Sunday, November 27, 2011

Why men should say No!

This time I have chosen to write on a subject that is of social significance; an issue that I feel strongly about- namely, Gender Based Violence (GBV). For some time I have been following a Facebook group called “Let’s Talk” and their campaign which is known as “Must Bol”. This group of young Turks are doing a great job, and it was, therefore, an honour to get an invite to write on their Blogathon: Men say No!

GBV issues are multi-dimensional in nature, owing to the diverse range of causes and manifestation that tend to vary across countries, cultures, and socio- economic strata. I have tried basing this article in context of Urban Indian Middle socio-economic class – the brand ambassadors of the so-called “India Shining” group. Why do these people allow such things to happen to their women? Why are they so passive about a problem that has acquired such great proportions that one cannot feign to ignore anymore?  
Why men do not say ‘No’?
In all probability, many men still think GBV to be a problem predominantly faced by women, and therefore it is “their fight which they have to fight”. At a superficial glance, one has to admit that there is a certain degree of rationale behind this thinking. Many would equate this issue of gender-based violence with other issues like gender inequality / woman’s liberation, etc – causes that are fought by women-centric organisations across the globe. So one tends to associate Gender Based Violence (GBV) also with similar problems, and prefers to leave the women to champion this cause as well. GBV and its associated problems are, however, somewhat complex and more involved. Let's take a bird's eye view to the problem 
Solution type: Internal or External?
In general, any problem can be addressed either internally or externally, and the effectiveness of the two methods varies depending on two aspects: nature of the problem and the role of the adversary within the problem. In most of the sociological problems, any one of the two aforementioned aspects plays a major role, while the other one ends up playing the second fiddle. Very few problems can be solved with a mono-dimensional approach. For example, if we try to reduce drinking amongst the working class to improve their quality of life, a major thrust has to come externally in terms of campaigns, restrictions, regulations etc. This has to be supplemented by internal pressures from the family, children, peer group, friends etc. Thus, a combination of both is necessary, though the drive has to be from the external forces.
If we look at Gender discrimination at workplaces, this also has a predominantly external approach. Men have dominated the workplace scenario until now, and it will be sheer foolishness if one expects them to give away their dominant position so easily. However, things have now changed to a certain extent, and the main reason for this is the constant barrage of attacks from the women groups. Organisations have reluctantly being forced to remove regulations which bar women from joining them and later have grudgingly accepted that quite a number of women deserve to be above the “glass ceiling” – the invisible barrier which prevents women from rising beyond a certain level in an organisation.
If we put this in a simplistic step by step approach, it would look somewhat like this :
Step 1 : Organizations accepting women into responsible positions – [External : created by awareness campaigns, litigations, constitutional rights etc]
Step 2 : Women performing at par or sometimes better than their men peers – [External : as women are still not accepted completely]
Step 3 : Superiors acknowledging that Women can deliver at least as good as other men. Also accepting that having women in management can provide certain paradigm shift into management thinking [Internal]
GBV : External or Internal approach ?
In contrast to the above examples, GBV has a completely different dimension. In this case, men are committing the crimes against women actively (not just passively ignoring their rights), and quite a number of these remain unreported. There are several reasons for this lack of reporting, the major ones being:
§         Social Stigma: A woman violated by someone is often perceived a ‘loose woman’ and ‘she was asking for it’. Often this also acts like an ice-breaker in a reverse manner i.e ‘now that she has anyway been deflowered, she will probably not mind a roll in the hay’ kind of a psychology
§         Sense of shame / guilt by the offended
§         Often perpetrator of this crime is a man of social / family position – the husband, the boss, the father of a close friend
No wonder quite a number of women prefer to suffer quietly. This, in turn, emboldens the criminal even further as he realises that he can get away with this.
GBV also has a dimension that the crime being committed is atrocious. Unlike Gender discrimination in workplace, which, at its worst, is a case of being “unfair” and “discriminatory”, GBV is about invading another person’s private space and committing a hideous crime. Quite often, it is something that happens within the house – within closed doors and within the closed family. And for this reason, this battle cannot be merely an external conflict. It has to be fought internally – with the perpetrators (the men, in this case) themselves turning back and saying, “we would allow this to happen any more”.
How do we make men say no?
How do we do this internally? How do we make men say “No” so such crimes? As usual, there are no easy recipes to this. It might be worthwhile to look at some scenarios, which exist:
1)     Break social sanctions: There is an “indirect” sanction amongst men about situations when such behaviours are tolerated. Typical examples are:
1.1)           Army: It is a common practice that when an army invades another country, the victorious army indulges in ruthless activities, including sexual exploitation of women belonging to the vanquished party. Such practice date back into history and seems to be a well-established military practice even in the modern era. Be it the Cossacks during the First World War, the Japanese during Second World War or the Pakistani army in 1971, all have indulged in this practice rather openly. Our own Indian army is also accused of having used this “weapon” in the northeast. It, therefore, is logical to think that this kind of behaviour has a certain acceptance amongst army chiefs for it to have continued over the ages.
1.2)           Community centric: There are certain communities where this is an accepted form of punishment against the “loose” woman. This communities view of somewhat similar to Constable Michael Sanguinetti (of “Slutwalk” fame)’s view point – which is, if a woman dresses like a slut, she is asking for it. Usually these societies have a strong “machismo” complex and such violence against women seem to confirm to this image.
1.3)           Emotion-driven: Quite a number of people seem to sympathize with the husband / boyfriend who loves his wife / fiancée so much that he ends up hitting her or violating her – quite like a modern day Othello.
The first step could be to break these acceptance norms amongst men. This has to be done tactfully, because almost no-body will be honest enough to acknowledge existence of such a mind-set in the first place.
2)     Creating consciousness amongst men is another important step, and it is important enough for them to stick out their neck when necessary.
This will be a great challenge as the urban upper-middle class is an upwardly-mobile bunch of epicurean cynics (me included) who strictly follow the golden rule called WGOMF (“What Goes Of My Father” – literal translation of “Mera baapka kya jata hai”). To shake them up into some actual action will require massive effort – something akin to the Anna Hazare movement against corruption. The parallel is interesting as the Anna Hazare movement was predominantly a movement of the urban middle class – which seems to suggest that this class of people may not be completely dead yet !!
What do we want men to do?
Very simple things!  We are not looking for crusaders. I believe our women can take care of themselves without “knights-in-shining-armours” lurking in the background. We expect:
-          Awareness amongst male members in the society (especially young men). This can be done through talking, mails, chats or even Facebook posts.  
-          be supportive to women who are experiencing such a situation. Women are often subjected to harassments in public places. In such situation, women are generally advised to speak out / protest / shout. Please join them in their protests
-          instead of being a passive observer, try to call in help from whichever quarter possible.
There will, of course, be a handful who will take it up more seriously and take this up at a different level by being part of a cause or a movement through different organisations.

