the click of a mouse
tourist runs school for nomads
The invisible examiner
Imagine, how much we spend on keeping covers on the business of knowledge that we otherwise profess to market, says Gurupdesh Singh
For the last several weeks, we have been witnessing a storm in the otherwise calm backwaters of academia. The trouble has been triggered by two mutually conflicting terms—secrecy and transparency. If one institution ruffled the shallow waters of secrecy, the other caused waves on the smooth transparency of gleaming waters. While we do cry for the victims of the storm, we cannot but be glad at the churning that it has caused to the sea of testing.
The project of secrecy in testing is anachronistic. It is an antique, fossilised, colonial procedure that serves no cause but that of incompetence, false authority and inefficiency. Unfortunately, in a university structure, where we still continue with the slavish system of affiliated colleges, such an evil has to have a mandatory presence. In the Indian context, where universities wield totalitarian powers over hundreds of colleges and thousands of students, the task of testing turns into a massive federal assignment of high vigil and surveillance.
Imagine, how much we spend paradoxically on keeping covers on the business of knowledge that we otherwise profess to market. Notwithstanding the parenthesis, the truth is that the project of secrecy is innately linked to the adventurous world of business—of taking and making money. If one institution by its thin covers and fragile intelligence has made the hideous side of education public, then we should be grateful to it for showing what we sometimes only half believed in our self-righteousness. More seriously, it should prompt us to stand up and review the entire system of educational testing.
Sadly, our education system is recognised more for its mass and volume of turnovers than quality. Resultantly, its hallmark is anonymity. The teacher has become anonymous in the plethora of guide books and commit-to-memory notes. In the crowded classrooms, students have become invisible to the teacher. Similarly, the syllabus maker, material producer, paper setter, invigilator, examiner are all anonymous, invisible people to the learners. The close transaction between the teacher and the taught that personalises and customises education to the needs and aspirations of an individual has been replaced with the pursuit of token certificates or gate passes to other academic malls.
Testing is intrinsic to any process of teaching-learning. Therefore, only he can attest its success who has monitored it at every stage. An end-of-the-term three-hour test or an entrance test of 90 minutes in an impersonal environ cannot determine the eligibility, proficiency or aptitude of a learner.
In a large-scale system like ours, if such tests are compulsory evils, then we have to think of alternatives which, instead of testing fragmentary knowledge, can provide us with wholesome evaluation of learners’ scholarship, intelligence and attitude. The minimum we expect a test should do is establish its validity and reliability.
The need of the hour is to accept the urgency of diagnosis as well as remedial measures, not to run a cover-up operation and retract to the darkness of secrecy. To comply its terms of transparency, the system will have to be accountable not to itself, but to the public at large.
The task of framing a focused question with an undisputed answer itself requires subtle understanding between a factual and discursive topic. Even questions with clear and precise answers need to be weighed with reference to the source book or scholar or school of thought.
With the rush of knowledge or business in the publication market, it has become difficult to distinguish latest from late and authoritative from authored. Will it be appropriate then, in the name of transparency, to announce the sources from where a test is set?
In that case, do we do it before the test or after? More importantly, who will be considered expert enough to adjudicate on books or state of knowledge? The questions point at the broader issues of standardisation, which we have not yet started to address.
The question of providing likely choices or answers is a bigger teaser. How do you decide the detractors besides, of course, the real answer? Should they be like the first few questions of Kaun Banega Crorepati—with the correct answer shining among silly or patently wrong detractors? Or should these be closely matched with a narrow margin for the correct option like we sometimes find on the Reader’s Digest’s Word Power quiz?
Then, how do you arrange the choices, to pre-empt any move on the part of a mischievous candidate who would like to take pot shot at those options.
Add to these concerns the usual
human-error factor, or plain incompetence, and see how the small task
of setting a test turns into a big, risky project. Tests or the
answers cannot be private to paper setters or evaluators, because it
is an act of knowledge transaction and knowledge belongs to the public
at the click of a mouse
Punjabi University, Patiala, was set up to promote and develop Punjabi. Working on this principle, the efforts of university’s Advanced Centre for Technical Development of Punjabi Language, Literature and Culture bore fruit.
The centre has developed new software for the usage of Punjabi, which has something for the beginner and the specialist, both. If you are new to the language, then the software can help you learn new words, while the specialist can play around and create new terminology with it.
