Saturday, 19 December 2009

Christmas celebrations At the Epiphany Church, Gurgaon


In this picture we can see the Sunday School children acting a Nativity Skit.

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In the photograph above we can see Pastor Samuel Ashis Jacob and Subashish Nag.

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In the photograph above we have an assembly of the Sunday School Children .

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Subashish and Rohit Mathew.

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Rohit, Pastor Samuel and Subashish

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In this picture we can see from left, Mr.D.D.Lal, Mr.S.S.Hughes, and Pastor Samuel.

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In the above picture we can see the bon fire celebration

During the advent week, the Epiphany Church of Gurgaon, civil Lines organised various activities to celebrate the Christmas season. On the 19th., the sunday school children presented a skit based on the birth of Jesus Christ. This was followed by a bon fire in the Church grounds. The tiny tots presented a beautiful skit which left everyone applauding!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Schools are Battlefields of Violence in Delhi!

The incident that took place in the Govt.School in Nehru Vihar, Timarpur, Delhi  on the second of December 2009is an eye opener for the policy makers of Education in  India! It was an unfortunate incident that speaks volumes about a system of Education that has gone badly wrong! The Hindustan Times reported that, “A school turned into a virtual battleground when two groups of students got into a fight allegedly over a girl in Timarpur in North Delhi on Wednesday morning.”

I feel that there are a few reasons why there is so much violence in our schools today. First and foremost, the hounding of teachers as culprits and sadists and by the Indian Media is an important contributor to this problem! Today, our students do not respect their teachers, this is because they have become totally fearless of their teachers, thanks to  the media. The media has insulted the dignified role of a teacher, the Guru Shishya relationship has been insulted by the media who are out to sensationalise stray incidents of students being punished by an already overstressed teacher! Students are not afraid of their teachers because the media has portrayed teachers as powerless organisms who can’t scold you, or reprimand you because corporal punishment is banned.  If students have no fear of teachers, then how do you expect them to remain disciplined? Today, a teacher is not allowed to discipline students.

The media doesn’t realise how difficult it is for a teacher to handle a class of fifty to seventy students in each class room. Parents are not able to handle two children, so how do you expect a teacher to handle seventy students? How does a teacher make students stick to disciplined behaviour unless there is a degree of fear for the teacher in the student?

Our policy makers should draft a policy on how to handle problems of discipline in schools of Delhi. Are they aware that discipline has become a major problem in Delhi today? Today students and teachers are a confused lot, thanks to the policies of the autocrats who are running our education departments. The recently introduced changes in the system of education for ninth and tenth class has left students and teachers baffled! Today students are not afraid of failing in their classes, so they don’t care about studies because they know that they will not be detained in class. The changes in the system of education have been too rapid for the students and their teachers. The reforms introduced in the system of education makes it virtually impossible for a student to fail in classes sixth, seventh and ninth.

The policymakers seem bent on experimenting with the system of education. Why are they playing with the lives of students? Why are they making board exams at the class tenth level optional? If students are not afraid of being detained, why will they be disciplined?

Today our schools have become virtual battlegrounds where students literally battle it out to prove their supremacy. A few months back unruly students went on a rampage in a school in Khajuri Khas in Delhi which resulted in the death of some students.


Government schools are overcrowded today , what with seventy to eighty students in each class. Today we are going for mass education.We are not bothered about quality! Overcrowding of classrooms is one of the reasons why our students have become unruly. It is very difficult to maintain discipline in a class of seventy students! Why then doesn’t our Government build new schools?

If discipline is an important issue why then is the government turning a blind eye to this problem?

The stories carried in newspapers today prove that students have become uncontrollable today, and that our system of education is defective, and that we need to do some serious thinking before it is too late. We can’t afford leniency in matters of discipline!

Dear policy makers, start thinking about why our students are more uncontrollable today! Don’t think introducing  grading or abolishing Board exams, think  about discipline! Today the issue of Discipline is a major issue! Don’t go for mass education, go for quality education,think about maintaining the dignity of the teacher.Do all this and I am sure you will get better discipline in the schools of Delhi! Don’t attempt to ape the systems of education in other countries, our traditional system of education was better than their system of education. Please ensure that your policies protect the guru shishya tradition of India!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Epiphany Church, Gurgaon Garden Fete 2009

