Posts Tagged 'education'

Are we raising a generation of literate fools?

Every day I meet students I come face to face with the sinister power of today’s education system.

Children who are taught to weigh their worth in the marks/grades they get in exams.

Children who learn very quickly they have to obey so as to not get into trouble with the system.

Children who learn that there is a single right answer to questions.

Children who feel that they learning means mugging up content.

Children who learn to keep math, science, language, art, music, sports as separate silos in their head.

Children who don’t understand what it means to master language, music, art or math.

This is the reality of the literate India that we are raising with a lot of hard work.

This is how all the schools are right? How does this make them fools?

It makes them fools because it does not push them hard enough. It does not respect or work on developing their potential, it does not set high expectations of him.

Imagine working with a sports coach who teaches you tips and tricks to complete your practice session but does not really make you a better athlete or work on your strengths or pushes you to dream big? You wouldn’t send your child to such a sports coach right? Then why choose a school for your child that treats education and learning as a short-term game?

This increases my resolve to work towards reimagining how learning should be for our children every day.

Anything worth doing…

Some of the recent sessions that I’m attending got me thinking about what makes people do less than what they can?

It could be mere smugness, one might have easily settled into a comfort zone, it could be constraints, it could be a lack of empathy – no clear understanding of what the other person/customer really wants from you or pure arrogance because you can get away with it!

However, whatever the reason for you to do that, at the end of the day you are shortchanging your own potential, your own ability and your own self and not being totally honest with yourself and the world about what you have to offer. The moment you start living that way, you stop learning and you don’t embody a future learner anymore.

In your tryst with destiny, always remember no political agenda, no hurt feeling, no animosity, no lack of faith, absolutely nothing is an excuse to bring less than your full potential to the table. In doing so, you are doing more harm to yourself than good.

Like a wise person once said, “If anything is worth doing, it is worth doing it well.”

 

A new journey – Sparkling Mindz

It’s been a while since I posted out here…life has been hectic, life has been venturesome!

About a year ago, an idea struck me that simply summed up as –  the only thing that can make you stand out in the crowd is how you think, learning to think should be taught at a much younger age than it is taught today and that, it should be fun while you are at it! So, I started Sparkling Mindz along with a group of like-minded individuals, who have been a pillar of support in the growth of this organization.

You may be wondering what Sparkling Mindz is? It is an after school program that provides children an opportunity to grasp thinking skills in a fun way!

It is exciting to see the children’s eyes light up they feel empowered to think, generate ideas and then apply it in their day-to-day lives! They learn to transform into confident, thinking individuals…

You can read more about the programs and about us on our website www.sparklingmindz.in and view pictures from the workshop at our facebook page. Do help by spreading the word and becoming a fan on our facebook page!

More on the journey soon….but do write in with your thoughts and comments. Most importantly, help us reach out as far and wide as possible by spreading the word around to those who can benefit and help us make an impact on millions of lives.

IIT heads complain of plunge in quality

Today I read a news article in Times of India titled, “IIT heads echo NRN on plunge in quality”. The whole article goes on to talk about how the seats in IITs today are getting filled by students who are fatigued by years of coaching and in the larger scheme of things, don’t even want to be an engineer. It is sad state of affairs, indeed. But to hear the heads of the institutes complain, instead of do something about it, is sadder. This could have been easily seen coming and here are some thoughts of mine

1. If you set up an exam that is hard to achieve and pass through and prevent people with interest from joining unless they can showcase aptitude 2x the current level of education system. This kind of ‘fatigue’ is bound to happen. We, as Indians, are proud to pass through tests that are seemingly insurmountable and that give you a certain kind of ‘elitist’ status over others! Take the civil services, for example. Most people taking the exam don’t even know what they will be doing post the selection! It is the same with students who are getting coached to get into IITs (and to a large extent the CAT fever too! – they are being taught how to beat the system!!!) – while it will take you across the threshold, it will not get you inspired and motivated to become an excellent engineer or an excellent manager (or a good anything)

2. Next, what have the IITs themselves done to inspire the students joining to wake up out of fatigue and create interest? Is there an emphasis on innovation, creativity or even applying the skills being learnt beyond the basics? If so, where is it being showcased? It is a chicken and egg story and only if you focus on inspiring students will they get inspired and motivated – the other way round is an ideal dream, but can you make it a reality by just cribbing about it?

