UBUNTU and the Patterns in Indian education system

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Today I saw a Marathi movie – UBUNTU. While I had planned another post today for writetribe the urge to write about the movie was such that I canceled the scheduled post and started writing this one. The movie is about a topic that I am passionate about – Education. I believe everyone should get some kind of education that will help them lead their life with dignity. I am not solely for bookish knowledge. Any work that can later get you a livelihood is education for me. But the choice to leave the school books and learn the skill should be the child’s choice and not a burden.

UBUNTU movie poster

The movie UBUNTU starts with a school in a really small village where getting a meager 35 children to attend school is a big problem. The teacher is shown striving hard to keep the school running. As per the government guidelines a school with low attendance points towards non-enthusiasm of students to learn and hence the school will be shut and those interested in learning should go to the nearby village. While someone from a city might think logistically this arrangement makes sense and if parents really want their children to learn they will send the students to nearby village. The reality is not that simple.

Just a month back I was a part of conversation relating to schools in rural India and those discussions coupled with the movie put forth a Pattern. A vicious circle that needs to be attended to now, to have a future generation that is inquisitive, educated and visionaries. I personally know atleast three villages which are facing this problem of having to shut down the local primary school for lack of students.

  1. Most rural primary schools teach in vernacular language. Parents who can afford to send their children to the close-by towns prefer sending children to English medium schools.
  2. The students who do go to these local schools are children of really poor backgrounds and the only reason bringing them to school is their will, free meals and a hope that they might be able to create a better future as compared to their parents.
  3. The parents of these children are least interested in education as they believe after primary they will have to shell out money to educate the children, which they don’t have. They prefer having another farm hand instead of an educated, but useless family member.
  4. The education of maths and science for them is limited to daily calculation and street smartness.
  5. The parents who do know the importance of education, cannot afford to send the children far off. My maid doesn’t want to go back to her village as there is no school and she can’t send her small children to far off schools.
  6. The government can’t afford to spend on schools where there are no children.

So while all the adults think about logistics and economics, the children miss out on an independent and respectful future. Is it really necessary that our children only read, get good marks and become engineers, doctors or mathematicians? Don’t we need clever farmers, specialists in animal husbandry, poultry or florists? Why can’t the rural schools have freedom to decide their curriculum or part of curriculum that will also teach children life skills? Everyone might not be a scientist or a doctor but every child will have some skill that can be crafted. This way the parents will relate the education, to immediate source of livelihood and not wonder if education is necessary. Is it time we looked at alternate education systems developed by people like Sonam Wangchuk to keep our rural children in school?

I am taking part in The Write Tribe Problogger October 2017 Blogging Challenge 


Demystifying Thick Data

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What is Thick Data?

Thick Data is a combination of qualitative and quantitative data that provides insights into the daily lives of consumers. How are brands perceived? Why are they liked or disliked? What does the product stand for? Questions like these are answered with Thick Data analysis. Thick Data often leads to emotional and behavioral insights that brands can weave into their story for elevated impact. Thick Data Strategists gather this information by conducting online surveys, one-on-one customer interviews, via social media, using google analytics, ghost shopping, etc

How is it different from big data?

Big Data focuses on quantitative data with enormous data sets. It sifts through large data sets to identify specific patterns. It delivers numbers and relies on machine learning. If a pattern emerges, thick data tries and identifies the reasons for such a pattern.

We came across a Thick Data expert, Divya Ostwal and had a freewheeling conversation with her to understand all about Thick Data. Do read along.

Name: Divya Ostwaldivya_pic

Education: Advertising and Graphic Design
Current: Thick Data Strategist, KAN, Malmö, Sweden

Chief Creative Officer, VizioHub, Bangalore, India
Creative Director, Good Old, Malmö, Sweden

Passionate about: Narrative-photo-telling

As a Thick Data Strategist my role is a synthesis of logic and magic. I am a business-brand strategist, a google analyst, a conversion strategist and a story teller. I help brands understand their target audience and their behavior through qualitative and quantitative methods. I have worked in the digital advertising world for over a decade. I started my career in Bangalore, India and currently live in Malmö, Sweden.

