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Key personal attributes and relevant experiences need embedding throughout early childhood

Kathryn Peckham believes key personal attributes and relevant experiences need embedding throughout early childhood, to secure the building blocks needed for future success

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Preparing children for the rigours of formal education has roots within the earliest stages of life.  A process often grossly misunderstood, demands for children ‘ready to learn’ arouses deep tensions, flying as it does in the face of deeply held beliefs regarding children’s holistic learning needs and abilities to learn from birth. 

The term ‘school readiness’, originally introduced in England as a performance indicator for Children’s Centres, has more recently become equated with assessment at the end of Reception year at school when children are typically five years old.  Such narrow views of what constitutes an ‘ideal learner’ raises several questions;

How can assessment at the end of Reception indicate readiness for formal schooling which has, in many significant ways, already begun?

In what context are judgements being made, and by whom? 

Can all significant achievements be effectively judged within prescribed goals?

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Can any set criteria be meaningfully matched to all children regardless of background and early childhood experiences? 

What impact could this have on practice and priorities?

As we consider the overwhelming influence of effective beginnings on children’s futures we must explore practice beyond learning goals and government directed assessment targets to consider deeper attributes of holistic learning in the support of children and their families. By recognising children’s diversity and the wide-ranging abilities and skills required within the formal classroom we can begin to challenge the current rhetoric of children starting from deficit positions, seen somehow as potentially ‘unready to learn’.

Being ready and able for an auspicious start to school life is the right and need of every child. Preparing children for this transition, into an environment with many developmental, individual, interactional and contextual challenges, is a holistic process spanning all preceding years, involving home, school and setting. With adult prospects recognisable within skills and abilities already established at 22-months-old, the influential impact of effective parenting, the home environment, maternal and child health and early childhood care and education is clear.  With direct impact on language acquisition, self-regulation and confidence, early influences are felt throughout children’s school experience and into adult life, effecting employment, social integration and criminality with effects felt throughout the family structure.

However, school leaders in disadvantaged communities often report weak parenting skills, impacted through negative parental experiences, mental health issues and low aspirations for their children. Limited life experiences offered to these children results in complex challenges including low levels of social skills and communication. These challenges must be met by understanding the relative ease with which vital early experiences can be offered to all children within sensory experiences and environments ready to adapt to their needs.

Born eager to learn, children react to all lessons offered to them as basic brain architecture and the systems deployed within its development sees growth with every sensory experience.  Demonstrating its potential most eloquently within situations that matter, such as encountering problem solving scenarios, it does not do as well within demonstrated displays of knowledge, as in rote learning or test conditions.  Predisposed to engaging in multifaceted, hierarchical, cyclical and spiralling learning processes more complex and important than the simple bestowing of information, these lay the building blocks for more complex functions of problem solving, reasoning and planning to follow. 

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However, these capabilities are in danger of being lost if natural attempts at learning are undervalued or superseded by other demands.  Children disengage as opportunities to make decisions and self-direct diminish.  If their earliest experiences are unmatched to their learning needs or are out of context with their reality, as is often experienced by children living in difficult situations, or where there is an emphasis on pre-determined outcomes within pre-determined timeframes, such deeply unfulfilling and frustrating learning experiences can introduce a sense of failure.  Psychological and social issues often follow, specifically disadvantaging the children whose experiences beyond school limit their ability to succeed within this model – the very children we most need to reach.  If children’s natural learning processes are denied, limited, devalued or continuously interrupted, the message is introduced that their natural attempts at learning are simply not worth their efforts.

Children need;

A voice – Opportunity to express their opinions and feelings, meaning, reasoning and thinking as children learn to vocalise ideas and experiences, through imaginative discussions, listening and responding others in increasingly sophisticated ways

To be encouraged – Supported, challenged and stimulated, children will rehearse, adapt, revisit, improve and perfect understanding in ways meaningful to them, becoming independent learners.

