What is in a Day?

Come August everyone – in India and across the globe – suddenly start their wisecracks about the ‘noblest’ of all professions – Teaching. Reason? Come September 5th, we have our National Teachers’ Day. And on October 5th, that is today, World Teachers’ Day.

Happy Teachers' Day!

Happy Teachers’ Day!

Yet, things are not as it should be in a teacher’s world, at least for an Indian teacher, for this is all I know about. I am one. Once upon a time when we had the Gurukula system and teachers were the most venerated lot in the society. Gone are those days. Now things and times have changed. The less said about the poor status of the teacher in our society, the better.

The best students go for the choicest of professions, which is medicine, engineering, information technology, accounting and the like. It is only the also-rans and cast-outs that enter this profession of last resort – teaching. Margaret Elizabeth Sangster’s exhortation of ‘no one should teach who is not in love with teaching’ has fallen on deaf ears. Poor wages, but compensated by less working days, you see. Which other job will give you more than 140 days holidays and pay you for that? The result?? A teaching fraternity, with less passion and even lesser dedication.

Unrealistic expectations from parents to mould their child into Christiaan Barnards, Nikola Teslas and their like irrespective of the like and dislikes of their children has made things worse for the practicing teacher. It is almost impossible trying to tell the parent that their child has other interests. The oft-heard last word in the matter is, “I wanted to be a X. I could not. I want my son / daughter to be one.’ Many also are in denial mode – I can understand that. Which parent would want to hear about his/her apple of the eye’s issues?

An overburdened curriculum which leaves the poor child to do nothing other than studying so much so that he/she unless exceptional never gets the time or energy to indulge in any kind of talent tapping or talent building. No wonder PE classes are the most favourite ones of most students. Teachers hardly make learning as fun as playing. The heavy curriculum forces the teacher to ensure that he/she has done the job, without looking into what students have got out of it. Besides the teacher learned about the nuances of teaching in a different way. And that way is not the acceptable one with changing times. No wonder John W Gardner said, “Much education today is monumentally ineffective. All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants.” Ouch. A firm nail on the coffin!

Educationists, policy makers who come up with radical changes, without equipping and educating the stakeholders – teacher, student and parent. Many a time the programmes are chalked out without foresight and hardly looking into the ground reality. Look, for example, the No Child Left Behind initiative, which went on to leave every child behind and the teaching fraternity far behind because it was extremely prescriptive, used shoddy measures and one-size-fits-all methods, besides forcing teachers to do the worst possible thing to prove their caliber – to teach to test.

Large sized classrooms is another bane. A teacher after all is only human and cannot be expected to work magic many a time in classrooms of not less than 40 students. The 40 minute classes don’t even give the teacher time to invest a minute in each child! Today in many forward looking schools, pair/group activity in classes in the norm. How can teachers have group activity in crowded classrooms? With all these challenges – poor teacher status, heavy curriculum, standardised testing, large ill equipped classrooms and a teacher fraternity that just about warming up to the needs of the 21st century skills like being a life long learner and engaging in continuous professional development – it is difficult to brag about the nobility of the profession.

Education is the panacea that can cure all that ails today’s world. Therefore unless there is more respect and status in society, high quality induction programmes and continued professional education sessions, societies cannot raise the standards of education. And unless governments invest more money into education, all articulations about what ails education and finding solutions for them, will remain hollow and meaningless.

So what is in a day for us, Teachers? Nothing really. It is just another day. Nevertheless, here’s wishing you a Happy Teachers’ Day!

Unconditional Positive Regard

Twitter is a great tool to get oneself not only informed but updated. Yesterday I came across this tweet and went on a trail of discovery.

According to the link, Unconditional Positive Response or UPR, is a great tool to prevent persistent negative reinforcement (which is sure to happen when we use “shh!” or “shush” to control behaviour in the classroom). Interesting. The article had also provided an outline of what UPR was. This is what prompted me to look for UPR.

