20 December 2012

Bheema Jayanthi

Today is an auspicious day in the Maadhwaa calender. Maadhwaas believe that this is the day when Bheema, one of the Paandavaa brothers was born on the planet Earth in Dwaapara Yugaa in which Lord Vishnu took Avataar as Shree Krishna. In the previous Yugaa (Trethaa Yugaa), Bhima was born as Hanumaan, the greatest devotee of Lord Shree Raam. Hanumaan was instrumental in uniting Lord Shree Raam with Seethaa Devi and contributing in many ways to prove that the good wins over the evil.  In the present Kali Yuga, Bheema was born as Madhwaachaaryaa, chief Saint and Guru of Maadhwa community. 

I'll write more about what little I know about Maadhwaa philosophy when I find time. Thanks.

15 December 2012

From Nairobi to No nonsense

This afternoon as I was watching my favourite TV programs (just like most others) during lunch, I happened to bump into two nice programs:   
  1. A BBC program on Kenya centering around Nairobi. It reminded me of my visits to the city zoo, shopping malls, etc during the `80s and early `90s.
  2. A program telecast by Vasanth TV (a regional language channel from Chennai) which showed a dog trained to perform cycling, acrobatics etc. just like how human beings can do. This program is one more proof that we, as human beings, are not superior to any other animal except in terms of our God given potential to distinguish between right and wrong, understand Dhaarmic principles and practise them.
Bye  for now.


14 December 2012

Remembering The Beatles

It's nice to be back here for a short period of time (thanks for the tea break). Many nice things such as the annual South Indian Classical Music Fest, happened in the past few weeks. There was also the passing away of famous artistes such as Jaspal Bhatti (accomplished engineer turned TV comedian), Mario Miranda (cartoonist whose works were an integral part of `Illustrated Weekly of India' in the 1960s) and Pandit Ravi Shankar who taught Sitar to former Beatle George Harrison, one of my most favourite singers. George Harrison was also involved in ISKCON temple in London. 9th December was the death anniversary of John Lennon (another talented Beatle). (I had mentioned about George Harrison and his involvement in ISKCON in my post dated 9 December 2012 as well).

During my college days, I used to be a very dedicated Beatles fan (I remember how I used to listen to latest developments which took place during the three days' rock fest at Woodstock in the late '60s, thanks to radio stations  such as BBC World Service, Radio Australia and of course Voice Of America). I carried this interest for many years until the time when I was nearing my 50 (by which time importance given to hobbies and interests seems to change).

I remember an evening walk in 1982 February with a few friends on the wide avenues of Addis Ababa. We were walking like any young friends (we were all teachers from Kerala and Tamilnadu, awaiting our places of posting in Ethiopia). As we were walking (and sharing our anxieties in a new country), I couldn't help stopping my walk suddenly. My friends were wondering as to what happened until they knew that I was totally submerged in the sound waves from a Beatles song (`Get Back') coming from a nearby music shop. The music was so magnetic that I ended up buying `Rubber Soul', the first ever Beatles album featuring  Indian Classical Music. I never needed to walk any extra mile to the shop, as it was located in between the hotel (were I and my friends were accommodated) and the British Council Library (which I used to visit regularly).

I think that `Norwegian Wood' was the first song in which the `fab four' included Pandit Ravi Shankar's Sitar. I kept this album (in the form of audio-cassette tape) along with several such soft rock tapes for many years until I gave away many of these to my friends and their children who shared the interest.

09 December 2012

Ray of optimism

Though many things happened from the time I wrote my previous post, I am unable to write on some of those in which I was interested, due to busy work schedule. I hope to write on some of these when I find time. However let me write briefly about something which I feel like expressing.

In some of my earlier posts, I had mentioned about textbooks published by the NCERT. In the past week, as I was studying the contents of a few of the Council's middle school textbooks as part of my professional responsibilities, I derived a sense of satisfaction when considering the quality of their textbooks such as this one prescribed for Class 7 Geography. I think that the writers have done a good job.


13 November 2012

2012 Diwali

As in each year, Hindus all over the planet celebrate the Festival of Lights (Diwali) on this day (the significance of which I have mentioned in my post written at this time last year).  I'll write more about this auspicious day when I find time.

Best wishes to all Hindu readers of my blog, for a happy Diwali. 

11 November 2012

Quality Education for All Children

Last night after dinner, I happened to watch a panel discussion on K-12 education quality in India on NDTV Profit Channel. In general I find their academic program to be of some interest. But what I don't understand is that none of the participants in such programs brings out the single most powerful cause of lack of quality in our K-12 education system: Quantity laden curriculum at the cost of Quality. 

Participants in such media programs usually criticize our exam and school education systems. This seems to be somewhat reasonable. But if we take a deeper look, we can easily find that the basic culprit is the school curriculum which in countries like ours is derived from syllabus drafted by people who may have never worked as competent teachers at all. 

If we are to raise the bar in this aspect, the first steps in the right direction would include the following:
  1. Our syllabus boards should drastically revamp their current syllabi by replacing quantity with quality
  2. Our exam system should test higher order cognitive and process skills
  3. Our teacher training programs should include realistic issues  
  4. School affiliation agencies should insist on quality 
  5. Government Departments, Corporates and NGOs should work hand in hand on a consistent basis to make quality education accessible by all children

05 November 2012

Carlos Santana and his concert in Bangalore

Recent performance by the legendary rock guitarist Carlos Santana and media coverage such as this one made rock music fans of my age remember the '60 with a bit of nostalgia. Though the article carried a lot of information about Santana, I (and probably numerous rock music fans of those times, like me) would have considered the article complete if the writer had mentioned `Black magic woman' (one of Santana's most popular songs) somewhere in the article. 

28 October 2012

Textbook turbulence

As part of my work as Curriculum Specialist, I had to look at the contents of a few textbooks published by the NCERT yesterday.

As many education professionals would know, NCERT textbook contents need to raise well above their current quality levels including in their use of English language.  For example, Chapter 8 of NCERT's Political Science textbook for Class 8 explains about the need to provide basic amenities to  all people, using case studies. This chapter is titled `Public Facilities'.

Screenshot of Chapter 9 of NCERT Political Science textbook for Class 8
I think that `Basic Amenities' or `Common Amenities' would be a better term for the title of this chapter.  I think that any textbook writing should involve the most appropriate use of language.

Chapter 8 entitled `DEVOTIONAL PATH TO THE DEVINE' in the History textbook prescribed for Standard 7 mentions about Adwaitaa and Visishtaadwaitaa schools of Hinduism but doesn't, about  the Dwaitaa school.

Excerpt from NCERT History textbook for Std 7

However, when we consider the quality of photographs and diagrams in general, NCERT textbooks seem to be pupil friendly. I wish that the same goes with textual contents as well.

