Friday, March 29, 2013

Myth: We are Backward because we Lag Behind in Science and Technology

The mythology that has been sold to the entire Muslim world and especially in Pakistan is that our backwardness is because of our backwardness in Science and Technology. Hence, S and T became the holy grail for progress and development. Everyone is willing to invest in Science and Technology, whether it has been Zia's government and Dr. Mahboob ul Haq's drive for S and T scholarships, or whether it is the political governments of the 90s or the Musharaff era (1999-2008) when Dr Ata ur Rahman was at the helm of S & T and HEC. Funds were lavished on S and T. The underlying assumption behind this myth was that the society would magically transform itself when we have x-thousand S and T PhDs; y-thousand professors with high impact factor;  n-thousand SIS publications and z-thousand state of the arts labs spread all over the country.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Beauty is Our Business - Mathematics, Excellence and the Great Dijkstra

I remember here the lessons Dijkstra gave about beauty and excellence through personal examples. His colleagues celebrated his works with the salute: "Beauty is Our Business"[1]. Dijkstra is one of the most revered computer scientist whose footprint on the fundamental ideas in computer science is now legendary.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Syllabus- Coverage is Enemy of Understanding

The operative word in conventional schools is "cover". There is a mad rush for coverage. Every one is after this elusive goal.

  • The designers develop the lesson plans keeping in view how much of the subject can be covered during one period. 
  • The teacher is now forced to cover the lesson during one period. 
  • Teacher fills out the coverage form. 
  • The administrator measures the coverage and holds the teacher to task for not being able to cover the material.
  • The test is designed to measure the coverage  of the students. 
Everyone is talking about coverageand no one seems to be worrying about the understanding. 

Coverage vs Understanding

"Greatest Enemy of Understanding is Coverage" --- Howard Gardner
My elder sons used to go to one of the schools which has a very big name. I noticed that even in junior classes, i.e. class 4th, 5th and 6th the teacher seemed to be in a mad rush to cover. When I asked why do you move to the next topic even though the students are not yet proficient in the previous concepts, their refrain was the sword of "coverage" hanging on their head because the child was being prepared for the O'Levels. When I asked  why are you worrying about the O'Levels in class 6th, they are not yet at the stage of O'Level? They used to say that unless we prepare them now how can they be up to the O'Levels!! 

I was unable to convince them that preparation of O'Level should be done at O'Level stage and preparation of 5th grade should be done at 5th grade, and preparation of 6th grade should be done at the 6th grade level. Rushing to higher level preparation when the understanding of the basic levels is not solid is counter productive. I couldn't convince them that preparation for the O'Levels will follow automatically when the child has gone through the junior clases firming up the basics. At the earlier classes stage (class 4-8), you should be worrying more about the concepts of junior classes. Why you want to move to concepts of ratio and proportion when they student has not yet mastered the understanding of fractions. 


"Measurable outcomes may be the least significant results of learning" ---- Linda McNeil, Rice University. 
The underlying cause of this mad rush for coverage is the need to measure the outcomes. Coverage is probably the easiest things to measure. Understanding of a student, however, is difficult to measure. Hence, the emphasis on coverage. It is easy to make lesson plan, deliver a lecture according to plan, and then tick mark the parts of the plan that have been covered. Administrator finds it easy to look at the coverage and point out the deficiency. It is easy to make a question paper covering the material covered in the lesson plans. Every one is happy except the students. Students do not know what is happening. The are not allowed to find connections of the material with their experiences and things happening around them. Teacher, even when able to, does not have the time either to make these connections. She simply goes through the motions of covering for the sake of covering paying no heed to the understanding and mastery of the students on the given material.

Unlink coverage, understanding and learning does not proceed in a linear fashion. The path it may take is unpredictable. It can depend upon the particular circumstances, happening in the city, weather, political events, news of natural disasters around the world, interest of the children etc. A skilled teacher has to make all these detours to keep alive the interest and attention of the child. But, these detours, taken to their logical conclusion, may take hours or even weeks depending upon the depth and impact of the events on the society. Failure to relate the material to the active interests of the child, makes the material life-less, dull and drab. Consequently when the teacher loses the attention of the child, the child gets labeled as demotivated. Later when teh child is unable to reproduce such a dull and life less material eventual lead him to be labeled as a failure. 

