Teaching Management

Prof Sanjiv Vaidya is a teacher at IIM Calcutta. He visited us and interacted with students and teachers. He gave us a very good technique for math. We can use matchsticks and group them into groups of 10. This will help students understand the decimal system better. In mathematics division is the most difficult.

Professor Vaidya went to a school in Mumbai called Bal Mohan. The school principal and owner was Dada Saheb Rege. One of the interesting points in the school was that way back in the 1960s they had a no-punishment policy. Sending to Dada was considered to be the biggest punishment by the students. Once a teacher sent a student for a very frivolous reason to Dada. He walked into the classroom and apologized on behalf of the student. He then went on to touch the teacher’s feet. The teacher got the message. On national holidays, gatherings where held in the school. This had to be done in 3 sessions because the hall was small. All gatherings were addressed by Dada and a chief guest. The key thing was getting the culture right.

At the IIMs course material is a bigger challenge than teaching. He talked about MIS: this basically covers – Technology, Investments, Hardware Software and Training. All these account for only 15% of total costs. The rest are side effect costs and losses. These costs which usually don’t get measured tend to be very high.

Another thing that was a cause for concern for him was about the end use of technology. For example, most companies think of biometric technology as a good IT investment. In a school, what is the use of biometrics? Neither does it help the teachers nor the students. Motivation should be the actual focus of technology in schools. He gave us an example of how policy can be an impediment to technology. Calcutta Municipal Corporation launched a Midi bus service. A Midi is something which is between a mini bus and a normal bus. The corporation policy was that there will be no standees in a midi bus. It’s ticket was priced at rupees 4.5 instead of a normal bus’ Rupees 1. The problem was that this bus was launched from Joka to Jadavpur. There were no other buses available on this route. So invariably you ended up with standees is in the bus. And customers ended up paying 4 times the money because there was no choice.

Another example he talks of is Schneider Logistics. They launched GPS in trucks in 1989. In India Tata Motors tried this very early in their trucks. The installed small dishes on top in order for a truck’s location to be transparent. But immediately the drivers pulled out the cables. The problem was that the drivers had not been communicated the benefits of this technology. Aadhar is another technology where implementation issues are there.

We then want on to a question and answer session.

Rohini Senior’s question was that teachers scream a lot. How do we stop that. Professor Vaidya’s comment was that I allow students to sleep as long as they don’t snore. He says that his class is open – in that is no admission attendance is required. Even then attendance is almost 85%.

Swati’s question was she asks her kids to write but they don’t. She tried to be innovative by using stones for counting. And ended up creating a dangerous situation as students stones begun to be thrown at each other. Professor had an interesting reply. Instead of stones give then paper balls.

Rohini junior’s question was how to make the class more interesting. He advised to use stories and puzzles. Another thing that helps is nominal prizes. Even a small chalk piece as an award is good.

Rashmi’s question was what is the role of discipline in education. Reply was that a small quantity is required. This is especially true if the number of students in a class is more. How to discipline is tricky. Today students are not scared of teachers. Every level requires a different kind of discipline. We need to explore why there is indiscipline. Find out the root cause. Discipline comes from routine. A student can be a rebel but still be good in studies. A live example is Shruti, Professor Vaidya’s daughter.

At the IIMs the course costs 25 lacs. There is pressure to get jobs. There is pressure for loan repayments. Because of this the disciplinary problems have reduced considerably.

Professor Kamal Ghosh used to teach cost accounting at IIM Calcutta. One day the students asked him when the class started, ‘Can we cancel the class today?’.Prof Ghosh asked them why they wanted the class cancelled. The honest answer was because there was a cricket match that day. The class was cancelled. And in the next class in the concentration levels were high. Professor went at double the speed and finished both the sessions together. Now that the class strength is 450, it is difficult compared to earlier times, when the batch strength was hundred.

Anjali was worried about the mirror writing problem in her students. Professor Vaidya thought that this was a symptom of helicopter mothers, who survive on extreme competitive spirit. These problems take care of themselves.

Nidhi was worried that, like in the movie the Matrix, Aadhar will create a situation where the government can ban you from any service. Can it be misused for political ends? Professor Vaidya recommended her to read ‘The Little Prince’. This book was written in 1944. Unfortunately the author who was in the French Air Force died in an air crash in 1945. The moral of this book is that we innovate without thinking about how the innovation will be used. Professor Vaidya also recommended to Nidhi to read Animal Farm and 1984. You can even check these films out on Youtube.

Nilam’s question is how much of friendship should a teacher have with kids in class. If a student likes a teacher they end up liking the subject. Too much of strictness is definitely bad. Maximum intelligence gathered is till 12 years age. The purpose of teaching should be clear to students. Only then does interest develop.

Professor Amitav Bose, who went on to become the director of IIM Calcutta, died of cancer. Till 2 months before his death he was teaching. His family has donated a corpus of 2 crore rupees for endowment to IIM Calcutta after his death. Professor Vaidya felt that only those people should become directors who have no requirement of money.

Sir then went on to address students. He asked if any of the students could tell us a story. Vaishnavi told a very interesting Birbal story. One day a man draws a line with a chalk. He asks Akbar if this line can be made shorter without using a duster. Akbar gives this task to Birbal, who goes on to draw a line alongside, which was longer than this line!

Anjali asked him which movies he likes: Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin and Munna Bhai. Vishwajeet’s question was what is the function of the 3 contacts in a mobile battery. Professor Vaidya went on to regale the class with stories of Supandi and Mulla Nasruddin.