Monday, August 15, 2016

Adopt and adept the panorama of freedom


The facebook post by an IIT Professor and a news story based on that should have awakened the conscious of all those who really worry about the plight of the children in the name of making them super stars. An article ‘overburdened school-going children’ by Rashmi Pramanik in the book ‘Childhoods in South Asia’ should also be an eye opener for all such people. The answer to the question of the child that ‘How would he find time out of 24 hours at his disposal when so much time is spent (much of that can be wasted)’.  School going children were already over loaded with the number of books and other stuff to be carried by them almost every day. Then the sudden explosion of knowledge from different sources made available to them.  Internet has already made their life difficult by giving the platform of social sites which take away substantial time from their already busy schedule.
The school is a place where the child should be given opportunity to explore and create but unfortunately they also became the source of information. The teachers most of the times are more concerned to finish the syllabus in time (and in some schools before time) so that they teach more of the next class. The situation seems to be alright in primary classes but secondary & senior secondary are really appalling  I agree that academics is more important in higher classes but what has happened is that academics has taken over all space specially in classes XI & XII. The children are discouraged by the parents to participate in co-curricular & extracurricular activities so that they focus more on so called core subjects.  For overall development of the students’, debate, declamation, story & poem writing, dance, music, arts & sports are very important areas of learning. The worst thing happened in the name of help and support after school is by the tuition centres and coaching centres.  If we go back in time, then it would be realised that initially coaching centres cater to the needs of the students who have cleared their class XII and were appearing for some competitive examinations.  I can also recall the doctors who did their MBBS/MS earlier (in 80s) used to feel proud of writing their degree as BSc, MBBS but now if a child does not make it to medical college while doing class XII he/she is considered to have lost one year of life and they are forced to waste and kill their entire childhood just for saving one year or perhaps to become a doctor. Same is the condition for the admission in Engineering or Law Colleges. They are pushed by the demand on the part of parents, friends, relatives and also advertisement in the newspapers. The school hours in India have always been around 6-7 hours and this gave enough time to the students’ for self study, games & sports and pursue any other interest one might have had. But now the problem is that school timings remain the same (which is right also) but additional time to be spent by the children is required at tuition centres & coaching centres. The child in this case who asked that important question to the professor is not an isolated case but most of our children are experiencing the same torture.  When I talked to them individually, most of them do not want to follow this routine but peer pressure & expectations of the parents do not give them courage to leave tuitions.  The situation has been worse due to lack of enough number of committed & devoted teachers available in the schools. I do not say that there are no good teachers, but they also get pressurised and influenced by the scenario outside in the society. School teachers are paid good salary but this is very less in comparison to the money earned by the people in tuition or coaching centres.  There is rumour that coaching centres pay to the tune of 50 lacs to 1 crore a year. No school can afford to pay this amount of salary, so the people do get attracted towards coaching centres, but I always say that such people cannot be called teachers because they are merely tutors. I always objected to the term used for educational institution as industry or business. The problems have further aggravated since the time this has been treated by the people as business.  I would like to share one example with you all. I usually avoid meeting the people from coaching centres. But one day somebody who was responsible for sales promotion of one organisation with a reference came to the school. My question to him was what has he come to sell here? As expected no convincing answer would be possible. We talked for some time and discussed the problems of education. I am of strong belief that actual education can neither be sold nor purchased and if it was not so then how can somebody be called a salesman in the field of education.  Only thing what could be sold is tuition/coaching centre but not the education. Education is such a pious thing which brings out best in a person and makes him/her a human being with values. My sharing this example does not mean to hurt anybody but all should be careful about the words and thinking towards education and children. Education is not a toy or some other materialistic thing but learning of life and for life.
Though this example was out of context of the topic but the problem is until we all understand the reality, our children will keep suffering and for this we should not blame tuition/coaching centres but all will have to share the blame, the parents, teachers, education system and also the society. I have raised this issue a number of times that how many parents wish their children to become teachers? You will find that very few of them would like that to happen. But whoever is responsible for this plight of the children, we owe an answer to the question of this child.
We need to realise that every child is an individual and should be treated that way and given opportunity to grow accordingly.  All can not be engineers from IITs only and Doctors from AIIMs or Advocates from NLUs. The doctors, engineers and lawyers and judges who were there earlier did not necessarily come from these institutions only but from not so much talked about colleges and universities also. Why have we made engineering synonymous to IITs? Why a child who is not able to crack IIT seems to be weak and not capable of doing great. This country needs good teachers, armed forces officers & personnel, politicians, central & state govt. officers, educated farmers, businessmen, entrepreneurs, musicians, painters, dancers, sports persons, journalists & the list is very long. Then why only few are given so much importance? We shall be able to answer this child if they are given opportunities to explore these areas also.

