What Does Power Mean Around Here?

It’s well after midnight, I’m just out of hospital and recovering, but not even bothering to think about bed. My son should have been asleep at least 2 hours ago – but no chance. Why – because I’m plagued with antisocial neighbours. On average about once a fortnight they throw loud and raucous parties in their apartment. We can expect it to keep going solid until at least 3.00am on past performances. Are these wayward teenagers? – no way. They’re so called ‘leaders’, professionals.

You might wonder why we and the other residents around have to put up with it. Well, there lies an interesting story. Some months ago there was a big coup in the Residents Association where i live. A new bunch of “young go-getters” took control with lavish promises about what they were going to do for the residents. Yes, you guessed it – it’s now that very same bunch of jokers who use their new found power, their RIGHT TO LEAD, as a privilege and what gives them the right to do this to their neighbours.

If this is what power and leadership means in their myopic little worlds, then we have to believe that progress in this society for the future is built on much shakier ground than we might want to believe. While those with the privilege to lead in other countries will continue to refine and sweat at the concept of ‘servant leadership’, here it will be treated as something to be grabbed, used and abused.

So, residents of Heritage City, Gurgaon please bow down to your all powerful leaders. These are the people you got conned in to giving power to – now we all get to suffer as they laud their power over us. Because, after all, they are the great and the esteemed and the rest of us, including naive idiots who believe in concepts of leadership as a responsibility – we’re the fodder that makes their power trips so much more satisfying to the ego.

Some of them are cackling like drunken hyena on the balcony right below mine. Drunk on booze, or drunk on the power trip they’re riding at the expense of the idiots around them?

And for anyone who thinks of buying property in Heritage City in the near future – do yourselves a favour and make sure the property you’re looking at is as far away as possible from these people. Otherwise, you too could be benefiting from the warm glow of their egotistical leadership. Either that or the residents club together and send these esteemed leaders to live in a farmhouse somewhere where they only get to impose their selfish egotism on each other.

Soccer league – Week 2

Apologies for the delay in getting the stats posted this week, as i had to be out of circulation from Monday onwards.

Firstly, the good news – the fog lifted and the sun came out making for nice playing conditions. Here are the Week 2 results:

Results
Day – 2: (24th January 2010)

Classes : 2 & 3

Match – 1 : Power Strikers Beat Mountain Lions 4 – 0
Match – 2 : Shooting Stars Draw Western Express 1 – 1
Match – 3 : Golden Eagles Beat Crusaders 1 – 0
Match – 4 : Gunners Beat Heros 6 – 3
Match – 5 : Artic Wolves Draw Falcons 0 – 0
Match – 6 : Super Stars Draw Mighty Warriors 2 – 2
Match – 7 : Dare Devils Beat Flying Dragons 3 – 2

Classes : 4 & 5

Match – 1 : Flying Dragons Beat Mountain Lions 6 – 0
Match – 2 : Mighty Warriors Beat Power Strikers 1 – 0
Match – 3 : Super Stars Beat Shooting Stars 4 – 1
Match – 4 : Crusaders Draw Artic Wolves 2 – 2
Match – 5 : Gunners Beat Blazers 2 – 1
Match – 6 : Western Express Beat Falcons 4 – 3
Match – 7 : Heros Beat Golden Eagles 6 – 2
Match – 8 : Night Riders Beat Dare Devils 11 – 2

Classes : 6 & 7

Match – 1 : Super Stars Beat Artic Wolves 6 – 2
Match – 2 : Power Strikers Beat Gunners 5 – 0
Match – 3 : Mountain Lions Beat Heros 4 – 3
Match – 4 : Falcons Beat Dare Devils 4 – 2
Match – 5 : Golden Eagle Beat Shooting Stars 4 – 2
Match – 6 : Western Express Beat Crusaders 1 – 0

Classes : 8 & 9
Match – 1 : Power Strikers Beat Dare Devils 14 – 1
Match – 2 : Mountain Lions Beat Shooting Stars 3 – 0

Out of the Mouths of Babes

At times I think others should really envy us educators the time we get to spend with children.

