Random Thoughts

Describe Photon Shot Noise in Physics and Optics!

posted Nov 13, 2018, 3:14 AM by Prashant Bhattacharji   [ updated Nov 13, 2018, 3:15 AM ]

Photon is significant particles that come in whole numbers. The camera can’t gather a fraction of photons. Photon shot noise is an electronic noise modeled by poison procedures. Shot noise occurs in optical devices while counting photon. In this situation, shot noise is linked with the speck nature of light.

Shot noise defines the fluctuations in the number of detected photons because of their independence occurrence. In case of energy in an electromagnetic field, this is an outcome of discretization. In Geiger mode, detection of each photon is essential. The similar source of noise is available with higher intensities of light. Photodetectors detect this kind of sound.

Physical Phenomenon

The photon shot noise of an optical beam is a physical phenomenon. This phenomenon reflects the quantum fluctuation in an electromagnetic field. In a photodetector, shot noise is attributed to zero variation of a quantized electromagnetic field.

Photon shot noise is not a distinctive feature of a quantized field. Though semiclassical theory explains it, it doesn’t predict the squeezing noise. Shot noise has a lower bound on the sound of quantum amplifiers that preserve the optical signal phase.  

Walter Schottky introduced shot noise in 1918 for the first time while studying the variations of current in different vacuum tubes. The finite sum of particles can dominate this noise while carrying energy. It is similar to electrons in photons or electronic circuits in optical devices. These particles are small, so uncertainties are possible because of Poisson distribution. Poisson distribution describes the happening of random events independently. It is essential in fundamental physics, optical detection, telecommunications, and electronics.   

Causes of Photon Shot Noise

Photon shot noise results from the Poisson dispersal of photons. The photons make noise as they reach a sensor. Real-world photographers have to understand this concept. With the increase in ISO, the potential for signal drops. For each increase in ISO, the maximum signals drop by a dual factor. Electronic noise sources can affect deep shadows and exhibit pushing exposure. It can lift shadows to a particular degree. Assuming a sensor with a capacity of 60,000 electrons.

At 200 ISO, the head of business development for infrared imaging company would prefer a MaxSat of almost 30,000e-, ISO 3200/1875e-, ISO 800/7500e-, ISO 400/15,000e-, and ISO 1600/3750e-. Increase in ISO can decrease the potential of signal and noise ratio.  

Choosing the type of camera is essential. A full-frame sensor offers large pixels as compared to APS-C sensors of the similar pixel. For low-light superior performance, head of business development for infrared imaging company will prefer the full-frame sensor. A decrease in megapixels can increase the size of the pixel, and it will have a direct impact on the noise at higher ISO settings.

Photon shot noise is a signal ratio that drops with the increase in signal strength. Photon shot noise may remain constant. With the five units of standard deviation and 5-signal strength, the image will create maximum sound. With the signal strength of 10 units, the SNR will be 50 percent. The image will be still noisy, but you can get a distinct structure and shape.

Image result for Writing

For the head of business development for infrared imaging company, the shot noise depends on a sensor. Read noise is measure by post-ADC or digital units (DU) or signal charge, electrons. Shot noise depends on particular goals. If you want to shoot in low light or require high shutter speed, find a camera with the large pixel to produce the finest characteristics of noise. To get more information, consider free essay and journals in the libraries and institutes.  

Quotas, Exceptions and Exemptions: India's Education Space: Right from school admission woes to Delhi University cutoffs

posted Oct 14, 2018, 11:51 PM by Prashant Bhattacharji   [ updated Nov 19, 2018, 9:46 PM ]

Though this site (or blog, or data dump or whatever one may call it) have mostly been a clumsy repository of data and tutorials, it is not possible to contribute to the Indian education space without clearly discussing the most fundamental layer of noise and distortion: the legal regime of the Indian education space which is split into multiple dimensions; by religion, caste, language and region; approximately in that order. 

This post heavily borrows from the musings of Pratap Bhanu Mehta (whom I've been following since the time of the OBC quota) as well as an anomymous but super-insightful Tweeter (Reality Check India) which is perhaps one of the top 5 Twitter accounts in terms of erudition and astuteness in dissectiing the woes afflicting India. The main theme of this post is uniformity and consistency of rules and laws. Exceptions and exemptions based on identity should be made only in the most extreme cases. We have unfortunately dissected ourselves to the extent that exceptions, exemptions and quotas have become the norm rather than the exception.  What scholarship amounts you avail, what cut-offs you need to gain admission to premier colleges or government jobs, what degree of autonomy you have while running a college or a school: all of these are now a function of your identity (decided by religion or caste). 

