Wednesday, November 13, 2013

saga of notes

Excerpt from the book An appetite for wonder by Richard Dawkins

Theoretically the idea was to use your lecture notes in revision, but I never looked at mine ever again and I suspect that most of my colleagues didn't either. The purpose of a lecture should not be to impart information. There are books, libraries, nowadays the internet, for that. A lecture should inspire and provoke thought. You watch a good lecturer thinking aloud in front of you, reaching for a thought, sometimes grabbing it out in the air. A good lecturer thinking aloud, reflecting, musing, rephrasing for clarity, hesitating and then grasping, varying the pace, pausing for thought, can be a role model in how to think about a subject and how to transmit a passion for it. If a lecturer drones information as though reading it, the audience might as well read it - possibly in the lecturer's own book. 

Every time I read such stuff, it rages me to the roof. We never had any such lecturers who would put us into thinking or think themselves for that matter. All we did was to copy notes from one book to another book. I remember our lecturer telling us that he had a tough time collecting good notes from a student who used to go to a good college/school. And the notes from those students (most of the times girls because of their good handwriting) used to be our bible at the class. The teacher used to copy whatever written in the notes (including a Math problem) on the black board and all of us used to write it down in our notes. We used to mug up the notes before the exams. I never used to like writing down notes or even copying from someone else. But I had no other option. If you do not have notes, you are bound to fail in the examination. That used to be our state in places I studied (till my graduation). I will be surprised if there is any improvement in those institutions even today. It makes me feel sad to look back and think the way we got educated.

But on the other hand, I remember a positive story about notes. During my graduation, we had no lecturer for Statistics subject and all 17 of us failed during the first year. It is one of my greatest failures in life. For the first time I had failed in a subject I liked the most. We used to fight with the college management asking for a lecturer. They had a tough time getting one considering their budgets. We used to see some faces for a maximum of few months and they used to come in different colors and languages. I remember one lecturer who came to teach us Statistics from Tirupathi. He used to teach us in Telugu language and we had no other option but to listen. So some of us  (most of the time three of us) decided to visit a few institutes in Bangalore and beg-borrow-steal Statistics notes from the lecturers there. And we happened to visit Vijaya college, St Joseph's college and a few others. Some of them were very kind to us and asked us to copy the notes. Some of them even taught us important chapters and also helped us with some tricks to solve bigger statistical problems. Most of the time we copied the notes sitting in the library or if we had access to a near by xerox shop, we used to get it photocopied. And we did that for a few months till we got enough notes to pass in the exam. While returning back from Bangalore with the notes in our hand, we used to feel a sense of achievement for sure. We shared the notes with all our classmates and some how passed our exams. So the notes from a-good-college-in-Bangalore saved us in the end.

I think we have a long way to go. Only in some institutes in major towns one can get good access to teachers and resources; while the other major parts of the state (mostly rural areas) will continue to face challenges.


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