Curriculum Development

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Jaipuria Schools

EI is proud to partner with Jaipuria Schools, Delhi. A prodigy of the parent school (Seth M. R.JaipuriaSchool, Lucknow),the JaipuriaSchools Franchise is a premier education organization. To share their experience, success and lessons learnt from the Lucknow school, the Jaipuria group has envisioned opening 50 new schools in India in the next 5 years.

   
 
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NISA Schools

Curriculum Development Project for NISA Schools

To ful fill our commitment to work with a range of schools functioning on differing budgets, EI is privileged to partner with the National Independent School Alliance (NISA) on a Curriculum Development project.

   
 
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Modern English School (MES)

EI in its endeavor to spread the value of effective teaching and learning practices across India, has recently entered into the curriculum development project work for the Guwahati based, “Modern English School”.

   
Projects

  • Blog

    Raise your hands and pat your backs

    This school visit for me was a very different one. To start off with, this was my first Effective-Teaching Learning workshop and unlike my other visits, this was not in either of the NISA schools. The students of DAV Sreshtha Vihar, fondly called the Sreshthas, are a whole bunch of enthusiastic young adults. I unfortunately did not get a chance to interact with them due to the on-going examinations. This branch of DAV was established in 1989 and has successfully completed 25 years of its existence. Belonging to the third largest chain of schools in India, DAV Sreshtha Vihar surely lives up to its expectations.

    Walking through the corridors of the academic block, something that gained my attention was the gayatri mantra:

    Om Bhurv Bhuva Swaha
    Tatsavitur Vareniyam
    Vargo Dewa Syadhi Mahi
    Dhiyo Yonah Prachodayat

    It is believed that if a person does the work given to him by chanting this mantra and instituting it within oneself, his/her life will be full of happiness. Keeping faith in this belief, the Sreshthas strive to become Sarv Sreshthas.

    The school’s leadership has committed itself to teacher training and wants its teachers to be empowered to be able to handle and solve the prevalent shortcomings in the classrooms. The school’s principal Mrs. Prem Lata Garg is a visionary, Mrs. Garg understands and accepts the need for Curriculum Development. It was quite enlightening to see the school leadership and teachers being so open to learning and implementing the changes.”

    Nivedita Ganguli, the school’s Counselling Psychologist, has lots of expectations from EI’s Effective Teaching Learning workshops. She feels that the workshop has created awareness on various aspects of teaching methodologies which was not present before. For her, a lot of classroom problems can be minimised if only the teachers’ capabilities are strengthened. “And ultimately what matters is that it should be a happy classroom”, says Nivedita.

    I also had the opportunity to interact with a few teachers post the workshop. Here is what Ms Preeti Singh had to say:


    I regret not being able to meet the students. Considering the level of enthusiasm and openness that the teachers possess, I only wonder how lively DAV’s students are. I look forward to meeting them some day.
    I have spent around two years in the field of education. Never have I seen a group so enthusiastic and driven towards teaching. It was heart-warming to interact with teachers who were really passionate about their profession, who wanted to make a difference in their students’ lives and who readily accepted their shortcomings and were willing to change the way they taught and evaluated their students. I have never appreciated the profession much. But I will now. There is a need for all of us to realise that the profession of teaching is not merely a back-up option for everyone. There are indeed a few who teach because of their love for the profession and because they feel and understand the need for quality teaching.

     

  • Blog

    Innovation and Instruction - A Good Teacher

    bookA good teacher is a spontaneous innovator. He often puts in new devices and techniques of formal and informal instruction. He also realises the importance of individual attention and invests time to engage himself in personal conversations with his pupils.

  • The Good Teacher Series

    Knower of Reality

    A good teacher knows reality and is able to distinguish between appearances and reality. Having known reality he should wish to uplift those who still live in the bondage of ignorance.

    A good teacher seeks pupils, even as a good pupil seeks a good teacher.

  • Field Notes

    T for Tiger

    “There is no way in hell that I am going to reach on time today!” I have had a very flustering morning. The taxi I booked last night was cancelled at the last moment and I have had to make numerous calls to the taxi agency to get the cab re-booked. Finally, after making 10 calls and being sent a taxi half an hour late, I could not help but worry about what my boss would say to me. The traffic, coupled with the fact that none of us knew the way to our destination, I struggled to get the directions for Mr. Rajesh Malhotra’s school on the phone. I couldn’t help but picture the school’s locality in my mind. Remember how I had written about the school in Shahdara that I had visited a few weeks back? Well that does not even stand to compare to Tigri Extension.

    Tigri is a well-populated area and is surrounded by establishments of the Air Force, BSF and CRPF. Driving down noisy congested roads before taking off on foot and surviving being crushed by a tempo, I tried retracing my steps to Sai Nath Public school through the narrow gullies of the colony on the second day. Now my main motive to visit these schools is to get an idea about its origin and the colony’s socio-economic environment, a slight hint of which I got when I ventured out of the school’s gate to get a few shots of the entrance. Ignoring the staring and hooting, I decided to carry on with my work.

    As I made my way back into the school again, I noticed a kindergarten class right next to the main gate. It was heart-warming to see a bunch of four year olds in their formative years, so eager to learn their first alphabets. I quietly go and park myself behind these kids. But it wasn’t for long that they noticed me and were awed by my camera. There is something about children. They are happy to pose for you at any given time of the day!

    As I strike up a conversation with Malhotra sir, I am told that he is a defence brat and I am unable to control my excitement. So sir and I start talking about the places we spent our childhood in before ending up in Delhi. Malhotra sir’s father was in the Air Force before he took a pre mature retirement in 1980 and decided to settle in Tigri, right opposite the Air Force Vayusenabadh. The family bought a piece of land and established the school which got registered in the early 90s before finally being recognised in 1996 by the Directorate of education. Found by Rajesh Malhotra’s mother, Mrs Kamlesh Malhotra, the school is run by the Sai Education Society and has two branches. The primary school, Sai Public School, is recognised till class 5 and Sai Nath Public School is upto class 8.

