“Education ” By Question Banks


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/639810/education-question-banks.html

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!

Raising Our Daughters the Right Way


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/605191/raising-our-daughters-right-way.html

Bringing up: In a world full of judgements and suspicions, we have to raise our daughters with the correct set of values.

Under the wings...Under the wings…

Archana insisted on homeschooling her twin daughters as she had nightmares about admitting her children to the kindergarten in the metropolis soon after being bombarded by stories of lurking paedophiles around learning centres. Vandana gave up her lucrative job because she wanted to be at home when her daughter arrived home at noon. She had heard horrific stories of children being administered sleeping pills in their milk at daycare centres. Meera laughingly calls herself the designated chauffeur of her kids because she is always driving them in and out of one class or another.

Lakshmi opted for voluntary retirement just when it was her turn to get promoted, to ensure that she could fund her daughter’s dream to study abroad. Suma, a qualified lawyer, decided to be a stay-at-home mother because she believed in the dictum “Better safe than sorry” (All names have been changed to respect their identities.)

What these young and not-so-young mothers have done for the apples of their eyes, is not unusual. Each of these mothers and several tens and thousands of their kind have been doing more or less the same thing in various capacities. No, they are not cynical or paranoid, they are just being careful. With reason too. We live in a world which is riddled by multiple standards, inequalities in every aspect, uncertainties and incomprehensible expectations. Hence, leading a normal life believing in the intrinsic goodness of fellow human beings is out of the question.

Now is the time for us to rethink our parenting strategies, especially where it concerns the girl child. After all, parenting is called an art and not without reason. We must prepare our daughters to hope for the best but be prepared for the worst right from the moment they arrive in our lives. Here are a few areas that need
serious looking into:

Physical well-being
A taste for a nutritious balanced diet punctuated with some form of exercise should be introduced right from the beginning. When a healthy diet and a physical regime coupled with personal hygiene become a habit, immunity levels will soar, and keeping healthy will not prove to be a challenge. Teaching them martial arts or sports or simply involving them in everyday household chores will help them build stamina and can prove to be a boon in times of need.

Modesty & morality
Modesty and morality should not be mixed up. Remember, being prudish can cost them dearly. They must be taught the difference between good touch and bad touch. Girls should be taught not to be ashamed of their bodies or the changes they undergo. They should be encouraged to spell out their doubts and fears. It will do well to sensitise girls to the fact that the outside world will judge them by the clothes, accessories and the makeup they wear, though character cannot be determined by the length of their sleeves or necklines.

Subjects like virginity, rape, honour, domestic violence, honour killings need not be drawing room conversations, if it feels delicate. All the same, there is no point in sweeping the subjects under the carpet and looking the other way when they do crop up.

Using such topics as a launchpad to clear the cobwebs of a growing mind can go a long way in preventing girls from becoming judgmental. The knowledge will also cushion them to some extent, if they are unfortunate victims of such
circumstances.

Coping with new age trends
Many girls go through a phase in life when they get their facial or body parts pierced or tattooed, when they colour, curl or straighten their hair or undergo cosmetic surgery on a whim and regret it later.

Depriving permission outright may not go well with everyone. So, the stubborn ones can be encouraged to try the temporary option and then if they really care for the fashion, then they can be told to take the plunge.

Being feminine
Girls should be taught to appreciate and enjoy their feminine side. Since we live in a diabolical world, girls can be groomed to be soft-spoken and delicate damsels. So, they should be clearly told that they must not hesitate to protect themselves even if it means biting and kicking the molester on the face, or very simply amplifying their lung power.

Expanding the mind
Encourage your girls to have friends, go out and mingle. While dating or having a relationship is not wrong, they should also be taught when and where to draw the line and how to say no firmly when they feel uncomfortable. Writing a diary or pouring their concerns to an agony aunt can help them ease their tensions. Ask them to be careful about what they post and with whom they share on their social media sites, especially their pictures. With so much cyber crime going on, one can never be too careful.

Evaluation of Evaluators


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/615851/an-evaluation-evaluators.html

The citizens in the world of academics are only too aware that there are wheels within wheels. Students, their parents and their teachers know that the path to progress is many tiered.

Students have to imbibe what they are taught, customise their knowledge to cater to the needs of the examination system and then await results post evaluation. The process appears to be ancient, normal and warranted as far as one can see.

The evaluators take over from the point the students finish their examinations, and it is this factor that most students and parents are apprehensive about. Realisation dawns on them that the ball is no longer in their court; their results are in the hands of unknown evaluators especially when they take up the board or university examinations.