With a click of the mouse, you can search any word, know its root and get other grammatical information. It gives you all possible words formed by a root word—noun, gender, number and case, verbs with tense, phase, aspect—besides other usage.
The software can identify grammatical attributes of any word in Punjabi. This is the second such software to be developed by the university centre that had earlier developed Gurmukhi-Shahmukhi transliteration software, Sangam.
This software will give a new impetus to technical research in Punjabi and enable it to compete with major languages in the world. CDAC, Pune, pioneer and the largest producer of Indian language software, has offered to buy this software for Rs 1 lakh. To promote the use of Punjabi on computers, CDAC plans large-scale distribution of this software.
The team that developed the Punjabi Morphological Analyser and Generator software was led by Dr Gurpreet Singh Lehal, Director, Advanced Centre for Technical Development of Punjabi Language, Literature and Culture.
Coding and database development was by Mandeep Singh Gill, while linguistic support by Dr S. S. Joshi. The database used comprises more than 1.72 lakh words, grouped into 22 classes (such as nouns, personal pronouns, reflexive pronouns, verbs, inflected and uninflected adverbs, inflected and uninflected adjectives, conjunction, besides others).
According to Dr Lehal, morphological analysis and generation are two commonly required and essential tools to start work on computer-based processing of a natural language. The application areas of the software are endless. Some common application areas are automatic spelling and grammar checking, natural language understanding, machine translation, speech recognition and speech synthesis.
The common man can get in-depth
information on the correct grammatical usage of all words. It also
helps to know the words that can be derived from a single root. The
software will be a big aid for researchers as well.
French tourist runs school for nomads
Manali: Moved by the plight of children from nomadic families who were deprived of a steady education in schools, a French woman has opened a school for them in the hill town of Manali, despite facing initial hiccups.
Today, from the initial three, there are more than 40 students in Dominique’s school aptly called "Prayas" or "The Endeavor". Most of the children belong to the lowest strata of society, and their parents move from city to city and state to state selling whatever handmade products or utilities they produce.
In such a scenario, the children are the ones who suffer. Sometimes, they tag along with their parents, but at the worst of times, they are left to fend for themselves. Dominique, 36, initially came to this picturesque town as a tourist, and then, decided to set up a school to make a difference in the lives of the children. Not only did she teach them basic language skills, but she also she taught them how to behave at social gatherings.
Dominique also helped set up the Himachal Pradesh Human Welfare Association in 2001, a non-government organisation or NGO of locals from the town, who run the school during the period she goes back to France.
For the children of Prayas, Dominique’s effort has made a world of a difference in their uncertain future. "Earlier I used to just play at home, I did not go to any school. After coming here, I have learnt counting, Hindi, English, how to talk to elders, how to keep our house clean etc.," said Nandini, a seven-year-old who wants to become a teacher when she grows up.
Dominique had initially faced resistance from the nomads, who are themselves uneducated. "The kids are self-motivated. We don’t need to motivate them. Most difficult is, in fact, to motivate their parents," she said. Most children in Prayas can now read fluently and Dominique says their progress has inspired other parents to put their children in her school.
Besides offering basic learning skills to students, Prayas has recently opened a free computer-learning centre for poor students.
Ujjain Engineering College, Sanwer Road, Ujjain (MP) 456010 www.uecu.org.in
1) MTech Chemical Engineering (Environment Mgmt)
2) ME Civil Engineering (Computer Aided Structural Design & Drafting, Environment Engineering & Pollution Control)
3) MTech Engineering (Industrial Engineering & Mgmt)
Eligibility: BE/BTech (55%)
Selectn: GATE Scores.
Application Form: At Counter: Rs 500/- (cash) or download from website.
Technical Education & Industrial Training, Sector – 36 A, Plot No.
1, Chandigarh 160036
BE (Computer Sc &
Engineering, Electronics & Communication Engineering, Electrical
Engineering, Mechanical Engineering)
Admission: Direct admission at Baba Hira Singh Bhattal Institute of Engineeing & Technology.
Indian Institute of Human Rights, A 16, Paryavaran Complex, Saket-Maidangarhi Marg, New Delhi-110030
PG Programme in Human Rights (2 years, Distance Correspondence)
Eligibility: Bachelor’s degree.
