Vol. 167 No. 24 - June 11 - June 17, 2016
A sensational press interview of the toppers of this year’s Class 12 (Science and Arts) of the Bihar School Examination Control Board hit the headlines. It focused on these students being unable to answer basic questions. It is perhaps indicative of the dismal quality and merit of their education. As the academic year begins and children go back to school, one should point out that this failure has much to do with not having a sound study system and effective learning skills.
Attempting to learn all the material in one study session is called ‘cramming’. While cramming might get you through the test the next day (or not), research shows it is a very poor way to actually comprehend and retain copious material. Organise your subject matter into different segments for more than one session. There are reasons why spaced learning is better than cramming.
The best study skill is the use of a ‘study system’. It is simply a standard method of facilitating approach to the study of any data. Quite a few of these systems have been created over the years. One of the oldest and best-known study systems is 'SQ3R'. It is an acronym that stands for the steps of the system, that are Survey, Question, Read, Recite and Review.
Survey is similar in concept to the ‘whole learning’ method. Instead of trying to learn the material in detail, when surveying, you just want to understand the framework of the information. To survey the material, read the various structural parts quickly without delving too deep. It is almost like forming a mental outline. Read the preface, table of contents, and the chapter summaries. Read all the main headings and subheadings within the chapters. Carefully examine any graphs or pictures, and read the captions. When surveying, you want to map everything.
After completing your survey, again go through the same parts you just surveyed and ask yourself questions about each one. Ask yourself questions like "What is the quadratic formula, and why is it important?", "Is this formula useful in real life?", or "Why is it called 'quadratic'?" Questions keep you focused and really engage you with the matter. Even before reading the details, you will already be thinking deeply about the content.
It is now time to read the paragraphs and other detailed sections. Many students jump right to this step without first surveying and questioning, which makes it much harder to place the material into your memory in an orderly way. Read straight through everything without taking notes. Use speed reading techniques, especially during your first pass through the material, to save time and increase comprehension.
Reciting means to ask and answer questions about the information. Go through the chapter and read each heading and subheading. Ask yourself questions about the headings, and answer from memory without looking at the book. Reciting step by step through the chapter will give you a very accurate picture of how well you know the material. Experts recommend you spend at least half of your time reciting.
The review step should take only a few minutes. The review consists of reciting your way through the material again. The more times you can review before your exam, spaced out over hours or days if possible, the better you are likely to remember the material. Never end a reading session without reviewing the main points of what you have just read. This is one of the most important tips for remembering any material.
This same idea of reviewing information from a book you are studying also applies to notes you take during lectures. Use the same SQ3R steps when studying for exams. It facilitates remembering the material faster and better. Above all, this method has been shown to improve reading rate, comprehension and performance on exams.
St Anthony is the ‘lost and found’ saint of the Church. Generations have invested their unstinting faith in his ability to find what has been lost due to human oversight. His intercessory powers before God are exemplary.
St Anthony, in 1224, had a book of psalms that contained notes and comments which he used to teach fellow friars of the Franciscan Order. When a novice decided to leave the hermitage, he stole Anthony’s book. When Anthony discovered it was missing, he prayed it would be found or returned to him. The thief returned the book. The book is said to be preserved in the Franciscan friary in Bologna.
St Anthony’s name at birth was Fernando Martins. He was born into a wealthy family, and at age fifteen, he was sent to the Santa Cruz Abbey in Coimbra, the then capital of Portugal. Fernando was strongly attracted to the simple, evangelical lifestyle of the friars, whose order had been founded only eleven years prior. He learned theology and Latin while in the Abbey. Fernando took the name Anthony on joining the hermitage of St Anthony of Egypt in Olivais, Lisbon.
In this day of high-end technology and student-friendly education, the single most important factor in the classroom continues to be ‘The Teacher’. It is humbling to realise that we impact society by nurturing and guiding the numerous students that pass through our hands. There is no profession more valuable in the world than teaching, which is a bit like training for running. Many of us begin our careers with hopes of changing the world, of seeing progress made every day.
