Francis DSilva's blog

And you! Keep your mouth shut, you idiot!

I picked this YT-video from a Facebook post (thanks Lee!), that is evidently choreographed to drive home an anti-bullying message. A great show, however the message is not so evident from the dance alone. So I decided to mash-up this with an article written by Editor-in-chief Trine Eilertsen at Bergens Tidende. I believe there is a fine line between a prank and what can escalate  to plain terror. I think it is worth making a point about of bullying and why it needs more attention. I believe bullying exists in the workplace too -- but we probably learn this at school first!

Teacher Bjørndal's method

And you! Keep your mouth shut, you idiot! 

Original (Norwegian). My translation with Trine's permission.  

There is a knock on the classroom door of Class 9B. They are about halfway through a Norwegian class. Outside is the class teacher. When the class sees him, they sit up in their seats. He has that effect on them, and they realize that this must be serious when he interrupts them in the middle of another teacher’s class.

- I want to talk with Arne, Per, Lise, Ingrid, Gunnar and Tone. You will join me in the group room now!

The students look at each other questioningly, get up and go out of the class.

- “Sit down”, says the class teacher tersely, after he has closed the door behind them in the group room. “And listen carefully”

Who do you call? The caste busters!

I would recommend reading this article "The caste busters" that appeared in New York Times recently (The article is based on a theme from the author's book). What fascinated me, was the sense of ambition and ability that Misal demonstrates -- to be able to exploit the medium of TV to its maximum. I wonder what social media and mobile broadband could do in the years to come. Besides Misal, it was also the sense of development and innovation emerging at the "bottom of the pyramid" -- probably the place to watch for exciting business opportunities?

It was the article's closing paragraphs that stuck most in my head  "... a generation being trained rather than educated. They knew nothing about industry, art, history, literature, science". And then the dilemma that "...Misal did not have the luxury of broadening his vision, because if he lost focus, the world of degradations that he had escaped would be delighted to take him back".

Great insights as to why we should change ....

..... our attitudes to education today. How we encourage our children and push them. Even more so on how we work with students who are not the "brightest" according the systems we measure.

Sir Ken Robinson is a well-known educator and speaker at TED and other forums. This talk is an abridged video of a longer lecture. It is very creatively animated and worth the 12mins needed to get this message. (If you have more time, I recommend the longer version (55 mins) here http://youtu.be/mCbdS4hSa0s)

Looks like something can be done after all...

In my previous post I asked the question if "anything can be done at all" to improve local governance. And this post is provides a seed for thought. In various email exchanges and wanderings in the blogosphere I was made aware of this effort driven by concerned citizens of Mumbai – www.votemumbai.org (Thanks to Prakash Thadani!).

I went through this site briefly and can see that Vote Mumbai is an “umbrella” under which neighbourhoods can drive change. Evidently a huge amount of thinking and hard work has gone into shaping this community governance idea. See these 3 links to judge for yourself:
www.votemumbai.org/areasabha.asp , www.votemumbai.org/functions.asp and www.votemumbai.org/dem.asp

This idea is in the public domain and open to alternative viewpoints and constructive criticism. It would be worth putting all strength behind this one “arrow”. I understand that much of the thinking started in 2005! and is derived from “The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission” see - http://jnnurm.nic.in

Can anything be done at all?

I just read Sir Mark Tully's "Will India heed the wake-up call? and cannot help sharing his scepticism as to whether politicians will stop interfering in creating institutions for security and intelligence. I am hoping that public interest groups will issue a clarion call to action. An action where ideological differences are put to the side and these groups collaborate to relentlessly drive politicians and public servants in taking concrete, measurable steps for a safer Mumbai.

And while there are a number of Facebook groups on the Mumbai terror events, we also need local action that can be backed up by virtual groups on FB, Orkut or others. It is about time Mumbai created something like www.theyworkforyou.com that can be used to raise awareness among citizens and to let politicians know they are being followed. Because they need to get their act together.

Updated 9.14 CET, 3.12.08: A few typos corrected - Francis

Running a school - a bystander's view (2)

Continuing on what I learned about school operations on my vacation to Mumbai.

St Stanislaus is a government aided school, which means the government pays the salaries of teachers (I guess number of of teachers are arrived at based on some Teacher : Student ratio). The school is also given a grant (called a non-salaried grant) that is approx 6-9% of the salary grant aimed to support expenses related to infrastructure or other activities that the school finds appropriate. These funds tend not to reach the school in time and the school has to resort to alternative means until these funds reach the school. The percentage of the non-salaried grant has dropped from 15% a few years ago.

So how does the school do the magic of creating 2 computer labs with 30 networked computers each? Or set up an audio-video room? How are material and salaries covered? From what I understand, the school sets up so-called 'management teacher' positions that are funded through additional fees that the education department permits the school to collect and by donations, grants etc raised by the school from other sources (the education department has a cap as to how much can be collected). I would suspect that there is a fair amount of bureaucratic and financial gymnastics involved to make this work (ofcourse, the paperwork is good to employ an army of clerks at the Education Department). From the post on the Dadar school getting computerized, I read that they also are using the 'extra fees' mechanism to finance their projects.

On the matter of fees: The education department has stipulated that standard I pays Re. 1/- per month, Std II pays Rs 2/- month and so on etc. Talk about being creative in devising schemes. Anyway, with all the additional fees and charges the average fee amounts to around Rs. 1500/- to Rs. 2000/- per year. Would seem less than what a student would pay monthly on tuitions.

The school has managed to attract good teachers -- but reservations can always throw a spanner in the works and the balance of teachers (I guess the max. standard 50% quota for OBC candidates applies). To aggravate matters, the school is apparently compelled to employ teachers with a D.Ed (diploma) and not a B.Ed since B.Ed teachers come in a different cadre/bracket which would tip the ratios and percentages that strain the model the bureaucrats have set up.

It seems like there are a number of mechanisms that generate paperwork (jobs for bureaucrats?) in school while adding little value to the overall education experience. These can only steal time from school administration while also introducing barriers that reduce teachers' motivation.

Is there anything SSESA can do? Make or mobilize for change? At first glance it appears to be a huge task; however, if 'we pick our fights' and try to understand the (dysfunctional) system and the operating conditions, we could contribute with small changes that can transform the education experience for teachers and students. Creating a holistic description of the objectives and goals up against the existing situation and ground realities can help identify and prioritize the actions needed. That would help bring SSESA, PTA, teachers and school administration on the same page. It will take some time to implement all these changes, but we could also 'hurry up slowly' by aiming for 2013 --- that is when our school will be celebrating 150 years.

Dream 2013 could be more real than most dreams

PS! I have a rudimentary sketch on paper and have been toying with the idea of fashioning a 'blueprint & roadmap'. However I need help on the ground; is there anyone out there interested in joining me on this venture? Drop me a line at fdsilva@online.no

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