Friday, February 10, 2017

Exam Pressures



I recommend reading “Poisoning Kids” and “Poisoning Kids -2” in case you haven’t so far.

Four years ago, I wrote the “Incremental fallacy”. Many believe steady growth is a good idea. It is not. It may be true in case of physical growth or in case of recovery from a medical condition. In a country struggling for jobs or basic infrastructure incremental growth is the path of the lazy and the corrupt. In most cases ModiSarkar has managed to escape that trap but one domain where it is still almost zero in accomplishment is school education. Earlier Smriti Irani and now Prakash Javdekar have been miserable failures on this front. They were dabbling more with higher education when the curse is on kids in schools. Kids have truly been turned into beasts of burden. And this has been so for long. A few days back this was on Timesnow:

Some MHA inquiry reveals Teesta Setalvad’s stupid writings in a school book (funded by corrupt Congress) reek of communal agenda. What the media or MHA guys don’t openly dare to say – her writings are filled with hatred for Hindus. And this requires an inquiry for months? Even so, no action has been taken against her nor have the books written by her dumped in the garbage. They continue to be used by teachers and students in some states. Commies have filled our books with false history, and lies. The argument that what was done in 60 years cannot be dismantled in 3 years is another fallacy. Establish bogus history clearly and many distortions have also been exposed over the last three decades. So it is not as if things will be done suddenly. The fear of ModiSarkar is that it will be labelled “Saffronisation”. Such fear is uncalled for. The Opposition and media can whine but our children need not be fed anymore with filth of Aryan invasion or glorification of murderous Mughal invaders. Recently, I came across another case of textbook or exercise book for kids that is absolutely disgusting:

The GOI is busy trying to improve universities and IIMs and creating more IITs and institutes of higher learning. All that is fine. There is something that the GOI and HRD ministry and in the education department are seriously ignoring:

Geniuses, innovators and also criminals are not created in higher 
institutions – the roots are in schools and they are created in our schools. Commie filth is also created in our schools 
and not in JNU or some university through bogus books.

In the Congress-UPA decade many books in schools were teaching glorious Pappu or the Pak-stooge Barkha as good examples. The Gandhi family was being glorified and the glorification of Islamic invaders grew. Children are being asked what should a boy do on converting to Islam. They are being taught Indian folklore now in the form of Jesus-salesmen stories. Bollywood too feeds such criminal distortion of our history and some folks are holding a seminar on it:

There are other major issues that should seriously concern ModiSarkar. PM Modi every year sermonises on facing exams without pressure and with a smile. Talk to parents – most will tell you school-life has become a miserable burden for both parents and students by ever-increasing demands. Indian education has yet to learn the new-age methods of the learning and testing systems:

Not everything needs to be taught. Some subjects or topics 
should only be read in schools with pleasure. Secondly, not everything 
that is taught needs to be tested – neither in schools nor at the board level.

That’s how you remove pressure from exams. What sense does it make to ask KG students to do homework? They should just be enjoying in the classroom – playing and learning. What sense does it make to put pressure on kids to cram and memorise history, geography or civics? I don’t think these subjects even need to be tested. Teach but don’t test. Even if the school finds great joy in testing, why not just test these subjects with multiple-choice questions and OMRs (Optical mark readers)? All major international tests largely use OMRs.  In such a case, even a student who has read the chapters casually would usually pick a right choice. And mind you, even if one doesn’t know the answer – making an intelligent guess is also a skill. After all, famous educationist Laurence J Peter did say that “An expert is a person who makes three consecutive guesses right”. Instead of being assembly-line manufacturing units, our school system should aim to produce great thinkers:

In the pressure that these subjects create on students our system damages them in the very core subjects that require the most knowledge and skills. In addition to burdensome tests, there are dozens of Olympiads and external tests which schools force students to take and also make money from. And students not doing well in such tests are further made to feel inferior. All students are not talented to be “Academic scorers”. Many have other skills which will build their life. But basic to these skills are three major subjects – English, Maths and Science (EMS).

Some folks are anti-English. I don’t agree and I don’t think this is an issue anymore. It has long been a second language for India and definitely gives a greater advantage in higher education and globally. The challenge is to bring those lagging behind to higher quality. Not dump English. Here are some facts:

# India has not participated in   Trends in International Maths and Science Study (TIMSS). The countries leading in these tests are Singapore, Japan, Taipei and Korea. Even USA or European nations don’t rank very high.
# In the Program for International Student Assessments (PISA) on the same lines as TIMSS India ranked second-last among 73 countries. Indian students ranked 200 points behind the global topper. Does that worry our GOI and teachers of the three important subjects?
# Even the SAT tests are mainly in English, Maths and Science. It is the gateway to seeking entry to US colleges and universities. Many Indian students appear for this test. SAT scores are also accepted in some higher institutions like IIM or IIT. The pattern of SAT tests are also multiple-choices scored by OMRs.

