Education Loan – an Asset or a Liability

In my recent conversation with some of the young trained graduates I was told that they were finding it difficult in repaying the education loan, which they have taken to complete their professional degrees. The loan debt has created an “unprecedented financial challenge” for them. The similar conclusion was made in a study, which said that the loans were causing to educated youths headaches and loss of sleep. The study also revealed that the loan debt is a source of “significant” or “very significant” stress on more than 80 percent working professionals. The pressure of making big monthly loan payments are taking its toll in terms of stress, housing affordability and quality of life.

Recognizing the increasing share of banks and other market forces in higher education in India, few questions naturally comes into my consideration – whether this is making education more affordable or making it more exclusive? Is the access to student loans progressive or regressive? Does it affect the demand for higher education of weaker sections? Does it benefit the rural and urban; boys and girls; and caste groups equally? What is the relationship between course structure and loan size? What are the issues of recovery and default rates? What is the link between repayment and employment opportunities?

There is no denying that education has become very important priority in the human life and young people are becoming aware to utilize each opportunity related to this for moving forward. There is also a considerable growth in the global economy and the new aspirants are exposed to more choices. When we do the retrospection and look into our own times, then the choices were limited and so were the challenges. And it is this opportunity which government in collaboration with other financial institutions are trying to en-cash upon. Probably, government finds the growing global educational opportunities as their business prospect. Or else look confused and puzzled to face this new challenge.

Then, is this very desirable to keep these trained educated young people in such a precarious situation when country requires them the most? Is it not good for a country like ours to engage these trained youth in nation building exercise than to keep them busy calculating the interest payment and keep them worrying about the repayment of loans? Is this not desirable for a nation where more than 70 percent youth belong to agricultural families and where employment opportunities are such a dismal, to support in providing relevant free skill and training so that they are able to contribute more and more? Aren’t we making education a liability?

Entry of market forces have made education so expensive that even young people of middle class and upper middle-class families are finding it difficult to meet the costs. The condition of the aspirants from lower income families are even worse. The talented students from these economically backward sections find it difficult to pursue a dream of a higher education. The price of engineering degree varies from 8 lakhs rupees in IIT to 25 lakhs rupees in private college. The cost of medical graduate varies from 16 lakhs in government colleges to 100 lakhs in private college. There is altogether no relief even in case of MBA hopefuls to law aspirants. The exorbitant interest rate of banks causing these young people about 60 to 80 thousand a month as a typical loan repayment. Recently I was talking to one auto driver and he said that despite clearing the joint entrance engineering examinations his son could not able to enroll himself in the college because of non-affordable cost and no bank provided him the required loan either. Considering the lucrative business opportunity, this is no surprise that the Banks pitched in to this field to make money out of the owes of these young students. Interestingly, even the central and state governments have come out with their student credit cards and has fixed target for the Banks. How can government fix a target to make life misery of students? Probably even government is looking at economics of education not the sociology and psychology of education.

Some time back the matter was raised in Parliament about the insensitivity of State Bank of India’s action where, it was reported that the Bank had sold its active education loan as NPA (non-performing asset) to Reliance Assets Reconstruction Company (RARC) even while the student borrower was still pursuing his education. When the student approached the bank for the next disbursement of fees, the bank then realised that they had sold the loan account to RARC. A student from Madurai district in Tamil Nadu has reportedly committed suicide due to harassment by a private recovery agency.

In yet another instance, it was noted that the Central Bank of India shamed a poor education loan woman borrower for a meagre default by displaying her name on a banner at a public place. The woman then lodged a complaint against the bank resulting in the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) levying a penalty of one lakh rupees on the Bank.  These are just a representation that have been reported, while there are many cases where education loan borrowers have been harassed by banks and have ended their lives.

I think, keeping the affordability, social justice, fairness, equity and equality of opportunity into consideration higher education and technical education cannot be let into the hands of market forces alone. The public financing of education must remain in the picture for larger interest of nation building. Whatever be the changing narrative of the state may be the role of welfare state cannot be totally denied in India.