The routine of nervously scanning through the Internet and news channels for the forthcoming results can be quite draining to all examinees, no matter to which age group they belong. Though the law of cause and effect is well known to be proportionate, it is apparently not applicable in our desi educational system to a large extent.

It appears that the shloka from the Bhagavad Gita which says, “Karmanye Vaadhika-raste, Maa Phaleshu kadachana,” which means “You have the right only to do your duty, but never anticipate the fruit for your deeds” is applicable to the students who complete their examinations. That is why we find students spending their vacation with fingers crossed for the outcome of their performance.

The anomalies in the realms of examination results can range from appearing late to appearing wrong. Though all boards and universities do have channels for re-totalling, revaluation, availing copies of answer scripts and even provisions to appear in the court of law, the number of mistakes that happen have not come down considerably.

It is understandable that to err is human. After all, it is the teachers who correct answer scripts. It is quite possible that they could have made an error or two out of sheer oversight or fatigue. Considering the fact that they are also willing to recheck and award rightful scores when approached through proper channels also speaks for the fairness and the transparent nature of the system.

All the same, the students find it difficult to repose faith in the system because many of them have been unsuspecting victims of sheer apathy and convoluted processes which have scorched their spirits and singed their opportunities.

Shortage of evaluators

When the matter is scrutinised from the teachers’ point of view, many factors that seem to justify their slipshod job come under the magnifying glass.

Firstly, there is an acute shortage of evaluators. Since most teaching jobs are offered by private educational institutions, they have a floating population of teaching staff.

Teachers resign their jobs at the end of the academic year in search of greener pastures and are sometimes willing to take an unpaid holiday while in the process of switching jobs. This trend automatically shows a large dip in the number of evaluators during the annual academic break.
Teachers who are hired on a contract basis for the occasion try to earn a little extra money by hurrying through the answer scripts.

The teaching faculty with secure jobs usually decides to put up their price during this season and prefers to go on strikes and dharnas. They feel that it is probably the best time to make their presence and value known. The harsh truth is that teachers are the lowest paid educated class in society.

It is a fact that teachers are burdened with the onus of wading through a sea of answer scripts without respite and the remuneration mostly does not match with the effort put in.

Apart from that, the evaluators are answerable to the chief examiner as well as the students if they have bungled in the process of correcting an answer script or totalling the marks obtained. They can be even sued in the court of law for not taking up their responsibility seriously.

The callousness in assessment of students can be averted to a large extent if knowledgeable and conscientious teachers are chosen for the job consciously. In addition, they should be given their due importance, respect and remuneration. They will be only too delighted and diligent to carry out the responsibilities bestowed upon them. And then, the rest assured students can enjoy happy holidays.

Raising Our Daughters The Right Way


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/605191/raising-our-daughters-right-way.html

Bringing up: In a world full of judgements and suspicions, we have to raise our daughters with the correct set of values.

Under the wings...Under the wings…

Archana insisted on homeschooling her twin daughters as she had nightmares about admitting her children to the kindergarten in the metropolis soon after being bombarded by stories of lurking paedophiles around learning centres. Vandana gave up her lucrative job because she wanted to be at home when her daughter arrived home at noon. She had heard horrific stories of children being administered sleeping pills in their milk at daycare centres. Meera laughingly calls herself the designated chauffeur of her kids because she is always driving them in and out of one class or another.

Lakshmi opted for voluntary retirement just when it was her turn to get promoted, to ensure that she could fund her daughter’s dream to study abroad. Suma, a qualified lawyer, decided to be a stay-at-home mother because she believed in the dictum “Better safe than sorry” (All names have been changed to respect their identities.)

What these young and not-so-young mothers have done for the apples of their eyes, is not unusual. Each of these mothers and several tens and thousands of their kind have been doing more or less the same thing in various capacities. No, they are not cynical or paranoid, they are just being careful. With reason too. We live in a world which is riddled by multiple standards, inequalities in every aspect, uncertainties and incomprehensible expectations. Hence, leading a normal life believing in the intrinsic goodness of fellow human beings is out of the question.

Now is the time for us to rethink our parenting strategies, especially where it concerns the girl child. After all, parenting is called an art and not without reason. We must prepare our daughters to hope for the best but be prepared for the worst right from the moment they arrive in our lives. Here are a few areas that need
serious looking into:

Physical well-being
A taste for a nutritious balanced diet punctuated with some form of exercise should be introduced right from the beginning. When a healthy diet and a physical regime coupled with personal hygiene become a habit, immunity levels will soar, and keeping healthy will not prove to be a challenge. Teaching them martial arts or sports or simply involving them in everyday household chores will help them build stamina and can prove to be a boon in times of need.

