Child, the mentor of every parent : Mallika, mine

I have been deferring writing for some time. Every day brings forth so much, worth penning an article a day. Lazy or I can say misplaced priorities, I must say about myself.

Yesterday was a very eventful and memorable day for me! All thanks to our lovely daughter Mallika. She was awarded the scholarship in school for her meritorious work and excellence in Music, through her middle-school, classes 6-8, at Sardar Patel Vidyalaya, her school. Music is one of those intelligence that is not so common as maths and sciences, still we usually look down upon. Thankfully at our home, it is appreciated. The right brain enriches the left brain effectiveness and we invest significant time to facilitate the right.

Collecting the scholarship from eminent public servant, Mr. Lakhan Mehrotra formerly Secretary in the Department of Foreign Affairs, Government of India

Here are a couple of favourite compositions of the school. The school has many a music album to its credit. Mallika features in the choir..

Yes, over the last six months there has been a concern with her performance in other subjects, especially Maths and Sciences. Mallika is brilliant there too, but interest and passion is lacking. I have been running with her a little more purposefully to infuse the passion. I always feel bad if one does not perform to ones potential. I am sure she would realize hers soon.

What made me introspect more is one more episode that happened last night. We have been talking to Mallika about a great opportunity in a fellowship, Counter Speech Fellowship, that aims to expose a very young mind to a variety of perspectives, especially in the world that is getting influenced by the proliferation of Social Media. We have been having talks with Mallika about her inclinations and engaging interactions over Social Media, both overt and covert, in the last few months. We felt, some of them are not only unproductive but energy sapping and rendering her ineffective.

It was Oct 31st, the last date to fill the form for the Scholarship and time 8pm. When we went through the form, we realized it demands introspection and expression of oneself, not only in words but also she has to design a poster. Mallika was revising for her weekly test scheduled this morning. We spoke to Mallika, whether she would still like to fill the long form for the fellowship. She said she wants to. I just spoke to her broadly about the purpose of the questions and went to my room. She filled the form and did everything to be submitted before she called me to show. I said, if she is happy, just submit. It was almost 11pm.

And this morning I saw a copy of the form that came my way from the fellowship office. When I went through, I felt so inspired by Mallika’s expression, I am still overwhelmed. CHILD IS A MENTOR OF PARENT, Mallika mine. I felt like expressing. Here insights into what our young darling is blossoming into.

What excites you about the Counter Speech Fellowship?

The mind of an adolescent is always a tumultuous one, the heart is one that is often unexpressed and the thoughts are always confused ones. Many feel alone, unsure and weak. Many around us , harm those weaker than themselves to feel powerful. Many seem to feel eyes judgemental eyes on them even in an empty corridor. We are surrounded by individuals who frequently use the term “depressed” to describe their state of mind. People think its a joke and that it is okay to put somebody under a term that is not a very friendly one, something that may be racist ,sexist ,casteist or any other term which makes one feel low and discouraged. A lot of our ideas are influenced by the internet, which may or may not be giving our thoughts the right shape and direction. One always feels the need to be guarded and protected.This is the time of discovering oneself and of self-realisation . People should realize that it is NOT okay to close your eyes and take it or see someone else take it. Your voice, can make a difference.

As I see it, the counter speech fellowship is an opportunity to voice my opinions and engage with others who are my age and who believe that these same set of problems should be tackled. I want to know more about Bullying, Body Positivity, Mental Well being, Embracing Diversity, Safe Spaces Online and Violent Extremism and learn better ways of making people aware of these issues .
This is why the Counter speech fellowship excites me.

Have you held any leadership position at school or outside of it? Tell us about some life lessons from that experience.

Yes, I have held a leadership position before. I have been elected as the representative of my class at school (Sardar Patel Vidyalaya) quite a few times.
Something I learnt while I was a class representative was that, all people are very very different. We all have our own set of likes and dislikes. You cannot control somebody ( it makes them rebel) and you should not take such condescending behaviour either . Everybody’s idea of an ideal individual differs. It is important to respect other’s thoughts as well as have your own opinions which one should have the courage to express. This is what, in my opinion , can make us better. I also think that one can be a good leader only when one listens to other opinions and learns to accommodate others.

The themes for the 2017 Fellowship are: Bullying, Body Positivity, Mental Wellbeing, Embracing Diversity, Creating Safe Spaces Online and Countering Violent Extremism. Tell us about a personal experience that makes you passionate about one or more of these themes.

