Friday, 31 December 2010

A Vision for Schools Today

In the present context of changing trends where marks don’t determine success, it has become imperative to change our vision for schools. The objective of education has become the development of the all round personality of the student. What matters today is the ability to perform in all kinds of environment. Thus to be street smart and to be able to hold one’s own in any kind of situation is a mark of success for a student and his teacher. To contribute to the all round development of the student, we need to provide him an environment where he can excel in in various fields of his choice. These fields could be sports, cultural, language, general awareness, science, or commerce.

Communicative skills need to be developed, and of course awareness of the world around need to be encouraged. The education process needs to be democratic in nature, where the student is allowed to progress at his own pace. Flexibility in assessment has already been introduced with the launching of the Comprehensive Continuous Assessment system introduced recently.

Today a Science student should be encouraged to participate in cultural activities, while the Commerce and Arts student should be encouraged to be aware about the latest discoveries in science. It has become a rule that you  should be a master of all trades!There will be a blurring of fields of specialisation.  Students will have to be provided with information which will empower them. The role of the Library, cannot be overlooked and the students should be encouraged to do research work in the libraries well after school hours. If the Library is to be made a nerve centre of knowledge, then it goes without saying that, students should be able to access the internet in the libraries. Every good school should have an auditorium, a sports field with adequate facilities, and also teachers who are accessible.

If we need to develop our students into versatile personalities, then we need to encourage problem solving, brain storming, learning of principles, divergent thinking, and a democratic style of teaching. To make this a reality, we need to have language labs, computer labs, maths labs, a well equipped library with internet, and an environment of approachability or accessibility where students can contact their teachers 24x7! Organisation of exhibitions, book fairs, debates, sports meets, mock parliaments, seminars, and workshops are very important. Also, interactions with intellectuals, professionals and parents should be encouraged!

Commercialisation of Change

Today, more then ever before we are witnessing change taking place at a very fast rate. Globalisation has meant that we have to adapt to changes taking place whether in the field of education, or economy, or even moral values. Take for example the fact that the computer, or mobile, or camera that you buy today will become out dated, or even obsolete within six months! It seems as if today we are being inextricably being sucked into the vortex of change no matter how much we resist!

Inherent in human nature is a resistance to change, and this often takes place when one reaches middle age! This is when a man wants to settle down in life, and perhaps slow down one’s pace of life! It hurts when you are told that your mobile phone on which you splurged a few months back has become old fashioned, or you are told that you need to change your priorities, beliefs, or attitudes, otherwise, you will be labelled old fashioned! Change you can’t cope with can be stressful. It is perhaps for this reason that multi national companies encourage their employees to spend quality time with their families by going out on holidays whether abroad or at home.

Change, therefore, is stressful if you can’t go along with it! The recent introduction of radical changes in education till class tenth were rather abrupt, and they have resulted in great confusion among the students, parents, and teachers. Soon, boards will be abolished at the twelfth board level. After so many years of a traditional system of Education, students of tenth class were told that there would be no more boards for them.

Somehow, it seems as if we are fighting change by abolishing competitiveness amongst students while ironically getting sucked into the vortex of change! As long as students had to face the boards, they were more competitive, their skills were well honed, and they really studied hard, because it was a matter of survival of the fittest! Today the same students have become rather complacent about studies, and rather laid back. If change means abolishing the boards, and removing competition amongst our students, then it is a bad kind of change! Change should always be for the better…and it should be accepted with grace, not with confusion or bafflement!

The rate at which science and technology are evolving and growing is astounding but then, greater than this is the rate at which various viruses are evolving, becoming more and more resistant to antibiotics and other drugs. Take for example, SAARS, Ebola, The Hanta Virus, or Swine Flue… the list is endless of the viruses that successfully have managed to adapt. Adaptation, therefore is the only secret to success, and this is possible if we accept change which is positive. Change which makes us lazy and complacent will only ruin us. The Spartans used to leave their new born babies on the mountains because they only wanted the strongest to survive. If the baby was strong, he or she would live till the next day when the parents returned to gather the child. An extreme step, but it was necessitated by the times in which they lived!

