Education and Careers

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By Saurabh Verma:

Corruption in Indian education system

Education is crucial because Padega India, tabhi toh badega India. According to the 2011 census, 74% of our population is literate. But learning to write and speak is not enough. Education is more than that.

I was a student in a relatively well-known school under the Uttar Pradesh education board. Unfortunately, rather than feeling proud of what I learnt, I feel as though my education was a blunder. And here are the two main reasons why I feel that way.

The First Point:

How does a school get affiliation to a particular board? Obviously, there are certain norms for the affiliation. The number of private schools is increasing day by day. But have the administration ever bothered to check the quality of education? Perhaps not. Well everyone blames government schools but this article will deal primarily with the private schools running under the aegis of UP board.

In 2002, Times of India broke a news that despite the strict rules of the UP Board to scan the credentials of the schools before granting them affiliation, there has been an increase in the number of high-school and intermediate colleges in Lucknow district, which have procured affiliation without fulfilling the minimum prerequisites.

I have completed my schooling from Unnao, a town sliced between two big cities – Lucknow and Kanpur. My school did not have basic infrastructure such as a science lab, playground, library, space for other curricular activities like dance, music etc. This was not only my school but most schools in Unnao, affiliated with the UP board are bereaved of all these facilities. There are one or two highly reputed schools which are affiliated with boards like Central Board of Secondary Education and Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (I.C.S.E), but they charge such high fees that I and other middle-class students will not be able to afford such schools.

My question is how was my school given the affiliation when it did not have proper facilities for the students? It did not even have separate toilets for girls and boys. How did the administration allow my school to function? It is a big question on the creditability of the UP board. The report of Times of India was published in 2002 but even after a decade, no strict action has been taken. This is the reason why students from small towns are not able to cope up in big cities like Delhi where students from all over the country come to study. It was very difficult for me, too, to make my own place among students from around the country.

The Second Point:

Did you know, that the marks for practical exams that are held before the board exams can also be bought? For subjects that include practical assessment, a total of 30 marks out of 100 are set aside. For that practical assessment, the UP board sent an officer to our school for evaluation of the students. When I was in the eleventh standard, I saw that the teachers told my seniors that they can pay a Rs. 400 per subject to pass the practical. The next year, I was also asked to pay the same amount for the same exam. Since, I was from the science stream I had five subjects – Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, English, and Hindi. Therefore, I had to pay 800 rupees for getting good practical marks in both Physics and Chemistry. All my teachers and even the principal were involved in this ‘scam’.

The day when the examiner came, the students knew very well that if they had paid for marks they didn’t need preparations. Since my school doesn’t have a lab, the examiner sat in one of the classrooms and did his ‘job’. I regret it because I should have raised my voice against such a system. However, since I am from a middle-class family, it was not possible for me to raise my voice because it can lead us into trouble. I got 30 and 30 for practical marks in both physics and chemistry. I have no idea how I could have scored 100% marks in my practical assessment if it wasn’t for the money I paid.

This is not the reality of only my school but several other schools in my town work in a similar manner. I am also sure that this situation does not only exist in my town, but that quite a few students around Uttar Pradesh are going through the same situation as I underwent. In this illegal and immoral way, students get marks but no knowledge. There are many who don’t like this but become a part of such a corrupt system. But we are all responsible for the present situation in our country. We can blame others but can’t be run away from our own responsibilities. The government, as well as the concerned board, should look into the matter, otherwise, the situation will be more severe than the present and the degrading quality of education can cause great harm to our nation and its aim of making India a well-educated state.

Children suffering from HIV/AIDS react to the camera during the "Global AIDS week of action" programme in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad May 23, 2009. REUTERS/Krishnendu Halder (INDIA HEALTH SOCIETY) - RTXM3EE

By YKA Staff:

6 Million kids in India are out of school right now according to Oxfam India. Even after four years of education, 90% children from poorer households are still illiterate.

Rajani Paranjape is a social worker, who seeks to address this issue through her unique service. “We named our organisation ‘Door Step School’ (DSS); because we go wherever the children are and start the classes right there,” says the pioneer woman.

DSS, since its inception, has earned a lot of appreciation and won many hearts. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge too met the DSS kids on their recent visit to India, to share some encouragement and boost ’em up.

This video, much like Rajani Tai’s philosophy, stands by the idea that every child counts. You will have all your hope lurking at the corner of your lips by the end of it.

PicMonkey Collage

By Airaf Rahta:

Ancient Indian texts
Ancient Indian texts

Since India elected the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) as its new government in 2014, there has been an incredible amount of discussion surrounding the ‘Saffronization of Education’.

Critics believe that saffronizing education is an attempt to communalize history, to promote the Aryans, ‘predecessors of modern Hinduism’, and reduce Muslims and the other ‘dreadful minorities’ to invaders or converts. Muslim rulers like the Mughals will either be eliminated from textbooks or painted as barbaric philistines who plundered ‘the land of Hindus’ and destroyed its sanctity.

Proponents argue that with the saffronization of education, students will learn of the glory of India. The curriculum which aims to be heavily influenced by the Vedas, Upanishads and other texts that the Sangh Parivar claims to be worthy of being called ‘ancient Indian Literature’, will (hopefully) guide students into devout patriotism and love for the country. Love that often flows boundless as acts of compassion, love that roars at Indo-Pak matches and glows with pride every time a Satya Nadella or Sundar Pichai make it big, is now being coerced as narrations of half-told, half-true histories.

To be fair, ancient India has also produced books like the Kamasutra, a super comprehensive volume on the several ways of enjoying carnal pleasure, and the highly casteist Manusmriti. But don’t worry, your kids probably won’t learn them because they do not advance the ‘pure’ and ‘perfect’ picture of India’s past the Government wants them to learn.

Let’s focus then on what may be taught instead – the Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Vedas. Most of these books mirror natural life. Their protagonists are kings and brothers, wives and sisters, divinely courageous but in most cases, very human. Deities who took human form, married and bred like humans, ate and dressed, waged war with passions ignited by jealousy, and celebrated victories.

However, with the changing centuries, convolutions between the east and the west, and in an attempt to secure our religion and culture we formed rules based on our understanding of holy and un-holy, accepted and profane. Perhaps we even made a few rules far more stringent than the gods had intended to them be.

The ‘Ancients’ have been codified. We sing of Sita’s coyness and her loyalty to her husband, of Radha and Krishna and their jealous, raw and eternal love story. However, would Krishna have been able to woo Radha on the streets of Pune today? Nope, especially not on the fourteenth of a certain imperfect month. They’d be forced to get married instead. Oh, but Radha and Krishna never married! Yes, they didn’t. What a perfect way to ruin an epic.

In this confused amalgam of the East and West, we have adopted some peripheral ideas of the ‘Angrez’ land and compromised many of our own in it. India was officially partitioned in 1947 but the country had started dividing much before. Hindus were different from Muslims and Christians; Men were separate from Women, and anything and anybody in-between was a digression. Men embodied courage, strength and power which was measured according to muscles, women were petite and pretty, while Hijras, India’s ‘notorious’ third gender, were criminalised. The Criminal Tribes Act stated that men (or Eunuchs) who wore and dressed like women could be arrested and imprisoned without a warrant. This particular law was repealed in Independent India, but another law, the Offences Against Persons Act of 1861, transformed into Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that now serves to criminalise homosexuality.

Old habits die hard, old ideas die hard, and old laws that have been ingrained into our society too will die hard. Fast forward to 2016, Men are still hyper-masculine, ‘nazuk‘ women are another category, and homosexuals are ‘chi chi‘. However times are changing and for this purpose, it’s fitting for us to, like our leaders, look back for answers in ‘Ancient Indian Literature’.

It is this ancient literature that taught us it is okay for men to cry (given that Ram cried at Sita’s abduction); that homosexuality is divine (given that Lord Ayyappa was the son of Shiva and Vishnu) and that gender is fluid and alterable (Mahabharata’s Shikhandi – the warrior who was born female but later became male).

If we are compelled to study these texts at school, they must be taught in their entirety, including all instances of non-conformism, so we can reason for ourselves and be a bit more considerate of our country folk.

Amrita didi, best team mate and teacher

By Swetha Ranganathan:

Amrita didi, best team mate and teacher
Amrita didi, best teammate and teacher.

After completing my engineering from Father Agnel College, Mumbai, I spent three months teaching children in a government school, where I met Harshad, a 12-year-old boy. Harshad, like all his other classmates, lived in a low-income community in Sion Koliwada. He would try hard to focus in class, but often seemed exhausted, not confident, and used abusive language. I found out that Harshad worked in a job before school, his father was an alcoholic, and the boy was witness to a lot of violence at home. I always wondered how a child his age would feel when surrounded by such problems, and what his school was doing to develop his abilities to deal with them.

We all know and agree that schools are purposed to deliver an education that ensures children emerge as conscientious and reflective citizens capable of bringing change in their own lives as well in society. But how many schools do we know who qualify to claim this?

What’s more – with the changing social and cultural scenario, it’s even more imperative that children are able to build excellent problem-solving, interpersonal relationship building and decision-making skills (also called life skills). These are skills that could help an individual break through the barriers that keep them from making the most of the opportunities around them.

Keen to do something about this, I joined TISS to pursue an M.A. Social Entrepreneurship programme, where I met two people who felt the same way. Amrita came with an educational background in psychology and later worked in the education space, while Anukriti, came with a drive for entrepreneurship and a will to cater to any need she recognised in society. Though we may have joined the course for different reasons, it was our experiences before we met each other that really brought us together, as close friends and co-founders.

In 2012, we started the Apni Shala Foundation, an organisation in Mumbai working with children, teachers and parents. The aim is to create a space that allows for the development of skills, attitudes and values that one needs to bring about a positive change in their own life and in their community. Today, it is a team of professionals working towards creating a wave across schools by integrating life skills into schools’ weekly timetables.

Sometimes streets are better classrooms
Sometimes streets are better classrooms.

Our focus area is design and delivery of life skills education programmes to create opportunities and experiences for children where they can develop essential skills such as teamwork, leadership, empathy, self-awareness, and communication. The highlight of our approach is that we ensure children are learning in a way that it really stays with them. When was the last time you learnt to be a good team player from a text-books? That’s why, we use a blend of exciting games, drama, art and community work that encourage participation, brainstorming, and reflection, but in a way that is fun and caters to different children’s learning styles. Till date we have worked with almost 3000 children, 100 teachers and over 200 parents, and the coming year we’re hoping to double our annual outreach.

We’ve made every attempt to measure our impact in numbers through objective annual assessments of the children. These evaluations show that 97% of the children we have worked with have developed a life skill. However, what motivates us and inspires us to keep going is stories like these:

Engrossed students and facilitator in an Apni Shala session
Engrossed students and facilitator.

12-year-old Simran along with three others in her class took up the topic of sexual harassment in July 2014. Although Simran was always one to speak up and express herself, she and her team took many weeks to narrow down on this topic – given all the awkwardness and silence about such issues in her community. However, this group was determined to do something about it. They decided, the best way to end sexual harassment was – get a policeman to patrol the area during ‘peak’ hours. Guess what Simran and her team went on to do? They roamed their community basti and conducted a signature campaign with 100 signatures! Next stop – Deonar Police Station! They filed their request – and got a request number from the police officer then. Next – we get a call from the police officer after a month saying that he’s going to take action!

We’ve come a long way, but we know we can’t make this journey alone. We need more people who care about the education system to join us in our endeavours. And so, we’re excited to introduce the Apni Shala Fellowship this year. This is a one-year paid fellowship for anyone out there who is passionate about working with children, and would like to make a huge impact in children’s lives, grow with a young organisation and rediscover themselves and their passions in the process. It seeks to build a platform for youth to become more aware of social issues and start out on their journey of self-transformation. Apni Shala Fellows will be frontrunners of the life skills education movement and the face of the organisation in schools. Following a rigorous training programme, fellows will work directly with children from low-income schools and communities.

We’re now reaching out to youth from across the country to come and join us in our efforts. Education is not an industry, but a movement. Working towards a shift in this sector doesn’t make you an employee but instead, a catalyst for change and a role model for future generations. We urge you to join us in our endeavours. We’re dreaming big. And we’re confident we’ll get there soon.

student of the year ratta maar

Peter Clough:

Stress is part of life. Too much stress, over a sustained period, is clearly damaging, but normally we can deal effectively with short bouts. In fact, while stress may be uncomfortable, it can actually be a key motivator and the right amount of it can help to boost our performance.

