Wednesday, 18 April 2018

April 17th op-ed in the Hindu has two articles. One  about the HERC and another about research in medical colleges.

First the article about mandatory research by doctors working in medical colleges. As I have said many times,teaching full time and in this case, also treating patients or performing surgery, leaves very little time for research. One cannot conduct research in 15 minutes break between patients or classes.
What should be mandatory is that teachers must keep abreast of the latest research in their field. Maybe every teaching institution can have an in house publication that prints monthly research reviews authored by faculty. A brief summary of what has happened in a particular field in the last few months.
As far as the HERC goes, it's much of the same old, same old.
Only one suggestion I found interesting is that colleges can be associated with research labs. This would ensure that both students and faculty got some insight into the recent advances in their field of interest without having to publish.
 This mandatory publication requirement has led to substandard research in huge volume.

Saturday, 14 April 2018


I came across a video of Ravish Kumar moderating a discussion about Y Sudarshan Rao's  statement in his blog, that caste system was working well in olden times and has now acquired the negative connotations, primarily due to the Muslim invasion. I did not really continue watching this for long.
Like the "foreign hand"/CIA theories of the 70s and 80s,  blaming everything on someone else is pretty feeble. Even assuming he is right, the Muslims have gone so what is your new excuse?
However, that's not my concern here.
The recent genetic studies (also older ones) shows that across caste, we all have similar DNA. There is some North- South divide and some small differences in the DNA of the north-eastern people, but nothing major. 
If the caste system had been rigid since 3000 years ago, that is strict endogamy was practiced, there would have been bigger genetic differences between the people of different castes.
So the strict caste rules are of more recent origin. Not long ago enough to have impacted our genes significantly.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

When my children were small, I used to take them to the Birla Science Museum in Hyderabad. It soon became our vacation "must do". Below the science exhibits, the museum houses a small by very well curated art and archeological museum. In that I saw an exhibit labelled "stone tools from Hashmatpet cairns".
Hashmatpet is a locality close to where I lived, and my children and I were very keen to visit. We persuaded my husband to drive us there one Sunday morning.
Apparently there is a huge ring of cairns of which the ASI has excavated one. It is about 25-30 feet wide circular with steps carved in the earth and inside is a dolmen. It is perhaps a shrine or a funeral site. There is no explanatory signage, so it's just our guess.
This location is surrounded by flats a little way off, but around it, is the local rubbish dump and outdoor toilet. We had to navigate on tiptoes from the car to the excavation.
This was the state in 1995 or so (I think). I haven't been to see it since. It is probably razed and flats built over it.
I was reminded of this on reading the blogpost



I enjoy reading history. I came across a blog that gave some info about the Cholas from some epigraphs from Kanyakumari. All that is fine, but in the story, the first Chola king chased and killed a Rakshasa who turned himself into a deer. This blogger states that this story is discredited by historians (for obvious reasons). Fine till here.
But he feels these historians are hypocritical.
Now comes the problem.
He says  
"As to one changing into another species.
 Today we accept that an object can exist at different levels at the same time as claimed by quantum Physics."
In my childhood, I used to like one story and found it hilarious.
There was a man with small child. He fed the child some milk, but it choked. The man was upset. He had a blind friend who asked him what the matter was. The man said, "my child choked when I fed him some milk."
The blind friend asked "what does this milk look like?"
Man said "It is white"
Friend asked "what is white"
The man showed a stork nearby and said "this is white"
The blind friend touched the stork and felt its long neck and said "If you try to feed a child this huge thing, what do you expect?"
The blogger reminded me of this story.

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

April 17th op-ed in the Hindu has two articles. One  about the HERC and another about research in medical colleges. First the article abo...