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The parishioners of the Epiphany Church, Gurgaon celebrated their Annual Garden Fete today, on the 22nd of November.The Rt.Reverend Bishop Sunil Singh Graced the occasion. The coordinator of the Fete was Captain Joshi.
The fete was a grand success thanks to the cooperation of all the members of the parish. There were food stalls, game stalls, stalls which sold Christmas Carol C.Ds., the white elephant stall was a great success. Besides there was tambola which was organised by Mr.and Mrs. Kumar.There were auctions for various hampers, and of course the crowning stroke was the lucky draw for the winners of the raffle draw.
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The Army band did a wonderful job by playing some lively numbers.Given below are a couple of photographs of them while playing some lively tunes.
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Given below are some more glimpses of the gathering at the Fete and the stalls.
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Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Problems with the Communicative Approach in Teaching English

During the course of teaching English for fifteen years I have seen a steady veering away from the teaching of essentials of Grammar in classes leading to class eleventh.The amount of grammar taught in our syllabus is being steadily being Diluted by the framers of the curriculum and the syllabus. Grammar is the Maths of any language and you cannot teach the language without teaching Grammar! A student who doesn’t have a firm knowledge of Grammar can never be expected to frame sentences which are correct in syntax! So what is the teacher supposed to do while teaching English to students of classes sixth to eleventh of the C.B.S.E Board? Well, pat the answer comes, “Teach him to communicate!”  Which means, “How r u?” should be as good as, “How are you?” The C.B.S.E’s. Communicative and Interactive syllabus doesn’t do justice to the teaching of English in the schools of India! I feel dumbfounded by the expectations of the curriculum framers who think you can teach a student English without teaching him Grammar! Poor Chomsky would be confounded to see such a travesty in the teaching of this language! Chomsky believs that every child is born with a basic mental program, or circuit which responds to principles of Grammar, semantics, and syntax. So are we playing with Nature or the way the human brain is wired by neglecting the teaching of the principles of Grammar? I believe the answer is yes!
In class eleventh, the total marks awarded to the Grammar section in the Annual Question paper is ten-fifteen marks - that too in a paper of hundred marks! Forget about teaching formal Grammar! Editing and Omitting type of exercises can be effective only after the student is well versed in syntax and semantics of the subject! So now it seems our objective of teaching is only  to make  the student functionally aware about the language! It is no wonder therefore that a student may make as many mistakes as possible, he is not to be penalized for Grammatical errors, the only thing that matters is that he should “Communicate !”
I very strongly feel that when English is being taught as a second language then there should teaching of formal rules of grammar otherwise students are going to think in their mother tongue and then write a translation in English. One example how in Hindi read can also mean study, so a student who translates from Hindi would respond with the answer, 'I am reading in class ten,' to the question, 'What class are you in?'

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Internal Assessment, a Boon or a Bane?

The recent decision of introducing internal assessment at the ninth class level by C.B.S.E. is a positive approach towards reducing stress in students.However the internal assessment should be made as objective as possible so that the teacher's personal prejudices don’t affect the marks he gives to the student. It is often seen that assessments which are subjective in nature lack validity and the variation in marks allotted by different examiners to the same answer script is too great! There is a plan to award 40 marks to internal assessment, and 60 marks to the traditional written exam in each session.Of the 40 marks, from April to September, 20 marks will be awarded, and the next 20 will be awarded from October to March. Sixty marks will be awarded for the written exams. Looking at the scenario, I believe that this system is more suited to schools where there are only 35-40 students in each class. Assessing 70-80 students in a class(which is the standard for many government School) would be a Herculean task!
Everyone knows that “favourite” students get better marks in assessments. Bias and prejudice creep into the teacher who is a human being after all! Mr.Koch, Einstein’s History teacher considered Einstein to be a misfit, a poor students.The teacher’s misconception was because Einstein was not able to mug up the date of the battle of waterloo and how many soldiers died as a result! Einstein’s unthinking honesty made the History teacher think that he was being rude and impudent towards him. Einstein told the History teacher that he he was more interested in the learning of ideas and why the soldiers were trying to kill each other.He was not interested in the statistics and the data, because these can in any case be found in books!
If Einstein could be a victim of prejudice, why not others? The idea behind these radical changes in assessment of students is reduction of stress. However if the students are to be given an internal assessment which is subjective in nature, then it will worsen the problem of stress. The teacher will have to be pleased and kept happy so that he might give more marks in internal assessment.
Objectivity in internal assessment can be ensured only through multiple choice question papers where there is only one answer. These answer sheets can then be scanned and there can be less interference by the teacher as the marks would be awarded by the scanning machine, or computer! However, this objective tool of assessment should be introduced in a phased manner! For Languages preparing an objective tool for assessment is going to be difficult. Imagine grading students for fluency in spoken English! Few of us can pronounce English words properly so I wonder how equipped English teachers are for assessing students in spoken English! Added to this the fact that most of our students do not live in an environment where English is spoken so an internal assessment in spoken English would be utterly Insane! Government School students will be at a great disadvantage!
Somehow or the other, I feel that because of the continuous evaluation, there will be more stress in the students, there will be more workload for teachers (what with maintaining records) and of course there will be little or no teaching in classes. Imagine the confusion chaos which will be created in Government schools where you have seventy to eighty students in each class!
Somehow, students today are more stressed than not because of the system of continuous evaluations! The policy makers had thought about doing away with one board paper, a pen and paper exam because of the stress factor. What is really happening today is that instead of one pen and paper exam per subject at the end of the year, a student has to face four formative assessments per subject per term ( which makes it eight formative assessments in a session) and add to this two summative assessments which really stress out the students. A common complaint made by parents of students studying in classes ninth to tenth is that the projects and assessments are more of a task for parents than their children. This slew of internal assessments has added to the burden of parents who, of course are partners in education.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Is the three language formula at the Grade nine level a good Idea?