Now I come to the teachers who are teaching in schools. I always say that any child doing well required two important people in life, parents & teachers. The parents try their level best, the way they think right but teachers have to make children feel that they are very important. Most of the private schools pay well to their staff but there may be a few which may not be doing so due to many reasons. But a teacher takes a job in a school then his entire life should revolve around the children and he/she should be accountable to the growth of the children only. The teachers are accountable to the management also but the focus here should also be the children.   So if a teacher is full time engaged in a school then he/she is responsible for the children twenty four hours.  There may be some children who do not understand that fast as others do in the class so the teachers must give them extra time either in the school or outside as feasible. If a teacher has called a child after school hours then there should not be any monetary consideration in that. I think this makes the things clear to all the esteemed teachers. The question to the answer of the child can be found out easily if the schools and the management follow the spirit of true education and educational institutions. They should not allow themselves to be ridiculed by people outside by tagging them as dummy schools. There used to be good schools or not so good schools, but now dummy schools are also in the existence though fortunately I have not seen one myself.   To blame coaching centres only will not be right because if all schools decide that they would provide all possible help to their children then nobody would waste money and time.  Coaching & tuition would have come into existence because schools probably did not discharge their duties well.  
Another answer to the child’s question would be if Government can create more quality higher educational institutions on the lines of AIIMS, IITs or NLUs. Why not all our schools, colleges and universities should be quality institutions so that all children get equal opportunity to get quality education. Why should there be only one college in Delhi for which the children of a school train themselves so hard that they take practice exams 20-22 times a year. This I am writing based on a report in a news paper regarding 50-60 students from one school only of South India getting admission in the most sought after college of Delhi. If they took practice paper 20-22 times then calculate the number of days they would have spent in that only. Where was the time for them to be creative or to play or do physical exercise? The parents and teachers must ensure that children pursue the field of their interest and not because of what others are doing that. As mentioned before, we need good people in all areas and our children have potential to excel if allowed to follow their dream which in turn will let them live their childhood. Parents when asked that they should allow their children some physical exercise, usual answer is that there are no playgrounds near their residence or they cannot expose their children to do cycling etc., because of the traffic. But when it comes to sending them to the tuition centres then they do take risk of providing them two-wheelers and expose them to the possibility of accidents which at times may prove to be fatal.
All children do not need tuitions or extra help but it seems to have become fashion now-a-days, but unfortunately this fashion does not seem to be fading as quickly as other fashions do.
My advice to this child and his parents would be to see life beyond some colleges/universities also. Follow the routine of the school and find time for yourself. Listen to yourself also in spite of listening to others throughout the day. Find out time to think because creativity comes from thinking only.  Parents please repose trust in your child’s ability but do not force him/her to do more than his/her potential. Teachers please help these children to come out of this difficult situation by doing the best you can for them, thereby providing them enough freedom and nurturing their creative minds.             

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Understand the difference/relationship between 'needs satisfied' and 'needs felt'

My previous article on the topic ‘Preventing violence in students’ attracted so many comments and most of the people specially the teachers by & large agreed that teachers will have to own greater responsibility to help children to learn values and save them from being trapped in a negative situation. But at the same time, some people did mention that the role of the family in ‘Indian context’ cannot be ignored and I fully agree with them. The social support system and the ‘needs’ satisfaction of the children has been fulfilled by the family from the ancient times. The family has always played a key role in the growth of the children in a manner that they become competent to face the challenges of life. The family here becomes the axis which is most important to achieve this mission. The children, particularly up to the age of adolescents are largely impressed by the way family fulfills their needs to develop core competencies.  Even in the disadvantaged groups (like SC, ST and BPL) the warm, close and healthy parent-child relationship and healthy family support help these children develop well.  The parents become the most effective source of support (especially emotional support) to the children & adolescent. They are real shock absorbers of the normal & natural jerks (stress) the children face in their life.  But when parents are unable to provide such support then the children tend to suffer and are deprived of the shock absorbers they need from time to time and are not able to develop the competencies required in the life.  This is a well known fact (proved by studies & surveys) that the families in which exchange of thoughts and ideas take place their children develop proficiency faster than in a case where it does not happen. The life stresses in the children can be reduced simply by providing the shock absorbers in the form of proper communication between the family & children. (Chowdhury & Baral, 1999, say that family is always considered the potential source of supportive relationship and represents the basic protective system in child’s development).

Though the India family is considered to be a homogeneous unit, but the country of this size      (in terms of population) and diversified magnitude may have variables in the family unit also.   It may change from region to region, caste to caste, religion to religion and also on economic background.  The article by Aprajita Chowdhury in the book ‘The Childhoods in South Asia’  reveals that Indian families play a significant role in shaping the development of individuals , as it is a big support for nurturing, emotional bonding and socialization. I do come across the question that “we, as parents try our level best to support our children but they never follow what is important for their development”. We know that in family, we have mother, father, brother/sister and other members like uncle, aunt, grandfather/ grandmother and other close relatives.  And the influence of other family members cannot be ignored.  If we talk of the geographical areas, then in case of Jodhpur, the families are more closely knit than in other parts of Rajasthan.  The South India has different set of family system than north or north-east part of the country.  But the impact of the family unit on the children can never be neglected or ignored. The joint family always provide better support to the children in times of adversity than the nuclear family. Some people do deliberate upon the changing facets of the new generation, that they are never satisfied with what they are provided or they do not behave as the older generation behaved. All of us should understand that post liberalization the social fabric and family dynamics have changed. The people have moved from their own native place to serve other part of the country or even outside the country and the impact of that cannot be avoided on the children. The economic and social dependency dynamics have also undergone a sea change.   Earlier the sole bread earner used to be father but last few decades have seen the progress and growth made by women and that has also contributed to the change in family dynamics along with a change in the inter relationship among family members.

