Fighting a two and a half front war…..A Soldier never cries….

 Well, I am not a strategist and am not going to discuss the ‘Two and a half fronts’ that some of you would have read about in newspapers or heard on Televisions. I am just going to write about the two and a half war which an Indian soldier is always involved in, irrespective of the border he is posted at. I am referring to the enemy from across the border, the home front and the terrorist who manages to sneak in once a while. The home front has got bit more tense and intense now with the ‘Corona’ unleashing an unabated offensive taking the world by surprise, rather the whole world was caught off guard; some actually napping and still not able to see the truth.

soldier 1

The soldier still stands steadfast, unflinching, managing all three fronts like a soldier should, ‘mind ticking, feet moving, mouth shut’.

Continue reading “Fighting a two and a half front war…..A Soldier never cries….”

COVID-19 …. Setting the ‘New Normal’ …..

COVID – 19 has affected the world like nothing else ever had in our lifetime. It is setting ‘New Normal’ in our daily life. Caution has become integral to every action we do. It is like word Corona has been added to the ‘Drop down menu’ of the mind and whenever we set out to do anything the menu drops down and a question is asked “Is what I intend to do going to expose me to ‘Corona virus’ in anyway”? There is a detailed in-house deliberation in the mind and if and only if the answer is ‘No’ then only we go ahead to execute what we intend doing. Such a fear had never affected the human minds before. Mask & sanitiser have become the permanent content of every briefcase and the handbag. Now more than’ Khana Khaaya?’ (‘Had food’) the mothers are heard asking the kids ‘Haath dhoya?’ (Have you washed hands?).

Precaution

My profession gives me the privilege of moving out and interact with people, exercising due precautions, so I admit that I may not be able to fully empathise with people who are experiencing the ‘locked down’ in real sense. My article is based less on my personal experiences and more on experiences of my close family members and friends.

My small family of four is normally split between four places due to our professional and educational commitments/ requirements. Kind courtesy the lockdown, my wife and son are staying alone at Delhi and Chennai respectively. I was a bit lucky as the daughter had come visiting just before the lockdown was announced and is with me as the college remains closed.

Being Single (With no help available)

My son is now managing his life and work from his one room apartment. He has learnt to divide his time between work, wash, cook, eat and rest. The single room functions as the workstation, bedroom and kitchen. Just goes out once a week, face covered, maintaining physical distance to get his supplies from local grocery. He has not felt the need of the ‘Swiggy’ or the ‘Zomato’ to come to his aid. I understand that like him many other single men and women must be similarly managing their lives but in his case the transformation has been so fast, and he has adopted to the new normal so quickly and easily. The young generation has adopted to the changing situation in no time, they are ready to face any adversity.

My wife also, like many other working women, is managing her office work and home single all by herself without any help at hand. Frankly, it is after ages that she has been caught in such a situation and she is managing it well.

Homes are the Safest & the Best

The homes have become the safest place to be in. The offices have shifted to home. The elders, kids, the pets, and the office have learnt to happily co-exist in a two-bedroom flat. The kids are not persisting with demands to go out and play in the park or go to a restaurant. Everyone seems to have understood the need of the hour – precaution (Except some men who were badly missing ‘The bottle’ and could not control the urge as soon the restriction was lifted).

My salutations to the ladies specially the ‘working mothers’ who are juggling the role of mother, wife, home maker and a professional within the four walls of the home without relief and still managing to smile.

Working mothers

Homes have become the best holiday destination too. It is not just the school/ college going kids in India but also those who had preferred foreign shores for studies/ work have either flown back or are desperate to fly back home.

Re-discovering the Lost Talent

In the absence of the maid, the mothers (in some cases fathers too) are exhibiting the cooking skills and the kids are loving it (hopefully). Many would have realised how much money they unnecessarily wasted in those restaurants when better food could be prepared at home. People are learning to ‘Live with less’. Brilliant recipes are being dished out with ‘Whatever available’. Fear of weight gain has put caution to eating habits too.

