Shifu program Research paper review


———————– REVIEW 1 ———————



AUTHORS: Arun Arul Selvam, Sri Bhavani Arul, Narmadha Anandavelu, Santhosh Kathiresan, Sivaraman Ramamoorthy and Sanjeev Ranganathan


———– Overall evaluation ———–

SCORE: 2 (accept)

—– TEXT:

The authors need to be appreciated for writing a reflective article on the gaps in their learning and how they overcame these gaps. Anyone who has had a moderate engagement with engineering students in India, especially those in the average technological institutions, recognizes  the seriousness of the problem. The authors correctly point out that an educational system that merely focuses on making the students pass the examinations cannot provide comprehensive education.


It is often pointed out that in higher education institutions in India, including engineering colleges, students are not trained to think on their own. Relatedly, they are also generally not encouraged to build their ethical consciousness based on rationality, develop the ability to connect with others, learn something independently as well as give and take feedback in mutually helpful ways.


The authors of this article, three young men and two young women of ages 23 and 24, are engineering graduates from engineering colleges in villages around Pondicherry. They attend a program — titled BnB Shifu — which is aimed to make participants highly skilled in technical areas such as programming and VLSI Design. The stated goal of this ‘shifu’ (‘master’ in Mandarin) program is to build the skills necessary for success in the IT and electronics business by laying a strong intellectual and spiritual foundation that emphasizes “self-awareness, self-regulation, responsibility, dignity, equity and courage to create.”


The participants note that they went through several exercises as a result of which they increased their ability to focus, to learn things independently, synthesize old information and new information and get feedback from a mentor. Unlike the stressful and exam-oriented classroom practices that they had experienced in their engineering colleges, the participants were given the space to learn in a relaxed manner at their own pace. As a result of these exercises, they became more disciplined individuals and better learners; socially they became as caring about others as they were about themselves. While interacting with people in the Auroville community, they also became more courageous, which supplemented their efforts to be independent learners.


As someone teaching humanities to engineering students, this reviewer gets the sense that the “Shifu” training addresses the general gaps in technical education, especially the problems experienced by students from non-privileged and non-urban backgrounds. This paper needs our attention and the authors have an important message to convey to the planners of engineering education. This can also be seen as a plea for weaving a greater component of humanities into the engineering curriculum, which would give the students a holistic outlook and integrity in character.


However, this reviewer has some problems with the authors’ use of ‘universal values’, which purportedly are cultivated by the students through this program. In some sense, it is correct, as all students need to learn to be disciplined, focused, ethical and interactive to function optimally in academic and industry situations. However, ‘universality’ seems to erase out certain important cultural, linguistic and personal qualities, which each individual brings in as a valuable contribution to an organization.


———————– REVIEW 2 ———————



AUTHORS: Arun Arul Selvam, Sri Bhavani Arul, Narmadha Anandavelu, Santhosh Kathiresan, Sivaraman Ramamoorthy and Sanjeev Ranganathan


———– Overall evaluation ———–

SCORE: 2 (accept)

—– TEXT:

Autoethnography of 5 Youth (case study-like) in 1 year residential program


–       There are several long lists of what the paper is addressing (eg. self-awareness, self-regulation, responsibility, confidence, socialization, system thinking, five minds of the future etc.) It’s not clear in the beginning exactly what components of this program will be discussed and how they are all assessed. This was somewhat clarified with the research questions, but the paper could still benefit from more focus. After reading the ‘Higher Education in India: Challenges and Opportunities” section, it would be most clear if the paper were organized by the five minds of the future and to discuss all other constructs as subsets of those five main topics.

–       For research methodology, the use of autoethnography is a strength and aligns with the goals of the paper since it allows for the authors to tell their own story of their own experiences. It is also a strength that both male and female students are included in the study.

–       It is helpful that the authors describe the program before addressing the research questions. It is especially helpful to hear what daily life in the program is like, since it is such a holistic and immersive experience.

–       It is beneficial for readers that the authors included specific details of components of the program that were helpful to them (eg. Coursera, code-wars, etc.)

–       It is briefly mentioned at the end that the authors found meaningful employment. It would be helpful to learn more about the employment outcomes that have come after completion of the program.

–       Overall, it is important to share this information about the authors’ experiences with this program with a wider audience. My main suggestion to the authors is to be sure the talk is organized to focus on just a few main points. When there are too many topics included, it gets confusing and difficult to follow. I wouldn’t want the important points to be lost among too much information.


Our Reflections: 


Arun : 

My name is Arun. I stand for happiness for myself and others. While writing the paper, it helped to recall what are all things we came through and how we worked in pears. While working with peers, I learned a lot. It helped me to break through my barriers. I’m excited to do it further because our paper got selected. I acknowledge all the people who all supported the Shifu program and gave me a valuable opportunity to write up the paper. The one that I have been through helped me to learn new things. While writing up the paper, I can easily compare my past work experience and how I’m working now.