(When I worked in the editorial division of Macmillan India Limited a few years back, there was a very good textbook series entitled `Exploring Science', meant for Primary classes. The only problem with the books was that they were expensive. When I was asked to suggest cost cutting measures, one of the ideas which I gave was to use a lower quality paper similar to the one used in NCERT textbooks and bring the cost down. But my suggestion was ignored by the then GM Publishing at the Country Office in Bangalore, as it was `not practical'. Hope that the lady knows about NCERT text books and how they are very affordable). 

25 October 2012

World Teachers' Day 2012

In spite of rapid advances in technology in general and educational technology in  particular, it is obvious that teachers' role will continue to be crucial in our classrooms (and beyond).

In my pressure of work, I  had completely forgotten to remember World Teachers' Day which was celebrated on 5 October this year too. 

Let me share a short informative video developed by the global NGO Teachers Without Borders with you this time. Hope you like it.   

23 October 2012

Immensely Spiritual Internet Radio

This afternoon after lunch as I was browsing through my favourite Madhwa websites, I came across an immensely spiritual Internet Radio Station maintained by Uttaradi Math. Let me share the joy of listening to this great round the clock resource, with pranaams to our Swamiji and his dedicated team at the Math.

07 October 2012

Demo classes on digital demand

It is quite natural that our sparetime interests change as we grow older. It is several years since I listened to softrock music, got into a weekend outing or engaged in DXing with passion. These favourite pastimes have given way to more intellectually stimulating activities of which browsing the academic net is one.

As all dedicated teachers would know, teaching is one of the most rewarding professions if we continue doing our work considering each school period as a `new' one with possible classroom problems and prepare our lessons and teaching methods in the most student friendly manner. I thank God for having blessed me with years of experience such that my students and teacher colleagues liked the way in which I taught (using a range of resources from textbooks and simple locally available materials to digital technology).

South African website and an MIT website which I browsed a few minutes back took me back by a few years, including 2006, when I used to teach `Momentum' using simple toys to my Class 9 students in a large city school (of which I was the Principal). As you can see, the first one is a revision material (with just 27 minutes running time which is not adequate to include experiments and activities) and the second one, a demo lesson taught by Prof Walter Lewin.       

The videos made me  remember also as to how my mobile phone camera had been very useful in recording simple student friendly processes and activities related to lesson concepts (sometimes shot by students themselves) for use in my classes.

(It is amazing to experience the advantages of digital technology today. We have come a long way from VHS videotapes, 16mm films and audiocassette tapes in our classrooms).

I think that our corporate organisations should strive to partner with government departments of education so that all children can access such quality oriented digital lesson materials to support what children learn in their classrooms.

11 September 2012

Hinduism in Trinidad and Tobago

In my earlier posts I had mentioned as to how Hindus of Indian origin living in very distant countries continue their customs and traditions. Let me take you on a virtual journey to Dattapeetam, founded by Shri Ganapathi Sachithananda Swamiji in Trinidad. (Local Hindus consider their River Aripo somewhat like how we consider our Holy River Ganga). Hope you like it.

08 September 2012

Hope you like reading my posts.

I'll be joining the India Office of  a US based K-12 Educational Software Company in the coming week. Though I'll be working at home office setting from my residence in Madras (Chennai), I'll be at my PC full-time (usually longer than 9 to 5 as expected by my employer so that I and my MD can interact via video conferencing etc, which is quite normal at Senior Management positions). This means that the only spare time available would be during weekends. I like to use significant part of  weekends in performing Pooja in our Pooja room (besides daily Sandhyaavandanam/s and Japa) and the remaining part in reading my favourite newspaper columns and watching my favourite TV programmes (which are really very few) some times using my datacard and trustworthy notebook .

(I think that my new job would probably be strenuous to some extent).

I'll continue writing whenever I find time. Thanks. 

30 August 2012

Para Olympics 2012

It was a delight to watch the inaguration of Para Olympics last night on TV. I usually watch Para Olympics more eagerly than Olympics because of two reasons: (i) The events prove that physical disability is not a handicap in any way if we handle it properly and (ii) I am considered to be physically handicapped by some people (though many of my friends and dignified aquaintances tell me that I don't look like someone with a handicap).

Well, the fact is that I do have a slight handicap (due to polio in my right leg) though it is not very visible. I, my parents, siblings and my well wisher relatives and friends never considered me as one with a handicap, as after all polio never affected me in any way (physically and psychologically).

At a school sports meet with Dr Daisy Dharmaraj and Dr Jacob D Raj, an adorable couple, who run PREPARE, a Chennai based NGO, 1996 
Well, this year's Para Olympics will continue reassuring that disabled people are not what they are wrongly perceived to be. Let us watch the events and share our joy with participants from 165 countries which are represented in the mega event.

Best wishes to all these differently abled sportsmen and sportswomen.

Power of photographs in physics classrooms

As someone who is not interested in political issues and contemporary cinema (except good movies without violent and vulgar scenes) , my morning newspaper that I read as I drink my cup of coffee, isn't actually some thing which I eagerly await. But occasionally I do find very interesting stuff in the paper, about some of which as you may know, I keep writing in my posts. One such is a photograph as shown below, published in Metro Plus supplement of the newspaper (Reasonably high resolution of the photo seems to be due to the technical level of the camera or the brilliance of the photographer or both) :

My reflex reaction on seeing the photo was imagining myself as a physics teacher in a middle school physics classroom showing this photo on a large screen and eliciting student responses for questions such as "How many sources of water ripples can you locate in this snapshot?" "How will you explain the non-uniform inter ripple distances?" etc. (When I taught `Wave motion' many years back I have used similar resources, but they were not usually locally developed).  

28 August 2012

Onam Greetings

Onam greetings to all my Malayaalee friends, particularly Jos (in Maldives), Mini (in Chennai) and Sreejith (in Kollam). 

Digital Classroom with Defective Content

In my previous post and some of my earlier posts I wrote on issues related to K-12 elearning/multimedia industry in our country. This morning I happened to visit the website of a Chennai based elearning company claiming to stand out from the rest in terms of quality. When I browsed through its webpages, I found the contents with a lot of mistakes, contrary to what they advertise. Following are screenshots of a few of its webpages:

As we can see, each of the above webpages contains at least one grammatical or conceptual mistake (for example disproportionate sizes of animals) in its content.

Instead of being satisfied with mediocre and substandard products, elearning companies should strive to develop quality products that can compete in the global market place.

In their turn, K-12 schools should get digital products thoroughly evaluated for quality by a team of competent professionals with extensive experience in technology backed teaching before buying the products. This probably needs drastic changes in job allocation of staff in most schools today. For instance, HODs should be given less teaching workload so that they can contribute not only in mentoring their colleagues but also play lead roles in evaluating educational technology backed lesson resources. Such changes can go a long way toward quality education.

27 August 2012

Quality education and Corporate principles

Many well informed and well experienced education professionals of today would agree that there is nothing wrong in considering K-12 education organisations (including schools, textbook publishers and digital media development companies) as corporate houses if they apply appropriate principles of management in running these (as I have myself done). But the problem is that many such organisations seem to compete in the market place (not only locally but also globally) without following principles of ethics.

