Summer Internship

Summers are here again and it is very common to see parents scrambling to figure out options to keep their children engaged. There is a humungous pressure on parents these days to keep their children engaged in their holidays. A holiday outside their city can only fill up a small part of their vacation calendar. This attitude has given birth to a huge industry these days of summer camps and classes. When you have a close look at the agenda and faculty you realize that very few organizers of camps have any idea what they are doing. Summer camps are also good business for many schools, Infact a lot of them have realized that there is an opportunity to generate revenues during this lean period.

One option that is rarely considered by students and parents these days is Summer Internships.

I remember as a high school student I spent a lot of time during my holidays working at my uncles automobile store. During most of my engineering days I did a lot of part time jobs selling copier paper, computer consumables, audio-visual equipment, LCD projects. I have to admit that the learning’s that I got from these experiences at a very young age was tremendous. I learnt the value of money and people which I think has been one of my biggest lessons to date. When I look back I am not sure how I managed to juggle an engineering course and part time job, but what I remember is that I enjoyed doing both and it just did not seem difficult.

At EduMedia for over a decade now we have always had students interning with us and contributing immensely to some key projects. We have had interns from different parts of the world interning with us. Our interns at times have been students as young as class 9 and they get to work on some phenomenal projects. Infact this year every departmental at EduMedia has a mandate to have interns working on live projects. Having these interns in our office is a great learning experience for my team as well.

I really pity the kids these days – on one hand everyone around me seems to tell me that this generation is smarter on the other hand we treat the same children like idiots and send them to coaching classes, tutorials, online tutoring and loads. The unnecessary pressure of doing well in exams means that most schools land up giving so much holiday homework that kids have very little time to do anything else or their parents send them to special classes even during their holidays.

Student internships need not be focused or specific to what the children want to do in future. Any job in any form in any organisation will teach them lessons for life. We as adults need to have the conviction to allow children to experience lessons rather than buy them books to read from. Encourage your students and parents look beyond summer camps and summer classes this year, internships are a great option as it teaches children invaluable life lessons which no camp or book can teach.

 

Living or Livelihood?

A colleague of mine recently narrated a very interesting experience he encountered. As part of our School Cinema team he and his tribe go to various schools and evangelize the concept of using Cinema to teach Life Skills. He was trying to get in touch with a techno group school that focuses or rather fiercely focuses on academics and entrance exams as their core objective.

Having heard several stories of the way they run their schools he took it upon himself personally to ensure that he brings about a change. After persisting for over a year he finally got a meeting with a senior functionary of the group. The outcome of the meeting was simple, the academic head was very clear that the children’s attention will waver if they start focusing on anything apart from studies and my colleague was politely asked to leave.

Over the years I have observed this trend of starting schools that focus on academics and academics alone. Children spend 12-15 hours every day in these schools, only studying and with no extracurricular activities, no sports, no life skills, only academics. It almost resembles a concentration camp, most kids hate their school, yet their parents love them. The ground reality shows that they are doing very well, their demand is increasing by the day and parents are thronging to enroll their children in these schools.

As a researcher and a keen student of a child’s behaviour, I am very worried of the impact these schools will have on our children and society at large. Enough and more research has shown that the more the children are exposed to activities, experiences, sports, competitions, excursions during their school days the more they grow to be contributing members of society. The lesser exposure they get while growing up; the more they find it difficult to contribute to society or to elevate their standards of life.

According to me there are two distinct aspects of schooling – one that teaches us ‘Living’ and the other that teaches us ‘Livelihood’. Schools today are clearly gearing up our children to get a livelihood for themselves. Schools exist today because of a belief that what they teach can get a livelihood in future. Most of the innovation in education in the past few decades has happened in the area of livelihood. Almost every other product or service these days seems to focus on how we could make our children get more marks and hopefully someday a good job.

We are clearly not teaching our children ‘how to live’. I think it is time for us to hold back our horses of achievements and ask ourselves this question – “What are we doing in our schools to teach our children to Live?” Answers to this question will take us in a journey that will make our schools more meaningful and effective. Let us focus on living and livelihood will take care of itself.

 

 

 

I, We & You

It is strange how life teaches us as years pass by. While I was growing up and as a student the biggest objective in life was to become independent. Everyone around me seemed to propel me in the direction of independence. Life was all about personal achievement, the more I achieved for myself the more I felt accomplished. What started of as my studies, my assignments, my exams, my grades led to my profession, my income, my possessions. When the ‘I’ was satisfied I guess I realized that I was kind of incomplete. Thankfully I achieved success financially and socially pretty early in life. It was around this time that I realized that in my effort to satisfy the ‘I’ what I had left behind were my family and friends.

Being an entrepreneur organizational success mattered a lot more than personal achievements, it was during this journey that I learned at work that ‘I’ takes you only a certain distance; ‘We’ goes a long way ahead. The more I left behind the ‘I’ and embraced the ‘We’ the more I seemed to propel ahead in life. From then on life was all about ‘We’.

I have spent the last decade trying to focus on the ‘We’ but funnily enough the biggest challenge to being ‘We’ comes from the ‘I’. I get into a lot of issues whenever the ‘I’ crops up and tries to supersede the ‘We’. Its hard work, guess from childhood I was taught to give a lot more importance to the ‘I’ and it kind of comes naturally. It is very difficult to unlearn what I had learnt in school and college and home, somehow when I look back everyone around me taught me to become selfish and I have lived up to their expectations I guess.