In addition to all the above, our politicians then wonder why Muslims don’t enter mainstream life or fail to get good jobs. What exactly do Madrassas teach? Any idea? They teach Quran and everything Muslim but Madrassas hardly produce students well-skilled in EMS. In one case a Mullah is reportedly creating a mini Islamic state in Bengal. Is this education? Instead of that, our states continue funding them and try to enforce the holiday system of Madrassas. Who gives a damn whether a Madrassa is closed on Friday or closed on all days. What should concern govts is what they are teaching and what they are testing. If they are not meeting the same standards in key subjects of EMS as demanded from others, then they can close all week. Doesn’t make any difference. So what happens when our students struggle with EMS and are pressurised with History or Civics? Here’s what happens:

Because the schools don’t cater to building the foundations in EMS there is a very vast industry of coaching classes. Parents have to dole out extra-ordinary sums for coaching so that kids are able to not only pass but also score highly in entrance exams to higher education. Kota doesn’t have any university but it is among the richest centres of coaching business. And these coaching centres are as much a den of black money as any other business. In case of higher classes where students have to choose their streams – Commerce can test Accountancy, Statistics, Economics and Arts can test History, Economics etc. as majors. But EMS in the primary stages must receive the highest focus.

How did some our IIMs, IITs or Medical Institutions become world class? Not merely because of their buildings or teachers. These institutes receive the BEST of students who have become very good learners and performers. Most of the students of such institutes are highly skilled in EMS, not in history and civics. Most of them get in because of their merits (I discount those that get in through reservations or some shady quotas). In many IITs former students who finished the course or have finished PhD course also double up as lecturers. In contrast govt spends on permanent “Jamaais” like Kanhaiyas in institutes like JNU that produce nothing or mediocrity.

As an Educationist, I have met over 3000 schools and Principals, interacted with thousands of teachers, students and parents. ALL OF THEM are constantly under pressure. A class-6 CBSE student has an exam period of 11-12 days twice a year. What in hell do they test? Of course, the student is given holidays in between to prepare for the test. How much do you have to prepare for a class-6 test? It has now become criminal torture. Even today, after so much public debate, our kids still carry heavy bags to school. This is definitely a practice that can be ended with dramatic change.

The govt has little or no focus on school education which is the foundation for the future of a country. Most of the focus is on creating more schools and more enrolments - These are basics but very poor measures of good education. ModiSarkar is not the cause of the rot, but it has the mandate and the power to create a dramatic change and relieve pressure from exams that Modi himself wants. I know for sure our school education can be dramatically changed for a better future for students and the country in a very short time. Yes, Education is a State matter but GOI does have control over CBSE, with schools across India and abroad, and the change can start from there. States will naturally follow. Focussing merely on higher institutions is a wrong approach of our GOI. There are many education specialists who can also help. Dramatic changes can relieve exam pressures, not incremental ones.

23 comments :

  1. Physical education means training of body, increasing stamina, increasing coordination etc. When we use the word education, it automatically means training of mind, training of brain. The content of early education has very negligible impact on our lives. For example we all of us who are in forties, fifties, sixties grew up learning Aryan invasion theory. How many of us really believe that our lives would have been different if we were taught right history? We read, we crammed, we jotted down in exams and went home on vacation until next year. Many students in American Christian schools study creation theory (Bible's influence) while rest of the world study evolution theory of Darwin. At college level you just cannot distinguish between two students who grew up studying two vastly different theories. Both students brain got trained same. So yes, we should teach right history, but don't expect that will generate much different generation of adults than we are.

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    1. If you had studied the right history, you would have loved to respect your heritage, culture, gone on to study archaeology, teach the world, and, probably, we would have more nationalistic minded citizens, politicians over these 40-50 years. Congress destroyed the opportunity for students to model themselves Lal -Bal-Pal, Chittaranjan, Vivekananda, Shivaji, Chatrasal, Rana Sanga, Rana Pratap, Dhingra, Ashfaqullah Khan, Charaka, Sushruta, Varahmihira, Ramanujam. Instead, you got Chacha, Indira, Rajiv, Rahul, Barkha, Treats as role models. Nation met with Emergency, mega scams, near bankruptcy. And, much more.
      Do you get that angle?

