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  • No Child’s Play…

    Why the concept of promotions till Standard 8 won’t work... The article first appeared on Progressive Indians For Change [ ] It is a rare moment when both the Government and the Opposition support a Bill in unison. Hence, it was a welcome change to witness an intelligent debate on the Right to Education to Bill this Parliament session. Apart from some valuable comments and deliberations made, an important issue raised was the Government’s resolution to promote all students till Standard 8. I too share the concern of those Members of Parliament who are of the view that the decision to promote all students till standard 8 will prove detrimental to the quality of education and the quality of the students which will ultimately affect the overall output that the country will have to deal with a decade from now. To establish my case I will not resort to statistics and inconsequential rants but instead adopt a more objective and scientific approach. None can understand a child like a Psychologist can. Hence the aim today is to give you a more balanced view as to why a student cannot possibly thrive in this environ. Freud defines a child as, “The human infant is a striving organism with but limited capacities for satisfying of needs.” Emphasise on the words ‘striving organism’. A child in poetry has been metaphorically compared to wet mud and clay that can be moulded and shaped, a clear implication that each one must start from point zero. Thus, there is no specific mathematical equation or set blue- print for the development of an infant. In India, unfortunately we expect the blue- print nonetheless. There is extreme dependency on educational procedures which enjoys better reception rather than the holistic approach towards learning. As teachers, the two important questions come up in Child Psychology are: 1. What is the lowest maturational level at which a child can successfully acquire a skill? 2. Should a particular learning situation be immediately introduced as soon as the child is ready for it or should it be delayed in favour of another learning situation that will better promote his present and long term psychological adjustment? Human infants grow and develop rapidly which is why these questions are essential while dealing with students especially in their ‘Formative’ years. In the current case the latter is of essence. Having said that, now apply these two questions practically. In an ordinary scenario, the ideal division of labour would be a combination of the policy makers, and educational philosophers to prepare a proposed outline of the curriculum. This is later practically implemented in the form of lesson plans that the Teacher prepares keeping in mind the immediate and long term needs of the student every year. A child is dependent on various extraneous factors to take his first steps in learning and hence the quality of the syllabus, attitude of the parent and teacher all play equally important roles. Now take a hypothetical situation where students Y and Z are asked to study the Alphabet and Arithmetic. In due course of time it is made amply clear that there is a visible disinclination for Y towards Arithmetic and Z has distaste for Alphabet. Ordinarily, an under-performer would have the Teacher guide him/her through this problem and IF all fails the child is kept back and asked to repeat the year not to demean or kill his/her confidence but instead to challenge him/her to be a better performer. However, now we are at a stage where the child and the previously neurotic parent are relaxed because they are aware that demotion is not on the Agenda. The teacher may or may not try to boost the child to overcome this impediment because she does not feel the need to. The measurement of anxiety is visibly declined but at what cost? The student’s basic foundation of learning is completely wobbly and chances are that the poor child will not realise his deficiency till he reaches standard eight where he is in for a rude shock. Suddenly he is exposed to the fact that he has not been responsive to the classroom training and there is in fact no one to blame. The entire idea of the system of education for imparting knowledge is lost along the way simply because the student has not been encouraged to work on his strengths and weaknesses thus directly affecting his Creativity and Expression which is a permanent damage for overall growth. The point I am driving at is that the ‘Quality’ education that we are aiming at cannot be achieved without a substantive base. And this base lies in the concept of Promotion and Demotion. The elementary school child’s development has a long term effect on his entire life. All children go through a number of stages but there are differences between children within each stage. There are also differences in the length of time it takes for children to move from stage to stage. On this backdrop the concept of ‘blind- promotions’ is bound to hinder the Education process. Here I introduce the point that a socially mature child’s growth and development may not be stunted in either of the situations described above. However, in a land with a population of 1.2 billion people not everyone who makes it to school has a social, economic or personal background that allows him to mature at the same rate. Another major impediment is the practicality of the application of this policy with slow learners. For slow learners the ‘No demotion till standard 8’ may come as a relief but the more important question is, for how long? It is essential to understand that the ‘maturation’ variable is extremely important when dealing with the experiments dealing with child- development. It sets the ultimate limits of achievement and determines the rate of learning and acculturation. A systematic analysis of the situation will give you a clear picture that a child’s adequacy in terms of Knowledge and Advancement is severely hampered if he does not know his own strengths and weaknesses. One can only progress when one is given sufficient time to work on personal limitations. With the blind promotions you are hampering the student’s development psychologically for the sake of a policy that is but an experiment. Before I conclude I stress on the need on the need for two important additions to the current system; firstly, the need for more child psychologist teams to work with the Education Department. Secondly, it will be appreciated if the curriculum prescribed is a blend of theoretical knowledge and practical application rather than one solely based on textbook rote learning. Maturation and learning are inextricably inter- woven. An Educational system isn’t worth a great deal if it teaches young people how to evade the basics and focus on it in a later stage of his or her life where chances are higher that the yearning for knowledge will have perished. In conclusion I quote Peter Marshall who wrote, "Give us clear vision that we may know where to stand and what to stand for, because unless we stand for something, we shall fall for anything." We must ensure that the idea of ‘Knowledge for all’ is the essence of the rubric of the education system. With the introduction of this No-Failing/ Blind promotion policy one can only envision a Mirage of Quality Education and nothing more. Image Credits: Aikaterina Photography. Copyright Protected

