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Call for papers May 2021

We, at IJR, initiate a call for research paper in all areas of science, engineering and technology every month. From original research papers, survey papers, case studies and academic or scholarly articles to extended versions of previously published papers in conferences, scholarly journal or academic peer reviewed international journals, we welcome high quality work that focuses on research, development and application in the aforesaid areas.

Send papers for publication to ijr@ijrjournal.com

Visit us at https://ijrjournal.com/index.php/ijr for current issue.

International Journal of Research is a one-stop, open access source for a large number of high quality and peer reviewed journals in all the fields of science, engineering and technology. Scientists and engineers involved in research can make the most of this growing global forum to publish papers covering their original research or extended versions of already published conference/journal papers, scholarly journals, academic articles, etc.

The published papers are made highly visible to the scientific community through a wide indexing policy adopted by this online international journal. Hence, they can freely be accessed and utilized by everyone for the development of science and technology.
Being a part of an eco-friendly community, IJR favors and promotes e-publication of papers to truly present itself as an online ‘GREEN journal.’ 

The History Of Urban Planning 

Humankind has been on the constant journey of uplifting their standards of living. This species is known to carefully analyze its surroundings and bring about the required changes for maximum betterment.  

For an improved strategy that helps lead lifestyles, it is essential to pay extra attention to crucial aspects. One such significant section is urban planning. It is a process that requires examining and strategizing the proper use of elements like water, land, resources, and so forth.  

In simple terms, it is related to curating an infrastructure that is best suitable for a sustainable lifestyle. In this article, we will learn about urban planning and some of the essential segments of its history. 

What Do You Understand By Urban Planning?  

As mentioned above, urban planning is related to curating a fruitful infrastructure that clearly defines the vital resources available to humankind. Urban planning is both a technical as well as a political process that requires ample amounts of knowledge. 

The history of urban planning stretches to that of human existence. To carry out excellent urban planning, one requires appropriate information regarding engineering and architecture. Moreover, this field also needs adequate audience participation. Thus, it is essential to instill utmost discipline while dealing with urban planning. 

Pre-Classical Era 

The pre-classical era witnessed several cities being laid down according to a strategic plan. Many of these cities tended to develop organically over time. Some of the most prominent cities designed in this period were Harappan, Minoan, and Egyptian civilization. If we talk about the first recorded urban planning description, it goes back to The Epic of Gilgamesh. 

The streets of many cities known to humankind were built and laid out in the forms of rigid right angles and grid patterns. Some archaeological evidence also suggests that many houses were designed to shield from the noise and improve the standard of living. Additionally, most of the homes have their very own water well. This suggested the remains for sanitary purposes. Furthermore, some archaeologists also interpret that these cities had well-organized drainage systems as well as agricultural land. 

Medieval Europe  

The disintegration of the west Roman empire dates back to the 5th century. Since then, the general improvement is noted to have appeared in the 10th and 11 centuries. This time was interpreted as politically stable and economically beneficial. It was then when trade and craft flourished, and monetary benefits were revived in the economy. During this era, hundreds of towns were built. Moreover, many of the pre-existing towns were expanded. Without a doubt, these new towns have played a significant role in maintaining the geographical structures of Europe. 

The Era Of Industrialization 

The late 19th century saw a boost in the industrial sector. This was a result of the rapid population growth, business enterprises, frequent profits, and so forth. Giant cities developed during this era, and a subtle exhibition of luxury as well as poverty was observed. The growing status difference led to the rise of corruption as well as the poor sections of society like the slums, etc., saw a rise.  

The poor standards of living resulted in poverty, and that posed a threat to society. Since then, individuals have started to focus on the betterment of public health. This was followed by the creation of better and strategic plans for water supplies, sewage, and so forth. 

Soon, the first housing reform was enacted in the late century. However, the implementation was slow and steady as the government provided funding after a long gap. With housing improvement, new and erect structures were observed in the economy. These were more stable and improved standard of living. 

Progressive Era 

The progressive era saw the need for urban recreational planning. It was during the early 20th century structures like parks were built. These places were created with the motive of providing relief and peaceful places for relaxation. A little time later, numerous playgrounds started to emerge that facilitated a dedicated area for children as well as adults. Soon the separation of roads was also witnessed. There was a specific section for all the pedestrians as well as the vehicular traffic. This provided more structure as well as rigidity to the society.  

