Saturday, 30 July 2016

My Thoughts and Woes on Education in Nagaland Kitokali - Kitokali H. Jakha, BA 5th Semester Education Honours

Government High School Mezoma

Kitokali H. Jakha
One of the features essential for the well-being of a society is the quality of education provided to its population. However, the ‘quality’ depends on the presence of necessary infrastructures—such as qualified and dedicated teachers, adequate school buildings, availability of text-books, clean drinking water, sanitation, and use of technology—without which no system of education can help its students attain adequate level of knowledge and competency. And this is where our society needs to catch up with, relative to others in the country, and it also explains why gaps exist between the public and private institutions from the elementary to college levels.

My Thoughts and Woes on Education in Nagaland

The Right to Education Act (RTE), is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted in 2009, which describes the modalities of the importance of free and compulsory education for children between the ages of 6 and 14 in India under Article 21A of the Indian Constitution. However, do children have access to quality education? Regardless of the interest, expectations, and hard labour of an individual, in the end, the individual is calculated with extreme rhetoric brutality, according to the institution they come from: private or government. Students and their parents, most of the time prefer private schools and colleges till the graduation, after which they foray into government institutions. It is an ironical periphery that those who once upon a time were so appreciative of private institutions now, so abruptly negate the same.

At the post-graduation level, those enrolled in the private institutions/universities are not thought of highly. The reason for such an absurd conclusion of those dramatic people is yet to be scooped, but the most interesting thing is that they are failing to value education: it is their frailty and low exposure of their eruditeness. In comparing the  government run schools functioning in the rural areas, to those in urban areas of Nagaland, it the urban areas that are getting all the benefits required for the future enhancement of students.

It is observed, through board results, that students of rural area government schools are lagging behind their urban counterparts. The success rate is low, and as such, so are the chances for their employment. Urban area government schools have better infrastructure and at least the appointed teachers attend to the classes assigned to them. In rural government schools, however, the infrastructure is greatly lagging. Some schools manage with just two classrooms, which sometimes the students may have to share. The rooms lack proper ventilation and may not be very hygienic.

This is a contributing factor for wastage and stagnation. It is a common practice for many teachers to hire a substitute who may not have the required qualifications.  This practice, mostly seen in rural sector government schools, directly leads to the decline of quality education. Now the causes to the disintegration of adequate education in the rural area can be the inability of the government to provide good infrastructure, and other amenities like apparels, textbooks, clean drinking water, etc for the students. The problem is even more dire because of the lackadaisical attitude of the teachers. Their irregularity and general sense of neglect proves toxic for education. In most private institutions of the urban areas, students enjoy all the necessary facilities provided to them in schools. The schools in urban areas are too numerous to count, and an individual is provided with an option to choose and enroll in the institution of their choice. I have observed that often private schools have more qualified teachers, who skillfully educate their students in a bright manner. They try and give attention to each and every student. To facilitate this, the schools often divide the classes into sections, and this depends on the presence of good infrastructure. Certain private schools in our state have introduced the concept of ‘smart classes’, where learning happens via computers. This enhances their skills and prepares them for the tech savvy world of the 21st century. In comparison, government-run schools in our state seem to  lag far behind.

If we are to dream of capable and well-educated youth in our state, our very first concern should be to look into the matters mentioned above. Government sector schools need to improve drastically. In Nagaland, these schools are filled with children from the economically weak sectors. The government should, therefore, put in more effort and grant more aid to the institutions they have established in every locality. Most importantly, they must ensure that the funds are being used wisely.

It is very clear that serious reformation is required in the education sector. The establishment of competent educational institutions, especially in the rural areas, can help provide quality education to all children alike. There needs to be an improvement in the infrastructure, and schools must move away from the age-old traditional modes of teaching. The introduction of vocational courses can help the students aptly prepare for the competitive world. The courses must be more relevant, and parallel with the challenges of the present time. The traditional syllabi needs to be abandoned. Teachers do play a very important role in a student’s education. Be it government or privately employed teachers, they must strive for excellence, and should play their role effectively and diligently. A teacher is expected to win the confidence of the students so that there is a better chain of communication, thus aiding effective learning. Students (especially in government run schools of rural areas) are in need of earnest teachers who can guide them  in becoming competent citizens of tomorrow. These steps will ensure that the problem of stagnation and wastage is solved. Quality education is the need of the hour. We cannot call our society a prosperous one until every child gets the best education possible.

“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought delves into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr. Hewasa Lorin, Anjan Behera, Nivibo Yiki, Kvulo Lorin and Dr. Salikyu Sangtam. For feedback or comments please”.

