Arindam Paul – Computer Science Teacher – International Curriculum ,Aditya Birla World Academy, Mumbai
It takes quite a path sometimes, for one to realize one’s passion and fulfil one’s calling. Meet, Mr. Arindam Paul, who has donned many a roles in life starting from the Indian Navy, a job in the software industry, before plunging into the field of education. Whilst many of us stick on to what we are doing, whether we are passionate about it or not, Mr Arindam dared to take risks and kept his search on until he met his passion – the mark of a true teacher!
How did you get interested in the education sector? How has the journey been so far, in the Computer Science (CS) field?
I am from West Bengal and did my schooling at Allahabad. When I was in Class 9, I used to teach my classmates. I used to teach them Mathematics. I realised that my way of explaining concepts was well received.
After my XII, I joined the Indian Navy. However, I realized that that is not what I wanted to do. So, I left my job and continued my education – did my Bachelors and Masters in Computer Application. I, then, moved to Bangalore and worked with a software company for some time. During that time also I used to keep pondering if I am doing justice to the passion I hold. Soon, I realised that that too wasn’t what I wanted to be doing.
So, I left the software industry and moved to Delhi and joined the Indian Height School. That is how my teaching experience commenced. Since then, I have worked with various CBSE and International schools. Currently, I am working with Aditya Birla World Academy. I am teaching the International curriculum for the last 5-6 years. Before that I was teaching national curriculum.
You mentioned that you had been with the Indian Navy for a while, what services were you rendering there?
I joined the Navy after Class XII. While the training was on itself, I felt that my interest lay in pursuing my education further. I was really interested in Computers and Mathematics. I realised that I wouldn’t do justice to myself or anybody else, if I pursued something that I wasn’t interested in. So, I took a risky decision. In India, the Central Government job is something that is really sought after. But, I had to leave it and pursue my interest.
Looking at your LinkedIn Profile, I see mentions of University of Bath (2017-19). Can you throw some light around that?
Sure. One of the most important concepts that I hope to impart to my students is that learning is a process that never ends. For me, the learning process includes improving myself professionally. I want to read more about formal learning theories and expand my understanding. I also aim to enhance my ease and confidence with each class I teach. I work towards this aim by being constant with enhancing my knowledge.
After my MCA, I also did my MSc Mathematics. Besides this, I did MBA in Information Systems. Then, I wanted to understand International Education better. That is when I took an admission at the University of Bath and did an MA in International Education – that is work in progress. University of Bath is in the UK. It is a part-time course. I attend the summer and winter school, physically. I do my modules and write my assignments etc. That way I keep my job and continue with my education as well.
Really commendable! It is a rarity for teachers to take this kind of effort after their career takes off.
In my opinion, working and working with perfection are two different things. Anyone can work but to do it perfectly requires passion. To strive towards perfection, you have to learn more. Only a good student can be a good teacher.
Very true. Why is it, Arindam, that most teachers don’t take that kind of effort? Do you feel it has anything to do with the way the job is structured? Do they not get the time to do it? What are your observations?
If you see practically, none of the parents will say my son or daughter wants to be a teacher. The reason is, in India, teachers are under paid. People become teachers mostly because they cannot find any other better jobs and still they have to earn bread and butter and tend to their families’ needs.
This is an important thing that the government should understand and take action. If you are teaching at a government school your package is okay now as per the 7th Pay Commission. But, in the private sector, there is a huge gap in the pay scale. What you earn if you are a software developer versus what you earn as a teacher is beyond comparison.
People aspire to grow, become rich etc. That is one of the important aspects that is not addressed in this profession. This is the core reason why you won’t find many people interested in this profession. Having said that, there are people who come into the industry with a lot of passion.
When I took this decision I was aware of the many things I will be letting go of. I am a person who chose to contribute to the society in the best of my capacity. Teachers, I believe, are architects of the next generation. It is a very big responsibility and we need to keep in mind all the pros and cons before choosing this profession.
Generally, based on your experience, are the IB schools paying teachers well?
It is really attractive to teach in a school that offers International Curriculum. The curriculum gives guidelines to a whole new approach to teaching. The way I used to teach earlier as compared to now is dramatically different. Remuneration is also better than CBSE schools; but, it still doesn’t match the corporate salaries. There is a gap but it is much better than the salaries offered by CBSE, ICSE or State Board schools.
