Sunday, July 26, 2015

Indian Standard Time

This happened a year ago. It was a function to felicitate a very senior Tamil writer, an octogenarian who had already received the Sahithya  Academy Award. The 85 year old writer, frail and weak arrived at the Hall 10 minutes before the scheduled start of the function at 10 am, accompanied by an attendant.

The function was delayed because the organizers were waiting for the hall to fill up. Besides two other dignitaries who were scheduled to speak had not arrived. Eventually the function started only at 11 am. The MC called the meeting to order and requested the dignitaries to occupy the stage. The writer climbed on to the stage with some difficulty assisted by his attendant. He looked very disturbed.

After all the formalities and felicitation speeches were over,  the writer was requested to give his acceptance speech. Since  he was very weak he chose to sit and speak.

While thanking the organizers for honouring him and other speakers for their felicitations , he was forthright  in pulling up the organizers for the inordinate delay in starting the function. He said “ I am an old man with all the health problems that old age brings . Since you asked me to be at the venue 15 minutes early  I  managed to reach here before time forgoing my morning meals. By delaying the function you have made me suffer the ordeal of sitting here and doing nothing. Besides the empty stomach is causing me tremendous discomfort. It is not your fault. I should not have accepted your invitation knowing full well my limitations. “

Needless to say that the organizers were squirming in their seats. What was supposed to be a felicitation meeting  turned out to be a punishment meeting for the writer.

I have seen this happening in many other local functions organised by   enthusiastic individuals who get together under some banner to conduct meetings at the drop of a hat. They don`t have a minute to minute programme and very often allow their  meetings to prolong indefinitely,  testing the patience of the audiences.

I remember attending a function at a district headquarters town in  Tamil Nadu got up to honour about 15 people from various fields connected with the town. The ` who’s who`  of the town were  present  in the audience. Not only did the function start late, the Chief organizer took almost one hour to give his welcome address ensuring that every dignitary in the audience was recognized and specially welcomed.  The audience was restless as the function was extending far beyond the two hours   indicated in the invitation.

As a person with some experience in organizing events and functions of all types, including an International Conference /Expo, I have an obsession for time management. Not only do I believe in meticulously planning an event but also ensure that every one participating in the event is made aware of the importance of time management. Except when acts of God and nature have let me down, I have been fairly successful in keeping to planned schedules, ably supported by an equally committed team.

Whether it is a small meeting or big meeting  if the organizers plan a time bound programme, and communicate the details in advance to the invitees, there is no reason why a meeting cannot start and end on time.

It is only because we Indians generally do not value other people`s time that we have earned the dubious distinction of following `Indian Standard Time`- which means that we are not serious about our time commitments!

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Saturday, July 11, 2015

Home Schooling

I was intrigued by a recent news item about an Indian American child prodigy, only 11 years old, getting three college degrees in Maths, Science and Foreign language studies from a college in USA. Intrigued by the fact that the boy never went to a school or college but was home schooled by his parents.
That set me thinking about home schooling, an idea which some parents adopt as an alternate education system for their children. Especially when their children are exceptionally talented and are not able to adjust to regular school life or the parents are not happy with the current education system. I understand that across the country there are thousands of kids who undergo homeschooling.
Closer home, a friend`s daughter decided on  home schooling her only child, a son who is a bright kid with a fantastic IQ. She took the decision after her experience of providing a formal schooling experience for her son failed. A series of incidents in the school concerning her son made her realize that modern day education system does not provide the warmth, care and the personal touch & love of a teacher to children, especially children with special talents or needs. Taking ownership and responsibility for the quality of education that she chose to give her son; she quit a mainstream education job to embark on a journey in home schooling. She says, “As parents we cannot let fear or the `herd mentality` rule over  us. We should allow the children to blossom naturally without the external pressures which a normal education system imposes on them “.
When I asked her about the curriculum that she follows for her son, the answer she gave me floored me . “I don`t teach him anything. He learns whatever he wants to learn, on his own. I only facilitate his learning process. He has a Tablet on which he accesses any information he is seeking on any topic through the `Net. I am available to him to answer any questions he has. I am his best friend.”
It was a tough, life changing decision for her and her husband but she is persisting with the idea for the last five years. As of now the family seems to be happy with the arrangement. And the boy seems to be enjoying the freedom to pursue what he wants.
The one question that people generally ask is whether  such  homeschooled children  will grow up to fit into a world which is intensely competitive and in which there are all kinds of people and all kinds of situations to deal with. In answer my friend`s daughter told me that a fixed time is devoted every day for her son to mix and play with boys & girls of his age group either in the building complex where they live or other friend`s places where children get-together. I also understand that parents of home schooling use technology to form groups to help with socialization. A website devoted to homeschooling ( not only gives very useful tips to parents of Home schooling but also helps them connect with other parents across the world so that they can share their experiences.
Let us not forget that homeschooling as a concept is not new in our country. In the olden days, in the absence of schools nearer home, many children, especially of well to do parents, were given homeschooling by experienced teachers visiting the homes of children to teach. Even today, children of celebrities, due to security reasons, are given home schooling.  Our former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her children and grand children were home schooled up to a point.
For home schooling to be successful one of the parents has to sacrifice his/ her other ambitions to devote full time to the child.  In today`s context where it has become common for both parents to work, how many will have the time and patience required for taking the huge responsibility of home schooling a child? Is there proof that such home schooled children do well in life?  Will the child be able to integrate into a regular school later, if he or she wants to? There are more questions than answers to the concept. However, in my opinion I feel Home schooling is definitely an excellent alternative to educate children with special needs. It is one sure way of making such children grow into confident and responsible individuals who can stand on their own feet in life.

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