New collaboration engineers

Quantum leaps in technology, communications and financial markets in the post-liberalisation era have made it mandatory for business managers to be equipped with skills and information to make headway in the rapidly crystallising global marketplace. India, with the world’s largest young population and high-growth economy has begun to attract a growing number of foreign universities tying up with local B-schools to offer their international MBA programmes. The latest such high-potential collaboration agreement is between the Athens (USA)-based Ohio University College of Business (OUCB — estd. 1804) and Christ Education Trust, Bangalore (estd. 1969).

Glenn E. Corlett, dean of OUCB since 1997 and Dr. Nanda Rangan, director of Ohio University’s MBA programme were recently in Bangalore to announce the inauguration of Ohio University-Christ College Academy for Management Education. "We had to terminate our earlier collaboration with the Manipal Education and Medical Group and sign up with Christ College because of a conflict of interest. MEMG wanted to grow their operations in Manipal, but our intent is to operate in Bangalore, to create a talent pool of managers for the multiplying number of multinational companies based in the city," says Corlett an alumnus of Ohio State and Duke universities and former executive vice president and chief operating officer of N.W. Ayer & Partners, a New York-based advertising agency.

"Our choice of Christ College as partner was influenced by its high A+ rating awarded by NAAC (National Assessment & Accreditation Council), and also by the enthusiasm and commitment its management displayed. Moreover the college is sited in the business hub of Bangalore, which will facilitate student access to corporates for project work and campus placement," adds Rangan an engineering alumnus of Madras University with a Ph D in finance from Texas A&M University.

Under the collaboration agreement, Indian students can earn an OUCB degree at a fraction of its US tuition price — Rs.5.5 lakh (cf. Rs.37.5 lakh or $81,000). Ohio University is the oldest tertiary education institution in the State of Ohio and is currently ranked 52 among public universities in the US for its academic quality. The Ohio University College of Business is one of the 509 B-schools worldwide and 12 in Asia to be fully accredited by AACSB International (the international association of Advanced Collegiate Schools of Business).

"Our curriculum is hands-on and project oriented; it is designed to develop the skills of team building and communications, initiative, creativity, and personal responsibility. Moreover students will be taught by faculty deputed from Ohio University; local faculty whom we hire will be trained at OUCB," says Rangan, who has taught finance in several high-profile universities including Southern Illinois University.

Looking into the future Corlett is confident that this new association with Christ College will endure. "Our initial agreement is for a period of five years, but we are sure we will renew it. Several undergraduate courses in the humanities and arts are also in the pipeline," he says.

Srinidhi Raghavendra (Bangalore)

Fulbright enthusiasts

Vaidehi Madhavan who teaches mathematics at Chennai’s Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan Senior Secondary School (Nungam-bakkam) and Shoba Raman, chemistry teacher at Vidya Mandir, Chennai, are among the first batch of four Indian teachers selected for the Fulbright Teacher Exchange Programme. This programme provides opportunities for secondary school teachers (classes IX - XII) in India, who teach English, math and science, to exchange positions with American teachers for one semester.

Following their return to Chennai in January after a six month teaching sojourn in the US, the two teachers are enthused by their experience and bursting with new ideas. "There is great flexibility in the syllabus and a child who is not good at mathematics can choose from a variety of other subjects. I was assigned a class that had chosen maths as their elective, and found the students very bright. Students in America differ from their Indian counterparts in their aims and ambitions. Most aspire to take up jobs after they finish high school, with only 20-30 percent of students interested in entering university," says Madhavan, an alumna of Madras and Annamalai universities who taught around 150 students (in different batches) of mainly Hispanic background, at Las Cruces High in New Mexico.

On the other hand, Raman found students of the Brattleboro Union High in Vermont more ambitious and confident. "Chemistry is not a hot subject in Brattleboro Union and is compulsory only for students in class XI-XII. Science education is oriented towards biological sciences and physics. Moreover in chemistry, only 25 percent of what is taught in India is covered by American schools. Students prefer to experiment and understand rather than memorise definitions and formulae, and use calculators even for simple computations. There is much less pressure on students to perform and the teacher’s role is to make lessons interesting through subject-related experiments and worksheets," says Raman, a chemistry and administration postgrad of Madras and Annamalai universities.

Impressed by the flexibility of American public school curriculums and their bias towards experiential education, Madhavan and Raman are raring to make changes in their own schools in Chennai. "I plan to introduce open-ended experimentation in chemis-try in classes IX-XII to encourage students to form their own hypotheses and test results. Another new idea is to put questions on the bulletin board to prompt students to think for themselves," says Raman. Madhavan also intends introducing open-ended questions, puzzles, mind mapping and activity based teaching/ learning in mathematics. Together they hope to create more passion for the sciences, and relieve students of the stress factor characterising Indian education.

Hemalatha Raghupathi (Chennai)

Magic music practitioner

Shashank Katti is an unusual medical practitioner. He cures through music. A renowned sitarist, Katti has evolved his patented Gandharva Therapy which uses different ragas to cure ailments as varied as spondylitis, joint and muscular pains, arthritis, mental depression, hypertension, asthma, migraine and diabetes. Developed in association with Himalayan Pantvaidya, an anaesthetist and Vaidyaraj Sanjay Chhajed, the therapy explains Katti, is rooted in "mood elevation theory".