To conclude, therefore, it is clear that, adaptation, competition, and change are inevitable. To interfere with these natural processes would be fatal. The process of natural selection might be harsh, but then it is a reality! We need to, therefore, maintain a proper balance between change, competition, and adaptation. Unfortunately, in a society which is a consumerist society, change has a commercial angle. Thus, it would be commercially viable to make mobile phones, and other products obsolete as fast as possible, so that newer products might be bought as soon as they hit the shelves! Well, I believe that if change is commercially induced, then it is unnatural, and if it is not natural, then it is not good!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

The Impact of Commercialisation on Education

I, as a teacher of senior classes in a Government Aided School in Delhi have noticed a steady decline in the regard for moral values in students. Somehow it seems as if the concept of commercialisation has pervaded the social fabric of the society to the effect that students along with their parents believe that they get what they pay for. Unfortunately, it is difficult to impress upon my students, that there are times when money cannot buy the love of another person, nor can it bring back a beloved from the land of the dead! Impatience in students is more often than not ruled by the expectation of being served because one has paid for it.

It goes without saying that Education is ruled by commercialisation and this is reflected in the mad rush of students for tuitions and coaching. Those who can afford a good tutor stand a better chance of qualifying in an entrance exam for an engineering course, or a course in medicine! Unfortunately it is from this assumption that students today believe that money can buy everything! Our system of education has failed miserably in nurturing the timeless values of respect for others, honesty, sincerity, and dedication. What, after all, is the importance of such values when you are taught that money can buy you everything!

What we are doing today is teach our children that the goal of our life is to earn money, when in fact it should be the other way round! Money is not an end, rather it is a means to an end! That “end” might be a comfortable life, a life of contentment or a life of satiety. Thus, today, if a student wants to take science, then it is because his parents want him to be an engineer, or a doctor. This is not because of a desire to see  children as healers or builders of railway tracks or roads or bridges, rather it is because of the perks of being an engineer, or a doctor! Thus, it is assumed that a doctor, or an engineer will earn more than, say, a teacher!

Don’t be irked if you notice that your students pay less attention to subjects like languages. After all, what is the point of learning English? It is considered to be a subject which might not help you get through that engineering test. And anyway, students don’t want to learn English, or Sanskrit or Hindi because then they would become  teacher! Who wants to be a teacher today? It is just not lucrative enough! Unfortunately, there are a large number of students who take up the science stream although they don’t have an aptitude for science. They might be very intelligent students, but, they just don’t have a taste for science. It is just that they are forced to take up science (since it is more lucrative) out of social or parental pressure! The more wise parents change their minds when their children are not able to get through, and they go for a change of stream. Those who are stubborn however persist with the result that the student wastes two years when he fails a second time in the eleventh class.

I often wonder whether all this restlessness, stress, and violence in students might not after all be the result of the effects of commercialisation in our society! When a student is forced to take up a particular stream by his parents which he is not very much interested in, then he will not pay attention in class! Frustration and symptoms of stress might be more evident in students who are not able to relate to the subjects they have been forced to take up because they seem to be more financially rewarding!

Commercial considerations, thus govern the choice of streams among students in India today. There is a belief that you command more respect in the society if you are an engineer, or a doctor, or a chartered accountant. How do you impress upon a student that you don’t have to be an engineer or a doctor to command respect in the society? Your talents and abilities will take you to great heights even if you are a teacher or a social worker! My students are incredulous when I tell them that they don’t have to be engineers or doctors (with due respect) to achieve success and fame in the society! When I tell them that I studied science till class twelfth and then took up Humanities at the graduate and at the post-graduate level, they are astounded! I tell them that I passed science with 85% marks and the took up humanities, they are shocked! I don’t have any grudge against the science stream because I myself was a very successful science student. I only tell them that the commercial consideration never swayed my mind, and I only followed my heart so I could gain the best of both, the Science stream and the Humanities stream. Judge for yourself and tell me if I am I am not successful in life? Have I not received respect in life? I was a science student who took up Humanities and I have no regrets! I don’t have to be commercially viable to be successful in life. I need to do what I like to do, and that’s the secret of success! 

Saturday, 11 December 2010

My Last Valhalla - A Poem

I look at yonder old man smiling his last Valhalla.
Wonder whether he’ll try for one more victory,
Before bidding us an adieu befitting a Norse warrior!
But a tired smile has he, of a life well fought and battles won!

That old lady seems satiated with a life eventful enough!
She, along with her man smiles her last Valhalla.She
Will not fight another battle and a tired smile has she,
Of a veteran of many battles fought!

The old fascinate so, their faces full of wisdom,veterans
Of so many battles of life, and victories.But their
Smiles speak of tiredness and desire to bid farewell.
  Enough of battles, to the land of sleep go we!