Modesty & morality
Modesty and morality should not be mixed up. Remember, being prudish can cost them dearly. They must be taught the difference between good touch and bad touch. Girls should be taught not to be ashamed of their bodies or the changes they undergo. They should be encouraged to spell out their doubts and fears. It will do well to sensitise girls to the fact that the outside world will judge them by the clothes, accessories and the makeup they wear, though character cannot be determined by the length of their sleeves or necklines.

Subjects like virginity, rape, honour, domestic violence, honour killings need not be drawing room conversations, if it feels delicate. All the same, there is no point in sweeping the subjects under the carpet and looking the other way when they do crop up.

Using such topics as a launchpad to clear the cobwebs of a growing mind can go a long way in preventing girls from becoming judgmental. The knowledge will also cushion them to some extent, if they are unfortunate victims of such
circumstances.

Coping with new age trends
Many girls go through a phase in life when they get their facial or body parts pierced or tattooed, when they colour, curl or straighten their hair or undergo cosmetic surgery on a whim and regret it later.

Depriving permission outright may not go well with everyone. So, the stubborn ones can be encouraged to try the temporary option and then if they really care for the fashion, then they can be told to take the plunge.

Being feminine
Girls should be taught to appreciate and enjoy their feminine side. Since we live in a diabolical world, girls can be groomed to be soft-spoken and delicate damsels. So, they should be clearly told that they must not hesitate to protect themselves even if it means biting and kicking the molester on the face, or very simply amplifying their lung power.

Expanding the mind
Encourage your girls to have friends, go out and mingle. While dating or having a relationship is not wrong, they should also be taught when and where to draw the line and how to say no firmly when they feel uncomfortable. Writing a diary or pouring their concerns to an agony aunt can help them ease their tensions. Ask them to be careful about what they post and with whom they share on their social media sites, especially their pictures. With so much cyber crime going on, one can never be too careful.

Memory Vs Photographs


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/595945/photographs-vs-memory.html

Even as I saw the zillionth person clicking pictures or selfies and sharing them relentlessly, I inadvertently stepped into my personal realm of nostalgia. I remember that we did the most enjoyable things around our homes and with our families, but they were rarely photographed. Every evening, my metre-long tresses would be braided into a plait, and a tassel (kuchchu) would mark the end of it.

Long strings of jasmine buds would be woven around it. Once, a special day was earmarked for me to wear a moggina jade (a readymade pad with jasmine buds and an occasional rose fit on the back of the head and the plait). This red-lettered day was preceded by elaborate preparations.

My mom sourced fresh mehendi leaves, ground them into a fine paste, and applied it on my palms and feet before the event. The following morning, I was given a traditional oil bath and the fumes of frankincense were waved over my drying hair to perfume it. Then, I wore the traditional silk skirt, some pieces of antique jewellery, and got ready to get my hair braided and wear moggina jade. After receiving glowing compliments from all our guests, I was relieved of the same with equal care. I thoroughly enjoyed the exercise while it lasted, and have ruminated on it many times over.

As the years rolled by, I used to feel a little vexed with my parents for not having photographed me in my moment of crowning glory. I would be tersely told that the enjoyment was the reward, while photographing it would have amounted to merely documenting it. Their explanation used to irk me all the more because it sounded like a lame excuse for not having thought of it.

I entertained uncharitable thoughts about their miserliness until one day, when a family friend began showing us her holiday album.

The pictures were glossy and beautiful, but the smiling lady who was ever-present in all of them had little memory of the place or its distinction, or even the names of the other members of the group, because she was always grooming herself to look good in the shots.

It was then that I understood the meaning of what I had been told. A photograph of my long braid would have merely retained the visual. I might have been happy and proud of the picture, but might have relegated it to an album and put it away safely.

However, the fact that it was not photographed possibly preserved the memory of the smells and sounds associated with the event.

Surprisingly, quite a few of them who had seen me enjoying my moment in the sun also seem to remember it quite well, and have since shared it with their spouses and children.

It happened long ago. Few people wielded the camera then. Yet, special moments of the privileged were captured on camera. Since they were far and few, they attained the status of precious family and national heirlooms. Today, technology has made photographing a cake walk. However, we must remember that if we spend all the time behind the lens, we may not have memories attached to them when we look at them at a later date. Let us not miss the woods for the trees.

Finding Your Footing


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/578136/finding-your-footing.html

 

The other day, I was swollen up all over. Not with importance! And no, nobody had beaten me up. The long hours of travel caused edema in my limbs. I knew that some professional massage will set matters right.

Along came the therapist – a slim, young smiling lady. She ushered me into a room to knead my limbs back to normalcy. We indulged in rambling small talk. She casually mentioned that she was a student of engineering. I thought she was kidding. Why on earth would she be rubbing oil down my limbs then?

