Sunday, July 17, 2011

Who wants us to be illiterate? - English medium Vs regional medium

 There's a joke which is as follows:
"British came to India and spoiled our country many years ago. We are spoiling their language everyday."

No offense please. I don't intent to degrade any Indian for not knowing a language. But my intention is to bring to the attention of people, a very ugly disease most of the parents have got. English medium mania! When I say English medium, I don't mean the medium of instruction being English, but a different set of schools.


What is English medium?

Till some years back, I was under the impression that English medium just meant the medium of instruction which one chose in school. As a student who had English as the instruction medium, I had never thought the other way round. But the difference doesn't actually lie in the medium, but in the syllabus; i.e, whether you are following state syllabus or CBSE or any other syllabus. It so happens that poor people like me studied state syllabus in English! :)

I don't know how to put it; if this seems to be abrupt, please forgive, me, I want to write many many things at once. But let me start with my own example. As I said, I was a state syllabus student, who used to score decently and all, but the thing is, when you are in state syllabus, you have both the English and the regional mediums. But in other boards, everything except language is in English! Not only that. There are many schools where you follow state syllabus and there will be both mediums, but the school strictly follows state board only; like my school where I did my high school and higher secondary; others where you have all boards and no regional language medium. [I'm strictly pertaining to high school for the time being, because if I describe my schooling till UP, it will take lots of time.]

So it happens that when a syllabus revision was made in my state, most of the students were changed from state syllabus to CBSE, for fear that the change will destroy their future! [I can't comment much on this, because it happened roughly after my schooling only.] There's always a belief that "English medium schools" are better than "ordinary schools" (no matter how old and established they are; I've two schools in my town,one more that 100 years old and one more than 90 years old, which includes my own school), even if these so called hi-fi "EM" schools have been established just like the mashroom in the last rain! I don't understand this psychology. What is so special about these schools? Can anybody give me an answer about that? Wherever you study, the content you study will be the same! Science, and history are not going to change! Only language text book changes. For all who have a point on this, I'll just say that the English syllabus which I learned from my 6th-10th in Kerala state syllabus is awesome. There are too many good things about those text books which I can write. But as an example I'll just tell about what abstracts they used to put in them. I will confidently say that, had I never learned those texts, I would never have developed any taste towards searching and reading English books (especially classics). 

If English is your concern, then just tell me what is so special about it? Its just another language! A language which can be used for communication just like any other language! Or is it the culture that you are bothered about? Then please tell me how you define culture. Does culture involve just wearing shoes+tie+socks+belt+ whatever other parts your EM school uniform require? Truly speaking I was much relieved to go high school because, till them I used to study in EM schools (not the horrible ones like these days, they were very nice schools, especially the one where I did my UP school) where I had to wear this painful uniform of shoes+socks+tie+belt, which I hated like anything. (Luckily I was never in a school which demanded its students to braid their hair into two and tie up pink/white/green ribbons (there are such schools even if they are not EM schools and follow state syllabus); such a pian!)  How relieved I felt after being in hight school! No shoes, no socks, no tie, no belt, only blue and white uniform everyday. :) Did my standard reduce because of that? Did my achievements in life become less because of that? Did, being in state syllabus close my opportunities in my life? Anybody who knows me personally can answer these questions.

Then I assume that its the problem with the ego of parents, it has not changed after these many years, I think it has only increased. What is so special about your child studying in an English medium school? Is your social status elevated by your poor child (who is forced to put all these junk dress (we can spare mountain areas) in this tropical country through which 23 degree latitude passes) studying in an English medium school? There are good govt schools or govt aided schools out there. Why can't you put your child in that school? Or are you a victim of the idea that sarkaar school are only for the poor and the dumb? Are you so afraid of accepting your financial status that you are ready to take loans to meet the unnecessary demands (like special uniform for special days and you can't stitch the uniform, it has to be done only through the school) made by these new schools? Or do you want to make up for the social status which you couldn't attain (that status should be defined by the person himself/herself), that you dream to show off a lot in front of others by telling "look, my kid is in English medium"? If so then you are doing a huge atrocity towards your kid and the future generation.

I once happened to hear form one of my friends that in their coaching center they were told that CBSE students were smarter than students who were in  state syllabus! If I get the person who told this, in front of me, I would like to ask him/her some questions:

1) Are you a good teacher?
2) Why are you practicing racism?
3)Were you in CBSE? If you weren't and if you were a state syllabus student, are you desperate because of that the fact that you became a coach at an entrance coaching centre other than becoming somebody else? If so, its not the fault of the syllabus and you should not pass such foolish ideas to students. 

