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Shocking Flaws in Our Education System

Sunday, February 11, 2018 12:31 AM

Hello,

 

In this post I am penning down few fundamental flaws of Indian higher education system in an easy-to-digest manner for the minds. Here, I have attempted to make a case as to why, by the year 2030, none of the Indian higher education institutions will be in the list of top-20 or 50 or even in the top-200 best universities in the world. 

 

Fundamental Flaw No-1: Factory Model of Education

 

     Sir Ken Robinson, in his brilliant TED Talk, eloquently described the bias of education system towards producing industry centric outcomes. In his words, “whole system was invented around the world; there were no public systems of education before the 19th century. They all came into being to meet the needs of industrialism”. He is right. We do classify our students in batches, label them with unique IDs, and finally quality assurance tags them with CGPA for future reference of quality. Educational process which handles a student’s learning is strikingly similar to what is done in a typical factory’s assembly line. Defective parts are generally chucked out with marginal attempts to recover their value in the final product, i.e. there is no recycling after the educational journey is over. This leads to some nasty consequences as well where figures show rise in the percentage of students who drop-out or sometimes even commit suicide because they can’t cope up with the mind-bending realities of our educational system [1].

 

       In the past, if you had a degree then you could easily get a job, now degrees are everywhere. Economic realities of educational system are giving rise to academic inflation. Therefore, the real value of a degree has fallen down substantially over the last few decades to the point that corporates have started to overlook qualifications due to the industry-academia gap. Finally, the output from current factory model of education is, quite literally, a big zero due to lack of employability. This is also seen as a major concern across India and globe. [2].

 

Fundamental Flaw No-2: Lack of Understanding of Human Creativity and Learning

 

     We know that humans as intellectual beings develop themselves organically. They learn from their mistakes and become better overtime with experience. Mistakes are necessary to learn and progress further, but education system on the other side, de-incentivizes mistakes with even impose strict remedial measures to curve the root cause of “trying to learn” by students. Educational system, by virtue of being split into varied levels of education, produces a nasty consequence where it expects certain level of pre-existing academic ability from a student. Anyone not having the required academic ability suffers tremendously and is further pushed down the pipe labeled as a ‘poor’ or ‘below average’ student. This sticks with that student for rest of his life causing severe destruction of self-esteem, internal drive and respect, i.e. ideal for a conformist society.

 

     Furthermore, there is very little attention given to human creativity. Imagine a student is able to reach an answer to a question he/she was asked, the evaluative judgment for awarding marks is mostly based on the given final outcome, i.e. the accuracy of the answer, ignoring the evaluation of the creative process by which student achieved the final answer. We clearly lack a better tool to judge ‘how’ that student resolved the internal ambiguities of his mind and creatively reached the conclusive answer. There is no measure employed or devised to be used at this massive scale for measuring an individual’s creativity. In fact, on the contrary a creative individual can be perceived as a non-conformist or again labeled as a ‘poor’ student.  

 

Fundamental Flaw No-3: Knowledge Delivery and Meritocratic Measurements of Academic Ability 

 

     To understand this, think of education system as a delivery vehicle for disseminating scientific knowledge. If you compare it to any religion, you’re going to have to conclude that religions outperform our education system in terms of effectiveness and intended learning outcomes.  Religions do something quite similar in a much more effective way than the education system. The utilize most senses of mind/body to deliver the message using auditory, visual, and verbal means brilliantly to engage and disseminate knowledge from scriptures. Furthermore, they structurally map their teachings to celestial events imparting daily discipline and employ concept of communicative repetition for reinforcing the prescribed teachings to their followers. Almost seems too good to be true, but religions employ better and varied knowledge delivery mechanisms than our current education system. 

 

       For lack of a better way to find out whether or not a human has learned the knowledge, we have put the evaluation systems to strictly measure the elusive academic ability. Beneath lies the idea of meritocratic academic achievement, which states that only those human should rise in societal hierarchy and called ‘successful’ who possess the most amount of academic ability. The Reality, however, is much different as there aren’t many top businessmen, politicians, or successful wealthy humans who became who they are today just ‘because’ of their academic ability. Honestly, If you look around, you’re more likely to find someone successful ‘because’ they did not take formal education literally than those who had stick to it, and in the end, couldn’t achieve success as they once wished for.

