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Opinion

Post COVID19 Online Examination: Possibilities and Challenges

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Dr Syed Zahoor Ahmad Geelani    

University is a multifaceted institution of advanced learning usually meant for disseminating and creating new knowledge, deliver quality education, work for national interests, further international cooperation and produce skilled human resource. In our country we have as many as 907 Universities as of 31-12-2019, out which 399 are state Universities, 334 are Private Universities, 126 Deemed to be Universities and 48 Central Universities. Besides there are other more than 40,000 colleges and 10752 Stand Alone Institutions providing higher education in different disciplines. In its last tenure of UPAS –II the government of India has established 14 New Central Universities; the main aim behind the establishment of these institutions was to make some change in the existing higher education system of India. These universities were assigned the pace setting role in progress of academic education and skill development and at the same time were expected to bring reforms and transformations into academic sectors through creating of skilful human powers. These CFI must be attached and collaborated for promotion to institute and must be supportive for regional level development of colleges and institutes and as such have leadership role in the higher education sector of our country.

The Central University of Kashmir is working hard in realising its objective of being a pace setting institution in the country in general and in J and K in particular. We have been successful in developing a robust online pedagogical strategy wherein the students on rolls were supported by compete SLM package along with supportive zoom classes, whattapp voice messages, Google classes, and periodic guidance and counselling sessions. Along with the online e – transmission of teaching learning materials and guidance a large number of webinars and e-conferences were organised by the different departments of the varsity. When we have almost completely shifted to online pedagogy we need to explore the possibilities of Online evaluation process, although there are a number on impediments which restricts our progress towards online examination system but owing to the grim situation created by the global pandemic we are almost left with no option other than to shift to the online examination.

The School of Education, Central University of Kashmir organized a National e- Conference on “Challenges and Opportunities of Online Examination amid Covid-19” on July 3rd 2020. Two key speakers deliberated threadbare on the subject The speaker Prof. S. K. Yadav, Former Head, Department of Teacher Education, NCERT in his presentation stressed that online examination needs to be emphasized as its importance has been highlighted by number of commissions & committees from time to time. He stressed that the examinations now should be based on self-assessment and need to be more innovative.  Prof Sanjev Sonawane, Dean, Faculty of Multidisciplinary Studies, Savitribai Phule Pune University described various e- Assessment tools which can be employed especially during Covid-19. He deliberated that 21st century demands using the internet and digital platform tools to plan, share and curate learning. He made the participants aware about the different online tools which can employed and also elaborated the context and procedure to use for their implementation. Here I want to share his detailed deliberations for the Teachers of our state so that we all may get benefited by the online assessment tools available for us, if at all we may someday switch over to online examination. These latest online e-assessment tools are

  1. Topgrade Quiz Maker

Topgrade is one of the best e-assessment tools used by more than 250,000 students use to improve their exam results. We can create quizzes, courses and flashcards in it.  It can be had from https://www.topgradeapp.com/   Its main features are

  1. we can create an unlimited number of resources to help us learn.
  2. We can choose from several question types including multiplechoice, fill-in-the-blank and matching.
  • We are also able to add images and time limits to our questions.
  1. Best of all we can create resources anywhere and anytime, online or offline, via our Android and Apple apps.

 

  1. Class Maker

It is very secure, professional web-based Quiz maker, easy-to-use, customizable online testing solution for business, training & educational assessment with Tests & Quizzes graded instantly saving you hours of paperwork, It can be downloaded from https://www.classmarker.com/. The main features of this e-assessment tool are

  1. Secure & private, easy to define test settings, no software installations required and can create assistants to help manage your account.
  2. Custom certificates & exam branding, exams can be conducted with public & private options
  • Results automatically graded & viewable in realtime PCs, Macs, iPad, iPhone, Android, Chrome book & more.
  1. ProProfs (Quiz Maker)

This tool can be used to make delightful quizzes and tests using ProProfs Online Quiz Maker Software, can Create a quiz from scratch or pick from 100,000+ customizable quizzes that come bundled free of cost with online quiz software.

