Wednesday, January 20, 2010

3 idiots learning

“yeh jo dil hai na.. bada darpok hai. isko bevkoof bana ke rakho.. life mein jitni bhi problem ho.. isko bolo "koi baat nahi chachu.. sab kuch theek thaak hai. ALL IZZ WELL. ALL IZZ WELL"

How true? Jus keep uttering this to yourself, that everything is fine, and there you get a big boost of confidence to tackle any problem. My dad always says, “There is no problem that big that it cannot be tackled. It is only the mental roadblock to believe that it can be tackled that is big!” Again, how true?

Well, the dialogue is from the movie – 3 idiots, and truly as Uma Sir says, What a movie it was? More than the entertainment value the subtle message that is delivered speaks volumes, and hopefully will awake people. This post is dedicated to him, for his motivation to write something on this front!

The movie's theme is highly inspiring and thought provoking even while it takes a dig at the current educational system with all its latent flaws and seriously questions the very relevance of societal whims which eat away into a budding student's mind that the end of education is a high profile job, wealth, fame, name et al., making them deprived of the opportunity to set their vision on something where their heart and soul lies! .. ~ Uma Shankar

The book “five point someone” I am sure I read by more or less all of us, and this movie is a loose adaptation of the same. (no matter what Raju or vidhu say.. it is very much inspired from the book). Though yes, It does require the caliber of hirani- Aamir to bring out the latent message in the book – the education system of the country and its flaws.

A little about the movie – It starts with Madhavan & Sharman getting a link about the whereabouts of Aamir , & they set out to meet him. Their college life is shown in the flash back. Aamir, who is different from others, with some off the track goal in mind, shows the first glint of his brilliance in the ragging scene. (very old engineering ragging technique!) They become friends & start living their rollercoaster life in the college. Boman irani is the principal, and he makes their lives hell, & to top it all, his daughter falls in love with one of them ( you know who!). The college fun, filled with some unexpected twists ad turns do make it an enjoyable watch.

The movie has raised some very valid & burning questions - teenagers committing suicide out of pressure, the validity of the college courses, need of grading system, etc.

The best part of the movie is that the makers have not only criticized the system and left it there, but have also shown the way – the school in Laddakh is a reminder for the government to see.

Now talking in detail about some fundamental flaws of the Indian education system which need to be changed.

Learning by rote

Learning by rote involves learning facts without developing a deep understanding of them. This lack of understanding makes it impossible to grasp meaning and apply and transfer the knowledge to other areas. Memorizing vocabulary words is pointless, for example, without understanding how to use them in conversation.

Lectures often emphasize rote learning rather than critical thinking. Topics are discussed sequentially, not critically. The teacher does the talking and most of the thinking. The student memorizes material and is placed in a passive role. But many of us who use the lecture should also be concerned that our students learn to think critically.

I remember students when teaching in a coaching institute for competitive exams. When I start teaching them to solve a problem yb starting from the basics of arithmetic, and then complete the entire question in a logical step by step manner, no bidy would listen. In the end, one of the guys would ask, “Sir, is there no shortcut formula for this problem?”.

Yes, there is a shortcut formula. MAKE ONE!. You should know how to derive the shortcut and make it your own.

I think it is time, that india moves to an enquiry based learning. This describes a range of philosophical, curricular and pedagogical approaches to teaching. Its core premises include the requirement that learning should be based around student's questions. Pedagogy and curriculum requires students to work together to solve problems rather than receiving direct instructions on what to do from the teacher. The teacher's job is therefore not to provide knowledge, but instead to help students along the process of discovering knowledge themselves.

Obsession with Grades

When I was in college, it was apparent. As the semester comes to a close, student anxiety tends to rise, usually to extraordinary levels. At L, the libraries would be filled with students

Students just talk to professors about one thing – grades. It is never to do with a new invention or some latest technology. No! it only has to be grades, and even if the talk digress to something academic it is only with the hope of creating an impression for it to reflect on the grades. ACP – After class participation.

Students who actually get curious about a subject are rare. It all just waters down to a letter grade.

My friends who went on a student exchange program to different parts of the world, had this to say about the system there, “.. their classroom manners weren't the best - arriving late, answering cellphones, and frequently turning in homework after it was due. But grades were never an issue. It truly was a productive academic environment - the focus was on collaborative learning rather than individual grades…

An example here would be MIT Professor Noam Chomsky. During his junior high school years, he went to an experimental school run by Temple University's education department. With no grades or competition, each student was simply encouraged to do his or her best. Chomsky recollects this school as a wonderful and influential experience.

His parents then sent him to a competitive high school for college-bound students. Chomsky realized that grades and success were all that mattered, and school suddenly became a scary place that he admits he hated: "If I got a B in something, it was tragic," he writes in a letter. "I even got a D once - in English grammar, a subject that made no sense at all as far as I could figure out."
huh! English grammar. Thankfully CAT just has the application part of English.

