a pseudo-photoblog

Posts tagged “education

The Student-Teacher divide

Read all mushy posts for Teachers day a couple of weeks back..

Get outraged by the kind of innovatively wrong answers students come up with while checking exam papers a week back..

Witness both clever thinking and pointless-ly done assignments a few days back..

‘Enjoy’ an all time high interaction with students as a TA (in teaching concepts, clarifying doubts, arguing abt the correctness of their answers etc.) during the past few days..

You tend to think about the way teaching & learning is perceived by students & teachers.

You realize that there is a clear divide. Feel it more since you yourself are positioned ON the dividing line.

You find the divide depressing & put up a status message saying..

Looks like an entire generation has been ‘educated’ to believe that Good Teaching=”preparing short notes of a text book & presenting them in class as slides” and Learning=”memorize slides vaguely.. you can let your imagination run wild to interpret them when confronted with questions in the exam“.. Sadly, Thinking & Appreciating concepts do not find a place.

Well. . that sounded more like I am lamenting on behalf of the teacher (which I was doing), and it was quick to provoke heated arguments with friends. . All who have been only on the student side of the divide..

I say : Students do not utilize a teacher’s earnest effort to put across concepts in interesting ways.

They say : I haven’t seen too many teachers put any kind of effort! May be they do in YOUR dept, in YOUR institute. . But how many teachers do you remember from your previous institute who made learning interesting?

I say :

I say : Students refuse to learn & appreciate basics or contemplate about any concept in detail. . They refuse to go beyond what the slide says.

They say : They would do that when someone provokes thought in them.. When someone makes them see that learning & thinking is fun. Who does that?

I say : It is a 2-way process. . Learning can be fun only if both parties put in effort.. For instance, students should be thinking why an assignment is framed the way it is. . What it is trying to make them learn/experience/appreciate. . and THEN attack the problem . . there is no point in mechanically doing an assignment and presenting a solution which most of your peer group agrees upon. How many do that?

They say : Do we have the time for that? You give us assignment after assignment, deadline after deadline in course after course. . If we sit & meditate on each assignment, when are we going to finish? And when are we going to find time to enjoy life?

I say : Well. . You can enjoy learning too. . If only you stop treating life as a rat race where courses are laps finished. Students seem to be more interested in scoring more than their peers than in learning. Why worry about “Am I getting a half a mark less than that fellow? Should I fight/beg the TA for that half a mark?” instead of thinking “I made this mistake & lost marks. . I have learnt what not to do now” ?

They say : Life IS a rat race, honey!

I say : Why do students (esply the post graduates who have graduated from non-IITs) seem to think that ‘covering’ a textbook is better teaching? Why do they prefer a prof who runs through every detail in the textbook in marathon-mode to a prof who takes it slow & steady & tries to get the class to think & appreciate the stuff? If I had to ‘cover’ a textbook, I would sit under a tree & read it. . not come to class at 8am in a cold November!

They say :

They say : For all that talk, how many profs approach teaching with a passion? How many approach each classroom session with an infectious enthusiasm? They do a mechanical job, we too go through it mechanically.

I say : As long as students do not take the course seriously & show enthusiasm & commitment, how do you expect profs to retain their enthusiasm and do a great job? They are bound to get frustrated from seeing no fruit for their efforts. That means, you get a poor course experience cos you did not respond positively to the Prof’s efforts.

They say : !!! Profs get frustrated? I thought they’d be cool with their jobs. . Though it may be thankless & boring.

I say : !!!

Clearly, the arguments lead nowhere. . They are never-ending. . But they do throw up some interesting points..

  • When would teachers retain passion for teaching & approach each class with an aim to put across basic concepts & provoke thought?
  • When will students realize that going through the works of a course mechanically is mere waste of time & effort?
  • When will teachers recognize the need to pause the grilling for a while & help students realize that their active role is important in making the course worthwhile?
  • When will students realize that not all teachers fall in the category of “know nothing. . repeat something from textbook. . gives a damn about whether I learn something or not”? That in most cases, a lot of thought goes behind the way a course is conducted?
  • When would this student-teacher divide be bridged?