  • Progressive Media: A Posse Ad Esse (from possibility to reality)

    "The era of defamation hath arrived," said the Minister. "No my lord, ‘tis the era of the Media….," replied the journalist. The past two weeks have seen more than one politician resort to the aid of the judiciary against the guardians of the Fourth estate. A lot many journalists cried foul and pleaded the right to free speech and expression, principles embodied in the Indian Constitution. As citizens of a free country whose side are you on? This seems to be the major dilemma these days. Before we can get to that it is important to understand what really is expected from a free and responsible media. The phrase ‘freedom of the press’ dates back as early as the year 1644 at the height of the English Civil war when John Milton advocated the right to the freedom of press in his celebrated speech Areopagitica, one of history's most influential and impassioned philosophical defences in favour of this hallowed freedom. In a Miltonian eloquence he defended this right which has long formed the principles and today are the basis for modern justifications of the right to free press. Fast forward media history to the year 1947 and we see a new sense of urgency to put it in the words of Jo Bardoel and Leen D’Haenens. The American Press was ascribed with a new responsibility instead of a right. Four years of concentrated discussion and deliberation culminated into the Hutchins commission report 1947. The report attributed the new ‘Social Responsibility theory’ to the Media. Now, the Hutchins Commission Report laid 5 pertinent principles on the Freedom of the Press: · The media should provide a truthful, comprehensive and intelligent account of the day's events in a context which gives them meaning. · The media should serve as a forum for the exchange of comment and criticism. · The media should project a representative picture of the constituent groups in the society. · The media should present and clarify the goals and values of the society. · The media should provide full access to the day's intelligence. This report led to a forked theory of media responsibility where absolute liberty was pitted against responsible freedom. The Libertarians believed that this was a form of curtailment of freedom of the Press because for them responsibility opened the tiny window of accountability and accountability would further pave way for government intervention which was ‘unacceptable.’ Having given this background we move further home to India. The freedom of press in India was largely curtailed in the pre – independence era under the Vernacular press Act 1878. Post –Independence India perceived a new sense of liberty and a ray of hope. The founding fathers of the Indian Constitution wanted to ensure that by no means was a citizen to live in the fear of punishment for expressing himself freely. Part III of the Indian Constitution provides for certain fundamental rights bestowed on the citizens of the Indian Republic. Article 19 (1)(a) reads “All citizens shall have the righ to freedom of speech and expression” Clearly this included the right to the freedom of the Press as well. Questions arose much later when it was perceived that the media was moving in a direction ad arbitrium. This of course stepped up with the onset of the visual media and the introduction of the internet in the country much later. The 200th Law Commission Report on Trial by Media under the aegis of Justice Jagannandha Rao in 2006 states: “If excessive publicity in the media about a suspect or an accused before trial prejudices a fair trial or results in characterizing him as a person who had indeed committed the crime, it amounts to undue interference with the “administration of justice”, calling for proceedings for contempt of court against the media.” The report further states the need for Journalists and the media to be ‘trained’ in certain aspects of the law relating to the freedom of speech under Art. 19(1)(a) and the restrictions which are permissible under Art 19(2) of the Constitution, human rights, law of defamation and contempt. However, the media seems reluctant to adhere to these guidelines. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: Article 12 deals with the person’s privacy rights and reads thus: “No one shall be subject to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to protection of the law against such interference and attacks.” Commenting against the high drama of the broadcast media in an article written on 18th October, 2012 entitled ‘This show is injurious to health’ Shailaja Bajpai wrote: “Here’s a new statutory requirement: anyone who goes near a media interaction or press conference, anyone who participates in a TV studio discussion, must arrange for an ambulance to be on standby outside the premises. You never know when you might need one.” Such is the deduction of the media’s own representatives. If a politician is expected to be accountable to the masses for his performance and his actions in office, the media too is vested with a responsibility to be accountable for its actions. Now it is difficult to draw up water- tight compartments so the key question that arises is how do we demarcate the spheres of influence of the government, the media and the public? The Civil society was nothing but the creation of the media. The recent reports questioning the credibility of the members of India Against Corruption has left us with a very important question: Is the Indian public easily swayed by sentiments? Are we hasty decision makers when it comes to weighing the truth especially when it involves members of the political class? In a democracy, progressive politics must be pursued but progressive media must be inherent. There are three sides of every story today: The political version, the media version and the Truth. In the quest to get maximum TRP ratings for the channel (which I may add is not entirely wrong!) the media tends to go ad captandum vulgus. There is absolutely ‘zero’ variety in the type of news we are exposed to. Watch BBC or CNN and you will find special slots allotted for news related to different parts of the world, Africa, Asia, Latin America. Compare it with the Indian television channels. The same story being repeated, debated and re- debated like a wild goose