It can also help to get access to a library of 100,000+ ready-to-use questions and 10+ question types including fill in the blanks, multiple choice, hotspot and more with our quiz builder tool.  This tool can create scored quizzes, personality quizzes or surveys with ease, add images, presentations, and videos to make your quiz interactive. The tool can be had from https://www.proprofs.com/quiz-school/. Its important features are

  1. World’s simplest way to create online quizzes, delightful reports & analytics
  2. Customize quizzes your way with quiz creator software
  • Quiz anytime & anywhere with quiz generator with 100+ settings & Configurations.
  1. Online Quiz Creator

This is a very user-friendly e-assessment tool used to create online quizzes and can be downloaded from the link  https://www.onlinequizcreator.com/. Its main features are

  1. It helps in Challenging the users on any platform. Lots of question types to choose from (Text questions, Multiple choice questions, image questions, multiple right answers)
  2. Advanced game statistics and rankings, rich tools and sharing.
  1. Moodle

Moodle is the world’s most popular learning management system. The focus of the Moodle project is always on giving educators the best tools to manage and promote learning, but there are many ways to use Moodle. It can have online from https://moodle.org/  with the following features

  1. Moodle is an Open Source Course Management System (CMS), also known as a Learning Management System (LMS) or a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).
  2. It has become very popular among educators around the world as a tool for creating online dynamic web sites for their students.
  3. Quiz Pedia

Quiz Pedia is a digital tool for quizzes in the classroom. It can easily  add text, pictures and sound. It can be downloaded from http://www.quizpedia.com/ with following features

  1. Use quizzes to assess student’s level of understanding or make the students co-creators of the own learning and allows them make quizzes themselves and then share them with their peers.
  2. Free, but access to statistics, feedback function and customizing requires a fee.
  3. Interact: Create a Quiz

Interact is a tool for creating online quizzes that generate leads, segment our audience, and drive traffic to our website. It can be had from the link https://www.tryinteract.com/ with the features such as personalized quiz, scored quiz and assessment quiz.

  1. Quest Base | Freely create on-line and printed

Quest Base gives us the freedom to ask, Millions of questions (and counting) published and printed with QuestBase free of charge. The online source for this tool is https://www.questbase.com/ with the features such as to create quizzes, tests, assessments, exams or get feedback from surveys and polls, within minimum possible time.

  1. Socrative | Student Response System

Socrative is a smart student response system that empowers teachers to engage their classrooms through a series of educational games and exercises via smartphones and tablets.

These apps are super simple and take seconds to load and run. Teachers control the questions and games on their laptop, while students respond and interact through their smartphones/laptops. Users can run it as an app or on any web browser. This e-assesment tool can be had online from the link https://www.socrative.com/  with the following featues

  1. Quiz and Grade at the speed of learning with activities like Quizzes, Quick Question, Class count.
  2. Helps to get instant feedback and can create personalized activities.
  • It has option for more time for teaching; it is available on all platforms and is free for students.
  1. Hot Potatoes
It is high time to explore the options of alternate channels for assessment and evaluation at all levels of schooling, we can no longer resist the concepts of Open Book Examination, Blended evaluation and on spot Evaluation and integration of pedagogy with evaluation.

 

The Hot Potatoes suite includes six applications, enabling us to create interactive multiple-choice, short-answer, jumbled-sentence, crossword, matching/ordering and gap-fill exercises for the World Wide Web. Hot Potatoes is freeware, and we may use it for any purpose or project we like. It can be integrated with Moodle. It can be retrieved online from  http://hotpot.uvic.ca/.

Besides there are so many more e-assessment tools available online which can be used by the functionaries to initiate the process of online assessment of the students at different levels, no doubt the process of online examination does not fully suit to the educational scenario of our country but there is an age-old proverb that necessity is the mother of invention and in the present Global pandemic which is by every passing day becoming uglier especially in our own country now we have no option other than to turn digital.