I come from a modest middle class family. Ever since I was young, I have been taught to share, to include people , to always be open to learning. As a family we travel widely and try to experience and interact with new places and people.

I have attended various workshops on a variety of topics and am interested in the performing arts (I am trained Bharatanatyam dancer, a Carnatic music vocalist and a theatre person).

All my experiences have given me memories which I will cherish forever. But would it have been as memorable if it weren’t for the people? Would it possible to learn so many new things from new places and to gather such experiences randomly?
The beauty of life is in differences. In different cultures, traditions, thoughts , ideas and lives. Differences make our life more exciting , they give us something new to learn, to behold, to try , to explore.
It is funny , that one would feel more at home with their warm and friendly neighbour than a relative who appears to be cold. Relations are made not pre-decided. Diversity should be celebrated. A canvas is more beautiful when it has many colours. 🙂

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What a clarity in the young mind. So much we can facilitate to help her blossom. I shall commit more of myself to facilitate both Mallika and Svwara, along with Indira. God bless every young mind. Love.

Will add videos to this, as and when I find time.

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MALLIKAMAGINATIONS 1 – Learner’s day : Mallika’s innovative creations for her Teachers!!

True to our philosophy of Ananda and Jigyasa, if we expose the child to as many avenues of various intelligences as Howard Gardner shared – Musical, Mathematical, Linguistic, kinesthetic, Art and nature – apart from helping the child to interact with fellow children, the child will naturally blossom into a creative, analytical, social, physical, humane and expressive being. This we have been experiencing with both Mallika and Anandita.

Every visit to any of the avenues or arenas brings out the compulsive learner and executor in Mallika. As soon as she comes home, Mallika closes her door as she wants to create something and will not allow anyone to step into her room while she is at work. This teacher’s day she surprised us with her creations for her teachers… Have a look!

Mallika's surprise gift for her teachers

Mallika's surprise gift for her teachers

Mallika's surprise gift for her teachers

Mallika's surprise gift for her teachers

Mallika's surprise gift for her teachers

Each of her creations have always been influenced by what she experiences from her surroundings – may be music, dance, painting exhibit, games and sports etc. Whatever she experiences, she has the compulsive desire from within to express in a creative way. As we do often, once we went to a group fine art exhibition where one of the artists had created an installation of a broken egg with its white and yellow flowing. This was a huge installation. The moment she came home, she closed the door and created her installation influenced by the ‘egg’. Just have a look….

Mallika's 3-D installation

For more of her creative expressions since her childhood, kindly visit

Education Space – promise, future trends and prospects

I was interviewed by TOI on the growth prospects of education sector, trends expected in the near future and the path Career Launcher is espousing. Here I reproduce the interview that will appear very soon.

How the education sector is sailing through the economic slowdown –

– Education gives hope for a better future, thus education sector will always be a sunrise sector, irrespective of the state of the economy
– Especially when economy is down and out, education sector performs even better because people want to enhance their employability chances through,

  • Gaining greater skills or re-skilling
  • Undertaking courses or degrees that are valued more in the market place

When I say education is a sunrise sector, it does not really mean every institution in this sector will be in demand. Only the institutions who are really concerned of facilitating every learner earnestly, will do well in the long run. When I go through statistics of enrolment process over the last few months across the segments in education – number of universities, numbers applying for any university selection, preparatory programs, skill schools, vocational training etc – I can safely say the growth visible this year is to the tune of at least 20-25 percent this year, despite economic slowdown.

Growth prospects of the education sector –

Ironically, growth prospect of education sector is always extremely bright due the distance our nation has to travel. The challenge is daunting, but surmountable.

Is there any doubt about the curve the  education sector is facing –

  • With over sixty percent of population expected to be below the age of 25 by 2020, the nation has a great challenge to facilitate the FUTURE India.
  • With only about 11% of the population progressing beyond class 10, we have a vast majority to participate in learning and facilitating
  • With over 80% of professionally qualified people considered to be unemployable by the industry, we need to train them in skills that can enable them employable or even better, self-employed or entrepreneur.

We need thousands of new educational institutions every year that provide meaningful education that is accessible, inclusive, affordable, flexible, and contextually relevant. Yes, there are certainly a lot of doubts about how many of these institutions really have an intention to provide such a meaningful education in a very honest way. I am not excluding the government here.