Application Form: Send Rs 45/- by MO/ IPO/ DD favouring "Indian Institute of Human Rights" payable at New Delhi to the above address.
Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak (Har)
Business), Evening, 2 years)
Eligibility: Bachelor’s/ PG degree (50%) with 2 years work experience.
Selection: GD & Interview: 19 September
Application Form: Send Rs. 550/- by DD favouring "Finance Officer, MD University", Payable at the SBI MDU Branch (Code No 4734) to the Registrar (Attention Publication Cell) at the above address.
IIT-Bombay, Delhi, Guwahati, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Madras, Roorkee, IISc, Bangalore
Entrance Test (JMET-2006)
Eligibility: BE/BTech/ Master’s degree in relevant area
Test: 11 December ‘05
Application Form: Send Rs 800/- by DD favouring the institute concerned with 2 self- addressed slips to the Chairman – GATE of the concerned IIT/ IISc by 7 October. Ideally apply online at IIT-Bombay website by 3 7 October.
Details: Employment News (27 Aug – 2 Sept)/ Website
Indian Institute of Tourism & Travel Management (M/o Tourism & Culture, GoI), Govindpuri, Gwalior 474011 (MP) (M/o Tourism & Culture, GoI)
MBA (2-yr; of MP Bhoj (Open) University)
Eligibility: Bachelor’s degree.
Selection: CAT-2005 scores, GD & Interview.
Application Form: Send Rs 650/- by DD favouring "Director, IITTM" payable at Gwalior to The Admission Coordinator (MBA) at the above address or download from website.
Details: Employment News (27 Aug – 2 Sept)/ Website
Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS), V.L. Mehta Road, Vile Parle (W), Mumbai 400056 (Deemed Univ)
Eligibility: Bachelor’s degree (50%).
Selection: NMAT-2006: 11 December ‘05. GD & Interview: 14-23 February ‘06
Application Form: Send Rs 1200/- by DD favouring "SVKM’s NMIMS" payable at Mumbai with self addressed self-addressed cloth envelope (9" x 12") to above add or download from website. Also available at all UTI branches.
XLRI, School of Management, C H Area (E) Jamshedpur-831001
XAT 2006: For admission to: 1) PG Programme in Business Mgmt/ Personnel Mgmt & Industrial Relations (2-yr, FT) 2) Fellow Programme in Mgmt 3) Exececcutive PG Programme (3-yr) 4) General Mgmt Programme (1-yr)
Eligibility: Bachelor’s degree.3 & 4: Only for working executive.
Test: 08 January 2006
Application Form: For XAT Bulletin: Send Rs 750/- by DD favouring "XAT, Jamshedpur" payable at SBI, XLRI Branch, (4660) with the XAT PP Form which has to be downloaded. Also available at various SBI Branches to Admissions Office at the above addressor download from website by November 30. For XLRI: Prospectus: Send Rs 850/- by DD favouring "XLRI Jamshedpur" payable at SBI, XLRI Branch, (4660) with the XLRI PA Form which has to be downloaded. Also available at various SBI Branches to Admissions Office at the above addressor download from website by November 30
Fellow Programme in Management Specialization: Economics, Finance, Information Systems, Marketing, Operations Mgmt, Organizational Behavior, Personnel Mgmt, Industrial Relations, Human Resource Mgmt, Strategic Management
Eligibility: Master’s Degree, CA, ICWA, CS (55%)/ BE, , BTech (60%), GMAT/ GRE/ GATE/ UGC JRF (Research) results.
Selection: XAT-2006 scores. Candidates with PGP from XLRI, IIM, MDI, XIM, Bhubaneswar or FMS, Delhi with CQPI of 6.00 or equivalent will be exempted from XAT.
University Business School, Panjab University, Chandigarh
MBA; MBA (International Business) MBA (Human Resource)
Eligibility: Bachelor’s/ PG Degree (50%), CA, CS, CWA, AMIE (50%).
Selection: CAT-‘’05 scores, GD & Interview.
Application Form: Send Rs 1075/- by DD favouring "Registrar, Punjab University, Chandigarh" payable at Chandi ‘garh with self-addressed envelopeenv (30 x 25 cms), to the Manager, Publication Bureau, at above address by October 31.
— Pervin Malhotra