Sunday, July 31, 2016

Making an effective Parents Teachers Meeting in India: Comprehensive ideas to get started

1) Parents Participation : One of the major challenges that need to be overcome is the lesser engagement of parents. Do most parents attend parents teacher meeting? What are the reasons that a parent don't appear in the meeting (in private or govt. schools)? Reasons can be many such as lack of time, uninformed about the meeting because the invitation is not done properly or ignorance towards the education of their children as in the case of govt schools.
So how can we deal with it?

2) Meeting Guidelines: In order to make the meeting productive, there needs to be everyone participation. In a usual meeting, parents sit as a passive listener most of the time and  a bunch of teachers give oration about education. But, such situation should be discouraged in the meeting. The meeting is about discussing problems faced by students and even school and how it can be solved by the involvement of parents. So, before we convene a meeting even, a lot of work has to be done about specifics of questions that need to be talked in the meeting.

So, here is a rough example sketch that can be done to confront these issues.

The first step is identifying the problem faced by the kids which need to be discussed with their respective parents in the meeting. The problem can be particular to a student, or a common problem faced by students. If the case is first, sometimes it needs to be solved without making it public, so personalized parent meeting should be done. But if it's a common problem, it can be done in the public meeting.

So, the question is how to identify the problem faced by kids? Its is the toughest job that needs to be done. One of the methods can be an inquiry and in-depth observation on a student.
Let's analyze a statement
"Student is doing badly in chemistry" This is a very generalized statement you will often hear/perceive from teachers when the student get failed in tests.
But the statement lacks any specifics about the student inability to score marks.
To find the specifics, the teacher needs to take help of inquiry and in-depth observation.

So, let's make an example inquiry section to find specifics.

Does the student understood the concepts of the topic? Again, how to know it. By asking some conceptual and simple questions about the topics to the students.

So, what if he/she could answer the simple questions? If this is the case, then exam questions need to be analyzed like what questions were asked in the test and why he/she was unable to do it.

What if he/she couldn't answer the simple questions?
Again, a common perception among teacher is the student is less intelligent or not working hard. This is the conclusion reached by most teachers for not doing well in exams.

"Less intelligent": a very generalized way of defining intelligence. The teacher needs to work on specifics. Is his/her memory less than other students? How to test it, whether his/her memory is less?If the case is memory shouldn't exam pattern be improved? In which way, he/she is less intelligent. Is he/she able to do calculations properly to reach the solution? Was his/her approach to the problems correct?

Next perception, he/she is not working hard. Have you inquired properly to reach this conclusion? How do you know if the student is unwilling to tell you, or he/she is even unsure about it? Even if the conclusion is true, how to motivate them to study, so that it doesn't become a burden for them. Many students feel studying as punishment for them. Why do they feel so? How to make studying more entertaining to them?

It was an example of studies, but there are many other issues that can be discussed with parents, such as school fees, child abuse, sexuality, bullying, environment and limitless issues.

After teachers have identified the problems and thought of some kind of solution, then the meeting can be convened with parents to inquire them and discuss with them.

List of questions or topics should be decided before the meeting which needs to be discussed.

Technologies can also be used to track and speed up all these procedures.

What technologies can we use?

Making a central website to put questions in public/private and their solutions.

Even if the parents are not willing to come they can either post their questions or suggestions on the website or give the question to their children, which can be uploaded to the website. This will make them participate virtually.
Encouraging students to put their problems on the website, keeping their identity anonymous or hidden from the public. And making it obligatory for the student to put at least one problem/suggestion on the website.
Deciding the theme of the meeting which needs to be discussed and posting it.
Convene the meeting with parents through technologies like SMSing, email etc..
Then again posting conclusions of the meeting after it is done. Also posting personal replies on the website about the solutions of the questions.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

How can central open schools such as NIOS can make a revolutionary step in the field of Personalized Education?

Most schools are overloaded with students. Usually, a single classroom in popular schools in your locality must be having more than 30 students in a particular class.
To give students a personalized experience, it’s all most impossible for these schools.
So, students rely on personal tuitions to meet the requirement of the students. All most all parents that have a good income, provide personal tuitions to their children.

So, what role NIOS has to play?

