Tag: Education

‘Pursuit of Happiness’ in a Classroom

Education is meaningless without happiness” – Manish Sisodia
Image Credit: Clicked by me

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony”

Mahatma Gandhi

It took one microorganism to make us aware of the fleeting nature of this life. There is a sense of realization among all of us about a lot of things. How all of us were just running a rat race to reach somewhere which we didn’t even know? We wanted to be productive 24*7 and 365 days of the year. We were collecting all material resources but we didn’t have enough time to experience the pleasure of those things. The current lock down forced us to slow down. This pandemic made us realize the value of happiness, satisfaction and living our life in the moment. This whole crisis is reminding us to be sensitive towards other human beings, nature and, especially towards our own lives.

However, a lot of us are not happy now and also we were not happy earlier. When things were so-called normal, we had other problems to talk about and now in this ‘new normal’, we are not happy because our movement is restricted, we are not able to go out and do whatever we want. As per the World Happiness Report 2020, India was ranked 144 out of 156 countries. Why do Indians not perceive themselves to be happy? What is the reason behind it? Did we ever learn about happiness in our schools or colleges? Did someone from our family ever talked about happiness or being mindful of our thoughts and emotions?

Though whenever we touched the feet of our elders, they told us to ‘be happy’, no one taught us how to be happy and what is happiness and what needs to be done to achieve happiness. We realize the value of happiness as we grow or we face some difficult phases in our life or maybe some people might be realizing the value of happiness during this lock down amid the unprecedented corona virus pandemic.

Nevertheless, the Delhi government’s experiment to start a happiness class in schools for class I to VIII has not only inspired the other Indian states but also other countries. During the recent visit by the US President, the first lady Millenia Trump visited one of the schools of Delhi government and attended the happiness class and found it “very inspiring”. This book is a story of the Delhi education model. It’s written by the education minister and the Deputy Chief Minister in the Delhi government. Written in a very simple language and a few pages, he covers all the radical reforms as well as innovative ideas taken by his team to make this idea a talking point for not only the country but also for the world.He, along with his colleagues Atishi Marlena and Shailendra Sharma took this experiment of bringing about radical reforms in the education system of the Delhi government.

These reforms are holistic as it covered almost every aspect be it infrastructure, allocation of the budget towards the education sector, empowering the principal to appoint estate managers and providing high- quality training to teachers, engaging parents through mega-PTM and School Management Committee(SMC) , and most importantly creating the education model of coexistence through happiness classes and entrepreneurship mindset curriculum.

Starting a happiness class with a happiness curriculum in a government school of India is a path-breaking step by the Delhi government towards pursuing happiness not only as a State but as a nation. Happiness curriculum is based on the “co existential thought” (Madhasth Darshan) inspired by education philosopher A Nagraj. This thought is based on understanding all aspects of life, including spiritual, intellectual behaviour, and material. The idea is to address the mental and emotional needs of the children by creating a stimulating environment through mindfulness, critical thinking, story-telling, and activity-based discussions where children reflect on their thoughts and reactions scientifically. Through these processes, the child becomes self-aware and also towards family, society, and its surroundings.

Anecdotal evidence shows that there have been noticeable changes happening among the children. Behavior of students is changing towards their teachers and parents. They are becoming inquisitive towards learning other subjects. This book mentions some interesting anecdotes from happiness class where one child started asking his mother if there is any food for her before eating dinner and one kid became aware of his father’s financial situation and stopped asking for an expensive school bag.

It is so ironic for us as a society as well as a nation that we taught our children mathematics, science, history, geography, economics, business, etc, but we never taught them how to be happy, how to be mindful of our thoughts, how to critically analyze any issue before making any judgement, how to live in harmony with nature. We learned how to make money but we didn’t know how to live our lives with satisfaction and enjoyment because it’s not about material things, a high paying job or, a big house we have but its about how do we feel inside? Are we able to understand our emotions? Why are we feeling what we are feeling?

Amid this pandemic leading to this moment of reflection, we as a family, as a society and as a nation need to realize the value of inculcating happiness, self-awareness, satisfaction, and how to live in harmony with nature. So, this is the moment we should start pursuing the feeling of happiness forever as an individual, as a family, as a society, and as a nation.

