EDUCATION TRIBUNE

The fear of failure
Nonika Singh

GEORGE Bernard Shaw may have said, “My reputation grows with every failure”, but the truth is that failure can be very debilitating. More so in schools, particularly in classrooms, where the fear of failing hangs over student’s minds like a morbid cloud which can engulf their precious childhood in a vice like grip. Perhaps, realising this the Right to Education Bill 2008, aimed at making right to education a reality for every single child, proposes that both private and government schools across the country will not fail students till Class VIII. Actually, it intends to penalise those who do so.

‘Virtual academy’ for teachers
IF the government has its way, teachers need not to enrol into a training institute to hone their teaching skills as the HRD Ministry is contemplating to set up ‘virtual academy’ to improve the quality of education in the country. Virtual academy (VA), as the name suggests, would be an online learning platform, facilitating teacher-professor interaction for dissemination of knowledge.

Campus Notes
CCS Haryana Agricultural University, Hisar
Kudos for plant breeders

Vice-Chancellor J.C. Katyal felicitated the best researchers and workers of the plant breeding department of the university during a one-day seminar on "Crop Improvement Scenario in Field Crops: Success & Challenges" held on the university campus. The seminar was attended by the scientists involved in research and dissemination of new technology.

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The fear of failure
Nonika Singh

GEORGE Bernard Shaw may have said, “My reputation grows with every failure”, but the truth is that failure can be very debilitating. More so in schools, particularly in classrooms, where the fear of failing hangs over student’s minds like a morbid cloud which can engulf their precious childhood in a vice like grip. Perhaps, realising this the Right to Education Bill 2008, aimed at making right to education a reality for every single child, proposes that both private and government schools across the country will not fail students till Class VIII. Actually, it intends to penalise those who do so.

While world over, the students are not failed in lower grades, in India the “stick only” policy is applicable to most schools. Fear (of failing) remains a much (ab)used tool of learning. It is often felt that children study, only because they are afraid of failing.

Harpreet Malwai, a teacher of computer education at Carmel Convent School, Chandigarh, sees no reason why failure should be a driving factor. She says, “Actually, children should not be failed till Class X, for by holding back children in school classes we ensure that they are held back in life too.” She further adds that since each child is special, creative and uniquely capable, he or she can choose his or her muse after Class X, a period in which students are forced to study all subjects.

But what about government schools, especially in rural areas where teachers are rarely conscientious and accountable, where examination results are the only way of gauging whether the students are learning or not? But then that is the crux of the new Bill. According to the authors of the Bill, if the child does not perform well, the onus has to be on the school. Nods Harpreet, adding, “Let us not confuse the issue. Failing the child and quality of education is not the same thing. Failure neither ensures nor guarantees higher or better standards. Schools must provide extra coaching to children who are weak in studies, may be in the vacation time”.

However, Geetika Sethi, director, British School, Panchkula, sees no harm in detaining children, for students have to go out and compete in a cut-throat environment and education is too serious a realm to be trifled with. Rather she advocates making children repeat a year in primary grades, if they are not able to cope. Indeed, in a long academic life of a child, a year here or there doesn’t make much of a difference. Government schoolteachers see it as a choice between quantity and quality. Quizzes Renu Bhutani, who teaches at Government Senior Secondary School at Lachkani in Patiala district, “What’s the point? If students who cannot keep pace with academic pressure are not failed before Class VIII, then we will have no option but to detain them in Class IX. The new proposal is flawed as it shall discourage hardworking meritorious students who too might be tempted to take it easy.” She is adamant that the proposal, the dream of encouraging literacy can work only if it is extended till Class X.

Another teacher from a school in Himachal Pradesh asserts that in government schools, till a substitute or alternative method of judging student’s calibre is not put in place, the idea of not failing will not be easy to implement. Agreeing that the conventional system of pass or fail isn’t fool proof, she insists, “The total emphasis has to shift from bookish knowledge. New systems that focus upon real learning have to be evolved.”

However, Savita Jindal, president, Inner Wheel Club, Panchkula, involved in funding and running charitable schools, views it as a panacea that could motivate students, especially those hailing from underprivileged sections of society. She points out, “This could be their big chance to be literate. Failure can be a huge set back which can bring a child’s world down, bid adieu to his self-confidence and seal his or her future forever. In the absence of crushing dread of failure, he or she can grow and explore unfettered.”