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Innocence on Sale..

I am astonished to see how kids are being modelled in different advertisements on TV and radio. Even in the purely adult consumables products the children are popularly used for selling. So why companies finding kids as an effective tool for branding and advertising strategies? Why commercials and brands are observed to be roping in children where role of those children seem to be redundant? Whether television advertisements are inherently unfair to children? Whether it increases parent child conflict, and results in the undesirable socialization of children? And above all whether recent spurt in crime against children has any causal relationship with overexposure of children in the media content?

Probably, in a present-day liberal nuclear family marketer opine that children are increasingly wielding their power in major purchase decisions made in the household, so it makes sense to target them. Brand managers echoing the same tune agree that they want to catch these young consumers early and make them loyal to their brands. And on portraying children in commercials, the child provides an emotional platform.

The advertisers realize better that the opinion leadership of children has become powerful and influencing. Branding experts know that parents do recognizes the active role of children in the buying process, and most parents just give in to the tantrums of their kids. Children also create positive feelings towards brands, connect the user to the brand and are perceived by consumers as more entertaining. So, using children in advertising or for any other type of communication for brand building is likely to have positive effect on consumers’ brand preference, brand attitude, brand association and purchase intentions. This thinking has actually leading the brand managers to erase the thin line existed between adult products and other products.

Although, many parents did raise their concerns about unnecessarily dragging in children to commercials having adult plots, intimate moments between couples or even romantic scenes. They expressed negative views regarding those commercials because their children raise a lot of questions about the proceedings which in turn makes them skip all these commercials. But even for these aware parents’ concern remained only with the adult products.   

 

People prefer to watch advertisements featuring kids irrespective of whether they like or dislike the products or services; they find these commercials cute and entertaining. These commercials expose children to the extent of emotional abuse not only by the advertisers but also by the viewers in general. People are not worried about the findings that children under age 11 or so have not fully developed their abilities to acquire, encode, organize, and retrieve information. This means in practice that they do not have adult-like abilities to use the information in commercial messages. And here lie the vulnerability of children and their being used as a product itself. But then why parents themselves let them to expose to this cruelty?

There is no ethical, moral, social, or social justification for targeting children in advertising and marketing. It is not just about the kid’s insistence of consuming food which is causing them the obesity and other health hazard. There are studies which says that it also influences on number of other issues impacting children and society and stem from targeting children, including youth violence, sexualization, underage drinking and smoking, excessive materialism and erosion of creativity.

It has also exposed the innocence and vulnerability of children to the society at large and has resulted in abuse and violence against them. This is the desensitization process of viewers against the children that involves the undermining of feelings, such as empathy or sympathy. There has been a huge possibility that continual exposure of children into media, can lead to desensitization.

We must not brush of this problem which is seriously endangering future generations. The society that we are growing in has deliberately failed to protect its children from being desensitized and the subsequent violence related to it. And adding to it is the insensitivity of the media which on regular basis playing with children’s vulnerability and with their innocence.

This must be stopped. We do need to bring a public campaign for a complete ban on any advertisement aimed and involved with primary school children!

 

 

Tribute to a Visionary (Mr. Vajpayee)

Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Right to Education Act (RTE), two major initiative of 21st century in education were initiated by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, when he was the Prime Minister of India. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan a centrally sponsored scheme, was pioneered by Vajpayee with an aim to make education accessible to all child of 6 to 14 years of age group in the country. The implementation of this flagship program has actually changed the education narrative of the country and brought education of first generation learners a priority in political discourse.

The SSA program in partnership with states was launched in 2000-2001 and has achieved success in making elementary education for all. The program has been successful in erecting schooling infrastructure all over the country. For primary schools, the enrolment has been close to 100 percent. Over 19.67 crore children are enrolled in 14.5 lakh elementary schools in the country with more than 66 lakh teachers.

