I know of plenty of really committed teachers who stand out and are still committed to give their 100%, come what may. (Source: Quora)

The Hindu also raised this issue through one of its articles and brought up four critical differences between universities of the western world and ours, stating the reasons why our universities are lagging behind.
1.    The first is that they (western universities) do all they can, when they recruit young faculty, to make way for excellence. We do everything to block its entry. We start discouraging talent early, but a few bright youngsters manage to come up despite our best efforts. They are the ones who face the greatest resistance from our institutions at the time of selection for vacancies. In our case, the initial criteria applied are purely mechanical. Any hint of trans-disciplinary interest means that the candidate loses the chance to be interviewed. And those who somehow escape this fate are ultimately sized up at the time of interview in terms of the lobbies they might belong to.

2.    The second major difference between our universities and the western ones relates to the concept of teaching. We calculate teaching in terms of periods taken. The Radhakrishnan Commission had bemoaned the fact that our colleges work like higher secondary schools. More than six decades after the commission gave its report; life in our undergraduate colleges is just the same. The UGC demands 18 periods of teaching per week from an assistant professor. “Isn’t that reasonable?” one might ask. Of course, it is, if you ignore what the word “teaching” means.
In India, we worry about attendance records to keep the student under pressure to attend classes that may be altogether devoid of intellectual stimulation. Despite attendance norms being stringent, there are classes without much attendance. There are also numerous cases of attendance without class. An obsolete system of examination helps teachers who miss classes and make no effort to relate to students. There are many who take the number of periods required, but their classes have no soul or spark.

3.    The third critical difference between life in an Indian university and a university in the West arises out of the concept of knowledge embedded in the system. In the West, curriculum and pedagogy both follow the teacher’s own research interests. Even smaller universities with limited resources attempt to cultivate a research environment. Topics of research reflect the university’s concern for the social and natural world surrounding it. Research is seen as an inquiry to solve problems as well as to induct the young into a community of inquiries. To keep their research interests alive and popular, senior professors engage with young undergraduates who bring fresh questions and perspectives to on-going inquiries.
In India, we stop teaching undergraduate classes as soon as you attain professorial status. Teaching and research are seen as two separate activities. While teaching is perceived as institutional work, research is viewed as a personal agenda for moving forward in one’s career. Not surprisingly, infrastructure and administrative procedures that might facilitate research do not exist. Obstacles do, and the teachers who make the mistake of initiating a research project has to struggle all the way to its completion and the ritual of report submission to the funding agency.

4. The fourth critical difference lies in the library. In the West, even in the most ordinary universities, the library forms the centre of life, both for teachers and students. Librarians enjoy a high status as their contribution to academic life cuts across academic disciplines. They work closely with teachers and students in the various tasks involved in procurement of books and journals, keeping the library quiet and friendly, and ensuring speedy access. Our case is the opposite. The library exists on the margins of the classroom. In many universities, undergraduate students are not allowed to use the university library. Book acquisition has been saturated with petty corruption and a crowd of spurious publishers has thrived on the outskirts of the academia.

With so many problems and shortcomings at hand, it becomes difficult to suggest a set of solutions to come out of this situation but as the first and the most important step, our universities will have to change their vision. They will have to stop claiming to be factories of mass production of well suited employees. They will have to claim and work hard in the direction of sculpting and chiselling promising scholars who have the capacity to become promising citizens, who would not only take up research but would also look forward to inventions and discoveries. The faculty should be as enthusiastic and promising as the students and learning will have to become research based rather than theoretical.  Also, government must expedite the faculty recruitment as we have plenty of qualified post graduates who are NET qualified and willing to work with commitment and enthusiasm.

Though it may seem like a joke but the truth is that top universities of the world have the teacher pupil ration ranging from 1:4 (best) to 1:10 (worst) but government must try to make it as 1:25 or 1:30. Some people may not agree with Mr Ravish’s point of view on different issues but the responsible people must go through what he showed in his ‘universities series’ episodes and take corrective measures.

Let’s hope for a better future as we still have some good news to celebrate. Although we lag behind in the overall world ranking but IITs still rank among top 50 engineering institutes and Delhi University stays in top 20 for English Literature and Linguistics. Universities are the last step of formal learning before one takes a plunge in the professional world. Like school education even universities should work in the moral fibre, keeping in mind the necessity of learning that results into holistic development of a student’s personality.


