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GURU PURNIMA – A DAY OF REVERENCE

Guru Purnima is observed on the full moon day in the month of Ashadh (June-July) every year. The birth anniversary of Maharishi Ved Vyas, the author of Mahabharata, is celebrated as Guru Purnima. The day is also known as Vyas Jayanti.

The word guru refers to perfection. Gu signifies concealed and ru signifies revealed. Thus, a guru is one who removes ignorance and paves way for enlightenment. Earnestly religious people begin their day by chanting a prayer to their guru: Gurur Brahma Gurur Vishnuh Gurur Devo Maheswarah, Guruh Sakshat Param Brahmah, Tasmai Sri Gurave Namah. In other words, Guru is the creator, preserver and also the destroyer.

India stands with pride for the contributions made by the great gurus in the ancient times. This is a day when we remember all the gurus who have worked for the propagation of knowledge. Ved Vyas composed the great epic Mahabharata which remains immortal till date. Valmiki composed the epic Ramayana which is read worldwide even today. Vasistha was the kulguru of Raghuvansa lineage where Sri Ram was born. Vishwamitra initiated the Gayatri Mantra. Bharat did research in performing arts and made India unique. Dhanvantari is known for his work in medical science. Patanjali made his contribution in the field of yoga. Vatsyayana wrote Kamasutra which serves as a guide for a happy married life. Thus, the gurus offered knowledge for the development of Indian culture.

Ved Vyas also made efforts in preserving the great store of Vedic knowledge. At first, when he doubted that the Vedas might get extinct, he protected them by compilation and organised them into four parts. Secondly, he laid stress on handing over the knowledge from one generation to the other. This was done by a guru to his disciple and by a father to his son. Third, he allotted the various branches of knowledge to several communities. The different branches were Ayurveda (medicine including surgery), Sthapatya Veda (sculpture related to metals, stones, mortars and wood), Gandharva Veda (vocal and instrumental music, dance etc.) and Dhanur Veda (skills of military warfare). Lastly, he composed Puranas so that the commoners could understand all about the Vedic principles and sincerely follow them in their lives. Hence, due to all these work of surviving knowledge and preserving the Vedas, the birth tithi of Ved Vyas is celebrated as Guru Purnima.

The Gurukul system of education came into being from the Guru-Shishya tradition established by Ved Vyas. Sons of both kings and common people lived together with their guru in his ashram. They served their guru and respected him as a deity. The disciples learned not only what he taught but also learnt how to live with humility and dignity. They glorified their guru, respected him and expressed gratitude for being guided in life towards attaining the highest goal.

From time immemorial, the guru was offered an exalted place in India. The kings stood up from their thrones when the kulguru entered the hall. He was always given a seat near the monarch. Our country is gifted with sincere disciples and benevolent gurus. Chandra Gupta Maurya and his guru Chanakya, Maharaj Shivaji and his guru Samartha Ramdas, Swami Vivekananda and his guru Sri Ramakrishna etc. are some of the well-known examples.

Thus, on the day of Guru Purnima, let us pay reverence to our gurus. Our accomplishments would be worthless if we fail to remember them for their dedication towards moulding our lives.

 

[Published in ‘Articles Base’ on 20 May 2013]

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CONTINUOUS AND COMPREHENSIVE EVALUATION – A BLESSING OR A BURDEN

Education in schools is presently based on the concept known as ‘Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation’. This new scheme of evaluation was implemented with the vision of assessing students throughout the academic session on a broad based process of learning. Being comprehensive, the prospects seem bright as the students are able to recognize their fields of interest and make decisions for the future in regard to pursuing higher studies, choosing their course and shaping the career. The scheme comes as a challenge to those students who excel in academics alone and lag in co-curricular activities.

Continuous and comprehensive evaluation plays an important part in the teaching-learning process and to raise the standard of performance in the schools. The new scheme provides scope for the teachers to develop better teaching strategies and assess the students through multiple techniques of evaluation. The scheme benefits the learners too as they get motivated to improve their studying habits by discarding memorization and laying emphasis on the co-scholastic areas. However, sufficient time would definitely be needed for the scheme to be properly effective in schools throughout the nation.

CCE was introduced in the CBSE Board about a couple of years back. Schools having less infrastructural expansion and resource availability are trying to make adequate changes for reforming the evaluation system. Though the implementation is considered as a blessing in some schools, it is referred to as a burden in some other educational institutions. Apart from classroom teaching, importance is being given to the students for their active participation in the co-curricular activities like aesthetic and performing art, health and physical activities etc. for proper functioning and efficiency of the scheme. Besides, progress of every student in both scholastic and co-scholastic aspects are also recorded.

The objectives of CCE have to be sincerely followed by the stakeholders for the success of the venture. The evaluation process would appear challenging during the initial years but it will truly live up to the expectations as education is not merely textbook learning but development of the entire personality.

In my opinion, continuous and comprehensive evaluation is a positive step in the process of assessment. I like the scheme for several reasons. It helps in bringing out the inner potential of every student besides excellence in academic learning, minimizes stress caused by fear of Board examinations, decreases workload as the syllabus of one term is not repeated in the next term and aids in developing life skills to face situations in future.

The scheme turns out to be a disadvantage to some meritorious students since there is no scope for competition as marks are replaced by grades. Some students may not have a liking as they are constantly being watched of their actions. They do not feel at ease and remain tensed as grades are given for their attitude towards teachers, school-mates, school and environment.

