Whither Education – An Apathy

Even after half-a-century of Indian Independence, the fate of education, educators and students has hardly improved. The apathy of the power that be, including a large section of society, has not changed when it comes to human resource development and education. Even now there are more than four crore educated unemployed youths in India.

India boasts of being world’s third knowledge power but effectively this is the lowest when judged against per thousand-population base. Societal degradation, inflicted by political might, is reflected in educational institutions across India. Aberrations have become the rule on campuses that are infested with self-seekers and politicians.

Democratization of higher educational institutions, though a noble concept, has in the past 20 years turned campuses into a cauldron of stinking filth. These are managed by affiliations charged with little regard for excellence, honesty and intellectual probity. Unethical and politically-motivated decisions serve a few and are reflections of societal catharsis.

Geographic India consolidated into a polity by the British has muted into conglomerations of politically charged, disjointed entities and facsimiles of democratic degradation. The classic conservative yearning for an ordered polity and commensurate pursuit of knowledge on the campuses are missing. Whichever brand rules the country, this section of society commands no respect now. May it be students or teachers they don’t have a voice, they don’t constitute an essential service and education is not a national necessity. Being a state subject, educational policies suffer from innumerable deformities.

Though it is a constitutional obligation, the non-availability of funds and vested administrative setup have led to the mushrooming of universities, fake campuses, private enterprises and numerous makeshift centers of education as also fly-by-air foreign campuses. It has proved to be a great financial endeavor with hardly any risk involved because it does not come under VAT or any other financial constraints. India has by now more institutions of such type than colleges, an excellent opportunity to rope in knowledge seeking youth and those who desire to fly off to greener pastures.

When it comes to the formulation of policies about higher education, structuring the system, financial assistance, grants and salary, the statutory body-University Grants Commission-is mentioned like a sacred cow worshipped as well as butchered in the streets. How far the UGC is autonomous is a common knowledge. It has become a post office, a government organization, disbursing petty grants, sanctioned by the Central Government, among universities or institutions with a number of tags attached to them depending upon the status of the recipient institutions, state, Central, autonomous or deemed universities. There is a perpetual complaint about the non-availability of funds. The administration should appreciate that the jumbo cabinet and expenditure on legislatures could be cut down to feed and educate a few villages. The teacher wants to be a ladder upon which students could climb and scale new heights.

The Central and state governments invoke ESMA to curb the voice of agitating people, but it takes no time to give benefits to politicians and bureaucrats. It is essential to please them so that a symbiotic balance is maintained as also to oblige a few of them. The government has failed to take effective steps to curb industrialization of education. Within hours the doles given in Parliament and honorarium were doubled but the 6 per cent expenditure of the GDP on education has proved to be dogma persisting right from the Kothari Commission recommendations for over four decades now.

Students of various educational institutes go on strike, almost yearly, demanding withdrawal of excessive fee hike. The tuition fees make up only about 13 per cent of annual expenditure in the present university education. It is now a formidable industry and the aim is to make money. Poor students, however, intelligent they may be, cannot afford to join colleges, professional institutions or courses. They may join such courses by putting their families under heavy debt of banks or financial institutions. Even in the USA, tuition fees contribute to about 15 per cent of the total annual expenditure on higher education. Nehru said: “If all is well with universities, it will be well with the nation.” Whereas Rabindranath Tagore once compared educated classes in India to “A second storey in an old building that was added in, but unfortunately the architect forgot to build a staircase between them.”

Teaching profession is devalued in the country because the teachers can’t compete in our society, have no muscle power, are educated and hence behave differently. Neither do they have guts of creamy bureaucrats nor institutional support of any kind. A teacher can entertain you with a pale smile on hearing that this is the profession of nation builders, the cream of society and a noble profession. The next moment teacher will be branded as cancers in societal marrow, getting salary for no work, craving for power, equality in salary and status with the Class A government servants. The teacher was the consultant and conscience keeper of society till mid-century. One could identify him by his tattered clothes, emaciated pale face, soft voice and meek behavior. He was the guru. That guru, comparatively having a better outfit now, has metamorphosed to a present teacher.