My name is Narmadha and I stand for equality and happiness for myself and others.The first time I had a chance to write a research paper and I learned how to write a research paper. While writing the research paper I have noticed how much I developed my skills and competency I learned to synthesize what I have learned and I am able to see the difference in me. We have got a positive review from researchers for our work and I felt happy and I am thankful to everyone who ever supported the Shifu program.



My name is Santhosh, I stand for kindness and equity for myself and others. I had a good opportunity to share my experience in Research paper about Shifu program. When I started narrating it, I felt very happy because this will be a cultural shift and also while narrating it, I had noticed all my benefits and opportunities in learning comparing with my College learning.


Sri Bhavani :

My name is Sri Bhavani. I stand for love and equality for myself and others. It is a new and great experience for me while writing the research paper. I had a chance to reflect on my learnings

in the past year. I noticed my system shift from this course, it is shifted from marks focused to acquiring skills. We experimented with a different methodology of learning which helps us to enhance mental, physical as well as competency to work in the technical field. I am very much happy when we receive the reviews for the paper. It conveyed the essence of the paper to reviewers. I am greatly looking forward to the paper being published.

The History of Pugal Chola Nayanar (True education team)

~Ranjith, Saranya

Each team have two choose one nayanar. For true education, we choosed pugal chola nayanar why because we were able to connect with our 16 components in this nayanar story.


Pugal Chola ruled the Chola kingdom from its capital Uraiyur, presently a neighbourhood of the Indian city of Tiruchirappalli. He is described as a devotee of Shiva, the patron god of Shaivism. He appears in two chapters in the Periya Puranam. In the chapter of Eripatha Nayanar, a detailed account of his encounter with fellow Nayanar, Eripatha Nayanar, is given. His primary account in his chapter relates to his death in Karuvur, generally identified as the Indian city of Karur, which is famous for its Pasupateeswarar temple dedicated to Shiva. Pugal Chola is described as an ideal monarch who served his subjects, Shiva and devotees of Shiva. Shaivism prospered under his reign. He was the emperor of the region and had numerous vassals. Once, he visited Karuvur, which was one of the chief towns of the Chola kingdom. Once on the day of Maha Navami, the royal elephant of the Chola was being paraded through the town. The elephant saw Sivakami Andar and seized the basket of flowers from his hands and crushed the flowers, which were meant for the worship of Shiva. Seeing the wailing devotee, Eripatha not only slew the beast, but also its mahout and accompanying guards who failed in their duty to control the elephant. The news of murder of the royal elephant reached Pugal Chola. The enraged king reached the spot of the massacre. While the king expected an army who challenged his authority, he saw a lone crusader standing over the elephant. Upon enquiry, the guards pointed to and introduced Eripatha as the slayer of the elephant. Pugal Chola alighted from his horse and bowed to the angry Eripatha in reverence and asked about the crime of his elephant and men. Eripatha informed him of the events leading to the killing and said that he had punished them for a sin against Shiva. The Chola felt it was his moral responsibility. He bent before the Nayanar and presenting his sword asked the Nayanar to kill him too, as the king is ultimately culpable for the actions of his elephant and army. Eripatha was taken aback by the king’s devotion and actions and felt remorseful. He thought it would be best to commit suicide by the sword as penance for the murders. As Eripatha raised the sword to cut his head, the horrified king held his hands to stop him. As they struggled with Life Eripatha trying to Suicide and Pugal Chola protecting. the sword to sacrifice their lives, Shiva appeared pleased with their devotion and blessed them. He also resurrected the elephant and the king’s men. Sivakami Andar’s basket was also restored with flowers. Eripatha was given the honour of seating on the royal elephant, while the king held the royal umbrella over his head, like a slave. Both of them went to the Pasupateeswarar temple and worshipped Shiva. While in Karuvur, the Chola king learnt that a vassal prince named Adigan (Adiyaman) was due to pay tributes to the king. The king declared war on the vassal and ordered his troops to destroy the enemy fort. An account of a fierce battle is told in the Periya Puranam. Ultimately, the Chola army triumphed, annihilating the armies of Adigan and razing this fort to dust. Adigan escaped death, by abandoning his citadel. The Chola warriors arrived with the wealth and women from Adigan’s city and brought severed heads of their fallen foes as a sign of valour. As the king surveyed the pile of heads, he saw a head with matted hair. On further investigation, he realized his soldiers had killed a Shaiva ascetic. To expiate the sin of killing a devotee of Shiva, he decided to end his life. He crowned his son as the king. He built a funeral pyre. He smeared his body with sacred ash and took the head of the devotee in a golden, jewel-studded vessel on his head. He circumambulated the blazing flames, reciting the Panchakshara mantra to placate Shiva and finally plunged into the fire. For his supreme sacrifice, he attained Kailash, the abode of Shiva after his death.                              Pukazch Choza Nayanar - The History of Pukazch Choza Nayanar                                                    தார்தாங்கிக் கடன்முடித்த சடைதாங்குந் திருமுடியார் நீர்தாங்குஞ்

Mental and Cognitive education

Continous of True education blog:

Mental and Cognitive education:

Mental and cognitive education can be done by learning about ourselves and the world around us.