Quality relationships – through social, cooperative play, social skills and behaviours, self-confidence, independence and the ability to cooperate with others flourish, supporting feelings of belonging and well-being. 

Risky challenge – allowing for careful judgment where possible harm is balanced against potential benefit children learn through their errors, misunderstandings and conflicts.

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Creative opportunities – free from adverse stresses of conformity or imposed sense of failure.

All set within self-motivated, diverse, accessible and practical experiences of real-life problem solving and exploration.  Set within children’s own timescales, they are permitted freedom to initiate and combine experiences, to practice and explore intellectual processes, together with time to wallow and consolidate.  As intrinsic motivations, interest, confidence and self-regulation blooms, diverse thinking and reflection found in symbolic and abstract thought has an opportunity to flourish.  Meaningful opinions, stories and perspectives shared through their own narratives are more easily shared and deeply understood within cooperative situations as contextual and interesting environments allow for an emotional togetherness. 

Children who start school well, happy to explore, to take risks and experiment, even when making mistakes, start school with a belief in their own abilities. They have a greater chance of future success, unlocking their potential with repercussions felt throughout a lifetime.  But to realise this, key personal attributes and relevant experiences need embedding throughout early childhood, securing the building blocks needed for future success. 

For more information and practical guidance on developing the features of lifelong learning please access my book, Developing School Readiness, Creating Lifelong Learners or get in contact at www.kathrynpeckham.co.uk

About the author:

Kathryn Peckham MA (Ed) AFHEA is an Early Childhood consultant and author. She has many years of experience bringing about progressive change throughout a wide range of early childhood settings and environments.  Active participation with All Party Parliamentary Groups, lecturing, writing and research in early childhood, she works with a range of settings, helping them implement best practice from around the world, combined with knowledge of delivering practice in the real world.

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Opinion

Insight into constructive learning methods by an experienced educator

Active learning, in simple parlance, is any learning activity in which the student participates or interacts with the learning process instead of passively taking in the information.

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Active learning, in its most common format, is a process that has student learning at its centre. It focuses on “how” the students learn and not just on “what” they learn. Active learning is when one is actively participating and collaborating with peers to apply concepts to the real world. Here the students are encouraged to ‘think hard’ rather than passively receive information from the teacher.

Active learning often requires more significant mental efforts leading to increased retention and understanding of new knowledge that can be transferred to novel situations other than the one in which it was initially learned. Active learning, in simple parlance, is any learning activity in which the student participates or interacts with the learning process instead of passively taking in the information.

Active learning draws from the theory of constructivism. Whatever information and philosophies the learner accumulates in return is spent building constructive bridges of long-lasting experiential knowledge. Research shows us that it is impossible to transmit the understanding of the subject to the students by simply telling them what they need to know. Instead, teachers need to focus and make sure that they challenge their students’ thinking. With active learning, students play an essential part in their own learning process.

In an active learning approach, learning is not only about the content but also the learning process. This constructive learning approach develops students’ autonomy and their ability to learn, moulding them into lifelong learners. Active learning refers to a broad range of teaching strategies designed to engage students as active participants in their learning during class time with their teacher. Typically, these strategies involve students working together during class but may also involve individual work and/or reflection.

In active learning, children are constantly convincing and reasoning with each other, which helps them clarify misunderstandings, better their listening skills, and develop compassion and empathy. It can also be noted that active learning in a collaborative setting, if organised and executed, effectively boosts self-efficacy in students.

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Active learning approaches often ask students to connect new information and what they already know, thus extending their understanding. Teachers and educators always look to plan for activities that confront student misconceptions. We generally use two strategies to come to a concrete understanding of whether our classroom approaches have been successful or not.

Action research becomes an essential part of the school practice to understand which strategies are working and which are not. Here designing routines to bring out what the students’ conceptual understandings can be applied. This would help the teachers know whether students are learning what was intended or not.

