Ignorance is Bliss


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The omnipresence of divinity is seldom acknowledged in our day-to-day lives. It could be due to ignorance or simply lack of comprehension. However, our lives tend to become complicated when we do not grasp the lofty universal truths fully.

An anecdote from the repertoire of stories told by Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa puts across this point succinctly. Once, a layman was enlightened about the omnipresence of god. The happy man left the Ashram with his newfound knowledge. As he was walking down the street, he saw a rogue elephant. The Mahout shouted instructions to the people on the road to get away from the path of the pachyderm. Everyone slipped away in double quick time except the newly edified man. The elephant handled him roughly with his trunk and flung him afar. The hurt man was taken to the Ashram and rendered first aid. Then he was questioned on his foolishness. The naive  man said, “I thought that the God in the elephant would not harm me.” To which, the philosopher replied, “But, why did you not listen to the God who warned you through the Mahout?”

This incident enumerates the fact that spiritually oriented people need a lot of discernment lest they come to foolhardy conclusions like the protagonist in the tale.

An incident in the Ramayana expounds the facility of being in the dark about matters beyond our ken to help us function normally and genuinely. When the exiled prince Rama came to the banks of river Ganga along with Lakshmana and Sita, the local chieftain Guha extends warm hospitality and assures unflinching support to Rama. He even offers his position to Rama without blinking an eyelid. When all his offers were rejected politely, Guha personally takes the trio across the river. If Guha had the slightest inkling about the divinity of Rama he would have been awestruck by the mere presence of the trio. His gestures would have been punctuated with nervousness or simply decimated into inaction. Conversely, his lack of consciousness on the matter not only made him offer all his earthly possessions to the creator, but made him take the celestial navigator who helps his devotees to cross the sea of life to cross the river!

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“Education ” By Question Banks


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We are in the middle of the academic year. Students are busy taking periodic tests and midterm examinations based on the portions completed. Their answer scripts are being evaluated and assessed. Parents are being apprised of their ward’s performance.

Teachers’ meetings are being conducted to analyse their inputs and involvement in their responsibilities.

Everything seems to be going on like clockwork — just the way it should. Or, is it just a mirage? Perhaps this is the right time of the year for the parent, student and teacher to do a reality check.

Most schools have revision sessions before tests and examinations. They generate a question bank of sorts. The children are told directly or indirectly to concentrate on the revision sessions.

Parents and tuition teachers help the children out with the preparation. Most pupils get thorough with the “necessary portions” and score well. The tests and later on examinations are taken and evaluated — well, you know the drill.

While the process seems natural and harmless, it can turn out to be a quite a negative influence. It can uproot the fundamental aim of learning and education. Young students are being led by the nose to take up tests which prove to be a test of memory rather than understanding.

The very schools which claim to give holistic education shrink even the prescribed syllabus so that the students are not strained to look beyond a few questions.

Limited reading

Reading textbooks, ancillary reading material, referring to class notes are all relegated to the backburner because they do not count as “test portions”.

The learning that can be evinced from group study, working out varied problems, reference works are increasingly becoming non-existent because extensive reading or learning need not be displayed in answer papers.

The young learners cannot be blamed for wearing blinders because they are made to wear them by their teachers. When we look at the problem from the tutors’ point of view, it appears that they are shackled by several constraints. They are expected to cater to unwieldy numbers which makes it almost impossible for them to correct notebooks sincerely.

Then they have to live up to the expectations of the management and deliver cent per cent results as far as possible. When their increments and sometimes their employment depend on the results they deliver, they find it convenient to create “question banks”. This way they hope to step up the level of the results.

Multiple choice papers

The parents for their part do not really seem to mind this new infusion into the system right from primary school because their accountability comes down considerably. Sometimes, schools also opt for multiple choice question paper models partially or completely to make it easier for evaluation.

This method not only encourages blind guessing among students, but also conveniently circumvents the need to comprehend, work out or articulate their thoughts. The net result of this phenomenon precipitates as a mockery of education. No one is any wiser at the end of the day though everyone, the students, parents and teachers have gone through the exercise.

