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Thursday, 29 September 2011

Samacheer Kalvi - Equal education utopia

Article moved to Guru Raj blog

The concept of Equal Education to all is definitely an utopian dream. It is also a useless goal. It is like everyone trying to be a part of every conversation on earth. Such equality is not necessary, not useful, not practical and total waste of energy in trying to plan and implement such a dream.

It is moreover, unfair to 90% of the people. One size fits all does not fit 90% of the people. The same goes for education.

There are differently abled children. They need different levels of education, speed of progress in education, etc. To survive in this world & to provide some service to fellow people (in order to earn for daily bread, shelter and clothing) different people need different skills.

We cannot have 1 billion prime ministers. We need all kinds of people performing different tasks working for a united mankind. For that, the belief has to be that many people are born with different skills. Those skills need to be honed by education - and for that we need different types of education. Moreover, there are slow learners, autistic children, dyslexic children, mentally retarded children and others who need special care and education at a more relaxed pace.

For these to be catered for, we need State board syllabus (easiest and simple base education) to Matriculation, to Anglo-Indian, to CBSE to ICSE boards of education, along with National Open School (more flexible for people who wish to take up other professions at early age, like sports / acting), International Baccalaureate (not to be confused by International school term, which is used intentionally to confuse & which usually follows CBSE / ICSE syllabus) and local language schools (most important, in my opinion).

Better still is the Gurukulam style of education where every child is given more focus (again not to be confused with modern Gurus "collecting" disciples).

One other drawback with equal education is that the brilliant students are dragged down to an average level, while the slow learners and others feel pressured and left out of "learning". We will spoil the children and reduce the chances of having great leaders, scientists, philosophers and other great people required for our country.

I hope, pray and request the appropriate authorities to not look into Equal education as a goal. We should look into strengthening the strong points & improving on the weaknesses we have in the different systems.


Sunday, 18 September 2011

Living in Denial

Article moved to Guru Raj blog

The current generation of parents with children in school and colleges seem to have higher expectations of everybody and everything. The parents contend that their children must be the top scorers, the school must ensure they are the top scorers & the teachers must also have the same goal for the children.

If the top score is not achieved, then it is the school's fault or the teacher's fault. The child is not at fault & the parents are not at fault. The abilities of the children are exemplary and the parents have done outstanding job in raising the kids. This seems to be the attitude.

Parents live in denial that their children could be above average or average. They live in denial that they also need to put in some effort. They live in denial that the children probably are not paying attention in school. It is also possible the children are not really getting the attention from parents themselves. The child may need some special assistance - but no, that is not at all possible in the eyes of the parents.

When people live in such denial, they are postponing the in-evitable - that is the results that come out showing the true colours of the children & parents' efforts and abilities. The earlier people realize their own abilities and efforts, along with the children's abilities and efforts, the better they can shape the future. That is why it is said "Wise are those who understand themselves".

Improve on the child's strengths and bolster the weak points to make it stronger - that should be the goal and for that people have to get out of denial that the child has weaknesses and the child's real current capability is not assessed properly.

For a better future, we should be open to understand ourselves first & ensure the next generation is given a good chance for a bright future.


Friday, 16 September 2011

Why we blame others

Article moved to Guru Raj blog

One of the bad habits that the parents and relatives teach children even before they can learn to speak is that we should blame others for our mistakes.

A simple example, is when the child stumbles while walking and falls. It is the child that made the misstep. Or it did not see an obstacle (or observe, if we wish to split hairs). The immediate reaction of people around is to say "It is the floor that made the mistake, let us beat it." This is just the beginning. Just to stop the child from crying, or from feeling bad about its mistake, we start teaching it to blame others.

Of course, when the child grows up and blames the lack of motorcycle, or expensive jewellery on their parents, it comes back to roost where it started.

Right from young age, children should be taught to be responsible for their actions. They need neither fear the floor, nor blame the floor for their missteps. Children should be educated about taking care for each step, responsibility, etc.

Moreover, any excuse from parents citing lack of time, or quick solution of quietening the children's cries, then they are spoiling their children in the long-run.


Sunday, 11 September 2011

Practice makes perfect

Article moved to Guru Raj blog

"Not all of us have to possess earth-shaking talent.  Just common sense and love will do." - Myrtle Auvil.

