De-traumatisation of Education?

Update: This article has been published on YouthKiAwaaz


The News

Union HRD Minister, Kapil Sibal, has announced his first steps towards revamping the entire education system across the country – de-traumatisation of education by making 10th Standard Board exams optional. The logic behind this proposal is - “Why put unnecessary pressure on students, parents and schools by forcing students to appear for a Board exam if the student wishes to continue in the same school till 12th Standard?”

According to the Sibal, the student would have to appear for Board exams only if they wish to enrol in a different school post their 10th Standard. The proposal includes other measures such as the marks system making way for the Grade system or percentile system and setting up a National Commission for Higher Education and Research.

Since the CBSE board is directly under the Centre's purview, the new measures could be implemented within a year in CBSE schools, whereas it would take some more time to implement this strategy across the country. Sibal has also stated that the stakeholders would be invited for discussion before final implementation – the current State Boards forming a major chunk of the stakeholders.

My Opinion

It is obvious that the Indian education system has been long overdue for a revamp. And it is definitely good to see that the HRD minister has decided not to follow in the footsteps of his illustrious predecessor – and instead try do something meaningful. The intent is right – un-burden the young students and their hapless parents from the tremendous strain that they go through during the dreaded 10th Standard Board Exams.

Having said that, I am not sure whether the implementation is a step in the right direction.

  • This step has the potential to make the students complacent and it might impact their competitiveness.

  • The students would have to face the Board exams for the first time in 12th Standard. That means even more pressure during the all-important, decisive examination.

  • What impact will this have on the value of the 10th Standard certificate? The 10th Standard marks/grade is quoted everywhere – scholarships, college admission process, even job interviews dammit.

  • IMO, the project is very ambitious – making away with all the State Boards and centralizing the school education system (with crores of students) across the country is sure to run into serious scalability, administrative and logistical issues. Further, the State Boards are already well-established and specialized to cater to the needs and composition of the particular state.

  • One measure which makes sense is to make percentile as the standard unit of measurement as opposed to marks or percentage. This is all the more important as the standards of various State Boards in the country vary vastly. For example,

    • In Goa Board, getting 90% in SLC is a big accomplishment. Correction is very strict. Top scores in language subject rarely crosses 85.

    • In Karnataka Board, a student with 90% may not even be given a second look by any of the good colleges. There are tens of thousands of students with that kind of score. Correction is very lenient.

    • So, when students from these two boards apply for a seat in the same college, is it not a comparison of apples and oranges? The percentile system will surely level the playing ground.

I think Kapil Sibal deserves credit for taking the first step in this education reform. However, the proposal is in need of a re-look. I will consider the Indian education system to have undergone reform the day rote learning is banished and a system which emphasizes on “learning” and “education” in the true sense of the words is in place.

Looking forward to an India where children do not waste their childhood learning lessons by-heart and instead receive meaningful education which prepares them to give back to the country in the future. Jai Hind.

Animals, Flop-Dancers and Others Should Get Reservations Too!

An Indian MP, one Mr Yarad Shaadav, recently caused furore by threatening to consume poison if a bill which proposes to set aside 33% reservation for women is passed. This was just the beginning. Mr. Shaadav set the stage for a series of threats, counter-threats, demands and counter-demands. In this exclusive report, we present some samples from this tug-of-war being played out in the Parliament for the past few days.

Mrs. Mane Aka Gandhi has demanded that 33% of the seats (i.e, 181 seats) be reserved for animals. Nothing surprising for those who know her. What is surprising though, is that out of these 181 seats, Mrs. Gandhi has asked for a huge chunk – 100 seats – for lions alone. This has made experts wonder why the lady has not demanded more reservation for lionesses, not to mention other animal species. This reporter suspects it might be because of the Mane in her Name). Mrs. Gandhi has threatened that she will let lions loose in the parliament if her demands are not met.

Star Indian cricketer, Har-dozen Singh has partly supported Mrs. Gandhi and requested her to include a clause that sets aside 10 seats for monkeys. Mr. Singh has also dropped a hint that failure to comply may mean that he will slap the Speaker of the House.

