Private professional colleges perform without infrastructure! Monday, Jul 9 2012 

Education Minister P. K. Abdu Rabb

Education Minister P. K. Abdu Rabb

If Education Minister P. K. Abdu Rabb is to be believed, all self-financing professional colleges in the State are functioning well. He has told the Assembly so in a written answer on Monday.  The only problem was that some of them lacked infrastructure. None asked how colleges without infrastructure could function well.  Could the students be given practical training without labs? Could they learn without a good library? Should not the colleges have hostels?  (Even the self-financing colleges run by government agencies do not have these facilities).

The High Court has identified as many as one and a half dozen private engineering colleges as under-performing in 2009-12 besides several Self-financing Engineering Colleges under the Institute of Human Resources Development (IHRD). The pass percentage in many of these colleges was low. (However, the parents, who push their wards into engineering colleges even if they don’t have the aptitude or ability to learn, should also be blamed here). Many did not have qualified teachers appointed with tenure.  The practice of appointing teachers on daily wages is a bane of the higher education system. (It was only last month that their remuneration of was increased to decent levels, though their monthly earnings would still be about Rs. 20000 only).

When private self-financing colleges were sanctioned liberally, it was said that the under-performing ones will fall by the wayside. This has not happened with the aspirations of parents and students seeing no limits. They hope for things that are not achievable and the colleges without administrative and teaching infrastructure or teachers make hay while the sun shines.

All kinds of people and organisations, some with dubious past, have entered the self-financing education sector. It is high time that the government insisted on enforcement of strict norms for their functioning. No college without the required facilities and qualified teachers should be allowed to function. The minimum marks for admissions should be raised to prevent the tragedy of mass failures of students.

Related:
Show cause notice issued by AICTE to colleges

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Entrance examination toppers as heroes Thursday, May 24 2012 

 

Society should have its heroes. So, it may not surprise us when newspapers in the State flashed photos and reports about the toppers in the entrance examination for professional courses in the State.

However, are they real heroes?  Despite their preservation and hard work, nine out of ten of the toppers had won their positions after spending an additional year preparing for the examinations. In fact, they can be said to have wasted a year in pursuit of something that is no real learning. So, why celebrate the winners?

Moreover, those he won top ranks after spending a year exclusively for preparing for the entrance examinations could not be termed as toppers over those who have written the examinations immediately after passing the higher secondary courses.

We have already abolished ranks for the SSLC examinations. It is high time that we stopped playing up the entrance results which did not even mean the earning of an academic qualification or distinction. If at all anybody is to be congratulated, it is Vishnu Prasad who completed his Plus Two this year.

 

Most children are physically unfit Tuesday, Nov 10 2009 

A health related physical fitness programme among school children last year showed that not even 20 per cent of Kerala’s school children were physically fit.

What were tested under the total physical fitness programme was the capacity of heart and lungs, aerobic capacity, body mass index and flexibility of body. The tests covered 16.29 lakh children in 2008-09. Of them, only 19.61 per cent had minimum physical fitness. Only 4.1 per cent of the children could win more than 75 points (C Grade) in all tests.

Large number of girls were found to lack in abdominal strength. Only ten-year-old girls were better when considering the average scores. Girls were found to lose their abdominal strength as they grow. More than 53 per cent of the girls could not make the grade in tests of abdominal strength. The percentage was 68.3 among 15-year-old girls. Majority of them (64.82 per cent) lacked flexibility of body. Their percentage rose to 73.11 by the time they reached 15 years of age.

Boys were also found to lose their fitness as they grow. The State averages for those aged 10-12 was equivalent to D grade. (Only 474 boys and girls had won A grade in second round of tests conducted by State Testing Authority. A grade required more than 90 points.)The condition of others were worse. Nearly 54 per cent of boys had the necessary abdominal strength and 78.67 had strong upper body parts. Only 38.53 per cent fared well in respect of flexibility of the body.

This alarming situation is the result of lack of sufficient physical exercise. Students could not find time for physical activities as they move to higher levels of study. Girls kept away from physical activities because of societal inequalities and barriers.

