Career Counselling Advice

School study tips: How to deal with aversion to subjects

Walk into any class in any school and ask the students whether there are any subjects which they ‘hate.’ At least half the class will raise their hands. Only the toppers, or those who have all-round intelligence and wide thinking will say that they are comfortable studying all the subjects being taught to them. All the others suffer from phobias, aversion, and anger or frustration when forced to study some subjects they just cannot connect to.

The basic fault lies in the system because students are not introduced properly to any subject that is going to be taught to them. No one explains what the subject is all about, how important it is for their future, what is its relevance to daily life, and what careers can be carved out of it. This is an important link that can ensure better learning.

If a person joins Military service, even as an officer, for weeks and months he has to go through the rigors of polishing his shoes and brass, marching on parades, trekking through jungles, cleaning and maintaining weapons, learning First Aid, etc. Initially it may appear frivolous why he should learn all that – but that is the training that makes our army one of the best in the world, with men fit to tackle any invasion or challenge. Similarly, the Indian education system ensures that a student learns a wide range of subjects, goes through rigorous and repetitive tests and exams, and hence he can perform exceedingly well in global competition. If that was not true, we would not have had Satya Nadella as CEO of Microsoft or Indira Nooyi as CEO of Pepsico.

At the same time it is important to make students understand the value of every subject and its usefulness in later life. Based on my interactions with teachers and students, I have listed down a few such points:

History

History helps us understand the behavior of human beings, and thus understand how people are likely to react in certain situations. Remember the proverb “History repeats itself”? Thus we can learn from the past (and the mistakes of others) how to lead our life today. We can even predict how society, the markets or lifestyles are likely to change so that we can adapt suitably. History also builds a sense of culture and belonging. It helps us to understand evolution and thus appreciate what we have today.

Geography

Geography gives us a sense of direction, helps us get around by understanding the physical characteristics of nature and the world around us. We can appreciate diverse cultures, climates (including weather forecasting), explore every part of the world, particularly in today’s global environment wherein travel has become so convenient. We develop a sense of location, distances and areas.

Civics

Civics gives us an insight into the social fabric that we are a part of, it tells us about how to live in civilized society, how to appreciate a democratic setup like ours and to improve interpersonal relations. We can understand our rights better. It stimulates critical thinking and helps us to make our life more harmonious with different types of people and communities.

Languages

All languages have an important role to play in helping us improve communication, understand others and be understood by others. They expand our horizon of knowledge, and are our windows for the thinking process. We can express in the form of writing, poetry, dramatics, debating, convincing and marketing. They help us relate to different types of people all over the world.

  1. An International language like English is our window to the rest of the world, the most obvious one being the World Wide Web or the Internet. Anywhere in the world we can be comfortable if we can communicate well in English.
  2. Our link language Hindi binds the nation together. At a time when countries are falling apart, we can be proud of being such a cohesive and democratic nation, and can thus be proud of our national language.
  3. The state language similarly binds us to the poorest and simplest of all people in the state, since our forefathers took the trouble to reorganize the country into linguistic states. Even illiterate persons find it easy to communicate with each other since the entire state is based on one language.
  4. Your mother tongue is the language that your forefathers have spoken over many generations. It brings down to you their culture, their ideology and their values. It is something that you can cherish because it is your own identity, and it is the language that binds you to all your family members and your community. Even if you are not studying your mother tongue in school, you should learn it by yourself.
  5. Sanskrit, the mother of all languages, takes us back to our roots and the very beginning of civilization. As you are aware, Indian culture and heritage was far advanced compared to the rest of the world many centuries ago. And Sanskrit is the language that connects us to our glorious past. Even if you decide to eventually settle down in some other country, the traditions and wisdom that you will carry through because of Sanskrit will be your permanent asset.
  6. Foreign languages open the doors to other countries, particularly some of the progressive countries like Japan, France, Germany, who have contributed tremendously to the world, and have their own national languages. You will be able to work in those countries, visit them, learn from them or do business with them and make friends with them if you learn their language.

