Connecting the Dots!

I enjoyed listening to the Ted Talk, and was reminded of a small group task which one of our teacher assigned us in our senior secondary school. The task was simple, to pick up the text books kept on one side of the lecture hall and to carry them across the lecture hall and stack the books over there. She did not mention anything else about the task and continued reading something on her table. We were around 15 students in the class that day and we were not quite sure why were we asked to do this silly exercise. However, we did not question the teacher and obeyed the instructions. Once we completed the task, she asked us to repeat the task by carrying the books back to their original place. We were a bit annoyed but we still did not question and as ‘good students’ repeated the task assigned to us. Again, when we finished she asked us to repeat the task. Few of us were becoming impatient but were not brave enough to question the teacher that why are we doing it. After repeating the task for about 10 times, one of us finally figured out, we are doing something wrong and that is why we are being asked to do it again and again. By then we were all tired of doing this task as well. The classmate, who sensed that we were doing something wrong looked at the teacher for any hints, however, the teacher acted as if she did not see that student. The classmate thought for a bit, looked at us, and then asked all of us to stand in a horizontal line instead of each of us picking the books and carrying it to the other side of the class. Then he mentioned let us just pass books to each other instead of each of us walking across the lecture hall. This time we completed the task according to that classmate and were able to complete the task more effortlessly and saved time than before. The teacher at this point smiled at us and said did you learn something by completing the task.

This task was not the part of our regular class but we did not even thought once why we were assigned this task, and just followed the instructions. The teacher wanted us to understand the importance of teamwork. She had an objective while assigning this task. However, we did not know the hidden objective, still, we blindly followed the instructions. And when I was listening to this Ted Talk, I realized that this activity had another lesson which was to question. Question our-self, our peers, our teachers before we begin a task. In fact, this is more important than completing the task. Through this story, I would also like to highlight that being a ‘good student’ does not mean not questioning your teacher or your peers but to question, commit mistakes, learn from the mistakes and make new mistakes.

I had a great time with all you wonderful people!

Being Critical of Critical Pedagogy!

When I was reading chapter 2 of Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire, it was more like I was reading the applications of ‘Mindfulness’.  One of the issues brought up in this article was about power dynamics in a class setting and how certain actions of the student could make them disrespectful to the teachers. It actually happened with me and my friends in one of our history classes in high school. I remember some of us (students) questioning on the events that our history teacher was discussing, and which we did not agree to but were stopped in between and were seen as bad students who did not respect teachers and consider themselves knowing more than the teacher in the class. Us questioning was seen as disrespectful to the teacher which was never our intention (of course).

In theory and for discussion purposes, critical pedagogy seems to be so ideal and so important but it is hard to implement. The onus is on the teacher to take charge of what is been taught, why is it being taught and how it is being taught. But, it is difficult to implement it in the class. And it is difficult because it is not easy to take criticism from students. Teachers are considered to be the ones who deliver knowledge to the students and the preconceived notion is that teachers cannot be questioned. It is time to change the stereotype and make the class, an environment to be a two-way process for both teachers and students.

 

My biases, I did not know of

If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way that they learn.

Ignacio Estrada

I was not planning on writing the blog post this week but after reading several blogs, I had some questions and several thoughts which I would like to pen down through this post.

When I was reading the post titled ‘How the hidden brain does the thinking for us’, I was reminded of an incident in one of my classes (Grade 1) where we were awarded a ‘Red Star’ when we did well in a class test and were given a ‘Black star’ when we did not. Although the intention of this exercise was not bad i.e. to encourage students to perform better in class. But it did create a bias early on in my and my classmates’ mind that getting a black star is not good. And that bias might have impacted my decisions several times in my life. I would have gone on an auto-pilot mode without even thinking that I might be doing something which may hurt someone’s feelings.

Another incident which comes across my mind is that when I was around 7 years old, playing with my cousin who was a year younger. One of our relatives came to visit us and brought gifts for both of us. They bought a car and a kitchen set. Who do you think got the car and who do you think got the kitchen set?  Well, the guest just kept the gifts without mentioning which gift is for whom. My brother, who was younger to me, wanted to go first, although I was not very happy with him choosing first, I let him do so. However, I did this for a reason and that is I was very sure that he will choose a car and the kitchen set will still be mine. But it did not happen the way I thought, he chose the kitchen set instead. And rest is history (We settled our scores without involving the elders and may not be relevant for this post). But my point here is that who told me that he would choose a car and not the kitchen set? Well no one directly, but, most of my family members indirectly.  This was another bias created by most of my family members by bringing in toys which were related to home decoration, home-building, barbies, etc. for me. While my cousin brother had toys which were mostly cars, guns, etc. But the readings for this week have taught me about something which may be important for knowing to be a teacher but is also important to know otherwise.