So we now have a situation where the Indian state deals with groups rather than individuals, empowering the group-leaders, rather than the individuals. This of course is an ideal arrangement for political powers who now have to work in a B2B manner instead of a B2C manner; as everyone knows, the former is much easier to handle once you get the ball rolling. What ends up happening is, that parties end up pitting groups against other groups. The most egregious behavior of this kind, in recent times, was demonstrated by the UPA govt between 2004-2014. India is largely an impoverished country. And while there are legitimate greivances in terms of some groups being oppressed by others, it is preferable to stick to identity-free tools of social justice, such as tax, which flows from the rich to the poor. One could also learn from the light-touch affirmative action model of the US and the HBCU model where blacks get institutional control.

There are specific pre-matric scholarships based on your religion (awareded only to "minorities"). These are higher than pre-matric scholarships determined on the basis of caste, which in turn are higher than scholarships available to general category students. Such scholarships create extreme resentment between youngsters, specially those from poor families, who spot this anamolous teatment based on identity. We're just getting started. 

Then come the government schools themselves. Ideally, a lot of our legal anamolies wouldn't have mattered as much as they currently do, if we had a functional government school system up and running. Kendriya Vidyalayas, JNVs and Army Public Schools do an okay job. We all agree. But unfortunately, other than the JNVs which have a filtered intake,  these are more a case of schools run by the government, (mostly) for kids of the central government employees. These are not public schools. What makes it particularly egregious is that KVs are run on public money. The government schools in India, which are open to the public, have several problems. The teachers are unionized, there are quotas in the teaching body leading to groupism and parochialism, the pay is needlessly high, the teachers are unionized and it is impossible to fire the underperformers without creating ugly scenes such as mobs and unions creating a havoc. Majority of these schools are often affiliated to the state boards where the goal is often to indoctrinate young minds and to swing opinion in favor of ruling incumbents in the state. The pass rate of UP board has fluctuated all the way between 40 and 80 percent, depending on the party in power. West Bengal has seen a capture of textbooks by the left parties and Tamil Nadu has seen a capture of textbook content by Dravidian parties. Absured ideas like the hidden contintent of Lemuria have been given space in TN textbooks. 

So India's government schools are doomed, not necessarily because they are run by the govt (public systems have flourished elsewhere) but because our constititonal and legal provisions make it extremely hard to expect any semblance of performance from the teachers in these schools. The political nexus of teachers also runs deep and they carry significant clout as many MLAs are ex-teachers. Teachers are also the ones who end up with election duty and political parties try to please them, with the hope of swinging public opinion in their favor. Add to this a teacher cadre divided along the complex faultlines of caste quotas, and we have egregiously created a molotov cocktail which is most focussed on social engineering, indoctrination and the promotion of political agendas; instead of academic excellence. People look at the public schools in the US and wonder why we can't replicate their success. The public schools in the US are run on locally collected taxes and they are accountable to local bodies. There is frequent testing to assess the performance of students as well as their teachers. In our case, there is no trace of any accountability from govt school teachers. 

The only reason I gave government run schools so much space is, to illustrate how hard it is to have any expectations from this system. Unless of course, we have a bold and focused political party, which is ready to change the laws as well as the constitution, at the risk of inviting the wrath of unionized teachers. As things stand, government schools are a lost cause. The sooner this clarity dawns on those in power, the better it'll be for the students and their parents and for the country at large. This leaves us almost solely reliant on private schools. And this is where another pandora's box opens up. 

First of all, private schools can only exist as non-profits in most states. This itself restricts the entry, primarily to philanthrophists and religious trusts. It discourages any major "investment" despite all evidence that companies like FIITJEE, Vidyamandir Classes, Resonance and Allen could very well be running large schools delivering quality education at scale. The fact that only a handful of schools are directly run by any of these companies is an indicator that they find it easier (and lucrative) to educate kids as coaching companies, rather than schools. Keeping in mind our failed system of government schools, a lot of capacity has never really been created, simply because quality players have found it hassle free to educate kids in the form of coaching chains. Philanthrophists: there can only be a very small number of such schools. Religious trusts are the only "scalable model" and over here, we run into the sectarian foundations of India, where many major Hindu temples do not really have much control on their old funds (while other places of worship do) and are unable to start schools in the name of the temple trust. It is also much harder for them to get an NOC to run schools, while other religious trusts, can get NOCs within 90 days, by using the NCMEI which is another egregiously arbitrary and sectarian body, meant to speed up NOCs specifically for "minority" institutions. 

