“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!

Gift for teacher? Classroom Discipline


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/631432/gift-teacher-classroom-discipline.html

S Radha Prathi, Sep 5 2017, 0:08 IST

If teachers were asked what they would consider the best teacher’s day gift, the answer would be an unanimous chorus — classroom discipline!

Well, that happens to be the harsh truth. An average classroom in any school across urban India is almost always in a state of chaos. The teacher-student ratio is unwieldy in most. Under the circumstances, a conscientious teacher has to also double up as the bad cop, usher the students to step in mentally, not just physically, into the classroom. Healthy classroom practices like interactions, discussions and debates on the subject of study is often replaced with pontification, which has almost become a mandatory feature in the lives of teachers. Seldom can they do much else, because the law of the land forbids them from using the cane.

Most teaching staff are ashamed or afraid to rope in the help of colleagues, seniors or the head of the institutions because they do not want to show themselves to be weak or helpless. Besides, they do not want to jeopardise their chances of getting an increment by showing themselves to be lacking in class control skills. The students, for their part, ranging from primary school to the undergraduate levels seem to find it extremely difficult to sit still in the class and focus on what is being taught. Their attention span seems to be consistently declining year after year. They seem to have collectively traded the art of listening for the art of merely hearing that serves no purpose.

Such being the case, teachers have to often repeat themselves to reach out to everyone in the audience. In the process, a sense of repetition and redundancy sets in in the ones that got it the very first time. They become restless till the teacher takes the lesson forward but only after another round of disciplining. When this exercise becomes repetitive, it can get tiresome for both the students and the teacher. Precious classroom time is spent in shepherding students individually or in little groups into a state of silence before continuing with the lesson. Over a period of time, both parties get familiar with the pattern and play it out like clockwork to the point of frustration.

When teachers bare their hearts out on the subject, they are told categorically that “content is king” and the conduct of the teacher is the benchmark in a classroom. While that may be true, even experienced and passionate teachers who do know their subject and carry themselves with dignity are finding it difficult to handle disruptive behaviour. All the same, teachers agree that kids should have their fun and freedom as long as they do not constantly disrupt the classroom. They also vouch for the fact that the young are perfectly nice alone; it is only when they get together they become unmanageable.

It is time for us to unravel this conundrum. The restiveness stems from the environment the child comes from. The pressure to do well and realise the dreams of their parents has pinned them down. The gadgets they use and the amateurish exposure they get to various subjects on the internet make them feel that they know it all. The junk foods they consume, the sedentary lives they lead and the assorted pollutions they have to deal with have rendered them weak. Their preference to play with gadgets than with siblings or friends has made them strangers to empathy. The stress and strife of modern life is taking a toll on the children.

If we hope to salvage the future of our children, we must work on these issues on a war-footing. Remember, the family is the first school and the mother is the first teacher. Parents should make it their own imperative to spend quality time with children no matter what their age. Children who hail from sensible, ethical and loving homes will reflect those qualities.

Having well behaved students can prove to be a tremendous boost to a passionate teacher’s morale and her capacity to teach. Precious class hours can be channelised to sow the seeds of knowledge, nurture analytical thinking, and help children blossom into responsible, intelligent and considerate individuals. When teaching becomes a fulfilling and pleasant experience, a teacher can make a world of difference to the taught. When that happens, every day will be Teacher’s Day!

Evaluation of Evaluators


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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.

Teach Them To Cheat Not


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/605715/teach-them-cheat-not.html

The examination season is on. This year appears to be no different from the examinations conducted over the previous years. It has almost become a habit for most under-performers to try their hands at some hanky-panky.

Students have been caught cheating, warned and even debarred when they have proved themselves to be incorrigible.

Diligent students who have worked hard right round the academic year feel let down when they find themselves being treated on par with some of their classmates who have been promoted as they resorted to copying in examinations.

On the other hand, students who do cheat feel that if they did not risk the malpractice, they would never hear the end of it from their parents besides being looked down upon by their peers and siblings.