Increasing teachers' workload basically due to illogically quantity driven curriculum designed by many of our curricular boards has resulted in private companies getting into K-12 assessment scenario. Though the main aim of these companies seems to be to support K-12 school systems, many of these companies seem to deliver products which are far below quality. It is strange that even their webpages which advertise their materials contain grammatical mistakes as in this example.

Education advertisement with the mistake
I think that education material developing companies (print as well as digital) should try to develop products which are 100% quality oriented, which is not impossible. At their end, schools should buy products which are really quality oriented after evaluating them thoroughly instead of buying them just because the manufacturing company has a brand image. Quality and brand image do not always go together, contrary to popular myth.

26 August 2012

Onam Festival

This weekend comes amidst joyful days of Onam in Kerala where it is believed that King Mahaabali visits our planet and participates in the plenary session of the annual festivities on coming 29th. Mahaabali (or `Maaveli' as he is known as in Kerala) was the grandson of Bhaktha Prahlaadaa, greatest devotee of Lord Lakshmi Nrusimhaa, an Avataar of Shree Hari (Shree Mahaa Vishnu).  I nostalgically remember the Onam season in 1985-86 when I had the joy of participating in the festivities with my friends and colleagues in the beautiful coastal  city of Kochi. Let me leave you with a very meaningful write-up and a report related to Onam festivities from two newspapers. I guess you like them. 

17 August 2012

Shelter from showers on slim shoulder

By God's Grace, since Gokulaashtami, we have been experiencing some showers (rains) in the city. Hope we have more showers so that the city's problem of drinking water can be reduced.  

(When thinking about rains, I am reminded of an interesting definition of `umbrella' in Reader's Digest, in one of its `humour' columns, when I was a school boy in the mid '60s. The definition was as follows: An umbrella is a shelter for two but a showerbath for three).

In practice, most umbrellas have always been a shelter for one. Pehaps RD needed to refine and define.

Many people prefer umbrellas to raincoats. The only problem with an umbrella is that we can easily forgot to carry it everytime we go from one place to another. Well, it is nice for thin built people like me, to place it on our shoulder like a shirt on a shirt hanger. I always carry an umbrella with a curved handle.

14 August 2012

Shree Krishna Janmaashtami in Trinidad and Tobago

Though far away from the subcontinent, Hindus of Indian ancestry continue to follow their traditions in many countries as in Trinidad where they celebrated Shree Krishna Janmaashtami and conducted Bhagwat Yagna last week.

Olympic 2012

Like most Indians, I am also disappointed at our country's performance at the Olympics and think that our media awareness, publicity campaigns and Organisational support should extend beyond cricket.

It was nice to see Africans perform excellently in many of the athletic events, as usual. As someone who worked in Ethiopia, I found it interesting to see Ethiopian athletes such as Meseret Defar winning gold.

I think that members of our team who won medals deserve not only appreciation but also consistent encouragement so that they can excel. All our sports persons, irrespective of whether they are national, regional or local players, should get wide coverage on TV, the most popular media in our country. This will motivate them.

Most importantly, govt agencies and corporate houses should offer significant financial and other relevant support to our sports persons.        

11 August 2012

Shree Krishna Janmaashtami celebrations

As you may have read in my previous post, Krishnaashtami is one of the most auspicious days in Hinduism. On this day (in fact to be perfect, around moonrise), Hindus worship Sree Krishna with special pooja in their homes. There are also special poojaas and festivities  in Vaishnavite temples such as this one.   

09 August 2012

Shree Krishnaashtami

Today is one of the most auspicious days in the Hindu calender. This is the day (in fact sometime at moonrise) when Shree Hari (Shree Mahaa Vishnu) took Avataar as Shree Krishna during Dwaapara Yuga. Please note in the links above that Yugaas are mentioned in cosmic as well as human time scales and that these two are distinctly different.  I'll write about the spiritual significance of this day known as Shree Krishnaashtami (or Shree Krishna Janmaashtami), later when I find time. Thanks for visiting my blog and reading my posts.

30 July 2012

Cambodia and India: Historic ties

This morning's newspaper too carried a news report which reads somewhat like a travelogue. The report reminded me of 2008-09 when I worked in Cambodia.

Let me leave you with a UNESCO resource about Angkor Wat

29 July 2012

Travelogue: A review

Though many newspapers and magazines publish travelogues, most of these are confined to stories about Western countries or Austalia/New Zealand. When my newspaper boy delivered this morning's newspaper, little did I know that it would come with a pleasant deviation from the abovesaid monotony. It contained a very interesting East Africa centric article.

As soon as I saw the title and writer's name I was sure that it would make an interesting read. True to her unique style, Mini Krishnan has blended her expertise in English literature, History and experience in travel in this article too. (When visiting wildlife parks, most of us `sight' animals whereas Mini `meets' them). As a reader who has been reading her articles for several years and as one who has worked with her in Macmillan India (Editorial) in Chennai, it was nice to read her work after many weeks.

I hope that she travels to other parts of Africa and writes about historically important places such as Axum. 

28 July 2012

Sreejith's birthday

Today is the birthday of Sreejith Karthikeyan, about whom I have mentioned in my post on 5 September 2010. Sreejith and I were colleagues in a K-12 multimedia materials development company in Chennai a few years back. Now he works at Technopark, Thiruananthapuram, Kerala. Hope he likes the greeting that I mailed to him. Many happy returns, Sreejith.

27 July 2012

Shree Vara Lakshmi Pooja

According to Hindu calender, everyday is an auspicious day as it is a gift of Shree Hari (Almighty) to us. Today is also auspicious because today is a Shukra vaara (Friday) auspicious week day for Shree Mahaa Lakshmi,  wife of Shree Hari (Shree Mahaa Vishnu, the Almighty). Today is Shraavana Shukhla Navami; every year on this day, Hindu spinsters and married women offer special worship (Poojaa) known as `Shree Varalakshmi Pooja' to Shree Mahaa Lakshmi who is also known as Shree Vara Lakshmi. Hindu Brahmin priests organise special spiritual and religious programmes of worship (Poojaas) to Shree Vara Lakshmi in temples on this day. Many TV channels telecast special programmes on this day.

20 July 2012

Too many cooks spoil the broth

We have all heard the saying "Too many cooks spoil the broth". What happens if many of them are not cooks at all? I think that this is the situation in our K-12 textbook industry in general in our country today.

Whatever be the teaching situation, digitally driven or conventional, it is proven beyond doubt that quality education cannot be imparted unless our K-12 systems consist of well qualified and appropriately trained teachers. This fact is endorsed by numerous research studies and reported in policy documents such as this one.  As we can easily see, though this document is US based, its implications are global. Let us apply some concepts in the document to our scenario in India.