Benefits Of Urban Planning  

Urban planning plays a major role in the social-economic level as a political connection of the society. This type of planning requires the proper utilization of resources in order to extract maximum benefit from them. Below, we have mentioned a few benefits of urban planning, depicting its importance in today’s society. 

1. Connectivity  

Urban planning resulted in better connectivity of towns, cities, neighborhoods, and so forth. This resulted in enhanced land values of the well-connected cities. Furthermore, it also resulted in enhancing people’s safety as well as security. This is so because urban planning facilitated better surveillance and prominent health benefits. 

2. Adaptability  

The proper use of urban planning increased the capacity of buildings as well as neighborhoods and thus led to an adequate use of spaces. This, in turn, increased the adaptability of land resources. Therefore, urban planning resulted in more fruitful use of economic spaces like buildings. It promoted the diverse use of public spaces and encouraged individuals to utilize non-renewable resources for better living standards properly. 

3. User participation  

Improved urban planning boosted the public consultation process. It encouraged individuals to participate in urban design projects and give their opinions through numerous surveys and design workshops. Therefore, planning promoted user participation. This, in turn, boosted a proper fit between users as well as the urban design. The participants were encouraged to come out and give their opinion about the effective use of resources. This boosted the decision-making process and provided a sense of participants to the individuals. 

4. Better standards of living  

Urban planning directly affected the standards of living. Increased use of urban planning emphasized a more realistic approach in society. This led to the enhancement of economic spaces. Therefore, urban planning encouraged more audience participation in cultural as well as community activities. Better standards of living also meant several health benefits along with strategic use of the public space. Furthermore, urban planning also resulted in the enhanced personal safety of individuals. 

Conclusion  

Urban planning has played a significant role in the betterment of the standards of living. Additionally, urban planning has been a part of society for a very long time now. 

After carefully examining the various aspects of urban planning, we have briefly summarised the entire information in the above-mentioned article. We have talked about urban planning, its various elements, along some benefits. We trust that this article would be beneficial and provide you with adequate information related to urban planning. 

The Changing Spaces of Reading and Writing

Innovations in technology have changed the way in which society acts. As classical scholar and university librarian James O’Donnell points out in the 1999 radio broadcast “From Papyrus to Cyberspace,” one generation’s frontier becomes the next generation’s reality. One can assume that with each new frontier there are gains and losses. For example, the invention of the automobile sparked a transportation revolution, but with this improved accessibility we also implicitly accept thousands of car-related deaths each year. Advancements in writing technologies have unpredictable changes in human roles and geography. Printing presses led to the spread of unorthodox ideas across the world and new forms of democratization, while the shift from a primarily oral to literate society brought with it new lines of exclusion between those who could read and those who could not.

James Engell, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Harvard, highlights the point that such revolutions of technology do not occur suddenly but are instead a gradual shift within societies. Just as manuscripts continued to be produced well after the invention of the printing press, it is common for information from the internet to be written down on paper. Thus the challenge with emerging digital technologies is not that such societal shifts are occurring, but finding the most effective way new technologies can be integrated with the way things are currently functioning. Learn more about the impact of the typewriter on literacy in my short documentary The Shift from Handwriting to Typewriting:

