Career Building Tips

Final Exams vs Continuous Assessment

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India, considered as one of the education hubs of the world, has one of the archaic education policy dating back to the colonial times. Over the years, no significant changes have been enacted in the policy to alter the approach in schools or colleges. Although, education is a key tool for development, however, the process has not seen any amendments over the years. Assessment in schools or colleges can be anything from a mere administrative impediment to a tense, future-determining practise for students, especially in India, where the education process lays a greater emphasis on the examination system.

Assessment is an important component of the education system, which ascertains whether the knowledge imparted has been grasped by the individual or not. However, a significant question which arises from the end of course assessment process (final exams) of India is – What is the real motive behind assessment? To compare the performance of various students or to facilitate their passing, or to assess their proficiency in a particular subject.

The irony, however, is that assessment has become too concentric around the academic activities. Rather than assessing the knowledge domain of the individuals, assessment at the end of course (read as final exams) is used to compare the performance of different individuals and ultimately ranking them according to the results. This not only promotes rot learning but also defeats the complete principle of teaching – “understanding of concepts”.

Purpose of Continuous Assessment

Many believe that the assessment model shouldn’t have to be postponed till the end of course/semester, instead tight, closed feedback/assessments can have two major advantages. One, teachers can make corrections to their teaching techniques in case of unsatisfactory results and two, students can rework on the weak areas before progressing; giving students a continuous stream of opportunities to prove their mastery. Further advantages of the continuous assessment model are:

Mastery of Concepts

The continuous model insures that, assessment is embedded in flow of learning. Currently our examination system is based on testing the seat time instead of the mastery of concepts, however, the continuous model ensures that the progress from one course to the other is based on mastery of concepts. Students who are weak in any particular course can correct their performance in due time before moving on to the higher concepts. The awareness of one’s performance and results insures that the student is aware about the results and can improve their weaker concepts.

Help for Teachers

One of the biggest challenges facing teachers today is the diversity of population in classrooms. Students come from different social, economic, and geographical backgrounds making the classrooms as diverse as they ever have been. Every student has their own weaknesses and strengths, some face difficulty in understanding the language, while others may feel uncomfortable in certain specific courses. This is where continuous assessment plays an important role of helping a teacher juggle easily between managing advanced and struggling students. Through continuous assessment, teachers can ensure that the class progresses as a whole without enforcing a sense of competition amongst the students.

Better management of content

The continuous assessment model ensures that the content creators can easily assess the data of efficacy of learning. It also helps the creators in assessing the learning pattern; consecutively comprehensive changes can be made to the teaching methodology which can further bring in positive changes. It assists teachers in effectively improving the skills by better implementation of resources through content management; for instance, teachers may be able to comprehensively ascertain the relationship between logical skill and language composition.

To conclude, the continuous model of assessment is a guidance oriented, formative, cumulative, and comprehensive form of assessment which is systemic and ensures equality in classroom. This model can effectively uncover interdisciplinary relationship between subjects and allow us to refine our understanding of the concept. This is in stark contrast to the final examination system which is more competition oriented.

Sex Education in India

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Imagine living in a country with a population of 1.2 billion people, where sex education, even in today’s context – with advent of technology and people becoming more open to social causes – is considered a taboo. Traditionally, adolescents in many cultures and societies were not given any information on ‘sex education’, but to everyone’s bizarre surprise even after years of educational reforms, the country hasn’t witnessed any significant alterations in the mindset of a large chunk of population.

People live in same old connotation that it is ok to have sex, but talking about it with children is still considered a strict ‘no-go’. Although, families have become more open to talking about menstruation but reproduction or any other sex related topic is still off-limits in many homes. The major misconception amongst people is the assumption that, sex education relates only to teach children about reproduction, menstruation, or awareness of body parts of the opposite sex. In reality the domain of sex education is vast and includes issues like – awareness about safe sex, use of contraceptives, respecting your opposite sex, prevention of sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS.

Sex Education & Society (Stats)

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The responsibility of educating our children lies with schools and consequently the state/union government by enacting better schemes and policies. The recent WHO report states that for the better understanding of the concepts, sex education should be imparted to children between the age group 12-19. Over the years, sex education has become one of the most talked about issues, which has further polarized the whole world into namely two groups; one pushing for implementation of the schemes in schools and the other signing petitions to stop it.

The recent surge in the cases of rapes and molestation have been attributed to a lot of factors like illiteracy and poverty, but the root cause of the problem is the apathy that still majority of families prefer to ignore the importance of sex education. The recent UNICEF report states that 47% of girls in India are married before the age of 18 and 28.5% report first child birth before 20[i]. Children married at such young age will eventually lead to greater imbalance in families and the circle of ignorance will go on, until drastic steps are taken to improve the current situation. The increase in number of cases of STDs like AIDS can be attributed to lack of proper guidance at a young age. A WHO report reveals a shocking fact that – India had the 3rd highest number of AIDS affected patients (2.1 million by the end of 2013), only behind South Africa and Nigeria. 31% of these cases are reported among people belonging to the age group of 15 to 29[ii].