[Actually I want to slap that fellow, for telling such stupid things to students who are teenagers and thus making them degrade themselves. Such people should not teach anybody. :-x]

I don't understand how can anybody make such an awful remark! Worse than this, I've heard people telling that those who studied in English medium can handle English better than those who were in regional mediums! Common yaar, its not true. I know many people who speak/write bad English, despite being instructed in English all throughout their schooling! As I said its just another language, and like any other language, it ought to be studied properly. Then only will one be able to handle it well. Ofcourse I can tell whether a person (a Malayali) was in English medium or Malyalam medium by the way in which they speak English, but how does it matter? There are millions of people around the world, who don't even speak English! [In that way Indians should be proud of themselves. Even in rural areas, people can communicate with bits and pieces of what they know. See I said rural area; how many EM schools are there in a typical rural area in India? Infact I once saw a man, whom most of the stylish EM worshipers would have laughed at, speaking very good English and that man did the most unlikely job anybody could imagine, (if my memory is correct) he burns dead bodies in Varanasi, and I saw him in a documentary in Discovery or NG. How did he learn to speak such good English? Was he in an EM school? He didn't look like a rich man, and definitely looked like one who would have had to face lots of hurdles in life.]

CBSE schools are necessary for parents with transferable jobs. Ok. Fine. People who are forced by situations go to such schools. But why despise state syllabus? Why make fun of it? Why make excuses like 90% in state = 75% in CBSe or other syllabus? See the student who scored 90% in state didn't score it with mere luck or with the help of the grader's mercy or cheating of any sort. He/she did so by working hard only. And you should accept that. Its not like this syllabus is better and this is worse. These sort of racism in education is unacceptable.

I want to point out one incident about which I heard, at this point. There is a provision by India GOVT, where poor students' education will be financed fully by the GOVT, schools should follow this , by admitting poor students into schools and providing education. A principal in one famous school in a city sent letter to all the parents in that school (obviously it is one school where rich people's kids study) telling that all poor students are KDs and dumb and will disrupt the peaceful environment of the class where their brilliant and good kids study and so all parents had to protest against admitting such students! Isn't it pure racism? And that too coming from a principal (I don't know whether the principal was just a puppet in the hands of the management this thing)?

Its high time that we re-evaluated the standards of the schools where our children study. I remember reading Stephen Hawking's biography. The best thing he said had happened to him was that he happened to study at a very ordinary,lovely, not hi-fi school in his childhood. I agree completely with it. Because the best thing that happened to me was that I was always in schools which gave enough freedom and space for a person to develop, when I was very young. I'm thankful to my parents (especially my father) who never put me in jailer schools and brought me up as an ordinary student. I hope parents now also will do the same; give some space to the kids to breath, dream and imagine.

"Give them some shunshine
Give them some ray"

So that they won't say

"I wanna grow up once again."

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Who wants us to be illiterate? - 4-Entrance mania & expensive is better

From the title itself one can guess what I'm going to talk about. Yes I'm going to talk about something which I never let into my life and which all the others of my own age or younger than me did/ are doing and will do for a long time.


When I was a kid, all I wanted to become when I grew up was an Astrophysicst, because I had read about our solar system when I was in 4th std and I was in 4th in 1994 when the celebrated "Shoemaker Levy" collided with Jupiter. So even from my 4th, I had an idea that I was going to be a scientist (in between I started bird watching and all, afterwards I became a nature lover, and wanted to become an environmentalist, but my love for stars grew up along with me; I wish my childhood would come back). And in general I don't care for any competition until I take upon an interest in it. Also, I had somehow tried to figure out what class to study after what class and I found out when I was a child about UG and PG (one reason is that my father was an employee in university, so I used to hear a lot about these stuff, but never had any idea that there were two fields called medicine and engineering). So I had almost decided that I would do Physics after plus two, anyway I knew that I wanted to go for higher education in this subject. (One of the other reason for my interest in science was "Turning point", I've met the two wonderful people who used to anchor the show, to my great pleasure :) [that's because I heard what my heart said]).

