Destressing children through life skills training

Stress is an inevitable yet essential component of life – something that is impossible to exclude from daily life. The beauty of life is that excess of anything destroys the fragile harmony of living. Likewise, excessive stress becomes a disease promoting agent and constitutes a major health concern. This can be detected from a tender age, as according to the American Psychological Association over 1 in 3 children experience symptoms of stress such as headaches and difficulty in sleeping.

Life skills are being taught to assist children in successfully dealing with stressful life events, even before they occur.

However, even with these stats, only 13% of parents believe children’s headaches are results of stress and with 44% of children that report sleep difficulties, only 13% of parents actually believe their child has trouble sleeping. It is hard to confirm whether a child is stressed due to their lack of knowledge about what that really means, this is why it is important as an adult to educate children on stress, how it occurs and what it can be its impacts to increase awareness.

Doctors and specialists have come up with various stress coping strategies acquired through experience. They may vary individually, with some appropriate and successful, and others inappropriate and unsuccessful. Many of these coping strategies, however, are learned during the formative years of development – one of the greatest being “life skills”.

Life skills are being taught to assist children in successfully dealing with stressful life events, even before they occur. Successfully coping with stressful events at a tender age can minimise the acquisition of unhealthy stress responses which could promote illness and disease.

Here are the ways in which acquiring life skills early would help in minimising stress:

Values clarification

Many versions of stressful life events are found to be of value-laden nature and require clarity, in order to sort them through. Yet, the finalising process may be quite difficult due to pre-imposed values placed upon involved persons by society, family, religion, etc. Those imposed values may not be in accordance with values of those making the decision. Hence, educators need to strengthen ethics clarification skills in children by creating an atmosphere where they can assess opinions and beliefs on value-laden issues, arriving at an individual position statement which will shape future actions.

Decision making

Decision making is a decisive life skill, which requires to be developed from a formative age. Since decision-making in many stress-filled situations can be a difficult task due to heightened emotion, superfluous influences, etc it is, therefore, important that an individual has a constant experience with decision-making related factors, increasing their level of intuitiveness. Today, such stress perhaps can be lessened if skills are acquired in the process of effective decision-making. Educators, with the help of like skills, can generate awareness of the impacts of particular decisions amongst young children. This would equip them with correct tools to come up with the right decision required to enrich their lives.

Communication skills

Effective communication skill is a critical component in dealing with potentially stressful situations, owing to their socio-commiserating properties. Numerous life events are interpersonal in nature and if effective communication skills are not honed, expression of personal feelings cannot take place, creating a space for negativity to breed. Bottling up of emotions cultivates a potentially stressful environment- making way for life skills to play its part. Life skills activities promoting the art of communication in the classroom or group setting can greatly enhance a “sharing” atmosphere. A point to be noted – these activities must be voluntary, with students given the flexibility to “pass” and not participate.

While conflict of inner self with outer perception is inevitable, confrontation with stressful situations needs to be encouraged rather than avoided.

After school, Rajasthan varsity to teach Akbar’s Haldighati ‘defeat’ by Maharana Pratap

After the revision in class 10 schoolbooks, the University of Rajasthan’s (RU) history department is set to include a book that projects Rajput king Maharana Pratap as a victor in the 1576 Battle of Haldigati against Mughal emperor Akbar’s forces.

Historical evidence shows that Pratap had fled the battlefield with more casualties on his side and later continued his guerrilla warfare against the Mughals. The dominant view about the battle so far has been in favour of the Mughal army.

But those who dispute the dominant view, including the revised history schoolbook, say that the Mughal army’s failure in capturing or killing Maharana Pratap, its decision to not pursue Pratap’s army after he fled, and Akbar’s displeasure with his generals Man Singh and Asaf Khan prove that Pratap prevailed in the war.

School education minister Vasudev Devnani had in March this year questioned Akbar’s victory asking why he attacked Mewar six times if he won the battle, and pronounced the Rajput king the victor.

The history department of RU, in a meeting of its board of studies last month, decided to include Dr Chandra Shekhar Sharma’s Rashtra-Ratna Maharana Pratap in the list of recommended readings in the paper ‘Rajasthan Through the Ages’ in the second semester of MA History.