They seem to tell me, the journey is long,
And the battles many and long
Drawn.For there is far to go
Before you reach oh
Your last Valhalla!

Friday, 10 December 2010

Changing Perspectives in Education

I have been teaching for close to sixteen years, and I have noticed a sea change in the methods of teaching and  perspectives in Education today,fortunately, the curriculum framers are gradually realising the need for a system of education which gives more importance to the all round development of the the personality of the student. Today, the stress is on learning of principles and  on making Education more student-centric. Today the student is more aware about his environment and he doesn’t accept things at face value!  The curriculum today is more practical and it takes into consideration applicability to real life situations. Keeping all these things in mind, the teacher has to change his style of teaching to be more relevant to what is going on in the world. In other words, a teacher has to modify his teaching to address global issues and concerns. Some of which are a concern for the environment, issues related to terrorism, natural calamities, and  global economy. No teacher can limit himself to his subject alone. Thus, a teacher of English should have enough knowledge about Economics, Science, Philosophy, Social issues, and of course a sound knowledge of his own subject.

The challenges before today’s teacher are great. He has to be a second parent to the student, a guide, an idol figure, a disciplinarian, a guidance councillor, and a good listener! To motivate students to learn, to make the learning process a joy, to be a contriver and a manipulator, are a few of the qualities of the teacher today! Gone are the days when the teacher spoke and he was followed! Today, the teacher goes into the class room prepared to be challenged, and prepared to answer the most unexpected questions ever!  The teacher has to be a juggler, a magician, and of course a great joker with a healthy sense of humour! To be able to receives jokes and be able to reply to them are just a few challenges before the teacher in a school today. It goes without saying that the democratic style of teaching needs to be adopted, and woe to the teacher who adopts the autocratic style of teaching, for remember, those students are not going to accept what is being taught unless they are convinced that it is relevant to their lives!

Patience, and the ability to listen to the student and then convince him is an important quality in a good teacher. The teacher thus has to be a good listener first and foremost! As such, the teacher has to listen to the parent and promise that he will take special care of his ward! There may be times when the students are not in the mood of learning, so the teacher should humour his students, and then cleverly draw them into the lesson of the day. In an age where corporal punishment is a strict no no, the teacher has to adopt psychological tact to handle his students. It is no doubt a tough job to teach today, but the challenges make the profession worthwhile! The teacher today is the Everyman, a wizard, a juggler, a parent, and an opportunist!

Friday, 3 December 2010

Some of my favourite Photographs:


Now don’t be surprised if I tell you that some of the best photographs are taken on the spur of the moment especially when you are least prepared for them! Photographs which are spontaneous are the best photographs because they have a story to tell which is natural, spontaneous and fresh! It is as if you were stating through your photographs that you like life fresh as it comes. I have a strong reason to believe that to be a good photographer you should also be a good poet, someone who appreciates life. It goes without saying that a photographer is also a chronicler who preserves some part of the past for posterity! As such, it can also be said that a photographer is doing service to the society and the nation!


So, then what does a photographer need, well the most important equipment is the photographer’s eye for the unusual, unusual expressions, unusual angles, striking colours, contrasts, shades, …etc. The list is endless!Then after the photographer’s eye comes the equipment. A Decent Camera, preferably with decent optics, a fast lens and and at least a decent sensor which has a capacity of ten mega-pixels! I however accept that today the mobile phone has better optics, and decent sensors, so, often the best photographs are not taken with a D-SLR, but with a humble mobile phone with three or more mega-pixels! If you do have a decent digital camera, then you need to also buy a good, sturdy Tripod. It is a good idea to have a tripod with a central hook to hang a brick or two to make it more steady!


Although, most of the exciting photographs are taken spontaneously, sometimes, you may have to plan the shot, especially, if you are taking a night shot of flowers like the ones below. They were taken with a Nikon-L100 digital camera:

 Flowers photographed at night (The First two are of Cactus flowers which blossom only at night)







As I said earlier, a decent mobile phone can also prove to be a potent tool in the hands of the discerning photographer with an eye for details. The photographs below were taken with a Nokia 6303 Classic Mobile phone, which has a 3.2 Mega-Pixel camera:

Hot Air Ballooning at Dhancheri Camp, Delhi-Gurgaon Border

  Image0680                  Image0679

 A Crystal tree on the occasion of Diwali, Ambience Mall, Gurgaon


 School Children having fun with Science




Flowers-a source of Joy and Inspiration

Image0380                  Image0383