Monday, 25 July 2016

NET: A Faulty Touchstone - Anjan K Behera, Asst Professor, Department of English

The National Eligibility Test is an examination which has been
mandated by UGC for lecturers and professors in India. Institutions having more NET qualified teachers score well when accredited by NAAC. Conducted by CBSE, the examination has been controversial and is often criticized for being traditional in its mode of testing. This week’s article using a touch of satire and personal anecdotes, highlights a few of the problems present in this testing battery.

NET: A Faulty Touchstone

Education in India is considered to have a certain quality, thus prompting many international students, mainly from the South Asian countries, to migrate and enroll in academic institutions here. India has 47 central universities, 350 state universities, 123 deemed universities, 241 private universities, and thousands of colleges. To ensure maintenance of quality among the teaching faculty, UGC has mandated passing the NET. Candidates who have completed their post-graduation can appear this examination. The test, designed as MCQs, is divided into three sections – the first dealing with general competence and reasoning, and the remaining two test candidates’ subject knowledge. However, as an academician, I am able to point out to several flaws in this test.
Teaching is a skill, which I believe develops over time. A teacher must have a sound knowledge of the subject matter, and this must be complemented with strong communication skills. A teacher must also be able to motivate students to learn and think creatively, and challenge age old norms and traditions. A teacher should also be able to alter pedagogy as per the requirements of the students. The way the same content can be taught for one batch, may not be suitable for the other batch. A teacher must inculcate the use of technology to reach out to students and thus facilitate learning. Then how is it that the examination mandated by UGC tests only one skill of the teacher? Can merely passing NET be an alibi for the teaching proficiency of a person? The image of Mr. M’Choakumchild, the fact obsessed teacher from Charles Dickens’ famed novel ‘Hard Times’, comes to mind. Perhaps he is an ideal teacher, as per UGC norms.
This brings us to the question of how valid the test itself is. In the July 2016 NET, paper two of English had a certain question which got me thinking, which era does UGC think we reside in? This question gave four choices and asked which of the listed writers were born in India. We live in a tech savvy world, where facts like these can be looked up online anytime we want. Also, how relevant is knowing the birthplace of a writer, keeping in mind that modern criticism values author fallacy, in which the readers need not depend on the author’s intended meaning. The reader is free to interpret a work, as postulated by Roland Barthes; the author ‘dies’ once he is done writing. Learning by heart the birthplace of the millions of writers would make perfect sense if we lived in the Vedic ages teaching in Gurukulas where there was no electricity, no internet, and no access to online resources. The NET is plagued with such similar questions.
NET examines candidates based primarily on rote memory. When a test which is given the task of examining teachers is based on memorization skills, one can only imagine what kind of an education environment is being encouraged in India. Are we curbing creative thoughts and free thinking? In the US, Praxis exams are administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), and used by over 40 states as indicators of knowledge and skill for aspiring teachers. They measure a candidate’s ability to analyze and comprehend texts, their ability to articulate thoughts and communicate effectively through writing, and their subject-specific teaching skills and knowledge. This examination also has essay type questions which test a candidates reasoning and deductive skills. In comparison to NET, this system of testing appears to be more relevant.
It is a known fact that the pass percentage in NET is low, which is astonishing considering that candidates who appear this examination have been already tested and found qualifying in their post-graduation. When a candidate who is found tested by a system validated and accredited by UGC, how is it that so many of them aren’t able to qualify NET? Does then the flaw lie in the very structure of education itself?
The July 2016 NET examination introduced new rules for candidates, including reaching the exam centre two hours in advance. No cell phones allowed, okay that’s understandable. However, candidates were in for a shock when they reached the exam centre. Metal detectors scanned all candidates and they were asked to remove all jewelery and submit it at the checking booth. Food packets candidates had brought had to be left outside the entrance of the building. I was stunned when the officials, acting under directions of CBSE-UGC, asked me to leave my water bottle behind. I do not get the logic behind this. Maybe CBSE-UGC thought I may hide a tiny state-of-the-art ‘James Bond type’ communication device inside my ring, but what about water? An examination lasting for more than four hours, with no water, in the summer heat. Was I going to cast a spell on the invigilators with my water?
If only the airports in America had similar security measures in 2001, then perhaps the 9/11 terror attacks could have been avoided.

