Monthly Archives: May 2015

The Truth Shop

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The Truth Shop

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Are exams and competition necessary? – No Relation Between Learning and Examination

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Education

Following is the article written by Dr. Sandeep Pandey Ji (Social Activist, Guest Faculty at IIT(BHU)). Read more to know the context.

Some of my teacher friends are quite concerned with the fact that I don’t conduct any examination in the courses that I teach and almost all students in my class get ‘A’ grade. I believe there is no relationship between learning and examination. If the purpose of teaching is to make students understand a subject the job of a teacher is not complete until the students have learned the subject. Any failure of student to learn should be considered a failure of the teacher to make his/her students understand the subject.

I feel sorry that so much precious time is wasted in setting questions papers, conducting examinations, correcting answer sheets and giving grades. Some teachers seem to take the whole process of conducting examination more seriously than teaching the course itself. For some it is a very pious exercise which they see as integral part of teaching. They cannot imagine the process of teaching sans examination. But performance in examination is not a true reflection of student’s learning. Students may pass examination, and often with good marks, without understanding the subject by adopting legitimate as well as unfair means. This exercise of examination is akin to a struggle between the teacher and the taught. After an insipid semester of instructions the teacher tries to put the students to unnecessary strain of memorizing the content and is usually very strict with grading. So much so that some teachers consider it a matter of pride that students are not able to get very high marks in their subjects. Students on the other hand try to beat the teachers and find ways to score good marks without putting in much effort.

In my system of evaluation I conduct one-to-one interaction with each student in my class. The interaction is held in my office or the hostel room of student. With a class size of slightly over hundred students I’m able to do it about three times during the semester at IIT, BHU. In this evaluation I test the understanding of the student. If the student has not learned the subject he/she is asked to go back, study and prepare for another round of interaction. The students have unlimited chances to learn the subject. The process of evaluation is complete when the teacher and student are both satisfied with the learning achieved. In this process almost all students are able to achieve a certain basic level of understanding of the course. This is the reason that almost all students get the same grade in the class. Since everybody has understood the subject they get ‘A’. I don’t see why they should be given any lesser grade. Ideally I would be happy if no grades had to be given. I should just be required to declare whether the student has understood the subject or not.

Let me make it clear that I’m not saying the examinations have no role. I’m just saying they have no role in learning process. However, if some selection is to done, for example for a job, then the employer may use the method of examination to make appropriate selections. In our country there is a huge industry which just prepares people for various kinds of examinations. They are guilty of making the competition cut throat, draining any element of learning in the teaching process. The joy which is associated with the process of learning disappears as one is exposed to fierce competition. Moreover, it wastes the time and energy of so many youth who are ultimately not able to clear these examinations. The successful candidates are only a miniscule percentage of those who are not able to make it.

However, when we solve problems in real life we almost never do it under examination like conditions. In fact, instead of competing with our colleagues, we try to seek their cooperation in accomplishing a task. Hence the role of examination must not be exaggerated. It is an artificial meaningless wasteful exercise which puts tremendous strain on candidates.

The element of competition inbuilt in examination brings the worst out of us, distorting our personalities, making us more selfish and unnecessarily aggressive. People who are not subject to process of competition, for example all primary producers and illiterate service providers, are more humane in their interaction and produce better quality results in their work too. They have never scored high marks nor hold certificates and degrees from reputed institutions but the society trusts them to do its work. And they do their work honestly. If one thinks about it, it is amazing that we trust formally unqualified and untrained people to do such important tasks as cook our food, build our houses, handle our little children, etc., essentially because we believe in their integrity but still continue to accept the idea that competition produces quality. Most of  the above mentioned categories of people are not working in competitive set ups.

People who do not go through the process of competition have a better understanding of life. For example, they know the amount of resources needed to fulfill human needs. The educated people because of their selfish nature become greedy and lose a sense of remaining contented within limited resources. Hence they feel that their needs are unlimited. This is the reason they also engages in corruption. Corruption is a product of educated society. The uneducated are victims of corruption.

Author:
Dr. Sandeep Pandey
Social Activist,
Guest Faculty at IIT (BHU).
Know more about him at:
http://www.ashanet.org/pandey/visit2005/bio.html

The Power of Empathy

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Empathy

Empathy

Empathy is the basis of all the human connections. Empathy “happens” when other person is able to experience within himself the same emotional condition, which I am experiencing in a given situation, and then other person acknowledges and expresses to me, how it feels to be there. Other person also feels empathy with me, when I do the same. Empathy is the deepest level of emotional oneness which happens between two individuals. It is an amazing feeling of oneness, connectedness and love.

Sympathy on the other hand, which is mostly confused with empathy, is almost the opposite of empathy! Sympathy is trying to understand other person’s condition and then offering consolation or solutions, without having experienced that specific emotional condition within oneself. Sympathy doesn’t connect two individuals, to the depth, to which empathy connects.

Sympathy is a phenomena, when other person is not able to exactly understand how I feel, but evaluates/judges my situation in a certain way. Other person in this case  may give a lot of space and time and may be very nice behaviorally, but his inability to connect with my emotional condition, leaves a void within me. I do not feel connected with the person. Sympathy is often accompanied with the feeling of superiority in the person sympathizing and pity for other person. Nobody likes to be pitied.

The person sympathizing may many a times feel that he understands how it feels to be there in a given situation, but in reality he may not. He may feel that he is empathizing, but in reality, he may be sympathizing. The right of decision, whether the person is sympathizing or empathizing, generally lies with the person on the receiving end. The receiver only can decide, what has happened – Sympathy or Empathy!

