Fun workshops at Accenture, Bangalore

One of my friends, who runs an activity center and conducts corporate workshops is going to be conducting the following workshops for folks working at Accenture, Bangalore. Do sign up for the workshops if the topics are of interest to you.

  1. Microwave cooking demo
  2. Water color painting
  3. Glass painting
  4. Charcoal painting.

Her center is conducting all the four workshops at 3 different Accenture locations on July 1st and 2nd. The center will provide all the materials and classes will be led by professional teachers.

 Call Swetha for details – 97408 50750

6 months after

Yesterday was father’s day and it was exactly 6 months ago to the day yesterday, that we lost my dad. Yes, 6 months have passed by …. in the blink of an eye. How has it been? That I can even bring myself to ask that question means it has gotten better. But since when? Just from a few days ago. The almost 6 months since his death have been very hard to say the least. Any thought of him would always only choke me up. Initially the memories of his suffering would be fresh and very hurting. Over a period of time, that changed to having memories of him from different years. And in the last couple of months, the memory practically zeroed in on memories from my childhood – when my dad was robust, energetic, and healthy.

In Nov and Dec 08, I must confess, the big wish was to see his suffering end. While it was terribly saddening when he passed away, I was also happy that he wasnt suffering anymore. What I then didnt realise was how the loss was so much bigger than I had ever imagined. So much more permanent than I had ever expected. It is not like he had gone away for a while. While it may seem obvious, this deduction of mine, it took me a while to really get it. Am I handling death for the first time? No. But at such close quarters, yes for the very first time.

When the memories of his suffering started going to the background and memories of his younger days started coming to the foreground, sometimes it was very hard to distinguish the timelines. I was so consumed by having lost him, and in my mind that translated to having lost his unconditional love. So there was this huge void inside of me whenever I thought of him.  And really talking about him wasnt something that I resorted to. What would I have put into words? And did I really want to put any of those 20+ year old memrories into words? That they were so vivid was so hard to comprehend, to begin with.

And then very suddenly something changed – a change that I didnt consciously make happen. But it was sudden for sure – when his loss didnt seem to create that void anymore. And that was very different and very new. In a way, quite strengthening too. And then it looked like the extreme suffering had come to an end. And that has stayed that way – no more of the extreme distress. That it was ok that he wasnt amidst us. But it took a certain journey to arrive here. Was the journey hard? Oh yeah, without a doubt. But could I have gotten here without that journey? Nope, dont think so at all.

Test drove the Honda Jazz

Over the last weekend, my husband and I were at the Honda showroom and we test drove Honda’s Jazz. Since detailed reviews are available on the internet, in auto magazines, and in the news papers, I will simply list out what I thought of the car here.

We really liked the cool, futurstic looks of the Jazz. And the car that we saw was the Deep Sapphire Blue and it was really a nice color to go with the Jazz body. What is very different about the jazz is its fairly large vent windows, which are what give it its futuristic looks too. The drive itself was a pleasure and we hardly felt any bumps. On the Hosur road, under the appocalyptic flyover, (yes I hate the flyover on Hosur road!) we touched 110 kph and we hardly even noticed the speed. It was very pleasant and very smooth. Apparently you can go up to 160 kph with ease. The dealer says you get about 15 kms/litre of petrol inside the city. No diesel model for Jazz, for now.

The interior is very spacious and is very comparable to the City. Lot of leg room, good amount of storage space, and the boot is of a very good volume too. The coolest feature was the ease with you can flip the rear seats and level them to the floor; this creates loads of storage space, which can come very handy. The titanium interior upholstery looks nice.

The Jazz comes with a CD MP3 player.  There is even a port to plug in your MP3 player. And all of the audio system can be controlled from the steeering wheel. Apparently, the speed volume feature is like this – you speed up, the volume audio increases and you slow down, the volume goes down. We didnt particularly notice this feature, but I am not sure I see the value add. On the contrary it could be a tad irritating.