But there is a limit. Too much stress and the opposite tends to happen, leading our confidence and performance to decline at a rapid rate. The stress and performance relationship is often seen as an upside down “U” – as you get more stressed, your performance improves until you reach an optimum point – then it declines. In reality, it is more common for it to act as a motivator and then reach a sudden and severe drop – this is something I like to refer to as falling off the “fear cliff”.

Stress can easily turn to fear and what happens when fear raises its ugly head is twofold. First, all our good intentions go out the window and we snap back into our comfort zones. Second, we panic and believe that just because in the past we have made a mistake this is bound to happen again.

To avoid the “fear cliff” it is important to take a couple of steps back from the edge and think about your goals in advance. Set yourself realistic targets, two hours study may well be effective, but four hours is not twice as effective.

Research shows that the human brain can only effectively concentrate for about 45 minutes – after that your concentration levels dip. So make sure you plan breaks into your revision schedule. Split the day into hour-long chunks knowing that for the last 10-15 minutes of the hour you will have a break before you move on to your next topic.

Taking Charge

Two frogs
Which would you eat first? mar_chm1982/Shutterstock

When it comes to deciding what to actually revise during these sessions it can seem like a good option to do the easy stuff first. You know your French better than your Spanish so it makes sense to start with that, right? Wrong! Always do the hardest task at the beginning – do not warm up by doing the easy stuff.

Another way to look at this is to think about how you would eat two frogs? An odd question, but the clear answer is to eat the ugliest first. Get the hard stuff out of the way while your brain is still fresh, leaving the easier stuff to cool down with later in the day.

Another way to manage the fear in the run up to exam time is to manage your thoughts. While well-meaning advice such as “cheer up”, “think positive” or “don’t worry” doesn’t really work, there are some simple techniques that do. The “attitude ladder“, for example, can be helpful when it comes to managing exam stress.

Visualise a ladder with its rungs. See the lower rungs as the negative thoughts – “I can’t do this”, “I don’t know how to do it”, “I wish I knew how to do it” – and the higher rungs as the positive thoughts. So the top of the ladder would be “I did it” and the second rung would be “I can do it” followed by “I will do it” and so on.

When revising or tackling exams, the aim is to be at the top of the ladder on rungs one, two or three. This is done by speaking positively to ourselves. Think about how you would talk to your best friend: you wouldn’t put them down, you’d build them up. So learn to be your own best friend when it comes to revision.

Climb that attitude ladder.
Climb that attitude ladder. Source: remastv/Shutterstock

Quit Catastrophising

Ah, I hear people say, but what about when I really can’t do something? The key here is to control the controllables. At this stage of the process, there is a tendency to dwell on the “could haves” and “should haves”. The simple message is work out what you can do now and then do it. It might not be perfect but dreaming of retrospective perfection is not at all helpful.

People often think about the “what ifs?” in terms of the negative. Instead of thinking “what if I get a question on my worst topic”, think “what if get a question on my best subject”. Think about what could go right for you and it will really help.

The final thing to remember is to stop “catastrophising”. Failing an exam will not be a catastrophe and it doesn’t have to have a knock-on effect for the rest of your life. There is always a Plan B – or a resit. It is not the end of the world – just a bump in the road.

Peter Clough, Professor of Psychology, Manchester Metropolitan University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

PicMonkey Collage

By Parth Sharma:

 

Ira Singhal (left), Sandeep Kumar (right)
Ira Singhal (left), Sandeep Kumar (right)

Success stories from the UPSC civil services examination (CSE), coveted as the most difficult exam in the world with a success rate of about 0.01%, often makes news. But why? What is it that makes these stories so special? Why are they so important? What is to gain from someone else’s success?

Before we answer that, let’s get a little uncomfortable.

Sandeep Kumar, son of a rickshaw puller and a resident of a transit camp for a slum, cleared CSE 2015. After the death of his father—he quit his job as an accountant to exclusively prepare for the exam. Studying in a makeshift cabin of 10×12 ft, without coaching or guidance, studying for 10-12 hours every day for two years, he achieved this stupendous feat.

Then again there is the twenty-seven-year-old, visually impaired, Bala Nagendran of Chennai, who also raised eyebrows by securing rank 926 in 2015 CSE with meagre resources and unavailability of good quality study material in Braille. Even then he said, “I would never accept whenever someone refers to me being blind as a challenge. Personally, I consider it a powerful tool. It has made me realise the importance of having inner-vision. My visual impairment has helped me get to know people better”

The 2014 CSE topper Ira Singhal, with 62% locomotor disability, placed her disability aside to clear the exam four times straight, acing it in her last attempt. She had the most novel reply when asked about her physical disability saying, “some problems are visible, some are not… we’re all fragmented beings, everybody has problems—what matters is how we deal with them.” And boy did she show us how.

The interesting thing about these stories, of Sandeep or Nagendran or Ira or anyone else, is that they do not just happen and die in isolation. They are infectious; they prove it’s not the means but the end that is more important. They don’t teach us how to clear just an exam, but how to not complain and crib. As heroes they stand right in our face, serving as living examples of how to stand tall in the face of adversity.

Such stories make news because they give us hope with a realisation of how lucky and better off we are, even with our share of problems. In the instant comparison with these overachievers, we face ourselves—we face the reality of how it could have been much worse—which is what makes us uncomfortable. Realising how difficult it must have been for them to break those binding shackles and overcome hindrances to achieve the unexpected shakes us up. But the resolve, the grit and determination shown by them to overcome insurmountable problems and yet emerging victorious, is what makes us happy.

We feel the adrenaline rise almost instantly; we feel everything is suddenly in reach with just the right amount of determination. There’s something in them that never ceases to amaze us whenever we remember them; something that stirs us, wakes us, and stiffens our resolve.

Even in the whirlpool of existential crisis they bring us a purpose. In the vagaries of life, they give us a hand to hold on to. This is why they’re so special, so important.

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By Rithika Krishna:

downloadCBSE Toppers, you’ve outshone your next door neighbours or maybe your childhood friends. Your hard work and consistent commitment paid off in the end. Congrats! You will be a role model for many students who will appear for their boards the next year. You must be very proud and have the right to celebrate today. You can finally flaunt your marks before those who said you couldn’t do it. But I am not here to talk on their behalf. I am the average student’s voice instead.

There is no need for the average Indian student to sit with dashed hopes because you did no better than ‘Sharma Ji’s son’. Remember, you are more than just a number. You are more than just a mark sheet. I bet you’ve done things you can be proud of timelessly which has nothing to do with those two digits on your answer sheets. How can you decide a person’s character or personality with board results?

I will tell you about real achievements. Selfless achievements. It is your creativity. It is your generosity to help someone in need. It is the smile you flash unconditionally to a stranger. It’s all the beautiful things you’re going to do with the rest of your life. The classroom is perhaps a remarkable place which witnesses the birth of many geniuses. But who gave the CBSE and the classrooms the right to set such standards that decide who is a ‘genius’? With such a doomed educational, I have seen many students whose wings were cut before they even learnt to fly.

When I reflect upon my greatest achievements, marks don’t figure in that list. I recall the first short story I wrote when I was 12. My first speech in the school assembly, with my nerves in a knot I somehow found the courage to do my best. And even how well my friends and I planned a farewell party for our seniors. The list would be incomplete without mentioning how I amazed my mother was with the strength I showed as my father was wheeled into the operation theatre three years ago. Some of you are not half as proud as I am of these tiny accomplishments. It’s not that I don’t judge people, I do. But unlike you, marks are not my prerogative to gauge genius.

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By Ira Singhal:

Editor’s Note: While many rejoice after this year’s UPSC exam results were declared a few days back, there is no doubt that those who couldn’t make it, face a difficult time where they must figure an alternative plan. Many will settle down to prepare for the next year’s exams while others might suffer anxiety and stress at having experienced failure and rejection of some sort. Student stress and depression are one of the leading causes of suicides among Indian youth. However, failure should hardly have such a negative connotation in the minds of those who are young and have the world at their disposal so to say with a variety of choices available when it comes to career.

This is in response to a question on Quora. A user asked: I am not able to crack Civil Services even after 2 attempts. Am I a loser? Ira Singhal, the 2014 topper of the UPSC exam, shares an astute answer which is insightful and tackles the real problem – that of the Indian Youth feeling trapped amidst a very limited set of choices. Having cleared the Civil Service exam in her fourth attempt, becoming the first person with disability to top the exams, Singhal has had her own share of failures just like everyone else.

hqdefaultHow does clearing or not clearing UPSC make you a winner or a loser?? This is just one exam for a particular type of job! So what if you didn’t clear this?? Is everyone on earth who is anyone doing UPSC based jobs?? What about Sachin Tendulkar, Aishwarya Rai, Bill Gates, Narendra Modi, Mary Kom? Have they all cleared UPSC? This is such a wrong attitude!! Maybe you are meant to do something else with your life! How can everyone be destined for the same job?

If you are really keen on it, then instead of getting depressed and blaming life, try to analyse what exactly it is that you are doing wrong. And be brutally honest with yourself. Don’t keep blaming external circumstances. Remember that you can only change yourself and not other things. So work on yourself and be honest. If you lie to yourself, you are only harming YOU. Telling your mom-dad or others that you prepared so well but the system was rigged, doesn’t really do anything in the long run. Find your mistakes, see what it is that others have done that you missed on, and do it!

In case you are not too keen on it, then great! Go do something else! You may be much more successful in anything else than you might ever be as a civil servant anyway! Our country needs lots of doctors, teachers, entrepreneurs, engineers, scientists….not that many civil servants! This is not the only way to achieve something in life. This is just an exam for a job…you may actually be someone suited for something else entirely! That doesn’t make you a loser! How could it! Just because your path is something else, doesn’t put you higher or lower than others! That kind of thinking is just so so wrong! In my opinion, the point of life is to be the best you can and contribute to the world around you. There is no one way of doing it! You can be just as happy at something else and actually make a bigger difference and be happier! So stop associating this exam with more than it is! It is not the only way of life and not the only way to success! In fact, the exam is just about getting a particular type of job! Success will be defined by how you do it and not by getting or not getting this job! And you can be just as successful at anything else!

So don’t get depressed! Think smart! Life is much beyond just this exam and success is a far more deeper a concept that can ever be encompassed by just one exam! If not this, then do something else! Success is all about being happy and making a difference! You can do it by many other ways!

I do hope you clear this exam if that is truly the only way you think you can make a difference but if you can think of anything else, then I wish you all the success in that!

This response was originally part of a Quora post.

Pune_university_small

By Preeti Bisnik:

Pune university
Pune university

From the past one year, I have been scrutinising different universities in various countries where I could aim to go for further studies. I was very thrilled that my results were out and soon I would be going abroad to add ‘CA’ in front of my name. Though the journey will prove to be tiresome, I was enthralled about my future.

I submitted all my documents and ensured everything that needed to be done was checked off from the list. But then a letter arrived from the Institute I had applied to telling me that I have not submitted the Degree for Bachelor of Commerce from Pune University. I wondered how that could be possible given that I had submitted all my documents, including my degree. I challenged the institute and received a reply that said what I had presented was a certificate stating I had passed B. Com with First Class division, but it was not the degree!

Five years I was living with the delusion that what I was struggling for was a degree that would open up the world for me but I was wrong. This was the document that the Pune University handed me after my results. Who would have thought of doubting its credibility! So now the condition was that I needed to produce a degree certificate to get admission and follow my dreams.

Now let me tell you the course starts in July, I need to apply for loan, visa, book my flight tickets and less than 2 months I have in my hand. So I decided to take help from Pune University so that I can be provided with the degree asap.

I started calling the university the next day from 9.30 in the morning. Nobody picked up the phone. Finally, the student facilitation centre did and gave me another number to call on but no luck with that either as again the phone kept ringing and no one answered. By 12.45, I must have called them hundreds of times but to no avail. By now even the student facilitation centre had started avoiding my calls: they would pick up, hear my voice and disconnect. I was helpless. I started crying and didn’t know what else to do. Imagine a 26-year-old lady, who’s a director in a startup, crying helplessly. All I wanted to know was “How long will it take for me to get the degree? Is there any ‘tatkal’ situation so that I can get my degree faster?” In fact, I don’t even mind flying to Pune to get hold of what I needed. But nobody was bothered by the fact that a student will waste a year if she doesn’t get the degree on time.