Questions sound too idealistic & utopian eh?


“Education consultancy” = Confuse young minds!

An early morning “Bull-shit!!!” provoker : “Choose computer science and IT courses”

This article opens with :

“Students waiting to join engineering colleges have been advised to choose computer science and IT courses since they have huge potential for jobs.”

Congratulations for an absolutely [err.. excuse me] retarded opening! Bravo!

Another “D’oh!” statement :

“Stating that the core engineering branches have limited job potential, Mr. Gandhi said that students need to do career planning every year to make themselves employable and successful.”

What ever happened to “Follow your dreams”? So its “Follow the herd” now!

Oh sorry. . How can it be “Follow your dreams”? Youngsters are not even given the time or chance to “dream”. They are deliberately kept ignorant of the concepts like “dream”, “passion”, “do what you enjoy” etc. How can such thoughts even enter their minds? After all, they are constantly reminded that the purpose of life is to clinch a high-paying job the highest-paying job and live happily ever after!

Agreed that it is important to create skill pools for promising industries, channel talent towards strengthening the economy etc etc etc. But. .should it be at the cost of the individual?

Why don’t the so-called “education consultants” realize that by taking the job oriented approach, they are doing more harm than to good to an entire generation? Why don’t they realize that they are creating a “career caste system” when they say things like these?

“For the students, the analyst had given an order of preference while choosing an engineering branch after the Plus Two results were declared and when they go for Anna University counselling. The top three, he said, will be Computer Science/IT, EEE and Civil engineering. Then comes mechanical and ECE, he said based on an analytical study based on investments, Government policy and job potential.”

“CS > EEE > Civil > Mechanical > ECE. . . .” reminds me of the distorted Varna System – “Brahman > Kshatriya > Vaishya > Shudra”!

To list a few consequences of such propaganda :

  • Youngsters, who are yet to discover what they like to do in life [and the majority falls in this category!] start believing “CS > EEE > Civil > Mechanical > ECE. . . .” and that “If I get a CS engineering seat, I am superior… If I can get only a Mechanical engineering seat, I am not good enough”. A notion damaging the morale & self-confidence of students who pursue forced to pursue one of the “lower” streams of engineering.
  • It is not just the youngsters who are confused. . Parents too start believing in this “career caste system”. A child has not lived up to their expectations if he/she doesn’t procure a CS/EEE seat! And of course. . Comparisons between my child, your child and his/her child follow. . More of “morale boosting” for the students!
  • Lots of misfits! People who have a flair for mechanical engg. end up spending 4yrs and probably their life trying to code C and Java programs all of which appear latin to them.. All because they made the mistake of scoring well enough in exams and the parents-peers-others combine brainwashed them to take up CS cos it is the “in-thing”.  The reverse too. . ppl whose marks could not afford their cherished EEE seat and they end up yearning for it all their life. A B.Tech in the wrong stream is a life-long burden for many. . for not many people get the opportunity to switch streams later.
  • At some point, it no longer matters what stream you did your B.Tech in. For Infosys, CTS, TCS, Wipro etc are all too eager to take you in just for sitting through 4yrs of courses you don’t appreciate. They say “Come on in.. we know you have the patience. .and you are malleable. .though you are still technically only as good as you were after school. We would train you to do just exactly what we want you to do. . both of us happy”!
  • People stuck in “careers” mechanically working away. . No passion. .It is merely a job that pays. No passion = No good work/thinking/research. Don’t you dare complain that India is in a deep rut when it comes to research!
  • All fields apart from the “chosen few” languish. And are you wondering about pure science, arts, journalism etc? Oh Come on. . stay off. .they are the untouchables in the “career caste system”.
  • You have a generation full of confused folks, who haven’t identified their interests or realized their potential or have had even a glimpse of the pleasures of working on something they enjoy.

