Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The 3 Idiots of the Education System

"I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built up on the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think". ~ Anne Sullivan.
I was conducting a Discover Your True Calling workshop at IIM, Indore last week. I had the afternoon free and decided to see the much acclaimed, high-grossing Bollywood movie - "3 Idiots". I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, largely because it is a complete indictment of our education system. The message was strikingly similar to the theme of my workshop.
The film is about three students who do not really fit into the prestigious engineering college and are considered idiots by their professor. However, the movie clearly shows who the three real idiots are - the educational system, the teachers and the parents. Reflecting on the movie on the flight back to Mumbai, I realized that any real change in education is possible only by transforming these three constituencies.
Idiot #1 - The Education System:
Our current system is performance-oriented rather than mastery-oriented. The emphasis on examinations forces students to learn by rote. They focus on scoring high marks rather than investing the time and energy to understand the subject in depth. A system where true geniuses like Einstein and Ramanujan are considered poor students really needs its head examined. In the movie, this is brilliantly brought out by Aamir Khan playing Rancho - the truly outstanding engineer who goes beyond the book to gain mastery.
Idiot #2 - The Teachers:
Our current system of pedagogy is faculty-led and follows a fixed curriculum. The average teacher assumes that there is one right answer and that (s)he knows the answer. It is the rare teacher who has the ability to facilitate rather than teach, to nurture rather than preach and to support students who stray from the well-trodden path in search of creative ways to learn. Boman Irani as Viru Sahastrabuddhe does a superb job of bringing to life a dogmatic, highly competitive, over-confident college professor - the antithesis of an ideal teacher in every way.
Idiot #3 - The Parents:
When India's HRD Minister Kapil Sibal suggested scrapping of the 10th grade exams, parents were the first to stand up against the proposal. Parents want their children to be at the top of their classes, get admitted to the best colleges and follow traditional career options - engineering, medicine, management and the like.
Parents rarely encourage their children to discover their true passions and pursue mastery rather than mediocrity. The movie's middle class Quereshis, who want their son to be an engineer, and the poorer Rastogis, who see education as a way out of poverty, are typical of today's Indian parents. They would probably be the toughest nut to crack.
The 21st century calls for talented people who are masters in their chosen fields of work. It calls for collaboration among passionate individuals, from different disciplines, to address the truly challenging issues and opportunities that the world presents. The current assembly-line approach to education falls severely short. We are not equipping our children to succeed in their world. The appeal of the movie is universal and obvious.
But what will it take for all three of the constituencies above, as well as the student community to rally around to a new educational order? Please share your perspectives. We need to work together to bring about transformation in this vital area of our society.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Jobs in Education - Other Than in the Classroom

There are many jobs in the education sector that do not requiring traditional teaching in the classroom. Here are some careers to pursue if you aspire to work in education.
Technology Specialist
Many people may not think of a school system needing people with a technology background. However, individuals that are trained and skilled in the many areas of technology will be able to find jobs in the education sector as well as in other industries very easily. A technology specialist may also be known as a school computer specialist. They are responsible for training staff on new educational software. Experts predict substantial growth in this career over the next few years.
Special Education Teacher
According to most career experts the most sought after teachers are specialized in special education. To excel as a special education teacher you must possess an abundance of patience and be able to calm your students as well as teach them. Due to the increased demand individuals with this experience will be able to have their choice of job locations. You can get started in this career with a bachelor's degree and a teaching license. As with the technology specialist this area is expected to have rapid growth.
If you have a passion for books maybe a career as a librarian is for you. Librarians are hired in the private and federal sectors as well as in the school systems. A majority of librarians are hired by schools and universities. Many states require only passing a certification test to begin a career as a librarian; however, some states do require a degree in library science. Another positive aspect of beginning a career as a librarian is that many librarians are due to retire over the next few years.
Education Administrator
An individual with a fixation for making sure an organization is running properly may be interested in becoming an education administrator. As an education administrator you will be responsible for making sure that the budget is adhered to and that the curriculum standards are met. To become an education administrator, you must possess at least a master's degree. Experts believe that if you remain in your position as an education administrator for at least five years, you can expect a generous increase in your salary.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Indian Education System and Morality