Finally, I called the vice-chancellor’s office and was given two mobile numbers after I complained that no one picks the phone. On calling one of the numbers, a lady answered saying she is on leave so I should call someone else. The second number was of Mr Rajesh Rahekar and I was very polite with him telling him the urgency of the matter. To my pleas, he replied that he could only take action when he receives an official application and before that nothing is in his jurisdiction. So I asked him for an approximate – “Sir till when can I expect my degree?” to which he said, “mujhe nahi pata, kuch nahi bata sakta, jab milegi tab milegi.” (I don’t know. Can’t give you a date. You’ll get it in time.)

I was shocked with his response. How can someone from the college authority be so noncommittal? It might take 4 days, 4 months or 4 years but at least tell the stipulated time? But I was given no answer. By now I was wondering if studying at this university was the biggest mistake I had committed in my life!

I decided I must do everything in my power so I filled a supplementary degree application form along with all the proof and the university letter and emailed it to [email protected] Then I again called Rajesh Rahekar and told him, “Sir I have couriered and e-mailed you all the required documents. Please look into the matter and help me urgently.” To this Mr Rahekar replied “4 baar phone nahi karneka, jabhi mere pass file aayegi mein kaam karunga, mein aur kuch nahi kar sakta.” (Don’t call me so many times, I will look into the matter when I receive the files before that I can’t do anything.) He disconnected the call.

So when my courier got delivered, I called him up again. “Sir, my application has been delivered, now it will not take much time to reach your table. But please do keep a look out for it.” I guess you already know what kind of an answer I must have got. “Jitna time lagta hai utna lagega, kuch urgent nahi hota yahan.” (It will take as long as it will. Nothing is urgent here.)

Rather than helping out and giving a solution, I was treated as if I were some unwanted pet in a house, my own house, my own university where I studied. Didn’t the university staff have this much common sense that without the welfare of students there’s no point of running an educational institute! How can someone talk so carelessly and not be bothered about a student’s career at all! I cried like crazy. I cried because I was left unanswered. I cried because I studied in such a university where time is not valued. All the reputed university abroad works on scanned docs and mail, but we will always be left behind in India where offices function according to comfort. Rather than checking emails, they will wait for documents to arrive via the courier; then they will store it in a haphazard manner amidst a huge pile of other such documents (of other students who sent their desperate appeals). I am now living with uncertainty regarding my future. I may or may not receive the degree in time. Neither do I know nor does the Pune University Staff know. And nobody picks the phone to answer any query anyway. So much for researching and applying to foreign colleges.

The events of this article couldn’t be individually verified by Youth Ki Awaaz.

Schoolgirls sit inside their classroom before collecting their free mid-day meals, being distributed by a government-run primary school, in New Delhi May 8, 2013. India may soon pass a new law to give millions more people cheap food, fulfilling an election promise of the ruling Congress party that could cost about $23 billion a year and take a third of annual grain production. The National Food Security Bill, which aims to feed 70 percent of the population, could widen India's already swollen budget deficit next year, increasing the risk to its coveted investment-grade status. REUTERS/Mansi Thapliyal (INDIA - Tags: EDUCATION POLITICS FOOD) - RTXZEKN

Submitted anonymously:

Schoolgirls sit inside their classroom before collecting their free mid-day meals, being distributed by a government-run primary school, in New Delhi May 8, 2013. India may soon pass a new law to give millions more people cheap food, fulfilling an election promise of the ruling Congress party that could cost about $23 billion a year and take a third of annual grain production. The National Food Security Bill, which aims to feed 70 percent of the population, could widen India's already swollen budget deficit next year, increasing the risk to its coveted investment-grade status. REUTERS/Mansi Thapliyal (INDIA - Tags: EDUCATION POLITICS FOOD) - RTXZEKN
Representation only. Source: REUTERS/Mansi Thapliyal

Three months into my new job as a trainer at a government school in New Delhi, and I am actually living the plight of government schools that I had only heard so much about. Certainly it is a government set-up and the work culture and attitude is very different from a corporate house or an NGO, but I am sorry to share some of the facts that make my head and heart ache- to see what a significant system such as basic education is doing to our present and future.

The new session has just started and that has given me a better chance to interact with the staff, principal(s) and the children. As one of the vocational subject trainers, I have been termed as ‘guest faculty’ at the school, and the treatment I receive is very far from what a ‘guest’ would usually be treated as. I ‘help’ in doing many menial jobs such as counting (read verifying) marks given by teachers to students, sitting with teachers to ‘help’ them tally marks, scoresheets, grades, etc., getting classrooms emptied, getting a teacher/student for the Principal, taking attendance for a class teacher who is absent. Out of all these, the one that is most common and that I dread is having to go to a class as a replacement for an absent teacher. This is called ‘absentee’ class.

Absenteeism

I used to think that the news about absenteeism of teachers at government schools was exaggerated, but really, it is for real here. Every single day there are so many teachers who do not turn up for their classes, that either we go to (sometimes classes are combined because both class teachers are absent) or have nobody inside. Children obviously make noise and have a gala time in the absence of a figure in the class on those days. At times, I wonder what could be the reason/s they are not able to come to school so often.

Infrastructure

On my first day, I was shocked to see the pitiful state the school was in. I don’t mean the building, in fact, the school building is rather big and spacious and has a decent school ground as well (this one being a model school). But there is a lack of classrooms nonetheless. Students are made to sit in the corridors, in the open, or even taken to the ground because there aren’t enough classrooms for classes to be taken in.

Recently, we’ve been declared a model school (meaning we have received funds to expand the school premises, include better facilities and training for improved learning; considered prestigious to be nominated as one) and so parts of the building are being run down and reconstructed to add more classrooms. I hear that the project was not completed last summer and is being done so now. Currently, the building is technically a construction site, a hazardous area with rooms covered in dust and leaking ceilings. Ceiling fans look clean and new, but many of them are out of order. Children complain how hot and difficult it gets to sit without fans. During winters, the challenge was that window panes and glasses were all broken (they still are), and as the chilly air would gush in, it was saddening to see little hands and legs shiver as they wrote.

And recently, what with the extreme heat and early rise in temperatures in Delhi, in one of my classes out in the corridor, a girl got heatstroke. As her classmates complained to me about the lack of a proper class or fans outside, all I could ask them to do was complain to their class teacher. The class teacher, equally helpless asked them to rearrange their desks further into the shade and sit. I dread being in the place of a class teacher and having to say that to little children. There are such cases throughout the day, where children get heatstroke and leave for home. Hence, I am not surprised when children do not turn up the next day for school.

As a child, I used to love Library periods because we were allowed to choose a book of our choice and take it home to read. Due to the lack of a computer set, the librarian is not able to feed the data in a system and thus unable to issue books to the children. At one such class, I witnessed how one book, chosen by the librarian was handed to the class, and they would come up and read one by one, paragraphs to the class. How boring! No wonder they sit and chat instead.

Health And Hygiene

The building walls have pretty posters that talk about hygiene and water, but the school doesn’t even have a tap or source for drinking water! We carry our own from home, but once it is over, it becomes a problem. Some of my colleagues have started carrying two bottles to work. I wonder if the children are too, since the heat is only getting worse. A colleague said that the taps downstairs are only for washing hands, not drinkable.

Every year the newspapers record the number of death of girl students at government schools who kill themselves or fall sick because they are not able to relieve themselves when at school. Many schools do not even have toilets. I have not been inside the children’s toilets yet, but I wouldn’t imagine them to be better than the staff toilet. The staff toilet that I use is kept up by one lady cleaner who is always complaining about how much work she has to get done alone, for such little pay. Frankly speaking, it is not possible for one person to look at toilets, rooms, labs, stairs, etc. together daily and maintain hygiene. Why don’t they hire more staff?! The toilets get dirty and stinky during the day, and as a matter of fact, even staff hold on to their bladders for as long as they can because of this very small reason. Often, we run out of water as well.

Quality Of Educators

To say the least, I neither have a B.Ed degree nor am I a PGT (Post Graduate Trainer) or TGT (Trained Graduate trainer). I have a post graduation degree and have some valuable years of industry experience in the area of my expertise. I felt underqualified the first week, amongst staff who had these teaching qualifications. Today however, I look at some of these teachers who are supposed to be experts in their areas of study, and at those who have undergone training to deal with young children, who have been made aware of the various innovative and interactive ways of teaching students, and feel extremely disappointed, because none of what they know is ever applied to their classes. Some even come ill-prepared for classes.

Teaching is, in fact, a life-long learning profession where the educators need to challenge themselves to learn more and push the students to remain up-to-date and abreast with knowledge too. It appears to me here though, that teachers stop at where they learned. Very few even use technology as a tool to support their imparting of knowledge. And at a time when technology is taking the world by storm, majority of the educators do not even know the basics such as MS Word, Excel, how to create a presentation slide, or how audio-visual works on a laptop, simply because they don’t want to un-learn and re-learn. Instead, they will look for the likes of myself (younger teachers/trainers) to do their work such as feeding in data on a spreadsheet or uploading marks and sending it to the Board.

Yoga and games periods should be looked forward to the most for that is all the students get in the name of an extra co-curricular activity, and especially at a time when we are focussing on ‘all work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy’ more than ever before. To my dismay, the day I went looking for these teachers (the yoga enthusiast in me was curious to see who they were), both teachers were taking their classes inside the classroom! When I asked them why they weren’t taken outside for activities, they simply said that they like to do it inside the classrooms instead of in the heat outside. To add to that, I’m sorry to say but, out of all the staff I have met, these two are the most unfit, who find difficulty even in climbing the stairs.

Quality Of Education

A few years ago, there was an alarming record of young students who committed suicide due to the failure to clear examinations. Since then, the then government started the non-detention policy which allows students to be promoted irrespective of their performance till the eight standard. As a result, students have stopped working hard, or even studying at all, for they know that eventually they will be promoted. Similarly, parents are happy enough to know that their child’s year is not wasted at least by getting promoted promptly. But what this also means is that, by the time the student comes to the ninth standard, there is a high chance the he/she knows nothing. Some don’t even know their ABCs! So, obviously when they reach the ninth standard, they suddenly face the pressure of difficult subjects and eventually fail. Since the non-detention policy is no longer applicable, they are allowed to try and pass twice, after which they are expelled. Many students actually wait for the day of their expulsion because they simply don’t want to continue studying.

With the new session, many teachers have been transferred, many ended their contracts. This has led to shortage of staff until the ”system’ figures out when to send new and more staff. This has also led us to teach subjects that we aren’t even qualified for. I have been asked to teach English to the newly admitted young sixth standard children for a few months until they get their teacher. Now just because I can read and write in English does not necessarily mean I can teach the subject. With much hesitance I went to tell the Principals that it was unfair on the children, and that they deserve someone more qualified in ‘the’ subject, someone with a B.Ed and PGT or TGT in English. As expected, I was instead asked to cooperate for a few months, and why would they listen to me alone, because the rest of the teachers were quietly accepting similar treatments. Similarly, there are teachers who have been given other subjects too; a Home Science qualified teacher is teaching Hindi, a Social Science teacher is teaching Science. They all said the same thing, ‘this is how it is here’, when I asked them why they would not say no?

When I discussed this with another fellow much elder staff member, she replied by just saying that we have sold off education and we simply have no respect left in what we do any more. She added, “how many people will you try to explain things to, and at what levels?” I can’t argue that.

Values

We used to have Value Education as a subject in school, and I always wondered what was the point, for didn’t charity begin at home?

Spoilt by the system, students obviously also develop the wrong attitude towards education as a whole. They do not feel the need to be educated; for them it is just about passing the exams. Students expect to be passed effortlessly; they ask teachers to write answers for them instead, and teachers (on the advise of the principal) in fact does so, lest they fail again. They talk very rudely, have no discipline and even pass comments or abuse teachers secretly (I only pretend not to hear. It’s like getting bullied!). The way they talk and walk, is well, uncouth. Classes are always noisy as they shout and call at one another, yelling each others’ names.

There is an interesting trend that goes on in the school building- everyone walks in twos. I am always approached by two to go to the toilet, get chalk, go give books to a teacher, etc. I ask them how both need to go to the toilet at the same time, and all I get is a giggle. So I asked another colleague who tells me that once there was an incident wherein a child got locked inside, when on her own and couldn’t get out. Since then, students have been advised to go to the toilets in twos. Well, I don’t think that was the solution to the situation, but the way I look at it is that, instead of teaching children to walk head held high, independently, we’re asking them to always rely on a friend even to go to the toilet.

Then, I was appalled during the exam month as I saw how students cheat and copy from each other, simply to pass. It almost made me cry. My colleague said to me that marks mean nothing in life, so you should let them cheat and pass. I agree, marks may not mean much later in life, but what about values? Aren’t we encouraging them to grow up and cheat their families, friends, partners, colleagues and who knows even steal and rob?