We grow in learning about ourselves by respecting our parents, our teachers, and our elders. They support us and provide not only for our basic physical needs but also our mental, intellectual, moral and spiritual needs.

Culture is what we have, i.e. our thought, our expressions, our approach towards life, etc. It has emerged out of collective thinking and is subject to continuous modification by our ancestor’s thoughts which are accepted by society. Swamiji further says, “Peoples in the nation should not only be given the education to make them self-reliant, but also ideas, moral training, and understanding of their great history so that can be motivated to work for their own salvation. Furthermore, they must be given back their culture, without which there is no hope for sustainable progress.

To respect others we need to know about ourselves and we should love our country, our culture, and our ancestors. Cultural plays a major role to develop a better understanding of the world and also helps us to understand ourselves. This helps us develop respect for what we have and grow in self-confidence. It also helps us appreciate that other people have similarly other cultures and environment that have socialized them. Only with real self-confidence will we be able to respect others.

We can’t build a nation without understanding how things work in the world. Culture and History gives us a detailed picture of how society, technology, and government worked way back when so that we can better understand how it works now. It also helps us determine how to approach the future, as it allows us to learn from our past mistakes (and triumphs) as a society.

When we do the above we will treat people equally, with trust, love, regard, and respect. This should be given to all levels and all type of people regardless of any physical, mental, sexual, social, economic or family background.

A story shared at our group was – During cyclone Thane people lost their homes and water flooded many homes. At that time, even basic needs were difficult to meet. Some compassionate people in this world provided these basic needs – food, clothing and shelter. These people have done this as a service without wanting to be recognized. I have come to understand that, when we have trouble others express their love towards us. Henceforth we must express our love to all levels of people, not only that we should do our best to serve people.

Art of Meditation

Dhruva’s step mother: If you want to sit on your father’s lap, you should ask God to make you be born as my son.

Dhruva’s step mother: If you want to sit on your father’s lap, you should ask God to make you be born as my son.

Dhruva tells his mother everything that happened.
Mother, I was told to ask God for permission to sit on father’s lap.

Mother: Yes, my child, you ask Vishnu.
Dhruva: Where will I find him, Mother?
Mother: I have heard people meditate on him in silent, deep forests.

Dhruva meets Narada on the way to the forest.

Dhruva meditated for months. He meditated on Vishnu in his heart. He forgot to take food and even water.

O Lord, I want to sing your glory. I don’t have the knowledge to compose a song. Please grant me the knowledge.

And Dhruva became the Dhruva nakshatram.
The star that is steady, it never moves. May we all learn from him.

True Education

~Ranjith, Saranya

In Isai ambalam school, we are working on an Inspirational project about physical, mental, intellectual, moral, and spiritual development of children and teachers. One part of the project is to learn about inspiring child personality in the Indian scriptures and their value.

In these project, there are six teams of teachers and children. Each group has one inspiring child personality from the Indian scriptures.

Our group has Prakalatan as an inspiring child personality. He principles and values are True education.

True Education

Swami Vivekananda has said that “Education is the manifestation of perfection already in a human being”. He further says that “Education is not the amount of information that we put into your brain and runs riot there, undigested, all your life. We must have life building, man making, character making assimilation of ideas. If you have assimilated five ideas and made them your life and character, you have more education than any man who has got by heart a whole library.”

Rather than memorizing pieces of information Swamiji has said that we should be able to understand and truly apply in our lives ideas that matter. The ideas that matter as he says are life-building one that makes our lives better, man making that make us strong physically and mentally and character building where we have the moral strength and spiritual advancement.

The primary message of real education is that of strength. Swamiji says ‘be strong physically, mentally, cognitively, morally and spiritually’. We will see how education supports these ideas.

Physical Education:

Swamji says that “you will be nearer to Heaven through football than the study of Gita…. You will understand the Upanishads better and the glory of the Atman, when your body stands firm on your feet and you feel yourself as man”. One must know the secret of making the body strong through physical education. For a complete education, it is necessary to develop mind, body and vital.

Physical education supports mental and character development. While playing sports, we naturally learn to concentrate our mindfully on the sports also we learn to coordinate our mind and body, which helps us control and discipline our mind and body. All these aspects concentrating fully, keeping health, senses and your mind disciplined and makes us more self-confident.

