Thursday, May 13, 2010

From gurukul to shishyakul: for better or for worse?

There's been a major shift in the Indian education system of today. A change that is growing on us like a bad habit. Gradually, stealthily, unknown to us. And all of us, educators, students and parents are falling prey to it.

The gurukul mindset has been completely taken over by the shishyakul mindset. In the most basic sense, the shisyakul mindset can be defined as one that is designed to please the shisya, that is the student. And so, everyone concerned expends their resources on wooing the shisysa and his parents. What follows are fancy schools complete with trimmings like a sprawling ground, cafeteria, plush AC buildings, wi-fi classrooms, the works. What also follows is a convenient negligence to the school's core competency area, that of imparting knowledge. The students learn swimming, basketball, theatre, eat burgers and chow, and learn to work on fancy laptops, but flounder helplessly when asked to perform some quick mental math.

Ultimately, the class that comes out of the educational institution sadly lacks in the most crucial aspect of education: fundamental knowledge. Eventually, the whole economy gets short-changed, because there's a paucity of talent. This is the case everywhere. If the IT honchos crib about the short supply of good people, so do the engineering, science, arts and crafts people.

But all's not lost. We can still rectify the situation, where knowledge comes first and the co curricular activities remain co-curricular, instead of taking over the reins from knowledge. For this, the institutions have to focus more on developing a pool of qualified, experienced teachers, the gurus, who consider imparting knowledge as their first duty. Teachers should focus more on knowledge and teaching well. Students should concentrate more on learning and doing it well. And parents should spend more on sound education than on sound lifestyles in schools.

Conscience, it is said, is our main teacher. It tells us when we are going wrong. Time folks, to nudge our sleeping conscience awake. Time to hear the alarm bells ringing. Time to get our education fundas back on track.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Recipe for a great ad

Ad khichdi - On a platter.

Once upon a time, when I was a fresh faced, young copywriter, my boss told me a secret to keep clients happy. Said he, "Always have two ideas - one for your client and one for his customer'. Confused thoroughly, asked I of him, "Sir, but doesn't the client want what his customer wants?"

The boss replied haughtily, "You will find out soon".

Off we went to the client with two ideas. One for him and one for his customer. We put both on the table. The client peered at them from above his rimless peepers. He looked at one, then at another. Then again at the first one and then the second. Then after a precious 60 minutes had flown from the clock above his head, he looked at us and gave his verdict. "I like the visual in this. But I like the line in that. Now go and put these two together and make me a third. "

My boss looked at me and I at him. We both nodded knowingly. Picked up the two ads, went back and like seasoned chefs got down to cooking the khichdi. We chopped and added, and added and chopped, then blended it all together and lo and behold! The khichdi was ready.

The client looked at it, stroked his French beard and smiled. "Now, you have got it", said he.
We beamed. We had done it. Yet again.

Rustled up the perfect ad khichdi. Loved by the client. My boss. His boss. And the client's customer............hopefully.