This Blog is part of the Men Say No Blogathon, encouraging men to take up action against the violence faced by women. 
More entries to the Blogathon can be read at Join further conversation on & 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Schools in Gurgaon : a review

This blog is somewhat different from my usual "all style and no content" blogs. This is a result of the research I was forced to do when I changed my daughter's school. Some of the things written in this blog are experiences shared by like-minded people though most of them are impressions formed by me during my visits to various schools. 
I thought of writing this down as we have a huge inflow of professionals moving into Gurgaon from various parts of the world. One of the first things they start looking for is a good school for their children. Hopefully, this blog will be of some help to them.
As per me, the schools in Gurgaon can be categorised into three categories 

A) Alternative school (Also known as Progressive schools) : 
These are the schools who follow a completely different methodology of teaching. Usually these schools will first stress on teaching orally and students are taught to write at a much later stage. Often these schools will not teach alphabets in their usual sequence but in context to how they are used in the children's perception. Thus they will probably teach "B" ahead of "A" as they would then try to teach the child how to spell "BALL". These schools also believe in not giving any homework and keeping a very low stress level on the children. 
Typical characteristics of these schools are 
1) Completely different teaching approach at the primary level. Does not follow the NCERT method at all. 
2) Teaching is often project-based or experience-based instead of text book based.
3) Usually has a setup for the children with special needs (with separate teaching staffs for them). 
4) Merges into regular NCERT / CBSE or ICSE format after class 8. 
5) Has plenty of outdoor activities like summer camps etc

There is some debate about this form of schools. The concern points raised by many parents are 
  • their teaching methodology is excellent for young students but not so good for older children. Hence when the students reach Class 8 and is introduced to the conventional NCERT syllabus, most of the students don't fare well. 
  • a child finds it extremely difficult to adjust into any other main stream school (in case one needs to change the school)  
  • unconventional way of teaching - hence finding teachers and retaining them is a challenge.
The schools in this category are 
  • Heritage School (Sector 62) : Pioneer in this form of teaching. Uniformly acclaimed as excellent among the progressive schools. Off late, there has been some report about the standard of the school having deteriorated. Also the students seem to find it difficult to merge into the NCERT based syllabus after Class 8 and consequently, there is a trend of students leaving Heritage after Class 5.
    Rating : 4/5
    Board : CBSE
  • Shikshantar (South City I) : Excellent school in Progressive format. Seem to have a better balance between the progressive form and conventional form. Mid term admissions are not very easy.
    Rating : 4.5/5
    Board : CBSE
  • Matri Kiran (Sohna Road) : New school started last year (is now till Class 3). The principal is the former principal of Shikshantar. The secondary section will be at Hero Honda Chowk.
    Rating : not known.
    Board : ICSE
B) International Schools :
The name can be deceptive as most of the schools these days have added "World" or "International" as their middle name. I am classifying those schools as "International" which have the following features
1) Will follow a modern form of teaching (may not be entirely progressive but a close second to this)
2) Will not have excessive academic pressure on the child (in line with international practices). Usually these schools will have less or no homework and parents are discouraged from teaching the child separately.
3) Will have SMART class rooms for all standards and all classes
4) Will have elaborate sports facilities (usually including a few exclusive facilities like Horse Riding, Golf etc)
5) Will have external faculties / institutions coming in for added value (like British council, external Theatre workshop, elocution classes etc)
6) Usually will also have options of other boards (IGCSE, OB etc)
7) If often accused to be a bit too flashy.

