Monday, 25 April 2011

on being 'monolingual'

I just found out that if you speak only Tamil, you can't take part in conspiracies. Does this rule apply to people who speak only Bengali, or only Gujarati?
Only non conspiratorial crimes occur in rural Tamil Nadu.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011


Our college is applying to NAAC for accreditation. The whole thing is pure babudom and we all have to pitch in.
I think I have written this before, but still do so-- I was constructing my house a few years ago and the builder was an ISO 9000 company. I used to have long discussions with the architect about the design and there was a huge fat file with my name on it. The file had meticulous record my every word as if I was some Messiah.
However, when it came to actual construction, it was another story.
None of the beautiful drawings made by the architect was given to the site workers, and even if it had been given, they would probably used it to pack their lunch. Nothing of what you asked for was done on site unless you stood there and made them do it.
Well, that's ISO for you! Beautiful records and meticulous files!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Foreign students in Indian colleges

A recent blogpost brought to mind the difficulties faced by foreign students as well as some of their successes.
Every year-end, we have a farewell party for the outgoing batch. In that, the best outgoing student is voted/selected. This year it was an African (Tanzanian I think) student. A foreigner, who has learnt English and "koncham koncham" Telugu and a little Hindi in his three year stay and managed to get good marks and make a huge number of friends.
This is unfortunately, not common. Most African students have studied in Arabic and cannot understand English. The amount of science they have done in school is also not adequate. With these two huge handicaps, many of them are unable to cope.
In addition, they meet with a lot of prejudice amongst society as a whole and are unable to get houses for rent etc.
(Some of the prejudice is understandable, since in Hyderabad, there have been a few cases of Nigerian drug peddlers posing as students.)
The University, through which they come, should call them six months in advance, teach them English and a little bit of the local language before they enrol in the colleges.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Projects for NSTS and KVPY

I just saw the blogpost about the first batch of undergrads at IISc.
The KVPY on which this is based, requires that the applicant should present a project report.
This reminds me of the Science Talent exam the NCERT used to have. We needed a project for that too.
There were a few people who had qualified in the NSTS who had done amazing projects. One project was a chromatography-based drug detection unit. This was done in one of the well known research labs of those times, where the student's father was a senior chemist. In 1970, chromatographic methods (barring paper and tlc), were quite uncommon and I, as school student had not even heard of it. I was totally impressed and wondered how I, with my school-girlish project had qualified. I still do!!
The point is, if a scientist father/mother/uncle.. gives a good project idea and explains how it should be done, then the student has a brilliant project even if he/she is not too brilliant. To defend it, one only needs to be fairly intelligent, not really brilliant.
School science fair projects are often done by fathers/mothers, very few are the childrens' own ideas.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011
An idea.
How well will it work?
Most ideas for student driven learning assume that the student wants to learn.
Is that a valid assumption? if so, for what percentage of students?

Sunday, 10 April 2011

isb conference

The ISB is holding a conference about education to foster innovation. The registration fee is
Rs 8000/-
The 'who should attend' list includes school and college principals, citizens who are interested in education....
Can teachers or private citizens pay this much? I would have like to attend it, but it's too expensive.
Most of their second day's programs must be addressed to teachers...those who will actually be doing the job!
For example, the lecture "Pedagogies / Teaching Methods in Higher Education to Enhance Innovation Capacity ", should be heard by teachers not the vice president of some company.

We have conferences in posh places where a few people in positons of power debate an issue much like a school debate competition....."full of sound and fury signifying nothing"
The real people who should be debating and deciding and doing are left out of the discussions.
Jairam Ramesh's discussions with the general public and different stakeholders about the introduction of bt brinjal, was the first time the people concerned were taken into account.

Saturday, 2 April 2011


In orthodox Brahmin communities, any special occasion involves rituals. The ceremonies associated with death are more so; and since they all involve the soul of the dead relative, it becomes almost impossible to not follow them exactly.
Yesterday, I was going through such an occasion. Since the relative had died a year ago, my mind was not preoccupied with thoughts of the dead person, but was wandering, and I could not help feeling that the rituals resemble the actions of persons with serious OCD. The darbham grass must be placed just so, 4 in four directions, a line should be drawn from the top right to the bottom!no!...not bottom to top! The junior priest would measure the grass and nip it to exact lengths...... These rituals may have some meaning attached to them, but without knowing what that is, it's a lot like OCD.

I watch this TV show called Blue Bloods. It is about a family of New York Police Department officers. The show is fictional and makes all ...