    An alumnus of the Air Force Bal Bharti school, Rajesh Malhotra calls himself a student leader by fluke. Malhotra sir worked in the NGO sector extensively before joining the school in 2008. He feels that there is an urgent need for upgrading the skills of the teachers. “There are a lot of old teachers whose skills are rusting and eroding, which of course is a natural process. They are the backbones of the school and what we need is to motivate them.”

    Recognising the need for quality teaching and management skills, Mr. Malhotra became one of the founding members of the NISA initiative. He has recently been introduced to the ISLI (Indian School Leadership Institute) which trains school managers and leaders on leadership and teaching skills for a year. The selection is a long process. Mr. Malhotra is hopeful that he gets through the programme. “There is a huge gap between thinking of something and actually executing it. ISLI will help me manage things in a better way. And I will in turn be able to transfer these skills to my teachers.”

    His dissatisfaction with the teachers is quite evident. He wants the teachers to think and come up with new teaching techniques. “Only lecturing is not fruitful. That is why the NISA- Educational Innovations workshop. I know how these workshops are going to help both the teachers and students. These teachers, the ones who are going to help with the lesson plans, are going to be different teachers once they are out of this training.”

    Mr. Malhotra agrees, “A lot of my teachers come up with constructivist ideas but only wishful thinking won’t help. Sometimes language becomes a barrier. That is one reason why I keep stressing on the English language during these sessions. It is very important for our students to learn the usage of proper grammar. Thoughts have to be paired with language skills.”

    As I try to grasp the needs of this school in terms of teacher training and curriculum development, I can hear a faint noise from one of the junior classrooms, “T for Tiger, U for Umbrella…” It is 12:30 pm. The bell rings in the courtyard, I can hear the children say their afternoon prayers before leaving to go back home. Tomorrow is going to be a usual day for them. I wonder if these students will be able to benefit from the various initiatives that their school’s leadership is initiating. How much time will that take you ask? Well only time and implementation will tell that.

  • Blog

    Learning is Recollection - A Good Teacher

    bookThe pupil has an inherent drive in his being and it is the task of the teacher to allow the pupil the freedom to grow and develop at his own pace.
    For a good teacher, there is no such thing as teaching, only recollection.

    MENO: I see, Socrates. But what do you mean when you say that we don’t learn anything, but that what we call learning is recollection? Can you teach me that it is so?

    SOCRATES: I have just said that you’re a rascal, and now you ask me if ii can teach you, when I say there is no such thing as teaching, only recollection. Evidently you want to catch me contradicting myself straightaway.

    MENO: No, honestly, Socrates, I wasn’t thinking of that. It was just by habit. If you can in any way make clear to me that what you say is true, please do.

    SOCRATES: It isn’t an easy thing, but still I should like to do what I can since you ask me…

    SOCRATES: This knowledge will not come from teaching but from questioning. He will recover it for himself.

    MENO: Yes.

    SOCRATES: And the spontaneous recovery of knowledge that is in him is recollection isn’t it?

    MENO: Yes.
    (From Plato, Protagoras and Meno, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1985, pp. 130-138)

  • Blog

    Red Brick Bylanes and Lesson Plans

    Driving along the crowded and dusty roads of Guwahati reminded me so much about my home town in the Western Ghats. A stunning rocky hillock towering on the left, patchy forests on the right, fresh vegetables piled in round cane baskets, Guwahati town felt quaint and rich.

    As the road weaved up and down the inclines, my dreamy mind took off on a hike. Soon the taxi stopped in front of Modern English School (MES) – my destination had arrived. In the red mud and brick by-lanes of Guwahati, MES does not physically surprise you in any way. The old walls, un-plastered building, unkept pathways are for all to see. But, all that aside, when you enter, there is an unmissable inspirational whiff in the air.

    Stoned to the world, the bustle of the street was still ringing in my ears. I briskly walked through the corridors, greeting teachers and kids. The energy and positivity in this school has always been child-like. The down-to-earth tone is overpowering. It doesn’t take time for the humility to rub off.

    Our curriculum development project in MES has been on for a while now. The aim is to reimagine teaching-learning for grades 6 to 8 – all subjects included. However, the honeymoon phase of WOW and AWESOME is over now. A mountain of work is staring at us (meaning all of us, EI team, MES school leadership, the CD team teachers).

    On this visit, a lot had to be accomplished – timelines to be planned, project progress to be assessed, concerns to be voiced, lesson flows to be mapped, lesson plan reviews to be shared – the list can go on and on.

    Besides all that, one of my chief motives for taking the flight to Guwahati, is to interact with Pankaj and Jonali. Here’s why - Jonali, the principal of the school, is one of the most unassuming human beings I have ever met – demure, intelligent, well read and a very insightful person. She also holds a Masters degree in Education from the University of South Hampton, UK. Pankaj, a doting husband first and then the Director of the school is so passionate about improving the quality of teaching-learning; it is infectious. With sheer enthusiasm and decisiveness he ensures that you feel as committed and motivated to work.

    And not to be left behind are their ‘every-ready’ band of teachers – it is not very often that you come across teachers who are equally passionate about teaching and are willing to match steps with the school leadership.

    My discussions with Pankaj and Jonali have ranged from constructivist theories, William Dylan’s views on formative assessment, Andrew Pollard’s compilation for a reflective teacher to the politics of education in Assam. I thoroughly enjoy these interactions and on this visit was happy to be a part of another such informing discussion. This time it was on lesson planning.

    Mushrooming education companies in the metros have put the spotlight on lesson planning like never before. It is considered fancy and a must-have for schools these days. But here at MES we were attempting to empower teachers to do the same. Having reached the lesson planning stage, we were discussing the instructional detailing in the lesson plans. The central questions were – how much detail is too much detail? Or is there anything called too much detail? How detailed should the instructions be?

    I pulled out 3 samples of the same lesson plan written in 3 different ways. 1. Very directive, explicit and clear. 2. Very concise, offering a gist and direction to the teacher and 3. Was sometime in between – neither too explicit, nor too brief. Jonali also pulled out some samples and we also photo-copied another plan created by a leading curriculum development company. So we had 5 samples to compare.

