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Balanced Academics - An Education System for Better Citizens







CartoonPics.png“Why is it that children, taught the names of the months and the fact that there are twelve of them, don’t ask why the Ninth is called the Seventh (September), the Tenth called the Eight (October), the Eleventh called the Ninth (November), the Twelfth called the Tenth (December)?” Quoted by an American - John Milton Cage Jr. in his M: Writings ’67-’72. This should have opened our eyes then in 1973’s itself.

It is very evident that we still have not realized that schools and colleges are producing not only toppers and graduates but also uncreative, unimaginative, sheepish book worms who just by-heart with fear and anxiety to secure pass in the examinations, while they do not think or imagine things to understand.

The present educational system should possess a change according to the requirements of the students and the capacity to build the talent in them in order to live with confidence in future on their own. Education is the holistic development of an individual to live in this world independently.

Now- a- days, parents are also opting for the best renowned schools so that they can both work to live a luxurious life leaving the students dependent on teachers. After school the poor pupil will be left with no one to say what is good and what is bad. They hardly see the parents together no entertainment or family outing and mostly they end up being a single child. They develop a sort of hatred towards the school as that is the only place where they are restricted a lot compared to their carefree or a busy house. Intending to lose temper and interest out of frustration in school, gradually turn out to be slow learners. To avoid these we should keep the tiny brains busy at schools by introducing vocational training classes along with their academics. In this process they learn to make friends and share ideas and things with them.

It should be made compulsory that they choose their area of interest and excel in it. Timing should be planned in such a way that both academics as well as vocational classes will be given equal importance.

It is we who should personally train them and mold them to become a good human, a good citizen who can think on his own and solve his problems rather than making his life easy by spoon feeding him from a very early age restricting him to think individually.

Peep into the Wild






Don’t just teach, learn along with the students.

I never knew the woods and the wild can be so adventurous until I ventured into the wild along with my students of class VIII. My experience as a teacher exploring the nature’s wild beauty along with the students was immense.

I was never very adept at the nature’s incredible flora and fauna, it’s beauty, importance, present day scenario, vitality until I dealt with an English lesson “The Magical Animal” an excerpt from “An Aye-Aye and I” by Gerald Durrell.

As a part of our efforts in maintaining environment and in response to implementing the “green school” initiative, I encouraged my students to intrude into the wild and woods to find out some of nature’s creations which are on the verge of extinction and to create awareness; we surveyed the woods to discover the wild.

Show the way ahead:

I showed them a power point presentation, extensively created on the Aye-Aye, to help the students use it as a stepping stone as they were about to traverse on a new path.

This worked as a stimulus and my students really surprised me with their enthusiasm to explore the finest information. I provided them with a blueprint of the project to help them move ahead with their exploratory research work. During the project, I was always there as a facilitator, guiding, motivating and monitoring the students’ work.

What the students came out with, after a month’s extensive hard work, was highly commendable. Not only did the students probed and searched about various endangered species – their habitats, features, food etc, but also tried to analyses the various reasons behind their becoming endangered.

Share the same with one and all:

Going further, I carried out an activity to share the knowledge with one and all, an activity called, “Awareness Program” was planned. The students were divided into groups and each group was asked to deal with any one of the endangered animal and dive deep to get more details on selected endangered animal.

The road taken:

Activity featured disseminating information found on various endangered species like ‘Grey Whale’, ‘Philippine Monkey eating Eagle’, ‘Kakapo’, ‘Greater Bamboo Lemur’, ‘Orangutan’ and ‘Tarsier’ from classes III - VI. Information was conveyed through charts, posters and narration. The presentations and information on endangered species were well received and led to interactions including question and answers. Many students also gave suggestions on how they would work to save endangered species. Many teachers also actively participated in the program.

Apart from the awareness program, the students also had a debate in the class on the topic “Should animals be caged?” Most of the students spoke against this practice, but some also spoke in favour, justifying their views considering the dangers some of the wild animals face.

Our Toast to the Wild:

This whole process made us find out ways and means to protect these wild fauna and extenuate the causes that are playing a major role in endangering these wild lives so that we can save these nature’s wild treasures from being exterminated.

Destination Reached:

I believe that this approach of going beyond the classroom opened the doors to showcase the latent talent and creativity. This also helped in honing life skills, team work, decision making, problem solving, and public speaking which are the prime skills that is needed to have edge over others.

Teach with difference: Eliminate Misconceptions through Student Interviews






“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. We cannot rest thinking that what we did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.   We definitely need to change the way our students learn”

This quote always inspires me and I am trying many innovative teaching methods in my classroom.Here is a unique way to remove misconceptions in the students’ minds.

Our students are doing very well when essay type questions are tested but when it comes to multiple choice 80% students are failing to perform well. It is clearly seen in assessments similar to Olympiad Tests and other competitive exams.