Carl R Rogers, the American humanist psychologist is the propounder of UPR and this is central to his theories. He provides insight into what he meant by UPR:
Unconditional refers to holding ‘no conditions of acceptance…. it is at the opposite pole from a selective evaluative attitude.’ (p. 225*)
Positive offers ‘warm acceptance…’ (p. 225*)
Regard means ‘a caring’, here the care the therapist shows for the client – without being possessive or without expecting any fulfilment of personal agenda. (p. 225*)
In a nutshell it just means to accept a person and give support irrespective of what he/she says/does. Acceptance of a person just as he or she is. I think this concept has a wonderful bearing in the field of education.

How can we use UPR in the classroom? Speak firmly but with warmth. Threats, warnings, one upmanship and through that creating power struggles within classrooms are a big no no. After all we adults must show our mettle with our equals – fellow adults. Not with our students. Accept our pupils. Recognize each one of them as individuals with their own strengths and weaknesses. No comparison of one with the other. No insults and humiliations. Provide a very supportive climate that will tell them that we care. Genuinely care. This will create engagement. Accountability for learning. A caring bond with a student will convey that you believe and have faith in him/her.

I think UPR is absolutely essential in today’s world. It is a parenting necessity. A must have for the classroom teacher. When the home and school fronts work in tandem, we can create a new breed of young people – those who have empathy, compassion and of course unconditional positive regard! And that should augur a peaceful, gentle world!!

Let’s strive for this…

The-ultimate-lesson-all

Resources:
*Rogers, C.R. (1959), A Theory of therapy, personality, and interpersonal relationships as developed in the client-centred framework, by C R Rogers

Reflections: Teachers Day

Every year Teachers Day in India is celebrated on September 5th. (and everything that I write here is based on the Indian perspective) The special day for teachers in India is dedicated to a quintessential teacher’s birthday: Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, a teacher, statesman, philosopher and former President.

Teachers Day

What is the scenario at schools today? Low pay packets; humongous expectations from both parents and management; overburdened with work; crowded classrooms clamouring for individual personalised attention and instruction; callous, unconcerned pupils; technological challenges that make one a refugee first, immigrant next and a native per force in the digital world; the obsession with standardised tests and thoughtless one size fits all propositions of boards and education bodies…
Teaching has never been tougher as it is today.
Being an educator by profession, I can’t but help taking a critical look at the education system prevalent in our country. 

I am just back from home after summer holidays and saw the reality of it playing out everyday at home. I have a nephew who is studying in Class IX (CBSE). Everyday he comes home with projects galore. There is time only to do homework and projects.
So, when is the time to read and understand lessons done at school? I have no clue.
Without systematic study, how is he going to cope with his studies? I have no clue.
(Mind you his school is just a 10-minute walk away. His tuition teacher is a stone’s throw away.) 
After seeing it all, I only felt sorry for the young boy. True, he too has some time management issues but he is a child after all. 

Studies are no longer interesting. They have become mundane chores. The spark of curiosity is totally, totally missing. It is just regurgitation of lessons learned in answer papers and notebooks. There is nothing beyond books and lessons. Sorry, textbooks. Is there nothing beyond grades and scores? What about igniting the passion for knowing the unknown? Missing, totally. What about discovering and honing other skills like music, drawing, painting, sports etc? Nope. Where is the time? Now you might ask aren’t there children who are doing all that and coping with studies? All I am saying is that they are exceptions than rules. My nephew, a smart and clever chap, is bored beyond anything else. I know, if you need to keep him hooked, you need to really be thinking on your feet and package it in a ‘smart alec’ way. At this rate I am afraid he will burn out too soon and lose all his yen for studies. He is already on the verge of it. In fact, the scenario was so disappointing and depressing that I have started reading articles on “Unschooling”. 