Though I have not come across any study among the children from disadvantaged group where they were asked to know what makes them learn things easily & what not, but a case of disadvantaged adolescents in Berhrapur, Orissa can be an example (Aprajita Chowdhury). According to Dash (2000), ‘disadvantaged adolescents’ are those whose basic needs and internal necessities are not fulfilled. Their rights are denied or violated. This results in their not reaching to the optimum level of growth and they suffer due to no fault of theirs.  Till I read this article, I always thought that family support to such children was less than the ones coming from advantaged group. Though I am still not in a position to say what is right but after working so long with the advantaged group of children, I think both the groups are at the same level in terms of family support, rather disadvantaged group is at advantage.  Before I dwell upon this for the children from advantaged group, let us try to understand the study done in Berharpur on disadvantaged children & try to understand who contributed the most for the need satisfaction & how that lead to the development of competencies.  

The study collected information from a sample of students from two groups of disadvantaged children from classes VI to IX. The peers from the class selected two students who were vulnerable and who were non-vulnerable. Then the same was confirmed from the teachers also & total 60 students were shortlisted (30 from each group). Then approximately 35 needs which normally happen in adolescents were identified & the children were asked the following questions,
1.      Whether they ever felt such a need?  
2.      When felt the need, whom did they approach?
3.      What did these people do?
4.      Were they happy with the action & response?
5.      If not, what did they do after that?
Then in addition to many other interpretations the researches tried to find what was the relationship between needs felt and needs satisfied.

The children in non-vulnerable group were found that the mean of needs satisfied was higher than the mean of needs felt, whereas in case of vulnerable group the needs satisfied were less than the needs felt. This implies that if the ‘needs satisfied’ are more than the ‘needs felt’ children tend to develop more competencies than in the other case.

When the graph was plotted for the needs satisfaction and the agent (person or the unit) who fulfilled the need was indeed an interesting one.  In this case, it was found that both the parents were most influential and in that too the mother was more effective than the father.  This has following sources/agents in descending order;
Mother      father       brother/sister      friends    teachers     relations

This proves that in disadvantaged group, the teachers as source, have less impact than the mother, father & brother/sister; so my concept that teachers make a huge impact seems to be negated by this study. The role of mother and father is the key in providing the support and help to the children so that they become confident in facing challenges of life.
Though this study was conducted for a particular set of classes and it might change in case of primary and secondary students but I think the role of parents cannot be understood better than what is taught by this study.
Now I can correlate some cases of those family members whose children would not have been able to do that well as expected. There have been number of cases where the parents’ behaviour and approach was not worth appreciating and they would shout on everyone around without understanding what really happened. They would just react violently (not physically but shouting) and the child would be listening. There are parents who do not encourage their children to share things with others or help others.  The children of advantaged group at times suffer because of that as parents & family remain in hurry in consolidating the wealth and position of power achieved.  Such parents’ think that the need of these children is money and materialistic things which they fulfil to the best of their ability but forget the real needs of the children. They are not able to spend quality time with them. They do not listen to their real problems of loneliness because of the predicament that joint families are breaking and both the parents working. The most important thing to remind all is that the children are an important asset for us as well as society. They should not be considered as only the achiever in life but also the human being who need emotional and social support more than financial support.

Some parents genuinely do this but still their children do not behave and learn then what should be done.  In such a case, the impact of the environment outside the family also plays a noteworthy role. The relatives & the neighbourhood also impact the children.  In these cases the duo of parents and teachers together can nullify the negative impact of the external agencies.
The following is suggested to the parents
1.      They should not always try to live their dreams through their children.
2.      Balance between financial needs and emotional and social satisfaction of the children.
3.      Behave in a manner so that children learn the values of hard work and honesty.
4.      Remember what our former President, Late Shri APJ Abdul Kalam once said, if this country is to be made corruption free then the mother, father & teachers can make positive impact on their children. In this case also the parents contribute to 66% of the impact on child’s progress.
5.      Be their friend but do not forget that you are parents also & the children follow you as their role model.
6.      Let them learn the value of the money you would have earned.
7.      Respect everyone around you if you want them to learn this most important value.
8.      Do not try to get more from them than what their potential is.
9.      Let them pursue the area of their interest and not the one which interests you.
1.  Appreciate and motivate them to do better but not beyond their capacity.             