The appalling question is – If schools in India can organize various workshops to create awareness about issues like health and hygiene, than why not on sex education? Sex education in India gained some momentum in 1980s when the government enacted the National Population Education project – a programme highlighting the fact that increase in population leads to poverty. Since then, no major changes have been enacted in the education policy, on the contrary various political parties have signed petitions to remove the topic from the courses.

Educating the youth is the only way by which a complete eradication of this problem can be achieved. Making the topic more accessible for our children can make them to become truly empowered and understand the intricacies of the subject. Silence will only lead to children seeking information from misinformed sources; in most cases, teenagers end up seeking information from pornography, which can be more catastrophic than the actual problem. Instead of enacting sex education as a typical education policy in the school, it should cover key areas like psychology and social concerns. A competent sex education policy at school along with suitable communication between the parents and the children at home can bring a positive change.

[i] http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/2013REPORT.PDF

[ii]http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/india-has-3rdhighest-number-of-hivinfected-people-un/article6220483.ece

Gap Year

Advantages of a Gap Year

The concept of taking a gap year is still pretty unheard of in India as we’re all trained to know exactly what we want to do with our lives by age 5 and, if that doesn’t happen, we’re conveniently compartmentalized in schools according to ‘streams’ of study and can choose our career options on the basis of the subjects we get. While the pressure to have all the answers before you’re an adult is still pretty prevalent, the plethora of options available today make it hard to pick out a career option that is the most suitable. This is where the gap year comes in. Here are some reasons why a gap year might just be the best thing you do for yourself:

 

You’ve got time to think about your strengths.

You aptitude and the way you think matter much more than your academic strengths when you’re working. To be honest, your boss won’t care about the 90% you got in your boards or the college project you really aced as much as how well you can think on your feet and what you bring to the table.

By taking a gap year, you can figure out what you’re really good at. Take the time to polish your talents by taking classes that can compliment them. For instance, if your notebooks are filled with more doodles than actual notes, perhaps you should look into a short graphic design course to see if this is something you’ll want to pursue. Similarly, you can spend the time learning new things that, even if you don’t end up pursuing them, can come in handy later in life.

 

You’ve got time to think about your options.

Once you’ve figured out all the things you’re good at, it’s time to also see how these talents branch out in terms of a career. With newer strides being made in technology every day, colleges are branching out their courses to meet the needs of students from all walks of life. Creative as well as technical courses can now be applied in various fields.

By taking a gap year, you can figure out the number of options you have, the kinds of colleges in the country and abroad that offer the courses you’re interested in and also figure out the kinds of tests you need to give before applying to them.

 

You’re a year older and wiser.

Hopefully, by taking a gap year, you’ll have enough time to get to know yourself a little better and grow as an individual. This will help you make well informed decisions about the future and will also help you stick to the decisions you’ve made (if you’ve done ample research, that is).

Taking a gap year can easily be one of the best things you do for yourself if you are unsure about what career to pursue and the colleges you want to apply to.

Educational Initiatives in Rural India

Educational Initiatives in rural India are very important for the growth of the country

With a majority of the population living under the poverty line, educational initiatives in rural India is one of the few critical areas that can ensure a better lifestyle for most people living there. Over the last decade, there have been various educational initiatives in rural India, both from the government’s end and through non-government organizations, that strive to eradicate illiteracy in the country and, through that, combat poverty.  Of these, some of the leading initiatives are as follows.

Educational Initiatives in the rural sector:

 Teach for India

 Teach for India is a subsidiary of the Teach America program. Established in India in 2009, the program now has a total of 700 Fellows and 437 Alumni working under them. Their presence is spread across five cities – Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Hyderabad and Chennai. This means that while they retain the same students for two years, they are in charge of all the subjects within the school’s curriculum and are free to design their own teaching methods as well as the kinds of topics they want to introduce to their students. This educational initiatives in rural India collaborates with schools and sends in their teachers, or ‘Fellows’, to teach one particular batch of students for a period of two years.

 Fellows are required to attend a compulsory training session that lasts approximately two months under this educational initiative in rural India wherein they learn not only about the subjects they need to teach but also how to work with children and how to deal with the social issues that affect the lives of their students.

 Teach India

 Launched in 2010, Teach India is one of the many educational initiatives in rural India by the Times of India that works to spread education in the rural sector. It differs from Teach for India primarily because it does not require a teacher to commit fully to the program. While for the former, teaching is a full time job, the latter accepts volunteers that can commit a minimum of 3 alternate days per week with 2 hours of teaching per day. This means that volunteers can hold a full time job while volunteering with Teach India, which is a great advantage for those who aren’t looking for a full time teaching position but still want to help out.

Design for Change

 Design for Change was launched in 2009 in India and is an initiative that focuses on empowering students in the rural sector. By asking students to focus on relevant social issues that affect their lives, the program then encourages them to come up with their own solutions to bring about change. Not only does this program help students gain confidence and the ability to believe in themselves but also helps with combating pertinent issues. Design for Change has worked with Teach for India as well and is currently spread across 34 countries. In 2012, they had over 5,000 stories of change.