If this is the plight of students, what about teachers? Not too different. While it is true that every profession has good and bad professionals, methinks the the scale is too tilted in favour of the inefficient in the case of education. The best ones are not attracted to the profession. There is no money or respect for the profession is the common rejoinder I hear. Besides many parents still are obsessed about a couple of professions: medicine; engineering; computers & software (though there are a handful of students who take up offbeat courses). The leftovers are often insipid and tasteless. They are teachers not because they are passionate about teaching – but because their job gives them holidays in line with their children’s and some pocket money. And from such kind of teachers, stakeholders harbour inordinately high expectations. Parents expect them to wave a magic wand and make their child a whizkid. The professional course (B.Ed) is an antiquated course. Teachers are forced to teach what they learned yesterday to students today so that they can handle their tomorrows well! Can that ever happen?

Students. Sadly, they have very few role models before them. Many parents have no time for them. It’s work, office, and material considerations. They cannot even give quality time – even if it means just an hour – to their child / children. To compensate this they offer them material rewards or even a huge sum as pocket money. Instant gratification is what is sought and easily provided. Value systems don’t matter and many don’t inculcate any in their children.

The management. Results. That is the yardstick of whether a school is good or great. Crass commercialization has corroded the innards of educational systems and systemic decay is visible even to the naked eye. Administrative bodies. Standardised tests rules the roost. it is a one-size-fits-all proposition. A student is judged by the grades and marks he gets. Though collaborative project based study is required, paucity of time in schools make teachers give it to students as individual projects. (As many as 10+ days were declared as holidays in Kerala due to the fury of the monsoons this time; over and above this is our fanatical obsessions with bandhs. The Supreme Court banned it but we reincarnated them in another name: Hartal! It is freedom to protest, folks!!) Many a time parents end up doing these projects for the child. Now how will that be a learning exercise is a good question to ponder over.

So, do you get it – we are in a totally messy situation. Celebrations apart and notwithstanding the challenges, it is time to introspect: Are we as teachers –

  • Passion-driven? Without this our classrooms will be dull and drab.
  • Action-driven? Without this we will never be able to infuse energy & bring the fun element to our class. Isn’t it because of the fun aspect that PE periods are students’ all time favourites? 
  • Empathetic? Without this we will never be able to strike an emotional chord with the child. This in turn will make our students compassionate individuals too.
  • Lifelong learners? Learning just does not end with the classroom; a key point that must be driven home over and over again!
  • Being Mindful and Reflective? We need to help pupils stay on course and be aware – not only about things around but also things within themselves. Self awareness is key to effective relationships and achieving success in adult life. It is always easier if we ‘catch ’em young’!
  • Encouraging collaborations and curiosity in classrooms? It is these skills that our pupils require in the 21st century to function as effective citizens and humans. 
  • Patient and Persevering? Without this none of the above is possible!

Let us think of every day as a Teachers Day, by enjoying what we do in our classrooms. Let us transform our classrooms into hubs of activity where pupils take responsibility for their own learning. Let us make our classrooms engaged, connected spaces so that our pupils will learn the art and science of collaboration. And may we succeed in making each student a passionate lifelong learner, the most critical objective of education. And thus let us contribute immensely to nation building.

Guru Poornima Thoughts

गुरुर्ब्रह्मा गुरुर्विष्णुर्गुरुर्देवो महेश्वरः
गुरु साक्षात परं ब्रह्म तस्मै श्रीगुरवे नमः ॥

Gurur Brahma Gurur Vishnuhu Guru Devo Maheswaraha
Guru Saakshaat Parabhrahma Tasmai Sri Gurave Namaha ||

A timeless chant that pays wholesome tribute to all Teachers. Gurus. Who is a Guru? Derived from Sanskrit, Guru means teacher or a preceptor. The word comprises two syllables – Gu + Ru. Gu denotes the ignorance in the learner and Ru refers to the radiance of knowledge that dispels the darkness of ignorance in the learner. One who thus dispels the darkness of ignorance and brings in the light of knowledge is the Guru, the Teacher.

Nature 1_A

Hindus all over celebrate the full moon day of the lunar month Ashaada (Karkadakom in Malayalam, Aadi in Tamil) as Guru Poornima. It is also called Vyasa Poornima because it is the birthday of Sage Veda Vyasa to whom we owe the codification of the Vedas. He also wrote the Brahma Sutra, the Mahabharatha, the 17 Puranas and 18 upanishads and the Sreemad Bhagavatham. The Bhagavad Gita, a small part of the Mahabharatha has been a beacon to believers as well as seekers and management experts who look at it as an ultimate source of inspiration to handle the day to day problems in life.