Hence coverage is often considered to be the enemy of understanding. It is like Heisenberg principle, the more you try to focus on coverage , the more elusive the understanding becomes and vice versa, i.e. the more one focuses on understanding, the more elusive the measurablity of coverage becomes. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

School Discipline vs Prison Discipline

[Delivered as L2L Talk on 2011-05-08]

What is the prison experience?

The gate is heavily guarded. There is an eerie silence prevailing. There is a formal process of meeting the inmates or the officials. You can't go any place you want. There are strict rules for movement. There is a meeting area where you need to go, fill out an application, only then you get to meet the person you have gone there to meet. The whole meeting is conducted under watchful eye(s). Inmates are herded from one place to another under strict supervision. They are not allowed to move on their own. They are punished for any small infringement of the rules. As no one wants to be imprisoned, and deprived of his liberties to act, move, play and do what one likes, coming out of the confinement is, therefore, a day of freedom; a day of deliverance, happiness, exuberance and joy. 

Does this sound familiar? Can we connect this experience to our visit to our child's school!

Let's see what environment a supposedly good conventional school provides. A visitor must go through a formal process of taking an advance appointment, filling out a prescribed form to meet the officials or teachers or the students. You need to fill out a form stating clearly the purpose and get a prior appointment before you can meet any one. When you enter such a school, there is no sound coming out from any where. The teacher is held accountable for any noise coming out from her room and is liable to be thrown out of the school if she can not maintain silence in her class room. The environment therefore is eerily silent.  You can't just walk up to any room. There are strict rules for movement; where can one go and where one can't. Students are made to walk (if ever) from one room to another under the watchful eyes of the teachers. There are even lines on the floor of the corridors and class rooms where students may walk. Students are not allowed to go any where even to bathroom without permission. Students are are shown the rule-book for any small infringement. Students often dread going to the school (burden of tests, homeworks, dreary work). Therefore, pack up time is the most happy time, the time of deliverance, the time when there is laughter and gaiety when the students rush towards the gate as if they have been freed from the prison! 

Should not the school experience be different from a prison experience. Why is the experience similar? Is it because the students are held against their wishes? Are made to work against their wishes? 

Is there a deeper reason for holding the students every day for most of their childhood till they are 16 against their wishes in such confined places, where there is continous monitoring going on? [1] 

Is there a deeper context in the overzealous implementation of the discipline and the punishment paradigms in a school? [2]

Should not it be possible for a school to be a place where children want to go, are excited to go, where work is so interesting and engaging that they do not want to leave! The environment is happy and filled with joyful children actively and vigorously at work without being herded around and guarded [3]. Should not the children be allowed to select the learning activity they would like to select, should not they be allowed to improvise, improve, modify and replace a given activity with much more interesting and thought provoking activities? Isn't it possible for the school to have a welcoming environment that encourages the visitors to become participants of the learning environment and contribute. Why can't the management perceive the parents as their allies and supporters and why can't the parents think of the school management and teachers as their partners in the joint enterprise of the their children's future?

See Also: 

How Our Curriculum Design (from Simple to Complex) Insults the Intelligence of a Student

[Delivered as L2L Talk on 2011-03-20]

A child is naturally curious and interested in exploring about things that he does not know. Complex and unknown things are the ones that interest him (and us). We are interested in mysteries, conspiracy theories, adventure, drama, and are amused by the unexpected, stupendous, super-natural or sci-fi. We insult a child's intelligence by thinking that he can not understand complex things. We think that the only way to teach him is to progress from simple to complex. First drill in him simple concepts. He will only understand complex concepts, once he has mastered the simple things.

