Monday, December 28, 2009

2010 Wishlist for Education


As I look forward to the year ahead I am acutely aware of how backward the situation is in reaching my wish list. Yet, the show must go on. Let me begin with the scenario.

As a citizen I am saddened by the enormity of corruption in our public life and environmental degradation that we are all contributing to. There was a time when I thought it is the need that breeds these two evils and once the poverty is overcome we will be free of it. How naive I was. It is the greed that is breeding them with immorality as its feed. We do talk of morality in public but in private we stay put with a conviction that it is impracticable. Education, Health and Judiciary are the field that must brook no corruption as it causes incalculable damage if we do to generations of people and tears their moral fabric that hold society together. As with any problems in society we look for Education as salvation to these evils too but without realizing that Education cannot remain independent of the prevailing social ethos.

We have seen great revolution taking place in our country since the Independence that launched us on the growth plane. Social revolution ushered in by Ambedkar, Industrial revolution of the Nehruvian era, Green revolution of Punjab, White revolution of Gujarat, Economic revolution ushered in by Manmohan Singh, Information revolution of Karnataka are the cases in point. However, there is virtually no revolutionary changes that has taken place in the field of Education, however much needed they are. Surely, there were several Committee Reports in this direction – like the recent ones by M. R. Srinivasan’s in Karnataka and Yashpal’s in the Centre – but they are either not implemented or implemented with such mutilation, to serve the vested interest, causing no serious change in the prevailing system.

Our Education System is too much syllabus centred, examination centred, system centred than student centred. Academic consideration and teachers stature is overridden by non-academic political and bureaucratic considerations in all aspects including choice of the leaders, approving curriculum, running administration and serving students. The uniformity bug has bitten the system hard, we want uniform calendar, uniform syllabus, uniform examination and so on and all are camouflaged as student interest which in actuality serves the System’s interest. Uniformity bodes death knell to individual initiatives, individual responsibility, accountability and innovation. Creativity thrives on variety, divergence, autonomy and unfettered exploration.

Education need to be holistic aiming at developing Head, Heart, Hand and Soul together simultaneously by introducing along with subject curriculum, the Performing Arts, Physical Education and Spirituality to all students. The System need to be more student centric that aids student self exploration to uncover the unique talents within and the courses tailor made to harness it. Our heritage has a highly evolved methodology for self discovery that could be profitably employed here too. As self discovery is a continuous and changing process there must be freedom of choices to opt for different or additional or parallel courses in the same campus. Choice based credit system offers such a possibility. Student must be able to take examination at his pace and confidence and by going to his teacher when he is ready, the teacher drawing up the required difficulty level of questions from the Question Bank stored in advance Online , student answering them Online and the result announced an hour after the examination of the subject. Application of modern technology to the speed, transparency and bias and corruption free academic process is an urgent necessity. That it is not being done in spite of its possibility adds to the poignancy. Teacher must be at the very centre of heralding all such academic process, he must be trained continuously in the subject as well as in the art and science of reaching out to the students with his unique best to help student reach out with student’s unique best. The system must recognize, reward and fully support excellence in teachers and students immediately. A system in which academic consideration overrides all other consideration, has autonomy and is empowered to rise the resources to provide quality education at the affordable cost to the vast majority of students with least interference from government and bureaucracy must be put in place. A dedicated group of leaders within the system who can stand above the vested interest can achieve the stated wish under such circumstances.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Interviewed on Higher Education


  1. To begin with sir, if you would please let us know a little bit more about yourself, your area of interest and how long you have been in this profession?