    Jonali and I reminisced about how originally when the concept came about, the ‘ideal’ school teachers would write their own lesson plans and therefore the instructional clarity did not matter. I totally agree: at the end of the day, it is just a few teaching ideas arranged in sequence for the teacher’s reference.

    But given the perils of teaching (number of classes, students etc.) in India, teachers often did not have the time, energy or wherewithal to engage is such a creative exercise. And therefore the plans have to be created. Luckily this time it was being created by teachers of MES itself.

    Anyways, coming back to the central questions, after half hour of thrashing out, we realized that there can’t exist one-fit-for-all answer to these questions. The level of detailing is directly linked to the proficiency of the teachers. A highly evolved teacher would perhaps get put off by an acutely directed plan which constantly told him/her what to do and say – in that case a summary of ideas would do. However, a teacher in the beginning years of work could feel empowered with a detailed plan that explains to her each and every step. Given these variables, often times, giving either end of the spectrum what they would not appreciate is road to disaster. Ultimately if they are too challenging or too handheld - the usage of the plan will depend on which audience it is being presented to. We neither want to spoon feed nor stifle an able teacher. Of course we do not want to leave the beginner teacher directionless.

    Therefore understanding the target teacher audience is critical in the curriculum development space I feel. It baffles me to believe that there can be one-size fit lesson plans out there for purchase.

    Anyways, post our loud discussion, it felt like I had a halo around my head ;-). Needless to say, we chose option 3 for MES lesson plans.

    As I head back to Delhi, my memories of the school leave me so inspired to continue work in this space. The warm sunshine of Guwahati, bright young and open mindsets of people I interacted with and a restless energy to make a difference to how students learn – I hope these winds blow towards Delhi. Hello! Anybody listening?

  • Blog

    Good Teacher Series - VI


    A good teacher trains his pupils in all things good, teaches them to hold knowledge fast, speaks well of them to their friends and companions and guards his pupils from danger.
    I now will turn the wheel of the excellent Law,
    For this purpose I am going to that city if Varanasi,
    To give light to those enshrouded in darkness,
    And to open the gate of Immorality to men.

  • Blog

    In the chaos of daily chores

    At 6:45am, Hiramoni Haloi is rushing to pack her lunch and jump onto the school bus. She has been up since 5:30am preparing food for the day, lunch for her kids and husband, instructing her maid, etc. She is a school teacher who needs to reach school by 7:10am. She shoots off in her Honda Activa hoping like hell that she reaches on time.

    She barely manages to reach school by 7:09am. The students are in their assembly lines, music for the school song – the band is adjusting its pitch while a few PT teachers are pacing up and down to ensure that everything is in order. And finally in, Hiramoni takes a deep breath and tries to calm down. She has made it in time!!!

    The school song is sung, the national anthem is played, a quote for the day is read out and slowly students begin dispersing in neat lines. Hiramoni hurriedly moves to sign the attendance register and rushes off to class, barely managing to pick her copy of the textbook from her desk in the classroom.

    Hiramoni teaches social science to students of grades 6, 7 and 8. She takes five classes out of six every day. Her strides are long and brisk; she forcefully switches off her mind as she dashes across the corridor to enter another class.

    By 2:30pm, there is a certain ease in the air – she walks back with piles of answer papers to her desk in the staff room. Students are ready to run home and let me whisper, so are the teachers. Hiramoni is suddenly reminded of her little son who would have returned from school. She wonders whether he has had lunch or not. Before she realizes it is 3pm and she again mounts her chopper (Honda Activa) to reach home as quickly as possible. The rest of the day is spent in household work, making her son study, cooking dinner, etc. She finally retreats to bed at around 10pm. Oops! “I forgot to carry my answer papers home for correction! What will I tell Principal Ma’am tomorrow?” she wonders.

    Now, let’s take a moment to breathe and reflect on this teacher’s life. Let’s ask ourselves – did she have any intention of being a poor teacher? For those who have seen or met people like Hiramoni – you would agree that it is loud NO. Then why is she appearing to be so irresponsible and unmindful of her commitment to teach students?

    Call it pressures of work – too many periods to teach, the Indian school education realities, burden of large numbers of students in class, or lack of personal commitment towards teaching, people like Hiramoni populate the system mirroring some harsh truths.

    Often times, unfortunately, even a conscientious gets painted with the same brush. Given the time or rather the mind and physical space to research, perhaps Hiramoni’s day and more importantly her classes would have looked different. Given the resources, she would have loved to make her classes more interesting, if she had a shorter work day perhaps she would have balanced her family and work life better etc. Well, the list of what else could enable her to perform better is endless. But I can see one empowerment tool in big bold letters – an EMPOWERED CURRICULUM DOCUMENT.

    What Hiramoni could do with, is curricular envisioning or planning so that she is able to teach to her satisfaction. This would not only improve her self-esteem as a teacher but also benefit the large number of students she is responsible for– for there is enough research out there to state that curricular planning leads to greater student achievement.

    Now, what do I mean by a strong curricular document? A set of learning goals for each lesson to guide both Hiramoni and her students on what learning outcomes need to be achieved, well researched, structured and fun lesson plans which she believes in and feels are implementable, a dynamic feedback process that gives acts that tells her where students are at from lesson to lesson and finally assessment templates she can use to evaluate student learning. Wow! That’s a lot!

    We’ve reached another reflection point here. If that’s all it is, then why not ask the school to buy a curricular product in the market which has brilliant, well thought out lesson plans and all other resources for her to use? Won’t that solve the problem?

    Whoosh! I am bombarded with NO, NO and NO as I think about it. I feel, given Hiramoni’s experience and insight she might distance herself and feel rather bound if the school was to hold a gun and monitor whether she is implementing those lesson plans. Then – what does she actually need? Ask her and she’ll tell you what she needs is just TIME!!!

    She would love to research, plan and strengthen her lessons in class by creating lesson plans for herself. She feels she would much rather rely on her experience and insight. She confesses that perhaps she could also do with some guidance and help with research. For talent, commitment, sincerity and hard work – I don’t think we have a dearth of.

    But doesn’t this bring us back to the starting point – TIME?

    In the chaos of daily chores, unless we seriously reflect on how to give her more time during in a normal work day – I guess we won’t be able to break this vicious cycle. School administrators, policy makers, academic coordinators, principals – I am hoping like hell that there is takeaway for you from this read.