Full List of References and Media Content Sources

The shift from handwriting to digital text and their associated issues continue to plague educators as one-to-one devices become the norm in schools. My English Department meetings often consist of heated debates concerning whether students should complete their coursework on paper or digitally. The topic seems to polarise the teachers within the department and we cannot collectively decide on the “correct” answer.
“students who write out their notes on paper may actually learn more” (Mueller & Oppenheiner, 2014).
In 2012, scientists find that the brains of preliterate kids respond like a reader’s brain when they write their ABCs, but not when they type or trace the letters (Pauly, 2016). Another research team reports that college students who transcribed lectures on their laptops recalled more information than those who took notes by hand because the use of laptops results in shallower processing (Mueller & Oppenheimer, 2014). Across three experiments, researchers had students take notes in a classroom setting and then tested students on their memory for factual detail, their conceptual understanding of the material, and their ability to synthesize and generalize the information. The two types of note-takers performed equally well on questions that involved recalling facts, laptop note-takers performed significantly worse on the conceptual questions (Mueller & Oppenheimer, 2014). This research suggests that perhaps completing tasks on paper may be more beneficial for students.
However, sometimes the purpose of note taking is simply to collect information. During novel studies I often have my students take notes to record key quotations or details from the book we are reading under the categories of the elements of fiction (e.g. setting, characters, style, theme). When forced to write on paper, I find students’ notes quickly become disorganised and chaotic. Factor in that a novel study last several weeks – sometimes months – I find students’ paper notes become more of a hassle than helpful.
Instead of making the paper-or-digital choice for my high school students, I share research findings and we collaboratively discuss the benefits and advantages of each format. I then prompt them to make the choice for themselves and give them the opportunity to change formats if they feel they made the wrong choice. In Benedict Carey’s book “How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where and Why It Happens” he refocusses attention away from a mono-solution to the learning conundrum, by prompting learners to consider the task at hand:
“It’s not that there is a right and wrong way to learn. It’s that there are different strategies, each uniquely suited to capturing a particular type of information. A good hunter tailors the trap to the prey” (Carey, 2014, p. 44).
My vision for my students is for them to discover for themselves how they work best in a time where they are living and learning during this technological revolution. The following is a lesson to prompt a discussion surrounding the ambiguity of the paper of digital argument:
While reading and writing remains at the heart of education, emerging technologies will continue to alter the concept of literacy itself. As we continue to move from written text to digitized information, educators must adapt their didactic methods to coincide with modern technologies. The technologies of handwriting and typewriting need not exist in a binary relationship in our postmodernist culture. They can co-exist, offering us a multiplicity of ways to communicate where each is geared for its own different purpose.
References
Mueller, P. A. & Oppenheimer, D. M. (2014). The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking. Psychological Science, 25(6).
O’Donnell, J. & Engell, J. (1999). “From papyrus to cyberspace” [radio broadcasts]. Cambridge Forum.
Ong, W. J. (1982). Orality and literacy: The technologizing of the word. London: Methuen.
Pauly, M. (2016). A Brief History of Handwriting. Mother Jones, 41(5), 60.

Information Processing Theory and Impact on Learning

The Information Processing Theory is an approach to cognitive development that suggests a way in which humans process the information they receive. This theory contrasts a behaviourist that humans simply respond to stimuli. This theory suggests that information is processed in stages, much like the way in which a computer processes data (Orey 2002). Information enters the brain (or computer) through our senses (mouse/keyboard). Next, the information is processed in our working memory (processor/ram), where it is stored and recalled from specific areas of our long-term memory (hard drive). This recalled information can lead to an output response to the stimuli (monitor).
Turple, C. (2016).
Our sensory memory intakes information through seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching. If we decide to pay attention to certain stimuli, it moves into our short-term memory, also known as our working memory as it is the place where we process information. In order for information to be stored in our long-term memory and formally learned, the information must be elaborated on through rehearsal to consolidate the new data.