It takes time and creativity to effectively incorporate active learning strategies into teaching and achieve the full benefits across instructional settings and disciplines. But as the research suggests and educators demonstrate, active learning can easily and effectively be incorporated into existing courses and materials without dramatically overhauling the course.

About the author:

Siddharth Rajgarhia is the Director at Delhi Public School Nasik, Varanasi, and Lava Nagpur.

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Opinion

Future of Education & Skilling in India

By making informed and intentional policy choices, critically evaluating and learning from the present and the past, and actively investing towards the larger purpose and shared vision of education, the future will be bright and promising.

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For the past two days, I was attending a school leaders’ conference in Phuket, Thailand which was on the contemporary topic of the Future of education and skilling in India. The conference was organised by Goethe Institute, Germany, and was mesmerising. Through the conference I along with many education leaders from countries such as Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India learned about the importance of vocational skills in modern education.

Did you Know?

Less than 5% of the workforce in the age group of 19-24 received vocational education in India during 2012 to 2017. This contrasts with 52% in the USA, 75% in Germany, and 96% in South Korea.

Mahatma Gandhi in a poignant quote says: “The future depends on what we do in the present”. India is moving towards becoming a developed country as well as among the three largest economies in the world. India will also have the highest population of young people in the world over the next decade. There will be 180 million youth that will be entering India’s workforce in the next 15 years. And as of now, there is a massive skill deficit of 400 million people in the workforce, posing both a simultaneous opportunity and challenge. Hence, Teaching for the future, ensuring that students not only learn but more importantly learn how to learn provide high-quality educational opportunities will determine our country's future. 

The National Education Policy of the Government of India has redefined the parameters of education in many ways. Vocational (Skill) education plays a very important in this policy.  The CBSE is in the process of devising curricula for vocational subjects. NEP 2020 says that the aim must be for India to have an education system by 2040 that is second to none, with equitable access to the highest-quality education for all learners regardless of social or economic background.

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So, today, holding Education as the foundation of the future, I would like to throw a light into the future of education and skilling –

  • The first shift we believe will be a global shift in the need for a skilled workforce proficient in multidisciplinary learning. With the rise of big data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, many unskilled jobs worldwide may be taken over by machines, while the need for a skilled workforce, particularly involving mathematics, computer science, and data science, in conjunction with multidisciplinary abilities across the sciences, social sciences, and humanities, will be increasingly in greater demand.
  • The second shift would be a move towards less content and more towards learning about how to think critically & creatively, solve problems, develop 21st-century skills, and absorb new material in changing circumstances.
  • Addressing ambiguous problems of the future would need not only technical proficiency but mental and emotional resilience to work alongside other people towards a common goal.  Hence, the third shift is a reconfiguration towards building life skills, and character that enables learners to be ethical, rational, compassionate, and caring, while at the same time preparing them for gainful, fulfilling employment.
  • The fourth shift would be a focus on high-quality interdisciplinary research across fields that must be done in India and cannot simply be imported.
  • the fifth shift would be Education rooted towards enabling Access, Quality & Equity which will provide all students, irrespective of their place of residence, with a quality education system, with a particular focus on historically marginalized, disadvantaged, and underrepresented groups.

  • Another shift in the future would be envisioning an education system that’s rooted in Indian ethos contributing directly to transforming India sustainably into an equitable and vibrant knowledge society. By leveraging Indian knowledge systems, it is inimitable artistic, language, and knowledge traditions, it would address local and global needs and instill national pride, self-confidence, self-knowledge, cooperation, and integration in its learners.

    All of this is aimed to be realised through a restructuring of the school curriculum that is aligned to the needs of students at different stages of their development.

  • Key reforms are undertaken reforming the current nature of school exams to move away from rote based to competency-based learning and assessments is another priority that is primed towards redefining education in the future.
  • The development of vocational capacities will also go hand-in-hand with the development of ‘academic’ or other capacities. Less than 5% of the workforce in the age group of 19-24 received vocational education in India from 2012 to 2017. Hence, in the future, Vocational education will be integrated into the educational offerings of all secondary schools in a phased manner over the next decade.
  • Towards this, secondary schools will also collaborate with ITIs, polytechnics, local industry, etc. Skill labs will also be set up and created in the schools in a hub and spoke model which will allow other schools to use the facility. Higher education institutions will offer vocational education either on their own or in partnership with industry and NGOs. They will also be allowed to conduct short-term certificate courses in various skills including soft skills. ‘Lok Vidya’, i.e., important vocational knowledge developed in India, will be made accessible to students through integration into vocational education courses.
  • As of now, currently, CBSE has started offering around 40 courses (including courses on Artificial Intelligence, Information Technology, and Design Thinking) at the Senior Secondary level which works towards imparting an education that is holistic, meaningful, and skill-oriented which instills among the youth a sense of usefulness and responsibility while also developing key 21st-century skills. In the future, initiatives like Online Entrepreneurship Program, and AI Curriculum can build a robust pipeline of creative and critical thinkers equipped with the right skills and attitudes to enable India in attaining inclusive economic growth and social development. The German dual system of vocational training is a time-tested successful model we can learn a lot from.
  • Last but not the least, the role technology plays in defining the future of education is much larger than we can ever expect. New technologies involving artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchains, smart boards, handheld computing devices, adaptive computer testing for student development, and other forms of educational software and hardware will not just change what students learn in the classroom but how they learn, and thus these areas and beyond will require extensive research both on the technological as well as educational fronts.

As I quoted in the beginning, “The future depends on what we do in the present”. I believe that our present holds a strong collective desire, actions, and policies to prepare for the future, and shape it too! By making informed and intentional policy choices, critically evaluating and learning from the present and the past, and actively investing towards the larger purpose and shared vision of education, the future will be bright and promising.

About the author:
Anurag Tripathi is Secretary, Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE).

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Opinion

Mandates of a Health Education Curriculum for Schools

Despite so much progress, one important aspect of human development has been neglected or relegated until the Covid-pandemic came as a rude awakening. This aspect is health and well-being.

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The inherently dynamic landscape of education is undergoing a definitional change. From the old paradigm that lay exclusive emphasis on numeracy, literacy, and memory retention, the education world is moving on to a multi-disciplinary curricular structure in which – alongside academic rigour – co-scholastic activities such as sports, music, dance, and arts are becoming integral to school time.   

An extra dimension to this transformation has been added by the IT revolution. The emergence of new technologies with high applicability in education has influenced pedagogies and learning outcomes in a positive manner. Yet, despite so much progress, one important aspect of human development has been neglected or relegated until the Covid-pandemic came as a rude awakening. This aspect is: health and well-being.

Imperatives of Creating A Healthy Society

Good health and well-being are the sine qua non of all human endeavours. Every nation must build a strong health infrastructure and create a favourable ratio of the overall population to the number of doctors and paramedics. More importantly, there must exist a system by which every citizen is sensitized on broad parameters of health and preventive measures. A sick citizenry is unproductive and a big user/waster of precious national resources.

The beginning of creating a healthy society must indeed be made at the school level. Every school must prepare a structured Health Education Curriculum that addresses specific health and fitness needs of students. These may vary from rural schools to schools in the urban setting. The big and the metro cities perhaps require a more comprehensive document that takes care of health issues linked with lifestyle, eating habits, sleep disorders, and perhaps of certain addictions that are more likely to happen in an urban milieu. Excessive usage of screen time is also posing a serious health hazard and this can create problems that are very likely to become chronic, if not addressed in time. An elaborate health curriculum should cover all these aspects.