In our own social-political scenario we are between the devil and the deep sea like situation, neither we have basic digital infrastructure in place nor we are having the normal internet speed available here and one more serious impediment is that the end-users are also neither well trained to use digital platforms nor the necessary ICT gadgets are easily available with them. Keeping in view such a grim situation we cannot afford to completely rely on online platforms but at the same we have to switch over to it sooner or later. In my opinion the best solution for the functionaries is to develop a blended approach just like we are now using blended pedagogy for the teaching-learning process and that is the only way forward and a win-win situation can be generated. I suggest that we must start an online examination supported by individualized interaction either face to face or with the help of other ICT Channels.

Opinion

The Golden Flames Of Autumn Chinars 

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The Golden Flames Of Autumn Chinars 

 Syed Aamir Sharief Qadri

The Golden Flames Of Autumn Chinars 

When God created this planet he embellished it with myriad colours so that human beings can see, feel and embrace them in different seasons. In addition to cool and warm colours usually, it is the green and white that represent seasons in Kashmir. The changing season brings new colours and in autumn it is orange, yellow, brown and red shades that dominate the scene.

How beautifully Albert Camus described the loveliness of the autumn season in a single line when he said ‘Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower’. Contrary to this thought, many say all beauty ends at the beginning of this season. They believe this season snatches life from green plants and trees to look everything dull.

I don’t know what autumn looks like in other places of the world but in Kashmir, it is dazzling owing to a presence of a good number of chinar trees. The glory of this tree is something unique. In its praise, a famous couplet by Allama Iqbal is very popular.

Jis khaak ke zameer main ho aatish-e-chinar

Mumkin nahi ki sard ho wo khaak-e-arjumand

(The dust that carries in its conscience the fire of chinar, It is impossible for the celestial dust to cool down)

It is quite amazing to see the dance of autumn leaves that appear vibrant while falling from tall trees. Just like some people are happy to get drenched in the rain during monsoons similarly a few like to dance with the falling of leaves in the autumn season. Indra Gandhi the third PM of India often used to come to Kashmir in the autumn season to see the picturesque fall of chinar leaves. 

Platanus orientalis, The plane tree called Chinar in Urdu and Boen in Kashmiri.  The long-lived deciduous tree is said to have originated in the Balkan area of the Mediterranean region. It grows well in temperate latitudes and is widely spread throughout Eurasia. This tree outside Kashmir is revered by Greek and Persian culture. Whether chinar has an indigenous origin or was introduced by foreigners in Kashmir is still debated in the academic circle. Once cultivated this tree flourished in the supportive environment of Kashmir. 

The mystic saints Sheikh Nuruddin (RA) and Lal Ded have mentioned the name of this tree in their sacred works. The chinar tree planted by Sufi saint Syed Qasim Shah Hamdani in 1374 AD at Budgam was believed by MS Wadoo author of the book “The Trees of Our Heritage” to be the oldest in J&K. But the ongoing census and geotagging of chinar trees show some chinar trees to be 1000 years old in central Kashmir.

It should be noted that we get enough references about the presence of chinar trees in the valley during the sultanate period of Kashmir. But we also know that the Mughals promoted chinar on a large scale. They planted a majestic chinar tree in the gardens of Kashmir and gave it the status of a royal tree which remained intact to this day. 

The world-famous Mughal gardens are known for their majestic chinar trees. The three well-known gardens Nishat, Shalimar and Naseem Bagh in the heartland of Kashmir are full of grand chinars. Over 1200 chinar trees were planted alone in Naseem Bagh by the Mughals. Outside the city, Mughals planted chinars in the gardens of Verinag, Achwal, Dara Shikoh Bagh, and Padshahi Bagh in the Anantnag district. 

It would be quite interesting to call Srinagar the city of chinars. Besides Mughal gardens where chinars are planted in large numbers, one can see them everywhere in the city, on the banks of Jhelum, along the residency road and in the middle of Dal Lake. 