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    2. @Equateall

      Even so, the post strongly recommends a lesser emphasise History, Civics etc and even testing them in a lighter manner with Multiple choice papers without having to force kids to cram up nonsense. History and civics dont create any foundations. Facts and Information are now available aplenty in this Internet & Information age. It is skills in Maths and Science that I emphasise. I think Joshipura missed these significant points in the post...

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    3. Sir, I did not miss your important point. I simply wanted to point out that we all studied (forced to study) wrong history by the leftist influence in our schools. Would we have been any more patriotic now if we had studied the right history?

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    4. How you feel about youself affects a lot how you live life and decisions you take knowingly or unknowingly. When I went to 11th grade in one of the best colleges in Mumbai from a vernacular medium and I was the only student in the class from vernacular. I can still remember how down I used to fill and how that led to me take safest route of engineering and immediate job after it than trying something better.

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    5. One of my friends related this event to me...

      Her 9 year old son came home one day and asked her what does Sir mean?
      So Mum asked him an elderly man is usually addressed as Sir in English...
      So kid says no mum...Sir Dadabhai Naoroji Sir Surendranath Bannerjee..Sir Raja Ram Mohan Roy...etc...
      So Mum says they were knighted by the British...
      So kid says that means they are not freedom fighters because if the British gave them respect then how can they be called freedom fighters....

      There are hordes of folks in our history before independence who have been glorified as people who gave India independence when actually they were chummy and pally with the British and got many favours in return...

      All these distortions need to be corrected and the factual position explained...

      Holocausts of the past leading to religious conversions/genocides should be explained in great detail...

      World over the holocaust or any other genocide against a community is top priority and in fact in Europe if one denies the Jew Holocaust in WW2 one can be jailed...Why does nobody acknowledge the holocaust and genocide that happened during the Islamic invasion and then the Church Inquisitions in India???

      Are we supposed to acknowledge and rectify only the inequalities faced by certain sections in the Hindu Community in the past? Why is the past picked up selectively?

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  2. I wanted to go for am inter school olympiad but wasn't allowed to as I didn't take private turion from the person in charge of science ...I got region 23 and national 46 in maths...and I was the only one in school who ever got any ranking..
    This was a KV in Ganganagar rajasthan

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  3. Ravi, as usual, precise and practical. I have for long advocated the need to do away with questioning students on History, Geography etc. Focus entirely on language, Maths, Science. The rest can be bracketed under awareness. The intent behind testing students in the concocted History is to sow the seeds of distortion. If it was merely for awareness, the student would start questioning the event, and would be more meaningful.

    Well appreciated, and hope PJ and Namo get to read this, Better Late than never.

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  4. At long last a wonderful post that I agree wholeheartedly with! I recall my schooldays in the 60s were just as you wrote, but there were great teachers who instilled the love of learning, exploration and made it an adventure. I am indebted to my teachers. Today, as you rightly say, the system stinks to high heaven and creates morons by the million. Hope your post serves as a wake up call to the HRD mantrigan and something is worked out in a planned way.

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  5. For years govt stopped investing in education & left to private institutions, who charged capitation fee, part of which went to funding of a political party, more funds, more approvals for increasing seats & more disciplines, highest funds given to political party -get deemed university status.
    This raise of private institutions also lead to private coaching class, some of which have nexus with examiners, who discreetly leaked papers, given to those rich kids in coaching classes, i.e. assured of engineering seat - a fool proof system through back door.
    One English teacher who explained a single poem for continuous FOUR months changed my indifferent attitude to literature. Later another teacher who explained a "couplet in a poem" over a period of FOUR months, brought the hidden beauty of Sanskrit & the word power in it & so the mind of its originator. I remain indebted to him for life & now not a day passes without reading something on Sanskrit & every time I read the same couplet, yet it gives different meanings.
    Such teachers are lost in the sunset of time. Such teachers are NO more. Read the commentary of Sri Swamy Chinmaya on Kathopanishad, what an excellent eloquence & brings the inner most beauty of Sanskrit.
    Yet our education system extols shakyspear / Shiekhspear & other English writers.
    In a country with rich history of mathematicians - Aryabhata, Bhaskara, Ramanujan India has NONE now.
    The country which gave the world the Hindu Pachangam & continues for so many centuries with extensive accurate calculations - what a astronomy, science & mathematics understanding, without rockets or satellites or ....etc..
    No one praises them nor teaches them.
    All subsequent Indian government kept on burying Indian education in deeper graves.