Falling Morality
Since independence, there has been a drastic fall in the standards of our moral conduct, right form the top leadership to the layman. The cadre of the leaders that we saw during our struggle for independence comprised selfless, visionary men, who sacrificed personal interests for the betterment of the society. Sixty years have passed; we find rampant corruption taking roots into almost every sphere and section of the society.
Education and Morality
A civilized society requires continuous influx of young citizens having strong base of moral character which enshrines values that bring out empathy for the society as a whole.
Education has a pivotal role to play in this process. Parents and teachers are the main components of any education system. Parents are primarily responsible for the education and morality of their children since they have given birth to them. But, this does not obliterate the necessity of an education system in place to take care of the moral education of its budding citizens. It is, for best results, a two pronged approach and, often, in the absence of any one of them the other can outdo to compensate the absent one.
Indian Education System
Like our parliamentary and judiciary systems, we inherited our educational system from the West, which was purely secular in its nature. Later on, it also got influenced by the leftist inclinations of the Establishment. Whereas, prior to that, religion was an integral part of the Indian education system and it was inherently capable to indoctrinate the young minds with the moral values and virtues that were the part and parcel of the religion.
Where the Malady Lies?
Our compulsion to adopt the secular western education system was rooted in our choice of a secular and democratic polity to govern a religiously and culturally diverse India. But, in the process, we failed to take cognizance of the fabric of our society. The new education system that we provided deprived the society of its moral character. It was the same moral character which gave birth to legendary visionaries like Mahatma Gandhi and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad that we were deprived of. Even the Christian missionary schools that taught Moral Science as a subject some 25 years ago have, mostly, discontinued doing so.
Possible Solution!
India is a home to almost all the religions of the world. Moral values and character that form the basis of a morally healthy society are, fortunately, common across all the religions. Courtesy, loving one's neighbors, wishing good for all, honesty, truthfulness and such virtues are tenaciously upheld and taught by all religions.
The need of the hour is to devise a course encompassing all these basic tenets common to all religions and start teaching them as a compulsory subject, at least till secondary school (Class 10) level. However, every care should be taken to formulate the course in such a way that it does not even seem to have a skew towards any religion; so that no one can argue that a particular religion is being promoted by the State. Thus, a balance has to be maintained; without compromising with its secular character, the State's education system should fill this vacuum of providing moral education to all.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Students and Teachers All Benefit From Online Education

It is certainly no secret that the Internet has become a powerful teaching aid in today's schools - public and private, elementary and college. Adding to the power of the personal computers that entered classrooms just a generation or two ago is today's worldwide network of interconnected databases and archives. So it should be no surprise to find, just a little bit (or byte) down the information superhighway from the post-graduate lecture on physics, an online class for special education.
There is room enough, time enough and interest enough for just about every topic under the sun, and special education is not just a college major or a job classification. To those who undertake the challenge of special ed, as it's called, it is very much a calling, even a cause. And the teachers who hear this call, and take no this cause, get a double dose of help from the new education-oriented technologies.
When we talk about an online class for special education, we are actually talking about two different things, both of which are important. First of all, there are resources online - from multimedia presentations to skill-building software to phonics and arithmetic lessons - that teachers can use in their curricula. Students in special education programs are just as interested in, and just as excited by, the Internet and its many wonders as any other students. There are many ways that a teacher could conduct an online class for special education students, whether the students were at home or at school.
On the other side of the coin, the teacher's colleges in the United States are using the Internet just as much as any other educational institutions. For teachers working toward continuing education credits, or students still working toward their degrees, an online class for special education can be a great time- and travel-saver, as are all online programs.
The "talent pool" for teachers, as well as other professionals, has expanded right along with the growth of Internet education. The flexibility, lower costs, convenience and personalized pace of online educational programs has allowed many more people to get a college degree, a certificate in a trade or other life-changing education. And the availability of an online class for special education has helped both special ed students and their teachers, who play an important part in keeping America's promise of opportunity for all.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Teachers, Educators and Wealth

