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Question: If teachers and lecturers can be fired on the ground of incompetence, would it encourage academic standards to rise?

Asked by David Marshall

“Dear David, We all agree that incompetence can not be and has not to be accepted or tolerated in any profession or walk of life.
‘Incompetent teachers', believe me, when I think of it; I shudder at the very thought of entrusting the future of our world to them. They have to go, should go and if they do not; they have to be fired. We can not afford to fiddle with the lives of our kids.
We are all concerned about objective standards of Competence and incompetence and these must to be stipulated at once. We should not even spare those who selected/approved of such teachers? They are also as much to blame as the Teachers.I would suggest a 360 Degree Feedback process, Commitment, Professional Dedication, Up gradation of Skills, Attainment of Students in all areas-Scholastic and Non-Scholastic etc to form integral components of an objective assessment of the Teacher. If a teacher is found incompetent, the mentors also need to introspect and we all need to look at the PD Programmes etc. But on the score of incompetence of a teacher; Zero tolerance.”

Question: Help for a child with ‘superficial’ thinking

Asked by Joe Green

“Dear Joe, Cheer up. You are unduly worried. Your child is not doing what you call "Superficial" Thinking. He is thinking at Lower Levels of the Cognitive Domain.
We call it Surface Thinking.
He may be lacking in concentration. He may also be not finding some specific subject or the Teaching of that subject interesting. He is 11 years old and he is on the threshold of his Adolescence-the period of stress and storm.
He is at a particular stage of his Cognitive Development. He is moving from the Concrete Operational Stage to the Formal Operational Stage and making his own generalizations, hypothesizing, indulging in inductive reasoning and so on. These operations or 'Schemas' as Piaget calls them take time to develop.As a humble teacher educator, I suggest: - - He is good at Math’s. Celebrate this success with him. - Talk to him very little and listen to him more. - Help him to think. Use Tony Ryan’s Thinkers Keys. Read about SCAMPER and De Bono's Six Hats. Thinking Skills can explicitly be taught. - Assess his understanding of Concepts through Activities and encourage him to move beyond Remembering, Understanding and Application of Knowledge to Analyzing, Evaluating and Creating. (BLOOM’s Revised Taxonomy).Ignite his mind. Reinforce and reward him. Appreciate him - If you can; make his subjects of study interesting. He has to find learning enjoyable and not a burden. - Help him to Practice and Review his Lessons.
Study SOLO Taxonomy by BIGGS and you will find interesting ways of helping him to engage in Deep Thinking rather than Surface Thinking.
I assure you the boy is going to grow into a fine young man and we all will be proud of him.”

Question: Can we speed up experience?

Asked by Reut Schwartz-Hebron

“Dear Reut, John Dewey says," Education is reorganization and reconstruction of human experience." We only provide an opportunity for learning. Learning follows its own stages of Growth and Development. A very small degree of variation or acceleration is seen sometimes.
There is no chance of using the "Pressure Cooker" to speed up learning. Experiences can be and should be provided. The Brain will function at its pace, determined by age-stage. We need to make a clear cut distinction between experience and learning. One is an exposure; the other is a relatively permanent change in behaviour.”

Question: What subject do you think should be added to the school/college curriculum?

Asked by Anuja Rathi

“Dear Anuja, The Curriculum is overloaded and needs to be curtailed. Much of it is redundant and divorced from the realities of Life. Such portions have to go. Instead, I feel that there is need for including:- Life Skills, Thinking- at all levels and Laterally, Problem Solving, Time Management, Study Skills, Emotional Intelligence, Peace Studies, Character Formation and Humanism. Please make your pick. I feel this entire first and the rest afterwards.”

Question: What are your opinions on character education/development inK-12 Schools?

Asked by Stephanie Waller

“Dear Stephanie, We often say that repeated actions are Habit and repeated Habits make Character. While, I entirely agree that Parents have a very important role to play in Character Development, I can not think of Schools not doing their bit.
Schools have to exercise Social Control. Teachers have to practice what they preach. Children need role models and their teachers are the best role models.
Peers have great influence and hence the environment within the School, the overall values that the school imbibes, the activities through which values are imbibed since 'Values are caught, they are not taught"; have a great effect.
Students are plastic and can be moulded at a young age. Schools have the responsibility of helping in socialisation, sublimation of emotions, fostering of talent and providing children with opportunities to excel and grow. The foundations of character are laid by good educational practices in Schools. We have to urge Schools to perform their role as Schools did in the past.”

Question: Will it not bring new life to the schools if schools reduce their duration per day from traditional six hours to four hours only?

