Principal, Deens Academy,
“Real learning is ability to think laterally and developing the power to apply your thoughts in a rational manner,” says Shanthi Menon, Principal, Deens Academy, Bengaluru. In an interview with Amriteshwar Pathak, she shares her insights on various aspects of education and the role of ICTs
How has your journey so far been as a Principal?
It has been a good experience. A rather fun filled journey, full of discovery and innovation. I have had the chance to explore children’s learning patterns, parents’ psychology, the diverse theories of pedagogy, various government policies in education, and also the accreditation related issues.
In your opinion how effective is Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) as a new evaluation practice?
CCE fosters sustained overall development of the child. Learning is not an isolated academic activity, it encompasses all aspects of the child – his academic/non academic activities and personality traits and skills- all of which are ever developing and need to be nurtured. A continuous assessment and modification is required to achieve this overall development.
CCE offers an opportunity for flexibility in the strategies that the teachers can use to leverage learning and development; latitude for a quantifiable understanding of a child’s ability and skill; more scope to engage with each child according to his potential or aptitude, involving them in their own learning. CCE has also provided opportunities to the teacher for innovation. The constant feedback on the different aspects of the child’s development through this continuous assessment, gives a clear path for the child to succeed. It is motivating the child to progress and is not at all demoralising. There is no longer ‘a size fits all’ system, we are having individualised programmes for each child’s development. The continuity of the assessments also sustains effort from the child, thus taking away the last moment pressures.
Information and communication technology (ICT) has taken up great role in pedagogy and administration. Your opinion on the potential of ICT in education?
ICT has opened up a whole new space by transforming the teaching/learning process for both learners and teachers. Teaching styles have changed, as teachers embrace IT within the curriculum through networks and internet access – providing for whole class or part of the class teaching, aided by technology supported by tools like wireless networking, notebook computers, e-books, iPad’s, etc.
For students, there has been an explosion of possibilities, with information access through online resources, which use a powerful combination of video, multimedia, text and graphics, prepared by specialists. Technology also assists students to learn through ways which suit his own individual learning style and provides access to individualised curriculum pathways and individualised diagnostic testing and assessment. Technology has therefore a direct impact on motivation and creativity of the student. It provides a greater disposition to research and problem-solving focused on real social situations, through a more comprehensive assimilation of knowledge. On the administrative levels, ERP systems effectively manage information flow about students, curricula, teachers, activities, transport, accounts and budgets. With the distinction of being the first school in Asia to have 100 percent interactive board enabled classrooms, Deens has IT at its core. All communication, record keeping, pedagogical practices and processes have technology at their crux, developed indigenously by the School.
How has training being imparted to the teachers on a continuous basis?
Deens believes in fostering a learning environment for its staff as much as for its students and therefore there is a structured process of continuous goal setting and learning to achieve this, through a 360 degree appraisal procedure. An inhouse training department undertakes large group sessions, while a process of mentoring through designated colleagues assists up gradation of systemic requirements. Training is two-fold – transition management, which is at the beginning of the academic session andin-service, based on observation, reflection and feedback.
How do you see the proposal of the Ministry of Human Resource Development for open-book examination system in Standards X and XII in Central Board of Secondary Examination Schools?
Real learning is ability to think laterally and developing the power to apply your thoughts in a rational manner. Open book examinations will therefore, steer students away from rote learning into application, investigation, innovation and creativity. This will then be the real test of the country’s education system and genius of the people of this country. This is the path to creating global innovators and thinkers.
Please share the innovations done by Deens Academy in last five years. What are the future plans of the school?
At the Deens Academy, we believe that each child has his/her own potential and abilities. With our comfortable class strengths of 25 or less, the teachers are able to create differentiation in every aspect of school life. From curriculum, to classroom activities, to home work/class-work, to assessments and also projects and hands-on activities- there is innovation. IT supports this endeavour, through interactive customised modules and internet based group learning initiatives. We also endeavour to attain grade level ability for each child within a class. There is therefore a scheme of individual learning programmes for every class and in every subject. This programme assesses the starting level of the child and creates a plan which will, over the period determined, bring the child to the desired level of proficiency. At senior school level, the curriculum is dealt with parallel by an additional teacher in the same period as the mainstream class, at a more basic level. This innovation has ensured that all students attempt assessments with ease and confidence. Again the IT enabled classrooms offer effective learning.
Deens follows a very innovative online admission process. The system enables instant automated interaction with prospective parents with regard to status and other information sought for admission to the School. We are now exploring the use of iPads instead of text books. We are also developing a Facebook type of interface for student learning. This, we hope, will generate discussions and comments, while teachers moderate the proceedings.