Thursday, 29 November 2012

There’s more to an exam than passing… or failing - Hewasa Lorin, Director-Student Services & HOD English

What does Nagaland University, Nagaland Board of School Education, Central Board of School Education all have in common with an Ivy League institute like Harvard University? They all use some system of evaluation which we call an EXAM.  How important are exams? Are exams just about the marks we score or is there something more we should be learning from them?

There’s More to an Exam Than Passing… or Failing

As a student, I remember how unpleasant exams felt, especially towards the end of the year. It was an interminable wait for the winter holidays, intensified because of the festive season. Now an adult, you would think that the pressure of exams would be gone, but it’s not. I realize it includes even teachers of students, for that matter, even parents whose children are appearing exams. Exams are a big deal. But of course, that’s something we already know.
 But I think it’s an even bigger deal than we let ourselves believe. 

This year Nagaland University has rolled out its first Semester Examination for the Ist Semester students. Promotion or selection exams have also been going on, some of them about to be over too. Exams have become the norm in the academic world (as well as in the professional world) for assessing a student’s success or failure, as well as a teacher’s success or failure. It’s that time for teachers to see if all the lecturing and shouting in the class have finally paid off and for students to show what they’re capable of. So, it’s a crucial time for everyone trying to prove something to each other and to themselves as well. 

Unfortunately, some students will fail, while others will succeed and move ahead. It’s unfortunate that not everyone passes. But there is something more to exams than simply passing or failing. It’s also about what we have learned in the process and what we do right after. Most of the time, exams in Nagaland are associated with last minute cramming, memorization and putting it all down on paper, only to forget everything a month or even a week after. The majority seem to be more concerned about the result and how one can reap the benefits of an exam without actually preparing properly for it rather than the process involved.

For students who don’t make it through, sure, it’s not the end of the world, but it also means it’s time to find out what you’re doing wrong. Some the greatest inventors like Thomas Edison, who was also homeschooled had to face countless failures before tasting success. We can take solace in the stories of college drop-outs like Bill Gates (Chairman and Founder of Microsoft), Mark Zuckerberg (Founder of Facebook), Michael Dell (Founder and CEO of Dell) who later became great entrepreneurs, but it’s pretty obvious they did not get there by simply sitting back. Not everyone can be successful like the people mentioned above. What sets them apart is that they had a vision, knowledge and experience that offset their academic failures. Ultimately, what really matters is how we pick ourselves up after a failure or even success both in life and academically.If we look at the numbers, passing is not that difficult anymore. In order to get pass mark, taking the example of Higher Secondary students who require 33 marks to pass,, a student just has to attempt a minimum of 33 questions in the question paper, out of 100 marks. If the student has written all 33 questions correctly, then he/she has already passed! That leaves the rest 67 marks for the student to still attempt and make up, in case the other 33 questions are wrong. For successful students - it does not mean success will stay with you forever either. No teacher expects every student to be an Einstein or a Newton, but hard work is required for any amount of success to continue, no matter how bright or intelligent. 

So, how are exams an even bigger deal than we let ourselves believe? Exams are not meant to simply test how much one knows, but they are also there to remind us how much we still need to know. Writing essays, critical analysis’, comparisons, evaluating, highlighting, are all helpful not just for the purpose of writing exams, but in practical life later on. We need to make our students realize this. Exams are helpful even for teachers, primarily, to pick out the strong from the weak and to identify which type of teaching method has worked better and for which student.  For this, analysis of performance by student, teacher and even institution has become just as crucial as teaching. 

With the internal assessment system introduced by NBSE (for Higher Secondary) and NU (for Semester System), the importance of class tests, project work, presentations and assignments have increased as internal marks now carry weightage for the final result. NBSE has done a great job in assessing the performance of students after the HSLC and HSSLC exams for 2012.  In the feedback report of the exam performance, information on the common problems and weaknesses of majority of students were provided, including percentages of marks for each subject. Analysis of this kind can help our students by guiding them on where and how to improve. 