If you ask a teacher about their wealth they will probably inform you that they aren't in teaching for the money. They are teaching to enlighten the young people of the day. They want to see society improve, and they truly care about people. However, teachers do not make much money in the grand scheme of life. Many times educators will give out of their own pockets to enhance the learning environment. The educators of today can and need to plan for abundance in their lives.
The statement "the best part of teaching is: June, July and August" actually no longer exists. So, teachers who would spend those three months obtaining other jobs to help make ends meet are not able. This is simply because our educators are busy fulfilling their obligations of increasing their knowledge to become better educators. Most of the time these summer staff development is to fill a mandate for staff development from the State or the Federal Government. However, sometimes the time is paid for and that helps on the budget, but it's not like being able to work a full job during those few days off.
Most often educators think that since they are not earning wages comparable to the average cost of living rate, don't believe they can ever get ahead, or have anything left for retirement. Abundance for teachers and educators can become a reality. A change of thinking needs to happen or in other words they need a shift of their own thoughts. They are like most every other person who has limited income. They buy on credit, and then they take credit to pay down the other credit with no thought of wealth and certainly no regards to the future.
I have found that most educators believe that their teacher's retirement will cover all of their expenses when they retire. They have this notion or belief in which income will remain the same as their salary. This is so not true. Educators will receive a partial payment from their retirement, and their health insurance must be paid by the individual as well. The educators' income has diminished, but their expenses didn't go down; they went up as well. This is far from the thoughts of the new educators who begin their teaching experience. Someone needs to develop a day workshop before going in to teaching on how to become a wealthy abundant educator.
The Pathway for Educators to bring wealth:
1. Pay yourself first. Invest in a 403b investment plan from the beginning. This encourages tax relief, and the ability to begin saving more for that retirement.
2. Take 5-10% of your net pay (actual take home) in a CD, a money market, stocks or bonds. Do it the very first day of receiving your check. If you don't do that first then it will not happen. Something will come up that you will want to squander your money.
3. Take charge of your paycheck. You control your spending, and don't let your spending control your paycheck.
4. Be responsible by paying Rent/Mortgage, buy clothing and food first. What's left is what you will want to spend on anything.
5. Keep your receipts that you spent on your classroom and for your students, this could help when filing your taxes.
For a minute here let's go back up and revisit numbers 1 and 2. Why do you pay yourself first, and why is this so important. For number one the reason is very simple we are taking money out of your gross salary, and putting it away so that you will not touch that money, until it's needed for your retirement. Remember upon retirement insurance must be paid, and you will not receive your full income. For number two you want to be able to have access at any given time six months' or more salary: Yes, six months. This is your emergency money. This money saved will help out if that hot water tank gives up the ghost and spews hot water all over your carpeted or wood floors, or any other repair to your house.
Educators often here about the ways to obtain extra money is through saving their bonuses, working overtime, or asking for a promotion. That's not possible for most of the educators, there are no raises, and they cannot work overtime, but they can become smarter. Educators in some districts can take on those little extra jobs for stipends, or they can coach something in which they have an interest or have a talent. Many find something in which they are truly passionate about like a hobby. Hobbies keep their minds fresh but will also add to their household income. For example, I am an educator, and I write, so, I'm expecting to earn a little extra money from my writing.
Educators can become wealthy, and have abundance in their lives. Your thoughts, your mindset, and your priorities are where your money lies. If you think that as an educator you can't be wealthy, then you can't. But, if you take control, and think about how, why, and where you spend your money you will be able to have a wealthier life. David Bach's best strategy for becoming wealthy is to: "Find your Latte factor." Your latte factors are those little things in which you believe you need to purchase in order to make you feel special. The choice is yours you could spend $2.75 for a latte instead of taking time to make coffee, or lattes at home, and save $2.00 or spend $2.75 plus the gasoline to take you out of the way to obtain your latte. Which will it be?
All things add to your wealth or lack of it. Go back up to steps 3, 4 and 5 take control of your life, and purchase what is needed first, and then you also save a little even if it is a dollar per day. All things add up, so a dollar a day becomes 30 dollars per month, which will add up to $360.00 per year. Think about this that $360 dollars per year if put into any type of savings account that earns interest will allow you to have more money. That scenario is only one dollar a day saved, that's like not buying one bottle of coke per day. Abundance and wealth is yours to have, all that's needed is a shift in your consciousness.
Carrie Fleharty is a mild-mannered school librarian, who loves moonlighting as a writer. She has written many articles, and is currently fine-tuning her craft. She has taken many workshops and classes on the art of writing, and has a modicum of success. She continues to work very hard in learning her craft. While not writing or playing with books, she's home with two Boston "Terrors" and recently added two adopted kitties.
Carrie practices a deeply spiritual life, and attempts to incorporate her spirituality among the experiences of being human. She uses her spiritual teachings to impart her hard learned knowledge to others through her writing. Her articles will reflect her hobbies of bicycling, birding, hiking, nature, sports, her spirituality and her joy of living. She is currently working on a book that exposes the aspects of changing her focus from half-empty cup to a full cup.