This is an insult to the intelligence of a child because the child has proven through his mastery of his mother tongue that he learns from complex to simple. Parents start talking to him naturally, with full sentences much before when he could say a single word. They talk to him, sing to him using natural language. Any computer scientist will tell you that one of the most complex problems that computers have addressed is natural language processing. Within one to two years most children have started using the natural language. We also see the attempt of the kid to stand, walk, climb, balance and now even use mobile phones; which are extremely complex manoeuvres if you ask any robotics expert. In fact, a kid is extremely interested in all the complex things that he sees his elders doing, and wants to copy them irrespective of all the setbacks, injuries, falls and false starts. Study of how a child masters these skills reveal that the child is progressing from complex to simple and not the other way round. Because this is exciting and adventurous, the child is willing to suffer through all the setbacks without getting discouraged.

However, when our teaching content progresses tediously and painstakingly from simple to complex, when week after week and month after month it keeps on lingering on what the kids have already seen and experienced, they lose their interest, and hence their curiosity, wonder and their natural ability to learn. Then we are forced to employ unnatural and forceful ploys to engage their attention. Schools then have to resort to bribes, threats or humiliation:
  • Bribe through grades, happy-face, stars, awards, and presents, or 
  • Threat through F-grades, failure, detention, loss of privileges, loss of access to recess/playground, or 
  • Humiliation by throwing them out of the class, making them stand, made fun of, labeling, and scapegoating. 
We now equate good schooling with excess of these three elements. We can not envision a school environment which does not have these three things and still be considered good. We think that a student is not studying unless his tears are running down his cheeks, he is fearful, silent, and crying. The result is that we are producing "functional illiterates".

All of these techniques are useless and are not necessary had we designed our content from complex to simple. Let the student move to the deeper and deeper level of the details. He would do this by himself if we can show him that the mystery that he unravels is going to be exciting and will prepare him to unravel and explore more mysteries. The duty of a teacher then becomes more of a facilitator when she guides the child in this unraveling of the mystery and pointing out the fundamental principles that the kid needs to remember. This would generate interest among the students and would make their learning effortless. The result would be students who love maths, science, literatue and history naturally. Currently you are surprised to find a student at the high school level who says that any of these subjects are his hobby or passion.

This is the essence of project based learning.

Credits: Inspired by Frank Smith's "Insult to Intelligence: Bureaucratic Invasion of Classrooms".

Monday, March 18, 2013

5 Myths of Higher Education in Pakistan

Presentation originally made at CIO Conference, March 2009 at Sheraton, Karachi.
The links and write-up below is an extended rehash of those thoughts:
    1. Myth: Our backwardness is because we are behind in Science and Technology 
    2. Myth: There is mushrooming of Higher Education Institutions in Pakistan 
    3. Myth: Impact Factor research measures real impact
    4. Public universities cost lower than private universities 
    5. Bigger infrastructure (land, building, equipment) means better education 

Myth #4: Public universities cost lower than private universities

The average cost per student per year of a public university is much more than that of a private university. Here is a typical analysis done in 2005-06.

Public sector universities (2005-06)
  • HEC funding per student (2005-6) ~ Rs 75 k 
  • Additional fees paid per year per student
    • Typical fee: ~ 25 k (For universities like KU) 
    • Exorbitantly: ~ 150 k (IBA, NUST) 
  • Total Average cost per year = 100k – 225k 
  • Land acquisition and capital investment through PC-1s and other funds would be extra and would amount to hundred of millions of rupees of funding per year to each public sector university.
Private Sector HEIs in 2005-06 in Karachi were typically costing a student less than Rs. 100 k. Mind you these universities took not a single penny from the tax money collected from the poor!

In 2012, the average cost per student per year had climbed up for many public sector universities to over Rs. 200k. Whereas, many private sector universities in Karachi had fees around half. Remember, this would include operational costs as well as capital costs. Whereas the Rs.200k per student per year operational
costs of public sector universities does not include capital and development costs, which is an additional tab to be picked up by the poor taxpayers.

Myth #5 : Bigger Infrastructure Means Better Education

We were told that only high quality universities should be allowed to come up. Primary criteria for high quality was the size of the campus, covered area and other brick and mortar facilities. The conventional wisdom started suggesting in the public sector that universities starting in rented bungalows somehow will not be able to provide quality education. This argument was sold in spite of knowing about the history of many of our big universities now.

