Rethinking India’s Tryst with E-learning

Covid-19 has interrupted education of over a billion students worldwide. In such times, the optimum solution to sustain education is online learning. Schools are conducting classes online via Zoom, Moodle and proprietary school software. The sudden need for online education has created an opportunity to experience how online learning can improve the educational landscape and policies in India.

While there are policies that provide resources to implement online learning, integrating the education structure with e-learning is absent. The most daring use of online learning is by providing nationally standardised education, irrespective of social class and rural background.

There is a lack of structure or framework that allows e-learning platforms and mainstream education to amalgamate and provide equal education for all. Creating an integrated curriculum that is accessible across all boards will lead to a seamless education infrastructure that benefits students across India. This obstacle can be crossed by better policy making and technology percolation by telecom giants. Collaboration between government, school management service providers, ed-tech companies and public and private enablers is the need of the hour. A capable task force is needed to achieve this collaboration. This will help highlight strengths and weaknesses of the current system and help deliver effective education.

source: This article was first published in Financial Express (Online Edition) on May 18, 2020.

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Quite obvious, it’s always the environment and surroundings which grooms the child and “PARENTS” play a very vital role. A child’s birth brings happiness and pleasure but also brings lots of responsibilities as a part of parenting to shape and groom their child to be a better person. Parents influence their child, be it a social–emotional development, health or any of their activities. It is always said that it’s the parents who groom and determine their child’s future.

It has always been a notion that family is the first school for a child. Even a shy and sleepy newborn takes interest in observing things. Majority section of his brain is indulged in understanding the surrounding. A newborn can see, hear and understands but cannot speak but then too he adopts his mother tongue. The child is a very good imitator. As rightly said, “Monkey see, monkey do”. Parents are in charge of their child’s social interaction, and thus the environment that the child is exposed to, with the parent’s permission shapes their future behaviour thus forming a family and then society.

Let us understand few factors which impact the Child’s behaviour:

The Environment: Children do inherit some traits from their parents, but more than that, it is the environment in which the child is raised. If the parents are found having conflicts between them, then the chances are that the kids will treat others with hostility. Once they see the parents fighting and abusing each other then the child will find it common and will begin solving sibling squabbles with the same tactics as they have witnessed. It may also lead to difficulty in handling their relations with their friends or in future with their partners if they’ve grown accustomed to such family discord.

Few suggestions to deal with this:

  1. Love your child and acknowledge his feelings as well.
  2. Avoid fighting in front of the kids. If at all situations worsens then the kids can be explained the reason of fighting. Like, “Daddy and I were extra argumentative as we did not have same opinion but yes it was wrong on our part to behave like that.”
  3. Please assure your child that it was just an argument and not a bigger problem.
  4. Finish the fight with a smile and the entire family can sit together and show that despite of any disagreements still, the family is the strongest one.

It’s believed that the children’s acquisition of problem-solving, language and social-emotional skills always gets better with more contact and communication with their parents.

Develop Healthy Habits:

Parents play an important role in shaping children’s eating habits. We know that a growing body needs proper nutrition to develop and prevent disease. Sometimes it happens that just because the child is not eating and is crying or being fussy, we offer them the junk food which pleases them. It’s always heard, that “my child doesn’t relish fruits or vegetables or homely preparations but prefers burgers, pizzas, other bakery items”.

But a little more patience at your level will make you realise that if they get hungry, they will eat the food you have served we all understand this, but fail to follow.

As role models, parents need to make sure that they’re demonstrating a healthy attitude toward food and health so their children do too, so one should bring some simple changes:

  1. Avoid single serves of anything.
  2. Choose water as a drink.
  3. Milk is a healthy option against packed juices.
  4. Prefer fruits over packed food in case of scarcity of time.
  5. Inspire them to have grains with more fiber, fresh fruits and vegetables and dairy products.
  6. Involve your child in cooking it will create a magical bonding between two of you.
  7. Exercise or go for a walk with family

Never forget that “A family that eats together stays together”.

Clutches of Media & Technology:

The other main element where we want to put light on is the clutches of TV, mobile, westernised exposure which has corrupted our lives and our values. We have forgotten our past where grannies used to tell stories and where outdoor activities were highly motivated. At that time we had a joint family and so the responsibilities of the parents were shared. Now, due to the nuclear family system, parents have added responsibility. The time constraints push parents to an alternative method of compensating their valuable time with things that money could buy by way diverting the root cause of the problem, but values in a child can be imparted only by contact and communication.  When parents fail to make time to talk and play with their children, they may feel unwanted either getting close to any gadgets or find wrong place and the wrong people. All these things widen the gap between parents and kids which can sometimes risk their lives as well. Engaging your child in TV, mobiles or any other gadgets can never be your substitute.