The entire region of Kashmir is dotted by shady chinar trees be it cities or hillsides. The kings mostly planted these trees in important locations. It was the common people especially Sufi saints who took it to the villages of rural Kashmir. 

A perfect example of beauty, this heritage tree is known for its gigantic size. Chinar is perhaps the only tree in the valley that can live for centuries. That is why the saying “Boen chi Gawah” which means chinar witness everything is very famous. This tree is a witness to history and holds a special place in the culture of this land. Under the shadows of this tree, many dynasties flourished. 

The beautiful design of chinar leaf is well acclaimed in the Kashmiri handicraft and wood industries. Every part of the chinar tree is valuable. The timber is used for making furniture, the bark is used as medicine, and from twigs and roots fabric die is made. Its leaves are used to fuel the fire pot locally known as Kangri. But above all the majestic chinar is known for its aesthetic beauty. The experience of walking on the red carpet lying under the chinar trees is pretty special. The sounds produced by the crunching of leaves under one’s feet are touching. With the onset of autumn, people throng to the valley in great numbers to feel the life-giving warmth of chinar trees. 

Boen-e-Shuhul, The cool shades of this tree are quite popular. In summer, people often take shelter under its strong and spreading boughs. Many people wish to be buried under the shades of this tree. Perhaps Sheikh Abdullah the author of Aatish-e-Chinar would have wished the same. Luckily he was buried in the premises of the historic Nasem Bagh on the shores of Dal lake in Srinagar.  

Despite being a state tree, protected by the legislation, the number of chinar trees continues to decrease. In the 1970s as per the official count, there were 42000 Chinar trees in Kashmir and that number has been reduced to a mere 5000 now. 

For some years now the government seems serious enough to promote heritage tourism by distributing saplings to increase the population of chinars in J&K. We should also plant chinar trees in abundance on chinar day which is celebrated on March 15 every year.

 To mark India’s 75th year of independence this year in mid august the govt announced to establish at Srinagar the largest chinar park in the valley by the name of Chinar-Zaar. The autumn of Kashmir can be made even more beautiful if the government take initiative to establish new chinar gardens in every part of J&K. 

A poet and writer, the author has done his MA in History from the University of Kashmir and MPhil from Punjabi University, Patiala. Presently, he is a freelance columnist. You can contact him at aamirsharief45@gmail.com

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Health

Lack of physical activity, stress affect well-being of children

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Lack of physical activities affect well-being of children

Need to impart healthy and active lifestyle among youngsters

Dr Taizeena Khan

Lack of physical activities affect well-being of children

Dr Taizeena Khan

World Health Organisation (WHO) defines health as complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. At an early stage children not only need love and care, but also a proper road map for a healthy lifestyle. This road map should be devised by keeping in mind all the parameters of health and wellness. It should not only focus on the physical and mental health of our children but also on the social aspects of it. To achieve this goal we need to enhance the skills of parents. The health and wellness plan from the birth of a child will decide the future of our coming generations.

In recent years of my clinical practice as a physiotherapist, I have noticed more youngsters coming to me with musculoskeletal disorders. This abrupt rise of my younger generation patients, their lack of physical activity, unnecessary stress and lack of social set-up that could provide them with a platform to practice a healthy lifestyle at an early stage urged me to choose this topic today.

In recent years children as young as 12-18 years old have been coming to me with musculoskeletal disorders. While consulting/counselling these youngsters I have come to the conclusion that there is not only a lack of physical activities but also a lot of avoidable stress leading to the unhealthy choice of lifestyle in this age group these days.

To a large extent, I believe that technology has also played a great role in this. No doubt that technology has become an integral component of our daily lives. Technology has, to a great extent, made our lives easier but at the same time, it has done that at the cost of our physical, mental and our social lives. This all begins when we as a parent make a choice of offering a smartphone to our 6-month-old so that we can feed him. Children are easily attracted to new toys and a smartphone with so many features is no doubt the best form of toy for them. It has a cartoon that speaks to them anytime they hit the button. The best fictional stories they could ever watch and everything they could get their hands on. Meanwhile, we don’t realize the cost of bringing this technology to them at this early stage of their life. We happily make our child technology-dependent too early for our own convenience, as it is not only saving us time in this fast-moving world, but we also think that we are making our child happy.