It is possible that CCE may have to cope with some so far unseen challenges in future. It would all depend upon the acceptance of the scheme by the students, parents and teachers. Success would lie entirely upon the contentment of the stakeholders and only then it would stand the test of time.

Above all, feedback by students passing out with flying colours, reactions of the parents whose children achieved the desired goals and success of the teachers in imparting education would define the ground of necessity of the evaluation scheme in the schools in the near future.

 

[Published in ‘Articles Base’ on 7 May 2013]

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CARING FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

A huge expanse of land gets submerged when a reservoir is created followed by the construction of a dam. So it is very essential to demarcate the areas rich in biodiversity for protection of the environment. Survival of the exotic and near extinct species which are affected during the construction of a Project should be given due importance for continuous existence of floral diversity.

Hence, a sincere mission was carried out in Umrongso with the purpose of conserving the diverse plant species and flora of the region. A Botanical Garden was set up with the primary aim of conservation, prompt multiplication, rehabilitation of the plant species, extending awareness about the floral heritage and promoting education. Rare and endangered plants were collected from the impact areas and were introduced in a Nursery.

The Garden spreads over a large area and various plant species have been planted for preservation. It has several sections like wild edibles, ferns, medicinal plants, palms and cycads, rare and endangered species, wild plants of horticultural importance, plants of economic importance etc. The garden is enriched by the rare pitcher plant and with different varieties of orchids. To move around and have close access to each plant and every section, a pathway crisscrossing the total length and breadth of the garden has been laid out. A small lake in the centre with a bridge over it adds to the beauty of the garden. Blooming water lilies and ducks wading in the water present a beautiful sight to the visitors. Rare birds are noticed during the migratory season. For the pollination of plants, beehives are maintained.

The Nursery has a green shade net-house for hatching various plant species. Vegetative propagation of plants is carried out throughout the year and later the seedlings are transferred to small poly-bags. Different species of trees like Neem (medicinal plant), Silikha, Krishnachura, Kanchan, Chandan, Sonaru, Teak (Sagoon) etc. are available in the Nursery and plantation labels are marked on them. The plant saplings are then distributed around for planting them in different areas as massive plantation is a major step towards protection of the environment.

 

[Published in ‘Articles Base’ on 14 February 2012]

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THE NEW SCHEME OF EVALUATION THAT CAN BE A BOON

According to Swami Vivekananda, education system in the schools should be based on ‘Man Making – Nation Building’. But in a long established system set up by the Central Board of Secondary Education, it could be observed that students of Class X were assessed only in academics through an external examination that was conducted at the end of the academic session in the month of March. To bring about a quality change in the pattern, a new scheme of assessment known as ‘Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation’ was introduced in 2009 with the initiative of assessing students on various aspects of development like intellectual, emotional, social, cultural, physical, along with the course of subjects, during the entire session and not when the academic year ended.

The term ‘continuous’ refers to the process of assessment that includes both formative and summative, carried out regularly throughout the academic session. The term ‘comprehensive’ refers to the process of assessment in the scholastic and co-scholastic areas, which covers an all-around development of the students. The ‘evaluation’ process is divided into three parts and each part is further divided into two parts. Part One A comprises the scholastic areas (Languages I and II, Mathematics, Science, Social Science and Additional Optional Subject) whereas Part One B comprises work experience, art education and physical & health education. In Part Two, the co-scholastic areas are divided into two groups, the former consisting of the life skills (thinking, social, emotional) and the latter consisting of attitudes (towards teachers, school-mates, school programmes, environment) and values. Part Three deals with co-scholastic activities and the students are given the choice to select two activities from the first group and another two from the second group. Group A includes Literary & Creative Skills, Scientific Skills, Aesthetic & Performing Art, Organizational & Leadership Skills (Clubs) while group B includes Health & Physical Activities (Sports, NCC/NSS, Scouting & Guiding, Swimming, Gymnastics, Yoga, First Aid, Gardening/Shramdaan).

The Scholastic Areas are purely academic and consist of subjects given in the curriculum. Two Formative Assessments and one Summative Assessment are conducted in a term twice a year. In the Formative Assessments, the students are monitored by the teachers regarding assignments, oral questions, conversation skills, quizzes, projects and research work carried out in a group. In the Summative Assessment, the students are assessed by a set of questions to be answered in short, long and one correct reply among multiple choices, in a written examination conducted at the end of the term and grades to be awarded instead of marks. On the other hand, the Co-scholastic Areas include diverse skills, attitudes, value system, co-curricular activities and health. The students are assessed according to their ability and progress in creative and critical thinking, self-awareness, problem solving, decision making, interpersonal relationships, effective communication, empathy, dealing with stress, managing emotions, creative and literary activities, aesthetic activities, scientific activities, Eco club activities, health and wellness clubs etc.

The new system was introduced with the aim at bringing out the inner potential of every student besides excellence in academic learning. It might also help in recognizing the fields of interest and strengthening the areas where the students lacked. Moreover, with the introduction of grades, there would be less scope for competition, comparison and criticism. Instead of competing with others and comparing the marks obtained, the students shall learn to compete with their own selves for improvement and better achievement. Besides, the students will also be able to get rid of frustration caused by criticism on acquiring poor marks. Above all, it could be hoped that the scheme would enable students to face challenges, build up confidence and develop personality traits to achieve their goals desired in life. However, success or failure of the ambitious format would all depend upon its acceptance by students, teachers and parents in the years to come.

 

[Published in ‘Articles Base’ on 3 December 2011]

 

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