We asked India’s leading educators and academicians about the reforms in the education sector that they would recommend to the Modi government over the next 5 years. This is what had to say.
Mr. Ravindra Vithani, Director
Vidyashilp Academy, Bangalore
About five thousand years before the birth of Christ, as it is said in the great volumes, the decadent society and its own misinterpretations faced great crisis in its spiritual and cultural history.
The scholars were engaged in the quest of complete scientific thesis. In the process, what appeared on the scene was the emergence of many schools of philosophy. Many of them, even now, continue their individual growth through different faiths and philosophies. In their quest, certain facts got clarified that each human being possesses his own perception, assessment and judgment, which often is in variance from the ‘absolute truth’.
Hence, we can deduce that each human is a unique individual guided by his unique faculty which when allowed to promote freely, is excited and energized about solving even difficult challenges. This is where the education system has to undergo a sea change. Children should be allowed to explore in such an environment rather than a rigid, fixed and repetitive enforcement leading to grading, numbering and branding the child (both at school and by the parents). It only creates a miserable life for the child, like standing for cross-examination in a witness box to justify regardless whether his brain has competency for certain concepts.
Drawing from this, human phenomena and psychology 16 years ago, a school in Bangalore, Vidyashilp Academy, developed conviction that learning cannot be complete and that the learner cannot neither be excited nor challenged, if he has to memorize a piece of information through the pages of the textbook merely for the purpose of transferring it on to the next media with or without understanding. Added to this follows the cyclical process of worksheets, class tests, mid-term tests and a final exam. These processes and practices not only add to the boredom due to repetition but also, make them averse. This might be one of the high-level reasons that students drop out. The present evolving generation has a quick mind, higher intellectual level, ready to grasp concepts and eager to take up greater challenges. They belong to a hi-tech and global society, but are still made to ride on principles and practices that are not applicable to them.
This school, Vidyashilp Academy, decided to dispense with textbooks, worksheets, class tests, homework and examinations up to grade VI and replaced this process with concept-based learning using lesson plans. These lesson plans are constructed by the teachers themselves using sourced materials. We are now able to boast of 11,500 lesson plans created up to grade VI.
The process is not limited only up to grade VI. We have extended it up to grade XII with a modified format. The central concept is held steadfast and a ring of information is built around it with real-life relevance and wherever possible, real-life application of these concepts is demonstrated.
The lesson plan begins with a bibliography where a child is familiarized with the topic. This triggers an urge, inquisitiveness and focus through the introduction of the topic which is delivered with both, explanation and interaction. This is followed by sequential sub-topics with elaborate debates, discussions and probing questions. With all the questions, four options are provided. This enables the child to process and select his answer after careful consideration and evaluation of each option. He is allowed to select his answer using the button on the dedicated remote allotted to each child. Once all questions are answered, the summary of the right or wrong answers appear on a big screen instantly for the students to self-evaluate. This, in turn, leads to immediate self-correction. Debating their concept and conviction by consulting with their group and/or challenging the teacher while sharing their perception is encouraged.
About 60% of the class time, is utilized to establish the concept the other 40% is utilized to conduct a group activity. Such activities are woven into the lesson plan and help reinforce concepts taught. Such collaborative efforts help students to get a thorough understanding of the concept. Tolerating different perceptions and a sense of inventing knowledge is cultivated.
The teacher acts as a facilitator in this creative environment. He/she observes the process, assess the level-specific aspects of the lesson plan and documents variations for discussion and modification in the next subject meeting.This meeting is attended by the subject teachers and is held every week. Issues and outcomes are documented by the subject coordinator. In the following week, the minutes of the meeting are further discussed with the subject heads.
All aspects of learning are evaluated and evolve every week. It includes the scope of the learning tools and the lesson plans.
All subject teachers collaborate and distribute assignments for debates, discussions and make collective decisions regarding content before digitizing the lesson plan and uploading it on the server. We have a 12-member technology team continuously engaged in downloading resources, related illustrations and video clips for concept enhancement. Likewise, the students of a class are divided into groups of three for continuous collaboration by discussing their perceptions, assessment and judgment to finally arrive at ‘negotiated knowledge’.
What a student needs today is higher order learning allowing room for evolving. The learner or the student today has vast exposure, relevance and the possibility of application (both real and virtual). His/her intellectual appetite cannot be fed from information contained in the pages of text books. Neither, does he need repetition through continuous tests, homework and/or examinations. These are old weapons and the tools of control belong in the hands of the teachers and parents who deliver a judgment on the child’s memorization capacity.