Sunday, July 24, 2016

Preventing violence in students

There is growing concern among the people regarding the cases of violence and intolerance among the school going children. This seems to have been on rise in the recent past and our policy makers seem to have no clue about the same or they deliberately ignore that.  Their promptness can be seen when some case is reported in the newspaper, and the blame game starts but fades in the background of noise of some other incident.
The recent incident reported regarding a child of Std-I, who had a fight with II Std. child of a school and one of them succumbed to death as a consequence of the injuries sustained by him due to the fight, is alarming. They must be of age of 5-7 years and that kind of violence? But should it surprise us? Have we not been anticipating that to happen and if yes, what precautions & preventive measures have been taken?  One day or one week debate in the newspapers or the articles of the child psychologists is not going to be of much use but we must make sustained efforts for improving the life of our children.  These children are born innocent but this world makes them to behave in a manner which is condemned by the same world. A question is always asked after such incidents. Are the parents responsible for this or the schools?  I am sure no school would be teaching violence to the kids but the same is true for parents also because no parents would like his/her child to be violent or intolerant.  The real problem is that our children are expected to learn values without seeing values.  The societies’ role is also very important and media can plan such a big role but expecting everything from media is not fair.
I did mention in my previous articles that someone or some agency will have to take responsibility of these children and for this, to me,  schools and teachers are the ones who can make a lot of difference in their lives. There are issues on the part of parents also but the teachers should own the responsibility for providing congenial environment and make them learn values by which are bequeathed by teachers.
One suggestion given by many people is that the moral teaching should be done in the schools. {This is not new but the problem is that the same cannot be achieved by giving lectures}. The teacher would have to transform self to Guru who burns self to enlighten the path of children. The teachers should keep themselves away from the impact of the society or rather be capable of impacting the society through their influence on the children who will be their torch bearers in the future. When I began this article, I did not have clue of the shape of the article, but I realise that the role of teachers is most important. They will have to own the responsibility and ignore the financial status which affects almost the entire society. I do not say that financial safety is not important but then teachers can put a limit to how much is much enough.  They cannot place themselves in the race of the other people and forget the responsibility which is on their shoulders. The teachers will have also to act as the protective layer over the children so that menace of violence which we see all around us does not impact them. The parents can help the school & teachers by avoiding the exposure of impressionable minds to the violence being shown on TV channels of any other media specially the social media. They must follow the guideline and advisory issued before the start of such programme. For example, recently there was a lot of controversy about a film. The matter was settled in the High Court and the film was given Adult Certification which nobody less than 18 years can go to watch in the theatre. But as per the media reports, there were number of minors with the parents in almost all shows of that film exposing the kids to certain abuses, who in turn would get disturbed and some of them might pick those abuses and use in daily life. The teachers and parents cannot stop the TV serials aired which show the violence (verbal as well as physical) but they can ensure that our children are not exposed to them. The teachers will have to reach out to parents and do not react to any of the actions of the parents because for them, the welfare of children should be of prime importance.  My experience is that sometimes some parents might behave in a manner which may not be appropriate (this might be in the fit of anger due to something wrong been done to his/her child) but for this, the child may not necessarily be responsible, so the teachers should not react to such issues and always focus on the welfare of child. No action of the teachers should harm the child in any way. The parents also do not intend to disrespect the teachers but that just happens.  But yes, there is a request to the parents also, please do not always try to realise your dreams through your children. Let them enjoy their childhood in the fresh air (which is becoming polluted everyday) and not in the coaching centres or the tuition classes. Let the children explore the world by doing things themselves and commit mistakes because that will make their learning enduring.
Some teachers and schools might argue about why should they only be responsible for taking care of the behaviour of the children and not the parents and other agencies also?  This is true, but the fact is that the teachers have the power of transforming the children more than anybody else and also Guru is the one who shows the path not only to the children but also to the society.  Teachers’ understand the child psychology better and it can be of great help to them in times of crisis.  It has been proved that the children do have more faith in their teachers than anybody else. My intention of putting more onus on the teachers is not to relieve others (including parents) from their responsibility but to avoid shrugging the responsibility as has been the case in recent past.  So think positive and start working with enthusiasm and positive frame of mind.  I have some suggestions for parents and teachers;
·        The teachers must treat every child as an individual who gets influenced by the environment he/she lives in.
·        Try to understand them and take corrective & preventive measures.
·        Motivate the children to share their problems, if they have any and help them to come out of those problems.
·        Be the role model for them. It has been observed that teachers criticise their colleagues in front of the students or reach late to the class themselves.
·        The parents should avoid exposing their children to serials & movies showing violence etc.
·        They should avoid fighting with others in front of the children.
·        The parents are said to be the first teachers so they should also be the role model for the children.
·        Be the part of all their activities but also give them some space wherever required.   
·        The most important for them would be to talk to their children about the great personalities of the present and past and the hard work put in by them.
·        Work for the overall growth of the children (physical, psychological & emotional) and do not make them the machines for earning money.
·        The most important of all that parents & teachers must work in tandem so that children do not get confused.
·        Understanding the potential & attitude of the children is very important and after that help them to develop the same.
·        Do not make contradictory statements which will erode their faith in teachers/parents.
Let all teachers know that the good & positive things are not achieved easily but for that a lot of hard work and dedication is required. The teachers will have to unite with the child and prepare him/her to become strong to face all the challenges of life.
 


