Anu Monga – Bangalore International School
Anu Monga, the School Head for the last 17 years at Bangalore International School speaks to School Magazine about innovative teaching methods, International boards in Indian schools and more.
The journey so far
My journey in education started when I was working as the vice chairman of the board in the British School in New Delhi. I was involved in developing various aspects of the school, in terms of policy building, human resources and was also instrumental in acquiring the land on which the school sits today.
Alongside that, I also took over the Delhi International Football league (DIFL).The DIFL is an association that organizes football training and competitive football for schools in Delhi. Being a sportsman myself, I have always been an avid promoter of physical education to encourage team cohesion, health and wellbeing. Initially, its members were limited to a mere handful of schools, largely embassy schools, or schools catering to the education of expatriate children. I took it upon myself to expand the member’s list by getting Indian schools involved. We got sponsors to fund us and before you knew it the DIFL was a thriving robust football league.
In 1993, I wanted my children to study in the Kodaikanal International School, the only school in India that offered the IB curriculum at that time. I thought it would be interesting to work in an environment like this, so I joined and initially became responsible for student life, the purpose of which was to build and develop an active student culture in a residential school. I was also a part of the counselling program and became the middle school principal.During my last two years there, I became the development director and got involved in publicity and raising money for the school. I even managed to get an Indian national stamp issued with the school’s name.
I have been at Bangalore International School (BIS) since November 2002 and I have put my heart into the school. When I arrived, the school had only 110 students. We did not have the necessary infrastructure, curriculum development and policy-making in place to run a successful and effective school.
I took it as a challenge to change the shape of the school. We brought in the IB and IGCSE curricula, developed our own high school diploma, and built what I think has been one of the most significant achievements for BIS: The Learning Center.
The school’s physical infrastructure, with creative usage of space, now accommodates almost six hundred students. A visitor once told me that entering BIS felt like entering a city – dynamic, playful and colorful even after school hours.
After realizing that there was not a common ground for sharing practices between international schools, I initiated TAISI – The Association of International Schools of India, a forum that actively brings together educators to learn from and with each other, as well as from experienced educators coming from outside India.
BIS has also been organizing India’s first ever inter-school English poetry slam, promoting and celebrating Spoken Word Poetry. For the last two years our school has been representing India at the Dance World Cup in Spain and Portugal.
There are advantages and disadvantages of both Indian and International systems. Traditional Indian systems of learning derive essentially from the teacher-student dynamic termed as Guru-Shiksha, where the teacher shares his/her knowledge with the student. This system definitely also has its advantages. It encourages good values, such as respecting one’s elders and placing the personality of the teacher as the primary source of knowledge in a classroom; there is much that can be learnt from one’s Guru.
International education stems largely from contemporary occidental society, where the dynamic and relationship between the teacher and student are legal, yet a lot more liberties are often permitted for students to construct their own learning in a classroom.
In India, even in International Schools, we thrive to strike a fine balance between the two. The classroom is a space for both teacher and student to co-construct knowledge, as the teacher can and must also learn from his students, and yet the teacher still plays the role of an active mentor and parent, somewhat akin to the role of the teacher as articulated by Rudolf Steiner.
Just because we adopt a new system, does not mean we have to dispense with the old one and to be honest, we could not do so even if we tried. Tradition has shaped us – why should we neglect it.
Technology versus Tradition
Technology is only technology if it is understood and used effectively, otherwise, it is not technology and could even be perilous and stultifying. Students might show an affinity to new technology but we have to ensure that they are actually learning from it. A lot of our old methods were and continue to be innovative.
For instance, there are kids today who do not know how to read the time in a traditional clock, as they are only accustomed to digital readings. Perhaps, we as schools should insist that we keep card catalogues at libraries or analogue clocks to ensure that we continue to use our brains differently, in perhaps important ways.
Of, course, one could argue that their brains could be put to better use, but it is always interesting and imperative, especially in a learning environment, to constantly interrogate the vices and virtues of technology and keep this lively debate going.
Introduction of IB in schools
This move may not always be the best option if schools do not understand why they are introducing the IB curriculum. On the other hand, I think it offers Indian students a breath of fresh air, for the IB offers students a lot of individual inquiry and gives a great deal of importance to the humanities and expository writing, all of which might be lacking in other curricula. I think a school must understand why it has decided to introduce the IB curriculum and not do so merely to follow a trend.
Bangalore International School,
Hennur Bagalur Road,
Ph no: 080 2846 5060