So when I was in plus one, my mom asked do you want to go for coaching, I said no, and one day by the end of the year in plus to, my mom again asked "what do you want to become"? I was really surprised at this question because she was asking it at when the public exam was to start. As I said earlier, she wanted me to become a doctor (and if I became on I would have become a neurologist, because I like brain very much :) ). But I knew that it was not what I wanted. I wanted to be a Physicist. Again after exams (when I was free for 3 months which I enjoyed reading my favorite book about my favorite detective, she asked again, "all of your friends are going, do you want to go atleast for a crash course"? I said no. Because I didn't want to go. I had applied for the exams, because writing exams are fun (I do that even now ;) ) and I used to study bits and pieces when I pleased. :) But I got some rank around 6700 (the funny thing is that, I got a call letter to join B.Pharm!) with my own lazy studies. My Mom used to believe that I would have become a doctor or Engineer if I had gone for proper coaching. But that not my way. So didn't go. I used to wonder, still I wonder, without the extra burden of coaching I felt that the classes on Saturdays, which were exclusive for higher secondary students were tiresome. One can't even sit and relax or enjoy  pleasant weather at home even on weekends! I feel sorry for all those students who have willingly or unwillingly taken up this burden. If you really are into it its ok, otherwise there's no necessity of toiling hard (it will give you rewards some day) and letting your /childhood pass away in crawling colours. [May be you've are enjoying life with friends in coaching classes with friends, I don't know.]

 I've written a lot, except not my point. So 99% of the science students go for entrances and severe "coaching (torturing)"  classes and most of the time, don't pass the entrance and may be try again if you are so much insistent and after that give up all the torture and go to BSc(last aid). If they are rich and can harvest money from trees, they go for Engineering and Medicine by paying huge amounts of donations (bribes - good field to implement Lokpal bill; but first the "Jan" who want the seats will go in) and fees. Thus comes the difference between merit and management and hence reservation (mostly based on the religion or caste of the management which runs the institution) and self financing. Well finance your own education (like finance your own job post; pay 5 lakh (this is old number) donation in the school/college run  by a management which belongs to your "community (see here community has to be assigned especially to "caste community or religion community" instead of a student community") and get the teaching or whatever post. Argument : "Settles life. 5 lakh repaid in 5 years as salary." That means for five years one has to work without salary, or be "self employed under an institution with a name"!) To study the course which you (in other words "to study a course which will supposedly "raise" your and yours parents' "social status", you've to lower your financial security to a fatally low value! (Fatally low, because it will be mostly an education loan (from nationalised banks it is a bit better, because the loan is fatal for the banks actually; but if you've borrowed from a blade bank, it is fatal for you)  and if you read newspapers you'll know the consequences.)") Do you really love the course? Who knows ?Do you really know Engineering or how to treat a patient? There was a record breaking news about a batch of medical students in a very famous (notorious) private hospital which became a self financing medical college, that all of them failed in the public exam! Just imagine, the danger these "doctors" will pose to the society. [Razor sharp cutting business of doctors is another issue, not to be discussed now.]

Couldn't they have gone for some other courses in which they had interest and talent, instead of trying to carry the gigantic course of medicine which needs skill since you're going to deal with the life of a person? Who is the culprit? Parents or the institutions which pop up like mushrooms in the late night rain, with the intention to get rich by exploiting the human greed for status and name? Or the students who don't or can't muster up the courage to stand up to their dreams?

"Bachpan to gaya
Jawani bhi gayi
Ab to ab humain
Jeene do jeene do..."

Can't you tell these if you are feeling burdened? What is the need of being victims to unnecessary competition, the part of which you don't want to be? If you want to become something you like (not a bad person or profession), become that? What use is there to fill up the world with same kind of people? Even statistical distributions are not uniform in real life. Then why do you want to reduce the standard of your living and quality of your understanding by doing following the crowd? And why do educational institutions have to set up higher and higher cut off, that even the best students won't get admission and will be forced to live the life of one who has to "finance his/her own studies"? Is this move for privatising the educational sector, so that only those with money whether they have brains or not will be able to "study higher"? Oughtn't education be doing good such as teaching and help learning good values instead of reinforcing an ugly culture that only money can bring good, there by increasing mental depressions and teaching chasing indirectly so that all good values in life are forgotten?Its really bad for the future of our country. No matter how hard you try to tell that India has become this, and that, if you want to keep the achievements, you've to give education to all whether the taker takes it or not. Atleast people who call them educated and sit as the heads of these institutions and implement foolish things like this should understand this fact. Unless you've all sort of students, you can't call yourself a good teacher, because you are a good teacher or your institution is good when you make even a duffer come up in life.