Vajpayee never visualized SSA as a program, he certainly thought in terms of movement. Movement to bring all children to school and give them dream and aspirations of meaningful future. I was fortunate to be a part of this movement. Atal Bihari Vajpayee had a clear vision that education is the most important and primary path that can lead India towards development and world recognition. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan was visualized to provide glimpse of future to all those first-generation children whose parents and grand-parents have never been to school. This initiative also provided aspirations to millions of government schools established in every nook and corner for poor and under privileged children.

The implementation of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan paved way for more revolutionary idea of Right to Education Act. This was a continuation of Article 21 A introduced in the Constitution in 2002 by the 86th Amendment when A.B Vajpayee was the Prime Minister. It took eight years to roll it at the grassroot level. I am not sure whether the Act actually fulfilled his dream of educating India, but at-least this certainly paved to bring meaningful dialogue in bringing quality education to all children in the country.

The education plan which he visualized was certainly not only in terms of entitlement but also to bring all children, rich and poor, into similar quality schooling environment. The idea of neighborhood school and Common School System were certainly in his mind.

In recent years central government is trying to bring reforms in the education by integrating program of primary, elementary and secondary education into one but how far this centralized approach will succeed only time will tell. But I think the true tribute to visionary approach of Atal Bihari Vajpayee would be to provide more resource to education and decentralize the process which can make state governments more accountable in improving learning outcomes.. 

Central Government’s education budget in real terms has decreased in last few years and effort has been made to dilute the provisions of Right to Education. Hope good sense will prevail with the government and Vajpayee’s dream of educating the last child is fulfilled.

May his soul rest in peace..

Silence… is no longer an Option

34 girls aged between 7 and 17 were raped and sexually assaulted in one of the shelter homes in Bihar.…… reported to government on April 2018 and first FIR was filed on 31st May 2018. Response and reactions came from political leaders in August.

Why it took so long for a very sensitive Chief Minister to realise that the Muzaffarpur shelter home sex scandal has brought shame to everyone? Why it took so long to realise that the incident brought bad name to the entire state? Why even opposition leaders took so long to respond to this crisis of girls in shelter homes? Why it took so long for all opposition party leaders to lit candles at Jantar Mantar in Delhi? Probably all of them were anxious to see how the investigation actually take shape and very strangely after the case has been taken over by CBI, political leaders feel comfortable in designing the political narratives.

save my dignity   we want to be safe

I am puzzled, why do government establish shelter homes in first place? If girls who are abandoned, runaways, orphaned, destitute, victims of trafficking, born to sex workers and at risk are there in homes and have the similar fate as girls who were there in Muzaffarpur shelter homes, then why these homes are established? Why an agency coming from Mumbai had to say that the shelter was being run in a highly questionable manner and that several girls were abused sexually? If government cannot save these girls from predators and marauders, then why not leave them to fight on their own destiny? Why bringing them to these homes and handing over them to monsters?

If there are so many government mechanisms in place to see that these shelter homes run flawlessly then why “Team Koshish”(field-action programme of TISS) had to do the social audit to find all the wrong doings which was going in shelter homes for quite some time? Why neighbours and people living around the home could not find any fault in seeing politicians and officers visiting homes on regular basis? How people can become so insensitive?

The question may be asked, if girls are brought to these shelter homes then how can they be saved, rehabilitated and make self-dependent? I think first thing which government could do is to train the girls on self-defence? If New Delhi Police force can offer a course to empower girls to fight crime against women why not similar courses may be offered by Bihar Police to all girls in shelter homes?  Although it is argued that it is better to teach people not to sexually assault rather than teaching potential victims that it is their duty to stop the crime. Still, in the present circumstances this self-defence courses will instil confidence in young girls.