Secondly, within the private schools, the major divide is the "majority-minority" divide. Religious minority communities (Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, Parsees) and linguistic minority communities (based on language: Gujarati in Maharashtra, Keralite in Bangalore and so on) are practically exempt from all major regulations such as the RTE. We now have an absurdity where a so-called secular nation recognizes madrassa certificates as equivalents of grade 10-12 certificates and in states like Kerala, funds the clergy of the Church and provides them aid to run "minority" school beyond the domain of regular laws. Given that there is practically no restriction on the minority schools, restricting their intake to (mainly) minority students, we now have a situation where many mission schools as well as Church run schools, not only have less than 5 or 10% Christians - but even most of their teaching body and staff is non-Christian, and increasingly, even the Principals!  I know of a school run by the Catholic Church where not only the Principal, but even a major fraction of the teaching body, are active RSS members. I have reasons to suspect that there are many more cases like this. 
Now, what kind of a minority instution is this. 

So effectively, the legal regime is partitioned without partitioning the markets they are permitted to cater to. This kind of a partitioned regime, also sets up a perverted incentive for players with protection, to 
choke off other players by heaping more and more laws onto them.  I could go on, but one has to stop somewhere. For India to take one last shot at modernity, rules with "exceptions" need to be the exception rather than the norm. Some sort of light touch affirmative action is fine. But this regime of  minority exemptions, quotas and identity-based scholarships, needs to go. It is also necessary to unshackle the tempes and allow them to setup trusts which can get NOCs and run schools and colleges with the same degree of autonomy as those run by the Church. Theological education of any sort (madrassas) should not qualify for grade 10 or grade 12 level certificates. 

This partitioning of the population into multiple groups, has channeled all the energy of various groups, in a negative direction as groups clamor and compete for schemes and laws and programs specifically favoring them. 
Only when the concept of group-wise laws breaks down, will the state start to deal with individuals rather than pandering to groups. This social engineering by splintering Hindus into disparate groups is dangerous as is evident by the continuous protests such as those seen by the Marathas, Jats and Lingayats for which the state does not have any principled response: what is the objective criteria by which group X is treated differently grom group Y. 

Why haven't people risen up against this remime? The reason is very simple: all power players who can push paperwork, find solace in some sort of linguistic minority status. The Ambani School in Mumbai, the school run by the Bombay Dyeing group (Singhania), various branches of DPS and Poddar; are all exempt and protected via Article 30. As one moves north, Jains and Sikhs are in any case the power players running much of the top tier capacity. Boarding schools, such as Doon and Welham and Sanawar are exempted from the RTE quota of 25%. Let's be careful here: there is nothing wrong in what these institutions are doing. They are just exempting themselves from a crushing legal regime which makes it nearly impossible to run institutions. 

So, are we dissing the need for social justice? Not at all. This posts merely flags the dangers of identity-based tools of social justice. It is safer and it is far more principled to stick to time-tested identity agnostic tools of social justice such as taxation (and spending on infrastructure or public health or education; or voucher systems for those) which automatically redistributes wealth by taking from the richer groups and helping uplift the poorest groups. Even communist regimes adhere to the basic principles stated above (not that it's a route I'd be comfortable with) so this should not be misconstrued as a "right" wing issue as it does not get into left-right issues at all. Extrapolating global trends, the most logical extrapolation from our current legal regime, will be the rise of violence from multiple extremist far-right groups, each with their own set of interests. The time to pull the rug on the current identity-based legal regime, is now. 
I am not even completely opposed to quotas, as long as it doesn't go to more than a tenth or a quarter of the total number of seats available. And in such cases, quotas should be very tightly monitored and they should go to groups which sociographic data clearly flags as relatively "backward" in terms of HDI metrics. 

The first step is to cut loose all groups to run their institutions with the level of autonomy which currently only minority-institutions have. It is egregious to choke players, and that too in a sectarian manner. 
Schools like the top ones in Delhi are routinely over-subscribed to, during nursery admission time, with application to seat ratios of 50:1. All of this is indicative of a capacity crunch which has been caused by choking off private philanthrophy from 80% of the population. 

Similarly, during college admissions, minority institutions like St. Stephen's can tweak their criteria and add their own layer of screening and interviews. Such autonomy should be extended to all. 
In an era of grade inflation, top colleges like Lady Sri Ram, SRCC, Hindu have lost their ability to control the quality of their intake. 

Once everyone is on the same side of the law, strategic and commercial gaming and activism from NGOs will automatically stop. 

