ILL-PLANNED SEMINARS SERVE NO PURPOSE
Often seminars, conferences and symposia are labelled as national or international. Most of the time...
Often seminars, conferences and symposia are labelled as national or international. Most of the time ‘national’ ends with one or two from outside the State
Appearance and reality are two different things and truth prevails, peace prevails, activities become fruitful only when there is no difference between the two. The wider the gap between them, greater becomes the hypocrisy and wider becomes the chasm to be bridged later when remedial measures are sought .We know that it is true of all fields starting from interpersonal relationships in the families to the highest levels of national governance. In our education system, we have now included many components which are truly essential and vital for continuous learning, knowledge and skill up-gradation.
What irks is that on close observation, glaring gaps between appearance and reality, intentions and the outcomes in implementing these value- adding measures in our education sector. When I visit educational institutions in our country, be they schools, colleges or universities, the institutional heads are eager to show the academic activities included in their calendars, like seminars organised, seminars attended, symposia, workshops, conferences etc.
Photographs and brochures project a very satisfying image and impress. The record of the number of such events organized is highly gratifying, making one feel that we are helping our teachers to catch up with the latest trends in teaching and learning. However, when I ask them about the follow-up or the outreach programs which succeed such activities, or feedback, what I get to see is a printed feedback form which is filled by all participants at the end of any session, mostly showering appreciation for the food and hospitality.
There is nothing beyond! The world is now moving forward with webinars, video conferences, virtual lessons, national and international seminars , symposia, workshops and the like with participants bent on acquiring specific skills like soft skills, interpersonal skills, leadership and management skills, interview skills, using technology or any other specialization one might feel the need for and might have missed earlier. The impression that such programs are for adults is no longer valid. Even youngsters , school going kids, college students and teens are provided with specially designed courses and workshops with a very conveniently limited duration.
My granddaughters who are in the U.S , have benefited from many such camps and workshops because the course designers give equal importance to planning and follow- up programs. It is a sad state when our education policy makers are investing huge sums into educational reforms, introducing modern methods of teaching-learning and evaluation , insisting on the liberal use of technology in classroom teaching ,promoting research and value addition to learning without assessing how effectively the investments are yielding the desired results. For example, the CCE’s drawbacks in implementation, inadequate and ill-timed workshops for teachers who are to understand and implement it, undermined the valuable reform and simultaneously caused a huge wastage of funds funnelled into such ill- planned ventures.
Many of my acquaintances from our academic circles concur with my opinions and observations in this regard. It is a popular saying in the Indian academic circles that the conferences, seminars and symposia begin with an extensive inaugural and end with a lengthy valedictory session with very little time in between for the real objectives of the programs. Papers are invited but no one bothers to check the quality, follow the schedule, give minimum time for questioning or discussion or even check plagiarism .While the UGC insists that research should be promoted and encourages the conduct of seminars by granting funds, the purpose is diluted because of lack of such measures to maintain quality.
Often seminars, conferences and symposia are labelled as national or international. Most of the time ‘national’ ends with one or two from outside the State and the international will have one or two participants from outside the country. Need it be said that a ‘State level’ seminar then has only participants from one institution with just one or two from the neighbouring districts to meet the norms? Very often with substandard articles , themes oft repeated , with very little quality research going in , as the sponsors do not bother to judge the quality of the papers, is it not a humongous waste of national funds ? Sometimes serious discussions may take place in selected seminars and workshops; however, due to lack of proper follow- up, most of the time, the outcome of such events does not seeing the light of day.
The files and certificates as well as the papers presented are soon forgotten. It is a gratifying experience that these exercises organized by private and other research organizations really contribute a lot to the system. Therefore, there is an immense need to spell out the purpose and the expected outcome of these academic exercises clearly so that the public money that is spent on these events will end in providing more meaningful returns.
Further, there should be an inbuilt mechanism with the funding agencies sponsoring these academic activities to monitor proper conduct and follow-up programmes to ensure that the outcomes will have a bearing on the system of education. In addition to that, research projects may be carried out to study the “impact factor” of these academic events. I stress on this factor here because the State government has introduced new content in all subjects, revised the teaching strategies , modified the evaluation patterns accordingly and the pattern of our State board tenth class examinations are due for a radical change next academic year .
The textbooks are being followed but have we really paused to see if the teachers, right from the primary to the high school level, have the proper training and prior preparation? The formal twoday workshops organised at the beginning of the year have not given even the rudimentary knowledge of how the creative thinking and critical thinking skills have to be given scope in the classrooms. The English texts have many activities in LSRW as against the earlier texts which have worked for decades and whose focus was limited to mere reading and writing.
As the teachers who are expected to undergo this paradigm shift are not given adequate training, confidence and support as they enter a new phase, the vision of taking new steps in our education may crumble. Do we want our State syllabus also end up as a failure for want of proper training and follow-up just as the Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation is being implemented by the CBSE? Planned, adequate number of workshops where the participants are truly involved in the process of understanding and experiencing what is expected as the outcome is the urgent need in school and college education.
If the government sector has at least a nominal training, the teachers in the unaided schools have literally none. Corporate schools , like the MNCs and schools abroad, are now taking special care to train their faculty from time to time and do the follow-up, reflect and repeat the programs if necessary