Science

Science is the window to development, it ignites your curiosity and opens your eyes to the great wonders going on in the world around us. You develop an innovative mind and understand the laws of nature, how humans live in harmony with ecology. It is also the catalyst for change in society. Each part of science viz. physics, chemistry and biology, helps us understand different facets ranging from measurement of space and time, to interaction of materials, to living organisms. Together they constitute the essence of the entire world.

Maths

Math is the subject the sharpens our logical and reasoning powers, helps develop logical thinking, gives us the ability to calculate prices, manage money and understand the value of things. With a thorough understanding of Math we can safeguard our interests and be secure throughout life. We can use it to estimate, project, manipulate data, solve intricate problems of life, compare and evaluate. Geometry gives us a better understanding of space and areas.

Research has shown that students who understand and accept the usefulness of what they are studying, are not only more motivated resulting in better grades, but also enjoy their studies and learn deeper. During holidays students can be encouraged to find out more about the subjects they will be studying in the new academic year, and when the fresh term starts teachers can spend some valuable time giving an overview of the subject, its applications, and how it helps in life in general and in specific careers in particular.

Request to teachers

Please take the trouble to periodically describe and convince the students how the subject you are teaching would be of use to them in practical life, regardless of what career they take up. To do that successfully, you should be convinced about the usefulness of your subject. A motivated and committed teacher can easily ‘ignite’ the minds of her students, to quote the illustrious Dr. Abdul Kalam. And what we need today are ignited minds, not robots who memorize lessons only to reproduce them in exams.

Encourage your students to keep exploring on practical aspects, applications, and to give presentations or put up charts which can be useful to the subsequent batches also. It will make your work much easier.

By Ali Khwaja

 

Marks vs Learning

Marks vs Learning

Shruti is very dejected and angry. While she scored 97 in Physics, she got only 95 in Maths in her 2nd PUC exam. She was sure that she will score a full 100 in Maths. She has been told that even if she asks for re-totalling, they will not change her report unless the difference is more than 6 marks, which in her case is impossible! She has been taking out her frustration on all and sundry.

Marks vs Learning

In the case of Rajiv, the whole family is worked up. No one wants to believe that he has scored only 46 in Chemistry, and they have even been speaking to a lawyer friend to find out if they can sue the PU Board! Christopher had an excellent track record, finishing his 10th with an aggregate of 72%. He even had a first class in his 1st PU. Now he finds that he has failed in 2nd PU because he managed only 20 marks in Biology. He is confused whether to start studying for his Supplementary exams, or to wait for the revaluation that he has applied for. The CET results that are round the corner now become meaningless for him, even though he did so well in it.

There are long queues everywhere for retotalling, photocopies of answer sheets, and revaluation. From those scoring in their nineties, to those who have failed in all subjects, thousands are unhappy with their results, and have the strong feeling that there is something wrong in the evaluation.

The Director of PU Board, Mr. Nayak has gone on record to say that the valuation has been done correctly, and there are no major errors. And yet the number of dissatisfied students this year is perhaps ten times larger than ever before. There is anger, frustration, defiance and a sense of gloom from students and parents alike. They feel that their future has been jeopardized due to wrong marking. More than looking towards deciding the right career at this crucial juncture of their life, thousands of students are stuck in the quagmire of resolving their grades.

While only time can tell how rampant the errors of the PU Board were, this brings our focus to the fact that every single mark seems to have become like the crucial peaks at Kargil that our brave soldiers were trying to defend. Examinations have lost their significance of being stepping stones to further studies, and have become the end-all of a person’s life. And the sad part is that parents seem to be encouraging their children into this type of thinking.

Marks vs Learning

It is already very sad to note that the two year PUC has become an outdated and senseless drilling of students into a wide variety of subjects, many of which they may never use in their practical life. Since first year PU marks are not taken into account, many students relax in their +1, and get back to studies only subsequently. A majority of them do not know till the last minute where their future lies. Many are exploring alternatives as wide as medicine, engineering, law and management. Innumerable students are going in for “professional” courses by paying huge fees, without knowing where they are headed.

It is time for the PUC system to be replaced by a four semester pre-professional course where students can be given insights into life sciences, technology, human behavior, life skills, and most importantly – knowledge of various career options open to them. Till this happens, students will have to go through the meaningless PUC, at times choosing optionals like PCMB “to keep all options open”, or taking up Commerce because “science is too tough, and arts has no scope.” The least that parents can do is to make their children understand that it is the learning that is important, not the marks.