Another Indian cricketer – medium-pace dancer and (make-or-)break bowler Mr. Pappu-Kentdans-Ala (also known as Free-Santh)- has demanded 12% reservation for those backward sections of Indians who cannot dance, failing which, he reportedly plans to torture the entire House by shaking a leg near the well at Parliament House. Upon being asked how he arrived at the number 12, he responded that 12 is the average number of balls he bowls per over – hence the figure.

Noted actor Emraan Kissme, meanwhile, has started a campaign to highlight the plight of bad serial kissers in the country, and is reported to be meeting the President today with a representation requesting 1% reservation for serial kissers. Mr. Kissme has issued the most serious threat so far – he claims he will kiss every female MP for two full minutes if his demand is not met. If this act does not yield any results, he says he will start kissing the male MP's - in the ascending order of their age; and he will continue until his demand is accepted.

The Commissioner of Police of Bangalore, Mr. Pandu Havaldar, has jumped on to the bandwagon, and is lobbying for a 5% reservation for corrupt policemen in the Parliament. This in turn, has prompted citizen groups and MP's alike to question the motive of such a move as there is already a 100% reservation for corrupt people in the Lok Sabha. Mr. Havaldar also blackmailed the public by declaring that until his demands are met, the Bangalore Police will not maintain law and order in the city. This statement has confused the media and citizen forums. Questions like “Whats new in that?”, “How is that a threat?”, “Isn't that the state of Bangalore for the past decade any way?” resonated across newspapers and blogs alike.

This correspondent will continue to bring such juicy inside details for our esteemed readers as the women's reservation bill debate continues and the noises build up into a cacophony. Stay tuned .. er .. feedburner-fed.

Gods Must Be Greedy

How else does one explain the urge of people to make obscenely expensive donations to the Gods, like this one, a whopping Rs. 40+ crores by a minister at Tirupati?

Here's a (wild wild ??) thought, Mr. Minister. Have you ever thought

  • How many under privileged people you could have uplifted with the same amount? Heck – judging by the budget of a recent school renovation project (carried out by an NGO) that I witnessed recently – I wouldn't be surprised if all the schools in an entire taluka can be completely revamped with that kind of money.

  • That you could appease the Gods far more and receive blessings several times greater than what you have got now, by using this amount to set right the imbalance in the society around you?

Let's not even go into the discussion about how a minister made so much money (after all, he is a mining industry baron). Let's not even go into the ethics of whether a minister should be making such exorbitant donations. The question is what the Gods would prefer – that a wealthy human makes such gestures which serve no meaningful purpose whatsoever (Come on now – what is Tirumala Venkateshwara going to do with a diamond-encrusted crown?); or they keep the spirit of God alive by spreading goodness with the same amount in the name of God!

Would the Gods still brand me an atheist?

From a Cattle-grazer to an IIT student!

Update: This post has been selected as one of "Spicy Saturday Picks" for 6th June 2009 by BlogAdda.


Up until yesterday, if one asked me what it takes for anyone to get into an IIT, I'd probably say

  • Coaching from one of the top institutes (BASE, Brilliant etc)

  • Money to even enrol in these coaching institutes (they don't come cheap do they?)

  • And of course, the indispensable trio of talent, hard work and determination.

But that was yesterday. If one asks me the same question today, I'l probably mention only and only the last point. For, a Government Junior College in Hyderabad has busted the myth regarding the first two points.

The students at the Andhra Pradesh Social Welfare Residential Junior College are from the extremely poor sections of society. They are children of daily wage workers, and many of these students have spent their childhood grazing cattle or toiling away in farmlands. The college itself runs in a small 5-room building and boasts of little to no infrastructure or facilities. And what is so special about this college?

Of the 35 students who are passing out from the college this year, 19 secured top IIT ranks. 7 of them are actually headed for IITs and the others have secured admission in reputed institutes like Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (of which Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam is the chancellor).

This college is a model – of how “getting things done” is far more important than “patting one's own back”. I am sure any private institute would have used such an achievement as an excuse to waste newsprint by the kiloton, and shout from the top of their voices in an attempt to assert themselves as the “best coaching institute in the country”. And the private institutes would not have stopped there for sure – they would also have used this as an opportunity to hike their fees. And to think that the principal of this particular college gave all credit to students! As the news article puts it:

A beaming principal E Lakshmaiah modestly attributes the success more to the hard work and determination of the students than the alma mater. “The facilities are bare minimum here. But despite that, our students succeeded in the highly competitive nations-wide tests,” he said.