    I was born on 14 November 1942 into an agricultural family in village Manchale, Sagar-Shimoga, Karnataka, India. After my schooling in and around my village and Sagar, I graduated with Psychology and Economics as major from Maharaja's College, in the year 1962, and my Post-graduation in Psychology with Counselling and Guidance as special subject from Manasagangotri, Mysore University in 1964, both from Mysore University.I joined National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore where I did my M.Phil and PhD in Clinical Psychology during 1965-1969 and worked there as practicing Clinical Psychologist and Lecturer till 1973. I again joined Mysore University in the year 1973 as Lecture in Psychology in the Post-graduate department till I moved to Bangalore University as Reader and founder Chairman of the department of Psychology in the year 1977. I worked in Bangalore University for nearly thirty years, as Reader in Psychology(1977-86), Professor of Psychology(1986-2002), Registrar(1996-2000) and Vice Chancellor(2002-06). Basically, I am a Clinical Psychologist interested in Psychological Wellbeing, Human Resource development and Spirituality and my work and publication are in these area. I have been conferred two National Fellowships-Fellow of Indian Association of Clinical Psychology(F.I.A.C.P) and Fellow of National Academy of Psychology(F.N.A.Psy.) for my contributions to Psychology as a discipline and profession. I also have experience in organizing professional groups as I was General Secretary of Indian Association of Clinical Psychologist and President of Federation of University Teacher Associations of Karnataka and Bangalore University Teacher Council for two terms besides my administrative and academic leadership experience as Registrar and Vice Chancellor.I am now retired from service since the year 2006 and engaged mostly in writing and interacting with Internet Social Networking Groups and public lectures related to my professional interest .

  1. Sir, you being a part of academia for so long, what difference do you observe between the students of yester years and present students? Has there been a drastic change in the mentality or attitude of the students over the years?

Present day students by and large are more sensitive, more open, more intelligent and knowledgeable that I can be very proud of. Occasionally, I have felt that they are more merely self-seeking and they must realize that it is more self satisfying in the long run to get what they want by giving to others what they have without expecting returns.

    3.As a former VC where would you place the Bangalore University in the national scenario?

    It has tremendous potentiality, being situated in a city that has several national institute of excellence with whom one can network and grow. Right now, it has a national recognition with the best of NAAC accreditation, innovative and nationally relevant courses, vast and brilliant student strength if only it could harness it all with efficiency and better infrastructure.

  1. What improvisations must the Bangalore University undergo to meet the international standards?

Full capacity and quality teacher strength, advanced infrastructure, application of modern information technology in the preparation and conduct of examination and in the speedy and efficient announcement of results, very conscious and committed encouragement to quality teachers and students and stringent deterrent to dishonest.

  1. Have there been any significant changes after the introduction of semester scheme at the undergraduate level? If yes in what ways?

    It is an established fact all over the world and in our own national institute of excellence that academically the semester system is far superior to annual system as it decreases the cognitive load and enhances learning efficiency and recall. In an academic institution like the university, academic consideration must over ride all other consideration, such as administrative and infrastructure constraints ,at all cost. Otherwise we are doing disservice to the generation of students.I know there are serious drawbacks in the way present day semester system is working in the universities such as poor and inefficient academic structuring of the courses, inability to meet deadlines owing to inadequate infrastructure, delays and hurry and so on. Yet, it is not the mistake of the semester system but of its implementation. We can not have a new system like semester but follow old methodology in course content and examination and the present day failure is because of that. Question banks, on line question/answer tests and examination and announcement of results would facilitate the new system if only we could overcome the deep seated vested interest of very long period , even of a old British legacy we are still following. It is high time that our education need to be student centered rather than curriculum centered, administration centered, government control centered and even teacher centered especially in the flexibility in choice of courses, pace of navigating the courses and opportunity to move to other or multiple courses when students find the need in themselves.

  1. Coming to the curriculum, how important do you feel sir, is the project work in the last quarter of post-graduation?

Most important, I go to the extent of saying that the ratio of theory and practice(that includes hand on field experience) must be 50/50.

  1. Should the curriculum also include more interactions with industries comprising of training and projects done in collaboration?

Absolutely.Such networking help to know each other problem and prospect and thegive and take between the two is good for both, a wholesome knowledge and experience may accrue too.

  1. Where do see the future of the students of life sciences in the present economic conditions?

Over emphasis on applied science and technology and its current market value has harmed interest in basic sciences including natural sciences that might prove inimical to growth of knowledge and society.We will soon realize that the challenges of to day such as global environmental degradation and terrorism can be faced effectively only by giving as much importance to basic sciences as to applied / professional and technical education.

  1. Do you feel the government should fund more R & Ds in life sciences?

Government contributions in terms of funding to higher education and research is negligible in our country, it needs 1000 percent more increase if we want to sustain and speed up developmental initiative and its reach to all people in the country.