Management

Students who fail are asked to reappear for subject papers till they pass, and teachers need to continuously follow-up with them, and even call them from home to come and re-write the paper. It’s funny how the school goes to such extents to get uninterested students to pass. Truth be told, the government’s directions sets all on a spree, but I’m not sure if the direction is the ‘right’ way after all. But I get it. Principals don’t want students to fail because the process of sending failed students’ details and the documentation thereof is tedious; teachers don’t want them to fail because it is a pain to follow-up and call them, prepare question papers so many times; parents don’t want them to fail because what will happen to the little money they were getting in the name of free education; but does the student realise any of that? Nope, for everybody else’s worry is not for the student’s education, but towards fulfilling the system they have been asked to follow strictly.

And of course, the workplace here too has its shares of favouritism, beauracracy and corruption. There is subtle work politics and egoism here as well, which is inevitable in today’s time anywhere, which I am fine with as long as the show goes on. However, it annoys me to see why decisions are compromised in the name of ego and bias.

While regular teachers get paid on time with their perks, part-time, contract and guest teachers have not been getting paid on time despite protests. In fact, their examination to become a permanent regular teacher has not been conducted for quite a few years. It is as though the system is not willing to even give them a chance. These guest teachers are hoping that this year, when quite a few teachers will be retiring, vacancies will be created and finally their examination date to become permanent will be out.

As management, we need powerful people who can make good decisions and not just someone who can throw around his/her authority and power whichever way they want. We need good managers. Have you ever thought how different the education system would be if we had MBAs on the seats of the Principals? I think it could be slightly better.

Punctuality, promptness, respect and discipline cannot be forced, just as how we cannot force it on children. These will come when the staff themselves will also feel motivated in their jobs, instead of being micro-managed or treated as students themselves.

Once, my young colleague nudged me, trying to hint to me that the Principal is inside our staff room and I should stand. Not that she would have noticed me anyway, but even though my colleague finds that I may be asking for trouble, I find it unacceptable to simply stand for someone of an authoritative figure, who ‘demands’ respect than ‘earns’ it. And come on, we’re not her students! You may ridicule me for trying to get some corporate treatment in a government school (thanks to my varied experiences), but tell me, is it really too much to ask? Is it really more than the cost of the children’s lives we have in our hands, and their futures?

The ‘Government’ Attitude

I’d only heard about the ‘chalta hai’ attitude of a government set-up before, but to be in it now is certainly a reaffirmation. The problem is that each party here, the management, educators and students all know that it is a government set-up where things are ‘supposed’ to be slack. Teachers aren’t serious about teaching, it’s supposed to be an easy job. I was once told about a teacher who went to teach Maths to a class just 15 days before the exams! For a subject as Maths that children deem as most difficult! Eventually, that term every one of them failed in the subject.

Students know why they are here; parents can’t afford a better education and they can’t expect anything to be any better. Once, a student told me, “This is how things are in a govt. school, ma’am. We’d fail if we don’t go for our extra tuitions.” My younger colleagues who are fresh graduates also in fact want to stick to the usual way of things and teaching; they in fact ask me to take things slow and rather focus on ‘building rapport’ with other staff and principal. Perhaps, what we really need is a better HRD system for the education sector, so that only those who are really interested in the profession of teaching, and who feel for children are hired, instead of those that are only looking for a substitute to earning money or an easy job. Not every youth of this ‘new generation’ has the same attitude in life, some still like the ‘chalta hai’ attitude.

I am not sure if it can be generalised, or only my school has these problems, but it is a sad state of affairs and a pity indeed. We are playing with little lives and their futures here. What I see from the new children who have been admitted this session is that, they have been sent to good public schools till the fifth standard, and do in fact have quite an impressive base in English. For reasons many, now that they have been sent here, to a nearby government school, they are actually in a worse place, for this is the state here.

Government school education was not always like this though, and perhaps this is why it’s distressful state means more to me today. We’ve had ministers and great officers that have made a mark in history, who were educated in government schools. Then why is it now, that instead of progressing ahead, that we are in a pathetic situation instead? Do we have just the politicians to blame?

I’m not aware of the system in other private/public schools, and you may criticise me about how long I would hang in here, and perhaps you’re right for even if I wanted to, for the exact reasons here, I wouldn’t be allowed or be able to continue. You may even say, it’s easy to just write, talk and state what goes on, and we’re all just talking anyway, what with all those schemes and missions the government throws at us every other day just to show that a lot is being done for education.

It all looks like a stage, right?… But I’m playing my part, are you?

upsc topper

By Shivashankar E:

upsc topperIt was during my class 9th summer holidays that one day my father asked me to manage the welding shop for a day, as he had to go out-of-station. That evening when he returned and asked me how much money I had earned, I showed him Rs 20. Looking at this, he said, “This is what one makes per day in a welding shop, I don’t want you to suffer in this shop like me, you have to study well and become an officer.” This was when I first dreamt of becoming an IAS officer.

With this in mind, I secured 94% in my 10th standard and 92% in the 12th.

Conflict Between Engineering And Medicine:

In the Karnataka Common Entrance Test (CET), I secured 404th rank in engineering and 418th in medicine. Everyone advised me to take up the latter as I was good at academics. However, my father suggested Engineering which takes only four years and I’d be done with it by the time I turn twenty-one. This was the turning point in my life. My father had already inspired me to become the youngest IAS officer in the country.

I am proud and lucky to have such a father, who can think of my future with such clarity (despite himself having studied only till class 9th).

My Days During Engineering:

December 17th, 2012, was the first day when I started preparing for civil services. I referred to almost all UPSC civil service portals and visited almost all IAS coaching centres in Bangalore. I was not in a position to afford the coaching fees that the institutes asked for. However, I did know of a few books that were a must read for civil service exams.

Then, I visited government libraries where aspirants prepared for civil services and I interacted with them. Some interaction was helpful. However, many did not entertain me. Like this, I continued till August 23rd, 2013. Until just the very next day on August 24th, 2013, I met Vinay Kumar – the director of Ethical Minds Academy in Bangalore.

The interaction with him turned the entire course of my preparation. I had found my breakthrough. He was the one who told me about the demands of the civil service examination based on which I prepared for the general exams through a straight stretch of a little more than four months.

Now I was left to decide and prep for the optional paper for which I had planned to take mathematics. However, I felt uncomfortable with my own choice and decided to change the subject.

For this too I had only Vinay Kumar to thank as he helped me finalise on Geography as my optional subject, teaching me as well as helping me understand the strategies that I needed to know to clear the optional paper. My friend, Chandana Vasanth, also helped me a lot with Geography.

My First Attempt In Civil Service:

I graduated as an engineer in June 2014 and attempted the preliminary exam on August 24th, 2014, clearing the paper with relative ease. Then I cleared the civil service mains examination and attended my interview. On July 4th, 2015 my dreams of becoming the youngest IAS officer got shattered as I scored very low in the interview – just 135 out of 275. I missed a rank by a just two marks. It was heartbreaking. To say the least.

First Attempt In Indian Forest Services Exam:

As I was moping about my civil services result, Mr Harish YN (IRS, 2015 batch), advised me to appear for the Indian Forest service exam and I decided to leap at this opportunity. With some, guidance I was able to clear the UPSC Indian Forest Service exam at the age of 22 becoming one of the youngest IFS officers in India.

My IFS Interview

One question which changed the course of my interview was – “tell me some problems encountered by forests in India.” My answer to this was – “Sir, I have not seen any forests as I did not get any opportunity to visit one, so I cannot explain you the practical problems encountered by Indian forests.”

Following my answer, the panel put across another question – “Then why do you want to join Indian Forest Service?” My reply to this was – “I’m from a lower-middle class family, It’s very hard for me to see my father toiling all day in a workshop. I want to make sure I have a respectable job and plan to help my parents lead a stress less happy life.”
I think this was the answer which fetched me a score of 210/300, the second highest score in this year’s IFS interview (highest being 213/300).

My journey to achieve my dreams, to reach where I wanted to, to be the youngest person to clear the UPSC exams were all impeded with practical problems. None of it was a miracle. I failed, mistakes were made but I kept trying. I spoke to people, took advice and acted upon what was available to me. That, I think, is what helped me the most.

school-298680_960_720

By Hamna Mariyam Binth Ashraf:

school-298680_960_720It was a few months ago when TV sets and FM stations started running government sponsored advertisements, commemorating October 31st as National Unity Day (Rashtriya Ekta Divas). This particular episode was a perfect example of the center appropriating history for its own benefits by using the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhai Patel the freedom fighter – a figure who was at loggerheads with the Congress, including the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. BJP is trying to create a new version of Indian history for India. However, the danger lies not only in the crafty creation of a unilateral history but also in the act of suppression of dissident voices using diverse strategies.

When one analyses these strategies of repression, it is shocking to see that more than direct violence, which was the modus operandi earlier, those in power have now resorted to cultural repression. In other words, there is an ideological warfare, which concentrates mainly on the educational system – schools and universities. I had a personal experience while studying at Delhi University when A.K Ramanujan’s Three Hundred Ramayanas: Five Examples and Three Thoughts on Translation, which was part of the syllabus of B.A (Hons) History back then, was unceremoniously scrapped from the syllabus due to protests by ABVP activists. Their argument was that the text hurt the sentiments of the Hindu population. However, they were not ready to consider the beauty and marvel of the many versions of the story of Sita and Ram, transmitted orally to different parts of India, Srilanka, Malaysia and Indo–China geographic locations.

This seething cultural intolerance was aggravated after the current government came to power. Universities have been consistently targeted since 2014 with the likes of IIT Madras, FTII, Hyderabad Central University, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Jadavpur University increasingly being attacked as anti-national hubs, by putting weight on the obsolete and draconian Macaulay’s Indian Penal Code.

I wish to throw light into something equally conspiring which has not caught the limelight. It is a question from the Social Science examination conducted by CBSE in this academic year. The question reads like this, “When was the Bharatiya Janata Party founded? Discuss any four of its policies and programs.” What would a fifteen year old write to the second part of the question? What exactly is the policy of the BJP? What ideology does it have? Hindutva, communal hatred, and Digital India might fetch full marks!

This question is a blatant weapon which again targets to create a new history. School students in their history classes learn about the formation of the Indian National Congress and its activities since 1885 to the present day or at least till 1947 in their syllabus. They also learn about the formation of CPI in 1925 and various reformation movements it has heralded. However, there is no presence of the BJP in the history of India before independence or during its initial years. Its inception is much later deriving its essence from the post-emergency amalgam that Janata party was. Hence, this question is a calculated move to instill the young minds with a notion of history regarding the BJP. It is not just a notion, but also a premonition where countless students from next year, while referring to the previous year’s question papers, will be forced to learn the policies of BJP and the teachers would be compelled to cover such topics in detail and include lectures about the BJP’s policies in the curriculum.

Thus, such a seemingly innocent question will probably take off causing ripples in the cultural space of educational institutions. If the reader dismisses my argument regarding just one question as hypersensitive, then I would use Althusser for greater substantiation. According to him, the two modes employed by the state to ascertain its supremacy are the Repressive State Apparatus (RSA ) and the Ideological State Apparatus (ISA). While RSA is more obvious while observing as it includes strict law-enforcing and governing bodies such as the police and the military, the ISA is comparatively much more plural and diverse. The latter comprises of social institutions and structures such as schools, colleges, religious institutions, and even the family all of which ideologically interpellates people as ‘subjects’ of the state. Without giving a neatly tied up conclusion or a dictatorial solution, let the piece end with an Althusserian quote itself, “what the bourgeoisie has installed as its number-one, i.e. as its dominant ideological State apparatus, is the educational apparatus, which has in fact replaced in its functions the previously dominant ideological State apparatus, the Church (religious institutions).”

The author is an Assistant Professor at the Department of English in Farook College, Kozhikode, Kerala

jobber_620

By Abhishek Waghmare, IndiaSpend.com:

jobber_620India will need to generate 280 million jobs between now and 2050, the year when the working-age population (15 to 64) will peak, according to a new report, amid indicators that the country’s demographic dividend could be at the cusp of disaster.

Over 22 years of unprecedented economic growth (1991 to 2013), less than half the Indians who sought jobs got them, 140 million of 300 million, according to a new United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report.