During the years, I have worked with various verticals – service sectors, industrial, healthcare, hospitality, real estate, NGOs, educational institutes, tourism boards and lifestyle products amongst others. I spent the early years of my career as a strategic, visual designer and doubled up as marketer. During the later stint I cultivated the special ability to develop brands from insights; and strategy to concept to creative. I soon went on to become the first female Creative Director at a Malmö agency with a deep understanding for conversion centric creatives.

As a Thick Data strategist, I work extensively with a combination of qualitative findings and quantitative data patterns. I am a certified google analyst and enjoy data mining. In my projects, I believe it is a combination of user understanding and data patterns that create value for the brand.

My work process includes three phases: Attract – Engage – Convert
The red thread through this process being understanding consumers through qualitative methods and analyzing their behavior through quantities techniques.

Things I learnt on the job:

  • Applying logic to create magic
  • Taking equal responsibility for the client’s business goals
  • Collaborating to create success
  • Result driven communication
  • Agile planning and long-term focus

Career Options:

In my case, I could choose to be on the agency side and get a variety of brands to work with or alternatively work on the client side and focus on applying Thick Data to one brand.

How we celebrated World Environmental Day


We know climate change is a reality and it’s high time human’s start taking responsibility for their actions. We are leaving a lot of carbon footprint and royally misusing the natural resources that are already very scarce.

This is the kind of lecture that I was giving my daughter about environment and understandably she was bored, trying to stifle a yawn. What do you expect when you bombard your seven year old with loads of statistics early in the morning on the last day of vacation? So, while I was kicking myself of being too pushy for no logical reason, I found a leaflet in the newspaper announcing a session on waste management and composting. This was being organized by our society and I thought it was a great way to teach my daughter something that lectures couldn’t.

So, this world environmental day we did something a little different. We went and attended a session on waste management and composting and I showed my daughter the black gold ( compost) that is created and the whole process of it.

How it’s done

The process is fairly simple – the wet waste collected is first segregated based on what machine can compost


what machines can compost


The waste is then shredded and mixed with sawdust and compost mix, which helps keep the waste dry and convert into manure faster.

Then it is put into the compost machine and mixed regularly for 21 days which helps in aeration and faster manure creation.

How it helped
  1. My daughter became mindful of the garbage sorting process and understood the reason why it is done.
  2. While throwing the garbage in the bins, she is careful about the bin she chooses.
  3. She realized how the kitchen waste can be useful if we are a bit more vigilant in disposal.
  4. She understood the small ways in which she can contribute towards conserving the environment.
  5. Seeing the process in front of her got her hooked to the whole process and I hope it has made her more environment conscious.

While planting trees and taking care of them is essential, what children also need to know is how small steps can help conserve nature and reduce carbon footprint. Correct waste disposal helps in less or no use of chemical manure and thereby improves the fertility of the soil. She was already interested in planting trees and taking care of them, now with composting, she has come a full circle.

Hindi Medium – A reality check for parent? My review

I recently went to watch Hindi Medium. I didn’t have many expectations as I expected the movie to just glorify Hindi Medium education and be all preachy. But I was in for a surprise. The movie focuses on a lot of core issues that the new age parents are facing, when it comes to their children’s education.

Hindi Medium starts with the most common worry that every parent of a 3 year old undergoes – Getting their ward admitted to one of the best schools in the locality. The movie beautifully showcases the parent’s good intent of ensuring that their child get’s the best that they can offer, however it can be over zealous at times. As the movie is putting forth a thought, they ensure that the movie remains light and humorous while focusing on the core issues that the parents face when it comes to school admission. It touches upon many societal perspectives that we can easily identify around us, one of them being, ‘English communication is directly proportional to your status in society.’