This blog has been republished by The Arm Chair Journal. Please find the link here.

Ten years of RTE Act 2009

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. – Nelson Mandela
Source of Pic: i pleaders blog

Providing free and compulsory education to children has been one of the important responsibilities of the Indian governments since independence. To fulfill the responsibility of providing universal education, the government of India had taken various policy actions. Right to education became a fundamental right under Article 21A in 2002 when the Constitution was amended through the 86th Amendment Act . Consequent to this amendment, Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education 2009 was enacted which came into force on April 1st, 2010. This Act has set an obligation on the State to provide free and compulsory education to children under the age-group of 6-14 in a neighborhood school. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is the flagship program to achieve the goal of universal education. SSA is the scheme through which the RTE Act 2009 is implemented.


IMPORTANT FEATURES OF THE ACT
• Section 12(1)(c) of the RTE Act mandates unaided and non-minority schools to reserve 25% seats for underprivileged children of society through a random selection process. The fees of these students would be reimbursed by the Government.
• Section 16 of the RTE Act mandates, “No child can be held back, expelled and required to pass the board examination till the completion of elementary education”. This ‘no-detention policy’ was implemented to retain the children in the schools. However, this policy was recently abolished after the enactment of Right to Free and Compulsory Education Amendment Act 2019.
• The Sections 19 of the RTE Act lays down the norms and standards of Pupil Teacher Ratios (PTRs) of 1:30, buildings and infrastructure, school working days, teacher working hours, ramps for students with disabilities, provision of drinking water and availability of playground, etc. The Act also provides the appointment of appropriately trained teachers. Norms and standards of teacher qualification and training are clearly laid down in the Act.
• The Act prohibits deployment of teachers for non-educational work, other than decennial census, elections to the local authority, state legislatures and parliament, and disaster relief.
• There is provision for the establishment of commissions to supervise the implementation of the act. All schools except private unaided schools are to be managed by School Management Committees with 75% of parents and guardians as members.
• The Act specifies the duties and responsibilities of appropriate Governments, local authority in providing free and compulsory education, and sharing of financial and other responsibilities between the Central and State Governments.

CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF THE ACT:

The RTE Act has been able to bring improvement in the enrollment rate for the students in primary and upper primary schools. As per the ASER report 2016, it has reached 96%. Enrollment for the age-group 15-16 for both boys and girls has reached to 84.7% in 2016. Enrollment trends also suggest that the gap in enrollment rate between boys and girls are consistently reducing. However, the actual data showcases the discrepancies among the states. For instance- the states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan have seen an increase in the enrolment rate for upper primary section, but Madhya Pradesh, Assam, and West Bengal saw a significant decrease in the same time period.

Despite improvements in enrolment rates, the quality of education is dismal. As per the ASER reports released every year by Pratham, it was found that the learning outcomes of the students are very poor. The quality of education is a cause of concern. For example-More than 50 % of Std V students can’t read Std II textbook or solve a basic mathematical problem. The real cause of concern is that learning deficits seen in elementary school in previous years seem to carry forward as young people go from being adolescents to young adults. This finding was reflected in the ASER 2018 report as in this study it surveyed students in the age-group of 14-18 years, unlike the last 12 years when it focused on students in elementary schools.

Not only this, drop-out rates are still very high. Almost one million children in the age group of 6-14 drop out every year. 75 % of them are from SC, ST and Muslim communities. As per the Brookings Institute Report on primary education in India, 29 percent of children drop out before completing five years of primary school and 43% before finishing upper primary school. As indicated by the report, there is also a huge difference between urban and rural education.

There has been a consistent improvement in the basic infrastructure facilities in schools. As per the report, 98% of the habitations have a primary school within one km and 92% have an upper primary school. The facilities of basic sanitation, drinking water, separate toilets for boys and girls have improved since the enactment of the Act. However, as per the District Information System of Education , only 13 percent of all schools in India have achieved full compliance with these RTE norms.

School Management Committees (SMC) are set up only on paper in various schools of the country. However, the quality of their engagement with schools is minimal, the amount of funding they receive is not enough and they are not empowered enough to exercise their duties and responsibilities.