This neither challenges the teacher nor the child to develop yearning for its relevance, application and enquiry to go beyond.
The evolving learner needs evolving education. The evolving education needs evolving teachers. Such approach needs support of suitable technology.
It is rightly said that, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. Lesson plans replacing text books could be done by uploading and storing lesson plans on the server and delivering the contents on large screens installed in the networked classrooms. The issue of assessment, in absence of traditional tools of grades and numbers posed a great concern, both at school and to the parent society. With collaboration and guidance from experts in the field, in the year 2001, the institution could develop dedicated remotes for question-answer slots followed by displaying a summary of individual performance, topic-by-topic performance and a report generation system individually for each learner. Also, the aggregate performance is available on the server.
The system allows access and download of huge resource material both for teachers to build lesson plans and for the students as pre-learning and for post-learning in the facility called the ‘e-learning lab’.
Institutions, which are under subjected to competition or those that recognise such a need for higher order learning capabilities, are the ones that evolve. Some others look for content designing agencies, counselors and other experts to de-stress learning segments. It is rarely that they realize that a powerful reaction is possible through a fully charged catalyst, the teacher.
Teacher themselves engage in research and through discussions with their peers create innovative and effective learning materials. This process generates ownership which urges one to assess the outcome and make changes wherever gaps are noticed.
It is because of such an urge that the ‘low performing learners’ are further nurtured in a separate session till they reach the class level.
So strong is the excitement of the subject group teachers to learn the art of releasing knowledge through powerful techniques that, they await their turn to be a presenter of a in a session called ‘Train the Trainers.’
Due to vast exposures, opportunities of enjoying exciting fields of engagements and experiencing technological, social and environmental developments, the present generation is a victim on one side and a fortunate recipient on another.
However, most time is spent indulging in these new era gadgets. This, causes erosion in development of basic skills required for learning and in the development of personality. The most affected skills are the reading and writing skills and the art of effective communication.
In order to turn this depleting trend into a competitive initiative, the school has created three student clusters:
i) Cluster 1 comprising grades I to III
ii) Cluster 2 comprising grades IV to VI
iii) Cluster 3 comprising grades VII to XII
These competitive activities fall under Shilp Beyond – beyond academic.
Shilp Encounter – Training sessions as part of the time table with four trainers are scheduled to help empower. This initiative offers five topics concerning contemporary issues.Due to vast exposures, opportunities of enjoying exciting fields of engagements and experiencing technological, social and environmental developments, the present generation is a victim on one side and a fortunate recipient on another.
Shilp Dew – As mentioned earlier, reading and writing takes a back seat in today’s age and era. To combat this, we have introduced journalism for the three clusters, each of them forming their own editorial team starting from a chief editor, subject-domain sub-editors, reporters, proof readers, digitizers and printers. Each of these groups works and publishes an edition of minimum 20 pages every five days and distributes it among the cluster members. By rotation, a team of five members from each section (each grade has six sections) survey the market and research collecting data about students’ appreciation of articles and other suggestions. They also indirectly induce them to subscribe for articles.
Shilp Greenergy – Concern towards environmental threats are an immediate priority and through awareness and specific programmes we strive to reduce and arrest further damage. Working models have been installed for recycling paper, worm composting, sewage water treatment plant, water harvesting and the Solar System to be able to learn about and appreciate the available resources on our planet today.
Shilp Sparsh – As the evolving economy offers more a buoyant life, the new generation does not get a chance to exercise empathy and concern towards the have-nots and the less fortunate.
In order to sensitise them and bring awareness about life on the other side of the coin, an initiative has been designed where on every Friday students are taken to the villages where they mingle with the children and society there.
To understand and realize that the society gifted to the ‘haves’ and the more fortunate is not the same everywhere, they work jointly towards uplifting various facilities. This initiative has transformed children to respect situations and individuals from different walks of life.
Equal importance is given to physical activities with a twin-objective of alternating between classrooms and open field both, for physical fitness and a relief from monotony. Sixteen sporting activities are offered with two sessions daily for each child.
Established in 2001, Educational Initiatives believes in making a difference in education through personalized learning and ensuring that students learn with understanding.
EI has over 15 years of expertise in education, with a deep understanding of child psychology and efficient methods of teaching, based on detailed research and a formidable database of student learning through ASSET.
Our detailed research has proven that children today respond to rote-based questions relatively well, however, they fail to answer unfamiliar or application based questions due to unclear core concepts.
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