When I read these posts, I realize how difficult it is to overcome one’s biases and make a class, a place which is safe for each and every student in there. The readings have made me more respectful towards the teaching profession and I would like to thank them for creating an environment which is open and safe and where we can speak up without being judged or discriminated. I would like to conclude by saying that discussions on such topics should be done more often and with people having an opinion not similar to yours. This will not only educate you on some of the issues you were unaware of but also understand their perspective.

 

 

 

Discovering one’s Authentic Teaching Self

When I started penning down my thoughts for this post, I imagined myself as a teacher, teaching something I want people to know about, something which I will be able to contribute as a teacher, and providing my students sufficient information so that they can make a decision on whether their like/dislike that particular subject. I think it is important for a teacher to realize that the subject he/she is teaching may not be the favorite subject of the students and so it should not be implied that the students will have the same passion for the subject as the teacher has.

Further, when I began thinking about what kind of teacher I am or want to be. I started to recall all my previous teachers and what I found common was that all the teachers had a more narrative style of teaching, however, their styles were different from each other. Maybe that is the reason I still remember what I learned in those classes and could connect to those lessons in real life scenarios. For the same reason, I would like to imagine myself more as a ‘storyteller’ than a teacher. Though, I realize that it does not work always. But I would like to interact as a storyteller as and when possible.

I would like to share a small instructing experience from my Masters here. Although it is not related to storytelling. I was an instructor in my Masters for a surveying lab of the undergraduate students which was more like an instruction-oriented class where there were set procedures to use equipment and perform the analysis. Most of the activities for this class was conducted in groups and it was a bit tricky to know if each of the group members is involved in conducting the experiment. In every lab class, before I began instructing the students, I used to point out to my students, what is the relevance of the exercise and at the end of the 3-hour lab would randomly pick a person from each group to talk about the fun and the boring part of the exercise. This was just a small action to make them speak up about their experiment and be more involved in the activity. In order to make most group members participate, I would give an extra point to the group, if all the members spoke something. This made them take a little more interest than they would have been. The point I am trying to make through this example is I cared less about their procedures or analysis as it could have been learned by any manual whenever they would need to do it. But it is important for them to understand the objective of the exercise.

In the future, when I would teach, I would try to incorporate the narrative style to deliver what I want the students to know and at the same time make sure that my students should know why they are doing, what they are doing.

Network Learning

Networked Learning is gaining attention these days but started becoming prominence from early 1990s. Here, the key term is ‘network’ which means making connection and building them. To my understanding, the process of network learning include making connections not just with people and organizations but with information as well. These connections are necessary to expand one’s knowledge and share their understanding of a topic in their network for people to gain knowledge.  Applications of networked learning ranges from medicine industry to city development.

I am PhD student working on development of smart cities in developing nations and a lot of smartness in smart cities is brought by technology. World wide web and access to cheap internet has opened up a number of avenues to increase the efficiency not just in delivering the final product but also in the planning and development phase. Moreover,  web based/app based platforms provide us a medium to collaborate as well as coordinate our efforts to achieve products which are efficient and better than the available products.  there are platforms being designed where the implementers including the municipalities can interact with their peers and get critiques as well as suggestions for improvement, in addition to directing them to resources where the issues can be resolved.

 

What I have learned?

This blog is to reflect on what I learnt in this class, not only as a graduate student but as a future academician. I took this course as a requirement class for the Future Professoriate certificate. But this class provided me much more. The best part of the class was discussion sessions, engagement with people from various parts of the world. Although, I belong to School of Public and International Affairs and my department is quite diverse in this regard. But interactions are related to mostly subject specific than subjects like this.

Discussions varied from topics of terms used in higher education to Academic Bullying. Some other interesting topics which we talked about included diversity in education, academic tenure, international education systems, open education, etc. Discussions and engagement with my other colleagues helped in shaping a much different perspective towards people coming from different parts of the world. There were a number of bias and which exist still. However, I have different approach to look at people which may help me to better interact with them.

Especially, I would like to briefly mention about the International Week. The three classes related to International education system introduced me to the education system around the world and my friends provided some really interesting facts about their education system.
Thanks to all for making this class so enjoyable.

How universities should design and manage affirmative action and cultural diversity at the institutional level?