Friday, May 20, 2016

THE RIGHT WAY OF LEARNING


This has been observed that some students seem to be devoting less time towards their studies whereas others work very hard and spend a lot of time on their studies but still do better in their tests/ examination. Why is it so? There may be many reasons for this and one of them is the way one tries to learn. The learning is helped by the memory of an individual. Somebody has rightly mentioned that memory is the mother of wisdom. Memory can be of two types, short term memory and long term memory. Now an individual has to understand that what is required for short term duration and what is required for term duration called as enduring learning. Now the question is, does learning mean repetitive practice or does it mean some reinforcement? Does learning have the power to transform us? What kind of learning style should be adopted to make it powerful and long lasting? To find answers to these questions is not easy however also not impossible. Our generation has moved from Industrial Age to the Age of Knowledge through Information Age. Hence, the ability to obtain, assimilate and apply will also become a SKILL in the years to come. The age old theory of repeated practice does not exist anymore.
Rather, the intelligentsia will have to leave it at a point of time as a myth.  Mind mapping and re-reading will make you less competent giving it an illusion of competence.
The athlete, for example memories a huge number of random words/numbers in a short amount of time and to add to their capacities; they can even regurgitate the memorized words in reversed order. But, one will have to remember the concept of spaced repetition (Practice); which certainly means the same exercise, if has to be consolidated in memory, should be repeated in INTERVALS! Continuous repetition or repetition in smaller gaps will not yield promising results however; the spatial memory will work efficiently with an intuitive and instantaneous indicator.  The quick repetition may make one feel to have learnt very well but that is short term learning and tested at some later stage may not be remembered by the individuals. A research was conducted on bean balls which I write for my readers as basket ball. Two groups of players were asked to score the basket from a fixed distance of 10 feet and they practiced for two three days. The other group was also asked to score the basket but from two different distances of 8 feet and 10 feet for the same duration. During the practice the researcher felt that the ones throwing from the fixed distance were doing better than the other group. The two groups were tested after about two weeks but the both groups were asked to score from the 10 feet distance. Many people will expect the first group to have performed better than the second one but the result was opposite. The group which has practiced from a distance could adjust better than the one which threw the ball from the same distance.
 In the book, Make It Stick written by Brown, Henry and Mark, the authors explain the idea of ‘embrace difficulties’, describing difficult learning as desirable due to the idea that the brain encodes & consolidates learning when learning is ‘effortful’, in case of Mia, who learns a safe and secure parachute landing. The book also outlines the fact of making the learning ‘Stick’ by adopting active learning methods of retrieval, elaboration, reflection and generative learning.
When we talk of feedback which is a very important tool in the process of learning then we must look at the spacing of the assessment and the feedback. While in a learning spree, feedback is pivotal, nevertheless, timing has to be appropriate. If an immediate feedback is given, it does not produce a learning which is long lasting as the reflection by the individual is missed. On the contrary, if the feedback is also spaced rationally, there can be some amount of learning taking place. If a child has been asked to solve a mathematics problem and the teacher gives the feedback immediately, in that the child will not get an opportunity to think self and will follow the advice of the teacher. For the time being he might have understood it but in long run he may not be able to recall and use this learning when required. Now most of the books have practice exercises at the end of the chapter. Most of the problems of the similar type are put together. The students are able to repeat the knowledge and solve them at one go before going to another set of problems. At that time the child might have felt as having mastered the problems but when the examination for the entire syllabus is conducted such children face problems. This is the reason some students who do well in Monday test are not able to that well in the term examinations. So the lesson drawn is that practice and feedback are important but they should be spaced. There are though many internal and external factors affecting an individual’s learning, like lack of confidence, support, resources etc; but these barriers have to be bridged through the rightful learning practices. From being the driver of your own car to being the pilot of an aircraft – the engine, instruments, illusions etc are all yours. Hence, the safety!
Memory is a reconstruction from ‘chunks’ to ‘blocks’ to ‘larger components’ and by focusing on retrieval, it can produce exceptionally good results. Even by ‘Generative Learning’, wherein, students are given a problem to solve before being taught the concept thereby, making the learning stronger as more time and energy goes into solving it.
Thus highlighting and rereading are a ‘passe’ or in other words ‘easier’ is not better but as learning is a never ending process, the knowledge gurus’ are always of the opinion to foster conceptual learning that solidifies and consolidates. Another concept dealt by the authors in this book is that easier is not better. Anything which is learnt without much of efforts may not stay with the individual for long so always try to find solution self before asking for the same from the experts and teachers. This little difficulty will make learning enjoyable (once that happens) and will be useful when required in unknown situations. When a child learns to ride a bicycle he/she struggles balancing the same. He/she falls and rises and in the process learns self how to balance the cycle and how to ride it. If he/she would have been provided help by mother/father at every fall or rise then the child would have definitely taken longer to learn and also would not have been very confident. The same applies in academic learning situation also. So we as teachers must evolve methods which enhance the memory of the children which can be recalled by them when required.