We all know how Aligarh University came up as MAO College in 1875. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan collected donations through the dancing girls that was much criticized at that time. Later in 1920s, the college became Aligarh Muslim University and eventually led the establishment of Pakistan.

We are told how Karachi University started its operations after the partition from the house of its first VC. A "taat" rag (from a sack) was used as a divider to separate the household from the office of the university. The university started with departments having no more than a couple of teachers.

More recently LUMS started in 1980s in a couple of rented bunglows and now boasts one of the more impressive campuses in the private sector spanning over hundred acres. There are so many examples in the private sector going through such transformations who had started their existence from humble beginnings.

A university is determined not by its buildings and infrastructure but by the commitment of its teachers and efficient and equitable processes.

This myth equates better quality with a ranking criteria that is biased towards the funding priorities of the donor commission. Actually the donor agencies would like to feel good about the funding that they are making and would like to justify their existence. There is a conflict of interest somewhere in such rankings.
They are purported to be quality ranking, but are actually "quantity" rankings because they are just counting the following:

– Bigger buildings (brick and mortar)
– More equipment
– More budget
– More faculty
– More numbers

The myth is perpetuated by measuring the input and not the output. Because the figures of the output are quite disturbing.

Hence, we see that neither the output nor the process being emphasized by the HEC Criteria for ranking. We would not find any of the following elements in the published ranking criteria:
– Processes
– Systems
– Culture
– Quality of graduates

For example, we still see many big universities inserting news items in the newspapers that they have announced the results! The fact that it becomes a news that the university has announced its results indicates that their processes are still in their infancy. For them announcing of admissions is also a news. Admissions and results announcements are not news, they are part of a process that should be automatic, predictable and scheduled events.

Our policy makers in Islamabad scramble for a foreign yatra whenever they get funds. Coming back from such trips they bring presents like GATT, WTO, Washington Accord or QS rankings to justify these visits. There may be some good ideas in there but the whole package should have been processed and thoroughly internalized through courage, time, effort and research to develop our own nationally relevant versions of such criteria. We talk about ISI research publications, but follow no such methodology in implementing such imported ideas. None of these systems before their promotion, implementation and adoption are passed through an impact factor ISI research that establishes their relevance to our context. We do not conduct any pilot studies, or study of the reliability and validity of the standards and criteria. We have seen how through WTO we were forced to let go of all the subsidies to our local market but when the time came for European nations and USA to let go of their subsidies, they dragged their feet and never did away with their own local subsidies. The result was that our whole economy got rocked in the process. However, when eventually those countries realized that they may have to do away with their nationally relevant subsidies they actually stifled the whole initiative and moved towards bilateral and multilateral agreements, jumping out of the WTO bandwagon that was designed to stifle the economies of the blind followers of the third world countries.

I suspect there is a clique of our intelligentia in Islambad that sits down, brainstorm and come up with a copy of some international system that will involve lots of money being spent, contracts being given, hardware being acquired and boxes being bought with only a cursory mention of the output generated through these investments.

What is required is that our policy makers make indigenous efforts for such quality initiatives:
  • Apni dunya aap paida kar agar zindoan may hay

Subject Compartmentalization vs Holistic Learning: How to align with natural process of learning of a child


Holistic learning, also known as global learning, is a learning style based on the principle that students will learn more effectively when all aspects of a person--mind, body and spirit--are involved in the experience. 

Source: About Holistic Learning 
When knowledge of the real-life phenomena is divided in to subjects with narrowly defined boundaries, and when each subject is decomposed into simpler and simpler concepts, the connection of a simple concept to the real-life phenomenon becomes less and less visible. The emphasis of the teacher on concepts whose connection to the real life phenomenon has been broken becomes senseless to a student. Thus, pages over pages of exercises of sums of three digit numbers and extraction of square roots no longer makes any sense to the child. Being subjected to such senseless exercises day after day turns off the student and he begins to hate the process of learning itself.  
Holistic Education

Exploration of real-life phenomenon is always interesting, full of mystery, surprises and the discoveries so made are exhilarating. By dividing such a knowledge into subjects and then down to their senseless first principles, we rob the knowledge from such adventure, make the process tedious and boring. No wonder we have to force, cajole, bribe, threaten, humiliate the child in order to coax him in to doing some thing which holds no mystery and discovery and sense for him.