Constitutional Articles of interest: 
Article 30: Enables religious and linguistic minorities to setup "institutions of their choice". This wording is too vague. Minority institutions need to be very, very, specifically: institutions by the minority and for the minority. 
93rd Amendment:  Article 15(5) Exempts minority institutions from quotas. This was passed as a precursor to the OBC quota. 

Court cases of Interest: 
- The Kerala Edu Bill case which proposed a public edu system in place of the church run edu system in Kerala. 
- The St Stephen's College case of 1992 which permitted the college to use its own criteria and give it 20% weightage, in addition to the board exam. 
  They were allowed to do this being a minority institution whereas other DU colleges can't do this. This permission matters a lot, in times of these, where grade inflation is rampant. 
  That 20% weightage, is like a big, big deal. Board exams are high scoring and have a long tail to the left (many bunched closely in the top 5 percentile).
  If the 20% test is really, really tough: it can throw up a score distribution with a long tail to the right, therefore being the main entrance criteria, as long as students were within the top 5 or 10 percentile in the board examination. 
  One wonders if the judges even understood the consequences of their actions. Scores from different assessments can only be clubbed after being normalized into distributions which have similar mean and standard deviation. 
  SRCC, Hindu and Venky have no such autonomy and are unable to erect barriers of their own correct the influx of students from the most grade-inflated boards (south boards, followed by CBSE/ISC). 
- TMA Pai: first time a different stand was taken and it established that minorities had the same right (and nothing special) as the majority had under Article 19(1)(g) - the right to profession. 
- Rajasthan Unaided Schools case (exempted "exempt" institutions from the 25% quota)
- Pramati (declared that "exempt" institutions are completely outside the ambit of the RTE) 

Indeed You Can Win The Student Loan Game With SL Account Management

posted Oct 9, 2018, 4:49 AM by Prashant Bhattacharji   [ updated Oct 27, 2018, 4:03 AM ]


When you think about using the services offered by SL Account Management, you might be tempted to think of it as a "no brainer". In truth, however, the exact opposite is the case. The real "no brainers" are the people who aren't utilizing SL Account Management to manage their student debt load. Why wouldn't these people want to consolidate their loans, lower their payments, and reduce their annual finance charges? Because, apparently, they have no brains. Or at least they are not using their new college-trained intellect to its highest potential.

A lot of people went to college in the belief that they could greatly enhance their earning power upon graduation. With this thought in mind, it was easy to justify adding a little bit of debt load onto the equation. For many recent graduates, and also for those who chose not to continue their education to its completion, the job offerings available to them have failed to meet either their own expectations or the rosy projections offered by guidance counselors and advisers. It may even be true that the starting salary they expected to make has been achieved, but that the debt load has drawn more out of their paycheck than they had fully anticipated.

Faced with an ever-widening gap between their salary and the payments they have to make on their student loans, these suffering people soon discover the other gotcha part of the student loan game-- namely, that there is no escape short of joining the French Foreign Legion under an assumed name. Bankruptcy will cure a lot of debt problems, but student loans are not among the things which can be remedied by this activity. What this means is that you have to handle it one way or another. You cannot simply ignore the problem and hope it stays away until you win the lottery.

The truth is that there are a lot of ways in which you can re-organize your student loans. You can consolidate them so that you are only making one lower monthly payment rather than several higher ones. You can defer them so you have time to get on your feet before having to make payments. You can have even them forgiven under certain circumstances. The problem is that most people do not know how to go about finding these options, much less choosing among them and getting all of the requisite paperwork filled out properly.

That is where SL Account Management comes into the picture. These are the people who have all the answers you need right at their fingertips. Plus, since they specialize in helping people straighten out their student loan problems, there is no need to feel self-conscious or nervous about discussing your situation with them.

And while you are talking with them about straightening out your student loan situation, you might even see about starting a new career with them. The company is growing by leaps and bounds and is always looking for additional help. Check them out at SL Account Management Indeed in order to see what jobs are available for you to apply for. After all, once they help you, maybe its time you paid it forward for someone else in need of assistance.

* This is a sponsored guest-post*

The Air Traffic Volume Graph of India: The Partitioning of India

posted Jul 29, 2018, 4:20 AM by Prashant Bhattacharji   [ updated Jul 29, 2018, 4:45 AM ]

This is a plot of relative Air Traffic Volumes (passengers) in India for June 2018. Roughly, darker and thicker lines represent proportionally higher passenger volumes on routes.
Notice, how apart from Delhi, there is almost no major hub in the northern part of India. 
India is gradually cleaving into two distinct halves with one having (in relative terms) significantly higher presence of corporates, industries and organized employment. 
Using Nagpur as the marker for central India and analyzing North and South relative to it. 

