It was certainly first of its kind experience for me. Sharing the dais with the BJP stalwart like Dr. Najma Heptulla happens only once in a life time. Well… at least I hope it is not very frequent. The meeting was a pleasure and indeed a privilege. Dr. Heptulla stands tall with her excellent educational background and strong political career. She has even authored books on AIDS and women’s issues. At 69 she has an impressive personality and yet non- threatening. However what intimidated me was the overtly superficial and obviously sycophantic display of political ambitions at the perceived apolitical programme. The occasion was International Women’s day and the intention was to felicitate women who are contributing to the society in some way. It got off to a good start but soon was replaced by the platform to promote the party and its candidates for the forthcoming elections. What amused me was the creation of issues from a non- issues. None seemed to be talking about the real problems. Here are a few samples: “The govt. always talks about Gandhiji in high esteem. Gandhiji was a staunch advocator of non-alcoholism, and here is the Liquor Barron Vijay Mallya bringing in his belongings back to India. What a shame! How could the govt. permit such a thing? Do we want such a government???” this is followed by a prompted response from the ‘loyal’ audience “Noooooo”!!!???!!! “Let us show the female power. So in the forthcoming elections, vote you city candidate in full strength and during the counting let the women voters outnumber the men voters…This is real women power….will you do that?”…again the loyalty takes a kick… “Yesssss” !!!???!!! Frankly, all my way back I was at a loss as to what to make out of the experience. But the bigger shock came when the next morning when a leading English daily introduced me as “Sr. BJP leader”. Another series of questions was triggered, “A reporter is supposed to report that is his primary duty, then how do they manage to goof up this way every time?” I wanted to report this some where but the media was not interested. I and many others like me have wanted to report many real issues but no one is ready to take them up, not even the media. Probably they are burdened with many self created issues and non-issues. Yes…all systems are bogged down by the “Non Issues- Issues”. Where do we take up the real issues?
“Rich dad Poor dad” the phenomenal book by Robert Kiyosaki has left many impressions on my mind. Among the many lessons, one that struck me most was that kids need to be groomed early in life about money in the real sense. All parents wish their children to do well and grow financially independent. However, with the changing economic scenario and the increasing uncertainties in the world today, the parents need to worry about their own financial security and to ensure for the provision of basic education and training to the kids. And as we talk about the basic education, the kids need to be educated on money matters rather early today. They are exposed to the comforts of money at a very early age. Unfortunately they have conceived money to be a very easily available commodity. We parents are to be blamed to a large extent. However, it is more important to work on how to sensitize them to the changing economic scenario, the current recession and the impending depression? They have not learned to think before asking and it is painful for a parent to refuse anything to the apple of their eyes. How does one strike a balance? We have to gear up for lot more than the eyes can see and none knows for how long. Unless the entire family is in sync it would be difficult to tide through this. Our kids are important part of our family budget and unless they gain at least some understanding of what has hit the world today, it may go on to become a daily source of discontent in the family. I propose mass training for kids above 10 yrs at educational institutes and on open forums in a friendly and fun way method, to increase their acceptability and sensitivity of the constrained economy today. Such mass approach would decrease their antipathy towards the parents and perhaps open them towards active financial planning with the parents.
As we watched the small cluster of lights moving in the sky above us, my depth perception deserted me, “how can an aircraft look so small? It has to be something else”. “Mom, it is very far from us that is why it appears small, don’t you know that?” “yes…but somehow I am not feeling that it is far away..” I was still unsure. “If you do not feel it, does it nor exist? If you hurt yourself and I do not feel the pain, would that mean you do not have any pain?” That was my 7 year old. Numb with what she said, I just looked at her. My mind was with questions. “how did she think of that?” I have rarely come across adults making such profound statements, lest they are the self proclaimed Gurus. We underestimate the superb potentialities of the kids even though they have been demonstrating it around us time and again. Our education system is cramming the kids with numbers and information and data right from the early years. The sheer volume of the curriculum fills in the days and nights of the little ones. They have questions but they are not encouraged to ask. I have come across teachers that label such children as of nuisance value in the class room. The kids are not encouraged to frame answers with understanding. There is no time to give such attention to the students. In most schools, the mathematics problems are solved by the teacher from the top to the bottom of the black board with such lightening speed that the students have no other option but to copy at frantic speed. I have personally come across bright students that have no concepts with the mathematics fundamentals. Rightly so, when these students advance to the higher classes, they have great difficulty in understanding the subject and eventually develop dislike or even hatred. There is hardly any attempt to develop interest for subjects and general awareness among students leave apart the development of thinking process. Long back I had come across an article in the Readers Digest titled, ‘Philosophical Thinking’. As per this concept developed by a teacher in the United states, children in very young classes were given a special class once a week where in the facilitators brought up new subjects like, ‘what is a rainbow’, and the students were encouraged to talk among themselves the way they perceived the subject. According to the author, amazing concepts and original ideas were generated during these sessions and students showed improved interests in their curriculum. Can our education system promote something that thinks beyond creating literates and helps real education?