I feel the Andhra Pradesh Social Welfare Residential Junior College deserves all the credit it is getting – so do the students who study there. In an era where education is fast turning into a lucrative business rather than an essential service; and when seats at professional courses are sold, exhorted or auctioned; this particular college is standing out from the crowd and doing a real service to the nation. Hats off to them.

Looking forward to an India where decent professional education is inclusive of the economically weaker sections of society. JAI HIND.

No Kidding Business, This!

My pal, Mr. Professional (MP) is very upbeat about his child these days. Every conversation has to have at least a few mentions of his 10 year old daughter. Like thousands others like him, MP is a very proud parent, and wants the best for his child. He always goes the extra mile to give his daughter the best he possibly can. The best of clothes, toys, education – everything. In fact, MP revealed to me once that the amount of resources consumed by the child has been the single largest expenditure for the family ever since his daughter was born.

And now, I arrive at the real point of this post. When I met up with MP recently, he was with his Childhood Friend (lets call him CF). CF has an 8 year old son. CF has radically different views about bringing up a child. He put an entire new angle to this child-care thing.

CF insists that although he yearns to give his child the best, he does not equate “the best” with “the best that money can buy”. For example, he has chosen not to enrol his son in one of the “exclusive” schools (even though he could have afforded one had he stretched his finances a little). Instead, he has sent his son to a good middle-class school. He wants his son to interact with children from all backgrounds. And being a middle class guy himself, he believes that his son should go to a middle class school too. “There is no dearth of excellent-quality middle class schools is there?”, he argues. I think I agree with CF here.

Secondly, CF believes that a child brought up in such a protected environment will find it difficult to face the challenges of the world out there. A child who always travels in an A/C car, who has never boarded a city bus, who only rides an upmarket bike to college is out of touch with reality, he says. I am not sure whether I agree entirely with this opinion. I feel that no matter how protected a child is, as he grows, he will get acquainted with the ways of the world and will learn to stand up for himself.

CF's third point was about the child's sense of social responsibility. He feels that the trend of projecting only the best of the world to children makes them unaware of the sufferings of, and reality about their fellow human beings. His contention is that such children are less likely to do anything for the society. I guess he has a point there.

CF's final, radical punch was yet to come. He put forth a question to MP: “Imagine you had not had a child; and that you had spent all the amount that you are now spending on her, in philanthropy instead. Can you imagine how many under-privileged children's lives you could have turned around in that amount? And, can you imagine how many children's lives those kids might in tun improve when they grow up?”

I find this argument to be .. well .. far too extreme. Suggesting one not to have kids because one will end up spending a lot of money on the kids – instead, spending the same amount of money on dozens of underprivileged children!!! I mean .. if CF had suggested that – for example – imagine cutting down on the amount you spend on your kid by, say 20%; and imagine putting that money into social causes; well that would have been a far more reasonable and acceptable argument. Or would it? I wonder how CF would respond if I challenged him to undergo a 20% cut in his pay with the assurance that this amount would be used for philanthropy!

There is one thing I agree in this far-fetched point of view though. It has been my observation (and by no means is it a generalisation), that people who have come from not-so-rosy backgrounds are more active when it comes to charity – than people who have never had to struggle in their past. They would even undergo some sacrifices in order to give to the underprivileged. And by the end of the debate between MP and CF, the only take-away I had was that it might be a good thing to expose a child to the real world from an early age in order to make the child a good citizen in the future.

But hey, why am I worried about all these things? I ain't having kids anytime soon! I would like to know the opinion though, of those of you who have kids or are planning to soon. At least that way, when I bump into CF next time, I am more prepared to enter into the debate rather than remain a mute spectator!

Disclaimer: This is my personal blog. All the views and opinions expressed on this blog are entirely my own and do not reflect the views of my employer, organization, relatives, friends, acquaintances or any other person/entity.