Category Archives: Education

I BELIEVE in you, do you?

There are few topics of genuine interest for people from the Indian male fraternity. Cricket, Bollywood (with special emphasis on the Katrina Kaif!), Politics, General Affairs (including the US, Japan, China, Pakistan et al), Cars, Gadgets and Technology (mobile and tablets included because I used this word fairly loosely and broadly!) and Women. Under the topic of women, a few sub categories get more interest than other’s. One of them is the topic of “a woman driving a car”. “They don’t know driving”, “They can’t drive”, “I bet it’s a girl driving that car”, “She can never get the parking right”, “Reverse parking and she? Pray for the owner of the other cars”. I heard all of these words (& more) for a large part of my growing up years (and continue to hear them even today!).  Somehow somewhere, I believed it to be true.  Consequently, I could not get myself to drive a car for several years.

One fine day, I decided I had to learn car driving. I can’t recall why, but this one burning desire consumed every waking moment of my life. And so I enrolled to a driving school. Unfortunately for me, during one of those learning sessions, I had a ‘head-on’ collision with a private bus. Fortunately for me, the car and I survived. Almost all the boys / men I knew said “I told you so! This is not meant for you.”. I listened to them and believed it. As a result, I stopped the lessons and driving.

After a few years, I mustered the courage to again enroll into a driving school. I completed the course and got my driving license. But the lack of confidence and fears persisted. So I rarely drove. After a few years, I got fed-up being dependent on others for ferrying me around. But I still lacked confidence, so I decided to refresh my driving lessons. Thanks to a friend who offered to risk putting his life at stake with my amateur driving, I lay my hands on the steering wheel.  I drove like an amateur. If I saw vehicles come near me, I’d steer away. If it was a big vehicle, I’d freeze and give way. If there was a junction in sight, I’d pray for it to be clear (along with a list of bribes to the Almighty!). If there appeared to be traffic ahead, I’d wish all the vehicles disappeared by the time I reached.

After a few patient days, my friend had THAT talk with me. He said “Why are you so scared? Rather, what are you so scared of? I’m the one who should be scared since you are driving. But I’m sitting here – happily next to you in spite / despite your driving skills. If you do drive, drive like a king. The road is yours to take. I BELIEVE in you, do you?”. That was the moment it all changed for me, and driving a car has never been the same again.

As I look back to connect the dots of my life, I have been fortunate that I’ve had people who believed in me at the most vulnerable and decisive moments of my life.  From my family, friends, teachers, colleagues and managers at work – they all had their way of saying this to me “I BELIEVE in you, do you?”.  6 simple words, but truly powerful and truly transformational. I speak from experience here!

Coming to women at the workplace, it is no different. Almost every working woman I’ve come across (irrespective of age, irrespective of ethnicity, irrespective of seniority, irrespective of past successes) has a lot these moments in her career. Moments of self-doubt, uncertainty, questions and fears around her capability, competency and value. Not once, not twice, but very many times. And to help her cross the chasm during these moments, many times all she needs to hear is “I BELIEVE in you, do you?”. Trust me, it can shape, influence and steer her career in unimaginable ways.

Pause and Reflect

When did someone last tell you ““I BELIEVE in you, do you?”

When did you tell someone “I BELIEVE in you, do you?”

When did you tell a woman “I BELIEVE in you, do you?”

When did you tell a working woman “I BELIEVE in you, do you?”

You have a chance today..

“I BELIEVE in you, do you?”

 

Originally published here

Do we need a “LEAN IN” Movement in India?

Sheryl Sandberg’s (FaceBook’s COO) new book “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead” published in March 2013 has been in the news for the past few months for many different reasons. There has been applause and appreciation from many quarters; and at the same time criticism and negative feedback from many other quarters.

Personally, I think it’s the law of averages at work. For any creative piece of work (Writing is a creative process); there will be people who will say something “Good”; and others who will say something “Not So Good”. That’s the way of the world. Especially if the creator (writer in this case) is someone well-known, successful and prosperous and a “woman” – Then it is the topic of debate, and it is in the news!

After the launch of the book, Sheryl launched the Lean In community as a global community committed to encouraging and supporting women “leaning in” to their ambitions. Again, a great initiative because it provided a platform for women to discuss, collaborate and speak about many issues / challenges / choices and decisions which plague them on their journey through different career phases and different life choices.

Sheryl has been fortunate to have had an Ivy League education, a remarkable career track record, the opportunity to work in some renowned organizations / institutes, a personal network that include the “Who’s Who?” and of course, personal wealth which many can only dream of; before she authored this book. And that’s been one of the points which most critics have made – That she had everything easy for her. Personally I do appreciate the fact that she took the initiative to write the book. Trust me! For any working mother (No matter who you are and what you do), writing a book along with your doing justice to your professional responsibilities, & managing your home / personal commitments and expectations is no easy task – It requires significant amount of will-power, focus, planning, determination and support. And these are life skills worth emulating from any individual! And you have to give Sheryl credit for that.

After all, how many successful women have authored books on the issue of women reaching their “true goals”? How many successful women have started global communities around the issues of “working women”? How many of these communities are truly “active” and engaging in every day conversations and dialogues with women to help them grow in their careers? How many of these initiatives are truly making a DIFFERENCE to the lives of women?
“Lean In” has definitely been the cause and catalyst for ongoing conversations, discussions, expressions and debates around gender equality, women and ambition, women taking responsibility for your career & choices and not being afraid to face your fears. And these discussions include people from all parts of the world, and in an organization context include all levels of leadership and executive management.

Sheryl’s central point is that many women are not “Leaning In” enough to achieve their career ambitions. And her key message is requesting women to “Lean In”– Take responsibility for your career and work towards achieving your goals.

The more I read about this subject, the more I am compelled to think about the situation in India.
“Do we need a LEAN IN Movement in India?”

Agreed that the issues of working mothers across the world would be common to some extent. The eternal quest of “Doing justice and maintaining a balance between personal aspirations, professional responsibilities and family commitments”.

And yet as a working woman, you can’t ignore the influence of your immediate living environment on your choices and decisions.

Every country has its own history, evolution, growth story, political scenario, policies, laws, educational framework, economic growth, culture, “ways of living” and employment guidelines which influence the mind-set of the “community at large”; and this creates unique set of country-specific-issues when it comes to the topic of “Women and their Careers”. India is no exception.

In India, looking at the women around me and the choices they make, there are 4 critical factors which drive and determine the career choices that a woman makes:
(1) Your upbringing and the mental conditioning you’ve had on “The role of a woman at home and society”: This makes an ocean of a difference on the core belief system, self-esteem and self-confidence of a woman. So if you have daughters in your house; educate them, encourage them to learn, dream, grow and make meaningful contributions to society – beyond the four walls!
(2) When and who you marry? : For many women, the dream to have a career ends after marriage! And for many women, they start thinking about their careers right after marriage. Yes! Marriage can be a very critical milestone in the life of a woman.
(3) Becoming a mother; and the decision to be a Stay-At-Home Mom or a Working Mother : Either by virtue of personal choice or personal circumstances: There’s no right or wrong here – It is just a personal choice, and most women don’t comprehend the full impact of this one choice till they hit their twilight years! The point is what starts of a temporary hiatus from work, extends indefinitely. So at some point in their journey as a mother, it is important for women to re-look at their choices and decisions, and see if they want to / can step back into active careers
(4) The “Family Responsibility”: The “implicit” role a women is expected to play in taking care of aged / elderly / ill people in the family; and how she has to put everything else “on hold” – to nurture and nurse people to good health.
All of the above influence the “career choice” that a woman makes. Agreed that something’s are not in your control, something’s are driven purely by your circumstances; and something’s are not even your choices.

But my question to Indian women is “When you do have a choice, do you “LEAN IN” enough?
And back to my original question “Do we need a LEAN IN Movement in India?”
I think YES!
• We need women to “Lean In” to their careers
• We need men to enable women to “Lean In”
• We need children to help their mothers “Lean In”
• We need educators to enable women to “Lean In”
• We need policies to enable women to “Lean In”
• We need law makers to make it easy for women to “Lean In”
• We need mentors to guide women to “Lean In”
• We need people in power to help women to “Lean In”
• We need employers to make it easy for women to “Lean In”
• We need families and friend to condition / support women to “Lean In”
• We need successful women leaders to speak up / share to inspire women to “Lean In”
We need a whole ecosystem in India to enable women to “Lean In”
So YES! We do need a “LEAN IN” Movement in India
I’m doing my bit and best every single day to “LEAN IN”… What about you?

Published on PeopleMatters ; Edited and re-published here

Schools, Marketing and More…

As a parent, the last few months have involved running around schools (20+ schools in all) for my child’s school admission. The whole experience has had its share of highs and lows, ups and downs, disappointments and highlights, surprises and shocks, observations and lessons learned – In terms of my baby’s performance, In terms of our own performance as parents and of course in terms of the changing face of schools and educational institutes!

But the entire experience also made me realize that Marketing is such an important and integral element of a school. After all, From a school’s perspective – How well you market your school determines how many parents admit their kids into your school, and that adds to your top-line. After all, all schools / educational institutes are commercial enterprises at the end of the day!

In this post, I am sharing some observations, lessons and learning’s from my personal experiences:

* Marketing Initiatives from schools appear to depend on the following parameters:

(1) How old / new the school is? for e.g.: Newer schools are more aggressive in marketing and promotion (You can see them everywhere especially during the Admission Season – On posters, banners, newspapers, flyers, etc. etc.). The older / more established schools rely mostly on the powerful word-of-mouth referrals which get them new students every year

(2) The Brand Image the school has. for e.g.: Is it positioned as an elite school for elitist society? Is it a school for the middle-class parents? Does it have a legacy / great achievement to boast of? Does it have an alumni which have done the school proud? – A lot of the marketing collateral and positioning is usually centered around this!

(3) Marketing Budget which the school is willing to invest – which is a function of the owners / trust / management of the school, and their “mind-set” / views on the importance of marketing

* Almost all schools (old / new) have “beautiful-looking” web-sites. I must say some them were really impressive, in terms of their philosophy, visuals, achievements and the user experience. And most of the web-sites have such wonderfully written text. And trust me, if I share the “text only” version of these web-sites, you can never say which text belongs to which school. So much for differentiation!

The other observation I made (rather sad to state this) is that if you see the web-site and then visit the school, you will be in for a complete shock because of the disconnect in how the schools position themselves on their web-site, and what they actually are! So much for initial disappointment!

* The newer schools focus and market way too much on infrastructure, modern facilities, and very “materialistic parameters“. Should there not be more focus and rigor on “education” in ways it matters to an individual and society at large?

* The “front-end staff” (those interacting with prospective parents) were always smiling, nice and undigestibly sweet (almost as if it were their wedding, and they were posing for photos the whole time) – especially in the newer schools (Read as schools which had more supply than demand). In other schools (Read as schools which had more demand than supply), the “front-end staff” were rude, indifferent and cold in their interactions with prospective parents (probably there’s no better way to deal with infinite demand and the same questions day-in and day-out)

* Most schools spoke about “Holistic Education” and the emphasis on Studies and overall student development. It’s good to see the emphasis on academics; as well as overall child development – And I do hope that schools focus on both aspects in the “right spirit”. Though from my interactions, it appeared that “academic rigor and focus” was way down in the priority list for many schools! In my view, “academic rigor and focus” should be one of the top priorities for any school. I mean “How many parents send their children to schools with the primary aim of getting them to ride a horse? or play golf? or getting them to sit an an A/C environment the whole day?”

* Surprisingly, not a single school I visited ever spoke of a subject called “Moral Science”. When I was a student, Moral Science was a mandatory subject everyday for 30 minutes – From 1st standard to 10th standard. In today’s day and age,  would it not help to touch and discuss topics / subjects dealing with moral values and have it integral to the school curriculum?

Just my thoughts, what do you think? Leave a comment to let me know

A Student’s Dilemma – The Course or The College…

It’s that time of the year when many students have to make important choices with respect to their future education – Especially the decision of the Graduation college (after completion of 12th standard).

A lucky few students (by virtue of their academic performance / personal wealth & affluence/ personal networks) manage to secure an admission in a college of their choice, and with a course (subject) of their choice. But this usually translates into very small percentage of the overall student base.

What about the vast majority of the students?
The dilemma comes down to a choice which they need to make
The Choice between the COURSE and COLLEGE..
And that’s a choice
Which can potentially change their life
Which can potentially change their earning potential
Which can potentially change their quality of life
Which can potentially change their way of thinking
Which can potentially change their views of the world..
Which can potentially change their HAPPINESS QUOTIENT in LIFE..

It’s a TOUGH CHOICE to make..
For students and for their parents..

Here’s my VIEW:
Having been through all these phases myself (right until post-graduation) & also having seen friends / colleagues / family / people around me go through the journey of life and how their lives eventually turn out – My personal and honest answer is “IT DEPENDS on the STUDENT

Let me explain my point further..

At these phases of life, I have broadly seen students fall into 2 categories:

(1) Students who are deeply passionate about a subject / cause and know for sure what they want to study and eventually become. For e.g.: A friend of mine was very clear that she wanted to study Genetics; and be a researcher in this area when she was in 12th Standard. At that time though most of us knew vaguely what genetics was, her personal interest and passion on the subject was unparalleled. She would read extensively about the subject, subscribe to magazines / periodicals, etc etc & any conversation with her which lasted beyond 5 minutes would be steered to Genetics. Eventually, she went on to do her PhD in Genetics, and has dome some amazing research work in this area.

Whatever be the area of interest – Be it engineering, medicine, genetics, finance, yoga, fitness, fashion design, jewellery design, acting, music, cooking, etc. etc. etc. – If you are deeply passionate about it and are sure about it, that’s a GREAT PLACE and STATE to be in life.

So as a student / individual, if you are deeply passionate about a subject / cause, then my recommendation is one should CHOOSE the COURSE over the COLLEGE.

(2) Now coming to majority of the other students (Applies even to most of us even in adult life) – They really don’t know what they want to study or eventually become. Some of them have favorite subjects at school, but their not sure if that’s what they want to pursue further (For e.g.: It’s not necessary that if you like Maths, you want to become a Mathematician, or Accountant, or a Business Finance professional). For many, they don’t even have any favorite subjects – They just study everything because its part of their school curriculum.

For such students, my recommendation is one should CHOOSE the COLLEGE over the COURSE. Of course, you should try to look for a course in which you have some level of interest.

Simply because if you join a better rated college, you will have the following advantages:

One, the quality of teaching staff would probably be (And again, there may be exceptions here.) better; and a good teacher can sometimes do a phenomenal job in introducing you to new subjects / new worlds, make you curious about learning, open your to mind to new possibilities and help you discover subjects / passions which were waiting to be unearthed. Also recommendations from reputed / well-known teachers of good institutes adds up in your resume – for job applications / future studies.

Two, the overall quality of student base would probably be better. Interacting and building strong friendships and relationships with the right people at this phase of your life can make all the difference in how you think, the kind of activities you associate with, the experiences and exposure you get as a student and  the lessons of life you learn as a student.

Three, and most importantly a better rated college would probably also expose you to options and possibilities after you complete a course by virtue of their associations and collaborations with other regional / global organizations, and these can give you a head-start in your career.

Fourthly and most importantly, the job / career prospects are better if you’ve studied in a good college. Organizations looking at recruitment usually tie-up with colleges which are ranked better. Of course, all organizations have their own criteria for identification of colleges that they will recruit students from, but as a general guideline the better ranked colleges are preferred.

Fifthly, the college alumni plays a very important role in the branding of the college in the corporate context, and the contributions they make to grow and improve the institute. Most good colleges have a dedicated focus on connecting, engaging and interacting with alumni, and do gain phenomenally from these alumni interactions. Consequently, the current student base do get to benefit for these alumni networks in terms of career counseling, guest lectures, industry connects and even job recruitment drives.

Lastly, 10 years after you’ve started working most people associate you with an educational institute than with a specific branch. So for e.g.: You’ll hear of Ms X as a Harvard alumni more often than Ms X as an Engineering student.

That’s my view. Would love to hear your views. Leave a comment to let me know

And if you need to make the decision now, GOOD LUCK to YOU

The 10,000 Hour Rule

A few weeks back, I read the book “Outliers : The Story of Success” BY Malcolm Gladwell – One of the most interesting and thought provoking books I’ve read in the recent past. One of the key points in the book is that it takes 10,000 hours of dedicated practice to achieve excellence in anything – Be it programming, music or art.

I guess we’ve all heard that “Practice Makes a Man Perfect”, but no one really put a number to the practice efforts..

Somehow the thought continued to linger on.. I pondered about my own life and about the lives of people I know who achieved excellence in their sphere of work / art or any skill… Did it really take 10,000 hours to achieve excellence..

Well… I guess YES and NO.. Simply because I think it all depends on how broadly your define the “skill” and how specifically you define “excellence” – Both of which are not so easy to do! Of course there are several other factors specific to an individual, the environment, etc – which influence the final outcome of your efforts…

But everything constant, does it really take 10,000 hours of dedicated practice?

Let me take a few examples:
I don’t think you need 10,000 hours to make the perfect cup of tea (And again perfection is fairly subjective); But I can vouch for the fact that it can probably take 10,000 hours to master cooking

Again, I don’t think you need 10,000 hours to figure out how to put your baby to sleep; But I can vouch for the fact that it can probably take much more than 10,000 hours to achieve some level of mastery on parenting

Again, I don’t think you need 10,000 hours to write a perfect blog post; But I can vouch for the fact that it can probably take as much as 10,000 hours to publish a good book – You need to reach a different level of self-awareness, comprehension of writing process, literary literacy and “understanding your audience”.

Now let’s do a quick Math
10,000 hours translate really to
2 hours per day for 13.69 years
4 hours per day for 6.84 years
6 hours per day for 4.56 years
8 hours per day for 3.42 years
10 hours per day for 2.7 years

Hmm.. I think these number explains a lot of things.. Like
Why does it take most writers at least 3 years to get their first book published? (From idea to shelf)
Why does it take any parent at least 3 years to feel comfortable about parenting?
Why does it take anyone at least 5 years to get their PhD?
Why does it take most bloggers a few years to find their niche in the blog-o-sphere?
Why does it take several years for organizations to figure the right Social Media strategy?
Why does it take very long for most of us to get it “right” on Twitter? (Twitter started in July 2006)
Why does it take any singer / musician several years to achieve complete control on their voice?
Why does it take any gymnast several years to even be considered for the Olympics?
Why does it take any actor several years to find their “niche” in acting?
Why does it take any chef several years to get a Michelin Star rating?
Why does it take any pilot several years to fly the Air Force One?
Why does it take any photographer several years to click that one magical perfect picture?
Why does it take politicians several years to be elected as critical representative of the state?
Why does it take anyone several years to be the CEO of a large organization?
Why does it take anyone several years to be the Dean on an educational institute?
Why does it take couples several years to find the “perfect equilibrium”?
Why does it take several years for people who embark on their spiritual journey?
Why does it take anyone several years to get perfect in oral communication?
Why does it take several years for you to find your soul-mate? (Because you are working on being perfect and so is your soul-mate I guess!)

SIMPLY BECAUSE YOU NEED TO HIT THAT 10,000 HOUR MARK TO ACHIEVE EXCELLENCE in your SKILL..
And yes! One you get there – Then the sky is the limit to what you can achieve..

NOTE: Above are based on my observations, and there could be deviations / exceptions as with everything else in life

As I did my research on this, I came across

1) An interesting and divergent point of view on this titled as ““Paradox of Skill – Why greater skills lead to more luck

2) An excellent inforgrahic which captures essence of the 10,000 Hour Rule brilliantly. Sharing the same below.

10000 Hour Rules
[Src: http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2012/08/14/malcolm-gladwells-10000-hour-rule-visualized-practice-makes-perfect/]

Is there a measure to EXCELLENCE?

Excellence is the
Result of Caring more than others think is Wise,
Risking more than others think is Safe,
Dreaming more than others think is Practical, and
Expecting more than others think is Possible.

BY Ronnie Oldham

Everyone I know proudly recalls moments during their school years when their school work was graded as “Excellent!”. OR their parents said “Excellent!” for any of their efforts and creations or their coaches / mentors praised their efforts and outputs as “Excellent!”. Simply because that was the BEST POSSIBLE GRADING one could ever receive. And who does not like to receive the BEST?

As you grow older, you get to hear less of the “Excellent!” – Be it at home or outside.. Simply because as you grow, expectations increase and more importantly, it is probably hard to be the BEST in the eyes of everyone around you! Adding to this is the fact that many people don’t pause to appreciate and express the EXCELLENCE around them…

So, I’ve been thinking..
Is there really a measure to EXCELLENCE?
How does anyone qualify EXCELLENCE?
Is everyone qualified to judge EXCELLENCE?

And here’s what I realized…
In any sphere of work or life
Sometimes, EXCELLENCE is a FALLACY
Sometimes, EXCELLENCE is a REALITY
Sometimes, EXCELLENCE is a DREAM

EXCELLENCE is RELATIVE to your experience
EXCELLENCE is SUBJECTIVE to your ideas and views
EXCELLENCE is INFLUENCED by your emotions
EXCELLENCE is PERCEIVED in your mind
EXCELLENCE is BOUND TO CHANGE.. with time.. with life

So that’s my view..
What do you think? Is there a MEASURE to EXCELLENCE? Leave a comment to let me know

What really drives HUMAN BEHAVIOR?

I have always been fascinated by human behavior. More importantly, to understand what drives human behavior

In the real world, human behavior is reflected in: 
* Why do you do what you do?
* Why do you say what you say?
* Why do you say things which you never intended to?
* Why do you not speak up when you are given an opportunity?
* Why do you sometimes do things which you never imagined you could / would ever do?
* Why do you sometimes not do things when you are given an opportunity even though you badly wanted to do it?

In the online world, human behavior translates into
* Do you even have a digital / social media presence?
* What digital / social media channels do you actively use? (Twitter, FaceBook, Pinterest, Blog, LinkedIn, etc.)
* What do you say about yourself? – The tone, content, messaging, articulations, expressions.
* How much do you share about yourself? – i.e. How personal do you get?
* What kind of social network have you built online? Is it an extension of your offline network?
* What kind of information do you share in your online network?
* How much time and effort do you invest in your online network?

If you take a minute to ponder more deeply about all these questions, you will realize that they are all examples of human behaviors and usually there are one / many drivers which govern human behavior!

During one random online browsing activity I can across a profound quote from Plato (Refer note on Plato below) which gave a compelling answer to this question “Human behavior flows from three main sources: DESIRE, EMOTION and KNOWLEDGE”.

The answer made me think more.. Are there only three main sources which drives human behavior?.. If yes and if everyone understood this, life would be a lot easier. But therein lies the problem – Not everyone knows this, appreciates this and not everyone understands this in entirety

And as I mulled more, I couldn’t agree more! At the basic level, Human behavior is indeed governed by
DESIRE – Desire for health, wellness, wealth, fame, power, knowledge, success, an ideal life, glory, name, love, happiness, information, peace of mind, fulfilling relationships, meaningful life, bliss, completeness, well balanced life, harmony, learning, new experiences, diverse friends, pursuit of hobbies, living different cultures, travel … to leave a legacy you’re proud of
EMOTION – Key Emotions which drive human behaviors are love, hatred, anger, hurt, sadness, grief, joy, bitterness, sorrow, jealousy, guilt, repentance, revenge or fear
KNOWLEDGE – About yourself, about others, about the past – your past and the past of the world, the present – your present and the present of the world, of one / more subjects of interest and expertise ranging from politics to economics to human anatomy to science to math to innovation to business to cooking to parenting to medicine to technology etc etc etc.

And then of course, there are combinations of the above which drive human behavior:
DESIRE and EMOTION
EMOTION and KNOWLEDGE
DESIRE and KNOWLEDGE
Lastly, DESIRE EMOTION and KNOWLEDGE

I think the most powerful combination is one in which human behavior is driven by DESIRE, EMOTION and KNOWLEDGE simply because it means that your behavior is driven by the compelling and compounding power of awareness and understanding of one / more subjects, focused thought, deep passion, power of intellect and the force of human emotions – which is a usually a recipe for deep profound and long lasting impact – provided the intent is right and positive!

I truly believe that understanding of human behavior is a very important dimension in life (personal / professional and online) – One which can immensely help everyone in their everyday life. What I’ve also realized is that anyone who has some degree of interest in human behavior is usually a very keen “observer” of human behavior. So in any given situation (if you pay attention) you will find one / two people being very “keen observers”. Many at time they are silent and make their observations, but if you take the trouble to talk to them – you will learn something about human behavior and more importantly about life!

So do you have any views on what drives human behaviors – online / offline? Leave a comment to let me know…

About Plato : Plato was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the foundations of Western philosophy and science.

Plato was one of the most important Western philosophers, exerting influence on virtually every figure in philosophy after him. His dialogue The Republic was known as the first comprehensive work on political philosophy. Plato also had enormous contribution on ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology. His student, Aristotle, was also an extremely influential philosopher and the tutor of Alexander the Great of Macedonia (Src: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/879.Plato )

9 KEY Reasons for you to READ

Reading can be a wonderful hobby and your best friend for life – Provided you give it the required time and commitment over a period of time. Looking back at my own life, I can definitely say that my life transformed after I became an active reader. And by reading I mean just about anything – A book, paper, magazine, blog, research paper, publication, mail, tweet, letter, etc. In this blog, I am listing 9 KEY Reasons why you should READ?

1) Reading makes you THINK
The single most important benefit of reading is that it makes you think, and thoughts are vital in the journey of life. Simply because to think you need to read, analyze, reason, question, rationalize and somewhere try to conclude.

2) Reading makes you IMAGINE
One of the reasons I love reading is that it makes me IMAGINE – And imagination is great for enhancing your own visualization skills and creativity. I don’t know of any “TRUE READER” who enjoyed a movie / documentary better than a book. Simply because when you read, you are free to imagine anything and everything; and the sky is the limit to your imagination! Conversely, I don’t know of any Non-Reader who liked a book better than a movie / documentary

3) Reading makes you LEARN
One of the best parts of reading is that you it presents before you a wonderful opportunity to learn. As you read, you tend to notice, you tend to question and reflect, and truly understand; and all of these contribute phenomenally towards your own learning on one / many topics under the sun!

4) Reading improves your LITERARY SKILLS
If you take the time to read, you will definitely improve your literary skills over a period of time. Not only will you learn new words and improve on the Ps and Qs of any language, but you can also learn, appreciate and develop alternate literary forms — from prose to poetry. And the only way to improve in anything in life is to continuously work on it.

5) Reading opens NEW DOORS
Reading can open the door to new friends (I know of people who are exclusively reading friends and those who became friends because they shared views and opinions on topics less spoken by majority), new ideas (Somehow the brain wiring seems to generate more ideas when you read actively – I don’t know why or how? but I have personally experienced this!), new possibilities, new ways to constructively utilize your time, new experiences, new considerations, new contemplations, and new harbingers.

6) Reading makes you DISCIPLINED
One of the best aspects of continuous reading is that it makes you disciplined so that you are able to dedicate some time on a regular basis for reading. It can be once a day or once a week or whatever is suitable in your personal context – But you will start rationalizing some portion of your time on a regular basis for reading! And once you begin to enjoy reading it becomes a habit… a compulsion… a fascination.

7) Reading gives you ME time
Writing gives you time to be with yourself — to connect within, in your own way, at your own pace.

8) Reading makes you view books in a NEW LIGHT
Only when you begin to read, do you begin to truly appreciate books and any reading material. You also begin to value all the books you read in life and also have a new found respect and appreciation for authors / writers! (Both reading and writing are solitary hobbies!)

9) Reading gives you a new BEST FRIEND for LIFE
If you are into reading, you can never really be alone ever in life. All you need to take you through any kind of day / mood / situation, i.e., to cheer up your day, give you some hope, make you laugh, motivate you, give you a solution, break-free from monotony, get a different perspective,……is something to read!

Reading can be your new BEST FRINED for LIFE.. If you only you reach out and pick up the first book – here and now..
So what are you waiting for? Go read something today..

My Favorite Quotes on Education

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” ― Nelson Mandela

“Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.” ― Robert Frost

“You can never be overdressed or overeducated.” ― Oscar Wilde

“You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.” ― Brigham Young

“Without education, we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously.” ― G.K. Chesterton

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”
― Aristotle

“Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” ― Malcolm X

“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” ― Margaret Mead

“Education consists mainly of what we have unlearned.” ― Mark Twain

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” ― Henry Ford

“Do you know the difference between education and experience? Education is when you read the fine print; experience is what you get when you don’t. ”
― Pete Seeger

“The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.” ― Thomas Jefferson

Nischala’s Blog-o-Rendezvous with Dr.BINDU HARI

About Dr.BINDU HARI
Dr. Bindu Hari is currently the Dean at NPS (National Public School) International Singapore, Senior Principal / Director at The International School Bangalore , Senior Principal of NPS Koramangala and NPS HSR schools. She joined the NPS group of institutes in 1990. Over the past several years, she has been instrumental in the growth of the group of institutions in India and also pioneered the foray abroad. She has done her M.Sc  and  Ph.D in chemistry and B.Ed.

The RENDEZVOUS
Personally this rendezvous was special because it was a way for me to re-connect with my past – to be specific, the school that I studied in. Looking back, I do think that NPS did shape my life in more ways than one – For starters, I was fortunate to study in one of the best schools in Bangalore way back in 1994. And by virtue of this experience, I can confidently say that there is a definite value in studying in a premier educational institute.

For those who don’t know about NPS, it was reputed to have the BEST (and most envied) academic records (for E.g.: In my batch, there were several students who were among the Top 100 in IIT entrance exam, several were Toppers in the Medical entrance exams like AIIMS, etc.) and many of them set records in these exams as well. It was a privilege to know some of these “great minds” back then; many of whom have made a global mark for themselves today. Second and probably more important was that I forged several life-long friendships here!  Last but not the least my tryst with NPS paved the way for my future – in terms of the subsequent formal education that I pursued; and also for my professional choices and growth.

Nischala: Good Afternoon Dr Bindu! Firstly, Thank you so much for your time Dr. Bindu. It’s a pleasure to connect with you after so many years!
Dr. Bindu: Hi! Good afternoon! Great to hear from you.. It’s wonderful to speak to you after so many years

Nischala:  Lets  start this rendezvous by  going back to your journey in the education sector – Specifically what inspired you to get associated with education, academia and NPS? Especially since you had a stellar academic record yourself and could really have pursued any other career of your choice.
Dr. Bindu: Looking back at my own life, I have always been interested in research.  After my Masters in Chemistry, I enrolled into a Ph. D programme and  really enjoyed the process of research a great deal. Classical research is an amazing process – collecting and playing with a lot of data, number crunching and drawing conclusions to prove or disprove a hypothesis almost every day! But the flip side is being in a  research lab all day, doing experiments and working on the computer results offer very limited or almost no social interaction. And after a point I realized that I needed more social interactions, communication and personal enrichment so I started teaching. I taught Chemistry at NPS Indiranagar  to  students in the middle years and senior school. That was an exciting experience for me – Simply because children think so differently from adults – they are full of ideas, enthusiasm and express the same in many different ways. It was a thoroughly enjoyable process! So if I look back to connect the dots, I started at the grass root level in teaching and grew from there!

I also have a very academic bent of mind. So I always knew that I would someday go back into the classroom – It is where I belong! Just that I probably did not know where I would start and how the journey would pan out! So today while I am responsible for several qualitative aspects in all the educational institutions, I still do take time to train or teach. For e.g.: School assemblies are teachable moments, I take a few sessions in Theory of Knowledge (TOK) and I am involved in creating Training modules for teachers.

Nischala: That’s an interesting journey! So from what I understand the group has grown significantly over the past two decades. So can you elaborate a little on your presence and strength today – primarily in terms of the number of students you have an opportunity to mold and influence?
Dr. Bindu: Well, Yes! We’ve had a phenomenal growth in the last decade. So as of date, we have the NPS (National Public School) International Singapore, The International School Bangalore , NPS Indiranagar, NPS Koramangala, NPS Chennai, NPS Rajajinagar  and  NPS HSR . In 2013 we open our doors to students at NPS Mysore. As of date, we have about 12000 students across all schools and about 1700 teachers.

And then of course we have NAFL (National Academy for Learning) which was started in 1993. This school  aims  at providing international education in India in collaboration with CIE (Cambridge International Examinations), Cambridge. So students have an opportunity to appear for IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education). The success of the early experimental foray into international education led to the creation of TISB.

Nischala: That’s great to hear! It’s a good opportunity in India for students aspiring to get IGCSE. So from your view - Is there any difference between TISB and say NPS Indiranagar?
Dr.Bindu: The most significant difference is TISB has a heterogeneous student profile from across the globe – We have students from over 30 nationalities and this diversity enriches the learning experience as students develop cross cultural skills- awareness, sensitivity and communication early in life. In contrast, NPS has a homogenous student base and staff profile as the students are from almost every Indian state.

Also TISB is a residential school offering boarding facilities and hence living on campus offers a unique and exciting life experience as students develop self-reliance and independence early in life while actively contributing to community living.

The NPS group of schools, NAFL and TISB have emphasized academic rigour.  However, the vision of all our schools has evolved to include holistic education to enable students develop a broad range of multidimensional life skills and to achieve this end, there is an increased focus on multiple learning opportunities and co-curricular activities within and outside the school environment. NPS has and is continuously evolving in its educational programmes in order to prepare students for tomorrow’s global economy.

Across all our schools our students aim for admissions into the top 20 universities across the globe and top universities in India. Many of our students score top ranks in various competitive exams including IIT JEE, PMPD, AIEEE, AIIMS, CLAT etc. And the latest feather in our cap is our first student from NPS, HSR Layout will be heading to Oxford University to study History. There is increased awareness among students about educational opportunities across the globe and parents can afford to fund this education.

Nischala: This is awesome! Makes me a proud NPS-ite! So from all your experiences – What are your observations in terms of key changes in the students and this could be in any aspect – from an eagerness to learn, to awareness of technology, to a passion to do something unique, etc etc.?
Dr. Bindu: That’s an interesting and thought-provoking question! Firstly, students are more aware simply because they have access to vast amounts of information at a mouse click. Google is the answer to many questions! Greater information accessibility leads to greater exposure and presents students with more opportunities than probably students had a decade ago.

Secondly, this generation of students are “digital natives” - comfortable with technology, software, use of all Apple products including the iPAD, etc . They learn any new technology at the blink of an eye. In contrast, parents or teachers are “digital immigrants” and struggle to get started let alone achieve mastery!

Hence students are extremely confident because of greater exposure and opportunities presented to them from an early age. They tend to articulate with clarity and their ability to express orally or in writing is impressive. One of the reasons for confidence is that students are performing on stage at school from the age of 4 years and most of them have no fear of public speaking or interacting with a large audience.

However, an issue of concern is that children of today have limited attention span and patience. It is the world of instant gratification and real-world expectations are based on their experience in the digital world,i.e., at the click of a button. The real world however does not always work this way!

Nischala: That’s interesting to hear!What about parents? What are the significant differences you observe in parents with respect to their expectations on the role of school and education system and their involvement in the growth and development of their children?
Dr. Bindu: The reality of today is that most parents have 1 or 2 children and more recently most parents are opting to have only 1 child. Hence “Helicopter parenting” is very common. Parents hover around their child in an overly protective manner and bubble wrap them in a world of material comfort! Subsequently as children get older, some parents become demanding of the child!

Some parents are uninvolved with the life of their children as they are far too busy to spend time with their children and we do see children of neglect. Others are overly involved, i.e., they don’t give much space for child to grow and evolve. There are some parents who are involved to an appropriate degree in their children’s education.

Parenting styles vary between authoritative parenting, jellyfish parenting or assertive parenting.  There is no right or wrong here but the most effective parenting style in our experience is one in which the parent showers unconditional love, engages the child in conversation, uses teachable moments to highlight key messages and reasons in order make the child see reason.

As a school, we always communicate to the parents that education of a child is really a joint venture between the school and parents in order to accomplish the most we can in the best interest of the child. It is a very “child-centric” approach that we adopt. And we have always  had incredible support from our parents.

The other point I want to make is that today parents have greater purchasing power and are great providers for their children! There is a real danger of our children growing up with a sense of entitlement because of this.

And again the fact is that Parents will always be the child’s first teacher. So if a parent chooses to be resilient in a tough situation, the child learns  to be resilient! Children learn and absorb based on parent’s responses and reactions.  We emphasize the role of parents in the growth and development of the children at every opportunity that we get!

Nischala: And my next logical question is around teachers.  What are the noteworthy changes in the teaching community? – In terms of access to teachers and willingness for qualified individuals to take up teaching jobs?
Dr. Bindu: The fact is there is dearth of good teachers around the world. And even in India the ground reality is that it is very hard to find good teachers for subjects like History, Science and Math. And this is a real challenge for the country as a whole and will only compound with time. Finding passionate, enthusiastic and dedicated teachers is hard today and will become harder in the next decade.

Consider our own alumni - the best of our students go on to be lawyers, doctors, engineers, etc. And rarely does a youngster become a teacher by choice!

When we quiz 4 year olds on “What do you want to be when you grow up?” - They all want to be teachers. Interestingly in a Grade 7 class, it is 1 out of 90 students who aspire to be a teacher. And in Grade 11 or 12 no one wants to be a teacher. Youngsters don’t associate glamour or status with teaching and salaries for teachers are lower than other professions such as Doctors, Engineers and Lawyers. As a result youngsters don’t opt for teaching. In addition we live in a materialist society and family pressure drives students into other professions. In Bangalore which is considered India’s Silicon Valley, one can’t compare earnings of a teacher with that of an IT professional.

But as an institute we pay our teachers well – We are probably one of the highest paymasters in the Indian scenario, and so our teacher retention ratio is by far one of the best!  Of course most teachers also value the challenge,  the culture, the school environment and the style of running the institute and hence they stay on here.

On the positive side, another trend we are observing is many intelligent young mothers are pursuing teaching as a second career. We recently appointed a Chartered Accountant with 5 years of experience at E&Y (Ernst and Young) as a teacher-intern. Work life balance and family commitments are an important priority for many women and they take up teaching as a second career. We welcome this trend.

We have started a teacher-training center to draw intelligent and passionate people into teaching.  And we are getting some good response.

Nischala: Thats great to hear! So moving on how do you think technology will transform the education system?
Dr. Bindu: The environment today is dynamic, fluid and changing rapidly. And technology is a definite enabler in the education sector in more ways than one – by providing access to knowledge, enhancing the quality and ease of research, being the mode of distribution of content to students, monitoring and tracking student progress, making the process of differentiated assessment and pedagogy easier, and simplifying record keeping processes.

The  skillsets required in industry are changing and hence the need of the hour is really to build skills around creative thinking, critical reasoning, developing research skills, problem solving, compiling and processing and presenting data and information for a specific purpose.

Consequently the role of teachers is changing into a facilitator rather than a mere instructor who directs the class. Teachers are designers of learning experiences based on available resources – And resources can include print, video and digital resource, science and math equipment, etc.

Also there is a definite element of collaborative learning as on many aspects students end up being the “gurus” and teach the teachers. In addition, the nature of questions that students ask today is impressive – obviously based on inherent curiosity and inquisitiveness of the world around them and teachers may not have the all the answers. So we encourage enquiry-based learning and have started a new initiative at NPS for Grade 3 students!

The academic endeavor at our school is to subject the child to a range of experiences to facilitate awareness, comprehension, learning, collaboration and growth.

Nischala: That’s interesting. So can you elaborate on some of the other unique initiatives at NPS?
Dr. Bindu: At the school, we still value core academic skills – Language proficiency, Math, Science, etc. But we are aware that students need supplementary skills in addition to core academic skills to take them through life. For e.g.: We have started a new entrepreneurship course for Grade 6 students to develop Entrepreneurial Literacy. The aim is to sow the seed of entrepreneurship in the students; and even if only 10% become entrepreneurs it is great for India! We believe that entrepreneurial skills are critical for students if we look into the India’s future –It is what India needs. We started this as a pilot at NPS HSR and based on  the success of this programme, we plan to expand this initiative into all our other schools.

In fact the latest book by Subroto Bagchi  called MBA at 16  is really a co-creation of his interactions with 31 NPS students. So we are now planning to take this initiative to the next level where we work with students to create a concrete business plan and see if we can get funding to actually give life to some of these ideas.

Another emphasis is on developing and enhancing language skills of students. So we have introduced a Novel writing program for students of class 4 and 5 and this project stems from the fact that India has few child authors and fiction for children by Indian authors is rare. The emphasis is on getting the students to appreciate writing as a process.

So NPS is an evolving school. We respond to the needs of society, industry and skills for employability.

I must also credit the CBSE board for introducing the Adolescent Education Programme (AEP) for students in their teens. The fact is that young people are quite confused and have to deal with pressures from peers, pressure to perform, pressures related to body image, pressure from parents, pressure from society – and it’s not easy. These sessions  gets them to reflect, introspect, become self-aware and also talk with confidence about issues promoting or impeding their personality development and progress!

Nischala: This is very interesting and exciting to hear! I think exposure to such aspects at the school level is a great opportunity for students. So moving on, I’d like to ask you a very basic question – What does education really mean? And how is an “educated mind” different from a “literate mind”?
Dr. Bindu: It is an interesting question. So in my view, there are many kinds of literacy – academic, entrepreneurial, civic, environmental, health, information (In the context of whether the available information is authentic and accurate or not), media (In the context do you accept all that you see in media or is discernment and analysis a part of your thinking process), social, cross cultural, etc

However, the meaning of education is far broader than mere skills acquisition. Ideally, the aim of education is to make an individual a meaningful contributor to the community and society at large. And the values that a school imparts as part of informal learning makes an ocean of a difference – attributes such as self discipline, self regulation, work ethics, basic honesty, integrity, generosity, kindness, sharing, respect for the aged and  disadvantaged,  support of others in times of need etc. contribute in an intangible but important way to the refinement of a society. These may be old world, old fashioned values but these values are the glue that holds a society together. Societies that neglect to infuse and disregard these values are likely to disintegrate or implode sooner rather than later. Children must absorb this message from parents, school and society as a whole!

So an educated mind blends skills with knowledge and values for the betterment of both self and society.

Nischala: OK.. Moving on, Another aspect which I hear or read a lot about in the new generation of kids is related to health issues / lifestyle problems – primarily due to lack of exercise and incorrect food habits. What are your observations and experience here?
Dr. Bindu:  You are so right! Many parents use laptops as baby sitters (as opposed to TV two decades ago). The greatest concerns are violent computer games desensitizing our children and the ease of access to pornography which parents are unaware of.

We are creating a generation of couch potatoes who eat vast amounts of processed, high calorie, nutritionally poor junk food. In addition, children are no longer physically active or as involved in games or exercise outdoors as the generation before – These are concerns. This is leading to a significant increase in the percentage of lifestyle related health issues like obesity, Type 2 diabetis, etc and concerns such as the lack of concentration, distractedness, restlessness and the lack of social skills etc.

As a school, we have incorporated health literacy into our curriculum. However it is parents and students who have to make the final healthy choices. There is a vast difference between knowing and putting the knowledge into practice.

Nischala: Hmmm…So 10 years from now, what do you think will make a difference in the education system?
Dr. Bindu: As I see it there is a movement across the world in the education sector and technology is a very big part of this movement primarily due to ease of access to information at a low cost!

Hence the role of a teacher is gradually evolving into a facilitator of learning. There is debate and discussion about whether teachers will be required in future or not and whether technology will replace the classroom teacher? And my answer is that teachers CANNOT be dispensed with- EVER!  They will always have the power to mould, groom and influence development in the intellectual, emotional, social, and psychological domains. As long as schools exist, teachers will be required and will always have a key role in education!

Nischala: Moving on,What really keeps you going as an educator?
Dr. Bindu: It is one of the most enjoyable journeys in my life. Walking into school every morning is a wonderful feeling. The environment is lively and animated – You have to experience it to truly understand what I mean. Each day presents a different set of challenges and changes to deal with continuously.

Each of us at school makes  an emotional investment in the lives of our students every minute of the day at every single instance we interact with our students. The underpinning of every interaction is to make a child feel secure and safe before he or she embarks on learning through exploration. It is unique to a school and the profession of teaching. It is truly a calling.

Being around children is a joyous experience. The young are idealistic, they have ideals and idols. You have to engage in conversation with a 10 year old to understand how analytical and intelligent they are, you have to talk to them and prepare to be surprised by their dreams and thoughts without limits and boundaries. These refreshing interactions keep us adults flexible and adaptable.

A few days ago, I was talking to one of my young students who has juvenile diabetes. To be honest, I was impressed with his temperance, humility and knowledge.  He is so widely read, so mature and well rooted for his age! We derive joy, energy and hope from these interactions with children which give us strength to forge ahead!

I believe a teacher has to be an eternal optimist, one can’t be a teacher and not be optimistic – You NEVER EVER give up on your kids!

Nischala: So looking back, what are the unforgettable moments in your journey as an educator?
Dr. Bindu: At the school, we believe that incremental progress and every tiny step in the right direction for each and every child is worth celebrating. Acknowledgement, recognition, appreciation and praise is woven into fabric of the school to make it an affirming environment for a child.

While we value the best in ability, talent and skills, we celebrate the success of those who struggle to conquer the smallest developmental milestone. So there are really many rewarding moments of happiness in the life of an educator.

But if I had to recall a recent episode it is this… It was extremely fulfilling to see an  NPS Alumnus  present the welcome address to a 5000 member audience in the presence of the former  President of India Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam at a graduation ceremony of an engineering college. She stood at the podium and delivered the perfect welcome address – I had goose bumps and I still have them as I recall the speech. I’ve seen her as a shy 7-year-old child at my school and there she was delivering a speech with assured confidence which many will remember for a lifetime! William Wordsworth said “Child is the father of man”.. And that’s so true. What a child is today is there for all to see. And what they are likely to achieve tomorrow? – No one can predict.

It is hard to explain the bond between a teacher and student – you can’t capture it all and express it in words. Every teacher  has emotionally invested in the child and the intangibles including affection, compassion and empathy play a big role. As a result, an educator  is constantly  evolving and developing while demonstrating and role modeling with every interaction and this is an extraordinary experience for any educator and a very fulfilling one. It’s really hard to express, explain, comprehend or measure – But if you’ve ever taught a child and seen them blossom in life,  you feel happy and proud!

Nischala: I’d like to end with any other key message  to students and parents.
Dr. Bindu: To the students I say “Believe in yourself always”. And what every teacher and parent should do is create a climate of positive expectation and express an affirming message so the children live up to these expectations. Having faith in our children is critical for education and life!

Nischala: Thank You so much for your time. It was an absolute pleasure.
Dr. Bindu: Thank You!

As I did my research on Dr. Bindu, I came across an insightful article Bindu Hari’s Six lessons for parents. In my view, a Must Read for every parent!

How did you like this rendezvous? Leave a comment to let us know..

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