The casting is perfect with Irrfan Khan and Saba Qamar being the financially well-off, struggling with English parents. The movie is a situational comedy and it nails the many ugly truths related to education in our current society. Mithu (Saba Qamar) reads about the “list of top 5 schools in Delhi” and is obsessed about putting her daughter there. The probable ridicule, embarrassment and social stigma that she might have faced is left to the viewer’s imagination through various subtle indications like when she convinces her husband (Irrfan) that their daughter should be educated in the most prominent English School, or when she comes face to face with her ex-college mate who is an alumni of a famous school in Delhi.

Another useful point that the movie makes is, ‘how education has been turned into a money making business.’ Right from counselors who will help groom the child and their parents for the interview, to professional writers who will fill forms and fashion designers who will help pick the right clothes for the school interview. “Schools don’t prefer children of shopkeepers” is another dialogue that portrays the current admission criteria where the school screens the applications based on many unwritten conditions. Being financially well off to pay the school fees is not good enough, the parents and their professional background too is expected to be meeting expectations.

Though the second half of the movie is typical and preachy, it hits the right notes when it comes to putting forth the current problems. It also showcases the other end of the spectrum with RTE quota’s , its misuse and how the RTE children end up being a misfit in schools that are carefully crafting their image of being a school for future leaders of India. Do watch this family entertainer. A refreshing movie which makes each one of us introspect.

A night under the stars – Stargazing with JVP

Picture Credit- Pixabay

On April 20, this year with a doubtful mind I pressed the send button for fund transfer to JVP (Jyotirvidya Parisanstha) an association of amateur astronomers and a non-profit organization. A cousin of mine is a member of this organization and she suggested the place as a night outing for my older kid. I was super excited about this new experience and immediately went about coaxing my husband for the same. Surprisingly, even he agreed without much ado and so I made up my mind. However, by the time I got around to making payments I had a million doubts – late realization, you might say 😛

It was a star party, with Lyrids meteor shower and sounded like a great experience, but as I had never attended a star party I wasn’t sure about what to expect! Also as this was an overnight star party I wasn’t sure how well would my younger kid co-operate. It was an open farm, so I was also worried about the mosquitoes. Questions like place to sleep, food available, what if they got bored, were swimming in my mind and at a point I even mulled over cancelling the seats, however there was also this thrill of the unknown which I couldn’t conquer and so with a duel mind and a confused heart we set out for the star party on 22nd April.

We reached there around 8pm and realized that there was an educational session starting from 7pm, which we kind of missed. When we reached there, there was an interesting on going session about constellations in the sky and popular stories about the same in various cultures. It was a wonderful session as the sky was the canvas and all we needed to do was look to identify these interesting Nakshatra’s and constellations. There was a group of high school students too for this star party and they were one of the most interested and clued in audience. While I was fascinated by the stories and tried to listen in with rapt attention the same wasn’t true about kids. They got bored in the next 10 minutes and kept roaming about the farm and pestering my cousin, (who thankfully was happy to entertain them!) This was followed up with star gazing using telescopes. This was an interesting aspect for my older kid as she was seeing a telescope for the first time. We saw Jupiter and Saturn with their moon’s and my older kid who had recently studied about solar system was thrilled to see them. As this was being done on a farm, we were strictly asked to use no or minimal lights.

After a short break for dinner we got back to star gazing with telescopes. Thankfully by this time, my younger kiddo slept without much problems and that was a boon for me. Next up were some presentations about man-made satellites sent up. A detailed infotainment cum presentation about spacecraft Cassini’s journey was shown. It was because of this that I realized the importance of Cassini Mission and the importance of 26th April for astronomers. Do watch this beautiful video for more.

By now it was already past 3am and with two breaks for tea, almost all the enthusiasts were wide awake and rearing to go. This was followed with astro-quiz and astro-antakshari. The boisterous high school kids were rearing to go and it was a fun session to watch.

Things to Know

JVP – this is an astro enthusiast group and they have programs all year round. You could enroll as members and enjoy various activities organized by them.

Star Party – While this was a star party with Lyrid meteor showers, there was hardly any shower to be seen, so that was a damper.