Today, we live in a world where education has been systematised. Learners go through the process of education in a set pattern and emerge as ‘educated’ people at various levels.

Where will all this spoon-feeding and holding hands lead them in the long run of life? Will their education stand them in good stead? Will they be in a position to think out of the box and handle unforeseen circumstances in life?

Can they come up with original or creative solutions to deal with problems? Will they employ just means to achieve their ends? How will they compare with their peer group across the globe? Will their accomplishments fill the lacunae that exist in the world?

The concept of “Question banks” was introduced at the university level, to help examinees to focus after browsing through an exhaustive material. To introduce the same, while shaping minds in their formative years in schools, amounts to committing intellectual suicide.

It is time to break this pattern and pay attention to learning for learning’s sake so that we can pave the way to developing inquisitive, fertile minds that are willing to go that extra mile before arriving at answers!

Integrity, Not Marks Key to Education


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A recent survey showed that the number of people fudging their curriculum vitae is on the increase. Police records reveal that there is a whole industry which methodically works on faking documents and certificates.

The earliest stage happens to be leaking of question papers, interfering in the invigilation and evaluation process. If the people who want to cheat have missed the bus in the first phase of deception, they can always avail the services of the underdog by faking their mark sheets and certificates.

Once a candidate is able to pass off his false papers successfully, he is emboldened to try other tricks up his sleeve. He scouts for ways and means to procure an experience certificate and a few other supporting credentials if he can afford it. It is shocking to learn that every year a series of brokers take up board and entrance examinations on behalf of pupils for a price.

Sometimes they also change their names and other identification details legally, to facilitate the recipient and user of the mark sheet, to fudge facts and indulge in fraudulent deals.

Potent trio

The slush that envelops the education scene seems to be getting murkier as each academic year passes by. However, a little introspection will show that the cancer that is eating away at the scene of education has been let loose by the potent trio of parents, teachers and students.

The formidable triumvirate who consider examination scores to be the “be all and the end all” of life need to be counselled on the true intent of education.

There is really no point in producing an army of engineers or management graduates or any other professionals if there is no use for their skills any longer in the job market.

It is sad to note that many of the students who have covetable degrees in socially approved courses possess the potential in a diametrically different area of expertise.

The fact that they have done very well or even decently well in a course that was not after their heart is proof that the graduate is a fairly good and sincere student.

Yet, it is but natural that their performance will amount to being mediocre in the big picture. Finding a dream job or working shoulder to shoulder with people who have the same qualification, acquired with a passion for the subject, will show them in bad light.
The underperformance will undermine the confidence of such workers. Eventually, it will have a bearing on the functioning of the organisation and the county at large.

Contradictory picture
The education scene in India is certainly caught in a series of contradictions. On the one hand, we as a nation lay a very high premium on education. Even the poorest among us dream about educating our children in the hope of seeing them lead a comfortable life sometime in future. Parents are willing to stake their time, energy and money entirely to be able to translate their dreams into reality.

On the other hand, when we find that the academic results of our wards are unsatisfactory or do not rise up to the expectations, we slip into a state of depression. The conundrums that connive to capture us in a web of deceit and dishonesty are the direct result of these doldrums.

Over a period of time, the education sector has been churning out a popular section of pedestrian populace who do not really seem to have delved into the depths of their chosen subject. Lack of expertise in any given field can lead to a dangerous deterioration which can prove to be detrimental to our country’s progress.

It is time to address the canker ensconcing the educational scene. We live in times when even parents of children who are in kindergarten or primary school feel the need to validate their children’s performance to their known circles.

As the child grows up, the pressure increases proportionately. The school, teachers and parents seem to forget the student who is literally at the receiving end of their expectations and egos.

Imagine a scene where everyone will be declared a topper, and where everyone will stand on a level playing field. Consequently, cut throat competition will become more savage, defeating the very purpose of learning.

It is time we accept that abilities and aptitudes vary. It is only when learners are sensitised to the values of integrity and discipline we can progress individually, and as a nation.