Physical inactivity in children is becoming a growing problem day by day and has been considered an epidemic according to research.

WHO reports that about 70% of boys and up to 88% of girls under the age of 10 don’t get the physical activity they need for their age.

Think back to the times when we were growing up as kids. How did we spend our time in school as well as at home? There were no computers, no smartphones, and almost no technology. There was a good balance between our books, TV time and playing games. We were encouraged to go out and play. We had more real friends than social media friends whom we could talk and discuss our stress with. We also used to spend a lot of time on our vacation with our extended family members, especially with our grandparents. We used to listen to their stories, the folk stories, their real-life experiences etc. I remember going on for long walks with my grandfather and on the way bothering him with lots of inquisitive questions about the trees, the birds, or whatever we saw on our way. This helped me appreciate nature, love animals and observe things keenly.

But times have changed. Children today are hardly seen playing after school or having a good social life. Pressure from parents to perform better in academics, more and more access to technology and lack of physical activity is leading to overall physical, mental and social problems in their lives.

This sedentary lifestyle arising due to various problems discussed above is the leading cause of childhood obesity, hypertension, cardiac problems juvenile diabetes, anxiety, aggression, depression and other behavioural changes and musculoskeletal disorders in children. Delayed growth and development in infants and toddlers are also seen due to changing patterns of raising our children and more and more technology taking over our burdens. In recent years, more infants and toddlers are facing delayed speech and learning disabilities.

Investing time and effort in early childhood development starting from infancy is pertinent to stop this epidemic and give our children the best life. Plan a proper balanced healthy lifestyle program for your child’s health and wellness.

Here are some tips to lay a foundation for the health and well-being of our children whose benefits last a lifetime.

·  Do not introduce technology to your children at a very early age.

·  Instead introduce games which stimulate their brains, e.g. educational and learning toys such as building blocks, numbers, shapes, colours etc.

·  Spend more and more time with them while they are still in their infancy. Read a storybook for them, this encourages them to read and write.

·   Feed them while they are observing nature and not offering them a smartphone, this helps them enjoy their food and develop their taste buds better.

·   Encourage them to feed themselves as soon as you think they are ready for it.

·   Encourage them to do small independent activities e.g. feeding themselves, combing, brushing, tying shoe laces, etc. This will not only help them stay physically fit but also independent.

·   Introducing a healthy balanced diet plan and avoiding junk food is imperative.

·   Regularize the feeding and sleeping time.

·   Encourage going to bed early and do not give them access to technology at bedtime.

·   Limit the technology, TV and video game time, e.g. you can allow technology time which includes any form of technology only 1-2 hours a day.

·   Encourage them to spend more time playing games with friends, and extended family members, especially grandparents.

·   You can also select a day to play with your kids e.g. weekends, this will help you bond with your kids and also help you and your kids stay physically fit.

·  Encourage them to spend more time playing outdoors.

·  Encourage them to spend time with grandparents, let them listen to their real-life experiences and learn from them, and encourage physical activity as much as possible.

·  Bond with your kids. Listen to them with open mind and heart. Do not put pressure on them to achieve academic or any other goals in life, instead encourage them to do well in life by giving them all the support they need.

·  Last but not least be a practical example for your own kids. Practice a healthy lifestyle and they will follow you.