Newspaper reports are replete with his shortcomings; his misconduct in preaching indiscipline, enough is paid to him for no work, as he has to teach only for 181 days in a year. How could he dream of the parity with his bosses in the secretariat, his class dropouts in Parliament and the government. In order to save our hard-earned “democracy” which is being strengthened by a few hooligans, politicians and administrators, the government has to suppress the genuine demands so that education does not progress to the detriment of “illiterate democrats”. A handful of teachers adopts unethical means to become rich just like any other segments that are designated scamsters today. Exceptions, however, do not make the rule.

Most of our Presidents, many of our bureaucrats, including ministers, parliamentarians and others, had been in this profession. Did they not do any good work for the betterment of society before their elevation to these posts of governance and reverence? Can’t the authorities assess the strength of the demand vis-à-vis the qualification, age at the time of being recruited as a teacher, lack of promotional avenues, stagnation and competency in terms of hiatus in the inflated societal values, urge and necessity to improve qualification and experience to remain in the fray. Education for teachers is a continuous process unlike “one-time-degree-obtaining-education” for others. Evaluation is paramount in this profession for every promotion. Classroom education has become drudgery afflicted by societal unrest, absolute lack of infrastructure, fear psychosis gripping the powerless parents and absences of administration.

My perception is that politicians take less interest in improving the standard of education and living because they know that once the poor comes to know about their corrupt practice they would neither listen nor elect them. Political parties make promises in their election manifestos to reduce employment, poverty and corruption. But this can’t be achieved without education. To me, education comes as a discipline, which is all-pervasive. Enshrined in our directive principles and ensuring our countrymen, “right-to-education” makes me feel that we possess the right to educate”.

Even when we have ushered in the new millennium, education remains a password to of those who make an arrogant assertion that they know best and are serving the public interest-an interest, which of course, is determined by them. By the perception entrenched with the British subjugation of our people elitist education occupied the center stage to produce Macaulay’s clones who were Indians muted to be “English in taste, in opinion, in morals and in intellect”. “Educated slaves became strong props to sustain the British rule.” Lord Curzon favored bureaucratization of education since he opined that educational institutions have become factors for the production of political revolutionaries. By the Act of 1919 education was transferred to the province.

When we educate we are involved in politics. Educators often think of education being disjointed from politics. In fact, education is perhaps the most political activity in the community. The state has always influenced what is taught in educational institutions. The socio-political (and in some cases religious) ideology colors the content of learning and the emphasis on various aspects. In fact, based on where the child was educated within India-whether it was a large city or a village, whether the school used English or a regional language as a medium of education, among other factors- the child will have a different world view. However, education, based on the syllabus, in India has largely strived towards imparting a temperament of religious, political and social tolerance. The social mores and hierarchies often seep into the arena of learning and color education.

Given the political potential of education, there have been numerous attempts to use education as a way of indoctrination. Sometimes it is covert, at other times it is overt. Sometimes it is subliminal, other times it is deliberate. However, political forces have always used education to further certain world views. Today, numerous educationists and political thinkers in India are afraid that a deliberate attempt to use education as a way of social-religious indoctrination might be the agenda of the new education policy.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “Not gold, but only teachers can make people great and strong-the persons who for truth and honor; sake stand fast and suffers long. It is they who build a nation’s pillar deep and lift them to the sky”. Teaching profession is a bed of roses. A good teacher is always his/her student’s guide, friend and philosopher. A boy looked at the sticker on a car, which said, “Trees are friends”. He challenged this statement, started cutting trees, saying that, “Trees are not our friends, but our enemies”. When asked why he thought so. He said in his science textbooks it was stated “trees bring rain”. Since his village gets flooded in every rainy season, so he thought that “all trees must be cut down”. Confucius wrote, “If you plan for a year, plant a seed. If for 10 years, plant a tree. If 100 years, teach the people.” Literacy is not enough. It is good to have a population, which is able to read, but infinitely better to have people able to distinguish what is worth reading. With overcrowded classrooms and ill-paid teachers,coaching classes are the commercial fallout of a system bursting out of the seams. How can idealism be expected from someone as concerned about the quality of life as you and me?