Turple, C. (2016). Adapted from: Lutz, S. & Huitt, W. (2003).
We can then organize new information into existing knowledge sets (if information is similar to prior information) or create a completely new knowledge structure if the new information is unlike anything we have experienced before. Once information is stored in our long-term memory, we can later recall this knowledge back into our working memory to compare to incoming information or help elaborate on our knowledge experiences.
Many of these operations involve executive function to pay attention to new information, attend to rehearsal practices in the working memory and help consolidate information into our long-term memory. Unfortunately, new information can be lost at all stages of information processing.  If incoming stimulus is not paid attention to in our sensory memory, our brain does not notice the information. In our short-term memory, only a maximum of five stimulus can be used at once – if this information is not encoded within 15-30 seconds it will be lost altogether. In long-term memory retrieval, there are also chances of encoding failure during information consolidation if elaboration does not occur or the information cannot be properly organized in existing knowledge structures. Finally, information in long-term memory could be lost through a retrieval failure or “overridden” if new information contradicts something previously learned.
Watch my visual breakdown of the stages of the theory and applications to classroom practice:
When considering the stages of the Information Processing Theory, there are 5 easy steps teachers can take to support students in the acquisition of new information.
RECEPTION to ensure teachers gain students’ attention using an abrupt stimulus change to focus students’ sensory memory on the lesson. 
I like to use music or short video clips to gain students’ attention. Catchy songs such as this Information Literacy Song or the Literary Devices Rap work well.
RETRIEVAL educators should stimulate recall of prior learning and skills from students’ long-term memory into their working memory.
I like to use kinesthetic warmups that gets the students moving around and talking to peers other than their elbow partner. Simple activities work great such as having the students move around the room and when the music stops (often I use the songs above), I yell out a number. Students must form a group with that many people and answer a question about the content from the previous lesson. Scholastics’s Mind Up Curriculum books are full of such activities.
RECEIVE information transmitted by the teacher that should have distinctive features and suggest a meaningful organization of ideas for students. 
I started “branding” my lessons by using the same template and colour scheme for all lesson within a unit. For other skills such as the MYP Approaches to Learning, I always use the same cover slide. I have also started using less unconnected slides and utilising animations to put together the “pieces” of a slide. Finally, acronyms and step-by-step procedures have become the focus of my lessons. For example, when I was teaching my students about how to find reliable online sources, I began the lesson by playing the research song, played the kinesthetics warmup game, then introduce an acronym to help them remember the criteria for reliable websites:
RESPOND or experience the information for themselves to absorb knowledge into their preexisting knowledge sets by eliciting performance from students. 
Arguably the most important step in student learning! Students need to immediately do something with their new knowledge. When introducing the CRAP acronym for determining reliable resources, I had students decide whether example websites are reliable or not. One issue I often run into for this stage is running out of time when I have 30 minute class time blocks. What I have come to learn is it is better to break up the learning into smaller pieces where students have the opportunity to immediately respond to new knowledge, rather than using a whole block to introduce content and the following block as a work period.
REINFORCE by providing ongoing feedback to students and especially give them additional performance opportunities to apply the feedback. 
Encouraging students to make mistakes and learn from those “failures” is key. I try to give as many opportunities for students to experiment with new ideas by offering several chances to practice new skills. I aim to give my students individual verbal feedback once a week and written feedback every other week. Since I utilise Google for Education Apps Suite in my teaching, this is often done through the comments function. I have learned to create one ongoing template my students work in throughout a unit so all of my comments and their work is in one place. This way, it is easy for both myself and students to see their ongoing progress.
Turple, C. (2016).

More than anything, learning about the Information Processing Theory reminded me of the importance of lesson warm-ups and “hooking” students into a learning activity. The theory also offers a simple explanation of how memory may work and is something I have even taught my students to make them more away of their own learning behaviours.

References
Lutz, S., & Huitt, W. (2003). Information processing and memory: Theory and applications. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved from http://www.edpsycinteractive.org/papers/infoproc.pdf
Orey, M. (2002). Information Processing. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/index.php?title=Information_processing

What The Education System REALLY Exists For – Myth # 7

The Seven Myths of Highly Ineffective Education Systems – Myth # 7 of 7

Or

The Seven Myths That Make Education Difficult To Improve

See Myth # 6 of 7 here.

Myth # 7 – The education system exists to improve education

Systems tend to lead double lives – at a conceptual level they might be brilliant, with wonderfully competent and committed people leading them. Yet at the ground level, what is in operation may be entirely different. Thus despite terrific policy and capability at policy/decision-making levels in the health sector, what common people might be heard saying is: “It is better to pay through your nose at a private clinic, than to die for free at the government hospital.”

For the people, the ‘system’ comprises of those representatives they meet at the district, block, cluster and village level, and occasionally those at the state levels. To understand the situation, try asking a group of educational administrators about the finer aspects of TA-DA rules and how they apply them, and you will find they can animatedly discuss them for about two hours. But raise the issue of why children are not learning (which is actually their real responsibility) and you will get a different response… (It’s true, isn’t it?)

This is what tends to happen to any system  (or even organization) over time – ultimately it’s own nuances, requirements, procedures, structures and powers (or power) become its main concerns, with the reason for its very existence slowly dimming in the memory of its functionaries. Thus:

  • teachers/CRC-BRC must spend more time collecting data even at the cost of teaching or improving learning, or
  • every school must follow the given framework for its School Development Plan (because the need to compile the plans at the block level is more important than the need for it to be appropriate for that school), or
  • every HT must maintain records for the officials ‘above’ even if it means she will not have time to support her teachers in improving the classroom process.

It is as if children, teachers, HTs, SMCs all exist to feed the machinery ‘above’ which has to ‘control’ them, and ‘give’ them resources (from mid-day meals to teachers to textbooks to in-service training, from which often a ‘cut’ may be taken), ‘allow’ them to take decisions such as which would be the most convenient time for most children to attend school, ‘monitor’ the work of teachers, ‘test’ the learning of students, and ‘grant’ the privilege of education.