As per the Economic Survey 2017-18, only 79% of teachers are professionally qualified to teach in schools. There is a huge dearth of trained teachers in the country. There are various issues related to teachers in schools like low accountability, poor quality of the teacher education manual, deployment of teachers for non-educational purposes and large vacancies. As per the data provided by District Information System, around 5.68 lakh positions are vacant. There has also been a major issue of teacher absenteeism. As per the World Bank Study 2010, a teacher in Indian schools is absent every four days.

The seats for disadvantaged students reserved in schools also are not filled completely. There is a huge gap among states in filling the seats for disadvantaged students. For instance- Where the State of Delhi was able to fill 92% of the seats allocated, Andhra Pradesh was able to fill only 0.2% and UP filled only 3 % seats.

The Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) is used for the evaluation of students under the RTE Act. However, it was found that it has not been implemented properly. Only 58.46% of the schools of the country have implemented this provision. However, the no-detention policy was removed in January 2019 after the RTE (Second Amendment) Act 2019. In fact, CCE is a pedagogical tool which does not mean the absence of evaluation but a process of continuous evaluation different from the traditional examination system.

There is a need to have systemic and structural reforms to revamp the education system in the country. The Committee on Draft National Education Policy chaired by K. Kasturirangan has provided reforms proposals for RTE Act 2009 to make it more effective. India still spends less than 3 % of its GDP on education which is very low as compared to other nations. Though the goal of universal enrolment seems achievable now, there is need to focus on quality of education in the schools at primary and upper primary level. As these children are going to join the workforce and become part of demographic dividend in the near future, there is need to focus on early childhood care and education (ECCE) within the ambit of RTE Act 2009 as proposed under the Draft National Education Policy.

Be fluid and follow your passion

Pic Credit:
http://www.ashishjaiswal.com/

Be formless, shapeless like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now the water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend-

BRUCE LEE, The Lost Interview, 1971

This is the season of results. I am not talking about election results but the results of high school and intermediate students in the country. On one side marks of the students are skyrocketing touching 90 to 99 percent and on the other side, around 22 students of Telangana Board of Intermediate Education (TBIE) has committed suicide because they were failed or did not get expected marks due to some goof-ups in giving marks by the board. Recently, one Delhi woman’s Facebook post became viral as she was feeling proud when her son scored 60% marks in high school examination of CBSE board. Not only this, as per the recent ASER report 2018, 75% of the Std III students of the government schools across the country can not read and perform basic calculations. It shows the grim picture of the Indian education system. In fact, this is the key idea of this book written by Ashish Jaiswal, a scholar from the University of Oxford and a humble and down to earth human being.

The title of the book is so intriguing that I had not thought in my wildest dream that the author is going to be discussing the education system of India. How the Indian education system is creating rote learners, unemployable and unskilled graduates? There is one more peculiarity how the so-called best education system provided by IIT-IIM and foreign degrees creating money minting machines who have no concern and responsibility for the “Lok Kalyan” means public welfare the term used by the author in the book to answer the question- ‘what should be the ultimate purpose of our life’? The sad example of this rat race also mentioned by the author in the book is the suicide of Sarveshresthra Gupta who committed suicide because of the stress and work pressure despite graduating from Ivy League colleges.

Why India despite being the oldest civilization in the world is still behind its counterparts at various fronts? Why no Indian university has achieved the feat of the best rankings in the world ? Why there is a massive “brain drain” from India to western countries? Why we are still talking about poverty elimination in our country even after seven decades of Independence? Why our education system are not able to produce more number of people like E. Sreedharan(Metro Man), Amartya Sen and Rabindranath Tagore and producing mediocre engineers, doctors and social scientists. Why do we Indians still feel inferior to western people in culture, language and heritage of our country?  There might be a number of reasons for these questions. But I am confident of one reason that the way Indian education system evolved over the years is one of the most important reasons which drags India behind. Why this is so?