In India, the causative factor behind huge school dropout rates invariably is failure. And the reports of children, even of Class VIII committing suicide are yet another pointer to the psychological damage, failing can wreak. Thus, there is much substance in the Bill’s measures, echoed in Harpreet’s assertion, “this is the only way you can have literate India.” Not to fail is not a “take it or leave it Hobson’s choice” but a feasible and desirable one.
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‘Virtual academy’ for teachers

IF the government has its way, teachers need not to enrol into a training institute to hone their teaching skills as the HRD Ministry is contemplating to set up ‘virtual academy’ to improve the quality of education in the country.

Virtual academy (VA), as the name suggests, would be an online learning platform, facilitating teacher-professor interaction for dissemination of knowledge.

So, do not get surprised the next time a teacher is seen ensconced in a ‘virtual academy’, learning the best teaching practices from a professor sitting at his workplace at a distant place.

Secretary, Department of School Education and Literacy, A.K. Rath said such an academy was the best solution today to train every teacher and overcome shortage of training schools.

“VA would hold immense significance as the country would see a huge jump in teachers’ requirement in the coming years to fulfil the government’s mandate of universalising primary and secondary education,” he said.

The ministry has, in fact, already set the ball rolling to make the virtual academy a reality.

“We have already approached IIT, Kharagpur, to impart training through the virtual academy. The training will help teachers gain the vast expertise of the IIT faculty in the teaching field,” he said.

“And once this becomes successful, we will spread such academies across the country,” Rath told PTI today on the sidelines of a conference.

NCERT says that it would require at least five lakh more teachers to cover all students at present.

Teachers’ requirement would also multiply when 44,000 schools out of one lakh in the country are upgraded in the next five years under the Rashtriya Madhyamik Siksha Abhiyan (RMSA) programme.

In such a scenario, a virtual academy can prove efficient in training on a large scale, Rath said, adding the academy would also play a big role in improving the quality of teaching.

NCERT director Krishna Kumar said 50 per cent of the mathematics teachers in the country today had had no formal training on the subject.

The organisation is also of the view that the mushrooming of teacher training centres is not helping the crisis. He said the HRD Ministry had taken up a comprehensive teacher education programme to address problems like shortage of teachers and imparting training.

About the RMSA, which seeks for universalisation of secondary education, he said, the enrolment in schools was expected to go up by 75 per cent in the next eight to 10 years. — PTI 
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Campus Notes
CCS Haryana Agricultural University, Hisar
Kudos for plant breeders

Vice-Chancellor J.C. Katyal felicitated the best researchers and workers of the plant breeding department of the university during a one-day seminar on "Crop Improvement Scenario in Field Crops: Success & Challenges" held on the university campus. The seminar was attended by the scientists involved in research and dissemination of new technology.

Speaking on the occasion, the Vice-Chancellor appealed the scientists to develop cost-effective technologies whose implementation would help farmers in getting maximum yield from different crops. He said during the preceding year, the Department of Plant Breeding developed 13 high yielding and disease resistant varieties of different cereal crops. The university, he said, had achieved good results in wheat, raya and barley crops.

The Vice-Chancellor honoured the department's researchers for their good work by presenting them certificates of appreciation. Earlier, the Vice-Chancellor visited the demonstration plots of rabi field crops and reviewed the research projects.

Meet on fertiliser use

Haryana Agricultural University hosted a national meet on "Balanced Use of Fertilisers and Agricultural Production" in collaboration with the International Plant Institute. Scientists from several agricultural universities and agricultural research organisation participated in the meet.

The scientists underlined the need for balanced use of fertilisers and micronutrients to achieve higher yields. They pointed out that unless micronutrient deficiency was resolved farmers would not be able to get higher yields, as was the case in the West. IPI director N. K. Tiwari said Haryana farmers tend to use DAP and urea only. Even those farmers who used micronutrients did not do so scientifically. As a result, yields were low.

Course on seed quality

The university organised a 21-day refresher course on seed quality management. Director of Research S. S. Pahuja said increasing population needed more food production and this was not possible unless seed quality was maintained. He underlined the importance of seed quality management at different levels. He said farmers and scientists both need to manage seed quality at their levels.

Contributed by Raman Mohan 
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Symbiosis Centre of Health Care, Senapati Bapat Road, Pune 411004 (Mah) (constituent of Symbiosis International University)
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