Trends expected in the education sector vis-à-vis current trends –

If the feedback from the industry says that over 80% of freshly qualified personnel are unemployable; If a couple of lakh ‘skilled workers from diamond Industry’ get laid off and a few of them unfortunately choose to give up their lives instead of looking at re-skilling themselves; If a highly qualified engineer drops an unwanted newly born child into a well; if a young educated airhostess jumps from the top of a multi-storied building because she was stopped from smoking; if a group of youngsters waylay cars and drive bullets into occupants only to lay their hands on credit cards to splurge, then there is a dire need to have a re-look at what we call education and how the young minds are facilitated.

What do we mean by education? We certainly have to move away from the focus on ‘good marks’, away from an assessment system that can be hoodwinked by studying only in the last 48 hours to gain so called ‘professional’ qualifications?

Education is very different from literacy. “LIFE IS ALWAYS OUT OF SYLLABUS,” is the thought that is very centric to our approach to education.   An education system has to facilitate an individual to be in command of self and such an unpredictable and dynamic life.

In the short term, the transition towards the right direction will be a slow process, but if we look at a longer perspective of ten – fifteens years, there will be dramatic shifts.

Trends I foresee –

  • We will have to move from syllabus-testing curriculum to learner-enabling curriculum. NCF 2005, national curriculum framework, is a great step in that direction. It will have to be made the bible for schools to follow to move away from stress giving teacher-driven classroom, testing and marks-seeking mindset. We as parents will have to be facilitators for the schools to move on in that direction.
  • We need to create great teacher enabling and parent coaching institutions to facilitate them create learner centric environments. I see quite a few private initiatives emerging in this domain.
  • More open schools and distance learning programmes emerging and gaining respect in the society.
  • The demands of the society for qualified people across various careers, not limited to Engineering, Medicine, Accountancy and Management; Humanities will again find its shine under the sun. Evolution of National law colleges, and Design schools coming together are a great examples of such developments I can foresee.
  • Technology will create aggregating platforms where outstanding professors, professionals, freelance experts, eminent artists who may not be qualified by conventional standards, retired scientists etc. to offer programmes that will excite and facilitate interested learners to gain what they want. Check out NPTEL channel by IIT consortium on YOUTUBE, the second largest used virtual learning channel in the world.
  • The programmes will be highly flexible – one may just get trained to be an electrician, can progress to gain a diploma, a few years after could go for a degree. A few may even undertake Ph.D. programme in their lives.
  • The entry for any course may not be controlled as is being done now. Every one who is interested in a programme will have a choice to undertake that programme, but the exit evaluation for awarding degrees may be very stringent to give productive individuals to the society and nation.
  • There will be national assessment bodies that will create unifying evaluation processes for every profession, ala CA, ICWA, CS bodies. Example – every engineer irrespective of which institution he or she studies from, will qualify to be an engineer only on being certified by this assessment body.
  • On the reach side, there will be community colleges and community enabling centres within the reach of every village and block that will make use of all these developments to reach every child. All forms of ICT, mobile technologies and sixth-sense technologies will play significant role in access side.

All these developments will make education accessible, affordable, relevant and contextual, learner-friendly, market-friendly and inclusive in every respect.

Scope for the test-prep sector (being a core area of CL); Growth Plans of Career Launcher;

Core Area of Career Launcher is EDUCATION, in its entirety. It was a compulsion to start with preparatory education, only because economically-modest graduates from IITs and IIMs, with a dream of contributing meaningfully to education, did not have any money whatsoever to get into areas of schooling or higher education that demands enormous investments. For training aspirants for IIMs and IITs, people did not ask any question about infrastructure. It all started under a tree!

Endeavours of Career Launcher in education encompasses Early-child education, K-12 schools, rural schools, community enabling centres, E-learning and tutoring, Technical education (ITI), Skill schools, Employability and Finishing schools, Business School that fosters entrepreneurship and in the near future an exciting university.

The wildest dream is to reach meaningful education to children in 6.7 lakh villages of this great nation in the next couple of decades, by working with like-minded co-creators.

As I shared above, the preparatory education space will continue to flourish till the barriers are broken to make meaningful education accessible and affordable from the very early age.

Looking forward to your comments and feedback. You can share either here or on sreeni@careerlauncher.com

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