  • Blog

    The Seeker and the Teacher - A Good Teacher


    A good teacher never tries to impose his ideas; he adapts his teachings and guides his students towards the discovery of truth. He also gains the confidence of his pupil.

    Buddha says: “As the wise test gold by burning, cutting and rubbing it on a piece of touchstone, so are you to accept my words only after examining them and not merely out of regard for me.”

  • Blog

    The Lunchbox Chronicle

    "Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them." So EI’s stint with the NISA schools is turning out to be quite an enriching experience for me. As we were driving down to Naveen Shahdara in east Delhi, I could see a gradual change in the type of habitations from the north of the city.

    Lakshay Chhabria, Administrator, S R Capital Public School, Naveen Shahdara, New Delhi

    Our meeting this time was in S R Capital Public School. S R stands for Sahib Ram, named after its founder, Dr. Sahib Ram Yadav. The school was established in the year 1984. As Lakshya, the school’s owner, administrator and also an alumnus, recalls, “Back then Shahdara was different. This was a marshy area with barely anyone living here. The residential colony that you see here now, is a recent development.” Lakshay’s grandfather, Dr. Sahib Ram Yadav, came to Delhi from a small village in Ghaziabad. While working as a doctor in Shahdara, Dr. Yadav realised the need for good schools in the area.

    The boys from grade 5, Sunflower, S R Capital Public School

    My two day visit to the school led me to interact with a couple of students as well. Now I must admit that it has rather been a really long time since I have visited a school, let alone visiting one on a week day. The sense of freedom and self-confidence that these students have and exuberate is unmatched. With primary school students rushing out in full strength to play during recess, I carefully made my way up the narrow staircase to observe the senior classes. I first struck up a conversation with Ayushi Tomar, a shy class 9 student.

    Ayushi Tomar, S R Capital Public School

    Ayushi joined the school in the previous academic year. Her mother is a teacher at a government girls’ school and her father works in a factory nearby. On asking her why she chose to study in a private school rather than joining the school where her mother teaches, she says, “Private schools have better teachers as compared to government schools.”

    Her classmate, Deepak Thakur, shares the same thoughts. His parents work in the Delhi Jal Board. He is a smart and outspoken boy. It was Deepak’s father who decided against getting him a government school education. “Government schools have a very low teacher- student ratio. Moreover, government school students are very rowdy. It won’t be true if I blame it on the poor quality of teachers alone. The truth is that sometimes these schools have good teachers but the students come from very low income families and do not have the basic knowledge about etiquettes.”

    Deepak Thakur, S R Capital Public School

    Now most of us are aware of the infrastructural problems that these low budget schools face. What I noticed and was a little taken aback with was the fact that the only playground that the school had to offer was the school’s roof top terrace. With low rising boundary walls and open debris from construction, the ‘playground’ is indeed an unsafe place for the students to engage in recreational activities.

    The terrace on top of the school which serves as the playground

    The school’s engagement with NISA (National Independent School Alliance) has proved to be very fruitful. It has improved immensely in terms of educational quality. S R Capital Public School wants this involvement to be equally beneficial for its teachers and students. Counting on the exposure and learning experience that it gets, the school is coping with its many drawbacks. It has introduced digital learning boards in classrooms. The younger students find it quite interesting and engaging.

    Another association that the school boasts of is that with #StirEducationLondon. A proud owner, Lakshay says, “One of our teachers taught her students poems with the help of Hindi songs. Her idea got selected by Stir Education.” He has one aim in mind— To make the school the best that it can be in the field.

    For me on a personal note, this interaction with the students and the school staff has been an eye opener. The students here study and interact with each other irrespective of their caste or class, what we sometimes as adults most certainly forget. As Lakshay puts it, “You will see a driver’s son be best friends with the son of a factory owner. We (private school owners) are made to look like extortionists most of the times. It is for the parents to see what we give our students in terms of quality education. The kind of learning environment and atmosphere the students get here is unheard of in the neighbouring government schools.”

    It is 4 o’clock in the evening. As I walk along the empty corridors and down the isolated stairs, which until two hours back were full of children screaming and playing, I wonder what life for most of these children would have been if they had chosen to attend the neighbouring government school instead. Would they be as smart and confident?

  • Blog

    The Human Disciple - A Good Teacher

    bookA good teacher knows his student’s temperament intimately and at no stage does he become impatient; on the contrary he allows his student to question him critically.

    During the war of Mahabharata, Krishna drives Arjuna to the battlefield on a chariot. While viewing the various formations, Arjuna is overpowered by the killings and goes into depression. In his grief and frustration, he asks Krishna to command him to do what he thinks will be best. Krishna, with a deep understanding of his disciple, permits Arjuna to critically analyze the situation and decide what he thinks will be best. Krishna finally says, “Now do as you wish and decide.”

  • Blog

    Good Teacher Series - III

    The good teacher as conceived in the ancient system of India interweaves his own life with the life of his pupils. He aspires and prays not for himself alone but also for his pupils. Togetherness is the watchword of the good teacher.

    He prays

    Together may He protect us,
    Together may He posses us,
    Together may we make unto us strength and virility;
    May our study be full to us of light and power.
    May we never hate.

  • Blog

    Have you wondered how students learn?

    This article talks about how people have chosen to answer this question for centuries and where we are currently at. It helps you answer this central question for yourself hoping that the answer will fascinate you as an educator.

    The other day while sipping tea at a teacher conference, I overheard a few senior teachers (judging by their gray hair) getting nostalgic about their times “In my times, we would just talk (lecture) and my students would learn. They didn’t need anything else”. Hmm. But how do they “learn”? I asked myself. To my logical brain with limited knowledge there was a sure disconnect – something didn’t make sense - what was he trying to say? I may be wrong, but to me, it seemed like those students (the senior gentleman’s students) had heard their teacher out, memorised what he said and reproduced the same in their exam and got good marks. Was that the kind of “learning” the gentleman was talking about? Was that real learning? I wondered.