  1. What do you feel sir, is the role of private institutions in imparting quality education?

At present we are catering, that too mostly poorly, to the only less than ten percent of the for higher education that need to to be increased to 20 percent in the least in next ten years. If the Government has taken 60 years to cater to 10 percent, they may need another 50 years at the present pace to reach 20 percent! Private sector having good track record in giving quality education at the affordable cost must be encouraged and supported fully to meet the national demand, Otherwise, we may be letting down our youths and their development.

  1. Lastly we would request you sir to give a message to the students’ community.

My young friends,each one of you is unique, you must find out what it is from your own experiences, develop it and put it to the service of self and others/society. Why should you model after others, the model for your growth is within you. Parents, teacher and leaders in public life can only facilitate that process. If you try to become what you are not and copy others because they have succeded in it, misery and inefficiency would be your lot in the long term! Know Thyself and Be Thyself!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Life's Meanings, Wealth, Alcohol and Driving!


A few decades ago my friend Shankar Nag had produced a Kannada film ‘Accident’ that has featured my other friends, Anant Nag, Ashok Mandana, Nagabharana, Arundati Nag, Ramesh Bhat, H G Somashekararao and host of theatre activist, where a rich and a minister’s son driving his car in the dead of the night in an inebriated condition after a merry making party moves over a pavement killing dozens of poor people sleeping there and almost got away with it all except a divine intervention that kills him in yet another accident at the end of the film. Truth is stranger than fiction. Since then I have come across reports of several such incidences in real life, but without that divine intervention, but with even more thicker plots: hiring expensive lawyers, buying support of police and politicians, judiciary not relying on conduct but “intention” in the mythical mind all making the criminal get away with the crime with only some minor bruises. The system that produces such events hastens to chip in to protect itself too!

To day’s drunken youth need not inherit riches, they are rich on their own by themselves. It makes things even worse. I may sound too much psychologizing, being a hard boiled psychologist myself. But, are we not living always with our mind, not giving even a second’s respite to it to rest in silence so that the being can experience the world beyond the mind? The tragedy begins just here. The story starts with the upbringing of the child: a poor development of social consciousness, often noticed in the children of affluent family. Either the parent are too sunk in themselves with their pursuits or with their problems that make them not to attend to unfold of the social dimension in the child or the child sees around within and outside the family getting away and succeeding without it. In either case, a vital link in the development of a wholesome personality is missed. It is normally around the age of three that the child is made to wean himself from his self indulgence and gradually move towards people, culture and society to develop concern and skills of dealing with them as they are vital to ones own growth and fulfillment as he grows along. It is not mere sympathy for people that are crucial, much less the apathy of course, but empathy – an ability to see others as they are or as they see themselves. Only the wearer of shoes knows where it pinches and we must be able to step into it as often as it is required. “I may not agree with even a single word of what you say but I will fight to death your right to say it” said a libertine French philosopher Rousseau. This is empathy, not sympathy. This is respect for others as much as for themselves. It is usually the parents or those significant others in the family who help child reach out to society and culture. Perhaps the wealthy parents think that they can do without them. But the cost is going to be very high. The child misses the unique meaning of his life that is chiseled out with his interaction with the world and people as they are.

As the child moves out into the world, to schools and colleges and later at work, they are influenced by the models available for growth. If dishonesty, self-seeking at the cost of others and the bribe that makes one reach faster, he would rather copy them especially when it is supported by the family and the authorities and also when he finds that he can get away with it with no negative consequences. Here again, one depends on external models of growth rather than on ones own concrete experience of unique talents within. Borrowed meaning, not the individual derived meaning, runs the life.

Lack of individual meaning in life and the dependence on unsure external elements is one of the major factors in the heavy and compulsive drinkers. They drink to drown their meaninglessness in life, to escape their existential crisis. Drinks can only mask it as long as the drinks last but can not erase the malady.

It is time that we realize that there is no substitute for living a genuine and authentic life that emerge when the unique talents inside is discovered, developed and utilized to the service of others who need them as well as to the good of oneself. All others concerned must cooperate to let it happen.