“In China, the number of jobs grew from 628 million to 772 million between 1991 and 2013, an increase of 144 million, but the working-age population increased by 241 million,” the report said. “A wider gap in India than China suggests a more limited capacity to generate employment—a serious challenge given the continued expansion of the workforce in India over the next 35 years.”

With fears that India is experiencing jobless growth and skepticism abounding that the country may not be able to cash in on its “demographic bonus”, the world’s largest working-age population—869 million by 2020—because of limited progress on health, education and job skills, we identified six warning signs:

  • In 2015, India added the fewest organised-sector jobs—in large companies and factories—in seven years across eight important industries.
  • The proportion of jobs in the unorganised sector—without formal monthly payment or social security benefits—is set to rise to 93% in 2017.
  • Rural wages are at a decadal low, as agriculture—which accounts for 47% of jobs—contracted 0.2% in 2014-15, growing 1% in 2015-16.
  • As many as 60% of those with jobs do not find employment for the entire year, indicating widespread ‘under-employment’ and temporary jobs.
  • The formation of companies has slowed to 2009 levels, and existing companies are growing at 2%, the lowest in five years.
  • With large corporations and public-sector banks financially stressed, the average size of companies in India is reducing, at a time when well-organised large companies are central to creating jobs.

With a million jobs required every month—the UNDP report says eight million are required every year until 2050—dominant castes across various regions are reacting violently to unfulfilled aspirations, as IndiaSpend reported in February 2016.

1. Organised sector, offering 10% of employment and steadiest jobs, slows

Employment shrank over two quarters of four in 2015, the first time since the 2008 global financial crisis, according to the latest data from the Labour Bureau’s Quarterly Employment Survey.

Source: Quarterly Report on Changes in Employment in Selected Sectors, Labour Bureau, Ministry of Labour and Employment.Note: 2008 data only for October to December

The first quarter, January to March 2015, added 64,000 jobs, while the third quarter, July to September, added 134,000 jobs in eight sectors that the Bureau surveys on “changes in employment” (not existing jobs): Textiles (apparels), leather, metals, automobile, gems and jewellery, transport, IT/BPO and handloom/power loom.

Source: Quarterly Report on Changes in Employment in Selected Sectors, Labour Bureau, Ministry of Labour and Employment

However, in the second quarter, April to June, 2015, 43,000 jobs were lost, and in the last quarter of the year, October to December, 20,000 jobs were lost. These jobs were to be in industries that comprise Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Make in India programme, a manufacturing expansion meant to offer jobs to the millions moving out of agriculture.

The employment generated per quarter slowed since after the relatively short-lived 2008 financial crisis, indicating that the current global slowdown is steadier, as IndiaSpend reported earlier.

Recent Reserve Bank of India data on “Assessment and Expectations for Employment Outlook” indicates India’s jobs gloom.

“The survey indicated moderate increase in optimism for production, financial situation and salary for fourth quarter (January to March 2016) of 2015-16 as compared with previous quarter. However sentiments on other indicators, viz. exports, imports, employments, profit margin and overall business situation, deteriorated,” the RBI quarterly industrial outlook report said.

2. Up to 93% of jobs in unorganised, insecure informal sector by 2017

The informal sector accounted for 90% of jobs through the period 2004-05 to 2011-12, said the Economic Survey 2015-16. This is going to increase marginally to 92-93% in 2017, according to a report by the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS).

The accelerated growth of the Indian economy over the past two decades is accompanied by increasing informalisation, notes the Report of the Committee on Unorganised Sector Statistics by the National Statistical Commission.

The proportion of ‘own account establishments’, such as carpenters and street-kiosk owners, has jumped from 64% of all establishments in 2005 to 72% in 2013, according to the Sixth Economic Census.

The proportion of larger companies—which range from accountancy firms, IT services companies to a Tata Motors—reduced from 35.6% in 2005 to 28.3% in 2013.

In China and Southeast Asia—regions of high literacy—farmers moving off the land found factory jobs. With illiteracy widespread in India, farm labour appears to be the main option. Those who get a better education and move to cities find that construction labour, maids and security guards are most in demand, as IndiaSpend had reported in 2014.

3. As farming recedes, menial rural labour grows 34%; agriculture stays India’s largest employer

From 2001 to 2011, the number of farmers fell 7%, from 127.6 million to 118.6 million. Over the same period, agricultural labourers increased 34%, from 107.5 million to 144.3 million, as IndiaSpend reported.

Agricultural growth nosedived over the last two years, with three, and possibly four (the data for January to March 2016 are not yet out), quarters registering a contraction.

Source: Key Economic Indicators, Office of Economic Advisor, Department of Industry

Rural wages are growing at a much slower pace compared to the initial years of India’s rural jobs programme, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA), the wages of which were down at 2005 levels in 2015, as IndiaSpend reported.

“In 2009-10, the previous (nationwide) drought year, MGNREGA was able to increase rural wages,” former chief statistician of India Pronab Sen was quoted in Business Standard. “We are not seeing that trend now.”

The construction sector—building roads, bridges and ports—is rapidly becoming India’s fastest-growing employment destination. More specialised sectors of the economy cannot absorb those leaving farms because they do not possess the skills needed. Modi’s Skill India initiative aims to train 400 million Indians over the next six years—that’s a million every week. In 2014, as we reported, no more than seven million were trained; fewer than 5% of Indians have ever received formal skills training.

4. Under-employment: 40% working people can’t find a steady job

Many Indians who report themselves as ’employed’ do not get year-round work, or may have jobs lagging their abilities and expectations, said the Fourth Annual Report on Employment and Unemployment 2014.

Only 60.5% of the working population (above 15 years) was able to find work through the year.

Source: Volume I, Employment and Unemployment Survey 2013-14, Ministry of Labour and Employment

Underemployment affects youth the most. Of 100 persons aged above 30, only two persons report being fully unemployed, while in the 18-29 age group, 13 in 100 are unemployed, noted the survey.

Education only appears to increase the prospect of unemployment.

Source: Volume II, Employment and Unemployment Survey 2013-14, Ministry of Labour and Employment

This could be because educated young people prefer to remain unemployed than work in jobs they consider below their qualifications or dignity. Job options in the sectors they desire are receding.

5. As industrial growth slows, company jobs recede, jobs per company fall

The growth of eight core industries—coal, oil, oil products, gas, electricity, fertiliser, steel and cement—is now the lowest it has been over the last ten years.

Source: Key Economic Indicators report, Industrial Handbook 2008-09, Office of Economic Advisor; Annual Report 2015-16, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion.Note: 2015-16: April to January period over April-January 2014-15.

Industrial growth of the last decade (represented here by the year-on-year growth in the Index of Industrial Production) shows a slump during the 2008 crisis; it recovers and again goes south till 2015-16.

Source: Office of the Economic Advisor, Department of Industry

The number of companies registered every year is—after a peak in 2012—down to 2008 levels, an indication of business uncertainty.

In 2014, as many as 70,043 companies were registered in India, marginally less than 70,513 in 2008.

Source: Ministry of Corporate Affairs

Fewer than 2,000 companies were registered in April 2016, the first month of the new financial year, 2016-17, according to ministry data. In comparison, 6,000 companies were registered monthly, on an average, during the last decade.

Indian companies are also hiring fewer employees: The average number of employees employed in an establishment reduced from 2.41 to 2.24, according to the Sixth Economic Census.

“It’s well known that the small size of Indian firms is a major reason for their abysmal levels of productivity,” columnist Manas Chakravarty wrote in Mint earlier this month. Employment in companies employing more than 10 workers declined from 37.1% in 1990 to 21.15% in 2013.

Large corporations are important to India’s economy, RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan said in February, but many are struggling to repay loans and grow, potentially sparking a circle of low growth, low bank credit, job cuts, low output and low growth.

So, a paradox unfolds, with many young Indians, many with substandard education, unable to find jobs commensurate with their education, while industry endures a shortage of skilled labour.

This article was originally published on IndiaSpend.com, a data-driven and public-interest journalism non-profit.

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By Aditya Ramteke:

photographer-791269_960_720Filmmaking is a lot more than just capturing movements. Owning a DSLR camera doesn’t make you a good filmmaker. There are numerous entry-level videographers who don’t know how to use the advanced features in such cameras; I am one of them. When I first bought the camera, I was massively confused. It made me realize that having an advanced camera is not enough for effective filmmaking. Besides having a high-quality camera, the skill to use it effectively is also important and that includes both the technical know-how as well as the fundamentals.

As far as technical skills are concerned, you can easily learn this from experts. I am lucky that I got support from the highly qualified faculty at SACAC who helped me throughout my creative documentary course. What about the fundamental skills? To create a beautiful film, you need to focus on every aspect. Here are five fundamental tips that helped me dramatically improve my filmmaking skills and hope will help you as well.

Understanding the Camera

It might sound obvious, but you really cannot shoot a good film until you know each and everything about your camera. It has numerous settings to improve the quality of your documentary. Some of the common settings include shutter speed, white balance, frame rate, and aperture. Along with these features, you should also be aware of the limitations of your camera. For instance, if your camera shoots well in daylight but works horribly bad in low-light, you should avoid using it for evening shoots. It took me a lot of time to understand all these differences, but ultimately helped me also.

Using DSLR like A Film Camera

The features and ease of shooting in small spaces with the DSLR camera compelled me to take it for granted. Actually, I forgot to treat it like a professional camera. In reality, you should treat it like a film camera and follow all the rules your teachers taught you during DSLR filmmaking course. Follow all the steps you will while shooting with a professional filmmaking camera like rigging it up, mounting it with the beautiful glass and using a follow focus. Don’t be in a hurry to capture the shots. Move your camera at the same speed, as you will move an RED EPIC camera to capture more cinematic images.

Don’t Zoom

The DSLR cameras have automatic zoom settings. Zooming for the shooting of a football game might be a good choice but for a film, it can prove to be a wrong decision. Modern filmmakers give the least importance to zooming. Just watch a few movies and you will understand why I am saying this.

Avoiding Jitters

Jitters are the major drawback of shooting with these cameras. These are difficult to notice when shooting, but when you look at the footage you will be able to notice the shakes. By paying attention to your shooting technique, you can easily avoid these and improve the quality of your film. Tripod and lenses with built-in image stabilization worked as the real life savers for me and helped me shoot the perfect shots without any shakes.

Using ProMist Filters

Though DSLR cameras are already equipped with many features that help you be sure about getting the perfect picture quality, sometimes these can prove to be unuseful. For instance, extreme sharpness of the picture can spoil the beauty when you don’t need it. So, in such a situation, you can use ProMist filter. These filters are the best option to reduce sharpness and make the images look soft only in the area where you want it.

These are just a few tips, which I learned from my experience and thought of sharing with you to help you improve the quality of your film. If you are a beginner, it is better to take admission in professional classes. Search online for the right college offering courses as per your requirements and register to kick start your career in filmmaking.

Azharuddin Ismail, who acted as young Salim in the Oscar-winning movie "Slumdog Millionaire", sits with his friends in a classroom before attending their school's cultural day in Mumbai February 28, 2009. Ismail returned to Mumbai on Thursday after attending the 81st Academy Awards in Los Angeles.  REUTERS/Punit Paranjpe (INDIA) - RTXC6VT

By Abhishek Jha:

Azharuddin Ismail, who acted as young Salim in the Oscar-winning movie "Slumdog Millionaire", sits with his friends in a classroom before attending their school's cultural day in Mumbai February 28, 2009. Ismail returned to Mumbai on Thursday after attending the 81st Academy Awards in Los Angeles. REUTERS/Punit Paranjpe (INDIA) - RTXC6VT
Image credit: Reuters/Punit Paranjpe.

As new sessions start in schools, there are a lot of students seeking information on what board would be suitable for their particular needs. While we have enumerated differences between the CBSE and the ICSE in an earlier post, here we give more detailed information on the two boards. The information put together here has been culled from the websites and publications of the respective boards. However, students should verify the same from the respective websites or their school authorities.

Admission

There are no age limits set by the board for admission to any class. However, the student must satisfy any limits set by the concerned State/U.T. government where the school is located.

The ‘General Conditions’ for admission require that a student must have been studying in a school recognised by or affiliated to CBSE or any other recognised Board of Secondary Education in India. This list includes almost all the state boards of secondary and senior secondary education in India, the CBSE, the ICSE, and the National Institute of Open Schooling. A provisional list of boards not recognised by the Indian government can be found here. However, of late, there has been some dispute over the recognition of the ICSE board by the government.