Again, why not government is getting serious about the rehabilitation of these girls? Why not government realises that girls who live in an environment of poverty are vulnerable to violence, exploitation, trafficking, substance abuse and discrimination? When we all are aware that lack of education further increases their vulnerabilities and risks, why not government is serious about their education? I think the best way forward to educate girls living in such difficult circumstances is to enroll them in nearby good private schools and colleges. Certainly, these girls deserve a better future where their basic social rights like education, health and safety are protected and promoted.

Also, there is a need to assure these girls of better employment opportunities, and one thing government can do is to employ them at least in police as ‘home guards’.  This will certainly make girls confident and secure to face the world.

Concluding this, I think we must try to re-look at patriarchy because it’s directly linked to sexual crimes against women. It is the mind set which glorify that the “rape is worse than death”. These words do not help victims/survivors move on with their life. It simply indulges our inner activist who feeds on tragedy and victim hood. It also attributes the foul act too much power, more than it deserves. While justice is important and punishment of criminals necessary, we must not let rape destroy the human quest for life. We need to move beyond ‘Padmavat’.

Murder of Million Dreams

Bihar School Examination Board has disappointed its students once again. This time it is admission in colleges. The problem which started with the publication of results are continuing with their struggle with the admissions in colleges.  Why then, students here are at disadvantage in comparison to students belonging to other states? Why even in Bihar colleges these students don’t get any weight-age in admission? Why CBSE and ICSE students are preferred over Bihar Board students in in Bihar? And lastly, is there any solution in sight in near future?

None of the students passed from the schools affiliated to Bihar Board got admission in any of the premier colleges in India as no one secured more than 90 percent marks in any of the stream. The girl who topped in Bihar Board exams and topped in all India entrance exam for medicine, better known as NEET, scored only about 86 percent marks. However, among the students who have appeared in CBSE and ICSE Board exams, more than 1 lakh have secured 90 percent marks and above. How is this possible that out of 12 lakh odd students who appeared in Bihar Board Exams, none was fit to get admission in any good college. Is there any ulterior motive behind this or just casual approach which put students in such a dire state?

This time before students even receive their results most of the them already knew that they’re at disadvantage. They wanted an affirmative action from the state, which other state Boards did in favour of their students. The States like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Maharashtra, and others have denied going away with moderation which CBSE initially persuaded them to do. Although on High Courts directives, even CBSE provided relief to their students with good grace marks. Question may be asked if other Central and State Boards continued with their moderation policy and enhanced the grades, why not Bihar recognised the importance of it and provided benefits to their students.

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Earlier CBSE did recognise that the practice of moderation inflates the marks of the students unnaturally and subsequently leads to abnormally high and unrealistic cut offs for undergraduate courses in universities. Point in case being the 100% cut offs for several courses in Delhi University during the past few years. The moderation policy, also known as the ‘Grace Marks Policy’, is the provision whereby grace marks are provided to the students who are shy of a few marks from passing their board examination. The provision also provides grace marks up to 15 percent to students for attempting exceptionally difficult question papers or question papers with errors. This policy has been in practice for more than a decade now with not only CBSE but state boards being party to it as well.

Although it was argued that the grace marks policy doesn’t let one distinguish between an average and a good student. But until unless CBSE and all state Boards agree to one uniform policy the suffering of one student over the other will remain. The consensus is required to bring change in policy of moderation. This change in policy will certainly prove to be a boon for the students in the long run in addition to bring parity among them. Not only this will help in bringing the impractical cut-offs down but also ensure that the mark sheets of the students will bear their real marks. If implemented correctly it would lead to a fall in the marks scored by CBSE and other state board students’ and this will be the first step towards bringing college admissions a little less stressful!

But the fact of the matter is that this time students in Bihar are suffering and are finding difficult to find admission in colleges. Half of the of have failed the exams and other half are leaving the option of higher education. They all have left with no choice other than leaving their home early for any employment opportunity in Mumbai, Delhi or in Punjab.