People pay tributes to 15th century Rajput king of Mear, Maharana Pratap on his birth anniversary, in Bhopal.

Sharma’s book, according to the minutes of the meeting, has a fresh interpretation of Maharana Pratap, and projects him as a great freedom fighter, besides projecting him as a victor in the battle of Haldighati.

The board also decided to include a topic ‘Debate on the outcome of the Battle of Haldighati’ in the topics to be covered under the paper.

The university’s academic council subsequently approved the board’s decisions, which means students shall be studying the revised syllabus from this year onwards.

The idea to teach Akbar’s ‘defeat’ in the university was first mooted by a BJP MLA Mohan Lal Gupta, also a member of the university’s syndicate, in a meeting of the syndicate in February this year.

The MLA had suggested that a book ‘Atit se Sakshatkar’ by Onkar Singh Lakhawat and another one by Prof KS Gupta on the Haldighati battle be included in the syllabus.

Lakhawat, however, wrote to the department that he has neither authored nor edited any book by that title. Prof Gupta too had not written any book on the topic but said he has written some research papers.

After deliberations, the board felt “there is a need to know the latest researches on Maharana Pratap and the battle of Haldighati”, and Dr Chandra Shekhar Sharma’s book was included in the syllabus.

Under the BJP government in the state, several schoolbooks have been rewritten to promote its parent RSS’s saffron ideology.

Hindutva ideologue Savarkar gained prominence while Nehru and Gandhi were relegated to periphery, and rival Congress was termed a ‘nurtured baby’ of the British, among other changes.

BJP leaders have said that students were being taught “distorted” versions of history earlier, and it was only bringing those leaders to the fore who were deliberately ignored by “Communist” historians.

ICAI CA result 2017: Two Mumbaikars among top three national rank holders

Two Mumbaikars are among the top three rankers at the final Chartered Accountancy (CA) exam that was held in May 2017.

Dombivali’s Raj Sheth, 22, topped the exam nationally with an aggregate score of 78.75% (630 out of 800 marks) and Krishna Gupta, 22, ranked third.

“I’m very happy to clear the exam in the first attempt. I have started working with a firm for my articleship and plan to study further before looking for a job,” said Sheth, who graduated in BCom from R A Podar College in 2016 with 87%. His father retired from a diamond industry job some years ago and his two older sisters are in the service industry.

Sheth plans to study in the insurance and finance market for another year before finding a suitable job. “My family is ecstatic,” he says.

Gupta, whose father is a CA also attempted the exam for the first time. The Goregaon resident who lives with his parents and older sister, said, “Since I was studying for BCom as well as CA exams simultaneously, I left Narsee Monjee College after my second year and joined Patkar College instead, since it was closer home. This gave me more time to focus on CA .”

Raj Sheth and Krishna Gupta are from Mumbai and ranked  first and third, respectively in the CA exam. The second rank was bagged by Vellore’s Agasthiwaran S.

Of the 79,851 candidates who appeared for the final CA tests, 10,276 cleared the exam. The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), which announced the results on July 18, said that 41,373 candidates appeared for Group I test in CA finals, of which 13.82% passed the test whereas of the 38,478 candidates who appeared for the Group II test, 16.2% passed. 34,503 candidates appeared for both groups and 22.98% cleared both tests.

The second all India rank was bagged by Vellore’s Agasthiwaran S who scored 75.25% (602/800).

Scared to go to US: Indian students worry about physical safety, says survey

Washington Indian students have a “high level of concern” about potential study in the US and a large number of them worry about their physical safety and about the feeling of being welcomed, says a new survey.

The Institute of International Education (IIE) suggested that the final outcome of the US Supreme Court order in June that temporarily upheld President Donald Trump’s executive order to restrict entry of nationals from six Muslim majority countries to America weighs on their mind.

With over a million international students pursuing higher education in the US and contributing more than $36 billion to the American economy, the stakes are high, it said.

