Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Constantly changing educational policies

It is a popular notion that Education is a process through which knowledge, learning, skills and understanding is passed on to the next generation through interaction, sharing and teaching. It is not innate but acquired. In our country, education is passing through a transitional phase and all stake holders are trying to cope with the same.  It started with the introduction of CCE by CBSE and since then many more steps have been taken to make things easy for the children and those aspiring to become engineers and doctors. I would like to emphasize on the word used ‘easy’ because it is very important for us to understand this and respond accordingly. Our great philosophers and educationists defined education in their own ways but one thing common is that this is the manifestation of the potential already possessed by an individual. As we know that all seeds grow into plants or trees if they are provided with a proper and conducive environment. They can grow anywhere whether it be a cultivable land or a difficult terrain. So the feeling which the children and the other people associated with them, are getting, is worth deliberation. Education should help an individual to know and understand self and that will enable him to understand others better. Unfortunately, last two to three decades have seen education to be equivalent to a piece of paper called - degree and this degree has been associated with the jobs and packages. However, the understanding is that education means that a person should get a lucrative job and that really is the cause of stress among the students which is not the reason. Three four decades earlier, the students were more comfortable with their studies than now despite the fact that the method of teaching was not as innovative as it is today. The children used to study to learn and not necessarily to get a particular percentage of marks. Marks were important but not everything, as these have become in the last few years and the race of the marks began with so called reformatory and innovative steps taken by CBSE when the pattern of the question paper was such that all children should be able to solve it. With this the number of the students getting more than eighty or ninety percent went up sharply and we presumed that the students became intelligent overnight. The students studying in other boards felt as if they were inferior or less intelligent than the children studying in CBSE affiliated schools. That forced some other boards also to follow the pattern adopted by the central board and thus began the race of marks. Our thinkers and well wishers of the children further thought of making things easier for the children and the syllabus was the next thing to be revamped and so was the pattern of the assessment and evaluation. More emphasis was given to examination reforms than the real teaching learning process in the class rooms. The quality of teachers’ training schools and the university was not paid that much attention as required and the result was that the number of knowledgeable and dedicated teachers started reducing though the number of qualified teachers was all right. The meaning by the qualified teachers here is the ones who possess the teaching degree like B.Ed etc. When the environment of the teaching learning did not get proper attention and the race of more marks was rising, the number of cases experiencing stress among the students was also pacing-up; then CBSE again took a step to do away with the board examination for class X. We can debate on this separately but what I want to convey is that the steps which have been taken in the name of change and reforms must be assessed whether these really have helped the quality of education to improve or not. The variants that are added in the curriculum, are they really implemented keeping in mind the aims and objectives or they are a mere eye-wash? A lot of debate and discussion was held for the evaluation in formative assessment, but there is still some ambiguity regarding the same.
I shared it earlier also that the future growth and prosperity of any nation depends upon the quality of education system. Making things easy may not necessarily prepare our young generation for the future struggles and they may be deprived of a necessary quality and trait of working hard. I always assert that education should facilitate an individual to face the challenges of life in present and the future. We have to understand that nobody has succeeded without hard work, be it the field of sports, politics, teaching or any other profession. Examples can be stated from the unit of a family and this would be very evident that those who work hard are more likely to succeed than the others. What I want to put across here is that the children should not be made to understand that anybody can be successful without hard work and without facing hurdles and failures. The word failures should not be understood as something negative as it is done now-a-days because even failures teach us much more than thought and at times more than what is learnt by success.   
Indian education system since times immemorial has been the bedrock of the society. The kind of literature and great thinkers this country has given is as good as any other nation but on the way our system was tempered by those very people who ruled us and our mindset was changed as they wanted. Our Gurukuls are still remembered by all and the kind of the practical education the students got there can be realized by going through the examples in our history. In all cases it will be found that the students of that era were very hard working and fully devoted to their Gurus. The Gurus were also equally devoted to their students irrespective of the social and financial background they were from. This devotion was the real essence of the quality learning which used to take place in those days. The scenario in the last few decades has changed and now education has become more like a commodity rather than a pious attainment of knowledge. Those who can afford to pay high fee send their children to air conditioned school not necessarily for quality education but for status and class. And to add wood to the fuel, is the mushrooming of coaching centers which concentrate more on propaganda through a handful of achievers. Notwithstanding the fact that the long term effect of education must be to fill India’s talent void, by development, sustainable income, empowerment, economic prosperity by alleviating poverty, creating a safe and secure environment etc., along with ethics, morals, equality and respect. Though the right to education act has taken care of this problem up to some extent but the mindset of the people must be changed first and for that education should not be allowed to become a tool to get jobs only. The children of our county are very hard working and have potential to face any challenge and we should allow them to exploit this potential to the optimum. Education should be such that it makes a person brave to fight against the evils and stand for the good. The kind of problems faced by the society today is the result of not so good education of these people who get influenced and involved in negative things.
