Hi, everyone! Last week, I had an opportunity to meet Sonam Wangchuk. Yes, you got it right, our perception of the famous character from the movie 3 Idiots (alias – Phunsukh Wangdu). It was in Mumbai at the UGC conference. He spoke roughly less than an hour but it was truly inspirational. I would like to share highlights from his session.
- 1) Teach what is relevant – We all have studied A for Apple and B for Ball. If I ask you to name objects for every letter in the English alphabet, most likely, we all will name the same objects. Isn’t it? C for Cat and D for Dog is fine but what about O for Ox. Can’t we say O for Onion because we never say Ox in India, rather we refer it as Bullock? Some of the interesting examples he gave were: F for Fan and S for Ship. In Ladakh, people don’t need fans. I mean who would need a fan at the freezing point and one just cannot imagine ship on the Himalayas. Small children from Ladakh cannot be forced to think similar to the children in the UK. It’s time to revisit our textbooks and upgrade with more relevant contents.
- 2) Think globally, act locally – Ask the people of Ladakh for an example and they will tell you only this name ‘Sonam Wangchuk’. A local boy who was born in a tiny village of 5 households; studied in different parts of the world; someone who then had alluring opportunities to work away from his mother land but he didn’t. He had belief in the local people, he saw potential in them and decided to work with them. In his session, he mentioned a reason for only 5% success in exams in the region by elaborating about a student who was forced to memorize the spelling of ‘root’, whereas, the child knew how to grow real plans on the field. The regional education system needed a makeover. Wangchuk played an important role in the launch of Operation – New Hope, a triangular collaboration of government, village communities and the civil society to bring reforms in the government school systems. Now the success percentage has gone up to 75%. We all would have heard many global thinkers speaking on education, they may have excellent fluency and lucrative theories (sometimes too idealistic) but very few actually made any impact locally. It is very important to think of ourselves as global citizens and understand the world view yet we must not forget to act locally.
- 3) Survival of the fittest, are we making our children fit to survive? Wangchuk had very powerful words to express this idea, he said: “We are disabling our children at school”. He further went on to ask the educators a sparking question, “Can our students survive for a day anywhere on the planet?” He made everyone present at the conference reflect on this, ‘Are we making our students future ready or just job ready?’. In 1988, he laid the foundation of the Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL). The campus runs completely on solar energy. Even in winters when the temperature falls to -25 degrees, his students know how to survive without using any fossil fuel! Ah yes, not to forget to mention about his invention of the Ice Stupawhich helps the local farmers during spring.
I would like to end my article with something that touched my heart. What he said was not particularly related to schools or science/mathematics but the life as a whole; and I am paraphrasing him, ‘Conquering one desire is greater than fulfilling 100’.
For now, let me fulfill one of my desires to share another quiz with you all. The previous quiz received a wonderful response from the readers and few of them had asked me for another as well. So, here we go! It is a maths quiz on ‘Time’. Follow the link –/ and use the code 330667.
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