NIOS can promote mini-schools with 10-20 students in class with laboratory facilities and required teachers. They don't need to have all the classes for Std 1 to 12th. Any particular class for a startup would do, based on teacher availability. But for it, a lot of processes has to be done by NIOS.
1) Designing Curriculum 
Design the best curriculum from Class I to Class 12 with book recommendation, training teachers for best practices of teaching that works (with giving complete research and statistical data of its working)
2) Conducting Exams
We cannot rely on these mini-schools for conducting exams. So, NIOS should start conducting exams per semester, from Class I to Class 12. Per semester is important, to make students more accountable to their studies.
The exams must be very transparent, like using Aadhaar Card for authentication, scanning of the answer scripts.  Handwriting checking can also be done, to know the student is an authentic examinee.
The exam can be conducted on Sundays, Saturdays and holidays in different schools/classrooms. Also, the examiner should be randomly selected, so that parents or anyone don’t know who will be the examiner before the exam. Conducting a transparent exam without malpractice is the key to the success of this whole procedure.
3) Giving feedback and results of the Exams
Giving a detailed feedback by looking at each answer of students, where students are lagging behind, how they can be improved, etc. along with the marks provided. For it, a website can be made for uploading the feedbacks and answer scripts.
4) NIOS can charge the required amount of fees for this process.

If this is done, students will get a personalized education and a more transparent process of evaluation of their skills.

Some of the questions may be how there will be the quality assessment of these mini-schools?
So, a ranking of mini-schools can be done based upon the results, as semester examination is not conducted by them, the ranking will be most transparent  and competition will be another factor, as students/parents have true freedom to choose their classes.
What about students of below poverty line?
Mini-schools can be supported by govt aids, who include students from below poverty line. To avoid abuse of it, only good ranked mini-schools should be given a chance or their affiliation should be canceled if students don't score well in exams.
Consider the situation, if students got passed in 5th Class, and the institute doesn't provide 6th Class and unable to find an institute of 6th Class nearby. What he/she would do in such situation?
Presently we already have many coaching institutes, by making them an offer of open schooling, they surely will want to get affiliated and meet the requirements of laboratory etc. So, this will be a very rare case to happen.

This can be a revolutionary step that can work with the private-public partnership and a better approach for handling quality education than state run or center run schools.

So, it only requires a proper iterative pipeline, well-designed website for maintenance.

How practicals are done in India? How should it be done through inquiry-based approach?

Practicals in school and colleges are all about writing records. They spend most of the time on writing records, drawing fancy diagrams without even knowing anything about what they are writing/drawing.
Teachers also award students whose records are only visually appealing, not on the content/or not whether students have understood what they are doing.
e.g. recently I heard from a student that teacher managed to throw the notebook because she was writing in a rough notebook.
So, classes are all about writing records that teacher dictates with giving a very little practical knowledge

I even don't blame the teacher. He/she does the same thing what she/he has been taught in her/his times of college. So it just a repetition/ritual way of doing things what has been done since the inception of colleges.

So, how it should be fixed through inquiry-based approach?

It can be fixed by bringing a change in curriculum.
Let's look at the syllabus of practical. Just one or two lines statements of each practical.

Neither there are any good practical books, which gives complete detail about how practical should be taught? (not how it should be done?) Most practical books are written like notes, from which students can learn nothing.

So here is an example how practical should be taught, or books should be written? Please do look at it thoroughly:
Mixing sugar and water, what happens to sugar:

Teaching about surface tension and statistics(Classroom Strategies for Inquiry-Based Learning,

Monday, July 18, 2016

How should teacher selection be done in a transparent manner in India and keep them accountable?

Mostly in the current procedure, a teacher is appointed by entrance exam or a bunch of questionnaires by senior faculties or administrator. (Keeping all different kinds of corruption or lobbying that takes place aside)
But this process does not guarantee a good teacher. A modern educator should have many other psychological, pedagogical and leadership skills/features that are not tested in this procedure. The current procedure only tests the amount of subject knowledge/information they have, which can only be used as the first line of defense to get a good teacher.

So, instead of selecting a single teacher from the interview, 3 to 5 etc. teachers must be selected and should be given few classes to teach the students. These classes should be recorded, and voting must be done by students and faculty members based upon the questions asked in the voting.

The questions can be such as does the lecturer/teacher increases curiosity on the subject, do they understand the subject properly, and many other practical questions that need to be asked about the lecture based on research that works, with trial and errors.

One can escape the first line of defense due to many loopholes, but no way on the second step. You will be always be assured a good teacher if done properly.

Do look at the page what a modern educator should be...

How to keep our teachers accountable for excellence in education?