When I was given Ninth class last year, after teaching English to eleventh and twelfth for the past fifteen years, I came up with some amazing facts. First and foremost, I noticed that the students were not eager about English because of the three language formula. The upshot is that a student of ninth class has to opt for three languages in class ninth.The languages are, English, Sanskrit, and of course, Hindi. Out of these, the student is required to pass in any two languages. Thus, if a student passes in Hindi and Sanskrit, and fails in English, he will be considered Promoted. No wonder, this year when I was given tenth class, I noticed that there were quite a few students in class who had got, twenty out of hundred in English! No wonder these students were not performing well in class. It seems as if our educational system is intended to promote mediocrity in the interests of mass education! Simply promoting students despite of their poor performance in studies is bound to have serious repercussions at a later stage! It simply boils down to a game of passing the buck! If you pass all the students, then you have to provide them with jobs.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Has doing away with written Board exams at the Grade ten level been a good idea?

I personally don’t think doing away with the boards at the tenth class level has been good  for us.We still have to pass through a transition from a system which has been with us for the past many years. Lack of competition has made our students lose their edge in studies.I feel we should have waited for some more time and then reduced the weight age of board exams.Make board exams compulsory, but introduce internal assessment as an important part of board exams.There could be a 50-50% or 60-40% division of the marks for the board exam and the internal assessment.We should not have experimented with the studies of students at the Grade ten level! We shouldn't have gone for mass education at this level! Maybe remove exams at the primary level, but don’t do this at the intermediate level!

Now, students are not serious about reading their lessons because continuous evaluation has ensured that they are able to get through easily. So, it seems the absence of the fear of not doing well in a pen and paper exam such as used to happen earlier has meant that students today do not have very good exam skills.

Today it is October 2013 and when I return to this article I realize how much the decision of doing away with Board Exams the traditional way has caused students to lose their competitive edge! Students have lost their edge in examinations skills, and if there is anything that they are not able to do, then it is the inability to write answers in a term paper. Today students who are promoted to the grade eleven level find it very difficult to develop examination skills to pass their board papers at the grade twelve level. When grade eleven students sit down for their first terminal Summative   exams, they find it very difficult to complete the paper within the prescribed time limit of three hours. Has lack of exposure to competition as provided by Board exams in the past made our students dull and poor in other competitive exams? I guess the answer is yes. Today, our obsession for mass education has somehow taken away the quality that Indian Education once had. Don't you wonder why none of our institutions or even Universities and B-Schools don't figure anywhere in the list of the first two hundred top institutions in the world? I guess in time to  comes things will become worse. The idea behind removing board exams was to reduce stress, but CCA has somehow done the exact opposite with all sorts of activities being formulated to assess "formative" skills in students in a way that is meant to be "continuous"! This has lead to increased stress in teachers who have to prepare all sorts of activities, and for students it is nothing but continuous assessments, continuous tests! Welcome to the twenty-first century, the age of continuous testing!

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Why don't Students want to become Teachers ?



