Sustainable development

The article ‘Towards an Educated India’ (Knowledge, October 8) emphasising that education is vital for sustainable development is timely. The UN agencies have done well to initiate steps to develop sustainable practices in higher education and to help build more sustainable societies. ‘The Higher Education Sustainability Initiative (HESI)’ that has been signed by academic institutions around the world is an important declaration that aims to promote the principles of Sustainability in Higher Education by committing institutions to teaching of and research in SD, greening our campuses, supporting all SD efforts and, more importantly, engaging with stake-holders and sharing the results through international framework. Only three institutions in India have signed this HESI and the involvement of a lot more will be needed to produce workforces capable of taking the SD concept ahead.


Humour in the classroom

Priti Botadkar’s article ‘Laughing Matters’ (Knowledge, October 8), dealing with an important ingredient of teaching, namely, a bit of humour, is interesting. Anyone who has had a long stint of teaching would wholeheartedly agree with Shreya Bansal when she says that classroom teaching would be boring without a bit of wit interspersed judiciously through the lecture. Serious topics can still be handled in an entertaining manner with some jokes thrown in just to shake them off the dreariness of the topic.

Jokes act like spices on a bland food and humour does help foster a healthy student-teacher relationship, very necessary to make them feel one with the teacher. As mentioned in the article, when facing a new batch of students, a well-placed joke certainly sets the tone for the rest of the term and the teacher gets catapulted to ‘cloud 9’ when the whole class erupts into a laughter. That was what happened when a class of new PG students, predominantly from Kolkata, were told about the Victorian tram-cars still going strong in their city’s Dharamtalla lane, while talking about the old topographical maps which still hold their own when more sophisticated satellite pictures are available now.  They became so attached that at the end of the semester, they gave a ‘Thank You’ card signed by all of them!

One does not need to be, however, too friendly, allowing them to call the teacher by the first name or try to laboriously act funny because not all students look at their teachers the same way and there are a few who may not vibe with the teachers well even with the best of efforts.  But, by and large, the world of students is a great place to be in and we from the south provide a treasure-house of jokes what with our dhoti tied at ‘half-mast’, coffee cooled horizontally by the servers in hotels between the tumblers and of course our idlis and sambhar which have become global brands now.  We often have a dig at ourselves using these in the classrooms.


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