Monday, June 30, 2008

The Deal

Here I am from Kuwait, in the comforts of an air conditioner, trying to figure out the only issue our country seems to be facing at the moment: The nuclear deal

But do I have any right to speak when those back in my country must be facing daily power cuts, strikes, rise in price of daily commodities and so many other related problems?

It is not as though we in Kuwait are free from troubles but a power cut is yet to be implemented (imminent even though the temperature outside can rise up to 60 degrees) and oil is the only commodity that has not faced a price increase. Those working outside will give anything to be back in India with the strikers if they could.

Yet, this is the only issue our usual experts have not come to a proper conclusion. You have the leftists and the rightists and even experts talking with authority but most of them with certain reservations. And as a result the democratic setup of our country has responded: there is no majority for the deal (at least until yesterday!)

But even in this set up I fail to understand what is prompting our Prime Minister to go ahead with the deal. Is a deal that was discussed with US at time when it is under the most unpopular President worth all these hungama? One cannot forget that when US ventured into Iraq ,those who cited the reason as oil were all clobbered but now the same is being universally accepted. Ok, let me chuck out my prejudices and try to think...

They say once this nuclear deal has come through, our country will be saved from all the energy issues.

I read our ex-President Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam's speech on 59th independence day August 2005 once again; just for an assurance. I am sure this speech was well rehearsed & researched and I do want to doubt the sincerity, honesty and above all the sanity of its contents.

Let me quote a few excerpts from his speech while the full speech can be read here:

Fortunately for us, 89% of energy used for power generation today is indigeneous, from coal (56%), hydroelectricity (25%), nuclear power (3%) and Renewable (5%). Solar energy segment contributes just 0.2% of our energy production.

Changing Structure of Energy Sources:
The strategic goals for Energy Independence by 2030 would thus call for a shift in the structure of energy sources. Firstly, fossil fuel imports need to be minimized and secure access to be ensured. Maximum hydro and nuclear power potential should be tapped. The most significant aspect, however would be that the power generated through renewable energy technologies may target 20 to 25% against the present 5%. It would be evident that for true Energy Independence, a major shift in the structure of energy sources from fossil to renewable energy sources is mandated.

Solar farms
(the last para) We thus need to embark on a major national programme in solar energy systems and technologies, for both large, centralized applications as well as small, decentralized requirements concurrently, for applications in both rural and urban areas.

Nuclear Energy
Nuclear power generation has been given a thrust by the use of uranium based fuel. However there would be a requirement for a ten fold increase in nuclear power generation even to attain a reasonable degree of energy self sufficiency for our country. Therefore it is essential to pursue the development of nuclear power using Thorium, reserves of which are higher in the country. Technology development has to be accelerated for Thorium based reactors since the raw material for Thorium is abundantly available in our country. Also, Nuclear Fusion research needs to be progressed with international cooperation to keep that option for meeting the large power requirement, at a time when fossil fuels get depleted.

Power through Municipal Waste

Power System Loss Reduction:

Transportation Sector

Use of biofuels

Even now the experts say that the nuclear deal will only cover 7% of our energy requirements by Year 2020 but with considerable costs and related security issues.

Now that we have an option with Iran for Gas, what is stopping us from pursuing the same? Knowing Pakistan, isn’t it better to take a risk with them rather than with this nuclear deal?

Have we really exhausted all our options?

Is it only the energy crisis that is making Congress change its stance of last 40 years?

Is it?

Is it?

Oh the questions are numerous and I shall keep looking for the answers..

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Air Powered Cars?

There are many options: if only we would adapt...

The world being obsessed with oil and its dictates, it is only natural that some of us are attracted (and obsessed?) to news like these. It landed in my inbox and upon googling, I find that it is a stale one which I missed.

“Air Powered Cars” developed by Motor Development International (MDI), a French car Company (family owned business) is to be marketed in India (Year 2009) by none other than TATA MOTORS.

The MDI GROUP is pleased to announce that an accord has been signed with TATA MOTORS of India. This accord will assign and grant licenses to TATA MOTORS for the exclusive implementation of MDI technologies in India.
MDI GROUP will continue to develop their Business Modal throughout the rest of the world by selling the licenses and turnkey factories for the production and marketing of all the MDI products.

It has speed starting from 110 and has zero emission.

After all the gripes and adulations received by NANO, let us see how this one fares.

Time reported it as a TAIL PIPE DREAM...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Water Powered Car

At this hour of ever increasing oil price and every major problem of this world blamed on this particular commodity one cannot but watch in wonder, eagerness and even a little misgiving this very important news...

Yes.. it is another Japanese delight. And if they go into mass production as they say, I cannot imagine its implications. Can you?

Water-fuel car unveiled in Japan
(01:21) Reuter Report
Jun. 13 - Japanese company Genepax presents its eco-friendly car that runs on nothing but water.
The car has an energy generator that extracts hydrogen from water that is poured into the car's tank. The generator then releases electrons that produce electric power to run the car. Genepax, the company that invented the technology, aims to collaborate with Japanese manufacturers to mass produce it.

A few links to think positively and negatively.... do find time to check the comments too..

Monday, June 9, 2008

High Order Thinking Skills (HOTS)

"According to Bloom's Taxonomy, education has four pillars — knowledge, understand-ing, skill and application. Our education system faulters at the last one and HOTS is an attempt to work on application skills of students. The aim is that students should be able to construct knowledge and that is what HOTS is all about," added Singh.