Exploration of real-life phenomenon is always interesting, full of mystery, surprises and the discoveries so made are exhilarating. By dividing such a knowledge into subjects and then down to their senseless first principles, we rob the knowledge from such adventure, make the process tedious and boring. No wonder we have to force, cajole, bribe, threaten, humiliate the child in order to coax him in to doing some thing which holds no mystery and discovery and sense for him.

Let's focus on a real-life object such as a mobile phone. Can you divide it into neat boundaries of the subjects that we know:

  • Is there electronics? Of course yes. 
  • Is there mathematics? Yes, of course, the intricate manufacturing and fitting of the electronic components and their design was not possible without the mathematics. 
  • Is there sociology? Yes, the way we communicate, interact, meet, talk, socialize. 
  • Is there language? Of course how can you use it without the language, send text messages, read messages, emails, tag videos, store information, exchange information etc. 
  • Is there physics? Of course, the screen, casing, current, etc. 
  • Is there psychology? Of course, a lot of research goes into the psychology of how to make a user friendly phone, how to make it understand what we want to do, 
  • Is there chemistry? Of course, the materials with which it is made could not have been manufactured without the knowledge of chemistry.
  • .....

Compartmentalization vs Integration of Knowledge

Holistic education is mainly characterized by its focus on fostering learning by relating to subjects on a personal level and by its emphasis on interrelating subjects and concepts. The holistic method strives to mimic the way the brain learns information naturally; that is, with related bits of all subjects--history, science, literature--connected together. Subjects are not learned separately, but rather in relation to one another and in relation to what the student already knows. Concepts are studied from many different perspectives and rote memorization is strongly de-emphasized.

By contrast, traditional educational methods keep subjects strictly separate, with subjects and concepts compartmentalized and few connections made between them. Concepts are generally presented from one perspective and learning depends heavily on repetition and memorization.

Source: About Holistic Learning 

One can go on and on. Well, a mobile phone is a complex product. We can do a similar exercise with any other ordinary object, such as a tissue paper box. A little introspection like the one above will tell you that you can identify sociology, electronic (printing), mathematics (dimensions, cutting of paper from larger rolls), language (advertising, labelling), physics (cutting, manufacturing), chemistry (paper making, pulp, dyes, colors), ....

Objective of holistic learning is to make the student focus on the big picture and through a process of exploration and discovery using the student's natural curiosity move downwards to reach to the principles through a top-down process. This is entirely different from the classical composition of text books that typically move from simple to complex. Text books typically subscribe to the narrow subject boundaries. This is but natural. As the text books are written by experts whose take is not a learner's view of the subject but actually an expert's view of the subject. Expert looks at the field bottom up because he is an expert and in the process can foresee the connections that a concepts is going to establish with other concepts as the concepts become increasingly more and more complex. However, for a learner this view is not only unnatural but also senseless as he is just starting out and can not look at all the possibilities with which connections would be made by other concepts within the subject boundary and with other concepts in related subjects to eventually make real-life objects that are interesting, useful and studying whom makes sense.

We teach the students things that do not make sense and expect them to piece them together and derive the sense through a process of composition. Children often find it difficult to wait for some thing. The wait especially becomes tedious and more and more distant for abstract concepts that are not making sense, and therefore they lose hope and turn away from the learning process itself.

Aah ko chaheeyay ik umr asar hone tak
Kaun jeeta hay teray zulf k ser honay tak.

