EDUCATION TRIBUNE

Getting students into the classroom
WHILE crowds of students in corridors, cafeteria/canteens, playgrounds, student centres, student associations offices at a non-professional degree college is a common sight, hardly students are found in class rooms, libraries, laboratories, seminars, tutorials, etc. What these students do as groups, except gossiping and rumor mongering, is anybody’s guess.


Photo: Pradeep Tewari

Schools told reading is top priority
Evidence shows that children from the poorest homes hear only 13 million words by the time they are aged four, 32 million words less than children from affluent households.

Campus Notes
Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar
Varsity, SAI ink MoU
A synthetic hockey turf would soon be laid on the university campus for organising international-level competitions and Test matches. University authorities and the Sports Authority of India (SAI) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in this regard.

n Annual function
n Best poster award





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Getting students into the classroom
D. S. Cheema

WHILE crowds of students in corridors, cafeteria/canteens, playgrounds, student centres, student associations offices at a non-professional degree college is a common sight, hardly students are found in class rooms, libraries, laboratories, seminars, tutorials, etc. What these students do as groups, except gossiping and rumor mongering, is anybody’s guess.

Why students prefer to while away their precious time in such meaningless activities rather than spend it usefully for gaining knowledge and skill, the very purpose of education? Such questions are sufficient to disturb the mind of an average parent anxious to see his ward pass out with high percentage and get a good job. This dismal spectacle also puts a question mark on the education system as a whole and the role played by the stakeholders—other than students—parents, teachers, and the society at large.

The first and perhaps the most important reason of a student not attending the classes regularly is that he has lost faith in the present education system that needs a complete overhaul. He knows that even after getting a degree, a mediocre student stands no chance of finding a job. Parents’ advice has no impact as he sees jobless youth wandering around aimlessly even after having passed BAs and MAs. He wonders how good is the education he receives in the classroom which does not guarantee him employment. Such a student goes to the college to please his parents and put them at ease for 3-5 years. The parents also find comfort in abdicating their responsibility towards the child. Many students discover other equally acceptable activities like “preparing for the civil services” after completing graduation.

The other reason lies in what a student thinks of his teacher who ‘teaches’ a particular subject. Unfortunately, teacher’s respect has declined sharply for many good reasons and no one is to be blamed for this situation more than the teacher himself who does not update himself. As a result, many a student soon realises that what the teacher can give him in terms of knowledge or skill can be better understood in lesser time by reading a ‘help book’ or by taking tuitions. He does not think that a particular teacher’s class is worth attending.

However, even in such a sorry state of affairs, there are few teachers whose classes remain full. Many students make special efforts and come all the way only to attend a particular class. A de-motivated teacher is frustrated by not finding good number of students in his class but takes no corrective action to create opportunities to give them something they may be keen to learn.

The tuition culture plays an important role in keeping the student away from the classroom. He knows that one-hour tuition will ensure the clearance of exam safely, which in any case is his ultimate aim. A regular teacher can be harsh on many accounts, whereas the tuition teacher is soft to the extent of pampering him and giving him exam-passing assurances. He goes to the college only to ensure his minimum attendance required by the university/college. Many colleges make this task simpler by accepting fine to mark presence which helps the student as well as the college.

Also, some teachers willingly help students by marking their attendance in the register in one go. Can anything be done to improve such state of affairs? The only remedy lies in the professional honesty of different stakeholders at different levels. The myth that big problems require big solutions needs to be broken. Such big problems require simple and small solutions which can bring about incremental positive changes over a period of time.

There is need to make the selection process of vice-chancellors and principals more transparent. It is common knowledge that vice-chancellors are political appointees. Let the post of vice-chancellor be advertised and an independent body like the UPSC or UGC select him/her through a proper procedure based on parameters like demonstrated administrative ability, in addition to academic brilliance.

In the selection of principals of colleges, often a name is earmarked and an all out effort is made to ‘situate the appreciation’ rather than ‘appreciating the situation’ that often results in wrong choice.

In the whole system, the most crucial role has to be played by the teacher who must go beyond the concept of ‘teaching periods’ and money worth of those periods Perhaps it is too much to ask a teacher to emulate the greats like Dr Radhakrishnan, however, teacher must accept his basic responsibility and try to become a mentor to the students Alas, teacher has abdicated this responsibility!

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Schools told reading is top priority
Richard Garner

Evidence shows that children from the poorest homes hear only 13 million words by the time they are aged four, 32 million words less than children from affluent households.