Having said this to me who is a Guru? Anyone who has taught me valuable lessons to enhance the quality of life, And where else will I begin? Well, the age old adage says, “Matha Pitha Guru Daivam” – i.e. the order of respect is first to the mother, then the father, followed by the Teacher and at last God. So on this Guru Poornima day I pay obeisance to my mother and father. A wonderful couple, who are celebrating their 56th wedding anniversary this year, they have been instrumental in giving us, their children and grandchildren, the right kind of values to live by. Thank you will be an oversimplified phrase; nevertheless let me use it to show my eternal gratitude to them. On this day of reflection and thanksgiving, I realize how lucky I have been to be part of their lives. My first Gurus and the ‘best-est’ ever!.

Teachers. May be I don’t have a phenomenal memory or I did not have inspiring teachers, I don’t remember any from my school days who have made learning a pleasure. However, I have had some amazing teachers at Government Victoria College, Palakkad, where I studies for 5 years – for my graduation through post graduation. I still remember the commitment of Dr. P. Achuthan (our Professor who took Eliot’s Waste Land for us for MA). Sir was transferred and there was an ongoing teacher’s strike. He asked all ten of us to come to his home where he held classes for us. Two full days. I have never experienced such an exposition to Waste Land, since that. Later I also had the pleasure of working under Dr. P. Achuthan, when he joined as the Principal of Chinmaya Vidyalaya, Pallavur, where I was working. I also remember two other teachers – Prof. K. Balakrishnan (KB) who had a fantastic sense of humour and Prof. P. Balakrishnan (PB), who was a dignified gentleman. PB’s classes of John Donne’s metaphysical poetry still ring in my ears. He was the one who asked us to read E R Braithwaite’s novel “To Sir with Love”. That year, I remember, the class gave him a new year card, addressing simply as ‘To Sir with Love’. I think it was a turning point in my life. I got introduced to teaching as a profession and from then onwards, there has been no looking back.

Bosses. Oh, yes. Sister Tresa Martin (Arikkat) who was my very first mentor at Marian College. An amazing human being, she was quick to appreciate and thus fostered in me the confidence in my own ability to excel as a teacher. When teachers have inspiring leaders as bosses, it shapes their views and practices of education. I have so many to remember with gratitude. Sri. Gopinath, who was the Principal of Chinmaya Vidyalaya, Kollengode, who gave me a break at a most needed time of personal crisis. A paternal relative, he not only opened the avenue for me but also ensured that ensconced safe and secure at the school. Then, Mr. A. M. Menon, the Principal of Chinmaya Vidyalaya, Pallavur. Mr. Menon had no doubts about handing me over Classes XI and XII, though I was just a new recruit after completing my Bachelors in Education. Even to this day, I look at it as a great act of kindness. If everyone is looking for only experienced hands, who will give young and new ones a break? So in my practice, I have taken the risk of appointing teachers without experience too. Mrs. Kalyani Nambiar taught me that come what may we must be sticklers to the right kinds of values as we are in the field of education. And my Professor, Dr. P. Achuthan,  honed not only my teaching skills but also enriched us with his vast knowledge of spirituality.

Mr. Sarvesh Naidu. Mr. Naidu is till date the lodestar to me. His leadership and multi faceted personality has always goaded me to follow that style of functioning. So many more mentors: Mrs. Lakshmi Ramachandran from whom I learned the art of maintaining a wonderful rapport with all stake holders in education (Till date, I marvel at Lakshmi Ma’am’s phenomenal memory – she remembered students’ and their parents’ names. Phew!!); Mr. Michael Guzder, who taught me it is best to utilize the strengths of team members to the optimum (the work is done and the is worker happy! – Simple logic and practical wisdom!! Truly Mr. Guzder style!!!); Dr. Aninda Chatterji, who made me look at things in different perspectives and find solutions to problems (out of the box thinking or no-box-at-all thinking, if you can call that!!); Mrs. Asma Gilani, who is more a good friend than a typical boss and from whom I have learned the art of speaking one’s mind, especially when you are in the right.