This morning, whilst taking a round I got in to a conversation with a group of Upvan (KG) children. We were discussing which had been their best lesson of the day and how different people had different favourites. The conversation rambled on without any specific aim for about 5 minutes, bantering back and forth. After about 5 minutes I was in my customary ‘crouched down on the floor’ position customary when such impromptu chats happen.

Two teachers were standing close by, but taking little part in the conversation.

One of the boys, seeing that I was beginning to bring the conversation to an end (guilt at being away from my desk was getting the better of me!), suddenly said in a loud clear voice;
“You’ve got a face like a dog” as he poked me in the cheek with his finger.

(I have to be honest that was a first for me. I’m not sure i can see it myself, but there you are!)

As if that wasn’t funny enough the looks of shock and horror on the teachers’ faces were wonderful. They couldn’t believe that one of their children had spoken to ‘the Director’ in such a way.

The truth is, it was the highlight of my day and i thanked him for giving me such a good laugh. I would love to remind him of this in about 10 years time!!

Teaching as an ‘Elite’ Profession?

Is this the way to go?

BBC Article

The first thing that struck me, reading this piece was how likely would it ever be that a major political party would set out to make such an issue a major plank of their election pitch to the voters here in India? It really worried me during the last election that such real substantive issues in the lives of the electorate and their families figured so little in the political debate. Political parties need to decide once and for all whether education is a ‘government’ issue or not. If it is, then be prepared to share their policies and beliefs with the public. If it isn’t, then government should get out of the way of those who want to deliver high quality education.

Whilst the proposal in this article contains some interesting ‘out of the box’ ideas, they might well be more rhetoric than substance. However, overall what it all boils down to is a ‘performance’ approach to teaching, including a willingness to take the tough calls with non-performers.

That all sounds great, in theory. The trouble comes in the implementation. We have seen in a number of countries that the easiest thing to ‘measure’ as a reflection of teacher performance is student performance in summative examinations. The result is more testing of children, more exam pressures and a temptation for teachers to ‘teach to the test.

I also believe there is a big flaw in the in-built assumption that people who can get high degrees can teach to a high standard. This perpetuates the fallacy that if you know something, you can teach it, ignoring the fact that teaching is inherently a communicative process that seeks to equip and enable the learner at least as much as to have the teacher convey knowledge to them.

The children should be the superstars on pedestals in the classroom – not the teachers. do we solve the problem of lack of olympic champions by suggesting we need elite coaches?

It’s good that a political party is thinking and taking part in a public debate on such issues, but i think their policy ideas need a lot of work!

Shri Soccer League – Week 1

It was very clear on Sunday that our children are far better able to cope with fog and chilly morning conditions for the soccer league than they are for a normal school day!! A strange thing!

Over 460 students have signed up to take part this year and the enthusiasm levels were running really high. You might have been forgiven for thinking that the first games would be cautious as the teams got used to each other. However, 129 goals were scored and only two games ended in draws.

So, here are the results from Week 1 and a few snapshots:

Results

Day – 1: (17th January 2010)

Classes : 2 & 3
Match – 1 : Dare Devils Draw Mountain Lions 1 – 1
Match – 2 : Power Strikers Beat Shooting Stars 3 – 0
Match – 3 : Crusaders Beat Western Express 2 – 1
Match – 4 : Gunners Beat Golden Eagles 6 – 0
Match – 5 : Heros Beat Artic Wolves 5 – 1
Match – 6 : Super Stars Beat Falcons 2 – 0
Match – 7 : Mighty Warriors beat Flying Dragons 1 – 0

