Tag : learning

Look beyond your low scores to explore a world of opportunities and develop your true potential.

It was a joyous day for Asha when she received a doctorate for her study on mythology and classical dance. At a celebration dinner held that night, all her close family, friends and her many disciples gathered to shower her with flowers, praise and gifts. It was a moment of triumph for her, but her thoughts flew back in time, briefly, to dwell on her school days, when she got her Class XII mark sheet. She had been devastated — her total marks were dipping a bit, just low enough to ensure that it would be very difficult to get the B.Com. seat in a popular college that she had set her heart upon. At that moment, it had seemed like the end of the road for Asha who could only imagine a career in commerce and business. It would have been a terrible time for her, if only her teacher Alison had not noticed her crying in a corner and started talking to her.

New horizons

As she talked to Alison, Asha’s fears subsided. From being convinced that she was good for nothing, she came to see that she had many talents and capabilities, and even if she did not get a B.Com. seat, there would be a million possibilities available to her, if only she would open her mind’s eye and see them. As she received yet another bouquet of flowers, Asha’s mind jerked back to the present, but not before dwelling on the numerous bharatanatyam shows she had done, her huge network of rasikas, her dance school which had about 150 students and her latest achievement, a doctorate. In every sense, she had found success all because of her teacher’s guidance to seek new horizons, and because she had seen beyond the boundaries imposed by scoring low marks in one subject.

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Online learning and its pedagogy have to be engineered in a specific manner to meet the aspirations of a range of learners.

States of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh see a strange conundrum. While almost all students who complete class XII and all those who can afford to pay, end up getting into some higher education programme, tens of thousands of seats go vacant every year in professional and arts/science colleges in these States. Very few youngsters, who can afford it, choose not to enter college.

So, although seats are available, lakhs of students do not pursue higher education as they cannot afford it. Alternatively, the problem may lie in not having access to a college or university. Or the learners feel the quality of education is not up to the mark.

Enrolment crisis

Look at the other side. The Union government wants to increase the gross enrolment ratio to at least 30 per cent in the next five – six years. (Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) is the ratio between youth population in the 17 – 25 age group and the number actually enrolled in higher education institutions). Overall, only about 20 per cent of the relevant age population in India is enrolled in higher education. Tamil Nadu is relatively better off, as its GER is already 30 per cent.

A GER target of 30 per cent translates into bringing 35 million young people within the higher education ecosystem — a mammoth task in terms of cost of infrastructure, systems, processes and recruiting the faculty. Still, there is no guarantee that the education that’s delivered will be affordable and accessible for all rural students, or be of reasonable quality.

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Learning to work as a team is essential for an individual’s overall development.

Imbibing the right attitude and the skills required to work in teams is an important part of education. In college curriculum, besides knowledge testing through examinations, group projects and presentations form a core part of the evaluation process. These may either have two individuals working together or groups of four to five or more members. Such work demands sharing mental space and communicating at multiple levels.

The initial enthusiasm` to work together begins to fade as one gains some experience of working in groups. It isn’t uncommon to find students expressing their disillusionment with group projects. But, while working alone may allow the autonomy to shape one’s work according to one’s will, it does not expose one to multiple perspectives which are necessary for growth.

K. Seshadrinathan, adjunct faculty member, Department of Management Studies, University of Madras, points out the significance of group work in the development of a student’s personality. “In a group, a few members may be highly involved, a few others may be less involved and play supporting roles, yet others may be just observers. An important purpose of assigning group projects is to help and motivate shy individuals overcome their inhibitions and interact with and learn from each other,” he says. But several times, as many students would testify, things take a sour turn.

Strike a balance

Differing motivations, commitment levels and temperaments of individual members give rise to different problems. The group may have lethargic members who are perceived as taking a free ride on others’ efforts. Then there may be those who try to do the entire work by themselves and consider the presence of others in the team to be a mere formality. Neither of these two extremes is right for the smooth functioning of the team. “What we have observed over a period of time is that people build several barriers within themselves and in relation to others.

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Participation in activity without reference to outcome is key to learning


As long as we look for reasons not to learn, education will elude us.

Recently my daughter asked me, “How come we never thought about bunking classes at our school?” She observed that it would have been really easy to skip out on some of the extra-curricular sessions, particularly music or craft, which were handled by part-time teachers. The structure and layout of the building also would have made it relatively easier for truant students to go undetected.

This made me stop and wonder why it was that so many students in college routinely look for reasons not to attend class.

“Well,” said her father, “Maybe that’s because you enjoyed the classes, or that you had a good bunch of friends you were happy to be spending time with — in class or outside.”

Hmm, I thought. So did that mean that in college, students did not enjoy their classes? Or that the nature of the peer influence is different? (I admit both are true to a large extent.) But it was also something more than that. It was that the school had fostered a culture of respect for learning spaces of different kinds, a culture where even if a child was bored or uninterested, she/he was never disdainful. All this was done without the usual preachy righteousness that often accompanies the imposition of “discipline” in schools.

Shanta Rameshwar Rao

One person who was had nurtured such a culture was educationist Shanta Rameshwar Rao, who passed away last month. This column has not usually been about people, and even less about institutions. But Mrs. Rameshwar Rao’s influence on the children who spent their childhood in her school has been significant in ways that have transcended those years. Unpacking the nature of this influence tells us something about how attitudes to learning can be built.

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The disciplinary boundaries between the arts and sciences are set in stone in most Indian colleges, both literally and metaphorically. The pure sciences and related disciplines like microbiology, electronics and nanotechnology are typically housed in a separate building from departments like English, history and journalism. Once a student opts for a particular stream, he can bid farewell to studying subjects offered by the other. Very few colleges in India offer programmes that allow students to transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries between the Arts and Sciences. And due to this narrow, streamlined mindset, many students hold misconceptions about a liberal arts education, even when they are applying to foreign universities.

Learning across disciplines can help you broaden your perspectives.

Broaden perspectives

Students who are inclined towards the sciences and related fields tend to eschew applying for programmes that offer a Liberal Arts education. However, the rationale for this decision is misplaced as one can avail of an excellent science education in a liberal arts college.What liberal arts entails is that a student takes courses across multiple disciplines while specialising or majoring in a subject of one’s choice. Thus, a student can major in chemistry but has to take a prerequisite number of courses across an array of disciplines ranging from anthropology to women’s studies, to philosophy.


“But what is the point of taking


How To Build Your Professional Learning Community

  • Don’t be afraid to do some hard work and make some mistakes
  • Figure out what you want to learn about, and join discussions on these topics
  • Participate in the discussions! Show you are a thought leader
  • Talk to your colleagues who are interested in collaborating

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When students are excited about a subject, the sky’s the limit

Educators wear many hats, but their main job is to engage their students so that they become life-long learners. As a teacher, there is nothing worse than presenting a lesson only to find your entire class starring back at you with the “huh?” look in their eyes. Once students reach this point, it’s often hard to turn them on to the subject matter that they didn’t grasp the first time around. In order to effectively reach them, educators need to find innovative methods for teaching students. There are many ways to achieve this, as discussed below. 

Increase Student Involvement
One of the most effective ways to increase student engagement is to get them involved in the lesson. Once students are able to interact and experiment with a subject matter, they are more likely to grasp it.