Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Do incentives motivate - In Games and Sports?

In India, 29th August, is celebrated as National Sports Day in the memory of  Maj. Dhyan Chand, who was born on this day in the year 1905 in Allahabad, UP. I am really keen to state a few things about him.  Maj. Dhyan Chand had two brothers, Shri Mool Singh Ji & Shri Roop Singh Ji (who also became an excellent Hockey player).  He joined Indian Army at the age of 16.  There is a belief that his name was changed from Dhyan Singh to Dhyan Chand because he used to practice in the night when the moon would appear which was after his duty hours (In the earlier days nobody knew that he was good in Hockey, hence no excuse for the practice during duty hours).  As the Hindi meaning of Moon is ‘Chand’ hence he was called by his friends as Dhyan Chand. He retired from the army as the Major and his promotions were mainly due to his extra ordinary skills of the game of Hockey. It would not be an exaggeration to state that in those days and even today Hockey is synonymous to the name Dhyan Chand.  He represented India in Olympics and won Gold Medal in 1928, 1932 & 1936. We salute this man who brought glory to this game & India and was a force to reckon with in Hockey in those days. If we talk about present, this particular game has not been followed and played by many. The performance of Indian Hockey Team in recent times and particularly in Rio Olympics though was satisfactory, but they needed to learn something from the wizard like Maj. Dhyan Chand.  Not only Hockey, there is a lot of criticism regarding performance of our players in almost all the games except a very few like Badminton, Shooting etc. There was a lot of hype before the players and officials accompanying them left for Brazil but as the game progressed there was disappointment all round and as usually happens in democratic India, people started finding faults in every other person and organisation. This country is moving fast in the art of criticising after the event and now our PM has also announced the formation of a task force which will suggest the ways so that the performance of our players improves in the upcoming 2020, 2024 & 2028 Olympics. This probably has satisfied all intellectuals who discuss aggressively on TV Channels & in their drawing rooms. But I think, if we wish to ensure the performance of our players then they should be caught ‘young’ and for this the children at school level should be identified and encouraged. This should be done in both types of schools, Government as well as private.  The mindset of the public and the parents should also change towards games & sports and it should not be seen as the area of those who are not able to do anything else.  We should encourage those children who are good at any of the games.   These children should be given some scholarships at that age also and not shower the prizes and money only after they win any medal for the Country. If we see, in the last few Olympics or the World Games, the efforts of individuals have yielded some results and India could have its name in medal tally of Olympics from 1996 onwards. It may not be great to mention that there was no medal won by any of our players in three consecutive Olympics [1984 LA, (USA), 1988 South Korea and 1992 Barcelona (Spain)].  Before that in 1980 in Moscow Olympics, we got a medal (Gold) courtesy Hockey Team that too because about 64 countries had boycotted these games because of the invasion of USSR on Afghanistan.  Many people do not understand why should we have not been talking about the same before the Rio Olympics and why only after that. In London Olympics (2012) our ranking was 55 but before that in (2008) China Olympics, this was 50.  Why did we not take corrective measures from then or even before that also?  Anyway let us leave talking about why this did not happen or that did not happen but try to understand whether the kind of prizes in cash or kind which are given to our achievers in Olympics and other games (Cricket may be an exception) help the children and youth to select games as their career and an important way of serving the nation and bring glory to the people of this great country which is second largest in population.  The entire nation is looking at P V Sindhu and Sakshi Malik’s medals, prizes, money, titles and other benefits conferred upon them however, did anyone even try to know the number of practice hours/ days or years invested, by these players, to reach that perfection and flawless performance.
I have mentioned a number of times in different contexts that if this country is to be moved forward and has to excel in any field, then the children and the schools should be given the maximum attention. Schools are the only place which can change the destiny of this country for better.  The government should spend money on providing infrastructure so that the children get encouraged to take games & sports as a career.  Physical Education teachers should not only be responsible for the discipline in the school but as a very important person who can motivate children towards games & sports and train them at young age to perform well in the area of interest of the child. The government should ensure and make it binding on schools that no schools will be given permission to operate if there are no proper grounds and qualified physical education teachers.  Many of you will agree that inspection teams do look at Labs and dance rooms etc., seriously but at times the sports infrastructure is not given that attention as required.  There are schools which mark the field with racing tracks, goal posts, flags etc., to impress the team on the day of inspection and there is no follow up once the affiliation is granted.  It would be interesting to find out how many schools in our country have proper and adequate games & sports facilities and how much budget is allocated to the physical education department and how much of that is spent properly every year.   During the period of dim phases (due to Rio Olympics debacle),  I tried to look in and around and was sorry to note that all these people who cry for the medals, want their children to go to other field but not games & sports. When the parents were approached many of them said that there was no career in this field hence they want their children to pursue academics than ‘wasting’ time on the ground. They may have point in that but most important thing is that games & sports are very essential otherwise also.  They enhance the personality of child and ensure overall growth of mind & body which is so important for an individual.  This is good that our players  should be acknowledged and appreciated but will the money or BMW cars showered on them help to perform superior now than before?  Has this motivated the potential players to come out and perform better in future? Though to say either way is not easy but some examples may be an indicator.  Mary Com won the medal (Bronze) in London Olympics and was showered with the same kind of things. Though she had won five times World Amateur Championship before that, but was noticed by the people only after winning the medal in Olympics.  Now observe what happened after that. How many players got motivated & opted for their career in boxing? Abhinav Bindra won the Gold Medal in 10m air rifle event in Beijing Olympics in 2008.  He was also given a lot of encouragement after that but what happened thereafter? How much could he perform or how many others were motivated? So it is not necessary that the Government gives enormous amount of money to the winners after they win a position but this is true that the Govt. has the responsibility and duty to prepare them (players) to win medals. Whatever money has been given to the players is alright but if that was spent before they win medals, we would have got more feathers in our cap. I am not against the support the winners need but the discrimination after winning. This money only should not be incentive but the support to the individuals and teams before the tournament/competition is very important.  

I would like to mention the following points for the consideration here:

1.      The education boards should ensure that games & sports are authentically played in the schools.   
2.      The schools should give incentive to the children who do well in games & sports.
3.      The parents should be counselled and advised to encourage and allow their children to be the part of games & sports.
4.      The Education Department organises many events every year. They should provide proper training and incentive to the children (all those who participate)
5.      More money should be allocated for games & sports.
6.      Qualified coaches should be engaged by the schools.
7.      The most important of them is that favouritism should be completely avoided.
8.      Any achievement in games and sports should be given the same credit as anybody getting while qualifying for IITs or the likes.
9.      The teachers should also help the children to strike a balance between studies and games & sports activities.
10.  And the most important of all this is that the children should be made strong physically and mentally so that they can face all the challenges of life. AC classrooms & buses are alright but these do make our children physically weak. The natural environment will make our children healthy and they will be able to perform better.

The HM of our school drafted a letter addressed to the CBSE (few years back) and shared the same with us. This seems to be an excellent idea which desires the option for the children from class V onwards where they can opt for games & sports as a subject in lieu of some so called major subjects (like EVS & Science etc).  This does not mean that these children will pursue their career in this field only but can think of changing at later stage in VIII/IX class. In classes,  VI-VII such children may not be forced to study EVS or Science that much as other students do. If some of them are still keen to continue sports as career then same can be continued in IX & X classes and in the higher classes as well. For such children preference should be given to be employed in Army/Navy/Para-military forces & Railways and other fields also.
In the end, I would like to reiterate that sports facilities are important and should be given their due by all concerned. This will really help our nation through its healthy children & citizens.   

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.