Students. With nearly three decades of teaching experience, their numbers are only growing. I have learned so much more from these students that it will go on into an endless list. And if I can say about only thing that these students of mine have taught me, it is this: PATIENCE! As a person, I do believe in speed. However, when it comes to my students I am infinitely patient; so much so that my daughter once complained to me: “Ma, you have more patience with your students than with me.” Ouch. Ouch..

Friends. So many of them, but can’t help taking some names. Because they are truly special. Neena Shoukath – with her undying faithfulness and warm love. She taught me the true meaning of friendship. Subhadra Kutty – with her ringing laughter. She taught me what it means to smile and that then the world will be with you. Mind you, these two friends and I – we are in touch even after  37-38 years of friendship. That speaks a lot, doesn’t that? Giribala Menon, for all the support, care and affection she shares generously. Seema Krishnan – for the wonderful rapport we share and talk about all and sundry – and best of all, how we cackle like witches! Then there is Sheela Anand who inspires me with her commitment to sustainable practices. Anitha Raghu who enriched me with a wonderful gift of Reiki that I really needed at that time. Anuradha Ajith Kumar, who gave me wonderful moments of camaraderie while leading her school.

Family. My siblings. My brothers-in-law. My niece and nephews. Each one of them is special. I have learned so much from each one of them that enlisting that will take another blog. We are a happy, large family. Then there is my daughter Aathira and the latest addition to our family, her husband, Praveen.  You learn from your children too. So they can also be called “Guru”. So, what have I learned from Aathira? To be forthcoming about what you think. To do whatever that gives you joy and have no qualms about it. And most importantly to say No, when you feel like saying it. And from Praveen? To stay cool and unperturbed. There will be challenges, but worrying won’t get you anywhere.

Gurus. Swami Chinmayananda has been a great influence in our family. I remember listening to his talks. The powerful voice, the enunciation which will begin in soft whispers will then reach to majestic crescendos, the beauty of the English language that tumbled forth like a roaring cascade – I guess this was when I realized the magnetic charms of the English language. Some of his saying were mind blowing. One that I always fell back upon when I confronted issues is, “A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him”. Then there is the Art of Living organization from where I learned the “Art of Living”. Sanjeev Krishnanji from Rhythm of life who shared with me his wisdom and nurturing practices. Sivanada Ashram from where I received the training for being a Yoga Instructor.

Books. Very many of them. Being a great lover of books, I have turned to them time and again for wisdom, solace and for just sheer joy.

So, all of you out there and who have taught me even a teeny, weeny thing, my salute to you. You have enriched my life and raised its quality. Thank you!!

A fan of Online Learning

My tryst with online learning started in the summer of 2012. I stumbled upon this link:  http://www.powersearchingwithgoogle.com/course/ps/course.html got interested & enrolled for it. The six class affair happened at the right time for me. Summer holidays were on; students and teachers were on holidays. Besides I was going on holiday only after a fortnight.  I could not have asked for a better time – an impetus to plunge headlong into the course. Ahoy, Power Search! (I see that there is an advanced course open now – and yes, you guessed it right – I am hitting the ‘take the course’ button now! 🙂

I took all the lessons during the fortnight and took the final assessment from home though I was busy planning and preparing for my daughter’s wedding. And the result was most gratifying. It empowered me with a handle full of tips and tricks like these:

  • Colour filtering
  • Choosing effective search words
  • Word order matters
  • Use of these in searching: site; file type [pdf; doc; txt]; symbols like –, +; and words like define, OR etc.
  • Search by image
  • Shortcuts like date/time range
  • Verifying authenticity of information

    Oh, boy, the best was yet to come! On 25th July I got this – a multi coloured one – my certificate of completion. Though the scores were not mentioned in the certificate, the course staff sent me the feedback: Mid-class assessment score:  100% Post-class assessment score:  74%. It was truly a happy moment.