Parents can manage this ever changing digital dilemma by:

  1. “Children see, Children do”.  First of all, you limit the use of gadgets, read a storybook and then your child will follow the same.
  2. Keep your child engaged in some sport activity or play with him by this the child will become more creative and communicative.
  3. Keep a track of your child’s friends and the sites, software and the apps the child is using.
  4. Always interact with your child, see that you are always present when the child is in front of the screen. Play a video game or watch a movie, share some childhood stories related to it. This will help your child to open up and share his/her experiences as well.
  5. Show some informative videos like good manners or some moral stories online as we all know that they are good mimics and will follow the same soon.

If a digital device is used thoughtfully and appropriately, media can enhance daily life.   

Helicopter Parenting

The term “helicopter parent” was initially used by Dr. Haim Ginott’s 1969 book Parents & Teenagers by teens who said their parents would hover over them sort of a whirlybird.

Parents’ presence can be felt and seen around the child always. Whether it’s related to his homework or any other activity. You will always find a parent not only involved but also influencing the child’s decisions. This is also called a protective type of parenting. Parents are a major concern about the safety but then sometimes it happens that parents are so obsessed with the child that they forget that the parent and child both are a different entities and have a different tasks to do. Parents need to understand that being too much involved in their child’s life can be harmful.

Allow the child to explore, to make mistakes, to try out new things without much guidance. Without this, the child will never understand how to deal with a particular problem or uncertainty. It becomes difficult for a child to face problems both emotionally and mentally. Parents surely has to give warmth, the discipline environment and the environment where they are the role models and they are inspiring and teaching children moving towards that direction but with their actions and in limited instructions.

Let’s understand that all sacrifices which you make will never go unnoticed. As parents, you will sometimes feel that you’re constantly making mistakes, remind yourself then that ITS’ OK, you are doing just fine.

What to Expect When You Are Attending VIBGYORMUN

Come June, and we have more than 500 students across India and abroad keenly awaiting ‘VIBGYORMUN’.  The three days of highly stimulated debate sessions are soaked with vigour and vivacity. This is an arena to voice your opinions, pass resolutions, formulate policies and make new friends, respect difference in opinions and appreciate similarity in thoughts and ideologies.

The newest generation is well seeded with knowledge, layered with reassurances from their peers and mentors. The plethora of information they possess finds a channel through VIBGYORMUN, to express themselves via debates, discussions, deliberations and denials.

Year on year, we have witnessed  VIBGYORMUN grow bigger and better with prominent and influential speakers, seasoned and well informed Executive Board Members, young and motivated Chairs and Co Chairs. Our students have so much to imbibe and absorb, each day more challenging than the previous one.

VIBGYORMUN is one of the most sought after MUNs because of its magnitude and dynamism.  The extremely professional approach ensures a revelation of one’s personality. It has been an amazing experience to watch the first time MUNners transform to confident spokespersons, fearlessly speaking out their mind, loud and clear.

All the best for yet another enriching season of VIBGYORMUN!

Tanya Gulrajani, Principal, VIBGYOR High – Goregaon

Reading: A Healthy Habit

“An apple a day keeps a doctor away”, as rightly said, our body needs healthy food for its nourishment, so that we live longer and healthier. But, what about our brain; how does it work and how can we make it healthier. As most learned people in the world would believe, reading a book is mental food. Whatever kind of books we read; it always provides some kind of nourishment to our brain. Historically, reading began on this planet some 5000 years back and there was no proper language then. People in that age read only signs that were scribbled or expressed but were fixed to show a particular process or code. Gradually in a few years when the brains started developing, there were more signs and codes to communicate and hence there was more information to be shared. Thus writing was invented and the fixed language was invented. In older times, reading was considered as a silent and passive activity and writing was considered as a superior art, due to lack of literature across the world. However that does not hold true nowadays, as we believe reading is one of the best investments one can make in life.

Scientifically, when we read, we use our right brain which is not normally active. That means whatever activities that we do in our daily routine are all left brain activities, which does not require much effort. But if you activate your right brain through your reading, it may work wonders for you. You can make extraordinary use of your right brain and achieve many great things in your life. For instance, you can score excellently in your tests, or can develop or learn any new skill, language or art quickly.

Reading increases your knowledge and thus develops your thirst for exploring new things. Reading gives you mental peace and satisfaction; in a way it connects you to a different world that you can enjoy and experience through a book.

Reading Fiction can transport you to a world of imagination. You just have to choose the world you would want to go to, like Cinderella, Harry Potter or Alice in Wonderland.