In addition, the student must have passed the qualifying or equivalent qualifying examination. The equivalence of various examinations can be found in the examination by-laws of the CBSE here. For admission to Class X and XII, however, one must have, in addition, been studying in a school affiliated to the CBSE alone, except in the case of transfer of the parent(s) or shifting of their families. In the case of such an exception, one is required to obtain a Transfer Certificate countersigned by the Educational Authorities of the Board concerned.

Age limits for ICSE too are subject to the rules laid down by the concerned State/U.T. Government.
Unlike the CBSE, the ICSE requires that those taking Class X and Class XII examinations (called Indian Certificate of Secondary Education Examination and Indian School Certificate Examination respectively) must necessarily be enrolled in an ICSE affiliated school from the previous class itself. Changing schools after Class IX or Class XI, too, even when studying in an ICSE affiliated school, requires the approval of the Council, which is to be obtained by the Principal of the admitting school.

However, for admission to standard XI, the ICSE requires the student to have passed the Class X examination from a recognised Examination Board in five written subjects including English in one and the same sitting (i.e., without any compartmental examinations).

Private Candidates

The CBSE also allows Private Candidates to take the AISSCE, the AISSE, and the respective versions of these exams under the Delhi Scheme. Private Candidates for AISSCE and AISSE are those who had failed to qualify the exam previously or those Regular Candidates of the previous year who had been allotted a roll number for appearing in the examination but could not appear at the examination due to medical reasons except shortage of attendance.

Under the Delhi Scheme, Private Candidates include women candidates and physically disabled students who are bonafide residents of the National Capital Territory of Delhi who are compelled to appear as Private Candidates but have privately pursued the prescribed course under proper guidance. There are other additional conditions for such candidates that the student must check in the examination by-laws here.

The ICSE does not have as many relaxations but it does allow students to take a Supplementary Pass Certificate, if they already have been awarded Pass Certificates, in a subsequent year. It also allows students who had not been awarded Pass Certificates to re-appear for the examination with certain other conditions that can be found here.

Syllabus

The ICSE has three mandatory subjects – English, a second language, and Social Science (History, Civics, and Geography) – for the board examinations at the end of the 10th standard, which tests students on the course material for both the 9th and 10th standard. Students need to additionally choose three other subjects from available options. Maths and Science are not compulsory subjects, unlike the CBSE.

At the Senior Secondary level two languages – of which one has to either English or Hindi – are mandatory under the CBSE. English continues to be a mandatory subject under ICSE at the Senior Secondary level too.

Additional information on the ICSE syllabi can be found here and here. CBSE syllabi can be found here.

The two boards also differ in the medium of instruction they offer, the assessment patterns they follow, and teaching methodology. You can check for the same via the respective websites of the two boards. A representative viewpoint on these points of difference is provided here.

Choosing Your Board

The two boards then have their own advantages and disadvantages. The CBSE remains a popular choice for a number of reasons. The Board exams, which are one of the first few public examinations that a student appears for, are based on the syllabus for one year, for instance. Engineering and medical examinations for entrance to popular engineering and medical colleges are also conducted by the CBSE, which makes people opt for the same board. This is in addition to the relaxations that the CBSE offers.

On the other hand, ICSE offers a little more flexibility in the choice of subjects. Its necessary requirement for an English medium instruction could be advantageous for some but also a roadblock for those wishing to be instructed in Hindi. However, the board’s recent tussle over recognition with the MHRD is what works to its disadvantage most right now. Moreover, schools affiliated to ICSE are smaller in number, which is not helpful for those students whose parents get transferred. The student then should choose a board that serves their interests or where the norms make them comfortable.

Also read ‘Battle Of The Boards, ICSE vs CBSE: Here Are Six Major Differences‘.

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By Harish Iyer:

We spend most of our time either at work or at school. Truth be told, we get home mostly only to sleep or to have an occasional vacation with family. It, therefore, becomes extremely important that our second family – which comprises of school authorities, college staff, bosses and colleagues are helpful. Well, that also helps in bringing down cases of abuse and suicide. The very thought that you will not be judged for who you are or who you love is a welcome relief. What more do you need at a time when your hormones are doing a disco and tango in full swing.

School and college time is the time for major crushes, identity evaluation and all that goes with it. One needs to be assured of the best support in campus, as much as at home. Here is a list of some remarkable educational institutions which have gender/sexuality support groups.

Tagore International School

tagore-marching-breaking-barriers

Tagore international school is one of the premier schools in Delhi. This is substantiated by the fact that they have a very active LGBTIQ support group that blogs, tweets, organises events, and even walks the pride. ‘Breaking Barriers’ is the name of the group. Quite literally so.

Active Group : Breaking Barriers.
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/breakingbarriers.tis/
Contact : [email protected]
Contact person : Gaurav Kumar

Jawaharlal Nehru University

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Dhanak is the queer group from JNU that is active in sharing important information, debates, hosting events all to keep the conversation afloat. Dhanak means ‘rainbow’ wherein seven colours stand for a multiplicity of identities—queer identities, to be precise.

Active Group : Dhanak
Contact : [email protected]

IIT Bombay

saathi

Goes without saying, they are one of the most proactive groups when it comes to LGBTIQ advocacy by an institute. Besides organising events in their campus, they come up with regular events and YouTube series to cut across linguistic barriers.

Active Group : Saathi
Facebook : https://www.fb.com/saathi.iitb/
Contact : [email protected]

IIT Kharagpur

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The sprawling campus of IIT Kharagpur is bustling with energy. They have a very active LGBT group called ‘Ambar’. Ambar has hosted queer film festivals and has also invited the queer community for interactions with the student community.

Active Group : Ambar
Contact : Click here for the contact form

IIT Roorkee

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QAGAAR (Queer And Gender Advancement Alliance Roorkee) is the queer and gender support group in IIT Roorkee. “Come join us as we stand on the verge of a promising future,” reads their Facebook page.

Active Group : Qagaar
Contact : Unavailable

IIT Gandhinagar

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Orenda at IIT Gandhinagar aims to achieve an all-inclusive campus for people of different identities that fall on the gender and sexuality spectrum. Orenda means a supernatural force believed by the Iroquois Indians to be present, in varying degrees, in all objects or persons, and to be the spiritual force by which human accomplishment is attained or accounted for.

Active Group : Orendra – Gender and Sexuality Club
Contact : [email protected]

IIT Delhi

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Indradhanu is the Sexuality And Gender Diversity Support Group of Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi that is committed to serving the needs of LGBT community and questioning students by creating a “positive space” for LGBTQ people to discover and come to terms with themselves in a safe, comforting and confidential environment.

Active Group : Indradhanu
Facebook : www.fb.com/IndradhanuIITD/
Contact : Click here to fill the contact form

BITS Pilani

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Anchor is BITS Pilani’s initiative for starting the dialogue on sexuality. Their motto on their Facebook page summarises the intent of the group – “Here’s hoping that this small effort will create a difference; with the realization that if this forum helps even one person in any which way, we can all revel in the joy of setting ourselves on this daunting task of changing the mindsets of thousands of students and faculty and consider it a job well done.”

Active Group: Anchor
Contact : [email protected]

IISc Bangalore

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IISc Bangalore has a support group called QUASI (Queer and Straights at IISc). It’s a tight-knit lot comprising of undergraduate, Masters and Ph.D. students of the Institute. QUASI aims to serve as a platform for raising awareness about sexual and gender diversity as well as for providing a support network for sexual and gender minorities in IISc. QUASI is an extension of the group ‘Queer IISc’ to its straight allies and they welcome participation from the larger community at IISc and neighbouring institutes such as NIAS, JNCASR and NCBS.

Active Group: QUASI
Contact: [email protected]

This article was originally published here.

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By Ritika Potnis:

High_School_Students_-_Science_City_-_Kolkata_2012-07-31_0705Recently, on a Friday evening after a hectic week filled with work, I breathed a sigh of relief at the prospect of a break; however, the somber mood continued until I got home. When I was just about to relax, my nephew came up to me with a concerned expression and exclaimed, “you look depressed!”

I was startled as I did not expect him to know about depression. To satisfy my curiosity, I asked him about the source of his knowledge. I was pleasantly surprised to know that he had learned about depression in his school’s ‘Counseling Period.’

My nephew’s innocent yet accurate description of depression as “being sad for a very long time” made me aware of the Educational Counseling Services being imparted at the school level. As I explored further, I found myself in the groundbreaking domain of ‘School Counseling.’

Educational Counseling Services have been a part of our academic system for a long time now. The earliest knowledge of guidance and support of this nature can be traced back to 1980’s. The National Policy of Education (1986) and Program of Action (1992) introduced counseling services in education and also, emphatically stated the need for parallel infrastructure for vocational and career guidance in educational institutions. Today, the scope of counseling has expanded to include classroom discussions and mental and physical health issues, along with remedial help for students of all age groups and background. The National Curriculum Framework (2005) views guidance and counseling as a part of the curriculum. It aims to assist and facilitate overall development of students in schools and colleges.

Many private schools in Mumbai have a school counselor and students of all classes have compulsory ‘Classroom Session Activities’ as part of their curriculum, also known as ‘Counseling Period’.

As I went around speaking to students of various schools, school counselors, parents and teachers about the ‘Counseling Period’, I came across interesting facts regarding mental health in classrooms and inclusive education. Ashwini Barot, a 6th-grade student, explained to me, “In our counseling period, we play memory games in our class. The teacher also explains that when we are angry, we scribble hard and fast, and when we are sad, we scribble very slowly. We are asked to express when we are feeling either of it.”

I was enlightened on the finer details of the counseling program by Pooja Rajiwadekar, a mental health expert and school counselor. According to her, “Classroom Session Activities are modeled on the Life Skill Education, designed by World Health Organization (WHO) for the overall development of school children and Adolescent Education Program for adolescents in classrooms. These programs begin from the 1st standard onwards and aim at social and emotional development. They also encompass issues of personal safety such as good/bad touch and personal hygiene. The Adolescent Education Program talks majorly about frustration and frustration tolerance, peer pressure, dating violence and puberty and suggests to the students effective measure and skills to deal with them.”

The USP of the Life Skill and Adolescent Education program lies in the fact that it is crafted to further the physical and mental development of students of all ages. This difference was clearly visible in the responses of students between 3rd and 10th grade. Rhea Tauro, a 4th grader, said to me in an interview, “Our teacher makes us write about things we like and dislike, draw a life event and we are also asked to complete sentences such as When I get angry I___.” Ashwini added, “I learnt about myself and my friends through the counseling period.” Jyoti Nair, a 10th grader, explained, “my counseling period and teacher have helped me understand how to deal with peer pressure and expectations of parents and relationships; I can talk to my parents and even the counselor effectively about personal issues bothering me.” Sanika Sanjeevan, who passed 10th-grade last year, told me that, “The counseling period helped me overcome exam stress and taught me how to deal with hurtful emotions.” She added, “That was the first time, I met a counselor, and now I am actively thinking of a career in psychology.”Kindergarten_or_Special_Education_teacher_-_US_Census_Bureau

Another unique feature of the program is that it involves parents, teachers, counselors, and students in meaningful discussions and activities. Vinita Tauro, mother of Rhea Tauro said to me, “As a parent, I am glad that the school conducts counseling activities as children may be comfortable sharing things with trained professionals. This activity also helps me understand my child better and makes her confident in expressing herself.”

As a participant observer in a neighborhood school, I came across some children with special needs studying with so-called ‘normal’ students. This reminded me of the Sarva Shikshya Abhiyan (SSA), an initiative of the central government which is in effect since 2000. The SSA makes inclusive education compulsory, which also means that individuals with mental or physical disability share the same classroom with the normal students. Following the proposed guidelines of the Mental Health Act and the Right to Education, the SSA also helps blur classroom biases and focuses on those excluded giving them their due rights.

Radha Shastri, mother of a student with special needs said to me in an interview, “My child has mild autism and also faces social anxiety. She is studying with children who are unlike her and they get along just fine.” Rajiwadekar explained, “In class, where there is a child with special needs, the students of the class are sensitised about the related issues and how to deal with them by school counselors with the permission of the parents of the said child. Such precautionary steps have been successful as students become more comfortable communicating with the children with special needs.”

A recent study carried out by the Word Bank and UNICEF on education in India highlighted the disparity between the private and public schools, with the latter lagging behind. The ratio of public schools to private schools is 7:5. This ratio made me think about the mental and physical wellbeing of students studying in public schools. In my interaction with a teacher from a public school, who wished to remain anonymous, I was told, “There are no counselors in public schools and teachers act as primary counselors. In most cases, we are the first ones to identify children with issues, and we recommend them to further counseling services.” While discussing the same issue with Rajiwadekar, she elaborated, “Usually companies or NGOs take up the responsibility to provide counseling support to schools with no counselors and also, basic training is provided to the teachers.” Manjula Patil, a final year student of B.Ed, said, “Our course covers basics of school counseling that helps us screen children and report them for further help if required.”