Empathy is deep, Sympathy is superficial. Empathy drives connection, Sympathy drives disconnection. Empathy gives comfort, Sympathy brings void. Empathy strengthens the bonding, Sympathy weakens it. Empathy makes a person attractive, Sympathy makes a person repulsive.

In all human conditions, Empathy breeds Trust, Empathy breeds Respect, Empathy breeds Affection and Empathy breeds Love! Without empathy, no amounts of money, no amounts of power, no amounts of nice behavior and hospitality can bring connection between two human beings. Empathy is the basis of all the human connections.

Capability doesn’t necessarily imply Actualization. All human beings are “Capable” of feeling Empathy, but capability doesn’t necessarily imply actualization. Empathy comes with experience and understanding. The more and diverse experiences I have, the more and diverse thought processes I am aware of, the more and diverse emotional states I am aware of or have experienced in past, the more I am vigilant and understanding of my own experiences, thoughts and emotions, the more I will be able to empathize with others. It takes a lot of experiences and inner-connectedness to feel empathy with other person. Introspection and inner-connectedness are necessary to have empathy, but they are not sufficient. Experience of diverse human conditions, understanding of diverse human emotions, understanding of diverse thought processes, are also essential to feel empathy. The more one explores in various human dimensions, the more empathetic one keeps becoming.

There are 4 Components of Empathy. Empathy requires four things to be done. They are:
1. Perspective Taking.
2. Staying out of Judgements.
3. Connecting and experiencing within oneself what other person is going through.
4. Expressing how it feels to be there.

Perspective taking is the process of seeing the situation from the reference point of other person. Staying out of judgements is essential, if one wishes to feel empathy. In fact, empathy kills judgements. If one is really able to feel empathy with other person, the judgements will automatically go away! Empathy requires connecting within myself to the same emotional condition, which other person is going through. And, finally expressing to other person what it feels like to be in that situation, is essential to bring comfort. In fact, in case of empathy, it happens automatically. In empathy, all the 4 things above happen automatically.

Empathy enriches one’s perspective. Empathy develops the capability in a person to see the same situation from multiple perspectives. In fact the reverse is also true. The more perspectives one is able to see the same situation from, the more empathetic one keeps becoming. Lack of understanding of subjectivity of human condition, is one of the main reasons for lack of empathy.

Empathy kills Judgements. To feel empathy, one has to go beyond one’s notions of “good” and “bad”. Different thoughts and emotions which human beings experience in their daily life, are not bound with the ideas of “good” and “bad”. Any type of thoughts and emotions may come in a human being. If one is too immersed in one’s notions of good and bad, if one’s perception is too colored with the ideas of ‘this is good’ and ‘that is bad’, if one is too judgmental, then one will not be able to feel empathy and others will not feel comfortable with that person.

Empathy Builds Relationships: Connecting, Experiencing and Expressing. Empathy Builds Acceptance. Acceptance and Emotional comfort are the keys to good relationships. Empathy breeds acceptance and emotional comfort. When other person is able to connect with my emotional condition, experiences the same within himself and expresses how it feels to be there, it brings me a lot of emotional comfort. Other person also feels comfortable with me, when I do the same. When I am able to connect with other person at this emotional level, then it also builds acceptance. Acceptance is one of the foundational building blocks of any relationship.

Empathy increases understanding of Human Nature. The more one is able to empathize, the more one is able to understand and appreciate different human conditions and perspectives, the more one is able to understand different thought processes, the more one is able to understand different emotional conditions, the more one grows one’s understanding of human nature. One is able to see that innate nature of a human being is good. One is able to see that human being is innately good, but is unable to actualize the goodness, due to certain limitations. An empathetic person is able to understand and appreciate even those limitations. He is not judgmental about the limitations. An empathetic person understands and even respects the imperfection of human beings in their current state of being, since he is or he has been through that imperfection himself and he understands how it feels to be there.

With the increased understanding of human nature, when an empathetic person comes in contact with a human being, he is not able to empathize with, because of the limitation of his experiences, he is still compassionate with him. Compassion builds with more empathy. Compassion is the “Trust in Innate Goodness” of a human being. The more one is able to empathize, the more Trust one builds in Innate Goodness of a human being, the more compassion one builds within oneself for human beings in general.

Empathy in the beginning is generally limited by one’s own experiences in life and awareness within oneself. It is also not possible to have all the experiences of all the kinds in life, but the more one builds empathy and awareness within oneself, the more one breaks free from the limitations of experiences, and the more one develops compassion for human beings in general.

Empathetic Guidance is well received by everyone. Guidance, specially in life related matters, is a thing which one is not receptive to, when given without empathy. Knowledge cannot be imposed on anybody. I am ready to listen to other person when I trust other person’s knowledge, I find his knowledge good for me, I trust other person as a human being and when I feel empathy from other person. When empathy in other person is absent, I am not receptive to him, even if he is saying something really useful. Knowledge, when served in the plate of Empathy, is well taken by everyone. Empathy makes other person more receptive. It loosens his rigidity and preconceived notions.

Empathy is a solution to internal peace, good relationships and societal harmony. When I am able to empathize with other person, when I am able understand other person’s situation better, when I understand why other person did/does what he did/does, then it increases my acceptance for other person. When my acceptance for other person increases, I feel more peaceful and comfortable within. Non-Acceptance brings internal disturbance. Acceptance bring peace within. The more my acceptance increases for other person, the more other person also feels comfortable with me and that leads to mutual fulfillment and complementarity in relationships. When people in a society become more empathetic, more accepting and their relationships improve with each other, it contributes a lot to the harmony in society.

Following resources summarize Empathy very very well. Please spend some time watching them.

1. Following short video by Dr. Brene Brown summarizes Empathy quite well!

2. Empathy can change the world.