But while analysis is taking place, there still seems to be a larger problem at the heart of exams and the way in which they are being conducted in India. Cases in the past have shown that it is still possible to leak question papers across to students (examples are the Tamil Naidu Public Service Commission and DU’s BCom I distance education question paper leak this year); teachers or authorities still allow cheating in the exam halls, and even provide answers to students. How safe is Nagaland from all these practices? And how fair does this seem for other diligent students? 
What is a 1st division student going to do with his result; if ultimately, he cannot perform as good as the marks on his marksheet. It’s not only the end result or the marks alone that we need to be concerned with. The true mark of an excellent student or institute cannot be measured solely by the marks he scores or the number of ranks an institute secures; it should be more about what a student takes back after an exam.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Save Our Oral Tradition - Ngutoli Y. Swu, HOD History

What are we doing with the culture we have? This is a question that looms over us as we are being fast absorbed by the 21st century and its modernised life. We celebrate Ahuna, Sekrenyi, Ngada, Tokhu Emung, etc. We have an Arts and Culture Department, State Museum and more. But are they really enough to preserve our culture? Our Head of Department of History believes we can do more.

Save Our Oral Tradition

Radcliffe Brown, an English social Anthropologist in 1949 stated that “(culture is) the process by which in a given group or social class, languages, beliefs, ideas, aesthetic taste, knowledge, skills and usages of many kinds are handed on (tradition means handing on) from one person to another and from one generation to another”.

This clearly rings true when it comes to the oral tradition of the Nagas. Our rich cultural heritage and tradition is based on our oral tradition. The question is “what is oral tradition?” In simple terms, oral traditions are cultural material and traditions transmitted orally from one generation to another through song or speech. They may take the form of folktales, folksongs, proverbs, myths, etc. Nagas in general, in spite of being made up of different tribes, take pride in the rich heritage and tradition. But globalization has affected the way we respond to it.

We need to realize that collecting and preserving our oral tradition is the way to understanding our past, leaving a treasure for our future generation. Since time immemorial, our oral tradition has been transmitted through folk stories, songs, customary laws, rituals, etc. In the olden days, the Morungs were the venues where such transmissions took place. Young people after attaining puberty would live together in the Morungs (separate for boys and girls). It was the most important educational system for the young people where Naga culture and customs were learnt through folk music, folk tales, dance, wood carvings, etc.

Today, globalization and the advancement of technology have overshadowed our oral tradition, especially amongst the young people. If this trend continues, oral traditions are in danger of extinction. History has shown that most primitive societies relied on oral tradition and accordingly efforts were made to preserve and document it. In western societies, the use of oral material goes back to the times of Greek historians like Herodotus and Thucydides. We, Nagas too, need to give greater importance to the value of oral tradition.

How We Can Help
Many researchers have brought out books and research papers on some aspects of our oral tradition and culture. The tribal hohos and the literary boards are also putting in efforts in this field. But the task of preservation of our oral tradition requires mass involvement of all individuals from every strata of our society.  For this, indigenous strategies along with the electronic media can be utilized in recording and preservation. 

Indigenous strategies that can be employed are the formation of artistes association in every village, promoting the importance of tribal festivals, etc. Among these, language forms the most important basis for preserving our oral tradition and heritage because they carry the link between the people and their history. Therefore, more than anything else, as much as we encourage and stress on the importance of learning and speaking good English among the young people, equal importance should also be given to our indigenous tribal languages. The first step we can take is starting in schools and colleges. Instead of offering Alternative English as a paper option, why not make the indigenous tribal language a compulsory paper. This means that whatever field of study the students may choose at a later stage, they would still have the basic knowledge about our oral tradition and learn to value it. 

An excellent initiative started by the Maharshi Sandipani Rashtriya Veda Vidya Pratishthan, Ujjain in their effort to preserve the Vedic oral tradition in its original form, is the provision of incentives through one of its scheme. According to this scheme, a Swadhyayi Teacher possessing mastery of at least one Shakha of one of the Vedas is selected and is required to give coaching for a period of upto 6 years to 10 selected students. During the duration of this course, the Teacher is paid Rs. 5000 per month and the students are paid a scholarship of Rs. 500 per month. In this way, the Vedic tradition remains alive even today after thousands of years. 