The figure, given to the government-ordered review of the primary school curriculum, has prompted a campaign to ensure parents spend more time talking to their children and that children struggling to read get more help.

The review will seek to remove “clutter” from the curriculum, reducing lesson time for subjects like history and geography in favour of a more themed approach that links subjects. And it aims to build on the strengths of primary pupils, particularly in technology, by teaching them secondary school topics like making podcasts and radio programmes and using the Internet to share projects with other schools.

Sir Jim Rose, the former director of schools for Ofsted and the education standards watchdog who is heading the review, wants to keep the spotlight on improving literacy and numeracy. He will back the reading recovery project, pioneered in New Zealand, where children with dyslexia and reading problems receive one-to-one coaching.

The inquiry, which issues an interim report for consultation today, is the most far-reaching government inquiry into primary education since the national curriculum was adopted in 1988. The review also calls for the recruitment of more specialists to teach older primary pupils in areas such as languages.

Sir Jim says the technology skills of primary pupils are improving so fast that they can now cope with secondary school knowledge. “Advances in technology and the Internet revolution are driving a pace of change which we could not have imagined when the national curriculum was introduced.”

Sir Jim is calling for summer-born children to start school in the September term after their fourth birthday, as research showed they perform worse in national curriculum tests, GCSEs and A-levels and are less likely to go to university. He acknowledges some parents may worry about “hothousing” their children too early and putting them in a class with older children and suggests they are given the option of enrolling their child at school part time at the start, for just 15 hours a week.

Sir Jim is anxious for children to receive lessons about healthy lifestyles and developing relationships. Headteachers have claimed more children are unable to communicate with classmates when they start school, or do basic things such as tie their shoelaces.

Ed Balls, the Children’s Secretary, asked Sir Jim to steer clear of tackling the issue of national curriculum tests for 11-year-olds, but Sir Jim has already told MPs that the tests have been “the elephant in the room” that everybody wants to address. He wants to cut the time spent in the last two years of primary school teaching to the test.

Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the report would be “just fine words” if the issue of testing was not tackled. David Laws, the Liberal Democrats’ children’s spokesman, said: “The Rose review offers yet more change and instability in the primary curriculum when most schools feel all they need is more stability and freedom from government micro-management. What the primary sector really needs is additional investment in reducing infant-age class sizes.”

The reforms are due to be introduced in September 2011.

— By arrangement with The Independent

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Campus Notes
Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar
Varsity, SAI ink MoU

A synthetic hockey turf would soon be laid on the university campus for organising international-level competitions and Test matches. University authorities and the Sports Authority of India (SAI) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in this regard.

Dr Jai Rup Singh, Vice-Chancellor, said under this agreement, the viewer gallery would be covered and adequate lighting arrangements for holding night matches would be made.

Meanwhile, the Vice-Chancellor said preparations were on for the 14th National Youth Festival, which would be held in Punjab for the first time. He said more than 3,000 students from various states and union territories would participate in the festival, which would be held from January 12 to 16. He also informed that about 71 students of various disciplines of the university had been placed in various MNCs through campus recruitment. He said eminent international company Accenture had also organised a three-day workshop on "Supply Chain Management" to make the students aware of the requirements of the corporate sector.

Annual function

The Mehak Day Care Centre of the university celebrated its annual function by organising a fancy dress competition for the children. More than 34 children of the university employees participated in the competition.

Dr Pushpinder Kaur, wife of Dr Jai Rup Singh, Vice-Chancellor, presided over the function and gave away the prizes to the winners while Naseem Abbas, in charge of the Day Care Centre, welcomed the chief guest. Prof Avinash Nagpal, Dr Satinder Kaur and Tejpal Kaur were also present on the occasion.

While Harleen Kaur was adjudged first in the fancy dress competition, the second and third positions went to Rupaushi Sharma and Keha and Stabhya, respectively. Two consolation prizes were also given to Anmol and Gurnoor.

Best poster award

Rajiv Kumar Puri, a senior research fellow in the Chemistry Department has been awarded the Best poster award recently.

According to Dr Ishtiaque Ahmed, Head of Department, Rajiv presented a poster on the development of Novel Silver (I) ion selective electrodes in the 2nd National Symposium on Analytical Science (NSAS) on “Analytical Innovations for Process and Technology Development”. He said the Indian Society of Analytical Scientists ISAS, Delhi Chapter, and the Institute of Himalayan Bio Resources Technology (IHBT) jointly organised the symposium at Palampur.

— Contributed by P. K. Jaiswar

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