Dr. Sarmishtha Adhya, IB Examiner, DP & MYP History Facilitator, The Aga Khan Academy, Hyderabad

Dr. Sarmishtha Adhya tells her students that history is not about mugging up but rather it’s a beautiful journey filled with interesting stories. Students love her classes as she makes learning history very interesting by narrating stories.

According to Dr. Sarmishtha, history is important as it tells us about our roots; if we do not know what had happened in the past, we cannot be prepared for the future. She has been conducting online classes very successfully during the covid situation for her students who are in various countries.

She feels international curriculum is much more streamlined and focussed as compared to Indian Curriculum.

Listen to the full conversation below:

Contact

Email id: sarmishthasengupta@gmail.com

Sanjay Dey, IBDP Physics Teacher, Oberoi International School, Mumbai

Sanjay Dey is pursuing Bachelor’s in education, while working as a teacher in an international school. He will earn his degree in year 2020.

Sanjay Dey has an Instagram page – @apnascientist where he posts demonstrations and experiments on physics that explains simple phenomenon.

His students access his page and also few students from other schools are getting to know about his page. The experiments are for school and college level students. It gives them idea about various concepts in physics and they can choose for their specialisation.

In this covid situation, he feels the teachers and students should be proactive in using technology for effective learning.

Listen to the full conversation below:

Contact

Email id: sanjaydey.dey07@gmail.com

linkedin.com/in/sanjay-dey-51896918

Kamalpreet Kaur, TGT Science, The Millennium School, Noida

Kamalpreet Kaur has over 9.5 years of experience in teaching field.

During the covid period, Kamalpreet feels online teaching is good overall, but when it comes to laboratory practicals, it’s not easy for students to understand through online simulations. The learning is more effective when the students actually get to do the practical.

Kamalpreet teaches concept of physical and chemical changes by giving real examples like boiling an egg. In inter school competition, she has taken the lead of guiding the students to make a model of circulatory system and she bagged award for it as hers was the only model which was not ready made but made all by herself and her students.

Listen to the full conversation below:

Contact

https://www.linkedin.com/in/kamalpreet-kaur-269670112

Sayali Joshi, IBMYP Examiner, MYP HOD Language Acquisition, DP French Facilitator

According to Sayali, speaking a foreign language can lead the way to great experiences in work, education, and travel. French language improves career options and is also a gateway to culture. As an official language of 29 countries across the globe, french is one of the top choices for language learners, and its many unique benefits could make it the right choice for you. Understanding French means knowing fashion, culinary arts, theater, dance, visual arts, and architecture.

During the corona virus situation, she felt teachers had to unlearn certain things and mould themselves to online teaching which was challenging but they have overcome it and conducting classes very successfully. She feels the best part of online teaching is that the sessions are recorded and students can always refer those later.

Listen to the full conversation below:

Contact

Email id: sayali.joshikini@gmail.com
linkedin.com/in/sayali-joshi-39683ba5

Dr.Priyanka Malik, 1st MYP/DP Mathematics Teacher, Dr.Vishwanath Karad MIT World Peace University, Pune

Dr. Priyanka has done interdisciplinary research in her doctorate in school effectiveness on the basis of school culture and school context. She is having 9 years of teaching experience as mathematics teacher at secondary and higher secondary level in CBSE and IB board schools.

Being from research background, Dr. Priyanka says, she has good understanding of IB ideologies which is about independent learning, by doing research, observations, streaming hypothesis, finding solutions, interpreting those and reflecting on it. She guides students in mini research in maths by taking them outside the classroom and finding examples which can explain them the concepts

She feels every curriculum objectives are more or less the same. It is the methodology which is adopted in teaching. A good teacher will bring out the best out of students.

Listen to the full conversation below:

Contact

Email id: priyankamaliksfs@gmail.com

https://www.linkedin.com/in/dr-priyanka-malik-8657aa110

Anugya Aggrawal, IBPYP Grade 5 Teacher, Pathways World School, Aravali, Gurgaon

Anugya Aggrawal has attained Bachelor’s in English, Economics and Political Science and Masters in Economics. Currently she is pursuing Bachelor’s of Education (B.Ed).  She has been promoted as IB MYP Individuals and Societies Teacher in the same organisation.

She chose IB as she feels IB imparts knowledge not confined to the walls of a classroom or into the pages of the book but it gives holistic development to a child. The child grows up independently in the initial years and thinks out of the box. It makes him/her understand each and every concept very well and engages globally to the changing world.

Talking about teaching during the pandemic situation, she says that students are becoming tech savvy and are able to learn digitally. Students are really happy with online teaching and learning.

Listen to the full conversation below:

Contact
Email id: meetanugya@gmail.com
https://www.linkedin.com/in/anugya-aggrawal-92909b158

Karishma Attar, Managing Director, Laureates World Academy, Mumbai

Apart from being a Director of Laureates World Academy, Mumbai; Karishma Attar is an IBDP, A-Levels and IGCSE physics and mathematics facilitator. She has done BE(Electronics), from Bharati Vidyapeeth’s College of Engineering, Kolhapur.

She encourages her teachers to integrate technology into lesson plans as it fosters active participation in classroom. She believes student-teacher relationship is a foundation of student motivation, engagement, and high academic achievement.

Listen to the full conversation below:

Contact

Email-karishma.attar05@gmail.com

www.laureatesworldacademy.com

Manika Kochhar Khattri, Co-ordinator, G.D Goenka Public School, Lucknow

Manika Kochhar Khattri graduated from Amity University; skilled in classroom management, educational technology, curriculum development and educational leadership.

As a co-ordinator, Manika Kochhar guides teachers in developing content for quality teaching.  She helps them to make the assignments interesting for the students.

She also teaches English and feels learning language is very important as it helps you to see things from a different perspective and get a deeper understanding of another culture.

Listen to the full conversation below:

Contact

Email id: mkochhar89@gmail.com

https://www.linkedin.com/in/manika-kochhar-khattri-426944bb

Dr. Jayasree Kishore, Pre-Primary Co-Ordinator, Green Gables International School, Hyderabad

As Pre-Primary Co-Ordinator, Dr. Jayasree Kishore’s role includes – planning the curriculum, creating teaching aides, introducing new games, training teachers, conducting parent orientation sessions, taking remedial classes for nursery, UKG, and LKG.

She also conducts story sessions, class concerts by kindergarten students, circle-time activities, arranges competitions and plan celebrations for all festivals and days of national significance.

Listen to the full conversation below:

Contact

Email id : jayasreekishore@gmail.com

linkedin.com/in/drjayasreekishore-2502

Dr. Maya Shankar Jha, Headmaster, Adarsha Vidyamandir High School, Kolkata

Dr. Maya Shankar is also a National President, Bharat Bharati Samaj (NGO & Human Resource Development Centre), Kolkata, West Bengal. He is PhD from Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan.

After Dr. Maya Shankar joined Adarsha Vidyamandir, he donated three months of his salary to support poor students of his school. Later on from 2009 till date he has been donating half of his monthly salary to an NGO which buys books, uniform and other needs for the poor kids and also supports kids on the streets to become residential students of a school. More than 10,000 children have been benefitted so far.

Listen to the full conversation below:

Contact

Email id: dr.mayashankarjha@gmail.com

linkedin.com/in/dr-maya-shankar-jha-b81744172

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Dr Bijay Kumar Sahu – Principal/Director at Leeds International School, Patna, Bihar

Dr Bijay Kumar Sahu has two decades of teaching and administrative experience in schools of high repute. He has received awards from different organizations.

According to him, education should be a learning from practical point of view. Schools must take responsibility in shaping the students to the best of their abilities.

Listen to the full conversation below:

Contact

Email id: bijaykr16@gmail.com

linkedin.com/in/dr-bijay-kumar-b0303a68

Kailash Tahiliani, Essay Coordinator and HOD Science, Sanjay Ghodawat International School, Kolhapur, Maharashtra

Kailash has designed MYP Science Curriculum for IB for Kodaikanal International School and monitored the backward and forward planning throughout from Grade 1 to DP year-2.

Kailash started with national curriculum and then switched to international curriculum. He strongly believes that IB education is for overall development of a child.

He has been proactive in arranging educational trips for experiential learning at places like Science city, paper mill, power station, Gandhi ashram, planetarium, metal factory, coal factory and museum, Indian Institute of Plasma Research, Physical Research Laboratory, ISRO, Auroville Pondicherry and VOSARD Kerala.

For instance, in October 2017, he organized a trip for 84 students to Port Blair, Andaman Islands for “Environmental Stewardship Programme” -CAS. Presently working on CERN, Space camp and NASA trips.

Listen to the full conversation below:

Contact

Email id: kailashtahiliani@gmail.com

linkedin.com/in/kailash-tahiliani-16705722

Poonam Chauhan, TGT science at Amatir Kanya Gurukul, Kurukshetra, Haryana

According to Poonam, education should be a balance of inculcating knowledge and cultural and ethical values in children.

Technology will give knowledge but how to socialize, being empathetic are equally important which Poonam says can be taught only in schools.

Being a science teacher, she feels a field trip is one of the best tools that we can use to provide every student with real-world experiences.

When students leave the classroom, they see the connections between what is happening at school and in the ‘real-world’. Each experience solidifies learning and supports important academic concepts.

Listen to the full conversation below:

Contact
Email-poonie6@gmail.com

linkedin.com/in/poonam-chauhan-a24a6792

Surjeet Singh Rana, Deputy Headmaster, King’s College India, Rohtak

From a teacher to a headmaster, Mr Surjeet Singh Rana has consciously made sure to gather learning and push boundaries to enhance his tenure in the education industry.

“I began my international teaching career in 2007. That was the time when we began working on online platforms. I worked for three years as a curriculum coordinator. There I had great exposure to technology and I could gratefully work with people who had profound understanding of technology.

After that I shifted to Bangalore and worked for Sarala Birla Academy where I was instrumental in automating a lot of manual work that was being done. After my days at Sarala Birla, I adorned the cap of Principal at Ebenezer International School – a school known for its technological advancements second only to Canadian International School. 

All that experience has paid off now – it helped me conceive and build on the idea of developing a customised virtual platform for ensuring seamless learning, during this lockdown period. Gratefully, the school had the infrastructure, the finance and the open mindedness to accept it and so this idea evolved into reality. In 20 days, we got this whole platform ready and it was put in action.”

Tell us more about this virtual platform

King’s College India is a high-tech school. We employ technology in all our classes. Even in the pre COVID-19 days we have employed it in all our classes. All our teachers are at home with technology. They are given laptops and parents associated with this school are also extremely supportive about this. We have laptops, desktops and projectors installed in all the classes.

But, in the current scenario, when we first came to know that we would not be able to function within the school campus, after a lot of technological hiccups, we decided to design the online learning platform.

We developed this online learning platform on the Google website and then we integrated all the different tools available from various third-party vendors. We made one solid learning platform on which all teachers, students and parents can come together. 

All the teachers store all their learning material on this platform and they get on video conferencing sessions with students to take classes. Even if students, for some reason, are unable to attend a class at the time when it is delivered, the content remains in there for them to access. Now, we are running the entire school on this platform and it has been faring quite well.

Time and again we keep adding more features to this platform. Owing to the fact that we had vacations scheduled recently, all our teachers are at different parts of the world and they are taking classes successfully from wherever they are currently.

From pre-nursery to Std 12, our school is functioning smoothly on this platform. Also, this is inclusive of all subjects like PE, Art, Dance, etc.

Can you give us a brief about King’s College India, Rohtak?

We are affiliated to the 140-year old institution King’s College, London. We offer IGCSE, which is Cambridge education. We are the only school in India that is associated with King’s College London. This institution is 4-5 years old. Our whole leadership team is from the UK. We are a boarding school and we have teachers belonging to different nationalities like the US, UK, Dubai, etc. Most of them stay in the campus and a few of them work with us offsite. 

We have students from various nationalities but, most of them are from India. We have a good number of students from Thailand, UAE, Nepal, Bangladesh, etc. also.

For how long have you been associated with this school?

I joined this school in Jan 2020. I brought with me 20 years of overall experience in the education field and around 10 years of administration experience. I was working in Bangalore prior to this. I was the Principal at Ebenezer International School. Earlier to that I was with Sarala Birla Academy, Bangalore. Prior to that I was at Jakarta for 3-4 years. 

What was the reason for online teaching even before the advent of COVID-19?

We didn’t have a full-fledged system in place at that time. Having said that, we did have well-equipped classrooms and teachers who are well versed with the use of technology. Even our students are taught to be well-versed in technology.

Whatever we teach, we make sure that the content is available to the students at all times. Also, we ensure that the teaching material is available to students even prior to the teacher taking the class. We give them the learning objectives, links and content. We personally feel that since students also have access to technology, they can go through all the materials before coming to class. 

We have around 200 students and 50 teachers, which is a 1:4 ratio. The school believes in providing all possible opportunities to the students. It is not that we will teach a subject only if we have 15 students for that class. We try and understand what children are good at and try to cater to that requirement. We offer our higher-grade students all possible subjects. We may have just 1 student for a given subject but that doesn’t stop us from offering it. 

In the junior sections as well, we do not take more than 15-20 students in a given section. As far as infrastructure is concerned, we have big classrooms, befitting not just desk and chairs – there is lot of room for many other activities as well. The whole infrastructure mirrors the King’s College infrastructure in England. We provide British education in an Indian set up at affordable fees. 

Do you have levels higher than A level at your school?

At the moment, we have only up to A level. In 2021, our first A level batch will graduate. We are absolutely excited and will make sure that they all get placed in good Universities. We look forward to the guidance of King’s College, London also so that some of our students make it to good Universities in the UK.

Do you think other schools can also achieve the level you reached in terms of online teaching? 

This is a time of so much uncertainty where parents are not sure by when children can get back to school. So, we not just made sure that our children get this facility, we even promoted it beyond the boundaries of the school and lend a helping hand to other schools as well to help them get on track with virtual learning, given that we all are in the new normal of uncertainty. 

For everybody safety of the students come first. So, we do not know what tomorrow will look like. We need to live in the present and cater to that.

What challenges did you face in setting the virtual learning programme?

When we were faced with this scenario, we decided to design our online programme so that we have a robust system in place. Once we had the system in place, the next part was communicating to all the people involved on how this functions. To ensure that parents are also with us on the same page we created a short video to make things simple for everyone involved. We then did a virtual orientation for teachers, parents and students to ensure everybody is comfortable with the new way of working. 

Initially, before we built this platform, the usual challenges of not being able to get online, hiccups of technology are things we also faced. Then, we had to prepare online class plans and there were a zillion emails going back and forth. We decided to put an end to all this confusion by creating this platform to make things simpler. 

We have given students direct access to the online platform by creating school domain email IDs for each of the students. This way we were independent of reaching out to students, rather than depending on parents’ email IDs. This is extremely secure and it makes it very easy for us to understand what students are doing on the platform, when they log in and log out, who is doing what etc. That way, things seem more secure than being the open wide web.

Initially we were using Zoom for the video conferencing sessions. Now, on our online learning platform, we have pages for each standard. So, on each standard’s page, we have given links for various subjects. Every Saturday and Sunday each of these pages are updated with detailed information for the coming week’s classes. This brings in a lot of clarity and a plan is in place which makes operations seamless. The class timings, teacher’s details, assessment details, assignment details, the video conferencing, attendance and homework submission links etc. everything will be updated in the page in a timely manner. Standard 6-12 are expected to mark their attendance for every session and for lower classes they are expected to mark their attendance once a day. 

From the time we began these virtual classes till today, we have integrated so many features – the evolution of our online session has been remarkable. Today even books are available on the platform. Cambridge partners started giving a few free books to students during the lockdown period, which we made available over this platform. 

Gradually, parents, students and teachers began to feel at home with this platform and this new way of collaboration. Today, gratefully it is working seamlessly. Also, we don’t impart academics alone over this platform. We give drama, dance, PE, cooking, classes etc as well. We want to make optimum use of technology.

Where do you see this scenario heading in the long run ?

What I feel is the use of technology is highly important even with a school campus.

Having said that, the school campus is not just for academics alone. There is so much more that we can do if students are physically present in school. I do not think the current scenario of working would totally replace the working model of schools because having a personal connect between teachers and students is equally important.

But yes, technology will play its vital role. Even if things were to revert to what it was, as a school, we will ensure that this platform we have created is still maintained. Also, when it comes to practical lab classes, it is a huge limitation over online classes.

I believe holistic development happens only if students come over physically to schools. Right now, we are doing our best given the current scenario.

Contact

Surjeet Singh

Deputy Headmaster

The King’s College India

ROHTAK

www.kingscollegeindia.in

Ph No: +91 70820 05402 Email id: dyheadmaster@kingscollegeindia.in

Baishali Chakraborty, Mathematics HOD at Oakridge International School, Bengaluru

Baishali is mathematics in-charge of developing mathematics MYP curriculum. She has conducted professional development session for teachers.

From last two years she is teaching MYP5 (Extended) and IBDP (HL+SL) mathematics. Along with academic position she is the coordinator of MYP 4 and 5.

Baishali has allotted some time besides her teaching time for doubt clearing for the students. According to her, the IB syllabus is connected to the real life and the students are better prepared when they step into the University.

You can listen to the full conversation below:

Contact

Email id: baishali.ch1981@gmail.com

linkedin.com/in/baishali-chakraborty-14a311bb

Prof. Vikram Jayaram

Prof. Vikram Jayaram is Divisional Chair Mechanical Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. In this interview he talks about science education in Indian schools.

Are you satisfied with the way science is taught in Indian schools today?

There is no simple answer here. I have a daughter in Standard 11 and another who was in school until 3 years ago. I have been reading the NCERT textbooks, which, I think, are nicely written. The books have certainly gotten better.

The amount of information that people are supposed to take on board, is unfortunately, increasing. This is something that we find even at the undergraduate level. As the field gets more advanced, the volume of information keeps building. So, if you believe that you have to convey all the information that gets built, to the masses, it is not sustainable. You have to knock a few things off. That is the hard part because teachers who have been raised to believe that something is important find it highly difficult to not teach it.

Hence, there is some content consolidation and revamping required. Some concepts require a lot of maturity to comprehend. You can’t expect children to digest it, simply because they aren’t old enough to do it.

Now, that doesn’t mean that you don’t tell them anything that they cannot follow. There are many things you learn at different levels. You do get to hear exciting things that you don’t fully understand. You keep learning new aspects about it on the go. There are things that you understand only after you have learned it a good number of times.

So you need to choose diligently. Learning too much doesn’t help. Today books are getting fatter and bags heavier. The amount of material that is weighed through before a test is ridiculous. As a consequence, everything else falls loose.

How do you evaluate somebody who is contained with massive information? You give programmed questions and get programmed answers.

Changes to these conditions are something that has to be done at the national level. Teachers don’t have the freedom to decide on the syllabus. The amount of Euclid, for example, that is taught doesn’t hold value. Children learn geometry in the way people were taught a few 100 years ago possibly since the Greek times. The only reason to do it is that there is content and you can examine on it. There is no other reason in teaching all this.

At the national level, are institutions like IISc consulted when school level science curriculum is decided?

There are educational papers that come out. Sometimes, the academies come out with position papers. But, if you ask what is it that gets done finally, it is a compromise where nothing major changes. There are some cosmetic changes here and there – that is all.

For example, when a position paper is put out by the government on starting a new research foundation, it is circulated to everybody for feedback. It is like the Bangalore water supply rolling out a camp to listen to people’s complaints. They do listen but at the end of the day there are systemic problems that are never addressed.

That requires a different type of will. If you have a system where people can strive towards different syllabi for different levels of accomplishment then there are lots of possibilities. But here, the requirements for state boards and the national boards at one level are the same. We seem too obsessed about one exam after another.

What are your thoughts on international school curriculum like IB and A levels?

It is mostly export-oriented. We have parents who have shifted their children to IB or IGCSE. Their syllabus is different because they are targeted towards applying to foreign Universities, where they look for perhaps a broader spectrum of activities.

These courses may be better but that is a way of saying that the American system of education is broader in values, culture and music, creativity, etc. And so, you build it into the curriculum.

But then those children intend to study abroad and I don’t see them coming to an institute like IISC. Parents, in such cases, have already made a decision to send their children abroad. There are parents who say that they don’t want their children to go through the kind of things they went through. 

Where did you study?

I passed out of Lawrence School at Lovedale, Ooty in 1971. I was there for three years. At that time, nobody studied for an IIT. You just complete your schooling and then write another exam.  The college admissions happened in August or July. So, the 6 months prior to that we’d be just kicking around.

I have also spent 2 months in St Stephen’s College, Delhi. My father was posted in Delhi at that time and so I was there. I think I was there only long enough to get ragged and then I went to the UK for my A levels.

The senior Cambridge, after 11 years, was treated as equivalent to the O levels and two more levels of A levels after which there was a separate entrance exams you do for Cambridge University. I did Natural Science at Cambridge. You get to choose 4 subjects in your first year and progressively specialize in them if you want.

There are people who don’t look at specialising. They prefer going out and becoming school teachers or bankers etc. So, it is left to you to structure your education the way you want it. But of course, the topics you choose limit what you do in the consecutive year.

For example, in the first year I did Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry. I didn’t do Biology. I did something else which is relevant to Metallurgy and Geology. Then, the second year it was Metallurgy and Physics and that’s how it goes. There is very little teaching there. The teaching is just 8 weeks a semester/term. You are off 28 weeks in a year. 

What do you think of our schools?

I am not very well-versed on the school side of things. I have some friends who went to the alternative schools and thoroughly enjoyed themselves while they were there. It is certainly not the case that none of their products make it to the corporate world. They are as capable as anyone else if they have it in them and I am sure the schools will bring them out as examples to show that just because you are part of such schools you can’t make it big in the world.

But, you have to look at the averages and analyse. It is the parents who decide. If you decide that there are things that are not important when you are 10 or 12, you can make that decision. You should be a little careful what the child wants to do and the opportunities that are available afterwards.

That is the guilt that most parents feel – that you are making decisions on behalf of somebody else. Sometimes we think in terms of how tough our parents were on us and so I should be nice to my children. That mentality of I went slogging through brainless courses which I didn’t understand, why should my children do that, is a thought.

But, the child also needs to develop in such a way that they can take this ecliptic background that these schools supposedly provide and make a living in India.

Sitting out here, I am not dealing with people in the urban upper middle class. Most of our students are people who come from backgrounds where many even support their families back home. Sometimes they are the first people in their families to be exposed to education beyond school level.

There is a solution for people like that and another for people who are growing up in an affluent, highly educated upper middle class household. They get many things at home as part of the society in which they live. They are not going to be left to fend for themselves in the streets. They would go out and make their way into the system wherever they are.

That is not a solution for everybody. For many, the passport to life is through a professional course. That is what seems to certify you as a person who is worthy of employment. If you change the school system but you don’t change the hurdles that they would face later, they will not be able to handle it. This is the case with the introduction to humanities and other programs. 

My daughter, from last month, has had to go to school half an hour early because there is a mandatory period for yoga or something which is not technical. This has been mandated by the government. It is their way of making people broader in their training. This makes it worse because you are not taking something off the plate before loading it again. You are just adding on the top of everything else. 

As it is children spend a considerable amount of time at schools. Now, schools are forced to do this and they do it not believing in it. So, there will be some token time devoted to it but the content doesn’t get transmitted. So yes, education does need to become more liberal.

We have a few undergraduates here. They come through an entrance exam which is as hard as IIT, called the KVPY exam. In principle, they are the top proportion of the population. They had difficulty coping with normal day to day situations which less intelligent people who grew up without pressure would handle with ease. There are interpersonal relations – what happens if you fail an exam – it is the growing up part of your life – that is suffering. The fact of the matter is that it is more important than your knowledge of physics or engineering.

The technical part can take a hit, I don’t think we will lose much in our capability if we remove that part. But the humanities part has to be introduced in a proper way. The reason why children don’t like humanities in school even when they are in lower classes is because it is harder to teach that than it is to teach chemistry.

How do you teach history or social science? For a start you have to allow people to express their views. But it doesn’t get beyond a point because they are not made to think. Also, it is harder to evaluate.

When I was growing up, 60% in an English exam was considered an achievement. You would perhaps be asked to write about say, Jane Austen and your answer would run into 10 pages perhaps and somebody had to read it.

Our evaluation has also turned Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ). A lot of this has resulted from numbers overload. There are 1 million people who write these exams every year. And, evaluation is mighty difficult.

Today, if I want to hire people at the entry level here, I cannot interview them. I can only go on the basis of the written test.

So, I know if I advertise for a technical assistant to manage a machine shop, I will get about 50,000 applicants because some training institute would have generated them. But, I would like to know if we can work together, if they have the right work ethic, etc. Designing an exam which is good and which can be evaluated for so many people is not easy.

So where do we start, if we want to improve education in India?

We should be careful about not blaming everybody. The school teachers blame the system, the parents blame the teachers, I will blame the undergraduates and it goes on.

But yes, the problem starts in school. It is only exacerbated in the undergraduate degree. Having said that, stepping back a little, it is easy to run everything down. We are probably asking too much from a young country which is just started to put its house in order. 70 years is nothing in the larger scheme of things.

The first thing we are doing now is expanding institutions. When the other IITs were created, initially, all the alumni of the existing ones said it is a disaster and it would lose quality, etc. Yes, you will lose quality. But you can’t have 5 IITs for a population of 2 billion. It was completely unacceptable.

Quality suffers because hiring faculty becomes an issue. That is a given fact. You have to start somewhere and then in the early stages you will have to suffer the fact that your buildings are not painted, operating out of shacks, etc. So, if you have IITs in some God-forsaken place today, it is okay.

Over a period of time, I think, if you have good directors and administrators, standards will be maintained. You can’t expect high quality faculty members in wide range of disciplines. But that is okay. We have to do that.

This is the same with engineering institutions. They are like the airlines. You deregulate and you get a bunch of airlines. Three years later half of them go bankrupt. This is what happens in engineering colleges. But that is not to say that they shouldn’t be there. They may be there for all the wrong reasons and not to promote education. But, I think, it is good because children have some place to go.

If we only have a handful of institutions, children who don’t get through them will have nowhere else to go. At least we have a system to take the kids off the streets. Even if they don’t learn top class engineering, they at least are growing up, making friends, striving to earn some living etc.

We shouldn’t run down those things too much. We should try and build them up better.

 If you want to open a top class research university, the annual budget can be like the one for a medium-sized company. Somebody has to pay. That is usually the government or some benefactor.

When your bread and butter comes from the government, you have to do a better job. You can’t just say education is important, China spends 2% and we are spending half a percent, etc. Those arguments are valid but we have to go beyond that.

Primary education is not something where you need to do all this. There are certain levels of expenditure which are well established the world over. We are not going to discover anything new. But when it comes to research, the amount of money is part of the problem – it is not the whole problem. Academicians would like to think that if they got the money they could do anything. That is not true.

There is a style of doing research, which unfortunately has become the research analogue of teaching shops that have emerged in response to the entrance exams. I mean, in places like Kota where people are trained to go through that system, faculty members are also gaining from the system. One of them being publications; there is a proliferation of journals which is shocking. It is there primarily to serve the interest of the academic community that wants to get promoted. How does one claim that one has done anything useful? The answer: I have wrote x number of papers.

Now, there used to be very few journals; it was very hard to get it published because there was hardly any people in the game. There was some value in it. Today, we are over flowing with journals. So, what ends up happening is you have a system which has matrix, which is the whole business of rankings. We have forgotten that you learn and in the process you pass exams. Instead, the whole thing is now inverted – you pass exams and assume you have learned in the process. There is a systemic process that has to be addressed across all levels.

Contact: 
https://www.iisc.ac.in/about/administration/divisional-chairs/

Chair, Mechanical Sciences Division

Prof. Vikram Jayaram

Email: divchair.mec@iisc.ac.in

Contact: 91 – 80 – 2293 2807/3243

Anand Jha, Secondary Mathematics Teacher, Oakridge International School, Bengaluru

Anand Jha is very passionate about teaching. A Bachelor of Engineering in Electronics and Communications, he quit his lucrative IT job to pursue his passion. He likes to interact with students and goes out of his way to help them solve their problems.

Give a brief introduction about yourself

I graduated from PES Institute of Technology, Bangalore in 2014.  I did my Bachelor of Engineering in Electronics and Communications.  I am from Ranchi in Jharkhand (same school from where Dhoni has graduated).  In 2014, I graduated from PESIT and then after that on campus I got placed into Infosys and I worked for many IT companies like Infosys, Manhattan Associates.  Meanwhile, I was pursuing my passion of teaching students. And I have been doing this for almost four years.  I taught the pupils for IIT, GATE, BIT, SAT, etc. Later, I got an opportunity to work for Oakridge International School. There, I worked close to six months as a contract period because their senior most teacher was not well. Apparently, I perceived my passion of teaching.  I have my own website called, www.anandlearningacademy.in. There are all the reviews and the list of students.

Why didn’t you continue in the lucrative IT sector?

I didn’t like sitting in front of the system and then continuously coding for hours. During my job in Bangalore, once my sister who was staying close told me about one tuition requirement in their society. I took it up. So, when I started teaching for the first time, then I realized, this is giving me quite a different feeling, you know, you feel quite good from inside after teaching, right, you go to a place, interact with the students, analyze their problem and then accordingly work plus the pay is also really good. Over a period of time, I realized that this is the passion which I am meant for, which I should devote my time to.

Tell us about your experience at Oakridge International School?

I think they saw my website and all the reviews of my students have written over there.  So, I think they might have got, I mean, he is the right candidate. And I got a call from them plus the students were so happy once I joined in and the principal told me that, I mean, what magic you have done.  The people who are scared of maths, now they started loving it.  One day, I was absent, I was not well, I couldn’t go to school.  Then they told me that students are searching for you. I am so happy.

What are your strategies in teaching?

This is not only about the teaching.  I give them real life examples and why you want to study a chapter where let’s say, probability or any Algebra and all.  The moment they heard Algebra, they will get scared.  Why sir, why we have to study and then too many examples, numerous examples I will give them. If they get bored, then I will go off the topic, I will pick some science topics and then I will explain them, I will interact with them, what’s happening in their life and they are not completely into studies, so that their mind get diverted a bit and then they can come back to the topic.

Tell about your role as a maths facilitator

Maths facilitator -it’s an actual word.  I was a class teacher also.  They made me the class teacher of class 7th grade.  I taught till the calls 10th, right from 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.  So my role was to prepare the lesson plan, full year plan also, and I have to look into various curricular activities, what will be the daily lesson plan you are going to teach in that 40 minutes class today, what are your strategies, what are your weak at, everything, daily plan, weekly plan, monthly plan etc. I have to share with one of my coordinator because she has some other works also.  So, she told me that Anand, you are making it, so share it with me and she used to take one section of class 6th grade and she is not having that much of time to prepare lesson plans.  So, I used to share with her, because completely I was new to this MYP of IB.  She guided me accordingly, then I used to prepare my PPT and lesson plan according to that and I used to share with her.

Tell the difference between IB, CBSE, ICSE curriculum.

IB is very different from what CBSE.  CBSE is what, we just have to keep solving the problems simultaneously, but IB, they will give you quite real life examples, that’s how they have designed in ABCD  criteria.  A is knowledge and understanding, B is investigating pattern, C is communication, and D is real life situation which you will never find in IGCSE or CBSE or ICSE.  They focus more on real life examples, so that students can integrate their knowledge with day to day surroundings.  That I feel is pretty good.

Was there any challenging instance in your teaching career?

The most challenging part was transition from CBSE to IB.  Many CBSE students could not understand the criteria of ABCD of IB.  Sometimes, I used to frame one question on them and they have to explain it.  They have to explain a new problem.  In IB, you have to integrate your knowledge to solve this problem.  Such kind of questions keep coming in IB.  so, they were completely puzzled up. So, it was very challenging for them.  But, over the period of time, they came to know that the transition was easy after a certain point of time.

Tell us about Embibe.

Recently I have joined Embibe.  It is like Byju’s and all these online tuitions. But there, I am apparently like an academic validator.  Academic validator means, if you have any application, suppose you are running your own, I have my application, so before posting any question’s solution over there, I will give it to a person to review it.  Once I reviewed it whether all the steps are proper or not, then it will be considered final.

What are your views on mushrooming of coaching institutes?

These coaching institutes, they have come into the marketing domain and they are not providing any real education.  That’s what I felt.  The current situation in Bangalore, I will take for example, their basics are not clear at all in 6th, 7th grade, only then people want tuition.  When we were there, we hardly required any tuition in 6, 7, 8.  We totally relied on, this is the point where CBSE comes into high rate. At this point, CBSE is much better I will say when it comes to the 6th, 7th.  Because 6th, 7th is basic foundation of pillars is important.  At that time, you are not looking into the real life examples and all, but that is the foundation where you play with the numbers.  That is the problem with this IB.  8, 9 and 10 it is fine, but 6, 7 is the foundation, and mushrooming of tuitions and all this is just for the money sake.  I have been into this market, I know from past five years’ experience, they are not giving any education.

There are students who fear Maths, how do you handle this?

Why they fear maths I will tell you, because of their basics, suppose they are in 6th grade, their 5th grade concepts are not clear. Over a period of practice, I am able to deal with this and they will come over to the actual level.  But it takes time for them.  Its not like that it will happen in one or two days, it takes three to four months, sometimes six months also it takes.

When I was speaking about integers concept, say, -2, -3, so most of students got confused.  Then I gave them a very beautiful example.  I took some chocolates, I took some like real life banana or apple fruits type of them, I told them, when you are telling -2 means you have to give two rupees to someone, right, or you have to give two pens to someone, when you are telling +2, that means, you have two rupees in your hand or you will have two pens in your hand, right.  So, when it is like, 2 minus 4, that means 2 pens you are having, 4 pens you have to give, but you are not having 4 pens, you have 2 only, so, if you give 2, how much more you have to give, 2, so that is 2 means -2.  Then, they got the clear picture.  Oh, that’s how the integers concept worked.

How do you connect with all students in a class?

The moment you are into the class and the class is quite noisy, you don’t have to do anything, just connect your laptop to the TV and just play the puzzle.  Within 30 seconds, there will be pin-drop silence and they will connect with you, then they will listen, then I will ask are you recharged, then they will say, yes, then I will begin it.

Tell us about the use of technology in teaching?

I am explaining the concept through videos, through puzzles, I mean, day to day life objects, how can you relate maths to, using some YouTube videos.  YouTube videos have a lot of stuff and the online quiz.  There are many online quiz portal, you just simply share the code with them, they will open the tab and everyone will do the quiz and they can see the live report on the TV. So, it keeps quite a healthy environment. So there is mix of technology as well as conventional way of teaching.

Tell us about your website www.anandlearningacademy.in

We teach Science and Maths, right from 5th grade till 12th and BTech level also.  I am doing this along with three of my colleagues, myself being an engineer, the other two are dentists, and one more my junior, who is also an engineer.  So we take care of maths and science pertaining to different locations in Bangalore.

What advice would you give to those who want to pursue career in teaching?

I will tell them only one thing that if they are very passionate about teaching, they should take it up or if they see from the money point of view, then they shouldn’t come into picture.  Only if it will give them the real pleasure of teaching, then only they should be a part of it.  Because, it is not like a job kind of thing, right.  It is really I mean your passion, if you need to follow it. Then only they should come into it.

What are the challenges of education in India?

The basic concepts are really not good with the students.  I don’t know, if they don’t practice at all after school, what they will do, they will close their books simply, they don’t even practice for 5-10 minutes, that’s what I have observed from many of the students here. We used to sit like 5-6 hours or even 10 hours a day.  Again, then there will be a big trouble if they want to sit for any exams, competitive exams.  That’s what I make my students practice all sorts of problems, so that once they sit for any examination, okay, this has been done by my sir, this I have already done, none of the questions should be such that they are not aware of it.  So, Maths is all about the more you practice the better person you can become day by day.  Because there is never an end to any problem in mathematics even if you have solved 1000 problems, 1001 problem will be such that, I mean, you have not seen at all.

What is the difference in teaching maths for preparing for IIT and JEE as compared to CBSE or ICSE?

Unless and until your basics are clear you would not be able to solve the problem.  Because strategy wise, how do you approach with problems, then only you will come up with a solution.  Right.  So, their strategy matters a lot because it is not the way of solving the problem.  Even if you appear with 99% of the concept, you wont able to solve it, because IIT, JEE, and BIT,SAT exam will pick those questions which fits in the 1% of the problem and that’s what they have to be crystal clear with the concept.

What your aspirations for the future?

I am planning for my masters and PhD. I would have been PhD, but the problem was, I was having my education loan. I worked for two to three years and it gave me exposure to know how does IT companies work, how is the scenario, how is the job situation in India. Now I am planning for my masters in Data Science.

Contact

anandjha_1990@yahoo.co

Yogita Hastak – Student Counsellor, Oakridge International School, Bengaluru

With a sneak peek into the world of the human mind very early in life, Ms. Yogita Hastak always had an inclination towards a career path in Psychology. Of course, the idea takes shape as one grows.

“I had this thing for Psychology – had a feeling that I would be quite good at it. Hence, I started looking for Arts colleges in India that would lead to a degree in Psychology. I landed up in Fergusson College, Pune. The first year Psychology seemed very interesting, but I seemed very casual about it. So, I thought I would gradually figure out what I would do the next year. Getting into Psychology Major was rather uncommon at that point in time. Luckily, I made it and got in and that is when I really started to explore the subject and got quite deep into it and secured my Masters as well in Clinical Psychology from the Pune University itself. Before doing my MA, I took a year off and worked with a special school. By 2006, I has secured my MA and then I immediately got into research.”

Early life and schooling

Ms. Yogita grew up in Oman – home to a huge Indian community.

“I did my schooling at the Indian school there, which was a CBSE school. In fact, back then, that was the only big school there and so we had all Indians studying at that school.

Life in the Gulf was pretty different because we were highly protected and children didn’t have much freedom so to speak. I couldn’t go places myself – we had to be dropped, picked up etc. So, when I came to India things took a paradigm shift and it was almost a shock. Adapting to it did take some time.”

Exposure to people coming from varieties is a given when one grows abroad, especially in countries where people fly in seeking work opportunities.

“Looking back, we had a huge variety of people back in Muscat. Even things like religion didn’t matter at all. We didn’t have much students who were expats but our teachers were from all over the country and there was no regionalism. It was definitely a very open-minded setting. Furthermore, studying a subject like Psychology opened things up. My mom was a teacher as well. My parents have brought us up to have an open-mindedness about things. So being limitless comes from home for me. I was always the kind of person to whom people came and shared their problems. People used to talk to me a lot.”

How did you choose to be a student counsellor?

As a child, I have seen my mother who was a mainstream school teacher, doing a lot of work with a special school that was attached to my school. I don’t know if she intentionally took me along or if I used to want to go but I remember going with her there a lot. I liked playing with the children there and they were all children who had special needs. So, I had this urge to work with special-need children from a very young age. 

