All posts tagged: Education

Remembering August 6th

Today marks the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and continues to send shivers down the spines of those that dare to reminisce. 64 years later, the world is still a cradle of hatred, cruelty and destruction. Although we probably had our first tryst with World War II in 6th grade history textbooks, I deeply encountered the implications of war, weapons & death only in 9th grade literature. It tragically transformed historical numbers, facts and figures into real people, emotions and scars. A doctor’s journal entry for August 6, 1945 – Vikram Seth The morning stretched calm, beautiful, and warm. Sprawling half clad, I gazed out at the form Of shimmering leaves and shadows. Suddenly A strong flash, then another, startled me. I saw the old stone lantern brightly lit. Magnesium flares? While I debated it, The roof, the walls and, as it seemed, the world Collapsed in timber and debris, dust swirled Around me – in the garden now – and, weird, My drawers and undershirt disappeared. A splinter jutted from my mangled thigh. …

Graduation day

Commencement officially marks the end of student life, even though in our minds, the transition was made the day we finished our last exam in college. We’ve entered the next level of that video game that never ceases to fascinate us. Treasures have been found, hills climbed, landscapes traversed, battles fought and won or lost, accomplices identified, cheat codes memorized indelably. The time has come to remodel the avatar and refine the tasks. Staging black gowns and graduation hats, the class of 2009 officially ended its undergraduate tenure. There were smiles and flashes everywhere; Commencement 2009 at SMU (Singapore Management University, from where I graduate) became the culmination of all memories created and collected over 4 years. My own ineffability thus far was transcended by a sense of delight and hope, and a tinge of nostalgia. The commencement address, delivered by a member of the Keppel Coporation, was, in all aspects, disappointing, dismaying and demotivating. The R word was justified in being featured in the speech, but certainly not expected to consume it entirely. Tell …

Education reforms in India

The Congress came to power with big promises this year (as all governments post all elections), and much to the credit of the academic party that it is, I am proud to say that I see hope for India, believing, rather optimistically, that Kapil Sibal’s proposed education reforms will be implemented. I must confess that I am an Indian news channels’ addict, despite the trash that they feature and hype, and have followed all day, the vision of Kapil Sibal, India’s HRD minister and a Harvard alumni. My rants on education finally find some relief, at least in acceptance of the fact that our education system is a breeding ground for stress, due to its superficial emphasis on results. The man who led India’s first expedition to the Arctic and represented the country at the Davos economic forum, has now become the harbinger of relief in the Indian student life. In an NDTV exclusive with Barkha Dutt, Kapil Sibal proposed the following: Scrap the compulsory class 10 board exam, for it is merely a source …

Off the beaten track

College degrees are analogous to fashion trends. The ones that manage to attain critical mass sell like hot cakes, albiet periodically. The 80s were for med schools, the 90s saw students flock to engineering, the early 2000s started the fad of computer wizards, the last 4-5 years have generated an inordinate number of bankers, and the next few, I predict, will see the masses revert back to the doctors and engineers. In fact, fancy foreign banking experience, which once scored points for eligible bachelors (particularly Indian, since the arranged marriage concept is almost alien to other nationalities), has become quite the tabboo this season. During my own time in college, I have seen many a talent wasted in the race for the most popular college degree. Off beat degrees, it seems, are still only for the daredevils, the rich & hence financially secure, and those who can’t make the academic cutoff of mainstream courses. Of course, there are those who discover only midway through college that they are not cut out for the rat race. …

Saturn & Stargazing

2009 is a special year in the night sky. The Earth is exactly at the same level as Saturn in space, allowing us Earthlings to catch a vertical view of the second largest planet in our solar system, a one in 15 years phenomenon. To celebrate the International Year of Astronomy, the Science Center in Singapore has opened up its Observatory for free stargazing sessions every Friday night. This week, the main telescope was aligned to focus on Saturn and its moons, and it made for a spectacular sight. In the magnified view of the telescope, Saturn appears exactly like it was depicted in secondary school geography textbooks, complete with the rings. The rings, which are really pieces of dust and ice moving at tremendous speeds, look gorgeous! Of the 62 moons of Saturn, only 4 of the brighter ones were visible through the telescope, and appeared as though they were protecting the rings of Saturn. To the naked eye, or through a pair of binoculars, Saturn only appears as a bright star in the sky. …