The schools can play a very crucial role in this case. Whatever may be the system but the schools should not forget that they have the major responsibility to make the children more sensitive towards the issues related to equality in the society. The teachers must play more active and positive role for giving the children opportunity to grow in the right and required manner. I know this may not be an easy task for them but the nation needs that sacrifice and hard work from the schools and the teachers and all expect them to take this challenge. We should learn from the mistakes committed by other nations in the name of making everything child friendly. Rather humanity friendly policies must be devised and the children should be a part of the same. The habit of declaring holidays on small pretexts of a little bit of heat or cold, does not make somebody sympathetic towards children. The people have started calling it a popular gimmick. Not unless an exposure to difficult situations is given, can our children become hard task masters. Swami Vivekananda’s life is an accurate example here. Severed by time and situations, how he managed to sail through all odds of life. This is what is, the need of the hour. Salute also to all the heroes guarding our boundaries in all the adversities. This can certainly be identified as real courage, bravery and sacrifice. I should not be misunderstood for writing all this because I am also equally worried about the health of the children but for that, there are other measures also. The children should be given nutritious food and they should have proper physical activities so that they can fight the disease caused due to the change of season etc. If we are so much concerned about the children then there should be some age limit below which the parents should not be allowed to send their children even to the play schools. No child should be exposed to formal schooling before the age of five or six. Though this may not be the practical solution but because of the nuclear families and both parents working, there is no alternative, hence, we should have the concept of neighbourhood schools for which the government will have to take immediate steps to improve the quality of the existing schools thereby adding many thousands of them as early as possible.
In the end, I would like to say that we should use urgent and pressing methods for the matters related to education and introduce interdisciplinary programmes to teach our students to sustain themselves ethically and morally, in the prevailing scenario. Also we must have long term policies keeping in mind the requirement of the present and the future. The reforms and innovations should be an ongoing process and not one time solution of these problems. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Time to awake and arise

The end of the year 2012 left all the countrymen troubled and concerned about the kind of society we witness in the present age. The heinous crime and foolish act on the part of a few mentally imbalanced people has shaken the faith of the people in the systems and when I say systems I mean all the agencies responsible for the welfare of all the citizens of the country. Though apparently it appears as to have touched the right chord in the rampant acts of corruption, particularly the crime against women but the reality speaks something else. The brave girl fought for her life and the people in position tried to fight for their own sake. My intention is not to cast shadow on the thinking of all but by and large people took it as an opportunity to be in limelight by making tall statements as and when they got an opportunity. The public feels helpless and the faith in the people in power and position is getting eroded fast. Our respected elected representatives are very good in diverting the attention of the people from the real issues and same appears to be happening now also. The way the whole issue has been dealt with leaves a lot to think and make corrections. The revelations made by the sole eyewitness must stir us all. What he told is the testimony to what happens every day on the streets and the homes and we do not bother to pay attention to that as this is not our concern. This has been reported many a times that many deaths and crimes can be stopped if the general public plays more active role than they usually do. The assailants had thrown the two victims on the road and they kept lying there for hours and if somebody had helped them in the dire need, probably the brave girl could have been saved. The police are giving its own version and trying to prove that they did their best but the issue is not one case or incident. The home secretary and the commissioner of police had a press conference a few days back and indulged in self-praise as if they had done something extraordinary. The police needs to introspect its working style and behavior with the public. This may not be liked by some but this is also true that it is difficult to lodge an FIR for an ordinary person and in this case also the women find it very difficult. The police reforms which are debated and discussed a lot but have never been seriously thought to be implemented should be brought in at the earliest. The police personnel may have their own issues and problems which should also be addressed by the people in government. The police personnel will have to amend their working style and attitude towards aam aadmi so that they do not feel disturbed and worried while going to a police station. Also the general public should be made to believe that if they help somebody injured on the road and take the person to the hospital then the concerned person would not face any inconvenience in the name of evidence etc. The law plays its own role nevertheless the acts on the part of the police and the aam aadmi is of paramount importance and that should be given all due importance in the perspective.