  1. The document is drafted by a team of 6 professionals among whom one is retired. Assuming that this person is not a retired teacher, at least the remaining 4 are practising physics teachers which comes to nearly 70%. This is unlike what we have in India, where such documents are drafted by teams consisting of more retired or serving University professors or physicists than school physics teachers. For example, out of 35 members of the National Steering Committte involved in drafting the National Curriculum Framework, only 5 are practising teachers which means that actual teachers involved were only nearly 14%. If some of these 5 principals are `non-teaching' principals (as it is with many school systems), the per centage is even lower. (I don't think that any school principal can function effectively without being a teacher). Presence of University faculty involved in policy issues in the US is far more meaningful (than in our country) as University professors many of whom would have worked as school teachers for many years collaborate with school teachers constructively unlike in our country where their counterparts have no experience of teaching physics in school classrooms at all.    
   2. `Classroom climate' mentioned in the paper is usually far from practically possible in our physics classrooms because of lack of adequate time to prepare their lessons (often due to administrative workload) even if we assume that physics teachers are given a few free periods while in school. (I had the pleasure of adapting such a `Classroom example' when teaching abroad and not in India until the time I became a school principal and had the freedom to innovate like for example when my Std 9 students used to fiddle around with improvised simple pendulums in a school in 1998, Std 8 students worked on `total internal reflection of light' in a school in 1997 or when my students watched classical dance forms and understood the physics behind them. However, some school managements to whom I reported, weren't interested in innovations.

    3. In `Role of a Physics Teacher' `Teacher Self-Preparation', the document lists the following tasks:
  • Set the goals in terms of conceptual and process outcomes
  • Decide what students will do in the classroom to achieve these goals
  • Decide how to assess whether the goals are achieved, including the roles of both formative and summative assessments
  • Maintain a positive outlook and be flexible
  • Prepare subject material: sequencing and correlating to standards
  • Prepare lab apparatus and equipment
All these tasks are possible by developing offering appropriate teacher development programs and teaching resources. This warrants a drastic improvement in K-12 Curriculum, Teacher development and Assessment of pupil learning.

    4. In `Teacher-Student Interaction' the document lists the following (I have omitted the last few as they are not relevant to the topic discussed in this post):

• Establish a learning community consisting of the teacher and the students.
Recognize and celebrate diversity in students.
Design or select varied instructional strategies to accommodate different learning styles.
• Establish and implement a consistent classroom management plan.
Listen to student ideas and be prepared to address them.
Guide students to view the place of physics in the wider scientific world.
Encourage and support students in discovering concepts independently when possible.

Highlighted ones are in general not very possible considering the overloaded curriculum and large classes. The latter can be sorted out by opening more classrooms, recruiting more teachers and offeriing effective school based teacher development programs considering the local context.

  5. The document doesn't specify minimum qualifications needed to be a qualified teacher. I think that this sends a message that a teacher's ability to effectively deliver quality education is more important than academic qualifications.   

We can see that the situation in many schools in our country can be improved by (i) involving more practising teachers in policy issues, (ii) replacing our textbook (and digital) contents by reducing quantity and making them more quality oriented (It is a well known fact that the contents taught in our Standards 11 and 12 are taught more or less duing the first year of Bachelor Degree Programs in US Universities) and (iii) toning up our teacher development programmes to suit current contexts.

19 July 2012

Crafts and arts in the school curriculum

This post is related to some extent to my post published on 1 July. This afternoon there was yet another nice TV programme on Podhigai channel (a Central Government channel beamed from Chennai studios). It was on cottage industries such as weaving and silk production. It was pleasant to see people of different religions working together.

When I was a school boy, I remember how we used to enjoy our weekly `weaving' periods. In those days, every school's timetable consisted of certain periods for Arts and Crafts in which children received training in local art and craft forms. Currently much talked about Private Public Partnership used to be silently functional on much healthier ground with values at its core in those days. Children enjoyed their spinning wheels and developed a respect for their parents' and other elders' occupations (In contrast to the present scenario where village based occupations have been pushed to take a backseat). 

Our K-12 schools are still expected by law, to include such arts and crafts in their curriculum (with a far wider choice than in those days). But the problem is that many schools don't implement it in practice because they think that academic subjects (particularly English, Mathematics and Computer Science) are far more important as these will help children to score `marks', obtain `ranks' in largely memory testing Grade 12 Board Exams and thereby help them get into any University in India (or in countries such as USA, UK or Australia with the only aim of settling down). 

As any seasoned education professional would agree, today there is an obvious deviation from pedagogic aims of providing quality education at the K-12 level in India.

We can easily find from our newspapers or by visiting K-12 schools that arts and crafts are taught in general outside school working hours or on weekends and parents are charged extra fees for such programmes. Of course there are K-12 schools which do impart arts and crats education well within their curriculum, but their proportion is small. 

NCERT, CBSE and State Boards of Education need to revamp the manner in which they view these issues and make their documents more practical so that our children get quality education in every sense of the term.  Most importantly, there should be an effective watchdog mechanism to monitor as to whether schools function as well meaning catalysts of socio-economic change.

I remember having a read a book written by a western writer on this issue which is global, not confined to India. The author says that the ingenuity of the village artisan in India is superior than what the textbooks seem to be delivering in classrooms. Probably the author is very right. I think that this applies to all cultures in the world today.

16 July 2012

Lunch time, long wire antennae and Radio Lotus

As any homesick expat from India would do, I used to carry a lot of audio and videotapes from home, when I was working in Southern Africa in the late '80s and early '90s.

I also had the pleasure of listening to a few old Hindi film songs on Radio Lotus, a Johannesburgh based FM radio channel catering mainly to Indian audience.  I remember how I used to experiment using a combination of antennae and developing different types of long wire antennae until my SONY ICF 7600DA gave out very clear signals from Radio Lotus and other FM broadcasters as if the programmes were from a local transmitter. 

Today without any need for antennae and other DX gadgets, we can listen or watch programmes from anywhere in the global village simply by clicking the digital mouse, thanks to the Internet.

12 July 2012

Quality in K-12 textbooks

Large textbooks with not much of quality have been a matter of concern to K-12 professionals in our country for the past 30 years.

In the '80s and '90s, Central and many State Government Departments of Education produced National Curriculum Framework and other such regional level documents respectively with elaborate proposals on the importance of reducing quantity in textbooks,  making the school bag lighter, need for child nutrition and health etc. But the problem was that many of these proposals were assumption based and not practically possible in actual classrooms.

At the NGO level, Organisations such as  M S Swaminathan Research Foundation produced far more meaningful evidence based multimedia supported reports such as  `Kuzhanndaikku inda bharam  tevaiah?' (with English versions as well) and public awareness products such as this this one. But still, as education administration professionals and teachers would know, impact of these publicity campaigns was marginal mainly due to absense of an effective monitoring agency. (In fact in spite of viable proposals, Syllabus Boards and textbook publishers added more quantity at the cost of quality and many schools began replacing value education periods into Maths or English periods in their time tables, thereby violating mandatory requirements for affiliation).