For the entire country, for ever domestic journey: 

At least one among source/destination above Nagpur (N) 70.89%
At least one among source/destination below Nagpur (S) 72.54%
Both source/destination above Nagpur (N-N) 27.45%
Both source/destination below Nagpur (S-S) 29.10%

Now if we remove Delhi, notice how the first and third number dramatically drop.

At least one among source/destination above Nagpur (N) 53.06%
At least one among source/destination below Nagpur (S) 86.35%
Both source/destination above Nagpur (N-N) 13.64%
Both source/destination below Nagpur (S-S) 46.93%

This kind of a drop is not seen if we remove (individually) Mumbai or Bangalore or Hyderabad. 

Removing Mumbai: 
At least one among source/destination above Nagpur (N) 75.55%
At least one among source/destination below Nagpur (S) 63.23%
Both source/destination above Nagpur (N-N) 36.76%
Both source/destination below Nagpur (S-S) 24.44%

Writing Skills, through a Utilitarian Lens. And the Changing Economics of Journalism.

posted Jul 20, 2018, 11:14 PM by Prashant Bhattacharji   [ updated Jul 20, 2018, 11:16 PM ]

Over the years, I discovered a specific use case for writing skills which potentially has tangible ROI to it. Now, I went to a school, where everyone had a very direct usecase for education: it was an extremely efficient assembly line for techno-managerial and business related careers. Like many of the good ICSE schools, the standard of English was fine, but there was no humanities section; in fact I probably didn’t even know at the time that non-STEM or non-Commerce subjects existed at the grade 11-12 level. Let alone humanities, most people I knew (from school and from college) didn’t even have a second language in grade 11-12. 

Add to this a STEM education after which everything subconsciously clicks into place in terms of worst case complexity or efficiency or cost-benefit analysis. Everybody around me understood the general value of good communication and writing skills, but writing skills were seen in a relatively abstract light, not direct money spinners as knowledge of finance, law, programming or circuit design.
But in the last couple of years I found a new and direct kind of value to it. I wanted to experiment with ways to build up traffic to my site, which itself was an ever-going experiment of sorts. (the real planned, polished and formal site never really took off and the test portal ended up pulling all the traffic, but that’s a different story). I did not have any VC funds for marketing simply because I didn’t even have a clear agenda to know what to ask VCs for. And there were various components of my portal best kept away from too much publicity in any case. 

That is when I discovered the power of actually writing in newsportals or online-magazine-kind-of-places. I submitted a whole bunch of data-tables as well as well as pieces to places like News Minute, FirstPost, Swarajya, ORF, OpIndia, Scroll, Quint, DNA, IE, ToI as well as regular news outlets like Times Of India, HT etc. Some of them got picked up and published. My condition was very simple: I don’t care whether it goes or not into the print edition, I don’t care whether I’m marked as the author on the piece, my inputs can just be embedded within your article; all I want is the relevant backlinks to my portal, NOT to be stripped off. I quickly figured that many of these houses (like TOI, HT) simply do not want to send links to other sites so I stopped dealing with them after the very first instance.
This form of “writing-driven-marketing” worked and the site pulls in between a quarter to half million unique pageviews in most of the months (not much was done on the site in 2017). Of course, these numbers sound fancier than what they are, because directly monetizing digital content in India, is next to impossible, and in general the max you can generate directly out of this much traffic is a revenue stream which takes care of your monthy bills and expenenses even if you choose to do nothing at all for a bit, but that’s another topic.

I guess the bigger missing piece in the economics of digital journalism jigsaw will show up, when more and more people discover, that writing for free (for general PR or publicity or to embed a link or video) translates into greater monetary gains than writing professionally. Out of curiosity, I’ve often enquired about the rates which media houses pay. The numbers are generally so dismal that it’s simply not worth the hassle to fill up the forms required to claim those amounts. I can think of at least a few more people who write articles and submit them to these portals in the same way as I do.

This will be excellent for owners of digital media portals as well as enterprising writers or journalists who take the trouble of setting up their own portal, and setup some kind of crowdsourcing process, and collate content created almost for free, without having to bear the expenses of a payroll. But this tsunami of gigization and crowdsourcing will also erase the more traditional roles of structured jobs related to print media or writing. There will invariably be problematic consequences as well, as digital content will see less of news and more of embedded self-promotional activities, even if the self-promotion happens in a subtle way. I’d also wager that current “digital outlets” with less than a million monthly unique pageviews *per employee on their payroll* are simply not sustainable unless they have an unremitting flow of funds from political or corporate players, which see this as an investment. 