 

Fundamental Flaw No-4: Lack of standard metric to gauge ROI from formal education

 

       Purpose of the higher education system is to equip us with required knowledge, skills, and competencies and help us progress into the future that we can’t grasp today. People invest massively in the education system while at the same time no one has a clue how the world will look-like in coming 5 years, obviously everyone is supposed be educated for it. Preparing for future isn’t necessarily a bad strategy. But the key question is whether you are better off without the long-term investment in formally educating yourself?  The answer to this question lies in analyzing Return-On-Investment using a standard method. As of now, this standard method of measuring ROI does not exist.

      

     Thank you for reading and I hope you’ll find this post useful and I will post more about our education system in the future.  In case if you wish to add any additional point to the post, then please leave a comment below.

 

 

Healthcare Horrors in India – Pt.1 of 3

Sunday, February 4, 2018 2:55 AM
Hello everyone!

In few upcoming posts, I will be making a case against the current state of public and private healthcare system in India which, I believe, desperately needs a technological fix.  Let us first understand what is wrong with it before we attempt to fix it in this part-1 of the blog post.

Critical to our survival is having good health and preventive measures by eating healthy and yes, by exercising regularly. Previous generation took this notion not so seriously; hence you see alarming number of patients in hospital admittance charts for the age groups between 45-60 years of age. Life expectancy has surely risen due to advances in medical technology and adopting new advancements in real-world medical applications by healthcare institutions and practicing doctors. However, this is just one side of the story.

To understand the other side of the story, let’s do a little role-play in which you are the patient. Your life’s going on as it should and one day you find out that there is a new health concern and which may affect your ability to complete some routine work. You first ignore it for some time, hoping that it would go away on its own, but it doesn’t and a realization pours in that you need help. Medically speaking, if the medical severity of this health concern is beyond your own ability to treat it, you are bound to look for a healthcare provider nearby your residence or office. This exact moment might be the gateway to hell.

Similarly, there are many patients who end up in a hospital to experience what healthcare has to offer through those advancements in medical technologies. For the most part, things go well, as long as they do not have a complicated or chronic health concern. Maybe one day you get fever or have sore throat, those nifty little paracetamol tablets take good care of this issue. But advances in healthcare are supposed to handle much more than that. And why not, healthcare system deals with life and death scenarios affecting almost everyone.

Ideally, we expect any healthcare institution to deliver the following fundamental promises:
1.    Diagnosing correctly, accurate prescriptions, and targeted treatment of diseases.
2.    Offer preventive measures for the future and preventing any further visits.
3.    Staying affordable enough for an average person in the long term.

For a healthcare institution to fulfill these expectations, it must have the following:
1.    Experienced doctors and well trained staff and ability to offer super-specialties
2.    Up-to-date infrastructure, clinical/laboratory equipment, and pharmaceutical drugs of good quality available in ample quantity.
3.    Employ best practices in day-to-day operations and provide a comfortable environment to the patients and their attendees.

Would you say we are expecting too much from them? I don’t think so; this is probably just the bare minimum, isn’t it?

As of now, there is no credible source of information that helps a potential patient find a suitable healthcare provider. Therefore, majority of the potential patients rely on their own judgement or family members’ knowhow, if they know where to go or maybe just Google it like most of the world does nowadays. You come to know that there is ‘this’ hospital or ‘that’ doctor you from others’ talks and then you decide to go there. When you reach the hospital and look around a flood of thoughts go through your head about what kind of place you’re in, how’s the hygiene around here, etc. You look at various nurses or staff roaming around minding their own business, sometimes chatting and smiling at each other. You recall your focus and look for where to go and whom to approach. Then you find a desk where a very busy looking person is sitting caught up in the paperwork or looking at the computer screen.

An average person trusts a healthcare institution blindly for the most part either because they lack basic medical knowledge or they are unable to comprehend medical facts to form concrete basis for an informed decision. None of these are faults of that average person. Internet technology has somewhat addressed the first challenge by making information available along with few quirks. The second one remains a challenge and gives rise to many unfair practices by healthcare institutions where they ask or expect a patient to understand the potential consequences of opting for treatment or not. If you opt-in, then you agree to become the ‘test subject’ for the hospital. An alternate is to opt-out, then you reach nowhere and the health concern stays with you until you figure out where to go next. To avoid the hassle, most people opt-in, and thereafter in case of any risk, the legal liability of any negative consequence from a treatment is always made to rest on the patient. I strongly feel that should obviously fall on the healthcare institutions instead.
 