Monday, January 15, 2018

VALUE FREEDOM AND RESPECT THE ELDERLY

While our nation has always hailed the values of freedom and democracy, it is sad to say that their meaning have been misinterpreted in recent past. It is unfortunate to see the youth of the nation questioning the integrity of the tradition and values of our nation, its constitution, its glorious past and governance. All this has been done on the pretext of the ‘freedom of speech’. In the last few years the idea of freedom of speech and expression has been used in more negative sense than positive. It is disheartening to see that the youth of the nation is using this freedom only to criticize and blame our nation. This freedom has given right to anyone to blabber anything they want and feel. I agree that it is good to have an opinion but is it possible that nothing positive is happening which could be praised and appreciated? Is freedom of expression only available to demean and ridicule our own nation? Unfortunately, “People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.
We call ourselves Indians with pride and Indians we are. This is our identity which gives us a sense of belonging. Was it easy to attain this identity? No. We human beings first emerged as individuals, then came the idea of relationship, then developed family which later came together to make communities and then came the concept of state which ultimately formed country. Once we become a part of a society we have certain norms, rules and regulations to follow and abide by. These norms and traditions define our culture and make us unique. Patience and sacrifice have been a part of our rich culture. These values have been beautifully intertwined in our tradition. Our myths and legends carry inspiring tales of sacrifices on the part of son for the society (Rama), son for the parents (Shrawana), brothers for each other (Bharat and Laxman for Rama), wife for husband (Sita and Urmila) and there are many more such examples. We have so many examples in the present times also where a son left a very good job in a metro city and came back to his small town to look after his old parents.
But unfortunately,in the recent times our beautiful and rich culture is being marred by atrocious incidents which showcase death of humanity and relationships. 1 out of 10 senior citizens in the world live in India. By 2050, India will have 300 million elderly citizens. India is ageing, but do we care? There are incidents where old parents are being beaten, tortured, harassed and thrown in the old age homes where they helplessly wait for death because no loved one ever comes for them. Children have started questioning their parents instead of appreciating them. It is heart breaking to observe the quick rise in the number of old age homes in our country. If not that then there are cases where a mother was thrown off the terrace because she was not keeping well and in another case the parents were forced out of the house in severe cold. What is this if the children force the parents to move out of their house (home) which they built with lot of struggles. On May 2016, in Delhi, an 85 year old woman was beaten by her 65 year old daughter. In 2014, 50% of elders in India reported abuse. Rakhi, caretaker at an old age home in Gurugram says that there are some families who don’t come even if their parents die.
Why are the values disappearing? Why are we failing to transfer them in our kids? Why aren’t these values being promoted? Why is the youth allowed to misuse the freedom and democracy which was earned with lots of hard work and sacrifice? Why are we becoming selfish and inhuman to the extent that we can sacrifice anyone for our personal gains? It would be unfair to blame one agency for this sad state of affairs. We as a nation should take the blame and a sense of responsibility to rise above this situation. In the name of bringing change and embracing the life of development and luxury we have made ourselves and our kids materialistic. We no more thrive on relationships and bonds rather we need things to survive. Things that were once our wants have become our needs. We have promoted this materialism in the name of advancement and comfort. Instead of becoming easy, life has become devoid of emotions. Youth of today is going far away from the problems of the real world and emotional bonds and is comfortable with the fast track virtual world and its short lived happiness. We have taken away these emotions by confining our kids to nuclear families and to their personal spaces full of facilities. They are growing up fully aware of what they want and how can they acquire it as a part of their right but have no insight of what are their duties and responsibilities as a growing individual of the nation and family.
It is high time that we seek solution and sensitize our youth by emotionally bonding with them instead of overloading them with unnecessary facilities. Let us not suffocate their emotion under materialism. Let us make them realize how to use their freedom judiciously. Before they could smartly and intelligently exercise their freedom of speech and expression they should be made aware of their duties. Let us have conversation with our kids, let us indulge in prolific communication and discussions with them about life and familial bonds. Let us invest our time in them more than our money. Once you do this it will come to you as a surprise that “as you sow, so shall you reap”.
According to Vandana Sehgal, a Personality Enhancement Trainer, parents and teachers play a dominant role in molding the attitude and approach of the children, by imparting moral values. Here are a few easy steps to improve your skill-set in this area.
1.      Narrate patriotic, religious or ethical stories. Question them about the lesson they have learned.
2.      Be polite, respectful and considerate towards others.
3.      Media exposure plays a major role in our life. While watching the news or even a movie discuss the different aspects and ask the child what he/she would have done in that situation? This will develop a sense of reasoning in children.
4.      Listen respectfully to your child’s ideas and wherever required correct them. This will boost their self-confidence.
5.      Spend quality time with children. The quality of time that you spend with your children has a close effect on what they grow up into.
6.      Provide opportunities for your children to help others. This will instill in them generosity.
7.      Involve your child in community service. It will generate an attitude of serving.
8.      Tell your child about the people you admire and why. It will silently inculcate good qualities.
9.      Comment on compassionate behavior. Let your child know that caring is an important moral value.

With the above mentioned values being inculcated, kids will be able to analyze any situation before reacting. Also remember that it is the responsibility of all young parents to look after their parents well and set an example for their kids. I read a short story a few days back in which a young couple was discussing about sending the parents to old age home and their child overheard the conversation and asked what they were discussing. The husband and wife looked at each other and told the child that his grandparents were being sent to a place where they would get people of their own age and would enjoy with them. The child innocently said that he would also find such a place and send them there when they grow old. This was a lesson to the young parents and thereafter they decided against sending the old couple to old age home and rather looked after them well and the same was emulated by their son.
We have been trying to sensitize our children in the school regarding the importance of elders and their contribution and sacrifice in providing all possible facilities to the youngsters. We celebrate “Sanskaar Divas” or “Grandparent’s Day” with zeal and enthusiasm at the school level. On this day the elderly guardians and grandparents of the kids are invited to the school and kids get a chance to perform in front of them and show love and respect. This makes one wonder that why kids can’t be given a chance and platform at home too, to interact for an hour or so with their parents and grandparents where all can sit together and discuss each other’s life and other important social issues on a daily basis.

In the end I would like to say that if we want our kids to use freedom in the correct manner, we should develop in them the ability to empathize, speculate and understand before taking any action. And for this we need to set examples which are worth emulating. Always remember these words of Lillian Gordy Carter, “Sure, I am for helping and taking care of the elderly. I am going to be old myself someday…” Kids will have to take care of the fact that the freedom that we enjoy today was a gift to us and we cannot take it for granted. We will have to give back all the love and care which is being showered on us today because Karma tells us, “What goes around, comes around.”