Note to recruiters

Note to recruiters: We are quite aware that recruiters, interviewers, VCs and other professionals generally perform a Google Search before they interview someone, take a pitch from someone, et cetera. Please keep in mind that not everything put on the Internet must align directly to one's future career and/or one's future product portfolio. Sometimes, people do put things on the Internet just because. Just because. It may be out of their personal interests, which may have nothing to do with their professional interests. Or it may be for some other reason. Recruiters seem to have this wrong-headed notion that if somebody is not signalling their interests in a certain area online, then that means that they are not interested in that area at all. It is worth pointing out that economics pretty much underlies the areas of marketing, strategy, operations and finance. And this blog is about economics. With metta, let us. by all means, be reflective about this whole business of business. Also, see our post on "The Multi-faceted Identity Problem".

Monday, July 15, 2013

Tamil language proposal : letter to Richard Sproat

My letter to Richard Sproat on the Tamil language proposal. Obviously, this is a very simplified and linear version of things.


To come to the problem at hand - we are focused on trying to figure out what will help populations of people P1, P2, ..., Pn (primary population P{k} = elementary school children) learn better. There are several variables X1, X2, ..., Xn that may explain the outcome variable L (learning outcome). One of the most important variables X{j} is 'teacher absenteeism'. (This runs to as much as 40% even in states in Tamil Nadu). This is already known. Furthermore, some recent experiements show that the problem of teacher absenteeism can be amelioerated by appropriate incentive measures ('pay them to take a photograph of their classroom as proof of attendance and they get extra money for more classes attended as a bonus' -> this works very well in practice (very little cheating was observed)).

Now, the issues are around matters such as curriculum design. On this also some encouraging results appear to have been found.Adopting a factory model of production approach, the basic problem in teaching Tamil today for children is that the structure of the teaching is not tailored to the organizational environment. The organizational environment is such that there is a large amount of variance in terms of labor input from the teachers (i.e. there is frequent teacher absenteeism, student absenteeism, et cetera). The way to resolve this problem is to build 'resilience' in the curriculum. One way to do this is as follows :

- break down the teaching of literacy into subunits (teach letters T1, teach wordsi T2, teach sentencesi T3 and teach storiesi T4)
- break up children into small learning groups of 5 to 8. Call them G1, G2, G3, and G4. Each group Gi is involved in task Ti. Children progress through the learning groups starting off in G1 and as they pick up skills and demonstrate facility with skill in tier T{i}, they are moved to tier T{i+1}- this is a 'resilient' organization because even if teachers are absent, children can work through many of these exercises on their own in their individual subgroups G{i}. That is, children themselves provide the missing labor input.

The hypothesis is that for organizations wherein there is a large variance V{L} in the organization labor input L, such a system would have better outcomes because the variance inthe labor input is ameliorated by the fact that children themselves can provide some of the labor input.

The next question is one of retention. How does one build 'retention' into the curriculum? How does one make sure that children learn something out of the curriculum and don't immediately forget what they learnt once they finish school? (How does one avoid creating the sort of person described in "The White Tiger"/"Slumdog Millionaire" who knows a smattering of this and a smatteing of that but nothing substantial on the whole (this is a very strident critique of the British and the educational system that they introduced, not anything else, since the emphasis is not on teaching children the language that they already know)).

The answer to this is : simplification of the language. The way one simplifies the Tamil language is as follows (please see links below for the complete proposal):

- minimize the number of characters that need to be memorized.
- simplify the structure of the written script such that children have to remember fewer concepts.

Tamil today uses characters which have diacritical marks to indicate the sound to be used following them. This creates a larger set of character than are necessary under the "Heritage Tamil" proposal. Under the "Heritage Tamil" proposal, diacritical marks are dropped. Instead, the vowel is written after the consonant with a dot over the consonant to indicate that the inherent vowel in the consonant is to be killed ( The vowel is then placed after the consonant.

(I have produced a similar proposal for Hindi as an analogous proposal. Michael Witzel would have no trouble reading this since it is all about Devanagari:

The Hindi Proposal may be seen for comparison.)

Links for the Tamil Language proposal are given below.