In general, public mental health awareness programs are gaining momentum. Rashi Mittal, a student of psychology from Mumbai University said, “We organised street plays and awareness programs on September 10, 2015, commemorated as the World Suicide Prevention Day, to spread the message about the negatives of suicide and also encouraged identification and speaking up about such issues. We saw the participation of many college and school students along with individuals who understood the message that we wanted to impart.”

A recent study revealed that in India, every one in three students gets bullied in school. Another study conducted by the Department of Community Medicine at the University Of Haryana concluded that four in every seven students report peer pressure during teenage years. In such a scenario, where a classroom comprises students from all walks of life, there is a greater need for sensitivity towards issues of mental health and human dignity. The school counseling program lays a strong foundation for children to understand and express themselves and they also grow up to be sensitive adults.

As Rajiwadekar pointed out, “These programs have a long way to go in creating a revolutionary influence in mental health awareness and prevention, but surely in 10 years with advanced knowledge and large scale awareness programs, there will be a positive change in the attitude of people towards the mental health stigma.”

In India where the government spends only 0.06 percent of its health budget on mental health (WHO, 2011) such school interventions can go a long way in creating a dialogue on mental health in our society. However, the benefits of counseling programs should be equally spread to the rural regions where services for dealing with mental illnesses are not easily available and often stigmatised. The next steps should also include creating a model to reintegrate the patients into communities, work spaces and in policy making.

Students attend class at a school in the Ralegan Siddhi village, located in the Ahmednagar district  about 250km (155 miles) southeast of Mumbai June 17, 2011. The school was founded by veteran Indian social activist Anna Hazare in 1979.  Hazare is an unlikely thorn in the side of the government hundreds of miles away in New Delhi. And yet for millions of Indians, he is a 21st-century Mahatma Gandhi, inspiring a rare wave of protests against the spiralling corruption that has tarnished the up-and-coming image of Asia's third-largest economy. Picture taken June 17, 2011. To match feature INDIA-ACTIVISM/    REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui (INDIA - Tags: POLITICS EDUCATION) - RTR2O5E2

By Lipi Mehta

I spent the better part of my school years in a boarding school on the outskirts of Coimbatore. Many of our teachers were more like friends, who were not afraid to bend the rules themselves, if that meant their students could enjoy learning a bit more. I still remember being taught economics on the basketball court on wintry nights, where ‘taking a break’ meant lying down and looking at the stars. Of course not every class was like this. But it helped us – it helped us take some pressure off, to know that marks and percentages weren’t the only thing that defined how much we knew or learned.

I would also hear stories of friends back at home, some of whom were buckling under the tension of ‘scoring well’ and getting into the best colleges. Well, this is the story of millions of students in India, and I mean millions, because India has over 300 million students – the most in the world!

And sometimes this pressure gets to such a level that a student feels forced to take a step from which there is no return. Just this week there was news of a bright 17-year-old girl who committed suicide after she had cleared the IIT-JEE exam, because in her heart of hearts, she just did not want to be an engineer. If only, we as a society, and it really is all of us who are responsible for this, not just her family, had allowed her to feel that it is OK to want to be something else, perhaps we could have had a great writer or scientist amidst us today instead of the engineer we were forcing her to become.

A lot about how we understand this world comes from what we witness in it. Films in this regard play an important role. A soon to be released film by actor Ananth Mahadevan- ‘Rough Book’– addresses students, especially those preparing for the IIT-JEE (over a lakh students take the exams each year).

In a country obsessed with engineering, this film aims to redefine the meaning of education and explore the system from the perspective of students, teachers and parents. It shows that while teachers are worried about class performance, parents are blind followers to whatever the school suggests to them. And the students’ desires are sidelined by this entire “education market”.

The protagonist is a Physics teacher, Tannishtha Chatterjee, who tries to teach students through creative methods, much to the school’s dismay. What finally happens is a lesson for everyone who believes that education only resides in textbooks. According to the filmmaker, this is a story that was waiting to be told, that he had been preparing for his whole life.

What really does ‘education’ stand for in today’s times is a question that requires honest answering. But burdened by a decades’ old ‘system’, are we ready to face the question?

 

Get involved in Rough Book’s journey and help this film reach hundreds of students across the country. Show your support here.

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By Aditya Ramteke:

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Source: YouTube.

Photography has emerged as one of the most attractive career options in recent years. Individuals have started taking it as a serious business and are putting their best foot forward to show their creativity to others. Here, I want to give you some insights about the bright side of choosing photography as a career. After learning photography after my graduation and by being a freelance photographer for last three years I can justify whatever I’m going to tell you now.

Be Focused And Specific

During the 90s, if you pursued photography as a career, you could have captured everything that came your way. But now, I will recommend that you gradually find your area of interest and what you are emotionally attached to. This will help you to focus your photography in a particular province in which you can proceed in your career. Being specialised in a particular area of photography will allow you to enhance your skills in that particular domain. As per my experience, this will fetch you better job opportunities and photography projects with a good amount of money. There are a number of photography colleges in Delhi that offer specialisations in wildlife photography, wedding photography or underwater photography. So, choose a particular area and experience the difference in your career growth.

Go Beyond The Boundaries

If you endeavour to become a successful photographer, start thinking beyond set boundaries. As a child in school, I always believed that securing good marks and having a good reputation in front of the teachers was what mattered. But reality is different. You will have to think out of the box for making an impressive career in photography. Take more pictures whatever the occasion may be. Start exploring new things, expand your network, market yourself effectively so that you can grab people’s attention. For me, photography is all about gaining new experiences in life and capturing them well in photos and creating memories.

Opt For Professional Photography Courses

With the growing interest of individuals in photography, there are many institutes that have come up with professional courses. I will suggest you to join the photography courses available in India which will give you an insight into all the perks of choosing photography as your full-time career. I suggest you be vigilant enough to choose the right institute that serves you great benefits. These courses will help you to polish your skills and learn the basics of photography. Seeking advice from my teachers or other individuals has helped me a lot to know about the details related to the course.

Have Patience

You might be fantasising that as soon as you become a photographer, you will turn into a millionaire. But this is not the real picture. For me, the initial days were very unproductive and did not give me with the right recognition. So, you need to be patient if you want to build a career in this field. Don’t give up and capture as many moments as possible. Believe me, it might take time to reach the heights, but it is worth the wait.

Design An Attractive Portfolio

Designing an impressive portfolio is a crucial requirement for building a career in photography. As a beginner, it was a challenging task for me to build a portfolio. But when I started working as a professional photographer, I invested most of my time in creating an impressive portfolio. Whatever be your projects, try to take the best pictures possible as it creates an impact on the viewers. If you are working in different areas, you can make different portfolios. There are many institutes offering courses in still photography in Delhi like Sri Aurobindo Centre For Arts And Communication that can also help you to design a portfolio. It can even decide whether you win or lose an assignment. So, work hard in this regard.

For being a successful photographer, you need to be creative to reach great heights. So, if you are someone who thinks out of the box, join a photography course and live your dreams.

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By Apoorv Pathak:

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Shared by AAP In News on Twitter.

India is a nation which likes to lament about how it’s destined glory eludes it due to a rotten polity which fails to live up to the aspirations of the ‘youngest’ nation. One such essential shortcoming has been the failure to realise the vital role of education in social change and prosperity. Too often our politicians ignore education as education is not seen as a vote winner. In any case, the system is considered to be rotten beyond redemption.

But at the heart of India, in its capital Delhi, an altogether different story with deep ramifications is unfolding. It is the story of one of the most comprehensive overhauls of education system anywhere in the world. It is a change we all should pay more attention to. Sadly, few even know about it. Perhaps it’s because transformation in the education system, though fundamental, is not glamorous enough to replace the Saas-bahu soap operas and astrology programmes. Still, it is a story that deserves to be told!

Current Indian Education System – A Picture Of Despair!

The story of what is happening in Delhi must be first situated in what the current state of the education system is in India. It is a picture of despair. We have far fewer schools than required especially in rural, remote and less prosperous regions. Thus, education is literally out of reach for a significant section of our population. We all remember tales of how our grandparents’ generation crossed rivers, walked long distances and braved unsafe paths to reach schools. Sadly, a disconcertingly large number of children of this generation also face the same grim reality!

The absence of schools in the vicinity is just the beginning of the travails for our less privileged countrymen. Their schools don’t have enough toilets and water taps (24.4% and 34.8% of schools didn’t have drinking water and usable toilets according to the ASER 2014 report); have a shortage of teachers (with only 49.3% schools complying with pupil-teacher ratio norms!); the teachers there are, are forced to do clerical work, have little autonomy and are lorded over by education department babus; teachers are poorly qualified and schools have neither a sufficient number of rooms nor enough basic amenities like desks, chairs, fans, blackboards, light, etc.

The focus of the crumbling system remains on somehow finishing the prescribed syllabus rather than initiating a process of discovery where our inherent curiosity is unleashed. No wonder there is an abject scarcity of a skilled workforce despite our huge population. There is very little innovation and even much smaller nations like Australia, whose population roughly equals that of Mumbai, outdo us in artistic, scientific and sporting achievements!

This situation of utter hopelessness is a result of constant under-investment in the public education system, faulty accountability mechanisms, lack of political will and deliberate undermining of the public education system for private vested interests of the political class that is growing rich by running its own private education institutes!

What AAP Is Doing About It

While even during the election campaign education featured high in the speeches of Kejriwal and other AAP (Aam Aadmi Party) leaders, one can’t be blamed for having taken the promises of transforming education with a pinch of salt. Politicians have a poor record of keeping election promises! But the AAP government’s actions since assuming power are heartening. The Delhi government has proceeded to completely overhaul the education system and initiated a slew of measures to transform the education system. Let’s dwell on these in some detail:

Firstly, in its very first budget, AAP doubled the budget for education to 9,836 crores, making education its topmost priority accounting for a whopping 25% of the total budget. By putting its money where its mouth is the Kejriwal government showed early in the day that it meant business insofar as its promise of fixing Delhi’s education system was concerned. While there are multiple steps needed and raising allocation is not a sufficient condition, it certainly is a necessary condition. Nothing can happen without the adequate availability of funds.

Secondly, generally, education is left to the care of bureaucrats to run in a lackadaisical manner with politicians only interfering to get their proxies appointed or to promote their ideological agendas. But AAP stands out for having placed education in the hands of young, passionate, competent and dedicated teams.

At its top is Dy. CM Manish Sisodia who is the education minister apart from handling many other crucial portfolios. Despite having several portfolios, he often concedes that education where his heart lies. He is ably assisted by Oxford Rhodes Scholar and activist Atishi Marlena who is education adviser to the government. On the policy input side, education is being handled by IIM B alumnus and Career Launcher founder Satya Narayanan who is taking time out from his renowned enterprise to advise the government on the various policy steps it should take to realise the aim of transforming education. This trio is assisted by over a dozen volunteers, whose passion again is unmissable (I have personally seen them logging in till late on the weekends too). Because of this team having been education activists in the past they find it easier to connect with the parents and children and foil the babudom’s scheme to stall any change in the status quo.

Thirdly, to address the infrastructure deficit over 8,000 classrooms have been added and will come into use from the upcoming season. This will significantly improve learning outcomes as students of different classes will have separate and spacious classes. The government also carried out a survey of all its 1,000 schools and assessed necessary amenities like water taps, toilets, blackboards, fans, etc. and made a grant to schools to ensure these amenities are made available. Now, if these are not available, school administration is liable to face action. The government has also emphasised adding auditoriums and sporting facilities to schools where they are not present. Opening up school grounds for children from the locality during evenings is also on the cards. The government has also initiated a project to build Mohalla libraries in different localities.

Fourthly, the government has taken a series of measures to empower teachers to be partners in this process of change. To address the problem of overworked teachers not being able to pay sufficient attention to the needs of children the government has initiated recruitment of over 10,000 teachers. It has also barred the use of teachers in non-teaching duties and recruited clerical staff to free teachers from such non-core duties. Furthermore, it has raised the allocation for teachers training from 9 crores to over 100 crores in the latest budget. This is crucial as in a world of rapid changes it is important that our teachers are trained adequately to grasp the changing nature of the society for which they have to prepare their students.