Asked by Anil Sharma

“Dear Anil, I do not know what you really mean by 'new life’. If changing a Six Hour Day School into a Four Hour Day School is a shift from a Traditional School to a Modern School and this change means new life; my answer is NO.
I have observed that attendance in Schools has been falling during the past few years and there are some Schools where the Board Class students, especially from Class XII do not attend the Schools at all. Most of them are busy with Tuitions and there are others who are preparing for Competitive Exams. Believe me, the Boards know it; that there are Schools where Students of Class XII are only on Rolls and actually these Students are at other places attending Coaching Institutes.
In an attempt to increase attendance, many Schools have reduced working Hours for Class X & XII students and even cut Assembly, Games, Activities, and Hobby Classes etc. In a calendar year of 364 Days, Schools are expected to have 220 Working Days excluding Holidays, Vacations etc. The NCERT Syllabus and Weight age to each Lesson in every Subject, number of Periods for Teaching of a Subject per Week; are all based on this number of 220 working days. Teachers are expected to put in 1200 hours of work in a year. The School day has been fixed as Six Hours.
Even otherwise, we find the Summers Hot and the Winters Cold; and have to reduce the working time. On occasions there is fog and low visibility, the District Magistrates also close Schools for Law and Order very often, and we have the Local Festivals, processions and then Bhand’s and Hartals. How many days do our Schools really function in a year? We have to take note of a Teachers entitlement to Casual Leave, Earned Leave, Maternity Leave and Paternity Leave and you know that every teachers avails of leave.
Take into account the quantum of Syllabi, the requirement of Activity based Teaching, Practical Work, Projects, Life-Skill Education, Health Education, Co-curricular Activities, House Activities, Functions, Literary and Sports Programmes; and tell us, do you really find time for all this today, when you have Six hours available? Is it not a fact that we are only fulfilling a formality in many cases? Practical work is mostly not done. Lecture Method is the only way we teach and when mentored; the teachers answer, “Where the time is for Activity based teaching?” Projects are completed by experts outside the School. Assignments are completed by Parents and Tutors.

Dear Anil, in a few Schools I found 100% attendance of Senior Students and students enjoyed learning. I found that these Schools had a very competent Faculty and students loved to be taught by them. I found that the School had a judicious mix of Studies and Co-curricular Activities. Every one was busy doing something that he enjoyed and was educational. It gave me immense joy to find that teachers were resourceful and innovative; students were inquisitive and would question and participate. The Administration of these Schools was in the hands of Visionaries, who knew how to utilise every minute for educating the students and yet maintaining their interest and attention. They were preparing students for life and completion of syllabus was just one essential task. Creating a desire to learn, making learning enjoyable, developing talents of each and every child were some of their aims. These Schools had a mission and it was “Learning for being’, and ‘Learning for becoming
Please develop a comprehensive curriculum, create a congenial academic environment and lead from the front, as you did, when we worked together for a couple of years; and you will find 06 hours are not sufficient for transforming lives. What we do in these six hours in the school has to have a carry forward, a spill over effect and students have to continue the good work even after school hours at their own convenience. Cheer up! Our students often speak of every hour they spent with us at School.”

Question: Do you agree with Abraham Maslow's Need Hierarchy Theory?

Asked by Suman Arora.

“Dear Suman, An interesting question!
It is imperative that we understand the Theory in its totality; examine empirical evidence if any and desist from over generalisation of the Theory or getting stuck with the term “Hierarchy.”

Maslow’s theory has influenced a number of different fields, including education. This wide influence is due in part to the high level of practicality of the theory. The theory accurately describes many realities of personal experiences. Many people find they can understand what Maslow says. They can recognize some features of their experience or behaviour which is true and identifiable.
Maslow is a humanistic psychologist. Humanists do not believe that human beings are pushed and pulled by mechanical forces, either of stimuli and reinforcements (behaviourism) or of unconscious instinctual impulses (psychoanalysis). Humanists focus upon potentials. They believe that humans strive for an upper level of capabilities. Humans seek the frontiers of creativity, the highest reaches of consciousness and wisdom. This has been labelled "fully functioning person", "healthy personality", or as Maslow calls this level, "self-actualizing person."

Maslow set up a hierarchic theory of five levels of basic needs. All of his basic needs are instinctoid, equivalent of instincts in animals. The hierarchic theory is often represented as a pyramid, with the larger, lower levels representing the lower needs, and the upper point representing the need for self-actualization. Maslow believes that the only reason that people would not move well in direction of self-actualization is because of hindrances placed in their way by society. He states that education is one of these hindrances. He recommends ways education can switch from its usual person-stunting tactics to person-growing approaches.

Beyond these needs, higher levels of needs exist. These include needs for understanding, esthetic appreciation and purely spiritual needs. I am sure that Maslow would not like it, but I would add one more layer. I feel that there is something profoundly missing from Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Many of us feel a strong Spiritual need deep in our hearts. For me, it is the most important need, so I put it on top of all the others. Yet putting it at the top, it seems to imply that a person has to move through all the other needs to get to it. But that is not my point. I know when the chips are down, and one is worried about safety or illness, the spiritual needs are often the most intense. So I could place the Spiritual Needs layer behind all the needs, or perhaps as a circle surrounding the whole pyramid. But I put it on top to signify that it is a reference for all the other needs.

Self actualization does not talk about spirituality directly. We need the guidance, the love and the knowledge provided through faith in God. For me, in terms of psychology, Maslow is the path. Maslow asks us to throw ourselves into what is meaningful for us. He asks us to concentrate on it fully and let it totally absorb you. Instead of worrying about safety issues which produces fear, get in the habit of making choices that promote growth.

Maslow created a list of Being Values (B-Values) that help define goodness. These values are the values that Maslow found that the best people had more or less in common. Some of the B-values include: love, direction, wholeness, integration, the need to finish and to have a true destiny point. Without goodness, we don't have a clue; we are just dust in the wind, making choices without priority. Without reference, different parts of the mind will fight for their limited desires, and this leads to a divided mind and potentially to internal wars within the mind.
This should explain the exceptions you have pointed out that do not conform to the literally accepted meaning of his theory. Cheer up!”