    This brought to me a central question - how do students learn? What kind of learning do we want for our students? It is needless to say that ultimately it is a kind of learning we desire for our students that will dictate how we teach or what they will learn.

    As teachers it is indeed one’s eternal wonderment about how students learn. Yet, ask anybody how exactly students learn and you unwrap just a few assumptions here and there – “seeing”, or “hearing” or by “experiencing” etc. In an age when contemporary learning theories are striving to take centre stage (multiple intelligence theories and more), it would be extremely useful to know that much water has flowed under this bridge – we aren’t the first to wonder; this question has pondered mankind for centuries. For over 2000 years, this question has fascinated philosophers and later the education psychologists with equal amuse. Let us take time off to understand what historical discourses came from, and how much of it has infiltrated the education system as we see it today.

    Medieval Discourse: Greek vs. Roman

    The Greek viewpoint

    Learning for the Greeks was a discovery of the mind or a quest for truth; the earliest entrants who propagated this view were the Greek philosophers - Plato, Aristotle and Socrates. Plato and Socrates, the rationalists, claimed that truth or learning (used interchangeably in those times) could be found by self-reflection; it was something inherent within the human being – was an internal process and could be achieved by reflecting upon among other things, one’s environment, actions, words, interactions etc. However, Aristotle, the empiricist, was more scientific in his approach. He defined learning as something found outside which could be gathered using our senses. He encouraged a spirit of inquiry and viewed that most of the learning occurs when students/people step outside their known boundaries in search of knowledge.

    The Roman construct

    Contrary to the Greek views, for the Romans, their purpose of education was to build citizenry – they wanted their citizens to build roads and factories and viewed learning/education as a practical need vs. a philosophical one (Greeks). Hence their education desired vocational training, apprenticeship, skill building etc. as the influence of the Roman Catholic Church grew, universities were established and priests imparted learning to the masses. Education was mainly transmission based; which assumed that a person with greater knowledge was teaching somebody with lesser knowledge. Isn’t it fascinating that much of the recall, memorization, and rote based learning evident in classroom teaching even today draws its roots from this discourse?

    Renaissance and learning

    Between the 15th and 17th century, philosophers around the world further developed the two basic streams of thought. Greek philosophers revived the idea of arts and humanities education. Efforts by Copernicus and Martin Luther challenged the supremacy of the church and over time the influence of the church weakened; examining human values etc. outside the influence of religion began. However the central debate of education for ‘basic skills’ vs. education for ‘thinking’ remained.

    However long after, it was Jean-Jacques Rousseau who propagated that learning could shape the mind. He said learning could happen through experiences. Rousseau pioneered the idea of what we understand today as ‘child-centric’ education or ‘child centred learning’. He said education should be shaped to the child; he also suggested that education or learning and life were interlinked. Education needed to draw most of its broader understanding from life itself. Child centred learning philosophies of Montessori, John Dewey and Piaget followed on similar lines.

    Arrive “The Behaviourists”

    As time went by, educational psychologists jumped into the fray to understand how students learn. Various studies or tests were underway in order to discover the best way to teach. The central question here about how people learn was – were the humans merely evolved mammals who operated based on response to stimuli mechanisms? (Behaviourist approach) Or – were humans cognitive creatures who used their brain to process and therefore learn from information received by the senses (Constructivist approach)? This behaviourist vs. constructivist debate raged on through the 19th and 20th centuries. Or should I say still continues in the minds of many in the education sector even today? Think about which side of the debate you wish to align yourself as you read on – it will surely make your reading more interesting! Philosophers and Psychologists on both sides of the debate worked over time to gather evidence to support their argument.

    A behaviourist, Thorndike (the father of modern education psychology) introduced scientific ways of studying how students learn. He concluded that students learn by trial-and-error method – that learning was incremental and was outside the mental constructs. He believed that students needed a stimulus for active learning. He said certain stimuli inside the classroom would produce learning. Skinner furthered this thought. He conducted experiments on pigeons and rats and concluded that if positive experiences were rewarded then that got reinforced as learning. The concept of positive and negative reinforcement (remember the child in class who is made to stand if he talks in class or given a chocolate if he behaved?) was brought in by Skinner. Wow! Does it amaze you that practices in classrooms/schools thread back centuries?

    Burrhus Frederic Skinner (March 20, 1904 – August 18, 1990)

    Not surprisingly, such behaviourist theories had substantial influence on education and the idea of how students learn. It relied on the basic idea that learning had nothing to do with the brain or cognitive function; it was just a learnt response to stimulus, in many ways a learnt behaviour– development of structured curricula, workbooks, tools, programmed instructional approaches to reinforce concepts went on in full force. However, this kind of learning had its limitations. It was observed that the behaviourist approach worked well for things that could be learnt by rote memory. But evidence showed that more complex and higher mental processes could not be learnt through this behaviourist approach – for example, higher order thinking was influenced by how students perceive, process and make sense of what they are experiencing not by merely reproducing learnt knowledge without having processed it.

    Constructivists – throw new light

    Around this time, Jean Piaget was the first to state that learning was a developmental cognitive process where students create knowledge rather than receive it from their teacher. He recognized that students construct knowledge based on their experiences, and how they do so is related to their biological, physical, and mental stage of development. Russian scientists Vygotsky furthered Piaget’s idea of cognitive learning and said that learning was also influenced by social and cultural context. The influence of language was first noticed. This meant that students who are comfortable with a certain language learnt better in that language. Examples from their socio-cultural context helped students construct knowledge better.


    Jean Piaget (August 9, 1896 – September 16, 1980)

    Progressive learning theories

    Stemming from Piaget’s understanding of child development and Vygotsky’s thoughts that learning should be socially and culturally situated, the Progressives sought to create child centred schools. A pertinent question was asked - what should be the proper balance for ‘ideal’ schools? The balance between focus on teacher transmission of knowledge (as in traditional schools) vs. the focus on the student’s learning from his/her own experiences with guided opportunities to explore, discover, construct and create (as in the progressive schools).