Today, on the fifth of September 2009, we celebrated Teacher's Day in the Dhanpatmal Virman Sr. Sec. school. As usual students of class twelfth took up the roles of teachers.After the event we had a tete a tete with the students because we wanted to know how they felt about their experience as teachers. I was amazed to hear their observations. Most of the students expressed their reservations about being teachers in their future lives! They stated that they had a tough time handling the students, and most of them wondered how the regular teachers were able to teach the students throughout the session! Most of them stated that they would rather be peons than teachers. It is high time the society realized the fact that the job of a teacher is a thankless job. This is in spite of the fact that teachers are builders of the Nation. When will the authorities wake up to the fact that teachers are the pillars of the society, and that they are the builders of the Nation, and that their job is a thankless one, and that it is a job that few will willingly volunteer for? Most of those who volunteered to teach the students for the day came back with a strong feedback for not taking up teaching as a career option. They said they were intimidated by the task of teaching and wondered how most of their teachers could manage full classrooms with fifty to sixty students so tactfully. Moreover it seemed these pupil volunteers were daunted by the fact that they had to literally juggle between the teaching of the lesson, maintaining discipline in the class, and then making a graceful exit after class knowing perhaps that they had messed up and left the students crying for clarifications! Incidentally the students who volunteered to take the classes on behalf of the teachers belonged to grade eleven and grade twelve. Most of the volunteers had put on very formal clothes, and in some cases there was a tie thrown in! But what the students had perhaps not bargained for was having to teach an actual class and to see many students turn up. 

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Epiphany Church,Gurgaon, Convention 2009

The Epiphany Church,Gurgaon organised a three day convention on the 14th.,15th., and the 16th. of August. The speaker on the occasion was Revd.Brijesh Mansell.The Revd.Bishop Sunil Singh of the Diocess of Delhi (Church of North India) also attended the Convention on the 15th. of August. The Convenors of the Convention were Mr.Pramod Sagar, and Mrs. Jasmine Samuel.
Revd.Ashish Samuel Jacob, Presbyter In Charge, Epiphany Church, Gurgaon was with us throughout and he was a pillar of strength for all of us! The theme of the convention was, "Come to pray, come to be pure!" The convention was a great success and we were all able to gain Spiritual food for thought.

In this photograph we have Mr. S.S. Hughes welcoming the Revd.Bishop Sunil Singh.

Our Choir did a very good job in singing Devotional hymns for spiritual upliftment!

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Plagued Aided Schools of Delhi

Delhi is home to a large number of Aided Schools. The concept of Aided Schools is that they are run by Managements, and Charitable trusts. The Management pools five percent of the salaries of the staff, while the Government pools in ninety five Percent. The Management or the trust becomes the appointing authority for the Aided School. Unfortunately this system doesn't seem to work very well for the Staff or the employees. Salaries are delayed as a matter of routine. Rarely does the staff get their Salaries on time! When the department is contacted about this problem, they pass the buck on to the Management or the school administration. Aided Schools are entangled in red -tapism, which involves preparation of Bills, and sanctions which have to be deposited in the department on a specific date. All this time the school is held to ransom by some petty clerk who is never at his seat, and he is a person with an inflated ego! I wish the powers be take a more compasssionate view regarding the problem of delayed salaries in Aided Schools. If nothing can be done, then perhaps the only solution would be to scrap the system of Aided Schools and either convert them into Government schools, or Public schools! Teachers in Aided Schools are more likely to stagnate than their brothers in government or public schools. The frustration of stagnation is further aggravated by the frustration of never getting salaries on time.
The only solution to these problems can be arrived at only if the Government gives 100% grant or aid to aided schools in Delhi. Also there should be a better system of checks and balance on the roles of the Principals in Aided Schools, because it has been seen that in many Aided Schools, the Principals are prejuduced and rather dictatorial in nature, handing over favours to their favourite staff members.
The problem of seniority has not been done away with in Aided Schools.There are cases where the senior most teacher is not made the principal. Favouritism on the part of the Management may help make a less eligible person a Principal. The Act branch is not very forthcoming about the criteria of seniority in Govt.Aided Schools of Delhi!
Another area where more needs to be done is to make appointments of staff members more transparent in Aided schools. It has been noticed that favouritism, and pecuniary considerations may result in the appointment of less deserving candidates in Aided schools. Political pressure, pressure from pwerful lobbies and many other harmful factors affect free and fair appointment of teachers, and other staff members in Aided Schools!

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Stressed Students in Delhi

Today more than ever, our students are subject to stress more than ever. They are expected to overachieve by parents and the society in general. Every parent expects his child to be a Chartered Accountant, or an engineer, or a Medical Doctor. Often such expectations are unrealistic, and expose students to great stress, which is in the long run harmful to the student. After school, the student goes for tuitions. He has hardly any time for rest. The result is that the student is exhausted and hardly able to stay awake in the class in the school. Often, more importance is given to coaching classes than to classes in school. In the photograph above, the student is so exhausted that he is forced to take a nap in the classroom! What then should we do? Perhaps, we need to introduce vocational courses and perhaps delink merit in class twelfth as a criteria for getting admissions into various courses.