Since joining the linguistics faculty at MIT in 1955, he has changed the face of linguistics, and especially the English language, with his theories on generative grammar. The point here: Grades aren't everything; excellence is. (point reiterated more than once in the movie!!)

Of course, who can argue that earning a good grade is not important? I, too, must admit that I become preoccupied with grades in my own graduate classes. but well, i was never in the rat race. I just wanted to clear the papers, as a pre requisite. It remained the same at L too.
But rather than running behind success, we should strive to sun behind excellence, which is the truer secret to education.

kamyabi ke peeche nahi, kabilyat ke peeche bhago!.. kamyabi khud tumhare peeche daudegi

When "get results now" prevails over "achieve excellence," it's very tempting to renounce our integrity.

The movie is a must watch for everyone, and especially to the parents of south india, who have tirelessly churned engineers and more engineers in the past several years. In the south india I have seen, it is like after tenth standard, a teenager is given the option – engineering or medicine? It is as if there are no other options available in the world. This has done good to the economy – a complete full fledged coaching market has sprung and is flourishing, but what has it done to the intellectual capital?

We have lost potential cricketers, actors, writers, photographers to this demon called engineering. Most of them have been sucked to the IT industry, and one year of recession has shown its true colours. Supply far exceeds demand and still there is a demand for “Quality” and “job ready” candidates. All these students just know to rote, so applying them to the real world is completely a different ball game al together.

So I sincerely hope the movie shows some ways, and brings about a mindset change in some people atleast. And also, hoping that the people in power, think something about the whole system and realize it is time for reforms.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

New Year Resolutions

Now this is one funny thing that I have not understood for many years now. Why do people have new year resolutions? 99% of them are done with it by January end itself, and the remaining 1% wean away gradually I am sure. So why have it?

As one of my friend has it on her Gtalk status – “people who don’t keep their new years resolutions are weak people, and those who actually make new year resolutions are fools!

What's the difference b/w a New Year resolution and this blog?

A. You at least follow the latter! (picked this one from the MTVINDIA twitter stream)

I remember the last new years party in campus last year. Srini who was trying hard to quit smoking, comes over to me and Abhinav, and asks for a cigarette.

He had just got refused by Chitta.

Bharat: “I thought you made a New Year's resolution to quit smoking

Srini: “I'm in the process of quitting”, he replies with a grin on his face."

Srini: “Right now, I am in the middle of phase one.

Abhinav: “Phase one?

Srini: “Yeah.. I’ve quit buying!!

Needless to say, the cigarette remained lit for the entire year, and yes he did buy many a times. On his was to car dealers, in Mumbai local trains, he had to.

Talking more about resolutions, I wondered how a resolution list of people would look across the years.

Lazy reader

2006: I will read at least 20 books a year
2007: I will read all of Chetan Bhagat’s books
2008: I will read some articles in the newspaper this year.
2009: I will read at least one article this year.
2010: I will try to glance at RK laxman’s cartoon everyday this year!!

An Overweight guy

2006: I will reduce to 80Kg.
2009: I will try to develop a realistic attitude about my weight.
2008: I will work out 5 days a week.
2009: I will work out 3 days a week.
2010: I will try to drive past a gym at least once a week!

An extravagant woman

2006: I will not spend my money frivolously.
2007: I will pay off my credit card bills without fines
2008: I will be totally out of debt by the year end
2009: I will try to pay off the debt interest by the year end
2010: I will try to be out of the country before getting thrown into jail!

A poor husband

2007: I will try to be a better husband to pooja
2008: I will not leave pooja
2009: I will try for reconciliation with pooja
2010: I will try to be a better husband to Shilpa!

Again, a poor husband (come on, he deserves it!!

2007: I will stop looking at other women.
2008: I will not get involved with Shilpa.
2009: I will not let Shillpa affect my marriage
2010: I will stop looking at other women!! (there it starts again!)

An Alcoholic

2007: I will not take a drink before 8PM
2008: I will not touch the bottle before 4PM
2009: I will not become a "problem drinker".
2010: I will not miss my appointments with the liver doctor!!

A nerd

2005: When I hear a funny joke I will not reply, "LOL... LOL!"
2006: I will stop sending e-mail, gmail, webmail and be on the phone at the same time with the same person.
2007: I will stop sending e-mail to my roommate.
2008: will spend less than five hour a day on the Internet.
2009: I will not subscribe to an unlimited internet connection!
2010: I will not miss my appointments with the ophthalmologist.