 

The author is a physiotherapist. She has done BPT from Bangalore, PGDMS from London, MBA from USA, MIAP. Besides, she has fellowships in Geriatric Rehabilitation, Pediatric Rehabilitation and is a certified women’s health exercise expert. She can be reached at drtaizeenkhanphysio@gmail.com 

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MSME

MSMEs: Backbone of Indian economy

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MSMEs: Backbone of Indian economy

Mohmad Iqbal Marazi

MSMEs: Backbone of Indian economy

                Iqbal Marazi

MSME sector has emerged as a highly vibrant and dynamic sector of the Indian economy over the last five decades. It contributes significantly to the economic and social development of the country. But, the sector was among the most affected sections during the COVID19 pandemic.

It has been reported that lockdown induced the closing of thousands of MSMEs in the country, despite the government of India’s Rs 20 lakh crore covid response package. According to a recent report by Small Industries Development Bank Of India(SIDBI), two-thirds of MSME’s in India were shut for a period of three months or more in FY2021 and over half of all MSMEs saw a decline of 25 percent in revenue.

WHAT ARE MSMEs

MSMEs are micro, small and medium enterprises categorised on the basis of investment in plant and machinery and the annual turnover in accordance with the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development (MSMED) Act, 2006. MSMEs in India have evolved considerably since independence. From being referred to merely as the small-scale industries (SSI) sector in 1960s and 70s, the MSME sector has progressed in scale and in the scope of business activities over the years. MSME consists of both traditional and modern small industries in India. Small industries are divided into eight subgroups: Handlooms, Handicrafts, Sericulture, Khadi And Village Industries, Small Scale Industries and Power looms.

 WHY ARE MSMEs SIGNIFICANT FOR INDIA’s DEVELOPMENT

MSMEs: Backbone of Indian economy

1) Acting as engines of entrepreneurship: The indigenous skills and grassroots innovations can be channelled into MSME business ideas as they require very limited capital investment, are low risk and are not bureaucratically tedious.

2) Completing the economic supply chain: MSMEs are complimentary to large Industries as ancillary units and form an integral part of the value chain by filling the localised gaps.

3) Equitably distributing the opportunities of development: MSME units provide source of income, in wide range of non- agricultural activities and provide employment opportunities in rural areas, especially for the non-traditional artisans and weaker sections of the society.

4) Encouraging inclusive growth via employment generation: MSME are the second largest employers of human resources, after agriculture. They are, therefore considered to be more labour-intensive and less capital-intensive. They provide gainful employment to marginalised sections.

5) Growing role in technology-intensive and rapidly emerging sectors: Indian MSME’s are not limited to small business only but are rapidly increasing their presence, like Financial Technology, Defence, Manufacturing and Space among others.

6) Aiding achievement of sustainable development goals: MSMEs produce products using locally available resources, both material and labour. These products and processes help in achievement of SDGs both directly and indirectly. Some of SDGs are as:

SDG1 (End Poverty) Alleviating poverty through micro franchising

SDG3 (Good health and wellbeing)

SDG6 (Sanitation for all)

SDG7 (Energy for all)

SDG10 (Reduced Inequalities)

SDG14 (Life below water)

India’s MSME sector contributes almost 30% of the GDP. Almost half of the exports come from micro, small and medium enterprises. In India around 20% of micro, small and medium enterprises are micro enterprises. More than half of micro, small and medium enterprises are owned by general category entrepreneurs.

RECENT INITIATIVES TAKEN BY GOVERNMENT OF INDIA FOR MSMEs:

1) Improvement in overall performance and quality. Raising and Accelerating MSME Performance (RAMP) is a world bank assisted central sector scheme. The revamped Zero Defect Zero Effect (ZED) Certification scheme.

2)Access to Finance, Collateral free loan 59-minute loan portal.

3) Access to markets, mandating PSEs to compulsorily procure 25% of their total purchases from MSME’s, International Cooperation Scheme, Marketing Assistance Scheme.

4) Technology Upgradation, Setting up 15 new and upgrading 18 existing tool rooms.

5) Ease of doing business, randomised inspection through a computerized random allotment, reduced environment clearance and certification burden.

The author is a PG student of economics at HNB Garhwal Central University Uttrakhand. He can be reached at iqbalmarazi999@gmail.com

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