Students to acknowledge services of government Saturday, Oct 31 2009 

maharaja

His Highness Vidhyadhata

Any ruling dispensation would hope that the people should acknowledge their services. Kings made it mandatory for the subjects to acknowledge that they had everything because of the king’s grace. For example, the rulers of erstwhile State of Travancore was to be referred as Annadatavaya Ponnu Thampuran which roughly translates something like the beloved Lord, giver of our daily bread. The auto-suggestion by the people was intended to aid the perpetuation of their rule.

Those rulers also recognised the importance of inculcating such ideas from the childhood. So, children sang praises to the ruler of Vanchinad, the Vanchi bhoopathi, and celebrated his birthdays in school with much fanfare. To demonstrate the magnanimity of the prince, the children were given free food, avilum pazhavum, on the birthday.

Now, the Kerala government of the people, by the people and for the people is also endeavouring to do the same. The Education Department has issued directives to all schools that the students taking SSLC examination in March next year should be made to take a pledge before other students in the school assembly. They would pledge to win the examination and acknowledge the lover and encouragement being extended by teachers, parents, government and the people representatives (who include a range of personalities from Members of Parliament, who may not be even knowing that some of these schools existed, to the local panchayat members). The students should thank the government at least for the liberal valuation of their answer scripts.

Committee says no to politics in law colleges Saturday, Jul 25 2009 

legaleducationThe report of the expert committee on reforming legal education system in Kerala may shock budding politicians and political parties.
It says that law students, if they are serious of studies, could have very little leisure or vacation and cannot afford to indulge in political party activities. It wants the government to revamp legal education with classes and internship throughout the year. This should be a shocker to the budding politicians who join the Law Academy Law College in Trivandrum to continue as student leaders and graduate into politics.

The report says nothing about need for additional law colleges. It proposes separation of professional legal education from regular universities even while acknowledging that legal curriculum encompasses almost all subjects in varying degrees. It suggests that each of the nine law colleges in the State should develop into autonomous universities. Imagine nine vice chancellors and appurtenances.

But for these, the report contain solid recommendations which needed to be implemented without delay to improve the quality of lawyers produced by our law colleges. Of course, politics will have to take the backseat.

The Hindu has more about the report.

The curious case of highly qualified candidates Sunday, Mar 15 2009 

pollcampaignThe CPI (M) candidate list for Kerala have several candidates with an SFI and DYFI background. So, there was criticism within the party that it had gone for a “campus recruitment” ignoring other feeder organisations. There is allegation that the choice of the new faces were intended to sideline those belonging to the Achuthanandan group.

Half of the 14 candidates are new faces and most of them are in their thirties. What should get special attention is educational qualification of several of the new comers. Sindhu Joy, the SFI national vice president, who is to contest from Ernakulam, holds M. A., M. Phil and B. Ed. degrees. P. K. Biju, SFI national president who is being fielded from Alathur, is a research student at M. G. University. M. B. Rajesh, who is State president of the DYFI and candidate designate for Palakkad, is an M. A. in Economics with degree in Law. Candidate for Kannur K. K. Ragesh, who is the All India Secretary of SFI, is a degree holder in Law. U. P. Joseph, who was SFI State president, holds degrees in Politics, Philosophy and Law. Mr. Joseph is currently the Thrissur unit manager of Desabhimani, is the candidate designate for Chalakudy.

Prolonged studies and student leadership had taken their toll in years. Sindhu is 32 years, Biju is 34, Rajesh is 37, Ragesh  is 38 and Joseph is 43 years of age. Critics allege that some of them had gone for multiple degrees just to keep their positions as student leaders a la Youth Congress men who never aged. We do not have data about the academic brilliance of these candidates. But at least one of them is pursuing research. You cannot call them dishonest or manipulative. They are just being career politicians unlike their predecessors who emerged through party work and service to the workers and the downtrodden.