Marks vs Learning

In the words of John Ruskin: Education does not mean teaching people to know what they do not know; it means teaching them to behave as they do not behave.

(All names and minor details have been changed to protect the identity of the students)

By Dr. Ali Khwaja


 

How Expensive is Today’s Management Education?

Management has been one of the prized fields of study for over four decades now. The boom came with the establishment of IIM’s, and a generation ago any youngster’s dream was the IIT-IIM path to success, glory and riches. The growth of other management colleges was comparatively slow, and even a decade ago, there were less than one third of the management institutions as exist now.

Another step forward in management education was when some colleges took the risk of doing away with university affiliation, and began “autonomous” post-graduate diploma courses. Initially students were hesitant to join these, and would join such courses only when they did not get admission in “recognized” MBA colleges. But the tide turned, and soon the industry realized that autonomous diplomas were more practical and oriented towards the world of work – and students with PG Diplomas that are branded as “equivalent to MBA” have been getting equal job opportunities.

Then came the phase when private operators got into management education in a big way. Dozens of engineering colleges started MBA courses affiliated to the technological universities in their states, and even IIT’s started offering management education. Today the directories of B-Schools, as they are often referred to, run into hundreds of entries in most states.

Which institute to join and what price to pay?

Innumerable students aspiring for management education are in a dilemma when it comes to choosing the right institution. And one of the major factors is the price. Most post-graduate courses in management do not come cheap. A few colleges that have not yet acquired a reputation, charge within a lakh of rupees per year, but those more in demand easily command fees of up to three or four lakhs per annum. At times one is left wondering whether such high fee is justified, since management education does not require expensive equipment like engineering, IT or medicine. Of course, they do spend lavishly on infrastructure, ambience and furnishings – but it is debatable whether these are absolutely necessary.

Even though such fee amounts are beyond the reach of most middle-class families (particularly since many parents may have already spent a sizeable amount for the undergraduate studies), the hopes and dreams built around an MBA are so alluring that parents are willing to beg, borrow or scrounge.

Is MBA education value-for-money?

Hence one needs to ponder over the question whether the amount spent on such education gives value-for-money, and does it really ensure a bright future and lucrative returns to the student? Unfortunately the answer is not always “Yes”. With the spurt of B-Schools, many candidates are being churned out who do not necessarily acquire the managerial skills to get remunerative employment. And the aura of an MBA is such that every candidate expects to start with a fancy salary, getting sorely disappointed at times.

Practical exposure before an MBA

The exception is the growing number of candidates who are going in for a stint of work experience before coming back to do MBA a year or two later. They have a fair knowledge of the job market, and hence have realistic expectations. They take up MBA to enhance their qualifications and thus their market value. They also are able to choose the B-School more judiciously, and gain more from the course.

Prestigious institutes and the entrance tests

For those wanting to get into MBA immediately after graduation, it is imperative that they choose the college with care. Admission in good institutions is based on entrance exams, of which the CAT, conducted by the IIM’s, is the most popular, and is used for selection by other prestigious institutions also. Another selection exam, the MAT, is held three times a year, and dozens of other institutions base their admissions on the marks obtained in this test. Hence if a candidate has scored high marks in either of these entrance exams, he is assured of admission to a prestigious college. Even if he cannot afford the fees, banks are more than willing to advance a loan. These colleges boast of good campus recruitment, so the candidate is assured of a good starting salary, and can repay his loan within 3 to 5 years, or less.

Not all institutes have good infrastructure

The problem occurs for those who do not do well in CAT or MAT. Karnataka has its own K-MAT for colleges affiliated to the state’s universities, including VTU. But unfortunately not all these colleges have good infrastructure, teaching, or reputation. Students graduating from some of the lesser known colleges, particularly those who have taken loans for their fees may find it very difficult to get a sufficiently well paid job and repay the loan fast. Hence one needs to be very careful, and not get enamored with the label of “MBA”.

