Saturday, December 29, 2007

State of education in India - Part 1

The focus in this part is on actually children attending primary school.
Today, one of my friends suggested creating a forum, where we spend some money every month to help in educating some needy children. He was ready to take responsibility of finding needy children and ensuring that money is spent on education only. Of course, I agreed its a good idea and we can pursue it. It will take sometime before we actually will be able to start it. On another note, with the disease I have that of thinking too much my mind went off in direction of is this the right problem we are solving? Is the biggest problem we have for education in India is that of inability to pay for education? And sadly the answer was an emphatic "No". We need to get bottom of this as primary education for all is one of the most influencing factors for development and betterment of any country. (Sorry being lazy and not having access to all my books currently, I am not giving any references here, But I am sure there is strong argument on this in the book "The Great Indian Middleclass" by Pavan Varma)
We have enormous education infrastructure (I agrees it is still inadequate and significant percentage of villages in India are still without any schools, but again I am not sure my friends will be going to such remote villages to help children), we have government funded schools, we have schools by municipalities in every city, we have schools by zilla parishad in districts. All these schools have very nominal fees (in many cases even below poverty line people also can afford it), education for girls is free in these schools; then surely tuition fees are not the problem. Also the problem of primary education has two dimensions, one is that of enrolling itself and the other is that of not completing it. The statistics show that percentage children especially in rural areas enrolling but not completing their primary education is staggering (Once again pardon me for researching actual numbers and including them here). There are many reasons, lets try to see them one by one,
1. Poverty: Don't blame me for making stupid arguments, I know making statement that paying tuition fees is not the problem but poverty is the problem sounds stupid, but that's the fact. The fact that many families in villages and very poor families in cities and towns look at the children as much needed helping hand for bread earning prevents then from sending their children to school. Though this situation of is changing rapidly with poor parents understanding importance of education, it is still not enough and in some cases poverty really do make then helpless.
2. Fictitious non-existent schools: This is especially the problem in rural areas. With highly corrupt government system, there are many schools only on the paper. According to government records many areas have schools and students studying in them, but in reality both the schools and students are non-existent.
3. Corruption: Corruption is highly rampant most of the education institutes in India. It starts from taking donations for admissions (some companies in Mumbai, offer special loans or allowances to their employees for paying these donations), to forcing children to buy books, uniforms, from the school itself, exorbitant travel expenses. What right does a school have to force children to buy books and uniforms from school itself? Its outright illegal. But, parents can't do anything after all future of their children is in hands of teachers of very same school. Unless every parent revolts against it, their children are going to get targeted and typically rich parents consider it waste of time to get into these issues. Sorry, I am going away from the problem in focus. But, corruption also exists in different forms even in the funded Government, Municipality, and ZP schools. The schools keep finding some or the other way of taking money. I wouldn't be surprised if it is one of the major reasons for poor children dropping out of schools in urban areas.
3. Lack of teachers: yes, it is hard to believe it that in a country like India which has millions of graduates passing every year and high rate of unemployment, there are not enough teachers for primary education. The roots here are more due to social perception in India. In today's India, teacher is one who hasn't got any other job. It is considered as last option by most of the young generation. Coupled with the fact that hardly anyone from urban areas wants to got rural areas the situation becomes disastrous for rural areas, especially the remote villages. Lack of teachers leads to lack of any motivation and environment for children as well as feasibility of having schools.
4. Lack of motivation and environment for education: Due to bad quality of schools, teachers absence, demand of money and sadly many times total neglect by teachers towards their students leads to many children not wanting to continue their education or their minds getting diverted to everything else but education. Neglect from school and teacher's side can be horrible. I remember, once on request of one house helper my mother started teaching a poor boy and to her horror she found that this boy who is supposed to have passed 8th standard from a Municipality school, could not do even simple addition and subtraction and could hardly spell his name. Also if parents are not enthusiastic about their child's education and/or they illiterate, that also sometime becomes barrier for children's primary education. This robs them of proper environment to appreciate their efforts and guidance if school is not providing it. Of course, there are plenty of examples of children to very poor and illiterate parents doing wonderful in studies and go on to become successful in life. But, these are exceptions, average children cannot overcome circumstances to that extent.

I am sure there is more to this problem than I have been able to put so far. We need to present poor children India with opportunity to have at least proper primary education (Yes, Proper is very important word here, there is no use having children passed 4th standard on paper, but can't even write their name). Some of us need to go into areas where such needy children are there and teach them informally for free. If schools are not doing it and politicians are more interested in feeling their pockets, we so called sophisticated nice people must do it. Is any one within us ready? Sadly, we all have money to spare, time to blog (like I am doing), we have time to go movies, pubs, etc. but we don't have time and patience to teach these children. Well, leave about teaching ourselves, it is really time consuming, can we at least find some honest and sincere people who are willing to do it, can we support these people? We need to do something and do it fast. Can we all sensible :) people come together and build a corruption free system independent of Government to make opportunity of primary education available to millions of poor children across India? Can we come together and at least change the perception about being a teacher so that future generation won't consider becoming a teacher as last option?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Something I must remember all the time

When faced with uncertainty, cost of not taking action outweighs cost of taking action

Friday, December 21, 2007

I am irritated

Well, I am irritated too many times, but today is something special.