The likes of Skype, Hangouts and other video conferencing and cloud based office-productivity tools, were a direct competitor to the airline industry, as the need for flying for business meetings, saw a sharp drop. Similarly, a modern day news business, is in the general quest for eyeballs, and practically every site out there, from a porn site to one with cat videos, is a competitor. How all of this will play out, specially in India, will be interesting to see, 10 years from now.

CBSE vs ICSE vs IGCSE/IB vs State Boards

posted Jun 15, 2018, 6:30 AM by Prashant Bhattacharji   [ updated Jun 15, 2018, 7:04 AM ]

This is a dilemma for several parents and students.

Several things need to be kept in mind. 

IGCSE and IB, the international boards, are best suited for those students who know for sure that they're going to head abroad for undergrad. 
These boards offer a hands-on curriculum, with a greater scope for creativity than the regular Indian syllabus. Many Indian universities however, are unfamiliar with these systems. 
And the timing of the results of the International Baccalaureate in particular, is out of sync with the academic year of Indian universities and schools - and hence, they don't have their results while college admissions are going on. 

State board schools cater to a vast socio-economic spectrum. Many state boards such as Maharashtra and West Bengal have a rigorous curriculum, but their examination system, also keeps in mind the needs of first generation learners, and is tuned accordingly. The syllabus at the level of grade 11 and 12 is similar to that of the ISC and CBSE, but the questions are generally several notches below those of the central boards. 
State boards leave students underprepared for rigorous entrance examinations, but in states like Maharashtra and Rajasthan there are several integrated programs, where the school or junior college, prepares students, both for the state board examination (in class 12) and for the entrance examinations such as the IIT JEE or the NEET, for MBBS admissions. Do keep in mind, that top American and British universities are often unfamiliar with the SSC and HSC certificates from State Boards, and they prefer to see a School Leaving Certificate from the CBSE or ISC system. In general, however, state board schools are relatively affordable, and the student body is a more accurate microcosmic representation of society that what one would find at several CBSE or ICSE schools. 

The biggest confusion, however, is between the CBSE and ICSE boards. 
In many of the cases, it is really the school which matters. Mayo College, Delhi Public School (RK Puram), Modern School (Barakhamba), Lawrence Schools, St. Columba's, Heritage, National Public School, RN Podar are some of India's finest schools and are all affiliated to the CBSE board.  What is unique to all these schools, in general, is that they make an attempt to do a lot more beyond the mandatory curriculum prescribed by the board. All these schools have a great emphasis on experiential learning, extra curricular activities and language skills, which goes beyond the bare minimal rubric prescribed by the board itself. 

The ICSE board on the other hand, has fairly rigorous standards in middle school as well as grades 9 and 10. CBSE students have 5 or 6 board papers, whereas ICSE students have 11 papers, in addition to practical work and project work which is relatively limited in CBSE.  In addition, the ICSE system forces a "sixth subject" such as Computing or Drama or Art or Technical Drawing, even at the grade 9 and 10 level. CBSE doesn't have any mandatory sixth subject. The difference in the standard of english is particularly stark, but some CBSE schools ensure that their kids read supplementary books and novels, in each session. 

In grades 11 and 12, the syllabus of both the boards is largely the same in subjects like Science, Mathematics, Economics and Commerce. The ISC system has a higher workload in subjects like english, computers and humanities courses. However, few ISC schools offer humanities, compared to the CBSE schools. Despite the CBSE and ISC syllabus being largely similar, from the point of view of IIT JEE and NEET aspirants, the "integrated programs" where schools have coaching for entrance within class hours, is often available only in the CBSE schools, which is why there is an annual exodus of ICSE students defecting to CBSE, after the class 10 board exam. 

The Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination, has a smaller network of schools, but a disproportionate number of heritage schools and upscale schools are still under its aegis. La Martiniere Schools, Bishop Cotton, Hyderabad Public School, Frank Anthony, Doon School, Welham Girls', Shri Ram, Lilavatibai Podar, Singhania, Rishi Valley, Jaipuria and City Montessori are some of the prominent school under its hood. The standard of english in ICSE/ISC schools is far better than those of CBSE and State Board schools. Students read the works of Shakespeare in their pure, unabridged form, in high school.

