‘Ethically speaking’

Etymologically, the  word ‘ethics’ (epsilon theta iota kappa sigma) originates in the Indo-European root and travelled westward to Latin (ethica) to French (ethique) and Middle England (ethik). In its core however is nested the gist ‘ethos’ which deals with the nature, disposition or primary value(s) that is specific to a person, society, people, culture or movement. It reflects the spirit of the individual as well as the collective attitude of the people.

Philosophically, ‘ethics’ determines the value system of the individual or the society as well as demarcates the boundaries of acceptable conduct. It is a code to be followed by the people. A ‘code’, that stems from social, cultural, religious or civil needs. A ‘code’ based on honesty, justice, righteousness and integrity. A ‘code’ that is felt to be essential for the smooth functioning of the society.  A ‘code’ that encompasses fitness of thoughts, decisions and actions.

Absence of ethics in actions or deeds is not essentially illegal or even sinful and at times not even amoral. It the chain of thoughts pursued by the upright, series of actions performed by the brave. Something that is right and righteous and hence beautiful.

Ethics and aesthetics are essentially flowers of the same bed.

Ethical dilemmas confront man or society regularly. Casuistic quests may frequently tempt anyone and mislead judgements. It challenges with choices between ease and thorny, between right and wrong.  It is a question of playing with a straight bat, (as the English would like to put) or ‘doing the right thing’ (as their cousins from across the Atlantic would say). Choosing reason over pleasure and sacrifice the hedonistic privileges on the altar of ethos. The pursuit of true joy is not possession of physical belonging but the satisfaction of having walked the right path in spite of the lack of paving and at times making your own way. Ethics have the power to make man approach divinity. Its absence makes him mere creature.

Ethics as a part of college curriculum was routine in the early part of last century but post Second World War it slowly retreated perhaps as a result of the tremendous advancement in science. It was merged within language or literature, often too much buried in the mass of words. Ironically, it the world of science and the scientists of today, who are confronted with these ethical dilemmas and needs the training in ethics, the most. Many a decisions specially those affecting the society at large has to be evaluated and weighed in terms of ethics. At an individual level too these dilemmas plague the students constantly. Hence training in ethics if felt ethical.

In my native land there are beautiful parables in its ancient literature. One particular series which is very popular involves a wise King tasked with getting a human cadaver from a tree located a remote place to the cremation ground before the night ends, without uttering any word. The corpse was the dwelling of a ghost which travels along the king and tells him stories each ending with difficult moral quandary. The just king is forced to answer the query thereby releasing the body back to the tree. Forty attempts were needed to complete the task generating forty different stories each exposing the readers to ethical see-saw.

These stories are told by grandparents to the young people of the house hold there by developing the sense of right and wrong and thus prepare for a life where such ethical challenges are likely to be abound…

On assessment and evaluation…

The present education system is flawed; this system of education fails to understand the child, doesn’t cater to its needs, dissociates the child from its natural tendencies and above all fails to create a questioning mind.

This imperfection originates from its evaluation system. The evaluation system, rather than the teaching- learning process is the core of this malady. In the present market oriented world, the end product determines the strategies.

Similarly, the evaluation system tailors the teaching- learning process. The evaluation system rather than helping to build up on the knowledge of our own self and recognize our strengths & weaknesses; it distracts us to comparisons, comparing my abilities to my peer group!

How useful is this?

Does it really matter that I know much more than what ‘P’ knows  or less than what ‘R’ knows, unless I know what I should know given my abilities and potentialities…

Some inadequacies in the present evaluation system:

  • it is not dynamic.
  • too much emphasis on rote memorization and ignores the meta-cognitive abilities.
  • not the real measure of student’s potential.
  • limited scope for diagnosis and remediation.
  • whatever is tested is taught and whatever is taught is tested i.e. examination centered.
  • perpetuates psychological fear and tension.
  • no scope for creativity.

So, how do we improve this system???

to start with:

  • lets make the process and product of evaluation meaningful from a child’s perspective.
  • lets integrate evaluation as a CONTINUOUS part of the teaching-learning process, both formally and informally. Let’s not restrict it to a one-day, end-of course activity.
  • construct evaluation as a comprehensive process which makes use of multiple tools and techniques to gather information on different aspects of learning.
  • compose evaluation as a cooperative process, collaborate with peers and parents and teachers. Much of the learning, takes place beyond the four walls, lets accept it.
  • invent evaluation as a dynamic process.

if the above aspects of evaluation are kept in mind, there is no doubt that it will lead to bringing about qualitative improvement in education…

Contemporizing Pedagogy

Four weeks into class and this is my first post. Makes me wonder, how contemporary my own adaptability skills are.

Coming from the school of gears, chalkboards and machines; which churns out mechanical engineers, how am I to eloquently place my opinions out into the void?

What have I learnt?
Am I augmenting my learning or am I still stuck on the unlearning curve for this class? My first blog seeks to be a reflection.

Traditionally a teacher is the pedagogue and a teacher centric educational transaction is ‘pedagogy’. Most adults (and this holds true right from the day of Graduation) acquire a developmental trait of earnestly believing that ‘they know the best’. They take it upon themselves to draw and demarcate the boundaries of learning for their young ones. They seek to direct teaching or learning based upon their experiences with the concept.This results in repetition of the same content through the similar methods of learning that the teachers themselves have undergone. As a result, the subject matter itself takes precedence over the learning.

Thermodynamically speaking ( abiding by the mechie status quo), one spends too much time and effort on characterizing the process based solely on kinematics (ie. the effect of change of state) rather than dynamics (the path followed during the change ). Thus, the learner is subjected to a higher degree of entropy, without having any clue as to how s/he attained it. Had similar an approach be followed at the particle level for understanding matter, there would be no possible way to explain life-forms on the planet.

Teaching – learning like any other discipline is essentially evolving and metamorphosing and hence any process that discourages newer thoughts is engineered for decay. The main beneficiary of this null-transaction is the learner, who more often than not, has nothing to say (or do, or blog…) in the proceedings.

There is no scope for addition, alteration, modification, tailoring or customization of the content or the processes to individual variations and attributes. Such a process may work for worker-ants but is woefully inadequate and certainly inappropriate for the ‘globezens’.

A student-centered approach encourages the child to ask questions.The ‘where’, ‘how’, ‘what’, ‘why’ and most importantly ‘why not’ are the basic building blocks of learning, which is subdued and sacrificed at the alter of teacher-centricity.

In the middle-ages questioning was not hugely encouraged.
Indoctrination was practiced and knowledge and certainly questioning was considered to be ‘forth with dangers of subversion and radical thoughts’.
‘What if someone starts seeing the earth as something but flat?’ What if somebody starts questioning the rotations of the planets??, What if anybody gets up and gets quizzical about the almighty HIMSELF???

For every Galileo and Copernicus was at least a thousand who were not allowed to query.
Some of us who may still labor under the misconception that such suppressions do not occur any longer, have to just walk into the classrooms of many schools in almost any district of any city of any country on the face of this planet, and learn the truth.

Changes are the grammar of existence, the language of life and therefore the harbingers of such changes, the developing young minds have to be unshackled and set free to unabridged knowledge and untamed exploration, to inquire, seek and search independently, with just a little help and guidance from the adults, not dictates.

The adults should also never abandon their rights to question faiths, seek answers, challenge dogmas and evaluate beliefs.

Only then will there be a lifelong learning.

And with this, I let off my first blog post onto the mother ship, hoping that as I evolve as a blogger, I shall unlearn my own reservations and biases and learn about a  whole new way to voice myself and hence to contemporize myself as a 21st century learner as well as evolve as a ‘learnee’…