Every teacher can conduct interviews after completing her/his lesson teaching and remove misconceptions from the student minds. Teacher can also understand how do our children think and can make an attempt to change her style of teaching to make concepts very clear for the student at the early age.

Interviews are useful for capturing the hidden expression of a participant’s experience. The interviewer can also pursue in-depth information around the topic and understand more about participant’s narration capabilities. Interviews are far more personal form of research than questionnaires. In the personal interview, the interviewer can capture many qualities of a student. Interviews may be time consuming, but, they are resource intensive.

Encourage students to share the facts through effective questioning by the interviewer. It’s one of the powerful ways of preparing children for facing challenges in future. I have always been trying for new teaching methods in my profession. My journey of interviews began with sharing of knowledge between students and teachers by means of personal discussions. Students are encouraged to interact with the guests who the school. I always encouraged face to face to interviews, telephonic interviews, and online interviews to improve my students communication skills, confidence, self esteem and overall personality.

For removing misconceptions in science I chose multiple choice questions to analyze their understanding and conducted interview and I was amazed to find many misconceptions and I could remove them at the early age.

Here is an example of how do our children think and my interview analysis.

  Question - Which process that happens in a tree during photosynthesis?

  1. Making of Food
  2. Breathing
  3. Resting
  4. Losing water


I went to different sections of Class IV with small blank papers and distributed them before posing my question. I asked them to put the right option and write the reason to speak when my interview begins.

Then I collected the papers and called out the students by names and continued my interview with the same question in class V, VI and VII.

When I analyzed my interview I found some misconceptions in 25 sections (1025 students) of my school.

  • In plants breathing means taking in carbon dioxide and giving out oxygen
  • Plants breathe in carbon dioxide where as humans breath in oxygen
  • Plants breath nitrogen as nitrogen is abundant in nature
  • Plants need oxygen during night only
  • Plants never lose water but only absorb water
  • plants breath only night time
  • As gases are exchanged it is breathing
  • Making food daytime and breathing night time

The results, here it is:

  • Out of 1025 students 615 (60 %) students answered it right and explained the process of making food clearly. Opted for A
  • 358 student’s answered B breathing as their option and gave different misconceptions. They were not agreeing for A as they feel exchange of gases is only breathing and as water is not represented in the picture so Option A is wrong
  • 13 students (2%) opted for C as they feel plants need rest like human being
  • 14 students (2%)opted for D as oxygen is present in water arrow shows outgoing so it is loss of water for them

Learning Outcome for Teacher and Taught:

I found this interview is a novel way of getting feed back on our teaching and novel way to remove misconceptions from young minds.

As we all know reading and knowing is vastly different from learning and understanding. The line between these is so thin that generations of teachers and students have failed to distinguish between them, there by defeating very purpose of learning. This interview method certainly seeks to address these issues by clearly pointing parameters required for learning and therefore teaching.

This interview method aims to inculcate the habit of learning, clear misconceptions, understand questions and to generate inquisitiveness in the children. It gives a real life view of the subject, facilitate understanding and there by trigger right imagination.

I sincerely hope this method will surely add new dimension in both learning and teaching and will bring out latent thinking in the child successfully.

The Meaning of Liberal Education


Liberal Education Aids Learners to Grow to be a More Conscientious, Dedicated and Fulfilled Individual!

Liberal education is the learning within, and for, a community. The collegiate institution’s task is to enlarge this community to include all global citizens. I believe liberal education can best be defined as nourishment of the soul. The spiritual directive progresses beyond prescribed coursework, historical underpinnings and institutional directives.

Education of this calibre scaffolds learning from seemingly separate, distinct fields of study to a meaningful, meta-cognitive core. The process involves interrelating art with business, pin balling music from math and coalescing sciences with language. Personal development assists the learner with finding their personal meaning as well as their respective place, niche, and responsibility in society.

My first experience with liberal education was when I attended Wartburg College as an undergraduate. Previously, I learned objectives, received high scores and marks, and was able to regurgitate information with relative ease. The problem was that these actions were no longer enough at such an academic institution. I had to figure out where I fit into this picture. There was no rubric, no checklist, and no final commemorating completion. This format drove me crazy. I just wanted to be told that I had succeeded getting what I needed so I could move on to life. Hence, there lies the problem. Liberal education is not an itinerary and is never complete. After teaching in public high schools for nearly two decades, I found that I called upon my own liberal education daily, if not hourly, to help my students make sense of their lives. I was employed to teach the sciences and that’s what I did but life is so much more than any one singular subject. Classroom discussions pole-vaulted from physical representations of light waves to the beauty of art, to the understanding of the brain’s perceptions, and to the geometrical quantification of interference within a single class period.

Students came to class because they had a voice, learned about themselves and directed their own education. I had a great career as a secondary educator, not specifically because of the accolades, but because of my students.