I gave her a long look. She appeared to be serious. She told me she had completed three years of the course. She could not continue with the seventh semester because she had not cleared any of the examinations thus far. In answer to my questioning look, she said that her father’s unreasonable tenacity to make good of his money compelled her to study engineering.

After a moment of fleeting silence, I asked her how she had landed this job. I realised that I had unconsciously switched over from vernacular to English. The lass lapsed into the queen’s lingo when she said that she had trained for six months as a masseuse. I noticed that her language was deliberate and heavily accented.

The teacher in me popped another query. Should she not be working on her backlog and passing the examinations? She agreed. That would be the most ideal thing to do. However, she could not do it. I wondered why not? She said that she could not cope with the course. I blurted, “Then, why did you take it up in the first place?”

“Ah! That was a mistake. My dad worked for the local MLA all his life, so the politician gave me a free seat in his engineering college as payment for my dad’s services.” She nodded away and swore it was true. She had passed her class 12 with difficulty and that had proved to be unfortunate. She had switched back to Malayalam. She did look earnest. I decided to take her word for it.
When I reflected on our interaction, I realised that the girl had essayed the role of the obedient child quite like Casabianca. When she could take the heat no more, she had the courage to accept her limitations and abandon the beaten path.

Practical common sense had ruled her decision. She had donned her new hat with ease and relief, without ever feeling apologetic. By choosing her own path she had carved a niche for herself by alienating herself from the rat race. Hats off to her!

A Lost Childhood for Present Generation


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/556768/a-lost-childhood-present-generation.html

When middle school children were introduced to R K Narayan’s book “Swami and His Friends.” it was astonishing to note that they were not able to   relate to the stories at all. No, it is not just about urban kids, even girls and boys from small towns were unable to identify themselves, empathise or laugh with or at Swami and his friends.

It is hard to believe that we as a country have changed so much in just about half a century. When we make a conscious effort to list the similarities between the past and present, the basic facts remain pretty much the same. We are still following the system of education left behind by the British.

The premium is still laid on learning English and being tutored in the English medium schools has not lost momentum. The children get to study the same six or seven subjects with a syllabus that is altered with times. Learners have to take up tests and examinations based on the prescribed books to prove their worth and go on to the next academic level.

When we compare the emotional and intelligence quotient of children in the past and present we find that it operates in inverse proportion. True, children are well informed and intelligent today compared to the earlier generations.

Stressed minds

Yet when it comes to happiness and carefree attitude, they fail to measure up to children of previous decades. Even tiny tots who attend pre nursery and montessori classes are being subjected to a lot of stress. Not only do they have to perform well, but they need to clear interviews at esteemed schools to gain admission.

Then the mammoth responsibility of taking care of oneself from preying paedophiles is thrust on them. The ugly truth about the big bad world out there to devour their innocence is slowly but surely injected into their radar of understanding.

Children who instinctively attract a hug, kiss or a pat because of their cuteness now have to evaluate the affection shown to them in terms of good touch or a bad touch.

Gone are the days when young ones could be showered with candies and sweets at
the drop of a hat. A health check up in the school would amount to checking the height weight and sometimes the eyesight of the child.

However, nowadays, children happen to be bearing the brunt of lifestyle diseases for no fault of theirs. Juvenile diabetics, thyroid issues, obesity, asthma, a host of pollution related allergies and even cancer have stepped into the world of youngsters. They cannot enjoy a meal let alone junk food without caution.

Joys of ganging up

Unlike the past, children these days are usually loners either by choice or because the ones they want to associate with prefer being alone. They have one or two and sometimes no siblings to share their toys, clothes and books with.

Moreover, parents who can afford the money ensure that their child does not crave for anything. They seem to be totally unaware of the joys of ganging up to climb up trees and steal fruits, play “I spy” or hopscotch because lessons in being careful have far outweighed lessons on solidarity.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons why children these days are a cleaner lot than their parents were at their age because they only play games on the touch screen when they are not sweating at their studies.

Those who do care for physical activities hardly find playgrounds or parks near their homes and there are also times when they do not have playmates because everyone is busy trying to ace the rat race.

The few who do indulge in sports and athletics do it with a definite aim of making it big; hence the slightest downfall or failure to win makes them turn to drugs or depression.

We cannot expect kids who have inherited an overtly exploited planet riddled with natural calamities and terrorism to be cherubic angels in folk tales and fairy tales. They are dealing with life as directed by their parents, guardians, society and system at large. Hence, it is not their fault if they could not appreciate Swami and his friends.

Nevertheless, it is in our hand to steer them clear from becoming contrite and contrived instead of becoming conscientious and constructive citizens in future.