3. Now, lets look at the industry. These children who join the IITs are very smart and the smartness flows to where they money is. If money is in engineering, they will continue being engineers, if it is in pharma/FMCG/ITES companies, they will get trained to become sales people for Pharma/FMCG/consultants, as the requirement might be. Look at it from their point of view and the society’s point of view, if you are the best of brains and you are not earning the best of salaries, you are a loser! There is no premium on thinking, being different, being unique or standing up for what you are passionate about (let alone sometimes even figure out what is it that you are really passionate about!) and then what about the self-fulfilling prophecy of these large institutes that the most successful people come from there?

4. That brings us to the story of change. What should change to make this better? The mantra is – Innovation and Creativity to create a “thinking generation” of students! The institutes needs to innovate at a much faster rate and create a new form of entry criteria, a new way of working with the corporate world, a new wave of innovation from their labs and that will create enough inspiration and motivation even in the most fatigued or uninterested child to beat and excel the system (where the system is aligned and focused in the right direction)

The seeds of change lie in you, if you are unwilling to lay them in the ground, don’t fret over lousy results!!!

PS: On second thoughts, whatever has been written above is a law of averages and I’ve seen enough inspired, motivated and self-aware IITians over my work life to be impressed by their smartness, hard work, dedication and motivation. So, please don’t take this as a personal note on anyone. I’m just responding to the system’s response on its own intake quality!

Technology is not the panacea – Part 2

The next part of the puzzle has to do with the traditional “market ethos” of “why break something that ain’t broken?” If you haven’t read the introduction to this series, you can catch it here (you might want to take a quick look at it before reading this thread)

One might argue, “let’s make things better” or “this is for their good”. But, asking someone to put in any more effort than what requires to keep things going doesn’t ring a bell of happiness in most people’s heads, it rings a bell of despair/alarm. (Obviously, I’m not referring to the market of “techno-enthusiasts” here)

They either know that you right, but don’t want to be the first adopters and hence, a ring of despair or they are alarmed that you are out to get them.

Take the case of school teachers, they all agree that technology could potentially improve the learning capability in students, but why should they be the learning scapegoats? Why, for the peanuts they earn, should they put in any kind of extra effort without a social/economic benefit to show for it (no extra pay, no climbing the hierarchy, no awards – you know, the works)? The prevailing majority attitude then becomes, let it happen independently. That shows for the success of many online tutoring services and several other direct to student technologies. One might ask, what about the success of the likes of Educomp, Everonn etc. – that, for me, is a subject of another post. I’m referring to technology from the teacher’s point of view in this example.

Lets take another example, the nation’s favorite for technology advancement – farmers! All the incubation labs in the country are buzzing with activity around creating technology innovation for farmers. What is the story on the other side though? Alarm bells start ringing in their heads when you talk of any new technology introduction. They think that you might have a trick or so up your sleeve and hence want them to use the technology that you are talking about. Call it lack of knowledge, their hand-to-mouth existence that precludes trial-n-error or “been-there-been-tricked” experiences.

All this results in the best of the technology interventions not being met with the kind of excitement or implemented with the kind of enthusiasm that was intended. What with all the effort that was put into creating the “cool technology wonder”? Be it the lowest cost laptop, the simplest digitally controlled water pump – if the team doesn’t make an equally gallant effort (as for creating product) into delving and unifying the product experience with the market ethos – it is bound to just remain “a newsworthy cool technology”, nothing more.

Technology is not the panacea – Part 1

I know the title might seem clichéd to many, but for a technophile like me who has an eye (more say an affection) for products, a cool technology seems to open up a vista of opportunities (and more dreams) that can be tapped. I had to learn it the hard way to realize that technology is not the panacea, it is only a piece of the larger puzzle that needs to be solved to create innovative solutions that create an impact in the world.