Even after so much of awareness and public outcry, the incidents of abuse against the women are taking place almost every day. On the one hand, there are people fighting for the justice to the brave girl (there are men in majority) and on the other hand, quite ironically people from the same gender are involved in the atrocities against the women. It means there is no fear in the mind of such people or they have no control over their emotions or desires. This makes many of us believe that there is an urgent need to address this issue from the society`s point of view. This is a fact that the male child is still given more importance than the female child at homes and in the families. We have not yet overcome the mentality of the name of the family to be carried forward by the male child only and the girl is still considered to be Praya Dhan. Not only this, the girls are still treated below the level of the boys and this is more so in the families in the villages and small towns but even the metros are also not untouched by such thinking. If we have to curb the crimes against the women, then the treatment at homes, in schools and the public places should be such that both the genders are given equal importance. The girls and the boys should be treated at par and all male members must be taught to respect the ladies as they would like their sisters and the mother to be treated by others. We must understand that the society in which women are not treated with respect, that society cannot survive for long and there will be no happiness around. It was very disturbing to read somewhere when a girl of age twenty says that it would have been better if she was killed even before she came to this dirty world, in spite of letting grow to face such crime, humiliation and dead feeling for life. The parents and other family members have also to play a significant role in changing the mindset of the male members so that the serious problem being faced by the society is addressed successfully. If we treat the children at home in a manner favoring our say so that there is no feeling disparity, then many of the problems will be taken care of.
This is one of those problems which have existed in the society for quite long but now the time has come that we change it and the women of our society get the place and position that they deserve. The people in responsible position should refrain of making wild statement and prove that the women themselves are responsible for the heinous crimes against them. This is absolutely absurd and such statements expressing male chauvinism should be condemned by all. Men should not pass the bug on to the women for their own misdeeds and wrong doings. The women of this country have proved self to be the one more mature, more responsible and they are the ones because of whom this society exists and progresses. The media should also censor all such statements which are derogatory to the image of the women. I would like to suggest and advise all concerned that they should not try to justify the acts of nonsense towards the women by giving lame excuses or reasons but try to awake the inner intelligence of male members that the female members are to be respected and thanked for all good they do for the society. The moment we would start respecting them then most of the problems against them will automatically recede. In this regard the parents of the children can help tremendously if they treat both the genders equally. The government and the public should work in tandem and find the solution to this problem at the earliest so that the Indians can live with their heads held high in the world society. The law makers, Police and the society should develop faith and help each other than seeing the other with suspicion. An equally important role can be played by the schools, to sensitize the youth about such issues. Though there are various programmes, like ‘Adult Education Programme’, ‘Growing up with Dignity’ etc; started by different organizations, yet the need of the hour is to train the youth to conquer passion, thus preventing wastage of energy in the direction of pleasurable desires, that may lead to undesirable consequences. Even all the religions teach us the same philosophy. The onus of this change is also onto teachers, to understand, discuss, talk and counsel the present day students to respect all the creations of god, for a ubiquitous uprising.
In the end I pray that the departed soul rest in peace and justice is done to other such cases which do not attract such public and media attention and also pray that the year 2013 will see better, safer and happier life for all especially the our mothers, sisters and daughters.     