Where- Abhyankar Farm, Nasrapur (Approx. 41 km from Pune, depending on where in Pune you are located.)

Budget – 500 + transport for non-members

Things to have – Google Sky Maps, laser pointer, warm clothes (it gets damn chilly post mid-night and this is in summer!)

Fun things for kids – My kids were too young to enjoy this thoroughly but the other students who had come for the party, seemed to have enjoyed the experience to bits. Recommended age – 10+

How I became a Chartered Accountant?

The ultimate degree in the world of Finance is CA. Being a Chartered Accountant is a dream for many young commerce undergrads, however, a very small percentage of it gets to make this dream a reality. One of the many reasons for drop outs from CA courses is that not many know the extent of hard work and determination required to complete the course. For some, they do not have the temperament required. Wouldn’t it be great to have a clear picture about such courses before you get into it?

Here is Shruti Chiplunkar, a CA who completed her course in 2016. She walks you through her journey of becoming a CA.

C.A Shruti Chiplunkar

  1. Explain your journey from 12th to finally becoming a CA

I completed my Class 12 from Vidya Mandir College, Bengaluru in March 2011. I cleared my CPT in June 2011 and started preparing for the next level. Thereafter, I cleared my IPCE (Integrated Professional Competence Examination) in May 2012. I did my articleship with a CA firm in Bengaluru from August 2012-2015.I cleared my CA Final Group 2 in November 2015 and CA Final Group 1 in May 2016.

In these 5 years, there have been many happy and not-so-happy moments too. While the hectic class-work-study schedule takes a toll on our mind, the articleship period also helps us to foster new friendships, learn the way a business works and also prepares us to enter the corporate world.

2. What prompted you to take up CA course?

The Chartered Accountancy course is well known for its maintenance of high standards, both professionally and ethically. It also mandates us to do a 3-year articleship to be eligible for writing final exams. The reputation of the Institute, along with the study-as-you-work model interested me. Also, my keen interest in management and economics prompted me to take up this course.

3.  Any role models or inspirations?

Definitely! Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam is a powerhouse of inspiration. Remembering his quotes actually helped me motivate myself and overcome my failures.

My role model for all times is Ms. Uma Venkitraman, my Class 12  Business Studies teacher. She not only taught us commerce, she also taught us to look beyond the realms of bookish knowledge. She has been with me through my happy and sad moments. Whatever I am today, is only because of her.

4. How different was the actual study material than what you had expected?

I took up CA after my 12th and did not go the graduation way. So when I initially had a look at the study material for the Common Proficiency Test (CPT), I felt it was much tougher than the Class 12 syllabus. Also, when I joined the course in 2011, I had to actually get hold of the hard copies of the books to have an idea about the subject(s). But these days, it is all available on the ICAI website. I would advise students taking up the course to go through the online study material beforehand.

Moreover, I realised later that the Institute also conducts Management and Communication Skills Programmes for CA students – surely a wonderful way to connect with your peers and overcome communication obstacles. So, there is more to the course than the actual study material published.

5. Students wishing to take up CA should be ready for….?

Smartwork and Determination! If your hardwork is channelized through a consistent schedule, you can manage things smartly, in case of CA exams. The syllabus is not only very huge, it is also dynamic – The Companies Act 2013 has come into effect, GST will be implemented next year, there are various Rules, Court judgements etc. So it does take effort from our side to keep up-to-date with the latest changes.

Why I am stressing on determination is that, I am of a view that CA exams are a mind game – either you conquer the exam fear, or the exam fear will conquer you. There is no intermediate option. A single failure should not shatter one’s hopes. Definitely one can take some days off to introspect as to what went wrong with the exams, but the very important point is to accept it and strategize for the upcoming examinations. People can show us sympathy, or even encourage us, but the determination to achieve our goals must come from within  – and this holds good in every aspect of life.

On a lighter note, be ready to slog, folks!!