Very recently, things seem to  have improved in this direction: for example, Tamilnadu Government's implementation of Activity Based Curriculum and Trimester system in its Primary schools. Such a move can make children's school bag lighter with enjoyable lesson materials.   Naturally, the move seems to have received overwhelmingly positive response from stakeholders, particularly parents and teachers. (This afternoon I happened to look at an activity based textbook for Standard 1 published by Tamilnadu Government. It looks very good and child friendly).

Hope such improvements are implemented effectively and the impact monitored closely using an effective watchdog mechanism which places values at its core.     

09 July 2012

Exceptional example in ECCE

This afternoon duirng lunch time, when reading an online newspaper, I came across a very interesting and thought provoking article. It reminded me of the Hollywood movie `Kindergarten Cop' in which Arnold Swartznegger plays the role of a KG teacher. Hats off, Mohenesh.  

07 July 2012

Our exams and marking keys

This post is related to a newspaper report which I happened to  read yesterday. The report touched upon a very important issue of concern to parents, teachers and students.

I think that the common notion among parents that examiners give marks only if students reproduce textbook contents verbatim is somewhat exaggerated. As in K-12 examination systems all over the world, our examination boards too have specific marking keys for every paper which students write. These marking keys, as any professional would know, function by giving correct answers as examples, to guide examiners when marking answer scripts. Marking keys are not meant to be strictly prescriptive.

Though I studied in the Tamilnadu State Board System nearly 5 decades back, parental perception in general was no different. But still, I used to write answers using my own words and get very good marks. When I wrote my SSLC examination in 1966, I obtained 71 per cent in English. I lost 10 per cent because I missed answering the question which tested puncturation, due to oversight. Otherwise, I should have obtained 81 per cent in the paper. We used to get full marks for any correct answer irrespective of whether it was reproduced verbatim from textbooks or not.

In 1960s, unlike today, Tamilnadu State Board Exam answer scripts were being marked by Board nominated Assistant Examiners (who were also subject teachers) in their own residences. My father had served as Assistant Examiner as well as Chief Examiner. Whenever he received answer scripts, he would mark them, add marks for all the answers and write it at a specified place on the answer script as required by the Board. My responsibility was to add the marks and confirm that there was no mistake by oversight. My father used to give monetary compensation for my part of the work. As marking of scripts was being done during summer holidays, it didn't affect my schooling in any way. This was a common practice in teachers' houses in those days. I remember having bought my first ever wrist watch using the money which I got by doing this work, years later in 1969, when I was doing my first degree course. Strict parents never used to give any `pocket money' in those days.

I have literally seen my father giving marks even if the wording in the answer script was different from that of the textbook as long as the answers were correct. Moreover, as a science and physics teacher himself, my father used to introduce many innovations thereby deviating from `standard' presentation. When I began teaching I did the same thing.   

As a former K-12 teacher and school principal (who has served as examination superintendent for CBSE Exams), I think that what matters to the examiner is the quality of answers and nothing else, unless the examiner is ignorant of answers beyond those from textbooks or marking keys.

Oddly enough, I have come across many K-12 teachers, with B Ed and M Ed degrees, who cannot pronounce `quite' and `quiet', `science' and `signs' etc. differently or cannot find the difference between `describe' and `explain'. (Even some BBC news readers seem to be oblivious of pronunciational difference between `of' and `off'). I know of a  K-12 school principal who can be heard saying, "They doesn't know..". The 3 decades old school in Chennai is affiliated to the Tamilnadu State Board and CBSE. These are clear indications of lack of quality in recruitment, performance appraisal and professional development of teachers and principals in our school systems.

Regarding Comprehensive  and Continuous Evaluation (CCE) introduced by CBSE and followed by different State Boards, though the aims and objectives seem to be good in a pedagogic sense, the evaluation process is often misused like in the case of internal marks for practical exams. The only way to ensure that this does not happen is to revamp the pattern completely, somewhat like how Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations does.

In general, problems can be sorted out by reducing quantity and increasing baseline requirements, in terms of quality

Digital Classrooms

Digital delivery of lesson concepts seems to rapidly replace other modes in classrooms all over the world. Government Departments of Education and Corporates seem to join hands to bring in cost effective technology in K-12 classrooms. A very good move indeed.

But, providing children and teachers with cost effective computers and tablets alone it is not enough; it is important that the full benefits of technology backed education reach all children. This means that we should make broadband and education technology accessible to all schools including very remote ones. Equally importantly, we should see that all teachers are trained to use education technology in meaningful ways. Otherwise, we may end up doing more harm than good by contributing to widen the already existing digital gap. It is very useful to learn from documented experiences abroad such as those contained in this news report.

Amidst a glaring digital disparity between schools in countries like ours, there seems to be a wrong assumption that digitally backed classrooms are superior to others. Many elitist schools in cities like Chennai seem to benefit from such assumptions.

Though animations and simulations bring in numerous advantages than textbooks and still images, many research studies have proven that digital delivery of lessons succeed only when these resources are of quality. The most basic requirement for a quality resource is a set of clearly defined aims and objectives. (When developing any quality lesson material, I think that the path of  flow involved should be somewhat like that in a `thread' of oil which we see when some dense oil is poured from a container).

In countries like India, there is a fasle notion that products from developed countries are better in terms of quality. In my experience, I  have found this not to be true always. In every country and community, there are textbook and multimedia developers who develop substandard materials as in this example from New Zealand. As we can see, there is an obvious blunder in how the conept is presented, as illustrated in the following image:

The image shows magnetic north pole to be near the goegoraphic north pole. In reality, magnetic south pole is near geographic north pole. This is the reason why the north pole of any freely suspended magnet points toward geographic north pole due to the force of attraction by the south pole of the Earth's magnet which is near the geographic north pole. In other words, north pole of the freely suspended magnet points towards geographic north pole. Any junior high school physics student would know this.

When I happened to see this picture several months back, I communicated with the web developer using an option available at the webpage explaining the mistake with a request to correct it. But still the mistake is not corrected.

It is simple common sense to expect that any resource for children, whether it is a conventional textbook or digital content, to be free from mistakes (factual or conceptual). With numerous textbooks and digital products flooding the market, it is important for schools to select the best material.

I think that the main difference between conventional modes  of content delivery such as textbooks and digital modes is that the latter enables wider access to information (thanks to internet) and possibilities for exploratory learning (for example by manipulating different parameters and observing responses in a virtual lab) and  instantaneous interaction. Hence all principles which we need to follow in developing any good textbook are applicable in digital dimension as well.

Though digital classrooms, if properly planned and used, can transform how children learn, role of the teacher (or more aptly `facilitator') will always remain to be crucial as indicated in this report. If we walk into any digital classroom and observe, we can easily find the truth in the above statement. (Giving a digitally packed computer to kids and leaving them alone is just like giving a textbook and leaving them alone).