Evolution of Hospitality Industry


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When the conservative Indians promoted the concept of eating outside their homes by patronising the exceptional culinary skills of the Udupi cooks, little did they realise that they were paving the way for a mighty food and hospitality industry in the coming decades.

Though the industry began as an amateur, it slowly developed into a state-of-the-art restaurant over a period of time, giving it a professional touch.

Soon, high profile hospitality industry like the star-rated hotels, swanky resorts, restaurants and VIP guest houses felt the need for trained professionals who could carry out their duties with a flair of international sensibilities.

The Government of India realised these needs and encouraged various universities to include a course in Hotel Management in the 1980s.

Now, most colleges offer good infrastructure and they complement classroom academics with practical lessons to enrich the knowledge of the students. However, the results have not been exactly spectacular, thus far.

While some colleges are affiliated to the Indian universities, many have tied up with foreign universities for short term diploma courses and certificate courses, which boost the profile of the student in the international scene.

Initially a 4-year undergraduate course called BHM (Bachelor of Hotel Management) was introduced with relevant subjects touching on areas like language, accounts, housekeeping and related skills necessary for the job. The teaching faculty at hotel management colleges said that though the course content matched international standards, unfortunately, the takers of the courses were the students who were much below the average mark. A survey reveals that the situation has not altered much, even to this day.

The reasons are obvious – students with low marks or candidates who may have discontinued education are the usual takers. Naturally, they do not do well in academics because of lack of basic knowledge coupled with a sense of low self-esteem.

They are also perhaps acutely aware of the fact that the society at large is not really well-known for honouring jobs as hoteliers, waiters or housekeepers even in star-rated hotels. This is also one of the main reasons why there was a glaring absence of girl students in these classes in the initial years. The scene has changed a little over the years. Now there is a steady trickle of young women who are ready to give it a shot.

Despite the low popularity level, it is a fact that, the course has landed several diligent students in enviable positions in many star-rated hotels.

Success stories

These success stories have also encouraged the partially-educated staff working in private and ordinary eateries to take up the course to upgrade themselves as professionally qualified personnel who can move on to greener pastures.

Then there are enterprising hoteliers who introduce grooming classes and train their staff in communication and soft skills to enhance the quality of the services in the hotel. Such trained workers are indirectly motivated to clear their intermediate examinations privately and take up a hotel management course.

The reason for such careful cushioning lies in the realms of detrimental attrition which leaves the industry almost always in a state of uncertainty.

The day is not far when the growing demand of the industry will attract more and more and even meritorious students to consider hotel management courses as a career option.

Hotel management colleges can consider this situation to be a cue and gear up to cater to the needs of the industry and give it the much needed facelift. Globalisation and enhanced spending capacity of Indians has paved the way for a boom in the hospitality industry in a big way. Campus recruitments are becoming the order of the day.

Big names in the industry across the globe are ready to absorb and pay fancy salaries and positions construing to the talents and qualifications of the candidates. In fact the market has expanded over the past couple of years. Developing marine businesses like cruise liners and ships are recruiting personnel by the dozens. Event management teams and trip organisers are always looking for trained staff.

Certainly, the situation cannot get any better. Earnest students of hotel management can be rest assured that they can land themselves on the velvet if they work diligently towards their goal.

Ethics Of Knowledge Sharing


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S Radha Prathi, July 07, 2015, DHNS:

A glimpse at world history and its contributions to mankind will reveal that man has also been constantly evolving mentally in search of a better way of life. While one section of explorers worked hard to step up the “standard of living” by using science and technology, there were others who tried hard to understand the “truth of life.”

Yet, none of these personalities who broke new ground for mankind felt the need to consolidate the information on a universal platform so that mankind can progress further from the point of what they already knew about.

As a result, we have been constantly engaged in the oft repeated activity of “re-inventing the wheel”. A glance through all the recorded material on various subjects which is available at the click of a button is proof enough to show that many subjects have been discussed and analysed threadbare and have reached refined heights long long ago, even as we are fumbling with the hems of the subject only now.

