Monday, March 29, 2010

Will the education system ever improve in Kerala?

Its 17 years since I came into the teaching profession. I have taught in unaided schools as well as in government aided schools. I feel very sorry to find the standards of students’ dwindling year after year. The time I joined the higher secondary section the medium of instruction was English and students had to write their examination in English. A student who didn’t know English would learn to write in English by the time he/she reached the 12th standard.

But what is the standard of the students now?

I am one of teachers who went through the DPEP training course and taught the first batch of students in the DPEP method. When the system was introduced I found the system quite good. Students had both the practical knowledge as well as they knew how to read and write. But as the years passed by, the system lost its values, the teachers their ethics and the students their hard work.

Malayalees of yesteryears held very respectable places in our country as well as abroad. But over the years the standard of education has gone down. Thanks to the selfish motives of unscrupulous politicians and educationists. To tide up with growing financial crisis of state, the politicians borrow money from various international monetary organizations even without thinking about the consequences of the terms and conditions of these organizations. It is heard that the some of the Western countries are trying to destroy our education system and I feel that it is true.

The picture painted by the government is very rosy. They boast that Kerala has the best pass rate at the SSLC and at the Higher Secondary level by making the students pass even when they don’t know even how to write their own names. I am telling you this from my personal experience. Now Mr. Education Minister, what are you trying to do? What do you gain by destroying the lives of so many generations? Is it not for selfish motives that you are doing this? Do you want to increase the unemployment rate? People who have passed the Plus two get a false notion that he/she is highly educated and expects a white collared job. He/she is unwilling to do any other low paid jobs.

The examinations conducted by the government are a farce. Malpractice is the order of the day. It is encouraged from the top officials to the lowest rung of the non teaching staff. Nobody ever dares to take action against the erring students. The students feel it is their right to copy and teachers feel it is their responsibility to make students pass. There are many teachers who stoop to the level of encouraging malpractice at the time of public examinations. The teachers who are stern are considered to be the black sheep among their community itself.

I am sorry to say that there are people who have been debarred by the university, for malpractice in the teaching profession. What ethics can you expect from such teachers? They readily support students in malpractice (because the students shouldn’t have their fate!!!). I personally know teachers who allow students to copy during public examinations. To add to this there is a squad that has been appointed by the government to prevent malpractice. The squad is just a namesake and never bothers to check students individually.

This is the same when it comes to valuing answer scripts. Teachers are too generous that many don’t even take the trouble of reading the answer papers. They take immense pride in saying that no one has ever been failed by him/her. They criticize teachers who fail students saying that if students fail, they will not take up our subjects. There will be a division fall and teachers will be out of employment. Do teachers have to sacrifice the standard of education just for the security of their employment??? This is the heights of selfishness!!!!

The government is so keen in protecting the state stream students. They give marks generously and 50% of the marks are to be included in the entrance examinations. And the reason for this is that the students from the ISC and CBSE are faring better than the state stream students. Instead of improving the standard of the state stream, the government has found an easy solution. Is this the Kerala model development???!!!

If the education system is to improve, I think,

Firstly, the education minister should be a very highly qualified person. He should at least have a post graduation degree (passed).

Secondly, politics,religion and caste should not play a role in appointments of Vice Chancellors, Directors and high officials in the universities and other educational offices.They should be people of very high quality and not people with fat purses.

Thirdly, teachers who are dedicated and of high quality should be appointed in schools. From the primary classes itself teachers should give a strong base to the students. Religion and politics should not be the criteria for appointment of teachers.

Fourthly, if a teacher is found to be unethical, he/she should be terminated from service, after an enquiry.

Fifthly, tuition should be banned. Only then will teachers be less partial and more dedicated. Students will listen in class once they know they have no where to go for help.

Sixthly, only deserving students should pass. Others should be failed. Students shouldn’t get the feeling that they can pass without learning.

Seventhly, internal marks should be given according to the standard of the work that the students submit. Marks should never be given to undeserving students. I know a student who was given 9 marks out of 10 for English internal assessment. And the marks she scored for English examination was just 1. So I don’t have to tell you about the standard of the student, right?

Lastly, Mr. Education Minister, please don’t introduce grading in colleges. Already the SSLC and Higher Secondary education has lost its standard. Please don’t destroy the standard of the colleges too.

If the education system in Kerala is not reformed at the earliest, then we will have a whole lot of generation who will possess high degrees and will not know how to read or write a sentence correctly. This applies mainly to the students who have studied the state stream. There will be an outflow of students to other states and there will be no students for us teachers to teach. The students from other streams with outsmart the state stream students. Even if the government tries to protect the students by guaranteeing them admissions to professional courses, they will never be able to pass the course until the government introduces grading even there!! And the government can blow its own trumpets by saying it has the largest number of professionals in the world who doesn’t know how to write his/ her name correctly!!!!

I don't intend to hurt the feelings of my fellow beings. This is purely my observation and intensely desire to see a better education system in Kerala.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Even I got a driving licence

From the time I remember people said I suffered from dromophobia as I was very scared to cross the roads. I always avoided busy roads. I somehow could not muster the courage to cross a busy road. I always resorted to auto rickshaws for crossing the roads. [I could have bought at least a dozen of auto rickshaws for the money I spent on hiring them].

By the time I was eighteen, my mum was determined that I had to learn driving. I flatly refused saying that I would appoint a driver when I needed one or my husband would become my driver!!! (Fat hopes!! Nothing worked out the way I dreamt). I was actually scared to learn driving. Our car had met with an accident some years back. It was a head on collision with a KSRTC bus and my sister was injured badly. I was the only one who escaped unscathed. My sister learnt driving and obtained her licence when she reached eighteen. I, who was uninjured, did not take my licence until I was thirty!