Dividing the knowledge into subjects and then further dividing and decomposing them to
Experiential Learning is anti-subjects
very simple parts and only then make the education process of a child start from those simple (but yet totally senseless) concepts. This is akin to having our food divided into components such as proteins, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins etc and each one placed on our plate in small piles. We are then asked not only to eat such tasteless piles and then expect our digestive system to digest them is not practical. Note that our digestive system is designed to decompose the whole food in to the constituent parts. It is not designed to digest concentrated dozes of fat, carbohydrates and other parts of food. Similarly, our minds have been designed to decompose complex phenomenon into simpler parts, solve mysteries, explore unknown territories. We are fascinated by riddles, UFOs, fairy tales, horror stories. They do not turn us off, but actually pique our interest and engage our interest. Similarly, real life phenomenon pique our interest. A child does not know how a toy car works, and in his curiosity will break it to find out how it works. Similarly, he would like to explore every closed (especially) locked windows, to see what is on the other side.

We need to make our subjects alive, thrilling, full of wonder, inviting, engaging and enthralling. This can only be done through holistic learning.

Thus, our curriculum should be holistic. It should be designed to engage the students, hold their attention, move them away from interesting video games, engaging facebook, and riveting programs and movies.

Structural Paradigm of Schools: Foundations and Assumptions

Current Education Paradigm [1]
Schools anywhere in the world share a common paradigm that was determined by the demands of the Industrial Revolution. In this post we identify the structural elements underlying the current paradigm. Many of the underlying assumptions of these structural elements are being questioned in the light of the transition to knowledge age of the 21st century from the industrial age of the 19-20th century. The structural elements given below are also shared by the universities, with some variations:

Why this current urgency about visions and entrepreneurship

Why this Current Urgency about Long Term Visions and Entrepreneurship -- Global Challenges and Opportunities

Information age economy will have most people working from their homes and mobiles through internet on a per project basis for different companies. They would be paid not because they have a CV containing a list of large number of degrees or diplomas, but they would be paid on the basis of their portfolio of past projects and their ability to complete the projects on time and within resource constraints. Even in Pakistan, there are already several organizations that allow their employees to work from their homes. This trend is going to explode exponentially. Very soon all services would be outsourced to off-site people or organizations. Information age requires people to be enterprising enough to find out opportunities where ever they exist after every few years or even months. This age requires people who are nimble enough and who can quickly learn new technologies and new ways of doing things. There will never be time enough go in to expensive training institutes and universities. People will have to learn quickly on their own. Therefore, self learning and intrinsic motivation is a very important part of the required skill set today.

Work in the information age will often be short term, contractual, assignment oriented and project based. Organization will not be mega organizations employing tens of thousands of full-time people. Organizations will be smaller, entrepreneurial and virtual. Rapid changes in technology will not allow companies to settle down in one particular area. A company will often have to reinvent itself and its work every few years. Such entrepreneurial organizations require self-employed people who are enterprising and who can look at the big picture and have the ability to solve real life problems and can quickly shift from one domain to another. Companies would require people who like to work on their own developing crucial new skills and new understandings to enable them to take advantage of the shifting scenarios.

More work would revolve around entrepreneurial initiatives rather than settled jobs. This means that instead of waiting for someone to tell a person what to do, people would have to be enterprising enough to seek out new opportunities, explore new worlds, and to scan for new ways of doing things. What is required is the intellectual independence to think on one's own.

Strive for intrinsic motivation, self learning, and self-direction are the essential functions of long term visions and ability to take risks and not be discouraged by failures and adversity are the hallmarks of an entrepreneur who is forever on the lookout for new worlds.

To make sense of the rapid changes driving our life, we need long term visions that can provide us with anchor. To make world a safe place from exploitation, deterioration, climate change and global monopolistic control requires social and environmental leadership/entrepreneurship.

                Apni dunya aap paida kar agar zindoan may hay
                Sirr-e-Adam hay zameer-e-kun fakan hay zindagi! --- Iqbal

This is the time of change. We have a small window of opportunity. While other forces are scrambling to understand and control the emerging environment, we need to proactively understand these changes and develop our long term visions and entrepreneurial ventures that can take us through this transition. Otherwise we would just be reacting to outside changes as we were doing through the industrial age and be always at least 50 years behind the others.

