Some words of advice for students and parents and teachers – from Sudha Murthy

Life isn’t just about getting a degree: Sudha Murthy

(Reproduced from today’s, April 3, 2017 newspaper, The DNA, Mumbai (print)edition just to share with my readers/students. There is no other purpose in reproducing this interview here.)

(Comment: Though not directly related to the express purpose of this blog, it does matter a lot. Read and think about it!! )

Educationist, celebrated authorand Infosys chairperson Sudha Murthy speaks to Laveena Francis about India’s education system:


What are the lessons you learnt as a teacher?


The first thing is that you should make children love you first, and then they will love your subject. If you are not smiling, if you are extremely punishing, or if you never bring confidence in them, then they won’t like your subject as well. Secondly, you need to have a lot of patience in class. Not all students have the same pace while studying, somebody may be a slow learner. You should always remember that you are paid for the last candidate and not the first candidate. These are the two important learnings that I found as a teacher.


If you were to be part of a committee to design a school syllabus, what are the elements you would include, and exclude?


I would like to include History in a proper way. It’s not just about the wars. It’s also about how people lived. We have to tell the facts without hiding anything. We have to accept whatever has happened in the past. The quality of acceptance that happened in the past should be known to children. I would also want to include yoga, because yoga is a good exercise for both physical and mental health. And, of course, a sport. Any sport which the child likes. Playing at least one sport should be made compulsory.

Stitching, drawing and yoga are a must, as they help in the later part of life.

Usually, stitching is associated with females. But, it’s not like that. Boys also stitch very well. Manish Malhotra and Rohit Bahl are one of the best fashion designers. Stitching is nothing to do with men or women. It’s a kind of creativity according to me. And, excludes the excessive use of computers.


Do you think community service should be made compulsory in the education system so that children learn it from the very beginning?


Community service shouldn’t be a lip service. Children should go to a village and see the lifestyle of villages. It should not  happen that they are sitting at home and talking about helping. They should go out and see how others suffer, and then they will learn sensitivity from the have-nots.


But, how do we instill sensitivity towards humanity and the environment among students?


One needs to explain it. It’s the duty of both teachers and parents. I used to exercise with my students. Apart from teaching Computer Science, once in a while I used to take them to orphanage and tell them to see how people live and then count their blessings.


The race for marks has stripped the joy of learning. Students are result-oriented and barely focused on the process.


It would be very wrong for me to comment because I really don’t have any responsibility of children now. So, I can afford to sit and talk.

As a mother, I did not bother about marks. I would tell them, “Children, look, do not worry much about the marks, learn to love the subjects and it will remain with you. Of course, it’s a mad rat race now. It takes a toll on the students, parents and teachers. Life is not about getting a degree. There are so many ways one can live, but we never bother about that. We generally want our children to be either engineers or doctors. And, now, computer engineers. Not all are meant for that. I feel good education and the art of learning new things is more important. I think children should have the love for knowledge more than the love for marks. They should have a love and thirst for knowledge.


What kind of ambiance would you suggest parents create in their homes for their children to learn and grow?


Parents should sit with their children. Studies should be made interesting. Explain everything to them in a simpler way. Buy less for children. Don’t buy them things before they even know they need it. Children should look forward to buying new things. Parents have to under-go 10-12 years with them. It’s like going to school. And, don’t compare. Don’t say, look at the neighbour’s son, he does so well, or look at your own cousins. Don’t do that. A child is like a bud, every flower has its own beauty, so please allow them to bloom.


The importance of pursuing offbeat courses such as art, music, animal training etc.


They should pursue something only if they like it. I see so many RJ’s, they are all engineers, they are passionate about music, but parents say, “first you become an engineer, start earning, and then we’ll see. So, if you have a passion, follow the passion.


Your advice to students and teachers.


Normally, I don’t give any advice because it is not my nature. I always say make life meaningful. Make life colourful. Make it enjoyable. Don’t make it like a curse. Make your work enjoyable. You should look forward to going to school or college.

Teachers should have patience and should be smiling. Don’t punish or use harsh words, after all, they are children. And, don’t be judgmental.


By the way, for teachers, I would recommend the book “Secrets of Good Teaching” by Viney Kirpal. I love of one of the gems that Dr. Vikram Gadre, Prof. Dept. of Electrical Engineering, IIT-Bombay explains in an essay in that book —- “teaching is like gardening”.

More later,

Nalin Pithwa.

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