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Nurturing respect

The two incidents which happened in the last few days have slackened all the people across the world. The first was in the most developed nation of the world and the second in the most developing nation. These incidents force us to believe that East and West are no different in terms of the end result and acts of the citizens of the country. The person who killed twenty innocent children of age six to seven years and six seven adults ended his life also. The six accused that outraged the modesty of a young girl are considered to have indulged in the most heinous crimes against mankind. This innocent young girl succumbed to death recently. But shall we remember the same after a few days or months? Remember the case of Jessica Lal, Ruchika Girhotra, Kavita Choudhary and there were many more which perhaps are not in the near memory. Today there may be a wave of concern and protest but are we really alarmed about the degradation of the societal values? Do we really want to take some corrective measures so that such incidents are not repeated? I agree with those who say that law only cannot help us but the mindset of the society and the social and family fabric can.  The background of the two acts may be different but one thing is for sure that man is heading towards selfishness and loneliness. In the last decade or so even in our country more emphasis is being given to individual freedom and not the collective responsibility. The words ‘we’ and ‘us ’have been very conveniently replaced by ‘I’ and ‘me’, which is a dangerous trend. Earlier those who spoke or wrote against such trend were called autocrats who were against freedom and democracy. The results of being selfish are very evident to all but there are still some who want to keep their eyes closed. We have to think as a society and for the well being of all because we cannot survive alone in this world which is full for challenge nevertheless it is full of enormous happiness and positive energy.
Those who spoke for the joint family system were right because people used to learn the values of life through the indirect learning done in the family only. I know the habit of sharing and caring was developed without being taught by anybody when we lived together in the same house with many members of the family . I do not say that other family system does not have any advantage but the issue is the consequences of the same. The biggest problem for anyone can be the loneliness and that is the reason we can witness an increase in the number of old age homes. The new trend is that even those old parents are also moving into old age homes whose children try to provide them all comforts but their company. Though I do not want to be seen as having any gender bias but when we analyze the whole scenario, most of the heinous acts were committed by the male members. Why is it so? Is it because women are weaker than the men or it is the way we bring up our male children?  Don’t we unknowingly give a feeling of being more liberal towards our male children? I think this is true and one of the major reasons of the problems faced by the society. We have to pay attention towards this and bring-up and prepare both boys and girls equally well to face the challenges in the life.
The other aspect important to be mentioned in this context is to understand the difference between ‘of my interest’ and ‘in my interest’. Most of the time we encourage the children to pursue the idea of my interest without giving much thought to whether it is in my interest or not. We should also understand that all those things of my interest may not be in my interest so an individual should be wise enough to balance between the two. When the parents advise the kids about certain things which may not be of their interest but this is very much possible that these may be in their (children) interest. The children must be made aware that they have to learn the lesson of co-existence. The advice of the parents and the teachers is not to be ignored as the interference in the life of a child but necessary input for a better growth of the thoughts and the personality. The lesson of respect and love towards other is very important. The change and development does not mean to get away from our traditions and values but modify them in a manner which helps all and not a few only.
The personality development should not be uni-directional but multifaceted which should include the positive thoughts, love, respect, care and share and most importantly to be sensitive towards the feelings and space of others. The people involved in the two incidents I mentioned above seemed to have grown in an environment which would not have given them opportunity to learn better behavior. The young man who committed the crime in USA seemed to be from good financial background whereas the ones involved in Delhi crime are from economically poor background. What does it mean? This means that financial background may not necessarily be the reason behind such incidents but the manner in which the children have grown. The mother of the man in USA was educated and a teacher, while the parents of the people in Delhi were not educated. That is why many people say that we should redefine the meaning of education and the same should not be considered to be synonymous with degrees and jobs. We have to think beyond such considerations and see the crime in its totality. What is the solution?
I can confidently say that no one person or a group of people can find the solution of this problem. We should openly debate the same and reach to a conclusion. Also there cannot be one capsule solution for the same but this will be an ongoing process to sensitize all concerned. As a teacher and father, I feel we have to give space to our children but at the same time we should always be available to them for any advice or guidance. I strongly feel that intelligence and experience both are equally important and the parents and the teachers have more experience, so they should be paid adequate attention to. Leaving the children completely to themselves will not serve the desired purpose of curbing such negative incidents. We must try that the young minds learn appreciating others also. They should not be encouraged to achieve success at the cost of others by wrong means. I know this might appear to be a lecture but I am also equally disturbed because of such incidents as many other people are and that is why I request all to think about it seriously because today it is somebody’s daughter or son and tomorrow it may be ours also. So our responsibility is for all and if we do that we shall be taken care of automatically. Let us pray to almighty that such incidents are not repeated and strict laws are made to punish people who are unethical and the twenty children who lost their lives because of the insanity of one individual do not feel betrayed if such incidents are allowed to reoccur.