I found I loved the Socratic method of learning and my students relished the opportunity to actively engage in a safe, constructive, interactive environment. The process is what led me back to a liberal arts institution. I have specific training in the natural and social sciences but a love for all learning. I feel like I can make, and have made, a positive difference. I yearn to assist young learners in finding, and understanding, their calling. The liberal education process shows us how to grow as individuals and develop servant leadership. I am still growing and always will be.



Being a product and now at par of a liberal education system helps me find worth in my own life. I help to develop, truly develop, engaged community participants. I believe my experiences and understandings assist in exemplifying that our futures are more than genetics, circumstances, or honing a peg for a hole.

Putting a liberal education into words is like trying to describe the feeling of beautiful dawn.

You know what it is, what it isn’t and how it makes you feel but the dissected, and described, aggregate parts do not or cannot, equal the whole. The beauty is in the process not the product. Sciences are an intimate part of the arts and it’s also vice versa. Liberal education allows the learner to make these connections and grow to be a more conscientious, dedicated and fulfilled individual. Of course, liberal education will help the learner attain a good life but more importantly it aids in the realization that life is good.

Punishment–Thinking Beyond the Act


Punishment, May not be the Right Objective on the Learner!

Is it that learning in schools cannot take place without punishment? We need to reflect that when we talk about punishment in schools are we only talking about the more obvious and visible forms of punishment or does it encompass some of the hidden forms as well? What is the objective of this kind of act? Is this is a negative form of motivation or is it not? Even though with decades of educational research on learning we talk about giving the child independence, the teacher only to act as a facilitator and believing that the child is innately curious to learn we still succumb to forms of punishment in schools. Why?

I would like to address this issue at two levels.

  • First, the sociological realm which will include, what do we mean by punishment in a social structure, what is the relationship between power and knowledge, what are the objectives and henceforth implications of punishment on the offender, and what are the forms of punishment and why?
  • Second, the learning perspective, which will include the relationship between learning and punishment and its objective and implications on the learner.

Punishment can appear in various forms in schools. The most known and explicit form is corporal punishment. Other than this one sees punishment through public shaming for example by giving a child a black star against his/her name on a chart that is public to all or is asked to stand outside the class or principal’s office for everyone to see that the child has done something ‘wrong’. Then there are innuendos like the child being stared by the teacher in a demeaning way or making fun of the child by using the content of what s/he did wrong. Michel Foucault, a social theorist shed important light on the relationship between power and knowledge. Through his book, ‘Discipline and Punish’ I would like to interconnect what he covers on punishment in society and its repercussions in certain social institutions, for us, schools.  Foucault focused on how punishment is directly involved with power relations who could train, torture, mask individuals in the way that the power considered ‘right’. In relation to schools then the questions that arise are who is the power? Does the power truly know what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’? What is the environment for this relation to thrive?

If I were to address the last question let us see how our schools are structured in terms of infrastructure, resources, layout, etc. Mostly schools are designed to mirror a panoptical structure (to a certain extent). This means that the locations of the people in power i.e. the principle and teachers’ respective offices will be located in such a space from where surveillance of the children can be the highest so that no child can afford to do anything ‘wrong’. Inside the classroom the power will have a separate seat which is sometimes on an elevated platform and the ones on whom the power is observed are seated in rows in such a fashion that the observed cannot look at one another while the power can clearly look at or observe all. Therefore, within the larger structure of the school the classroom in itself also tends to adhere to a panoptical structure. One can therefore clearly see in a classroom set up the teacher’s hierarchical relation with the student where the teacher is the constant observer and the infrastructure acts as the perfect observatory. (One should take a minute to think what the role of the learners would be between the teacher as an observer and the school as an observatory, an offender? Do we see a child in the school as trust worthy and one who can be believed in?)

This kind of a structure helps the power (teacher, principle) to maintain their regulation over its children. It focuses on children being monitored on a continuous basis to meet the expectations of the power mechanism in which accepting children as ‘docile (passive) bodies’ becomes implicit. As discussed above, monitoring on a continuous basis can be done through enclosure wherein individuals are distributed in terms of space or by creating functional sites for more productivity, less options of revolts and increased efficiency. So, if we were to connect with the image of the infrastructure of the school I painted earlier the distribution of space can be seen in the seating arrangement of children which sometimes even is done by rank, the offices of the power being located at such places that the children cannot go astray from what they are expected to do which helps maintain the productivity part of it, the fact that the children are under constant surveillance in and outside the classroom wherein in the classroom the child is seated in such a fashion that s/he cannot even hold a discussion with his/her peers reduces the options for revolt.

Another aspect is normalizing judgment which again is also very evident in a school set up where students are all ordered to talk the same, dress the same and ‘act’ the same creating homogeneity. The clearest linkage is seen in having uniforms in schools for example. Everyone has to wear exactly the same kind of clothes every day. If we combine this normalizing judgment with the observing hierarchy it actually makes it possible to qualify and classify. Once a homogenous class is present and one child due to certain circumstances is not able to manage that homogeneity s/he tends to stand out hence developing an environment for punishment. Foucault constantly emphasizes on the fact that power ‘produces’ or ‘fabricates’ individuals. A punishment’s objective is not so much about making the offender repent but reconstruct the offender in such a manner as to adhere to the power. Therefore individuals are fabricated as per the needs of the power.

As is clear, I am not talking about any one kind of punishment like corporal punishment (actually I am not talking about corporal punishment at all). I am trying to raise a bigger concern that how implicitly we create a perfect environment through the infrastructure or our acts in schools for punishment to flourish. We need to imagine and accordingly construct our understanding of how the school is functioning as an institution if it were to be seen as a social institution within itself. Therefore at the pedagogy level what are the relations between the teachers and taught and how is the infrastructure possibly playing a role in the process. These are some thoughts I feel educationists should reflect on through which one could first understand why this attitude exists in the school and henceforth a stepping stone to what can be done to better it.

Now, I would like to shift from the sociological aspect to the psychological aspect and specifically to learning and the child. As educationists we believe that a child who enters the school is naturally curious to learn and our job as educationists is to not just nurture that quality but also guide the child towards being a confident independent being. If one were to follow this belief then it does require creating an environment of freedom and autonomy for the child and teacher in schools. That ways desired learning will have the space to thrive naturally. While India is at the brink of swearing by constructivism in classroom teaching and learning there is still this element of punish that exists which is contrary to the theory. It seems like while on the surface we are chanting constructivism as the way forward we are actually practicing a very behaviorist approach. Behaviorists believe that learning is accomplished when a ‘proper’ response is demonstrated following the presentation of a specific environmental stimulus (which contains a pre-determined ‘rightness’ in it). Some of the basic assumptions and characteristics of behaviorism are observable and measurable outcomes in students, emphasis on mastering early steps before progressing to more complex levels, use of reinforcement to impact performance and ensuring a strong stimulus-response association.


What can be observed here is one, learning occurs in a linear fashion, children as universally similar (homogenous) rather than unique, teacher to pre-decide what is to be taught and most importantly children as passive learners. The philosophical assumptions underlying behavioral theory is primary objectivistic; i.e. the world is real and external to the learner. The goal of instruction is to map the structure of the world on to the learner.

  • Therefore what is happening here is that content is pre-determined and therefore the rightness or wrongness of it is also pre-determined.
  • Second, the passive learner connects to the ‘docile bodies’ to some extent wherein the teacher tells and the learner obeys.
  • Thirdly, we are seeing all children the same and trying to fabricate them in a similar fashion by applying same pedagogical methods, same content, same environment, etc.

All this leads to one, a power relation between the teachers and the taught and two, normalizing judgment by creating homogeneity which gives space to then classify learners as good or bad and henceforth the bad ones punishable.

Here I would like to add a disclaimer that I do not mean to degrade the behaviorist approach in any way but am rather stating a stronger bent towards it and therefore its possible implications towards not just how learning is seen but its role in creating an environment for punishment. Behaviorist approach in itself has value and can be applied efficiently in varied situations.

We tend to see punishment as an act independent of its inter-connections to the environment around. This tends to create a very superficial understanding of punishment and therefore the actions taken to avoid the same also don’t tend to be long lasting. If we just ask the teacher to not hit a child if s/he does something wrong but continue to maintain the hierarchical relation between the child and teacher the implication would just be the evolution of yet another form of punishment. Through this article I would like to shed light on the fact that punishment just like it exists in society exists in our schools and until or unless we do not identify and re-structure all the inter linked elements of punishment, punishment cannot be done away with. It has to be seen and understood holistically. While there are schools that undertake punishment there are some who do not. Till now I have tried to paint a picture of some general schools that you and I have experienced but that does not mean it can be generalized across.

The schools which truly believe children should not be punished are the schools we need to observe in their entirety.

The way the school is built, the seating in classrooms, the role of the teacher and the role of the child, the processes of teaching/learning, etc. For example, I have observed a school which seems more like a home than a structured school. The classrooms, staffroom, offices, etc. do not have doors to give an inviting feeling for all. The children sit in a circle where they can talk to one another, look at one another and the teacher will also be sitting just like one among them. There will be no enforcement of homogeneity in terms of what you wear, how you act, what you say, etc. for it is truly believed that every child is unique with an innate curiosity to learn and once this is strongly believed in children are given freedom to learn at their own pace making mistakes within their own purview and learning from them. There is no comparison, there is no public shaming and there is ‘truly’ NO PUNISHMENT.