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Founded in 1919, the IIE is a US-based not-for-profit working to build peaceful and equitable societies by advancing scholarship, building economies and promoting access to opportunity. It focuses on International student exchange and aid, foreign affairs, and international peace and security.

The IIE said that the survey results indicate the highest level of institutional concern regarding enrolment of students from the Middle East, followed by India.

Thirty-one per cent of institutions are very concerned that Middle Eastern students who have accepted offers of admissions may not arrive on campus in the fall, and 20% are very concerned that Indian students may not arrive on campus, it said.

“This uncertainty raises valid concerns as to whether students from the Middle East may be deterred from US study,” it said.

“Securing and maintaining a visa is reported as the top concern among these students and was reported by 46 % of institutions, while feeling welcome in the United States was an almost equal concern, with 41% of institutions noting so from their conversations with students,” it added.

According to the IIE, survey findings suggest that Indian students “have a high level of concern about potential study in the United States, 80% of institutions responded that physical safety was the most pronounced concern for Indian students, while 31% of institutions indicated that feeling welcome was also a concern.”

“Although application totals appear to largely remain stable, yield rates and a concern about personal safety suggest the possibility that Indian students may not continue to grow as the second largest international group in US higher education,” IIE said.

“Their concerns may lead some Indian students to accept admissions offers from other leading host countries, especially from those that issue student visas more quickly.”

The IIE, however, said despite widespread concerns that international student interest in the US might be flagging, the evidence from this survey suggests that “this is not the case.”

It said that interest among international students in the US remains steady overall despite the current environment.

According to the study, modest drops in yield – the percentage of students that attend a college or university after having been offered admission – at some institutions may be offset by steady or increased yield at other schools.

Among the 112 colleges that provided data there was a 2% decline in the expected yield rate this year compared to last year.

Overall, international undergraduate yield has dipped slightly from 26 to 24% from fall 2016 to fall 2017.

The two percentage point decline is comparable to shifts in the domestic (US) student yield reported by institutional respondents, which fell from 30 to 28% over the same time period, it said.

According to the study, there is however little concern about students from Europe and Canada arriving on campus in the fall and only modest concern about students’ arrival from China and Latin America.

Delhi government launches ‘merit cum means’ scholarship scheme

Delhi government on Tuesday launched ‘merit cum means’ scholarship scheme in the national capital, with an aim to benefit the students from poor and moderate means of income group.

Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, while making the announcement in New Delhi, said the scholarship scheme would be a fee waiver scheme for the needy students who pursue higher studies in any of the state universities of Delhi, namely GGS Indraprastha University, Delhi Technological University, Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology, Ambedkar University, Indira Gandhi Delhi Technological University for Women and Delhi Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research University (DPSRU).

Sisodia, who also holds education portfolio, said that to avail the benefit of the scheme the students must have secured at least 60 per cent marks in the class he/she has passed.

Delhi government on Tuesday launched ‘merit cum means’ scholarship scheme in the national capital, with an aim to benefit the students from poor and moderate means of income group.

“The scheme has been divided in three slabs — 100% fee waiver for category of students coming from a BPL family, 50% fee waiver for students from families with income upto Rs 2.5 lakh per annum and 25% fee waiver for students from families with income above Rs 2.5 lakh and not exceeding Rs 6 lakh per annum,” Sisodia told reporters.

He added the scheme would be applicable to all students in any of the undergraduate courses.

He also said that in case of SC/ST students, an additional 5% waiver in the fee would be given.

“It is a proud moment for the people of the national capital that Delhi will be the first state to provide fee waiver to students from families with income upto Rs 6 lakh per annum,” the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader said.

He added that the scheme is expected to benefit about 20-25,000 students from poor and moderate means of income. The scheme has been framed under the framework of The Delhi Higher Education Aid Trust.

The scheme would also be extended to the Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology (NSIT) as and when the institution becomes a state university.

“AAP government is committed to ensure that no child is left behind in the higher education system for want of monitory resources. We have allocated a budget of Rs 10 crore for the academic year 2017-18 for this scheme,” Sisodia added.

Govt may spend over Rs20,000 crore on six new IITs

The central government is looking to spend above an amount of Rs 20,000 crore to build six new Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) it first announced in 2015, at least two government officials said.