    Google Pwer Search

    The end of 2012 saw me participating along with a dear friend Ms. Sheela Anand in a Mentoring Programme titled Developing our Mentoring Skills offered by Electronic Village Online (EVO) http://evosessions.pbworks.com. Taking the course with a friend is a very enriching experience because one can engage in conversations and dialogues about various aspects of the programme as well as enriching perspectives for the assignments. the programme gave us insight into these:

    • use various synchronous and asynchronous web tools to communicate with colleagues worldwide,
    • interact through e-mail, text chat, voice chat, among others,
    • reflect on and define our mentoring skills through exchange with peers,
    • discuss possibilities of implementing the skills in our communities of practice.

    Though the programme did not give me any certificate of participation, it gave me a lot more by making me reflect into my own practice. I have mentored in the past and continue to do it even now. Therefore it impressed upon me that as a Mentor I am only a support / guide / listener. I must never don the roles of a saviour, parent, lawyer, banker, social worker or even employer. I can only listen and gently assist in encouraging the mentee to find solutions on his/her own. This was very insightful as in introspection I remember I have taken roles of a problem solver and an advisor while mentoring!

    This summer of 2013 saw me take up a MOOC – Massive Open Online Course. Online courses available on the world wide web are rapidly changing the face of education and learning. Many famous Universities have open up their portals for such online course which are free. Besides there are signature tracks available for those who are looking for credits for their higher studies. The MOOC that I participated in was Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence conducted by none other that Prof. Richard E Boyatzis http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Boyatzis   from the Departments of Organizational Behaviour, Psychology, and Cognitive Science and H.R. Horvitz Chair of Family Business, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA. The Coursera site on the instructor says,  “Using his Intentional Change Theory (ICT) and complexity theory, he continues to research sustained, desired change at all levels of human endeavour from individuals, teams, organizations, communities, countries and global change.” https://www.coursera.org/instructor/richardboyatzis It is also worth remembering that he is an authority on the concepts of resonance in leadership and emotional contagion. This was a challenging course and as I write this I await the last week of July for the results of my course. Right now I am doing a Course in Psychology from www.udacity.com.

    That is not all. Now I am enrolled for at least half a dozen online courses offered by Coursera and Udacity, in the course of the year. It includes two courses offered by the University of Edinburgh on Critical Thinking in Global Challenges and E-learning and Digital Cultures respectively. I have thus become an an addict. An addict for a right cause – of taking in a share of the exponentially growing knowledge that is available around me. And the best thing is I can proceed at my pace.

    Why don’t you explore MOOCs? I am sure you will also turn to be a fan of these delightful affairs.

The Sky is the Limit

Learning has undergone a sea change in the last decade or two. From the clutches of the expectedly all-knowing fountainhead of wisdom, the Teacher in the classroom, it has been liberated! Two decades ago when I needed to gather information about Hiroshima or the Sinking of the Titanic to equip myself to handle the Class XII lessons in English of the same names, I relied heavily on encyclopaedias and reference books which were aplenty in the school library. For English comprehension passages, I took refuge in magazines Down to Earth, Readers Digest, National Geographic and the ever reliable Hindu newspaper. With the advent of the information age came Google. Everything is now available at the click of a mouse. Ouch, the mouse seems antique now with touch screens and styluses available in smartphones, tablets and net books. According to Richard Alleyne, “Every day the average person produces six newspapers worth of information compared with just two and a half pages 24 years ago – nearly a 200-fold increase.”

Learning

In the current scenario the Teacher is now meant to be just a learning facilitator, a guide, a resource provider, a curriculum and instruction specialist, a mentor, and a classroom supporter as well as manager. Everything else, but the store house of knowledge. Rightfully so. Today’s students are digital natives and even have much more knowledge than the teacher in an area of his/her interest. It is best that our young students are never underestimated. Even though I have hardly taught in the digital era (I moved up to be an administrator), and taught only in traditional classrooms, I have been enriched by the perspectives offered by my young adolescent students. They have indeed enriched me with wonderful insights into the dynamics inside and outside of the classroom.  So, it goes without saying, the teacher needs to be a life long learner. Move from a digital refugee to a digital immigrant and then transit into being a digital native. It is possible with some perseverance.