6.  What was your study schedule?

I started studying around 4 months before CA Final. Initially I started with a schedule of 5-6 hours a day, since it takes time to adjust to a new study pattern. I had made a schedule of preparation of all 8 subjects for the first 3 months. I gradually increased my study pattern from 6-8-10-12-13 hours a day before the exams began. The last one month was devoted only for revision and mock papers.

Since the syllabus is too vast, it is very important to revise and keep in touch with the subject; otherwise all the hardwork is of no use. It is also equally important to read the study material and manuals given by the ICAI. It is crucial for understanding the concepts.

I would take up two subjects in a day- one practial oriented and one theoretical; This helps in breaking the monotony and also freshening up the mind.

I can conclude by saying – there have been mentors, my wellwishers, there have also been people who criticized me; but my heartfelt thanks to all of them for building that Never-Say-Die attitude in me.

This post was originally posted on PAL

What is Skill India and way to go about it

We are a nation obsessed with university degrees and higher education; however as per research done by Aspiring Minds National Employability Report 2015, 80% of them are unemployable! What we need is not cost intensive graduate and post graduate degrees that are not leading to employability but employable skills that can help youth achieve economic freedom while pursuing a career of their choice.

And now, here’s another scenario – Hiring unprofessional help had been a norm in India for decades. You could have the best of fixtures (electric and plumbing) but the fitter would be unskilled. You could get the best of paints but the applicators would be unprofessional. It was assumed that such jobs were to be done by unskilled and uneducated population of the country who could learn it on the job. So we had the power of buying world class products but not enough skilled people to get it functioning or maintain it.

In both the scenarios what we see is a gap, in terms of education, understanding and respectability of various jobs. Skills India is a step towards trying to bridge that gap. Skill India aims to teach employable skills in various sectors; thereby creating a workforce that is skilled and self reliant. With world class training the work force can then command reasonable pay that will automatically bring in respectability for the job.

So what is Skill India?

Skill India is an initiative jointly undertaken by Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship and National Skill Development Corporation. Skill India aims to target two sets of audience – Students who are early school leavers and second, enhancing skills of people already in the field.  It is trying to achieve a greater push to vocational training courses, thereby bringing it at par with traditional university degrees.

In their own words, the overall focus of this initiative is to help provide an engaging ecosystem to cater to skilling needs of citizens by publishing and sharing relevant information. The outcome of this collaboration should ideally lead to inclusive growth especially for those at the bottom of the pyramid (approximately 800 million citizens).  The portal attempts to disseminate reliable information and by providing an interface to enquire, explore, and access and engage with various affiliated and accredited training partners, infrastructure providers, understand skill options, opportunities, information on various providers, reliable and credible digital content.

Skill India Portal

The portal boasts of 249 training partners, 3222 training centers, 55,70,476 People trained, 23,88,009 people placed. This is an informative and single touch point website which includes Training partners who offer trainings for various skills, trainers who wish to teach the skills that they have acquired, Training Infra Providers who can offer the necessary infrastructure for training and job aggregators. They also have an option for searching internships that are available.

Skill India courses range from Agriculture to IT. Varied courses like Animation, Banking and Finance, Mutual Fund Agent, Soft Skills, Vermiculture, Nursing Aides, Computer Networking, Web developer, Video editor, Carpentry, Land Surveyor,   CCTV technician, Tally, instrumentation and many such courses are covered under the ambit of Skill India.

Depending on the student’s skill sets and interests they could choose a training that will help them get employment, while being low on investments. It can be seen as an extension of the earlier existing vocational courses that were primarily offered by ITI’s .  Education by way of such trainings can help India create a workforce that is talented and skilled as per their abilities, thereby reducing unemployment and dejection that the youth of today face.  Going further, advocating vocational training at school level itself will help students make an informed career choice. Read more about it here

Why skills education has to be part of school curriculum

(This article was first published on Blog with Pal )

Looking beyond MBBS

If a child is consistent in scoring 90% marks and shows some interest in Biology, the parents and society at large expects him or her to be a doctor. There is nothing wrong in dreaming about it, however, with only 50,000 seats available all over India for MBBS degree, not everybody’s dream can become a reality.