Articles published in newspapers and blogs around the country have indicated that there is a growing awareness of the flaws which NET seems to embody with no regrets. There are several controversies surrounding NET. This being said I do have the utmost respect for everyone who qualifies this examination. Until UGC comes up with a more efficient and non-traditional method of testing candidates, thousands of aspiring teachers will appear this examination, clad in simple clothes, without water, testing their rote memory skills. Perhaps American rock band Survivor’s song ‘Eye of the Tiger’ is what’s needed to keep spirits high!

“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought delves into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr. Hewasa Lorin, Anjan Behera, Nivibo Yiki, Kvulo Lorin and Dr. Salikyu Sangtam. For feedback or comments please”.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Teachers: The Builders of a Nation-Rajesh Tanti, Asst Professor, Department of Commerce

In the pre-Christian era of the Naga society, young boys would live in Morungs where they would be imparted knowledge needed to carry on their duties as future tribesmen. Education has undergone a paradigm shift in the recent decade. We stand on the threshold of the ‘smart-class’ era, where the traditional structure of a classroom is now challenged. The changes in the expectations and demands from education have only added more responsibilities to a teacher’s role. This week’s article explores the various roles a teacher must play in order to build a capable and successful generation of young adults.

Teachers: The Builders of a Nation

I have been in the teaching profession for the last 16 years. Having taught students in both school and college level, I’ve learnt that teachers, whether in remote areas or in cities, teaching in primary or university level, are not merely teachers, but leaders as important as any political, business, or religious leaders. They too have contributed in building a nation as any other leader.

If any educational institution wants to grow and develop, they should develop their teachers first. Any nation wanting to emerge as a powerful nation should empower their teachers first. These teachers are those leaders who take care of the most important resources of the nation, i.e. Human resource. Here, I would like to mention some of the steps which, from my experiences, make for a  smooth teaching and learning process. 

A teacher should have a clear sense of direction. It is just a common sense, as a teacher if we can’t lead and manage ourselves then how can we lead and manage others. As a teacher, it is important that your students know your commitment to them. We must try to refrain from taking out our personal frustrations and failures on them. Teaching is tough and not everyone’s cup of tea. We must strive to be a leader and team player no matter what the situation may be. Don’t let your followers see you as helpless as they are! People come to a leader with problems and if a leader shares his/her problem with them then where will they go?
A teacher should be aware of the goals being pursued by keeping in mind the strength and weakness of the students. For example, in mathematics subject, teachers should set the target such as in one month my students should learn two chapters, or in 15 days one chapter, or if there are 10 problems in one exercise than in 1 day 2 problems should be solved, and so on. And as good leaders, these lesson plans should be shared with the students in detail and making them aware that we are going to work together to achieve these targets and for that, I need your support.

A teacher should always create an urge for higher performance among students. In addition to igniting self-confidence and enthusiasm among the students, a teacher should transform lukewarm desire into a burning passion for success. Before starting a lesson, teachers should not only explain how such lessons will help them for their future career, but also how such lessons  are relevant to their day to day life activities. Also, it would be helpful if teachers design different types of nonmonetary incentive plans. Indeed, they can borrow lessons from ‘Maslow’s hierarchy of needs’ and redesign the hierarchy needs as per the needs of a student. 

Teachers should build up dedication and loyalty among their students by being ‘the example.’ They should develop mutual cooperation and self-discipline among students. Under a good teacher, students work willingly and enthusiastically. The teachers should also encourage students to take initiative and provide psychological support for them. They should serve as friends, philosophers, and guides for their students. A teacher shouldn’t forget, students don't care how much a teacher knows, they care how much a teacher cares for them.

A teacher should be spontaneous, because what works with one group of students may not work for others. Therefore, leadership styles should change as per the students.

What I have learned from my teaching experiences is that in addition to the ones mentioned above, there are subtle nuances which a teacher ought to possess, such as good communication and verbal skills, and sound knowledge of the subject matter. Good Communication skills have proven to be effective means to make my students understand the lessons. I’ve learned that as a teacher listening patiently and with empathy helps students in so many ways. Communication skills enable me to understand the students and motivate them.

In my career, public speaking and storytelling skills have also helped me create a good response amongst my students. With the help of this skill, I influenced them, and gained their attention whenever they got distracted.

Moreover, the quest of acquiring more knowledge and information also helped me. I have never made them feel that I’m an outdated teacher. I keep challenging myself to prove to my students that I am a worthy teacher, which helps in directing and teaching them without much difficulty and resistance.  