While choosing between CBSE and ICSE, it is really the school which counts. ICSE/ISC schools are often somewhat on the upscale side, have better facilities for sports and extra-curricular activities, and are more expensive for that reason. For those in transferable jobs, CBSE is a safer bet, as there will generally be no problem finding another CBSE school in a new city or town. CBSE also has a reasonably large network of schools in the middle east. The one flip side to CBSE's large network is the entry of subpar schools and teachers into the system, which often leads to poor evaluation and assessment of answer scripts and a ton of marking snafus in the board examination These things most certainly do happen in the ICSE and ISC board examinations as well, but the quality of teachers correcting answer scripts, is slightly better over there. 
CBSE and ISC scores are readily accepted by the best of universities abroad, and the science stream syllabus leaves you in good stead to take a shot at the Advanced Placement (AP) examinations, along with SAT-1 and 2.  Board the boards are also known for their relatively lenient marking pattern, which makes it easy for their students to enter Delhi and Mumbai University which often have cutoffs well into the nineties. 

My experience with Air India support

posted May 23, 2018, 12:23 PM by Prashant Bhattacharji

Calling up Air India support.

Me: ma'am, I made a transaction, didn't get any SMS or email or PNR; amount got deducted from my account
lady: asks for name etc, fumbles around for a bit, says she can't find anything. this goes on for a bit
Me: well- bottom line is that I paid the money
lady: cooks up excuses. can't do this, can't do that -- drop an email with your transaction number to our ecommerce team
me: nopes, I'm not going to do anything of the sort. This problem is yours not mine. And I'm not going to call/email XYZ.
Me: can you tell me your name?
Lady: tells her name
Lady: i can't do anything, please mail our ecommerce team the details. Have a good night. Passing the buck, basically
Me: listen, you incompetent work shirker, I'm not asking you for a favor - you're being paid from *our tax money* for customer support,
not to say hi and bye and good-night. I'm just asking you to do your job at an airline which shouldn't exist in the first place.
Do whatever it takes but I want my PNR else I'll narrate this entire incident on social media with your name.
lady after 2 minutes: asks for my phone number and email id. Gives me the PNR. Tells me that I'll get the email with the ticket in an hour.

Off the top of my head this is the third time I got something fixed/done promptly by just threatening to post stuff on social media.

Another genius offers his solution to IITs not producing enough DeshBhakt types

posted May 1, 2018, 6:56 AM by Prashant Bhattacharji   [ updated May 1, 2018, 6:57 AM ]

Referring to this article: https://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/science-nomad/one-more-open-letter-to-jawdekarji-on-how-iits-are-destroying-india/

Kids + parents aspire for this route because it makes it easier for them to flee India, get into good grad schools abroad, or to move into the next orbit of income groups. If these institutes embark on some kind of grand civilizational mission to churn out more deshbhakt types those students will simply turn to private institutes like BITs Pilani and the new IIIT-D/H (which are also excellent conveyor belts to good grad schools or tech companies in the US/UK/etc). It's not as if the top layer of those colleges stays back.

Already, a lot of folk in the country's best high schools are applying directly to undergrad programs in the US (though this is often difficult and expensive so the JEE is still a reliable escape route). 4% of those who took the ISC 2015 class 12 exam left India for their undergrad. The level of problems the author presumably has in mind (clogged drains and potholed road) are critical but they don't require over-educated folk anyway, it just requires work done regularly with warlike seriousness and efficiency.

IITs are popular because they are excellent tools for specific objectives when it comes to careers, immigration and stepping stones to good grad schools. If they decide to be tools of a different kind they simply won't be half as sought after. We should make no mistake about it: beyond select pockets of excellence like the CS and EE departments, the only thing excellent about these institutes is generally the student intake.

How to Write a Great Essay

posted Apr 13, 2018, 8:33 AM by Prashant Bhattacharji   [ updated Apr 13, 2018, 8:34 AM ]

How to Write a Great Essay

Essays are part of school, college and sometimes life. Plenty of people hate putting proverbial pen to paper, but if English is on the curriculum or you are applying to college, writing essays is a necessary evil. Who knows, you might even enjoy composing your thoughts and giving your imagination a workout?

class, diary, exam

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If, however, you are one of the millions of people whose mind goes inexplicably blank when they have to write an essay, read on for some tips.

All Your Own Work

First of all, let’s tackle the issues of essay writing services. Google “essay writing” and dozens of writing factories will pop up on your screen. How they work is simple. You pay a fee and an anonymous writer produces an essay to suit the prescribed brief. If you are lucky, a cash-poor grad student will pen your essay and it will be so amazing that you’ll score top marks, much to the surprise if your tutor. But, what is more likely to happen is someone with a poor grasp of English and the subject at hand will email you a terrible essay a few hours before its due and you’ll be left high and dry.