Looks all good on the paper. And the concept is most welcome too. Though our education system increases the number of brilliant students each year, when it comes to absorbing them in the current job market, the complaint is that they don’t have the application skills.

But again, what is the use if the CBSE Board keeps introducing “fixes” like these without proper planning? The board cannot be like Microsoft Corp., who loves sending “fixes” and “updates” as soon as a new product or a new version of an existing product is launched. We can live without Microsoft, if it gets unbearable, but not so the educational board which is supposed to be “fixing” the future of Indian students.

Who is this Bloom whom the Board has unearthed?

In 1956, Benjamin Bloom headed a group of educational psychologists who developed a classification of levels of intellectual behavior important in learning. Bloom found that over 95 % of the test questions students encounter require them to think only at the lowest possible level...the recall of information.

Bloom identified six levels within the cognitive domain, from the simple recall or recognition of facts, as the lowest level, through increasingly more complex and abstract mental levels, to the highest order which is classified as evaluation.

The first concern is: are the teachers trained to think along these lines? At present, when I look through the questions and answers, some of the answers are not to the point. The children are asked to memorize a full paragraph from the text itself. Even while reading it over and over, I still cannot get any clue; so imagine the plight of a student. And I wouldn’t have known this, if our lazy son had not come to me, asking me to explain the answer and reduce the number of sentences. Some teachers still love giving essays instead of concise answers. And some answers just” beat around the bush”.

The second concern: Was this new concept given enough time before it was introduced into the Board exams or were the students caught by surprise?

HOTS, as the name suggests, focuses on thinking skills and tries to move beyond rote learning. The focus of the question paper this year was to measure students' abilities to reason, justify, analyse, process and evaluate information. It was introduced only this year in class X and XII board examinations for mathematics, science and social science, the weightage being 20%.

If I heard right, most of the students were caught off guard. After all, were’t they being trained all these years just to answer the Board Exams?

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Back to studies?

Yet again, one more term of studies have gone and I am now in the self evaluation mode.

Before we wonder if I have joined a course or am in some distance education program, let me tell you that it is neither. I am just an ordinary mother trying to figure out the marks that my ordinary kids have earned in their first terminal exams (only two months of studies before their Summer holidays). Every term begins with a resolution to take my kids through their lessons daily and before I even try to begin they are already into their Unit Tests and then the Term Exams and so they have reached 6th and 7th standards.

Do we really have to slog so hard with them? Is it necessary for them to score high marks in each subjects? Here in Gulf( I am sure elsewhere too), it is not only the weak that go for tuitions but also the brightest students. The marks that they score in their Board Exams as each year progress is mind boggling. I believe this can be achieved only if one focuses completely on one’s studies (if one is not a genius). This would also mean that the kid will have time for no other activities and so also the parents. In most houses the TV will be either banned totally or switched on sparely. And come exam time in most homes, no visitors shall be allowed into your homes and you will not get out of yours too.

Our daughter is consistent and she does her best, although I am sure she can score much better marks if either I or a tuition teacher cajole her. But on talking to my son’s class teacher I understood that he is not the “studying” kind since he is not scoring good marks for all the subjects. But since I am his teacher at home (as time permits), I think he is not a total dumbo but grasps concepts quiet easily. But then boys will be boys they say and he is happier to play with his cars or the computer.

And then comes the villain (mine) – tuitions. The Class Teacher did hint that she takes tuitions when I went for the Parent – Teacher meeting. Should I give up my stubbornness and sent them? Will our kids benefit from spending some more hours studying concepts which should have been taught in school? While I try to weigh the pros and cons, I am still convinced that they ought to study at their own pace and that we as parents better be satisfied with what they bring home. Looking at their marks, I understand that I never did any better during my school days when the syllabus was much easier. But then the competition was not that high too. And when the teachers talks about those kids who score good marks etc, I do want mine to score those marks which they were scoring in lower classes. But now the sylabus is tougher and the teachers go full speed with the lessons.

And only today I read what Roop has written so well in her blog . She quotes from an article in Indian Express where the author laments in not finding the right candidate during the interview for the top B-schools, although the candidates have passed one of the toughest examination in the country.

Of course I may be wrong since my kids are not highly intelligent and they may be in need of extra help. But for now I am just going to renew my resolution and give a part of my time, while the kids will continue to indulge in their favourite TV shows, amidst my constant reminders to sit and study (over the phone at work and while I am doing things other than teaching them while at home).

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Thanks to blogging

This time cricket was not number one priority for my Hubby and hence we did not get to watch the IPL. But suddenly with the children gone to their grandparents to enjoy their Summer Holidays, we were left with too much time in our hands and we remembered the finals that were being played that day. It was easier earlier to from an allegiance with a team, but this time especially since I was not following the game I just couldn’t decide. I wanted both the team to win! The predicament ended when I got a long distance call from my long lost friend. I have to thank blogging and especially my blogger friend (who also happens to be my friend’s sister) for having made this happen. The last time I saw my friend was during my wedding and that too briefly. We tried to catch up with all those years in 20 minutes. While recalling our college mates and those moments that we spent together, we also discovered that much change had occurred in all these years in ourselves and our friends.

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