What the RTE implies is that it is those who get their salaries because of children who are the real ‘beneficiaries’ – which includes all the administrators, supervisors, inspectors, monitors, institutions, departments, ministries.  It is they who are accountable to children and teachers, or would be if they really existed for education.

As mentioned, give them enough time and systems end up existing more to perpetuate themselves – and the status quo within – rather than the purpose for which they are created. Try making a change in the way things are organised within a system and you might find it responds with a kind of ferocious energy it fails to display when similar urgency is required in its primary objective. For instance, if it were declared that an educationist rather than an IAS officer will head the Department of Education, you will get a lot more activity in the system (to prevent that) than if you declared (as is well known) that most children are failing to attain grade level learning across the country.

Finally, systems exist to preserve the hold of the powerful. Issues that affect the middle classes or those more privileged get inordinate attention in the system. Thus nursery school admissions in private schools in Delhi are a big issue, or the allocation for poor children in elite private schools is endlessly discussed, or the class 10 board exam being needed (by children from better off families)… but the death of a 100+ children in a mid-day-meal from a poor section of society, or the low levels of  service in deprived areas or chronically low learning levels despite much money being invested – fail to receive that kind of attention.

For those seeking to make a dent in the system, it would be healthier to have a more ‘aware’ notion of what the education system really exists for. The puny strategies we use to make things better are unlikely to serve as even pinpricks to the system.

What happens when you seriously try to empower children, teachers and community through large scale education initiatives

The pervasive notion that ‘nothing has been done in education in India’ could not be further from the truth. In fact not only has a great deal been done, but its consequences have been faced over decades. In particular, what follows applies to introducing educational designs based on local context, using the experiences and strengths of the stakeholders, creating a situation where they play an active role in determining and implementing processes.

Though obviously much must have been done over the decades till the 80s, my experience ranges from mid-80s, when I was part of a team working on such classroom practices, textbooks and educational designs from 1986 onwards. Implementation of the programme called Prashika (Prathamik Shiksha Karyakram) focused on marginalised groups, with the team living in a tribal area as well as in a rural, deprived pocket and introducing the innovation in government primary schools. The work in Prashika was pathbreaking in many, many ways (integration of 5 subjects at the primary level, incorporation of multiple local languages, a hugely localised textbook/workbook that could only be completed with each child contributing, called Khushi-Khushi – still not matched anywhere, I believe). It provided hope that much was possible despite the difficulties faced and informed many of the later efforts that followed, both in the government and the NGO sector.

Later in DPEP – particularly Kerala, Assam, Karnataka, Haryana, UP, Bihar, TN, Nagaland and later with SSA Gujarat further work was done. Localised training, contexualisable textbooks (some really brilliant stuff still not matched anywhere – and that’s a professional opinion), teacher determined assessment system, involvement of community knowledge, children constructing local histories / local environment books, peer learning and assessments, textbooks that would be ‘complete’ only along with a set of 50 district-specific books kept in the school library…. many, many innovative and large scale measures were conceived and actually implemented using a strategically developed implementation plan.

In each first five states we were able to see 2-3 years of implementation, development of hundreds / thousands of teachers who implemented contextualised learning, a high degree of in-class practice backed by supportive, localisable material. These states changed their position in the national achievement surveys too, with Kerala rising to the top (it had been fairly close to the bottom before this, below Bihar in the first national survey). In the case of Gujarat, field testing was done in 630 schools, researched by MSU Baroda with very encouraging findings.

However, as long as we were not visibly successful there were no problems. When change began to be visible on some scale and a palpable sense of energy was witnessed among teachers and communities, alarm bells began to ring. in each of these states, the powers that be – especially at state level, state institutions, administrations, political parties – found that this went against the command-and-control structures conducive to them being able to assert their authority. Schools didn’t want to be told what to teach when and how – they had their own plans. Empowered teachers / school heads / even some VECs refused to kowtow to mediocre ideas or corruption oriented bosses – leading to huge conflicts all over the place. Unfortunately these never got reported, recorded or researched. The results were mass scale transfers, cases against state project directors who encouraged this (Kerala SPD was charge sheeted, Karnataka SPD given punishment posting in North Karnataka, Assam SPD sent to conflict zone during worst riots, Bihar SPD transferred to PHED and later kept without posting), the re-casting of State Resource Groups from those selected for tested capabilities to those stocked with ex-officio positions, the emasculation of the BRC-CRC structures from genuine teacher support institutions into data collection centres (believe it or not, we did have functional BRCs CRCs at one time!), the centralisation of powers away from the VECs and re-casting into SMCs with a different function, and major shift in recruitments away from districts to states (in one state the Education Minister held a Recruitment Mela in a stadium to personally appoint 3000 para-teachers).

