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Tilak Rishi, born in India, has been working as a career corporate executive, after doing his MBA. Passionately pursuing his hobby for writing, he also remained a regular contributor to newspapers in India and the U.S. Many true happenings and characters he came across in life, including interaction with former president Bill Clinton, inspired Paradise Lost and Found, his first novel. A family saga, it starts from Kashmir, when this paradise on earth is lost for the tourists who thronged in thousands every year to enjoy its scenic splendor. Terrorists have turned it into one of the most dangerous places in the world. The family is not only a witness to the loss of this paradise, but also to another tragedy of much bigger magnitude. In the aftermath of the partition of India, along with millions uprooted from their homes in Pakistan, the family leaves behind all that it has in Lahore. Starting from a scratch on the difficult path to progress, it still has many joyful moments when along the way it makes a difference in many a life. The survival-to-success story climaxes in California where the family finds the paradise that was lost in Kashmir.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Elite And The Ordinary!

The very topic of public schools (private schools in USA) vs government schools (public schools in USA), takes me back to the fond memories of my dear friend, a very honest and hardworking income-tax consultant, whose death was very sad, sudden and untimely, due to heart failure. He succumbed to the severe shock of a prominent public school refusing admission to his five year old son. May God give peace to his soul, and strength to all others to bear such a disappointment when their ward is denied admission in a public school. May I request them not to take such a refusal too seriously, as this certainly is not the end of the world for them or their ward. Year after year, there has been so much improvement in government schools' infrastructure, education and administration that they are getting as good as public schools. In fact, some government schools are even better than many of the so called public schools in providing better facilities and staff salaries.

In India, due to the British influence, the term "public schools" implied non-governmental, historically elite educational institutions, often modeled on British public schools. However, more recently the term 'public' has been used much more loosely and can refer to any type of schools that take pride in publicizing themselves as English medium schools, and are affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education(CBSE). One of the supreme ironies, of course, is that even sixty years after securing independence from the British, we are still slave of the English education system, which has divided our society into two parts, the elite and the ordinary. Those who can afford to send their children to public schools are considered to come from the elite part of the society, and the rest, of course, are the ordinary folks. And yet another irony is that the middle class, who may not be able to afford the exorbitant price of public schools, still try their best for admission of their children into those schools, even if they have to suffer severe financial strain for being included amongst the elite. Unless the government starts to show some serious thinking on the subject, we will be stuck with a system which cripples state education, preserves the class structure and permits a few thousand frightening, retentive educational institutions to rule over us, and extract as much as they can from the poor parents.

Is there any way to save our government school system? Yes . First and foremost, the government must demolish the division in the school system by moving forward with uniform, national standardized testing for all schools, government and public, under one central board of education. Along with this we need to establish solid and uniform academic standards for grade promotion and graduation in all schools. Next, we need to better attune education in government schools to the experiences, interests, and aptitudes of today's young people. We know that the chance of success is limited for a child that comes from a home where the parents are unable to afford time and environment for education of their children. Although requiring parents to be actively involved in their children's education is a thorny issue, government school systems should require school administrators to have conferences and even workshops with parents whenever their children run into academic or disciplinary problems.

Here is an example of a principal of a government school, if followed by other principals, I am certain government schools will prove no less than any private school in imparting good education. This principal was so perfect in her profession that whichever school she was transferred to, amongst hundreds of schools under Delhi Administration, she turned it into the best school in the district. The administration very often shifted her to one of the weakest schools with the objective of improving its ratings, and the posting invariably proved rewarding for the school. Once they transferred her to a school that no principal ever wanted to put her foot in, as it was sure to bring her a bad name, and no one wanted to blemish his or her career by being in that school. As was expected of her, she accepted the challenge very cheerfully, and began to work in right earnest to bring up the school. It was located in poorest of the neighborhoods, where living conditions did not allow the students to study at home, even to do their homework. She had to work very hard on that school, meeting every parent to personally persuade them to improve the environment for studies at home, and to dissuade them from forcing their wards to work for a living while they needed to work hard on their studies for a better life ahead. In one year she had made so much difference that it was difficult for the officers in the education directorate to believe the school's results that took the top ranking amongst all the schools in the district. The community started worshipping the Principal and would not let her leave when the administration again wanted to transfer her to improve another weak school after some time. The entire community, hundreds of men and women marched to the administration office in procession to protest the transfer and to plead for the principal to stay in the school. It was for the first time in the history of Delhi schools when the parents went that far to force the administration to cancel transfer orders of a principal.

There is no dearth of dedicated principals and teachers in government schools. If only the government gives them their due recognition and encouragement, there is no way the government schools would be left behind even the best of public schools, and do not succeed in demolishing the division of the society, born out of the existing school system, into the elite and the ordinary.



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