Then there are instances of students running away from home and even attempting suicide when caught red handed in the act. When such a case is visualised in proper perspective, it is evident that the squad had meant to check the smooth functioning of the examination entered the room where the errant student was writing the examination, sending a chill down his or her spine resulting in the unfortunate decision of the student.

The copycat who deserves punishment ends up as the hero at the end of the day by sometimes making it to the newspaper headlines. The squad, the principal, the teaching and non-teaching staff are sent on an undeserving guilt trip for simply carrying out their duties sincerely by identifying the malefactor’s blatant blunder.

Then, when the surface of the matter is scratched and deeper introspection is employed, one can see that a lot of invisible hands are involved in doing the dark deed quite unintentionally.

‘Great expectations’
The system and the expectations of the parents, teachers and the peer group are collectively responsible for the immature decision of the wrong doers. Students are pressurised to give their best shot to excel in examinations so that they can emerge as victors in the rat race.

One cannot really discount episodes where the students are led to believe that they could get away with unethical practices.

There are instances where the invigilators actually promise candidates to look the other way for a price when the black deed is being carried out in the examination hall.

There is also a section of candidates who opt to pay for a fake course certificate to university crooks to facilitate their job search.

Compromise in integrity

Compromise in integrity and ethics in the examination happens with unfailing regularity because the educational calibre of a person is determined by the marks obtained by him or her as a student in the board and university examinations.

Personal interest of the student and the core competency for studying the subject appear to be the subject of little or no interest to most of the parents and teachers.

It is a common practice in our country for students scoring high marks to be absorbed in the mainstream or the science stream by the colleges impervious of the fact whether the student has the aptitude for the subject. The cream is expected to opt for professional courses like medical or engineering.

These toppers are the most sought after in the marriage market and job scene, and are regularly placed in the summit of the social ladder.

Those who do not fare well in these examinations are largely doomed for the rest of their lives because they could not prove themselves academically. This practice has almost become a tradition in our educational system much to the chagrin of the students who may have talent and aptitude for other aspects.

It is high time we as a society start respecting the individual’s decision and his/her field of interest. Youngsters should be told that it is important for them to do well in the chosen area no matter what it is.

Innate qualities like honesty, sincerity and sense of purpose should be nurtured in young minds by both parents and teachers to build their moral profile. They should be sensitised to the fact that it is better to fail in honour than to flourish by cheating. Only then can we hope to populate our nation with responsible, dependable and sensible citizens who realise that education is a means to the end and not an end in itself.

New Age Challenges of Teaching Undergrads


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/587593/challenge-teaching-age-undergrads.html

By S Radha Prathi, Dec 21, 2016,

Teaching at the undergraduate level is increasingly becoming a challenge even to the most enterprising, enthusiastic and experienced of teachers these days. Barring a handful of undergraduates, most students are hardly ever interested in the course. For most urban youth, it is a passage of rite to be fulfilled before they enter the world at large to pursue their vocations, businesses, jobs or personal lives.

Lecturers and professors both old and young who had gathered at a national seminar seemed to be speaking in one voice on their pet subjects. They began with the most sacred ritual of marking attendance which gains sacrosanct dimensions especially towards the end of the academic year.

The UGC insists on a minimum of 75% attendance requirement before taking up the prescribed examinations from time to time. Every student who falls short of the mark, unable to get a proxy or have the means to circumvent the problem, makes it a point to be there towards the end.

These students add to the nuisance value in the classroom because they are unaware of what is transpiring in the room and that naturally keeps them diverted. Interestingly, they are the ones who come up with ideas of having special classes in a bid to step up their attendance quotient.

These days, the courts stand testimony to the increasing numbers of affidavits filed by erring students suing colleges for depriving them of the attendance that would have enabled them to take up examinations.

Attendance has been boiled down to the level of being physically present in the campus. Never mind if you are late, distracted or have misbehaved in the lecture hall. A couple of medical certificates and wedding cards genuine or otherwise have the powers to set matters right.

