Sunday, 25 February 2018

The latest announcement from the HRD minister is that the CBSE will cut the prescribed syllabus by half. If done properly, it is a good idea. I have said many times that we teach too many unneccesary stuff in our endeavour to cover everything. There must be quality, not quantity.

As with many other government interventions, if they do a random cut in the syllabus, without asking experts, or by asking random babas to set the syllabus, we are in for trouble. 

Friday, 19 January 2018

I have been volunteering at a school where I am teaching physical science to some 10th class children. Another NGO asked if I would help some girls in their Inter II year (equivalent of class 12). So I have familiarised myself with the syllabii of class 10 as well as Inter II yr. I am also familiar with the syllabus for BSc classes, since I used to teach them for many years.
The point is, at every level, they teach the same concepts, for example shapes of orbitals. However, it is done very weirdly in class 10. In one page, electrons are particles moving around the nucleus, and after three pages, they are in orbitals that have weird shapes. The narrative makes no sense. The Inter text book is a little better, some attempt is made to connect the dots. In BSc, it is much better and the narrative makes some sense, even if we don't deal with any of the math.
My point is, why teach it in the 10th? The way it is given would confuse anyone. This confusion can be debilitating later. They acquire some misconceptions and that stays with them all through.
 A student studying for  MSc in Chemistry, thinks the electron in a p orbital is a particle that moves around in figures of 8. This probably was the picture he got in the 10th class and it never went away even though he has studied some quantum chemistry in BSc and MSc. (true story)
Mis-learning is deadly, it cannot be rectified easily.
That's the danger of stuffing in "topics" just so you can boast that your syllabus is advanced.
School syllabi  should teach very basic concepts, limited in number,but those must be taught well enough to engrave it in the students' memories. And children must be taught to learn on their own and enjoy the process.
As in everything else, we feel quantity makes up for quality

Monday, 4 December 2017


An op-ed  by two people from the niti aayog talks about our ranking in the global hunger index.
They say if we don't give high weightage to childhood malnutrition, India's ranking would go up
to 77.
I say, if you don't give weightage to the lower 90% population of the population,
India would rank no 1!
It reminds me of Amitabh Bacchan's dialogue in Sholay when he is "advocating" his friend Dharmendra's case for marryng Hema Malini.

I don't understand the logic. It is not as if such weightage is being given only to India. The method of calculation is the same for all countries and they are then ranked.
In fact, if it is our children who are more malnourished than the children of the rest of the world, it is an even greater shame. 
Childhood malnutrition causes lifelong disability. Malnutrition in adulthood may be reversible and temporary, but childhood malnutrition causes brain damage, stunting, and prevents the child from building a foundation for good mental and physical health. He or she is handicapped for life.
Giving it higher weightage is justified totally since it is affecting the health of the population for years to come.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Vedic people

In my school days, the Aryans populating India were of central Asiatic origin who entered India from the north west. Then there was this hue and cry stating that this is a biased view of the white man and that we were existing in the subcontinent all along. The mitochondrial DNA studies gave this theory credence. However, the Y chromosome DNA  seems to show that we were from the steppes.
The initial theory that we were from central Asia was on linguistic basis. So looks like point to the linguists.
What I find interesting is that the difference in the inference obtained from mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosome DNA means the people migrating into India were predominantly male and they then cohabited with the local women to produce the current population. There is no evidence of a military campaign by these people of the  steppes. If it was not military, then why did they not bring their womenfolk? It seems odd because, in military campaigns, men leave women behind with the intention of getting back to their families after the campaign. These men did not seem to have returned.
What happened to those women left behind in the steppes?
Secondly, if we are to accept that these were the Vedic people, then why do the older vedic rituals give importance to women? A man cannot conduct any religious ritual without his wife beside him. Rituals like marriage of children, shrardh of their parents most yagnas etc.(true even now. The wife has to start proceedings by giving light to the homam fire)
This is odd on two counts- one, they left their women behind and two they gave importance to "alien" women.
One hypothesis could be that they did not leave the women behind. The women were decimated for some reason- some gender specific epidemic or large scale abduction by the less civilised humans living around them. So these men came searching for peace and family life and found it here.

Well so much non-evidence-based conjecture !
But that's the good thing about a blog. One can write about whatever hypothesis one chooses!

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

When I was a child, festivals were fun. They were about good food, perhaps new clothes, some token praying (from the kids' point of view). The tradition for Ganesh chaturthi for example.... My mother would get some clay(clay was easily available to make angeethis) and one day before, we kids would make a small ganesh idol. The next day that would be kept for the puja and on the day after that, immersed in a well nearby or a bucket of water which would then be used to irrigate the tulasi plant.
Now we have become "more traditional". everyone has a huge POP ganesh painted with gaudy, toxic colours and menacing young men coming around to collect "chanda". These ganesh pandals block roads causing a traffic jam.They go on for days playing loud music on speakers which cause your chest cavity to vibrate in resonance. And then the finale is that they immerse all this in already stressed water bodies.
So noise pollution, and water pollution. Oh did I leave out air pollution? never mind Deepavali is just round the corner.
Why have all our festivals become so violent?
They used to be so benign.
Someone should start a twitter campaign
 #make festivals traditional again.
 #no modern technology in religion
No loudspeakers, no toxic dyes, no POP, no fireworks,  

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Phillip Ball writes about the narrative in the UK
Many intellectuals”, he says, “sneer at patriotism.”  he quotes Norman Lamont, a Brexiter.
"So there’s your choice (once again): get behind Brexit and be a patriot and, or oppose it and be unpatriotic. Loyalty to country (and thereby to “democracy”), or loyalty to the EU: it’s one or the other. "
At another place, he says "Here is Theresa May, in her barely literate foreword, on the national sentiment:...."
more than what she says, the fact that he feels she is "barely literate" is what I notice.
Then there is Trump.
And for those in India, does it  sound familiar- "be a patriot" ?
But at least Brexit was done through a referendum. 

This sudden contempt for the experts, the decisions made based on ideas put forth by "barely literate" people, decisions that affect a huge number of people who willy-nilly bear its consequences, where will it all lead us?

Continuing, there's an oped