Critical thinking, inquiry-based, analysis-based, and discussion-based learning are the modes of teaching and learning that have evolved swiftly in the education arena. No doubt making such a humongous paradigm shift at the very core of the education system will not come without challenges. In an exclusive conversation, Dr. Mona Khanna, Principal, Vandya International School, Guwahati, Assam expressed various challenges, opportunities, and development in the education sector with Sheeba Chauhan of Elets News Network. Edited excerpts:
What are your plans to implement NEP at your school? What can be the possible challenges you will face in the path?
The overall aim of the school is to attain optimal outcomes in the domains of physical and motor development, cognitive development, socio-emotional-ethical development, cultural/ artistic development, and the development of communication. The structure of the school has been divided as per the NEP into the preparatory stage, middle stage, and secondary stage which are called respectively Ahaan-Ankuran, Bodh, Srijan and Ojal. Ahaan-Ankuran is a combination of two stages where one step leads to the other. This is the learning and development space for children from Nursery-Grade 2. Bodh stands for the learners’ rousing spirit of self-ability and awareness and is for the students of Grade 3-5.
There would be an overall reformation of the curriculum and pedagogy for all levels to make sure that students undergo cognitive development and also are inculcated with all the relevant skills. NCERT will specify this particular set of skills and accordingly will include the mechanisms for early childhood and school education.
Instead of imposing loads of content, each subject will only include core essentials, this will give more opportunity for critical thinking, inquiry-based, analysis-based, and discussion based learning. Hence the key areas would be concepts, applications, and problem-solving; teaching and learning on the other hand would be carried out in an interactive manner.
As a step towards a cross-curricular pedagogical approach arts and sports both need to be included in the teaching process. This will help to develop collaborative skills, self discipline, teamwork, and discipline.
How do you cater to emotional development in students at your school and how do you channelise the same in the growth of the students in academics?
A healthy learning atmosphere for a child can only exist when the child is in an emotionally sound condition. At Vandya, we have a dedicated Behavioural counselling cell that focuses on every student’s emotional well-being. Students attend regular sessions, both individual & group, with the counsellor. The department is in regular connect with the parents as well. Additionally, to help students express and acknowledge their emotions and respect others emotions, regular reflection sessions and circle time in place. Yoga & meditation also helps in achieving age-appropriate mindfulness. Such measures help students get the right balance and concentrate well on the task at hand. Not just academics with this kind of guidance students will excel to the best of their potential in all areas.
You have a different teaching-learning pedagogy at your school. Please elaborate on the same. Teaching and learning methods have evolved massively in the last few years. Do you think, a leaner-centric approach is the way forward for school education?
Our teaching-learning systems at school are all-round. The theme-based experiential learning systems ensure that students find the right application of the concepts taught and are able to relate it to the real world ahead. This helps them learn the right skills and attach purpose to what they learn and want to learn ahead.
The teaching-learning does not stop at students. Each member of the Vandya community, the teachers, the parents, mentors, everyone goes through regular learning opportunities in terms of trainings conferences, workshops and over peer learning. For the entire community, the State-of-the-art infrastructure and the modern facilities play an important part in the process. Right from having an Interactive Flat Panel in every class classroom, the biodiversity park, the Science park, the Composite Science lab to ensuring the right use of building as a learning aid, every nook and corner of the school is a learning space. All of this automatically contributes to creating active learning opportunities for the students inside and out of the classroom, thus creating multiple avenues for children to learn from.
What are your thoughts on teacher training programs adapting to the evolving curriculum?
Today’s world is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous and we need to build the teacher capabilities accordingly. As I mentioned the term VUCA in teaching-learning, I want to emphasize on the importance of building the right soft skills in combination with the subject-based knowledge. In my previous response, I very particularly wanted to lay importance on the fact that the teaching-learning phenomenon go hand-in-hand. Whatever be the curriculum, a teacher cannot stay relevant in-time if the teacher is not learning actively. At Vandya, we ardently follow a rigorous professional development program that includes workshops, training sessions, conferences and conclaves with the larger community and internal best practise sharing- and peer learning sessions with the internal community. These capacity-building sessions ensure that the teaching community at Vandya is ready to prepare the children to be responsible and empathetic global citizens.
What is unique about the philosophy at Vandya?
Vandya is one of the 108 names of the Goddess of Knowledge, Maa Saraswati. In the simplest of the ideas, we aim to equip children with skills and spirit, to contribute for better to the world and the people in it. Vandya International School is a progressive school deeply rooted in Indian ethos. We aim to equip the future generation of learners with a repertoire of skills and a sensitized perspective to motivate them towards the cultivation of excellence and to prepare them to meet the challenges of a dynamic environment and society. We strive to bring up individuals who are empowered to apply their acquired abilities and knowledge and use their personal attributes to lead productive lives and become ethical citizens of the global community. The school looks at a curriculum integrated with skill development and vocational components.
The program is designed to be
• Beyond the confines of a classroom
• Inculcating the love for learning
• Orienting the learner towards service
To foster a community built on positive relationships among all the stakeholders of the larger society a Vandya embodies the following core values:
- Empathy: To enable awareness and acknowledgement of one’s own and other’s beliefs
- Equity: To inculcate fair and justified distribution and service-mindedness
- Enterprise: To promote innovative thinking, enquiry, discussion and creative problem-solving
- Integrity: To instill the right understanding of righteousness and justice.
- Nurturing Relationships: To value human connection and cultivate synergy
- Inclusivity: To be a global citizen and respect global practices
A combination of the above fosters balance, responsibility, commitment and respect to build up a Vandya: One who is worthy of Respect.