Classes : 4 & 5
Match – 1 : Blazers Beat Dare Devils 10 – 0
Match – 2 : Knight Riders Beat Mountain Lions 6 – 0
Match – 3 : Flying Dragons Beat Power Strikers 3 – 1
Match – 4 : Shooting Stars Beat Mighty Warriors 4 – 2
Match – 5 : Western Express Beat Super Stars 6 – 1
Match – 6 : Falcons Beat Crusaders 4 – 0
Match – 7 : Artic Wolves Beat Golden Eagles 5 – 1
Match – 8 : Heros Beat Gunners 4 – 1

Classes : 6 & 7
Match – 1 : Super Stars Beat Dare Devils 7 – 4
Match – 2 : Mountain Lions Beat Falcons 5 – 2
Match – 3 : Power Strikers Beat Artic Wolves 3 – 2
Match – 4 : Heros Draw Shooting Stars 4 – 4
Match – 5 : Western Express Beat Gunners 3 – 2
Match – 6 : Golden Eagles Beat Crusaders 4 – 2

Classes : 8 & 9
Match – 1 : Shooting Stars Beat Dare Devils 7 – 2
Match – 2 : Power Strikers Beat Mountain Lions 5 – 2

Sagarika Ghose Editorial on 3 Idiots in Hindustan Times

First off, I need to say I haven’t seen the film 3 Idiots and I’m not likely to be rushing to do so any time soon. However, couldn’t help commenting when i saw the editorial in this morning’s HT paper.

HT Sagarika Ghose Editorial

The gist of the piece seems to be that instead of inspiring debates about how and why education needs reform (even if accentuated a bit with caricatures), people should be expressing pride in that system. Her argument appears to hinge on the fact that she can name some successful people who were educated in that system. Interestingly, most of us would name the same handful of people if asked to do so. To me, this suggests two things;
a) The number of successful products coming out of that system are not high enough,
b) There’s no proof that the IIT system made them successful. maybe they would have been regardless of education system. Really, we could suggest that the best that can be said is that the system didn’t prevent them from being successful.

She also applauds the existing education system because nobody should be afraid of ‘hard work’. I could put children to work for 8 hours a day filling a barrel with water from another barrel with a leaky cup (and then transferring the water back again. That would be hard work! It would also be meaningless and a waste of energy. In fact, in such a situation, who would be the real “idiots” – the people who blindly consented to do this when i instructed them to, or the people who dare to stand up and say that the system is at fault.

How long would a company last if they declared their mission to be “no worse than our competitors”? Their days would be numbered and so should the days be numbered for moribund education systems all over the world. However, unfortunately, because those systems enjoy the privilege of government monopoly in their respective countries the bad and the wrong get perpetuated.
(On this point, please check out the film trailer in this earlier blog post from November last year:
We are the people we’ve been waiting for )

A couple of years ago I saw a report of a survey of HR Heads who were asked whether, given the choice, they would rather recruit the intake batch of IIM Ahmedabad or the graduates. Their response should have made everyone in education sit up and take note. They wanted the youngsters with the drive, passion and fearlessness to battle to get in to that institute as raw material that they would then teach what they needed them to know.

I really worry when people suggest that we should somehow shrug our shoulders about the woeful state of most of the education available in the country, instead gloating and feasting on the elite IIT and IIM institutes. In today’s age only providing anything approximating a decent education to a mere tiny elite carries the seeds of social, political and economic disaster for the future.

In the ‘knowledge age’ what is needed is a system that ensures plenty of self-motivated hard work driven through a system where learning is meaningful, relevant and based on developing skills for the rest of a person’s life (See the UNESCO, Jacques Delors committee report from 1996).

Yes, I can agree with Sagarika Ghose that there are some wonderful educators either working in isolation or in a handful of high quality institutions, striving to inspire students to fulfill their potential and doing great work – but, they should be the norm, not the exceptions. Instead, even most professors admit that a student daring to express opinions different to those expressed to them by the professor are doomed to academic misery and damnation.