When would this kind of blind social conditioning change?? 😐

The all-talented *IIT*-ians??

All with a small know-how-what of the education system in India understand the supposed greatness of IITs, IITians and how extremely brilliant and hardworking kids have to be to crack the JEE and enter the “temples of engineering education” in the nation.

If you havent realized this well enough, well, the IITians help you. . By wearing T-shirts and sweatshirts that read “I am what you dream to be”, “..because not everyone can get into IIT..”, “if INNOVATION needs a new name, WE volunteer” yada yada yada!

Well. . In that case, dont you expect some novelty from them?

No . .I’m not talking about the technical stuff here..

As an invigilator for a 1-hr examination, the only entertainment I have is : watch 60 pairs of eyeballs and see who is trying to copy from whom, and try to sabotage their plans as subtly as possible! (yes. .I cant help it. . I am sadistic that way!)

A look around the examination hall provides you with so many faces with so many expressions…

  • concentrating
  • writing effortlessly
  • thinking hard
  • “do not disturb : oblivious of the world around for the next one hr”
  • “oh, time is flying, i’v to complete”
  • “damn! y din i study?”
  • “does the prof give grace marks just for attempting a question?”
  • “when wd these 60 long minutes get over and when can I run out of this depressing hall?”
  • “is it jus me who doesnt kno? does that fello really kno? how is he filling pages?”
  • “he ditched me! he was supposed to put his paper at the correct angle! x-( “
  • “who of the three fellas whose papers I can see is likely to write the correct answer?”
  • “Qn#4, Qn#4, Qn#4, Qn#4, Qn#4..” (is trying telepathy on his neighbour to make him start answering Qn#4!)
  • “shit! I shouldnt have sat here. . Not a single answer sheet is clearly visible from here! 😛 “
  • “Why the hell does the stupid invigilator keep looking here?”
  • “God! Please please please make the invigilator(s) turn away!”

And add these two when I am invigilating :

  • “Why is she constantly staring at us? Should I smile back?”
  • “Why is she obstructing my view??”

But I am very much disappointed. . My classmates, even at school, used to have better ways of copying. I mean, even 5th standard kids have as much common sense as to realize that you are bound to be noticed if you keep looking at others’ sheets all the time with your eyes popping out in desparation! And I bet, even 2nd standard kids know that exchanging answers verbally is a strict No-No if you dont plan to be caught! As far as my college days were concerned, people were experts at cheating at exams with none of the invigilators smelling anything even slightly fishy!

Instead of repeating myself about how being bookworms for the best years of their lives have affected the IITians’ common sense, I direct you to a previous post

But, thats just about the first years and a few characters who fancy appearing for the same paper again and again..

I think, the behavior pattern depends on which year of BTech the student is in :

  • First year : Sincerely believes he/she can cheat to success even in papers like Computer Programming
  • Second year : Knows that cheating isnt a great help, but tries nevertheless
  • Third year : Is convinced that no one really knows the correct answer, and has stopped considering cheating
  • Final year : Doesnt give a damn about exams and marks anymore. . Concentrate on project or placement yaar!
  • Other years : Is either living in denial and keeps trying to cheat, or has given up all hopes and just sits through the hour gazing out of the window

(Replace ‘year’ by ‘semester’ in the above list for Postgraduate students. . The speed of evolution in their case is attributed to their experience in UG!)

But I digress. . even if it was only fair to clarify that not all IITians behave as stupid as the post describes. .

The moral of the story :

I am not against cheating. Do it, if you can do it without getting caught. . neither at the exam hall, nor at the hands of the TA correcting your papers. But please apply some logic and knack in the deed. . for its an art!!

Note : Just to clarify things. . I’v never cheated at exams. All this is being said only from hear-say gyaan about the “art of cheating” 😉