Lets take a few examples, why is the penetration of information technology, internet and computer in substantial parts of India, say vis-a-vis mobile phones, TV, Radio etc. so low?

I’ve come to believe that it has less to do with technology and more to do with “perceived need” (and I mean a need and not a benefit – very difficult to convince people living on subsistence money on the “potential benefits” of your product when all they are worried about is their day-to-day life). This is the immediate, visible, “will-break-a-habit” – kind of need and not some random “wish”. So, if internet (or any other technology for that matter) has to penetrate further we need to establish and educate people of the “need” first.

This first step of establishing a need and educating people how to “elevate their problem” through the use of technology cannot be over emphasized. Skip the first step and the coolest of technology cannot win against “traditional ways”. Do the first step right and with/without technology innovation, adoption might skyrocket. Two real examples opened up my eyes to this:

1. I realized the importance of “educating” people on their problem when I came face to face with the “perceived notions” on technology in schools. At a deep rooted level most teachers believe that technology is an “attention grabbing” technique for today’s students (and hence, at best frivolous). Very few amongst them have the exposure/experience to use technology as an aid to help the students learn and explore the world around them in innovative ways. Without the right orientation and understanding of the need for change, the best of technology aids are largely underutilized in schools and any wonder the usage of technology remains so low despite the potential benefits?

2. Recently, I came across an entrepreneur at a Tie event who is selling “clean water” to the villagers in India. In order to accomplish this, he says the major challenge for him was to educate the villagers that the water they were using was “unclean/contaminated”. They didn’t know that many of the issues being faced by them and their children like bowed legs, deformed teeth etc had to do with something like fluoride contamination in the water.

Technology (no matter how simple or low-cost) cannot by itself make someone use it, there needs to be a larger momentum for that to happen – which can only be achieved through structured & mediated educational/training interventions to help the participants “be better”, “do better” and hence, “deliver better” through the right kind of technology aids.

In the next post, I’ll talk about understanding and working with the “ethos” of the market rather than pushing a technology-based solution that you consider innovative.

Blinded by “Free”

During my last trip home, I happened to meet a family friend’s daughter who was doing her masters in US. She was on a vacation because she had not managed to land a “paid” internship in her industry. What with this recession and everything! She was almost at the end of her trip, so nothing could have been done about it. But out of sheer curiosity I asked whether she had tried any company in India/abroad for an “unpaid” internship. She made it very clear to me that she valued her vacation more dearly than an “unpaid” internship – where she would have to slog for no money as well as not get to take her vacation. I see her point of view but the irony of it all didn’t escape me.

Sometimes, the most valuable of “internships/education” are unpaid/underpaid and we don’t see the value of it until way later. I remember as a student writing articles for newspapers and for the kind of work I put in to write one article, I was really paid peanuts. However, what I learnt while doing the stint was how to do a thorough market research and write a professional article putting it together. Those hours of research, figuring out who to speak to, how to get to them and making a questionnaire (dynamically deciding what to ask/not), not to mention the intense exercise in listening and writing down the notes as fast as I could have been one of the best forms of “training” for a marketing job that I’ve had.

I also want to mention another incident where it kind of struck me real hard how we miss things when we are offered something for “free”. I was at a school in Chennai and talking to the owner’s son. He saw what I had to show him and calmly asked me how it would fit in with all the infrastructure that he was about to get fixed up by a “large education” company that had offered to especially “network” all his classrooms for “free”. I was stumped. Not only because the school was already built and that there will have to be considerable drilling and panelling work that will have to be done but also because the kind of state the school was in, it did not seem like it could take that kind of heavy weight infrastructure installation, not to mention the fact that he himself mentioned that his teachers will need enormous amounts of hand holding to use the infrastructure/simply go digital. What the large company was doing by giving them something for “free” was overselling them and leapfrogging them into a space where the “large company” had an upper hand in systems, content, installation and operation. It was a good move by the large company but a bad choice for the school, unfortunately they were not able to see beyond the “free”.

So, next time you are offered/get something for free, don’t forget to look at the fine print, well better still if you can foresee the writing on the wall sometime in the future.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Blog Stats

  • 27,257 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,280 other followers


%d bloggers like this: