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Classrooms: How should they change with the times?

PARVATHY JAYAKRISHNAN invited students to share how they envisioned their classroom and ideal teaching methods

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Technology is everywhere. What it truly implies is that knowledge is there right at your fingertips. Paper maps have been replaced by Google maps, if you want grocery, you order online, to get the latest news, you subscribe to it on your smartphone. With digitisation replacing manual work in most areas of use, it is inevitable that the role of a teacher using traditional methods of teaching will soon become redundant. With most teachers themselves having learnt in the blackboard-bench set-up, it is a change that they have to adapt to and embrace to make classroom learning more effective.

With ‘flipped classrooms’ taking over traditional ones, teachers are slowly making progress in modifying their teaching methods.

A flipped classroom is an instructional strategy and a type of blended learning that reverses the traditional learning environment by delivering instructional content, often online, outside of the classroom. It moves activities, including those that may have traditionally been considered homework, into the classroom. In a flipped classroom, students watch online lectures, collaborate in online discussions, or carry out research at home while engaging in concepts in the classroom with the guidance of a mentor.

Excited about sharing their views, students from schools across India spoke up about how they want their classrooms to be and what are the changes in the method of teaching that can be adopted to include technology…

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Interactive discussions, fewer tests
“No longer are classrooms restricted to teachers and books, as technology has changed the face of classrooms. With everything in the syllabus easily available online, students no longer need to carry books, thus reducing their load to school. Instead, they can just carry a laptop or a tab. Teachers can use projectors to highlight contents and use television to show informative documentaries. They can also use computers to prepare charts and graphs to disseminate information in a nutshell. Visual information in the form of charts and videos help students to understand concepts better. Smart boards are also widely used in schools nowadays, which reduce time wasted in teachers writing information on the board. The use of technology makes the classroom more interactive and colourful, thus making it easy to learn and more interesting to the students. And since this generation was brought up with technology all around them, using it in education will make them feel at ease. As the syllabus content is all online, students need not buy or print it again, as they can just see it on their tabs, or on the smart board.

Although, I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I said that the blackboard-benches format is not completely relevant today. I mean, it has been used for so many years, so many generations, and has helped students learn. But as the years go on by, everything is changing, and so should the method of teaching. So the switch-over to electronic media is the right thing to do. The blackboard-benches format gives a primitive feel to the class and the children feel lackluster. In this format, the teachers have to put extra energy and creativity to capture the interest of the pupil. It is also time consuming as the teacher has to spend time writing everything on the board. But one thing that this format does is the bonding between the teacher and the pupil. Technology cannot have such a great impact on a students’ life as a teacher does.

If classrooms are to be made interactive, students should be given activities related to the topic taught so that they understand the concept better. Emphasis should be laid more on teaching subjects and coordinating it with everyday activities, so the student can implement it on a daily basis or at least when required. Just learning theoretically is no longer relevant in today's world. Technology is fast changing, so quick thinking and implementing is essential to survive in this competitive world. Students should be encouraged to think differently and discuss their ideas with each other to lay the foundation for team work.

I’m glad that many teachers today encourage students to refer to and study content online. They too are updating their topics with recent developments in technology. Surely integrating these external learning systems with the school system will help students learn better. Just the idea of being tech-savvy makes the student thrilled. YouTube channels often offer unique and easy to understand techniques for students to apply in their exams. They provide an alternate way of teaching from the way it is usually taught in class, if students don’t exactly grasp the main concept. Online teaching usually explains concepts based on problems encountered in daily life, so the concept is better understood with its relevance.

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In my dream class, there wouldn’t be any tests, or at least not as often. I would rather have interactive discussions with my co-students in which the entire class participates and everybody gets to air their opinion. Teachers should explain concepts with live demos or 3 dimensional models to have a better impact. Instead of writing, they should present the matter in powerpoint presentations thus reducing time delay. After explanation, they can show us some documentaries which will inform us how advanced the concept has grown today. I would also like spacious rooms with comfortable seating and colourful walls, with no restrictions on movements because if I am not comfortable, I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on the class.”

Adnan Ashriya

Class XI

Alpha Cambridge International School,Trichy

Making the classroom inclusive

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“This is the 21st century and the nation is blooming with new technologies. Turn any side and you can find at least one thing which is automatic or it works on AI (Artificial Intelligence). While we have embraced it in multiple applications, why can’t we use it for our education? Education and Artificial Intelligence are two tracks which we can combine to make our learning better. Why should we carry heavy books and notes to school when we can have our content in our portable electronic gadgets at one swipe? Tests and homework can be done online and the students can have their own login ID and password to make it secure enough.

The classroom can be made inclusive by creating an academic support, a change in our curriculum, adjusting ranking calculations, creating a respectful school community and create a space for discussion.

In my dream classroom, blackboards would be replaced by smart TVs, our books and notes will be replaced by our own laptops, students will have their own pods and working spaces, they will have their own personal and customised lockers. They will have access to their phones only when allowed and they are free to access the range of e-books in the school’s website.”

Aparna

Class XI

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Alpha Cambridge International School,Trichy

 

Tech should not replace teachers

“With the syllabus content easily available online, we can make the best use of improved technology in our classrooms. Technology should not replace teachers. Its main use is to enable students learn better and stimulate individual learning. This can be done by introducing tab-oriented learning in classrooms.

A classroom must have a black board in which concepts can be explained well to the students. In a classroom which is very advanced, blackboards can be replaced with smart boards in which teachers explain the concepts in the form of modules.

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An inclusive classroom is a general education classroom where children with different abilities, capabilities and disabilities learn together. The class can be made by providing assistance to individual students. Another key aspect of an inclusive classroom is accessibility. Group learning can also be encouraged to make sure that every student of the class cooperates with one another.

Today, teachers are open to students learning from and discovering new YouTube tutorials or education apps. Integrating an external learning system provides better understanding of the concepts. But this alone is not going to help out, teachers have to take the children to the labs and show live experiments. But of course education apps provide students extra notes to learn and they are able to score good grades in examinations with the help of these apps and tutorials.

My dream classroom should be like heaven on earth which will contain a comfortable cushion chair with a table and every student needs to have a separate locker in which their things can be kept safe. The classroom should allow students to have their own laptops. The teacher should be so friendly with the students and they should give a few chances for them to make mistakes. There has to be a relaxation time of 10 minutes after every period. Books should not be carried; everything should be taught online and assignments also should be done online.”

Evangeline Esther J

Class IX

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Alpha Cambridge International School,Trichy.

 

Switch to e-books
“Majority of Indian schools do not make use of all of the modern technology available via laptops and tablets. We carry cartloads of books and notebooks to and from school. If you lose a textbook or notebook, you may have a hard time learning in school and studying for exams. But, all of these textbooks are available online, so all you need is a tablet or a computer, and you can have access to those textbooks anywhere and at any time. You don’t have to worry about losing your textbooks. E-books are much cheaper too plus you are helping the environment by not using paper. So, from some of my personal experiences in the USA, I feel classrooms should provide students with tablets/laptops, and allow them to access textbooks using the device. Notebooks can also be replaced with tablets/laptops because there are free programs available like Google Docs (which I am using now), which allow you to type notes and access them from any device with the same Google Account and an internet connection, you can also save some documents to your computer in offline mode.

Blackboards and benches are not only boring but also unhelpful, they only allow you to write on them and they don’t allow for any interaction. Smart boards, on the other hand, are much more relevant today, a smart-board is basically a large TV, the size of a blackboard, which acts like a tablet, you can use it to play games, write things (using a program, smart-board markers and dusters), you can play videos on it, and write on the video/PPT, and do everything you could possibly do with a tablet, you just need a computer and cable. These smart-boards are very intuitive and attractive; they can keep students actively participating in the class and supplement learning. It may be a bit expensive but the advantages outweigh the cost. Benches should be replaced with individual tables and chairs arranged in groups for easier discussions.

The use of technology, in the right way, can even make the most boring lesson intuitive; there should be a balance between fun technology and learning. For example, if you are sitting in a biology class with a blackboard, you may be bored. But think about this, what if you had a tablet, which showed what the organ looked like and how it worked, while your teacher was showing a video on a smartboard, you and your friends were having an engaging discussion about this organ, and your tablet is taking notes based on what the teacher was saying based on speech recognition. That sounds much more fun and intuitive right? If every classroom was like this, everyone could do well in school, through a balance between fun and learning.
I feel, personally, that in my school, that teachers are not very open to students learning from YouTube videos on their own. The teachers do show us videos, but are not very encouraging towards us learning from YouTube videos that we choose. At my school, we do not use educational apps very much. But when I was in the USA, in my school, we were provided with MacBook Airs by the school, we did not have much-written homework at all! We were asked to watch YouTube videos and write about them, do lessons on apps like Khan Academy, and more than all of that, our teachers encouraged us a lot to go out and learn things ourselves on educational apps and share useful YouTube videos that we found with the whole class, this made learning much easier, more fun, and much more intuitive. I was able to learn things easily with the help of these apps, programs, and websites. By using computers more, I also learned how to type quickly and how to search the web effectively.

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My dream classroom is not really a classroom; it is more of a system, which is followed by Middle Schools in some western countries. It is a system where the students go to different classrooms and attend class, they are provided with lockers to store their books and personal items. What I would like the individual classrooms to have is a SMART Board 7275 Pro, I would like for the students to be provided with Macs, the students should be seated in groups with individual desks and chairs, and the room should have some board games and cards if we finish early.”

Ishaan Masilamony  

Class VII

Alpha Cambridge International School,Trichy

 

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Reduction in technology

“We embrace the benefits of living in a high tech world—with high tech classrooms already, in my opinion. It’s high time we reduce the use of technology during sessions with teachers which includes a non-virtual conversation with a complete understanding of each other. I definitely prefer the ancient way of teaching that had more practicality and more physical manoeuvre than the use of smart Televisions and iPads. I feel that these gadgets are driving children to addiction and isolation, with most of them living in a hypothetical world.

Use of technology in education has come a long way since the earliest times of human civilization. While embarking on aids with advanced technology, we need to take full cognizance of the lessons from the past, striking a balance between embracing new methods of teaching and learning while holding on to the timeless principles of education.

Lessons can be enhanced with the right video. Something visual and entertaining that speaks to the subject the teachers teach breaks up the monotony of a lecture, brings some fun into the lesson, and keeps us more engaged and interested in the subject.”

Jyotsna

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Class IX

Alpha Cambridge International School,Trichy

 

Getting interactive with technology
“Teachers have to rethink their teaching methods, as this is a flipped classroom we are talking about. Students' expertise in online communication can play a major role here. Letting the students create, collaborate and get interactive with technology can make their learning a whole lot fun. Adding a few simulators in higher grades would be good too.

Living in the 21st century, blackboards aren't exactly the first thing that comes to everyone's minds when given a choice between black and white boards. When someone prefers an older technology to a newer one, there's usually both a utilitarian reason and an aesthetic or nostalgic reason. Blackboards are better tools than whiteboards especially at showing processes, as they force teachers to work more slowly and deliberately and think, whether they are going through a complicated problem, or just simply noting down thoughts and ideas.

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Making classrooms inclusive can be a piece of cake if thought thoroughly, by taking each of the classroom activities in mind. Electronic books, speech software etc. can be brought in for "reading", whereas grammar or spelling checkers, word processors etc. can be a part of "writing". There can also be eye glasses and eye magnifiers for "vision" too.

Honestly, not all teachers encourage technology to interfere in education but there are an equal amount of teachers who do embolden smart learning which makes their lectures immensely exciting. Adding a few of these "high tech" procedures, will not only help other students in their learning, but also make schooling fascinating.

First thing, my dream classroom won't have any of the hard table and chairs we sit on, instead it would have plush and comfy chairs with every student having their own study space which they go to after every lesson for a 10 minute break to revise everything they learnt in the past hour. My classroom will be 10 times the size of a normal classroom inclusive of a small "your zone" where a person can go relax and come back during intervals. Smart tables in the main space for learning and will be placed where interaction between the students and teachers can be facilitated, not forgetting the podium upfront for class seminars and activities.”

Shridhi Singhvi

Class IX

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Alpha Cambridge International School,Trichy

 

Real-world problems in the classroom
“An important use of technology is its capacity to create new opportunities for curriculum and instruction by bringing real-world problems into the classroom for students to explore and solve. Technology can help to create an active environment in which students not only solve problems, but also find their own problems. This approach to learning is very different from the typical school classrooms, in which students spend most of their time learning facts from a lecture or text and doing the problems at the end of the chapter. Learning through real-world contexts is not a new idea. For a long time, schools have made sporadic efforts to give students concrete experiences through field trips, laboratories, and work-study programmes. But these activities have seldom been at the heart of academic instruction, and they have not been easily incorporated into schools because of logistical constraints and the amount of subject material to be covered.

Traditional blackboards can be used for geometry, botany subjects where the lecturer has to explain with a drawing. But I feel newer methods of teaching are good for the students to understand subjects better.

In my dream classroom, I will ensure that work flows throughout the classroom. I will create a place where students can meet and feel secure – students learn from each other, they need a consistent environment where they can have face-to-face interactions. I would place the teacher's desk at the back of the room rather than the front- this lends the classroom to maximizing student learning through communication, reflection and reinforcement rather than the traditional "chalk and talk" setup

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Of course yes, I would surely exclude the system of memorizing and vomiting and I would completely encourage the use of technology as much as possible, not only for easy access but also for interaction between students.”
V Deepika

Class IX

Alpha Cambridge International School, Trichy

 

Knowledge over marks

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“Our classrooms can be made progressive by integrating technology into our teaching in order to make it as easy as possible for the children to learn and in order to

give the students another perspective of a topic being taught. We can also use web services such as Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams to remind students of

homeworks and assignments by posting them online, rather than the old school diaries.

The blackboard-benches format is irrelevant in today’s culture and in fact, the old school system hinders students from learning the subject matter in an effective way. Using blackboards for subjects such as Physics, Geography, Chemistry, and many more does not paint a wholesome picture and sometimes even leaves the students confused since they can not completely understand the concept. By saying so, I’m not stating that black boards should be completely eradicated, instead, blackboards should be used as a supplement to a more digital classroom.

The best way to make the classrooms more inclusive is to govern the school pupil using love and friendliness instead of instilling fear. By this I mean that, the students should have the freedom to do what they want in order to gain the needed experience from school life, rather than just adhere to preset guidelines in order to pass a set of papers. The school staff should only be there to guide students in the right direction when they veer off, rather than define a strict path for them, which they have to navigate as per the wishes of the staff. The classrooms can also be made more friendly by decorating the walls with posters, letting students wear appropriate yet colorful dresses of their choice once or twice a week, and letting them choose what they want to learn from an earlier stage of their educational careers. I think the teachers nowadays are very open to outside help from multimedia sources, however, there are some teachers (very few) who are against this, and even demand their students to learn traditionally. I think that integrating multimedia sources into our schools is a progressive and crucial move that schools all over the world need to make. There are apps now such as Byju’s learning app, which supplement the students’ understanding of concepts, and in many cases even aid the students in clearing any confusions that may have risen by the old school, traditional style of teaching. Although schools should use educational apps to supplement their teaching, they should be careful not to use applications which are only focused on making a profit, rather than help the students. Schools should consider using a source that is free for all and which is non profit such as Khan Academy in order to guarantee that their students can get the best that is available as of right now. Lastly, the schools should also be careful only to use the multimedia sources as a “supplement” to the education given in school, rather than using it as the primary source of education for the students. My dream classroom is one where, I can learn whatever I want in a way that is tailored for me, rather than me having to adapt to the system. My dream classroom is one where, I can have a teacher like Aamir Khan from “Taare Zameen Par”, rather than have a teacher like the principal from “3 Idiots”. Finally, my dream classroom is one where, I can go in order to learn and increase my knowledge, rather than go to a classroom to score good marks in the exams and to study in a good college.”

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Sricharan Sridhar

Class IX

Alpha Cambridge International School,Trichy

 

Need to adapt practical learning

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“Everybody wants to learn technology, for no doubt technology is mastering this modern world. So why not utilise it effectively? Rather than writing by hand, typing on MSWord allows students to cut and paste, save their work and use spell checkers and thesauruses. First of all, students need edu-pads at schools which should replace notebooks and pens. Surveys show that most children show reduced interest in studies because they are forced to write. Typing and surfing might lighten their workload.

‘Games’ linked with academics are very essential because it is said that playing games activates brain dopamine and improves memory.

‘No Stress Learner’ enables us to be updated even when we are on leave. Lectures by teachers are recorded and played later, so that we never miss a point due to illness or any other reasons. Technology might be helpful but has demerits too- high cost, availability, distraction etc. If these factors are checked, then technology becomes a great boon for future learning.

Exams should be excluded from schools because the main aim of exam is assessment. Students should be allowed to frame their own queries and doubts and indulge in self-assessment. Students should not be forced to learn a subject which they are not interested in. Rather they should be encouraged to acquire intense knowledge in the subject of their choice. Entrance exams should be practical. Medical and Engineering professions are not jobs of theory but of practice. Finally, schools should adapt practical learning. So, my dream classroom should be able to satisfy these expectations.”
Swarupaa Sree S

Class XII

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Alpha Wisdom Vidyashram

 

Quest for application-oriented learning

“In the olden days, the classroom atmosphere was built around the ‘chalk and talk’ method but this rigid practice has been altered dramatically in the recent years. This factory model of learning has now changed and thus the 21st century requires a learning system which indulges in the use of technology. Students should be familiarized with tools like, ‘Word Processing Tools’, ‘Presentation Software’, ‘Course Management Tools’, Lecture Capture Tools’ etc. to enhance their learning. They must be given free access to educational apps available online to boost their learning. Opportunity must be created for students to participate in online seminars, discussions and conferences. Virtual field trips to various places could give students detailed idea of what is taught in the lessons because visuals speak louder than words. Anytime and anywhere learning is possible with purposeful technology.

The blackboard-benches format, although traditional, is still relevant and has ease of presentation. Calculations, diagrams, sketches, maps can be presented effectively on blackboards. Every tutor may not be familiar with new technology but the traditional method is handy to all. Moreover, this method is inexpensive therefore is accessible to schools of any category and any category of students. The blackboard-benches classroom develops interaction between teacher and students and among students.

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In ancient times, the ‘Gurukulam system’ enhanced knowledge and honed the skills of the students. But today unfortunately, education comprises syllabus completion, projects, assessments, homeworks, exams etc. within the four walls. A classroom must adapt practical and application-oriented learning. For example, learning related to agriculture, working of drones, rockets etc. should be practical than theoretical. My dream classroom should have access to facilities such as ‘Cloud Technology’ and ‘3D Printer’ to meet the needs of new generation learners. Using holograms in classroom teaching may seem practically difficult but introducing the same in small scale will help to teach the children how it works. Principles followed by the Japanese educational system are wonderful. Our educational system too should prepare the students for their career from childhood rather than just producing the graduates. Students must be taught values and how to respect nature and fellow humans rather than preparing them for exams. Classroom should not only have books and blackboard but also have amenities to learn traditional arts. Digital development in classroom alone will not help the learning to be effective. So, my dream classroom must be an inclusive classroom with all possible features to supply to the needs to satisfy my quest for learning.”

Oviya. S

Class XI

Alpha Wisdom Vidyashram

 

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No more four-walled classrooms

“The syllabus content from online education is extremely useful and it is an easy learning equipment for students in the present generation. Our classrooms will also adapt to this kind of learning by setting up Smart Boards. Teaching on blackboards helped us when we were in smaller classes. In higher classes, it is easier to use the Smart Board System with whiteboard which will attract the students’ mind to capture the syllabus content easily.

Today, we are happy that a number of teachers have started posting content on their YouTube channels for their students to benefit from. Some students may have doubts about a topic taught and may feel shy to express it in class. Now, they can easily find answers to these question by referring to external learning systems.

Our dream classroom should be a “pathway for making students future nation builders”. Great philosophers like Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton and Mahatma Gandhi learnt about life from their exposure to the society and not by learning in classrooms. We believe that it is time to end the concept of a four-walled classroom.”
Afzar A (Class XI) and Sharlene A (Class XII)

Alpha Plus Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Trichy

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Free area minus distractions

“Rethinking to the 19th century (inverting the traditional ways) would be a good choice when comparing the way of studies. Making the students feel relaxed can reduce the stress of everybody. A whole core of new subjects ought to be included due to tomorrow’s way of work. Books can be optional because everyone might not be comfortable with online syllabus. Doing projects practically from online tutorials is a good idea too. Beautiful places that can make the student feel good to be at school with art, plants, music (when needed), comfortable seating with fast internet access would be all that is needed. The ideal classroom would be like a free area with no distractions and teachers cannot be excluded because no kid is perfect, so an experienced guide is needed.”
Mir Zahid Ahmed

Class IX

Alpha Cambridge International School,Trichy

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Education

National Safety Day: The Importance of Teaching Good Touch and Bad Touch in Schools

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Teacher teaching good touch and bad touch to children using colourful graphs
The image is generated using AI

In the light of National Safety Day observed on the 4th of March each year, there’s a crucial aspect of safety that demands our attention—not just physical safety but the safety of our personal boundaries. This calls for an essential conversation about teaching children the concept of good touch and bad touch in schools, a topic that extends beyond the basics of traffic and environmental safety to the core of personal security and dignity.

Why, you might ask, is it vital to introduce this topic in the educational ecosystem? Simply put, knowledge is power. Educating children on the difference between a ‘good touch’ and a ‘bad touch’ empowers them to understand their rights, recognise inappropriate behaviour, and importantly, speak up. In an era where the safety of children should be paramount, this education acts as a shield, protecting their innocence and integrity.

But the conversation doesn’t stop with the children. It extends to the educators themselves. In the process of enlightening the young minds about safety, it’s equally critical for teachers to undergo training on the same subject. This dual approach serves a twofold purpose: a) it equips teachers to handle disclosures of inappropriate touch with sensitivity and the seriousness it demands, ensuring the right steps are taken to safeguard the child and b) it makes educators aware of their own actions, ensuring their interactions with students are always appropriate and beyond reproach.

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, implemented in India, underscores the importance of such education. The Act provides a legal framework to protect children against offences of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and pornography while safeguarding the child at every stage of the judicial process. Incorporating awareness about the POCSO Act in school curriculums and teacher training programs reinforces the legal and moral responsibilities we hold towards our children.

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Integrating this education into schools demands sensitivity, age-appropriate language, and a nurturing environment where children feel safe to express their concerns. It’s about building trust, ensuring every child knows they have a voice and that voice will be heard and respected.

For educators, this training should be an integral part of their professional development. Understanding the nuances of child psychology, the impact of their actions, and the legalities of child protection are essential components of their role. This knowledge not only protects the children but also the educators, fostering a safe and respectful learning environment.

Now, over to you, dear readers. Engaging in this dialogue is the first step towards change. Schools must be sanctuaries of learning, not just academically but socially and personally. As parents, educators, and members of the community, it’s our collective responsibility to advocate for and implement this crucial education. Share your thoughts, experiences, and suggestions. How can we, as a society, better protect our children? Your voice matters in shaping a safer future for our youngest citizens.

This conversation is not just necessary; it’s urgent. Let’s not shy away from it. Together, we can create a culture of safety, respect, and understanding, making every day a step towards a safer tomorrow for our children.

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Dr Anju & Dr. Pascal Chazot Get Highest French Award by the French Government

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In an illustrious ceremony held in Ahmedabad on February 29, 2024, the Mahatma Gandhi International School (MGIS) witnessed a proud moment as its director, Dr Anju Chazot, and founding trustee, Dr Pascal Chazot, were awarded the highest civilian honour by the Government of France. The Honourable Consul General of France in Mumbai, Mr Jean-Marc Séré-Charlet, presented these prestigious awards at the Huteesing Visual Arts Centre, marking a significant recognition of their contributions to education and Indo-French relations.

Dr Anju Chazot was honoured with the Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques (Knight in the Order of the Academic Palms), an accolade that highlights her distinguished services in academia, culture, and education. This order of knighthood, established by Napoleon in 1806, is the highest civilian honour the French Education Ministry can bestow. Dr Chazot’s work has significantly contributed to promoting Indo-French student exchanges, skill development programmes, and facilitating French business investments in Gujarat and India. Her achievements have been acknowledged not just by France but also through various Indian awards, including the SheRise award by FICCI and the Civil Society Award from the Election Commission of India.

On the other hand, Dr Pascal Chazot received the Médaille d’honneur des Affaires étrangères (President’s Medal) for bravery from the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs. With over 30 years dedicated to education and international cooperation, Dr Chazot has been instrumental in fostering a culture of Indo-French cultural exchange in Ahmedabad. His extensive experience and contributions to the field have been recognized previously, including his service during the attack in Mumbai, for which he was awarded the President’s Medal of Honour by the Government of France.

Mr Jean-Marc Séré-Charlet lauded the role of Dr Chazot and Dr Anju in strengthening the ties between India and France, especially in the education sector. Their efforts have been pivotal in enhancing people-to-people linkages and collaborations between the two countries.

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Consul General Jean-Marc Sere-Scarlet has expressed enthusiasm for increasing the number of Indian students in France, aiming for a target of 30,000 by 2030. This goal reflects the growing ties between India and France and the French President’s commitment to deepening investments in India. Currently, France hosts four lakh international students, with Indians making up just 7,000 of that number. The Consul General highlighted the importance of building a stronger Indian community in France to foster mutual growth and understanding.

Dr Anju Chazot, holding a doctorate in education from King’s College, London, and specializing in teacher training, is keen on promoting educational exchanges between India and France. She emphasized the opportunities arising from the bilateral agreements between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron. Dr Chazot looks forward to a future rich with collaborative efforts in internships, volunteer work, and education, benefiting both countries in various sectors including business, technology, and educational practices. She expressed optimism for an increased French presence in Gujarat and vice versa, marking a promising era of Indo-French cooperation.

ScooNews congratulates Dr Anju Chazot and Dr Pascal Chazot on their remarkable achievements and takes pride in their participation as master trainers in the latest masterclass format event, The Rising Leaders Summit 2024, held in February at IIT Gandhinagar. Their work exemplifies the power of education in bridging cultures and fostering global understanding, embodying the spirit of excellence and innovation that ScooNews champions.

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Confronting the Crisis: Addressing Student Suicides in Kota and Beyond

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Addressing the student suicides in Kota and beyond
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In a deeply troubling trend that underscores a crisis in India’s educational system, recent statistics paint a harrowing picture of the mental health challenges faced by students across the country. With reported cases of suicide linked to academic pressure on the rise, the urgency to address this issue has never been more critical. In the early months of 2024 alone, there have been distressing reports from prestigious institutions like IIT Kanpur, IIT Delhi, IIT Roorkee, and IIT BHU, totaling 5 incidents of student suicides.

Kota, often dubbed as India’s coaching capital, has become synonymous with the immense pressure faced by students preparing for competitive exams. The town witnessed an all-time high of 26 student suicides last year, a stark indicator of the unbearable stress these young minds are subjected to. This year, six students in Kota have already succumbed to the pressure, including an 18-year-old JEE aspirant who deemed herself a “loser” for not being able to meet the expectations set by the highly competitive exam.

These incidents are not isolated to Kota or the IITs; they are symptomatic of a larger, systemic issue plaguing educational institutions across India. A 17-year-old intermediate student in Telangana’s Adilabad district, for example, took his own life after being denied entry to an exam for arriving late, a decision that pushed him towards a tragic end.

The narrative emerging from these incidents is clear: the educational system, coupled with societal expectations, is creating an environment where failure is not seen as a part of learning but as an insurmountable setback. This mindset is contributing to a dangerous escalation in the student suicide rate, particularly in coaching hubs like Kota, where the pressure to succeed in exams such as NEET, UPSC, and JEE is immense.

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It is high time that schools, universities, and parents across India recognize the gravity of this issue. The relentless pursuit of academic excellence at the cost of students’ mental health is an unsustainable and harmful practice. Educators and caregivers must foster an environment where failure is acknowledged as a step towards growth and where students are encouraged to explore their passions without the fear of judgment.

Moreover, the implementation of comprehensive mental health programs and the promotion of open conversations about failure and resilience can significantly mitigate the risks associated with academic pressure. It is crucial for educational institutions to partner with mental health professionals to provide students with the support they need to navigate the challenges of their academic journeys.

So what is eventually required of the education sector? the alarming rate of student suicides in India is a call to action for all stakeholders in the educational sector. The tragic losses experienced in places like Kota serve as a stark reminder of the need to reevaluate our approach to education and student well-being. By cultivating an environment that values individuality, encourages exploration, and provides robust support systems, we can work towards a future where the pursuit of knowledge is not marred by the fear of failure but is celebrated as a path to personal and intellectual growth.

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Teach for India Invites Applications for its 2024 Fellowship Program

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Teach For India is now accepting applications for its esteemed 2024 Fellowship, offering a transformative opportunity for individuals passionate about making a difference in education. With the application deadline set for March 17, 2024, at 11:59 pm, aspiring fellows can submit their applications through the official portal at apply.teachforindia.org.

This fellowship, open to graduates who will complete their degree by June/July 2024, seeks individuals with a drive to foster educational equity. Applicants, whether citizens of India or Overseas Citizens of India (OCI), are invited to detail their achievements, interests, and motivations for joining the fellowship, highlighting the absence of a requirement for prior teaching experience.

The Teach For India Fellowship is a two-year, full-time commitment, during which fellows are placed in English-medium classrooms in under-resourced government or low-income private schools. As subject or class teachers, they will impact the lives of 40-80 students, striving to bridge educational gaps.

The journey begins with an intensive residential training program focused on curriculum development, lesson planning, classroom management, and student assessment. This preparation equips fellows to excel in their roles and make a significant impact in their assigned schools located in one of eight cities: Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, or Pune.

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This initiative not only aims to enrich the educational landscape of underserved communities but also fosters personal and professional growth among the fellows. As the final call for applications for the 2024 cohort, Teach For India encourages motivated individuals to seize this chance to contribute to a larger cause and join the movement towards educational equality.

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Overcoming Board Exam Stress: A Guide for Students and Parents

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As board exams loom on the horizon, a palpable tension grips students and parents alike across India. It’s a time when the pressure to perform peaks, often overshadowing the true essence of learning. However, it’s crucial to remember that board exam scores, while important, are not the sole determinants of a student’s potential or future success.

  • Firstly, students must acknowledge that their worth is not defined by their marks. Education is a journey of personal and intellectual growth, not a race to the highest score. Embracing this mindset alleviates much of the undue stress and shifts the focus to understanding and engaging with the material.

    One effective strategy for dealing with exam pressure is establishing a balanced study routine. This means setting realistic goals, creating a structured timetable, and including short, regular breaks to prevent burnout. Breaks are not a diversion but a necessity; they rejuvenate the mind and enhance productivity.

  • For parents, it’s vital to support their children’s well-being during this period. Encourage a healthy study environment that allows for leisure and relaxation. Pressuring children to study incessantly is counterproductive; it stifles creativity and critical thinking—skills that exams, ironically, aim to assess.
  • Students should prioritize clarity of concepts over rote memorization. Understanding the fundamentals of a subject not only aids in retaining information but also in applying knowledge in various contexts— a skill far more valuable in the long run than the ability to regurgitate facts.
  • Moreover, adopting healthy coping mechanisms can significantly reduce stress. Regular physical activity, mindfulness practices, and pursuing hobbies can provide much-needed relief from the rigors of exam preparation. Engaging in discussions with peers or mentors can also offer new perspectives and solutions to academic challenges.
  • Finally, it’s essential for both students and parents to maintain open communication. Discussing concerns, expectations, and aspirations can foster a supportive atmosphere, making the exam preparation journey less daunting.

What we can derive out of all this is that navigating the pressure of board exams requires a balanced approach that values learning over scores, well-being over relentless studying, and understanding over memorization. By cultivating a supportive environment and adopting healthy study habits, students can emerge from this challenging period not just with satisfactory results but with invaluable life skills and a deeper appreciation for the joy of learning

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Ministry of Education Launches ‘Mera Pehla Vote Desh Ke Liye’ Campaign to Empower Young Voters

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The Ministry of Education has announced the launch of a significant initiative titled “Mera Pehla Vote Desh Ke Liye”, scheduled to run from 28th February to 6th March 2024. This national campaign is designed to foster universal, informed participation among the youth in elections, aiming to increase participation of youth in 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

Union Education and Skill Development & Entrepreneurship Minister, Shri Dharmendra Pradhan, has called upon the youth of India to actively partake in the democratic process. Echoing Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s encouragement for first-time voters to vote in large numbers, Shri Pradhan emphasised the importance of making informed choices for the advancement of democracy. To this end, he has directed Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs) across India to host extensive voter awareness activities on their campuses, aiming to underscore the significance of each vote in shaping the nation’s future.

The initiative seeks to engage young voters through a variety of activities, underscoring the importance of voting for the nation’s greater good. HEIs will feature designated areas for voter awareness activities, including a blend of on-ground and online events on the MyGov platform. The week-long campaign will host diverse events such as blog writing, podcasting, debates, essay writing, quizzes, and more, encouraging creative expression among students. Furthermore, workshops and seminars will be organised to deepen understanding of the electoral process, alongside encouragement for youths to take a voter’s pledge online and utilise the Voter Helpline App.
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The National Service Scheme (NSS) and its volunteers are set to play a pivotal role in driving the initiative within educational institutions, with all activities to be documented on the ‘My Gov’ portal for broader reach. Clubs within educational settings will also join in to support the campaign’s objectives.

This initiative marks a significant effort by the Ministry of Education to ensure that India’s youth are not only aware of their electoral rights but are also motivated to participate actively in the democratic processes that define the world’s largest democracy. Through “Mera Pehla Vote Desh Ke Liye”, the ministry aims to instil a sense of pride and responsibility in young voters, empowering them to contribute to the nation’s democratic fabric.

(Source- PIB)

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World NGO Day: Including Social Service and Philanthropy in Curriculum

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On World NGO Day, celebrated each 27th of February, we’re reminded of the pivotal role NGOs play in fostering social change and development. It’s an opportune moment to reflect on a critical gap in our education system—integrating social service into school curriculums. While Indian schools commendably cover moral science and discuss the multifaceted challenges of poverty, they often skirt around a crucial lesson: the importance of giving back to society, a principle that acknowledges our inherent privileges.

The privilege of accessing education and enjoying life’s luxuries is not a universal given; it’s a blessing. Recognizing this privilege entails acknowledging our responsibility to contribute positively to society, underscoring the necessity of philanthropy in our educational ethos. However, mere acknowledgment isn’t enough; action is imperative. This is where the collaboration with NGOs becomes invaluable.

Consider the transformative potential of inviting NGOs working in education into our schools. These organizations, such as Pratham, Akshaya Patra, and Teach For India, are not just entities; they are repositories of real-world experiences and agents of change. By partnering with these NGOs, schools can offer students more than theoretical knowledge; they can provide them with hands-on experiences in social service, embedding the value of giving back into the fabric of their education.

Imagine the impact of integrating assignments that require active participation in social causes—organizing donation drives, participating in animal welfare activities, or contributing to environmental conservation efforts. Such initiatives do more than inculcate a sense of responsibility; they foster empathy, cultivate a sense of community, and prepare students to be conscientious citizens.

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The benefits of integrating social service into school curriculums extend beyond moral and ethical development. They equip students with critical life skills—teamwork, leadership, problem-solving, and empathy—preparing them for the challenges of the real world. Moreover, these engagements offer tangible experiences of impact, teaching students that their actions can indeed make a difference. For example, organising donation drives and animal welfare camps where students can be the volunteers for a better, bigger cause is a great way to include social services into our curriculum.

The partnership between schools and NGOs can take various forms, from guest lectures and workshops to long-term projects and internships. These collaborations provide a platform for NGOs to raise awareness about their causes and for students to engage with these issues deeply and meaningfully.

By making social service an integral part of the curriculum, we can ensure that education transcends academic achievements to include the development of well-rounded individuals who are aware of their social responsibilities. It’s about creating a culture of giving back, fostering a generation that is not only educated but also empathetic and engaged with the world’s pressing challenges.

So, let’s commit to enriching our educational systems with the values of social service and philanthropy. Let’s embrace the opportunity to partner with NGOs and transform our students into not just scholars but also compassionate contributors to society. In doing so, we pay forward our blessings and take meaningful steps towards building a more equitable and caring world.

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India Sets 6-Year Minimum Age for Class 1 Admissions Nationwide

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The Ministry of Education has officially established a minimum age requirement of 6 years for admissions into Class 1, aligning with the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020’s emphasis on developmental readiness and ensuring a uniform standard across the nation. This landmark decision underscores the government’s commitment to the foundational principles laid out in the NEP 2020, prioritising early childhood care and education and recognising the distinct developmental needs of children aged 3–6 years.

In official communications disseminated through the Ministry’s X (formerly Twitter) account, the Ministry of Education (MoE) highlighted its directives to all states and Union Territories (UTs) to conform to this guideline starting from the academic session 2024-25. The move is aimed at ensuring that children are adequately mature, both emotionally and cognitively, to navigate the demands of primary education.

The Ministry’s letters to the states and UTs, issued on 15 February 2024, reiterate requests made in previous correspondences (D.O. letter No. 9-2/20- IS-3 dated 31 March 2021 and 9 February 2023), urging alignment with the NEP 2020 and the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009. These communications highlight the importance of a standardised age of entry into Grade 1 as a critical step towards realising the vision of an education system that fosters equitable and inclusive learning opportunities for every child in India.

By mandating a minimum entry age for Class 1, the Ministry aims not only to ensure that children possess the necessary readiness for the academic and social aspects of schooling but also to promote consistency and coherence in the implementation of educational reforms across the country. This initiative reflects a holistic approach to education, acknowledging the critical role of developmental readiness in the overall learning journey of a child.

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The Ministry of Education’s directive serves as a reminder of the transformative potential of the NEP 2020, aiming to adapt India’s education system to the evolving needs of its children and laying the groundwork for a future where every child can thrive and reach their full potential. With the academic session 2024-25 on the horizon, this policy sets a new standard for educational excellence and equity, marking a significant milestone in India’s journey towards an inclusive and empowering education system for all.

The move has been met with widespread approval, highlighting the government’s dedication to not just educational reform but to nurturing well-rounded individuals equipped for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. As states and UTs work towards implementing this directive, the education landscape in India stands at the cusp of a new era, one where the focus on holistic development promises to redefine the foundations of learning and teaching for generations to come.

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Education or Profit? Bombay High Court Calls for Accessible Learning for All

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In a recent statement that hits home for many, the Bombay High Court pointed out a harsh truth: education, once considered sacred in our culture, has now become something many can hardly afford. The court stressed that it’s the government’s duty to make sure everyone in the country has access to good quality education, highlighting the importance of education in the growth and development of society.

Judges AS Chandurkar and Jitendra Jain shared their thoughts during a case involving a request to open a new college. They mentioned a concern that only letting groups with previous experience in education open new colleges could unfairly keep new players out of the game. This could lead to a few big names controlling the education sector, which isn’t fair to everyone else. Yet, they also acknowledged that experience is important to make sure these new institutions can actually provide good education. While acknowledging the importance of experience in managing educational institutions, the justices called for a more balanced approach. They suggested the establishment of clear, quantifiable parameters for evaluating applications for new colleges, thereby ensuring a fair and competitive educational landscape.

This judicial intervention is a stark reminder of the ongoing transformation of the education sector into an ‘education industry,’ where the pursuit of profit often overshadows the noble mission of disseminating knowledge.

With tuition fees skyrocketing and private coaching centers popping up everywhere, education is becoming more about money and less about learning and growth. It’s a wake-up call for those running educational institutions to remember the real reason they’re in this field – not to make a profit, but to educate and shape future generations.

This scenario demands a reevaluation of our priorities. Education should not be a luxury only a few can afford. It’s a fundamental right that paves the way for a better future for individuals and society as a whole. It’s time for educational institutions to reflect on their purpose and for the government to take action to ensure that quality education is accessible to everyone, regardless of their financial status. This entails not only regulating fees and ensuring transparency in the functioning of educational institutions but also investing in public education to enhance its quality and reach.

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“Although ‘education’ is a pious in our culture but with change in time it has taken a different colour and has become unaffordable. It is the State’s Constitutional responsibility to ensure quality education reaches all the citizens of this country to achieve the growth and development of humanity”, the court said. 

The Bombay High Court’s remarks are a crucial reminder for us all. It’s a call to action to prevent the commercialization of education from overshadowing its true value and to work towards a system where education is seen not as an industry, but as a vital service that nurtures humanity’s growth and development.

(With inputs from Livelaw.in)

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CBSE considering Open Book Exams for classes 9-12, to do a pilot run in November

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In an innovative step towards modernising education, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) is exploring the introduction of Open Book Examinations (OBE) for students in Classes 9 to 12. This initiative aligns with the latest recommendations from the new National Curriculum Framework, according to reports from The Indian Express.

The CBSE plans to conduct a pilot run of this progressive examination format in select schools later this year. The subjects chosen for this pilot include English, Mathematics, and Science for Classes 9 and 10, and English, Mathematics, and Biology for Classes 11 and 12. This preliminary phase aims to gauge the duration students require to complete the tests and gather feedback from all stakeholders involved.

Open Book Examinations allow students to refer to their notes, textbooks, and other study materials during the exam. Contrary to perceptions that this makes exams easier, OBEs often present a more significant challenge. They are designed to assess students’ comprehension of the material, analytical abilities, and their capacity to apply concepts in various contexts, rather than mere rote memorisation.

Scheduled for November-December this year, the pilot’s outcomes will be instrumental in determining whether CBSE will implement this assessment method across all affiliated schools for the specified classes. The focus of these exams will be on evaluating students’ higher-order thinking skills, including analysis, critical and creative thinking, and problem-solving capabilities.

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In preparation for the pilot, CBSE is set to finalise the design and development of the OBE model by June. The board seeks to collaborate with Delhi University (DU), which had previously adopted open book tests in August 2020 amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, despite facing opposition. This move disrupted the traditional academic calendar and paved the way for alternative assessment methods.

During discussions in the curriculum committee meeting, it was suggested that teachers should initially undertake open book exams themselves. This approach will help them grasp the concept more thoroughly and aid in the creation of quality OBE materials, potentially mirroring the standard of the Advanced Placement exams used for college entrance in the United States.

This step by CBSE, as reported by The Indian Express, marks a significant shift towards enhancing educational assessments and is poised to transform the way students learn and are evaluated, promoting a deeper understanding and application of knowledge.

(With inputs from The Indian Express)

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