Some days it happens; other days leave us wondering if all that we do would ever make a difference. The answer is a resounding YES! Maybe what we did in the academic year gone by did not make it to the evening news on the idiot box or earn us a write-up in the country’s leading newspaper, but it still counts for progress. Maybe it will not see you and me suitably attired rushing to collect a ‘Teacher of the Year’ award, but when we sat back, relaxed, unwound and recharged ourselves in the vacations, it must have definitely been with the assurance that we have done our bit to change the world - not in leaping strides of marathon proportions, but in the best way it can be changed - one youngster at a time.
India is sadly home to the largest number of child labourers in the world. The Census found an increase in the number of child labourers from 11.28 million in 1991 to 12.59 million in 2001. M.V. Foundation in Andhra Pradesh found nearly 400,000 children, mostly girls between seven and 14 years of age, toiling for 14-16 hours a day in cottonseed production across the country of which 90 per cent are employed in Andhra Pradesh. 40 per cent of the labour in a precious stone cutting sector is children. NGOs have discovered the use of child labourers in the mining industry in Bellary District in Karnataka, in spite of a harsh ban on the same. In urban areas, there is a high employment of children in the zari and embroidery industry.
Poverty and lack of social security are the main causes of child labour. The increasing gap between the rich and the poor, privatisation of basic services and the neo-liberal economic policies are forcing major sections of the population out of employment and without basic needs.
Catholic leadership in India needs to look deep into the future and take a holistic view of Catholic youth and their future in today’s knowledge-driven globalised competitive economy. Are we ready for the future in terms of mindset, knowledge, skills and awareness? Do we holistically understand the change that is occurring with breakneck speed that demands a certain readiness to survive and thrive? How will we respond as a community, and not just react to these sweeping changes, mostly driven by economic change?
That the Catholic community is a gold and diamond mine of intelligence is beyond doubt. We lack in nothing, but our presence in certain fields such as Civil Services (IAS/IPS, etc) and armed forces, academia, corporate leadership is lagging. This is necessary for the mainstreaming of the community. We note happily that initiatives like the Christian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dimensions, etc. have lit the torch of entrepreneurship with very encouraging results. We need focused initiatives for community leadership development in various fields.
A panel discussion on the current political scenario in the country organised by the Bombay Catholic Sabha on May 29, 2016 at Sarvodaya in Goregaon, Mumbai. Mr. Gordon D’Souza president of the BCS, moderated the session and said that in the last few months there was a chain of events like revolts in certain universities, charges of being anti national, enforcement of food choices on citizens that led one to wonder if there was any threat to democracy and secularism in the country. Experts on this topic from the field were invited to throw light on the situation.
Dr. Ram Puniyani, Chairman of Centre for Study of Society and Secularism while speaking on ‘Challenges to the Indian Democracy’ said that the sense of ‘country belonging to me’ has eroded. The murder of certain rationalists, the Dadri incident, hate speeches by so called holy persons and attacks on minorities have created a fear psychosis in the minds of the minorities.
Each time I forgot to cross my t’s or dot my i’s, my English Language teacher would chide me and say, “you are like the SAINT IN A HURRY.” “Being in a hurry” is a psychological energy called the ‘Hurry Up’ driver, which along with other drivers like ‘Be Perfect’, ‘Please Me’, ‘Be Strong and Try Hard’, get instilled in our psyche – thanks to the well-meaning messages (in truth not really so) given to us by our parents and other figures, like our teachers and other authoritative people in our early lives. This concept is an off-shoot of a powerful theory – TRANSACTIONAL ANALYSIS (TA) – originated and developed by Dr. Eric Berne and enriched further by other TA specialists. TA is a theory for self awareness, personal growth, healthy interpersonal relation, and good communication – in fact a powerful tool for behavioural change.
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