Think twice before you pay for essay writing services. They often sound like a great deal on paper, especially when you are up against the wall and you don’t have a clue what to write, but paying someone to write your essay for school, college, or any other type of application, is a high-risk strategy. Unless you are truly desperate, don’t go down this route. Instead, speak to your tutor and see if you can have a deadline extension. As long as you have a legitimate reason for falling behind, it should be okay.

Getting Started

Good essays are not just a stream of consciousness in the style of James Joyce. You could try writing an essay this way, but it isn’t recommended. Instead, plan your essay. Select a suitable topic and draw up an outline. Put your ideas down on paper. Link them together and figure out what angle you want your essay to take. The very act of writing your ideas down can often stimulate new trains of thought, which in turn leads to other avenues of research. Do not skip this stage; it’s very important.

Next, write a synopsis that outlines your ideas and what you are trying to prove, disprove, or discuss. Is your topic worthy of an essay? Do you have enough facts and figures available to formulate ideas? If not, go back to the drawing board and start again.

Begin writing the main body of the essay. Use bullet points to give your essay structure. Fill in the gaps and flesh out your ideas. If you refer to other texts or research, make a note of your source, as these will need to be included at the end.

Finishing Touches

Once you have written the main body of your essay, write the introduction and conclusion. Fact check the entire essay and make sure what you have written makes sense and is logical. Go through the essay and make sure you have linked to all references. Run your essay through a grammar and punctuation checker if you are not confident about the technical aspects of writing.

Lastly, put your essay to one side for a day and then go back and re-read it. Look for typos and missing words or phrases. Does it all make sense? Is there any repetition of words or phrases? Is this the absolute best you can do?

When you are happy, ask someone else to read the essay as one final sanity check. Now you’re done!

A necessary dose of Minimalism - Why I prescribed Scholastic Textbooks for our Primary School

posted Feb 8, 2018, 7:03 PM by Prashant Bhattacharji   [ updated Feb 8, 2018, 7:49 PM ]

I have written in the past about how India's rote learning culture is largely a consequence of our textbooks. There is an unnecessary level of detail in most of our textbooks and this is generally for the sole purpose of expanding the number of pages and using that as an avenue to charge more. There is a whole cartel of players with vested interests in this game which makes it very hard to find compact textbooks, simply because they can't be priced at outlandish levels. Paying Rs. 350 for a class 3 Science textbook with nothing beyond the usual Indian curriculum, does not make any sense when the Scholastic series is excellent and is priced in the range of Rs. 150-250.  We'll be prescribing the "Mastering Science" series for ~500 kids between class 1 and 5 and the "Exploring Social Studies" series for ~275 kids between class 1 and class 3.

A little bit of minimalism will go a long way in helping the Indian education system. A little less detail will throw open a lot more time for casual reading and practical activities. 
One does not need ten pages of detail when ten gigabytes of information on any topic, are a few Google searches away. If anything, excessively thick textbooks do a great disservice in the primary years because they steal time required for far more critical language, math and spatial skills - and even playtime. 

Our little Primary School will be switching over to the Scholastic series for Social Studies and Science. 
There are several things I liked about them 
- Compactness. They cover all the required topics, but they do so within 100-130 pages. Many other textbooks have 200 plus pages. One wonders how much of that a 10 year old will retain. 
- Excellent visuals. Diagrams, pictures and figures make learning a lot more efficient and enjoyable. Each image is worth a thousand words. What can be learnt via a picture does not need a two page description.
- A reasonable number of questions at the end of each chapter. One does not need 50 questions for a 5 page chapter. Many other books have forcefully tried to insert questions and exercises. 
- Reasonable pricing. About 50-70% of the price of books used by good schools (for no real reason). 
- Will leave enough time for hands-on activities such as making posters or projects or practical tasks. 
- Chapters are covered in a manner which is concise without skipping any essential details. The mental clutter created by including a ton of trivia for kids to memorize, is something we can do without. 
- Some fun activities like crossword puzzles: kids enjoy these things a lot. 
- Scholastic also has a lot of affordably priced casual reading books for different age groups. Their Clifford series is exceptionally good for kids under 8 years of age. 

Mastering Science and Exploring Social Studies are the two series and we'll be using them for classes 1 to 5 and from classes 3 to 5 respectively. 
We hope to have an efficient curriculum which reduces the time spent on rote learning and opens up enough time slots for effective hands-on and practical activities. 
We will also help parents save up money which can instead be spent on storybooks, toys, puzzles and encyclopaedias. 

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