To be good in any field, one has to practice whatever has been learnt. One has to practice many variations and applications of the learnings. That is the simple, common-sense based method of learning to be an expert or even a master.

If we talk about programming, it is important to practice developing small tools, applications or components, even if it has been done before. Each of us have to learn the basics and fundamentals with examples to be able to equip ourselves for the challenges in executing projects. The more examples we work out, we are exposed to lot of algorithms and data structures. The more variations we are aware of, the better the chances that we will come up with efficient solutions to the real-world applications.

Here I would like to point out how this concept of "practice" was incorporated and ingrained in us at school. Our teachers of English and Mathematics used this concept to ensure not only the bright students, but all students get to know the basics of the subjects.

For example, the mathematics teacher would teach a concept, say solutions to quadratic equations. Later in some of the classes he will hold impromptu tests where in he would dictate 25 problems in 5 minutes and ask us to return the results after another 5 minutes. By repetition of many problems, even the average student was good in solving the problems and the bright students were able to solve all problems very quickly.

In English, grammar exercises were given special importance. Even though the lessons had only a dozen exercise items, our teachers used to give us 100s of challenges for various concepts including (a) convert from active voice to passive voice and vice-versa (b) convert from direct speech to indirect speech and vice versa (c) metaphors, similies (d) idioms. These were covered so much so that we had learnt conjugation of pretty much all transitive and in-transitive verbs and ability to deal with these language elements with ease.

Not only did we learn the basics and fundamentals well but an important lesson that 'Practice makes us perfect' was inculcated into most of us. This has been valuable and stood by our progress in life as the foundation to help us develop into solution providers for challenges in our jobs.


Saturday, 10 September 2011

Long term view is more important

Article moved to Guru Raj blog

All parents want their children to be successful in life. But success itself is relative. For the children to be successful in their own way, parents need to give the necessary tools in life for them to be reach their goals (not the parents' goals for their children).

1. Basics and Fundamentals are more important than marks.

2. Improve creative thinking of the children. Only creative thinking will help children to solve life's problems.

3. Set good role models for the children to follow.

4. Virtues that will help the children in long term must be imbibed into them.

5. Give good guidelines for the children and ensure it is ingrained into their brains.

6. Show love and affection in a balanced way to provide them self-confidence.

7. Build trust in the children and ensure they trust the parents first for all issues, problems, etc., that they face.

8. Success in 1 step is not guarantee of life-long success. Failure in 1 step is not a life-long failure. So, marks in 10th or 12th or College is not the only criteria for success in life.

So, give "education for life", instead of "rote-learning for marks".


Friday, 9 September 2011

Short term view - the reason for chaotic schooling

Article moved to Guru Raj blog

The reason for the state of education, especially the schooling upto grade 12, is the short term view of the parents (primary), teachers & school management (secondary, but quite close on heels of first) and easy route taken by students who don't have good role-models.

Parents are the first role-models. Hence, if the parents are going to have crooked views, short-term blind plans, etc., the children take that as the "life-time goal". First damage is done there. Secondly, the parents hand-in-hand with teachers look at just the number of marks & the number of students who pass the exams (100% pass) as the goal to be reached. Learning for "life" is forsaken in order to learn for the sake of marks. Next generation has learnt the wrong ideals and not only dont fare well, but they also follow same methodology with their next generation.

With high population, it is difficult for the limited supply to be apportioned to candidates. Hence marks have become the only way to win the race. No one seems to look at the fact that most students who are at the top in school are not so in life - they end up being pretty average in performance, goals, position, earnings, etc.

Many of the students who were scoring average, but had learnt the important points in life - communication, networking, being part of a team, natural leadership, etc., have become the leading lights in every sphere.

So, parents and teachers should really build the "citizens of tomorrow", rather than use that term only as a cliche in every public parade of their wards, while practising otherwise. One generation has to start this education of all 3 sets of people parents, teachers+school management and students. Then future generations can reap the fruits - fruits don't come on 7th day after planting a Mango sapling...


Sunday, 4 September 2011

On top, add 25 marks for everyone for the tough question paper

Article moved to Guru Raj blog

As a sequel to the last post, here was a scenario where all the parents and some of the teachers thought that the paper was inappropriate in many ways. Either it was too long, or had questions that could not be understood by average student, blah, blah.