Lastly, dear friends, most of us spend the greater part of our lives on the job. This means our attitudes toward our job can determine whether our days are filled with excitement and with a sense of fulfillment that comes from top performance, or with frustration, boredom, and fatigue. Nevertheless, don’t forget that you are a nation builder; you are a leader; hence, live like a leader.

“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought delves into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr. Hewasa Lorin, Anjan Behera, Nivibo Yiki, Kvulo Lorin and Dr. Salikyu Sangtam. For feedback or comments please”.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Rethinking Unemployment in Nagaland - Zuchano Khuvung, Asst Professor, Department of Political Science

A society’s prosperity is defined by the opportunities it provides for its population, not just in one but in innumerable diverse sectors. Indeed, one of the most quintessential features of any traditional societies is their heavy reliance on the government for employment and development. It is noteworthy that no society has developed by relying heavily on one sector. Isak Chishi Swu dreamt that Nagas would one day develop and prosper through self-reliance. And if we are to realize his dreams of a better Nagaland, then it is essential for our society to utilize the numerous sectors of the economy.

Rethinking Unemployment in Nagaland

Our society is facing numerous problems; alcoholism, nepotism, bribery, corruption, and one of the most serious of all these is of unemployment. Theoretically, unemployment is a situation where a person in a certain age group is able and willing to work, but is out of work because of lack of opportunities.  There have been many instances where concerned citizens have deliberated on this issue, not just in our state but at a national level as well. This is going to be  a continuing problem for our society unless due attention is paid to address the issue, and is dealt with at the earliest.

We have been brought up talking about values like honesty, obedience, discipline, perseverance, and particularly ‘dignity of labour’, but these have seldom been put into practice and exhibited in our society.  If we adhered to these principles, our society would have been different and most of our problems would have been non-existent. We  must ask ourselves this question before we try to blame others: are there fewer employment opportunities, or are we simply unemployable? This is a reminder that our society is in the making, and that each of us has a responsibility to contribute  towards the progress of our society.

We have been complaining about unemployment in our state, whereas, in my opinion, the reality is otherwise. What about the employment opportunities we have been providing for the non-Nagas?  For instance, the construction sector and daily public transport services are areas where non-Nagas are being employed in terms of thousands.  Moreover, due to lack of proper infrastructure—be they schools, hospitals, colleges—the revenue, which should circulate within our society, invariably find their way out of the state, thus benefitting other regions. Dimapur is our de facto ‘commercial hub’ where a majority of stakeholders in businesses are non-Nagas. Why are we dependent on them for our economy?

Our society is proficient in imitating Western cultures, yet several aspects which can be advantageous for the upliftment of our society have been ignored altogether. It will be a different picture altogether if we learn their work culture and the way they earn, rather than  the way they spend. It will also be good if we try to be independent like them when we come of age. We are unable to look beyond the traditional employment sectors and venture into new areas. We are heavily dependent on the government, and in addition, our youth today are much too distracted. It’s frequently mentioned, time and again, that there has been an unspoken law in our society, that the educated should get  government jobs. There has been immense pressure to fetch financial security at the earliest, and as such, there is very little room for the educated to pursue  their interest  and creativity. The educated folk, or otherwise known as the ‘graduates’ in our society, are encouraged not to take jobs which are in the private sectors. What’s more, a person may have degrees, but may lack  the aptitudes required to meet the needs of the present job market. The problem is our educational system is not industry oriented. It still focuses on school knowledge that has long lost its validity in this fast changing and globalizing world. In other words, there is a mismatch between the aspirations of the graduates and employment opportunities.

The twin effects of globalisation and information technology have altered the nature of today’s working environment. Therefore, our job at hand is to use these changes to our advantage. We have to come up with new ways to generate a skilled labour force and provide education geared towards the needs of the present job market, in order to satisfy the service demands. Also, it is important that the present generation of youths should join institutes and select courses as per their interests. Along with these efforts, positive changes can be experienced within a short period of time if the government encourages and develops agriculture-based industries in the rural areas.

 Many entrepreneurs and business firms have done their part by creating numerous job opportunities and platforms for training.  These efforts must be applauded. Our society as a whole has to offer support and encourage such efforts. Along with all these efforts, a change in our attitude, our mind-set is essential. This is necessary because many of us have the potential, but are not willing to take risks. It is not possible for any government to provide jobs for all, and therefore, a desire to do something on our own will solve to a great extent, the problem of unemployment for both the uneducated and educated people.

“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought delves into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr. Hewasa Lorin, Anjan Behera, Nivibo Yiki, Kvulo Lorin and Dr. Salikyu Sangtam. For feedback or comments please”.

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...