Publicly supported educational institutions are charged with responding to the fact of diversity and with advancing a shared vision of civic political membership (Ben-Porath, 2013). Affirmative action programs encompass more than outreach and recruitment, however, and include efforts to prevent discrimination by eliminating barriers to equal employment opportunity. Some of the guidelines which universities can consider while designing and managing affirmative action (Affirmative action itself has been defined as “any measure, beyond simple termination of a discriminatory practice, adopted to correct or compensate for past or present discrimination or to prevent discrimination from recurring in the future” by U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Statement on Affirmative Action, October 1977.) and culture diversity are:

  • Enhance a supportive environment for diversity including the scholarly dialogue on diversity.
  • Monitor the recruitment of women and minority faculty at the senior levels and faculty at all levels, consistent with the available pool.
  • Continue to recruit, retain and graduate greater numbers of ethnic minority students.
  • Continue to work with the central state community to promote understanding and effectiveness of diversity, and engage communities throughout the state in the dialogue.
  • Involve all levels of administration, most notably the chairs to increase the level of accountability.

Affirmative action therefore means taking positive steps to end discrimination, to prevent its recurrence, and to create new opportunities that were previously denied to minorities and women. It will also assist in higher diversity in terms of culture, races and income groups and therefore provide a wider perspective to the university’s population. This will also be beneficial to inclusively plan strategies for all campus residents. Though affirmative action has been criticized as constituting reverse discrimination, preferential  treatment, stigmatizing to beneficiaries and contravening principles of merit (Maranto, et al. 2009). Provision of equal opportunities to them post their recruitment is equally important and should be given priority.

The introductory session for students, faculty and staff at all levels should be held. This is an important session as the new members can be introduced to various policies and important guidelines as well as assistance measures, they should be aware of. What are the services they are entitled to use and what steps may cause trouble for them.

Most of the international students face linguistic difficulties and the university can arrange for classes which may help in improving their linguistic skills. For example, writing Center at Virginia Tech provides an excellent source for international as well as all others to improvise their writing skills. Another provision can be made by giving freedom and facilities to the faculty, staff and students of various religions (cultures) to carry forward their religious / cultural practices without much hassles.

Sports and international festivals are yet again ways which can increase interaction between various groups on campus. These may also help in better understanding each other’s culture and their by establishing respect for each other.

References

Ben-Porath, S. (2013). Education Justice and Democracy. Editors D.Allen and R. Reich. University of Chicago Press.

Maranto, R., Redding, R. E. and Hess, F. E. (2009). The Politically Correct University – Problem, Scopes, and Reform. Washington DC: American Enterprise Institute.

Abolish Tenure!

Originally established in the late 1700s to protect academic freedom at religious schools (which are less than a fifth of the 4,703 U.S. colleges today), tenure has morphed into a guaranteed “job for life,” a benefit no longer enjoyed by any other segment of the U.S. workforce. Even the United Kingdom did away with tenure in the late 1980s when then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher implored the nation’s colleges to become more productive. While not all of academia’s problems can be laid at tenure’s doorstep, tenure has hamstrung colleges’ ability to fulfill their two fundamental missions of advancing knowledge and disseminating it. Also, tenure does gives the freedom to the instructor from having to use technology to revamp the way he/she teaches.(Wetherbe, 2013). I defend the tradition on the account of no other suitable/ pragmatic approach to safeguarding academic freedom.

Tenure offers both procedural and substantive protections. Procedurally, tenure means that a faculty member has continuing employment unless the university initiates an action against the faculty member and succeeds in proving “cause” for termination. It is the university that must begin the proceedings to terminate a tenured faculty member and that must bear the significant burden of proving the justification for its proposed action. Substantively, tenure means that the only specific, narrowly defined circumstances will constitute “cause” sufficient for termination or other adverse employment actions. Although the definition of “cause” varies by university, in general, there must be serious violations of the law or of principles of academic honesty to meet the standard (Chemerinsky, 1997) .

No alternative yet described is likely to succeed in providing both the procedural and the substantive protections accorded by tenure. Those who seek alternatives to tenure do so because of a desire to weaken the current protections accorded to faculty members. Although the motivation behind these reforms is the laudable desire to increase accountability for faculty members, by definition this entails a lessening of the safeguards embodied in the concept of tenure. Thus any alternative to tenure is likely to mean a substantial decrease in the protection afforded faculty members and consequently of academic freedom (O’Neil, 2008). The better approach is to devise ways to improve performance and accountability within the tenure system.

 

References

Chemerinsky, E. (1997). Is Tenure Necessary to Protect Academic Freedom? American Behavioral Scientist

O’Neil, R. (2008). Academic Freedom in the Wired World: Political Extremism, Corporate Power, and the University. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press.

Wetherbe, J.C. (2013). It’s time for Tenure to lose Tenure. Harvard Business Review https://hbr.org/2013/03/its-time-for-tenure-to-lose-te

Colleges and Smart City Movement

With our last class discussion on Innovation districts, I thought it would be interesting to blog something about the much talk about smart city development and its connection and impact on existing universities. In this blog, I introduce smart cities briefly, next discuss the relationship between a university and its host city (town) and conclude with how this relationship can be further strengthened.