"We have combined the fundamental principles of ayurveda for long-term benefits," says the Mumbai-based musician who met with your Lucknow correspondent while conducting a workshop in this culture-conscious city. "There is a plethora of historical evidence that suggests music has miraculous effects. For instance it is recorded that the famous court musician Tansen, lit up the lamps in Emperor Akbar’s court by rendering raag Deepak. Given the intensity of the raga, Tansen himself took ill and was cured by raag Megh Malhar. Of course music therapy works best on patients suffering psychosomatic and psychol-ogical disorders. But Indian ayurveda is also littered with theories on the impact of music on the human mind — the seat of intellect which can cure by suggestion," says Katti, who also produces cassettes and compact discs of his curative compositions.

Katti takes pains to emphasise that healing doesn’t occur with a mere random rendition of a raga. "The stress is on a particular sur (note) for a particular ailment. So the way I play a raga varies with the type of affliction my patient has," he explains. Thus, the sur of raag Hindol is beneficial for spondylitis and raag Malhar provides relief to asthma patients.

However, like all alternative medicine cures, curative music too takes time to work. Depending on the ailment, a patient is required to undergo at least a month-long course, listening to a prescribed raga at a specified time every day, for its curative powers to be experienced.

Meanwhile Lucknow’s Bhatkhande Institute, a deemed music university of renown, where the workshop was conducted, plans to introduce a music therapy study programme soon.

Vidya Pandit (Lucknow)

Distinguished educationist

ndo-Pak relations will improve dramatically if there is cooperation in education, and the time has come for it to be included in the next round of composite dialogue between the two countries," says Prof. Amrik Singh, a well-known Delhi-based octogenarian educationist who was born in Apetabad in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province. Recently Singh was conferred the University Grants Commission (UGC) Swami Pranavananda Saraswati award for "books and writings on key issues in universities and collegiate education in a global perspective".

An English postgrad of the Government College, Lahore and the Amritsar Khalsa College where he was a lecturer for six years from 1942, Singh moved to Shimla for a couple of years to teach in the now defunct Bhargav Municipal College, before moving to Delhi in 1962 to edit the Journal of University Education. In 1967 he was appointed secretary of the Association of Indian Universities.

Over the past three decades, Singh has published about a dozen books which include the much-debated Role of the UGC and Challenge of Education. Moreover Asking for Trouble which narrates his experiences as vice chancellor of Punjabi University, Patiala has become a primer for administrators in higher education.

Commenting upon the higher education scenario in contemporary India, Singh laments the lack of innovation. "There is criminal neglect of distance education. At a time when the country is experiencing a shortage of skilled teachers, more attention should be paid to distance education and its promotion at different levels. Of course the UGC and IGNOU Acts refer to it. But it’s all confusion and no coordination. Moreover instead of encouraging and supporting private universities and initiatives in higher education, we are chasing them away. All that is needed are mechanisms to evaluate and monitor them. Instead, private teaching shops are allowed to flourish to make millions from middle class aspirations," says Singh, also a former vice chancellor of Punjabi University, Patiala.

A former president of the International Congress of University Adult Education and a recipient of the Tom Symons Award of the Association of Commonwealth Universities, a member of the National Integration Council and prolific writer (he has won Punjabi Academy awards three times), despite his fragile health, Amrik Singh remains a peacenik and active educationist.

Autar Nehru (New Delhi)

Multi-tasker par excellence

social worker, educationist,
philanthropist and champion of challenged children, Dr. Shayama Chona who is also principal of Delhi’s well-regarded Delhi Public School (R.K. Puram) discharges each role with supreme confidence. The winner of 192 awards including the Padma Shri (1999), Chona was recently (February) honoured by the Indian Medical Association, UK for her unparalleled, unprecedented contribution in social work and community service.

"Children are the nation’s hope and future, and society needs to give top priority to their needs and aspirations," says Chona who also runs a non-profit society — Tamana — named after her daughter, who suffered brain damage in childhood. Since 1984 the society has been working towards upliftment of multiple handicapped children. With a gross enrollment of 200 challenged students, Tamana is the only institution in the capital that provides education to autistic children, detection of which is as difficult as rehabilitation.

A multi-tasker par excellence, Chona has also started three pre-primary schools for destitute children. Anubhav Shiksha Kendra (estb: 1999), another step towards educating slum children currently has 1,600 students on its rolls. Under the aegis of UNESCO and UNICEF, she is also supervising the management of a school in the Ek Basti slum of Delhi providing free education to children and training mothers to cope with family crises. "Indian society still believes that women should be confined to the home and hearth. But I believe that women should be trained to become economically independent," she says.

Commenting on the education scenario in India, Chona believes that the education system requires urgent reform and schools in the national capital need to set an example. "Our education policy needs redressal and Delhi should lead the way. If something can be implemented here, it’s easier for other states to follow the example. There is too much interference of government in the management of private schools. Government supervision should be limited to setting norms and ensuring they are followed," she says.

That’s a much celebrated, proven educationist speaking. People — especially in government — need to listen. And listen carefully.

Priyanka Gupta (New Delhi)