The State Government should also take initiative in promoting more research of our oral tradition by providing more scholarships to the Researchers in this field through the Universities and also provide incentives to publish their research papers. This will create awareness as well as interest in our oral tradition. More libraries and museums should be set up. This way our oral tradition can come alive and young people can have a hands on experience through the workshops and seminars that can be conducted by such departments. University can also be encouraged to introduce papers on oral traditions and history. In Colleges, students can be assigned project works on our oral traditions like folk tales, folk dances, etc. The student bodies of every village can become ambassadors for the preservation of oral traditions and take initiative in protecting the monuments, monoliths and places connected with our oral traditions. 

The Schools and Colleges should also start conducting inter school and inter collegiate competitions on folk song singing, dramatization of folk tales, debates on customary laws,  and also highlight one or two traditional games during the Sports’ week. Awareness programmes, seminars and workshops can be conducted where in the expert artistes and elders of the community can enlighten the young people and records of such events can be preserved in the form of audio, video and even published as journals. 

We still have a long way to go if we want to compare ourselves with countries like the US, UK, Australia and Canada where the universities offer degree programmes and classes aimed at educating the oral historians on key issues relating to the preservation of oral traditions. Once the seeds of awareness take root, in due time, our oral tradition can stand on solid foundation and remain intact for the future generations. But the first step needs to be taken today. In the future we would surely not want to be categorised as the people described by Marcus Gravey when he said, “a people without the knowledge of their past history, origin or culture is like a tree without roots”.

“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. Tetso College is a Commerce and Arts College. For feedback or comments please email:”

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Are Teachers Really Giving Importance to Work Experience in Schools? - Mhabeni Tungoe, Assistant Professor Education

Students of Tetso College participating in social work 
Students study Math’s, History, English and other subjects. Many times, we fail to understand the connection they have with the realities of life. A closer look at our education policy and system does indicate that there exist provisions for SUPW and work experience as a subject. Education is not only about books but it is also about the arts, music and sports activities that help develop a person’s character. When our school system already has provisions for SUPW and Work experience as a graded subject, it begs the question: 

Are Teachers Really Giving Importance
to Work Experience in Schools?

Education is one of the most important instruments to bring transformation in society. Keeping in mind the importance of education for the upliftment of economy and vocational education in society, many educationists have made and have been making worthwhile attempts to link education and work experience. According to educationists, the education system must not be too theoretical that students seldom have the occasion to learn things by practical application. The students will be able to learn through their own experience if greater importance is given to work in education.                                                                                                

Work experience (WE) means to obtain experience through work. It is a technique through which work and education are co-related. The term ‘work’ here means that activity which develops a tendency for productivity. Socially useful productive work refers to the purposive, meaningful and manual work, which is useful to the community. S.U.P.W is one avenue through which students acquire work experience. S.U.P.W is a subject that can branch out into a variety of work related activities. However, it is essential that S.U.P.W should either result in material production or involve students in some form of service.