As professionals we all know that cognitive processing in children is more effective when they work with audiovisual materials than with lesson materials in the print format. This means that diluted quality in digital resources will be reflected far more obviously than in printed textbooks. This fact makes it necessary to consider quality aspects when developing digital resouces far more carefully than when developing a conventional textbook.

As an education professional who has been involved in developing and using digital resources for nearly 25 years, I like to write about how we best can proceed in this direction from my own experience as well as from research based evidences, in my future posts (when I find time).

06 July 2012

This afternoon, I could afford to spend a few minutes of lunch time listening to Graceland, one of my most favourite pieces of music.

It reminded me of the late '80s when I used to relish such authentic African music by listening (as well  as singing sometimes in my English and Physics classrooms for pedagogic reasons).

I particularly remember one pleasant evening in Kochi in August 1986 when I had the pleasure of listening to it for the first time, thanks to my short wave receiver, and Paul. 

03 July 2012

Shayani Ekaadashi and Chaaturmaasya Vrata

According to Hindu calender, as Shayani Ekaadashi, yesterday was a very auspicious day. This day marks the beginning of an auspicious four months period known as Chaatur Massya when Chatur Maasya Vrata is observed. 

As Guru Pournima and the day on which Vyaasa Puja is performed, today is also an auspicious day.  As the term implies, this day is dedicated to `Guru' (samskrit word for `teacher) in the Hindu calender.

01 July 2012

Education and employability

This affternoon during lunch, I happened to watch a TV debate on our school and university education system with particular reference to (i) education quality and (ii) employability of graduates in the industrial sector. It was telecast in Podhigai channel (Government of India run channel beaming out from Chennai). Participants included all stakeholders: Teachers, parents and students.  As with many such programmes, this programme was also thought provoking. Though the participants touched on almost all important issues (many of which are blushed under the carpet by Universities) none of them seemed to consider the abnormal quantity of our K-12 lesson materials as a bottleneck.

Today, with mushrooming number of `deemed' universities with diluted norms of teacher recruitment (reflected by classroom scenrio in many colleges and university departments where graduates with B E ot B Tech teach B E and B Tech classes) beside age old corruption at all levels, it is no wonder that Corporates find the quality of newly graduated engineers low. News reports and surveys endorse this fact with ample evidences. Though media publicity is targeted mainly on Engineering education, same is true in other professional areas as well.

Within the K-12 system in our country,  though there are many causes such as teacher training and lack of organisational infrastructure, I think that the main casue is  quantity driven syllabus, as I have always been mentioning. (A simple google search for our K-12 school syllabi can reveal the truth in my statement).

Another cause is our wrong assessment system at the Higher Secondary level. As Classes 9 and 11 textbook contents are not included in Board Exams at the end of Classes 10 and 12 respectively, as some students revealed in a TV programme recently, many schools do not teach these portions at all. Obviously, though students obtain even 100% in Board Exams (without knowing anything from Class 9 and Class 11 materials), they are not able to get into job market or higher education.

The first step on our road to better quality education is to revamp the syllabus so that our students are equipped with knoweldge, skills and attitudes appropriate in today's global economy. The second step  is develop appropriate quality oriented textbooks and other learning materials. Third step is to train teachers in a more effective  manner than at present. Fourth step is to revamp the Exam pattern. Once these are accomplished, those who pass out from Class 12 can fit into employment or higher education easily.

It is good that syllabus boards sush as Tamilnadu State Board have recently  begun working on the issue. These boards should monitor improvements in a structured and focussed manner and manage changes. on a consistent basis.

30 June 2012

Stories for children in Hinduism

Nowadays good news items are rarely found in our media. Many news worthy good things happen everywhere but the publicity given to them is far less than to those involving crime, violence etc.

Yesterday, my morning coffee seemed to blend with a news item about a retired school principal's attempt to revive a nice tradition that is almost completely lost today: Grandma' stories.

When telling stories from scriptures, we should be careful  about the source from which we take them. Primary sources are always authentic whereas secondary ones may sometimes carry misinterpreted concepts as in the following two examples. 

I have come across many Hindu religious discourses, books and other media in which Lord Krishna's Dances with Gopikas are mentioned as if there was some romantic string attached to them.  This interpretation is baseless and hence wrong. According to Shreemad Bhagavatham, when these Dances were performed, Lord Krishna was a small boy and Gopikas were as old as His foster mother. 

When Ajaamila's story is explained in some media, it is as if Ajaamilaa's sins were dissolved and he obtained Moksha as soon as he called his son, whose name was `Naarayanaa'. This depiction is also baseless. It gives a wrong signal that whoever committs sin can get himself or herself freed from its consequencies by simply uttering God's name (Such a wrong interpretation goes against the principle of Karma). Those who have read the original version of The Bhaagavatham would know that when Ajaamilaa was about to die, he repented for his sins whole heartedly, surrendered to Lord Naaraayana completely by calling His name (not his son's name), vowed never to commit any sin again and vowed to tread on the Dhaarmic path. This made Shree Hari bless Ajaamilaa with Moksha. It is said that he lived happily for  several years after his surrender to  Shree Hari and then reached Heaven.

I wish that any Hindu material for children tells them stories based on original sources so that concepts are not exaggerated or misinterpreted. 

29 June 2012

Krishna to kids

This evening I happened to listen to a nice hiphop version of a devotional song about Lord Krishna. I think that such child friendly songs will motivate today's Hindu children into spiritualism. Thanks, Ram K, for your song.

Once Hindu kids delve into the nectar of God consciousness (via Krishnaa Consciousness, Raamaa Consciousness and so on), it is better to gradually replace western music by Indian Classical music because the latter is more appropriate in the Hindu context.

This is one way to let kids appreciate Indian traditional music (such as this song rendered by K J Yesudas, one of my most favourite singers); otherwise, they may not get to appreciate our devotional or classical music at all. (I am neither comparing the two types of music nor saying that one type is better than the other. All music is good if it is within acoustic limits, melodious and free from obscenity).

27 June 2012

Child abuse in schools

According to a report published in this morning's edition of a newspaper, Tamilnadu Government has issued a Government Order to all K-12 schools in the State with a clear message that teachers who indulge in child abuse can not only be dismissed but also find that they don't get employed anywhere else. I think that the move will be welcome by parents and stakeholders in the system and the general public at large.

Schools have a crucial role to play in sensitising children and making them  aware of all the negative aspects of child abuse. Though schools cannot have control over children's behaviour outside their campuses, they should ensure that (i) resources with negative potential are not used and (ii) situations which can possibly give rise to child abuse are not created, anywhere in the school. In 2003 in a school where I worked, I was shocked to find a very popular book (written by an Indian writer who won the Booker prize for her book in the late '90s) in the school library. The problem was that the contents of the book were far from being conducive to the school atmosphere.

