Tuesday, 22 January 2013

A sign of getting older is that I am now unable to pipette out 25 mL each into 15 standard flasks at a time,  for the lab exam.... Something I did every year for batches of students, twice a year. I now use a burette or a pipette pump making the process a lot slower and tedious.
With a lot of effort, we organise a pre-final practical examination for our students -- exactly like the final practical examination in order to familiarise our students with the exam pattern and point out their mistakes. The students however, do not study for it and simply cheat, copy each other's titre values and ask each other how to calculate the result. Why do they not understand the purpose of a pre final exam? what purpose does the copying achieve?
I had organised a short course in bioinformatics, taught by one of our guest faculty. We asked for a feedback. I got the papers back today and the students have copied the response from one another. Why?
If I ask them to write an answer to "which flavour ice cream do you like?", they may need to look at their neighbour's paper and copy the answer....

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Learning outcome

Every year, Pratham conducts a survey of the learning outcomes of children in schools in rural India.
Surprisngly, this year there has been a decline in the learning outcomes as compared to the years preceding 2010, where the learning outcomes had been showing a small, but regular improvement.
The test is to see if a V class child can read a II class textbook and subtract 2 digit numbers.
Only 47% children have achieved this level of reading ability.
However, the enrollment in schools is quite high-- about 96%.
Pratham feels this drop in learning outcomes is due to the continuous evaluation system introduced with the RTE.
I think it is the lack of training for teachers that is to blame. Exam or no exam, if a teacher is trained in pedagogy, most children can be taught to read. However, the empirical evidence points to Pratham's conclusion. Since the RTE was introduced, the learning outcome has dropped from around 53% to about 47%.

Our policies in education are all geared towards quantity not quality.
In primary education, it does make sense to say 'at least get them to school, we will talk about quality later', but this argument is very dangerous when it is applied to higher education.
The policy of most states is to produce more and more  graduates and post-graduates.
The large number of uninterested students enrolling for an MSc or MA,  protest if they are not passed. (they even assaulted a prof for not being admitted to a PhD program.)
To enable them to pass, the syllabi and examinations are 'dumbed down' considerably.
This may make short term political sense, but should they not stop to think what these hordes of unemployable people with big degree will do later on?   

When I was a child, festivals were fun. They were about good food, perhaps new clothes, some token praying (from the kids' point of vie...