Somewhere down the lane, my interest in adolescence came up and I have also researched a lot on the LGBTQ community, etc. Identity formation was a space that was very intriguing and interesting for me. Also, I am a very family-oriented person. I have wanted children and I need a job that helps me focus on them as well. So, I have always wanted a place where I could understand them better.

Children is a group that I did have in mind from very early on. There was some sense of ease that came with it and I plunged into it. The first proper school job was at The Millennium School, Dubai. I was a special educator there. I always knew that this profession is a space that I was always comfortable with. It may have started with children with special needs but eventually I moved into main stream school. I have always wanted to work with an NGO and with children who are less privileged. But I needed to be more stable, financially. So, I took up a mainstream school job. I perhaps will switch when I have the luxury of pursuing that dream. 

I get children coming to me on a daily basis. A big part of my job is to provide counselling to Grade 6 to Grade 12 students. That would be the age group between 10 – 17 years of age. I now know how the progression works in terms of growing up. I am aware of the typical issues that surfaces at Grade 6 etc. I understand how these things get manifested. One part of my job is to provide individual counselling to students. We have a huge inflow in terms of children referring themselves because there is an open culture system. There are children who recommend their friends to come meet me. All this is an assurance for me that they are benefiting from the sessions I give.

How do you balance the students’ academics and emotional needs?

To be honest, I don’t handle the academic needs of children. In the primary years, I think academics and emotions overlap a lot because the emotional needs manifest in the form of behavioral issues, which in the long run tie in with the academics. Immediately, they work in close quarters. In the senior school, I look more into the well-being of children. So, if there are academic issues, it would go into the hands of the special educator or the coordinators of the programmes. Also, we have regular awareness sessions at our school on various subjects like conflict management or conflict resolution etc. In terms of academics of students who need to give their board exams, we do talk a lot about students getting to understand their stressors, time management, self-management etc.

How do you integrate parents into a student’s education journey?

Even for children with emotional needs sometimes parents are unable to contribute directly owing to some issues at the home front as well. I have also seen students unwilling to bring in their parents and getting them involved in the whole process. We are very clear when it comes to confidentiality. Confidentiality is never breached unless I feel that the student or anybody else involved is in some kind of threatening situation. There are times when we understand children engaging in self harm and those are times when we get parents involved. Such situations are handled very delicately because we don’t want them to take a very harsh approach. We want them to truly understand what is happening. Those are situations that require high amount of hand holding. 

Other than that, we would do parenting sessions. We also have something called a parent partner at our school. Parent partners are parent representatives from every class. We bring them together and try and understand what the needs of the parents of children in different grades at different points in time. That helps us in understanding what their needs are. During regular PTMs, of course, there are lot of interactions.

What are some of the common general disorders you treat?

As a school counsellor we don’t end up doing a lot of treatment or therapy work. I don’t use a lot of my therapy techniques that I have learned. One therapy I vouch for the most is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Typically, with this age group I would see a lot of peer conflict and conflict resolution is very poor. These are the basic level issues. There is a lack of empathy due to which they end up attacking each other a lot. I work with children a lot to clear a lot of those issues. I deal a lot with bullying issues. The idea is not to step in and yell at them but to empower children to handle such situations. I also help make the children who attack to understand what such acts does to others. We do see children engaging in self harm. Cyber spaces have become extremely crucial. Children get into social media at a much earlier stage. So, they are exposing themselves to a lot of judgement and criticism which they do not know how to handle and it ends up affecting their self-esteem. Another aspect is that nowadays there is a lot of adult intervention due to which children are unable to sort their issues themselves. At the same time, they are very intelligent. They think a lot and analyse things beautifully but they fall short on emotional skills. Parents not being around when required and getting exposed to too many things too soon are reasons for this gap. Hence, navigating that age is extremely tricky. Depression has become a common affair. We do conduct a lot of awareness sessions to help them understand those aspects as well.

Over the years, I have children evolve and going from petty issues to eventually being in a place where they can handle their issues themselves. By Grade 12, they are pretty equipped to take care of their emotional needs.

Is there an average length of time for which you work with a child?

I work quite actively with them for 6-8 months to up to a year. And then I see the sessions that they need goes down. Yes, they may get derailed at some point and they may need to talk. So, in the long run, they are on the radar but I do not have to actively engage after some time.

If there has been a clinical diagnosis and there are medicines involved then things take a different shape altogether. That will need us to work very closely with the parent and the child to understand the support we need to render. As children grow, they get better equipped to handle situations but then there are other issues that get manifested. So, there is a constant firefighting involved some times.

What are the most challenging aspects of your profession?

The most challenging part would be to not internalize what I see and hear. Having children of my own as well, it gets difficult at times. Sometimes you tend to overthink. Over the years you figure out how to help children help themselves. That whole thing of giving advice is something that one has to stay away from and be very careful about because they have to figure out their own path. And that is my success point. I know children feel that I am not judgmental and so they are able to open up about what they are thinking or feeling. It becomes easier for them to process what they are going through. 

Personally, my challenge is to leave things that are picked up from school at school itself and not take them home with me. It should not affect the way I handle things in my space.

What is the rewarding aspect of your profession?

The feedback I get! I feel very rewarded when children refer other children to me. That is signal that I have been able to help them out. Children are very vocal about their opinions and appreciation. They are mighty generous with their praise. Then there are success stories where the parents are also grateful. 

Just to see a child evolve with some inputs from me is extremely rewarding.

Is there an experience that you can share where your skill set made a difference in another’s life?

There was a student who came in her 7th or 8th grade. She was going through a lot of mood swings, episodes of being extremely upset and dull. While I was working with her, I noticed once an injury on her leg. She had a broken leg and it was very alarming at that point as it didn’t seem normal. After probing, I realized that she had jumped from her balcony and her parents had no idea of this episode. Thankfully it was the first floor and the damage were minimal. But that was a huge red flag for me and I had to get people involved. 

I got the parents involved and it was mighty hard for them to accept the situation. There was a lot of back and forth. She was on my radar; I would keep talking to her friends and keep note of where she was etc. That one year was quite a difficult time. From that time until today – that is about two years – she has evolved into being extremely articulate. Mood swings still happen but now she can articulate her feelings beautifully. From her constant answer of I don’t know, she can now tell me exactly what she feels. She is also able to analyse her own feelings and emotions quite well.

Her mother once told me about an incident wherein she got a lot of feedback for a project and she stuck my feedback post-it note on her mirror. Those small things are what tell me I am on the right path.

What life lessons have you learnt being a school counselor?

I think it is the open-mindedness to say that anything is possible. We tend to label and limit our children into making them think that there is a set pattern in which things are and should be. But when you show them that there are limitless possibilities of what they can do, though it may seem insignificant it can take that person a long way. A positive note of can go a long way. 

My attitude and my sense of gratitude towards life has increased. I see so many things going wrong every day that I feel grateful for what I have. It is also humbling that I am able to contribute towards something positive.

Contact

hastak.yogita@gmail.com


 
        

Vinita Sharat, STEM Coordinator, Shiv Nadar School, Noida

Talking to Ms Vinita Sharat, STEM Coordinator at Shiv Nadar School gives us the impression that the definition of a teacher lies in her interaction and chemistry with her students.

Ms Vinita is an educationist who believes in the integration of all subjects and views education to be wholesome. She is passionate about keeping her students connected with the outside world while taking classes and scorns at the mushrooming tuition culture.

How did you decide to be a Physics teacher?

I always wanted to be a teacher. In my school days, I was the only Physics student among the 45 student at B.Sc Level. This was 30 years back when the number of girls were less when I was in college.

After Class 12 all my classmates opted for other paths like Engineering. None of the girls took any initiative to go for Engineering though. So, I thought if I don’t get through any competitive exam and I gain high level education in Physics and become a teacher or professor, I can perhaps motivate children – girls and boys alike – to shape their career.

Do you think that curiosity for science needs to be instilled in children right from kindergarten?

At Shiv Nadar, I began working with kindergarten-level teachers as well because I have to look at the way teaching progresses right from kindergarten to class 12. I hold workshops for students and teachers are also expected to be part of that workshop. 

It is not that I am a better teacher than any of them, but when I hold a workshop, teachers get to see the reaction of students and can decide for themselves the methodologies they want to adopt. 

I encourage my students to explore. I like integrating Physics with many other subjects. For example, I once gave 2-3 colours to a tissue paper. I asked children to dip tissue paper in colours. I called out the fact that even that portion of the tissue which is not dipped gets coloured. That way they get to see the capillary action and it is also an art. It helps children think better. I always go to my class prepared because otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to give them some time to fiddle with their creative juices. 

These activities have a good impact – sometimes it leads to children giving me their thoughts and explanations, sometimes they come up with even more questions. It helps me grow as a mentor and guide. 

How long have you been teaching and how is your experience so far?

I have been in this profession for 30 years. People ask why I don’t apply for the post of a Principal. I don’t want to because I prefer being around teachers and not around administrators. The journey so far has been great. I am a coordinator now and so I don’t get too spend much time teaching but I tell my children that the 45 mins that I take class is the most wow moments for me at school. I get immense satisfaction when I am around children.

There are a lot more things that I get to do. It is how you drive your passion. I get calls from all over the place. I am doing workshops, I train Haryana government teachers, I got a call from Dr.H C Verma who was recently awarded Padma-Shri, I sit with him and plan out a lot of work, I train Physics Teachers etc.

What is your role as a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) coordinator?

My primary role is to ensure that subjects are integrated the STEM way. I tweak the curriculum to make sure that lessons are taught the STEM way. Teachers may need a little bit of hand holding.

No subject should be taught in silos. If somebody is teaching history and where there is a scope to integrate Math or Physics, I would highlight it to the teacher so that they seek such opportunities while teaching.  Gradually, the school has recognised the importance of integrating subjects. We have come a long way now.

Is this a practice across CBSE schools of India or is it a Shiv Nadar school feature?

At Shiv Nadar we follow the IB and CBSE syllabus. I was at Shri Ram School earlier and I tried the same methodology there as well and it worked wonderfully. I began trying out the IB way of exploring with my ISC children as well.

When I joined here 1 and half years ago, I gave this idea which they liked and we are trying the IB way of exploration and innovative thinking right from grade 6 for CBSE students as well.

What is the difference between ICSE, CBSE and IB and which curriculum do you think is better?

For CBSE and ICSE, the content is too much and owing to that there is hardly any time to improve the creative thinking of children. If you check out CBSE textbooks, there are few questions shaded in blue, which prompts children to think. But, very categorically, they mention that those questions will not come for exams.

In IB, the content is very less. The content may perhaps be only 60% of that in CBSE or ICSE but in IB the question paper is designed to check the creative thinking of children. That way children are prompted to think a lot. 

What are the different technologies your school adopt?

Children are allowed to have an iPad because instant recording and analysis or live event can be done on an iPad. Up to Class 8 has been made digital and then there are so many projects that children get involved in.

How should a subject like Physics be taught? 

The problem with the way in which Physics is taught is that students in the class do not connect with the outside world. According to my guru, Dr H C Verma, the issue is when you teach about the simple pendulum in 2D on a blackboard when in reality it is 3D. So, it is highly important that they connect it to the outside world to make things more interesting and relatable. I do a lot of activities in class.

For example, when I was teaching about the convex lens, I made sure that children understand how the ray passes. I powdered chalk and I used a laser beam etc. If children connect the concept taught in class with the real life scenario they get catapulted into what we are teaching.  I don’t start with one chapter. I ask them questions to understand why they think we should be studying something. I keep asking questions to trigger their curiosity. Every child has an aptitude but if the concept is not delivered properly then I feel that I failed.

How different is today’s teaching methodology?

I used to hate going to school. I realise now that it was because I used to go to school only to get marks.

In Class XI and XII, I had this very good teacher who was a living working model of Physics. That is when my interest in Physics got triggered. She used to teach about sound modulating her voice like Amitabh Bachchan and then sometimes switch to talking like Lata Mangeshkar, etc. She was such a good influence that I stuck to Physics for life. I remember back in those days, hardly anyone took Physics. I always took it as a challenge. I was a sports person too. I was a national level badminton player and hailing from a small town in Bihar, where hardly any girls showed up for sports, my father gave me quite a lot of exposure.

Is present day teaching better than what it was back in those days?

Today, everything is available over the net. If you feel that the teaching is not effective in class, you always have sources to go back to and refer. In fact, I give my students sites they can visit if they couldn’t follow something that I taught. I also ask them to revert to me so that I can improve my teaching.

What, in your opinion, catalysed the growth of tuition culture?

The tuition culture we have today, is not great. Children taking tuition don’t stay attentive in my class which is quite annoying. Parents have become very rigid. If both parents are working they feel studies are taken care of at tuition classes. They do not understand that it is highly important to make the child responsible rather than sending them for tuition classes.

How do you handle the kind of questions children come up with these days?

To site an example, I was connecting with the outside world while teaching my class about the laws of motion.  I was asked the need to accept all these laws that are based on assumptions. They asked me about the reliability of those laws. I acknowledged that it was a brilliant thought.

I had another question if Newton gave that law or if it was existent from time immemorial. In all books it states that Newton gave us the law, which is actually false. The law was already there, Newton only discovered it. He did not create it.

I love such questions and my day is made when I get such intellectually challenging questions from my students. It gives me the confidence that they are understanding the nature of Science and they are thinking.

I handle these things quite smartly. For instance, I divide the class into groups and I ask them to discuss, debate and find out the answers. I don’t feel it is effective if I directly give them the answers. Giving them the answers directly is my last resort. That is what IB is all about.  Honestly, this was the Indian way of learning. Our gurukul system followed this – children were allowed to explore and find answers. We became rote learners after the British changed things here. It’s amazing to get it back in a much more refined manner. And, why should CBSE children be deprived of it?  We have CBSE and IB in this school. So, I am trying to influence CBSE sector also with these methodologies.

What are the challenges faced by your teachers?

The biggest challenge is that the CBSE curriculum is too vast. Children are always studying owing to the ocean of content. Exam is a big burden. Teachers are also burdened because of that.

There must be 2-3 topics in each subject which students can learn themselves. I churn those out and ask teachers to assign those as part of self-study at the beginning of the term itself. In Physics, we have chapters related to environment etc. which students can manage themselves. I can use the time I would spend on such chapters for team activities etc. We announce online about the chapters that children are expected to study by themselves and revert with questions.

Would you suggest taking up teaching as a profession?

I will, of course. If people are passionate about a subject, they should definitely come into this field. Children are children and they should grow up to decide for themselves what they want to do.

At the school level, their understanding of a subject is our responsibility. This will help them take an informed decision. It shouldn’t be that they are blindly following their parents’ footsteps or mutely abiding to somebody’s directions. They have to make their own decision; and we teachers have a huge role to play in them making their decision when it is time.

What are the challenging/upsetting moments in your journey as a teacher?

I don’t like tuition culture. If a topic has been taught in school and if the same thing is being done with the tuition teacher, what extra bit of creativity is happening there? The child is not thinking.

In a class, a child will not understand everything 100%. Some children may understand 40%, another set may understand 50% and some 60% or 70%. 30% children would churn it in their minds, analyse it and understand things by themselves; they gain clarity themselves.

Now if you go to a tuition teacher and get all the clarity through someone else, it kills your processing and thinking abilities. It gets spoon fed. This leads to killing of neurons in their brain because neurons multiply when you think until the age of 18. After 18 anyway whatever your intelligence is, it stops.  So, tuition actually kills the child’s thinking skills. In fact, teachers must be transparent about the fact that topics and subjects are not things that they will understand at one go; they need to encourage children and keep them upbeat to think and gain clarity.

Self-study time gets killed because of tuition. After grade 5, when the thinking skills become a need, children just cannot develop it because they are used to be given everything on a platter.

How do you assess science teachers, balance being a Science teacher and a STEM coordinator?

Generally we have a team and we believe in peer observations. It is not just me who goes and observes all the time. Sometimes teachers come and observe my class and they give me clear feedback because I could also be doing something wrong. So, it is a group effort.

Do you conduct workshops for upgrading teachers’ skills?

Yes! I organised the South Asia Teachers’ workshop which was attended by lot of science teachers and eminent educators. I have organised Physics workshops. I am currently organising a Biology workshop. So, these things keep happening.

What needs to change in today’s education system?

Teachers and educators need to go in for their 45 min class aiming for children being happy and looking forward for the next class. If this is true then it means that your message has been conveyed and the education is streaming in the right manner.

It is a matter to retrospect everyday if each of the 45 mins you shared with children as an educator has been effective or not. I do not call it class hours, I’d rather call it happiness hours.

That is the message I would like to spread amongst teachers. The percentages that children should fetch should not be dictated by us. If a child is happy they will study well and they will gain percentages to the best of their ability.

Contact

vinita.sharat66@gmail.com

Varsha S S, Academic Coordinator, EuroSchool, Bangaluru

A Masters in Physics and Bachelors in Education is a clear indication of the line of career, Varsha would choose. Once she entered the field of education, her conduct, performance and the skills she developed over 9 years at EuroSchool, Chimney Hills, Bangalore proved her to be a highly-skilled academician with proven ability to formulate a comprehensive curriculum, enable effective delivery of content and train teachers as well. Varsha is highly experienced in administering both academics and faculty training with new generation teaching aids.

Varsha’s mantra that learning is a life-long process and that we become old when we stop learning keeps the teacher in her alive.

Tell us about your role as an Academic Coordinator

Being an academic coordinator I lead the Science and Math departments and train teachers to plan their lessons as per children’s needs. Today, it is all about child-centred methodologies. So, I focus on how teachers can plan and deliver the lessons effectively. As a team we reflect on how we conduct classes so that we can get back to understand where we need improvement to effectively deliver lessons.

How do you train teachers to plan their lessons the child centric way?

Classes must be interactive and not in lecture format. We should seek opportunities wherein we can incorporate hands-on experience for children. We have to guide children to take an interest in the subject. Everybody may not be 100% interested naturally; but, they all have to be familiar with all topics. So, we group them into a balanced mix of children.

Giving a group activity is good practice. This way, the children who are interested in the subject tends to lead the other children as well to be involved in what is happening. So, team work that can be done in pairs or in small groups is highly recommended. By employing such methodologies, we can get the entire class to focus on the topic.

These interactive sessions can be a blend of worksheets, showing videos, etc.

I teach Physics and I focus on a lot of hands-on experience. For example, when teaching about light, I would conduct classes purely in the lab wherein children can touch, feel, experience, discuss and come to conclusions.  Worksheets can be employed as a follow up. This way, children will grasp concepts and retain them easily. It keeps rote learning at bay.

When did you decide to become a teacher?

Many of my friends and classmates chose either Engineering or Medical Science. But somehow I wasn’t too keen on those lines. I chose to go in for pure Science and hence, took up B Sc. I felt it would be great to impart knowledge and so took up B.Ed and M.Sc as well.

In my opinion, the education field is one field which is refreshing. In most other professions you have to deal with machines. Here, I get to deal with children through whom we can make a huge impact on the coming generation.

Teaching is a profession that creates all other professions. So learning should be a lifelong process in my opinion. I also feel that in any other profession, you can tend to get stagnant at some point. Of course, even homemakers can keep learning lifelong; I do not deny that. But, I think somewhere in the long run people tend to lose interest. This profession keeps learning alive, enthusiastically. That is the thought behind choosing this profession. I hope I can translate this philosophy of being lifelong learners to my students as well.

Did you have any favourite teacher?

My Math teacher amazed me. He used to multi task so much that I used to think if you learn Math you could multi task well. I think that influenced me a lot and I took up Science. I am till date very proud of the discipline this subject instils. I believe that Science and Math students are the most disciplined lot.

How does Math and Science instil discipline?

Math and Science students are trained to think in steps and so you get tuned into being organized. In order to solve problems, you need to first analyse data. In any given situation, they need to check the data and the available conditions before deciding how to proceed and what needs to be done.

This translates into your daily life as well. The subject prompts you to look at things scientifically. I am very proud of my subject and hope to inspire many students to take up the subject. It is true that there is a Science in all other subjects.

What curriculum does your school follow?

The school follows the CBSE curriculum, which encourages having hands on experience.

Do you think that CBSE is examination oriented? 

No, I don’t think so. I believe that it brings in a lot of application skills. The question papers are also application based. It is learning for life in CBSE and simultaneously they get prepared for the examinations. There is a lot of subconscious learning happening.

In my opinion, the scope for rote learning is very less. There may be formulae kind of things where rote learning might be involved; but, it is very less. Most of the learning is application based.

Why do you think some students fear STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects? 

No matter which field you choose, STEM would be part of it. It could be the food industry, medical industry, textile or any other industry for that matter, engineering is absolutely there. Engineering is not possible without Mathematics. Also, without Mathematics no other Science upholds.

When it comes to fear; teachers can eliminate fear towards subjects at the very early stages. Teachers shouldn’t make learning a practice for examinations alone. We have to make learning a fun process.

In our school, we do not have formal examinations for grade 1 and 2. In Grades 3, 4 and 5, we do not induce pressure on students. We never emphasize on examinations. If you plug examination fear into children, it translates into subject fear. After Class 5, the system becomes examination oriented. But the belief that learning is fun gets instilled in them and they learn for exams as well.

The key is to make them understand that learning is not for the sake of examinations. It should be to gain knowledge in a fun manner.

How do you prepare your students for examinations?

Learning should be fun, interesting and goal-driven.

Until grade 8, we do not emphasize much on examinations. But we do keep emphasizing on learning. Grade 9 and 10, of course, is examination-centered.

When the students enter grade 9, parents are first counselled. We try to eliminate fear from the students and their parents. Fear of examinations is usually transmitted to children through parents. When parents pressurize, children get exhausted. We always plan out a parents’ orientation program and counsel children for time management.

If time is managed well, there is no scope for stress during examinations. We keep stressing on time management and assessing their plans. Each child has his/her own pace of learning. We group children in 3s or 4s and assign each group to a mentor. The mentor helps children plan and eliminate any fear associated to any subject. They also help children come in terms with any issues they may be facing outside of academics. We hold special remedial sessions for those who are slightly poor in academics as well.

Motivation plays a great role here. From this year, CBSE has offered basic Math paper. It is not true that every child is good at Math or that children good at Math alone have brains. It is not fair to have a discouraging attitude towards children who are poor at Math. The basic Math paper is for children who are fairly poor at Math so that they get motivated to give it their best. They may be good at English or Social Studies. 

We guide them so that their overall percentage in 10th Board exam is high.

Which is your favourite Math topic and why?

Algebra is my favourite. It is highly applicable in our daily lives. Students don’t understand this topic that well in the beginning. Once the interest is generated, children will pick things up.

How do you inculcate classroom assignments/project in that learning?

Like I mentioned, we divide children into heterogeneous groups. A group may sometimes contain 2 children or 3-4. Projects are usually a group project, except for Social Studies. For Social Studies it is usually in individual case-study kind of assignment. Those who are poor in academics get directions from the group leaders.

Teachers act as facilitators. Students plan, manage, execute and test their project and submit it.

Is using calculators in classrooms justified, in your opinion?

No, we do not allow them to use calculators in CBSE schools. I do not strongly object the use of calculators, if I were to have a say in the decision. Calculators can perform basic calculation.

When you have a problem in front of you, you need to analyse if the numbers should be added/subtracted/divided/multiplied. That part the calculator cannot do for you. The computer or a calculator can only follow your instructions. I don’t have a strong objection but I don’t see a strong need for it either. Students will need to calculate even in the event that calculators don’t work.

I do not recommend learning tables till 25 by heart. Children should know how to multiply, add, etc. They should know how to do it without a calculator too. Calculators should be used to cross check their answers.  It is good to remind ourselves that calculators only do what we ask them to do, it doesn’t operate anything on its own.

For up to grade 4 or 5, they only have addition and subtraction mainly; I don’t think it is appropriate for them to use the calculator. They should learn how to calculate manually. In this perspective, using a calculator or no is not going to make any difference.

According to recent studies, girls are under-represented in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)subjects. In your view, what could be the reason?

This is not exactly true. Everywhere boys and girls are equally participative. Perhaps, if it is a written assessment, girls tend to do better and boys do better at practical assessments. But this again cannot be generalised. It is nothing to do with which gender uses their brains or anything. It is perhaps that girls do not get as much opportunity practically as boys do. So they may not feel comfortable to explore. 

Boys may not be very interested when it is only written assessments because they always try to explore. I don’t think this has to do with gender. It has to do with how we bring up children. You can make girls also comfortable to explore. If it is encouraged, you will see the result.

How can schools in India get on par with the best schools in the world?

Now, most of the curriculum is a blend between international and traditional methodologies. It is all about hands on experience and skill-based training. It is trending in India too and we are successful in the approach.

We can overpower the schools abroad, with a lot of parental support. Parents should welcome the change. All other curriculum involves parents in the education system. We have to bring in such a culture.

We do give assignments that encourages parents and children to go out, discuss and explore. But parents have to encourage and participate in such things. We fall behind in our curriculum in that aspect – exploring is comparatively less here. Curriculum should prompt children to explore. The board should make some changes and parents should accept such changes. There are a lot of changes being brought about in the CBSE Board as well.

Do you think professional development is important for teachers?

Of course, professional development is important for everyone. It is true for teachers as well. Like I mentioned earlier, learning is a continuous process.

We learned some methodology during our B.Ed course. But it should not stop there. We should keep the learning stream flowing. Every year there are workshops for teachers. This is a great way to keep oneself updated with methodology and other changes. In Science, especially, things keep changing and we have to be dynamic. It is the same for other subjects as well. Teachers should be updated about change in methodology, content, evaluation rules, etc.

What are the most significant challenges in your role today?

Today’s children are mentally restless. Making them sit in a classroom is challenging. We cannot expect a traditional classroom set up where children sit and listen while the teacher keeps talking. That methodology doesn’t work.

So, we have to make the classroom an interesting place to come to and learn. Channelizing children’s energy is a challenge and so we have to plan our lessons very well. It is important to capture those instances where there is an opportunity for children to physically move about and learn. We have to create such instances in the classroom. This will help them focus. Or else, no child can focus for 40 mins at a stretch in class.

Have you had any surprises in the past 9 years as a teacher?

I received good recognition from my organization. We have undergone training from the Teacher Training Foundation, which was sponsored by the school and we have had many such opportunities.

I had the opportunity to undergo STEM learning and all this was sponsored by our head office and recently, our school got an award for which I had represented my school.

It was a nice journey so far, thankfully.

Contact

varshas34@gmail.com / linkedin.com/in/varsha-s-s-1664a987

Shirin Bagchi, IBDP Coordinator, HUS, Chennai

Shirin Bagchi, Masters in Geography and Cartography has 11 years of experience in IB curriculum. Currently she is a IBDP Coordinator at Kohinoor American School, Khandala. She believes schools should be more inclusive and that students should get equal opportunities. According to her, teaching apart from being a profession should be a calling and teachers must invest their time and efforts to upgrade their skills to bring academic and holistic excellence.

Tell us about yourself in brief and how did you get into education?

I am born and brought up in Kolkata. I always had a feeling that I can make people understand. In my plus II and college days, whatever professors used to teach I was in a better position to understand and explain someone who had doubts as we used to study in groups and I used to be the front runner of that group.

But my breakthrough came when my professor sent me to become a lecturer of Geography after I completed my Masters. One day, I happened to come across an advertisement where the requirement was for an IB educator and I applied and got through. That was the beginning of my journey in International curriculum and I started by teaching IGCSE curriculum and then IB.

I consider myself baptised into IB education because of their 3 core philosophy and the service attitude in IB and the theory of knowledge. Later on, life encouraged me and my students also made me to take on new stuff and then I became the Diploma Programme Coordinator of IB.

Are you conducting online classes owing to corona situation.

We did it for few weeks and preponed our summer vacation so that every one can get a breather.

What were the challenges you faced conducting online classes?

Right from the primary age group till the teenage group of grade 12, I think both for the students and teachers, this has been very challenging as well as very rewarding. I know for sure that I have learnt few new skills – like how to manage academic honesty in online classes, assessment etc. From students point of view, they felt it was well organised and they did not feel the pressure of restrictive atmosphere of the school, especially my students who are pre-university students from the age group of 15 onwards; for them I feel online teaching has been more fruitful than the younger ones.

Do you feel students are able to learn the same way they learn in actual classroom teaching?

The lessons that need little understanding, little bit of interaction and reading on their own went very well, but teaching subjects like science where you need to do practical were a challenge for the teachers. They had to hunt for online resources/ simulated models to make the students understand the concepts. It was not that there was dearth of resources online and it was very encouraging to see my colleagues to take the pain to dig up resources.

In a classroom atmosphere, a teacher knows what and how she is going to teach but here she has to dig up resources. I am sure keeping this in mind there will be companies who will take it up and come up with more broad based and practical based lessons. I think our school did best in the process and even the parents were quite supportive right from the beginning and they put their confidence and trust on us during these trying times.  The first week of online teaching was very stressful, hectic and chaotic and I used to stay awake till 12:30 pm in the night just to ensure that the next day lesson should go smoothly. Then after first week, we started getting notes of appreciation from parents through WhatsApp and that was very fulfilling and encouraging.

You had been with many IB schools in different parts of India, like Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and now in Khandala. How was your over all experience? Which school you felt was doing extensively well in their teaching standards or whether all these schools being IB were at par with each other?

I won’t say that all these schools were at par in their standards. This is my 11th year in IB and since last 4 years, I am the coordinator and I realised that the school vision and the IB vision should be in alignment in action and the day they had done it, the schools has done exceptionally well; the others they have faltered and they are trying to find new standards and practices that are par with the International standards. No matter whether these IB schools are trying to maintain the International standards, they keep us on your toes. Every five years there is extensive and comprehensive evaluation process that puts back oxygen into the system which ensures to maintain the standard. I would say all IB schools are trying to maintain their standards and are at different stages but there are certain schools who have done exceptionally well in following the protocol etc.

What are the challenges of a IBDP coordinator?

One of the challenges is that the idea of holistic education for some parents is a bit challenging, as most of us come from very traditional education background continuing through the Indian education system. My challenge was to make these parents understand the philosophy of holistic education. These set of parents are very sceptical.

On the other hand there is other set of parents who are aware and knowledgeable about the IB curriculum. Though they know IB is good and is one of the best curriculum, there worry is what’s next for their children? At University, we need to streamline the admission process for the IB graduates. Inspite of our signing between AICTE and IB, the process is not smooth, as the admission officers – the first responders to the forms and admission process are not aware about the IB process. There is a lot of hassle. If the students plan to take up higher studies in India, they face lot of hassles. There has to be more interaction between the IB schools and the University officials that would eventually take care of the bottle neck.

Tell us about your beginning of interest in Geography?

Upto Grade 10, Geography was a compulsory subject and till that point, I was not drawn towards the subject. In Grade 11, I took it up and it was not geography per se, it was actually the idea of doing maps and interpreting topo sheets, doing cartography and topography that interested me. Once I did that, I came to know of different topics and subjects under the broad umbrella of Geography and that interested me to do my Bachelors and Masters in Geography.  

Do you think teachers play an important role in the interest of students towards the subject?

I feel teaching is a calling, you might call me old fashioned, of course it is my profession at the end of the day and I am not very philanthropic about it. However at the same time I firmly believe it’s a calling. The task given to me is my responsibility. The conflict happens when teachers are not ready to invest time and feel that they have to complete the task at hand in that allotted time of 6 hours and ensure that the students get good percentage. They should be ready to invest time during summer holidays for skill development. They can take up topics which they are not thorough with and spend some time upgrading their skills. In this way, they will be well prepared for the class and can achieve excellency.

Once the teacher comes prepared with academic excellence, believe me that the students come up with lot more respect for you and they are ready to study that subject as they see their teacher has taken efforts to make them understand and it’s visible. Then classes become very easier and I don’t see any need for a 9th or a 10th grader to go out and toil from 6 pm till 9 pm in the evening.

What is the scope of Geography from career perspective in India?

Geography is opening up. One of the good things that is happening world wide is that there is an immense interest in data science. If you look at the pandemic itself, it has opened up opportunities especially for people who pursue geography because the entire process of the mapping, the movement of the pandemic, finding out the source region, everything is actually location based. So nowhere in our historical times, the place-time parameters has got so much importance.

The geographical element of the location will always matter. Geography will definitely pick up. I would say, the process of intelligent cartography, the process of topography mapping, population mapping, demographic mapping, all of these will become very important in the next five years because I think this was the clarion call. India should look up that we really need unbiased data bank. If we really want to move into developed stage, we need good data.

If you go to any developed country there is no dearth of data for a person to do research. Whereas in India, it is very low level, unbiased scientific data collection and we cannot make any decision. That needs to change and one of those changes will be more integrated curriculum bringing in Geography and Cartography in data science and management level. I see bright future for my students and that one has to be a doctor or an engineer – that mind set of parents is gradually changing due to lot of other options.

What kind of projects are been given to students? Are they related to current geographical or environmental issues?

Most of the times to keep the interest alive and that they gain some skills one of the best ways for any geography teacher is to give them small research in doing tourism mapping or take up a project of how the impact of environment on tourism has happened. They should involve students in finding the impact of environment on tourists in different locations. The more we relate geography with the environmental impact assessment and the population dynamics of a region, I think it will become a very tangible topic. One should know what is really happening right now in a particular region and how you can move forward. While I was in Chennai,  my students did environmental assessment of Mahabalipuram; in Khandala they did study on plastic. So these kinds of tiny research based projects on the issues of their own localities will give them a broader perspective.

What are the challenges of teachers today? Due to advent of technology, has teaching become more effective compared to what it was a decade ago?

Teachers today have to be ready that students might know something which he or she might not know. Some of us have natural  aversion to technology as this is something new and some might feel they would probably not be able to manage it. But if they do accept it and take it forward, I think the way technology helps us is immense. There are ample resources available and teachers can make use of them to make their class effective.

What will be the changes you will look at to improve the way schools function today?

The major changes would be in making schools more inclusive. The thought process that this particular curriculum is not good due to traditional way of educational background, or due to little or half baked knowledge should change. We really need to ensure that the students get equal opportunities.

What would you like to accomplish in the years ahead?

I have been an adventurous sort – so as to say. I am looking forward to work with schools who wanted to take up IB – providing them with the experience I have gathered so that I can help them and support them. I have been looking forward to building a new IB school, and as the first few years are the foundational years, you have lots to contribute to ensure whether the schools mission is translated in action. You are in sync with the management and there is emotional attachment in the process. I would really love to take up IB from scratch and take it forward.

Contact:

Email id: shirinbagchi@gmail.com, linkedin.com/in/shirinbagchi

Fareen Wahid – History Teacher’s Transition Journey during the Pandemic Time

Fareen Wahid – Her Transition Journey during the Pandemic Time – Humanities Teacher at DSB International School, Mumbai

I am an educator, a Historian, a Geographer, a Writer, an Ed-tech specialist and Design thinker, Google and Microsoft Certified Educator

As our school transitioned to online education in the face of COVID-19,  I as a Historian was striving with what it means to teach history online. I understand high-quality online teaching is quite challenging and demanding than its face-to-face counterpart. It demands more upfront outlining, training, further individualized feedback and support. But as I drove into the journey of online teaching, the change worked swiftly for me. I could now affirm that History classes are likewise adaptable to an online setting as many other subjects, specifically because the skills we as a Historians regard involves critical reflection—the capability to read closely, analyze and estimate evidence, engage in educated debate and investigation, and address analytically and persuasively. These features are promptly transferrable to the digital sphere.

I would love to share one of my success lesson throughout this time and which can be used and referred by many other subject teachers.

Writing a Newspaper Story!

With this online activity, students were authorised to formulate a piece of writing that heightens knowledge of key opinions and information, using effective introductory and concluding judgments, logical sequencing of opinions and transitional words. Students were able to design a structure that incorporates accounts arranged in a rational and historical continuity in ways that help the audience follow the line of thought. They were further able to comprehend and use available resources to discover pertinent information to accomplish the writing task.

Objective

Writing a newspaper column for the French Newspaper about the ‘Storming of the Bastille’ including the perspective of a supporter of a King and how would their impression of events differ from that of French people.

Scenario

The year is 1789 – you are in your 1st week of being a reporter and have been sent to Bastille on 14th of July and have beheld the event. 

Prior to their activity, we had a review on the subsequent details –

  1. Online Journaling using Google Doc to consider – ‘Who is a writer’ and ‘What does it imply to be a good writer’?
  2. Reading an online newspaper article on Google News or BBC Online and addressing ‘Why reading newspapers is important’?
  3. Online Scavenger Hunt with a time limit to locate a list of items in the newspaper i.e. headline, price, date, reviews etc.
  4. Brainstorming and journaling – newspaper name, layouts, theme, price any logo etc.
  5. Online research of the given event using multiple links and videos to guide of same and also evaluating the news article of that particular period.

Here’s what my students design –

Contact: fareenwahid18@gmail.com

King’s College India, Rohtak – Virtual Learning Success Story

First, when we come to know that we won’t be able to open the school campus due to the Covid-19 outbreak, we were worried about the studies of our students and then we designed our virtual learning platform to run the online classes successfully during this lockdown period.

Learning never stops @ King’s College India!

Surjeet Singh – Deputy Headmaster / Officiating Headmaster, King’s College India

Kings College India started its Academic Session 2020-21 in digital mode on 13th April 2020. The unprecedented world events did not faze pupils and teachers as our virtual learning platform was packed full of engaging content to spark curiosity and continue learning. It was great to see the children enthusiastic, inquisitive, and excited to return to school, albeit in this new way.

The school designed its own online learning platform and learners of all ages starting from Early Year School, Junior School, and Senior school taking lessons using this new learning platform. Teachers are using this tool to successfully facilitate the delivery of the curriculum. Both the learners and the teachers have adapted quickly to this new method of teaching-learning and already there have been so many great results!

School is following an online regular time table to enable students to have a regular school day from the safe comforts of their homes. Teachers are providing adequate learning support to the students. Teachers are working from home and creating and sharing worksheets and video lessons and also engaging the students via video conferencing. Teachers are sharing the work and activities for the day with the students and parents and the same students are completing and sending back to the teachers on agreed deadlines.

Students and teachers can do everything possible from this platform including marking attendance, attending classes, connecting on video conference, joining google classrooms, submitting their homework etc. This platform has all information about classes, weekly timetable, links to attend the classes, Google Classroom, Google Meet, homework submission folders, teaching-learning resources, curriculum overview etc. 

Teachers plan their lessons and put it on the platform and then take video conferencing sessions to explain the students on how to go about it. Every lesson is designed in steps, so it is easy to follow and understand. And if any student is not able to attend the class, they can still have access to the resources even after the class and parents can help the student to revise. Students can learn at their own pace.

It is an easy platform for online teaching and learning. All students and teachers are very comfortable working on this now. All the classes for all the subjects from Pre Nur to Standard 12 are running smoothly. The decision to conduct classes online proved to be a milestone during this lockdown period. Parents and students are supporting and appreciating this initiative. This way, together, parents and teachers are ensuring that learning never stops in any situation for the students. We look forward to continuing to do this while the situation across India and the world is in constant flux. King’s College India wishing good health and safe self-lockdown to all. We pray that our country comes out of this pandemic very soon.