To be continued................................. 


Who wants us to be illiterate? - 3

Grading system was introduced to reduce unhealthy competition in the name of marks. But people are so smart that they started the trend of highlighting all A+ or all A!


Why did it happen? Our country is not a very rich country that everybody who wants to have education is not gifted with a chance to have as he/she (especially girls in my opinion) pleases. One hindrance is financial one and the other is social one. Or atleast education has been made the most expensive "product" in the market! What market? The market for status. It is not a new thing that certain courses are considered to bring more status than the others. For example, professional courses (all professional course students forgive me). When I decided to go to BSc after plus two, many people asked me; "are you going for BSc"? You know what? BSc is considered as a very low level course! I even had a classmate who did BSc for one year and left to do some medical related course only because somebody asked her "Are you doing BSc?"

It is sort of rule of thumb that all those who have scored distinction in plus two science (since I'm a science student, its easy for me to talk about it), must go for either Engineering or Medicine! I knew a girl who scored distinction in 10th, wanted to learn commerce, but her family refused her to do that! What is this? One of my teachers had told us once in class that a student's interest or career is determined in UP school itself. So if a student wants to do commerce or humanities even when he/she has scored distinction, why can't you just let the person learn whatever he/she wants?I'll talk about the entrance exams later.

I'm very sorry to say that the attitude of parents regarding the education of their students is not a healthy one. They may be people who have never learned any Engineering or Medicine in their lives, but want to force their children learn what they don't want to. My own mother wanted me to become a doctor, which I never approved of, I didn't like learning too much physiology or chemistry, I liked Physics and Maths, so why on Earth would I go to do something in which I had no interest at all. Thanks to my own strong decisions, I never had to be sad like "Oh My God, why I chose this" or to have struggle mentally to cope up with something which I didn't like.

But the thing which I was talking  is a different one, though not entirely. So children should be given the freedom to choose the course they want to study. So if somebody with whole heart wants to be an Engineer (like Rancho in Three Idiots (I recommend that film to all of you), he/she must be given the chance to become an Engineer. Its not fair to refuse a person's opportunity just because that person doesn't belong to a particular socio-economic-regional-lingual-caste-country-gender class. Because education is everybody's birth right. Rights should be sold and one should be aware that they belong to one. The "neo-urban-stylish-I don't care for the other one society-patronising-f-s and all other sorts of words"  of India will not agree with this statement, because they are privilaged people who have always had their rights. But dear people, India is mostly rural, even now, and as Gandhiji said (I don't know whether you know who he is, or whether you believe in his principle) India will develop when the villages will develop. (One more point to be added about this particular kind of urban people (not all urban people); you are definitely stylish, can speak English (big deal)  and talk eloquently about self reliance and all (not that you don't need that) but do you know anything about endosulfan? (One of my "urban" friend trashed an article which I gave him about such issues as endosulfan.) If you don't know, I can't help. Probably you may not even want to know. Sorry to say this again. I've 268 friends on facebook. Nobody reshared a post about endosulfan from me. Nobody cares unless they become unprivilaged. That's not a good trend.)

 So if a child in an underdeveloped rural area scores 80% or 75% after studying in a school with no proper facility or cracks an entrance exam without any coaching mania, then that 75% shines more than the 100% of an over privilaged urban child. Not that 100% has value, but when this 75% waala/waali who is really brilliant wants to come out and study his/her opportunity is being refused just because of the score.

To be continued............................................