Besides cooking many more hidden talents are being re-discovered in each home. ‘Har ghar kuch kehta hai’ or Har insaan mein talent bhara hai’ is being realised. (every home (family) has a story to tell and every man has a hidden talent)

The Malls,Markets,Schools & The Internet

The Malls are closed, Gyms/ parlours shut and the movie halls non- functional; I, for one, am not missing them at all. I do not like too much crowd, do not have much hairs left on the head and was always happy with my ‘Zero Pack’. The E-Commerce is knocking at the door to become the way of life. Netflix and other OTT platforms have replaced the movie halls & TV soap operas with professional ease (Thank God, we have a break from those never-ending soap operas).

Online classes and the webinars have become the style statements of the educational institutes. Internet is connecting the world like it had never done before. The office, education, relationships, and friendships are all dependent on the Internet for survival. Now it should be easier to ‘Date’ two (or more) people in real time, isn’t it?

Survival of the Fittest- Immunity is back in Business

Darwin’s theory of ‘Survival of the fittest’ is coming true. Anyone and everyone who was prepared for ‘A rainy day’ both health and wealth wise has not been affected the way the ones who never bothered to save. Immunity is back in business but, not the type promised by all the packaged food makers who are trying to encash the opportunity provided by the pandemic by labelling every food product as ‘Immunity booster’; It is the ‘Stamina’ fuelled by the savings & good mental/ physical health which will take one through; provide the immunity. Optimal utilisation of available resources and surviving with minimum is the new norm for survival.

Immunity

Moving from ‘Religion to Responsibility’

Heard ‘Sadhguru’ speaking on the subject on one the TV channels. India, like many other, is a country of believers. Each culture, community, religion propagating their own belief. Two places where there was never a dearth of crowd (Should I say ‘Bhakts’?) was a Religious or a Political congregation. What one gained from there is a matter of debate, but people went there. ‘Corona’ has put an end, may be temporary, to all that. People, in general, have started taking the responsibility of their lives. The ‘GOD’ has come back to where HE belonged, The home. People have (hopefully) realised the true worth of the existing leadership, most of them ran out of ideas (Did most have any?) at the word ‘go’ itself. People are learning to live their lives their own way, within their own means. I hope this becomes ‘The way of life… A New Normal’.

Hugs & Kisses

The hugs and kisses have been put on hold. Though, I am sure, a new ‘sanitised version’ of the hug will soon hit the market but Kiss (outdoors) specially the French version might have to wait. Amir Khan was finding a simple spectacle to be an obstacle in kissing in the ‘Three Idiots’ here we have two masks in between and the fear of passing on the ‘Corona’. One never knows, the French Kiss may end up becoming the most ‘deadliest murder tool’ (Killing me softly with his love…becoming a reality?).

Conclusion

Change is what we all resist; Change is what the pandemic is persisting to bring; The choice is obvious; Change man change.

Educate; not just feed…..

schools

The teachers are always running against time and hard pressed for completing the syllabus for respective classes but is all that effort actually worth it? Is all that effort actually leading to educating the mind , which it is supposed to? The syllabus are vast, so much to learn in a limited time followed by tests and tests and more tests to test the retention (certainly not understanding) capability of a child’s mind. Some schools and Board of Education go a step further and believe that more difficult the question paper better it is for testing the mind.

Damn it! Job of the schools and all these Education boards is to educate the minds and not just to ‘Test and grade’ . Marks can be obtained through rote learning( which most students resort to ) But education comes through understanding (There is no time to understand nor much efforts is made by schools/ teachers towards that). Ease out the syllabus, give time to teachers & students to make the teaching / learning process more practical.

‘Information by itself has little meaning unless the mind knows how to use it practically’.

Reforming the Indian Education System – A Way Ahead….

Indian education system is in dire need of reforms. Equal opportunities need to be provided, weight from mind & shoulders of students need to be removed, examination policy needs a thorough review, major up-gradation required in government schools especially in rural areas, caste & community based reservation system definitely needs a re-look, the fee structure being charged in private schools needs to be brought under control, dependency on costly tutorial classes to clear the competitive exams has to be systematically removed, all schools including the ones in rural/ remote areas got to go digital. The list is long, and a thorough deliberation is required before action worthy solutions are found. But one thing is

Edn reforms

for sure, the Education system needs urgent attention of people in power and time is running out.