For instance, the heliocentric theory or the presence of atomic energy was known to ancient Indians thousands of years ago but the world consolidated the same as scientific knowledge only about 400 years ago. This is but just one example among thousands of such discoveries that were made by ancient civilisations across the globe.

Today, the scenario has changed. We live in a technologically advanced world, and all the information we need on just about any subject under the sun is available in both “hard” and “soft” forms for a price. But apparently, there are very few genuine takers who utilise this information for the benefit of mankind or self improvement.

A survey among the student community shows that while the younger children prefer to be spoon-fed by their teachers and their guardians, older students use the internet specifically for playing games, chatting with online friends and occasionally looking up for information about their role models in the sports and cine field in that order. Students pursuing higher education use information relevant to their subject only when they are pressurised to look up for some information on their own.

Many a project work, seminar and thesis submitted by students happen to be plagiarised from a source which they do not even bother to mention or acknowledge much to the consternation of the authors, who sometimes accidentally stumble upon their work verbatim in another person’s name.

Plagiarised research
According to them, “If you steal from one author, it is plagiarism; if you steal from many, then it is research.” It is indeed a sorry state of affairs. Experienced faculty from reputed institutions can vouch for the fact about how many times the earnest research work of an entirely unique nature has been snitched in the most unethical manner by people in authority.

While some original works do get compensated monetarily, many a creative work like a poem or a script or a formula are changed minimally and used unscrupulously. It is shameful and disheartening to note that even the teaching community cannot be spared of this accusation.

Novices in the field sometimes help themselves to the notes and the ideas of their seniors without acknowledgement or even a pang of conscience. Perhaps it was because of this reason artists, artistes, scholars and experts in different subjects held on to the keys of their knowledge to their bosoms in the past, are doing so in the present and will do so in future.

The scenario will not change as long as people reject their moral scruples and refuse to follow code of ethics. Till such time the portals of knowledge at the experimental and research level will close their doors for the fear of being robbed of their ideas which cannot be compensated with anything that is tangible. This will result in waste of time as scholars will feel queasy about sharing their opinions and findings for the fear of losing them and end up going in circles for a longer time.

The time has come when information has to be processed into knowledge through experience so that the end product can be used for the betterment of mankind.
To do so, we have no choice but to stick to the old fashioned way of holding on to our integrity and honour and acknowledging the hard work and the earnest efforts of people who may have arrived at some results in their respective fields.

Teaching and learning, which are nothing but the two faces of sharing, will become
meaningful and joyful exercises when the originator (devil?) is given its due.

Wealth Vs Knowledge


The time has come when we must try to resolve the oldest ever debate which happens to involve two representative goddesses of the Indian pantheon – Lakshmi, goddess of wealth and Saraswati, goddess of knowledge and learning.

Though great debaters invariably conclude that the virtues of the goddesses complement each other and one cannot exist without another, a casual look at the world around us seems to present a different picture.

The moneyed are preferred in just about every walk of life. People are eager to feed the well fed at functions and on special occasions. Patients, students, clients, consumers, no matter who they are, are served only when the bills are paid. The “haves” can jump queues at points of transport, government offices and even in places of worship while the ones with lighter purses watch with pursed lips.

Study of Utopia, Marxism, Rama Rajya, Gandhism, equality, has been rendered theoretical.  Occasional earnest outbursts of protests, bans, showdowns and philanthropy to rectify the situation have proven to be placebos.

A closer analysis of the situation will reveal that the people who are victims of this economic imbalance are sometimes mute or violent participants in society not because they are merely helpless or they cannot react any better in the circumstances. On the other hand, they are guided by practical common sense, in other words “Knowledge” that they have to co-exist in the world of moneyed sharks. They understand that if peace and harmony has to prevail, there is no point in ruffling the feathers of the bigwigs who are capable of harming them uncannily.

Yes, money wields power over humanity; but it is the knowledge of this fact that is helping the world function. Money can buy material things but can never let us enjoy the goods unless we have a clear conscience. We must learn the art of living by Truth and Compassion as we are endowed with superior senses. If we overlook this basic fact neither Lakshmi nor Saraswati can salvage us from the doldrums we have gotten ourselves into