I feel that narratives of education realities in Bihar blends the fulfillment of middle-class expectations with the realities stagnating social mobility and we need the political solutions to this depleted schooling system. I am hopeful that good sense with the government will prevail and visionary Chief Minister will think radically about the overhauling the education system soon.

Learning Redefined!

Bihar School Examination Board has learnt to remain in the headlines. None of us were really puzzled to seeing students agitating in scorching summer heat in front of its office in Patna? None of us were surprised to see them gate-crashing into the Board Office in Patna despite heavy police arrangements? Is the situation being really so bad that students feel deprived, frustrated and humiliated? And if all is true then do we see any remedy for these disgruntled students or else are we witnessing violent student protests on streets more often now?

Union Education Minster has recently said that ‘no detention policy’ of RTE has spoiled a generation. Was this no-detention become so monstrous that more than 5 lakhs students have failed in Class XII Board exams in Bihar this year? Isn’t this a simplistic argument or a lame excuse from the minister against all those poor students who do not see any recourse other than taking themselves to the streets.

If situation is so deplorable then, what does Board Examination really means in Bihar? For me it has two aspects, first the less obvious but more talked about is – the ‘quality’ and second although seen more obvious but are afraid to discuss publicly – the stress, which examination brings to the students.

About the quality, minister himself declared about the deterioration in quality of learning in schools and interestingly cited no-detention as the main reason behind it. But then I am not sure from where he gathered this evidence! Maybe, by that he only meant the deterioration in quality in schools affiliated to Bihar Board. Otherwise I do not see any decline in Central CBSE Board or even in other State Boards where at least decline in results are not the trend. In CBSE, this year 12000 students got more than 95 percent marks and 75000 students got more than 90 percent marks. So, the obvious concern is just for the students enrolled in Bihar schools, where none has secured 90 percent marks, and more than 50 percent have failed in the examination.

But then do we really expect the students to pass with good marks in Bihar? Schools are shortages of teachers, there is no library, no laboratory, no computers. So practically no teaching or at most very less teaching. Learning in schools have become a rare commodity. And despite all odds if any student really does well, people in the system are surprised and raises the alarm bell shamelessly..

Now about the more obvious the ‘stress’. Bihari students follow the alternative perspective to the stress…! Following the popular perception of ‘exam warriors’, students here are learning to deny the negative response to the pressure rather they are exposed to the positive connotation – the change of mindset. The entire examination process here is designed to teach the 16-18 years old to handle and tackle stress and inculcate habits like time-management, prioritization, planning, scheduling etc. in addition to coping with the frustration, humiliation, and depression.

Although unintentional, but system possibly agrees with the findings of Yale researcher Alia Crum and Shawn Achor, author of the “The Happiness Advantage”, where they argue to stop focusing on only the negative impacts of stress, instead the emphasis on the positive effects of it, like enhanced productivity. It is this stress which causes brain to use more of its capabilities to increase the productivity. Probably, this is the reason, why Bihari people are more accepted outside the state as workforce. They are able to acclimatize to the most inhuman working conditions and so are able to recognized as best labourers and workers in India. Yes, it is in this sense that Bihar Board is contributing immensely in increasing the country’s productivity…

Bihar Exam Warriors’ – Anxious Moments..

While students who have done well in Board exams are celebrating at all the places, in Bihar they are cursing why have they ranked into top 10 or even top 100. These students were being asked to appear physically before the select Committee who in turn verify the credentials of these children, whether they really deserve the top ranks. They are being grilled and grinded. Even the girls who topped the prestigious all India medical examination ‘NEET’ had to appear before the Committee to display her credentials for topping the Board Examinations. Can this be termed as proper? Is this what our Prime Minister desired from his ‘Exam Warriors’?

Why then the state is not confident in responding to the veracity of its own systemic structures? Why does the system look perplexed on how these students secure good grades even when there was no teaching in schools? Probably, Board is confused how these students fared well despite taking all the precautions and stringent steps from introducing bar code on answer sheets to concealing students’ identity to installing CCTV cameras, imposing Section 144 on the days of the exams, deploying heavy police personnel to regular visits of ‘flying squads’ at the exam centres.