Interestingly, Prashika in MP faced a similar adminstrative backlash and was closed down.

Yes, like it or not, this is what ideas of empowerment through education come up against – and they fall short not because of lack of any purity in the idea itself or absence of rigour, but because after a point when it goes into implementation an idea is something else, and not its original pure self. You might look at the actual work and find it is not ‘up to the standard’ – yet when trying to create it for those who need education the most, other aspects need to be taken into account. Basically, empowering the weak is clearly seen by the strong as disempowering them – and the empire strikes back! One of the outcomes is that a few years later, it appears as if nothing has been done, and people gear themselves up to again come up with ‘innovative’ ideas, often weaker than might already have been tried, uninformed by the past.

The Seven Myths of Highly Ineffective Education Systems – Myth # 5 of 7

Myth # 5 – Teachers can improve by following instructions given to them by their seniors

This is an extension of the previous myth, except it operates between officials/supervisors  and teachers. The notion is that the teacher is merely a cog in the wheel, lower down in the hierarchy, and the best way to get him to improve is to make him comply with instructions from above.  Apart from the fact that the instructions from above often tend to be problematic, it is also true that many of them don’t get implemented at all. At best, teachers can be made to comply with rules such as coming on time, or turning in a certain amount of work – but they can’t be made to like children, or smile at them, or feel like coming to work every day and radiating this enthusiasm to students and colleagues. That is only possible if the system seeks a partnership with teachers, treats them as fellow stakeholders and engages with them on a more equal footing.

As the experience of RTE shows, instructions, rules and even laws that make lack of compliance justiciable – are insufficient to bring about the required change. They are simply the wrong instrument for the purpose. (I’ve written about coercive and generative power elsewhere.)

 So what is the way in which teachers change?

The Big Myth that Educationists hold – about others: Myth # 6 of the 7 Myths of Highly Ineffective Education Systems –

Myth # 6 – Stakeholders are concerned about education (as educationists understand it)

Curriculum developers, educationists, policy makers, thinkers on education, many ‘NGO types’, reformers and other highly respected people often talk of the ‘aims of education’ – be it in terms of creating a more democratic society or a more evolved person etc. Somehow, those who are actually affected by education are unable to get this. For the masses at large, the purpose of education is to make life better, go up the social ladder by getting a job or being able to earn a stable livelihood. This is nothing to sneer at or term as a ‘wrong’ or ‘limited’ expectation. In fact, this is what millions of parents are slaving away for, sacrificing a bit every day so that their next generation may attain a better life. By looking down upon this view, by treating the situation as if ‘we are doing education to them’ instead of with and for them (or perhaps us), those who design education tend to marginalize the very people education is meant for.  They also end up with curriculum, textbooks and processes that do not build on the experiences that children from less privileged backgrounds bring, something that is an enormous resource being wasted, which then continues the cycle of marginalization.

Like parents, teachers too have their own idea of what they would like. Despite what is often said, most teachers do want to succeed – what they would like is some practical (not philosophical) advice on how to handle the really difficult situation they face – increasing diversity, the changing nature of student population as more and more ‘left out’ groups join school (in Delhi slums, migration is leading to 7-10 home languages in the classroom, including Punjabi and Odia which are not contiguous in the ‘normal’ world), changing curricular expectations they haven’t had time or support to absorb.  Even after attaining the PTR norms mandated by the RTE, we are going to have well over 50% schools with around 80-100 children, with 2-3 teachers handling 5 classes – that is, a very large proportion of teachers already are and will continue to work in multi-grade settings in the foreseeable future (while curriculum, pedagogy and materials continue to assume a mono-grade situation). Given that we are still short of 14 lakh teachers (the number was reported to have come down to 10 lakh, but with increased enrolment, is up again, the situation being much worse at the secondary level), the effect is felt by the 56 lakh who are there.  As mentioned, educationists may want high levels of learning to be attained using their policies and curriculum, but teachers just want to survive the day and, if possible, succeed in generating some learning.