Here again, the role of technology (camera and microphone) will  assist. Instead of tracking teachers all the time, recording needs to be done on weekly basis. Then, the recording that contains voice should be uploaded in a central database repository, where the video will be available for feedback from the public. The video should be available only for 3 months for review, after that, it can be deleted to save the memory space.

What the benefit of doing it weekly?
It provides freedom to teachers, as they are not tracked all the time. Also, keeps teacher accountable as they have to study and do their homework on the continuous basis and then come to the class.
It provides a ceaseless feedback system between students, teachers, and public, all participate in the education system of the country.

Also, there should be guidelines of the website repository, about what type of feedback can be given e.g. public needs to be polite, and whenever they criticize, it needs to be constructive so that teachers remain emotionally supported and there is always room for improvement for teachers rather than thinking about perfection.

Teachers who perform better (as it will help in identifying best teachers), can be used for making MOOCs for other teachers and students. Other teachers will learn the teaching habits of good teachers and we will have more course materials.

How to include private institute, if they are not ready to share the lectures data?
Lecturers/teachers will be given incentives by the government, if they share their data. No incentives if no data shared. Also sharing the data will be one of the criteria to increase ranking in the national ranking framework in case of schools and universities.

Why do doctors need to conduct research in India and how it can be done?

1) Time
A medical student in India spends negligible time in conducting research. And after becoming a doctor, with the burden of overwork to check patients, they find almost no time to conduct research.
How can they do a case study, if they don't spend enough time with the patient?

2) Using Lab equipment for research
Whole medicine department in India is limited to determining the disease through the medical diagnostic procedure, and then prescribing medicines or surgery for cure. We have all sophisticated medical equipment from MRI scanner to high sensitive blood testing machines for different diseases. But none are used for research purpose. Neither most data produced by the medical department are used in research or statistical analysis due to lack of digitalizing and lack of storing in a central repository.

3) More doctors
India being a second largest populated country in the world, the requirement of doctors, should be second largest to have a decent amount of doctor and patient ratio. Even, in India, most students aspire to become doctors, but they are not given chance due to lack of seats. Instead of decreasing the seats, shouldn't they be allowed to conduct research in the medical field. There are so many checkpoints to become a doctor, even if someone fails to become e.g. a surgeon he/she may become a researcher. More doctor means required doctor and patient ratio, so more time. So doctors will have freedom to conduct research.

5) Collaboration with other researchers of diverse fields
Like any research, collaboration is a most important step. A single doctor with a specialized knowledge cannot have all the tools to complete its research. So a collaborative work is required so that diversified people, e.g. information technology people or biotechnologists can visit hospitals and a chance is given to work there to understand the problems.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

What strategical mistakes do we make in the Lab as a team in Indian context?

1) Clarity of riddle that needs to be solved, in the research you are doing.
The question in research should identify the problem and how to solve the problem. We cannot expect everything to occur in serendipity, by doing random stuff without knowing what is the problem.
2) Pretending to work
Research supervisors are obsessed with the amount of time spent on work you do, instead of quality work. For doing research, we need to think, we need to discuss the problem with our team as a total. Research cannot be done after you are exhausted because you cannot think at that time.
All members come from a different psychological environment with different passions and mindset. So, it important to bring their mindset into solving the problem, instead of forcing them to only work. Usually, students come to build their career and earn money. Many are almost not interested in doing research because of the environment they get. So, they start to pretend to work to appease the supervisor and get paid.
3) Lack of discussion with researchers of diversified background in the lab.
Discussions are not taken seriously by the administrator because they think (actually it's true) that students will start gossiping. But instead of stopping them to discuss, why not a rule book for discussion, where you need to ask right questions and discuss in the context.
4) Treating a new member in lab
When a new member comes to lab, he/she is almost unaware of the project you are doing, also he/she has never got the industry experience, as we know how our colleges are. So, it would be too much for him/her to understand everything all by alone and again too much pressure from the supervisor for not doing your work or giving output. (seriously, even the lab members and supervisor don't know what output they want, because after doing a month of work, again you are said, it's not required). So, instead of treating the new lab member as a genius, he/she should be given clarity of the problem you are solving in a simplistic way. Many times, he/she may ask questions even the lab members or supervisor don't know.  "Being scared of being judged for not knowing", neither the new member asks any questions, nor other replies directly to the questions when asked because of the same reason and pretends to know the answers.