So how has the confidence in system come to such a low where none of us have any faith on it. And it has turned so grave now that even government officials don’t believe on the system they run. Otherwise why do they take these various measures to check the efficacy of the system itself.

Concerns with declining public trust in government system have become a permanent element of the contemporary public discourse. This concern also extends to levels of citizens’ faith in the public administration and public services. But suspicion and distrust from within is certainly a new thing.

Another related driver of trust is the capacity of governments to respond to citizen expectations. Clearly there are signs of divergence between citizen’s increased expectations for the role of the state and the functional capacities of governments’ and that this divergence is directly responsible for the growing trust deficit.

In case of Bihar where the awareness about new technologies are very low rapid implementation of new technologies could be depressing trust and leading to ‘a profound’ concern about the pace of change’.

State governments, at their level, have been merrily subverting institutions in their respective areas and the police are functioning as the militia of the system. There is hardly any commitment to improve the public delivery system.

Where will all this lead us? If system does not wake up to the threat and agrees on upholding the prestige of institutions, the future of democracy in the country would be in peril. The strength of a country is determined by the credibility of its institutions and not so much by the numerical strength of its armed forces. The founding fathers of the Indian Constitution took great care to establish certain institutions which would work as the bulwark of democracy and ensure justice, liberty, equality and fraternity to citizens. These institutions are unfortunately under attack by a predatory executive.

n this pressing situation I don’t see any relief to these ‘Exam Warriors’. And if that isn’t enough to make all Bihar Board examinees shiver with fright, what else can?

Let’s Sing Vande Matram in Chorus!

Why do poor and underprivileged are so vulnerable for the nation? Why do they need to reinforce their affiliation to the country year after year, most particularly on the eve of Independence Day? Why do government is so susceptible towards the children enrolled in government schools and Madarsas?

Who are these children enrolled in government schools and Madarsas? Which family they actually belong to? Why not similar dictum is issued for CBSE affiliated private schools? Interestingly, most of the CBSE affiliated private schools declare Independence Day as a holiday. Why not similar pronouncements are issued for private schools and making it compulsory singing of the ‘Vande Matram’ in school? Why no questions on patriotism and nationalism are ever raised on these big private schools?  Are managers of these private schools are born patriotic or children enrolled in these schools do not need any historical reference for their nationalism? I talked to so many children of private schools and could not find a single child who can sing ‘Vande Matram’, if this is so then why there is selective pronouncement for chosen few?

It is true that, in the past, the importance of Independence Day was taught to us by schools, and patriotism was instilled in us in a more structured and controlled way by formal institutions. I remember till the early 1990s we used to participate in a ‘Prabhat Pheri’ in the morning which used to culminate in the Flag hoisting followed by cultural programme in the schools. All schools be it the government or private used to have the similar pattern of celebrating the event. In the evolution, gradually the erratic pattern of celebration has emerged across the states. Celebration has now become more commercial in the cities and in the rural areas the ceremony is forced reinforced with the government order of instilling patriotism and nationalism. The celebration of such events which was once part of an institutional attempt towards creating a national identity among all citizens, now becoming aligning to more with the identity political rather than universal. Although it is accepted that popular culture has always provided the content and support to instill the national identity.

And by now in an era of 24X7 media, further changes are observed, now the role of instilling patriotism has been outsourced and privatised. No wonder the ‘Tricolor’ has been hijacked by retail brands. Independence Day is now a big marketing opportunity, with brands (and malls) unabashedly peddling patriotism. So, has commercialisation diminished the value of Independence Day? And has this impacted our sense and idea of national identity? Yes, I think that nationalism has changed its colour from universal to focussed, from emotional to commercial and above all from citizen centric to identity politics.