Objectives of S.U.P.W:                                       
1)      To acquaint students with the world of work and services of the community, and develop in them a sense of respect for manual work
2)      To develop a desire to be useful members of the society and contribute their best to the common good
3)      To inculcate positive attitude of team work and desirable society values like self-reliance, dignity of labor, tolerance, co-operation, sympathy, and helpfulness
4)      To help in understanding the principles involved in the various forms of work
5)      To provide opportunities for creative self-expression and for the development of problem solving abilities
Work experience is directly linked to handicrafts, trade, industrial and technology.
Many developed countries have successfully linked education with work experience in their education system. In India, Mahatma Gandhi, one of the greatest educational philosophers suggested that handicraft be taught not merely for production work but for developing the intellect of the pupils. This idea was forwarded by the Kothari commission (1964-66), which suggested introduction of work experience in the Indian education system.  Subsequently, after the recommendations of the Iswarbhai Patel committee (1977), which first coined the term socially useful productive work (SUPW), in the history of school education in India the subject was first introduced to the school curriculum in 1978, by the Ministry of Education, Government of India. At present, India is moving forward due to the serious efforts of NCERT, Union Ministry of Education, social welfare, and State Department of Education.
In the Nagaland school system, SUPW is an integral part of the curriculum.  Every year the students submit their SUPW and accordingly they are graded and given marks. In some schools in Nagaland, life skills activity and vocational education are provided with a well organized system through which the students experience work and produce their creative work. At the same time, some students in educational institutions produce their creative work, even without training at school, which is very appreciable.
However, WE/SUPW in educational institutions in Nagaland are generally not effectively implemented, according to how the objective should be. This is because in many government and private schools, a well-planned and organized system is lacking for WE/SUPW. Now the question before us is, are students bringing useful productive work through work experience? This question must be looked into by the educational department, institutions, teachers, and parents. It is pretty obvious that when the time comes for the submission of SUPW, majority of the students usually bring things bought from the market and get graded accordingly. This practice does not promote development of work skills and dignity of labor in the students, rather it focuses on good or more expensive products accompanied with a good and undeserving grade. This goes completely against the purpose, ethics and objective of WE/SUPW. If we truly want WE/SUPW to work out well and effectively in our school system, for the student’s community and society as a whole, certain changes are needed. These are changes which cannot be made by one factor alone, but requires the joint effort of the education department, schools, teachers, students, parents and the local community.
Certain things that can be implemented are:
(1) Educational department can make it mandatory for every government and private school in the state for the provision of separate SUPW classrooms.
 (2) Appointing trained teachers for teaching different handicrafts, activity and skills; so that the students can be trained, taught to utilize and develop their creative abilities and potentialities and produce products that are useful to the needs of the society. Their efforts can also help the economy of schools, at the same time, the students can prepare for the right vocation.
 (3) Teaching materials and textbooks should be provided for effective learning.
(4) Sufficient funds must be provided.
(5) Provision of raw materials by parents so that students can bring them to school and make the products under the supervision of the teachers.
(6) Proper evaluation system of the students work. The productivity of the students can be accepted as the basis of evaluation, supplemented by oral, written, and daily work in assessing the student’s merits.                                            
In my opinion, if we give importance to the above points, this can result in a more effective and positive work experience for our students and ultimately society as a whole. We, Nagas, are gifted with artistic skills and talents like no other, comparable even in the national and international scene, as talents like Atsu Sekhose and others have shown. We must tap and hone these skills. WE/SUPW might just be the solution to helping our children begin early on to stay one step ahead of the rest.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Stuck in the Moment - Kvulo Lorin, Director-Administration

Hornbill, weddings, exams, Christmas – all these are fast approaching as we soon come to the end of another year. But amidst all this hover our long drawn out Naga issue – an issue that has led to perennial bloodshed and confusion and still continues to plague our state over years and years of talks. Are we near the end or are we in the middle? Where do we stand? As a society, as tribe, as a family or as an Individual?

“Everything can look like failure in the Middle” –Kanters Law

In a recent training programme held in Shillong, it was interesting to meet and interact with other people from the northeast. However, apart from the occasional questions about our raja mircha and culture, the questions invariably veered towards politics, elections and the protracted Naga solution. In fact, even their newspaper editorials were commenting on the Naga issue. The underlying message that hit me was that a lot of the common people in the entire north-east wanted peace and an end to violence. Maybe that’s why so many eyes are currently on our small state. What’s going to happen next?