It has become a general practice in Western democracies to look for qualified persons to occupy important positions. Illiterates normally cannot get to any positions of power in those countries. If present crops of SFI/DYFI leaders win the elections, that would make a difference to Left politics in the country. However, time only can tell whether the result could be positive or negative.

People with high educational qualification need not necessarily be better leaders, administrators or less-corrupt. But it is becoming imperative in modern society that our leaders have good educational background.

Doctorates for all: Mammootty, Shilpa, Akshay … Sunday, Jan 4 2009 

Mammootty

Mammootty

It is becoming easier to get a doctorate from a University in India these days. Anyone can aspire for a doctorate these days as the standards are falling.

Now that doctorates are essential for promotions in colleges, doctorates are being awarded by the universities at unprecedented rates. If you look at the theses, not many merits a second look. It is no surprise that the contribution of our universities to knowledge is insignificant. India would have progressed faster if our universities were free from politics and devoted themselves to pursuit of knowledge.

However, the trend is in the opposite direction. Appointments to the universities have become political. People have also started getting doctorates on political grounds. The trend had started possibly in Tamil Nadu with M. G. Ramachandran being showered upon with honorary doctorates by universities. The Madras University has so far awarded about 400 honorary doctorates to various personalities including Sonia Gandhi.

Foreign universities are also not much behind in awarding honorary doctorates to politicians and film stars. The awardees include Karnataka Minister B S Yeddyurappa (Saginaw Valley State University of Michigan) and actors Akshay Kumar (University of Windsor, Canada) and Shilpa Shetty (Leeds Metropolitan University, United Kingdom). So, one should not find fault with the University of Kerala granting a doctorate to actor and chairman of the pro-left Malayalam Communications Mammootty, before they gave anything like that to Aravindan or Adoor Gopalakrishnan.

The question is whether these doctorates bring any honour to the recipients. It definitely brings disrepute to the universities. When a university bestow a honorary degree, it should bring honour to itself.

Tailpiece: Higher ups in the army has reportedly decided to give the title of Lieutenant Colonel in the territorial army to actor Mohanlal for acting roles of army officer in two films. By that reckoning, how many actors would have to be given honorary IAS and IPS? When even officials conferred with IAS and IPS suffer a lower status, what would be the fate of honorary IAS and IPS officers? Hypothetical questions? Who knows when the private staff of the Ministers would be granted such titles? The next turn then will be that of actors.

Ban on mobile phones point to weakness of education system Tuesday, Dec 30 2008 

schoolfestlogoThe ban on use of mobile phones by pupils at the State School Festival points to utter failure of the education system in the State to teach good conduct and manners. It shows that though the festival is highly supervised by teachers, they fail to guide them in proper use of the mobile phones. Instead, they have chosen to seek the easy way out by banishing mobile phones from the venues.

The festival is once in a lifetime experience for many pupils. Many would like to preserve memories in the form of photos. They may very well be the entry point for some students in to photography as a hobby or profession. The phone can very well be a tool for creativity if the teachers directed the students properly.

A few aberrations here or there is not a good reason to shut out a useful technology. In fact, one can often see that the real reason for incidents like suicide is just not the phone. The incidents point to serious problems in the upbringing of both the accused and the victims. In fact, suicide rate among students are increasing and the reasons are varied. But most have reasons rooted in the failure of the family and educational institutions to bring up students to face the challenges of the information age.

schoolfestThere is little doubt the guidance for living in the information age should start at the schools. It is at the schools and school festivals that pupils could be imbibed with values and behavioural norms that they would tend to follow in later years. If prohibition is used for behavioural control, that may not always yield results. The pupils, who could be stopped from using mobile phones at the school festivals, cannot be stopped from using it during their college days.  And in this age, it is not difficult to get a photograph of anyone, and prohibition will do only more harm than good.

So, the authorities should take the school festival as an opportunity to train pupils in the good use of mobile phones and against abuse. Taking of pictures need be discouraged only in the green rooms and hostels. At the same time, parents could restrict unnecessary access to mobile phones to prevent abuse and any ill-effects on health.

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