Jaydip Chauduri -Science Coordinator Pathways World School, Gurgaon
In a world of mad rush, Mr Jaydip Chauduri chooses to pause, think and strive for promoting better education. He is passionate about Math, Science and questioning concepts to generate new learnings.
Please tell us about yourself, your interest in teaching, etc.
As a student, I believe I was a different learner. To think about it now, I was perhaps dyslexic. I was more of a hands-on learner.
Back in our days, teaching used to be, more or less, in terms of chalk and talk. Questions from students were not very welcoming. I remember once asking my Grade 6 Physics teacher what fire was and he got irritated and annoyed. He abused me saying that fire is fire. He didn’t query why I asked the question. I had burnt something a few days back and I could see a whole lot of colours in the fire during the process. So, I was curious. My question was not very silly in my mind but perhaps I framed it silly. More interestingly, he asked me to stay outside the classroom for the whole year. That was a very negative way of treating a question that arose from an inquisitive mind. When I look back, I think there must have been many other students who were discouraged to venture into interesting concepts.
When I was in the hostel, I used to feel bad for children who used to come to me and ask me for help so that they could just pass the exam. Math and Chemistry were amongst my favourite subjects. I look back and realize that there was a huge problem in our system. We had a system where teachers considered themselves superior, where they would say and we would just listen.
That is not the case these days. When I started thinking about a career, the best profession that suited me was teaching because every time I taught my friends they were very happy. They passed with good grades too. Most importantly, they enjoyed the learning process. We used to learn things in half an hour to two hours time, depending on the topic. That was what triggered me to be a teacher.
Another incident that comes to my mind is, there was once a personality contest at our University and somebody gave my name – it was a prank. They called me on the stage and began asking a lot of questions. When I was asked how I wanted to shape my life my answer was that I was still thinking and was open to ideas. Somebody from the jury queried why I couldn’t be a teacher because my persona suited that of a teacher with the insight I was giving away etc. That was the first time I contemplated on being a teacher.
How much of a situational change do you think has effected between then and now?
I have taught in many of the best International and National schools in India. I don’t see much of a change in the teachers’ mind-set. Thankfully, there is some amount of politeness in the manner in which teachers respond nowadays. But, there are only a handful of people who are open to questions.
Sometimes, we can’t answer. There is no harm in admitting you don’t know. A teacher is also a learner which he/she should be. It is good to acknowledge that a student has asked a different question. It is nice to introspect if the existing knowledge can answer this question or if one can learn beyond what one already knows. I don’t see such mind-set even today.
The rigidity still exists; just that people deliver it politely nowadays. But that doesn’t feed curiosity.
What can we do to change?
I feel if the best minds come into the profession, then a change would surface. I will tell you of an incident when I was teaching at The Doon School. This was in 1996.
There was this teaching couple who came from Bishop School, Canada. They both were very friendly with me and I was very much interested in Factors Theory. It was a new branch of Mathematics at that time. I was talking about factors, programming etc. That is when the male teacher asked if he could present on that subject because his research topic was on that. We then had an informal talk.
He took 2 hours given that the subject was very complex. This was to children who hardly had any idea on Mathematics, Mathematical patterns, etc. He took about half an hour to tell about the beauty of Mathematics and how this branch can change the way we apply Mathematics in the education dimension. The way he started was marvellous. I understood the beauty and effectiveness of delivery that day. The beauty of a presentation lies in whether you can reach your audience.
I remember a class where this teacher started with a newspaper article about a border conflict between India and Pakistan. It was a 45 min class. At the end of the class we were discussing about the International relationships. I have not seen teachers of that kind in my days and not many today as well. Lot has changed yes; but there is lot more that needs to come. We need brilliant minds teaching.
In Canada, children with the best marks are the first reference given for teaching and they are paid the highest. Most students stream into the teaching profession and they bring in new ideas. I have seen this adverse mind set towards students that they are not capable enough. I think that is highly underestimating their calibre. Honestly, I feel we won’t be able to match with their level. In my opinion, this mind set is perhaps why we don’t grow as exponentially as we should.
Once I was talking to a few of my colleagues at Kodaikanal International School. Some of them told me that people, generally in South India, think that teachers are those people who have come into the profession because they have no other option left. The general norm is if you have nothing else to do, then be a teacher. This was really shocking for me because I come from a cultural background wherein doctors, engineers and professors are considered with high esteem. If teachers are not respected, we can’t expect many changes in society. You can bring in expensive technology but it cannot weigh against the human mind.
The human mind is the best thing in the world and if you give it to be trained by the mediocre, we can’t expect anything much.
Education is becoming increasingly commercialized. What are your thoughts?
I left my software engineering profession and came into the teaching profession. I was one of the first few data programmers in the country. I have a second degree in Computer Science Application and a 10 years training from IIT Kharagpur for programming in Java and C++ in 1999. At that time, I realised that my whole day was spent in programming with no time to eat even the two apples I had at my desk. I realized that a programmer’s life is very short lived. I soon understood that that was not the kind of thing I wanted to do for money. I realised that earning money was not the only goal I had in life.
I missed my school days when after school, we used to go for some sport activity like cricket or football. I used to spend most of the day with my students. I remember how my students taught me how to play hockey. Such exchanges where students and teachers teach each other are what make teaching noble and enjoyable. As long as you keep it a two way process, you will find the profession interesting. That way your ego diminishes and you are not just a deliverer but a receiver too. Nurturing that mentality also gets you to deliver in a very enhanced and enriched manner.
Today, most of us feel that we know enough once we are into the profession for 25 years, which is damaging.
When I entered the IB curriculum, I felt drawn to teaching it because every aspect of it is give and take. Today, students are more active; they have high protein diets and are exposed to visual media. They have enormous resources around them. On the internet, we have a lot of information. But we should know how to process this kind of information. Information processing involves converting information to wisdom and applying it for better human lives. That is the target of education.
I am looking forward to the days when schools encourage free thinking and teachers are better challenged.
What can schools do best in bringing in a transformation?
The whole point is that if children are not encouraged to think freely and restricted to text books and classrooms, how can we expect anything different to happen in society?
In one of my schools, once we were asked not to have any curriculum, which is taken directly from any textbook. Back in 1996 in the Doon School, the science department had no books. We did flipchart teaching. There are instruction cards given to you to do certain exercises and experiments along with materials. We needed to follow that, fix it and make it a working model. Using the knowledge gained through that exercise, we had to answer questions. They could then compare your answers with the answers provided behind the card.
We should have a modern and up to date curriculum, which is not restricted by books. Of course, it will have flaws. We should analyse the flaws and keep improvising. Most of the time, hardly anybody is interested. I believe teachers should design their own curriculum. Teachers should get the highest liberty to decide what to teach, how to assess and understand what is best for the children.
Until the time we pick this challenge, teaching will remain customer oriented as we see it today. Teachers today look for parents’ approval for everything they do. Teachers should exhibit their expertise with confidence. Parents should be made confident that their children are in the best hands. If we don’t do these things, we are just another cloned institution.
I see my son’s curiosity dropping with the passage of time. He perhaps thinks it is either futile or better not to ask questions. Questioning is the most important aspect of education. New learning originates from questions.
If Isaac Newton didn’t question his own existence and never questioned why the apple fell on his head, would the Sun or the Moon fall on our head someday, etc. gravitational laws would be still under covers. If we are negative to questions and more focused on the portions that need to be completed, we are not challenging and we can’t expect anything creative to happen around us.
There are lot of schools employing the best of technologies; but are they extracting the essence – is the question? It is not just about teaching; it is about learning as well.