Friday, 17 May 2013

the best laid plans of mice and men

When I was getting my house constructed, the builder, an 'ISO something' certified company, would get my every wish, every window, every plug point, documented and signed in duplicate.
But on the site, the masons/electricians did not get these papers. I would have to go and check every day to see things were where they were supposed to be.
Great planning, zero implementation.
There is the NAC with people  like Aruna Roy and Anu Agha, perceived as honest  people interested in the welfare of the country. We have a big exercise like the MNREGA. Then there was the RTE. There is the RTI.
There have been many good initiatives, but the ideas remained that. Implementation has been very unintelligent.
The massive corruption could not have gone unnoticed. So why wait to do what was inevitable till forced to, and earn a bad name? Why would they be so stupid?
Is the planning is done by a set of intelligent people, good at their jobs, but once a good blueprint is made, the people who implement the ideas are not smart enough to realise the value of long term goodwill?  Carpe Diem perhaps!

Thursday, 9 May 2013

science for kids

Some years, I go as a resource person for a week long lab sessions for IX class kids. This year there were two enthusiastic kids amongst the lot and I enjoyed doing the experiments with them.
This is a summer school for kids who have completed their IX class. The NGO holds a science talent exam. and the top 30 are chosen for this free summer school where they do some experiments and listen to lectures. They are divided into 4 groups, Chem, Bio, Phys and Math  for the lab sessions.
I started going as a resource person in 2002, when I joined the kids to listen to  a really interesting lecture on prime numbers by Prof Tandon of UoH. It impressed me that someone can make something like number theory sound like an exciting story.
I used to go every year, but of late, I had other commitments. Secondly, I used to find it rather dull since the children were unenthusiastic......the session would move only if I gave  specific and exact instructions...add 2 mL, now see if the blue colour appears...etc. They never wanted to do anything on their own, they only followed instructions.
This year was different. Two boys in the Chem group were vocal and interested, two others interested, but a little less vocal and one girl in the Bio group, keen on the Chem experiments. So I enjoyed myself much more than I usually do. They appreciated the nuances.....why a roughly measured 2 mL was OK for a qualitative check, but not for a quantitative experiment.....which is something I struggle to make BSc students understand.  Apart from more serious experiments on water quality, our fun experiment was the minimum concentration of Teepol required to get good stream of bubbles.
(BTW, one of my colleagues in the Physics lab asked her group,  which group was enjoying the summer school the most, and the answer she got from them was the Chemistry group!! )

The science talent exam used to have 3 sections A,B,C consisting of MCQ s in Chem, Bio, Phys and Math. Over the years, coaching centres had come up all over  AP for this exam. We wanted to change the pattern.  So this year, we had section A and B as usual, a section C with three 5 mark questions that required thoughtful answers written in about 5 or 6 lines. This section C of the question paper was to be corrected only for those students who scored in the top 100  in sections A and B.  The ranks were based on section C.
My hypothesis is that it is because of the new pattern that I got at least  a few junior scientists to do the experiments. Maybe the following years will prove me right!

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

I used to keep a diary of sorts when in college, and in it, I "discussed" various things that bothered me or various questions that I raised in my own mind. It was something like an argument with myself, with one side putting up only a very weak defense.
One of the things I wondered was whether the great value  that people place on intelligence and science and reason was justified  and whether there was an alternate world view where these qualities were of very little value. I am still not sure of the answer.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

What is more worrying than a person taking a 10 crore bribe for a job, is the the thought of what the person paying it must be making if he gets the job. 

Saturday, 4 May 2013

this and that

There seems to be a lot  of noise about  the new format for DU's degree courses. If the notification has come just now, it is rather late in the day.
In a college, every year, with new intake, we need to calculate the workload, see if new teachers are required. The HoD then distributes the syllabus among his/her staff.
The college also needs to check if the classes have the required rooms and that all the enrolled students can be fitted in the labs.
Even  in mediocre colleges, all this is finalised in April and new recruitments made for the next academic year during April.
Now that DU has notified this new pattern, the syllabus has to be finalised, the number of classes /week decided. The workload has to be determined and distributed.
If there is a new course - 'Basic Princ. of Math' with say, 3 periods a week,  for all new entrants-say 1000 students- which means 20 sections of 50 students -  60 periods of workload. In the previous regime, the Math dept would have had  2 sections of 50 students in the I yr and be teaching 4 or 5 periods- a workload of about 10 periods and may be another 10-15 tutorials/ labs or whatever they call it... 25 periods workload. This is only considering the first year .
The colleges need to plan for this. It takes time.