I hope you’ll find this post useful and I will post rest of the parts in continuation to this post in the future.  In case if you wish to add any additional point to the post, then please leave a comment below.

What is Blockchain Technology

Tuesday, January 30, 2018 11:55 PM
Hello,

In this post I will explain, in layman's terms, this new hype about blockchain technology and the promises it brings to the world of information technology. Before I begin to tell what it is and how useful it might be in future, let me just be upfront and say blockchain is NOT a new advancement in any hardware technology or improvement in existing programming languages etc.

Blockchain simply is a way to program a software application. It can be thought of as a new conceptual model on how software applications should work with the data they process, how and where this data is stored, etc.  What about Bitcoin? You keep hearing these cryptic names over the internet alongside the Blockchain technology! Well, Bitcoin in a nutshell is a distributed software application designed to act as a payment network for its users. Bitcoin works using the blockchain technology underneath.

In a blockchain based software application, imagine that once some piece of information is created it can never be destroyed. This information can be a payment transaction, or an online vote by a citizen to a politician, or criminal history of someone etc. You might say why can’t we do that without the blockchain technology?

This is a key question. The answer, as of now, is that you can’t. Software applications designed based on blockchain architecture work independently of human control. Once these applications are live on the internet, they coordinate with each other, share and store data at multiple locations simultaneously to enable high availability of the data. Any one person or application can’t temper with the historical data due to strong foundational design of blockchain technology. Sounds interesting and a bit dangerous too, no? 

I hope you’ll find this post useful and I will post more about blockchain technology in continuation to this post in future.  In case if you wish to add any additional point to the post, then please leave a comment below.

Machine Learning for Universal Free Education

Sunday, December 24, 2017 9:44 AM
Understanding what technology can and cannot do is critical, especially when we are implementing it on automating processes which affect humans. One such process at the core of our advancement as a species is the process of learning. We, as humans, have broadly used the same to continue our survival where learning from one generation travels on to succeeding generations.

It is absolutely amazing how human race advances into the future without having a centralised source of information. We humans are good at advancing with a distributed and decentralised knowledge source where every generation adds something of its own into the mix. We are an excellent example of a self-regulating system capable of transcendental advancements across various disciplines adding value to our very existence in the long run.

Education is the discipline devoted for delivering learning through the process of direct or indirect teaching, which presumably imparts learning. So far we have relied heavily on the teaching skills and knowledge of our worthy teachers and scholarship of mind by our students. Institutions exist to provide an environment nurturing this exchange of knowledge and strive to impact society through new inventions and innovations. Ideally.

Real world is much different. Education system have failed in its promise for producing holistically successful humans and have instead worked against the same cause because of its roots set inside the factory model of education. Approach should've been agricultural rather than industrial for imparting learning. We classify students in batches, teach them in controlled environments, and evaluate them without considering their individualities. The whole concept of delivering education is truly human-driven. Clearly we have failed in attaining the ideal state in this but the question is whether machines can help us.

Machine Learning and artificial intelligence have emerged recently and shown some potential in assisting us humans through driver-less cars, diagnosing life-threatening diseases, and much more. Next big question, beyond automating repetitive decision-making processes, is whether these machines with AI can help us learn better and quicker than before without needing human intervention.

If the answer to that question is yes, then it's time for us all to focus on building technologies that solve following problems:
1. Encouraging self-paced Learning and personalization of knowledge and career assistance.
2. Broader uniformity of interdisciplinary approaches to learning and acquiring skills aligning with innate passion and purpose of human life.
3. Expedite advancement  and dissemination of human knowledge into a decentralised source for availability to all who need it through universal free education.

Some might say we are long way from this idea of universal free education, but this is something we require to advance to the next level of our human condition. Maybe the advancements in machine learning and AI can help.

I hope that you would agree that we need a better system of delivering education but most importantly the one which isn't handled by us alone. In case if you wish to add any additional point to the post, then please leave a comment below.

Keeping your Windows PC Healthy

Sunday, December 17, 2017 10:11 PM
Hello Everyone!

In this post I am going to talk about keeping our computers running at optimum level in terms of performance, speed, safety, and ensuring maximum availability of resources. This post mentions certain guidelines for achieving the same.

Let’s begin.