To conclude, I firmly believe that instead of instilling nationalism through propaganda and Pakistan bashing, we need to think we need to reinforce our allegiance to the Constitution, to the freedom struggle and to the life and freedom. We do need to visit and revisit to the famous speech of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru known as “Tryst with destiny”, which he delivered at the midnight of 15 August 1947. During this speech, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru said “Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we will redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes, but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. We end today a period of ill fortune, and India discovers herself again.”

Yes, we do need to redeem our pledge very substantially to the Constitution, to the freedom of speech, to the equality and to the quality of Life. Nation cannot be built on partisan it has to be uniform and universal. ‘Vande Matram’ is a lovely song and when sang in chorus the effect is truly mesmerizing!

Open letter to My Chief Minister, Mr. Nitish Kumar

Dear Sir,

 This is in response to the question you raised in a function recently. For some time now you have been concerned about the demoralisation of the society, parents and above all the youths. Although my response is a delayed one, but I think nevertheless relevant. You asked why do students cheat in an examination? And the second question you raised was why do parents help students to cheat in examination? I was sure you were referring to the mass unfair means used by students in class X and class XII Board examinations conducted by Bihar School Examination Board.

 Sir, I can understand how you must have felt by seeing the photograph which went viral, where Parents and relatives were found scaling up the three story building of examination centre to pass on the chits to their wards. The blatant practice of providing chits were captured in cameras by media persons and incidentally that became viral in social media. Believe me Sir, most of we Biharis feel ashamed when people outside saw this photographs as it became the talking point for everyone in the country.

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 But then, what solution your team in education department have chosen to solve this problem? Do you really think that by treating our students as criminals, will overcome the problem of cheating in exams? Is putting parents behind the bars the only solution for improving classroom teaching?

 No Sir, Solution does not lie in frisking of students before the exams nor the solution lies in heavy police duty at examination centre. Installing CCTV cameras and stopping the internet facilities in the city on examination dates also, I am sure would not resolve the issue. The solution Mr. Chief Minister lies in the school itself. There must be teaching before the examinations. Examinations must be linked to the learning, presently both are functioning independently.

BSEB  exam in Patna

 I am sure Sir, you are aware of the exact situation of High Schools in your State. There are 5500 odd functional government schools with more than 30 lakhs students enrolled. I know many persons working in the education sector would protest calling them function but, I will go by the book of accounts and continue calling them functional.

 Sir, I hope you are aware of the kind of teaching happening in all these 5500-odd government run schools in the State. More than 4000 schools do have not full time Principals. Is it possible to run school without Principals?

 In terms of teachers Sir, more than 4000 schools do not have any English teacher, 2000 schools do not have Maths teacher and 2500 schools do not have science teachers. What kind of teaching do we expect, in these schools. School dress, scholarships and bicycles cannot compensate the teaching and would not pass them the board exams. They need learning and that is not happening for these students Sir.

 Then, what options these 30 lakh students have in the state. They cannot move out to private school, nor they have the ability to take tuitions for each subject. Thus a Student’s option is very clear, either fail the exam or pass the exam by any means.

 Sir, your questions certainly pointed fingers towards the society in general and parents in particular – about the erosion of values of honesty, integrity, and sincerity. You are a visionary person and I request you to ponder over this issue for a while and think for these students. Board Examinations are considered by them, and their innocent parents as important milestones in achieving their respective goals and are the sole determinants in seeking jobs or admissions in higher institutions of learning. The focus, therefore, mainly remains on achieving higher grades or marks. Students remain under tremendous pressure from their parents and schools to do well in examinations. Peer pressure is also felt for fear of being ridiculed in case of failure or low grades. Fear of failing and not being able to get admissions in colleges or universities looms over students at High School levels.

 Mr. Chief Minister, I think you only have two options left, either let these students remain out of the education system and persuade them not to appear in Board examinations or help them learn and then pass the examination. Help them, don’t criminalize them Sir.

