28 April 2012

Sacred music via Soundcloud

I don't have much time to write any post this weekend too. However I am driven by a desire to write after checking my email inbox a few minutes back at the end of a hectic day.

I had the pleasure of reading a newsletter from a Trinidad based Hindu website. It contained a link to melodious songs, such as this one, sung by Pandit Hardeo Persad, in praise of Shree Haree.

Pt. Hardeo Persad
The songs are placed in SoundCloud format. It's nice uninterrupted audio and hence comfortable to listen even in my small notebook.

22 April 2012

As I didn't have much time to spare this weekend, I couldn't write any new post. I hope to write next weekend. Thanks for visiting my blog.

17 April 2012

Quality aspects of School Education in India

The Right to Education Act which came into being two  years back, and the recent Supreme Court ruling seem to  have generated a lot of discussions and debates over the issue. 

Though I don't have time to write as to how schools and departments of education can handle the issue, I do find time to keep myself informed of diverse views on the issue when reading my morning newspaper, watch TV or academic surf.

This morning, I happened to read a very interesting and thought provoking article based on facts. (I have mentioned an article written by the same author, Aruna Sanakaranarayanan, in one of my previous posts too).

Individual schools having an important role to play when it comes to ensuring quality in their systems, I think that the objectives of the RTE can certainly be met by involving all stakeholders actively in the implementation process.

As concerned Government Departments and Private Schools work on the issue, it is high time that our Syllabus Boards come up with better syllabi, by replacing quantity with quality. I think that we have a lot  to learn from curricular reforms in other countries.

14 April 2012

Off the beaten track: Saturday musing

On a Sunday in the 1960s when I was studying in the middle school, as I was fiddling the knob of our `radio' (a common household gadget as shown below), I bumped into BBC World Service by sheer chance.

This sparked off my sustained interest in their programmes.

I remember how I used to enjoyed cooking as well as listening to BBC broadcasts, during all those years which I had spent abroad. For obvious reasons, I preferred using my shortwave receiver (SONY ICF 7600DA shown below) to my TV when cooking.

My interest in BBC programmes continues to this day, though at a lower level.   

I like watching specfic programmes such as `Click online' by choice as well as those (such as this afternoon's `Inside Facebook') into which I bump by chance. 

Though 3 to 3.30 PM (IST) is not my usual time to watch TV, today I enjoyed watching `Inside Facebook' mainly because I had incidentally got a new facebook account opened this morning (at around 8 AM IST). (I had deleted my previous account a few months back, as the advertisements in its home page made me feel uncomfortable).

Today's experience with the BBC documentary and my page at facebook seem to suggest that facebook will continue to be useful as it used to be, not only to me but also to numerous facebook followers at large.   

13 April 2012

Hans and his hands-on science teacher training

This evening it was nice to see an interesting email from my friend Hans (about whom I mentioned in my previous post). He still travels to Cambodia from his native Netherlands frequently on work. Recently he conducted a 6 months' training programme for science teachers in Cambodia.

Hans demonstrating a physical science activity to participants

It is amazing that teachers from 112 schools participated in the programme.

By the way, today is celebrated as New Year's day in Tamilnadu, and in countries such as Cambodia. 

11 April 2012

Off the beaten track: Email from friend

This morning it was nice to receive an email (in response to my Easter greeting) from my good friend Hans (about whom I wrote in my post dated 29 February). In his email also he has mentioned that he remembers that evening when he and I enjoyed watching Meryl Streep's musical `Mamma Mia'. (It is interesting to watch an American actress performing in a stage production written by a British playwright and based on songs from a Swedish band).   

I think that good interests and good thoughts can always bring like-minded people together.    

08 April 2012

Off the beaten track: Secure homes and social schools

One of the very few columns which are of interest to me in `THE HINDU’ is `OPEN PAGE’, as many of the articles in the column are thought provoking and are based on mundane day to day happenings. 1 April edition of the column contained a very interesting article written in a lively and humorous manner and accompanied by an interesting cartoon as shown  below:
In the 1950s, '60s, '70s etc.  it was common for most housewives to take care of their husbands and in-laws, manage their households and contribute to conducive environments for children to grow. They were also strict with children. 
While wives took care of their households, husbands were responsible as `bread winners' for the family and were free to concentrate on their professions and come up. When my parents got  married, my father was a young graduate equipped with  B Sc and B T degrees. He worked in Government High Schools and Government Higher Secondary Schools in Vellore District, Tamilnadu.
L to R: My father and his friend with their newly acquired degrees
After marriage, my father got promoted as headmaster. Though his career meant more responsibilities, he was able to work toward his B A, M Ed and M A degrees . My father and Mr Deivasigamani Chettiar did their M A course together. Mr Chettiar, also a headmaster, was my father's best friend.
When we were young, discipline and values were not only instilled in our homes but also in schools and colleges.
When I was studying in high school, I remember how our State Department of Education implemented useful schemes such as Madras English Language Teaching Campaign (fondly known as "MELT" Campaign) to train English language teachers in ELT skills for use in classrooms. These programmes were usually held outside school timings. Headmasters like my father and Mr Chettiar were selected to work as teacher trainers. 