Your computer is a breathing machine. It needs free RAM, CPU and Hard-disk resources to accomplish the necessary computational tasks that you, the user, throw at it everyday. Therefore, if you wish to have your computer performing at the optimum level, you need to take care of it.

Following are certain guidelines regarding general care of a Windows PC:

1. Determine what you need to install instead of installing everything. There is an inherent tendency in us to collect resources for our virtual survival. We tend to collect tools, resources, and knowledge a lot more compared to what we actually need or will use. Typically, most people just require a basic set of tools, i.e. a browser, word/spreadsheet processor, media player etc. Advanced users may need to extend capability of their computers by installing certain additional tools but again installing what you need is still applicable. Be wary of the random pop-up windows offering to install that very important software you really need desperately for free. Remember, when a software product is offered free, then it’s you the user the main product.

2. Stay organized, use appropriate file/folder names, and develop a logical folder structure. You have to organize your data and files into logical file and folder structures on the hard-drive to yield maximum productivity in the long run. Computers LOVE organized users and allow them to become more productive in their endeavors, therefore it is very important to follow a strategy that allows you to logically add information (files/folders/data) over time into the given folder structure.

3. Frequently remove or move the junkware, old data and backed up files. Keep an external hard-drive handy to serve as your backup storage location to dump files you no longer need. But remember if you’re not putting them into a logical folder structure, then it is less likely that you’ll ever find what you need in an emergency.

4. Before using an Anti-Virus software, understand how they work. Most anti-virus software work on the model of general insurance and similarly they provide you coverage over prevention of a certain type of fear, i.e. malicious software or known vulnerabilities. You cannot fully trust any anti-virus software to make your computer 100% safe as they can only offer protection over previously known viruses. Also, don’t forget that anti-virus software are just a piece of software only. That means, they themselves can also become target of hackers or viruses. So, what is the best strategy to deal with such issues? Contrary to the popular opinion, I’ve found out that having no anti-virus software have kept my computer most safe, bug free, and outperforming. Of course, certain system level tools were always employed such as Windows Firewall and Windows Defender, but no fancy anti-virus software was ever installed. I feel the reason this has worked for me in the past is that I trust Microsoft more than any anti-virus software maker since I believe it is in the best interest of Microsoft to have its operating system fully secured with necessary software than to rely on third-party software for safety and security.

5. Turn-off Windows Features you don’t need. Microsoft Windows OS is a collection of various technologies developed inside or outside Microsoft company, which means it will have added support for certain features that many of its users would never use since Windows OS is designed to fit needs of a variety of users. Bottom-line is that a typical Windows PC user is never going to need many, if not most, of its inbuilt features. So, it would be a wise thing to turn off those you don’t need.

6. Consider a hardware upgrade for better performance. Some of us have a tendency to extract maximum performance juice out of a machine designed to specifically give a definitive level of performance. It is likely that besides some simple or advanced level tweaks, the computer shall be limited by the availability of maximum hardware resources, i.e. RAM, Hard-disk space, CPU Processing Power, and Video Memory etc. If you find yourself not satisfied in terms of hardware performance, then it is a wise investment to simply upgrade the hardware.

I hope you’ll find these guidelines relevant for keeping your Windows PC running at optimum level. In-case if you wish to add any additional point to the post, then please leave a comment below.

Open Source Technology

Sunday, October 22, 2017 8:11 PM
Hello Everyone!

Today, I wish to elaborate on few things about open source software and the importance of creating and sharing it for the benefit of all.

Just like any other commercial product, most software comes at a cost with detailed legal copyright claims restricting any third-party modification, distribution, or utilization. In most cases, it is expected that anyone with an intent to lawfully violating copyright would obtain explicit permission from the legal owners. Large corporations have benefited from such legal mechanisms which, while protecting the intellectual property, allows generation of revenue through sale of proprietary software.

Open Source software comes from a different notion that all technology should be free and made available to anyone without any cost. Just like the internet, the open source software is available free of cost to the end users. You may think that internet is not free since you pay your ISP (Internet Service Provider) a hefty sum each month. You’re right and wrong at the same time. The internet is in fact free, but the process of accessing it is not. Open source technology enables the use of software in the same way we use the internet. Just as internet serves the need of free communication for humans, the open source technology serves the need of free functionality.

