March 2013 – A Practical option

“You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.” Brigham Young

It is a known fact that women dominate the private primary and secondary education space in India.  For various reasons social and cultural reasons they have always found teaching to be a very practical career option. I personally think that having women in schools brings with it a certain feminine energy which is so essential for children to become well-rounded in their formative years.

Over the past decade managing schools has evolved from being largely an academic challenge to becoming a business challenge. This is where I have noticed that women tend to take a back seat. I can enlist innumerable schools where the women are the academic heads but the business of education is largely handled by their male counterparts. I have always wondered why most women shy away from the business aspect of education.

I grew up in a home dominated by women and even my organisation EduMedia has a majority of women in its workforce and its board of Directors. My experience of having worked with women for a large part of my life has been that they are more understanding and sensitive at the work space. More importantly they are fair and by and large not as corrupt as men are.

The irony is that even tough women dominate the school education space in India, most people who deal with schools are unanimous in their opinion that schools are amongst the most corrupt organisations in this country. There are too many grey areas in their systems and processes. Schools at times come across as being insensitive to the needs of children and the aspirations of parents. I suspect a reason for this could be the fact that most women educators are happy being academicians and are not too tuned in to the business of education.

I have no doubt in my mind that we need to bring in a lot more transparency in the way we run schools. If we have to achieve this more women will have to step up to the challenge and actively participate in the business of Education.

March 8 is celebrated across the world as Women’s Day. In an industry dominated by women this day should mean a celebration of leadership. India needs more women leaders and business women, not just women academicians!

Feb 2013 – Educated but unemployable attitude!

A real challenge that educators face today is recruiting and retaining quality manpower, especially teachers. If you look closely almost every sector in India has a shortage of quality manpower, everyone is ‘looking out for good people’. A recent OECD study has shown that India ranks very high in the list of countries that have a huge gap between Industry requirement and available manpower resources.

This begs me to ask a question – What is happening to the millions of graduates coming out of our universities? The most common explanation attributed to this is the fact that most of them are not employable. It is strange that after almost 16 years of education we term them ‘unemployable’. The situation becomes even more acute when we look closely at the way most schools function these days, most of them are designed to deliver academic grades. The reason why so much importance is given to academic grades is that there is a hope that someday the students will get an employment based on their academic qualification. If at the end of it all our students are not employable we have got the plot completely wrong.

From my personal experience of having recruited many young people into EduMedia over the past decade I have noticed a very interesting trend. When young graduates join our organization they are very happy, it is only after a month or so that it dawns upon them that they have to ‘work’. When they realize that there are no short cuts at work, they are responsible for everything they do, their parents cannot complete their assignments for them or they cannot fool around with their superiors like they did with their teachers they get very disillusioned. They join organisations believing that it is an extension of college and expect people to understand their callousness. I have a hunch as to why most of them behave this way – right through school and college they have been told that ‘Life is settled after education’. No one told them that life begins after education and they have to work hard and sharp for a larger part of their lives after that.

The National Curriculum Framework 2005 has very clearly outlined that all educational institutions should work on the ‘Attitudes’ of children. We have often heard the saying – It’s the attitude that determines the attitude of individuals. It’s time for us to work on the attitudes of our children. We have a lot of work to do to nurture the right attitudes of children towards career, nation, women, corruption, environment, citizenship and the list goes on.

This is the time of the year that academician’s across India make plans for the next academic year. This year I suggest you look closely at the repercussions your plans will have on the attitudes of your children in their lives ahead.

Jan 2013 – Will schools be extinct?

One of the biggest changes that has taken place in the past decade is the value of information in our society. We live in an information era and information is available to everyone almost freely irrespective of their educational qualification. What one needs to know is how to access and process that information. Our educational system relies on testing children on the quantum of information they possess. Ironically the world around them does not value them for how much information they have, what they can do with the abundant information is what is going to determine their success in future. This change has led to a huge confusion in the minds of everyone and what we are going through is a transition phase.

Everyone today has an opinion on how schools need to be run and how children need to be brought up. On one hand you have the average parents who believe they know what is good for the child and will go out of their way to intrude the process of schooling and force their opinions on the way schools are being run. This fact is highlighted by the change in philosophy with which schools are run these days, parents are customers and schools need to provide ‘Customer Satisfaction’.

The government on the other hand has in the recent past has gone over board with its innumerable recommendations and laws on education. Some of them seem very shallow and very little thought has gone into making of these laws. But the larger point is that the policy makers have education high up on their agenda and their interference will only grow in the days to come.

In addition the industry at large has taken cognizance of the failure of our educational system to provide the relevant workforce, their lobbying and pressure is one of the biggest reasons why the government is taking keen interest in education. Entrepreneurs or as we now call them ‘Edupreneurs’ is a buzz word in India and everyone is fuelled with an intent to change the educational system. The technology and IT revolution has given birth to several new models of disseminating formal education. Home schooling is being talked about quite frequently these days and with technology allowing

In a world of uncertainty I am certain about one thing and that is ‘Change’. Education will change in the coming decade much more than it has in the past two centuries. For most educators tough change means looking at improving our existing model of education, they are happy making modular improvements in the manner they run schools. I believe that adding infrastructure and training teachers is a very short-term solution, in the long term we must question the relevance of schooling itself. With the way things are changing around us I am not sure if the existing model of education will exist a few decades down the line.

Does this mean the extinction of schools as we know them today? When I look at the kind of people running schools, the quality of teachers and the quality of children coming out of our schools I am confident that schools are well on their way to self-destruction. My hope tough is that a new order will emerge which hopefully satisfies the educational needs of our future world till then we will have to live with a ‘Confused Educational System’.

I wish you a very Happy New Year 2013, I hope the coming year will bring ideas and innovations that will make schooling relevant in the years to come.

Dec 2012 – Too much confidence without depth!

I was recently hosting the Horlicks Wizkids event in Jaipur, during the finals of the personality contest a participant chose to perform a dance as part of his talent round. Having seen children dance for over a decade I have a fair idea of what dancing talent is and this boy’s dance was below average to be kind to his performance. During the question round I asked him a question – Were you happy with your dance performance? To my surprise he said he was very happy. I followed it up with another question – How much would you rate yourself on a scale of 10? To which he replied almost instantaneously “9 on 10”. I was taken aback by this answer not because of the confidence of the boy but because of the lack of self-awareness of the boy.

This incident typifies a symptom that I often seen in children these days, they have no idea about ‘self-evaluation’. Sadly it is not their fault at all, throughout their education they have been taught one thing very vehemently that evaluation has to be done by a teacher and the concept of self evaluation has never touched them. It is strange that on one hand we consciously boost their confidence levels but if that is not balanced by self-evaluation it could lead to some very interesting complications in future. Possibly the biggest asset that schools can equip children with is the skill of self evaluation.

The Mentor Conclave held recently in Bangalore had some amazing sessions with some outstanding speakers, I am outlining a few that left a strong impression on me.

Vasundhra Das the very successful singer and actor while speaking in a session titled “Creating Creative Minds” spoke at length about “Dreaming”. She highlighted how it was termed not good to do while she was growing up according to her parents and teachers and how she continued to dream inspite it all. She felt that the purpose of education should be to encourage children to dream.

Jinan a creative soul who has spent a large part of his life studying the cognitive damage that the present educational system does on children talked about how learning is a biological process, one has control over how much information they are exposed to but how much of learning happens no one has control over. Creating the right atmosphere should be the goal and learning will happen in the right setting.

Shallow Learning is what children these days delve into and they lack depth, a point that was highlighted by media personality Roshan Abbas. He insisted that if schools included theatre and art activities extensively they enable children to go deeper this is very important as the world in future will value people who can delve deeper to be innovative and creative.

The founder of Janaagraha Ramesh Ramanathan’s passionate plenary focussed on the lack civic engagement in our society and why it is imperative for schools to create engaged citizens. He elicited the success of the Bala Janaagraha program that teaches civic awareness to children of class 8 across schools in India.

Overall the Mentor Conclave was a very fruitful experience and we at Mentor Magazine would like to thank all the delegates and speakers who made it possible.