I take this opportunity to thank all our teaching and admin staff for supporting us to make this online learning a success.

My special mention and thanks to Academic Leadership team of King’s College India:

Ms. Tansy Troy – Head EYFS, Ms. Claire Whyte– Head of Junior School, Ms. Shahila Hussain– Key Stage 3 Coordinator, Ms. Minakshi Mann– Key Stage 4 Coordinator, Mr. Dushyant Bafna – Key Stage 5 Coordinator and Cambridge Examination Officer

Parents’ Testimonials on KCI Virtual Learning Sessions:

EYFS:

Parents of Rapunzel Saini – Pre-Nursery

Overall, the experience has been very satisfactory. Rapunzel has been enjoying her weekly activities and has faced no difficulties in accessing the platform. I can see all the effort that has been put into the teacher’s weekly plans which reflect in all the videos and worksheets they upload for the benefit of our children. All resources have been extremely useful during this learning process online. 

I would like to say a special thank you to all the wonderful teachers of Kings College India, I feel extremely proud that my child is in such an amazing school that truly cares about all their students especially in a time like this. Teaching staff have been professional at all times and have always answered immediately to any inquiries I had. 

Parents of Devangi – Phoenixes (UKG)

Our child has learnt a lot these past few weeks through the online learning platform. All the resources uploaded have been extremely useful to us and from the very first moment, we had no problem whatsoever in accessing the platform. The YouTube videos, downloadable worksheets and the teacher’s weekly planning schemes, in general, have been of much use to us since it has kept our child engaged in all the lessons.

Parents of Verusha Sanewal – Phoenixes (UKG)

On average our child has been doing around two hours of screen time and 3 hours of practical learning which is a perfect amount of time to keep her engaged productively. Greatly satisfied with the teachers and the way they go about things. 

JUNIOR SCHOOL:

Parents of Meera – Standard 2

We are very satisfied with the way the online classes have been going on. Meera has been keeping up with her work and learning a lot. We are especially happy with Ms. Sheetal’s classes and her method of teaching as the children are very interactive with her. Classes such as Literacy and Math prove to be very useful, we also agree with the idea of having PE classes daily, that would be nice for the children. 

Parents of Inaya Bansal – Standard 2

We would like to say a special thank you to all the teachers of King’s College India. Google classroom has been very helpful and our child is learning a lot through this platform especially Math and Literacy. 

Parents of Lavanya Gandhi- Standard 3

The KCI learning platform has been extremely useful so far, we are very satisfied with the planning of the classes. Our daughter is taking around five classes per day starting at 9:00am and finishing at 1:00pm which is the perfect amount to keep her engaged and immersed in her learning. Subjects such as Literacy, Math, ICT and Science are extremely useful subjects and we are pleased she can keep up with all the work without any interruption in her learning process. 

Parents of G. Shailja – Standard 5

It has been a fantastic learning experience for Shailja, keeping her so energetically engaged throughout the sessions. We are indeed very satisfied with the work that has been given so far as well as with this new learning platform. She is enjoying learning Literacy, Math, Science and French. Thanks to you all for your wonderful work and efforts.

SENIOR SCHOOL:

Parents of Utkarsh Goel- Standard 8

It is very easy to login to the learning platform which makes the whole experience very productive and useful. The resources available have been helping our son a lot with his studies especially the website links, downloadable sheets and the whole teacher’s planning lessons, in general, are extremely worthwhile. Furthermore, whenever we faced a problem, the teachers of KCI were more than happy to help us with any issues we faced. As the current lessons are going so well, it would be great if we could increase the number of lessons per day.

Parents of Zoya Hussain – Standard AS Level

The online learning platform has been extremely useful. It is making our child’s online schooling time productive. Zoya does around three hours of screen time followed by three hours of practical learning which allows a good daily time balance. Keep up the good work!

Parents of Yash – Standard A Level

It has been very easy to access the platform; we have had no struggles with it whatsoever. Additionally, the resources available have been very helpful to our son. We are all aware that the school is trying hard to manage these online sessions and we truly appreciate it. It would be great if more classes could be incorporated as they are all going so well and our children are benefiting from it.

Rakesh Sharma – Principal – O. P. Jindal School Tamnar -Pioneers Online Classes During Lockdown

At this difficult time when the whole world is shaken by the threat of Covid-19, when more than half of the world is in the state of lockdown, when the Academic Learning and mental wellbeing of the young generation is at stake, when people are struck with uncertainty and negativity, O. P. Jindal School Savitri Nagar, Tamnar has come up with a wonderful plan to combat. The steps taken by the school and its functioning can give a ray of hope to thousands of schools and many more Educators and learners.

O P Jindal School, Savitri Nagar, Tamnar

Nation-wide lockdown came into force from the early hours of 25 March 2020. As a result, all the schools were closed and the students were left confused. But OPJS Savitri Nagar had started its regular classes for all the students from 27 March 2020. It is very interesting to note that the School has been conducting all the Academic and Co-curricular periods through Online. Probably, it is the first and the Pioneer school in the whole nation to successfully conduct the Online Classes with all the Academic and Co-curricular subjects for all the classes from Class I to Class XII as per normal routine.

How has the school made it possible so soon and effectively? The answer is here –

The School had been Pro-Active in assessing the situations and taking decisions. The school had already conducted all the Academic Examinations long before the schools were ordered to be closed. It had geared up the Evaluation during Examination to save time. As the order for closure of schools came, the teachers were told to take the necessary record in soft copies before leaving the school. The school, all the Teachers and Staff had worked harder and smart. Immediately, all the teachers had started “Work from Home” and the Result was prepared on computers, the Mark-Sheets were produced and the Soft Copy of the Mark-Sheet was sent to the parents on their personal WHATS APP numbers.

Once the nationwide lockdown was declared, the Principal, Headmaster and the members of Core Team started working immediately on finding the best suitable options. All were convinced that during lockdown their responsibility as educators is doubled and they tried their best to keep the students and teachers busy with Creative, Constructive and Productive work and away from any negative thoughts, anxiety and confusions. They prepared the School Time Table, Teachers’ Time Table, Bell Timing, List of Class Teachers, Class Coordinators, Wing In-charges and different Department Heads, Class-wise & Section-wise list of students for the session 2020-2021 and shared it to all the teachers and staff members in Soft Copy.

T. P. Rao, HOD English & In-charge of All Communications says, “You see, we had clear plans from the very beginning. Able and compassionate leadership, Devoted, Hard-working teachers, and our noble intentions is our strength. All the teachers have been working 10-14 hours a day for conducting the Online Classes successfully, as per the plan. They are not less than CORONA Warriors. The teachers have been creating a positive present and safe future.”     

Now, the execution of plan: 

Separate WHATS APP groups for different classes were created and all the students and subject teachers were added there. The Principal, Headmaster and the Activity Coordinator were included in all the WHATS APP groups to monitor and guide, as needed. All the students were informed by the Class Teachers about their proposed On-line Classes and Time Table. Finally, The Online Classes for the students commenced from 27 March 2020. Now, the teachers had started the academic teaching in full swing through On-line classes. Students were helped by the teachers with the Study Material Topic-wise, through Downloaded E-Books/ Reference Books, Typed Notes, Handwritten Notes, Audio Clips, Short Videos, Live Online Classes, Activity-Sheets and Work-Sheets. By the passage of time, teachers had started conducting Live Video Classes. Even the teachers had created their You Tube Channels and began dropping their Video Lessons in their YouTube Channels. Students could see these Video Lessons in their comfortable time.

What about the Assessment of students’ work?  

After completing any topic, the learning of the students was assessed by the teachers through the Worksheets on the same topic. The same Worksheets were uploaded on the school website as well. All the students were told to submit the worksheets to the teachers concerned through WHATS APP/ E-mail. The teachers had evaluated the worksheets and gave their feedback to the students individually for necessary improvements. 

Pioneer in involving Class XI also in Online Classes:

As soon as CBSE had notified that there will be no further examination for the students of Class X for the session 2019-2020, the OPJS had taken a step further and involved its students of Class X in Online Classes by giving them “Provisional Admission” as per their interest and the performance in the Pre-Board Exams.

How the Balanced Growth of students is ensured?  

At the wake of Covid 19, many schools had switched to Online Classes from April 2020. But they have been doing it with different plans. They all are focusing only on Academic Subjects and neglected Co-Curricular Subjects. Even many schools have been teaching One Subject a day or could not involve all the students of every class in Online Classes and have made these Online Classes confined to only a few Classes. Here the Principal of OPJS Tamnar, Rakesh Sharma says, “It would be an injustice and unnecessary burden to the students if we are focusing only on Academic Subjects or to only a few selected Class groups. The aim is not to cover up the Syllabus of selected classes for getting better results in Academic Exams to show off. Here the concern is the mental well being and all round development of each student of our school, the prime responsibility of the school and of the educators. It is our moral obligation and the Professional responsibility to safeguard the future of the nation even in difficult times.” To ensure this – Dance, Music, Art & Craft and the Games Period were also conducted for the students successfully as per the School Time Table. The Activity Coordinator prepared separate plans for the Co-curricular teachers and they were guided and supervised by the Activity Coordinator regularly.

Is it not harmful for the students to have On-screen study for long?

NO. The School had come up with a clear and safe plan for Online Classes. How? The answer is here: The teachers were clearly instructed to “Keep the Health of the students on the top priority – Physical, Mental and Emotional. Be more humane in approach. Avoid any kind of stress for the students. Involve the students in Creative and Positively Constructive Work.” To make it more clear and safeguard the health of the students: All the teachers teaching in classes I to VIII were told to prepare the Study Material in such a manner that it could be read by an average student within 15 minutes. Remaining time of the period has to be for the student to understand and to get the doubts clear from the teacher concerned. The teachers of the Primary classes were told to reduce the On-screen reading/watching time even more, making it suitable to the class and age of the students. (For ensuring maximum 02 hours On-Screen reading/ watching daily)  

Teachers teaching in Classes IX to XII were told to prepare the study materials in such a manner that it could be read by an average student in 15-25 minutes, making it suitable to class and age of the students. Especially the Language teachers and the Social Science teachers sent the Audio Clips to students to balance On-screen Reading Time. The Physical Education/ Games Teachers have been guiding and motivating the students for safe Physical Exercises, Joyful Indoor Activities, Yoga tips, Breathing-exercises and so on. The Librarian has been posting inspiring and motivating Short Stories/ Books. Teachers were told “Not to burden the students with Worksheets”. The Worksheets were prepared in a manner that it could be answered by an average student in 15-20 minutes. Teachers were told to give maximum 2-3 worksheets weekly for any class in any subject and accept the answers in any format the students could send.  At the same time, the teachers have been talking to the students positively, giving them positive reinforcement, boosting their morale and giving their best to keep the students mentally healthy, balanced, innovative, positive, and ready to handle the challenges.

Meanwhile, the School Administration had prepared 06 different Teams- Special Task Management Groups (STMG), to handle any challenge arising due to Covid-19.  The teams kept on performing their responsibilities effectively. At the same time, the School kept itself in contact with the Parents and all the stake holders and collected their feedback and suggestions through Online Questionnaires, to bring necessary changes and improvements in its approach.

Was it so easy to do that too so early and fast?

To this question, the Principal of the school, Rakesh Sharma says, “It could not have been possible unless we had a strong team of talented, hard working and committed teachers. If we are able to deliver to our students, to community and to our nation, it is because of the collective effort of the Team OPJS.” The story is not over yet. OPJS Savitri Nagar is still marching ahead vigorously to safeguard the future of the nation by serving faithfully, sensibly and strategically. The school is trying to redefine the system of imparting education using technology. Nobody knows, for how long this lockdown will continue, nobody knows when the schools will be reopened. In these difficult times what O. P. Jindal School Savitri Nagar has been doing with its limited resources in a remote location where the majority of the students belong to rural background, can be exemplary for thousands of schools. Many schools in India and abroad can get inspiration from OPJS Savitri Nagar model to help their children during the lockdown period.

Dr. Babita Gaur – Senior Library and Information Officer – Delhi Public Library

Dr. Babita Gaur – Ph.D. MLIS, PGDPB, MA, has twenty years of professional experience in various academic and autonomous institutions. She has worked with National Labour Institute, DAV, Amity and University of Delhi. She is also an author, motivational speaker and yoga instructor.

Dr. Babita Gaur has 20 years of professional experience in various academic and autonomous institutions. She has worked with DAV, National Labour Institute, Amity and Delhi University. She has written many research articles and presented papers in National and International conferences. She is an author, motivational speaker and yoga instructor. Presently, working as Senior Library and Information Officer at Delhi Public Library, handling additional charges of Vigilance officer, Head of the Department and Super Librarian.

What is special about the Delhi Public Library? What is the history and major milestones worth noting about this institution?

History of DPL- The Delhi Public Library was established in 1951 by the then Ministry of Education, Govt. of India with financial and technical assistance from the UNESCO as a pilot project. Presently, Delhi Public Library is functioning under the administrative control of Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India. From a small library located in Old Delhi, it has since been developed into a premier public library system in the country covering the entire Metropolitan city. Besides providing free library services to the people, children and adult alike, irrespective of any distinction of sex, caste, creed and religion. DPL also looks after their recreational needs and to harness the talent and potential of the members of the public by providing a platform for social education.

Major Milestones-

Mobile Library Service under “Ghar-Ghar Dastak, Ghar-Ghar Pustak initiative”
Free Internet Service in almost all branches for readers of DPL
Web OPAC facility to access Library holdings from anywhere anytime
Practical Training to Library Science Students
Publication of Pustkalaya Bharti and Bhartiye Lok Deepika
Social Media Presence have been lately improved

What have been some major initiative taken in Delhi Public Library under your leadership as Senior Library and Information Officer?

Different activities have been organized by branches of DPL to create awareness about Swachhta Mission started by Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Sh. Narendra Modi. For this, several rallies, nukkad natak, Single use Plastic Waste Management program have been organised specially in slum areas.  Various events like Fit India Program, awareness session on women empowerment, Kriti Samman Yojana and Ghar-Ghar Dastak, Ghar-Ghar Pustak initiative of Mobile Libraries have been some of the achievements of DPL lately.


Please tell us about your education and career background? What made you get interested in the field of libraries?

I have done Ph.D. MLIS, PGDPB, MA. I have twenty years of professional experience in various academic and autonomous institutions. Worked with National Labour Institute, DAV, Amity, University of Delhi. Also, I am an author, motivational speaker and yoga instructor.

Overall personality development of self and all readers to serve the society with their information needs is one of the reasons for me to choose the field of librarianship.


What are the highs and lows of being a librarian? Would you like to talk about any special moments as a librarian?

While serving information needs of readers, irrespective of difficulties faced, serving the society must be top priority for an information officer.

It feels overwhelming when readers get selected in some competition exam and share their success with us. Such progress of readers leads us to contribute more for them for which recently I have been awarded with College Librarian of the Year Award 2019 in recognition of achievements in the field of Library & Information Science.


In your opinion what is the present status of college libraries and government libraries in India?

Presently, college and government libraries have been improving their services and infrastructure to meet informational needs of its patrons. Access to e-resources, software driven services, subscription of various e-journals has been some of the highlights of institutions. Consortiums have played an important role in meeting the needs of readers with shared cost and resources.


What are some big problems in managing a good library in India?

Funds and infrastructure constitute major key points in developing and managing a good library. With this, collection of a library must be maintained in line with the readers of the institution which must be updated from time to time.

How do you compare the libraries in India with those in Western countries? 

Libraries have been striving hard to meet the information standards of libraries in Western countries in terms of services, resources and infrastructure. The online information trends in information sector have been widely adapted by Indian institutions to cater to the emerging needs of readers.

In your opinion what are some of the good libraries in India worth talking about? Tell us also why you rate them as good?

Delhi Public Library and British Council Library are worth mentioning among others as many activities are being organized by these institutions to contribute towards development of its readers and society at large.


Based on your experience, if a school wants to improve up their library, how do you think they should go about it?

A school library is expected to have an energetic librarian who can organize different activities like reading hour, Quiz, Spell Bee among other events to inculcate reading habits among children at young age.


Based on your experience, please give some guidelines on how to hire a good librarian? What factors should be kept in mind?

A school librarian must have zeal and zest for reading, must be informed and updated about latest trends in Library and Information Science, e-Resources and technologies used in libraries to serve the readers with latest and updated information.

Shubhangi Pandey – ICT Facilitator Pathfinder Global School, Pataudi, Gurugram

An MCA graduate who took up the role of an educationist by choice!

Meet Mrs. Shubhangi Pandey, ICT Facilitator at Pathfinder Global School.

With an MCA degree, why did you choose teaching over IT?

Ever since my school days, I used to work with the children in my neighbourhood. I used to teach them dance and performing arts.

I am very interactive with the children and I coordinate well with them. I realized that I could explain things to them and felt very much at home with them. I recognized my teaching and explaining capabilities and felt I would do well in this career.

Also, getting into the IT industry has a lot of timing constraints. My family is not very much in favour of me working late hours. That is an add-on factor. The main reason for me to become a teacher was because I was inclined to it.

Furthermore, in the education sector, your profile is not limited to just teaching. There are lot of interactions with students that is required and that is what captivates me the most about this role.

What keeps you motivated ?

In schools, whenever I get good, informative and educative feedback from my students it motivates me to do good work even more.

When you see the children taking interest in your subject, you get motivated. Last year, I switched to a new school in a new state. Not all children have access to computers at their homes and because of that a child’s computer knowledge falls short at certain points. Despite that when you see children taking interest in your subject and giving the right answers, it pumps you up to do better each day. 

Right from grade 1, I would notice about 3-4 children who were not very interested in the subject in the beginning. But, in 2-3 months they started responding enthusiastically. It is great to see their happiness when they see me and their enthusiasm when they are taken to the computer lab etc. It is a great feeling. I see this phenomenon repeatedly with children in every batch I teach. I like the fact that children remember me even though I may not be teaching them currently.

Which classes do you teach?

Although I was offered to take classes for senior batches as well, I preferred taking classes for Class 1-5.

I feel Class 1 to 5 is the initial formative age and that is the reason why I like teaching children of that age. Students who pass out from grade 5 go to a different wing for classes 6 onwards, at the school. But still they take the effort of meeting me once in a while and letting me know of what all they are doing currently. There are some students who keep expressing that they want me to be taking classes for them. These things are highly motivational.

How long have you been teaching in this school?

It has been 1 and a half years now at Pathfinder Global School now. In 2018, I had to relocate and so had to change the school. I was previously at Presidium School.

Do you think the computer science curriculum suggested by the CBSE Board is good or do you feel a revamp is advisable?

The curriculum is fine.It is the teaching techniques that need to be revamped. Classes should be more interactive and more application based rather than theory-based. Students should get hands-on experience with computers. Project-based learning is very relevant and important for Computers as a subject. 

Does the school have computer lab facilities?

Yes, we do have computer lab facilities and each student gets a separate system to work on. We ask them to do their work on their own. We give them options and ask them to choose the option that best interests them.

With more practice, the curriculum can be implemented better. Whatever you teach theoretically gets registered only with practical knowledge. Without practical knowledge or hands-on experience, teaching computers becomes quite irrelevant. Children cannot implement what they learned.

What is your opinion about the different curriculum?

CBSE is more about evaluation – giving marks, etc.

IB is more about interactivity and it involves taking inputs from the students on how they want to learn and showcase their knowledge. IB prompts a lot of student-teacher collaboration.

In CBSE you deliver the knowledge, whereas in IB you take inputs from the students and then you impart knowledge. By interacting with the students you get to know at what level the students are and then you give them information.

In CBSE, the level of the student is not given much importance. IB caters to improve the children’s thinking and analytical skills.

Do you teach coding as well?

In class 1-5, there is hardly any coding. It is just the tip of the iceberg – an introduction. In Grade 1 we introduce them to computers and how to use it; we give them hands on experience on MS Office, etc. 

How do you prepare your students to solve real-time issues?

As I told you, each student gets a separate system to work on. For example, if there is an internet problem, children will tell me that nothing is working. At that point, I tell them how to check for Wifi connectivity etc. Therefore, initial information is already given to them.

What are your views on more students wanting to start a career in computer science today?

Computers are there in every field. A person has to learn computers, not just students – everyone. Everyone has to learn it at some point in time. So, computer knowledge is very important and pursuing a career in computers depends purely on the interest of the child. 

I, for instance, was more into Oracle. SQL Query Language was what interested me the most. These languages were the driving factors for me to do BCA. Hence, pursuing one’s career is based on the personal interest and choice.

How do you deal with children who have this fear for Math and Computers?

I was never interested in Math as a child. After Grade 12, I had 2 teachers who made me do well in Computers. They encouraged me in grade 12 a lot and that is how my interest in computers soared.

How do you encourage students?

The key is to motivate students and make them realise that it is no rocket science. Start from the basics and start with small things. When they take interest in small things, I think, it contributes towards achieving higher goals. This is true for any subject. It is always the basics that matter. Start small and build upwards.

How do you make your class interesting ?

I go the interactive way. I deal with different sections from grade 1-5. I have a total of 9 sections and there are approximately 25-30 students in each section.

My motive is to keep the class interactive. I take inputs from the students first; that way I know what level they are at and then I start my teaching. Instead of giving answers, I take their inputs on a given topic and then I start my session. In between the session, I look for opportunities to relate the subject to real-life scenarios.

For example, the input-output process in computers. In real life there are many things connected to the input-output process. So, I start by taking inputs from them to arrive atreal-life instances of inputs and outputs. This promotes concept-clarity and a lifetime learning for the students.

How do you see the future for Computer Science education?

I think the future of Computer Science education is very bright. Computers are there everywhere and these days in India Artificial Intelligence is gaining much importance. My husband is into AI natural language processing and there are many students who are very curious to know how these machines work. Curiosity will attract more youth to pursue Computer Science.

Do you think that education, in totality, has become too commercialized?

In India, marks and results are of utmost importance. Instead of just looking at marks, one should see the interest of the students as well, in my opinion. You should interact with your students and understand the process. They should be allowed to explore and excel in the field of their choice. This way they will be doing something fruitful for themselves and all around. It is instilling positivity.

Do you think owing to management and parental pressure, teachers have little or no time to conduct classes the way they visualize?

At times, I agree with this. The need to complete the subject on time can be pressurising. But yes, these things can be planned.

I think if I plan properly I can make my classes interactive and interesting. To complete the syllabus, different techniques can be adopted. With proper planning, having interactive sessions would make topics interesting for students. That way, we can complete the syllabus and also make things interestingand builda better teaching learning process for students and teachers.

Do you agree that teachers have to multi-task?

Oh yes, teachers have to multi task!

In your opinion, do teachers get stressed out because of the multi-tasking factor or can it be balanced out?

I would say this differs from person to person. I take tasks outside of teaching, expected of me, asa refreshment. I take it as a learning that you get by doing different things. Moreover, when you need to multitask, you learn the art of being organized. In our school, we get to do different things. 

What are some of the pain points you have dealt with so far in this career?

You always work with a team. It is the same in ICT as well – we have a team. It is not a one-man show. There are situations that arise when you don’t get proper support from your team. That can be frustrating. For me, apart from that it is all good.

How do you get to upgrade yourself?

There are workshops I attend. Now that we are changing to the IB curriculum, workshops are extremely important. Teaching methodologies of both these curriculum are poles apart. So, workshops are being done quite a lot nowadays. We have people who were into IB and have joined us. They are the ones conducting these workshops.

What are your aspirations for the future?

Honestly speaking, I am happy. There are places where people do not have much interest because they lack accessibility to computers and teaching facilities. I want to get into spaces like that and render services as a teacher. I think that is giving them a fair chance.

Contact:

Email id:p.shubh@gmail.com/ linkedin.com/in/shubhangi-pandey-6b8276164

Priyodarshini Das – IBDP Extended Essay Coordinator/IBDP HISTORY Examiner, Educator for DP and IGCSE History, AS Level Global Perspectives & Research at Candor International School

Most of us, as students, sit in front of History text books and wonder the purpose of learning about events of the past. To those of you who just nodded heads, Ms Priyodarshini Das would perhaps ask “If you are ignorant of the past, how would you then comprehend the present?”

“I am primarily an IB educator. I teach DP History – that is what I have been teaching for quite some time now. I am also currently teaching Global Perspectives and Research for AS level Cambridge students.”

Ms Priyodarshini is from Kolkata.

“I studied at Jadavpur University; I have done my graduation and masters in History. I am quite passionate about teaching History and generally passionate about education. I love the IB curriculum. It is my recent encounter with the Cambridge program. I am enjoying IGCSE History and AS Level Global Perspectives and Research.”

What made you opt to become a teacher?

I started off my career as a “Teach for India” fellow. It was a two-year teaching fellowship and I taught in Mumbai at a low-income school for children from under privileged background. That was my first encounter with teaching and I didn’t really consider teaching as a profession in the long run, at that point in time.

Having taught in that environment for a couple of years, that was the defining moment for me wherein I decided to be a teacher. Teaching is such a powerful tool to empower young minds. From then on I decided that I would continue to teach. Teach for India fellows usually do not continue to teach. However, I think I found my calling and I am really enjoying it.

For how long have you been teaching?

This is my 7th year as an educator. I have been teaching the IB curriculum for 5 years. 

Tell us more about the Teach for India Programme.

Teach for India is an NGO started by Shaheen Mistry, currently functioning in 7 cities in India. The idea is to bring equity in education. Honestly, our government is doing a lot. We have so many government schools in rural and urban areas. However, there are gaps here and there and that is what Teach for India aims at bridging. 

Primarily when they started, the focus was on English and Mathematics. But the year that I joined the fellowship, they also started with Social Studies.

Teach for India goes into various schools – it can be government schools, low income private schools and takes over classes. It is a full-time teaching programme. The idea is to bring in educational equality in the country and to develop leadership among the fellows through teaching. That is the goal of Teach for India.

Do they have any particular curriculum ?

Absolutely! You do take the school curriculum into consideration because students will have to eventually write their Board exams. At the same time, Teach for India has its self-framed curriculum especially for English and Mathematics, which is very much aligned to international curricula.

Teach for India is inspired by Teach for America – a global network. Hence, the framework of curriculum is largely aligned with Teach for America.

My transition from Teach for India to the IB programme was quite smooth because I was looking at an international curriculum even during my Teach for India fellowship. 

Why History excites you?

As I grew up, my father, who is extremely fond of politics, would talk about Indo-Pak relations, role of the USA in international affairs, India’s rise in the world stage etc. So, global and domestic affairs was a discussion that started on very early in my life. By the time I started studying History I found it absolutely fascinating.

To understand the current global politics, you have to understand the root of the events and that is what History is all about. It is about understanding the world today.

My mother is a doctor and my father is into management. Having said that, they never forced anything on me. They were very happy with my choice when I wanted to pursue History, for which I am grateful to them.

At Jadavpur University, my whole perspective about History changed – it took a 360-degree turn. Our professors at the University would focus on details and would care so much about conceptual understanding of the past. That is where my interest in History evolved further. 

To some extent History demands remembering of facts. But,these can always be looked up. It is the understanding of various historical developments which is much more important. I definitely credit my professors for instilling that conceptual understanding of History. They have a huge role to play in my understanding of how History is to be taught and how to get students to relate to the subject.

Which Board were you part of as a student?

West Bengal State Board.

How different is the IB curriculum in comparison with CBSE, ICSE or the State level syllabus? 

Honestly, I haven’t taught any of the other curricula. IB focuses on conceptual and skill-based learning. I think that is great because there is so much information available everywhere, it becomes important to critically analyse what you are reading and to be able to evaluate the sources that you are looking at. Students should be able to understand if the source of information is reliable or not. 

How do you make History classes interesting?

I used to teach at the Aga Khan Academy, Hyderabad previously. I have realised that children who opt for History are generally passionate about the subject. So, automatically your job becomes a little easy because those children want to study History.

Now in my current school, Candor International, IGCSE students can opt for the subjects of their preference. So, it is relatively easy to take History classes for those students because they have opted for it. 

From Grade 6-8 it is Social Studies, which is a combination of History, Geography and Civics. I do teach Social Studies in Grade 8 as well. In Grade 9, they get to pick their subjects. 

In IB curriculum, there is a subject called Individuals and Societies that I used to teach in my previous school, as part of their Middle Years Programme; after which they choose the subjects they want to study in Grades 11 and 12. 

To get students interested, one of my tricks is to show them documentaries and videos pertaining to History. The moment students are able to visualize the past, it becomes all the more interesting for them.

Also, in DP, we have different kind of sources to analyse – not just books and articles. For example, students get to look at letters that were exchanged between leaders and analyse those sources. Such things get them intrigued into knowing more about the event or the historic development that they are studying.

Dealing with sources is the key to getting them more attracted to History, in my opinion. History students have to read a lot, so generally, these are students who are fond of reading and they read up a lot of articles and even University-level books. But, having discussions around the use of primary sources is something that helps in their learning process.

Tell us about your stint with the Aga Khan Academy.

I spent quite a number of years at the Aga Khan Academy. My first batch at the Aga Khan Academy taught me a lot. The kind of relationship I shared with my students was very warm. Even when I shifted to Bangalore, because of personal reasons, the love and affection I got from the students was really special.

My interaction with senior students solidified because I was the Model United Nations (MUN) Coordinator and my students were very passionate about debating on global affairs. I would motivate students to participate in debates not just in conferences that happened in our school but they would take part in various other conferences across the city of Hyderabad. It was beautiful how they participated and won awards.

Also,the student body was very diverse. We had students from USA, Canada, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Bangladesh. I had an absolutely wonderful time at the Aga Khan Academy.

The vision and the philosophy with which the Academy has been established is something that really inspired me. Although I am not part of that organisation anymore it has a special place in my heart. It is like my second family.

Do you have any thoughts on what the CBSE and ICSE boards can do better to make studies more interesting?

To be honest, while teaching at the Aga Khan Academy, I used some of the NCERT books. Trust me, the activities that are given in the books are very interesting. It all depends on how the teachers execute a lesson. Nothing stops teachers from making lessons go beyond books and using visual aids in class.

I think it is just a matter of pedagogy because ICSE and CBSE also have activities in their textbooks that harp on the same skills as any other international curricula. Also, if examinations are tweaked a little, teachers will be more encouraged to apply innovative teaching methodologies in class. But if the exam is just content-based then teachers will also follow the same process. 

It is a rat race when it comes to marks. There is so much of competition that students are forced to compete with their peers.

What I like about IB is that the assessments are based on transparent criteria that are made available to the students. So, it is a very clear checklist that you have to fulfil to achieve higher grades. The assessment procedure is very good for students, helping them learn independently rather than compete with other students. The environment, thus, gets lot more collaborative in an IB classroom. 

What are your views on the private coaching centres that are mushrooming in cities all over India?

I think if schools take up the responsibility of imparting holistic education and if school teachers feel that they are the ones responsible for the education of all the students sitting in their classroom then dependability on private coaching centres would fare low. 

When you talk about private coaching centres, their presence is not just in urban cities, they are also cropping up in rural areas and towns. It can also be that parents are not empowered enough to help their children at home and hence feel the need to approach coaching centres. Having said that, I feel schools should be held much more accountable so that parents don’t have to turn their heads towards coaching centres. 

If we talk about international schools, we are trying our best to give the most comprehensive education. But schools of all boards are not facilitated with the right infrastructure.

Student strength in a class is also a problem. In international schools, your class strength is restricted to 20-25. So, the teacher is able to give personal attention to each child. The moment the class strength is high, it wouldn’t be right to expect a teacher to reach out to every child in a period of 30-40 minutes. 

What is the role of a Model United Nations (MUN)Coordinator?

I am the MUN (Model United Nations) faculty advisor in my current school. We had a conference within few months of my joining. CANMUN 2019 was a very successful conference with many schools in Bangalore participating. We are trying to build that culture of global awareness in the school. This year’s MUN is also scheduled and we are looking forward to great participation from schools across Bangalore.

As a coordinator, you have to frame the conference. It is definitely a student-led conference. Students are in charge. They get in touch with schools and students. We are a link between the student organizing committee, the participants and school management.

I would be the one facilitating the conversations in preparation for the conference. Of course, students take our guidance.

It is a replica of the United Nations. So, we have committees like Security Council, Human Right Council, so on and so forth.

The topics discussed are very pertinent global issues that should be deliberated with students at a very young age. Agendas like denuclearisation of weapons, human rights violation in parts of the world or access to medical facilities or even the on-going refugee crisis. I think the MUN conference facilitates creation of future leaders. It gives students access to various perspectives. They go to these conferences as representatives of countries. It may so happen that you are representing a certain country and you do not personally subscribe to their philosophy or stand point in global politics. But, you still have to defend that position in that committee. For example, if you are the delegate of the USA or India, you have to defend your position and abide by the respective countries’ foreign policy.

It enhances debating skills as well as provides exposure to current global affairs. I really enjoy organising MUN conferences. In those two or three days of the conference the energy of the students gets so elevated that it is totally mind blowing.

At Candor, do they arrange historical trips for the students?

Yes, we do. I am new at Candor. Last year the trip was to Hyderabad – the city of Nizams. So, I think it was aligned with History.

This year, DP students recently went to Pondicherry and Auroville but that was more of CAS (Creativity, Activity and Service) trip rather than a History trip.

Within the city we do visit museums, forts etc. as part of the curriculum.

How are teachers upskilled at Candor?

We have in-house workshops. Teachers sometimes opt to conduct workshops. I have recently conducted a workshop around the theme of ‘cultivating excellence in education’. Sometimes coordinators conduct sessions too.

Apart from that, teachers are sent for workshops like IB workshops or Cambridge online workshops. Through these workshops, teachers get more experience and exposure. It is either three days or one full day of professional development. That is an on-going process that keeps happening at Candor.

I think all schools must follow such things. It helps teachers to upskill themselves and remain updated with the latest course guidelines. Every time we come back from the holidays, we have an INSET Program in which we have sessions conducted either by teachers from our school or external professionals.

How do you integrate technology in your teaching?

I think the most accessible and easy-to-use technology that we have at our disposal is using the Internet and displaying videos. That is the most common way of using technology that I adopt in my classes.

Other than that, all our learning material is shared through online platforms. For example, for our Diploma Programme we use ManageBac. All the assessments are up on ManageBac and students have a calendar that they can follow digitally. All their assessments are electronically uploaded and immediately plagiarism checks are done through ManageBac via Turnitin itself.

Students and teachers have an understanding of how much they have been able to write on their own and where citations should have been done to avoid plagiarism and academic misconduct. We have ways of measuring student success also on ManageBac.

For the rest of the school, apart from the DP curriculum, we use a software called LearnBeyond, on which student data is always uploaded. We send messages to students on that and we upload all our resources as well. Whatever we use in class – a video link or a Power Point Presentation, articles, documents-everything is uploaded in that folder. Students don’t have to physically carry so much of load and all the teaching materials are accessible all the time to students and parents.

We upload whatever is happening on a day to day basis on to LearnBeyond so that students and parents have a continuous check on the progress of the curriculum. 

With the current situation in India due to the COVID 19, school closure has become one of the necessary measures to contain the spread of the epidemic. In order to maintain a continuity in education for our students, Candor International School has transitioned into online teaching and learning. We are using various platforms such as Slack and Edmodo for communication with our students and posting work. I have also started conducting video lessons for my students using ZOOM. These are great platforms that have eased our job in delivering lessons virtually. The whole international community of educators is sharing resources and ideas to help each other out in this dire situation. In thinking which is an online platform for IB resources has opened up free subscriptions for schools that have closed down at this point. IB educators at Candor have made the best use of that subscription to facilitate remote learning. I have also completed a course on how to design online learning from the Global Online Academy before venturing into online teaching to get a better understanding of the use of technology.

Who according to you is an ideal teacher?

Information is abundant and easily accessible in today’s world, especially to students who have access to technology. They don’t really need a teacher to impart factual information.

But it is the teacher who empowers students with the ability to critically evaluate what they are reading. That skill development needs to be imparted by the teacher. Creating awareness and generating critical thinking in students is the need of the hour.

In the 21st century, employers look for people who are good communicators and those who understand and can critically analyse the local and global context. 

I have had very loving and caring teachers and that is something that I have carried forward with myself. I believe that it is important to nurture students. The moment you show confidence in your students, they automatically feel more confident.

Being empathetic towards your students by building a good rapport with them is important. Being a loving and approachable figure for them so that they can share their problems without inhibitions with you is critical. For me, the relationship that I share with students is key to my professional success.

So, being that approachable and caring figure is what I focus on in my profession. I spend a huge part of my day at school and if I am not enjoying my time then what is the point? So, I make sure my classroom is an enjoyable and joyful space for my students and me. That is my mantra.

What are the challenges in a teacher’s life?

The stereotypical mentality that people have towards the teaching profession needs to change. I didn’t think of becoming a teacher ten years ago but when I found my calling, I completely jumped at the opportunity because you can really make a difference to society and that is what people need to understand.

Teachers shape the minds of the young generation who will be doing different kinds of jobs when they grow up. Unless you have really passionate teachers, you wouldn’t really have passionate citizens in the future. 

This is not just today; it has always been the case that teachers are the ones who have motivated and inspired students to go beyond their capacity and do something useful for their generation, community and their society. Teachers can completely change the way that students look at life. We all have had such teachers and we need to look at the teaching profession as no less than being an engineer, doctor or lawyer.

What are your aspirations for the future?

At Candor International School I have been offered the position of the IB DP Extended Essay Coordinator. It is a great opportunity for me and I am extremely excited. 

When I started teaching the IB curriculum, I understood that Extended Essay is a core element of the Diploma Programme. I have been an Extended Essay supervisor for some years now. But this is an opportunity to provide overall guidance to students with their Extended Essay which is an independent piece of academic writing on a topic chosen by students in consultation with their supervisors.

I find it interesting to be able to guide supervisors also by providing an organizational structure to the whole process of the Extended Essay throughout the two years of the Diploma Programme.

The whole process of reflecting on an investigation process develops certain important attributes in students. Being academically honest and acknowledging other people’s work when they are writing their piece; coming up with a new perspective and developing self-management skills are absolutely essential skills that students need to have in preparation for their University days. I hope my students benefit from my guidance. 

I am a gold medallist in History and I have written academic assignments during my University days. I have always wanted to do a Ph.D, which I still plan to. So, for me academic writing is something I have always been passionate about.

In the future, I would definitely want to continue as an IB educator and wish to take up further leadership roles in my career. At the same time, I also want to be a life-long learner. I hope I am able to fulfil my dream of doing a Ph.D either in History or Education. It is on my list of professional goals.

Contact:

das.priyodarshini@gmail.com / linkedin.com/in/priyodarshini-das-a976b154

Mangala Gowri S – Pediatric Psychologist and Educationist Lead Preschool Teacher – Indus International School, Hyderabad

A post graduate diploma in Business Administration from Symbiosis, Pune, a B.Ed, an M.Sc Psychology and a Post Graduate Degree in Pre-Primary Education in one kitty! The academic qualifications speak volumes about her interest in the world of education. It outlines the passion she has about children and their formative years and gives her the edge to make things progressive in the world of education.