So how does one be a lifelong learner?

  1. Nurture a good element of curiosity. It is this CQ – Curiosity Quotient – that enables one’s quest for continuous learning.
  2. Be passionate about teaching (read: about what you do). Well, Thomas L Freidman in his paean to globalization, The World is Flat, calls this PQ – Passion Quotient – and even argues that it is more important than IQ.
  3. Explore. The World Wide Web is full of opportunities to learn and hone our skills and practices. At the same time be perceptive about what is authentic and what is not.
  4. Enrol. Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs and enrich your awareness about anything that interests you from History of Rock music to Volcanic eruptions. Many of these courses are offered by universities like Stanford and MIT and are mostly free of cost. You can look for courses in www.coursera.org and www.udacity.com. Edmodo also features interesting courses for professional development.
  5. Find time. Time is always at a premium. You must find time for your up skilling – you owe this to yourself as a professional.
  6. Persevere. Don’t give up. It might be challenging at times. It is these challenges that make or break people.

I did some courses online. I will share my experiences of them in my next post.

Are we equipping our Students for Tomorrow’s Jobs?

The other day, I was reading a very interesting hypothesis by the celebrated columnist and author, The World is Flat fame, Thomas L Friedman. His formula for knowledge acquisition in the 21st century is CQ+PQ>IQ. i.e. Curiosity Quotient + Passion Quotient will be greater than Intelligence Quotient. Thomas Friedman states that when curiosity is paired with passion in the exploration of a subject of interest, an individual may be able to acquire an amount of knowledge comparable that of a person who is exceptionally intelligent, because of the vast amount of information resources available through the Internet. He goes on a step further and declares, “Give me the kid with a passion to learn and a curiosity to discover and I will take him or her over the less passionate kid with a huge IQ every day of the week.” IQ “still matters, but CQ and PQ … matter even more.” For an educator this is sweet music. But are we equipping our students with these smart quotients in the classrooms is a million dollar question?

Juxtaposed to this is the resignation letter of Mr Gerald Conti, Social Studies Department Leader at Westhill High School, New York. After 27 years of teaching, he felt his profession no longer exists. The policy makers, he felt, have sold out education to private industries like Pearson Education, who have gone hammer and tongs with standardized tests. (I must add here that CBSE has launched an assessment training programme. No prizes for guessing. Yes, its partner is Pearson education!)

Seth Godin in his Stop Stealing Dreams says, “as long as we embrace (or even accept) standardized testing, fear of science, little attempt at teaching leadership and most of all, the bureaucratic imperative to turn education into a factory itself, we’re in big trouble. The post-industrial revolution is here. Do you care enough to teach your kids to take advantage of it?”

“Standardized tests can’t measure initiative, creativity, imagination, conceptual thinking, curiosity, effort, irony, judgment, commitment, nuance, good will, ethical reflection, or a host of other valuable dispositions and attributes. What they can measure and count are isolated skills, specific facts and function, content knowledge, the least interesting and least significant aspects of learning.” says Bill Ayers in his book, To teach: the Journey of a Teacher, by William Ayers.

To me the crux of the matter is simple. Let us make schools places of joy and fun. Let us make our students thinkers and creators. Decades from now, they will thank us for inculcating in them these skills. Let our children not say “I hate school”, like in this cartoon.

Meanwhile, it is sad to see the ‘assembly line’ model working stronger than ever though we have moved away from the Industrial Age where conformity and standardisation were the norm. Without teaching creativity and being inspirational in the classroom how can we create in our students CQ – Curiosity Quotient and PQ – Passion Quotient? Without these it is not possible for them to take up jobs of the future!

Mr. Conti, you have hit the nail on the head. You have done your best. So may you be able to live a superannuated life free of guilt!

Resources: