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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Edition14: Coming of Age of exam

As I went to drop my son to Board examination centre today morning, I was among the many parents following part of what seemed like a procession of vehicles. I saw a mother feeding her daughter while she did her last minute revision, another group of three friends who were being clicked by their mother and then still another set of parents hugging their son with smiles that are only reserved for very special occasions.
I have always wondered about this Indian tradition of board examination and the parents leaving and picking up their children from examination centres. Well, today being a parent of one, it suddenly hit me that a child appearing for board examination is kind of coming of age for the child and the family. A seasoned traveller by habit, I suddenly felt the desire to be around my son while he is preparing for his exam. I decided not to travel till such time the exams are over. I do not remember the last time I had done it. My wife, a teacher and one who does not like to take a break from work for even a single day, applied for five days leave (examination days), a month in advance so that she could drop and pick up her son! Proper arti (prayer) is done on the examination morning with sweet dahi (yogurt) offered as if the dear son is parading off for a war! And the one appearing in examination gets phone calls from all his near and dear ones wishing him luck for his examinations. If all this is not coming of age, then I am not sure what else can it be?
This coming of age is beyond the physical growth and changes in a child. It is about the child getting an opportunity - for the first time in his life to be out of the comfort zones of family and school. Till now, the child had been appearing for all examinations in a known school with known teachers sitting with known classmates and answering questions that are prepared by their subject teachers. With board examination, he goes to a different school that is the designated examination centre, has invigilators whom he does not know, gives test for which the questions have been set by an independent body.
He knew that this is the first set of examinations that will see him stepping into the competitive world. The child knows that he has to now compete with kids outside his peer group to excel. Earlier, he used to take pride in being amongst top three in the class. But now, things require him to compete with kids from across India and world.
And your heartbeats are on the way up till the time the child is out of exam centre. You ask how he did and his answer without a beat and with a smile is that he has done well. And he did it alone. He has indeed come of age. It is a reminder to parents like me that the bird has now grown up and is now getting ready to fly. It is time to celebrate!
The writer blogs at
Reality Show on Engineering Education
Thinking further about the idea of a reality TV show for school teachers in India, I stumbled on Design Kids, a very interesting reality TV show on PBS in the United States, to promote engineering concepts to school children in the age-group of 9-12 years. It would be great to have something like this in India to promote Science and Engineering to children at an early stage to impress upon them the joy and excitement of science and engineering.
Here's how Design Squad, now into their third season, describe themselves,
“ Design Squad is high-energy, high-drama reality TV that lets kids show off their smarts as they design and build working solutions for real-world clients-people who are hungry for clever ideas from a new generation of innovators. From creating remote-controlled flying football targets for Hasbro to dry land dog sleds for the Jamaica Dog Sled Team, the action culminates in the final episode when the top two scorers battle for the Grand Prize: a $10,000 college scholarship from the Intel Foundation.”
...and their educational philosophy.
“The specific educational goals of the Design Squad television series, web site and outreach events are to:
* Increase students' knowledge of engineering and the design process
* Improve the public image of engineering
* Encourage further exploration
Design Squad is more than just a television series.
The Design Squad Web site extends the concepts presented on the show and provides viewers with an opportunity to explore content through the lens of "engineering as problem-solving using science, math, and technology."
Engineers and educators have partnered with Design Squad to help support kids as they try out the ideas first-hand. These real world experiences give kids a stronger understanding of engineering, equip them with science and math skills, and ultimately lay the foundation they need to participate in engineering activities later in life.
Their list of funders and sponsors include the Government, Foundations, Corporations and the Professional Engineering Associations.
Major funding for Design Squad is provided by the National Science Foundation, the Intel Foundation, and the Lemelson Foundation. Additional funding is provided by Noyce Foundation, United Engineering Foundation and other organisations.
The writer blogs at

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