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Try this at your school's next holiday play

November 19, 2008, 7:10 am

If you’re wondering why India is earning a reputation for outpacing the rest of the world in math and science, here’s a data point:

Students of the St Michaels Primary School in Mahim celebrated Children’s Day in a unique way. Instead of reciting poems and participating in fancy dress competitions, these students stumped their parents with their expertise with numbers and logical reasoning.

Intelligence enhancement programme, the brainchild of school’s manager Fr Hugh Fonseca, saw children babble out Vedic mathematic formulas and do complex calculations in a flip second with ease.

“It was wonderful to see my child go up onto the stage and fearlessly rattle out those numbers in front of a huge audience without hesitation,” said Naseem Sheikh, whose son Maqdoom recited skip numbers both forwards and backwards. Echoing her sentiments was Uday Babu, an engineer. “My son Ganesh is a lot more confident now.”

The programme, which began two months ago, entailed training the students in Chess and Vedic mathematics. “The emphasis was on all-round development of the child and not just imparting bookish knowledge. We want to mould the young minds as early as possible, hence the programme is for the Class I students for now,” said C Raji, a teacher training the students in Chess and Vedic mathematics.

Can you imagine this kind of thing being tried in an American school?

Actually, I could see this kind of thing happening, and I think many kids would like it, especially the chess part. But I think a vocal plurality of parents and administrators would freak out — the parents because math and chess are nerd things and therefore unnatural and sinister; the administrators because they want to make parents happy. If that semi-cynical assessment is correct, then it’s a sad statement about our culture, and remember that it’s the culture, stupid.

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