The news report reminded me of `Snehamulla simham' (which means `Friendly lion'), a Malayaalam language movie released in 1986. I had the pleasure of watching it when I was teaching in Kochi at that time. In this film, Mammootty, one of my most favourite actors, comes as a brilliant and strict college lecturer. Oddly enough, when not in college, he finds solace in liquor (due to a failed marriage) despite repeated doses of advice from his close friend and colleague (the role of which is played by Jayaram, a versatile and talented actor). In the college, one of his students is deeply in love with him. She tries to convey her love to him in many ways. But he is very stubborn and finds her love repulsive. He advises her as to how she is wrong in loving her teacher. One should see the movie to believe that this is the best part of the movie. (I think that his English is superb). The movie casts popular actors such as Lalu Alex, Mukesh, Nalini, Paravoor Bharathan and Sukumari.

As teachers, it is very important that we maintain a morally appropriate distance from children always.

Well, coming back to Tamilnadu Government's G O, let us hope that the Government comes up with similar measures to curb corruption at all levels in the K-12 system.

24 June 2012

Reading habits in children

A recent survey showed that a significant per centage of Chennai's school going children suffer from obesity. It is nothing unexpected, considering the amount of time children spend in front of TV and computer. Those of us who are in teaching would know well that many children do not perform well in school because of the same reason. I think that the fault lies in parents and not in children.

(During my tenure as school principal, I have interviewed numerous parents who complained that their children didn't study well. Following is an excerpt  from  such an  interview:
  • Parent: Sir, we have given a seperate room for my children to study. But still, I find that they don't do well in  their studies. It worries us.
  • School principal: Do they watch TV or sit in front of the computer for a long time?
  • Parent: Not at all. We never allow them to watch TV or be at the computer. We are very strict with them. We see to it that children go to  their study and concentrate on their work; we monitor them too.
  • School principal: When they are in their study, what do you do?
  • Parent: We watch TV, check our email at our PC or chat on skype. However, we see to it that our children do their school work at this time.
After some counselling, I have seen  such parents accepting to sacrifice their TV/Computer time for  their children's sake and coming back  to tell me as to how effective my advice had been). 

Though entertainment electronics in general  and TV/Computer in particular have brought immense benefits, they are also capable of wielding very negative influence if abused. Research studies have proved beyond doubt that the time spent in front of TV or Computer has a positive correlation with couch potato attitude and obesity. Thanks to public awareness campaigns, worried parents and teachers like the trend to be reversed ( to `back to books').

(As I wrote in my post on 13 November last year, we were motivated into reading good books. Our reading habit helped in improving our linguistic skills significantly).

This afternoon, I happened to read a very informative and thought provoking article on this issue. I wish all parents and school managements read such articles and implement the ideas so that children can be on  a better track.

(When I was working in PREPARE, a Chennai based NGO, we had the pleasure of observing how children's learning improved after their parents began listening to their children reading aloud, in a remote village in Orissa. Parental involvement in children's learning in any possible way brings its own rewards).

By the way, good stories not only motivate children into reading but also help them in many other ways as mentioned in this article.

16 June 2012

Quality in K-12 schools

Poverty at home and lack of resources in school are considered to be the most predominant causes of poor performance of children at the global level. This being just the tip of the iceberg, there are many other causes (not usually noticed outside school systems) such as quantity driven curriculum with scant respect for quality, teachers' workload (which leaves them with  no free time for lesson planning, marking children's work etc. during school hours) and lack of accountability.

I think that accountability is not taken  seriously in many school systems in our country. If a teacher teaches wrongly or doesn't contribute positively to teaching learning, the school principal is expected, logically speaking, to mend the problem. But sometimes, school managements ask their principals to ignore such problems. (I have experienced this oddity myself). Principals should be allowed to be strict (without being harsh) when handling issues related to teachers who are indifferent or display misbehaviour.

We can always learn from authentic educational research done in similar school systems in other countries. Eversince I joined as Physics master at a local school where I began my career nearly 35 years back, I always tried to implement good practices from other countries in my work.

As education professionals, we know that exams are one of the main causes of stress in children and that it is compounded by parental obsession for `ranks' and `marks' in Board Exams. Is CBSE's recent move to abolish annual exams upto standard 9 a viable solution? The answer lies to some extent in an article which I read recently. I hope our K-12 education policy makers take such  articles seriously and work out solutions so that all children get quality education at least to some extent toward the objectives of the The Dakar Framework

12 June 2012

Textbook turbulence

In the past few weeks, many debates have been going on about cartoons in school textbooks  published by NCERT. While cartoons in lessons may be  effective resources in our classrooms, other contents are also important. In fact all contents in textbooks are important.

After reading Standards 11 and 12  Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry textbooks published by NCERT, any competent education professional would be able to see that these books are perfect examples of what a textbook should not be.

Sometimes, in spite of earnest attempts, involvement of competent professionals in textbook writing doesn't happen because of the rigid systems in which we work. Our Central and many State Board Textbook Development Committees do not consist of adequate number of competent practising teachers as illustrated, for example, in Standard 12 Physics textbook published by NCERT. As we can easily see, only 5 out of 20 (25%) are practising school teachers.

A few years back when I was heading a K-12 school in Chennai, Mrs Latha, chief education officer of our district, asked me to head a subject experts panel which was working on Standards 11 and 12 of Tamilnadu Higher Secondary Board. She was one of  the most honest officers in the Department and hence very respected. It would have been a privilege to  work in a team with which she was involved. But, when I sought permission from my school management, it was refused as the management thought that my time in the school would be compromised. Hence I had to decline the nomination.

Earlier in late '90s, I was trying for some meaningful occupation in Chennai after resigning my post at a school in Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh. As I had read several articles by Mini Krishnan, a well known writer who was commissioning editor at Macmillan India Limited, I thought of meeting her. She asked me to write a sample lesson, which I did. My work was accepted and I was about to  sign a contract. This was a time when the Company needed an education officer in Mathematics and Science on a full time basis. After a recruitment assessment,  I was selected for this position too and was given the option  of selecting between the two. I  preferred the latter instead of the former (which I think, was a mistake).

Quality of our school textbooks can only be enhanced if our State Boards and NCERT revamp the whole curriculum development process by involving outstanding school teachers  with proven experience instead of scientists (however eminent they may be) as members and chairpersons of authors' panels.  Teachers are the most competent professionals when it comes to developing lesson materials (print or digital).

When working for PREPARE, a Chennai based NGO, I was involved with Green Valley Public School, a K-8 school catering to children from tribal communities in the area between Rayagada and J K Pur in Odisha. The school was run by the NGO. All the teachers had a degree in a school subject but some didn't have their B Ed degrees (as it was not a mandatory requirement for that upcoming school). In fact not having B Ed was an advantages. We did away with textbooks and teachers were encouraged to develop their own curriculum and teaching materials. As they knew their children well, the exercise was very fruitful though it took time. Lessons were very child friendly and children enjoyed them.  