 With regards,

News Headlines – Biased or Bankable

Is this a bias or ignorance? Three crore people (one fourth of the total state’s population) peacefully formed a human chain in support of total prohibition, but that could not become a national headline, whereas when few thousand people came on road, disrupted the life of common man to protest the ban of age old tradition then that becomes the national headline. So, the question is why do terrible and depressing events get so widely reported in media? Why media concentrate only on the bad things, rather than the good? Do we, the readers, or viewers, expect journalists to focus on just negative reporting? I often hear people saying that they would prefer good news, but is it true? I will argue my case by citing both the mention cases in slight details below:

Case 1: No casualties and no disruptions! It was all historic! Thirty million people coming together to form human chain on more than 11,000 km long routes in Bihar to show the solidarity in support of total prohibition. People from all sections of society formed human chain by holding hand of one another’s showing the great resolve for social change going throughout state. Interestingly, the State’s population at present is about 110 to 120 million and out of this more than 30 million were on the street to form human chain, this certainly showed the support people gave to the alcohol prohibition. Importantly the major chunk in the human chain consist of women and children, they are the ones who mainly suffer from the boozing in their homes. Guinness Book of world records and the Limca Book of Records have recognised this human chain as longest in the world which surpassed the earlier longest human chain by many hundred kilometres.

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Case 2: People coming together on street in Tamil Nadu to protest the Supreme Court ban on age old tradition of ‘Jallikattu’, where bull is aroused and tamed furiously by persons standing in the crowd of many thousands. This protest was to preserve the tradition and certainly was against the social change. The ban on the sport ban came after the four year of intensive monitoring of the court where it found that the cruelty was certainly occurred on animals and many people died due to gored by bulls during the event and celebrations. During the celebrations, all the bulls, who were forced to compete in the sport, were subjected to abject cruelty, including being beaten, having irritants rubbed into their mouths, being yanked by nose ropes (causing their noses to bleed), being subjected to a torture device called a ‘kela’ and having their tails bitten, twisted, and pulled. Bull racing is inherently cruel, as bulls can’t be forced to run without agitating, frightening or hurting them, and enforcing race regulations is impractical. The State government with the consent of central government has already come out with ordinance legalising the ‘Jallikattu’. New act disregard the Supreme Court’s judgment which stated that if culture and tradition are at variance with the law enacted by Parliament, the law will take precedence over culture and tradition. Even the measure to prohibit cow slaughter and beef ban, have limited practical effect on the butchering of cows, as their progeny- the bulls, will continue to suffer in the name of culture, tradition, and entertainment. Perhaps bulls are not considered as part of cow family.

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Interestingly the first case of human chain in Bihar remained widely un-noticed in national media, particularly in English print and visual media whereas second got prominence in the headline. I am really bewildered with this negative attitude of media, particularly with the English news-papers and TV news channels.  I read a research done by BBC team where they found that the stories that were read most by participants were somewhat more depressing. Participants often chose stories with a negative tone – corruption, set-backs, hypocrisy and so on – rather than neutral or positive stories. People who were more interested in current affairs and politics were particularly likely to choose the bad news. The researchers present their experiment as solid evidence of ” negativity bias”, which is the psychologists’ term for our collective hunger to hear, and remember bad news. There’s another interpretation that BBC put on as the evidence, which is we pay attention to bad news because we think the world is rosier than it is. When it comes to our own lives, most of us believe we are better than average, and like the clichés, we expect things to be all right in the end. This pleasant view of the world makes bad news more surprising and salient. It is only against a light background that the dark spots are highlighted.

BBC findings suggest that people respond more quickly to negative words In lab experiments, flash the word “cancer”, “bomb” or “war” up at someone and they can hit a button in response more quickly than if the word is “smile” or “fun” (despite these pleasant words being slightly more common). We are also able to recognise negative words faster than positive words, and even tell that a word is going to be unpleasant before we can tell exactly what the word is going to be.

So, is our vigilance for threats the only way to explain our predilection for bad news? I hope so..