I need your feedback and input to make my learning more effective and another article will appear in this blog on this topic some time later. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Education Management and School Leadership


The concept of educational leadership has emerged with the rapidly changing dynamics of education in schools. Schools that were just confined to textbook teaching, awarding degrees or certificates have turned into leading organizations and knowledge warehouses. The understanding that the quality of leadership makes a notable difference to the school, has made educational management and school leadership synonymous to each other. Trained and dedicated teachers are the building blocks of a school nevertheless effective leadership is the axis of quality education. An effective school can nurture growth, learning, creativity, optimism, curiosity, conscientiousness etc., owing to the consistency of a positive and assertive leader. This leader does not only change variables inside the school but also outside, in the society, combating the prevalent challenges supporting the widespread belief of society being congruent to school. Effective school leadership can manage and tackle all the emerging issues. To a great extend, the reformatory approach accepted by the leader chaperons the change.
While earning a degree in the field of education, a teacher is imparted subject specific knowledge. Little do the designers of the curriculum realize that the need is related to the interaction and interpersonal relations with society, parents, students, and all other stakeholders, notwithstanding the fact to include life skills to impart and equip the students with it. Now the question of an ideal school arises, along with effective learning practices. The Gareth Morgan1 model of school organization (though apparently obsolete) still exists with a few reforms. Out of the three models i.e. Bureaucracy, Social Systems or Community, no model can be claimed to be the best one. Bureaucratic organizations transfer authority from one person to a committee, maintain extensive records of students academic work and behavior, while exercising external control over classroom teaching. Values that sweep through this model are efficiency, controlled supervision and regularity.  As there is a defined hierarchy hence there are clear and uniform methods. The Systems Theory practices the concept of feedback for self regulation and yielding a product. Systems theory thrives on the value of cooperation with a human touch of collegiability and flexible roles. The third and the most important model is Communitarian, based on the values of care and concern for others well being. Every member of the school is approachable regardless of status. 
Leading is an active process and leadership is multidimensional. Potential leaders recognize, analyse, assess and then act. However, this carrot needs to be nibbled fast as minutes spent planning can save hours while execution. The shift in the role from a ‘boss’ to ‘coach’ fulfils the present leadership style. Before discussing about the leadership styles and roles, it is imperative to build a leader within by initiating, coordinating, communicating ,recognizing, resolving and most importantly building a team. The study of leadership and group dynamics states about a “Team Development Wheel’’, which has four stages. Stage one refers to “forming” indicating polite, impersonal, watchful and guarded behaviour. The second stage shifts to “storming’’ denoting difficulties, opting out, controlling conflicts and confronting people. “Norming” is the third stage moving towards getting organized , developing skills, establishing procedures, giving feedbacks and confronting issues. The fourth and the final dimension is “performing”, relating to resourcefulness, flexibility, being close and supportive.
In fact, from a veteran to a novice, leadership styles may differ as needed. The leader will have to be justified in selecting the style. In situational leadership, it is known as Directive behaviour and Supportive behaviour. Directive behaviour concentrates on ‘what’ and ‘how’. It involves telling and showing people what to do, how to do it, when to do it, monitoring performance and providing feedbacks on results. It also develops confidence in others. Supportive behaviour focuses on developing an individual’s commitment and initiative. It develops positive attitude towards the goal or task. Listening, facilitating, self reliant problem solving, encouraging and involving others in decision making are a few examples of this style. By placing these two styles on a horizontal and vertical axis, four combinations of leadership styles emerge from it. Style one ‘Directing’ consists of High Directive behavior and Low Supportive behavior. In this, the leader provides specific instruction about achieving goals. He supervises closely, the individual’s performance and by defining, teaching, showing, planning, prioritizing and monitoring, the task is accomplished. The feedback further reinvents the goal. The second style stated is High Directive and High Supportive, also termed as ‘Coaching’. Here, the leader explains decisions, solicits suggestions from the individuals, praises progress and continues to direct task accomplishment. Though individual inputs are considered but the final say is of the leader. By sharing feedback, encouraging and redirecting, the task is taken to the next level. According to Leadership and Group Dynamics2, the third style is ‘Supporting’, Low Directive and High Supportive category, in which the leader reassures, collaborates and facilitates self reliant problem solving. Style four is ‘Delegating’, which is a combination of Low Directive and Low Supportive behaviour. The leader empowers the individual to act independently and provides the appropriate resources to get the job done. Here, most of the decisions are made by the individual. In all four styles, the leader, clarifies expectations and goals, observes and monitors performance and gives feedback.
Giving and receiving feedback is an art of communication through which the future course of action is determined lest it should be offered in a manner that is acceptable and useful to the receiver. An atmosphere of cooperation in a collective undertaking can make the feedbacks productive. When providing feedback, it should be descriptive and non judgmental. Also it is observed that it should be provided close to the event so as to maintain its preciseness. Giving feedback is meaningful only when that person is willing to relate to it and change the phenomena. Formulating feedback in specific rather than general terms, will give optimum results. On the other hand, while receiving feedback, the subject can help the observers by encouraging them to express their observations. The observers’ comments are best understood by linking them to specific events that occurred. Also mutual understanding and cooperation can help construct a healthy learning environment.  