One should ensure the following facilities before joining a management college:
  1. Good infrastructure in terms of library, computers, auditorium, etc.
  2. Well qualified teachers who have put in a few years of steady service in the institution. If teaching staff has been leaving frequently, it is a strong indicator that the college is not good.
  3. Track record of campus placement -- and most importantly, the TYPE of jobs that candidates have been securing. It is not enough to get impressed by the names of companies doing the recruiting, because they may be recruiting for lower level posts or BPO’s.
  4. Quality of the students seeking admission, their background, their academic standards and their seriousness.
  5. Whether the college has a good industry interface and gives sufficient exposure to practicing managers and field visits.

By Ali Khwaja

 

Settling Down in College

If you have completed your 10+2 with Science, you were probably aspiring for a seat in a “professional course”. When your friends from Commerce and Arts were relaxing after the final PUC exams, you were slogging away to appear for IITJEE, AIEEE or CET exams. When the CET results came, and if your merit ranking was not very high, you went through the suspense of whether you will get a seat in a good college. The counselling process took its own sweet time, and you finally managed to get a seat allotted, either in a college of your choice, or by compromising for some other. The journey of becoming an engineer has now begun.

As soon as you start your course, you realize that things are completely different as compared to PUC or CBSE or ISC, whichever stream you came from. And you know that you now have four years to struggle before you can call yourself a qualified engineer (i.e. if you are not one of the unlucky ones who lose a year or two). Since this is a crucial phase of your life, which is going to prepare you for your future as a professional, it is essential that you need to prepare and adapt yourself suitably. Here are some practical tips

COLLEGE AND ITS ENVIRONS

The engineering college inevitably has a different atmosphere, since the teachers, labs and the facilities are quite unique. Get yourself familiarized with the entire campus, explore every nook and corner, visit the other departments, introduce yourself to each teaching and non-teaching staff member. Get acquainted with not only the rules and regulations, but also the unwritten rules and norms that are expected to be followed.

Find out also about the extra-curricular activities and see where you fit in. It is essential that you give yourself an all-round development. Make yourself self-reliant in terms of all the day to day needs, and start using the library. The faster you make yourself familiar with each aspect of the campus, the smoother your stay for the next four years is going to be.

HOSTEL

If you are living in a hostel or a PG accommodation away from home, particularly if you have left your family for the first time, be prepared for facing some amount of loneliness and depression. Try and get comfortable with the food, find out alternative foods available so that once in a while you can have a change. Try to make a habit of managing your clothes, inculcate the discipline needed to get through the morning routine, and find ways and means of developing friends so that you don’t feel homesick.

PEERS AND FRIENDS

Make friends with as many as possible, not just from your own class or section. Do not make the mistake of getting identified with one “gang” in the initial stages. However interesting they may seem, keep away from the frivolous ones who believe in enjoying life at the cost of academics. Don’t feel bad if you cannot maintain the life standard of some of the richer ones, particularly those who flaunt mobile phones or motorbikes. These are very minor aspects of life, and you will soon get over the craze.

ACADEMICS

After your tenth standard, you had no board exam for two years, and you have probably got tuned to studying only for the “final” exam. In a professional course, every semester has an exam whose weightage is equal to all other semesters. Your final grade will be an average of all the semesters. Hence get into the habit of studying for each semester without delay. Be aware of the subjects you are finding difficult, and seek help in them if necessary.

Talk to seniors and teachers and find out about the subjects you will be studying in the subsequent semesters, so that you feel connected to the course you have taken up. Start looking up data about the industry you will be joining. The more you know about your future, the more interesting your studies will appear to you. Identify teachers who are not only knowledgeable but also interested in students, and you will find that you can learn a lot from them outside the classroom.

DOUBTS

If for any reason you are confused or doubting whether you have landed up in the wrong place, do a quick analysis without getting too sentimental about it. Try to pinpoint what exactly is causing you the distress. If it is homesickness, remind yourself that it will not last long. If it is fear of some new subjects, you can always put in some extra effort and get familiarized with them. If it is a major doubt like whether you have done the right thing in taking up engineering at all, then do introspect, discuss with your parents and if possible with a career counsellor, and find out whether you would like to continue. In this aspect keep in mind the fact that engineering sharpens your abilities and opens doors for you in a wide variety of fields – so you can always switch over after completing your B.E.

By Ali Khwaja

 

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