    I shall leave you at this point to think and wish to pose a few questions.
    So as the reader, what do you think? How would you like your school or class to look? Would you consider restructuring your class or are you convinced otherwise? What arguments are you taking back from this reading?
    Answer these questions for yourself as you ‘construct’ your ideas on how students learn. Have I given away which side of the fence I stand?  Doesn’t matter!
    Watch this space for the next blog on “What impacts how students learn” – coming next week.
    Happy reading and thinking until then!

  • Blog

    The Good Teacher and The Good Pupil – a stellar collection of parables and essays - II

    bookIn continuation to my introductory post on Educational Innovation’s new series on The Good Teacher and The Good Pupil and keeping in mind that the book was published by Sri Aurobindo International Institute of Educational Research (SAIIER), I thought it would be a good idea for me to talk about Sri Aurobindo and his three principles of teaching first. This will help you all understand the premise of the book.

    Now, Sri Aurobindo is a world renowned educationist and philosopher. Aurobindo spoke of three principles of teaching:
    “The first principle of true teaching is that nothing can be taught. The teacher is not an instructor or task-master, he is a helper and a guide. His business is to suggest and not to impose.

    The second principle is that the mind has to be consulted in its own growth. The idea of hammering the child into the shape desired by the parent or teacher is a barbarous and ignorant superstition. It is he himself who must be induced to expand in accordance with his own nature. The chief aim of education should be to help the growing soul to draw out that in itself which is best and make it perfect for a noble use.

    The third principle of education is to work from the near to the far, from that which is to that which shall be. A free and natural growth is the condition of genuine development. …”

    Taking inspiration from Aurobindo’s principles of teaching, The Good Teacher and The Good Pupil attempts to collect the best examples and experiences of a good teacher and a good student from the past. You can all take time and reflect on these thoughts.

  • Blog

    The Good Teacher and The Good Pupil – a stellar collection of parables and essays

    bookEducational Innovations(EI) has come up with a series, exploring the question ‘What is a Good Teacher?’ We have taken inspiration from the book The Good Teacher and The Good Pupil and are using it as a starting point for our exploration. The book has been published by Sri Aurobindo International Institute of Educational Research (SAIIER), based in Auroville which is involved in research on a number of subjects including education, human values and unity, etc.

    In an interview with the Director of EI, Ms. Chitwan Mittal, Prof Kireet Joshi, Advisor to EI, former educational advisor, Government of India and the Chairman of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research gave the rationale behind editing the book ‘The Good Teacher and The Good Pupil’. He said, “I felt like I was in a prison room when I was in school. I wanted to change the system of education”. Joshi calls himself a severe teacher and a severe educator and does not hesitate to accept that he has been criticising the Indian education system since his student days.



    Having read a number of educationists, Professor Joshi has had the opportunity to kirit_joshireflect on what a good system of education can be. His want to capture and bring together the best examples of the relationship between a teacher and a pupil led him to edit the book.

    The book apprehends that a relationship between a teacher and a pupil cannot have identical viewpoints. Attempting to share with students, some of the best learnings of his life, Professor Kireet Joshi talks about the difference between the principle of teaching and the method of teaching in this interview along with sharing some of his greatest learnings from Sri Aurobindo:

    http://youtu.be/G9OvML_p1Y4

    Watch this space to read more about The Good Teacher and The Good Pupil

  • Blog

    "Conflict in the Curriculum" by Ishanee Bhattacharyya

    Michael W. Apple is an educational theorist specialized on education and power, cultural politics, curriculum theory and research, critical teaching, and the development of democratic schools. Read More
    Source Wikipedia

    Curriculum is the planned interaction of pupils with instructional content, materials, resources and processes for evaluating the attainment of educational objectives. There are many conceptions and definitions of curriculum: as content, as learning experiences, as behavioral objectives, as a plan for instruction and as a non-technicalapproach. Perhaps the most noted among them is Michael Apple’s work on curriculum. A leading critical theorist, Apple connects the structures of power with the form and content of the curriculum. For him, “The curriculum is never simply a neutral assemblage of knowledge, somehow appearing in the texts and classrooms of a nation. It is always part of a selective tradition, someone’s selection, and some group’s vision of legitimate knowledge”. Ideology and Curriculum provides a comprehensive analysis of the complicated relationship between economic and cultural power and the ideology of schooling. For Apple, historically and currently, the interests of the dominant economic and socio political groups shape the experience and structures of schooling.

    Schools are political entities and education works in selective ways to exclude certain groups. Schools preserve and distribute what is perceived to be ‘legitimate knowledge’- ‘the knowledge that we all must have’, schools confer ‘cultural legitimacy’ on the knowledge of specific groups. Thus the ability of a group to make its knowledge into ‘knowledge for all’ is related to that group’s power in the larger political and economic arena. Thus, schools can be seen as caught up in a venue of other institutions- political, cultural, economic that are basically unequal and lead to generating structural inequalities of power and access to resources. Apple’s observation is very apt in this regard. According to him, many economists envision education as a “Black Box”. This box measures inputs before students enter schools and then measure output along the way or ‘adults’ enter workforce. Such a Black Box focuses more on the macro economic considerations of rate of return and reproduction of the division of labour, thus there is a sense of social construction.

    [caption id="attachment_1591" align="alignleft" width="300"]Cartoon depicting Dr. B.R.Ambedkar on a snail in the NCERT textbook of political science. Cartoon depicting Dr. B.R.Ambedkar on a snail in the NCERT textbook of political science.[/caption]

    Therefore what Apple is arguing is quite clear. He aptly points out that a curriculum is produced out of the cultural, political and economic conflicts, tensions and compromises that organize and disorganize a people. Ideology and Curriculum with its stress on the power relations in what is taught- serves as a reminder that our educational policies and practices are never neutral.Contemporary Indian scenario clearly resembles such trends. The political row/fiasco, regarding the cartoon depicting Dr. B.R.Ambedkar on a snail in the NCERT textbook of political science is a reminder how policies and content related to education are not really immune to political dramas and ideologies. Most schools, both urban and rural impart knowledge on Hindu mythologies (from Ramayana and Mahabharata) and largely neglect discourses pertaining to other religions, thereby leaving many wondering about the premise of securalism in the country. Even historical knowledge imparted largely ignores discourseson tribal identity, Dalit identity and minority issues and deal with only the so called mainstream one, thus alienating a whole part of the country and producing ignorant learners. The National Curriculum Framework, even though clearly prescribes the promotion of regional literature, much of it is relegated to teaching local languages and dialects. Society, therefore, is not portrayed as a space of constant strife and compromise, but as a cooperative system. Schools end up being unresponsive to the needs of local communities and a changing social order.Thus, whether we like it or not, differential power intrudes into the very heart of curriculum,teaching, and evaluation.