After so much pressure it was decided that 25 marks be awarded to all students. I am at a loss at the logic for this decision. What if some students had solved those questions that were being discussed & scored full marks on those questions, but their total is 175. They would get the full 200, in spite of having scored 0/25 other marks.

What happens to the really good students who may have scored 195 or 199 or even 200? Will they get 220, 224 or 225 out of 200?

What do these decisions help? Who is it helping? Just to keep away from the angry parents, some decision is made. What happens to the really good students? They are bracketed with the kids who have slightly lower abilities (not solving the tricky / out of portion questions) - is that fair to them?

Merit must be rewarded and India needs to find the brilliant kids to promote them up the ladder and make them good leaders in their areas of strength. Others can do with the next rungs - not everyone can be a PM or President - we need ministers, officers, guards, peons, coffee boys, farmers, sports persons, cooks and other kinds of service providers too. Let us work towards each individual's strength and stop going after "marks" (2nd only to going after money & status).


Out of Portions - Hilarious

Article moved to Guru Raj blog

In the past few years, I have been hearing from parents that "The paper was very tough," or worse still "Some of the questions were out of portions, the children could not even understand."

Many times I find that the questions are clear and need the application of the mind, using the concepts and fundamentals taught in class. Sometimes the application of multiple concepts in sequence or in parallel is required, which is somehow not being encouraged at home (in most cases) and at school (in some cases). The fact that they ask the questions in first place makes us feel a little better that the school wants the children to think about the subjects learnt.

Some teachers explicitly instruct the children to learn the answers by heart and award marks only on exact reproduction. This is directly killing the thinking brain in the children. We are explicitly encouraging memorization and discouraging understanding of concepts and fundamentals.

One incident in my college in the very first year, about 25 years ago, was with first test of Modern Physics. The first two chapters had been taught in about 15 classes (3 classes per week) and all the freshers (mandatory subject for about 500+ students) were eager to tackle the paper. There were only 4 questions, where the application of the concepts had to be done either repeatedly or combined across the two chapters. We got to know the school education that had blunted the brain, in the results, where-in 108 students scored ZERO and the average for the whole batch was 4 (out of 18). There were a few who scored full marks having applied the concepts learnt rather than wonder why the question does not resemble anything that was taught singly.

Life is not going to give us lessons and then ask questions within the portions. So, to prepare children for life, application of mind is important and to be encouraged. Creativity to be encouraged by making them think over-and-above the portions.


Thursday, 1 September 2011

Fundamentals and Concepts are important

Article moved to Guru Raj blog

Education in India has become more and more tuned towards rote learning, rather than learning of fundamentals and concepts. This is leading to a dangerous trend as the creativity of children are suppressed. When importance is given to repeating the given answers, then children learn them by-heart instead of learning the fundamentals and concepts.

As we move into higher classes, application of concepts should be encouraged, but is not, in Indian system of education, especially the majority of education boards like the state level boards. In real life, can we say that we are facing ONLY the scenarios that we have learnt answers for? We have to work with the fundamentals and concepts we have learnt to deal with the situation.

It is the same for technical areas, commercial areas, business areas, financial areas, etc. We take the concepts and fundamentals and use them to build our work / solutions using them. The people who can do this well are usually successful, while the others who learnt only by rote learning will have to adapt and start learning from scratch.

Hence, it is important to imbibe in children the requirement of learning concepts and fundamentals instead of rote learning. They will be more successful in life and in dealing with life's variety of scenarios.


Talking proudly about negative characteristics

Article moved to Guru Raj blog

One of the frequent mistakes made by parents is talking proudly about their wards' negative aspects. This usually reinforces the ward's thinking that it is OK to be like that.

For example, one mother may say "My son does not listen to his father at all. But he will never cross the line I draw. He obeys me all the time." The son then takes more advantage of the father in not heeding his words. He also takes advantage from the mother by having a good name - sometimes we never know whether the child is just abiding time as long as he needs mother's care.

Sometimes the statements are with other qualities. For example, "My son is clever in saving money when dealing with barber / flower deliverer, etc." In effect, the son uses some devious methods to trick or even cheat the others from their due. This is being encouraged and many times comes back to roost as a very negative character, which the parents rue after a few years.

Parents should have the wisdom of highlighting only the good points in public and chide the children in private when they take the wrong path. This is the best for the long run for the children.