Meet Ms Mangala Gowri, who besides being a practicing Paediatric Psychologist, is currently a lead preschool teacher at Indus International School, Hyderabad.

How were you inspired to opt for Child Psychology?

My three children are my inspiration. Before foraying into the education sector, I was managing the manufacturing lines of a large multi-national packaging company. The search for the perfect pre-schooling experience for my first child was what brought to my attention the gross dearth for pre-primary & primary educators. That was the push required for me to immediately shift lanes from Marketing to Education literally overnight!!

Please give us an overview of your role as an educational psychologist.

My work as an educational psychologist, involves a deep interaction with children, educators, parents, curriculum setters, schools and the likes. In this, I specialize in Paediatric Psychology, which focuses on understanding children, their abilities, learning patterns, interests and generally their unique educational makeup.

I personally do not believe in a one-size-fits-all sort of dissemination of today’s education. To achieve a purpose and their fullest potential a child’s pedagogy should be tailor-made.

I research on the educational patterns, pedagogy and keep in track with new-age technology that aids learning& communication in children. For this, I visit different schools, educational institutions, childcare centres, etc for my case-studies & solutions.

I study children, educators, the institution’s syllabus and its teaching methodology, amongst various other parameters. I believe and have seen that if a person’s early life is well mapped to address any inherent discrepancies (or) disabilities a person is born with, that person is sure to chalk out a successful life. Towards this, I conduct counselling & interactive workshops for children, parents, guardians, educators, school management, academicians, etc.

I do not believe in any learning disability. I believe in learning abilities. It is never that a child isn’t able to learn anything. It is a teacher’s and the parents’ responsibility to understand the child and create a wholesome growth ecosystem.

Children today are highly stressed. The pressures faced from peers, their schools & other learning environments, friends & family, etc is just humongous. They have to deal with multiple expectations from multiple quarters. And all this, builds up their stress levels.

All of us, including the schools, expect our children to become what we want them to be. What I want to say here is, a child may wish to become a musician (say), or an air force pilot. But we wish s/he should become a doctor or somebody else.  

In today’s world of multiple opportunities, we expect our children to be choosy in their careers and prospects, almost always pressuring them to choose that most affluent, most paying and the most in-demand career. There is a natural resistance when children opt for a profession outside of their normal.

Why do we have to pressurize children with our expectations and dreams? I am not against the fact that they need basic school grounding and a good college education. But, when the child has the aptitude, the interest and the inclination in something which seems out-of-the-box, then they should be offered encouragement and support to pursue a career that creates a sense of fulfilment in them.

In not identifying this mismatch, is where the education system fails drastically these days.

How do you customize the curriculum for pre-primary children?

As I told and strangely already know, each child is different! In India, we have different curriculum offerings today, like the IB, the IGCSE, the ICSE, CBSE, various State Boards, besides the Open School curriculum too.

Each curriculum offering has its own advantages & disadvantages.

If a child enrolled in the CBSE syllabus, is not receptive to knowledge delivered under that pattern, it’s unfair to brand such a child as one having a learning disability.

I call it that there’s an inherent disability in the system disseminating such knowledge, and it’s ‘that’ which needs correction. To overcome this, all schools needs to adopt an integrated approach. Commoditizing education and related delivery methodologies need to end.

The intent of schools should be focussed to help a child and not about making a name or advertising the best grades. Highlighting a schools performance is important, but should not be the ONLY focus as that doesn’t help the child in any direct way.

Coming to customizing the curriculum, the teaching-learning methodologies may be altered. Teachers must teach in a way such that a child gets to learn and imbibe the learning.

I help & specialize in this space so that it eases out things for teachers and children. I help bridge this gap between educational institutions & the students.

Give us an anecdote of a day in your life as a school psychologist.

I drive this psychology aspect right from home to wherever I tread throughout the day.

Whomever I see and whatever I do, I try to understand the perspective on why certain things happen the way they do. I see possibilities in how things may have turned out differently with totally different outcomes.

I look to understand people’s mindsets, either about school educators, parents, teachers, play coaches, generally all of whom who deal with children.

From what I have learnt, the right educators trained & empowered with the right skillsets, and provided the right environment at schools with the right counselling for parents, supported by able course administrators is what will help the nurture a conducive learning environment for kids.

I base all my outcomes for a day, based on my thoughts above.

I really don’t have a fixed routine. I am sometimes required to deal with children, other times with educators, some other times with school; college or institutional managements and their staff or it may be with parents. So, there is no set typical day, making it dynamic.  

The actual test is in making myself available 100% for every situation I come across to deal with.

What are some of the common disorders that you treat as a child psychologist?

99% of the time, the problem is not with the children. It is with the people who are dealing with these children.

Yes of course, few children are born with disabilities which we need to be extra careful about. Suppose if we have an ADHD (Attention Deficiency Hyperactivity Disorder) child and if people tend to always label the child as ADHD, it can have a disastrous effect on the child. Instead, I would suggest discussing how to constructively bring the child out of that condition.

We have certain diagnosis for such cases and these can be dealt with. In psychology, we even have surgical procedures to correct disorders. But very rarely used. The common thing is for people to label children with the disorders they have.And halfknowledge of any such disorders is very dangerous.

I have come across some cases where the child may not even have such issues. But, by observing certain behavioural aspects, parents and educators rush into labelling & castigating the children.

A child finds this highly demotivating.Repeated reinforcement of such false & fabricated informationleads children to believe them to be true. And over time, they end up developing them.

Though there are therapies to deal with children diagnosed with such disorders, yet it takes time to cure children of issues induced by societal pressures & castigation.

It is an observation that most issues children have can be tied to the issues parents have in their marriage – is that true? 

Yes, it is highly possible. The parents’ mindset matters to a large extent. Emotional maturity in parents to bear and rear children is very important.

The mindset of pregnant women and other members of the family during pregnancy plays a vital role in the wholesome development of the child. Both during pregnancy and after childbirth, its important both mother and child are surrounded in highly positive environments. Parents, grand-parents and relatives should altogether play a very key-part in creating such an environment.

Unplanned childbirth for instance during acute economic or relationship constraints (like teenage pregnancies, or those born out of wedlock, etc) on a family for instance tend to leave a huge impact on children. In most such situations, I have personally observed parents not wanting to go through the pregnancy. Rearing good children is the last thing they have on their minds. 

Is there an average length of time, you work with a child? 

It depends on the child. There are few children with whom I have been working with for years now and some others, where just a couple of interactions have brought about a marked effect. It all depends on the intensity of the issue the child is facing and the support the child gets from his/her ecosystem. 

What is the most challenging aspect of your role?

Honestly, I haven’t faced challenges with children as such. Dealing with parents is challenging for me. Parents sometimes find it hard to accept the child and situation as is. I see a lot of parents who are not up for this yet, in India and in many developing or under-developed countries.

How do you deal with such parents?

I have seen parents going from acceptance to denial off & on. If on one day they are happy in another subsequent interaction they are upset in not seeing any remarkable improvement in their kid(s). And this goes on and on. I have seen this in parents of all hues and colours, educated and uneducated, affluent and the not-so-affluent.

All expect drastic changes in the children. They get happy with a presumably ‘1%’ change, but then they keep wondering why only so little a change?

They basically do not have the patience that’sexpected of them. Many a time,they complain on the school their kids go to and its support system. They fail to understand that a child is nourished in a home and they need to create a familial atmosphere for a child’s complete wellbeing.

All this ends up in a mess wherein the parents blame the school and the school blames the parents or vice-versa. At the end of the day, it’s the child that suffers for nomistake of its own.

What, in your opinion, is the rewarding aspect of your profession?

Even the slightest behavioural change observed in a child is highly rewarding for me. I rate it the maximum, much more than any appreciation received from parents or other adults.

Observing those behavioural changes in children, I consider them no less than a miracle happening in front of my eyes. And it’s that which I consider highly rewarding!

Did you notice any changes in the school management? Do they accept your suggestions, especially in the primary years?

Sometimes they accept. But many a times they too falter; purely because of the tough timelines and governmental guidelines they are required to conform and the large number of students in today’s classrooms. What I have observed is that when there are focussed managements and a sturdy central leadership, they have always listened to many of my suggestions.

Some schools follow it in totality. They have shadow teachers for certain children specially identified in a grace. They try personalizing the studies& syllabuses for each individual child. Hence, there are few schools who have managed to take up all the suggestions I put forward rather positively. And this is highly commendable.

The student strength per class is a space we really need to work on. It is not about the capacity of the teachers but more about personalized& individualized education. Some schools have taken up these suggestions I have prescribed positively and try their best in implementing them. 

Today, almost all schools have psychologists and special educators. Special educators should spend at least 1 hour with the child so that whatever is taught during the day can be revised and retaught if need be. I won’t say that this will enable the child to match up with their peer level always but yes, to some extent the child will be able to break through some grounds.

It’sall about becoming a better version of oneself. It’s about gradual positive evolution as a complete educational ecosystem. It should not be construed as just working with a school, parents or children– it’s about educating the whole environment associated with it–that means even the school’s support staff, it’s administrators & facilities staff, because children spend a considerable amount of time with them all as well.

The nannies for instance and some other staff like a school’s bus driver or a conductor also needs to exuberate the same level of awareness, passion and understanding that all other school academic staff exhibit. The child spends a good amount of time with these staff. I would go to the length to say that a child’s day in school is determined by the first interaction with these staff. Some bad experience for the child, where any of these staff have not shown either empathy or compassion or understanding or some playfulness or just words of kindness to a child really upsets children. And that is enough for kids to spoil their day.

Even these support staff need regular training at least once a week whereby they understand and realize the importance of their roles in a child’s life.

What is your advice to the society while dealing with children to make them responsible citizens?

There are no one standard answer for this question.

My observation is that education in today’s world today is focussed too much on monetary gains. I mean, it’s all about what job the child would be pursuing in the future. We get to hear from parents repeatedly that a seat in the famed Indian Institutes of Technology (I.I.T) is an insurance to a well-paying job. How many parents mention to their kids that a seat in the I.I.T ensures that a child will get an opportunity to gain the best engineering knowledge than at other schools?

I sincerely suggest striving to equip children with life skills and valuebasedd education. That should be the focus of education. Education is a sum-total of academics, life skills, sports and values. But we have this myth that education only means holding a degree or a Ph.D.

If a person is unaware as to how to apply his learning (academic knowledge), what then is the purpose of his/her knowledge gained?

What also the education system should teach children, is how to face calamities. Calamities are part and parcel of life and they can spring up at any time, without any warnings. 

My suggestion to schools is to spend more time and effort in impartinglife skills to children. Value education session today happens just once a week where children learn about moral values butallthat’s taught is then conveniently forgotten. Why? Because there is no follow-up on the application side of those skills in daily life.

We all have read panchatantratales, etc.But how do we help in retaining and reflecting on those values learnt and applying into our lives?

Additionally, pre-primary kids can be taken to a vegetable market in small batches, asked to buy vegetables and related stuff and get back to school. The following day, they can all be asked to grate those vegetables and create a food item. These activities bring about a sense of purpose in the kids and they are able to then relate to real-life scenarios.

Education should not be restricted to just academics. Schools can also adopt another school/village/institute like an old age home, etc. The kids can be asked to perform many group activities in such places. This builds empathy in them. This ensures that kids grow up as wonderful human beings than just being beings with bookish learning.

Contact:gowri.psych@outlook.com/gowri.psych@gmail.com

Poonam Chauhan – TGT Science Amatir Kanya Gurukul Kurukshetra, Haryana

Schools, at its inception, believed in the holistic development of children. A place where miniature adults get to observe and grow in body, mind and soul. Somewhere in evolution, schools became all about academics, marks and rat race preparations. But teachers can make all the difference.

Ms. Poonam Chauhan (M.Sc B.Ed and qualified CTET) who teaches Science at Amatir Kanya Gurukul, from Class 3 up to Class 7,believes in the holistic development of the children entrusted to her.

“I work as a residential teacher at my current school, which is a gurukul. Over the years, I have observed that children are very equipped with academic knowledge. In fact, they are perhaps even ahead of us in that space. But, they lack in values. So, that is what we work towards.”

India is a country where we hold our culture high. Nowadays, when there is so much of importance for technology, somewhere we tend to overlook the importance of moral and traditional values. And with the increase in focus on technology, this trend will be on the rise. After a couple of decades or so, we shouldn’t be surprised if there are questions on the relevance of schools because information/knowledge is available all around you.

In that perspective, the only thing that people cannot learn from technology is the art of socializing, being empathetic etc. Hence, school is a great place to inculcate such values.”

So, do you believe that an ideal teacher should focus on inculcating values in children?

Yes, I do. In CBSE also I see an initiative towards working on value-based education. I believe those things should be taken very seriously.

What made you to want to become a Science teacher?

Science has always been of interest to me. My parents never compelled me to be anything in particular. So, whatever I have done, I have done for my own satisfaction. When I discovered my interest in this profession, I just delved into it and from the day I started working here, things felt really amazing. 

I deal with students all the time. I understand them in the class and outside. It has really helped me to learn their psychology.

On a daily basis how do you prepare for your class?

I go through my lesson plans and put it into practice. Making lesson plans, I feel is a mechanical activity nowadays. I feel teachers should put in a little extra thought into the lesson plans.

It is very important to impart knowledge which you have learnt from your experience.I reflect on the issues I had faced as a child and give live examples when I teach in class.My students enjoy it.

What do you love most about being in the classroom when you teach Science?

I love being with children – it gives me a lot of energy. I can see this energy being transmitted to the children in my class as well. This is evident when they interact with me in class. I love it when they have zillions of questions, which means they have their thinking caps on. 

I feel extremely good when I get retrospective and see how I impart knowledge on things I found difficult as a child, with ease. It makes me smile.

How do you get your students to get involved in Science as a subject?

Being a Science teacher, I get involved with all the elements. Also I don’t need to worry about acquiring materials as most of the things are available. I think it is more important to sync with nature. When I teach something, I prefer to take children outdoors and observe nature.

I use their feedback about the activity to conclude what exactly they are going to learn. That is when I start taking the topics. We are at an advantage to have green house plants and solar panels etc. in the campus. So, most of the things can be viewed in the campus itself.

What do you think is the purpose of these field trips?

For most of it, we have everything available in the campus itself. But if I want them to observe animals, for instance, I have to take them elsewhere.

The purpose is of course, the more children see and observe, the more they imbibe and the more inquisitive they get. The more questions they ask, the more they learn. Many concepts that we teach are very abstract. Observation is very important because it helps children relate to a lot of things during such classes.

Moreover, it gets mundane and monotonous to teach children within the four walls of the classroom everyday.

Do you perform experiments in front of the children too?

For instance, when I teach about the properties of air, I do activities to show how air occupies space etc. I have balloons and glass of water etc. in class. While this was going on, children themselves came up with the fact that air is under pressure when we blow through the straw etc. Another exercise which I recently did was about rain water harvesting.

What do you think – is the pressure to excel at academics driven by parents or the exam-based model that exists today?

I think it is more due to parents.In Haryana, there is focus on sports activities and all children are not extremely good at academics. But, parents want marks and they want them to excel in academics even if the child may be very good in sports.

Parents should realise that all children may not excel everywhere. They will be really good in one space, they may be good in some and average in another space and that is okay.

With the advent of technology in classrooms, is the digital medium taking a large part of primary education too? 

Yes. Nowadays it is very common to install projectors etc. in class. It is good, to an extent; but, I believe, it should be used judiciously.

We should ponder if we want to teach everything using technology or go a little beyond that. I have observed some teachers being overtly dependant on technology to take classes.

Do you believe that software systems like Byju’s app have taken over the blackboard/teacher’s job?

To some extent, yes it has. Like I mentioned earlier, I have observed that some teachers are totally dependent on these apps and the projectors in the class. There is an obsession towards it. It has the voice overs etc.

I feel teachers should be the focal point of knowledge. Technology can be accessed outside the classroom as well. So, class time should be utilized for human bonding through teaching using alternative methods whenever possible. You can connect whatever you are teaching with you own life experiences. I feel only technology based learning gets very mechanical. 

How important is manners and etiquette for children in their primary years?

It is very important. Dealing with primary school children is like handling plant saplings. If it is nurtured well, the plant will bear good fruit in time. However, if children are not taken care of well at that stage, they won’t thrive in a healthy manner. In my opinion, primary school is where you can shape great individuals for our country.

Another activity that I have taken over is theatre. I work as a theatre-in-charge as well. I have a team of 20-25 girls who have been performing plays for the last 4 years. Till date they have covered about 138-140 villages on various topics. These kinds of things I feel are very important. Generally schools perform such activities on annual days or such functions and they limit it to them. 

We have covered various issues like child education, female foeticide, menstruation etc. Off late we have been working on a play called Dastak which is about the present scenario.

Since the children get to understand such topics at this age, they will definitely be confident and responsible. Our school is only for girls. So, when we are facing the audience and performing, some responses are absurd as well. Those are moments when my children learn to cope up with absurd comments as well. That also boosts their confidence levels in a different manner. Such activities can really sharpen children out to be good individuals.

What are the most significant challenges you see in your role today?

The significant challenge always has been and will be to inculcate children with respect for themselves and life around them.

Another thing I have noticed is the lack of ability to cope up with adverse situations. They tend to get impatient if things don’t go their way. I try to help them become strong in that space too.

What advice do you have for teachers who may be struggling to make their classes interactive and interesting?

Flexibility is one of the main characteristics that teachers need to possess/develop. They have to be flexible to understand what needs to be done, in the nick of time.

I also think it is highly important that teachers get absolutely truthful with children. If there is a lack of anything, they need to be open about it. It is okay for children to understand that there is lack of resources etc. We tend to try to make things look perfect and we also try to make children believe that they should be perfect, whether it comes to personalities or academics or anything for that matter.

It is important that they know that it is okay to make mistakes – the most important thing is to develop the habit of admitting mistakes and moving forward. 

The teaching profession, in my opinion, is the utmost profession. As teachers, we should be conscious that we are shaping individuals and citizens and everything we do reflects on the personalities of the children who are put into our hands.

Hence, the decision to be a teacher by profession should be chosen only by one’s own choice and not for any other reason.

Contact:

Email-poonie6@gmail.com

linkedin.com/in/poonam-chauhan-a24a6792

Anuja Panwar – Chemistry Educator MYP/IB DP Pathways School, Gurgaon

Having completed her post-graduation from the University of Rajasthan, she picked up a teaching job to teach 12th grade students. Little did Ms. Anuja Panwar know at that time that that was the path she was meant to be in. She enjoyed teaching. Tides changed, she got married and had to travel to the UK, where she got the opportunity to study further.

“While I was studying at the University there, I saw the possibility of a different kind of learning and teaching. The experience was completely different. I then got into Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGC) and I really enjoyed the programme. It was a very different approach towards teaching. Then, there was no looking back.”

What was the interesting approach that got you inspired?

The teaching procedure followed over there wasn’t aboutsomebody just standing up there, writing things on a board and telling the class how things are. The experience was different.

It was more aboutasking the class questions so that we could explore our thoughts and build our knowledge bank. I was learning computing there which was not my subject at all. Hence, I had to do a lot of research to complete the assignments given to me. It was more like an assignment-based learning instead of the lectures approach.

I realized how different it was to explore things yourself. If you couldn’t figure out something, you could approach tutors. The tutor would then take it further from there. It was more of an inquiry-based learning. It was refreshingly different. This was way back in 1994-95.

Did you then come back to India?

No. Once I completed my computing course, I did my PGC. After that, I got a job offer in the same technical college from where I did my computer diploma course. I then started teaching computing there and did that for about a year.

Then, we moved to Sri Lanka, where I couldn’t join for work owing to personal reasons. But, I did teach children who came over to my place. In Sri Lanka, they had this trend of sending children to a local school till grade 10, then admit them to an international school catering to an IB/Excel Board. After which, they would go abroad to study. 

So, I was helping out children from home and got them ready to join an international school. Once my daughter turned 3, I joined a school called Colombo International School.

After you got back to India, did you notice any difference in way things were done here?

Yes, absolutely!

Upon my return I joined Oakridge International School – I was made to understand that it is going to be an IB school. But at that time, it was a CBSE school. I found that CBSE followed exactly the same syllabus that I studied in my school days – there wasn’t any difference at all. Neither I nor my daughter wastoo happy about the school and the curriculum.  So, we moved from there and came to Gurgaon.

Here, I joined Shikshantar School – an ICSE school. At that point in time, I didn’t know of many IB schools here in India. ICSE was again a very different approach for me. But, I was slightly happier with ICSE than CBSE because I felt they had an application-based approach. ICSE gave me a little bit of flexibility in my teaching methodology and in assessing my students etc.

Then, I moved to Shri Ram School, another ICSE school, and was with them for nearly 4 years. But, none of these schools gave me the space to apply all of the experience I had gained while I was abroad. 

Conducting workshop on Differentiation in Learning Festival 2018

Why were you not able to apply those techniques that you had gained from your prior experience? 

The ICSE curriculum is very restricted. It takes a very syllabus-oriented approach. There is a defined set of things dictated for children to be studying. I did create few lesson plans and activities for lower grades children, for instance grade 7; enabling them to inquire, explore and then learn. But then, we were always pressed against time to complete the syllabus. The culture was more about the results that children fetch in grade 10.

It was all about preparing students for grade 10 exams from lower grades itself. That is something that frustrated me.

Have things changed at all?

It hasn’t changed at all. They have become slightly relaxed about a few things like the volume of things that needs to be done in grade 8. But grade 9 has become a very syllabus heavy year for children so that in grade 10, their syllabus gets completed by December. This way, in February they are all set for their final exams. And, so there is very little time. 

At times I feel that parents have become less pushy –but, not all. But, there is a slight change shaping in that space. 

Currently, I am working with the IB curriculum, which gives me a lot of flexibility. I also have a structure I need to follow but creating a lesson plan, executing it and what do I make of it is completely on me. What I like about IB is that units are looked through a lens of global context while using certain key concepts and some related concepts.

In the IB model, we also get to discuss with children what they want to learn. For instance, the unit can be addressing global context such asglobalization and sustainability or science and technical innovation, etc. We can check with students what they would like to learn about in that unit and we can see how differently we can explore that unit, which I feel, equips children with better skills.

1. Think clearly

2. Decide for themselves

3. Become open-minded

During discussions, different thinking processes comes up and they begin respecting each other’s perspective and learn from each other. 

IB opens up a forum for lot of discussion and inquiry, which I feel, is a great thing. As educators, I feel, instead of teaching them content we should be teaching them skills so that they are better prepared for college,where no one really asks how one learns the content. If you are skilled, you are equipped to learn.

Recieving certificate on completion of NLP workshop

As a teacher, is it more challenging to teach IB as compared to CBSE/ICSE?

For me, it is the other way round. I am a person who constantly thinks and keeps getting ideas.

For example, if we are teaching organic chemistry in grade 10. In CBSE, I would be asking them what isomers are and what the isomers of different compounds are, etc. and that would be it.

But here, the same type of questions are presented differently.

For example: Imagine a situation in the lab, wherein they run out of acetylene while doing some welding work. Now, propene can also be used for the same purpose. I would give some information about propene – not as propene itself but lots of other homologous compounds. Somewhere it is hidden that when propene is burned it gives a temperature of up to 6000 degree Celsius. 

Another example is asking:

If there are two unlabelled cylinders – one contains propane and another is propene. How would they figure out which one is propene. They do the bromine test to figure out propene and hence, they will design a lab experiment, the whole process, hypothesis, variables etc. They come up with a solution through inquiry and exploration. 

In the process, I am also testing them by giving them a situation – a real-life situation. It is not a straight-forward question. 

Also, we have criteria-based assessment and so it becomes very interesting. I have taught IB before but here, I am teaching MYP for the first time. I have come to realise that MYP is much more interesting and creative.

It keeps alive the learning journey of a teacher and that is the beauty of it all.

How do you find the time to keep yourself updated?

A lot of research goes into teaching IB. Also, by being creative and being aware of the things around you, you can learn a lot.  When we sit together as a team, we realise that some of us cannot figure out what kind of questions they can ask. There are times when some of us struggle with assisting children in their learning. On the other hand, these things come very easily for some of us. I guess it is about developing one’s skills by constantly thinking about where one can apply concepts. 

For example, if I have taught separation techniques, I can teach them the concept and where it is applied in daily life. CBSE, ICSE and IGCSE would be teaching distillation of crude oil. But in IB we would be teaching the basic technique by asking them application-based questions. 

For example, reverse osmosis is a process but how reverse osmosis helps clean water is something to be explored. Likewise, we should analyze the social, economic and environmental impacts of such technologies. It is all about being aware of all that you use and being cognizant of scientific applications that exist around you.

In discussion in Learning Festival 2019

Have you seen the impact of wanting to get through competitive exams like IITJEE etc. in your classroom in some form?

IB students are not affected by this. They don’t think on those lines. Sometimes, children come with the mind-set that they want to go to one of the IB Learning Universities to study Engineering or Physics, etc. They want to be scientists, etc. But by the end of grade 10 they realise that they are perhaps very good at drama and so that is perhaps what they want to pursue. That is the kind of opportunity and exposure IB provides. 

It also depends on how and what parents expect when they want their children to study in an IB curriculum. There are still people who believe that ultimately their children should land in one of those colleges like IIT, etc. But, I don’t see many in IB.

In ICSE and CBSE schools, children are put so much under pressure that you have to clear these competitive exams, no matter what. I come from Jaipur and I see many coaching centres. I don’t think children have any idea what they are doing there, which is a sad state of affairs.

In IB too there are some people who send their children for tuition which is also something I fail to understand. A tuition teacher can never help because the tuition teacher doesn’t understand the IB Philosophy.

If not a teacher, what would you have liked to do?

I have always wanted to be a restaurateur with my own eating joint. I love cooking. 

I am passionate about two things – teaching and food. So, if not teaching, perhaps cooking.

My career has gratefully been on the uphill. I have got the right opportunities at the right time. I could always be part of good schools. It gives me immense pleasure to be a teacher.

How do you visualize your future?

I haven’t laid down any plans for myself, but I feel that I would perhaps continue as an IB teacher itself. I would like to play a role in the IB Organization. That is how I would like to grow.

I do not mean in terms of managing schools but in terms of conducting workshops to take the school a step further etc. I enjoy the teaching-learning process the most.

Contact: panwar.anuja@gmail.com

Preeti Pasricha – Assistant Primary Coordinator – C P Goenka International School

Team coordination and leadership, being a great listener and empathy are skills that coordinators require and that is what Ms. Preeti Pasricha brings on the table.

She has to her credit a Master’s Degree in Commerce, a Bachelor’s Degree in Education, a Post Graduate Degree in Psychotherapy and Counseling, a Diploma in Early Childhood Education, and an MS CIT focused in Educational Leadership and Administration, General from The South Indian Education Society’s College of Commerce and Economics.

In short, she has been focused in being in the education sector and shaping it for the better.

Award from Maruti Art Competition

Ms. Preeti, what got you to decide this line of profession?

Since a very early age, I have not known a more noble profession than teaching because it lays the very foundation for generations to come. I have always wanted to become a teacher and to be honest, I wish I take my last breath when in an educational institution.

Who is your inspiration when it comes to the teaching field?

There hasn’t been any inspiration as such. I was simply following my inner voice. I wanted to become a teacher since a very small age.

How, in your opinion, should teachers conduct themselves especially in the primary classes?

Teachers should be great listeners. We should always remind ourselves that we are dealing with little human beings and should respect the fact that they too have a voice.

Be kind and humble to your students giving them the attention they deserve. 

I believe, with active listening, anyone can be moulded for the better. We can lead them to wherever we want by first listening to them because without knowing what they have to tell, we won’t be able to guide them.

Best Mentor Award

Tell us about your role at C P Goenka International School, as an Asst. Primary Coordinator.

I oversee the instructional programs in academics. Work with other administrators and teachers to deliver the best learning experience to the students. I advise and mentor teachers and measure the effectiveness of their teaching techniques. I communicate with parents about students and help foster greater parental involvement.

Do you take classes at the school?

No, I don’t teach currently.

Do you train teachers?

Yes, we train them weekly. We call teachers subject-wise and train them on a weekly basis. The training will cover what they should be doing in the following week, what worksheets and activities should be done. We train them how to groom the children.

What teaching strategies do you follow and how do you ensure that discipline is maintained inside classrooms?

We start the training by understanding what activities should be done in the class and we have appreciating charts placed in the class which promotes discipline. We have monitors for everything and we appoint the naughtiest child as the monitor of the class. This really works.

What is the importance of circle time in the primary years?

Circle time is the time given to children to voice their opinion without their parents being around to instruct them.

A common misconception is that while giving instructions to children like sit properly, wash your hands, don’t watch TV etc., we think we are talking to the children. But that is not true. Children do not perceive it as talking. It is not a conversation.

During circle time, we listen to them and validate their opinion. This is an exercise for them to be heard and for them to understand that their opinion matters. We tell them the good and bad sides of their opinion/ideas so that they know that we are listening.

Awarded by Indian Odyssey

How do you deal with the shy children? 

We have weekly assemblies. We give shy children major roles to perform during the assembly. We make them talk during assembly time. We give them the opportunity to talk about events going to happen in the following week. We do role plays in class, etc. I believe that any person on earth when they feel they are important, they start speaking out.

How often do you interact with parents?

Once a month. We have student review meets (SRM) at school. We also get several emails from parents expressing their satisfaction about the way the school is performing.  

Do you think it is important for teachers to extend their responsibility towards children even outside the classroom? 

I think everyone should be responsible for children whether inside or outside the classroom. It is not just a call of duty but a matter of responsibility as well. The more you extend your wings, the more people you can gather underneath it. 

We also have a counsellor who has been given the title of parent-student coach. For children who need extra help and more time, parents, teachers and the child sit together with the parent-student coach and understand the child and the parents. We work accordingly.

Do you see technology driving effective learning?

I think it has its own pros and cons. It has a 60% positive side to it and 40% cons depends on the misuse of the child which children tend to do when they have a technological gadget in hand. Technology has made things faster and it is good for children to learn it.

Yes, we have smart boards in all classes plus each child has a personal laptop in the ICT lab.

But, we also conduct regular workshops for children and parents regarding children exposed to social media, etc. We also suggest child-friendly websites that they should be using. We strongly recommend using child lock and minimal usage of gadgets by children.

Token of love from students

How important is inculcating a reading habit?

It is highly important. In fact, we have a book club in school for teachers as well. That shows how much of importance we give to reading.

We conduct DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) for children every week.

What do you think parents love about your school?

They love the individual attention that we give to each and every child and the way the children are nurtured with love care and through knowledge.

Contact

Email-mpsons.pp@gmail.com-

linkedin.com/in/preeti-pasricha-884451b2

Tania Ghosh – A Level Physics Teacher – Calcutta International School, Kolkata

Ms. Tania, please give us a sneak peek into how you opted for the teaching profession.

From the beginning, I haven’t been a brilliant student but I was one of the high achievers in school. I found it very easy to articulate concepts to my friends who found certain subjects very difficult. I could very easily translate something very difficult in simple terms. I had cousins also coming to me with Science-related difficulties. Having said that, I did not really have this profession in mind.

I wanted to do research and get into that path. But I think this was destined and I found this coming to me very naturally. For me, breaking down difficult terminologies and concepts for easy understanding and linking it to practical life, comes naturally. 

After my Masters in Physics, I tried my luck in the corporate sector. But, I guess education was my calling and I knew I was good in teaching, learning and imparting scientific knowledge. So, I took a conscious decision to quit my corporate job and I got into teaching. I got my first job in DPS Ruby Park and then later at Calcutta International School, where I currently work. 

Why Physics?

Whenever I went to my book shelf, I always found myself taking out my Physics book and found it very interesting at any point in time. I find Physics very logical and never had to blindly memorise what I was learning or remember things in a sequential manner. It came very naturally to me. I think I am at home with logic.

I am a person who is always game for challenges. So, even if you threw a very difficult concept at me, I would take the challenge head on. Understanding something and putting it to use gives me an amazing sense of achievement.

Do you think any of your teachers perhaps left an impression about Physics on you?

Not in terms of the subject per se.

Back in those times, tuition was for those students who were weak. It wasn’t a mark of status like it is today. Today the mentality, more or less, is if you don’t go for tuitions you are doing something wrong.

I owe it to my teachers for giving me holistic education. There was no need for going to a third person to understand something. My teachers have always encouraged me for approaching them.

Supratim Bhattacharya, a friend of my cousin was the one who actually inspired me to take up Physics. When in class 9 and 10, I used to approach him with doubts I had. He inspired me to think of Physics in a lateral and easy way. I would actually give him the credit of pulling me into this stream.

What are some of the challenges you face when you teach Physics?

Students come with a mind-set that Physics is very tough. With no offense to anybody, I think teachers have taught Physics in a very bookish manner.

Physics is an abstract Science and it is also a science of practical life. You cannot teach Physics by reading it out from a book. You have to associate it with practical life and talk about imagination. You have to ask children to close their eyes and imagine certain things happening. That kind of skill needs to be inculcated in students. 

During my initial years at Calcutta International School, I had started writing a blog on practical life stories related to Physics.

In class, I introduced the concept of drama for teaching Physics. I gave them a concept and points on the concept and asked children to write a play about it. I asked them to try and manipulate a story in such a way that you can showcase a particular concept of Physics in your daily life. I have also asked them to create posters.

My middle school coordinator has commented that my classes always seemed to be an art and craft class. It didn’t look like a Physics class at all. So things are almost hands on all the time. With these techniques, I think I was successful in erasing the traumatic mindset from the middle schoolers when I used to teach them. Currently, I teach A-level – equivalent to grade 11 and 12. I teach the A-level, IGCSE and a little bit of middle school as well.

What are your thoughts about the different kinds of curriculum we have today?

I believe that through our national curriculum we are still looking towards creating factory workers and employees. We are still looking at creating people who think only in a particular way. So, it is more of how compliant you are; you must be a conformist to do well in the national curriculum. You have to think in a particular manner, address questions in a particular style. There is very little room to think out of the box and very less chance of doing something out of the suggestions or out of the last 10 years question papers. So, if you just go through the past 10 years’ papers, you kind of get an understanding of how to get a 95% or above. Nowadays, everyone gets a 95% or above which never happened during our times.

In A-levels and IB, they give you a scope for a creative start. The concepts are given and the questions are never repeated. So, having clarity on the concept and subject is imperative in order to arrive at the answers. Each question is different and even if you do 200 years of past papers, hypothetically, you couldn’t predict the next question that would appear in your board exams.

So, attaining clear cut clarity of the concept is of utmost importance when it comes to IB. To do well in A levels you must understand each and every nuances of a concept. IB and A levels look towards evolving innovators. 

I think, in India, our problem is our population and because we want jobs this is how it has always been. There is want for guaranteed jobs. I understand that bit as well. But, if you want to be successful and creative, you have to have the risk of failure.

Is there a difference in the way the IB curriculum is delivered across the globe?

It is the same paper that everyone attempts. You can appear for your A level examinations 3 times in a year.

  1. The Feb-March one is for India, strictly because the students who need to get into Indian Universities have to get their results before a particular time.
  2. The May-June one is what we prefer our students appearing for and there is also
  3. The October-November one.

So, the May-June and Oct-Nov versions happen worldwide and it is in a percentile form – not percentage.

In the May-June version, Indian students do very well because we Indian teachers tend to give them a whole lot more than what the syllabus demands. That is how we have been taught and it subconsciously filters through. Also, Indian parents are very alert and sharp about what their children should do. That is an additional support our students get. Indian parents are very conscious of the fact that it is a race. People who take up Physics in A level are mostly very thorough with their work. They have a point to prove and if they want to go abroad as well, they have to be best of the best. 

The Feb-March version is only for Indian students and so we don’t really have a yardstick to compare results globally.

Is it a huge shift for teachers when they have to shift from CBSE to A-Level teaching?

If you have been teaching CBSE for a very long time, then unlearning the ways of teaching is often a challenge. We see it all the time. I, thankfully, shifted to this curriculum very early in my career.

This school resonated with my teaching ideas. Gratefully, my way of thinking and the school’s way of teaching and learning were absolutely in sync. So, I am lucky. I have to mention my Principal Dr Munmun Nath who is a visionary and I am lucky that we think alike. She always encourages taking chances. 

If somebody teaches CBSE and ISC curriculum for a long time, unlearning and opening up windows and doors to the structured way of thinking would be a challenge. But, if you have it in you and you take it up very quickly, it works. You can get set in a monotonous path if you are into the CBSE and ICSE teaching curriculum. There are very few projects and out of the box challenges in CBSE and ICSE. But, here it is all about out of the box challenges and looking at a concept in a very different way. 

At A levels or IGCSE, we aim at making students skills-ready – not content ready. Content is just a click away these days, but how you approach it and the sustainable quality defines if you are a futuristic person.

Let us talk about the Science Club.

Science Club, I think, 2-3 years back was proposed by a girl. 

Then there was another brilliant student who got through Cambridge written exams for Physics but fell short after that because he didn’t really have the opportunity to do anything other than what is in the curriculum in order to showcase his interest in Physics. That struck a chord with me and I realised that as a teacher I should also give them some exposure into doing stuff other than the curriculum. I wanted a platform where students could showcase their skills and also for me to have that satisfaction of doing something other than the curriculum. Hence, the Science Club!

With a couple of very enthusiastic students, we formed the Science Club and it is in its initial stages. We are in the 2nd year of its formation. Through this club, we create awareness and bring experts from leading scientific industries or Universities. We talk about what is happening in Science today, the uses of learning Science.We look at astronomy and people from AI to giveus talks.We look towards international collaboration.

I worked with a UK School back in 2014 and we were the only school in all of EU to get a Crest Award, which is a highly prestigious award in the UK. The students learn a lot of things when they are working because they are interested and also because it is not part of the curriculum and they won’t be tested on it. Their skills, understanding, analysis, approach towards everything changes because they are doing it solely because they enjoy it. That was my primary objective when I started this club.

What was the idea behind trying to collaborate with other schools and get them to be part of the club?

I have been made the International School Awards (ISA) coordinator of British Council, which looks at the sustainable goals of United Nations and how to project it through the visions of UNESCO.

The International School Award is given by the British Council all over the world and schools enrol for that award.

For this, they have to do a set of 7 projects which can be apart/in their curriculum, they have to do 4-5 activities. Out of these, 3 have to be international collaborations. So, they should show proof of work and that they tried to create a change or social awareness or something that would enhance humanity. It is a very famous award among schools. 

I have been appointed as the ISA coordinator recently, So, I was just trying to figure out if there are people who are interested in collaborating the project. I would be starting off next year with all the projects. This is a project which would be school-wide, i.e., pre- primary to class 12.

Do you find schools collaborating with each other as much as you want it?

No, to be very honest! I think nowadays, education has become an industry. It is all about showcasing how much the school is doing. It is becoming a very target-oriented industry. The input has to be such that a certain percentage of students should appear with high results. Teaching is becoming quite difficult for a whole lot of people as it comes with a lot of documentation, meetings, lesson planning, corrections, etc.