Frustration with the status quo is often expressed through literature, art, film and other media. And thank goodness for that, as it sets the scene for opportunities for real and genuine reform. Instead of wanting to hang on to some old fashioned ideas of what good education might have looked like when we were young, we owe it to the younger generation to be open minded, to recognise that they need an education that is very different to ours – one they would willingly want to work hard at.

Why We Should All Care About the Evil of Tutoring!!

Does that seem a bit strong? Well, firstly i would suggest that people read the attached article from Times of India.

Then, consider this;
Right now, in India, when a parent places their child in a private school and pays fees, out of every Rs100 they pay, around Rs50 – 80 goes to pay teachers. The difference depends on class sizes, numbers of specialised performing arts, sports and arts teachers etc. The remaining money mostly finds its way in to learning resources and materials, school activities and administrative running costs. However, perhaps the most important part is that which gets invested for the long term in school buildings, infrastructure, IT hardware and software, library books, sports equipment, land for educational and sports facilities etc.

However, when you hand over an equivalent Rs100 to a tutor, not even a single pesa stays in the education system to contribute to the wider social cause of education. It’s just Rs100 in the tutor’s pocket.

It can, therefore, in some way be seen as the ultimate and supreme act of selfishness – taking something out of an already stretched system for one’s own desires, without regard for the impact on others.

As if all that wouldn’t be enough I hate what it does to the tutored child. The day each year when the Board results are announced ought to be a truly joyous celebration, especially for those students who have achieved the highest marks. However, when I look in their faces I am deeply saddened. The joy is not really in their eyes. They can’t have a true sense of achievement. I believe this is actually because they don’t really believe they have the right to be proud of their achievement or to take full ownership of it. I fear that all too often they see the real credit belonging to “those who made me learn” – those who “did it to me”.

It contributes to a lot of bogus beliefs that cripple the potential of thousands of youngsters. I fear they are destined to grow up believing;
a) How much you learn is simply equated to how much time is spent – that it’s all about quantity, never about quality,
b) Learning is something that is done to you in a formal education environment (which means once they leave formal learning they will have developed none of the skills to be effective lifelong learners!).

As educators and parents we can’t learn for our children. We also don’t know (and shouldn’t kid ourselves that we do) WHAT they will need to know to fulfill their potential in the future.Instead, our simple duties are to create the environment that facilitates their acquisition (not our insertion) of the skills they will need.

I don’t rule out the requirement for some one to one coaching for students who struggle to learn in a group environment. for them, some extra support can be invaluable. However, I question why it should be sought outside the school? When we place our child in a school, are we asking them to provide a certain number of hours of teaching or to educate the child. If the latter, then what’s actually happening is nonsensical.

There is another aspect i would wish to highlight. If, as a student, I know all this “stuff” is going to get done to me twice – once in school and once in this other place, then why will i give it my full attention in both places? After all, school offers a lot else besides, so it’s very tempting to start to treat my school as my social club – the place where i catch up with my mates, chill out and further my extra curricular interests as much as possible. I’ll concentrate in tuitions. Over time, what impact will all this have on discipline in schools? What will happen to those students who try to learn in school?

A further thought. If, as a teacher i know that as well as working in the school i am also going to put in a certain number of hours as a tutor, won’t i pace my effort? Won’t i conserve my energy during the school day so as to ensure i have it for the really lucrative times? Won’t i refuse to teach any more than a certain number of hours in a week, thereby causing the school to have to employ more teachers and charge more fees?

When based in Dhaka, Bangladesh I once caught a teacher receiving cash payment from a parent of our school for his child’s tuition. I had already received reports that this teacher had been threatening students that if they didn’t attend his tuitions they had no chance of passing as he would only deal with some key parts of the syllabus in the tuition classes. When I questioned the parent, he defended the teacher and refused to give me evidence against him. Parents there were actually foolish enough to collaborate in a process that was cheating them and more importantly – betraying their children.

so, was the headline too strong? You tell me.

Private tutoring can corrupt public education systems

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