How do I connect with my teenage kid: The Adamas Way

Globally teaching has changed significantly over the last few decades. Teachers are no more the ones who has all the knowledge, they are more like enablers who partner in learning together.

With data or information or increasingly knowledge being more freely available given the digitization of the content, and consumption on the network – the asymmetry is now gone. So today it is not possible for a teacher to enter the class with all the cards. They should rather focus more on methodology, understanding, co-learning, co-creation, and finally as propounded by many including Sugata Mitra, teachers should be asking the right question.

All these are great developments. Progressive, productive. But this has an impact on an adjacent relationship. What happens at home?

It had been a while that the parents, especially in the affluent sections, are increasingly becoming friendly with the kids. The cane is out, the intrusive enquiries are out, the curiosity about what is going on the lad’s life is out. In fact many are taking it farther. They are giving independence to the children to shape their own life. Including even taking an hands off approach to academics.

So far so good. But then there is a conflict. While the parents have evolved, and the kids have become accustomed to a new way of living, the world outside has not changed as much.

Academics still remains the best insurance of the families for the settled future of the next generation. And the world outside remains uncertain as ever.

So in every parents mind is now a conflict – how do I know what is happening in the life of my kid, without being a snapper?

How is the academics going? How is the attendance? Who are friends? How are the soft skills? How do I know the interests? The passions?

This seems to reach a crescendo specially in the teenager years, when the child stops speaking less at home, and parents become old enough to feel helpless. And social media only adds to the worry. What is he/ she doing on the phone? Who are the connects? I am so worried, but I can’t ask to stop using it. It is so uncool and unreal.

I think this is a space where a partnership between the parent, the teacher will be help. The triangulation of the three will help all to be in the same page, as partners, in a non-threatening way. The passion of the students, the discipline of the educational institution, and love of the parents can do wonders in shaping a balanced future.

How can one do that? Well there are many ways, but I suppose there is still no better way than having an open, candid and transparent Parent Teacher meeting, with the students present.

At Adamas University we have taken this up with passion.

Every three months, by rotation, the parents of the students from three to four schools meet the entire faculty, Chancellor and Vice Chancellor in the University auditorium. The students are also welcome.

The seating is not face to face, rather the teachers mostly sit with the audience. The functional heads, VC and Chancellor takes the questions. Faculties are called in as an when a relevant question is there.

But it is not the meeting per se, but the spirit what matters. No questions are off bound. And there are no pre-set questions. I have seen parents standing up, introducing themselves in reference to their child, and then complaining about the food. Or students talking of how they are not getting enough practical exposure. Or food committee students mentioning they are not being made partners in the decision making.

Interdisciplinary – the new word in education which is not a buzz

Targeted medicine has taken the world of healthcare by storm.

It started when Craig Venter set up the Celera Genomics in 1998, and the long standing dream of mapping the “code of life” started taking shape.

Celera and many more organizations have been able to overcome the challenge of codification of the two billion genes in the DNA of human beings. The double helix structure which was first written about by James D. Watson, and it’s connections of guanine, adenine, thymine and cytosine (ATCG) was cracked. Over time, the cost of mapping the genome code (genome sequencing) of an individual has fallen dramatically – from almost $10 million in 2008 to close to $1,000 today.

And with this came up the discussions on targeted medications.

ICD 10 defines diseases under more than 155,000 categories. Add to these thousands of types of drugs, poisons and allergies. The total combination is approximately 32 billion. That then needs to be mapped to the age, previous illnesses, the gene pool of a geographic location – and the problem becomes gargantuan. No wonder the medication is always a best case scenario, dependent on the doctor’s understanding, clinical knowledge, patient constitution, treatment and medication history, and many other parameters.

So targeted medication, which brings in the knowledge gathered from the “code of life” of an individual, along with the history and crunching the data to find the best case scenario is an area which excites the medical community like never before.

But what it takes to make such a drug? Well of course we have already spoken about gene mapping, the medication history, the gene pool, the diagnosis, the dugs/ allergy/ diseases/ poisons. That is lot of healthcare.

But we need a lot of data, the storage and computing of that. That needs cutting edge hardware, software, and analytics tools. And we need engineers who has that skills.

We need people who can articulate the vision of the targeted medication and make people aware of the possibilities. Those are people who understands the society, the psychologists, the technical writers, the marketers.

We need the physicists and chemists to understand the interactions between molecules and the human body. We will need simulators who will help design the drugs. We will need companies who will help doing clinical studies, and social groups who will find volunteers.

We will need people with knowledge of law and medicine, to draft the rules and the agreements. We will need mechanical, electrical, chemical and computer science engineers to understand the needs of the sophisticated machinery and build them.

We will need the compute power, and data repositories. Also skills who can help in data capture, storage, annotation and access.

And overall we will need social and political leadership to ensure that the society is ready for such disruptive treatment.

So where we have come? From healthcare of drug discovery, to a comprehensive multidisciplinary activity – where so many people are involved.

And that is one of examples of the cutting edge initiatives that we are having today in every sphere. Gone are the days where we can bucket something – for everything people with different skills and knowledge needs to come together.

So spots need management for making better sports persons and infrastructure, and physicians and mechatronics individuals for finding the right movements. And doctors, physics and nutritionists for the right diet and supplements.

And that is where a Unitary University comes handy. But there are rare – as it needs space to have all the departments in one campus. Like Presidency, Jadavpur and Adamas – only three in Bengal.

Here the students may take advantage of being close to all the departments outside their own. They can take classes there with credit sharing mode. They can form interdisciplinary teams, they can attend conferences spanning across disciplines.

And they be more ready for the workplace of the future. And have a head start.