Today the cut-offs for getting admissions into various institutions are shooting skywards. Performance in entrance exams should not be made the sole criteria for getting admission into various courses.Popularising diploma courses, introducing attractive vocational courses should be another option. In any case, we need to delink marks achieved in the board classes as a sole criteria for admission. What is more important today is to identify talent in students, identify aptitude, and make education a joyful process rather than a task for students. We need to identify individual talent in students, and guide them about the careers they can follow in life. Marks are not the only criteria for success in life. Learn to appreciate the tremendous potential in each student. Each student is a power house of potential.

Unfortunately, the demands of a life which is subject to information surfeit, and multitasking, it is very difficult to fight stress! Societal pressure, peer pressure and the need to come up with magical results has meant that the students would be stretched beyond their limits.

Friday, 19 June 2009


At the In Service programme which took place in the Tulsi Nagar Govt. school, we learned about the importance of inter-personal skills. We also did a lot of role playing, and of course did some yoga and some light exercises. It was a good platform for teachers to come together and share their views!
I am standing at the far left. On the day the photo was taken we were taught to make compost from kitchen waste.

In this photo is resource person, Madam Surekha Chawla, in pink prior to planting a seed.
In the photo on the right is resource person, Mr.Chandershekhar Singh, planting a seed.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Gateway of India and the Taj Hotel


The Gateway of India and the Taj hotel, are both icons of Mumbai and of course the whole of India! The Taj Hotel on the left corner of the photo was targeted by terrorists. However the Taj is a symbol of a resurgent India!  


When I visited Mumbai on the 26th. of May, I observed that it was not as clean as it used to be! The water was stinking, the waves brought in dead fish and garbage. Finally Global warming and Pollution seem to have caught up with Juhu!


The rich and the famous in Mumbai park their luxury yachts off the Gateway of India!


The Kanheri Caves near the Sanjay Gandhi National Park are two thousand five hundred years old.The Budhist influence is evident everywhere.The caves have cisterns which were used in ancient times to collect rain water! What a technological marvell! That too two thousand and five hundred years old!

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Schools and Violence

The incidents of violence in the schools of the Capital are on the increases. It seems as if the moving pictures world of the movies, coupled with a rather decadent and tired school curriculum is to blame for all the violence in the schools of Delhi, and the surrounding areas. Another major reason is that students lack motivation for going to school. Often, it has been noted that students go to school for "Masti", or just because their parents want to get them out of their hair! In any case, the curriculum framers, the administration, and policy makers are to blame for the problem of violence which is steadily blowing out of proportions. In many cases, there is a requirement of guidance Councillors  but these are rarely provided.Poor infrastructure, stretched resources, tired teachers, who have to teach in a classroom containing 80 student...all are to blame! Can you imagine having to teach 80 students at a time? I don't think education can take place in such a crowded class room! Imagine the mental condition of a teacher handling 80 students! Imagine a parent can't handle two children, but a teacher is expected to handle 80 students, in a crowded, stuffy classroom!

Students love to enact dramas and plays which are full of violence.This is because of what they see in the society, and the media.It is unfortunate that our curriculum and syllabus do not address these issues.A defunct and hopelessly outdated curriculum are to blame.The projection of the violent but successful Hero in the Hindi Film becomes the role model for the student. The students in the photograph were clearly motivated by the movie, "Ghajni" , notice the boy with closely cropped hair!

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Friday, 20 March 2009

Computer Based Literacy Module

In the months of April and May 2003, Mr. Avtar Singh and I were able to make sixteen illiterate women functionally literate by using the C.B.F.L. module given to us by TCS. The classes took place in the computer lab of the Dhanpatmal Virmani Senior Secondary School at Roop Nagar, Delhi. The Impetus for the programme was provided by Mr. Anil Virmani, the then Manager of the Dhanpatmal Virmani Education Trust and Management society. With the help of the module(the module is on a c.d. which TCS were kind enough to give us) we were able to give the illiterate women the ability to be functionally literate. The module includes a rich collection of pictures, text, and works by teaching whole words rather than just letters of the alphabet. Each word is taught as a picture, as the human mind is better able to recognize words linked to pictures. Today, the Dhanpatmal Virmani Education Trust is successfully running many centers for training women to be functionally literate.At present the Trust is running 40 adult literacy centers around Delhi. So far, 1830 women, 29 men and 575 children have studied in these centers.
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