chase ultimately ending with a missing goose is what the audience today is subjected to. Constructive criticism backed by at least some solution would make do but pure criticism without solution gets the country NOWHERE. It is not a matter of dispute whether the Media should play an effective critique to the Government and the Opposition but what is wrong is the fact that the media cannot simultaneously seek to play judge and jury. As a citizen of a free country I expect to learn the news as it ‘Is’ not what the media wants it to be. Repeating the same visual snippets throughout the day is evidence enough of the bankruptcy of information in the media. A skewed television debate that seems a miniature version of the Indian Parliament with a moderator who seeks to cut off every sentence of the panellist doesn’t get the citizen anywhere. These lapses could be forgiven if the Indian media was learning independently but today when the viewer tunes in to the news one is exposed to a bitter face-off between panellists ranging from four to sometimes six in number trying to make themselves heard. Paucity of time cannot be an excuse for 24/7 news channels. A structured debate is what the audience prefers. A typical modern day democracy is the result of the interplay between four major mechanisms : the political authority, the corporates and professional sector, the market and finally We the People. Today the scenario is an apprehensive political class trying to make itself heard, a belligerent media trying to make a strong statement on the day’s events and a public that is torn between apathy towards the former and disbelief towards the latter. No part of this article is meant to challenge the authority of the fourth estate, However, with power comes responsibility. In a working democracy, the media is one of the most important functionaries but what happens when the media fails in doing justice to all sides of the story? The public is being drilled throughout the day with one part of the story. The rebuttals and debates form a negligible amount of primetime. This is not to say that a political exposé is wrong. What is wrong is the media trial that is conducted within television studios to a point when the public can only remember the negativity that the media has quite successfully engraved in their minds. Every political and media circuit has its fair share of intellegentia and ignorantia. The media proselytization has its worst effects on the youth of our country. Ask a young person if joining politics has crossed his mind. ‘No’ is the simple yet firm answer. Ask them why, and the first dialogue you will hear is, “Have you seen the newspapers or are you not having a television at home?” “Why should I dirty my hands in this political muck?” A major reason for this is our media today is a NEGATIVE Media which is far from inspiring young minds. It specialises in highlighting the negatives of the government kindling strife and anger in these gullible minds. Today’s journalists may have a degree in journalism but why do they forget the difference between news, opinion and comment? Why is everything so convoluted? We are unfortunately living in an era of a performed media rather than an informed one. Not to sound demeaning but in the quest for truth journalists and reporters sometimes get so muddled in trivia that is irrelevant to the debate resulting in a juvenile display of lopsided information. However in conclusion I must confess that today it is not only the media that is at fault. The members of the audience too are to be blamed for this. As citizens we share the responsibility of bringing out the positive aspects of our country. The world is watching us. We do not live in isolation. The repercussions of what happens within India allows for the formation of a negative international opinion of the country as whole. The need of the hour is for the government, the opposition, the media and the people to work towards building the society but not by embittering the people against the State. The government deserves its fair share of criticism, but criticism must not culminate into a concordia discors. With criticism must come appreciation. Credit must be given where due. It essential to show the working of various policies & schemes that are helping the people. After all no one can be 100% wrong, not even the government; a truth that may not go down well with many readers nonetheless the fact remains. Perhaps the easiest way to overcome the impediments of an over- enthusiastic media is to allow them self- regulations with guidelines. To start with why can’t prime time debates have lesser panellists focused on the topic. This would give the audience time to appreciate the discussion. Without a proper understanding of the issue, the audience is unfortunately fed with only half the information. Half – knowledge is dangerous, in politics it is fatal. The second more important point is to have a moderator who can allow the panellists to give their views without inhibitions. Specific time allotted to the speaker allows the audience to enjoy the debate with a free mind. The third point which also demands our attention is the congeniality between the debaters and the moderator. It has oft been observed that a few panellists simply choose to over- ride the moderator and a few media-persons who ensure that it is only their voice that gets heard. It would be unfair to say that there are no worthy journalists. P Sainath tops my list of journalists par excellence. Dedicated, committed and inspiring work that they do is laudable. We just need more of them. It is this tribe which works on the principles aforestated in the Hutchins report which must bloom in this thriving democracy. An uninformed political class, an ill -informed media and a mis- informed public is the perfect recipe for a modern Indian social disaster. We must ensure in whatever capacity we stand we must choose the path of reason. We are all gifted with the freedom of choice. Just as a certain amount of sanctity is accorded to the Constitution at another level there is a sanctity accorded to the media too. It is with this thought in mind that this post is written for you. Here’s hoping the media will take cognizance of a concerned citizen. Katherine Abraham Photograph Credits: Aikaterina Photography