    The idea of a common culture is in no sense the idea of a simply consenting,and certainly not of a merely conforming society. It involvesa common determination of meanings by all the people, acting sometimes as individuals, sometimes as groups, in a process which has no particular end, and which can never be supposed at any time to have finally realized itself, to have become complete. In this common process, the only absolute will be the keeping of the channels and institutions of communication clear so that all may contribute, and be helped to contribute. Education, cannot afford to be yet another site that reproduces inequalities and nor can it afford the assault of the capitalist and neo liberal order. The curriculum in its effort to be the ‘national curriculum’ should not compromise on issues pertaining to ‘the other’ and definitely not become another grand narrative that has inherent flaws in it.

  • Foot prints

    Foot prints of Educational Innovations through the year 2013

    The year 2013, has been robust for Educational Innovations (EI). I am happy to share our humble foot print as we work towards strengthening school education in India. With its aim of strengthening schools to re-imagine curriculum and empower teachers with best practices, EI has been involved in three ongoing Curriculum Development projects.

    The Curriculum Development projects help schools to map the content being taught, in the classroom teaching-learning and student achievement in the forms of assessments thereby closing the loop of learning for the students. From defining lesson plans to constructing assessment and evaluation frameworks, EI mentors teachers to deliver curricular goals effectively.

    EI had the opportunity to partner with three schools across the country on a curriculum development project. It has dedicated itself to develop a yearlong curriculum for Jaipuria Schools, Delhi (with its flagship school, Seth M.R. Jaipuria, Lucknow) for all subjects in grades K to 8. This project would benefit thousands of students (mostly from tier 2 cities in Uttar Pradesh). This project would help these upcoming schools achieve clarity in teaching concepts and move away from rote learning. The Jaipuria Schools group has envisioned opening up 50 new schools in India in the next five years. Five of these are opening up in Bhiwadi, Gorakhpur, Haridwar, Rudrapur and Varanasi.

    With Guwahati’s Modern English School, EI is helping develop skill based standard curriculum plans for 1,206 students from grades 6 to 8. The underlying aim is to incorporate innovative teaching techniques so that learning can be contextualised, enriching equipping students for tomorrow.

    I am also proud to announce EI’s partnership with the National Independent School Alliance (NISA). We are helping NISA develop a common curriculum document of grades 1 to 5 for five low budget private schools in the outskirts of Delhi. The project encompasses developing a common curriculum process, teacher training, baseline assessment of learning levels, implementation and its monitoring for nine months and an end-line assessment of learning levels to measure the effectiveness of the curriculum. It aims to incorporate higher order thinking skills and best practices of international curricula. The ultimate aim of the project is to enable the students of these schools to compete with their peers on a pan India and a global level. In the upcoming year, this project will be taken to 7,000 low budget schools associated with NISA across different states in India and would benefit the learning of innumerable children. We are proud and humbled to be part of this endeavour.

    Our other initiative has been in the field of Teacher Education. EI has conducted workshops for teachers pegged around teaching skills, pedagogical theory and practices and global innovations in various schools across India. Having partnered with DAV School, Sreshtha Vihar, New Delhi, EI has conducted workshops on Curriculum Development. We are also engaged with Dr. Bansi Dhar Senior Secondary School (DBDS), Kota, Rajasthan to conduct a series of workshops on curriculum development.

    Another small global step for Education Innovations has been our partnership with The College of Teachers, UK. Set up in 1849, the College of Teachers is a premier education institute for teachers that works extensively in the area of professional development of teachers.

    Growing at a fast pace, EI is now a power house of young talent – passionate young professionals with a sound understanding of theory and keenness to match theory with practice. We strive to achieve a balance between academics and the pragmatics of business.

    As we step into another exciting year, on a personal note, I would like to express my sincere thank you for your continued support to Educational Innovations and would appreciate your feedback.

    To send enquiries about our Teacher Education workshops please visit our website www.educationalinnovations.in

    Chitwan Mittal
    Director
    Educational Innovations Pvt. Ltd.
    Plot 68, III Floor, Sector 44, Gurgaon - 122003
    Ph: 0124-4784695; Fax: 0124-4784699
    chitwan@educationalinnovations.in

  • Blog

    "Role of Environment in Language Development in Children"

    Language comes naturally to a child if the environment and people around are eloquent speakers and writers. A child is not taught the precise concepts of language used at home. The child just picks up the sounds, words and phrases and automatically learns to string the words into meaningful sentences and convey or communicate efficiently. While listening to what the parents or others are uttering the child learns the nuances of it. It’s very much accepted that the child, for obvious reasons, cannot articulate the theoretical bases of why a word is pronounced the way it is; what are nouns; why do some words always precede or succeed another; what is the significance of a comma etc. But the child surely knows the functional part of all this. Any child who is surrounded by fluent native speaker will grow up to become a fluent native speaker in return.

    In a country like India where the mother tongue (for this article the interplay between Hindi and English is considered) itself is adulterated and amalgamated with another language, mostly English, it’s spurious to believe that the child would attain proficiency in any language till s/he joins school (proficiency will also depend on the type of school and the staunchness with which the language is developed in that school). Listening comes prior to speaking, therefore a child speaks what s/he listens. As a corollary s/he speaks adulterated language in India i.e. a mix of Hindi and English (popularly known as ‘Hinglish’ in daily jargon). Though it might appear to be fine at the first place as far as the child is able to communicate adeptly, but the ineffectiveness fetters the child in future.