There is no auto climate control. Just 3 rotatory switches for controlling the AC – not really echoing of Jazz’s steep price! My husband and I didnt like the instrument panel. It looks quite stoic and I didn’t like the digital display of the music system.

Here’s comparing the body dimensions of the Jazz with the dimensions of Hyundai’s Getz and Maruti’s Swift. All of them are hatchbacks.

All numbers are in mm. The first column is that of the Jazz and the second column of numbers is that of the Getz, and the 3rd column is that of the Swift.

overall length:     3900     3810     3760

overall width:     1695     1665     1690

overall height:     1535     1515     1530

From what I learnt at the Hosur Road Honda dealer was that, in Bangalore the Jazz will cost 8.44 Lakhs. For an additional 30K you will get the Mode Kit, for an additional 35K, you will get the Activ Kit. And currently Jazz only comes in one model. So, that means 8.44 L it is. And that is probably where Honda fails with Jazz and quite a bit. For a hatchback, it is very steep. For another 80K or so, you will get the City, brand new! If it were priced at 6-6.5 on the road, it would be a pretty good buy, I would think.

As for the Getz, it is priced around 5L. The Swift is priced about 4.8L on the road. It will be interesting to see how easily Honda can sell the Jazz at this price.

A village kid gets into Medicine. Now what?

Read in the papers today about Shrishaila Kumbar, who is from a village near Hubli and who is all set to start his studies in Medicine. He is a Kannada medium student, who scored about 85 per cent in PUC. He secured a good enough rank in CET and has a reservation under 2A category. Poverty came in the way of him pursuing his dream of becoming a doctor. So, about 30 villagers came together and donated Rs 26,000 to the family to help him get admission to a medical college. He has also now taken a loan for his future studies.

While all this is good and I am glad for the kid, what I wonder is his ability to do something like professional medicine without a background in English. There must be more such students though who have been pursuing professional courses with no bacground whatsoever in the medium taught at professional colleges. Especially something as complicated as medicine, when taught in a language that one isnt familiar with and where one has to face exams in the new medium of language too, I wonder how possible the studies will be. By keeping the medium of free government education in the local language and expecting the students from govt. schools to compete with everybody else at a later stage somehow doesnt seem too fair. While I hope this kid can manage it all somehow, I would think there should be a collective consideration about teaching more of English to the rural kids. Yes, we are proud of our regional languages and local governments must encourage the use of our local languages, but at what cost? I do not know of any specific examples, where a student from a rural background with limited exposure to the English language has gotten into a professional college. Do you know of any such students? How do they manage?

Your thoughts are welcome, as always.

Tuition classes – What do Bangalore teachers and parents have to say?

In the last week’s Education Supplement in the Deccan Herald, one of my articles appeared. The online version is here.

Here’s a slightly longer version of the same.

Tuition classes have come to be a mainstay and are a big part of our educational ecosystem. With the kind of competition children these days face at every stage, parents are stressed like never before to make conscious choices that will help their children score good grades and earn good marks at every stage. Here’s a summary of a study conducted to find out the current scenario in the world of tuition classes.
Starting out age for tuitions

Children in Bangalore seem to normally start tuition classes somewhere around the 7th or 8thstandard. Many parents, teachers, and students however think that tuitions are really not a necessity till the 10thstd if the child is able to pay attention at school and keep up with his school assignments. If one of the parents is able to spend at least an hour at home with the child in going over school work and giving attention to wherever a child may need some extra help with, tuitions can be avoided, says Ms. Aashima Kalra, a high school Chemistry teacher at Bethany High.

However almost everybody is of the opinion that Science students need the extra coaching classes in the core subjects to gain the competitive edge for entrance exams to get into professional courses.
Popular subjects

Math, Science, Hindi are by far the most sought after subjects for which students seem to constantly look for tuition classes. Ms. Minakshi Garg, who teaches primary school at Head Start in Koramangala and who takes tuition classes for Hindi and Math says that for Hindi alone, kids seem to start tuitions fairly early in Bangalore, in fact as early as class 1. Hindi, as a language, is not easy for a child coming from a non-Hindi speaking background. With tuitions, a child is able to know enough of the language to get good grades at school. She goes on to add that in Bangalore, many children seem to find enough help at home for Science and Mathematics in their primary school.

