Friday, June 26, 2009

Educational Reforms in India - Are they headed the right direction (?)

Yesterday was a day for Educational news in India.
If Manniya Mayawatiji behenji had her way, you only need to pass 5 subjects to be declared succesful. No doubt, other chief ministers will try and outdo her to gain politicial mileage:
  • Karunanidhi will declare that the pass mark for OC, BC, MBC, SC and ST in Tamil Nadu has been revised from uniform 35% for all categories to 98%, 30%, 25%, 20% and 10% respectively. To provide equal platform for all, the pass mark for OC will increase by 0.5% every year for the next 3 years while the pass mark for other categories will decrease by 2% every year for the next 3 years.
  • Laloo & Sharad Yadav will join hands and raise voice to insist that OBCs, SCs and STs be given special status in examinations. They will be given question paper one hour before the exam start.
  • Muslim leaders will insist that as an oppressed class, they be considered given the SC status and hence be eligible for 10 - 20% quota of SUCCESFUL candidates irrespective of whether the candidates pass or fail.
  • Christian leaders will insist that they be provided a 20% quota on the total number of schools in the country. 
  • Karnataka & AP politicians will insist that parents be allowed to pay money in lieu of marks for their children. The formula suggested is that the parents pay Rs. 10,000 (OC) per mark in each paper while the amount for BCs, SCs, STs, Muslims and Christians are Rs. 100, Rs. 10, Rs. 1, Rs. 50, Rs. 75 respectively
Okay, joke apart - i want to discuss the Anna University results to showcase how Mayawati & Sibal are headed the wrong direction. In the Tamil Nadu engineering admissions, 125000 students have been declared eligible for approx. 110,000 seats. 
Bottomline: If you don't get 98% and above, you shouldn't dream of studying in a mainstream course in leading Engineeing colleges in Tamil Nadu. And Ms. Mayawati & Mr. Sibal and stating that they want to de-stress kids from the rigors of exam. What is more impossible? Having only one exam in 12th (10th is scrapped) based on which your life ahead is decided or having multiple exams (2 or preferably more!) to ensure that kids gets acclimatized to the enivornment of competition. 

Even today, students of Andhra Pradesh state board appear for 3 public exams - 7th Standard, 10th Standard and 12th Standard (called INTER). I think that's a better path than scrapping exams. Have multiple public exams but maybe grade system in 7th & 10th and mark system in 12th. One of the strengths of Indian students seen globally is their basics taught in middle & high school. Where our system lacks is the ability to provide free thinking to the kids and this method isn't going to encourage folks in free thinking. It will only ensure that kids join coaching institute in their 8/9th standard to target 12th  exams and thereby missing on the basics. Mr. Sibal - I don't have too much hopes on Behenji. However, i can appeal to your senses. Don't Scrap 10th. Retain it, better still, introduce graded public exams in 7th Standard. 

PS: I cannot but take a dig at Reservation system in Tamilnadu. The news release from Tamil Nadu shows that 8 of the 10 Toppers in Engineering Admissions come from "Backward Class". And this isn't an exception. Look back at 2008 & earlier data and you will see that folks from BC community usually have done well. Isn't it time to decrease the quota for BC community and re-classify them as Forward Class. Or is it too much to ask from a political system that works towards taking our society backward everyday?

PPS: Globally, yesterday will be remembered as the day when we lost 2 great artists - Michael Jackson & Farrah Fawcett (Charlie's Angel). For all his flaws, Jackson is the King of Pop and inspiring folks worldwide (hello, Prabhudeva and Lawrence Rahavendra)

Monday, June 22, 2009

MS Gill - Be our Sports Minister, not Cricket Minister

Dear Mr. Gill.,

A few years back, you retired as Cheif Election Commissioner of India (CEC). Having reached that post, i hope that i can deduct that you are good in beauracratic activities. Lesson 101 of beauracracy states that you need to identify the boundaries of your role. 

Saina Nehwal reached heights that no Indian has ever reached. She became the first Indian to win a Super Series Badminton tournament. And i see no congratulation statement from you when you took time to praise Pakistan's T20 World Championship victory

Pray, Mr. Minister - Can you stop being India's Minister for Cricket Affairs and become India's minister for Sports & Youth Affairs. (and practice what you preach to others - Encourage sports other than cricket)

And by the way, i find it an insult that Saina received a cash prize of Rs 200,000 when each member of the 2007 T20 Championship victory earned Rs. 8,000,000 (apart from Porsche & Mercedes Benz cars), that's 120,000,000 for the 15 member squad - apparently, Cricket is worth 600 times more than Badminton in India.

Will the Minister take some action

Your's Sincerly
A True Sports Fan

Friday, June 12, 2009

Primer: How to transport $130 billion

The WTF News of the day:
Two Japanese nationals were detained by Italian financial police last week after trying to enter Switzerland with $134 billion worth of undeclared U.S. bonds, mostly Treasury bonds, an Italian daily said Wednesday. According to the report in il Giornale, two unidentified Japanese in their 50s concealed the bonds, including 249 U.S. Treasury bonds each worth $500 million, in a suitcase with a false bottom that was searched by the Italian authorities June 3 when they were in Chiasso, at the border with Switzerland, about 50 kilometers north of Milan. 
Wow! They were caught transporting $134 billion ... not 134 billion yen - which would still be a mind boggling $1.37 billion! Would they have been caught if they were using the Gulfstream IV or Gulfstream V? instead of a car? 

Folks, $135 billion is so much money that it will wipe most of India's External debt ($140 billion). Only 29 countries in the world have more external debt than the amount captured in the raid. Also, i am wondering if this amount is legal or black money. Does it belong to any bank or does it belong to some mafia gang? Why am i thinking that this news will suddenly die down & we will never hear more about this incident?

Another aspect of the news that surprised me - Italian Financial Police. Do these folks go around Financial institutes dressed in coats & ties? I bet India can do well with one such special force dedicated to fight black money? Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, i hope you are listening.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Casteism & Political play ...

For long, affirmative activists & apologists have cited the caste system as the bane of Hinduism and the need for reservation for SCs, STs and increasingly for OBCs. Some of the arguments are validated by facts with a lot more, steeped in nothing more than rhetoric. One such instance is the Reservation for Muslims which will remain as one of the most "very-funny-if-it-wasn't-sad" moment in Indian history. Did someone forget that these folks ruled India for over 700 years? Did we forget that these folks murdered millions of Indians, plundered crores of property, forced conversion, all in the name of religion? And tell me again, why does this group needs reservation?

My point isn't not just against reservation for Muslims. My point is highlighting the fact that we now have reservation for BC Muslims. I hope that folks are familiar with the fact that Islam by principle is against castes; Islam states that all men are born equal and there isn't distinction any group of followers. However, that was not how it was followed in India. So, Tamil Nadu government has implemented a 5% reservation for BC Muslims. If this isn't a WTF moment, i don't know what is. Next on the agenda for right-wing Muslims is to get SC status while the politicians are looking for a 5% reservation for BC Christians (an ordinance was passed in 2007 in TN for 3.5% reservation for BC Christians but revoked and sent to National Minorities Commission for it's recommendation a.k.a rubber stamp!)

In one more not-so-funny incident, Encyclop√¶dia Britannica blames Hindus for caste system in South Asian Muslims. Reservation in India is the (politician's) gift that keeps on taking from us ... 

Note: I am not against affirmative action. I am against affirmative action for political reasons; economically progressive groups; rewarding backward social measures; States deciding BC communities. I support affirmative action - at primary education level; for SCs & STs; timed-out & measured system with objectives and goals; monitored under the Supreme Court