The book ‘fluid’ answers the question. Being fluid means be more than what you are taught to be. As per the author, you become fluid specialist when you explore the universe in integrative form, learn from your surroundings and take the inter-disciplinary approach to create knowledge and wisdom. How anti-fluidity in terms of compartmentalization of the streams of the subjects taught in the school has made us unimaginative? We are told to choose our specialization after 10th when we are hardly aware of the world around us. Choose science and mathematics and your life will be set. Go for engineering or medical or commerce, you can earn good money. Go abroad and earn in US dollars.  Nobody tells us, “follow your passion and do something for the greater good”. Not only this, when you want to explore the world or you want to take a gap in your studies, this decision is looked down upon by the society in general and family in particular. The author has mentioned about Rene Descartes, father of modern Western philosophy who once left his education for the sake of travel. He is the one who wrote- ‘I think, therefore I am’.

In fact, the author has showed how the whole theory of right-brain and left-brain is complete non-sense. The author has quoted Neil deGrasse Tyson, american astrophysicist who completely rejected this theory saying that these fake divisions between science and art is taking our civilization away from true learning. Charles Percy Snow, British scientist and novelist in his book, ” The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution” highlighted the huge gap between those studying sciences and arts and concluded that lack of exposure to other academic circles led to hostile and having a distorted image of each other. The sheer categorization of subjects into STEM and non-STEM shows the stereotype mindset towards social sciences subjects.

This book tells us to be fluid in our approach to learning. Unforced learning is the most beautiful thing. It not only makes you a better person but also gives you various perspectives to understand the world. The author of the book has mentioned many learned and famous people like Charles Darwin, Aristotle, Leonardo Da Vinci, Goethe, Amartya Sen, C V Raman, Peter Geddes, Frank Lloyd Wright, Edwin Land, Steve Jobs, etc who did not follow a set path and explored the universe and exposed themselves to diverse fields of education. The fluid approach which was depicted in the form of charkha(wheel) by the author appreciates the ‘integrative nature of the universe’. In the era of digital technology and artificial intelligence, when there will be more monotony and job losses, as per the author, the people who are fluid in their approach will have more chances to survive because of their exploratory nature and never-ending desire to challenge the defined boundaries.

One of the most important findings of the author is that India should get credit for Da Vinci’s Vitruvian man. The undiscovered Hans Purush from Vishnudharmottaram Puranam mentioned by Rishi Markendeya was one of the perfect men discussed in the Purana. In fact, the author wants to stress the point that human knowledge is circulatory. The world has been benefited not by one single country or race but by the combined intelligence of all spread over the thousands of years. For instance- architectures around the world are the best example of combined intelligence and cultures of humanity. The best example mentioned by the author is our India Gate which not only incorporated western architectural influences but also the elements of Indian architecture in terms of the dome on the top and canopy structure in front. That is why Indians should not feel inferior of their history, culture, language, etc because we have a lot more to offer the world not only with respect to new knowledge but also we are the one who gave the world the idea of spiritualism and simplicity.

In fact, this book is a culmination of out-of-the-box thinking. The author has tried to challenge the stereotypes and challenges us to confront the boundaries built by society. He wants us to be a learner who explores the universe, get inspired by the surroundings and create a melting pot of intelligence to work for the betterment of the society. However, I also think that in just 210 pages, the author has said too many things which the reader might not be able to digest. Most importantly, as a public policy student, I always look for solutions. I agree with the author that there are so many issues in approach towards education but what are the solutions. How can we inspire everyone to be fluid in their approach?

Please find the author, Ashish Jaiswal’s Comment on the review of the book:

Dear Ritambhara, The review reads absolutely fantastic. It does summarises ‘fluid’ brilliantly. I also do understand the importance of your last line – the question. Our mind is an amazing construct. My learning journey has taught me that every dimension of knowledge for mind is locked inside a web just held together by a loose knot. A idea/thought/reflection/event/experience , if powerful enough, causes that knot to open. This is the beginning but most crucial step in acquiring any wisdom. Fluid is that first step in acquiring wisdom over multi-dimensionality. Once, you realise there is something like fluidity in specialisation , you will never go back to walking on a uni-dimensional path 🙂

The tweet about this review is here:

Why Indian education system is not able to produce the people like Gandhi, Tagore, Amartya Sen and E Sreedharan but producing mediocre engineers, doctors and social scientist? Do read this review to find out. https://t.co/736f2tmGGv— ritambhara (@ritambhara4) May 12, 2019