Teachers, hence, are a lot pressed for time. Now, doing things apart from their jobs is a difficult ask. So, I would not blame them. I do this because I am very interested in doing things differently and I have an extremely supportive family. My principal is also extremely supportive and she sees where I want to take the Science Club.

Can you elaborate on Education Redesign?

I can see students going to Khan Academy and other digital media to understand things. I can see students relying on digital media, etc.

So, we have to think about education in terms of AI, modern social networking, all the digital inventions that is happening. I am still very interested in thinking about how education might change in future. I have also done a lot of courses on Cambridge Assessments, the curriculum that I teach, about assessments and about how to teach in the future. Harvard has this Education Redesign which talks about overhauling the entire system and how to bring about changes in the way you teach,for years to come.

How do you envision yourself in the years ahead?

I am extremely interested in knowing how teaching/learning or Computer Science would change because of the changes in the social environment, which is happening mighty fast.

I want to know how machines would come in and would change the entire dimension of education and how teaching-learning happens. I am always learning something new.

I am currently doing a course from Cambridge Assessments on how to change the ways of teaching and how to bring in the interest of the future generations in education. Also, I would want to collaborate and look at how the idea of international citizenship can be translated through Science.

Collaboration is something that I am extremely looking forward to. 

Contact:

Email- taniadoel@gmail.com

Ashwani Kumar Vivek -Chemistry Facilitator for Cambridge International and IGCSE -Sanjay Ghodawat International School, Kolhapur

From a research assistant at CSIR – CIMFR, Mr. Ashwani Kumar Vivek plunges into the world of education and falls in love with the profession. Today, he is a Chemistry facilitator at Sanjay Ghodawat International school.

Having studied at the Army Public school and at other schools, what is your biggest takeaway from there in comparison with other CBSE schools?

Yes, prior to my Grade 10, I was in a CBSE School. Then, owing to the fact that my father was in the army, after 10th board exam from Cambrian Public School, I went to Army Public School for 11th and 12th. And I passed 12th CBSE board exam in 2011. The teaching is almost the same in both schools, in my opinion. It is the environment that is different.

At the army school, when we were in Grade 12, every month/week we had visitors at our school who held different posts in the armed force. They used to motivate us to join the army, navy or air force. We were so motivated that all 60 students in my Science batch attempted the NDA exam. It is not about who cleared it and who didn’t. But, every student attempted the exam.

I don’t find such things in any other schools. I had friends in other CBSE and ICSE schools. When I talked to them about joining defence services, I understood that they only had the option of Engineering running in their heads. They were only focussed about earning money or moving to other countries. Another thing about studying in the army school is the discipline and patriotism it sets in you.

What motivated you to opt for Chemistry?

When I did my Grade 12, most of my friends were going for Engineering. I also wanted to do Engineering but realized that I wanted to do it only because my friends were doing it. I also realised that I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do.

For one year I studied CA, law etc. and I realised that that was not what I wanted to do. I got so bored that I decided to get out of it. That is when I realised that no matter what; I never get bored with Science, especially Chemistry.

Tell us about your stint with CSIR – CIMFR.

When you join CSIR – CIMFR as a project assistant, you join for a project-based internship that lasts for 6 months. If you are still interested after 6 months, they extend your internship for another 6 months.

I didn’t want to extend my internship programme because I got what I wanted within the first 6 months itself. One disadvantage about CSIR – CIMFR is that you have to visit the site often, which was not my cup of tea.

What motivated you to opt for teaching after your internship programme?

While working as a project assistant at CSIR – CIMFR itself, I realized my affinity for the environment that a school or a college provides. Then, it dawned upon me that I should try teaching. I wasn’t 100% sure but I decided to try.

In India, we do not give enough focus on teaching. We give it a secondary status. It is looked upon like a profession open to those who couldn’t place themselves anywhere else. Honestly, before I joined the profession, even my mind-set was also partly that way. But when I got into it, with all the challenges I face every day I realized how futile that thought was. The experience is really good.

Another reason people don’t opt for teaching is also due to salary constraints. But nowadays even that factor is diminishing. You can make money with this career too. 

How long have you been teaching? 

Officially this is my 2nd year. However, when I was doing my Masters and Graduation, I was teaching at coaching institutes as well. I joined this school in April 2018.

How does your previous job at CSIR – CIMFR help you in your current profession?

Honestly, at CSIR – CIMFR, they regularly recruit people with a Chemistry background. After we are selected, you go through 1-week training about what we are supposed to do and how to do certain things. I wouldn’t say it is pure research.

We have to work under a leader. Our purpose was to find the total moisture content in the coal sample so that we can predict the actual rate of the coal. People tend to sell low quality coal at high rates or good quality coal at low rates. Because of this, there was a third party implementation responsible for finding the actual moisture content in coal. That was my job and I was in charge of Govindpur site.

When I applied for a teaching post, I had no experience in it at all. Unofficially, I had taught but I didn’t have experience on the records. Gratefully, the principal here was very generous and perhaps I got through owing to the CSIR – CIMFR experience. 

I think CSIR – CIMFR gave me an edge to get this job.

What are your thoughts on the Times Higher Education World University Ranking wherein Indian Universities are always ranked low?

We have to change the teaching methodology which is due. We have to move from lecture based teaching to active learning process where the learner is involved in the classroom teaching. We have to change our approach towards classroom teaching so that learners can develop critical thinking approach. Then only we would be able to produce curious minds which would lead to the scientific achievements. And it can only happen if we train children to think out of the box since childhood. The same learners when go to college with their curious mind and out of the box thinking ability will be able to contribute to the scientific community. And eventually the ranking will also improve. 

Do you think CBSE and ICSE should trim their syllabus?

I don’t think that they should cut down on syllabus.

After I passed grade 10 and transitioned to grade 11, I was shocked to see the syllabus. The content was massive. Coping up with the syllabus was a struggle. It took me ample lot of time to understand how to deal with the syllabus. I think CBSE and ICSE should look at how that disparity between grade 10 and 11 can be minimized. 

In Cambridge, I teach grade 9 and I see the content which gets taught in grade 11 CBSE/ICSE. I think, with conceptual learning, the transition from grade 10 to 11 can be made smooth. Also, the massive content disparity can be minimized. 

I don’t support when people say that syllabus needs to be cut down.

What are your tips on covering huge volume of syllabus?

That is something that should be managed with an effective lesson plan. Time management is a crucial skill that teachers need.

The Cambridge syllabus is short and precise. It is not as huge as the CBSE. CBSE is pretty vast. But, I would still vouch for the CBSE syllabus. It is just that you should be great with time management – teachers and students.

What is your strategy to make classes interesting and learning enjoyable?

People say that teachers should plan a lot of things before coming to class. Honestly, plans do not work all the time. Once you are inside the class, you sense the class’ enthusiasm level. Depending on that, I decide how to take my class.

Sometimes, I show them videos or take them outside. I ask them to research on topics that seem easy. For example, if petroleum is the topic and I understand that it is not hard for them to understand, then I give them research work for say 10 minutes. I then ask them to tell me what they understand based on the research they have done. 

Likewise, I change my style constantly. If I stick to the same methodology, it won’t work. There are times, when I go sit in the class and I ask them to tell me about whatever topic they are interested in speaking about.

So, I keep switching methods.

Most people label organic chemistry as being very tough as there is a lot to remember. What are your thoughts?

I don’t think so. When I was a student I used to love organic chemistry. Organic chemistry is easy to study and equally easy to forget. This is because there are so many things to remember. But inorganic chemistry is easy to retain once you understand and learn it. That is why in most of the curriculum you will see organic chemistry being taught at the end of the syllabus. 

I passed out in 2017-18. That is not a long time ago. So, I still go back to what issues I had when I was learning, while teaching my class. So, I keep relating back to what all I did, what I missed, etc.

Do you feel the pressure of getting students to perform in their exams?

Most CBSE and ICSE schools focus mainly on grades unlike most international schools.

In international schools, they go beyond grades. They also support extra-curricular activities. In my class, some of them are good guitar players, many of them are good with some musical instrument or the other. There are students who may not be enthusiastic about scoring high in exams but, I see that they are really good at many other activities like swimming, singing, athletics, etc. They may be average in academics but excel elsewhere. All students are different. Everybody may not score excellent marks but that does not mean they are not doing well.

If students show no interest in extra-curricular activities and studies, they need to be coached, motivated and encouraged so that they find a path and grow. 

During parent-teacher meetings, there are parents who compare their children with other students. I always advise them to track the progress of their child alone because children should only strive to become a better version of themselves rather than competing with others. I wouldn’t expect any student to change drastically from exam to exam but even a small change should be appreciated. Everybody’s capacity is different.

Some students are very shy in class. There are students who come to me after class with their doubts etc. They would rather clear doubts personally than in class. Everybody has their own way of learning and their own capacity levels.

In that perspective, teachers should know what kind of techniques and things need to be done.

Nowadays, there is a rush to send children for tuitions, which compromises their play time. What can be done at a school level to avoid tuition?

Even in my school days, there were lots of coaching institutes. It was a trend to go for tuitions after school. I notice here in the school that I teach, that the school makes extra time for students who need more coaching.

If the school finds out that some students go for tuition outside school timings, they take steps to make programmes for giving coaching for competitive exams, etc. I take competitive exam classes sometimes. Honestly, I don’t think there are any students in this school going outside school timings for tuition. If they need more advice on a topic, teachers should be happy to help. There are days when I stay back till 5:30 p.m. so that I can clear off students’ doubts.

This schools tries its best that children do not have to go for extra coaching after school hours.

Is the need to multi-task in school an additional burden on teachers?

Well, we have to and yes we do. Sometimes we don’t like it and the thought that we are teachers and we ought to be teaching and not doing all this, comes in.

But, I don’t see alternatives here – we have to do it. Teachers have to multitask. We have to take the attendance of students, guide them when they need support not just teaching, but otherwise as well, grading your papers etc.

In your current school, how are teachers motivated for upgrading their skills?

Every few months we have workshops for teachers. Our school caters to IB, CBSE and Cambridge.

After our summer break, we have workshops at least for 1 week. Resource people from CBSE, IB and Cambridge backgrounds comes in to deliver these workshops. In between the academic year also we have workshops.

The school also sends teachers for various workshops to other sites. I was sent last year for Members of International Schools Association (MISA) workshop for Science teachers.

What are your thoughts about education in India getting increasingly commercialized?

I would say everything is commercialized nowadays, including healthcare. I am not of the opinion that it is a good thing but to run institutions that cater to so many children’s education, you need money for various things like infrastructure, salaries etc.

The head of the school I am at now visualises our school to feature under the top schools in the country and around the globe. If that is the aim, one needs to spend money on infrastructure.

So yes, schools can provide scholarship for students who need economic support. But, for people who are willing to pay, I don’t find anything wrong with the fee structure.

In your career so far, have there been any frustrating moments?

I would be lying if I say it is never frustrating. But, I would replace the word frustrating with challenging. Like I said, depending on the enthusiasm level of the class, your plan seldom works, you will need to think on your toes.

Also, sometimes we may need to pitch in extra hours. But, I feel every career path is challenging nowadays. Yes, it does get to you sometimes.

When I compare myself from when I just joined in 2018 and now, I know I have changed for the better. I can see the difference in the way I conduct myself. The change has been positive. For positive changes to take effect, life has to be challenging.

Are you completely satisfied in transitioning your career to the education sector?

Yes – 100%. I am totally satisfied. Right now I am teaching IGCSE 10 level. My current aspiration is to teach higher grade students like A level students, which is equivalent to grade 10-12. I would also like to do an IB course because it is the upcoming thing in India.

It will be a boost to my career.

Contact:

Email-ashwanivivek03@gmail.com

LinkedIn- https://www.linkedin.com/in/ashwani-kumar-vivek-ab9ba263

Mr. Rajeev Gupta – PGT Physics Teacher – G.P.S Global School, Hapur

Interlinking of subjects gives more flavor, depth and meaning to subjects. The logical reasoning it brings along reinforces the concepts and makes learning fun and interesting. Physics reasoned out with Mathematics is Rajeev Gupta’s unique methodology. Mr. Rajeev is a PGT Physics teacher at G.P.S Global School.

“My interest in Physics lies in how best to teach Physics. Most of the teachers have made Physics into History subject. They make and give notes. But, Physics is understood best numerically.

Whatever derivation or topic you intend to teach should first be introduced using the concept and its relevance in the real world. Quote numerical examples to help children dive deeper. This approach can make a lot of difference in the way Physics is perceived by children.”

Where did you do your studies and what made you decide on making teaching your career?

My education was from the Allahabad University. Back then, most people aimed at getting into administrative posts. It was my statistics teacher who pointed out that I was good at Physics and suggested that I study Physics in depth. I then aimed at being a Physics professor. While doing my studies itself, I used to give private tuition and that made me incline even more towards this profession. 

I have observed that most students want to learn Physics but they lacked teachers who presented it well. When I introduced them to the numerical way of learning Physics they started asking me more questions. That was a good sign. We started having healthy conversations based on Physics. Using their questions as base, I started doing my own in-depth studies. Using that I derived a methodology in teaching Physics from the basic to higher levels. In the process, I loved Physics even more and my interactions with students made me fall in love with teaching as well. 

How long have you been in the teaching profession?

I began my career in 2000. I currently am an HOD at JPS Global Academy – a CBSE school at Hapur. I have also taught in ICSE and state board schools. I was teaching at Ghaziabad.

What are your thoughts on the CBSE, ICSE and State boards?

Most of the topics discussed in CBSE only starts from the upper level. They just introduce the topic with no preface. The content the board offers doesn’t delve into giving an insight about the topic. Hence, I do refer other books as well, when I teach.

Actually, the NCERT is made for delving deeper into topics. It is almost like research-level content. It is made in such a way that you can understand all concepts by yourself.

These books give ideas on how the formulae and concept is developed. They have sections called ‘Why?’ explaining how the concepts were developed. These books actually promote research and push people to think.

If one is able to go through all this content, NCERT books are really good. But, the catch is to develop a deep understanding you will need to consult other books too. 

What is your approach to bring students weak in Physics on par with the others?

I teach Class XI and XII. This concept of weak students is a carry forward from the lower classes. For example, when we teach that Kinetic Energy K = 1/2 mv2, they do not understand the meaning of kinetic energy or potential energy etc.

So, I start by asking them questions. These questions are for me to understand what all they have read and what all they have understood. Doing this exercise sometimes gets me down to the 6th, 7th level too. When I get a feel that they have begun to understand then I pace up to grade 11 and 12. They struggle to understand but in the meantime, I make them do a lot of numerical analysis. Gradually, they start understanding.

To get to that level, I give them lot of numerical reasoning and conceptual understanding. Slowly they come up to speed. But then once they get it, we see a balance and then delve into advance concepts. 

I do observe some students to be good at Humanities etc. but opting for Physics. They would have been forced by parents. In that case, they will have to work harder because they would hardly have any Mathematical idea.

Most people don’t understand that Mathematics is also a Science and that it transcends into Physics as well. I teach mathematical Physics.

Do you feel the pressure of ensuring that your students score high because you can be judged based on their scores?

Yes, I do. I feel the pressure because I have to give results.  The attitude is no matter how your students are, you need to derive good results. If not, you will have to face dire consequences.  In this commercial world, everything is dictated and judged based on results. Hence, I feel it is highly important that I start from the level that students understand and get them to speed.

For ensuring results, I have to also tell them what’s important from an exam point of view etc. and in some cases will have to advice that they write the answer as being told. I feel restless in my mind that that is not the right way to impart education. But, I have the reality also to face.

How would you define a bright Physics student?

A good student is one who shows the interest to delve deeper into concepts without any external pressure. There are many students that questions why they can’t think of concepts at a different angle altogether.

Many a times, they are right in their thoughts – whether it is about concepts or about the manner in which problems are solved. Bright students would be open to working on new problems and they don’t fear questions that appear to be something totally new.

You also train students for the NEET examination, right?

Yes.

Is coaching for NEET different from the way in which you would teach Physics in a classroom?

Yes, there is a lot of difference. In class, the emphasis in usually on the derivation. In NEET, you have to delve deep into Physics topics. There is a lot of graphically conceptual questions, which require a lot of skilled training in terms of tangents, maxima and minima concepts. Due to lack of time, these cannot be discussed in a regular class. 

Also, NEET follows an objective type question paper model which requires a different style of training altogether. So, the way in which we teach and prompt children who want to appear for NEET exams is very different.

What are your plans for the future?

I want to bring out my version of a Physics book – a book which details on concepts which can be easily understood. I want to create a bridge between lower level and higher level books.

Thank you, Mr Rajeev Gupta. We wish you all success!

Email id- rajeevgupta537@gmail.com

Ms. Sonia Kedia – IB PYP Coordinator – Mumbai

Over 2 decades into any field opens depths for the one journeying to explore and excavate new opportunities, possibilities and innovate ways of working.

22 years as an educator has led Ms. Sonia Kedia into many a paths and opened up opportunities to look beyond teaching. Passionate about curriculum planning, she does every bit she can to better the education world by keeping herself updated with reading and podcasts, and expanding her comfort zone by sharing ideas and collaborating with like-minded educators.

“I am born and brought up in Mumbai and did my schooling at Jamnabhai International School.

When in Grade 12 contemplating on how to take my studies and career forward, I decided that I should do something related to child development and child psychology.

My parents were very encouraging and started looking for colleges that would give me graduation in something dealing with child development. Affinity University, Santa Cruz, at that time, had a college that had a graduation course on child development.

Thus, the journey began. My interest lay in understanding teaching and what it is to deal with young minds that cannot express their dilemmas, ideas, etc.

I have been into this profession since then. Honestly, I can’t imagine myself in any other field.”

Can you share some of the valuable insights you would have gathered during your long tenure so far?

I remember when I was very young, our elders would just observe us and not interfere and interrupt in our activities.

In those days children were much carefree and so were the adults who dealt them. The adults were more relaxed and not so much at the edge. Now the whole thing of performance – performing well, excelling is something that eats people’s minds. Yes, we have ample talks making its rounds about grades not being important. But, on the flip side there is this urge for everyone’s child to be the best. This adults’ interventions soon begin to reflect on the child’s behaviour. 

Children, nowadays, deal with anxiety to perform well. This is true for something as simple as playing a guitar or singing a song, besides academics. I think, somewhere down the lane, the enjoyment of it all is taking a back seat.

Children are brought under tremendous pressure to perform well. Again, there are talks and we all nod to the theory that they shouldn’t compete with each other but should focus on becoming a better version of themselves. But, walking the talk is a different ball game altogether, isn’t it? 

What are your thoughts on the various boards? 

I have taught in ICSE schools for many years the shift to teaching in an International School has been interesting. IB is not a board, it is a philosophy – a framework. When they talk about international mindedness, they talk about a global framework that any school can adapt and flesh out into their own curriculum.

The good thing about IB’s philosophy is you gradually start thinking and acting globally. So, this gives us the leeway to plan and flesh out things that children want and are passionate about.

The Math, Science, Language and everything else falls in place once the child is happy. Free play is not just applicable for kindergarten. It applies across grades. Don’t we, as adults, gather more energy when we play and take some time out of our regular humdrum? So, then why do we tend to take that aspect away as soon as the child enters the secondary division? 

In the primary years we tend to feel that the child is tender, they need playtime and that too is a forceful thought. It shouldn’t be a forceful thought, in my opinion. Free play can be structured – one where there is an outcome and where the child can feel the wow factor of having achieved something.

The environment nurtured in schools should be one where the child feels safe to explore the thought that they have an opportunity to play, be heard and understood by the adults around the place. 

We, in our space, are working towards such an environment. I feel that a school should be a place where teachers, non-teaching staff and children are happy souls within that space. A space where we have some story-telling sessions, wherein life experiences are shared. Children tend to learn so much from real life experiences. That is the kind of communication educators should aim at achieving.

The school should not be a place which exerts pressure in extracting marks. All that will take its own course. 

Did you face any difficulty when you started with the curriculum planning?

Honestly, it is still very difficult. Today, I can have this conversation with you because I know that the two of us are not sitting and making up the curriculum for a particular school.

When it boils down to actually bringing it into a practice there are huge hurdles to be crossed – working hours, number of days at school, assessments to be covered, a blend of co-curricular activities. A math teacher will need 6 periods in a week. They wouldn’t want to forego their classes for a workshop, for instance, that may get organized. Such challenges will always be there.

On the contrary, if the same educator understands that by giving those 40 minutes of theirs, it may help another 300 hours that we are at school, then we can strike the balance. 

What is your opinion about CBSE and ICSE schools?

To be honest with you, no boards can be belittled or put down. Whatever they are all doing in their own space, is a fantastic job. It is up to the parents to decide what they are looking for their child.

We have all kinds of parents – all kinds of socio economic people in our city. Some parents are very clear in their mind that they want their child to be part of the CBSE/ICSE Board. They have their own reasoning and their own aspirations for their children. Some of them do not mind their children to become musicians or whatever it is they want to be. They are the ones who do not mind risking it to give their children the free will to explore and become what the children aspire to be. It is a fact that the minute the IB world comes into the picture, the fee structure spirals up. The infrastructure and the standard and practices that they have laid out are a mandate. 

I personally am an ICSE product. I find no fault in that programme. We need to strike a balance.

People say a whole lot of things like; in IB spellings are not considered important or multiplication tables are not important etc. It is true that we may not use these things the way it is taught. But, it is we who should strike a balance as educators. That is why we are there or else Google has everything.

Schools need to give the child ample of opportunities to develop skills that are needed in real life situations to name a few like: communication skills, research skills, working in collaboration, leadership and so on.

Nowadays, home schooling has become a huge thing. People are turning to home schooling considering the flexibility and the environment it creates to help children develop skills in their own space and pace.

However, the learning at school is different and more effective from when you learn in isolation in a home environment.

Different minds – different opinions!

How would you describe an ideal teacher?

To talk about an ideal teacher would call for discussion about the pay structure that is on the cards. The kind of pay structure that is offered to teachers today is quite well known. Professionally speaking are we getting paid well as educators?

Yes, there is passion at work; there is compassion and an urge to leave a mark and bring about a change. But, at the end of the day, stepping out of one’s comfort zone is to earn money and make a living. We carry the expectation of being global educators and maintain international standards.

We need to start paying our teachers well. I am not saying that money should be the sole motivator. But, somewhere it does help. Teachers today are more like mentors. They keep studying to teach.

Children today are very smart owing to the exposure they get today. Sometimes the questions that they come up with calls for a ‘Sorry, I will need to get back to you regarding that’. Last year we were doing an exhibition and a child walks into my office and tells me that he wanted to develop an app to which I was taken aback! And, he assured me that all that I needed to give him was my permission. He did such a fantastic job. I learned Canva from him. He designed the invite so beautifully using the app!

So, my point is:

  1. We need to be very open-minded and need to know that we are all lifelong learners as teachers ourselves. We don’t have room for the thought that we know it all. That mind-set and attitude just doesn’t work anymore. 
  • We need to be a very good listener, mentor and facilitator.
  • We need to win the hearts of these little humans that are before us. Once you have done that you can make them do absolutely anything, wholeheartedly, because they then trust in you.
  • Mutual respect is something we can teach them only by demonstrating it through our actions and deeds. We need to see them as human beings and not as 5/6/7 year olds. 

I remember when I was a child, we were not exposed to a lot of things. For example, if something happened in the family, we were kept a little away. But in today’s nuclear families, the little ones know exactly what is happening at home. They know the ups and the downs. Young parents are of the opinion that the child should know everything. We need to be sensitive about these changes and need to be forthcoming to be moving with time and not being stuck upon keeping things as it used to be in the past.

What are your reflections on teacher trainings on the job?

You need to empower teachers. This whole thing of having this thought that if a teacher is empowered she might just take position or grow within the institution, I feel, should be foregone. As leaders, for example, if I am the HOD then it is my job to empower the staff working under me. They should be given ample opportunities. Leaders must be able to tap into the interest of teachers.

To quote an example, in my pervious organisation we hire people from outside to MC events in the school. Once a teacher came up and said that she could do it and she was confident that she could do a better job than the external MCs because she knew the culture of the school and each teacher by their names. She debated the need to spend the money and hire some external person.

To get this point across to the management and convince them was a task, indeed. Eventually, I was successful. Also, at the end of the programme, everybody gave us a feedback that they could connect very well and the gathering really liked the way she spoke. So, when teachers and staff members come up to us with ideas, we must encourage them. Staff development must not be just another tick in the box. 

There will be teachers who voice that they would be sitting through the mandatory training programmes knowing everything that is going to be said to them. So, yes we need to understand this and tailor make these programmes according to the need of the staff members at hand.

There may be a few who find themselves technologically challenged. There can be basic requirements that a school demands. Such teachers should be given that kind of an exposure wherein they are trained how to use Excel/Micro soft word  and help them get sorted in that front. If we put these strugglers through some advanced technological course, it is going to be frustrating for them. So, the professional developments should be built around the needs of the teachers. That way they will see value in it and it will help the institution and the teachers. The outcome gets satisfying and the teachers remain motivated. 

Also, for instance, if a teacher is excellent at creative writing, we should consider making that person lead a workshop on creative writing.  We can get these things done, whereby it increases collaboration, motivation and empowers individuals in the process. Such interactions and initiatives can nurture healthy relationships. People within the walls of your school must feel valued without having to feel judged. 

We need happy adults to rear the best happy children.

Email id- kediasonia14@gmail.com

Ms. Asnaha Farheen – PYP Head and Coordinator – Abdul KadirMolla International School , Bangladesh

Born in Uttar Pradesh, brought up in Bhopal and now deepening the roots of education in Bangladesh, MsAsnahaFarheen walks the IB philosophy.

With Majors in Chemistry, Ms Asnaha did not have the education sector in her radar. Destiny played its charm when she visited The Eastern Public School, Bhopal and observed that there were no compulsions imposed on teachers about completing portions in a particular year. The flexibility, variety of resources and the absence of prescribed text books opened her mind to the vast opportunities. The new learning methodologies lured her into the field of education.

And hence, she started her career in 2010 at Eastern Public School, Bhopal where she was part of the Primary Years programme as a grade 2 teacher.Today, she heads the Primary Yearsprogramme at Abdul KadirMolla International School, Bangladesh. Under her leadership, the school has sailed through the candidacy process and are moving towards authorization, which is due beginning of 2020.

Tell us how the lack of text books help the teaching process.

In IB, we have a curriculum that is customized as per the school’s setting and culture. All IB schools design their own programme of inquiry. We go from local to global.

There are 6 unit of inquiry from KG 2 to Grade 5, 4 unit of inquiry from Grade Nursery to KG 1 in an IB school’s Program of Inquiry. Program of Inquiry is horizontally and vertically aligned so that students can exploreappropriate, engaging and thought-provoking units of inquiry at each grade level.Here students can go into the conceptual side of things rather than only depending on the content. Content, I agree, is equally important. But, we focus on concepts. Primary Years Programme (PYP) is a concept-driven curriculum.

Text books nudge rote learning – something which does not excite me. I wouldn’t want to be part of a school that promotes rote learning.

Another important factor about IB schools is the healthy student-teacher ratio for instance it is 25:2 in my present school, which promotes a healthy learning environment. In my initial years, I got the opportunity to conduct a training session on differentiated teaching and learning at one of the top notch CBSE schools in Bhopal. The session went well and it was well received. At the end of the session, one of the teachers asked me about the student-teacher ratio required for such programmes because at their school it was 45 (sometimes 50):1. In such a scenario, it is hard to have a differentiated approach. 

I have always been with IB and didn’t want to venture into anything different because I love the programme. I have faith in the programme and I believe that IB schools are doing wonders in the field of education.

Can you give insight about the role of a PYP coordinator?

The PYP coordinator role is a bridge between the school and the IB programme. My role is to induce new teachers who step into this programme and ensure the smooth functioning of the curriculum.

The IB PYP is a really challenging programme. The absence of text books is really challenging for the teachers to plan significant, engaging and relevant learning experiences for the students. We sit together and collaborate a lot. I also have 1:1 sessions with teachers and we also have meetings with the specialists.

There is one teacher, known as the home room teacher who plans the unit of inquiry,Math and English language learnings and try to find genuine transdisciplinary connections among these disciples and as well other disciplines like Arabic Language ,Bangla Language ,Visual Art and PSPE .Subject specialists also plan their inquiry based units to dig deeper into the subject specific concepts. Home room teachers work closely withme and specialists to make the learning transdisplinary and concept driven. We as a team sit together and plan yearly integrations to come up with benchmarks they want to setfor learners using the scope and sequence for the entire years and find ways to make connections with other disciplines. Teaching team collaboratively decide what learning outcomesshould be selectedand plan the inquiry-based learning experiences. We plan the learning focussed on the learners and is based on differentiated learning.

The PYP coordinatorensures smooth functioning of the programme and keeps the team updated on the programme. I establish the culture of collaboration and keep the management in sync with the IB programme, how it works and how we implement the IB-PYP philosophy into action. I keep parents updated about the programme too.

Two months back, we had a Parents’ Orientation Programme. As an educator, we can understand that learning can happen without books but for parents this is a huge change. We got them to understand thatlack of text books does not mean lack ofknowledge.

We use ample resources like manipulatives, technology tools and a variety of books. We only restrain from using one set of prescribed books.

The PYP coordinatorputs the PYP Philosophy into practice.

I motivate, challenge and appreciate my staff members. I sharpen their skills and help them side line their weaknesses. I believe in shared leadership. So, they all take ownership of what is being expected. We, my team and I, are in this together.

This is a very vital role, especially when schools transition to the IB programme. PYPC is a part of pedagogical leadership and hence, is also about developing the policies and administering procedures to implement it.

Since there are no prescribed text books, there are many aspects we need to cater to. The learning spaces, the furniture, looking into what is required and what kind of books we need, etc. It is a highly challenging role.

How would you advice schools considering transitioning to the IB curriculum?

New schools stepping into the IB world need to understand IB’s standards and practices based on which they need to develop curriculum, assessment and also need to organise resources and support.

Earlier, the 4 pillars of the IB curriculum was collaborative planning, written curriculum, learning and teaching and the assessments. Now it has enhanced to the learner, learning and teaching and the learning community. When I speak about the learning community, it comprises of the learner, the parent, the local and also the global community which should be a part of the learning process. They are the people those who will grow along with the learners. So, they look up to a lot of role modelling from the learning community.

Apart from that, one of the key features is to develop a community of collaboration. It is not like one teacher is planning something and decides to implement the plan in a particular manner. Here, it is about team work. The team should plan out the learning outcomes, the benchmark, etc. Hence, we develop a culture of collaboration, developing a learning community. 

Another important aspect is the IB Learner Profile, which is what leads to the international mindedness. According to me, that is an attribute that humans should have. Hence, developing the learner profile is again a very important thing and having faith in the IB philosophy is something that is highly important. The school needs a leader who can lead with a sense of shared responsibility by training teachers to become more independent.

A few basic things about the IB PYP are:

1. The inquiry-based approach – There is no rote learning and no scope for it. The learners decide what they want to learn and how they want to learn. They are also encouraged to consistently ask themselves why they are learning what they learn. Everything is more learner-centric and they have the choice and ownership when it comes to learning. The entire school revolves around the learner. This is the core of IB PYP.

2. Looking up to parents as stakeholders: Parents should also have a sense of what happens at school. Quoting my present school as an example, the parents were quite restless when it came to this change. From the normal question-paper approach we were stepping into a programme that offered a set of tools and strategies to assist on-going learning.

Implementing this kind of assessment practices needs understanding and calls for educating parents about IB. The governing bodies of the school should also have an understanding of IB and its requirements. There are 25 teachers here who attended the in-school workshop we had on 30th and 31st October. It is a mandatory requirement for all IB schools to have qualified staff. 

3. Development of the Library: The library for an IB school is the powerhouse of the entire programme. It is the biggest resource of the school. 

4. A complete understanding of IB’s Standard and Practices: That is the Bible for the IB PYP. If you know the standards and practices, you know what is expected since the beginning of the school then you can step into the whole thing with ease. 

Tell us more about the library requirements.

Students have the ownership to choose what kind of resources they need in the library. Hence, other than books they also have other digital resources. The librarian does not only play the role of a librarian – they are teacher-librarians. They conduct lot many learning engagements in the library. There are opportunities for learners to reflect on what they have learned so far. Librarians ask questions about the story books that children have read, they query on the children’s interpretations of what has been learned, read etc.

The librarian plays a key role during the curriculum development phase as well. Besides that, Programme of Inquiry (POI) keeps changing. Hence, we need to stock books as per the learner’s needs and we need reading programmes and librarian helps the teachers understand what kind of resources are available and how to use those resources. We have librarian led sessions for the teachers to understand the readiness of the reading level.

The librarians play a vital role in the IB programme.

When it comes to books, the library should have books that cater to the needs of the learners and teachers. For example, when we stepped into IB PYP, I looked for books which helps my teachers to understand the IB pedagogy in a better way. So, I took few suggestions from them and stocked up the library. We have professional development books – books that detail on the power of inquiry, books based on Solo Taxonomy, etc.We have reference books for teachers to understand the national and international requirement. We have resource books for children which helps them inquire into concepts that they learn about. We also have a variety of fiction and non-fiction books, biographies, etc.

How do you transition teachers to get ready for the IB programme?

It is mandatory for teachers to be good readers in IB schools because things change at a rapid pace. Honestly, reading a book in itself attributes to professional development, in my opinion.

Here, we have reading time, book talks, book cafes, etc. in our school. These are opportunities that help teachers build a reading habit.

Students leave the school at 2:30 and until 3:30 is the time when teachers collaborate with each other. We have a 5-day working schedule. Wednesdays and Thursdays are reserved for sharing best practices. During this time, teachers can either share the learning experiences they have implemented, what kind of research they are going through, the books they have read, etc. These opportunities help teachers to understand that reading is highly important. They read from a variety of things.

I keep giving them articles from various blogs and useful websites. Another thing that I have started in this school is blogging. All my teachers are bloggers and it is another platform where they take their teachings to another level. 

Right now they are low on book reading so I have begun introducing them to reading articles, so that they can understand what is happening in the world of education. I implement strategies like jigsaw reading and describe, interpret, generalize and apply what you have read. They do all these things and share their experiences. There are professional development stations which teachers take up. For this, they will need to do a lot of research.

I am looking into throwing in more challenges so that my team of teachers become better readers.

Any tips for schools in India, from Bangladesh?

The group that I work with is a pioneer group in the textile industry. This school is their philanthropist initiative and so this is a minimum fee IB school. In terms of Bangladeshi currency, the fee is only Tk 6500/-, which comes up to about $70-80. This group has developed many schools and colleges in Bangladesh and they run it at minimum fees. Hence, there is a drive to bring in a non-commercialized concept of education. I really appreciate them for this. Also, the area in which this school is located has no English medium schools. This school is emerging as a gateway of new learning for the parents as well. 

A philanthropist approach to education exudes a lot of power and inspiration. The Eastern Public School in Bhopal also follows the same philosophy. I believe that we should have more of such institutions in the country which will impart equal opportunities for learners to learn and be on par in terms of national and international standards. 

How do you visualize your way forward?

My first plan is to make this school a full-fledged IB school. There are pockets that I am really looking up to like having a diverse community of teachers. Currently, I have teachers mostly from Bangladesh and few from India. I need teachers with diverse experience from across the globe.

We are also expanding next year and so we are bringing in hostel facilities, so that we can have children studying here from far away localities as well. I want to establish this school as an example that other schools can follow.

Personally, I am looking forward to stepping into another role called an IB Educational Network Member. I want to be a workshop leader so that I can explore the IB world in a better way. I am also currently leading the Pakistan and Indian network as a network chair.

I am a writer by choice and passion. Two of my articles got published. Last week I had a podcast which got published in 80 countries. So, I am looking at better ways to collaborate with like-minded people who have a passion for the education field.

About conducting virtual classes during pandemic

We are living in the new normal and striving hard to let the learning go by replicating the brick and mortar set up of school through virtual/remote learning.
Although educators ,learners and parents are embracing changes but one of the most integral part of teaching and learning process-assessment is still critically discussed by all the stakeholders.
These webinars enlighten us about the need of reimagining and aligning the assessment practices as we move ahead in the new normal where classroom has taken shape of a glassroom.

Please watch these videos:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GFErdXsWI18

https://m.facebook.com/story.phpstory_fbid=666569907403668&id=552090948186161

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KeHdbf-4KXY

Contact: Email id- asna.khan889922@gmail.com

Ms. Priyanka Rana – Biology Teacher , Career Study Point

A gold medalist and with a Masters in Zoology from the University of Punjab, Ms Priyanka Rana focuses on nurturing, fertilizing and catalyzing the growth of curiosity amongst learners in order to keep up the learners’ learning urge. Learners’ curiosity keeps the learning process strong.

After Ms Priyanka completed her Plus 2, she took a year-long breakbefore pursuing her Bachelor’s course. During this time, she took to part-time teaching and realized that she liked what she did and that’s how the journey of this educator began.

Being a student and teacher, Priyanka realized that many students fear Science as a subject and so, she always sought ways to innovate what she taught. She ties up scientific concepts with things we see around us and that is her striving effort, as a teacher.

Tell us about Career Point.

It is a centre where we have classes from morning to evening where children are given lectures, preparing students for competitive exams. Additionally, I give lectures at schools as well.

I like to innovate my teaching methodologies and so prefer teaching in such institutes where we can get creative with our teaching because we have to teach the best of students in order that they give it their best at competitive exams.

I joined Career Point after my Masters in 2015 as a part time member. I tried to switch to making a career in Dubai as a middle school teacher but I couldn’t owing to some ailments.

How different is it to coach at a career centre vs. teaching at a school?

I once had the chance to give a lecture at a school recently. Through that I got the chance to represent models with students and recently I also participated in a competition based on teachers’ innovations. Prior to that I have participated in Government’s Experiential Science Teaching Awards. There, I was short-listed as a finalist.

Teaching in schools can fetch me ample number of opportunities including extra-curricular activities. But undoubtedly, when you are part of coaching institutions and keep your eyes open, you can be part of activities similar to the ones I mentioned. In fact, my students have also participated in contests, they have represented their models in various competitions, etc.

How do you fare the biology laboratories at schools?

For biology, our life is a lab. I don’t think we need to be bookish in our approach. 

In fact, when I check with students about the subjects they would like to opt for in future, they always express their interest in subjects other than Science. I sense a sort of phobia towards biology.

I have queried further to understand if this sense of fearhad anything to do with the way I taught but they explained that it isn’t about my teaching but that they don’t understand how they could take the subject forward.

I think, these subjects should begin at least from Std 8 for children to be a little more at ease with it. 

What strategy do you suggest to make a biology or chemistry class interesting?

For instance, if we are teaching subjects like human physiology or plant structure,one can play with children’s imagination. To spark and catalyse their imagination, one can introduce videos so that it becomes more visual to children. That way children can grasp the subject and concept better.

Let’s say, we are taking classes on osmosis, then we can show them live situations on osmosis. This will help retain what they learned. This will also reinstate the benefit of osmosis. 

The focus should be on the practicality of it all. We should strive to create a realistic situation in class.

Do you feel the pressure of targets when you teach at coaching centres? 

I don’t feel that kind of pressure – on me or on my class. When we meet parents, they do pressurize us. They feel their children could perform better. They feel we should put some pressure on the students too.

Since grades matter a lot, how do you prepare children for scoring better grades?

We have a curriculum that targets those aspects and a schedule to adhere to. We have to conduct periodic tests. We also have doubt classes before and after tests.

We have 1:1 sessions with students so that they can individually clear their doubts. This is particularly useful for students who lack the confidence to clear their doubts in class. We give ample opportunities to learn and do well.

What are your thoughts on the various syllabi like, IB, ICSE, CBSE etc.? 

I deal with students coming from different schools catering to various syllabi. I think it is all different presentations of the same content. The chapters are all the same.

For example, if you compare the state and CBSE syllabi, they are a lot similar. I feel the IGCSE and ICSE have vast content. So, I understand that the concept remains the same, it is the approach that differs. 

Do you incorporate technology into teaching?

I prepare presentations and sometimes show YouTube videos in class. I also look for 3D videos to teach certain concepts like blood circulation etc.

How do you keep yourself up to date when it comes to Biology?

I have friends,in India and abroad, in the same career space. Every now and then I connect with them to keep myself updated. I also surf the Internet to understand the development of concepts. I also enrol myself for various kinds of competitions which deals with biology.

This nudges me to do a lot of reading and research and gives me a window to showcase what I know. I participated in the International Olympiad for teaching practice in 2018. Likewise there has been many competitions which I have been part of, which I believe gives me an edge. Being part of these competitions also expands my network with various teachers. Seeing what they do and our conversations keeps me updated.

Are you at these competitions through Career Point or is it an individual initiative?

This in an individual initiative I take up.

What are those frustrating moments you have faced in your teaching career?

Once a child’s parents, who were both dentists, came over and expressed that they aspired their daughter to be a doctor. They were doing all they could to prepare her and so did I. I could also see that they were putting the child through undue pressure and I did speak to them about it. Pressurizing people is unhealthy. Ultimately, she took to depression and finally chose to go for Bachelors in Nursing. 

That episode was quite frustrating for me. To think of it, I wasn’t able to convey my message to her parents. If they understood better, perhaps the outcome would have been different. 

Do you encounter these kind of students a lot, who face tremendous pressure imposed by parents?

Honestly, most of the students are very much interested in what they are doing. I have come across hardly 10-15 students, who are overtly pressurized by their parents in my entire career. In such cases, I always try to talk to their parents. I do online counselling as well. I always try to make parents aware that there are so many course options other than Medicine and that every student will have some specialty of their own.

What are your future aspirations?

I have currently completed my research program on aquaculture and fisheries. I want to work in the Neuro Science department and that is what I am currently working towards, at the moment. As a preparation for this, I would like to do my studies abroad in the US or in the UK. 

Contact: pinkuthakur109@gmail.com

Ritika Subhash – Director of Schools, Indian Subcontinent Mangahigh.com

With over 10 years of professional experience and a passion to make learning and education relevant and joyful, Ms Ritika Subash talks about Mangahigh.com, which in her own words can be described as a teaching assistant with a huge spectrum of possibilities.

Ms Ritika, let’s start with an overview about your current body of work.

I am presently working with a UK-based firm called Blue Duck Education. I head their Indian subcontinent operations. Blue Duck’s flagship product is called Mangahigh, which is a Mathematics Learning Programme, which has been around since 2008. Basically, 3 people got together; one of them being the person who made the Candy Crush game. He was a passionate gamer who wanted to bring his gaming expertise into the education sector. He joined hands with an Oxford Math professor. That is the genesis story.

The current CEO of the company is Mohit Midha. He was the third person who came on board. He is the technology guy to bring the two things – gaming and education – together. 

I head the Indian subcontinent operations and my core responsibility is to bring this adaptive Math learning program into schools and educational institutions across the Indian subcontinent. My driving factor is to see a definite change in the way our education system caters to students. For any human being to be able to cater to the learning needs of 30-40 students is not possible. And hence, the assistance of technology. The role of technology is to bring every child’s potential to the fore and to raise it.

At the other end of the spectrum, which is the teacher’s end, technology has a huge role to play in empowering the teacher to be able to use data and use reports to understand how every child is performing, where they are struggling, etc. 

I see a lot of value that technology can add when used mindfully and consciously within the classroom, which is what propelled me to take up education technology.

I come from a totally different background. I am an engineering student who did Masters in Information systems and worked in the US in the health care consulting space for quite a few years. I shifted gears to come into education primarily because I saw the impact that technology can have in raising the potential of learners.

Is there a case study you can relate wherein technology was successful in raising the potential of a student?

I have seen Mangahigh in action in a variety of schools – not just in international or IB schools – who already have a solid background of implementing technology in classrooms. I have also seen this work extremely well in rural schools, schools which have limited capabilities and with individual home users as well. I will talk about a couple of scenarios here.

The British school in Delhi have been on our programme for more than 3 years now. It was actually quite surprising that they went ahead and did a study on Mangahigh and its impact. They had a test group and a control group. They got both the groups to do a CEM test – that is a standard British school Math testing. To begin with, they did an ability test and end of the year – a pre and post-test.

Between the two groups they realised that the group that used technology intervention were at least a year and a half ahead in terms of their learning abilities. Within a span of 9 months of academic teaching they covered content corresponding to 1 and half years which is phenomenal.

If we go a little bit further, Mangahigh is present in over 50 countries. There is this case study of 1385 Brazilian students who were part of this study. These students were notorious for classroom indiscipline, teacher dissatisfaction because of syllabus incompletion. Over a period of time they realised that owing to the use of gaming and adaptive personalised learning through Mangahigh in the classrooms, student engagement scaled up to over 70%. The overall attitude of students in classroom – their behaviour, their discipline, their commitment etc. improved. 

I have interacted with a lot of schools in India. We do Math challenges every year. We do the Diwali Math Challenge and in the last two challenges, quite surprisingly, I see schools from far off areas – Meghalaya, interior parts of Haryana, etc. participating. These are schools that don’t have great infrastructure, laptops or tabs in their classrooms. Yet, they managed to utilize internet-driven education technology for the betterment of their students.

Hence, there are a lot of anecdotal evidences of this working for students across demographics.

How does maths learning program work?

For one, technology is not a replacement for a teacher. In my opinion, the wealth of knowledge that a passionate teacher brings in throughout the year cannot be replaced. 

Technology is best at a couple of other things:

  1. We are looking at a 21st century learners, born post Facebook and Google. Being highly connected, they want to learn through diverse knowledge surfaces beyond text books or worksheets. We try engaging this segment who learns very differently from the previous generation. That is one part of it.
  2. Next, it tackles issues like catering to differentiated learning ability. Essentially, children sitting in one classroom are at different levels of understanding. There are students who are at par with what is taught in class/ struggling at lower levels of understanding/at higher levels of understanding.

Mangahigh aligns to whatever the curriculum the school follows. If the school follows CBSE, we align our program likewise. It supplements what a teacher teaches in class. For instance, if I taught fractions, as a random topic – I introduce the nomenclature on Monday, Tuesday I do problem solving. The 3rd day could be a Mangahigh class where children are physically walking into the lab, log into their Mangahigh account and build their own learning path.

Every child has their own individual account, which is the most powerful thing. They get to build their own learning path regardless of what their peers are doing. It is their own journey of understanding a topic. If they are struggling, the adaptive logic will take them to a lower level where their fundamental issues can be fixed.

Children whose understanding level is much higher is challenged with higher order thinking questions, etc.

Also, the teacher gets real-time reports on who is struggling with which topic. Children doing very well on Mangahigh can mentor those who are struggling. This way it helps spike classroom interactions. Hence, mentoring skills are sharpened; different personalities get catered to.

In a classroom not everybody raises their hands to ask questions. They may feel shy or judged. In a non-judgmental platform such as Mangahigh, children learn to enjoy Math, which is a huge plus. We don’t just sell content – it is readily available for free today. We engage the child in the whole art of learning a topic at their own pace through gamification elements. It erases fear and phobia children have towards Math, which I think is a huge problem across the globe.

Math does seem to be the topic which attracts a lot of negative dialogue. Parents, sometimes transfer their own apprehensions about the subject to the children, consciously or sub-consciously. Sometimes, the teachers do that by putting a lot of stress on accuracy and calculations etc. That’s another problem we are trying to tackle.

We want children to find Math enjoyable. Even if they are taking it only till Grade 10, they should feel confident in their ability to solve problems. It caters to developing critical thinking abilities in these 21st century learners. 

How may a school to sign up for your programme?

Our program runs from grade 1-10. Having said that, we impose no restrictions in terms of how many classes need to come on board. Ideally, I have seen some big names in the country on this program. They tend to go for the whole school or a substantial number of classes like Grade 3-8 or 1-10.

Albeit, I think there is huge value in the whole school getting on board, the school can choose what grades they want to subscribe to.

If the school gets on board as a whole, the teachers get aligned to the philosophy of personalized education and over a period of time – within 8 months of implementation – it becomes a part of the teaching DNA.

If we have to think about things long-term, we need to recheck our basics. So many families make an effort to get a child to school every day. The teachers also spend a lot of effort and time. But ultimately, is the child benefiting and enjoying the learning process? That is our space of focus.

When a school considers subscribing to Mangahigh, we are open to offering a trial period because for a school it can get overwhelming to understand which product is best in terms of value for money, given that there are so many products in the market. So, we give a free trial without any financial obligations.

Once the trial is done, the school can internally discuss the pros and cons. At this stage, we support them with usage reports, they can take feedback from students, etc. before they take a decision. 

We offer a per child per year subscription to the school. For large schools with say >1000 students coming on board, we even do a site license. They can purchase a site license for a year and unlimited number of students can participate in the programme.

Can individual students sign up? Or does the subscription have to be through a school?

Parents can buy the programme, currently at Rs 5700/- per child per year. That is about $79 per child per year. 

But, if a school buys for their whole class, it is highly subsidized. We have pricing bands in terms of the number of students that come on board.

The subscription rate is fairly low even if you were to do a competitor analysis. We can work within the scenario of the school in terms of taking a 1 year or 3 year subscription. So, the price per child is dependent on many factors. 

What are the challenges in your path in the whole scheme of things?

I think the biggest challenge lies in convincing people about the value of what you are bringing to the table. A lot of things out there in the market may not be very relevant to an education system.

You can make fancy e content, convert text books to digital format and make it fancy. These things grab the child’s attention for the first 5-10 mins. But, if the child is looking out the window after 10 mins, it isn’t really serving the purpose. Hence, the biggest challenge is to educate people about the value of personalized learning. Why is important to integrate Mangahigh in classrooms rather than make it an optional thing of getting students to buy and do it at home. That is not an effective way to run a programme. The most effective way is to accept it as a teaching assisting tool – it is not the be all and end all. It is just a teaching assisting tool where the teacher can manipulate it either for formative assessment, prior knowledge assessment or remediation, setting/checking assignments, etc.

The benefit is that the child feels engaged and motivated to participate because this caters to their learning style. It brings an element of newness. Usually it takes a while for schools to come around.

What kind of initial push back do you face? Also, what is the difference this has created in schools that has embraced the programme?

The biggest element is having at least one person who understands the product driving the idea of personalised education. This can go a long way. It can be a Math teacher, an HOD a principal – anybody! If there is one person who recognises the value of this program, the programme runs seamlessly. You then have one person championing this whole idea and they want it to be a success.

There will typically one or two people in the school who are apprehensive and who may be later adopters. But if there is a very strong champion, eventually others will come around. 

The usual major pushback is a teacher’s mindset of this being an extra workload for him/her. The truth is that this takes away a lot of administrative work that they do and also acts as an assistant to motivate children. Sometimes lack of technology in terms of schools not having internet, computers, etc. can be a challenge. But we are slowly overcoming that because these things are becoming more or less a norm rather than exceptional forms of infrastructure.

I realise that you are in Delhi and you cater to schools across the country. So, what is the process followed for a school in a different state to contact you?

We have a representative in the South, who caters between Coimbatore and Bangalore. Largely, Managhigh model have a small team in every area. We have one in Australia, NZ, Brazil, ME etc.

With fewer people we have been able to reach out to a lot of schools because of the ease at which this programme can be used. It is extremely intuitive and easily adoptable. If a school decides to go ahead with the programme, we do a teacher training – face to face or through a webinar – and more or less they are good to go. The tool is simple and not complicated at all.

In the last year and half that you have been with Mangahigh, what are some of things that you are truly proud about?

Couple of things – firstly, I am very convinced about the relevance of Managahigh. I am a parent, myself and looking at it from a parents’ point of view, being very conscious about the amount of technology access I give my child, I still bid for Mangahigh. If I am convinced about it as a person, I know I can talk about it to schools and teachers with conviction.

It is not a be all and end all but just a part of the learning journey of the child, which can be a tipping point of a child who is disengaged in Math. They can be converted to being lifelong Math lovers. So, that is value that I see.

There is this school outside of London, which caters to children with special needs. The students are in the age group of 14-15 plus. They have been associated with Mangahigh for a year now. These children used to do Math at a grade 1 level. When I observed them doing Math with Mangahigh, it was empowering and magical to see these children finally doing something that catered to their needs. Even the special educators sitting next to students found it easy to be able to work with the students because the child is engaged and a facilitator could cater to 2-3 children at the same time. This is difficult for a special educator to do in a typical classroom set up.

That was a very heartfelt experience and I am particularly proud of Mangahigh owing to this experience. Based on that experience, I became part of a team which made a proposal to an education body in the UK to help expand capabilities of Mangahigh to cater to special need students. We won that grant of 100,000 pounds, which we got to know about 10-15 days back.

So, we will now be expanding the capabilities of Mangahigh to have text to speech, ability to change the color, font size etc. These will help in catering to at least some of the disabilities that students might have and that would be hugely satisfying thing for me.

Thank you for this refreshing conversation, Ritika. All the best!

Contact: ritika.subhash@mangahigh.com

Kathyayini Chamaraj – Board Member – Citizens Voluntary Initiative for the City (CIVIC)

It is one thing for us to be mesmerized by the West and be ashamed of state of affairs in our own country. It is another to be inspired by the West and bring about positive change in our environment by embracing ourselves as we are. This merits courage, determination, patience, passion and focus on the big picture ahead with blinders on!

Meet Ms Kathyayini Chamaraj from CIVIC!

THE WONDER YEARS

I was born and brought up in Mysuru and consider myself a Mysorean although I live in Bangalore now. My initial schooling was at Christ The King Convent School, Mysore. I have had the fortune of being given good education in Christian missionary schools. I was also part of a convent high school at Hubli as well. When we shifted to Bangalore, I was at Baldwin Girls’ High School. 

All these schools laid the foundation of discipline, sincerity and honesty in me. And then, there was my father and his brothers too. They were government service officers, well reputed for their honesty and absolutely free from corruption. Hence, I had firm grounding with respect to values and that is what I pass on to the children I associate with today.

I am lucky that though my father could not afford private education for me, he made sure that we got good education. This is in no way to deride our government schools but the Christian institutions, in our country, have laid strong foundation for education.

I received a Science talent scholarship for my undergraduate studies and did my Honours in Chemistry at the Central College, Bangalore. Later on, I felt that Science was not really my space and I did a course in Bachelors in Education.

THE EXPOSURE

Next, my parents got me married and my husband happened to be working in Germany and so, I began a new chapter of my life in Germany.I couldn’t teach there because I did not know the German language. I did clerical work there.

When in Germany, I saw, heard and imbibed the dignity of labour. Irrespective of the work one does, every human being gets treated with respect. The transformation and the spark that these little observations leave in you are remarkable. The egalitarianism there inspired me.

Another aspect about the European countries that left me mesmerized is the cleanliness and the attention to detail in terms of infrastructure. I yearned for the same in my country.

THE COMING BACK

We came back to Bangalore after 11 years and by then I had 2 children. Once my children began school, I felt like doing something for my country and for my city. With that thought, I went back to University and did a course in journalism.

During that period, I did my internship with Deccan Herald and so, got to write my first article in the Deccan Herald newspaper. My heart felt the plight of workers in India. After being accustomed to the dignity of labour in Germany for a long period of my life, the inequality I saw here in India cried out loud to me – it left me shocked.

DO WHAT YOU HAVE TO

I decided to use the tool I had. I began writing about the state of unorganized labour in our country. Concomitantly, I saw child labour at play, which was totally against any concept of child rights. Hence, my writings reflected child labour as well.

I believed that if only primary education was made a right then we could curb child labour as well. Gratefully, these ideas were backed by Child Society Organizations and we finally got the Right to Education Act in our country.

Likewise, I was also very much bothered about the lack of basic infrastructure in our city which fell behind in providing good services to the citizens. The garbage lying around, broken footpaths, roads etc. drove me to do something that can bring about change. And so, I began voicing our urban civic issues as well through articles.

Around the same time, the Central Government passed the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments. Per that, the urban and rural local bodies should be strengthened to empower citizens and encourage their participation in urban governments. Citizen participation should enable greater transparency and accountability in the urban and rural governments.

It so happened that in Bangalore a group of citizens were working on this very concept of enabling citizen participation and they formed a trust called Citizens Voluntary Initiatives for the City (CIVIC).

CIVIC

I began writing about the activities of CIVIC and their initiatives to empower citizens so as to actualize the 74th Amendment in our city. So keen was I on urban issues that I was roped in to become CIVIC trustee. In 2005, I was given the responsibility of being the executive trustee of CIVIC. I have been working as their executive trustee. Earlier CIVIC used to work a lot with the affluent groups in Bangalore who are members of the resident welfare associations.

Once I took up the role of trustee I realised that working with just the affluent groups alone does not help the urban governments. I realised the need to work with the urban poor because that is where the inequalities exist. So, we started working on the Right to Food, Health, Education, Housing and Social Security for the urban poor in about 10 slums in Bangalore.

We enlightened the slum dwellers about their rights. Majority of them being illiterate, they weren’t aware that such things existed. They didn’t know what to demand from a ration storekeeper and would come away listening to whatever they were told by the store keeper. There was power play everywhere and their illiteracy and lack of awareness was taken advantage of.

So, by creating awareness they were empowered to question the ration store keepers. They realized that they could go to ration stores any day and not just two days a week like the store keeper claimed.

Likewise, we worked in schools, hospitals and their social security pensions etc. We would organize these awareness programs and once they knew their rights, we would invite officials responsible for that area to come and address the grievances of the slum dwellers. Most of the citizen charter departments had Agreements Retrieval Systems built into the citizen charter. But, the common men hardly knew all this and hence never demanded the Agreements Redressal. Hence, the officials got away saying people were happy because there aren’t any reported grievances.

When we brought local officials face to face, the slum dwellers voiced their grievances and demanded their entitlements. The food inspector, for instance, would be called to address a Grievance Redressal meeting in the slum and so he would understand and realize the issues that would come under his bracket. For instance, the flaws of the local ration store keepers’ practices like not keeping the shop open, not producing bills, inadequate supply of grains, etc. would get addressed because officials would make commitments in a public meeting to set things right.

There is magic in bringing things out in the open because it would prompt people to take drastic steps against people who didn’t perform their duties, like fining ration store keepers or cancelling their licenses, if required. The local people were thus, empowered to demand their rights and settle their issues locally without having to go the CM or Commissioner with their grievances. That is the very basis of the 74th Amendment.

Very often in hospitals, doctors would be asked to come and address the slum dwellers to understand their grievances in terms of health support. In this forum, issues like bribe requests at hospitals, treatment refusals, maternity benefit refusals, etc. came into the open. 

In the interim, we realised broader systemic issues which needed higher authority levels for correction. We began researching along with NGO networks spread across the city like the Right to Food campaign in Karnataka – we were the conveners for this campaign in Bangalore district. With the findings we would conduct public hearings i.e., bring the highest officials of the department to public meetings wherein we would present our findings about the state of affairs of a specific department – the food department, the health department or the education department.

Openly, we would request policy changes to address these systemic issues. For instance, we found that most people who were genuinely poor were getting above poverty line ration cards when they deserved better. We analysed the entire criteria to determine who was above and below poverty line. These findings were presented to the Chief Minister.We then found that Rs 9 was considered as a limit for someone to be declared as below poverty line in a city like Bangalore, where it is highly popular that nobody could survive on Rs 9/-.

This also shed light on the fact that people who did produce poverty certificates gained them under the influence of bribes. Our demand stated that those who pay income tax or government servants, owning 4 wheelers etc. should be excluded from the Right to Food act. These recommendations were accepted by the Government and hence we could bring about some systemic policy changes for the benefit of the entire state. 

Another area we worked on was old age disability and widow pensions which people struggled to get. We also worked with the Construction Workers’ Welfare Board to make sure all construction workers got registered and got their rights.Working with the unorganized Sector Social Security Board, we found that it totally lacked in service. We produced an alternative bill to provide Universal social security for everybody in the state. This bill, however, is still lying in some Government cupboard and has not yet been brought into effect. 

RIGHT TO EDUCATION – A RIGHT TO LIFE

Another elephant in the room was the issue of out-of-school children. This was one issue bothering me for a long time. Since I wrote extensively on child labour, one Labour Commissioner, in 1999, called me to work with him to develop a state-level action plan on child labour.

The plan was accepted by the government and also released by the Chief Minister. But, of course, there were a lot of loop holes by the time we got to the implementing stage due to which it flawed.

Gratefully, when another labour commissioner came in 2004, I was yet again to work on the action plan. I produced another plan, which also with the government but again it did not get implemented.

No efforts get wasted and my efforts in this front bore fruit in 2013.That year, The Hindu reported that about 54,000 children are out-of-school children in the state of Karnataka.

The then Karnataka Chief Justice, Mr Waghela, happened to read the report and took up a Suo Motu Public Interest Litigation (PIL) with respect to the out-of-school children. He sent a notice to the Chief Secretary the very next day seeking an explanation. When I read about this Suo Motu PIL in the papers, I decided to get involved in this because it seemed to be the light across the tunnel I had been seeking.

I sent an impleading application to Justice Waghela seeking permission to be a party in person in this case. He kindly accepted my request and I was designated as a part in person in the case. As a party in person, I made several submissions to the court and I brought to light that 54,000 was a rather underestimated figure. My research showed that between 2002-2010, among the 78 lakh students that got enrolled in standard 1, and more than 6 lakh children were missing in the rolls of the education department, in standard 2. This has to be justified.

Shocked as he was at seeing these numbers, Justice Waghela instructed the Education Department to conduct a household survey of every household in the state to come up with an actual figure of out of school children’s count. They had to conduct a survey in more than 1 crore households across the state and they observed 6 lakh to be a false figure. The reason being that the same child got enrolled in several schools at the same time! They came up with a 1.67 crores to be the actual drop out figure. This included non-enrolled children as well.

The Chief Justice then asked them to work on it so that the number gets to zero or closest to zero. He also instructed them to heed to my suggestions to get this on track. And hence a high powered committee was set up – an inter-departmental coordination committee headed by the chief secretary who could listen to our suggestions and give us feedback with the suggestions they accepted, reporting how they were going about it. The court ordered this committee to meet every month in order to monitor and review the out of school children data.

We highlighted to the Government that currently, an out-of-school child is defined as a child who did not attend school continuously for 60 days – unexcused absence of 60 days until the end of the academic year. The education department did not have a preventive approach. They only had this curative approach of looking for the child at the end of the year, after being missing for 120 days. But if a child is out of school for more than 120 days or so, the child would have either got into child labour, bad company or even trapped or married off. So, they were giving room for all these social evils to prevail because of the lack of the preventive approach.

So, we suggested a change in the definition for school drop-outs and making someone accountable for every child coming to school. 

According to the Supreme Court, the right to education is part and parcel of the right to life of a child under article 21 A. Per that, if a child is out of school, and that in turn is a deprivation of right to life then someone needs to be held accountable.

The State has to be responsible if any person is deprived of their right to life. So, we got the government to redefine a school drop-out to “a child with an unexcused absence of 7 days”. If the child doesn’t come to school for 7 days itself, the headmaster has to report to a designated official. We got an official to be designated as an attendance authority who would be held responsible for every child that is out of school. This person is expected to follow a protocol to bring the child back to school within a time frame.

He had to make enquiries with the family for the reason behind the child missing school and issue an attendance notice to the child or parent. Despite getting the notice, if the child does not come back to school within 3 days, he had to issue the parents an attendance order and make sure that the parents and child appeared before the Child Welfare Committee at the district level. The Committee would then dig in to understand the reasons behind the child’s absenteeism. It could be socio-economic reasons; it could be the lack of an Anganvadi in the area, etc. The Child Welfare Committee could convert the services of several departments either the social welfare, the labor department or any other department to enable the parents to send the child to school. Despite all the assistance given to parents, if the child is still not sent, then the last resort would be for the Child Welfare Committee to take charge of the child and place the child in a free residential school or a fit institution as per the Juvenile Justice Act. Only the Child Welfare Committee has the authority to take charge of a child. 

This protocol was encompassed in 6A, 6B, 6C and 6D or the rules, for the first time in the country, implementing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child. The provisions of the UNCRC Articles 9, 12, 19, 28 and 32 state that if a parent is unable to fulfil the rights of a child, the State has to assist the parent. In spite of assistance if the parent continues to neglect the child, the state has to take charge of the child. They have the power to separate the child from the parent in the best interest of the child and place the child in an institutional facility so that the rights of the child are fulfilled.

For the first time in this country, these provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child were built into our rules. So the State is the real guardian of a minor and the guardianship of the minor has been given to the parents. If the parents fail to fulfil the rights of the child, the state takes ownership.

We are very proud of this. With the change in rules and the court constantly monitoring the progress of out of school children, 1.5 lakh children were brought back to school. The remaining 16-17000 children could not be brought back because they were migrated out of the State. Hence, the court ordered that a policy on migrated children to be developed by the State. The education department formed a subcommittee where all civil society organizations including CIVIC were involved in preparing a policy for education of migrant children.

It has been more than 2 years now that the State has not implemented this rule and hence the court has started hearing this case again and has given clear instructions.The annual survey shows that more than 16000 children are out of school. The court has again repeated the earlier order saying the rule 6A 6B 6C and 6D should be strictly implemented and has been following up with the State Government every month. It has also asked the State government to implement the policy on education of migrant children that we had developed.

So, that case is still being heard. We hope that with the new Chief Justice, that will turn reality and we will have every child in school. We hope for Karnataka to be a beacon for the rest of the country, very soon.

Amidst all the chaos, we feel proud to have people who fervently work and raise their voices to bring in change. They are aware of hurdles but their focus remains on the bigger picture. We wish CIVIC and Ms Kathyayini all the best for the best of our country!

For more info visit:

https://civicspace.in

Email id: kchamaraj@gmail.com

Mrs K S Jamali – Principal – Beacon High, Mumbai

Can we start with you giving us a brief anecdote about how you chose education to be your career – how did it all start?

I wouldn’t say that this career happened to me by chance because my mother was an educationist. As a child I used to tell her that I would become a teacher. She started her career as a teacher and went on to head various schools. Later, we started our own school, called Beacon High. At the point of her retirement, she got me into the entire school system. I started enjoying it and I then realized that teaching was something that I had in my bones. Hence, the reason for me being here is my mother. A visionary, a dream catcher and a passionate educator rolled into one is not an exaggeration when describing Mrs K S Jamali. With a Masters in Psychology and under the proficient guidance of her mother, Mrs K S Jamali has every reason to hold her head high offering inclusive education – the way education is meant to be.

Can we please, then, talk briefly about your mother?

She, Late Mrs. R K Khariwala, started her career in Bai Avabai Petit School as a music teacher. This was perhaps in her teens, prior to her marriage.

After that, she kept moving up the ladder. She headed the Maneckji Cooper School, Activity High School and the Learners Academy. When she was retiring, I decided to start a small pre-primary school so that she would be occupied, the agile and alert person that she was. Hence, the beginning of Small Wonders in 1998. This is now the pre-primary section of Beacon High.

She handled Small Wonders for a year; at that point in time, I was heading Learners Academy. Within a year, she realized that handling the school herself was taking a toll on her and so she wanted me to assist her. So, I left Learners and there was no turning back since then. Beacon High started in the year 2000.

Where did you study as a child?

I studied in St Joseph’s Convent, Bandra. Then, I went on to do my Masters in Clinical Psychology, after which I joined Air India and flew for 3 years. Whilst I was training for Air India, I did my Masters and did both these examinations together. Post marriage, I quit Air India and did my B Ed because my mother was keen on me entering the education field. And, now I am where I am.

So, did your education career start off by teaching in your own school? 

No, I was the Vice Principal at Learners when my mother was the Principal there. I was teaching there as well. That is how I got all my training. After my mother retired, I took over as the Principal and headed Learners for three years, after which I started my own school. We started in 1998 and now, here we are. We complete 20 years next June!

How has the journey been now when you look back?

I think it has been awesome! Back then, I would have never imagined to be enjoying it so much as I do today. Education is in my blood and bones. The system has evolved – some things positive and a few not so positive. 

For instance, today the kind of children we are dealing with and their value system is at low ebb. I come from a convent school where the value system is held very high. That generation was quite different. Today’s generation is far more casual and informal. I do get a little perturbed about that, at times. To add to that, when our system came out with this rule that there is going to be no detention for children – children have to be promoted from one class to another. That is quite a dilemma.

I am a person very much for promotion and do not advocate detention. But, in some cases, it is harmful for some children to move from one class to another simply because they are not ready for it. And yet, we have to push them because of the system’s rule. When such children reach class 9, honestly, we don’t know what to do and where to go. That is quite a disturbing factor.

Owing to this, even the discipline is at stake. Children will get the drift that whether they appear for an examination or not, whether they do well or not, they will still be promoted. That attitude is quite sad. Other than that, as far as the curriculum etc., things have evolved and have improved. So, yes there are wonderful things and challenges too.

In fact, my school is mighty different. I call my school a boutique school – it is quite small. We have a maximum of 24-28 children in a class. We also integrate differently-abled children. 10% of every class has differently-abled children. Today we have a 100% visually impaired child appearing for his 10th grade board exams. We have autistic children, children with Down’s syndrome, physically challenged children etc. I have a unit of special educators, psychiatrists, psychologists, speech therapists and occupational therapists who work with these children on a 1:1 basis. They are placed in a class at their chronological level. 

What is the strength of Beacon High right now, in terms of students?

We have approximately 700 children. In comparison to other schools in the locality, we are pretty small. I like it that way, honestly, because I can, very proudly, say that I know each and every child studying in my school by name. I know their parents. Hence, the rapport that my teachers and I have with the parents is excellent.

How many teachers do you have?

About 50 teachers.

Which syllabus do you follow?

We follow the ICSE syllabus. Furthermore, I am an ICSE girl and have always advocated this syllabus.

What are some of those things that have given you much happiness in this journey so far?

Many a times I have made a difference in the life of a child. There have been children who have come to me from different reputed schools. They had been asked to leave because they couldn’t cope with the work and teachers gave up on them.

My plus point is being a school with fewer children. That helps the children a lot. Today the same children who were once thrown out of other schools are doing very well in life. These are small little things that make me feel proud.

I have children who have passed from my school since the last 8 years and are still in touch with me. I see them blooming, blossoming and doing well in life. They come and get me to meet their families. Many of their children study in this school. What more can one ask for! All these things keep me active, alert and agile at the age of 63, which is a great blessing.

My daughter now works with me. She is my Vice Principal. Like I said, education runs in the family. She will be taking over my position very soon. Currently, she heads the pre-primary section – the Small Wonders School. She is the chip of the old block and is ready to take over soon.

What are some of the difficulties you have faced in running an institution like this?

I have a small school and starting a new school in Mumbai is difficult. Space is my biggest constraint. I do not have a playground. I do not have large class rooms, which is a blessing in disguise because I can’t get tempted to take more children. Having said that, I still offer my children everything possible!

We have a club round the corner, where my children, right from junior KG, go for swimming. We have the YMCA grounds that are not very far from here where they go for their games and sports. So, yes, we have everything but it is not in-house. When I go visit other schools with huge infrastructure and grounds, I do get a little jealous, if I may say so(laughs)

But, like I said, the flip side is that this very space constraint is a blessing in disguise. I have better control over the school because it is small in size. Today, parents are looking for institutions where children are cosy, safe and are at a place that is a home away from home. Sometimes, large classrooms can be intimidating especially for children who cannot really cope with things happening in class – they feel lost.

Let us talk about the quality of teachers we have today. Is it a challenge sourcing good talent?

Yes, it is difficult to find the right people.Also, the turnover of teachers are sometimes quite a bit. If I look back, at the quality of teachers that groomed me, I think, we have lost that now. The dedication is not as much as it used to be in the past.

I also, at times, feel that people take on this profession for the wrong reasons. You get your holidays; your vacation coincides with that of your children, etc. These are definitely perks but if that is the core reason to build your career, it derails in a short while.

I am blessed with a good band of teachers. Of course, we have issues and some odds here and there; but on the whole my team is quite good. Again, owing to the small numbers, teachers are very comfortable. I believe in giving a free rope to my teachers as long as I know that they are doing what is right for the children.

In your perspective, what is an ideal teacher?

Honestly, I don’t care if they are gold medallists or not. According to me, what they really need is patience and sensitivity. These two attributes are very important in a school such as mine where I have children of varied capacities and challenges. I do not like any child in my school to be treated like a piece of furniture. So, sensitivity is the key.

So, they have to be patient, sensitive and of course, great at their content and to a fair extent good at maintaining discipline. But, among all these attributes, if you ask me to pick 1, I will vouch for sensitivity.

Teachers have to be sensitive to every child and treat each of them as a unique person. It is important and, in my school, it is not difficult to execute in a class of 24-26 children either.

Do you feel that your Masters in Psychology is what drives you to run the school in way you are currently doing it?

To some extent, yes! But, to a large extent it is because of my mother. She was a pioneer in inclusive education. She experienced inclusive education in one of the past schools she was associated with. Two visually impaired boys were admitted into that school. That is where her maturity along those lines came into being and it got inculcated in me as well. The sensitivity is definitely from my mother. God bless her!

Your work is truly commendable. Is there any particular difficulty you faced in putting this in place and making it work?

I did have issues, earlier, with some of the parents. They didn’t want their children associating with children who had such challenges. This was in the primitive years; when we started.

I put my foot down said that these children, with challenges, are more important to me than any other children. People were free to leave the school if inclusivity made them uncomfortable. Today, I don’t face such problems with any of the parents. They have also been sensitized to these children – emotionally, physically or economically backward children.

My teachers are very much oriented about this. When I employ them, this is the first thing I tell them. These children are very much part of the school – like others. I leave it as a choice with them before they decide to join the school. 

Are you open to advising and sharing knowledge if another school is open to inclusive education and wants to implement it?

Yes, I would be open to giving inputs. They are welcome to come and talk to me. What rubs me the wrong way is when schools refuse admission to children who do not fit into a special school and they have nowhere to go. There comes a stage when schools say, go to Beacon High. Unfortunately, I cannot accommodate all of them because at the end of the day, mine is a regular school. It is only a percentage of children who needs special care. So, I cannot accommodate every differently-abled child that comes my way.

Mr Sunil Dutt was my mother’s great friend and we would always ask him to pass a Bill or Act that every school should look at adopting inclusive education. We urged him to make it compulsory. I strongly believe that every child has a right to education and if we can change the life of a child to even a small extent, then why not?

I am not saying that every differently-abled child will pass grade 10. There are children who come here and move out after the 4th or the 5th grade. But, as long as they are here, they are made to feel the same as any other child. 

Coming to the curriculum; there is a view that our national curriculum only tests children for memory rather than knowledge. And, then we have international curriculum offering a lot of opportunities to prompt children to think and analyse. What are your thoughts on this?

I think a balance of both is very important. Memory, at the end of the day, is important but not to the extent that it over shadows the thinking capacity.Memory should not be the only thing that should be tested. There has to be some critical thinking and logical reasoning.

Fortunately, the ICSE curriculum is rather skill and application based. So, memory is not the only objective that gets tested. We have a lot of things happening right from grade 1 where we delve into projects, research, and learning by doing, hands-on learning etc. This is true for up to grade 9.

In grades 9 and 10, fortunately or unfortunately, we have to follow the curriculum because it is all about marks and numbers for children to make sure they get into their next stage in life. Up to grade 9 we make sure we develop all the other skills possible.

How important is teacher training and teacher development?

Teachers’ trainings are important. It is a must to get into an institution. But I always tell my team that it is after you get into a school when the training actually begins because that is hands on.

I train my team to do things my way. Of course, a little bit of whatever they have learnt in their B Ed college does help. But, you have to be open to unlearning and relearning. Experience brings in a lot of self-learning and self-actualization as you move on and work with children in a school set up.

Do you feel people working in the same institution for a long time tends to get complacent?

In my set up, I haven’t faced this yet because I am fairly new. I do not have teachers who have been with me for donkeys’ years. But yes, if a teacher has been teaching a subject for 5-6 years, it tends to become a mundane thing.

I put teachers through challenges and change the subjects and the classes that they teach. We also have a lot of power point presentations and I keep abreast of the PPTs they prepare. I make sure that they change their PPTs every once in a while.

Also, the curriculum keeps changing. The ICSE curriculum is not static. It changes every 3-4 years. There is no scope for a teacher to teach the same thing forever.

What challenges do you foresee in the years ahead for schools like yours?

I keep telling my daughter these days that I am tired and expansion etc. is too difficult for me to think of. There are people who suggest that we extend the school for classes 11 and 12 too. Currently, we have classes only up to class 10. The space constraint and my exhaustion level are barriers to expansion.

So I leave it to my daughter. It is upto her to take it forward and let’s hope she does. She has my support always. Expansion would mean to get into Class 11 and 12. I could have done so much more if I had more space. But on the whole, I am very happy with my little small school.

Contact: vikramkamble246@gmail.com

Arjun Madhra – PGT Chemistry – Delhi Public School, Ghaziabad International

When teachers emerge with industrial experience and evolve with the passion to make things better, the education sector flourishes. Most importantly, we don’t just generate school or college pass outs. We generate thinkers, inventors and better citizens. Meet Mr Arjun Madhra, PGT Chemistry and see what he has to say about teaching techniques in Chemistry.

Mr Arjun, please give me a brief about your background.

I have done my schooling at Bishop Conrad Senior Secondary School, Bareilly. Upon completing my 10+2, I did my B Tech in Electronics and Communications from Abdul Kalam Technical University in Delhi. After completing my B Tech, I worked with couple of networking companies because my expertise was in the field of networking and data communications. I worked with Aricent Technologies, the MNC based in France. Likewise, I worked in 2-3 companies before getting into the education sector.

At the end of 2013, my father was diagnosed with cancer and that prompted me to change my field from IT to school teaching. I left my job and went back to Bareilly. My mother has been a teacher for a primary school for approximately 25 years. I got a couple of home tuitions because of her reference. I started my career taking home tuition classes for Class XI and XII for Physics and Chemistry. Then, I plunged in as a full time school teacher and currently work with the Delhi Public School, Ghaziabad. I have worked with other prestigious schools as well, like DLF Public School, etc.

Why Chemistry?

There has always been a personal liking for Chemistry. When I was in Class X, XI and XII, I liked Chemistry. I never took any supplementary classes or tuitions for Chemistry. I studied it on my own and I used to score the highest in my batch as well. So, I always had special appreciation for Chemistry, especially in Physical and Organic Chemistry. Even after my BTech, I did my MSc in Organic Chemistry because in Electronic and Communications, our curriculum is such that you are by default MSc in Physics. We study about electromagnetics, solid state devices, etc. It covers everything that is covered in MSc Physics. So, with my MSc in Chemistry, I am well equipped to teach Physics and Chemistry.

Tell us about the current school you work for.

I work for Delhi Public School under the aegis of Ghaziabad Society. That is why we call it DPSG. We have two societies here – the Delhi society and the Ghaziabad society. I work for DPSG International. We follow the International curriculum. I take classes for 10th, 11th and 12th standards.

The level of high school Chemistry is so high; what is your strategy to make your class interesting?

Today, we are in the modern day teaching. Chemistry is perhaps the branch of Science that impacts life of individuals, directly – the clothes you wear, the food you eat, everything you do is directly linked to Chemistry. What you take from nature or give to nature is Chemistry.

Our basis of teaching is making the classes interactive by way of integrating examples with what we teach. When we talk about carbon; for instance in organic chemistry, we talk about why carbon forms so many organic compounds. This leads to the talk of the self-linking property of carbon. We talk about the valency of carbon.

Likewise, if we are able to integrate with people and keep moving with change, then we are able to make a large network. I usually connect this with the social networking sites. If you find a friend in Facebook and then you see a common friend, whom you then befriend on Facebook, etc.

We integrate real-life examples so that concepts and subjects can be better imbibed. This makes the class interactive, or else, the class can become very boring. It is not about the quantum but the quality of teaching that we focus on.

Teaching is not a target-oriented job. But do you feel the pressure of how your students will perform in their exams?

Nowadays, teaching has become highly professional. Earlier, when we were students, it wasn’t so much so. Professional as in, there was not too much of steps involved in teaching. A decade or two ago, teaching was focused on the content part alone.

Now, a teacher is expected to be a multi-tasker. A teacher has to be good with documentation, conducting activities, leadingthe pack, content knowledge, etc.  So, a teacher has to be an all-rounder in order to make the class worthwhile. Teaching is highly challenging nowadays. I have experience from the IT sector as well and many a times I tell my mother that I feel like switching back to IT.

Do you agree that a teacher has to be multi-tasking?

A teacher at a coaching institute is different from a teacher at a school. In a coaching institute, you focus only on academics. A teacher at school is a multi-dimensional entity because he/she has to focus on lot of aspects of development – personality development of the child, their intellectual development, academic development, etc.

From that perspective, a school teacher has to be a multi tasker. He/she has to give it his 100% for activities, academics, personality development and trouble shooting. It is the teacher’s duty to solve any issue that the child will come to them with. Being a multi tasker is a must.

For the children and the school, grades matter, right? How do you prepare children to get good grades?

To prepare children for good grades, firstly, you need to identify the current standing of each and every individual. In our hierarchy of examinations, we move on to the half yearly examination after the unit tests (UTs – UT1 and UT 2).

At the beginning of UT 1, we identify the strong, mediocre and weak children of each subject. Between UT1 and UT 2, we utilize whatever time we have at hand, effectively. We prepare worksheets based on their level. Once we prepare the worksheets, we then dispatch them to the students level by level – the mediocre students get the worksheets prepared for them, and so on. Once we are done with the evaluation, and realize that there are children going on an upward trend, we focus on them moving up higher and keep evaluating their performance.

The process is time consuming and tedious but it pays off well. We have, over the years, seen many students being benefited by this approach.

Does the school facilitate training for teachers or do you attend any workshops?

When I was in DLF Public School, I attended workshop of the Royal Society of Chemistry. When I went to that workshop, I worked over the microlab culture. You have a complete lab scenario in the school. When you don’t have this, you can create a micro lab of your own using a cellophane sheet, and things that we use day to day.

Through this you can demonstrate certain real life scenarios to students. When we take up school teaching and when we teach through live examples, it gets most effective. We keep giving teachers pedagogy tests and content tests every 6 months. We keep taking workshops for our continual development.

Does the school arrange for these workshops or is it a personal initiative?

DLF Public School arranged for the workshop twice. Also, my wife and I, we give the CENTA examination as well. The Teachers’ Proficiency Olympiad conducted by CENTA (Centre for Teacher Accreditation).

Is this in India?

Yes, very much.

I understand that you are now pursuing your B Ed…

I am currently in my 2nd year of B Ed. It does really help. To be very honest, I see people in the school teaching domain, who complete their B Ed by hook or crook.

But, when it comes to subject knowledge, it may not be a very great methodology. For me personally, I gave the examination only after thoroughly learning the content. So, if you do it religiously, there are many things you can grasp that can be used in classroom scenarios as well.

If not Chemistry, or if it were not teaching, what would you have been pursuing?

Politics and Sports! I have been a national-level cricket player for the under 22. My maternal uncle, based in the US, advised my mother that there is hardly any scope in Sports in India.

He coaxed me to take academics more seriously than sports. To be very honest, I took up engineering, which was not exactly my cup of tea.

Today, sports have a lot of scope in India as well. But, about 15 years back it was a different scenario. Now, there are so many resources to guide you to do well. You have the Pro Kabaddi League, the pro Cricket League, and Hockey League etc. With the corporates getting involved into Sports, you have lot many opportunities now.

Any frustrating moments in your teaching career?

Today I am suffering from fever for the past 4 days and my vocal chords are all swelled up. I have been advised by my doctor, not to speak much and this has been happening with me quite frequently now for the last 2 and half to three years. Within a gap of 3-4 months, I am suffering from some ailment or the other. My vocal chords are being over pressurized. This, at times, makes me frustrated.

Apart from that, I love everything about this career. The profession is evolving day by day. The mind set of children these days is so complex that you really have to very flexible to convince and persuade them. You have to be a tactical task master.

What are your aspirations for the future?

Moving forward, in a span of about 5-7 years, I am planning to open my school. Today I am PGT Chemistry. In a few years’ time, I see myself working as a coordinator. I have equal command over Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics as well. Every year I give my Gate examination through my Engineering domain. So, eventually if I have my hands on resources I will open my own school.

Contact: arjunmadhra5@gmail.com

Vinayak Sidana – Senior Chemistry Faculty – Akash Educational Services Ltd.

Mr Vinayak, tell us how you chose the education field as your career path.

I am a Chemistry graduate and after my graduation, I wanted to pursue my Chemistry studies further and so I appeared for an entrance test called IIT JAM. I scored 380 at an All India level. It was when I did my Masters that I opted to go for the education sector as a career. At our institute (Akash Institute), I try to create an atmosphere that is conducive to learning. Students who want to do their Masters will opt to enrol themselves with us.

Didn’t you ever aim at teaching in a regular school?

The environment I got when I was doing my Masters was amazing and that is what I wanted to replicate in my career. That environment was my driving force to become a teacher.

For teaching in a school, there are various parameters – you have to do a B.Ed, which additionally takes a couple of years. If you want to join a government school, you have to qualify for multiple other exams. On the other hand, in the coaching industry, things are quite flexible. If you are super good at your subject, there is nothing that can stop you. Honestly, when it comes to the service you render, I don’t feel any difference whether you teach at a school or at a coaching centre.

For how long have you been teaching now, Mr Vinayak?

I have been teaching ever since I was doing my Masters. But, professionally it has been over a year now.

Where are you based out of?

I am based out of a place called Anupgarh; it is about 150km from Bikaner.

You mentioned that this job gives you flexibility. Can you please elaborate?

When you teach at a school, you have to be at the school from 7-1, or so. You have fixed working hours. But in the coaching industry, once you are settled at an institute, you have the flexibility to be present at the institute when you have classes. If you are occupied, on some day, due to some emergency, you have the option of rescheduling classes. So, you get flexibility plus you don’t have to complete a B.Ed to teach.

At a place like Akash Institute, what is the average entry level salary?

The entry level salary at Akash Institute is about Rs 60,000/- for a fresher. If you have 1 year of experience, you can even make more than 1 lakh.

Previously, I was at another institute called Career Point which was the first institute I joined and they used to pay me very well. When I joined Akash because I had experience, I had additional benefit.

The pay depends on the standard that we choose to teach and the impact you create during the interview.

Are all the Akash centres the same or are they different?

They are the same, in terms of what is being taught. I was appointed through the Delhi centre and the curriculum, modules and the test papers offered are all the same, across the country. For students it is all the same. There is consistency across institutes. Apart from the teaching styles that teachers adopt, it is all the same.

Mr Vinayak, is this a high-pressure job?

One major drawback about this industry is that you need to be present all the time. You can’t expect a holiday or 6-7 days of leave, etc. Every day is a working day.

Also, there is always the pressure of completing the course on time. Timing is important because there are tests very frequently. The student feedback also goes a long way. You may be teaching very well but there can be some students who may not understand your style of teaching. If they give negative feedback, you can be in trouble.

For the amount they pay, you can take the pressure in your stride. I feel I am in a very good position right now.

How about your colleagues – have they been around for a long time?

The age group of the teaching crowd is around 30 years. We have one faculty who is 50 years. In the coaching industry you need to have a lot of energy. So, the teaching crowd will usually be young people.

Also, when you teach in a coaching institute for 10- 20 years, you make a lot of money. So, by the age of 45 you can be in a position to retire.

What qualifications are required to join a coaching institute?

In my experience, people who don’t have a lot many other options, choose this line of career because there is a lot of uncertainty in this space.

They pay you well and there is flexibility but job insecurity is a factor we can’t ignore. Institutes prop up and fall, as well, like mushrooms. It all depends on the market. Today you may have thousands of students in your institute. But, it may not be the case the next year. Even if you are doing a good job and giving good result, the uncertainty of job conditions is a reality. 

People who are Masters in Physics, Chemistry, Math or Biology will find it easy to get into such institutes. People who have done BTech from a good institute also stand a good chance. If you have completed your studies at IIT or other similar institutes, the entry is quite easy. If you have passed from IIT, etc. you may not have to give a demo class or go through their test procedures etc. It is almost a green card entry.

What have you observed about the students that enrol in such institutions? There is a general impression that parents force their children for such courses, is it true?

Every student is not wired to crack IIT exams and all students don’t aim for it as well. Parents need to understand this. They need to first talk to their children and understand what they want to do. Most people don’t do that. Nowadays, it is like a mandatory thing to appear for these exams.

Many children are forced into taking these classes. People who are associated with the institute will not want to have such conversations because this is a business. Even children who get 0 in scholarship exams (exams given before a seat is awarded to a child) will get a seat in such institutions. It is all about the money that comes in. Honestly, there is a lot of pressure in a class of 100 students. There are very good students and also children who do not understand anything that goes on in the class. Sorting out what the child needs is the parents’ responsibility.

When children who are unwilling to learn all this are present in your class, isn’t that added pressure on you too?

Yes, of course. Children who are unwilling won’t perform well. The teacher would chide them for not doing well. The Directors want everyone to do well. They only see statistics and numbers. Hence, they will pressurize the teachers and in turn, teachers will pressurize students. It becomes a vicious circle.

How expensive are these courses?

There is an entry test – All India Akash Talent test. Depending on your performance in that test, you are awarded a scholarship. The price that you pay at the institute depends on how you perform at this test.

For 0 scholarship students, the fees is about Rs. 1,15, 000/- and a person having max scholarship would pay about Rs. 85,000/. Offline coaching is quite expensive.

Does this kind of coaching actually make a difference in getting students into IIT institutes or does it depend more on the students? What is your observation?

Today the competition is very high. If you sit at home and study for 10-12 hours, it is not going to help you. If you have resources, study material, keep giving a good number of tests regularly and check your performance against some scale of parameter, then yes, you stand a chance even with home study. Even through online coaching classes, children can prepare and do well. But, IIT is a hard nut to crack.

Today, when you compare the style of teaching you are imparting now versus the style of teaching you have received in school, what are your thoughts?

Teaching in school is quite a relaxed process. The pressure is much less and also there is no compulsion to do every question accurately. Also, school-level exams are quite predictive. At school, all children have the scope of getting pass mark or above. The duration of each class in school is 45 mins to 1 hour.

When it comes to coaching, it is a different ball game altogether. The pressure is high. Class duration is a minimum of 1.5 to 2 hours. We go deep into concepts and subjects so that children understand it thoroughly. Also, we do a lot of application-based studies. There are a lot of questions that prop up, during these classes, which students may not experience in school.

So, are you saying that the quality of information imparted in coaching classes is higher than that offered in schools?

Not exactly. We go into the depths of concepts before moving into advanced levels. In school they don’t necessarily deep dive into the subject/concept. In coaching classes we cannot afford to do that because the questions can be highly varied. So, rote learning will not serve the purpose.

In school, on the other hand, they have lot more activities other than studies. We don’t do that. Also, coaching centres have at least three times the amount of time to cover portion than schools.

I am in no way criticizing school style of teaching; but the types of output expected from both places are different.

Thank you Mr Vinayak. Wish you all the best!

Contact:

vinayaksidana1@gmail.com,

linkedin.com/in/vinayak-sidana-5a2ab19a

Jasmine Sandhu – MYP DP Physics Teacher – Jamnabai Narsee School, Mumbai -Narsee Monjee Educational Trust

Can you give us a brief introduction about yourself and what got you interested in the teaching career?

I did my Bachelors and Masters in Electronics Science. Whilst I was doing that, I opted to study German from one of the very pristine institutes in Pune. That is when I was introduced to a different style of teaching.

Our German classes did not follow the traditional style of teaching. Those classes got me thinking that if that were the style of teaching that I had received at an earlier stage, things would have been quite different for me. Simultaneously I completed my Masters and thought of getting into the education sector.

I got a call from one of the schools for the exact position that I was looking for; perhaps, the Universe was trying to lead me in this path.

Please elaborate on the style of teaching employed in your German classes.

They focused on the functioning of the subconscious part of our brain. For example, if I were to hear certain colloquial German terms on a daily basis, it would be part of my daily dialect. That is when you start thinking in that language. Normally, if you learn a language it would begin with ABCD. In contrast, they focused more on how we can be made to think in that language.

The thing that goes wrong while training yourself in a language, using the traditional method is that you train your brain to think in your mother tongue and translate those thoughts in the language you are training for. That is complicated and erroneous. Also, in our German class they tried to focus on every type of learner. They tried to get all our senses involved while teaching the subject.

Did you find that method of teaching refreshing compared to the traditional methodology?

Yes. It got me thinking that it is high time the Indian education system evolves. Of course, for such a change to take effect, each teacher should be aware about the education systems around the world. Those German classes triggered me to read on the IB and the IB philosophy and that got me into the International education spectrum.

For how long have you been teaching now and how were those initial few months as a new Math teacher?

I began teaching from Jan 2015 at the Indus International School, Pune. Initially I had a lot of energy. When you study any educational course, you don’t study it from a practical aspect. It is more of theory. When you come into a classroom, you need to convert all that theory into a pragmatic approach.The methodology you adopt to bring that into effect is all up to you. I think that was my main challenge.

I used to plan a lot of activities but in class, I didn’t get the time to do all of it. Time management and classroom management was quite a hurdle. Every class has a different dynamics. You will have to figure out what works well for your class.

Reflecting on the challenges on a daily basis and trying to work on it really helped.

Were there any times when you felt it is too difficult and it was not working for you?

There were many, indeed! I was teaching in the IGCSE curriculum for grade 9. They had their exams coming up and I used to have these questions in my head if I were doing justice to these children. They were to give their board exams in the coming year. I used to keep wondering if I was on the right track.

Thankfully, we had a mentoring system in our organization. That way, I had somebody looking over me and somebody to fall back helped a lot.

I suppose, having taken a Masters you were confident with the subject.

Yes.

How difficult was it to translate the subject in simple terms?

It was quite a task. One was the simplicity – how do I simplify it for the students? Then, the curriculum itself was different.

We were brought up in an exam-oriented scenario. To have a shift in that mind-set – to transition from context-based to concept-based was quite challenging.

What is the main difference between the Indian National Curriculum and the International Curriculum?

You don’t have set questions and set answers in the International curriculum – it is a concept-based approach. If you have understood a concept, you should be able to apply it as well. They have a lot of application and analytical skill development happening in the process. The approach is more skill oriented than knowledge oriented. It doesn’t stop at understanding a concept. 

Mugging up a law or definition or solving similar type of questions does not help in getting your grades up. Children have to dive deep and understand what each concept actually means. Teachers will need to map real life scenarios in class so that children become spot on. I think there needs to be a shift in the Indian education system as well.

The subjects that you teach are perceived to be among the hard subjects. How do you tackle that fear?

To be honest, the ease of a subject is quite subjective.

For example, as a child I was okay with Physics and Math. But, I feared, History. I could never memorize those dates. I think it depends on how each child is wired. It also depends on how each subject is delivered/introduced to children by various teachers. A lot of times the liking towards a subject depends on the teacher and the rapport students share with the teacher.

If I sense fear for a subject, I do something called creative confidence tasks. I boost their confidence by giving them easy questions and then work upwards from there.

The root cause of the fear is that they can’t understand a concept which translates to they can’t apply it and hence cannot understand questions based on that concept. They keep building this wall against the subject shutting it out saying it is a difficult subject. To counter this, first a boost of confidence is required.

What are some of dos and don’ts teachers should be mindful of while introducing subjects and concepts?

I think that also differs from learner to learner. Some children find certain subjects easier than others. They are wired for that. For instance, when you introduce addition and subtraction some children would prefer doing it using a number line. That is the way they would understand it best. Some would prefer it through worksheets. Teachers can make lessons interesting. 

When it comes to don’ts, teachers should definitely not demean a child. Demeaning can be very damaging – it shatters a child’s confidence. Also, teachers should be receptive to questions. There are times when I teach a concept and ask children to ask me questions. According to me, the silliest questions are the best questions. That way, they don’t have to get stressed out to frame ‘smart’ questions. So, if you put across things in a positive manner the fear of peer pressure is also tackled.

There is a general obsession towards marks. Have you been able to break away from this concept while assessing students?

That is quite tricky. This whole concept of marks focuses around a set final goal. The final goal they have in mind is that they should do well in their board exams. The thought process is, if they do well in that, they stand a chance to get into good Universities and that in turn, gives them a chance for a better future. So, all of it kind of trickles down to the school level. 

IB offers a curriculum called the Middle Years’ Programme (MYP). They believe in achievement level instead of marks. For example, 2 students can have the same achievement level but if we break it down to marks, they may be poles apart. But here, you are assessing their skill, their achievement level of that particular skill. They are not judged by marks. 

It is, however, quite challenging. In my previous school when we were shifting from a marks-based curriculum to IB, it was quite challenging to convince parents as well. Parents also come from the mind-set that marks are the beginning and end of all. During PTMs parents would ask for their scores; and we would have to keep reiterating our process. 

You have been doing this for 4 years now. Has it become more interesting with the passing years or has it only stabilized?

I don’t think it has been a very long time because I haven’t taught the same curriculum throughout. I was first teaching IGCSE and now I am into MYP and about a few months back I have started teaching DP. So, it’s been quite a change for me.

I don’t think it is ever going to be stagnant because your students don’t get stagnant. The types of students that come in, with the evolution of time, are evolving. You have to keep reinventing yourself to make your classroom engaging.

What kind of changes do you see in students?

I do not see changes in the time-frame that I have been a teacher. Having said that, if I were to compare me as a student to the students that I teach, there is a drastic change! We did not have so much liberty with electronics or the Internet. Now, anything and everything is available on Google. You need to bring to the classroom much more than what Google can offer.

What are some of the frustrating moments you counter now?

I wouldn’t call it frustrating because a teacher feels frustrated when he/she starts giving up on their students. One cannot really afford to do that. I would call it challenging rather than frustrating.

Sometimes there are these students who have special education needs. There have been times when I have dealt with extreme autism and when I spoke to the child’s shadow teacher, I was quite appalled.

I realized that whatever I do for that child would not be enough. I was/am not equipped for such children. That was quite frustrating because I felt helpless – the child couldn’t even process an entire sentence together. He could accomplish short tasks, but he would feel lost with multiple statements or commands. By the time he gets to the last statement, he would have forgotten the first. That is one example. There are so many complex things happening in his head that I just didn’t know how to help him. That was a very disappointing experience for me.

What, according to you, would be an ideal school for a teacher to thrive and be happy?

According to me, it would be a place which allows the teacher to grow; a place that respects the teachers’ teaching philosophy.

What, according to you, is growth in a school?

By growth, I mean, professional development. Growth doesn’t necessarily mean going up the ladder from position A to B. Such things come with monetary gains.

In terms of professional or personal growth, we need to understand the various aspects of a teacher – teaching and learning and how we can do better. Most schools have their standard Professional Developments (PD) and all teachers have to attend it. But there is hardly any research done on what each individual teacher needs.

I think if the teacher is given the individual liberty to design his/her own PD and be in charge of it, it would be immensely beneficial. PDs should be a reflection of what each person wants to do and achieve.

Do you think such things can be brought into effect?

I think in smaller schools, it should be possible. They could start with a survey or have certain general workshops laid out from which the teacher can choose which he/she needs to be part of and build it from there.

Are these existing workshops useful?

Honestly, it is. When I reflect now, I understand that those were workshops that I needed. I have also been to workshops thinking I already knew everything that they were talking about. In such cases, there was not much of a take away. But, there were other workshops as well about which I have no idea.

These workshops – the ones you felt positive about – are they conducted by other teachers?

One was done by the head at our school. It works both ways. The people who conducted the workshop in our school understood us very well. They understood how we could tweak certain things in a curriculum to satisfy all stakeholders. 

There was another online workshop, which has a lot of takeaways and gave me a lot of clarity about certain things. 

How do you see yourself in the years ahead?

I haven’t really given it a thought. Right now, I think there is a lot for me to learn. I don’t think I have experimented with all types of curriculum. That is something I do want to try. That is a milestone for me. Once I am done with that, I will decide on the rest of the path.

Contact info

Jasmine’s Profile

linkedin.com/in/jasmine-sandhu-a604a817a

Email jasmineks21@yahoo.co.in,

Nisha Millet – Swimmer

Nisha Millet – The Student

As a child, I have travelled all over India during my school days. I was born in Chennai, did my nursery and kindergarten in Bangalore. Then, we moved to Hyderabad for my primary school. So, you see, I have had quite a colourful childhood.

Before long, when we moved back to Chennai, I was there for about 3 years – that is when I picked up swimming. I started getting very good at it and so, when I was in Std 8, Bangalore being the hub of swimming in India, my folks decided to move back to Bangalore. I was in Bangalore from my Std 9 to my college years.

Nisha Millet – The Swimmer in the Making

I was widely encouraged when it came to sports. When I was in Chennai, I was interested in Badminton and Gymnastics. Honestly, swimming happened like a stroke of surprise during a summer camp. In those days, schools didn’t have their own pool. So, I had to learn swimming outside of school hours.

I did get a lot of support from my schools too to take my swimming seriously. I moved to Bangalore in the middle of my 8th grade. And, you know how tough it is when you need to get admitted mid-term. To top it, I had done the matriculation system in Chennai; whereas, in Bangalore, I had to move into either ICSE or SSLC.

My Principal at Sophia High School was a great source of enlightenment. She queried what I proposed to do in college. When I said that I looked forward to doing Psychology, she suggested taking up SSLC. So, that is what I did and it really helped me focus on my swimming as well. In fact, when ICSE children slogged out at home the whole year, I was actually away for three months in America participating in a swimming training program. I was quite young when I got sponsored to be part of that programme. I did that, came back and managed to give my Board exams too because the State Board is less stressing on children. 

True to what my Principal advised, ultimately I went to the same college as the others. I went to Mount Carmel College where my friends from ICSE also joined. So, that piece of advice and support went a long way.

Then, there was the time when I went for the World Swimming Championship during my Std. IX days. To support me, the school had to permit me to write my exams about 3-4 weeks before the rest of the school wrote their exams. I know such things are huge tasks for teacher – setting up separate papers for me, getting me into a classroom so that I could write my exams on my own, to slot out that time and effort –to this day, I am really obliged.

Having said all that, the responsibility on your shoulder is that though you are not expected to come first in class, you are also not expected to take advantage of the freedom, leeway and support you are given. You can’t fool around. It is up to me to maintain that balance and make good use of the support that was being shouldered.

I managed to get first class and never aimed at being an academic topper. I managed to balance it all out. My mother was particular about my academics and my father was focused on my sports. That also helped balance it out. I think that kind of balance needs to exist in every family.

Teachers – A Blessing!

I remember having many good teachers. In Chennai, I had a teacher called Mrs Soans whom I still meet whenever I go to Chennai. She is an English teacher who made me fall in love with English. She put in every effort possible to make the class animated. She used to close out the windows and we made sounds of the wind and chirped like birds, etc. to live the stories we learnt. To this day, these are fond memories. She is my favourite teacher.  

Then, I had Mrs Belliappa at Sophia, who was amazing. She used to teach History. The convent schools at Bangalore, in those days, were known for its teachers. We had great rapport with our teachers and they were extremely supportive. I think I only struggled with Hindi because I don’t speak too much of Hindi. But, still I managed it.

My Parents – My Pillars

My father was the main influencer to make me take my swimming seriously. He was my first swimming teacher.

I had a near drowning incident at the age of 5, when I fell into a pond. The water was only till about my head level but it was a struggle. By the time, my father yanked me out, I had already drunk up some water and it was a very panicky situation. As a result, I had a huge water fear. I turned hydrophobic.

When I was 9 and in Chennai, we wondered what to do in summer holidays and it was so hot over there. My father suggested that we walk with him to the swimming pool. So, I went and there was a horrible teacher who was not at all empathetic towards me. He used to push me into the water without teaching me any skills. Finally, I was too upset to continue.

That is when my father offered to teach me. He made me have fun in water, taught me to first stand in water and gradually move my hands and legs. I am here today only because he took up that responsibility. Then I started enjoying it and mastering it. That is how my swimming journey started.

My father was no professional swimmer but was born and brought up in Chennai near the beach. So, he was very much at home with water. He wanted his daughter to do well in some sport. He imagined me being a tennis player like Steffi Graf and brought me a tennis racket. Honestly, until recently, I never played tennis.

My parents were extremely supportive. My father sold his house in Chennai and put the money into my swimming. It was one of the huge reasons that helped shape me into what I am today. Also, the amount of time and effort they put in was immense. In those days, you don’t get a lot of external help. My mother was my dietician and manager. My father drove us – my sister and I – up and down and ensured I acquired all the knowledge on swimming as possible.

Parental influence is a prime factor to shape you into what you are!   

Swimming – A Team Effort

We, as family, had a tough schedule. We used to wake up at about 4:30 a.m., start classes at about 5:30 a.m. to about 7:30 a.m. We would then have the breakfast my mother would pack, in the car, on the way to school. We had the permission to reach school about half an hour to 45 mins late.

On my part, I made sure homework is done during lunch break. Post school hours, we used to get home only to change and then get back to the pool and be there for another 2-2.5 hours.

It would be about 8 p.m. by the time we got home, giving us only time to watch a little TV during dinner and sleep off. This was our 6-day schedule for almost 12-15 years – a much disciplined life. It helped as the family was doing it together.

Yes, we missed out on things like parties, etc.  But, when you bring charm to your country, it all pays off. Although swimming is an individual sport, there is a lot of team effort required.

We swim alone on the D-day but the training all along is a team effort.My entire family was dedicated.

The Sacrifices

I am happy I did my State Board and I know that my ICSE friends really struggled. Looking back, I wish I could spend more time with my school friends.

At a very young age I never understood why I needed to be away so much. I used to miss my friends’ birthdays. My very close friends understood but many of them would get upset that I was never there for parties, outings, movies etc. I did feel lonely that way.

I had a couple of sports friends in my class. But, if you are an odd person out and away for long, when you come back you feel lost when you get back because so much would have happened and you would have missed out on all that. I miss that a little bit. But at the same time, I had friends at the pool also. So, all is well.

Nisha Millet – The Teacher

Today, as a teacher, I see so many talented swimmers and children who have calibre in sports. They are very talented but their parents don’t support them enough. There is this resistance to develop in sports versus getting into some professional course like Engineering etc. Children are extremely talented but the mind-set that sports is not a career that can fetch you a good income, gets people to pull their children out of their sports sessions to make way for academics.

When I think of how my parents supported this dream, I see that tides have changed now. People don’t even shell out time to come see their kids competing or performing. I feel when parents do that, children do feel extremely demotivated. When my children perform, I make sure one of our family members is always there. They need to feel motivated and it starts with family. 

In addition to the support I got, my parents were very particular about giving me the freedom too. The freedom to quit when I cease enjoying what I was doing! They were all for no stress. I feel they had a lot of balance between the two of them.

Parents can get over ambitious to make childdrn an all-rounder. They aim at children being number 1 at academics and sports. That is damaging and near impossible. It is a lot of pressure on children. I see parents of children in upper KG getting all tensed about their children’s studies. I think parents should sit back and think through a bit.

My parents’ assurance that I could quit when I wanted to, gave me a sense of security, relaxation and did wonders to keep me going.

Schools Then and Nowadays

At Sophia School, I found that when I strived to make it big in swimming, they were very supportive. But, otherwise they were not very much into extracurricular activities. I remember that there was a nice basketball field which was hardly used and now they have an auditorium there. These are a few small things that upset me and that children nowadays are stuck to their homes, phones and computers more than ever.

They need to get some outdoor space. I take my children with me to the stadium so that they can run with me. We didn’t have to bother about outdoors much earlier, because children used to get a lot of it in school.

When I was looking for a school for my children, I went with Frank Anthony Public School. They have kept up a very good tradition in sports. They had a girl called Aditi Ashok competing for the Olympics representing India in golf. They supported to balance academics and golf at the same time. They have children doing almost everything – karate, hockey, football, cricket, basketball, etc. and their teams are quite nice – girls and boys alike. I have always wanted such a school for my children. It is a little more of the old school of thought rather than a school with a modern outlook like an International school with IB syllabus. But, that was not my only criteria.

Of course, our proximity to the school is a good distance. They function in such a way that children get to do a lot of activities other than academics. For instance, children until grade 2 are in school only from 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. and children from grade 2 to grade 10 are in school only till 2:00 – 2:30.Hence, they are not stuck in school all the time and they get plenty of time to do other things. My children enjoy school. They are not loaded with a lot of homework. I believe this homework and tuition are too much of a killer. Of course, things will change as they grow up. But, schools nowadays, I hear, are trying to go with minimum homework and trying to go easy on the load of books children carry to school everyday.

I know of many wonderful schools in the outskirts of Bangalore with amazing sports facilities but it doesn’t work for me. Also, I would like my children disciplined as well. I believe some international schools tend to have a very relaxed attitude where children have way too much freedom. I think we need to have a fine balance between the old school of thought and the new one.

The Balance Tipping Towards Academics

One thing is that children should have a say in this and they have to be consistent and persistent for parents to take that plunge. 

A big part is also played by the coaches. We keep counselling parents. I also have a competitive swim team that trains with me. We have about 30-40 swimmers who train at a State level and they manage school as well. We have a lot of talks and team meetings talking about how we managed it. Sometimes, we call in psychologists who help parents see how much more their child is doing than an average child. As a result, they tend to get a little more tired and they may want to have some time which doesn’t deal with swimming or school. As a family, they should have alternate conversations and do other things.

We should keep having conversations with parents when we see high calibre children unless the child shows no interest in that field. Some parents are very adamant that a sport is not what they want for their children. In such cases, we try and get the children to speak out. But, ultimately it is the family’s decision. As a coach or someone running an academy you can only try and facilitate these initiatives. Ultimately, the parents have to take a call.

Nowadays, we have examples like P V Sindhu or Mary Kom to explain how well they are doing versus a Deepika Padukone or engineers. Whether it is money, career satisfaction or the life they lead – they seem to do it quite well.

When I started teaching, people suggested taking up a government job, etc. But that is not what I wanted. I wanted to do things my way. I do see a gradual mindset shift among parents. You can’t blame them; they also have a lot of juggle if their children want a career like this.

Nisha Millet’s Swimming Academy

After the 2000 Sydney Olympics, I was down with a back issue which couldn’t be diagnosed. Two years later, they found out that there is a benign tumour in my back. With my back issue, I couldn’t do much swimming. My parents had done so much financially to support my career, so I decided to teach swimming and support them a bit.

With this in mind, I approached the local club where I used to go and they were open to me conducting swimming classes. We started with a small batch and my family was also supportive. My mother used to love teaching beginners. My sister also helped out. It started off like that. Then, I met my now husband and he too started taking interest in swimming. He took classes and was interested in knowing how to teach. That is how my academy started.

Initially, I didn’t have any business knowledge. Gradually we grew and needed more helping hands which finally reached a point when we needed a swimming academy. In 2005, we started operations in a small way. We started adding locations and teachers. We approached hotels and clubs and requested 1 or 2 hours of their pool. That is how it started when our overheads were quite low. Now it has mushroomed to almost 10-12 swim centres. We have it in Bangalore and Navi Mumbai.

Today, we have over 40 employees, coaches, and office staff as well. It is great to see a business grow. We start from something called parent-toddler classes wherein we take children of the age group 1-4 and we have these fun interactive classes with nursery rhymes, songs and toys. We introduce children to water in a fun way. During these classes, parents get in with their children and have a half an hour fun class.

After toddler classes, they can advance to beginner class and then advanced and competitive.

We are really branching out now. We are trying to get more permanent centres where we can manage our facilities better. We interact with some schools as well, wherein we put school programmes.

We target on making swimming compulsory at least once a week wherein everyone swims. We would like it to be a lifesaving skill. If you start swimming when you are in grade 1 or 2, you get pretty professional by the time you reach grade 10. They should be able to swim in a lake, river etc. That is my goal behind school programmes.

We are truly proud of her achievements and her life story and insights are most inspiring and thought provoking. We wish Nisha Millet all the very best in all her current activities and all future plans.

Kamalika Bose -Mathematics Teacher

Once upon a time, marks were created to understand how much children understood, but now children memorize and learn only for marks. Today the role of marks has been disillusioned and teachers like Ms. Kamalika Bose who dares to think logically strives for a change for the better.

Ms. Kamalika Bose, can we please start with a quick introduction about yourself?

I started my teaching career from May of 1977 at a school in Calcutta, right after I completed my Masters in Applied Mathematics from IIT Kharagpur. I have always wanted to pursue a career in education. I wanted to factor in application into my teaching. That has been my starting and ending point. I have always encouraged and made children ask questions and I still do it. For example, why do we need to learn about fractions or decimals, etc.? It is important to ask questions.

Most of the time, they are taught concepts without letting them know why they need to learn it; lessons are taught only because it is part of the curriculum and teaching concepts becomes a mechanical process.

Time has changed and most schools are trying to bring in a new way of teaching. Most of our schools, however, are part of villages. I go to villages to train teachers and I see a huge disparity between schools in the cities and those in villages. I am trying to bridge the gap.

The old school of thought still continues its ways but it doesn’t create any results. Children, when they become professionals, are expected to crack problems and so they should be trained to think critically. On the other hand, we only assess them based on what they have studied/memorized.

While at the school in Delhi, from where I retired recently, I noticed this huge vicious circle. Parents want result, schools want good result, and schools are ranked based on the results that they stream in. If schools don’t get ranked well, teachers are penalized. So, the safe way out of all this for teachers is to have question papers set with the questions that children have already worked on. This is not an assessment of how children think independently/critically. People are scared to do it differently. I can’t blame teachers either because everybody wants to keep their job safe. But, at the end of the day, it is adversely affecting children. 

On the other hand, if we go for Global Testing, which we have avoided since the year 2009 and we ranked 72 out of 74 countries. The reason being that, they won’t give questions which children have already done. Despite scoring well in our board exams – 98/99% I am not sure how India will score on a global ranking system today. It is the fear factor.

We don’t experiment, we teach as we are told to. Teachers are also stressed and over worked. Though we have all the facilities in most of the schools – the white board, etc., I am not sure how much critical thinking we expose our children to. It is disappointing. We have to be brave in our assessment procedure.

I have been questioned by parents of class 6 and 7 children as to which book I have chosen to put questions in the question paper. Why is it a compulsion to take it from a book? Times are coming when we have to create problem solvers, not people who can memorize and replicate things on paper. This is not going to do any good to the world.

At Swapnopuron – school for underpriviledged

Is this trend a recent development in the last 15-20 years?

Yes, because it wasn’t so earlier. There was a time, when people were happy to score 80%. Now 80% is considered bad! It is the age of 90%.

Also, if in term 1, you score 90%, you have to score 95% in term 2. If it goes down to 89%, then the teacher’s performance is termed poor. There is pressure in every corner. I really don’t know how this can be solved other than through a revolution. 

You have been observing many schools; do you see any glimmer of hope of things being done differently?

No. We have workshops on different ways of teaching. Teachers have been teaching in different ways but at the end, in Class X for example, children are aware that questions will only come from an RD Sharma, RS Agarwal or an NCERT Exemplar. Hence, they practice those questions; mug up a few sums even if they don’t understand, etc. They are tuned to the idea that finally it is the marks that count.

I have also observed that children forget very easily. This is because of the methodology adopted to learn. For example, when we teach them addition of fractions, they do not know why we take the LCM of the denominator. They are told a procedure and they just follow it. And in time, no one is interested in knowing because knowing doesn’t add up to their marks. Even if I try to tell them the origin of the formulae, they don’t listen. I have been told on my face that they don’t need to know these things. This is the precise reason why they forget things.

Most children won’t know why we call 164.53 as one sixty four point five three and not one sixty four point fifty three. These are basics.

I am currently coaching some IB students in Goa and I feel that their syllabus is better developed than CBSE. In my opinion, the CBSE syllabus has to go through a complete change. I am not sure how this will come into effect, but the assessment process and the entire dependency on marks and the resultant admissions must go through a revolutionary change.

Percentage does not reflect competency.

What are your thoughts on the new curriculum that is coming in, like IB?

There has to be a complete change in curriculum, in the way we think and this vicious circle has to break. CBSE schools are there all over India and they are taken to be the most convenient board but these students are going to suffer badly on a global scale. The world doesn’t believe in rote learning. 

What are your thoughts on the new generation of people coming into the teaching career? 

That is the next point. We have to build a method to check the competency of teachers. In the several interviews that I have conducted to find Math teachers for my school, it has been highly discouraging.

I would want teachers to know why a linear equation is called linear, for example. They don’t have an answer. I want them to know why area = Length x breadth. They don’t have an answer. But, these are crucial when you teach children. Most of our Math teachers are banking on algorithms. They give an algorithm to children. Children learn that and derive answers. It is difficult, even in Class X, for most students to convert from meter to kilometre and vice versa.

If you give them sq. meter to sq. km they won’t be able to do it. It is sad because these are concepts related to everyday life. Volume is a different story altogether. They are extremely weak in units because they are not taught correctly in lower classes. The result is that in the long run children tend to think that Math is not a subject for them. And hence, the upward trend in children choosing Humanities over Science and Math. This is an extremely sad situation.

We need critical thinkers who can solve problems like climate change, shortage of food, etc. We cannot produce the scientists that the world needs with this kind of base education. And, what careers are these children left with?

The only thing that they know is to opt for being doctors and engineers. Nobody wants to become a scientist because it doesn’t pay enough.

Math teachers have to go through rigorous training on competency, how to teach Math, giving reasons for everything because math is logic.

What would be a good first step to try and do things differently given all the constraints and expectations we have today?

The first step is to change the curriculum. It is extremely pressurizing. We are teaching too much and it is not well coordinated. If I look at A level and O level curriculum, they make connections. For example, when they teach units, they teach the relationship between meters and kilometres and in the same chapter they also teach the relationship between sq. meters and sq. kilometres. The same for volumes as well.

In CBSE, all this would be taught in three years. By the time they reach sq. units they would have forgotten how to convert meters to kilometres. Also, we should avoid repetitive teaching. We teach fractions in Class IV, V, VI and VII and there is no need for that. So, rethinking our curriculum is of utmost importance. It is not properly framed.

Our assessment pattern has to change. Even CBSE throws 70% questions from NCERT text books. But that is not a measure of competency. It is perhaps a measure of hard work. But not competency. It doesn’t measure how well the child will develop as a person who can contribute towards solving global problems. We have to change the pattern of questions we set for them.

At Award Function – Bridge Programme

In IIT, 1st and 2nd year we had to study all subjects – Physics, Chemistry etc. Our Chemistry teacher once gave us a problem as part of our questions which none of us could solve. We went back to the professor to check this who expressed that that was a problem which could not be solved; but, he wanted to check how we approach the problem. 

Today we don’t have the courage to do these kinds of experiments in school. We don’t make children think. Do we give them the time to think? There are 30 – 40 questions in a question paper that need to be solved in 3 hours. They are supposed to know all of it – not think and solve.

We should hence, reduce the number of questions and may be the syllabus as well. If you have three hours and you have this pressure to score x number of marks, where is the time to think?

There are 4 basic parameters on which we set our question papers – knowledge, understanding, application and skill. In my opinion, if they already know how to solve, we are only testing knowledge and the skill is how fast you can do it.

Somewhere we need to start bringing about a change. We may not have to make the entire paper difficult but may be a few questions can be made challenging, wherein they need to think critically and come to a solution.

You mentioned that you have retired. So, what do you do now, Mrs Bose?

I have formally retired from the school where I was teaching, at Delhi. As an HOD I tried bringing about a lot of changes in the way I train my teachers, the way they think, to make them brave assessors etc. I even asked them to connect parents to me if they are questioned. But, I reached a point when I felt that things are more difficult to implement than one thinks.

So, right now I teach a few children in Goa, where I stay. I teach children who do A level and O level courses and yes, I find it a refreshing change.

I also teach some children in Delhi who belong to the Economically Weaker Section (EWS). They all have mobile phones and so I connect to them digitally because they cannot afford tuitions. Once a week or so, I get into Zoom. We exchange doubts.

There is a school in West Bengal – a school for the underprivileged. I am in the advisory committee for teachers at their school. I noticed that children are really bright. They are ambitious, mostly first generation learners. But, the teachers have to be competent to really nurture and shape them well and to help them meet their goals in life. They need support – both financial as well as physical. India will grow when we help everyone grow – not just a handful privileged group of children. With the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, UN Member States pledged to ensure “no one will be left behind” and to “endeavor to reach the furthest behind first”. My dream is to empower those who are being left behind [or who are at risk of being left behind]; and to enact inclusive, far-sighted and progressiveeducational policies and create a new age in India.

Contact:

Email id: bose.kamalika@gmail.com

linkedin.com/in/kamalika-bose-678168b

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. 

With Ms Catrin Brown,author and educator

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.

with students at Kodaikanal International School

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. 

With Dr Lance king

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.

Contact:

Email: jaydip.chaudhuri@gmail.com

linkedin.com/in/jaydipchaudhuri

Meenakshi Amma – Director Puvidham, Dharmapuri,Tamil Nadu

Puvidham Rural Development Trust is a registered organization that works on developing effective organic farming techniques and providing a humane and child-centered education environment for children in the Nagarkoodal area of Dharmapuri, Tamil Nadu, India. It was an initiative which began in 1992 and since then has taken strong roots. It is the culmination of a dream, of Umesh, a mechanical engineer and Meenakshi, an architect who went about to build a community of people whose passion in farming and education could be translated into local opportunities. The activities have now evolved into Puvidham Farm, Puvidham Learning Centre and Puvidham Development Centre and are run under the umbrella of Puvidham Rural Development Trust. Today, Puvidham is managed by 80 strong family of committed children and individuals who are working to change the harsh and arid landscape into a sustainable and resource rich area. These initiatives are guided by well wishers and Trustees who have had exposure to realities of rural India, its concerns and potential.

Conversation with Meenakshi Amma……..

Some strive, learn from what life throws at them and emerge successful. Then there are others like Meenakshi Amma, who goes looking for what is best for one’s body, soul and spirit.

Life in Mumbai

I was born in Mumbai and completed my degree in Architecture from Mumbai itself. During the course of my architecture studies, I got to see a lot more of the city of Mumbai and I was very disturbed by the disparity between the rich and the poor.

Questions like, why some people don’t even get their basic needs, when on the other hand there is a lot of food that gets thrown away; started playing in my head. As a result of these questions and discussions with my father, I often came to the conclusion that this is a reality that we need to live with. It is something about which we could not do much.

But, I felt if we alter ourselves for the better, we can be clear in conscience and live a peaceful life as well. That was the continuous stream of advice from my father the gist of which was to make a change; we need to be the change. As I grew up I realized that the city wasn’t changing much. I just didn’t want to be in the city anymore. The more environment conscious I got, I felt living in the city was poisoning my body, my mind and poisoning the future of my children too. At that time, I felt the best thing to do was to walk out of that kind of life where you have no control over what is happening. No matter what you do in places like that, it could perhaps, improve the lives of a few people; but, things don’t change drastically.

I felt that effective work could be more realised in the rural areas where you could perhaps take control over certain things and your children can feel secure.

I felt, by your very presence in a village you make a difference. The idea was that we come to a rural location, grow our own food because you need food to stay alive.

SIR JJ School of Art, Mumbai 

First three years of my life at JJ School of Art was honestly, worrying. I didn’t know why I was doing that course because I didn’t want to create concrete buildings etc. By the third year I was quite sure that I wanted to drop it. I realised that the only way we could bring about a change is through children. So, I thought I will work in a school. I, however, didn’t want to work in a normal school because I didn’t feel I would connect there.

I wrote to Shantiniketan asking if I could work with them though I didn’t have a degree. I believe that Rabindranath Tagore’s style of learning from nature, with nature, in nature is wonderful. They responded welcoming me. I had the post card in my hand and was all set to go because I was tired of everything I was doing. But, nature takes its own course because at that point there was this programme from HUDCO. Four students were sponsored from many colleges to go and meet Laurie Baker and a trip to Auroville. I thought I might as well use this opportunity to travel a bit before I dropped out. So, I went to Thiruvananthapuram for a 15-day exposure trip. That changed everything for me. Meeting somebody like Laurie Baker is a total inspiration.

At Auroville, I saw this house of an architect called Poppo Pingel. I fell in love with the work and I felt I should complete my architecture course. I started seeing possibilities.

To this day, I think more than the college, it was the opportunity to meet people who dared to work differently and become pioneers in their right.

Destination Dharmapuri

I have observed that farmers, in general, are not respected. There is a mind-set that the task of growing food is delegated to those who are considered incapable of doing anything else. All these things bothered us and we wanted to understand the life of a farmer. We felt that we have no right to advice a farmer if we didn’t know and understand their ways of living. So, we started farming. We bought a plot of land in Dharmapuri.

My husband and I were fresh graduates and had not worked in any companies to earn money. There are people who tell themselves that they will earn enough money before plunging into something like this. My take was that in such scenarios nothing happens. You don’t do anything after earning money. By the time, you have earned enough, land gets pricier. So, we decided to buy a plot of land with the money we had at that point. We had
Rs 45,000/- with us and we decided to go for whatever land we get for that money. We believed we could work on the land and change it over time. So, we bought this 12 acres of land for Rs. 30000/-.

Dharmapuri is more or less the driest district in Tamil Nadu. Our average yield point is about 500 in our location though in the Dharmapuri town it is about 800. The plot we bought was a wasteland. We did soil and water conservation work, levelled the land to make it arable and gradually began farming. We started with millets and traditional crops. In those days, the farmers around us were still doing multi cropping. There were 7-10 varieties of different crops in one field. This was in 1992. My agricultural experience was nil. I have always been an architect and was in Mumbai all my life. The only exposure I had with agriculture was when I went to my grandmother’s place in Uttar Pradesh every year for our summer vacation. The 2 months I was there used to make me very happy. That also contributed to me thinking that something was wrong with the social structure in a city environment. You can’t find happiness there.

A New Leaf

When I first came here to Dharmapuri, everything was new – the place, the language, the people – everything! So, once we had this plot of land, the first thing we needed to do was soil and water conservation work because we had very little soil. Most of our land was hard rock and stones.

We used the stones itself to create crescent bunds to arrest erosion, slow down the pace of water on the slopes. We have around 30-40 degree slope on the land. Then, we made some bunds etc. along the edges of the fields that we were levelling.

In a couple of years, we had soil where we could plant trees. Overtime, we planted at least 1000-2000 trees per year out of which about 500 survived. I used to plant a tree and feed it with 1 litre of water in 3 days because that was all the water we had. We had no ground water. We had an open well that gave us just enough water – about 50-60 litres a day, which I had to draw manually. With that water, and our conversations with nature we watered our plants telling them that, that was the best we could do and urging them to do their best, given the situation.

By doing just that, nature has been very supportive. We now have a young forest and enough space where we can grow our food. We have a lot of varieties of trees on our land and a lot of natural regeneration of local species has happened on our land. 

In the long run, for our family, we grew to be more than self-sustaining. We had enough to eat and sell.

The birth of Puvidham

Once we started our school in 2000, and with the hostel and children staying with us, we couldn’t sell anymore. In fact we had to even purchase from local farmers to fulfil our needs. We had about 40 children. Initially it was all local children, my two children included. We had a teacher whose son also used to come along and a few drop-out children who used to watch us while grazing their animals.

Our house is an open space. You can see our big veranda where we did our school activities that involved theatre and singing, etc. There were children who got inquisitive seeing these things and came enquiring if they could also learn something. So, word of mouth from child to child made it known that there was a school running. Children started coming with their parents.

Learning was from 11am to 2pm, because in the mornings, we are all out on the farm, working and taking care of animals. In the evening again we are very busy watering our plants and ushering the cows in. In the afternoon also we have education happening. Couple of parents mentioned that that was the first time their child showed interest in studies.

The parents were okay with our school timings as long as it helped their children. So, in our first year, we had 7 children – 4 drop outs and my 2 children and the teacher’s son. The following year we had 15 children, which grew gradually. At some point we had about 150 children.

Initially we didn’t take any remuneration. But overtime, we had to put down a fee structure to keep it going. We realised that people needed to value what they got. When things are free, it tend to be taken for granted. We observe the same fee structure that we had back then, today as well. The earnings of one day makes up for a month’s fees and earnings for 5 days makes the hostel fee for a month. There are, of course, people who couldn’t pay because of genuine reasons. For them, we don’t press on the remuneration much. But, most people pay up.

The Puvidham Rural Development Trust

The Trust was formed after the school took birth, in 2002. We had about 35 children and we realized that we could not fund it ourselves anymore and hence, the Trust. The members of the Trust are our friends, from Bangalore and Chennai. There is this organization called Asha for Education who has been supporting us from the beginning till date.

The Challenging Ride

Initially, there were a lot of challenges. Besides the challenges to develop the land we had, our neighbours created issues because this land was a waste land that they used as grazing land for their own animals. Once we bought this piece of land, we fenced it and tried protecting it. We didn’t want to use metal and stone and we didn’t have the money either. Thorn bushes worked better for us. So, they did try to pull that down, pull out our saplings etc.

We took it in our stride -it wasn’t a path of roses. We just kept planting. We didn’t see any point fighting with them or feeling bad about it. We continued planting. When we started planting seeds, it was more difficult to be pulled out. And then gradually, they finally gave up.

Slowly, we had conversations with our neighbours. We told them that they could come and cut grass for their animals, if they wanted it. So, that led to developing a relationship with them. At times, they can be totally unreasonable. But, when you are in the right direction, things will eventually shape up.

Once the school started, people’s outlook began to change. They felt something good happening. Slowly, the message went out that we didn’t want to bother anybody neither be bothered. Now, nobody bothers us. They approach us if they need help. But, they don’t want to create a bad relationship. They want to be in good terms with us – a huge thing, indeed!

The way of life in a rural set up is hard. It was hard and it is till date. But, if we don’t live a life exercising our body fully then we tend to lose contact with our soul. Our soul tends to achieve whatever it is supposed to through our body. If we put our body on a couch and sit in an air conditioned room, the soul loses out. So, working with the body is the only way of human evolution through which the evolution of spirit also can be achieved. It is enjoyable. When you work the whole day in the sun, sleep embraces you in the night. In the days when we used to level the land, we used to work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. As soon as we got home, took a bath, ate and lay down, we were asleep. There was no space for worry or tension.  We woke up to a completely new day, fresh thoughts and went enthusiastically back to the same work.

Today, we have a lot of local people who have begun interacting with us with school activities etc. We are Gandhiyans. I am a stalwart who believes that we should live a very minimalistic life. If we want to give back anything to nature, then we have to take as little as needed.

Puvidham – The School

Our school is a minimalist school. The children are taught to reuse, recycle, manufacture from whatever they find. The children do a lot of physical work. At school, until 11 they are all in the garden doing something physical. If we are building something, we have materials being transported, working with the masons, etc. Every afternoon we are producing something – soaps, clay articles, we make something from wood, spinning yarn,etc. We are working all the time. Then, there is cleaning and maintenance of the place. There is very little time for academics and there is very little need for it too. I think we get into unnecessary information which doesn’t have any link with life.

We are a primary school, located 20 kms from Dharmapuri town. We also run a bridge program through the Central Government, which is called the National Child Labor Prevention Programme. We had lots of children who used to work in this area. We got them to pass through their Std 8 and join 9th and 10th at a government school. We still have that. We have now registered with NIOS.

Now, we have children from very different places also. We have children from Coimbatore, Bangalore, Chennai, Erode, etc. These are children whose parents feel that the current education system doesn’t impart happiness, or knowledge, for that matter. These parents and children choose to come here and be part of nature. They want to learn a way of life that is self-reliant. That is what we focus on.

At Puvidham, we don’t promise marks. We focus on developing complete individuals with as much humanity as possible and with as much capability and ability that one’s body can support. This enables children to do whatever it is they want in life. If your ideas are to work with nature and enhance your space, then you will be learning everything that you need to.

Life Outside the School

I used to be at the school most of the time until about 4-5 years back. Now, I have handed over the school to the team that is here. I have started my architecture work again. I work with Earth Construction.

I do buildings with mud. I have begun a little bit of that activity. Then, I have meetings to attend to and sharing a little bit about Puvidham. I have never done all this before.

I am grateful every minute of the day that I am able to do what I am doing – no regrets at all. I feel that hard work, though it may be, there is a lot of peace in this way of life. It is toiling for the body, wonderful for the mind and beautiful for the spirit.

Contact

Email: director.meenakshi@puvidham.in 

Megha Saban – IBDP Facilitator – The Aga Khan Academy, Hyderabad

Fascinated by Chemistry, Ms Megha Saban shares the same chemistry with her passion to teach as well. Ms Megha speaks about her chemistry with her subject, her teaching, her students and the schools she has taught at. Her sharp observations and aspirations has made this conversation very enriching.

Please introduce yourself and what got you interested in plunging into the education career?
I come from a small town in Madhya Pradesh called Jabalpur. I was born and brought up there. I studied at St Joseph’s convent. After my schooling, I graduated and post graduated in Science, specializing in organic Chemistry. I am an MSc Gold Medallist.
I then, joined St. Xavier’s High School in Jabalpur. During my career there I was truly taken in by the influence that teachers have on children. In our convent school, not many parents come and interact with teachers much unless a parent-teacher meeting is called for. But, it was different at St. Xavier’s. By the time, we wrap up for the day, most parents come and enquire how their child was doing; they would voice what their children tell about us at home, etc.
While working at St. Xavier’s I did my Bachelor of Education; I was part of that school for about 4.5 years before I got married off and settled in Ahmedabad.
In Ahmedabad, I joined Eklavya International School. In about a year’s time, I was on the family way and hence, took a 3-year gap. It is after that that I entered the international education field.
I was stunned by the manner in which you can teach concepts without instilling rote learning at international schools. I have been teaching the IB Diploma Programme and IGCSE for the past 7-8 years. It has remarkably made a positive influence in me and strengthened my belief that being a teacher is one of life’s best choices I have made.

What made you interested in Chemistry as a subject?
Chemistry is something wherein you get to see the results then and there itself. The good thing about chemicals is that you can see the reactions happening. Chemistry fascinates me – the colours, the sounds, and the intensity of the reaction. You don’t get all these in Physics, Biology etc. Getting to see reactions is something unique to Chemistry.
In Biology, you get to make some slides or dissect a few animals. In Physics, you get to do hypothetical experiments which may or may not correlate with what you see. But in Chemistry, if you take chlorine in a sample of salt, for instance, you get to replicate this experiment in toothpaste and see for yourself if there is chlorine in your toothpaste, or face cream etc.
I remember in my last school, one of the Admin Directors bought a cream which claimed to be ammonia-free. She knew that no cream could be ammonia-free so she gave it me to check if there is ammonia present in it or not. I, of course, couldn’t tell it quantitatively but we have tests in Chemistry to check if ammonia is present in something or not. Likewise, there are simple chemical tests that you can perform with things around you. This can be to check adulteration in your food stuff, presence of chlorine in your toothpaste or ammonia in your face cream, etc. I am truly fascinated by Chemistry.

You mentioned that at St. Xavier’s, parents would come and tell you teachers what children tell about you at their homes and that feedback is what got you more rooted in this career. What do you think you are doing right that gets children to talk about you?
Children won’t understand a subject unless they understand a teacher. The first thing you have to do in class is to make children comfortable.
Chemistry is a frightening subject for many children. Even now when I teach in Grade 11, we have a batch of 40 students who opted for Chemistry. They were apprehensive of how they would make through with Chemistry. I assure them that all they have to do was just be with me and journey through. I tell them to take it one class at a time and spare themselves of thinking of the big picture because that is what we are there for. I am very particular not to start teaching until I instill confidence in my students and they feel comfortable and confident in me.

How do we get there by being fair?
As a student myself, I have seen how students in teachers’ good books get special favours and these things happen so naturally that rarely is the teacher conscious of the partially he/she is showering. Subconsciously you respond better to your favourite students’ questions. One rarely thinks about the quieter students in class. This subconscious act instills the thought that only good and outgoing students can excel in life.
Teachers should take the effort of making the quiet students open up and express their level of understanding. If this vibe is not present, those neglected students would never understand the subject. So, building a rapport with all your students is extremely crucial. Once your students are comfortable, you can make them run, walk or anything and everything you want them to do.
My mantra of teaching is to first build every child’s confidence. Once they have confidence in me, they are in an acceptance mode and that is what we want.

And, you feel that this one thing in itself makes a huge difference.
That is the first step. Unless they are with you in your boat, your whole essence of teaching is void. You have to first make sure they are with you. So, build the rapport and be in line with them.
All students are not going to understand using one methodology. Different students have different needs. Our aim should be to understand what it takes to build that understanding in the minds of each and every one of your students. It can be through a presentation, group work, etc. Understand what it takes so that all students are on the same page as you. Strategize your class so that the concepts are accepted.

When we are in school, as a student, or even as a teacher it is all about completing portions and examinations that needs to be given. The success of it all depends on the grades that students get. Do you feel that pressure that at the end of the day, you just have to get the students to pass the exam?
I understand. I think, marks are very deceptive. It doesn’t help judge the intellect of students. Having said that, unfortunately in this world, we are only concerned about marks. People who score high are valued. So, I do weekly tests. I keep it simple and assure my students that these marks are not going to be recorded anywhere. Those tests are for them and me to understand where they are standing in terms of understanding the subject.
Once the students get comfortable with the fact that these marks are not going to be recorded, they work better towards it. As soon as you put the pressure that marks will get recorded, out of sheer pressure they may under perform. We have formal monthly tests. But we have these informal small weekly tests as well to get an understanding of their understanding.
In one of my classes, there was this student who would never score well in the monthly tests. The weekly tests helped him overcome his fear. He has been open about his nervousness when writing the monthly tests. So, I assured him that we will have these tests in a controlled environment – writing the exam in an examination room. Gradually he got better and I was really happy for the child when he overcame that fear because he was a truly hard working child. So, it is up to us teachers to strategize and guide children out of the fears they hold.

What are those opportunities where you look at new ideas and strategies and pick it up? Is it from your own learning experience or do you have the other faculty from whom you can learn? How do you keep yourself updated?
The best people to keep me updated are my students. If your students do not understand your teaching, you have to look for different opportunities. In IB, we have an international community of teachers, wherein we can discuss those areas where we get stuck and other teachers let us know how they would have dealt with a similar situation. I keep myself updated and am a regular person at that forum. It helps me a lot.
I also check if the proposed strategy works with the students or not. I have had this student from Thailand. In Thailand, they are not very comfortable with the English language. I am teaching states of matter – a very basic thing. But he isn’t able to understand. So, I have to go back and show him what solids, liquids and gases are. You cannot expect such questions from a Class X student. But then, you have to go back and try and understand whether he/she really understand what you teach. If not, you will have to build different strategies.
So, I gave them a paper and asked them to make small balls out of it and arrange it on a paper to show the arrangement in a solid body and then for liquid and gas. He understood the concept with that activity.

I see that you have been with Kodaikanal International School and the Aga Khan Academy, Hyderabad. Do these schools organize workshops, trainings, etc.?
Yes, in IB there are workshops organized for the subject as well as for the core elements. When the teachers share ideas, it gets us thinking if we can implement any of those ideas in our own class. We have lots of opportunities for interaction with each other.
The other day I was teaching my students how to build the Melting and Heating Point Curves. We saw that the same concept of plotting data on excel sheet was taught in Math. So, we – the Math teacher and I – collaborated with each other and did a combined class to understand how Math and Science works together. That way, children can take a concept from Science and try to build their knowledge of Math and vice versa.

Does the school organize workshops for teachers as well, wherein you get to travel and see others places as well?
When I was in my first international school, I had no idea what the international curriculum was all about. My first international school, KIIT, Bhubaneshwar sent me to attend a workshop in Mumbai, after I completed an online workshop. They sent me to Mumbai for IB training, following which I had to go to The British School, New Delhi.
There I informally learned a lot about the working pattern of IB schools. If we have a formal structure, the workshop is designed and is presented by a person who has an agenda in mind and they would cover only those points. But the best part of being part of an informal visit is that you can ask as many questions as you please. You can divide the day as per your convenience. The visit to that British School worked really well for me to plan my way ahead. Likewise, most schools that follow the international curriculum send inexperienced teachers to such workshops.

As a teacher in an international school, would it be right to say that facilities such as getting an environment/support to learn new strategies, to collaborate, etc. are confined to international schools alone? Or, do you see it happening in our ICSE/CBSE/State Board schools as well?
I had mentioned that I was a part of St. Xavier’s School. Xavier’s is an ISC school and it has branches all over India. But, it depends on what the community want? How does the higher administration cater to the requirements of their teachers? That is what counts.
St.Xavier’s functions like a normal school. You teach a subject and the world over there is just about you and your students. There are no collaboration opportunities. It functions like a secluded compartment.
I was part of Eklavya School, which again functioned with compartmentalization. But the higher admin, made sure that you collaborated. They organised weekly meetings wherein everybody talks about something or the other. So, opportunities for teachers depend on the higher admin’s vision.
IB is a very successful program and so is ISC. If you ask me which I’d like to be part of, it will be Eklavya School because the management there was extremely helpful. I was appointed at Eklavya to teach Grade 12 ISC. I didn’t know that internally a teacher wanted to take over that class. She was not given the opportunity for whatever reason. When I joined that school, she was very indifferent to me. She was also candid enough to ask me why I couldn’t resign. I resigning was beyond my understanding.
One day when I was absent, she came over and enquired about the reason for my absence. Before I could answer, our Principal intervened and asked why she was after me all the time and reprimanded saying that she had no right enquiring the reason behind my absence, etc. If you are new to a school and a senior teacher decides to bully you and the Principal intervenes positively, it is a huge relief.
The difference is all about the management. Otherwise, between teachers, there is no difference. In fact, I am of the opinion that CBSE teachers are much more knowledgeable than anybody else. But the manner in which they are supplemented matters a lot.

How about your current school? Is it a fully residential school?
Not exactly. It is a day cum residential school. We have day boarders and we have some students living in boarding. We have weekly boarders as well who come for 5 days and they go home for the weekends.
The best part about this school is that if you have talent, you stand to get 100% scholarship. In whichever part of the world you reside, if the school recognises your talent, they pick you and sponsor your studies, clothing, and food and to and fro travel from home as well. They even sponsor trips for parents who want to visit.
There is no divide between the rich and the poor. We have no clue which students are supported versus which are not. We have a very balanced approach that way. In most schools, if you think about it, there is a fine line of divide between the rich and the poor. This school is devoid of that.

Am I correct in understanding that this is a very recent school?
Yes, it started in 2010. It has been around for 9-10 years old and has branches all over the world.
In fact, the Aga Khan framework has many other programmes other than teaching. They are into humanitarian work, finance services etc. Hence, it operates in many sectors.

If you didn’t come into the teaching space, what do you think you would have ventured into? Any regrets some times?
If not teaching, I would have been a singer. But, teaching was on my mind 90% of the time. The way you interact with people and get new ideas from students is really very exciting. There is no inhibition for students to talk to teachers.
I remember last year we had an exchange program with students from Africa. I am not very good at Social Studies. All along my life, I have read that in Egypt there is one river called the Nile and I understood that Nile is the main river. While teaching I happened to say that in Egypt there is just one river. At that point the African students refrained from getting up and shouting at me.
They came up to me while leaving the class and queried if I would be offended if they told me something. Upon my consent, they elaborated that there are many more rivers in Africa other than the Nile. I was very impressed by how gently and calmly they gave me that information.

What has been some of the frustrating moments of your career?
The frustrating moment is when the school calendar does not align with your calendar. There are certain times when it should only be studies but the school decides to take the students away for a project. I understand that the admin also has their own way of working but sudden surprises in the academic calendar, which is fixed at the beginning of the year, disturbs the rhythm of the students.
Yesterday, for instance, we had a class, the students then had to go for a lab class where they had to perform calculations. In between that one of the teachers from the admin section came over to take photos on the iPad. It is a one minute job for the admin – go out and click a picture but not so for the students. It is a disturbance in their rhythm of activities and it takes time for them to settle back. These things can be frustrating. In fact, a student even voiced their difference in opinion about sudden spark of such activities. It is a put off.

What are your aspirations looking forward?
Eventually I want to become a diploma program coordinator wherein I get to see how other subjects are being handled as well. In IB you have to choose subjects. Sometimes or most of the times, students tend to choose these subjects based on how many of his/her friends chose that subject. Sometimes once in a class, they realize that that subject is not really their cup of tea. The coordinator is someone who can influence their choice, positively. So, I aim to be in that position someday.

Contact: linkedin.com/in/megha-saban-1a222255

Richa Joshi Pant – Biology Faculty, Welham Girls’ School

Talking to Ms Richa Joshi Pant brings light to the fact that being a teacher is not enough to bring in effectiveness. Being an empathetic teacher brings in effectiveness to the position you hold. One needs to see the valuable post one holds when they adorn this profession. As a teacher, you have a long stint, to make or break an entire generation.

Can we have a brief introduction about yourself and your education?
I am a Biology teacher and have been teaching for almost 18 years now. During the course of my career I have studied and taught in various schools across India.
I did my schooling at Baroda and Bombay. I did my college- graduation, post-graduation and B Ed – at Chennai. Then, I did my Masters in Education at the University of Punjab.
When it comes to teaching, I have taught at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. Right now I am in a residential school called Welham School located at Dehradun. It is a very famous residential school for girls. I teach Biology for IX, X, XI and XII. I have also taught in Maharaja Sawai Man Singh Vidayalaya in Jaipur.
I personally feel I am getting better every year with my teaching. One advantage of teaching in the school where I teach now is that the class strength is not more than 24 -27. Also, it is a residential school. So, you get time with the students all day. Once in a week I even do my prep duties.
The entire environment in a boarding school is completely different. You are not just a teacher there. You are also a mentor, a friend and in many ways you get aligned to many things that may not be directly correlated to the subject you teach. This has given me a very interesting and valuable experience in teaching. Recently I took a group of students to the National University of Singapore to attend a Science camp. When we travel, we get to see those aspects of students that we miss in a school environment.
I would also say that more than the content, there are amazing skills that we inculcate – social awareness in children. We talk to them about the current issues, current development in Biology to help them think, have intelligent arguments, to understand logic better.
I also have a lesson plan – a flexible one. I am of the opinion that spontaneity plays a very important role in my teaching methodology. For example, today I was teaching about nutrition. For some students this may seem repetitive because they do it in junior schools as well. So, we decided to do note making activity. I helped them write all the keywords using different colours. I use a lot of voice modulation also.
In a residential school, these children wake up at 5 o’clock. Also, they would have an hour of games before they are in your class. And so, you may lose their attention if you have a monotonous tone; give them the same old mundane examples, if your class is a one-way conversation, etc. You get your instant feedback when you see 3-4 sleeping heads. So, the trick here is to make your lesson very interesting.
In the present times, it is very important to catch hold of a child’s attention span when they have a lot of screen time, amazing animation and high class teaching available on the internet. A teacher cannot risk being boring. If you do that it will prove to be a huge disadvantage and you will sooner or later be obsolete.

Did you have any role models in your early years who have influenced your teaching methodologies?
It has not been any one person. I remember some good teachers. I remember one teacher during my graduation. I also remember some bad experiences I have had with some teachers. When I became a teacher myself, I have it in my head what I should not do. I strive not to be sarcastic to children because I feel that children are unable to handle it, especially in Middle School.
In India because of the fact that we venerate teachers we see it as a hierarchical relationship. When you are sarcastic with children, although that child may be wittier than you she may freeze and not respond. So, it is very rude and damaging for a teacher to be sarcastic. A teacher may scold and reprimand but do it directly rather than being sarcastic.
Sarcasm has left me with very bad experiences in my early days. Given that I have been part of different schools; I had to really over perform to gain attention of teachers and make new friends. I also think empathy plays a very important role in bonding with children especially when you spend long hours with them.
I believe Khan Academy also has helped me a lot. I am very impressed with Salman Khan, the founder of Khan Academy – the way he brought teaching to the doorstep. He made a huge difference to so many different people living in poor households. His natural take to teaching is amazing. He even admits when he makes a mistake. Given that it is a video on the internet, he can always redo the video and make it perfect. But he chooses to leave the human factor in there. I think those videos also have had a huge influence on me.

You mentioned that institutions should give freedom to teachers. What prompted you to mention that?
I think I am lucky to be part of a school where teachers decide a lot on how they can go about their class. When I read about a lot of things, when there are coordination meetings for paper corrections etc., I understand that many schools have a lot of paper work expected out of teachers.
Another thing is similar to we not telling a doctor what he needs to be doing, or any other profession for that matter, we should give that space for teachers as well. I see people who do not teach taking workshops for teachers. Besides being humiliating, I think it is a huge waste of time. I think authorities have the right to sit in a class to understand the effectiveness of a person’s teaching methodology but other than that there should be some amount of trust invested in the person you have selected to be part of your institution.
I think institutions should take feedback from teachers as well. Feedback can go to teachers as well. But not trusting her intuition can be very damaging and guiding her all the time until she retires is pushing down the confidence level.
In private organisations, considering job security a teacher just tends to keep quiet and not voice such discomfort. But, in turn she will lose motivation because she is asked to only listen and do what the higher authorities ask of her. It seems as if her written plan is more important than what she teaches in class. I mean, let’s take Salman Khan’s Khan Academy for instance; what lesson plan does he have?
The big schools with huge infrastructure have a tendency to protect what the school looks from the outside. I see continuous tweets from some schools on what they have been doing. When you are bothered about advertising what you do all the time, it will definitely take a toll on what you actually do in the class and this indirectly affects the students.

Assuming you were part of a rural environment school where children do not have electricity at their homes, how do you think you would handle those students? Private schools are only bothered about results.
I have, honestly, never taught in a rural set up. But I feel that in our country, there is always this pressure to complete the syllabus. I have taught over the internet as well. Currently, I teach in an ICSE school. But, my understanding is that in other curriculum and in schools abroad, the stress is more on application.
I feel that in a rural set up the teacher may not be able to teach everything she knows. Even if she inspires and instills hope that those children can do it, considering that children may not be on an equal social set up, is an achievement. Even if a child is not doing very well at some point in time, there can be progress.
There is one child in my class who barely gets her passing grade. Out of 5 subjects, she will fail in at least 2. But I know she is an amazing event manager. Each time there is a function, she swings to action. She does so much of running around and arranging things without even being told. I am sure she has the ability to pass in her public exams. You never know how successful she would be in life – she may open her own event management company someday. I think as teachers the most important factor is we don’t let hope die.
Even if they don’t make passing grades, we should as teachers, keep reiterating that they will still do well. It is important to tell them to improve grades but it is more crucial to make them strong human beings.
Refrain from clichéd sentences and speak genuinely. Give them examples of people who have excelled in spite of not doing well in exams. I think this is extremely important especially in a rural set up. They can be children coming from homes that may not be attentive to them or their folks may be the kind who doesn’t know or doesn’t have the time to encourage them. I also think it takes a lot of hard work to give customized tests to children to understand what they are really good at, but it helps. Choose to give customized tests instead of giving a standard test to them all.
I feel, rather than, giving a recipe for this scenario, it is best if the teacher in that situation is really empathetic and into making a difference for these children, they will find a way out. It is a surety.

There seems to be a lot of concern based on syllabus – completion of syllabus, teaching for exams etc. So, what else can a teacher do in such situations because the teacher is also under a lot of pressure because at the end of the day, the whole society – parents, school community etc. focus on grades. As a teacher, is it pressuring for you? How much of freedom do you get to teach with innovation?
Definitely! I feel there is a lot of pressure. There are two things. What I tell my children is that there is a way to get marks. Getting marks is not difficult. I am a Biology teacher and an examiner too. So, I know how they can get marks and I tell them that. I say it is okay to work for marks. When they are in class X and XII, we gear them to work towards marks. But, whilst they are in classes up to Std. IX, we can get them to explore to experiment and read. They can do scientific reading like how DNA was discovered, etc. May be in one class for 20 minutes teachers could read a passage and inspire them.
Completing syllabus and getting marks is definitely an important thing. These days tuition has become an inevitable part and we cannot deny the hype that tuition have and parents enroll their students for tuition. I also get a lot of requests from students who want me to teach them.
When I teach them in a tuition class, it is a totally different approach. I, along with my students split a paragraph into points. We make points. When you split a huge paragraph – a huge concept – into points it becomes very easy.
In India, as far as CBSE and ICSE are concerned, you seldom get an application based question. They can score marks. But in every class there will be two or three children who will definitely go beyond books. They are wired that way. They don’t care much for marks. They are the ones who will ask you more questions. You have to be patient in answering them. You should advise them with more readings that they can do. I have seen that whenever we have practical classes, at the end of the class there will be one or two of them who will come up and ask if they can check out something under the microscope. I let them do it. After all no teacher teaches everything! We are not even equipped to teach everything. If you ignite a spark and leave an impression, we can teach them how they can learn themselves – with the internet, with the computer. They have the right to satisfy their curiosity.
It is not that getting marks is not a worthy goal. It is important to get them into good colleges. But then, I tell my students who don’t make it to the best colleges that it is not the end of the world. Graduation in a lesser college is also okay.
I know a boy who did not do well at all in Class XII. He was very good at coding. He learned C++ when he was in Class VII and he did his graduation from a private college. Just after graduation, he is now in a start-up organisation. So, you will get through at some college or the other. Good colleges matter – they give you good exposure. But what also matters is what you read – what the library can teach you, what your experiences can teach you. That also means a lot. So, one should have an integrated approach.
I have also known students who have done well in every subject – got around 98-99 percentage in Class X and they have no clue what to do after that. They are in doubt whether to do Commerce because their mother says so.
So, when you are simply pushing them towards marks without any other kind of motivation to arouse their curiosity, they will be awarded with marks and nothing else.

Motivation is one thing. Now, when there are children with different intelligence level in one class and there are different approaches that suit different children, how can we get the attention of all students in the class at the same time?
This aspect exists everywhere. There are students who learn better by looking at a diagram. I understand that it is difficult to cater to every child. But at the same time, it is essential to understand that multiple intelligence doesn’t mean that a child who grasps concepts fast with diagrams will only learn through diagrams. Predominantly, diagrams help that child understand faster. It doesn’t mean he needs to be kept alien to the things written on the board. I think, once you have a rapport with the child; once the child sees you as a safe person to ask questions, he will open up. Like I said before, it is impossible to teach everything. Just arouse curiosity.
There are children who like to go outside – have classes outdoors. The moment I enter the class, there are some students who ask if I can teach outdoors. There are times when I agree to that and there are times when I don’t because at times I need the board and chalk.
I think it is up to the teacher to make the classroom a safe place for students. If children feel scared to ask a question for avoiding a mocking statement; not offend the teacher and avoid belittling statements, people who do these things, should not become teachers.
You should understand that you are dealing with up to 17 year olds and biologically speaking the brain is still developing. If you want children to be disciplined, like stand as soon as you come etc., I think teaching them manners is yes, important. But, humiliating them for something they haven’t done and starting a 15 min lecture then and there is not what a teacher should do.
Teachers should understand that learning is gradual and should exhibit patience. Sometimes, they will make mistakes. Multiple intelligence is important. But, more than anything else it is an ability to understand them and give them a safe place to learn.

Contact: richajp@gmail.com

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.

Contact: Email-arindampaul1@gmail.com
linkedin.com/in/arindampaul2