I decided to learn driving because I had to depend on my husband every time I had to go out, or to drop me at my work place. At times he could get irritated with me. My ego was hit and so I ventured into driving. My first guru was my husband itself. He taught me driving in our old ambassador car. The basic lessons he taught me were

1. I was to use my left leg for the clutch
2. My right leg was used to control the accelerator and brake
3. I was to switch off the clutch every time I had to change the gear.
4. When I braked I had to off the clutch and lower the gear
5. Never keep my left leg on the clutch while I am driving.
6. Never start a car in any gear position. The car would jerk.
7. While overtaking a speeding vehicle I was second or third gear.
8. While going uphill I was to go in the second gear. If it was a very steep slope I had to go in the first gear as it was very powerful.
9. Should switch off the air conditioner when going uphill.
10. Never drive on the left side of the road. It was okay to hit a vehicle but never a pedestrian.

I felt learning algebraic equations were far easier than learning the dos and don’ts of driving. I some how could not remember the all the rules at a stretch. Initially my husband was patient with me. In course of time he started losing his patience. [After all I was destroying the gear of that antique car!!]. I either forgot to switch off the clutch while changing the gear or forgot to start the car in the neutral position. The car would jerk, he would shout, and I would walk out [like the members of the opposition in the Parliament]. Finally I made up my mind to go to a driving school and try my luck there.

I joined a driving school close to my house. It was only at the time of joining the driving school I knew what MDS was. Till then I thought it was Master of Dental Surgery. I always used to wonder why many driving school had MDS on the cars. The ‘Principal’ of the driving school showed a lot of respect to me [reasons unknown to me]. He was extremely patient with me though I did not follow the clutch and brake rules. [The reason for his patience was later discovered. He had a clutch and brake on his feet too].

He told me that I was fast at picking up what he taught me [according to my husband I was dumb as I was an ‘Arts’ student. It seems we “Arts students” don’t have logical reasoning]. Though he scolded others, he never told me anything. Was it because he respected me or was it because he was scared of me? I am not sure about that.

My driving classes went off well. I drove quite confidently when no vehicles were sighted on the road. But if vehicles came in the opposite direction my heart went pit a pat. If it was a speeding vehicle, then I could leave the steering wheel and scream.

I was taught how to take the ‘H’. The instructors of the driving school gave a lot of importance to this ‘H’. I had to learn how to reverse the car (I still hate reversing cars. After all I am an “Arts” post graduate with no logical reasoning!!). Somehow I learnt how to take the ‘H’ Iron rods were kept at regular intervals in ‘H’ position. At particular rods some signs were there. It would either be an empty milma cover or a crumpled bisleri bottle, or a coloured carry bag, or a piece of tattered and torn cloth. At the sight of that milma cover or bottle we were to turn the steering wheel. Every time I was on the driver’s seat, the instructor was there to give me instructions like lower the gear, reduce the speed, stamp the brake and so it went on and on.

The date for the test was announced. The Principal told me that I had to take Rs.300 the next day. It was the fees that each student had to give the inspector for obtaining the licence.

The D day had come and I was to take the much hyped ‘H’ and road test. I dressed up very modestly for the test. A vehicle came to pick me up at 8oclock in the morning. When I reached the test site I saw a big crowd of future drivers. I was also going to become a driver in two or three hour’s time. I was nervous. My heart was beating at an alarming rate. I am not sure if the others heard my heart beats. One of the instructors told us that we were the first people to take the test. He asked who could do it first. I volunteered to take the test first. I just wanted the whole thing to be over fast.

A short, bulky and clumsy inspector came and stood outside. He asked me to take the ‘H’. There were no any milma covers or biseleri bottle to guide me. I was to take the ‘H’. I closed my eyes for a moment and turned the key and started the car. Slowly I went forward, then reversed the car, and finally went forward. And lo I completed my ‘H’ without any problem. There was a loud cheer from the “future drivers.” I felt like Edmund Hillary on top of Mount Everest. I was very happy. I straight went to a shop nearby and bought a bottle of water as my throat was parched. I had to wait for more than two hours for the test to get over for other candidates.

The next was road test. Road test was easy when compared to that ‘H’. The inspector sat next to me. In our car there were two other women and our instructor. I drove quite well. The inspector asked me to stop the car.

“Stop the car?”

I didn’t know how to stop the car. The inspector again asked me to stop the car. I started panicking. Nobody had ever taught me how to stop the car. I lowered the gear but the car kept moving. What was I to do? I started sweating in that air conditioned car. From behind the instructor said,

“Teachereee, aa brake chavittu” (Teacher please brake the car).

I gave one big stamp on the brake and the car stopped with a jerk.

“Ithu enthu chavitta, koche?” the Inspector frowned.
“Ah, irangu irangu,” he said.
I was in a distressed state. I was sure to fail the road test.
While getting out of the car he declared that I had passed the test. I stood at the road stunned.

“Did I really pass the test? He must have just bluffed” thought I

A car of the driving school came and picked me up from the road. They told me that I had passed the test. It was only then I came to my senses. Hooray, I passed the test!!!!

Thanks to the bribe of Rs. 300. Even I got a driving licence though I did not know how to stop the car.

My father strongly protested against my getting a licence since he felt that it was a very grave crime on the part of the RTO to make me pass when I didn’t know how to stop the car!!!
“This is not Malaysia, Daddy. You don't have to know driving. All you need is money,"I said to myself

This is India, man!!!!!