We have grown up with cherished memories of special teachers who made us love a subject we could actually have been frightened of and who we respected unconditionally. I have come across many persons whose mediocrity is reflected when they project themselves as the best whereas the fact speaks otherwise and those who criticize their alma mater forgetting that they passed out from the same from which they graduated. Education can have a great role to play in decreasing social disparities between groups and in promoting social mobility. For instance, the tremendous expansion of the middle class in India can confidently be attributed to the investment in education, especially in higher education.

Universities are struggling to survive on shrinking governmental grants. In the wake of this it takes shortsighted decisions to cut expenses and increase revenue by increasing fees, which may not be in the long-term interest of the universities. Thus universities end up being run as business enterprises. Education cess is now on considered to partially meet funds for primary education and Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan. Open our universities to foreign students. Foreign campuses may prove to be of hardly any use in generating funds for Indian education. Trading in education may be another jeopardy.

Collaborations could be in specialized fields with foreign campuses like in the past. Even in the USA, private and government ratio in higher educational system does not exceed 80/20. China is experiencing two-way international student traffic with a large number of them from the USA in preference to India. This could be reversed if we build proper infrastructure and achieve proficiency in imparting education of world standard. A realistic education cannot be separated from the realities of the students’ environment, which surrounds him, his aspirations, society, the local cultural factors, conditions varying in his own country and global effects. Education, therefore, should be in consonance with the day-to-day living. Till date education does not define our resurgent polity and democracy.

Healthy Eating, Exercise and Lifestyle Guide For Senior Citizens

Healthy Eating and Lifestyle

While it is important for people of all ages to stay healthy, it is especially important for senior citizens to maintain healthy eating habits as well as to stay active which is important in the prevention of chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. By practicing healthier living practices, senior citizens can maintain a healthy weight, avoid depression, and stay mentally sharp. Those participating in caring for the elderly should be aware of these healthy living practices and work to both encourage and facilitate them.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a healthy diet includes many different types of food that are rich in nutrients. They have outlined specifically what this eating plan entails at the website.. Because this eating plan is designed specifically for senior citizens, it focuses on the types of foods that are important for preventing common ailments of older Americans like obesity and serious chronic illnesses.

Healthy Eating 101:

By following some of the tips listed, senior citizens can start a healthier lifestyle today:

Don’t skip meals. It is important to eat regularly in order to maintain normal metabolism and not become tempted to eat higher fat foods when food is consumed.
Eat a diet that is high in fiber. By eating foods like whole-grain breads, beans, vegetables, and fruits, you can lower your susceptibility to diabetes and heart disease.
Senior citizens especially should begin to adjust their diet to one that includes less calories and fat because the body will need less as it ages.
Calcium and Vitamin D are very important for nutrition and keeping bones strong. You can get this by either getting in at least three servings of dairy every day, or substituting these with soy-based beverages and proteins.
Senior citizens will have a harder time absorbing adequate amounts of the B12 vitamin. For this reason, it is important to eat cereals fortified with this nutrient or taking vitamin B12 supplements with meals.
Snack the smart way. Senior citizens will want to limit the amount of unhealthy snacking they do which involves foods high in calories and sugars. Instead, keep small portions of dried fruit, peanut butter, or crackers at hand to keep the appetite under control while remaining healthy.
Drink plenty of water. Although senior citizens often feel less thirsty then they used to, it is important to stay hydrated by either drinking water or water-based beverages like tea, coffee, soup, and skim milk.