And what kind of school would children want? Exercises on this have been few and far between. Most of the time children end up having to manage with whatever ‘we’ give out – from mid-day meals to ‘child-friendly elements’ to colourful books or whatever else. It is in the nature of children to find interest in whatever is made available, which is why there is a tendency to assume we have an idea of what they need. But engaging with them on the issue might reveal a lot more. For instance, talking with secondary school girls in a remote area in UP, we were discussing the need for toilets – but the girls said, “We can manage without the toilets, but what we can’t accept is that we are forced to choose Home Science and are not offered Mathematics.” This is surely something the authorities are not working on.

Simply listening to stakeholders might be a good idea. It would be revealing and educative for ‘experts’, helping reduce their arrogance and bringing their relationship with the stakeholders on a somewhat more equal footing.

What would you say if an expert approached you? And if you are an expert, how would you approach the stakeholder?

What The Education System REALLY Exists For – Myth # 7

The Seven Myths of Highly Ineffective Education Systems – Myth # 7 of 7

Or

The Seven Myths That Make Education Difficult To Improve

See Myth # 6 of 7 here.

Myth # 7 – The education system exists to improve education

Systems tend to lead double lives – at a conceptual level they might be brilliant, with wonderfully competent and committed people leading them. Yet at the ground level, what is in operation may be entirely different. Thus despite terrific policy and capability at policy/decision-making levels in the health sector, what common people might be heard saying is: “It is better to pay through your nose at a private clinic, than to die for free at the government hospital.”

For the people, the ‘system’ comprises of those representatives they meet at the district, block, cluster and village level, and occasionally those at the state levels. To understand the situation, try asking a group of educational administrators about the finer aspects of TA-DA rules and how they apply them, and you will find they can animatedly discuss them for about two hours. But raise the issue of why children are not learning (which is actually their real responsibility) and you will get a different response… (It’s true, isn’t it?)

This is what tends to happen to any system  (or even organization) over time – ultimately it’s own nuances, requirements, procedures, structures and powers (or power) become its main concerns, with the reason for its very existence slowly dimming in the memory of its functionaries. Thus:

  • teachers/CRC-BRC must spend more time collecting data even at the cost of teaching or improving learning, or
  • every school must follow the given framework for its School Development Plan (because the need to compile the plans at the block level is more important than the need for it to be appropriate for that school), or
  • every HT must maintain records for the officials ‘above’ even if it means she will not have time to support her teachers in improving the classroom process.

It is as if children, teachers, HTs, SMCs all exist to feed the machinery ‘above’ which has to ‘control’ them, and ‘give’ them resources (from mid-day meals to teachers to textbooks to in-service training, from which often a ‘cut’ may be taken), ‘allow’ them to take decisions such as which would be the most convenient time for most children to attend school, ‘monitor’ the work of teachers, ‘test’ the learning of students, and ‘grant’ the privilege of education.

What the RTE implies is that it is those who get their salaries because of children who are the real ‘beneficiaries’ – which includes all the administrators, supervisors, inspectors, monitors, institutions, departments, ministries.  It is they who are accountable to children and teachers, or would be if they really existed for education.

As mentioned, give them enough time and systems end up existing more to perpetuate themselves – and the status quo within – rather than the purpose for which they are created. Try making a change in the way things are organised within a system and you might find it responds with a kind of ferocious energy it fails to display when similar urgency is required in its primary objective. For instance, if it were declared that an educationist rather than an IAS officer will head the Department of Education, you will get a lot more activity in the system (to prevent that) than if you declared (as is well known) that most children are failing to attain grade level learning across the country.

Finally, systems exist to preserve the hold of the powerful. Issues that affect the middle classes or those more privileged get inordinate attention in the system. Thus nursery school admissions in private schools in Delhi are a big issue, or the allocation for poor children in elite private schools is endlessly discussed, or the class 10 board exam being needed (by children from better off families)… but the death of a 100+ children in a mid-day-meal from a poor section of society, or the low levels of  service in deprived areas or chronically low learning levels despite much money being invested – fail to receive that kind of attention.

For those seeking to make a dent in the system, it would be healthier to have a more ‘aware’ notion of what the education system really exists for. The puny strategies we use to make things better are unlikely to serve as even pinpricks to the system.

So, What Now? Knowing the 7 Myths of Highly Ineffective Education Systems, What Do We Do?