Well, these were the resolutions of different kind of people. Coming to my own list:-

1. Give up smoking (again).
2. Learn a new skill, take up a new hobby. (really!)
3. Get organized. (yeah sure, and well buying an organizer does not fulfil this resolution)
4. Become more security conscious. (whose security?)
5. Be more regular on this page (this one i am serious)
6. Give up drinking, at least for the first week of January! (ahem! Well.. lets see!)
7. Stop procrastinating. Will start this from 11th jan, come on it’s a weekend, and last week I was busy.

Happy new year once again.

New Year’s Day: Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual. -Mark Twain

Good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account - Oscar Wilde

Friday, January 01, 2010

Targets on a new year

Well, one more year passed and quite an eventful year it was. What’s so great about the New Year dawning in then? Nothing really. It is just, that time of the year, where the calendar and the diary need to be replaced. People go to all extent and wish many other things changed! Hello, it is just a change in the year – 2009 to 2010.

After partying hard last night, I slept at about 2AM something. At 7AM, my new blackberry started ringing, and woke me up. Damn! I should have disabled the alarm. My prayer to God in the morning –
God Bhai (well, this is the way I refer to him).. So far this year I've done well.
I haven't boasted, I haven't lost my temper, I haven't been grumpy, cribbing, greedy, selfish, nasty, selfish, or overindulgent. I'm very thankful for that. But in a few minutes, boss, I'm going to get out of bed, and from then on I'm probably going to need a lot more help. Please help.

This is the way life is – nothing much changes in a single day. Just because the year changed does not mean anything changes.

Talking about the party last night – it was an amazing party. I went there with three other friends, and it was “drinks unlimited”. I had made up this resolution (more about them later) to reduce the intake of alcohol and save the liver from cribbing. But well, unlimited drinks dude, I had to reach my target (sales ka banda hun!). I pretty much got drunk.

I got a call from a good friend, MoBulAri at about 10PM.

Bharat: “yeah dude.. happy new year.. slurp!

MoBulAri (MBA): “dude.. these things can wait. Have any idea if any bookstore would be open now?”

Bharat: “ bookstore.. try the airport, no other reason why anybody should open shop at his time? By the way, why do you want a book shop now?

MBA: “My wife saw this dream in the afternoon where I gave her a diamond ring

Bharat: “Aha!” (should he not be asking for a jewellery shop? When did they start stocking diamonds at bookshops? Hope he is not referring to Arindham Chaudhari’s book!)

MBA: “And she asked me what does the dream mean?

Bharat: “Aha.. slurp” (dude, unlimited beer inside, don’t waste my time)

MBA: “So, I want to gift her this book – THE MEANING OF DREAMS!

Bharat: “%&^ $%&^$% $&$^% phone rakh saale!

I was back to the party, cribbing to Ahen how MBA (referring to MoBulAri here, not the last two years in Lucknow) wasted time – precious time, when beer is served unlimted. I so wish I had powers like a camel, where I could store all the beer needed inside somewhere! I ran to the bartender (oh btw, they had female bartenders here. Ooh!)

There was VJ bani of MTV fame, and she did a good job of keeping the crowd occupied. At about 11:30PM, she announced it was time to get ready. (for what?)

She announced that there are just 30minutes to go for the new years eve, and she wanted every husband to be standing next to the one person who made his life worth living.

Well, it was kind of embarrassing. The bartender was almost crushed to death. And the wives were just looking, more concerned about their appearance, than the behavior.

The party went on well, and I had set targets which I over achieved. Yes, I am a sales guy, and targets are something that drives me.

At about 10PM, I realized that I had just downed one beer, and it dawned that I should be extracting more bang out of it. So, I set myself a target of 6 beers before the clock strikes 12 midnight. It was mutually signed off with Ahen.

11:30PM. Damn I just finished my fourth beer, and only half an hour to go. The bartender was totally crowded by swarms of people (thank you Bani), but I did manage to squeeze in and asked for two bottles in one go.

With time running, I had no other option but to do a “rang de basanti” with the first bottle (drink the entire bottle of beer in one go!). I did. 11:40PM, and I had one more to go. Was the target too much? Should I actually revise it? NO. targets are always stretched, else they would not be called targets. Damn it. I have to finish the sixth bottle.

Slowly gulping it down, not caring for anyone close by, I did finish the 6th bottle, and heard Bani announce – “5 more minutes left!”. Yes, I completed my target well before the closing, and I still have time. I should now strive for the awards. Over achieve it.

After a tough ordeal at the bar, I managed a bottle of beer, and was again drinking. My friends at this time, were wondering if I had fallen off somewhere. No guys! I am just running.. running ahead of the targets.

The clock struck 12, people cheered, crackers bursted, we hugged, and here I had my seventh bottle in hand – half done.

Awesome feeling. Targets overachieved. Achievement : 108% (do the math!). Great beginning to a new year. See even i get carried away by this change in one day thing!

Well anyways, to all my blog readers - A very Happy new year to you!! have a RoKing time ahead!!