Earth Hour 2009

To some of our minds, climate change is still a far-fetched issue, way out of our grasp and way beyond our time. Even as we speak, people are getting trapped in poverty and hunger all over the world. Our generation is suffering, and climate change is trying to make us reflect upon the well-being of future generations. I don’t know if it’s a just cause, but I do know that we are genetically coded to be futuristic. After all, we do all we do in our life time, so our race could survive further, consciously or sub-consciously.  Above is a glimpse into climate change. If you have ever been awestruck by the picturesque view from a hill top, been hypnotized by the turquoise blue of the sea, or simply marvelled at the sheer beauty of the evening sky, you know that our planet is worth saving. You can read more on CNN’s exclusive section Planet in Peril. Earth Hour is an initiative by the WWF, that tries to urge each individual, household and organization to …

Social media

I recently discovered that a lot of people are unaware of the social media phenomenon, even though they are very much a part of it. As a believer in the power of social media, I owe this post to them. Simply put, social media collectively describes all tools that enable people to talk online. Often interchangeably used with the term Web 2.0, social media consists of social networks like Facebook, content sharing sites like Youtube and Flickr, blogging platforms like WordPress and Blogger, and user-generated information sources like Wikipedia. The term, coined only recently, is creating waves in the PR world. It is a colossal avenue for people to share their insights, opinions and knowledge, through interaction with others like them on the World Wide Web.  Currently, the size of the social media community is estimated at 400 million. According to a study by Strategy Analytics, by 2015, 1 in every 6 people will be users of social media platforms. Billion dollar companies like Dell, Starbucks and Coca-Cola are reinventing themselves through social media and reconnecting …

The Aasha Build: Gift hope, build a home

Slumdog Millionaire has put the slums of India on the world map, albiet in an artistic way. Despite the obvious, it’s still hard to believe that some people don’t have a concrete roof over their heads, that they live in make-shift shacks even in this age and time. Apparently, India homes 17% of all slum-dwellers in the world, a figure which translates to about 170 million people! The odds are just slightly tilted in our favor.  If you have ever witnessed the poverty on India’s streets (in person or through CNN or BBC), I am sure you have wondered, even for a moment, if there was a way you could help. This is your chance. A few of us have started an initiative with Habitat for Humanity to build houses in a slum area in Devanahalli, on the outskirts of Bangalore, India. The 2 weeks we spend on site will involve an intensive 10 day build, with an aim of constructing 8 double-storeyed houses, sheltering 16 families or approximately 96 individuals. A house might sound trivial, …

Vision for all

If you wear eyeglasses, I’m sure you can remember what it felt like the first time you wore them. Personally, I was in denial for 2 years before I got my first pair. My bespectacled self realized that my whole world had been a blur. Suddenly, everything was bright and all those blotches had defined shapes. I could see clearly again, thanks to Salvino D’Armate, peace be upon him. Unfortunately, millions the world over, and nearly 15 million people in India can never experience their first time. I shall resist brooding over how this affects their quality of life and how unfair the financial inequality in our country is. I will however mention that the aftermath of unaided poor vision is often blindness.  A while ago, a friend told me how some IIT students had found this problem an ingenious solution. Today, I stumbled upon a similar initiative by Lions Club International. Apparently it has been in place for over 80 years! I’m still blown away by the idea, and to prevent further anticipation, here goes: …

The 3 best graduation speeches

Words can be ‘weapons’ of mass inspiration, especially when the right ones are found at the right moments, moments which tend to define the rest of our lives. The following three graduation speeches inspire me most as I prepare to undertake the journey that lies ahead. One. Steve Jobs, the creator of Apple, to the Class of 2005 at Stanford. Two. Chetan Bhagat, an IIT grad and the author of Five Point Someone, at Symbiosis (India) Convocation 2008. Good Morning everyone and thank you for giving me this chance to speak to you. This day is about you. You, who have come to this college, leaving the comfort of your homes (or in some cases discomfort), to become something in your life. I am sure you are excited. There are few days in human life when one is truly elated. The first day in college is one of them. When you were getting ready today, you felt a tingling in your stomach. What would the auditorium be like, what would the teachers be like, who are …