Pragmatic reform process requires a deliberation by unbiased minds without any political considerations with only the future of students and the nation remaining the focus of attention.

What is required to be done?

Syllabus. The syllabus requires a thorough revision. The weight on the shoulders of students (in the form of school bags) and on the minds (in the form of exams & grades) has been constantly on the increase over past few years. The content of the textbooks must be reduced. The methodology of imparting education must undergo a change. The syllabus must be divided into ‘must learn’ & ‘could learn’ in terms of importance and students be taught and tested accordingly. Important subjects should be covered in class while online data / videos be provided of ‘could know’ topics to students to learn in their own time.

Exams. Our examination system is the cause of maximum stress in the minds of students. There should not be any exams upto class IXth and for class XIth while for class Xth and XIIth only internal exams be conducted by schools. Boards exams conducted centrally by State Education boards and CBSE/ ICSE to be done away with. This will bring in tremendous financial saving for boards as also save time and effort. Teachers & Parents will certainly raise objections against implementation of such a proposal, but a careful analysis will easily establish that the laborious process of conducting exams has not brought in much change in the quality of students being produced. Let us stop ‘force educating’ and shift the onus of learning to the students; anybody who wants to learn will learn and anybody who does not want to, will not learn under any pressure. Instead of tutoring and mentoring few ‘Arjunas’ the schools should look at finding, encouraging, and developing more ‘Eklavyas’. Focus must shift from ‘testing and grading’ to ‘educating and igniting’ the mind.

forced education

Quality of Schools. The difference in quality of education being imparted in private and government schools can be easily made out. Given the present circumstances a student of Government school cannot or will find it very difficult to compete with a private school student in any competitive exams, given that both have not had the benefit of Tutorial classes. The governments must give due importance to education and make requisite funds available to government schools. It is not difficult to bring in a qualitative change, only a will to do is required. The quality of the teacher matters more than anything else. ‘Training of the trainer’ is the sole responsibility of the management and all-out effort must be made towards achieving this. Most of Government schools specially in rural areas are deficient of teachers, this should not be acceptable at any cost; especially when you are dealing with the future of the nation.

Primary Education. A vast divide exists between private schools and the government schools specially the ones in rural/remote areas. Primary education is the base on which depends the height which a student will attain later in life. The child has to be conditioned to think big and this cannot happen in dingy seepage affected classrooms under the guidance of some uninterested teacher. This area requires immediate attention and improvement; teacher deficiency and adhoc arrangements must be done away with.

Equal Opportunities. Governments must ensure that equal opportunities are provided to students from any background in the field of education. The ‘visible divide’ existing between the rich and the poor, city and villages must be removed. I know it is not easy to accomplish but know for sure that it is not impossible. Certain actions like implementation of Right to Education Act have already being taken by the government and require a greater push.

Reservations. Reservation, based on caste, creed, race, income in professional institutes has been a bone of contention since years. Reservation which was started in 1951 as a 10 years package for upliftment of certain class of citizens was very much a need then. But instead of seeing an end, it has gone on and now includes many more classes and castes in its fold with total reservation being 59.5 %. It has seemingly become more of an appeasement tool for all political parties. If reservation was the best method for upliftment of any caste or class, then why it has not succeeded till now in achieving the aim? It only creates further divide among citizens; there are students belonging to so called ‘upper classes’ studying in government schools, having no access to high standard resources being from rural areas or lower income group (not covered under economically backward sections) families and don’t qualify for any reservations too. It is well understood that reservation cannot and should not be abolished in a hurry, it has to be a gradual well thought out process. Reservation based on caste or class has never benefitted anyone, what is required are equal opportunities and a level playing field to compete.

reservation

Governments must undertake the undermentioned measures to provide a level playing field for all to compete.

(a) Free education to all ‘backward’ class and rural students in government schools. Implement Right to Education Act ruthlessly.

(b) Improve the quality of education in government schools.

(c) Ensure subsidised coaching facilities to backward class & rural students in renowned coaching classes in cities.