It helps us to form good habits such as running, practicing yoga, practicing martial arts, eating and sleeping on time, etc,. These habits will help us to discipline our body and mind which make us powerful and confidence on our ability that “I have enormous power in me, I can do anything and everything”.


Spiritual Education:

Spiritual literacy defines finding a deeper meaning within ourselves, others and the divine. Swamiji says that “Where can we go to find God if we cannot see Him in our own hearts and in every living being.”

To feel the presence of the divine one must do the following:

  • Sense a secret law of balance in the nature, (i.e all beings in the world is helping each others to support their life on the earth)
  • Put ego down that is “human is superior to all beings in the world” and agree the human gets all the knowledge from all beings in the world. Example human’s learned martial arts from animals, medicines from plants and animals, electricity form lighting, music and dances from birds and insects, etc.
  • Sense that human body itself is made up trillion of individual living cell and each individual cell have a wisdom and works together to keep us alive, and accept human cannot wisdom to do that what the cells in our body doing to keep us alive.

Anywhere in the universe we can find same pattern like “Every cells in our body feels God in form our thoughts and action through which they get food to survive and at same time God it is us cannot survive without proper balance of the cells in our body.”

Likewise all beings in the universe is like a cells in God or nature, without God or nature living beings cannot, at same time God or nature cannot without proper balance between all beings in universe.

If we see the divine in all we will be able to meet the goals of moral and cognitive education of loving all. We will then respect, devote, maintain proper balance of ecosystem and treat all beings in the nature with the same standard as we treat ourselves. Therefore, we will get grace of Nature or God in all situation in our life.


Story of Bhakta Prahaladan:

Story of Prahaladan

Prahaladan was educated by the Narada sage while he was in the womb of Prahaladan’s mother. He gained so much wisdom(vishnu’s vedam) at that early age. He wanted to spread them to the world. First he started his Teaching and workshipping “presence of God in all the beings in the world”(same sightedness) to other boys in Gurukulam.

Seeing this, his father became angry with him and ordered him to be punished. In honor of his father, Prahaladan accepted his father’s punishment. But he was saved from every punishment by his devotion to God. Then Prahaladhan became king. At that time, he had a full-time job serving poor and simple people. Because he was in the true state, he has been admired by the people ever since.

We see that Prahaladan sense the God in all beings in the universe. Due to this he respected his father’s even though his father ordered to kill him and also respect and devote to animals, fire, weapons which is used to kill him. Therefore, he get grace of Nature or God and get protected from all situation.

We end with a reminder from Swami Vivekananda ‘work hard to get knowledge, skills and wisdom’. 

Research on how Alumni use or retain what they learn in STEM land

Poovizhi, Murali and Saranya

As explained in the previous blog

We did a research on how children use or retain what they learn in STEM land. We conducted a survey in the following methodology
a) a group sharing of the alumni of how each of them are doing and what they have retained and use from their experience at STEM land.
b) This was followed by a review of the intention of each of the 20 questions of the
survey that explored each of these aspects
c) The children then filled out the survey individually
d) Four children who were not able to attend the group sharing filled out just the survey.
The conversation and the responses were analysed to understand what the children have found
special, useful and what continues to be useful and impacts them about STEM land.

This paper records reflections of alumni of STEM land two years after they
graduated from STEM land and pursuing their further studies in other schools. We review if
and how they found their time in STEM land useful and what role their experience in STEM
land continues to play in their lives:
1) If they found their time in STEM land useful and in what way.
2) What they retained and its application in higher education.
3) How interventions at STEM land that made the learning environment different from
what they experienced otherwise at school has shaped their attitude in further studies.
Specifically, we examine:
 the freedom to plan their work
 peer learning
 access to puzzles and strategy and logic games that give a broader perspective of
Mathematics and are joyful
 access and use of materials in Mathematics to make abstract ideas concrete
 creating projects that provide opportunity to own one’s work

Following is the graph which shows how useful was STEM land for them.

The survey and conversations indicate that children not only learned Mathematical concepts
but also learned skills like programming and logical thinking. The children were left with a
comfort with these areas and all of them took up these subjects in higher education took up
computer science as an elective even those who took up Arts as a stream. They also continued
supporting their peers even in environments that are not entire conducive to peer learning.
The children not only understood what they had learned, but also had clarity in the
development of logical thinking, strategies and multiple methodologies of solving questions.

They also shared that they find a learning environment joyful and they appreciate is one that
gives them responsibility to plan their learning and work and gives them access to resources
and peer learning.
We believe these interventions if introduced as part of Mathematics could support children
taking responsibility of their learning and develop a deeper sense of learning beyond what is
expected in their Mathematics curriculum across India.

We have submitted our paper in epiSTEME8 it is available in the following link.