Tuesday, January 28, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Education in doldrums

One generation past, my British research guide talked about “Deschooling Society” by Ivan Illich. The book rejected the prevalent education system because it had ignored the child. That time, these were radical views. Today we find the current Indian education system too is in the doldrums.

The education system is distorted but in a different way. Right from pre-nursery to the +2 level, our curricula are tilted towards entrance tests. The aberration is evident in the student’s weak skills of language and mathematics. Further, student activity is a passe. For example, the Hoshangabad science project has been scrapped. One reason is that the curricula subscribes to the needs of status schools/colleges or discipline of studies. Hence, the syllabi are extra loaded.

Boards fix the curricula. But the methods of teaching are left to the whims of teachers or private coaches. They teach in a way which enables the child to join the next higher level. Child/adolescent psychology and norms of development are relegated. Curricular activities — extra or intra class — like gardening, craft, community hygiene, which help develop scientific thinking and foster the values of love, cooperation and truth, are sadly neglected.

Incidentally, this affects the availability of skilled services in industry. Why cry? This is the house which Jack built. The curricular planners lacked the philosophy of education and the right perspective. Parents are bewildered. The teachers are rudderless. Students are at the crossroads. They are exposed to the market forces. Counselling is non-existent in schools. What is the remedy?


1. Abolish the entrance tests at all levels. They are bete noire.

2. Change the admission criteria. For example, the student who get A grade in three major subjects may be allowed to join professional colleges. But the “first-come, first-served” principle be applied. No discretion.

3. Reduce the number of subjects. For example for elementary schools one language, mathematics, community hygiene and one optional subject are enough. For secondary schools, one more subject of choice may be allowed. For senior secondary courses, only three subjects of choice and one language are adequate to cope with the demands of professional courses.

4. Introduce intra or extra classroom activities. For example, speaking, reading in a library, group singing, drama, creative writing (say, interview with local people), dancing, painting, drawing, poetry recitation, exploring environments and so on, according to local culture.

Surjeet Singh, Mohali

Wage & performance

The response of Mr Arvind (Jan 14) to Prof Sucha Singh’s article on the ongoing controversy regarding the incorporation of contractual service arrangements for teachers in Indian universities seems to be inherently inconsistant. On the one hand, he is apparently deriding at the performance appraisal practices adopted by the peer teams in evaluating the performance of academic institutions such as universities, while on the other, in the same breath he is professing the need to “link wage to performance” of teachers and researchers as if with the given inadequacies of the system, the teachers’ performance appraisal would be unbiased and objective.

Performance evaluation, as a matter of fact, is an extremely delicate and a solemn task which requires a high degree of uprightness, integrity and ingenuity on the part of the assessor. The assessor should be able to accredit a performance without any extraneous influences and must ardently adhere to the stipulated norms while evaluating. But as implicitly admitted by Mr Arvind himself, such above-board evaluation has remained elusive in our academic realm. Then how will a researcher’s performance be truly assessed so as to determine his reward? If the conmen in academics and research are able to pass their mediocre or trivial work as quality work, e.g. through manipulation getting a substandard doctoral work approved, or getting a plagiarised piece published in a journal, and by influencing or appeasing the whims of the “sagacious” peers, then who will scrupulously sift the standard from the substandard work as a measure of good performance?

Linking wage with performance is a paradigm of the perfectly mechanistic labour markets where rewards are truly commensurate with the quality of labour input. But in a set-up like ours, where the job markets neither provide any security or job satisfaction nor performances are accurately gauged and perceived, and are flooded with mediocre pedagogic stuff, linking wages with performance or any kind of contractual service arrangement for warranting the continuity of a university teacher’s or a researcher’s incumbency would be akin to pushing him to the perils of uncertainty and injustice.

Dr Vikram Chadha, GND University, Amritsar

PU pension

Every few days there are rumblings, dharnas and agitations by the employees of Panjab University. If they have any decency or conscience at all, let them come out with facts which prompted them to sabotage the scheme which had been granted by an earlier government. Some vested political aspirants, who made a fool of them for personal interests, had taken these people for a ride. Now with what face are they asking for pension with a certain cut off date? What is the sanctity or the rationale of a cut off date, and a particular date at that?

What is the fault of old retired employees, many of them Senior Citizens, that they were born earlier, hence retired earlier. It is rather they who need a deserve pension more than the present lot, and greater pension in fact. Because the earlier an employee retires, he or she does so at a lower salary, and therefore, lesser Provident Fund and lesser savings. If a cut-off date is, in fact, desirable it should be such that those who retired before a particular date are granted pension. Those who retire after that date may not be given a pension, as they have been and are getting fat salaries, allowances, and have substantial savings commensurate with all that. This way the expenditure and liability of the government will also be minimal.

Prof Joginder Kaur Virk, Chandigarh

A bumpy road

The Garhshankar-Nawanshahr road provides a highly suitable access for patients referred to DMC or CMC, Ludhiana, from the adjoining areas of Mahilpur, Nangal and Anandpur Sahib. On this road a 7-8 km stretch is highly bumpy, hazardous and accident-prone, especially for patient-carrying vehicles. At this crucial juncture every moment is precious for patients fighting for life. The road is in such a deteriorated condition that even a bicycle cannot be paddled properly.

Manjeet Singh, Rurki Khas Hoshiarpur

Commerce teachers

The DPI (Punjab) has invited applications from highly qualified government primary teachers for promoting them as TGTs. But the future of B.Com/ M.Com teachers working as primary teachers for the past so many years still remains uncertain. In 2001 similar applications were invited and the process ended up with the promotion of all BA/MA teachers into TGTs grades, barring B.Com/M.Com teachers.

Why this step-motherly treatment with only commerce teachers?

Rajesh Sharma, Jalandhar


Of love and arranged marriages

I refer to the letter “Reliable Marriages” by Geeta Gupta of Ambala. She is of the view that many of the love marriages end up in divorce. I strictly contradict her because only love marriages don’t end up in divorce, but arranged marriages also result in the separation of spouses.

Moreover, “instant love” is not the trend only in western countries, it’s also very much in vogue in India. The writer is ignoring the fact that almost all Indian movies depict love at first sight and it does happen in real life too.

What terms and conditions she wishes to set before tying the nuptial knot? Any relation based on terms and conditions is doomed to die a sure and merciless death. Trust can’t be built up, it just happens out of love. A pure and ideal relation cares nothing for any reservation. No terms and conditions can guarantee the stability of a relation. It’s the mutual understanding, love and co-operation that both partners share, are detrimental.

Arranged Indian marriages are certainly contracts because many relations dissolve on the mean pretext of less dowry. Many girls go in for arranged marriages and even then repent later on because the greedy in-laws pester them for more dowry. Isn’t it high time when we check our myopic approach towards love marriages and stop posing blind faith in arranged relations?

Vandana Arora, Sonepat.



Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai?

On January 17 Zee TV invited Md. Azharuddin, a cricketer, for its programme “Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai”. I don’t know what Zee TV wants to show by projecting him as a role model. He is a suspect in match-fixing and non-declaration of income for tax payment. Further, he divorced his wife even after having two children. I don’t know in what way Zee TV can say: “Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai”.

G.S Saini, Mohali


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