Reading Non Fiction can help you develop your own personality and help you achieve anything and everything that you desire. Through management, personal discipline and setting goals and achieving them step by step, Books teach you to be honest, humble and forgiving. You can be friends with books; they teach you everything you want to learn in life. They help you get success in life both on personal and career front. To achieve academic success and achieve all happiness, mental strength, success, positivity and knowledge, you must inculcate a habit of reading regularly for at-least an hour a day. Books have got hidden treasures in form of knowledge, illustrations and experiences that no one can ever take away from you. Surround yourself with lot of reading materials; encourage yourself to choose different genres every time you finish a selected one. Use technology wisely to boost your reading skills. Read as much as you can and become the enlightened one.

Ms. Amrita Mishra
VIBGYOR Kids, Goregaon, Mumbai


The Art and Craft Of Watching Movies

Watching movies is not a chronic waste of time, as many parents are prone to believe, taking away from other more meaningful activities like reading or playing board games. Contrary to popular belief ‘Movies’ are more than simply entertainment bringing zero value to the table. Watching movies can be a meaningful literary activity, honing emotions and developing inner values like empathy, courage, kindness and resourcefulness in our kids. The trick lies not so much in WHAT you watch but rather in HOW you watch it.

The Benefits of watching movies I believe, are myriad

  • Language building: For children who, let’s face it, are unlikely to read, no matter how you push and tug at them; films help them ideate and put words in their heads. They will pick up good, functional and even beautiful language from a well made film.
  • Personality development: Films showcase a range of personality types that grow and morph into magical beings or dark souls based on the events they are experiencing. These emotional journeys speak to us at very personal levels and can fill gaps in our own psyche that help us relate and connect to the world more intimately.
  • Expanding reality and Imaginative thinking: Fiction shows us possibilities; the Mars landing, or wars fought amongst the stars, pushing the limits of our thinking. Real life stories show us the capacity for human triumph and the depths we can plumb. These polarities speak to us in ways that perhaps our daily life cannot, permanently changing the landscape of our minds with each story and each picturisation.
  • Movies show us worlds we can only imagine; Tatooine in Star Wars, Vulcan in Star Trek and prehistoric Earth In Jurassic world. We can also walk on streets of cities and countries far removed from our own, while sitting in one place.
  • Character building: If you cried on the beaches of Dunkirk or marveled at Stephen Hawking’s miraculous turbulent life, if you can feel the pain of victims of war and empathise with both sides when you watch ‘Flags of our fathers’  ( American version) and ‘letters from Iwogima’ ( the Japanese side of the same story)  you are building that most important 21 century skill ‘perspectival thinking’. If you choose to stand up with pride listening to your national anthem because you watched Gandhi and realise at what cost your freedom of today came, you are developing national character. If the horrors of slavery are brought alive when you watch ‘12 Years a Slave’, maybe you will never stand by and watch one set of people enslave another because your conscience has been awakened never to sleep again.

As a teacher I have always told parents to watch movies with their children, to ask questions and discuss each film to its bone. Choose wisely what you watch but include every genre. Cry if you can and laugh loudly, appreciate goodness, friendship, love and sacrifice, show these to your children and make Movie watching the best learning experience of your lives. You’ll never regret it and that magic will set your children aglow.

Let Us Build Bridges

As an educationist any aspect of change in the teacher student relationship impacts me deeply and leads me to introspect and reflect on my role in modern day India. We have long been proud of our traditional methods of education and such hallowed relationships like the one between the teacher and the learner (the guru and the shishya) have been seen as sacrosanct.

Recently there have been many instances which portray this beautiful relationship in a new light – not always positive. Are these rare incidences or do they symbolise the deep chasm that seems to have developed between the tutor and the taught and are they a sign of the times? This has struck at the very basic root of the educational system in India and has created unease and led to soul searching. Indeed it is a wakeup call. If only we could open our eyes, look with compassion and listen with our hearts.

More than that, we have to lend our ears to the pleas of the teaching fraternity toiling under great duress and struggling to enlighten the minds of the future citizens of our nation. Education should be the one area of constant revision, change and improvement for any country which seeks to establish itself as a world power. Revolutionary progress is much needed at all levels of our education system. A complete overhauling of the system and a more open minded approach to teaching and learning should be our clarion call.

Much needs to be done. A constructive and effective dialogue has to be set up between the teachers, the parents and the students. The channels of communication and facilitation should be opened and widened so as to allow for more awareness and understanding. Parents and teachers both have a great impact on the psyche of a young child. If the home environment is conducive and children are encouraged to respect their teachers, then the school too will become a place of illumination and learning. Creating an optimistic feeling towards school and teachers will only help parents to enable their children to establish strong bonds with their alma mater and their teachers. Similarly, school staff too needs to be sensitised to the pressures faced by parents and children today and be facilitated to handle them with sensitivity and sensibility. This will lead to mutual respect and acceptance and further strengthening of the teacher student symbiotic relationship.

Let us begin this noble task. Let us build bridges. Let us make platforms that will enable our future citizens to fly high.