    As per Lenneberg, 0- 12 years are the foundational years of children when their brain wiring for language ensues at its full swing. This is when the nature and nurture intertwines to form the basis for language. Now if this be the case then it is pretty comprehensible that most of the language acquisition takes place during these years. So, if a child gets a language rich environment during the foundational years then s/he will automatically become functional and gradually proficient in any language. In India children come from a diverse backgrounds and the language they hear and speak also varies. Then, does it not become the responsibility of the school to make the child first functional in a language like English which is unknown or partially known to maximum and then focus on the proficiency?

    Think and Research!

  • Blog

    "The Physics of Angry Birds"

    The other day I was watching my niece play the game of angry birds and how much in precision she was placing the bird so that it hits the aim well. I had not paid heed to it earlier butobserving the game carefully I realized the game could be an excellent way of teaching few important concepts of physics i.e. Newton’s Third Law of Motion, force, acceleration and projectile motion. One would imagine how this game could be employed for such a purpose.

    angry_birdsWe all must have played the game of angry birds at some point of time. For someone who has not played thegame, let me give a gist of how the game is played. One has to launch the bird from the slingshot to the pigs stationed on different structures at a distance. For the people who have played, you might have observed the more theforce we apply on the bird and the slingshot, the more is the speed with which it hits the pigs kept at a distance. This goes parallel to the first concept of physics that can be taught i.e. Newton’s Third Law of Motion which states that to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction which is what is exactly happening while we are pulling the slingshot. Now, once the bird is shot from the slingshot it follows a particular path before it hits the pig. This process happens by another interesting concept of physics i.e. projectile motion. For a person who is not aware of the concept, projectile motion occurs when an object thrown from a particular angle follows a particular path before falling down back on the earth. The bird which is pulled back in the sling is actually provided with an initial velocity due to the force of the sling pulled back. This is the critical requirement of projectile motion after which it follows a path (trajectory) due to the force of gravity before falling down and hitting the pigs. Also, we might have noticed that we touch the screen after the bird is launched from the sling. Do you know why do we do that? We are actually accelerating the bird so that it can accurately reach the target. So, wouldn’t it be fun to teach scientific concepts through a game that children are often engrossed with? Now, your turn to go and explore what other concepts can be taught through this game and do not forget to share it with us!

  • Blog

    "I Hate History"

    “Oh God, AnuDidi. History class is so boring. Why do I have to memorize all these dates and all the stupid names of people? It’s the worst class ever.”

    These words were said to me by my 13-year old cousin. But I am sure everyone has heard this sentence in one form or another from the people around them, or even from themselves. My colleagues find my fascination with history hysterical. They tease me about my love of ‘Akbar’, calling me his ‘Ruqayya Begum’! All I do is grin and get back to my novel, ‘The Empire of Moguls’, engrossed and as engaged as ever. I guess that is what prompted my blog post this time. For I can’t begin to understand, why do people hate history?

    Okay. True. Dates, people, all dead, never coming back, and yet they are back to haunt you. But why are people so against stories? Because isn’t that what history is? His Story? Or Her for that matter. Avid literature readers chant the ‘I hate history’ rant. How can you hate your own story?

    Didn’t catch that? I will repeat. History is the collective memory of a society. It is the way of the past that has made life and society today. What would you do if tomorrow you got amnesia? Everything you knew gone in an instant. It would change everything. You would be disoriented, never sure how to proceed further, what is the right way of doing things, what is the right way of being. At a macro scale, it is the same for society. Society wouldn’t know where to go. All these talks about moving forward and stop looking back is a complete lunacy in my opinion. Of course you look back! You look back to make sure you are making tomorrow better than it was yesterday. That is the point of history. That is the message of the quote- “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Did you ever understand that quote till two seconds ago? Yes? You are a genius. No? Well you got it now.

    I agree with my cousin- dates, people, names. Who wants to remember all that? Who can remember all that? The Battle of blah blahblah was fought on blah blahblah. Nope. Doesn’t excite me at all. But that is not what I see as history frankly. The exact year, exact month, date, time, location of the sun. Not my thing. But what I do care about in historical studies is why that battle was fought in the first place, the key players who shaped human society, what were their motivations for acting that way, what did winning or losing that battle cause, how did it change the face of the place. Because every action has a reaction. Newton’s some or the other law. It may not seem like that to each individual but on a collective scale, actions today have an impact tomorrow. Do you think the officers that threw Gandhi out of that first class cabin in South Africa realized what they had gotten into? That it would lead to the start of the Indian independence movement?

    That is why I love history. Like those mystery novels where you never know which action caused the murder that took place. To see all that in retrospect is amazing.

    But let’s face one thing. Textbooks. It’s like they divide the world into two- black and white. What about the 50 shades of grey in between (pun intended)? It’s like one person did this, the other retaliated and voila. Things happened. Now memorize this. It leaves the dynamism of the act, the shaded opinions, beliefs and actions of the people untouched. No wonder people think History is a dead subject!

    For an example, do you know when the Battle of Panipat was fought? If you were a good student, you would have said ‘which one?’ But let us assume we were talking about the first one. You would say 21 April, 1526. A nice memorized fact from Grade 7 History. Who were the major players involved? Why Babur and the Lodi dude? Okay. Good so far. Why was it fought? So Babur could win Delhi. Good, good.

    And… why did he want Delhi of all places in the world? Who was Babur, where did he come from? Why did he win? What military strategies did he use and why did these succeed against the accomplished armies of Lodi? What was the technology of the time? Why did people support Babur? What were the world events that led to the growth of the Mughal Empire into India? How did Babur change India?

    Did anyone ever think about that except me? Am I just the crazy one?

    It’s not just about the dates and the people. It’s about beliefs of the people- Babur asserted his right on the Delhi throne because he thought it rightfully belonged to him as part of the Timurid Dynasty. The Timurid Dynasty was an aftermath of the disintegration of the “world” after Gengiz Khan died and his empire crumbled. Babur won because the people of India supported his succession to the throne of Delhi. Babur changed the economy, policy, religious structure, etc. of India. The military strategies…I could go on and on. One cannot get me to stop on the subject of history.

    My intent with this blog is to tell people- make history come alive in the classroom. Take students and make them travel to the past. Make them see events not as isolated things in time and space, but as part and parcel of a series of world events. Show it like an awesome murder mystery novel. With more than two sides to the story.Multi-faceted.



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