Also, the government is working to create a system where promising teachers can be groomed for leadership of schools. This will have the twin benefits of providing motivation to teachers to be better at their job so as to make it big and also creating an inspired school leadership which is really passionate about the role of schools in shaping society rather than ‘principalship’ being reduced to the last step of a teacher’s career. Underlying all the above steps regarding teacher management and empowerment lies a clear recognition that teachers are the irreplaceable centre of a well-functioning education system. The joy of being taught by a motivated teacher conscious of his/her role is indescribable. The value of teachers in creating a worthy society can rarely be overstated but is rarely understood in our current system. The Delhi government, by breaking out of this tradition of undermining teachers has made its aim of transforming the education system far more achievable!

Fifthly, our public education system is in shambles for no small fault of the over-centralised functioning of the apparatus. The schools have very little financial powers to solve their problem on their own without running to the education department for every small issue. This results in delayed decision-making. It creates an incentive against taking any proactive steps to fix pressing problems and demoralises the educationalists who are treated as inferiors by every sundry education department babu. Also, parents have very little say in the present system and they often keep complaining till the cows come home without any effect.

Here again, the Delhi government has initiated welcome changes. The powers of principals to take administrative and financial decisions without rushing to the education department have been enhanced. The principals are being sent on training programmes to Cambridge and IIM‘s to bring them to terms with the latest developments in education management and parental oversight and control of public schools have been enhanced. This last bit is critical and needs more elaboration. To improve transparency and accountability of schools, the government has reconstituted School Management Committees (comprising mainly of parents). By holding elections on an unprecedented scale, it is conducting their training and has enhanced their powers of oversight!

While we may be tempted in our elitist disdain to dismiss this as inconsequential, studies of most well-performing education systems bring out the vital role empowered and active SMC’s can play in ensuring that the functioning of schools is accountable. Every parent, literate or otherwise, cares more than anyone else whether their children are being taught properly or not. If they are given a voice in the management of schools, things like absent/missing teachers, fake expenditures and misappropriation of funds can be significantly curbed.

Last but not the least, the AAP government has repeatedly expressed its will to change the nature of our public education. According to it, education must not just be seen as a utilitarian necessity but in a broader sense, as an activity to be enjoyed which brings out our diverse interests and abilities and gives wings to our curiosity. In this regard, it is reducing the syllabus by 25% to give children more time for learning outside books. It is increasing the time and facilities for cultural, sporting and other extra-curricular activities and organising these extra-curricular activities at different levels much more frequently than ever before.

Some Recommendations

So, one can see that there is a comprehensive effort underway to fix the public education system in Delhi. There are certain lacunas which if addressed can make the transformation much more effective.

First, the teachers’ interface with technology and its use along with the dynamic nature of knowledge in the present ever changing world can be factored in their efforts.

Secondly, the tie-ups with young social entrepreneurs who are working in the same direction is much less than desirable. Take for example Unacademy, led by Roman Saini (a doctor from AIIMS who left the IAS), a platform for free video lessons on wide-ranging topics. It has over a crore views and has been among the biggest hits in the online education space. But, sadly, the government and Unacademy continue to work separately. If the government can tie up with more such private efforts, the aim of quality affordable education can be better attained.

Thirdly, in the government schools, graffiti, and other art forms should be deployed to make schools more attractive and a less dull place for children. Also, this will give a boost to artists who will get better platforms and also inspire our future generation to turn more towards creative work.

Fourthly, teaching in schools should pay more attention to freeing children of the prejudices and stereotypes regarding gender, caste, regions, etc. Perhaps the Delhi government can learn from the Telangana government which has initiated a course on gender sensitivity to sensitise people on gender-related issues. These are just four of the dozen suggestions that come to mind.

The point is, there can be many such suggestions from different people which the government should keep evaluating and adding to its agenda to make the whole process of education reform a dynamic process. Fortunately, the government’s interface with people outside it appears much more dynamic than previous governments. With more efforts, this aspect of interactive governance can also become another aspect for others to emulate.

Why Should We Care If Delhi’s Education System Is Being Fixed?

Fine, Delhi may be on the cusp of fixing its education system, but why should we care? Aren’t things like Make in India, building highways and Swachh Bharat the kind of actions India really needs?

Many other nations that have escaped poverty have done so on the strength of a strong public education system demonstrating the wisdom that educating the society is the surest way to prosperity. The logic in favour of prioritising education is clear and multifold. Among the most important determinant of growth of nations is the productivity of its population. Education increases the productivity as it is a prerequisite for a well trained and adaptable workforce and is essential for innovation. If a critical attitude embracing our innate curiosity is not promoted from the start then we kill the future innovators and thinkers in our children during their childhood.

A sound public education system is also the greatest instrument to ensure that inequality doesn’t become persistent and hereditary where children of poor people are destined to remain poor as they seldom receive the quality education that unleashes their potential and makes available to them opportunities of advancement present in the ‘white collar’ economy. Education is also important for creating socially conscious citizens and instilling in them virtues civic and otherwise.

Today, as a result of our third rate public education system, quality education has become a privilege of the rich. A majority of Indians are deprived of quality education while also being fleeced for it by private schools. Today, only a fraction of our population’s potential is being fully realised and used for the nation’s development and yet we remain among the world’s fastest economy. Imagine what can happen if the potential of our entire population is provided the platform of education to groom and contribute to the nation’s growth. We can far outgrow other economies.

The rhetoric of social mobility, social change, and social justice will also be significantly realised if quality education is available to all through a functioning public education system. Then, aspirations will no longer remain the reserve of those who were lucky in the ovarian lottery and a republic saddled by despair will turn into a republic of hope.

If Delhi’s endeavour to fix it’s education system succeeds then all the above benefits will materialise in Delhi’s case. It will create a powerful example which will be hard for others to ignore. Thus, tremors will be felt beyond Delhi! It will create an important model, counter the sense of despair regarding reviving our education system, show that the excuses for our inability to fix the education system are just that – excuses. Thus, the whole public discourse around education will be transformed opening up the sea of possibilities discussed above.

So, it would not be an overstatement to say that a spring of hope awaits us if the novel, courageous and far-sighted movement to transform education succeeds as it appears set to. Delhi and India may never be the same again. And Kejriwal’s promise of change may come true albeit in a very different form than the what his followers had imagined.

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By Anjana Radhakrishnan:

india-306_960_720According to a country-wide survey conducted in 2012, approximately 68 percent of Indian children under the age of 12 experience stress in school. Some Indian parents have started questioning an education system which induces such stress through the examination-oriented, rote-memorisation method of learning propagated by most schools. Such as when these parents finding formal schooling to be stifling, ineffective, and sometimes harmful for the child, decided instead to foster learning in an unconventional way.

While many are familiar with the concept of homeschooling i.e. teaching kids at home using a personalised curriculum, some parents around the world are opting for ‘unschooling’, instead. Unschooling is an educational philosophy that emphasises natural learning through life experiences rather than through traditional academic structure and curriculum. The practice is predicated on the belief that children reach a deeper comprehension of subjects and retain more information if learning occurs organically.

Unschooled students don’t take tests or memorise facts according to a set curriculum. Instead, unschooling allows children to determine their own interests, set their own agendas, and actively engage with the world around them. Under the unschooling philosophy, everyday activities become springboards for learning opportunities. For instance, watching a cooking show can turn into a discussion on chemical reactions, how our brains process taste, and how different cultures view food. Reading a book by Elif Shafak can trigger an exploration of the Armenian genocide and current political issues in Turkey. An interaction with the neighbourhood dabbawalla provides an example of business entrepreneurship and a study of supply and demand.

In all of this, the parent does not sit by idly. Instead, they engage the child in ongoing dialogues and encourage curiosity. As one ‘unschooling’ parent explains, parents act as facilitators to their children (instead of being a teacher) providing necessary resources for students to accomplish their goals and foster greater engagement with the real world.

A study conducted by Peter Gray found that unschooled students tend to be overwhelmingly self-motivated and self-directed individuals who undertake entrepreneurial careers. Unschooled students also report a relatively seamless transition into adult life, having had a broad range of learning opportunities and a richer, age-mixed social life from a young age. Unschooling, however, demands intensive parental involvement and for many, the choice to unschool may seem too overwhelming and risky.

Vidhi Jain, co-founder of the Shikshantar Resource Center for Homeschooling and Unschooling has been working to shift that risk-aversion since 1998 by creating a support system for unschooling parents and students. The center offers guidance and coaching support to students and parents, unlearning workshops, and internships with working professionals for interested students.

Still, critics have noted that unschooling appears to be a viable option only for households which can afford to spend significant time on non-income-generating activities and may even act as a brain drain from public school systems (if you’re interested in learning more about this issue, check out this debate). Democratic schools – educational institutions in which students have the freedom to organise daily activities through democratic decision-making – have been stepping in to address these issues of accessibility, sprouting up in India as well. Democratic schools provide the flexibility and self-direction of unschooling while also creating spaces for social interactions and diverse experiences which are often cited as downsides of the unschooling model.

Parents deciding between public schools, private schools, homeschooling, unschooling, democratic schools, or between the conflict of liberal ideals and the realities of socio-economic disparities, may feel that these discussions circumvent the real question – “What is best for my child?” Offering some food for thought, Gray’s study concludes, “The findings of our survey suggest that unschooling can work beautifully if the whole family, including the children, buy into it, if the parents are psychologically healthy and happy, and if the parents are socially connected to the broader world and facilitate their children’s involvement with that world. It can even work well when some of these criteria are not fully met.”

But none of these attributes are singular to the unschooling approach – which is to say that regardless of the educational system, what is really best for children is a nurturing environment which encourages learning and curiosity. The structure of the nurturing environment will naturally vary, depending on family, means, and location. For those who are considering it, though, unschooling may provide the right philosophy for you and your little snuggle bunnies.

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By Anu Manhotra:

india-students-1-537x402We send a huge jumbo elephant inside the school bags of our kids every day.

Breathing problem; spinal injury; shoulder, neck and back problems are rising amongst students because of their heavy school bags. Every parent knows this. So do school teachers but why are all of us turning a blind against this problem?

So, to find an answer, I spoke to the school management and teachers because as a mother, I cannot see my child in my pain. In fact, I’d rather not see any child in pain.

But did I get an answer from them? No, not really. They just told me it is the fault of the “timetable” as books must be carried according to that cursed schedule. But then it gives birth to another question – who prepares this timetable?

Anyways my questions were not welcomed with warmth rather with wrath, so I came back home and thought that this time I’ll not ask any questions, rather I’ll give them positive suggestions (though I never wanted to use this term for teachers as most of them hate these).
But a mother’s fight continues…

To let the ‘elephant’ out of the bag, the very first thing that I needed to handle was the timetable. For a Science lesson on Tuesday, my child must carry not just the textbook but also the class notebook and the test notebook (for daily tests). All of this is mandatory according to the school.

Can you imagine the weight of the bag now? One textbook and two notebooks for each subject with the timetable desperately fitting in six-eight different subjects each day. I don’t think any of us adults carry so much load on a daily basis. Imagine doing that to children.

So, I suggested the school to allow children to carry only class notebooks for three days and the textbooks on the other three days. To me, this seemed like an easy and compatible way to solve the problem, but I received “NO” as an answer.

Now my next question is, where have those teachers gone? Those who felt for the children?

Solutions, suggestions, tips, and remedies are all available it’s just that we don’t want to do anything about them because we all are so busy – be it parents or teachers. We just don’t have the time to observe or even care about the pain of our children.

However, I believe in “never give up.” So, this time, I wrote a message in my son’s diary – “Respected Ma’am, with complete faith in you and the school management, I request you all to look into the matter of “Heavy Bags.” If I may suggest (I am sure you will agree too) that school should keep textbooks and other materials like art and craft supplies on the premises so that children can travel light every day to school, wearing big smiles.”

I would like to mention here that I am not talking about great locker systems in classrooms as not every school can afford it but I am sure every there are already enough cupboards that can be put to good use.

But did I get a yes? No, not really. The answers and the reply that I received from the school are not worth mentioning.

Finally, after all, the effort I put into solving this problem, I have another question. What is the definition of education in the present world? If you ask me I would say: Education = Burden (Mental + Physical).

If you are a teacher, you have a lot of power; please talk about this concerns with the higher authorities at the school, please. If you are a parent, you have even more work than a teacher or a school principal, that is to save your child from this unnecessary burden. All these kids have is ‘us’ – parents and teachers.

Anyway, I have not given up yet; we have the PTA coming up. Can you suggest some tips to win this battle?

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