(d) Open Government run coaching classes for backward class & rural, students. Quality of educators has to be ensured. Students should be selected for these classes based on their performance in schools.

(e) Admissions in all colleges to be based on entrance exams so that only desirous candidates join.

(f) More Poly-technique colleges and facilities for earning professional diplomas be opened. Quality must be ensured in such institutes.

(g) Graduation should not be essential for all Class A jobs. Certain diplomas should also be made eligible. This will reduce the mad rush for college admission to an extent.

(h) Psychological counselling/ conditioning should be made compulsory for all students from VIII standard to build their mental strength and shape them towards a better future.

(j) Once adequate measures to provide level playing field in competitive exams have been institutionalised then gradually the process of reducing reservations should come into effect. A start can be made by raising the ‘cut off’ marks laid down for reserved category students for admissions. Any reserved category seat left vacant due to non-availability of suitable candidates must be offered to general category candidate.

Fee Structure. While it is understood that Government must not interfere in every issue but in matter of education, which is a right of every child, it must. The fee being charged by private schools must be governed by a legislation and they should not be allowed to charge whatever they want, at will. Commercialisation of education should be curbed at all costs.

Digital Connect. Online education is the need of the hour. COVID -19 has forced it on the schools and it is here to stay. While private schools, due to the location and the facilities available can manage but the schools in rural/ remote areas are lagging. These schools must be provided with all possible support to implement e – education otherwise there may develop a great ‘digital divide’ and students from rural/ remote areas are bound to suffer. CBSE and state Education boards should develop and host their own e-education portals for benefit of government school students. The facility can be made available to other schools too on payment. High speed internet facility must be provided to all schools and all areas to help teacher and students connect. The teachers need to be empowered to help them in handling online classes.

Conclusion

Education is the basic pillar on which the society stands. The ‘quality of life’ index of a nation is directly dependent on the education standards of the citizens. This sector cannot be neglected. The school going students may not be voters who affect the outcome of elections but on them depends the future and the quality of future leadership of this great nation. I request the people in power to pay attention and work towards bringing in qualitative changes in the education system and make available high-quality infrastructure and resources to students and teachers.

neglect education

PS: I am not a schoolteacher or an administrator, I am just a parent who has a limited knowledge of management of educational institutes/ schools (having been part of the management of some government run schools). I have had privilege of experiencing school education only till 10th standard (that is the only Board Exam I have faced) beyond that it was more of ‘On the job training’ (I have never been to a college). The views I have expressed are solely personal, part based on my own experiences gained from being a proud father of two children who have gone through the paces of acquiring formal education and from being married to a lady who has been working in the field of education last nearly 26 years with some breaks here and there.

The 100th…

I embarked on my journey of blog writing on 17 Apr 18 on wordpress.com AWESOME , UNIQUE AND BORN TO BE A LEADER and today after a passage of little more than two years I write my 100th blog. In between I had to take a break to take care of my health issues till I came back again and too co- incidentally on 17 Apr 20; nothing planned but it just happened that way.

100th

At the outset I would like to thank my wife for being part of this journey, most of my blogs/ stories are centered around her and she has taken everything I have written ‘sportingly’. I also thank my daughter, Pranjal, my biggest critique and motivator. My gratitude to all my friends who have always taken out time to read my blogs and given their valuable inputs.

Continue reading “The 100th…”

Make online lessons interesting….

online classes

Dear Teachers you have a massive responsibility specially in this period of pandemic. Be innovative, try whatever you can to make lessons interesting enough to catch the imagination of the student. Help the child concentrate. Extra efforts are required in rural / remote areas where the internet barely crawls. 

Corona – The side effects….

I am a dreamer and always had a strong wish to live some of my dreams and with Ms Corona catching everyone’s attention and imagination, nothing much to do there is more and more time to dream but off late the dreams have slowly started turning into nightmares. Har taraf hai viraana, “Yeh Zameen yeh vaadiyaan yeh aasman, gumsum hai bhala saara sama” (Silence prevails in the sky and on the earth….). The silence is killing literally ‘killing’ man.

Corona 25 years back

Continue reading “Corona – The side effects….”