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    1. I believe the quality of teachers has gone down...
      Those who do not get jobs anywhere get into schools as teachers...of course after paying bribes...and of course there are reservations too...Not clear how a teacher who needs reservation is supposed to teach???

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  6. Can you share the details of that extract from work book - which class and school. It is not that we dont trust you, you taught not to believe anything on face value

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    1. Yeah, I got the link.
      http://indianexpress.com/article/trending/this-is-serious/shocking-delhi-textbook-taught-in-class-iv-ask-students-to-kill-kitten-as-experiment-4512274/

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  7. Ravinar, this is one post where I feel I have to comment. There is a need to know the history and geography of the locality, city, state, country, continent and world (in that order) for an individual to have a sense of identity. This history and geography syllabus has to be defined by the Centre so that it is an acceptable version of history and the correct geography. Whether it is necessary to test the students on this is up to the institution, but the knowledge has to be imparted. Otherwise, a vast country like ours will just fall to parochial forces.

    Teaching students the history and geography of science and math makes a lot of sense. Instead of bombarding students with information and asking them to read textbooks which are written as if everything is crystal clear, it is better to hand-hold students through the evolution of the current workings in science and math. After all, every step in science or math depended upon the prevailing circumstances and the previous beliefs/traditions. Then they can wonder at why numbers are used the way they are or why quadratic equations ever came into being or why zinc should be extracted the way it is done now and whether it is better to have an exoskeleton rather than an endoskeleton.

    Not one student in India can even have a mental image of an astronomer being a mathematician, when actually all our mathematicians were astronomers. This is because we don't talk about the need for computing angles when you are gazing at the stars standing on earth. For that matter, how many teachers can associate the skies with mathematics?

    Even the way science is taught does not generate a sense of wonder. Physics and chemistry in class VI and VII should be taught empirically- concepts without problems. There is an general feeling that biology is simple- it isn't. It is as complicated, if not more complicated than physics or chemistry, because it involves both. It is just that there are only concepts and no 'problems' in biology.

    And Logic should be introduced in schools even before the trifurcation of the sciences. It is better to have a future peopled 100% with adults who think logically than have 1% who are successful scientists or mathematicians just because some University or Award panel thinks so.

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  8. I believe quite a few countries employ what is suggested by Ravinar that the students are tested only on Maths, Science and reading only.

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  9. i think it the education mafia that NAMO and gang fears. This mafia is strong and rooted.

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  10. The marks scored in languages & history should not be counted in the aggregate percentage at all. Focus should be on Maths & Sciences. Questions should be analytical practical questions from daily life than rotten mugged up questions & answers.

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  11. This BJP has NO blue print nor having any direction on these highly powerful ministries which can change the shape & destiny of India. There is no investment in space & science, scientists are sitting idle for lack of funds.

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    1. There are some white elephants in the cabinet who are there only because of their nuisance value...Zero performance.. no imagination..just plodding on..

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  12. Part of the reason for the sorry state of basic education in India is that it is largely a Christian racket run by churches. And all governments (state or centre, Cong or BJP) are scared of Christian scoundrels making tons of money through their so-called 'educational institutions.'

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  13. if you control schools + hospitals + increase hindu businessmen = Muslim & Christian crowds in India will immediately change & get converted to Hinduism.
    More christian missionaries = more school more education more brainwash
    More hospitals = weakest point in anyone when his family member suffers & hospital provide & relieve that pain, so indebtedness will be throughout life
    Jobs will be provided by businessmen.
    It is a triangle which all religious concentrated, but NOT hindus. So their population reduces.

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  14. MCQs are very dangerous. I have seen MCQs prepared in many schools. They reduce children to unthinking idiots if made the way they are in schools today. Ultimately they neither learn to think nor write 15 sentences continuously. You yourself have mentioned that it is difficult to make intelligent tests. Making good MCQs is the most challenging. With the kind of teachers that come onto the industry today, I will definitely say MCQs should not be encouraged. Instead they should learn to verbalise more, that encourages thinking. Ravinar, you are better commenting on journalists not education. The reason why HRD seems to be failing is that they are all run by lawyers, engineers etc and not educationists and do not understand ground reality. As simple as that. The way forward is to offer choices of level in every subject to students at the 10 and 12 level. That is the international trend with focus on numeracy and literacy. The second way is to abolish coaching classes who basically depend on drill.

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  15. Congrats Ravinar on 15M views..

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