Neither the students nor their parents seem to be unduly worried about the learning curve that could have shot up if discipline and diligence were employed. This act  is nothing but a sterling example of how colleges inadvertently nurture downright carelessness laced with rudeness which gains legal validation because of obscure processing.

Gone are the days when lectures were interrupted by garrulous youth and giggly girls who indulged in small talk or biting into a morsel of food during the serious hour. These days they are otherwise occupied checking or sending messages on their cell phones, that is if they are not playing or shopping.

If they are asked to deposit their instruments outside before a guest lecture, each one will take their own sweet time to make “suitable arrangements” before taking leave of their external organ for an hour or two.

Internet age
Taking down lecture notes is passé, because graduating youngsters believe that everything worth learning can be found on the internet. Necessary course material can always be bought, photocopied, scanned or stolen if necessary. Most pupils are not interested when there are relevant digressions from the topic because they do not figure in the scheme of the portions prescribed for examinations.

On the one hand, they want to be treated like adults when reprimanded for permissive public behaviour; on the other, they want to be spoon fed with the exact mark allotment for each question.

It is ironical to note that the youth of the world which believes in worldwide networking do not make an attempt to see the interrelated nature of subjects which can go a long way in shaping them as sensible and sensitive global citizens.
The harsh truth is students no longer learn to gain knowledge but to earn degrees. They attend college for the frivolous social ambience and not for getting a panoramic on various subjects. Politics, groupies and sectarian views have substituted the secular outlook.

Examinations, mark sheets and certificates have become passports to the first jobs which are usually procured through campus interviews. Hence, it is no wonder students are becoming increasingly removed from the teacher-taught equation. They have forgotten that being a graduate is not about procuring document, it is about graduating to a higher phase in life and emerging as a better human being who has some expertise over the chosen subject.

Matters will improve only if we are able to instill a love for learning in the young or just devalue degrees of the ones who do not measure up to display basic knowledge of the chosen subject and show evidence of etiquettes demanded of a graduate.

Time Tested Bond


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Whoever said, “99% perspiration and 1% inspiration is the arithmetic of success” was spot on. The thrill of experiencing the process of the saying being translated into reality during my school days made me a staunch believer of the aphorism.

Recently, I stumbled on a Facebook request of a dear, long-lost childhood friend. The ball set rolling almost immediately. She called up and we chatted away. The excitement, the bonhomie and the unquestionable affection surfaced together leaving us overwhelmed. That night, I could not sleep till the wee hours of the morning as I was lost in nostalgia. Vivid pictures of a distant past were visualised by my mind’s eye.

We had just stepped into high school. Each class was expected to present a programme for 15 minutes to display our talents. We had decided a moving tableau showcasing the wedding of Rama and Sita. My long-lost friend, who played Rama, had to string the bow and then pretend to break it in the process before garlanding Sita. I was behind the curtains providing instrumental music on the Veena for the show.

I was supposed to ramble through an auspicious raga and then strike all the strings together to signify the breaking of the bow. The music and the act never seemed to coordinate during our practice sessions. So, we meticulously timed the act. It was decided that I should twang the strings after a certain time. However, I was not quite sure how it would turn out on stage because I would not even be able to see what was transpiring.

On the red-lettered day, each of us did our bit. My friend, who was on stage, bent the bow with all her might and actually broke the bow quite unintentionally, and I, who was oblivious to the happenings on the stage, concentrated on the music and twanged the strings at the pre-decided moment. The action and the sound occurred simultaneously, inviting a roaring applause. It was only after the performance I learnt about the extraordinary and unexpected turn of events. A sense of happiness and fulfillment pervaded us whenever our schoolmates mentioned it in the coming days.

Soon studies, other activities and preoccupations took over our lives and each of us went our way. Yet, what remained with me was the moral support of the time-tested truth which made me believe in the power of perseverance and the benevolence of almighty and not to mention the warmth of our friendship which renewed seamlessly after three decades.

Integrity, Not Marks Key to Education


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/553770/integrity-not-marks-key-education.html

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.