Ms. Neethi Agarwal, a mother to 2 boys in primary school, says that though their mother tongue is Hindi, her boys do not identify with the Hindi script. In fact, her older boy primarily spoke English at home with his parents, which made learning Hindi that much more challenging. So, they consciously chose to converse in Hindi at home to make the learning process easier on her second son, she concludes.

Do tuitions help?

Here are the scenarios where extra tuition classes are said to be warranted.

The number of children per class in the school is high that no matter what a teacher does, there is only so much she can do to reach to every student. In such a case, students are likely to need extra teaching to finish up everything the school is likely to not be able to teach. More often than not, an ideal number of students in a classroom is around 30, says Ms. Rita Dewang, an ex-teacher who has taught high school for many years in Bangalore, Delhi and in Calcutta.

Parents do not have the time or are not equipped to give the students the necessary help at home.

Students who are already good at school and need just that extra push to help them climb from scoring 85% to scoring anywhere above 92%.

Not all school teachers do a good job of imparting the concepts and addressing the different needs of the students. Many teachers agree to the fact that a teacher in a classroom is trying to address the needs of a variety of students who have different grasping abilities. Even in good schools, only about 40% of the teachers use creative methods and give their job a 100% says Ms. Aashima Kalra.

Janani Hari, who recently completed her 10thCBSE and scored 93% says she went for Math tuitions, in spite of knowing that she will be able to do well even without the extra help. She went on to add that her tuition teacher would make his students do the important formulae and theorems over and over again, which made her Math exam a breeze through. The ease with which she was able to prepare for her exams, and the confidence with which she was able to face her paper became easy thanks only to the methodology used by her tuition teacher. Her father was only too happy to send her to classes knowing fully well that the classes were going to give her the extra edge. Now that the results are out, they are satisfied with the 99 marks she scored in Math.
Tuition costs

The cost varies a lot depending on multiple factors; the most important factor being how good or effective a certain teacher is in extracting the best out of her students. On an average, it is seen that, teachers charge about Rs. 1000/- per subject per month, and teaching about 2-3 hrs per week. However there are also teachers who charge only about Rs. 300/- per month.

There are also teachers who charge as much as Rs. 300/-per hour for subjects such as Math, Physics for the 11th, 12th standard students. These teachers are also likely going to be teaching those students who are already scoring 85%+ and need that extra edge to make it to scoring the 90-95%.

Coaching centers that target concentrated training for entrance tests towards professional courses during the 11th and 12th std charge about Rs. 35,000/- per year for the core subjects.

Stress levels

Whether a child is stressed or not mostly depends on the child. There are children who take their work seriously and do what it takes both at school and in the tuition class that they attend. However, there are students who claim to have done their work in their tuition class at home and simply skip doing studies at home. So, there are many sides to the same cause.

There are tuition teachers who punish students who do not complete tuition assignments – including beating up and yes, this includes high school students, says Ms. Aashima Kalra. And in a typical good school, teachers never raise their hands on the students she says. So, the students, because of the fear of the punishment tend to sometimes give importance to the assignments given in their tuition class than the assignments given at school. Depending on the nature of the tuition class and the nature of the student, the stress levels vary.

Some parents find it hard to spend time with their children for multiple reasons; both the parents working full time is more often than not the common reason. Some moms, who work full time, think it is probably better for the child and the parent if the child goes to tuition classes. The reasoning is that the child is likely to listen to a teacher better and parents can lose patience with their children when they don the role of a teacher.

One also hears of “special tuitions” where the tuition teacher invariably prepares her students by leaking the questions that the students are going to face in class tests. This is possible only when the student goes to tuitions to the same teacher who teaches at school too. It seems like there is a long way to go before we come up with an ideal education system where we are able to eliminate negative pay-offs from the system.