Principal as a leader has to play myriad roles. This might sound exigent however the accountability defines the position. Beginning from transportation, health, faculty, finance to capacity building, public relations or community service, the principal is the link, balancing between the staff and the management, in possession of massive responsibilities. This leadership is educational leadership, meaning thereby, working through and with individuals. So, the school administrator is an initiator, who works laboriously to accomplish simple and complex tasks. He presents well organized plans and is someone who is self-motivated, perceiving details in their proper perspective and organizing them into meaningful plans and programmes.  He is a recognizer, who identifies the strengths and weakness of the subordinates and pushes them to prove their potential.  He takes an insightful approach while dealing with his team. By recognizing them, their problems, thinking, bent and ability, he builds a successful team and never stirs up the hornet’s nest.  Facilitative leadership also comes into play here. The care, concern and helpful nature enables him to gain trust of his team, which helps the team both professionally and personally. As a facilitator, he creates a permissive, accepting and understanding environment in the school by sorting out the problems faced by staff members, ranging from diagnosis to prognosis.    
Considering the educational programmes and evaluation practices, Bloom stated: “The main purpose of formative evaluation is to determine the degree of mastery of a given learning task and to pinpoint the part of the task not mastered. Summative evaluation is directed towards a much more general assessment of the degree to which the larger outcomes have been attained.” Hence, the principal becomes an instructional leader. Finding facts, gathering data, interpreting, generating instructions for guidance and immaculate working ascertains progress. Looking at communication and its various facets, it becomes the greatest source to convince. The leader should be an effective speaker, one who can do impressive public speaking to turn the chimes into his favour. Besides, conveying opinions candidly casts an imprint in the mind of the public that the school is in safe hands. Overcoming the conjectures and hearsays, the school administrator is also a coordinator. He takes the responsibility to coordinate with all of the human resource in school. He encourages people to participate in policy development and planning. The concept of ‘loose’ supervision could be a better idea as he may be aware of the happenings around but does not constantly impose his will in everything. The leader is a financial leader also, with the basic responsibility of reviewing the accounts. As each bill passes through his palm, he needs to possess an eye of accuracy to keep the expenses under control, as, if the finances go wrong, the repercussions are disastrous. Most well defined role of the principal is being a curriculum leader. Though the senior school curriculum is well defined and well designed, yet the leader has to ensure the effective implementation of the same by constant supervision and follow-up. To make certain, the levels of learning to rise, he must adopt innovative pedagogical styles and evaluation methods. Being a social leader is the need of the hour for a school administrator. Establishing the congruence between man and society by stating that society is to man what man is to society, is true here. Social obligations are to be fulfilled to a great extend as the leader is quite dependable, consistent in his disposition and courteous. Social interaction will expand his horizons of understanding the prevailing status of society. Consequently, understanding the child psychology, which makes him a counsellor. He can judge countenances and differentiate between feign and genuine. He can guide and motivate students for being high achievers. Ethical leadership is vital for society’s survival. Receding values in youngsters make it more essential to be taught in the school. The leader through his talks in the assembly or group interactions can trickle the moral values in the nascent minds. Achievement leadership is another jewel in the crown of a leader. Setting challenging goals, both in work and in self-improvement (sometimes together) is it’s descriptor. High standards are demonstrated and expected. The leader shows faith in the capabilities of the follower to succeed. This approach is best when the task is complex. Last but the most important of all is Visionary leadership1. Of course, if the leader has a strong vision, democratic style of leadership will work well to generate fresh ideas to execute that vision. To explore the potential forces or to restructure effectiveness, astute leadership quality will always be the discernible force. Be it institutional planning, competency enrichment or translation of vision into mission, an outstanding leader will never lose the sight of his purpose. Explicit knowledge of Mission and Vision will ensure its effective fulfillment. Visionary leader motivates people by making clear to them how work fits into a larger vision for the organization, explaining them all the standards to achieve it and move towards the grand mission. If the authority shares it strongly with the team, associate, affiliate and assign tasks to the members by identifying their strengths, vision can be converted into mission. Faculty meetings play an imperative role in the accomplishment of mission. They are concerned directly with feedback, whether positive or negative, their professional growth and need along with skilful orientation. Solutions to specific problems are deliberated and discussed. If the agenda of meeting is given prior, the faculty can come prepared, eliminating the unnecessary and focusing on the vital factors of reflection. The administrator, in this situation can adopt a coaching, democratic or authoritative style of leadership. A leader being fluid and lucid can fit into any style. They are exquisitely sensitive to the impact they are having on others and seamlessly adjust their style to get best results, highlighting the factor of emotional intelligence.
In a nutshell, the leader being an alchemist can foster transitions with his conscious, consistent and conditioned manifestations. Association with a higher moral position is motivating and will result in people following a leader who promotes this. Continuous self development, commitment, competency and cooperation are the key words of successful school leadership and education management.
References:-