Of this, Rs7,000 crore will be spent in the first phase ending in March 2020 and the rest over the next four years ending in March 2024, the officials said on condition of anonymity.

IIT Kharagpur, Main Building, Kharagpur, West Bengal

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New IITs incur less expense in the first couple of years as they operate from temporary premises with limited staff, research work, course and students. The union human resource development ministry, the officials said, is in the process of moving the expenditure finance committee (EFC) to get approval for the first phase. After this, it will ask the EFC to approve the rest.

In December 2015, the Union cabinet cleared the proposal to open six new IITs in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Goa and Jammu and Kashmir. The six IITs now operate from makeshift campuses in these states.

“Unlike institutions like IIMs, IITs need much more funds to be established because of the multi-disciplinary and research nature of the IITs. Hopefully, the EFC will give a go-ahead following which new IITs will scale up their operation—both from academic and infrastructure points of view,” said one of the two officials cited above.

During the 11th Five Year Plan, which ended in march 2012, the previous UPA government had estimated to spend over Rs6,000 crore for eight new IITs. But delays in land procurement, construction and inflation pushed up costs to Rs14,000 crore.

The additional money was approved following months of deliberations after the NDA government came to power in 2014. The eight IITs are now open in Gandhinagar, Bhubaneswar, Hyderabad, Indore, Jodhpur, Ropar, Mandi and Patna. “This time, we are trying our best not to face cost escalation. It was a problem last time and we have learned from that experience,” said the second of the two officials. This official said land procurement was a key challenge last time, delaying construction and pushing up costs.

“Land for six new IITs has already been procured and states’ cooperation this time is good. Once the EFC approval comes, things will pick up,” the official said.

A professor from an older IIT closely associated with the establishment of new IITs said timely funding is key, and before that, states must give land to the HRD ministry for the purpose. The last time, he said some states could not provide land even after five years. Besides, in some cases, land was allocated without forest clearances leading to legal hassles, the professor said.

“Cost escalation problem arises when it’s not planned properly. While delays in construction and land procurement leads to more expense, it also hampers the IITs educationally. An IIT has its own brand value but it has to be properly supported; else, that brand equity gets hampered.

The upcoming new education policy must make it clear that new higher educational institutions should not be delayed beyond a certain time limit. Else, the intention of establishing IITs and similar institutes gets diluted. It’s not just a finance issue, but also a bigger academic issue,” said Narayan Ramaswamy, partner education practice at consulting firm KPMG.

BTET 2017: Admit cards released, download them here

The Bihar School Education Board (BSEB) has released the admit cards for Bihar Teacher Eligibility Test (BTET) exam 2017. The admit card for the examination to held on July 23, 2017 has been released on the official website bsebonline.org.

Candidates can download their admit cards by clicking here. Key in your application number and password to login. The admit card will be displayed on the screen. Take a printout. Candidates must carry their original photo identity card (driving licence, Aadhar card, passport, voter Id etc) to the examination centre.

The Bihar School Education Board (BSEB) has released the admit cards for Bihar Teacher Eligibility Test (BTET) exam 2017.

There are two papers in the examination. The paper 1 of the examination will be conducted between 10am and 12.30pm and will test the merit of candidates for becoming teachers for Class 1 to Class 5. The second paper (paper 2) to be held between 2pm and 4.30pm will test ability of candidates applying to become teachers for Class 6 to Class 8.

Those applying to become teachers for both the categories (Class 1 to 5 and Class 6 to 8) will have to clear both the papers separately.

Both the papers are for 150 marks each. The qualifying marks for general category is 90 marks, for Backward Classes/ OBC/Female/Physically Handicapped candidates it is 83 marks while for Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe candidates it is 75 marks.

A fresh coat of paint, better plumbing and drinking water: How 5 teachers gave a Rajasthan school, and its students, a new life

When she joined the Girls’ Upper Primary School (GUPS) in Alwar’s Shivaji Park in December 2016, Hemlata Sharma, 47, had been teaching for 27 years. This was her first posting as head teacher and never before had she been so appalled by the condition of the school.

Classrooms leaked in the rain, plaster peeled off the wall. The entire building was in a state of disrepair and housed just 100 students from classes 1 to 8.

Sharma took up a challenge to bring the school back to life before the next academic session in July and roped in four other teachers for support.

Pleasing seating areas, space for interaction: The old school now is all bright and cheerful (HT Photo)

Within four months, things changed – the walls were painted in bright colours, the classrooms spruced up and a lawn laid out in front. An underground rainwater recharge tank, an RO plant for drinking water, and new furniture in all classrooms were also added. Leakages were plugged.

Just 15 days after schools opened, enrolment went up to 202. Some admissions were pending clearance for lack of Aadhaar and birth certificates.

Sharma was also determined to do something about Rajasthan’s high school dropout rate. The 2016 Annual Status of Education Report survey of schooling and learning levels in rural India ranks the state among the top three with the highest dropout rates in children aged 11 to 14 (5% among all-India average of 3.5%). To get more children to her school, she turned to her family for donation to start repairs.

A garden has been laid out for the children to play in. (HT Photo)

“I asked my sisters, brother and father for money and collected Rs 40,000 from them. After that I went to my teachers,” said Sharma, who added Rs 11,000 from her savings into the school renovation kitty.

Manju Rani Sharma, who retired on May 31, donated Rs 21,000 as a parting gift to the school. Three other teachers – Sanika Sharma, Sashi Singhal and Kavita Sharma – also donated to take the teachers’ contribution Rs 51,000.

After collecting about Rs 1 lakh, the teachers began work. For changing the infrastructure, Sharma met district Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan officials, who, impressed by her efforts, sanctioned Rs 2 lakh more.

Sanika Sharma, who will retire in June next year, said they approached philanthropists in town for furniture in classrooms and free uniforms for students.

On June 8 this year, the teachers distributed among 170 students a new uniform set and a pair of shoes and socks.

Clean water, waste disposal – the school has now got new, upgraded facilities. (HT Photo)

“It was on that day that I proposed to my colleagues that teachers should wear uniform to school to enforce discipline – and the teachers agreed,” said Sharma.

Now the students wear brown trousers and skirts and light brown shirts, and the teachers wear off-white salwar and dupatta and maroon kurta.

Two teenagers who passed Class 12 recently come in regularly to teach junior school students to make up for shortage of teachers. “Parul and Priyanka, twin daughters of school management committee president Kusum Rohilla, are coming to school since June 22 after two of the five teachers got transferred out,” the head teacher said.

The two girls are in the first year of college.

Recently, Imran Khan from Alwar, who was lauded by PM Narendra Modi at London’s Wembley Stadium in 2015 for creating apps for the benefit of students, got the school four computers and a printer.

DU fucchas ready to spend 30K to 50K to look their best on day one

Delhi University’s new academic session kick-starts tomorrow, and freshers, it seems, don’t want to miss a chance to look their best on day one. Such is the craze to make the perfect first impression that some of them are willing to spend upto `50000 for it.

From clothes to shoes and looks to gadgets, the freshers are spending anywhere between Rs 30,000 to Rs 50000. “Getting into DU is a dream-come-true for me. I want to look perfect on my first day, therefore, I have asked my designer to stitch me something chic. I have also asked her to come up with three other dresses that I plan to wear in the first week of DU,” says Sakshi Sharma, who has got admission in Kirori Mal College.

From picking  chic dresses to expensive gadgets, fucchas are spending extra money to look perfect on day one in college.

City designers admit that they are thronged by fucchas looking for designer looks. “College students are the one who at times start a trend. They want stylish yet comfortable clothes and this time round, the girls are asking mostly for dhoti capes, flashy shirts and stylish printed pants. The boys are opting for a complete denim look — both shirts and pants in denim fabric. The price for such designerwear for girls and boys ranges between Rs 7000 to Rs 50000, depending on the fabric and design,” says Urvashi Jain, spokesperson of designer Naina Jain.

