Friday, May 31, 2013

Board exams and ranks and admissions and insanity

When I read news items like the following Lack of uniformity raises questions, I am reminded of the  wonderful definition of Insanity:
Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.
It puzzles me how anyone can create a system where you mix a common exam with a local exam and expect the result to be uniform. This is a process begging to be 'gamed'! The system so obviously lacks transparency and accountability. However, perfect 10's create pages and pages of news.

It had bugged me when I started teaching when this gaming of the system was used as a justification for the impossibility of internal evaluation to be fair. Even if there is a reluctance to move entirely to an internal system, where the degree explicitly mentions the name of the institute, even the alternate option of reporting two separate marks was never even considered.

Companies face the same concerns with ranking of employees. A common solution is to force each division/department to rank employees based on a common quota. This is certainly not a practice without criticism. If even a comparatively homogeneous group like the Microsoft cannot have an unambiguous best practice for ranking, a school board should not even attempt it.

Let each school rank its own students. Let each recruiting institution weigh the comparative ranks of students across schools. Most importantly, let each institution have its own measure for deciding whom to recruit/admit.

How many universities in India would have the freedom to admit someone like Rahul Gandhi or Ratan Tata without a suitable rank on some uniform list? It would be regarded as unfair. Whereas an institution with even minimal flexibility would jump at the opportunity of having a powerful alumnus and, even more important, providing networking opportunities to its students.

Lets face it. Admission of the best students would not create the best institution. To keep believing it is another symptom of insanity.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How to hide from Big Data?

Fortunately, I am not using twitter so I am safe for a while from marketeers targeting my personality  :)

I am looking forward to a blogger providing a list of words which I may use in the blogs to ensure that the new software is assured that I am a part of the "neuroticism" segment of no commercial value to direct marketeers in conformity with 
the new software has the potential to serve people as individuals rather than “vague demographic blurs”.

HIt and run - What about the victims?

I seem to have become more conscious of the plight of victims after watching documentaries on this topic on TV5 Monde. This line stared at me: "the family of one of the injured children may have to sell their hut in a slum to raise money for their daughter's surgery" in a story about hit and run.

I wish the focus would change from "whom to punish" to "how to help".

Shouldn't the society mandate free immediate treatment for victims. The hospitals should recover money from insurance companies or the government in case no insurance claim is possible.

Government being the default payer would appear to be fair as it is an obvious failure of governance if the car cannot be located or was being driven without insurance.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Poor weak men - mannequins are the cause

What can one add to this piece of remarkable wisdom -
Tawade said the display of inadequately clothed mannequins was indecent and could lead to "wrong acts" by men.
Update: See this talk  Jackson Katz: Violence against women—it's a men's issue instead for a far discussion of far greater relevance on this serious social problem.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Why not less charity and more taxes?

I wasn't exactly convinced by Peter Singer. I still donate to a charity for children as a personal 'goal' and to another one for old people as my father liked to do. I probably give more than I used to simply because I am now better off. However, I do it to avoid the guilt of not giving to road side beggars. I lost the comfort of giving after this incident in a crematorium.

The idea of even the need for 'effective altruism' bothers me. Why are NGO's preferable to government? I prefer the views expressed here. I would like to pay more taxes and see that the government works. Some corruption or pilferage of funds is probably no worse than overheads of charities. Obviously not in moral terms but in the quantum of money which is actually spent on the desired objectives.

It isn't that NGO's or Charities are irrelevant. Rather, I am bothered by the perception that government is not relevant.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

'We’re coming after you' - taxman warn

Reading 'We’re coming after you' - taxman warn, I started to wonder what drives human motivation.

What if the Forbes list of Richest People was based on the quantum of direct taxes paid by an individual?  Wouldn't people want to be on it?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Delhi University Changes - Contentless Discussions

Reading "Delhi University VC makes his case for shift to four-year undergraduate courses" led to the same uncomfortable feeling I have had for several weeks now. Here was still another issue which seems important to me and, yet, I cannot understand the discussions around it. I had switched out of a discussion on even Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha TV (which have a much higher signal to noise ration than the private channels) as it seemed irrelevant to the concern of how to ensure that students learn and are well equipped to deal with the current world. The changes suggested now might have been meaningful if done at least 3 decades ago. (See An Indian education? for an view of the current state.)

There is no discussion around ideas like MOOC, learning from each other students as explored by Sugata Mitra or learning from failures as explored by various speakers at TED Talks.

How do you prepare students for employment if you have no idea of what skills the jobs will need. Possibly by encouraging each college to try its own strategy and never forgetting that failures are great for learning.

The other current issue which makes me feel very stupid is that I can't understand the 'scam' in coal scam. Incompetent governance yes but ?