  • An Open Letter to all Young Protesters

    Originally Published in 2013 for Progressive Indians For Change [ ] Dear Young Protestor, Violence can never be muted by violence. The recent act of brutality against the young woman from Delhi has left me distressed much like you. But what has me surprised is the reactions that have poured in. Clearly this young lady wasn't the first victim but none had taken up this issue before. Suddenly there were protests around the country with young people taking to the streets demanding justice. The social networking sites were ablaze with the seriousness of the crime and how women are so unsafe. Pause. Is this really news? Pictures of protestors carrying “Men respect your women not rape them” are still doing the rounds. If you thought holding a placard with the above slogan would stop these savages from devouring their next prey, Utopia would not be far away. You are standing in various parts of the country, Protesting. Alright. Against what? Are you protesting against the fact that a woman was raped? Are you protesting against the fact that this country has a disproportional ratio when it comes to police and the people? No. You are supposedly protesting against the Government. Again I ask Why? Do you expect that the government by some miracle with a swish of a magic wand will dissuade these perpetrators of injustice from their acts of savagery? A clarion call was made by a few “Interested” members of society stating that rape should now entail the death penalty. S. 302 of the Indian Penal Code, has been on the statute books for 152 years now and murders are still happening. The point I am trying to make here is retributive laws may make for extra paper work in the Parliament but as far as acting as a dissuading force, the chances are slim. I have no issues with the Statute being amended but I have my doubts on how effective this will be. The protests on Raisina Hill were not a display of the courage of the youth to stand up for themselves. And I know this because even here in Pune we had a similar protest. As a young person and as a woman myself let me just introduce you to reality. In a bid to get a few extra sound bytes the media has been effectively stirring up the people against the political class and these protests were anything but peaceful. A friend of mine living in Delhi witnessed young people attack a few cops. When he voiced his opinion on Twitter, he was effectively silenced by people who thought they knew too much and he was lying. And this is the moot problem. People no more want the truth. A few protesters vehemently stated that the police system is useless and ineffective. Has it struck you that in the process of standing guard at the various protest sites so that unwanted miscreants don’t take advantage of the situation, at that very moment you may have perhaps deprived another victim of a crime of timely help and he/she is helpless because the police are busy trying to keep things under control at these protest sites? If the police aren't doing anything what are you doing? Have you forgotten the Jessica Lall case? It is easy to state that the judiciary is slow but how many of you have taken the conscious efforts to find out why. Countless incidents go un-reported, many more cases are registered and then closed for lack of evidence and witnesses. The truth is that as mute spectators to crimes we are also guilty of a crime whose penalty isn't seen in the statute books but whose criminality is worse than that of the offenders. As I write this I am receiving a message that reads: I request you to boycott the 26th January, 2013 Republic Day Parade as a sign of protest. To the dimwit who started this, I will never insult my country for the pleasure of a few and for those who think that boycotting the Parade will help, here’s to remind those considering this a wise move that you are not wounding the Government or the political class but you are definitely insulting Our country as a whole! For all those who marched on the streets in different parts of the country, if you are genuinely interested in helping women here are a few things you can do: 1. Sensitise women to stop bearing the brunt of even the slightest act of immoral conduct. Most women refrain from reporting instances and incidents that have happened with them for fear of social repercussions. Embolden women to stand up for themselves. Even the smallest act of indecency must not be tolerated. Raise your voice immediately. 