As many schools cannot afford to have their own curriculum due to  mixed ability classrooms which large pupil intake (exceeding recommended teacher pupil ratio), heavy workload of teachers, in countries like India, teachers resort to textbooks as a single source. Hence it is important to (i) involve practising school teachers in textbook development and (ii) prescribe textbooks which meet certain minimum benchmarks in terms of quality. (I tried an interesting experiment many years ago, considering the situation which prevailed at that time).  

The issue is not confined only to our country India. It is global. I have come across several  textbooks which are poorly written and published in  countries like USA and UK. In the late '80s, when I was teaching Physics in schools in Southern Africa, the government was about to replace `O Level Physics' by A F Abbott (a very good textbook) by `Physics is Fun' by Tom Duncan.

All physics teachers were asked to study the book and let the government know about their viewpoint. In one of the physics teachers workshops conducted for the purpose, we were asked to  give our feedback on the new book in a questionnaire developed by the Education Ministry. I wrote that the new book was not even fit to be used as a revision material let alone as a textbook and that the other book should be retained. My viewpoint was based on numerous conceptual mistakes in the book (for example, units of mass and weight were messed up on several pages). (When I  wrote my feedback, my friends including Mr Chinnappan, who taught physics in Lawrence School, Ooty (India) and in some schools in the US earlier, cautioned me that my adverse remark might mean that my contract wouldn't be renewed. However, I was least bothered about the outcome of my feedback because I knew that I would be able to get a good job or even a better job if the Government didn't renew my contract. I considered honesty to be most important).    Thankfully enough, later editions of the book were free from mistakes.

Any textbook from any country written by whoever be it, should be free from any kind of mistake and it should be 100% quality oriented. Otherwise, I think that the material is junk.

10 June 2012

Games and sports in schools

This post is related to my earlier posts dated 7 September and 20 October 2011 in this blog. According to media reports, Viswanathan Anand, who recently won the World Chess Championship for the 5th time (a record) has come forward with an idea to help our Government Schools in motivating children in this intellectually stimulating game. I think that the present Tamilnadu government would respond to the idea positively (as it has already been doing in a few other areas of development).

Viswanathan Anand
It is a well known fact that even in some high fee charging schools in Chennai, all children are not given adequate opportunities to develop their games and sports skills, despite the fact that games such as chess, carroms, scrabbles, snooker, hockey, football, basket ball, lawn tennis, badminton etc are far more cost effective than cricket. Indoor games such as scrabbles are known to play a crucial role in linguistic development. I don't think that there is anything that can prevent schools in implementing such games.

In fact indigenous games such as kabhaadi and  kho-kho require very marginal capital investment. In some schools where I worked we tried cycling and it was a favourite not only among students  but also teachers. So was scrabbles (which is not only entertaining but also highly pedagogical in a sense).

Like all balanced sport enthusiasts, I think that (i) all games and sports should be encouraged and (ii) every child should be  encouraged to  play one outdoor game of his/her choice. It is the school's responsibility to see that all children derive benefit irrespective of their socio-economic backgrounds.

(I have literally seen the extent to which games such as football and athletics are encouraged in schools in Africa. It is no wonder that Africans are world leaders in athletics and that popular football teams such as Manchester United consist of players of African origin. I think that our Sports sponsors and Government Departments of Education and Sports need to follow best practices from  other countries).


07 June 2012

As I was browsing an ISKCON related website, I came across a very interesting article about Angkor Wat. As a person who worked in Cambodia, I know that Cambodia has many traditions which are similar to those in India. There are numerous words in Khmer (Cambodian national language) with Samskrit origin (for example `kaaryaalai' meaning `office' and `mukh' meaning `face') and Tamil origin (for example 'mun' meaning `before'). Names such as Karuna, Rachna and Sarath are common in Cambodia. Language and traditions of Khmer people seem to prove that cultural and trade ties between India and Cambodia were strong once upon a time. (Our school history textbooks don't seem to mention about this).

(Just before the end of my placement in Cambodia, I had the pleasure of initiating a programme through which Cambodian K-12 professionals and students can join our Universities for higher studies or professional training, thanks to our Indian Ambassador to Cambodia with whom I briefly discussed my proposal when meeting him in a very informal  setting at Dosa Corner, a popular Southern Indian restaurant in Phnom Penh).  

Weekends at Vadodara

Today I  had the joy of listening to  yet another 10.52MB SoundCloud track probably recorded by Hare Krishna devotees in Lima, Peru.  The song reminded me of Vadodara (where I worked for a year) and the ISKCON temple in the city. I used to enjoy Dharshan of the Deities in the temple and the eateries in their restaurant.

I fondly remember Amarnaathji, in whose auto I liked to go to Shree Krishna temple, Raghavendra Swamy Mutt and other such spiritual places in the city.  He is a nice gentleman of nearly my age. He was not just an autodriver to me; he was a like-minded friend. Just like in many places where I lived, people usually liked me (My mother and brother always say that if we are good to others they would be good to us. I have a different point of view: If we are good  to others, good people among them will be good to us). 

Vadodara is a historic city which is also very modern with fabulous shopping malls (such as Croma and Spencers very near my office located in Alkapuri).

I nostalgically remember my almost regular weekend shoppings, poori-sabji-milkshake dinners and chats with friends like Mr Madhwani (proprietor of the bakery) at Spencers. (Sometimes I used to dine at `Saffron' for its acoustically conducive atmosphere). I also used to visit an Amul outlet managed by a very cordial young couple. They had an assistant, who was nearly my age. Sometimes  I used to visit the outlet (which had a mini-restaurant as well) just to see them and relish their authentic `dhokla', a popular Gujarati delicacy. Whenever there was time, I liked to quench my academic thirst by buying some good paperback from `Crossword', a well known book store in the town.

Weekend outings had always been pleasant at Vadodara, thanks to its lower levels of  pollution and traffic density than in Chennai.  Though I liked the restaurant in ISKCON campus, I liked to go there only when I visited the temple to have Dharshan of the Deities.

Though Vadodara does have its own problems like traffic jams etc. commuting from one place to  another within the city is very cost effective (Vadodara autos run on meters and auto drivers don't demand exhorbitant fares like in Chennai). I'll write about this beautiful city in my future posts.       

About Me

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Chennai, Tamilnadu, India
I am a retired K-12 Education Management Professional. I have worked at different levels in K-12 school systems, textbook publishing, elearning and Education NGOs. I have held memberships in The Association for Science Education (UK), American Association of Physics Teachers and The Malaysian Institute of Physics. I hold a 1st class B Sc Degree in Physics followed by B Ed [English and Physical Science] and M A [Childcare and Education] degrees. My published works include 59 articles in teacher development magazines in India and the US and a book entitled `Creative Classrooms and Child Friendly Schools' (listed in Amazon). This book is almost an anecdotal account of my professional experience in six countries (including Cambodia where I worked as Technical Adviser to the Ministry of Education, Youth And Sports). I served as mentor in the Certificate of Teaching Mastery Program offered by Teachers Without Borders.