Planning and Preparing Meals

Sometimes people find it hard to eat healthily because eating is often a social event which involves many people with different eating preferences and goals. While it is important to be able to enjoy a meal with family and friends, it is also important to maintain your own eating integrity by making sure everyone is on board with your personal healthy eating goals. Friends and family, as well as those providing elder care should facilitate healthy eating, not detour from it. The following tips address ways that senior citizens can maintain the healthy eating habits without sacrificing the social aspect of sharing a meal with others or learning to adjust to a lifestyle that involves eating with less people on a day-to-day basis.

Grocery shopping with others. This can be a fun and smart way to control the cost and quantity of food that you consume. If you don’t live with many people, this is a good way to split large-quantity items like potatoes and eggs which you may not be ableto use before expiration.
A time saving a smart way to eat healthy is cooking large quantities of food ahead of time and portioning for heating on later dates.
A quick way to prepare meals for yourself or for guests involves keeping frozen or canned fruits and vegetables on hand. Draining and/or rinsing canned foods is a good way to lower sodium or calories in foods that are kept in high sugar or high salt fluids.
Eating or preparing a meal shouldn’t always be a chore. Trying new recipes or eating outside can be a fun new twist on a meal with someone special.
Try to eat with people you enjoy to be around.
Some senior citizens have difficulty preparing meals, which is why it is important to become informed about home health care agencies or eldercare facilities that can aid in providing meals. The Eldercare Locator number is 1-800-677-1116.

Loss of Appetite or Desire to Eat

There are various reasons for why some senior citizens may not eat as well as they should or lose the desire to eat completely.

If you find that it is difficult to eat well, then it is best to speak with a healthcare provider or someone involved in your elder care about what can be done to help you eat better.

Some senior citizens are unable to eat well due to issues involving the condition of their teeth or issues with dentures. Checking with a dentist about physical pain that occurs when eating or other issues can help with these issues that lead to poorer eating habits.

When senior citizens lose family and friends or become depressed about events in their life, they may lose the desire to eat. In these instances, it is of the utmost importance that these individuals seek help from people they trust like their family, friends, church community, or those assisting with their elder care that will happily help them in finding ways to continue a healthy lifestyle and eating plan.

Some senior citizens complain that the flavor of foods change when they begin to take certain medications. While it is best to consult with a physician about issues surrounding medication, people can also take vitamin supplements with food that will help them stay healthy.

If you have someone who assists with your in home care, ask them to be vigilant about helping you eat healthy. Have them remind you to eat, and ask them to lend you a hand in preparing meals that are good for you.

Healthy Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight is important for being able to function in day-to-day life as well as stay mentally sharp. Senior citizens often lose or gain weigh as they age. If you are unsure about what weight you should maintain, consult your physician.

Health Risks Associated with Being Underweight

poor memory
compromised immunity
osteoporosis (weak bones)
decreases strength
hypothermia (lowered body temperature)
constipation

Health Risks Associated with Being Overweight

type 2 diabetes
high blood pressure
high cholesterol
heart disease
stroke (lack of oxygen transported to the brain)
some cancers
gallbladder disease

Because healthy weights will differ for everyone, it is important to verify with a physician whether it is healthy for you personally to lose or gain weight.

Staying Active

Participating in regular healthy amounts of physical activity can not only make you feel better, but it can make you less prone to diabetes, heart disease, and colon cancer. Staying active can be difficult for senior citizens, still it is an important part of a healthy lifestyle.

The following are some tips for maintaining a lifestyle that incorporates physical activity:

Know what amount of physical activity is appropriate for you. Everyone has different levels of activity that is safe for them, and while remaining active is important, always consult a health care provider about what is right for your lifestyle.
Take time to warm up, cool down, or take breaks when participating in a session of increased physical activity.
Take it slow. Always start slowly and build up to more intense levels of physical activities.
If you experience any pain, dizziness, or shortness of breath during exercise, stop the activity immediately.
Drink water.
Dress appropriately if you decide to exercise outdoors. Wear warmer clothes during the winter and wear lighter clothes during the summer while applying sunscreen or wearing sunglasses.
Wear the correct shoes for the activities that you participate in.