Technology makes us better when we make better use of technology. The better use requires us to create better quality software but to have the impact we need, the software needs to be offered free of cost. You may think that developing quality software would take lots of hard work, effort, time, and money; then why offer it for free?  Following are a few reasons:

- Eliminating dependence on internal or external paid quality assurance service providers.
- Developing the software free of cost or getting paid to develop free software.
- Obtaining training, exposure or experience via practicing prototype stages before the production run.
- Free feedback from the early adopters and enthusiastic beta-testers.
- Setting the platform for the next big thing out of your garage.

I hope you’ll find this post useful. In case if you wish to add any additional point to the post, then please leave a comment below.

Effective use of Tech Tools

Sunday, September 24, 2017 9:12 PM

Hello Everyone!

We’re going to talk about ‘Tech Tools’ today, especially the ones which make our technology related endeavors possible.  Tech tools are designed for enabling quick completion of certain tasks which otherwise make it difficult for a user to complete on his own.  Our world of technology today is filled with a lot of them which often get users confused regarding which tool to use among the multitude of similar tools that are available.


The idea behind effective selection of a tech tool is to filter-out the one you need to accomplish the task at hand effectively from the clutter of choices that are there to confuse you. In order to make this confusion go away, I’ve developed a list of core practical principles to be used when faced with dilemma of selection of tech tools. For every technological problem, there exist a set of tools which can effectively lower the user’s effort by either automating the task at hand or dissecting the task further into smaller subset of mini-problems that can be resolved individually and easily.


1. A tool can either resolve a problem, or get multiplied with the problem itself. The hard part for any user is to find the tool and learn it quickly before it can be implemented for a problem. Good tools are simple and effective in problem resolution. But it is to be kept in mind that over or incorrect utilization of a tool can give rise to more problems.


2. Don’t get obsessed with tech tools. It doesn’t matter which company have produced the tech tool as long as it fulfills the intended purpose and requirements of the task. Remember that you’re trying to solve a problem while searching for the tool, so focus on solving the problem and not get fascinated by the tool itself. It feels good to fill your arsenal with great tools, but it’s of no use if they keep on sitting on shelve without ever being utilized.


3. Tools can help you only if you need their help. This basically means that you won’t be able to effectively utilize a tech tool unless you really need its assistance in a project or problem you’re trying to solve. Top-down approach never works as tools can never guide you where to use them, it is the problem which tells you what it needs where you the user needs to figure out whether a particular tool can assist you in your endeavor. Tech tool producer companies try this really hard to convince their users that first get the tool, and then think about the problem. In reality, it works the other way around as think about the problem, find the tool to solve it.

I hope you’ll find these tips relevant to whatever problem you’re trying to solve. In-case if you wish to add any additional point to the post, then please leave a comment below.

3 Rules of Software Development

Sunday, August 27, 2017 10:14 PM
Hello Everyone!

I am going to enlist 3 most important rules of software development from the perspective of a programmer. These rules are not presented in any sequence of preference, however these rules are a part of future posts I will make regarding software development.

Rule No 1: You must always continue to learn concepts about programming: Most of programmers tend to stop learning once we reach a certain learning threshold, often achieved after mastery of one technology. New knowledge brings new possibilities and problem solving measures.

Rule No 2: Plan and prepare Software Requirement documentation of all the features (feature-wise and version-wise) before coding: There is an inherent tendency in us programmers to not plan much and just jump into coding first, which is okay if you’re working on a temporary concept or idea, but it’s really not a good practice if you’re working on a serious project requiring diligent planning. The challenge is to stop the first urge pushing us to begin coding, and instead focus on painting a picture of how the software would work. Using a mind-mapping tool is absolute essential to begin planning the software requirements for the intended features.

Rule No 3: During your big programming project, if you hate going back to coding, then love of developing software needs to be ignited again: It so happens with everyone that after putting so much effort and energy into a project, the damn thing becomes boring to continue on our own. Then we start looking for external motivation and lose the interest and zeal to accomplish that ‘To-Do’ List of problems to be resolved thought earlier. This is normal and a part of software development process. When this happens, make sure you take a break, put your mind off to something else, i.e. listening to music, watching videos, exercising etc. Then later on think about the reasons why you started this project and not get bogged down in the details of the project. Look at the big picture, plan, and attempt coding again. If you’re stuck, then move on and try a different approach.

I hope you’ll find this post useful and I will keep posting new practical rules of software development in continuation to this post in the future.

In case if you wish to add any additional point to the post, then please leave a comment below.