1.     School administration and management by PVV Satya Narayana
2.     Leadership that gets results- Harvard Business Review



Wednesday, March 9, 2016

How much intolerance


There is lot of discussion and debate on the topic of intolerance in the society and at times some people make us realise as this is something new which has come up in the last few years. The fact is that this was there in the past and might not be eradicated completely and so will exist in future also. Before we get into the details, let us try to understand the meaning of tolerance. The idea of accommodating the views and thoughts of all the people around us who may not think the same way as we do may be the laymen understanding of tolerance. Those who think the opposite or contrary to this will be treated as intolerant. Another issue to be pondered upon is that the ones who are in majority or power, do they need to be more tolerant as the others want them to be? In our society this is visible in almost all situations and I would like to cite some examples of the same. If a person driving a car gets involved in an accident with a motorcycle rider, in that case mostly the car driver is blamed for the accident though the fault may be entirely on the part of bike rider. Similarly, if the accident involves bike rider and cycle rider, then bike rider is usually blamed for it. If it happens between cycle rider and pedestrian, then the cycle rider is blamed while the fault may be of the pedestrian. Similarly, in the classroom if something goes wrong between the teacher and the student, then mostly the blame comes on the teacher though he/she may not be guilty at all and the list of such examples is endless.
The question here is: should the perception dominate the reality and the cases be generalised? We belong to the country where the parents and teachers were remembered ahead of God. The sons and daughters sacrificed their everything on the command of their parents. Here we have many examples starting from Lord Ram to Krishna, Jesus Christ to Bhishma Pitamah to Samrat  Ashok to Maharan Pratap to Gandhiji to Shivaji to APJ Abdul Kalam and  again the list is endless. The same has been the relationship between the teacher and the taught. Relationship between Guru Vashistha and the sons of Raja Dashrath, between Guru Dronocharya and Arjun are the eternal examples followed by many till the last few decades and are still existing in our societies where the students follow their teachers and succeed in their life. You might get surprised by my mention of these examples here and might question about the relevance in context of the topic being discussed. But there is very important reason for the same. We all agree and accept that the change is law of nature and nobody can stop it. True, but does the change mean doing away completely with the previously followed traditions? Or do we need to change only the branches keeping the roots intact so that the improvement is affected for the good of the human race and the nature both? This is true that no society has been perfect because even during Dwapur and Trerta era, there were problems of having people with evil design and thoughts. Every society has some set norms to be followed by all the citizens. In today`s time every country has its own constitution and the same applies to both government and the citizens. In our country, this is considered equivalent to Gita and Bible. As mentioned before that changes can be made but the soul must not be disturbed and the same has happened with our constitution also in the form of many amendments incorporated in the last sixty six years. Everything was going fine with us but all of sudden in the name of development, globalisation and modernisation, things took turn and fast changes in the thoughts of the people emerged and the same was given impetus by the marketing strategy of the multinationals whose sole purpose was to earn money. All our traditions have been hit by them. The festivals as on today have become market driven and in the process the values got lost somewhere. Initially, the people were enjoying their rights with a lot of responsibility but now the things have got into reverse gear and the people are trying to enjoy their right with a lot of might and the word responsibility is lost in the debate of intolerance. I am to ask a question here, whether asking to follow traditions and the constitution of the country intolerance? If the father of a child asks him/her to come home in time and study and eat healthy food, is it intolerance? If the teacher asks the students to study and learn and follow rules, is it intolerance? We began with some issues where the parents and teachers allowed their children to put forward their views and that was the right thing done but this did not stop and now the situation has become alarming where the children have started questioning everything the parents and teachers ask them to do. This may not be the universal truth but a general perception. The government also has contributed in this by implementing certain laws in reaction to some unfortunate incident. I have always been for the welfare of the children and all possible positive and safe environs for them in the school and at home but that does not mean that our children should not be taught respect for the parents, teachers and the constitution. What happened in one of the prestigious universities in the name of “freedom of speech” seems to be the result of ignoring the things in the past. The saying- what shall you sow, so shall you reap, is proving to be true. If a child disrespects the parents or the teachers and he/she is told that it is immoral, is it intolerance? This still can be ignored and pardoned in case of a small child but can the grown ups who form government be allowed to indulge in such uncanny debate of tolerance-intolerance. The fact is that intolerance in some cases is necessary. We should not tolerate the onslaught and destruction of nature. We should also not tolerate the attack on the culture of this great nation. We should not tolerate the insult to our forefathers who gave their life for the freedom of this county. They wanted a free country where all could live in peace and harmony but did not give their life for those who want to divide this country into pieces. Tolerance is a two way gesture and not one way signal. One cannot keep abusing others and expect no reaction ever because there is limit of everything because even the most elastic body breaks if stretched beyond elastic limit. If this debate is to be reached some conclusive stage then we must ensure that mere power, money and personal vendetta should not overpower the welfare of the society and the nation. Let the government make study of constitution mandatory in all schools and the colleges so that the children and the youth remain well aware of what they are supposed to do for our country and not only the responsibility of the nation towards the citizens. One more request that even in this debate where we do not agree with each other on any issue (this is natural and must be appreciated) but the language used should be such that it is tolerated by all. Dear parents and teachers, our constitution needs to be followed. We feel hurt when the PMs of the country are called names by the people in power and this becomes tolerable.