We is about you and me, what it actually means is that even in the ‘We’ there is 50% ‘I’. So strictly speaking the ‘We’ keeps the ‘I’ alive, complicating matters in various funny ways.

It is very recently that I realized that life gets a completely different meaning when the ‘I’ and the ‘We’ is replaced by ‘You’. The moment we put the other person in focus, ahead of us everything changes. We become more empathetic, more aware, more sensitive and I guess a lot more human.

Education is all about being a better human and a better citizen. There is no simpler way to teach children to be better humans – all we need to do is to teach them to be mindful and focus on the ‘You’ in their lives. The ‘You’ can be humans or the animals or the environment or the nation. Focusing on ‘You’ can certainly make this world a better place.

Teacher, Discipline and Value

I am dead sure that this is going to be one of the best years ever for all of us. I see a lot of signs around that suggest that our country is in for some good times economically and socially. School education in particular will see a consolidation in the coming year. I am glad educators have come to realize that there is no short cut creating an institution of high standards. Infrastructure and technology are basics that schools need. It is high time schools stopped boasting of these basics and focused on the real issues they have on hand – school systems and processes, teacher empowerment and school environment.

Mentor Conclave 2014 that was held in 5 cities in the month of December was a resounding success. We tried a new format this year and travelled to different locations for a one-day event instead of a 3-day mega event in Bengaluru. The response from the educators was phenomenal.

The highlight of the conclave according to me was the presentation that Dr. Vidya Shetty made on School Improvement. She has put together years of her experiences of starting and running several odd schools into an amazing system that helps in understanding, documenting and improving Performance Standards in schools. It was very heartening to note that several schools have already started implementing her recommendations and I am very excited to see the outcomes in the coming years.

I made an interesting research based presentation put together by my team at EduMedia Research titled – What is working in Indian Schools? In an era where everyone seems to be talking about ‘Change’ in the context of education we at EduMedia felt that it is imperative to hold back and see if there is anything good happening in Indian Schools? The objective of this survey was to highlight the good that already exists, so that schools can be mindful of it before they change.

The top 3 reasons that make Indian Schools successful are – Teachers, Discipline and Value based learning.

Teachers: what we gathered from the research was that you can never have all good teachers, what is important is that every child should get an exposure to at least one good teacher. This one teacher impact can make a huge difference to the way the life of a child shapes up. Discipline: we are talking about good old discipline that is reflected in punctuality, attention to detail, planning etc.

My inference from this research was simple yet very important – what makes our students successful in future is not the grades they get in school, it is the experiences they go through while in school. So the message that stands out loud and clear is that your role as an educator is to create experiences for children, stop worrying about their grades. It is these experiences that give them the necessary lessons for life.

Here’s wishing you an experiential year 2015. I hope and pray that you create the best experiences for your children to learn and grow.

Lost Values

Every year from 1997, I have been travelling across the Indian Subcontinent organizing Horlicks Wizkids. The event draws unparalleled talent and enthusiasm across five countries and over the years I have seen the levels of talent and competition grow immensely. It is heartening to note how very young boys find it very cool to participate in cooking, hair styling and mehendi design competitions. As part of the event we had introduced some very interesting team competitions like Best Dressed and Best Disciplined School. These were awards that I remember schools took pride in winning; students and teachers alike would go out of their way to compete for these awards.

I can distinctly recollect an incident from a prominent city up north about eight years ago. During the Horlicks Wizkids event I got a frantic call from a colleague who was handling the reception. I reached her within no time just to see that she had held back a high school boy for having ‘gutka’ in his mouth. For her this was unacceptable, how could a school student in uniform representing his school do something like that? My thought process was that it is wise to leave that matter to the school so I asked the boy to fetch his teacher coordinator. In a few minutes the boy promptly brought a ‘gentleman’ who was supposedly the school coordinator. He came up to me and asked me ‘Ka hua Sir’, his mouth was reeking of ‘gutka’ and I was at the receiving end of a ‘red fountain’. I could only smile at him and said nothing and asked them to move on. How could I expect the boy to be any better than the teacher? This incident is a favourite of mine and I have narrated this on many an occasion over the years. But sadly with every passing year I realize I see more ‘gentlemen and lady’ teachers in schools who have no idea of how to carry themselves.

Another aspect that needs focus and attention is the manner in which parents behave and carry themselves. In an era of brands and social media pressure, parents go out of their way to provide the best to their children. Discipline and manners seem very low on their priority these days. Like everything around us things are changing dramatically over the years. The enthusiasm levels and the desire to win at any cost has gone up multifold; but sadly what has come down is the discipline and grooming of students. It is appalling to see the manner in which students carry themselves and their uniforms. It seems like most schools do not even remotely consider grooming and etiquette as part of their curriculum. The way students from so-called reputed schools walk and talk is deplorable.

Education is futile if children do not learn etiquette, manners and grooming. You do not teach this in high school, it is not a subject, it has to be part of a system and we teach these by setting an example at home and in school from a very young age. It is not about ‘Finishing School’; it is a process that runs right through school.