Saturday, November 11, 2017

Monday Musings 291 - PISA is Paisa Wasool

Monday Musings: PISA is Paisa Wasool !

For the uninitiated, PISA is the Program for the International Student Assessment, a global test that is barometer for the average intelligence or academic performance of the 15 year olds across the globe. The Economist suggests that the US is concerned about its kids being piped by the kids from Shanghai who have been beating the hell out the American kids in these tests for a while – and the experiments to ascertain the reasons thereof have been indicating that the Chinese kids seem to be working harder than everyone else.

I have not stopped smiling since the time I read this story, particularly because in the next room from where I write this, my elder daughter is being hauled up on hot coals for deep sins like not doing home work and not being sufficiently attentive at school. I am relieved that my better half does not know that Americans are worried that the Chinese kids are studying harder than their kids, otherwise my daughters’ woes would only multiply. As if it was not enough to keep up with the kids from Borivali that she now has to worry about keeping up with the kids from Boston!
Way back in 1983, in a report commissioned by Ronald Reagan, ‘’A nation at Risk’’ it was warned that there is (in US) ‘’a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and as a people’’ (and wait till you read the next line) – ‘’than in letting others surpass its educational achievement, America has been committing an act of unthinking unilateral educational disarmament’’. They did not pay heed to the report then and have landed up with the kind of President that they have. Not all government reports are trash you see.

My intent today is to search humour because on a rainy Sunday evening my need to smile is higher than my need to be concerned. In any case the Chinese are sending their goods here and not their kids – the former thankfully not as brilliant in quality than the later - also because the voices from the other room have yet not abated.

Just imagine what would happen if such a study be done in India? Imagine an Indian PISA report saying something like ‘’Kids from Bihar are working harder than kids from Mumbai’’ – what would it do to the arguments of sons-of-the-soil? What if the report said ‘’kids from so and so religion/caste/region work harder than other’’.

I think I am getting carried away by the Economist – an Indian report on a subject like this will never be written in terms of ‘effort’ i.e. that one set appears to be working harder than the other set ! Perhaps the Indian report would give credit to everything else – DNA, history, political ideologies etc.

The noises from the other room have still not subsided – I just heard a threat being issued, something about ‘being responsible’. I wonder how do American mothers scold their children ‘study hard or you will have to sell Noodles for the Chinese’. As a son to a blue blooded authentic Punjabi, I can safely argue that the most creative and sinister threats for not studying hard enough can only be given in a Punjabi household. (Usually Punjabi kids are not threatened – they are first beaten, thereby obviating the need for soft and ineffective methods like threats) The one of which I was a hapless recipient was ‘’Study or you will become a truck driver’’. I never managed to reply back that instead of serving as a threat it appeared a very classy and exciting career option. My friends discovered the joys of driving an SUV very late. I grew up with super big SUVs – it’s just that we called them trucks.
For now PISA is more a paisa wasool drama because it’s a US-China thing. We shall see when the Indians get involved. Till then I have matters to solve in the other room – the Chinese kids are coming you see!!


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