I don’t want to be an academic researcher, that’s for sure. I don’t want to spend my life working on minuscule problems, writing papers on those problems which nobody bothers to read with some obscure mathematics, which nobody understands or at least the people who are supposed to use my ideas don’t understand. I don’t care if my ideas can not be expressed with some formal notations, hell with the notations if they are inadequate to express my ideas. What is more important is that the idea makes sense to the people in Industries or society (whoever are intended users of ideas), then it will get used. I want my ideas to be used, I don’t care of some stupid academic community. I don’t want to write papers with flowery language, politically correct statements, obscure mathematics and spend years on gathering data on pointless detailed experiments to prove myself to the academic community. I don’t want to make any contribution to these buggers, who stay away from actual work, except from doing some experiments in between to prove their work; I want to make contribution to people actually work. Fog god’s sake, I am doing research on business and management area, not fundamental science. My research is directly supposed to make difference, either minor or profound way, not like fundamental science where effect is more often indirect.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Someday I wish to...

  • Talk without any inhibitions (without caring about what somebody will think or say or get hurt) and without getting twisted from anyone including my boss.
  • Say "I Love You" to a girl and hear "I love you, too" in return.
  • Sing in a huge audience (though after two minutes there might not be any audience left)
  • Own a library of my own with all my favorite books arranged in an order
  • Make a flamboyant speech in front  of a big crowd and get appreciated
  • Play tabla  with a  mastero
I am sure there are more, but that's what I can think of for now...

Sunday, August 05, 2007

What do I like about my job?

  • Research – Challenging work, feels like I am actually trying to do something not just some manipulation with current ideas
  • Very good guides for the work, the kind of people I love to work with.
  • Freedom on the content of work
  • My seniors don’t have stupid conceptions like only if I am working late in the office, or coming to office on Saturday or Sunday then only I am working.
  • My seniors do understand that there is something called personal life beyond the routine job life.

What do I hate about my job?

  • Very Low salary, internally as well as compared to other companies
  • Responsibility without authority. Only thing I have some control on is content of my research work that too because I am stubborn and arrogant, well! My bosses do understand that I need some freedom to do research.
  • My position is one of the biggest hurdles for me to do my work effectively. No one listens to me. Or of they are listening, they stop moment they know, I am just an ASE.
  • Lack of understanding and support from seniors for difficulties other than work in the job
  • Total darkness about how I am going to take forward what I am doing and my career
    • Feeling of stranded in the middle of the ocean on support of a single wooden log and absolutely no idea of which way to go.
    • There are no roads to travel; I have to build my own roads while traveling towards destination.
  • Amazing amount of hypocrisy; lack of ethics, morals, and professionalism in the company and the industry in which I work.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Hmm.... such a long time, not that I have anything to write even today. I am mentally just drained to think of something nice to write down. All the things in my mind are just too damn negative to write down here. Struggling with myself. In a situation where I must make some tough decisions about my professional life and whatever decision I take I am going to be the loser. It's fascinating what amount of frustrations one has to go to chase his dreams, to do what he likes. Three years I wouldn't have thought I would be able to survive so much of a psychological pressure, but somehow I am surviving.
So much for thinking of writing down something nice.... what bullshit!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The not so golden silence

My dear friend, don’t ever take virtue of silence from me. In today’s world silence is cursed. It is mistaken as dumbness; it is mistaken as lack of knowledge. Though a person keeping silence is more likely to be a better listener than who don’t, his/her silence is most likely to be taken as lack of interest than his ability to listen. Often your communication abilities are considered directly proportional to your ability talk more and more. Pointless talker is likely to be considered better at communication than a person who can explain idea effectively in few simple sentences. Listening is effective when you understand a person the way he/she wants you to understand him/her than the way you want to understand him/her. Some wise person has said that ‘Description is not described’. Even in Businesses, in presentations and meetings where essential purpose of communication is conveying the idea effectively, the same thing can be observed. Very few people understand that talking is only a part of communication and often talking more than necessary can actually make the communication ineffective. Silence gives one more time to think but that also seems to ignore in this world. So my friend, I repeat again world is of those who talk, and not those who consider silence as a virtue.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Man as an animal - 2

Continuing to what I wrote before, I am of strong opinion that animals also think, they also learn and they also have consciousness. The reason why we as a humankind have been able to achieve so much that we crossed a certain threshold of 'intelligence' and 'communication' combined. We are definitely more intelligent than other animals what supports us in achieving all this is communication. Our ability to speak with so many different sounds allows us to form very comprehensive languages and communicate all sorts of ideas to other humans. In other animals such communication of ideas is very restricted. Once I had read one article where it was said that Neanderthals though may be were more intelligent than us were restricted in their communication since their structure didn't allow them to speak as well as humans. They were very weak in communication compared to homo sapiens (us). While this may or may not be true the point of communication is worth noting down.
The reason I used word threshold in the second line in above paragraph is because most of you must know when some characteristic of any system is increased beyond certain threshold it alters behaviour of the system very significantly. Those of you who are familiar with cybernetics or systems theory can imagine a positive feedback loop which is primarily weak becoming very strong due to a certain factor becoming extremely strong.
What supports my arguments above is:
  • What we have achieved is through thousands of years of learning and not overnight.
  • Whatever science ,technology, philosophy, etc. we are so proud of today (and which is the basis of all the achievements of human kind today along with its experiential learning ) is through some wise and very intelligent people who came up with ideas and the ones who could implement these ideas, all others have just adopted these ideas through the very rich communication we have.