2. Sensitise men to understand the importance of women. It takes two hands to clap. The cases of young love- failures killing their lady love is an indication that these young men are viewing women as objects of desire nothing more. This not only a social problem it is a massive psychological problem too. There must be a remedy sought out for this. 3. Make volunteer groups and talk to schools and colleges to make Self Defence compulsory and part of the curriculum. In Pune a gentleman teaches young girls self- defence each day. Can we not have more such people to help? 4. Talk to the owners of shops whether it is your local grocery store or chemist. Make pepper sprays available freely. As on today a normal pepper spray costs anywhere between Rs. 150- 500. Can all women really afford this? You could make a difference by talking to the dealers and getting them to lower the prices of these essentials. 5. Instead of taking to the streets make a special appeal to companies and owners of workplaces which expect their female employees to stay late hours at work to start early and end early. 6. Encourage the masses to stand up against injustice and not turn away from the crime happening in front of them. The police must be intimated immediately. 7. Ask for police patrolling in the late hours of the night too. Apart from this there is one other point I would like to shed light upon. A few women quite vociferously stated, “We have the right to wear what we want, walk the streets as we like, etc, etc.” All very well but given the current circumstances is it practical? Even law enforcements will take time to buck up. Can’t we as sensible thinking women practice a little restraint for now? Cautionary measures are essential and practical. The society is neither made up by the 750 members sitting in the hallowed halls of democracy, is not defined by the law enforcements and can by no means be determined by the judiciary. Each system works in sync with the other. But these systems are pointless and spineless without the help and support of the people as a whole. Laws can be amended, Parliament and Police systems changed but what about the mentality of these human beasts, can they be rectified? This is why I will not register my protest by standing in full view of a television camera screaming “Stop Rapes and rapists” and promote my country to be a successful failure. Instead I will use my voice, my liberty and my freedom of expression to appeal to the conscience of the masses. Temporary pressure on the government will not give a permanent solution to heinous acts of violence. A progressive mindset is the only solution. The Mayans predicted that 2012 was the end. Yes it should be the end to intolerance, apathy and insensitivity. May the New Year 2013 bring in hope of a new tomorrow and an India that is free from the clutches of intolerant savage brutes. I hope this letter reaches maximum number of young people. I am one of you and I am appealing to you, Let’s create change, not just talk about it! Stop bragging about the problem, start finding solutions NOW! Yours in the cause of justice and peace, Katherine Abraham All Rights Reserved

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  • My Literary Works | KatherineAbraham

    Literary Works Finding Inspiration in Every Turn I started my writing journey when I was in the first grade and went on to write short stories for school, appeared in the occasional competition and won a few in the bargain. Writing for me comes as easy as breathing, which is what makes it so important. I am more than privileged that I started my journey as an author exactly a decade ago. With every book, I have only evolved as a storyteller. I do hope you have a chance to read ALL of them! The Journey Till Now As a writer, I love the idea of a fresh thought, a fresh start and a new ray of hope each morning! Collaborations

  • About | KatherineAbraham

    About Katherine Inspiring the World One Day At A Time ​As a passionate and motivated professional, I’m constantly striving to improve my techniques, expand my skillset and find new opportunities to grow. Each of my projects - both solo and collaborative - have provided for this growth and allowed me to establish myself within this competitive industry. ​ Hope you enjoy my portfolio. Feel free to get in touch with any questions. Book An Appointment

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