If you really wish to be in this noble profession, but might not get into MBBS, here are a few alternatives in healthcare careers that are equally lucrative.

(This post, written by me for blogwithpal is reproduced with due permissions)


A career in Library Sciences

Book Lovers, listen up! What if we told you that there was a career in loving books? Too good to be true? But yes, it is possible. You can turn your passion into a satisfying career with a Degree in Library Sciences.

Library and Information Science is a course offered by most of the established Universities in India.  These courses help students gain insights and knowledge about collecting, cataloging, preserving, archiving and disseminating information.

We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Mr. D.V Patwardhan, an M.Lib with 44 years of rich work experience. He has worked in research institutes like NAL (National Aerospace Laboratory), manufacturing cum research companies like Kirloskar Electric Company and academic institutes like junior colleges and Engineering colleges. Here is an excerpt of his interview. We are sure this will be very informative for anyone thinking of choosing Library Sciences as a profession.

What are the courses available in Library Science?

Library Science is generally known as Library and Information Sciences. Today there are Diploma, Degree, and Masters Courses available. One can even go on to pursue M.Phil or PhD. in Library Sciences. Usually, when you start off, not many students know what they really want to do in life. M.Lib can be taken up by graduates of any stream. So, if you have an exposure to certain fields like Science or Commerce or Arts, you would be able to understand their needs and better serve your future clientele, especially if you wish to work in professional educational institutes or research institutes.

What is the duration of the course?

B.Lib and M.Lib courses are each of 1-year duration. Some Universities offer an integrated course of 2 years. Completion of B. Lib is mandatory in many of the Colleges if you wish to pursue M.Lib. Usually, there is an entrance test and selected candidates are given admission to M.Lib.

What are the traits, a person must possess if he wishes to pursue a career in Library and Information Science?

A person must be service oriented. He needs to take care of his clientele’s needs like a professional. A librarian acts as a custodian to the process of information exchange. He needs to be people-oriented as a big part of his job entails, interacting with clients and distributors, training his staff and engaging with the system, depending on the institution that he/she works with. Finally, he/she needs to have an innate love for books.


What is the nature of a librarian’s job?

A librarian’s job entails selecting books as per the institutional needs and purchase them like a professional Purchase Manager. Process and Catalogue the books based on various classification schemes like Library of Congress or Dewey decimal classification etc. to achieve the ultimate aim of ease of information access. A librarian is also responsible for attending and hosting events related to academics and knowledge dissemination. Day to day work involves creating online databases, creating online public access catalogues, digital libraries of important papers, journals, articles, institute specific papers etc. Additional functions also include managing faculty and student’s book loan accounts, creating and maintaining library accounts, creating defaulter lists and maintaining payments and overdue accounts. In short, you can say that a librarian must be well versed with POSDCORB. As explained by management professionals Luther Gulick and Lyndall Urwick, the acronym stands for Planning, Organizing, Staffing, Directing, Coordinating, Reporting, and Budgeting.

What are the Career opportunities for Library and Information Science professionals?

Library and Information Science professionals are in demand in educational institutes, government research institutes, research-oriented industries,  manufacturing companies, government organizations like secretariat libraries, public libraries, university libraries etc.

In the times of online magazines, digital books and libraries, will the profession of a librarian be obsolete?

I don’t believe that. Computers can and have been a great help, but we cannot do away with a librarian. As I see it, the role will undergo changes and a bulk of repetitive, and time-consuming tasks will be taken over by the computer. A librarian will be free to do more of planning, budgeting and coordinating jobs. He will have to assume a greater role, in identifying the correct and rare sources of knowledge and ensuring that they are with the institution that he/she works for. The role will identify ways to ensure a great experience for their clientele and become more people-centric. The librarian who goes beyond efficient management of knowledge and takes upon himself to find new ways to inculcate the love of reading in the coming generation will be a successful one.

( Reproduced from blogwithpal, with due permissions.)