From L to R: My father is seated 4th  and Mr Chettiar, 1st.
In those days, schools were an integral part of communities and they functioned as social organisations. Though teachers were strict, they were caring.


06 April 2012

Hanumad jayanthi

According to Maadhwaa calender, today (Chaithra Shukla Pournimaa) is the birthday of Hanumaan, the greatest devotee of Shree Raam, an Avataar of Shree Mahaa Vishnu.

Accoding to the great epic Raamaayanaa, when Shree Hari's Avataar as Shree Raam on the Earth was about to be over, he took all his devotees to His Abode. He desired to take Hanumaan also. But Hanumaan said to Shree Raam that he wished to stay here itself and be present wherever Shree Raam's name is sung or Shree Raama Kathaa is told.

His devotion to Shree Raam and Shree Seeta Devee is of the highest level.

04 April 2012

Shakespeare and senior citizens of Chennai

Though I have never liked to read about politics and cinema, like many people of my age, I am unable to give up the habit of reading the morning newspaper in print. This morning's newspaper carried a very interesting report on how a group of senior citizens in Chennai remember William Shakespeare.

In my student days in the '60s and early '70s, I enjoyed reading his works in  our textbooks as well as outside. I remember an excerpt from his `Tempest' in our English textbook which we had to study when doing Standard 11 (leading to Secondary School Leaving Certificate).

In those days, it was customary to study one comedy and one tragedy from the Bard, when we were doing our first degree course at the University of Madras, as mandatory requirement to quaify for the degree. I had to study `As you like it' and `Antony and Cleopatra'. Though my first love among curricular subjects was English, l didn't take it up  as my main subject for the degree, much against my father's wish, because I found it difficult to memorize annotations (University exams assessed memory far more than knowledge or linguistic skills, a trend which remains till date).

However, my interest in English was enormous. I used to refer to many critics of Shakespearean works when preparing for the exams. I used to read criticisms by Granville Barker and A W Varity, compare them with textbook content and develop my own criticism.

I enjoyed the exercise to the same extent as I did when solving problems in mathematics and physics. My love for mathematics and physics was so strong that it helped me to get fourth rank in the University exams, at a time when there were only two universities (Univeristy of Madras and Annamalai University) in Tamilnadu.

In spite of having qualified  meritoriously in my BSc Course, I couldn't get admission to the M Sc Physics Course offered at Presidency College, Madras, as corruption was rampant in State Government establishments including institutes of higher education, with no value for merit. Voorhees College, in which I did my BSc, didn't offer MSc Course at that time. Hence, there was no chance to continue academics in the same college.  Though I was very interested in doing courses such as MSc Tech in Meteorology at Andhra University campus, Waltair, or MS in the US, my homesickness prompted me to try only for Madras so that I could travel to Madras, attend college and return home on the same day. (I was so homesick that my father used to accompany me to Sacred Heart College, Tirupattur, on the first few days of my Pre-University Course; on seeing this, Rev Fr J G McGuire, Principal of the college, said to my father that his staff would take good care of me and hence there was no need for my father to  accompany me to the college, the location of which was just half an hour's bus journey from Kandili, a village in which we stayed; my father was headmaster of the local Government High School. I had a monthly bus pass with discounted busfare for my daily travel to the College and back). 

Well, coming back to literature, though I enjoyed reading works by western writers, I wished to see plenty of local Indian works also in our textbooks. 

Currently, writers such as Mini Krishnan seem to work to some extent in this direction (I had the pleasure of working with Mini at the Editorial Office of Macmillan India Limited, Chennai, for a few years).

Well, though things seem to have improved in this direction over the years, I think that our curriculum developers should include writers from less known regions such as middle east, south pacific, central europe, africa and australasia, not forgetting aboriginal writers.

Our K-12 curriculum developers should give importance to non-controversial local writers in textbooks, so that our youngsters can appreciate our own literature as well.

03 April 2012

Off the beaten track: Digital magazine from the Druk kingdom

This morning I had the pleasure of visiting DRUKPA, a digital magazine from one of my favourite countries. Pages of the magazine took me on a virtual journey back in time by more than 30 years to the beautiful Dragon Kingdom, where I spent some of my happiest years as a school teacher.

Mongar Jr High School, Mongar, Bhutan, where I taught

From L to R: R J Veerasingh (My colleague from Tamilnadu), Mr Justin Lucksum (My Headmaster), I and Megnath (School pupil leader) in front of the main entrance to the school 

With friends in front of the passenger lounge at Paro airport which was still under construction at that time 
Relaxing in front of my house on a weekend around noon (with  a cool and Sunny weather)
As I clicked through  the pages of the magazine, I found one article to be very interesting. This article mentions the cautious steps taken by the Bhutan Government to control vehicular traffic and pollution. Given today's scenario in our country (India) where car manufacturing industry is fast expanding and corruption is so rampant that a majority of car drivers may not actually be qualified to drive (which fact is very obvious just by observing their behaviour when driving), this article would perhaps be an eye opener to our policy makers in India.         

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.