City salons are also flooded with a gamut of requests from students. Akansha Verma, manager at Cut and Style Saloon in Kamla Nagar Market, says, “We are working extra hours because of the rush. Most of our customers are girls, and each one of them come with a unique request. While some are asking for neon hair, others want curls with highlights. Cost of hair colouring starts from Rs 4000 and can go up to Rs 10000. Also, we have different offers, to attract as many students as possible.”

A similar rush is visible at other parlours too, courtesy the offers. Shweta Kushwaha, manager at Kuts and Kandy in Hudson Lane, says, “During admission season, we offer various discounts for the students. For them, it’s really important to look nice on day one.”

As girls perfect their looks, boys are going gaga over high-end gadgets. Ajay Aggarwal, owner of a mobile phone shop, says, “Students want a phone that has a good selfie camera. They don’t mind spending Rs 30000 but the gadget has to be something that they can show off.”

Paying touts for MBBS admissions? It will be cancelled, warns Medical Council

It’s raining text messages on candidates who have qualified National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) this year from touts promising them seats in private medical colleges for anything between Rs 10 lakh to Rs 1.25 crore. Anyone tempted by such offers and skipping NEET counselling, which is mandatory for joining medical and dental programmes, runs the risk of having his or her admission cancelled, a senior Medical Council of India (MCI) official has warned.

He said such candidates would be caught out by the MCI as it gets lists from all state governments of all students who have appeared for counselling and selected their colleges.

“Students who get direct admission by paying money to agents or the colleges can be caught easily and we will cancel their admission,” he said.

While NEET rules mandate admissions only through counselling, many people have complained of a flood of text messages from ‘agents’ or touts guaranteeing seats for money – without counselling.

When this correspondent, as a parent of a candidate qualifying NEET, met some of the touts, most were offering admissions to well known institutes in Uttar Pradesh.

Text messages from touts ‘guaranteeing’ NEET-qualified candidates admission to medical colleges for Rs 10 lakh to Rs 1.25 crore.

“If you pay Rs 10 lakh, we can get your son admitted to any of the private medical colleges in UP,” one ‘agent’ with an office in a posh east Delhi colony said.

This amount was over and above the regular college fee. Assuring that the admission would be valid, the ‘agent’ promised to introduce the candidate to the chairman of a private college in the state who would accept the amount as ‘donation’.

“My commission is only Rs 2 lakh per admission. If you can bring more candidates, I can pay you half from my share, ie, Rs 1 lakh as your commission,” he offered.

Another ‘agent’ in central Delhi ‘advertised’ a seat in a top medical college in Karnataka for Rs 1.25 crore.

None of the agents, however, said they had access to government colleges though some claimed they could “influence” government counselling as well.

“If the candidate hasn’t applied for online counselling, he will have to pay Rs 5 lakh extra for getting his name included through the back door,” another ‘agent’ said.

Academic experts warn students against falling into such traps. Many candidates with low NEET ranks might find such offers tempting but they should know it is illegal and will land them in trouble. NEET counselling is mandatory and joining a medical college directly can lead to disqualification of a candidate. Any attempts to gain a “back door entry” through an agent will not be recognised by the Medical Council of India (MCI) which oversees medical education.

Counselling of students is being done by the Medical Counselling Committee.

“Candidates have to apply for online counselling and then get all documents verified for admissions. After that they have to give names of preferred colleges and if they qualify for admissions in those colleges on the basis of their NEET marks they will be admitted,” the MCI official said.

“This is the only legal way to get admission,” he added.

Last year, the MCI cancelled the admission of 519 students from 37 medical colleges across the country for taking direct admission to colleges and skipping the counselling process.

These students are now fighting a court battle to legalise their admissions.

A number of medical colleges are also reportedly misleading candidates by asking them to take direct admission through management quotas.

“There is no management quota after NEET was implemented in 2016 and all admissions are through counselling,” the MCI official said.

Out of 12 lakh students appearing appeared for NEET 2017, 6 lakh have qualified.

But according to the website of the Medical Council of India, there are only 59,570 MBBS seats available.

There are 26,000 seats available for BDS aspirants as per the Dental Council of India, which regulates the programme.

Since MBBS is a more popular choice, students and their parents are desperate to try out all possible means to secure a seat.