Types of Activity

Aerobic activities include activities that increase the heart rate and work the larger muscle groups. You may be able to speak a few words, but would not be able to carry on an entire conversation due to breathing patterns. Some examples of aerobics include:

brisk walking
water aerobics
tennis
house work
active play with children or pets
dancing

Begin incorporating small periods of this activity into your schedule during the week while slowly increasing the duration and frequency as time progresses. It is also important to incorporate different types of exercise that focus on balance and flexibility. Becoming used to a lifestyle with regular patterns of aerobic activity can reduce the effects of aging, control weight, lower risk of heart disease, improve flexibility, increase mood and energy, and expand social networks by meeting new people while doing various activities.

Strengthening activities involve the use of muscle groups against resistant forces like when lifting weights or doing yard work that involves lifting, digging, or pushing a lawn mower. This type of activity can keep muscles strong, reduce the need for a cane, reduce risk of bone injury, and help maintain a healthy weight.

Balance activities focus on muscles in specific areas of the body that encourage control as you move through space, reducing the likelihood of falls. This kind of activity could include walking heel to toe, standing on one foot, getting out of a sitting position without the use of the hands, and standing on the tip of your toes. Balance activities can help you stay steady on your feet and reduce the risk of fall and subsequent injury.

Flexibility activities increase the length of the muscles and can include stretching, yoga, and popular exercise programs like pilates. These activities can maintain the felxibility of joints, prevent stiffness, prevent injuries, and lower stress levels in general.

Weight-bearing activities require the muscles to work against gravity where the arms or legs bear the weight of the body. Activities like walking, tennis, and climbing stairs can build and maintain bone mass or reduce the risk of bone fractures.

Some activities incorporate multiple types of strengthening addressed above. What is important is that senior citizens find an enjoyable and do-able activity that will help them incorporate as many benefits as possible which will have far-reaching benefits to their health.

It’s Easy to Stay Healthy

A common misconception is that it takes an excessive amount of time and extra energy to maintain a healthy lifestyle. However, by just taking short walks for ten minutes a time or cleaning the house regularly can be practical ways to incorporate different physical activities into your daily schedule. And remember, staying healthy as a senior citizen will have increasing benefits as you continue to age.

Staying Motivated to Take Care of Yourself

Just because we age doesn’t mean that we are any less stressed by occurrences in life that may make us feel bad about ourselves or decrease our motivation to be good to ourselves. If anything, many of the challenges senior citizens face add stress. Losing loved ones and friends or having trouble being independent with the added stressed of disease and functioning due to aging can cause depression or lifestyle changes that contribute to bad health. Here are some important tips for being good to yourself when you may not feel motivated due to circumstances out of your control:

Get plenty of sleep
Stay connected with family and friends
Join clubs or other social groups that you enjoy
Spend time with people that you enjoy
Volunteer at organizations in your community
Work a part-time job that isn’t too stressful or demanding
Watch a funny movie or find a way to laugh
Take up a hobby that you enjoy

Most importantly, senior citizens should remember that it is relatively easy and worth-while to maintain a healthy lifestyle as they age. Be sure to keep family, friends, and those involved in your elder care informed of your goals as they can help assist you. And remembering to eat healthy meals regularly, getting in physical activity, getting enough sleep, and being good to yourself are critical for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