To overcome exploitation and oppression from outside, we must develop our own consciousness of self and our own destiny in view of the aspirations of our religion, our history and our society. This self-consciousness must permeate our long term visions and should drive our entrepreneurial ventures to safeguard our environment and our humanity.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Are you really concerned about your child's education

Worried about School Assessments (WASL) 
If you are really concerned about your child's progress in education, what you should be doing before you start running towards the school complaining and then hiring expensive tutors.

There are parents who get worked up quite frequently about their child's performance in school. Every few weeks their blood pressure builds up and they find themselves arguing with the child, then the school and the tutor and so on. Majority of such parents need to take an inventory of the things that they need to be doing before they show their concern. Here is the order of things that they need to worry about and pursue before they run to others:

  1. Is the child hungry? What is he eating? Is he getting enough food that he likes and relishes what he eats? Is there a regular time for breakfast, lunch, or dinner? Is the table set properly for each meal time? Is the meal time, a time for sparring, scolding, and a duel over who wins; whether the child gets up without eating or the parent is successful in thrusting the food inside the child. If every meal time is a contest. Then some thing is seriously wrong. A hungry child can not study and will not study. 
  2. What type of lunch is the child taking to schoool? If the child is taking junk food as lunch, then this is the biggest cause of concern. Leave everything and ensure that the child takes proper healthy food.
  3. Is there a time to sleep, time to wake up, time to rest? Without proper food, sleep and rest the child will be irritated, cranky and will be full of demands and would make fuss about every thing. Do the parents keep on sleeping till noon on holidays? Does the mother go to sleep after packing the kids to school? Holidays are time to explore the outdoors, parks, exhibitions, riverside or seaside. Holidays are for outdoor trips, trackings and excursions. Regular timings for sleeping and waking up provide the framework in which your child will organize his work and studies. Without the discipline of sleeping and waking up on time, expecting organization in child's homework and studies is a pipe dream.
  4. Is there a time to play, go out and have physical excursion? A growing young boy needs about six hours of physical exercise, play, running, climbing, etc. A child who is well fed and well rested will want to exert energy and play. If the child is not getting enough time to play and get the energy out of the system in the playground, he would do it at home by climbing on walls, cupboards, throwing things around, catching (and hence breaking stuff). Rowdyism of children is a sign of lack of opportunities for playground interaction with his/her peers. If a child has no time to play, then he is not mentally prepared for studies. At least one hour of competitive sports time (hockey, football, basketball, table tennis, badminton etc) will tremendously improve the grades of any student. Healthy body leads to healthy mind. 
  5. Once the regularity of meal times, sleep times, and play times are ensured, your child should not frequently be complaining of illness, infections and should be healthy. If he is excessively ill, then special attention has to be given in ensuring that the kid generally is not suffering from any ailments. 
  6. If the child is has proper meals, proper sleep time, proper play time and is generally healthy and still appear cranky and grumpy. Then the parent needs to pay attention to his emotional needs of being loved. 
  7. Once a parent has fulfilled the physical needs (proper meals, sleep, play) and emotional needs, then the parent can rightly start worrying about the studies of the child. However, studies show that parents who fulfill the primary needs of the children often have no problem with children's education because by that time they have provided a framework and a conducive environment for the growth of the children.

See Also:

  1. Do you think your child has some learning deficiency? Top 9 Questions to Answer Before You Start Worrying
  2. My child does not sit still and concentrate!
  3. How Parental Judgements can Shatter a Child - Self Fulfilled Prophecies 
  4. Are you really concerned about your child's education
  5. Bell Curve Evaluation of Students and Islamic Conception

[A workshop delivered at L2L Academy in July 2012]

Bell Curve Evaluation of Students: Islamic and Secular Perspectives

A "bell curve" is the holy grail for which the academicians force the grades of the students to be distributed in a form that resembles a bell shape as given in the figure below.

Normal Distribution of a Bell Curve
Mythical Bell Curve of Intelligence
The underlying assumption is that intelligence is distributed (genetically and empirically) in this bell curve shape which indicates that there are very few people who have very high or very low intelligence and majority of the people have intelligence that lies around the middle.