Thursday, June 25, 2009

Class X board exams: To be or Not to be?

Union Minister for HRD Kapil Sibal says that Class X board exams are a trauma and should be scrapped. Newton's first law soon follows up and almost everybody rises against the change. A minister trying to Change the system, and public against him. All so natural. But in between, the question is, WHY should the exams stay or go?

Newton's First Law:

No doubt, it's the simplest and the best (latter under scrutiny) it go the way it is going, whatever, wherever, however it is. Class X board exam take place like an annual event where millions participate, some win, some lose, and some get lost somewhere. Something that is happening for the years I have seen, and my parents too.


I do not know whether Class X boards are a trauma or not, but I remember that Class X board exams was the time in my life when I had problem sleeping properly. Throughout the exams. And no doubt, people make a 'Hauva' out of the boards. Neighbors and relatives get an extra thing to gossip about, and parents, to brag about. So do students. But the biggest blow comes from school, mostly public schools where conducting two to three PRE-BOARDS has become a trend. Schools create unnecessary pressure on students to Perform well in boards and maintain the "School's results".


It hardly is of any use. We need a class XII marksheet everywhere and class X is required for just age certification. Is that all the importance of such hype? Actually class X board exams were made to serve a purpose that no more exists. When most of the schools were till class tenth and mostly students had to go out after tenth to continue their studies, board exams worked as a scale on which every student could be scaled. Never mind different boards as every board thought it was the only existing entity, or at least worked on this assumption.

But now that every school provides education till class XII, there is little use of class X boards. We can simply conduct boards after class XII which ARE (not can be) used for the admissions already.

Still there are arguments in favor of class X boards. Like a student gets to learn, or a student find his/her first public exposure which is important for further life. Or, boards make students more serious. But about all these arguments, my belief is that a student who is serious will be serious and one who doesn't have to, cannot be made serious by board exams. While a turn around can come at any point, I do not think board exams can be used as substitute for the schooling system as it's the entire schooling which is expected to make a child responsible, not the board exams.

So, for now, I think we do not need class X board exams. But then, if they have to be replaced, the replacement should be proper and not in a haphazard manner. We are in no hurry to remove a system that is there for ages just because our HRD minister got the idea now. I think he should take his time and do the needful firmly and after proper planning.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Editorials, What?

The level of responsibility of the electronic media in India has been a subject of debate for a long time, but fortunately, irresponsibility in the print media is something that is comparatively less visible.

Still, at times, there are incidents when one is bound to think whether our media has some sense of responsibility or they are just interested in earning their bread by any means. One such incident is the Counter View printed in The Times of India, one of the most prestigious English language newspapers of India, on the Twitter feeds of Minister of State for External Affairs, Shashi Tharoor.

The article written by Narayani Ganesh, which appears in the Editorial section of The Times of India, not only claims that a Minister taking his responsibility seriously cannot have time for social networking sites, but also goes further telling that he is 'answering questions from other members, [which] is a reflection of how lightly he takes his official responsibilities.'

After all this, the author gives the case of Aishwarya Rai where she was not there on Twitter and impostors had been writing tweets in her name. With the 'risk' of such a thing happening with Tharoor, and ordering/advising people to think about the consequences of such a thing, Ms Ganesh ends her article with the words 'stop twittering, Tharoor. Just do the work you've been entrusted with.'

Now my first question to the editor/author Ms Ganesh is that HOW a minister who replies to the queries of PUBLIC, in a DEMOCRACY, be a reflector of IRRESPONSIBILITY? I do not think that the practice we follow, of seeing our politicians only twice in a decade, is a part of our constitution.

Secondly, even if I agree with her argument that a RESPONSIBLE minister cannot find time to come on a social networking site (which actually Tharoor himself agrees with when he says he doesn't have a Facebook page, and I guess that IS the reason most of the politicians/actors are coming to Twitter as it takes just 140 characters and can be easily run on their phones, something our Editorial page author doesn't seem to understand), I do not know on what basis she found that these tweets can be risky. This very statement of the author shows that neither she has any idea what Tharoor writes in his tweets nor she knows about the past and the diplomatic knowledge of the minister in question.

Very interestingly for me, this article happens to have appeared on a day when I had just completed the chapter of Nehru's biography written by Tharoor where the latter has thoroughly discussed about the Foreign Policy of the former. Tharoor, in the biography, very critically explains each aspect of Nehru's personality which affected the foreign policy of India after reading which I was sure of the quality of judgment of Tharoor in the diplomatic matters.

I request all the media-persons to be more thoughtful at least about what they write, if not about what they speak. And in case they think something is wrong, they should present their matter clearly enough so that their concerns are thought upon by the readers and not dismissed instantly. At last, I would say that before writing something, an author should make sure that he/she has conducted a minimum amount of research before writing. That would probably make our press a little more useful.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Bing versus Google: Queries and results

There are many differences in Microsoft Bing and Google when it comes to results and as far as I can see right now, it's Google having a upper hand on Bing. Here are some of the examples I found.

First came the ego search, that is, when I searched my own name, I found first result as someone else's page on Bing while it has been my blog on top on Google. Well, that cannot be actually counted as a failure though it disappoints me, and many other bloggers have had the experiences.

So I decided to do some filtering. I added the name of my hometown with my name which is a proper way to filter as my hometown is quite small and there is fortunately no other known figure of my name in my hometown yet.

This time Bing treated me better and gave me top three results related to me. But then, from the fourth result onwards, it was stuff that had some Harshit somewhere and Najibabad (my hometown) somewhere else, with no connections between the two. Google's algorithms win on this one. They show entire first page for me only. And even after that, I'm there in many results.

Enough of me, I decided to go on something more popular. This time I typed 'colors' in the query boxes of and Bing (which I had had set on US). Colors is a new, and very popular TV channel in India. Both Google and Bing gave no results. I knew the reason and so I came to and changed Bing's country to India. This time round Google gave its third result as Colors, the TV Channel, while Bing was not aware of its existence until I reached fifth page.

Next on my search was Whitefield, the area of Bangalore I live in, which is, with electronic city, actually the centre of the activities for which Bangalore is known in the world. While searching on Bing US and, the results were almost similar with Bing giving Whitefield a fifth place and Google adding a suggestion for 'Whitefield Bangalore' after 3 results and giving 3 results on the same. In fact here, Bing looked better than the Google page as it adjusted the results for Whitefield India normally.

But again when I came to Bing India and Google India, I was surprised to see that Whitefield, India was still in the fourth poisition on Bing while Google India not only had its first 3 results on Whitefield, but also showed 'Whitefield Bangalore' again after first 3 results. (personally, I think suggesting Whitefield Bangalore is a good idea as Whitefield is a suburb and generally people query whitefield Bangalore rather than Whitefield alone) So this time Google again emerged victorious.

So right now, Bing might be equally good as Google with individual entries, that is single word/phrase queries, but when it comes to filtering results, be it by country or otherwise, Google is proving better.