I am no expert on the north-east economy, but I feel that while the non-tribal communities overwhelmingly dominate a lot of the business, it seems like many educated tribal entrepreneurs are trying their hand at the trade these days and Nagaland is no exception to this. Looking at the northeast as a whole, it feels great to know that elite institutes like IIM and IITs are being setup in the region. Tourist-centric festivals like the autumn fest and hornbill festival to bring both international and domestic tourists (I heard the hotels in Kohima are already fully booked for the hornbill festival) to the North-East also seem to be creating more awareness. We're also seeing our own local band Alobo Naga representing MTV India competing against the whole world, Mary Kom becoming a household name in mainland India and our own football team competing in the I league.

With globalization, the world as a whole seems to be moving closer and this includes our very own north-east. It’s blatantly apparent that the Naga issue has not just affected Nagaland but a lot of areas in the north-east as well. I think if a solution could be found, acceptable to the many stakeholders, then it just might be a game changer for the entire north-eastern region and Nagaland in particular. It could be just my imagination, but even Ibobi’s comments regarding Manipur’s territorial integrity seem less aggressive than usual. The other states also seem to be maintaining controlled silence and secrecy to some extent so as not to jeopardize the talks which are going on.

That being said, just like when we have prohibition, illegal bootleggers benefit by selling illegal alcohol. Even war benefits certain sections of society. For example, war benefits weapon manufacturers who sell arms and ammunition. Similarly, we can't say that insurgency is causing suffering to all. There are probably sections in the north-east or Nagaland who benefit if a solution is never found.

Is the Indian government finally willing to take hard decisions and use its political will to push for a solution? Considering they introduced FDI and finally stood up to the unreliable Mamata, raised the price of petrol and took many unpopular, but necessary, decisions sort of gives me hope that they might have the political will to do the unthinkable at this juncture. Politically, this might be the best time for a solution since Meghalaya, Mizoram, Assam, Manipur are all Congress ruled states at the moment. It’s a difficult task and the leaders and spokespersons seem to be a really abused and insulted lot.

We live in a society - a melting pot of values, cultures, ego and language barriers. The church wants us to behave in one way, our village in another, family etc. We also live in a democracy, but democracy is also a political system which does not consider the level of education of the voters. In some cases, we must expect someone who has not gone to school as capable of making the best and rational decision in choosing a leader. Does this mean society is always correct? Invariably, it also implies an individual cannot always be correct.

We also talk about freedom. A man does not want his wife to say anything, his children to order him around, his friends to be critical or boss to be bossy. Ultimately, he may acquire so much freedom that he will finally be alone - no boss, no wife, no friends. He is a victim of freedom.

Thanks to technology, the internet and social networking sites, our complex naga society is now part of an even larger and complex society. It may seem strange to our elders but sometimes our past experiences are the ones which are actually holding us back. Today, what happens in Greece also affects India, which affects Nagaland. What happens in Nagaland affects the whole northeast and vice versa. The world is tied together now economically and socially in more ways than one. We are a community and we need to learn to live like one with ourselves and with others. We are not alone in this world. According to Malcolm Gladwell, "What we do as a community, as a society, for each other, matters as much as what we do for ourselves.”

In the 2012 London Olympics, the city cheered for a Marathon Runner who came last, Caitriona Jennings. Exhausted and plagued by a foot injury, no one would have faulted her if she had quit like some of the other runners. But she didn’t. She went on and completed the race with a standing ovation from the crowd. I think we have all been faced with daunting challenges, projects, assignments and problems. It is usually when we are in the thick of things that unexpected problems crop up and questions arise. Do you plough along through the difficulties and make mid-course corrections, or do you abandon it? Pull out in the messy middle, and the effort is a failure.

I think we’re in the middle where our Naga talks are concerned. I also think we are in the middle in a lot of the tasks at hand like our fight against corruption, development, reservation, jobs, prohibition etc. The issue is deciding which direction to take. I believe we’re only too well aware that we are already encountering a multitude of situations, which could turn into our biggest mistake or our greatest solution.

“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. Tetso College is a Commerce and Arts College. For feedback or comments please email:”

The Missing Principles in Naga Society - Zuchano Khuvung, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science

Moral and ethical values as social categories are crucial for generating a sound culture in any given society. However, people tend t...