Friday, 16 December 2016

Blowing in the Wind...

So many questions and we are looking all around…….. the answer my friend…. is blowing in the wind. Last month the Nobel Committee on literature in Sweden awarded the Nobel prize for literature to the uncivil but iconic figure of the 21st century, Bob Dylan. A rebel with many causes. Bob Dylan came by at a unique time where the world was undergoing changes. Industrial revolution was taking shape in Europe and America.The world was just about settling down after being battered by two world wars and the first use of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The world was broadly drawn apart by two primary political ideologies. The Communist thought, practiced and led by Russia and China, large parts of Eastern Europe, many Latin American countries besides many African and Asia countries and the other called themselves Free world democracies where the people decided who would lead them through elections like Western Europe, India, Japan, USA, Australia etc. The world was bipolar one led by Russia and the other by America. Two bloody wars for world primacy was being fought in Vietnam & Cambodia and the other in Korea by USA and Soviet Union. The youth in Europe and America took up cudgels with the then government, against the war which was not connected to them- and the Rock & Roll culture was born. The youth world over did not want to fight battles. They wanted love and peace thereby the famous sign of Peace, love etc. Hippie culture was on the rise as a sign against any form of rules which were seen by the youth as unjust laws, be it in schools, university or work place. “Woodstock” a rock show over three days still remains a milestone in the growing liberal movement. Drugs, smoking, rock music, modern art, free love and political opposition was the norm. Hijacks, Police brutality and army excess anywhere in the world was rebelled against. One such rebel was Bob Dylan. There will be many a debate on nominating and awarding Bob Dylan the Nobel prize. Was it appropriate, mainly from Purists, who will readily acclaim García Márquez or Salman Rushdie or Rabindranath Tagore as worthy of such a prize. The truth is Bob Dylan is an amazing poet and musician who poignantly brought out the pain and suffering of the youth and the inequalities that existed then. He constantly was against the establishment forcing them to right their wrong. He spoke about the unjust wars, the mass destruction of forests, the exploitation of labour and pollution. He was intolerant to the world and the United Nations for being tolerant to apartheid in South Africa and the sins of politicians. He expressed love for all humanity in his writing and practiced in his life. His famous song and lilting lyrics of “Blowing in the wind”, “Like a rolling stone”, “Knocking on heavens door” are a landmark both in music and poetry that connected with the youth of the sixties to the eighties. But they apply to our lives today even more, since the inequalities still exist, planet earth is on self-destruction mode, gender bias, religion, caste and colour divide still exist. Congratulations Bob Dylan on receiving the award and just like you, playing difficult to reach and a truant to the Nobel awards committee who just can’t reach you ……. They should have known better. The answer my friend is Blowing in the wind, the answer is blowing in the wind…

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Education: A Tall Order?

Every year, the months of March to June are times when both parents and children undergo an arduous journey of being tested, getting admitted and being bench marked, notwithstanding the interventions of the government education officers and the glee amongst the journalists of the fourth estate.
The news being created for them free of charge means they have to use less grey cells to write meaningful, impacting, transformational articles or editorials. All the good deeds and misdeeds across the nation come out from all parts of the country. There is woeful lack of clarity and purpose all around, be it examinations, results, admissions, discipline, leaking of question papers, the toppers and the failures, the success against all odds and failure due to missing the train to help you reach the examination hall on time… the train being cancelled, the inability to show compassion by educationists and soulful efforts of a rickshaw puller in Patna whose son or daughter makes the grade. If we want to negotiate the minefield of education, it is a veritable mess from the nursery to the highest levels of education. That education is a State subject and the Centre has a HRD ministry. Between the two HRD ministries in New Delhi and the State education ministry there is a wide gap. More and more schools are moving out from the clutches of the State Government to become a CBSE or ICSE followers as now they find that too stifling and many of them, the new ones are becoming International schools. Are the teachers prepared? Is the infrastructure available? Is the community prepared to pay the kind of fees it requires? Almost in all the cases the answer is no. Many have created the infrastructure first and in due course got the affiliation. The school was provided land at a reasonable cost like hospitals so as to benefit the local community. But if the locals cannot afford the education, then the schools import the students from afar to fill the seats as they can afford but the local community cannot. Admissions incidentally in Mumbai and Delhi are only given to students residing within the 5 km radii of the school. The point being made is simple. Keep it simple. The unnecessary tension faced by all is not even worth the effort because few sell quality in the end. Quality is a misused word. What we get instead is a compromise. We compromise is selection of the best manpower, we compromise in the selection of the best supplier, we compromise on selecting the best materials, we compromise with safety, we compromise on admissions, examinations and we compromise with education which is now sold as a commodity. In the end we surround ourselves with mediocrity. The market forces are at play and in a matter of a few years the school will lose its sheen. Compromise is a short term game. The game changer is to constantly surround yourself with the best. Thus what is the magic formula to succeed? Schools impart knowledge and that and that alone should be its focus. Schools will lose out if they assume the term I mentioned earlier. “Knowledge” does not mean books alone; it is imparting all round knowledge for the mind, body and soul. Children are sharp and know when they are being fooled. So transparency, quality, honesty, compassion, understanding and immense subject knowledge of the faculty, well stocked library, intrepid and enquiring laboratories, clean toilets and a humungous playgrounds will define the school. I am aware this costs. Never did I say education comes cheap. Quality outdoor education or camping like quality schools does not come cheap either. Parents must learn to pay and schools should invest in the magic formula. Be it a municipal run school or an ICSE, CBSE, Cambridge, IB or whatever else comes around. People will pay if they know top and uncompromising quality and safety is on the menu.