Friday, July 8, 2011

Who wants us to be illiterate? - 2

When I was a child, I never cared about all these things or in other words I never bothered anything about my status in class. I remember that I never scored anything better than a silver medal in class (or A grade, which means that I was in the above average group) and if you told me something like first rank, I would ask what it was! But as I grew up and changed my school, in UP, i.e from my 5th std, I suddenly found myself in a limelight! I started becoming first in my class! From then onwards I found myself hurled up into the run for top position! Same happened again when I was shifted to high school also, but in the long run, I somehow used to manage to get to the first position almost everywhere and in everything which I did. So I was sort of enjoying the first position, when suddenly after BSc I became second and the hell I made out of it was so horrible that, I didn't believe in myself for a long time, due to which I made a hell out of me during my MSc also. But there's a lesson to be learned from what I had experienced when I was 20. Because, I was supposed to be one who will make it to the rank or something, which I knew I'd never make, but others had placed their genuine/fake expectations on me. So what is the lesson to be learnt? A person who scored 95.5% in her BSc started hating her mark only because she couldn't score 98% which she wanted to, (but other people thought I was a super girl or something that I'd score 99%!), and she had started rating herself on the basis of her marks only! Sorry to say this, but I learnt the lesson that one should never estimate one's own quality based on marks which they score in exams. Infact retrospecting truly I find that I'm a happy go lucky fellow who really wants to enjoy life and learn things not score, but who somehow got caught up in the "being brilliant" business just because I'm a bit above average! But I learned another very valuable lesson in life, that even when I was never a rank holder all over the state or all over India, I always went for higher studies. Its like not being the top scorer in each level in a game but a person who scores enough to go up the levels in it and be able to play it till the end. I hope I'll keep going. :)

What I wanted to tell using my own example is that, it doesn't really matter how high you score, because you've to be able to go up in life. So when the institutions put cut off of near cent percent, it is like setting unrealistic goals for people. I don't believe education is not something where you should encourage (directly or indirectly) unnecessary competitions. I've seen people copying in their exams to get high scores in exams. Then what is the point of having studied upto some very high classes? Score are not everything. If somebody sets 100% cut off and somebody score by treachery, the one who scored 60% or 80% by hard work or truthfulness is being subjected to injustice. Right? Its not that all who score are cheats. But young people should be subjected to so much pressure in the name of scores or excellence or whatever stuff. In my opinion those who had enjoyed childhood (when I mean childhood, I'm including teenagers also, because at my age, I feel that they are children) well have the best chance of blooming up in life. One should definitely study, and as the "above average student" I'm for studying, but not beyond a limit or the children should not be forced to study beyond their capacities. If one doesn't use his/her capacity to the full amount it is bad, but even forcing a bright student to score beyond his limit, (like for example, you score 95 and people tell you that you should have score 99%) one is very likely to be a victim of the following thoughts :

1) I scored well, even then my parents don't appreciate me. They love me only for my marks. :(

2) Nobody accepts my talent. Then why should I be talented?

3) I worked hard this much, even then I scored this much only, there's no point working hard (or even working) in life at all.


1) The person loses self confidence.
2) Feels distance to everybody and starts to turn away form everybody.
3)Stops doing the hard work/work he/she used to do.

Extreme step, thinks about suiciding.
Second extreme : depression.

So my question is this: What is the real purpose of education? To enlighten people and fill their lives with hope, or to hurl people into the realm of unhealthy competitions and expectations and depress them to the point of thinking about taking their own lives?

To be continued................................................

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Who wants us to be illiterate?

Disclaimer : I'm not an expert on this matter, but I can't help expressing my own views in this, because if I ever try to turn my thoughts away from it, I'll be doing injustice to me; if I don't express my views, it is even more injustice to me. Out of the 25 years of my life, I've been a student for the past 22 years.

My motivation comes from latest news about the impossible cut offs for admission set by some universities and about the prospect of implementing a common syllabus in Tamil Nadu. I'm not going into the technical details about the news, but I'm going to write on what I feel about the matter.

First the cut off thing. Universities set conditions that a student should have scored 100% or near 100%marks in plus two examination, to be admitted for degree courses. Excuse: "It is to select the best students". So isn't atleast above 90% a good mark? Or , are the students who score below 90% dumb? So, doesn't the hard work of a student who has worked hard to score near 90% or above 95% have no value? What is this? Is the trend going to be so that, in future you've to score 200% to get an admission in the so called universities or places which are "hi-fi" ?

Isn't it a renewal of cast system in one way? I mean the society is already divided drastically by economic standard, then by standards like those who are "stylish" and "simpleton". Then again according to those who do "highly paid white collar jobs" and "lowly paid mean jobs". Education was supposed to be a divine thing. And lately it has also become a criteria for diving people! 

As far as I can remember, the division of students who study in "English medium" and "regional medium" has always been there. And then even in an English medium class, those who were "below average,average, above average and brilliant" were there. (Along with the general belief that all regional medium students are poor quality students! I don't know the origin of this belief, but I'm sorry to say that many of the very brilliant people I know have studied in regional mediums during their schooling.)

To be continued.......