In international school, the parents are very open about sending their children to foreign universities. They aim at getting their children moulded in such a way that wherever they go they adopt themselves best.
Then, there should be a dramatic difference in the way National Boards and the International courses are delivered. Why the use of the word dramatic?
My job here is to create an atmosphere that nurtures learning and there are various ways to do that. You need to understand the students’ mind-set and their emotional requirements. Different students grasp concepts easily in different ways – some with activities, some from observations, some from reading, etc. I change my instructions in my class, accordingly.
As an instructor, I am passionate about guiding students through the learning process. One of the best ways to foster learning is by demonstrating those feelings to students.
When I was a student, I hadn’t met any teacher who was passionate about what he/she was doing. I am very passionate about my subject and want my students to understand it thoroughly. Talking for computer science, they will develop their skills according to their potential.
For instance, a grade 8 student will not be working on the same software that they learn now, about 8 years later. They will be coding problems which doesn’t exist today. So, for sustenance and survivability, I have to help them develop the skill that they will require at that point time – Critical thinking skill, time management, etc. these are the things I focus on when I teach.
When I say that there is a dramatic difference, in my experience, in our schools days, it was more of rote learning. Whereas, in my class, students get to experience real life scenarios and the learning is based on understanding and not dependent on marks alone.
Another thing I would like to add is that I keep my subject matter interconnected so as to promote holistic learning. I am not just the dispenser of knowledge in my classroom. I am a facilitator too. Hence, I will help my students accept/interpret the information rather than simply giving them the information.
How is the rest of the teaching ecosystem operating? Does the ecosystem’s behaviour/attitude of teaching focus on grades, portions and syllabi, become a hindrance to your approach of passionate teaching?
To share a fact, in India, most of the CBSE/ICSE and State Board schools, develops an examination system and not the education system. That is the biggest hindrance. There we teach them how to appear for examinations and score marks. By the time they are done with their Class XII, they will need an admission for an undergraduate programme, wherein most of the Universities look for their score.
This is one of the biggest issues that I see outside the International curriculum. In the International Curriculum, grades are something we look at too. Having said that, we use grades to understand the skills the children develop from what we give them. Specifically speaking about the IB curriculum, we not only develop lifelong learners; we also develop a person who is capable of contributing to the society and world.
In IB, there are programmes like Creativity Activity Service (CAS), wherein students are expected to do some service. Students, for instance, go to NGOs and work there or go to schools in villages to teach the students there. Likewise, we instil the thought that they are not born only to live a luxurious life. We focus on developing humanitarians who understand the importance of helping the society at large.
That is a huge difference in the way an IB school functions as opposed to other Indian schools. I do not want to say much and make it sound as if I am negative about the way in which other Indian schools function because I have also been there and done that. You really don’t realize it until you are made to think differently.
Given this amount of thought into your profession, do you think that in some ways this can be a western influence that has captivated us which further diminishes our confidence in our own system? What are your thoughts?
I am not of the opinion that we are influenced by the Western philosophy. In some areas may be there is some amount of inspiration, but if you look at it from another perspective, this mode of teaching traces into our own roots.
We used to have the Gurukul system in the past. Children used to live with the teachers to learn skills, help society, etc. Our mythological speaks volumes of this kind of teaching. British India was getting exploited and all those systems changed.
With other changes that they brought about, our education system also went through a radical change. The motive was to create manpower for factories. That is how the system changed.
So, if we look at the education model in the current West, we can easily relate that this was what we had eons ago. They came here, introduced PT and eliminated yoga. Now, they do yoga and we do PT. That is the irony of it all. I am sure the government will also see through all this and take steps in time.
But, the need of the hour is to understand that what we are producing children with grades and it is time we ponder if that is our sole objective out of education.
In fact, when the curriculum was designed, there was something called the hidden curriculum which was politically influenced. When you study the subject, there are some messages that you are given which you can develop accordingly because of the system. If you can relate to what our history books speak and delve deep into them, a lot of hidden messages get revealed. The change in curriculum was definitely politically influenced.
I alone cannot change the entire system. But, I am sure that I will be able to see a change in my lifetime wherein we move towards a progressive curriculum.
True. The fact that we have begun speaking about such changes in itself is the first step. Mr. Arindam where are you based out of, currently?
I am based in Mumbai. I joined Aditya Birla World Academy in July of last year.