Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sex Education in India: A case of Marketing Revamp for a proper Re-Introduction

If you are still blaming those uncanny politicians for banning sex education in India, think again. The issue has moved beyond realms of biology and moved into the core area of Marketing.

For the uninitiated, let me say a few words about Marketing to set things in perspective. Marketing is the holy grail of Management (or even Governance as in State matters) that aims to meet the needs of the society at any point of time with relevant products, services and ideas.

You must be wondering why I am getting into defining Marketing. This was just to eliminate that ubiquitous feeling among people that marketing is about telling lies and selling more.

Now what has "Sex Education" got to do with Marketing? Lots, to say the least. First of all, Sex Education is a bundle of ideas (product) that has its own target audience living in India. Sex Education was conceived with an idea to educate and thereby protect the interest of children who would develop life skills eventually. Thus Sex Education becomes the product and the school, college & children become the TG ( Target Group).

The Children of Today

Now, comes the tricky part. The syllabus or the content of the Sex Education was totally modeled on the U.S. education system. U.S. as we all know has always nurtured a totally different (and drastic) approach and ethos abut sex. The societal values depict the same.

In U.S., sex education is imparted with an objective to "just" protect children from having an unhealthy sex and lead a sexually satisfactory life.

However, in India, the approach to sex ( though is changing) has always been towards abstinence from sex till marriage. Thus the need of the Indian society from sex education is to propagate this widely held belief that is being imparted from one to the next generation. Children today are already being exposed to a huge media pourings of explicit sexuality. Children today pick up things easy and fast from various sources. However they are not geared up to rightly interpret them. The burden falls on the parents and the teachers.

The Indian Value System: 
As already mentioned, knowing Indian value system and the cultural context plays an important role in devising suitable ways of imparting sex education in India. So Piya Sarcar, the founder and CEO of TeachAIDS, has developed an interactive software to educate children about HIV in a way that's sensitive to the country's cultural mores. ( Ref: Technology Review). She kept a tab on the cultural responses to each and everything that went into her design and measured it against the local cultural ethos to ensure acceptability. As a result, even States who banned sex education have approved and distributed her software. 

This is a perfect case of Marketing gone wrong and right ( by Sorcar) !! There is still a case for re-introducing sex education in India, if the team handling the project does a careful analysis of the needs of Indian society and then carefully positions it in a way that is acceptable to the society. So what can the Govt. do about it? Here is a pointer, 
  • Consult parents, students, child psychiatrists and culture experts before finalizing on the syllabus and its intonation
  • Test these across India for suitability with each and every language and cultural specific requirements
  • Show it to select group of parents, teachers and students to get their feedback and fine tune the syllabus and methods of delivery so it fits into the cultural framework of India
  • Assure all the stakeholders of the care that has been taken this time around and how it will benefit the children. 
In fact, as a first step, the schools and colleges should educate parents with sex education and how they can deal with their children on the subject. This will make parents sensitive to the challenges faced by educators.

Hopefully, we will soon see a re-introduction of the subject in schools with a clear objective delivered within the cultural framework.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Re-Draft SOPA: But Protect Freedom of Expression

At the outset, let me state that I am all in favour of Freedom of Expression whether it is Internet or Offline. However, I do have my reservations on a total opposition to an Act like SOPA ( Stop Online Piracy Act) or similar bills / laws of other countries. 

Even a rented house where a prostitution is going on is liable for penalty. The owner cannot close his eyes and say that he is innocent and cannot control what is happening in the house even if it is illegal. As a principal of the house, he is responsible for what goes on inside the house. Digital Space by contrast is very vast but in principle is pretty similar to a rented house. Each post on FB and Google is a rented space. They cannot keep benefiting from the content and then stay immune from the negative consequences of the content. Today, the bill may have been mooted because one section of the society is affected. The same can happen to any other section and they are bound to feel offended. Freedom of Expression should not be confused with Freedom to Malign. 

SOPA or other Acts aimed at regulating the net are a daring attempt to regulate an almost infinite digital space, by and large considered as almost impossible to regulate. The way citizens have responsibility to live a law abiding life, even netizens have the similar duty and are responsible in creating a congenial atmosphere for a healthy internet. 

Sooner or later, these Internet giants will have to devise smart technological ways of putting an end to illegal or vulgar content on the site. As more and more citizens including children hop on to the net, the policy maker's intention cannot be ignored in its spirit. SOPA should be re-drafted to create a congenial way of dealing with this ever increasing mis-use of the Internet platform. If it happens, I hope the Internet companies will be taken into confidence and the net result will be a consensual and inclusive Bill.