The following are the schools which fall in this category 
  • Ridge Valley International School (Near Galleria Market) : New school backed by the India Today Learn India movement. Focuses majorly on self learning / project based learning. Expensive (approx 45k per quarter)
    Rating : 4/5
    Board : CBSE
  • Lotus Valley International School (South City II) : New school (presently upto Class 8). Excellent facilities and innovative teaching methodologies. Tie up with several external institutions (British Council, Cambridge Education, Maxmuller Bhavan etc). Also has in-house councillors which is a great help for "problem" children. Already have an established school in Noida which is considered a premium school. Rating : 4/5.Board : CBSE
  • Pathways : New school. Good setup. Has separate section for Special Needs children. Extremely expensive (approx 70k per quarter). Predominantly focuses on Expats and NRIs (the admission form asks whether you earn in Indian Rupees or Foreign currencies!!!)
    Rating : 3/5
    Board : IGCSE (Cambridge)
  • Scottish High : One of the first true "international" school in Gurgaon. Well established and well known. They also have the best student:teacher ratio (15:1) among all the international schools. Off-late have heard a few negative remarks about this including some pretty damning stuffs on Expensive (approx 45k per quarter).
    Rating : 3.5/5
    Board : ICSE 
  • Banyan Tree : Feedback on Internet is quite high. Did not check personally. Also heard that it is rather expensive.
    Rating : 3.5/5 (based on Internet)
    Board : ICSE
  • American Excelsior :  Feedback on Internet is quite high. Did not check personallyRating : 3.5/5 (based on Internet)Board : IGCSE (Cambridge)
  • Shiv Nadar : Just started. Has classes upto Class 5. Quite expensive (approx 45k per quarter). Still trying to find firm footings for itself - especially for the higher classes. 
There are a few others on which I have no feedback like 
  • K.R.Mangalam World School
  • G.D.Goenka World School
  • Euro International 
  • Indus World School
C) Conventional Schools

The feature of these schools are as under
1) Will follow the NCERT prescribed norms. Within this, the good schools with use techniques which are modern and more child-friendly. 
2) Academic pressure will be high. It is expected that the parent will also actively teach the child from an early age. 
3) Good schools may have SMART class rooms (though this is usually not common)
4) Good schools will have elaborate sports facilities (though conventional ones like football, cricket, basketball etc)

For such schools, it is recommended that one takes careful feedback from students / parents as often what they promise and what they deliver is starkly different. 
Grade 1 : Ratings between 3 to 5
  • Sun City : Rated very high. Teaching style and staffs are extremely good. Good setup and nice balance between education and co-curriculars.
    NB : Is known to ask for donations and/or part of the entry fees in cash. I have personally not experienced this but a close friend had this experience.
    Rating : 4.5/5
    Board : CBSE 
  • Sri Ram International : Could not even enter the reception after trying thrice. I believe one has to admit the child in nursery itself or will have to be a celebrity to even enter the school. Usually the interview will be conducted by the school "darwaan" and you will be shooed off with a flea in the ear.
    Rating : 3/5
    Board : ICSE 
  • Shallom Hills
    New school. Modern style of teaching; child friendly.
    NB : Even for Class 1 children, they ask for an entrance test (carefully veiled under a phrase "bench-marking") while they themselves don't have exams till Class 5.
    Rating : 4/5
    Board : CBSE
  • Delhi Public School Sector 45 : Standard good school. Academic pressure is on the higher side.
    Rating : 3.5/5
    Board : CBSE 
  • Amity International Sector 43 and Sector 46 : Standard good school.  Nice infrastructure (in Sector 46), large playground. The student : teacher ratio is a bit on the higher side.
    NB : Even for Class 1 children, they ask for an entrance test.
    Rating 3/5
    Board : CBSE
  • Salwan Public School : Standard good school.  Nice infrastructure. Uses good tools and modern methodology.
    Rating 3.5/5
    Board : CBSE
  • DAV Public School : Standard good school.  Focusses mainly on academics and lacks other supports.
    Rating 3/5
    Board : CBSE
Grade 2 : Ratings below 3
  • Ryan International - Sector 40 
  • Delhi Public School - Shushant Lok / Sector 29
  • Delhi Public School - Maruti Kunj / Sector 28
  • Summer Fields
  • Tagore International (now called Rabindranath World School): Excessive academic pressure. Old fashioned method of teaching. Has a reputation of hitting children regularly.
    Rating : 1/5
  • Blue Bells 
There are many more schools in category 3 on which I have no feedback.  A list of some of these are 
  • Presidium Galleria / Mother's Pride
  • Presidium Sector 57 
  • Alpine Convent School
  • Salwan School 
  • Manav Rachna 
It would be nice to get some feedback or review on these schools. 

I got plenty of help from some Internet sites which the readers may also find interesting. These are :
And finally, there is no point in writing this blog unless we have discussions on this. I would sincerely urge all parents having school going kids to put their opinions as comments to this blog. This would certainly help the parents in Gurgaon who are in the hunt for a good school.

Note : Comments on this blog has been closed.