Last week, back from school my 1st grader wanted me to help her with math home work. She was dealing with the first stage of subtraction by borrowing. Turning back on the previous pages of her note book I noticed that she had solved at least four pages of similar problems. But she looked completely blank on this one. Controlling my urge to reprimand her on not paying attention in the class, I explained to her the simple way to the solutions. Sharp as she is, she successfully dealt with them within next 10 min. Once done, she approached me with a very relieved expression, “It is so simple. In the class, the teacher just crosses across the numbers and then we have to hurry to copy the sums otherwise she wipes out the black board!!!” A statement that has been coming to me very frequently as a counselor. Parents and students from almost all schools across the city have reported lack of explaining and teaching especially in mathematics. There is a dangerous race to get done with the syllabus and obviously who would like to spend time explaining to the students? It is the same story being repeated year after year, one institute after another. More and more new schools are mushrooming all over. They have national and international brands, sprawling campuses, customized uniforms, and even fruits and milk. However it is noteworthy that none of the schools flaunt real teachers! Amazing isn’t it? The most important aspect of a school is education and the most important factor in education is the educator. But the situation today is quite paradoxical. Teachers are not trained to teach. Most of these are degree holders with another ornamental qualification- the B.ed!! Bachelor of education!!! Most of these degree holders lack the two most important ingradients of teaching-Communication skills and Interest in the pupil!! The interest lies in completion of prescribed curriculum and extracting forced grades. Is it any surprise that most students develop distaste and in many cases real hatred for subjects like mathematics and history. There are many students who learn these subjects again as adults and wonder why they had disliked them as children. Many who could go on to develop careers in these subjects never get to taste the real essence of the subject. It’s a tragedy. We all know that children place a lot of faith in their teachers at every stage, (that is before they are disillusioned). But when I teach my children they say, “Why don’t you take up the teacher’s job at our school? You make everything seem so easy”. This sentence and more like these talk in details about the current education scenario. Of course there are some exceptionally good teachers even today, but that is precisely how much there are, just “SOME”! And the population is increasing; so is the number of educational institutes- sans real teachers. The trend with which the primary education starts it leads up to a potholed high school education, the higher education then takes up from there. I recently asked a final year civil Engineering student to give me the approximate dimensions of the large hall (20’ by 30’) we were in. looking around and contemplating she concluded-3’by 4’. I decided to give her one more chance and asked her to look around and at the roof height and then estimate. She reconsidered, had a more serious note on her face and corrected herself-3m by 4m!!! I am keeping my fingers crossed. Not just my children, but all those around me are groping in the dark. Competing against others and trying to make a mark in the system, they have stopped competing within self to better their understanding and concepts. All individuals have to grow in order to live fully. Will they get an opportunity to understand the real growth? I am keeping my fingers crossed.
This is the thought that popped up today as I was struggling to catch up with my own mood swings. One of those “when everything goes wrong” days. Sitting back and contemplating now, it has been an interesting day. I, like most normal people convincing myself that none can be the worse sufferer than me. A friend telling me to look around and see that everyone suffers. Another friend showing me the futility of brooding. A senior counselor friend highlighting my capability of handling things well . A great bunch of friends I have. At times I feel they get affected more than me. At the slightest hint of a downward mood, they swing into action and try to set things right for me! You got be very fortunate to have them. Well, the reason for writing today is this thought that struck me. All these people around me were telling me all that I have always known, in fact things that I have myself been showing others. For that matter, when I counsel others or deliver training programmes, I have realized time and again that what I tell is no rocket science. Most of us with the right inputs in life know most of this life saving knowledge. Somehow it is there in all of us, inherited from nature. I approaching you with a set of problems and you would be more than happy to show me the clear pathways to alleviating my misery. But the moment you have your own issues LO! It becomes a problem which has the unique capability of not having any solution, at least not the easy ones!!! What a theoretical life most of us lead. I guess we are prepared for it right from childhood. Take for example our education system. We learn history and the theories of Newton, there are the integers and Algebraic expressions, poetry and laws. We learn them real well for we have to write a paper, but how many times pain is taken to teach us how this knowledge is applicable in our life or rather how this knowledge can be used to gain something more than a degree in our life? We use it to prove to others that we have gained knowledge- theoretical knowledge, same as we keep our knowledge of living as a tool to be shown to others and not using it for ourselves. That takes me back to the stories of Gurukul I had cherished since childhood. That was the real education. There were real lessons, real hardships, real solutions and hands on experiences with the real challenges of life. It was all real and hence the learning was real something that made life real at an early age, not theoretical!! I think we need Gurukuls to learn to live the knowledge we are blessed with.