There are a number of smart city definitions, most of them focus on integrating technology, research and data in unique and useful ways in order to boost economic growth, efficiency, sustainability, and quality of life. Sometimes this can be as simple as offering hot spots and online tools to help users to easily pay utility bills, find restaurants or look up transportation schedules. To work well, smart cities really need only three things; a smart and innovative population – that’s where higher education comes in; a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem, i.e. businesses, and smart government and infrastructure.

The relationship between universities and their host cities (towns) is fundamentally symbiotic. It is mutually enriching, along multiple dimensions. In other words, a strong university helps build a strong city, and a strong city helps build a strong university. Colleges and universities are essentially mini cities. They may have their own transportation systems, housing developments and perhaps even their own electricity and water systems. Therefore they are perfect testing grounds for larger-scale initiatives. Universities should take advantage of these opportunities. This will help the cities and provide students with valuable skills.

The literature on smart cities shows that ‘smart cities’ in particular are privileged sites for innovation, entrepreneurship, and the flourishing of ideas and opportunities. For instance, universities and research institutes thrive in part by solving problems brought to them by demanding customers – who become partners in an interactive innovation process. This symbiotic relationship is a win-win situation for both cities and universities.

Further, smart cities and universities or research institutions thrive in the same environments and fuel the same outcomes. As most creative, energetic, and entrepreneurial people, who can choose where they want to live, often decide to live where there are good schools and hospitals, vibrant neighbourhoods, stable property values, and so on… and all of these features are more likely to be present when one of your neighbours is
a research-intensive institution or educational centre. Thus it is important for the city and the university to collaborate and develop as a smart community, mutually benefiting each other.

References:

Click to access Universities_and_Smart_Cities_ORF_January_2015_Full_Text_and_Slides.pdf

https://universitybusiness.co.uk/Article/how-will-higher-education-help-to-make-our-cities-smart-1513790042

https://mytechdecisions.com/it-infrastructure/universities-can-play-key-role-creating-smart-cities/

 

 

International students in India

Post our presentation in the International week for Grad 5104, discussing about Higher Education in India and getting questions about International students coming to India for education, I wanted to explore this more and thus thought of writing a blog about it. In this blog, I talk about some of the facts about education system in India, international student population coming to pursue education in India and mentioning some of the links for some of you who may have an interest to pursue education in India.

Starting with giving a bit of historical perspective about education in India. The country has been a major seat of learning for thousands of years. India was home to both Takshashila –  one of the first university in the world, and to the inventor of the digit 0 – Āryabhaṭa. Indian educational system is as encompassing and as diverse as its history, making studying in India unlike anywhere else. India is home to the world’s largest university by enrollment, Indira Gandhi National Open University, with 3.5 million students.

India is perceived across the world, especially in the developed nations as a country that sends international students. However, the paradigm has shifted over that past few years and an increasing number of students from various countries are now opting to study in India. Indeed, the 2015 Open Doors report from the Institute of International Education found that India is the 12th most popular country for US students abroad. This was surprising for me as well.

Most of the international students come from countries such as Nepal, Malaysia, Afghanistan and a number of African and middle eastern countries. The most popular courses for foreign students include Bachelor of Technology and Bachelor of Business Administration, followed by Bachelor of Arts, Science and Commerce degrees.  In fact, there are over 2,000 foreign students studying engineering and medicine each. However, nearly 80% of the foreign students are enrolled in undergraduate courses. In India, Karnataka is by far India’s biggest hub for foreign students followed by Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh.

One of the major reasons which is attracting international students to India is the availability of quality education at a reasonable cost. Compared to international study hubs like the USA and Australia, the cost of education is negligible. The average tuition fee in India works out to be around $1,000 compared to about $ 25,000 in the US. While living in India can be challenging for international students, it is surely an affordable and rewarding experience.

At present, the Government of India is taking several steps to attract more foreign students such as promising to waive or discount fees and to expedite visas under a programme called ‘Study in India’ launched by the Human Resource Development Ministry and aided by the External Affairs Ministry. Through Study in India, foreign students will have access to a range of educational institutions, from smaller private colleges that offer diplomas to large universities offering undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral degrees. The list includes the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and other esteemed institutes. The program aims to target students especially from the “partner countries” — countries with which India has warm diplomatic relations — such as Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Iran and Rwanda.

I hope this blog provided you with a brief idea about scenario of international students coming to India. For more information, please refer to the following links.

References:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/asia/india-offers-fee-cuts-to-attract-foreign-students-1.723801

https://www.huffingtonpost.in/2017/03/31/in-the-developing-world-india-is-a-major-hub-for-foreign-studen_a_22020122/

https://studyabroad.careers360.com/articles/study-in-india-know-all-about-studying-in-india

https://studyabroad.careers360.com/articles/top-courses-study-in-india