Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Zindagi roz hamari class leti hai

A beautiful commerical from Britannia but aptly covers the idea of 'School of Life'

Monday, August 29, 2011

Lovely poem by Dharmavir Bharti

Ravi Shankar Prasad from BJP quoted the first stanza of this poem- Munadi in the Parliament session of 27th Aug. This poem was written during the JP Movement by Dharmavir Bharti.

The MP wanted to draw the parallels of this poem with the existing movement lead by Anna Hazare

Time to say less and understand more

There is so much to be understood about Anna's movement against corruption. A remarkably chequered movement it has been but has attained a great end so far in terms of the Parliament passing a unanimous resolution in favour of the demands.

One of the common though highly simplistic understanding as voiced by the actor Om Puri but commonly found amongst professionals in India is that all politicians are able to buy votes through notes and liquor. The actor in a demeaning way ever termed the politicians as 'ganwar;. There are clear loop holes in the way our law and order has not been able to subvert such realities but to say that thats how political leaders capture the imagination of people in the country is naive to say the least.

Winning elections in this country is a really really tough mental game and few really capture the complexity of what it takes to jump into this foray. 

Sharad Yadav one of the leaders who has risen from student level politics gave a befitting response to this perspective when he said

“Without the wisdom of Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi,” he said, people like him would not have been allowed to bring even their cattle to graze in Delhi. “This House,” he said, “is the only place, where you can see the face of the entire nation”, where Dalits can be seen as equals and where names like “Ghurau Ram, Garib Ram and Pakaodi Lal” walk around as MPs. It is only thanks to Gandhi and his freedom movement that today a Pakaodi Lal can come here, he said. A Pakaodi Lal in your Lok Sabha? Does that answer Om Puri’s description of a place filled with ganwaars? And if so, does that make you feel embarrassed? Mahatma Gandhi would have only been proud.

One can image that if such a versatile actor who has attained national fame can carry such views and feel it fine to vocalize it as if its a shooting which is going on, what can we infer about the views of people at large. The other funny part is that a politician will not want to talk about technicalities of acting but an acting would be 100% sure about the technicalities of what politics is!!! At times its a funny arrogance with which we tend to interpret our worlds.

Politics is very less understood as its formal study generally ends with a a 100 page book read last time in grade 10th.  Rest it left for media to teach since there are few who really tend to venture into it profesionally. Time for Anna like movement to serve wake up calls for educated and uneducated alike. Indian democracy has a lot to attain.  We all need to grow up.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Dismal performance of aspiring teachers

National Council of Teacher education at the directive of Ministry of HRD conducted a national wide Teacher eligibility test that is going to be mandatory for any teacher wanting to join a government or a private school going ahead. The results of this test which was conducted this year through CBSE in June this year was declared last week. To say the least, the findings are highly discouraging. Amongst the over 7.15 lakh candidates who gave that test, barely 14% were able to get through.

At the outset, we need to laud the government for hitting the problem at the right end by revealing to itself and everyone around, the yawning gap of quality of teachers. It also throws up a lot of questions in parallel.

With the Right to Education getting included as a Fundamental Right, if we don’t have teachers to translate that legitimate right into a reality then what does it leave us to feel elated about.  RTE opens up a need for 6.5 lakh teachers for its successful implementation. And it is just one of the several complex requirements that it gives way to. Teacher quality is one of the fundamental pre-requisites for ensuring that a school delivers. Thus if this Act has to see the light of the day in both letter and spirit, it would require a systemic view to the problems that plague our education system- starting with the issue of addressing the challenge of getting teachers who can deliver followed with aspects of resources, enrolment, reducing drop-outs, incentives, public private partnership etc.

Secondly, we need to have requisite checks and balances to evaluate the effectiveness of the teacher training programs. A society which is transforming gradually into a knowledge centric economy has to understand these aspects from the very core. This becomes all the more important in an environment where unlike Finland and Singapore, teaching as a profession (particularly in primary and secondary levels) in India doesn’t attract huge number of bright minds. And thus the nature of intervention and its currency with regards to changing times has to factor in this reality.

Thirdly, this test was not meant for the existing teachers who are already on the job so we can’t say how they would have fared. But still we can rationally presume that there may be a significant number of teachers who would have not fit the bill. If teachers who are not fit to qualify such an exam are assessing students and their learning, what is the credibility of those assessments? How many a tender minds must they be labeling incorrectly to thwart their learning journey for long..

Fourthly, on one hand there is our growing economy with its ever increasing need for skilled people and on the supply side at the farthest end we have teachers who are not in a position to teach children.  Does that imply that more and more students would end up in either being under-employed with no idea of what their strengths are or else seek short term vocational courses to atleast be fit enough to earn their bread and butter. Last year Aspiring minds managed to hog front page news http://www.aspiringminds.in/news_items/Aspiring_Minds_employability_report.html by coming up with the startling finding that just 18% of our tech students are fit for IT jobs.

Another problem that this result gives way is the fact that it further convolutes the debate on whether the system is weak or is it that we don’t have the right teachers to work within the system which may or may not be really so weak.

The only silver lining to this outcome is probably the fact that it should encourage our institutes and aspiring teachers to introspect and try harder going ahead so that they are able to shoulder the responsibility which the entire country is expecting them to do today.  Build a truly powerful nation.