Continuing to live with these myths is to deny ourselves the opportunity to succeed, especially for those who need education the most. The first step is to accept that these notions have indeed affected our work in trying to bring about better education. Acknowledging this is not a sign of defeat but of learning.

After acknowledgement, however, come reflection – and small steps.

Here are some small steps that all of us can take:

  1. Discuss these ‘myths’ and related issues with as many people as you can. Question and contest them, or support them, with your experiences, facts and data from your sphere.
  2. If you are in any way connected with education – as a student, parent, teacher, CRC-BRC, official or resource person, NGO worker or decision-maker, make one small change every month which in some way empowers children or teachers or HMs. (Our team, Ignus PAHAL, will soon be producing a poster presenting a graded list of these small, doable changes at the school level.)
  3. Talk with as many stakeholders as possible and within reach (and in the limited time available) about what they would like. They might suggest things they could do – and a small beginning may be made to a partnership in bringing about improvement that is gettable. It may be a better way to help children wash their hands before the mid-day meal, or managing to start the school 10 minutes earlier so that learning time increases, or ensuring used textbooks are circulated better, or working out how you may share your expertise with children or teachers.
  4. Find something interesting you can share with children. It may be a news item (e.g. did you know that for some reason, the MHRD – and some of the other ministries of education in the country – face a problem with monkeys troubling them?), or an interesting story you’ve read or know (but no moral tales please!) or a suggestion for something they can try out (e.g. making a paper plane turn in a predicted direction) or find out (e.g. why the inner margin of a textbook page is wider than the outer margin – okay, that is too easy but you get the idea).
  5. Find a way to convert complex educational ideas into simpler forms so that a person with no background in education or no access to ‘high’ language may understand it. E.g. ‘non-detention is not the same as non-evaluation, and that by detaining children we are making them pay the price for the system’s failure and also supporting the idea that it is fear which leads to learning’. Can you find a way to make this idea easy to understand for millions of teachers, parents, SMC members and others? (You can guess why this statement was selected as the example…)
  6. Use your mobile – call up a teacher, or text her an idea or send your appreciation. With children, use the stop-watch, camera and calendar in your phone to do activities. If you know an official and have a good enough relationship, make him or her uncomfortable by reading out sections of this article (don’t get into a bitter argument – a gentle, understanding approach may be more useful!).
  7. Finally, please add to the discussion on these 7 Myths and, perhaps more importantly, to the list of suggestions.

But all these are very small things, you might say. They can’t achieve much. Well, not if many, many, many of us are doing them! Perhaps it’s a myth too that only when some large government programme is in action can change take place. This ignores local ingenuity and the sheer numbers that can make government efforts look feeble – or boost them to make them actually succeed. Towards this, your views and ideas may be more powerful than you imagine. And that’s not a myth!

Detention For Adults?

To all those who are convinced that the non-detention policy is harming education…

Children’s apparent lack of learning becomes an issue mainly because it is easy to see that they have missed out on something. The fact that at a younger age learning is very fast and that clear milestones are available helps us perceive this – and therefore apply all kinds of expectations, tactics, at times even coercion to ‘ensure’ learning – one such being the detention system which, many believe, is needed in order to maintain ‘quality’. By making children lose a year because we couldn’t ensure their learning (and blaming them for it), we feel we can generate the fear required to make them ‘serious’ and learn.

If we are convinced about this, why should it apply only to school education? What if we could lay out clear benchmarks for adults to learn and grow – in general as well as in the work they do. Certainly it is possible to have a life-long ‘curriculum’ with two-year benchmarks (over their entire careers, and even post retirement) for educationists and curriculum developers, teachers, HMs, government officials, managers, businessmen, fathers and mothers (and grandparents), journalists, artists, municipal staff, auditors, accountants, administrators, intelligence agents and politicians. What if there was a ‘detention system’ (in terms of not being allowed to be promoted or get a pay increase or being sent back to some lower ‘grade’)? Yes, in some government jobs there is an ‘efficiency bar’ and the supposed HR policies and internal competition are expected to sort this out. But do they?

Can we as a nation claim that we have, every year, demonstrated the improvement required to declare ourselves ‘promoted’ to the next level (whatever that is)?

And what happens when police are unable to reduce crimes, leaders are unable to ensure the welfare of the poor, systems are unable to deliver basics such as electricity / water / education / health, or societies are unable to get men to have basic respect for women?

Who should be ‘detained’?