The Impact of Technology in the Classroom

How has the use of technology impacted teaching and learning in the PK-16 classroom?When is comes to behaviorism technology has made it even easier. It used to be just like Pavlov’s dog, when the student does something right they get praised verbally or with a good grade versus a treat or a scratch behind the ear. Shaping behavior is important and we need to ensure there is a baseline. Technology almost guarantees that specific learning will take place as the objectives are determined by the teacher. Teachers can set specific goals and the students will know what they need to do to get there. Benjamin Bloom first came up with the idea that the student will succeed in learning the task if they are given a specific time to do it. Technology allows for you to more easily chunk lessons into specific times. Students will perform better, especially when they succeed and get the praise of the teacher. Although the stimulus is provided by the teacher, it will do no good if the students do not receive it equally. (Snowman & Biehler, 2003)
Other ways computers assist is that they offer the ability for repetition and feedback to the student. Teachers can also incorporate the appropriate enforcer’s to the lesson whether it is text, video or audio. The student does the task right they can get a smiley face , text telling them they are “Correct” or audio saying “Good Job!”. (Parkay & Stanford 2004)Social Learning is learning occurs when students learn from each other whether it be through modeling, imitation or observing within the social context. How can you do that with technology? Normally the students work on their own computer, but you can have them do a group project. When students do a project together they will observe how other groups are proceeding and imitate them if it is working well. The teacher usually also models what they are requiring the students to accomplish. Even when working individually the students will assist each other as one knows more than another.There are cognitive factors in social learning as well as behaviorism. There is a clear line between learning by observation and student imitation. The cognitive process maintains that the attention of the student is the critical factor in the learning process. The expectations and consequences that are reinforced will bring about similar future behavior. (Ornstien & Lasley 2000)
Cognitive learning is learning that occurs when a learner process information. This is similar to behaviorism but the student has more input to accomplish how they reach the planned outcome. The teacher can model a project but the student may have other information that will aid them in accomplishing the outcome. An example would be how I instructed my students how to set up an Excel spreadsheet. I had them set up a basic spreadsheet showing how much their parents spent on them in a month. This was relevant to the students and caught their interest. They went beyond the initial project and had boarders, colors, etc. on their spreadsheets. The students who did this were praised aloud and the other students wanted to know what they did and how. This tied in the social learning as well as the behaviorism theory (Didn’t even realize it at the time).When is comes to designing and developing lessons to incorporate technology the constructionist have the nod. Seymour Papert of the MIT Media Lab stated,”Constructionism holds that children learn best when they are in the active role of the designer and constructor.” When the student is actively involved they have the buy-in to the success of the project or assignment. The students will be more apt to complete and learn more from it when they have some ownership. The students in turn will share their new found information when doing the assignment with the other students allowing for the constructionist learning. This form of teaching eliminates the grade and goes more with a go, no go process. Teachers assess the students by the completion of the assignment or lack of completion. This is better because of students being able to play a greater role in the process and assessing their own progress.We teach ourselves how to learn. This is the constructivism theory on how we learn. With technology this couldn’t be truer. Most students have a basic understanding of the computer. They can download songs, play games and set up Myspace web page. What they can not do is build a spreadsheet or power point presentation. The teacher will give them a basic understanding but the students will learn from trial and error and construct their own learning.History of the computer use in the classroom started off slow. Saloman and Globerson (1987) suggested that underachievement in schools is because of the lower expectations on the part of the teachers, parents, and society. That was because the teachers themselves really hadn’t been exposed to the marvels of what a computer and the associated software could do for them. The Commodore 64, Apple II along with the Macintosh began their strong emergence in the early 80′s. Software programmers had a vision about the computer and how it could be used in the classroom. They developed software that teachers could use along with their instruction. Apple began teaching the teachers and Macintosh soon followed suit. This was the beginning of incorporating the use of computers in the classroom. (Jonassen 2000)Using computers in the classroom allows for all the learning theories to come to fruition. A computer allows for the cognitive process to bloom and brings about the social learning as well. When a student is given an assignment or project on the computer they will strive to complete it. The different things they learn they will share with other students especially if they think it is the bomb, cool or whack. On the flip side it can inhibit learning if the student is completely computer illiterate as frustration sets in as they cannot proceed as well as others. The computer also allows the teacher to develop lessons for all the multiple intelligences.With the advances computers and programs are taking on a daily basis, it is allowing for more interaction in the classroom(s). It is even allowing students from different schools to interact. Technology also allows for time to be better utilized, the outcomes of the objectives to be more easily determined and goals easy to implement and automate.