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Components of a Health Education Curriculum

A standard and well-structured Health Education Curriculum must necessarily include the following components:

  1. Nutrition and Fitness
  2. Health Hygiene and Wellness
  3. Disease Control and Prevention
  4. Safety and First Aid
  5. Community and Environmental Health
  6. Mental and Emotional Health
  7. Substance Abuse and Prevention
  8. Adolescent Education

These are the mandatory verticals that need to be incorporated into the school health curriculum. Excessive use and immersion into IT space and digital technology, accompanied by extended screen time, wrong body postures, and the diminishing use of the natural neural system are leading to serious ailments. All these factors may have a huge adverse impact on the mental and physical health of the children in the long run. We will have to create a separate structure and protocol for ‘Digital-Detox’.

The importance of health with respect to all age groups need not be overemphasized. Interestingly, in our physiological system, practically everything happens in an automation mode and unless some disease or disability strikes us, we do not take note. Children with fresh, flexible, and relatively healthier bodies, tend to ignore these signals more than their senior counterparts. These, therefore, can lead to habits that may not be very healthy in nature and can cause problems later in life.

The primary objective of any form of education is to acquire knowledge. “Know Thyself” is the main mantra both in the physical and metaphysical context. It is indeed mandatory for all of us to know our body, mind, and soul in their entirety. That alone will help us to live a life that is full, productive, and socially relevant.

There is no better place to start this immersion other than a school.

About the author:

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Vinod Malhotra is Chairman, Academic Council, Saamarthya Teachers Training Academy of Research (STTAR), Ghaziabad

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Opinion

3 things we can all do to reopen education for our future

It’s time to reopen schools safely, it’s time to give children their right to education, it’s time to give children their connection to socio-emotional skills.

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As soon as some states announced school reopening, there were WhatsApp forwards of an article that said ‘66,000 kids under 10 years got infected, 85 succumbed in Maharashtra’, and parents started getting worried about school reopening. But if you read the article you realize it is from December 2020 and as you scroll down you realize that the article is actually saying that children are not at risk.

Our schools and colleges are closed for almost 17 months. We are in the middle of the second academic year when learning is virtual for all age groups. There are children who started their educational journey virtually, have never set foot in a school! What are we doing about it?

“ Destroying any nation does not require the use of atomic bombs or the use of long-range missiles…it only requires lowering the quality of education…the collapse of education is the collapse of the nation.”

Daniel Prelipcean

Covid task forces in many states are against reopening of schools even as UNICEF and WHO make a joint statement urging countries to reopen schools. Dr. Swaminathan, chief scientist at WHO said, “The impact on children’s mental, physical and cognitive wellbeing will last a long time. School openings must be prioritized with distancing, masking, avoiding indoor singing and gatherings, hand hygiene and vaccination of all adults.”

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How should we prepare for reopening? How do we get parents on board? Well, if it takes a village to raise a child then it’s time for the village to work together. There are 3 things all stakeholders should do to ensure the safe and rapid reopening of education in our country.

What can the media do?

  1. Stop headlining incorrectly, just to get eyeballs! People tend to read only the headlines and not the article, so keep the headlines real.
  2. Start talking about vaccination and keep pushing about masking and social distancing as people are forgetting to do it. If your reporters are seen on screen not masked or maintaining social distance, then the public follows!
  3. Start doing more articles and coverage on the impact of school closure on all children. Child labour, child abuse, and child marriages have increased. Children are fatigued with virtual learning and women's employment has come down as women have had to leave the workforce to take care of children in the absence of daycare and schools.

What can educators do?

  1. Stop taking photographs without masks! When you take a group photo together without masks you are also not following social distancing. So many educators are posting such photos on social media, remember your students follow you… not only on social media!
  2. Get both your vaccinations and motivate parents to do the same.
  3. Push the narrative of the urgency of safe reopening.

What can schools do?

  1. Get all your staff vaccinated with their double dose. Don’t be complacent, invest in all the safety protocols given in the SOP released by the government.
  2. Think of the hidden safety threats like school buses, snack time when children will be without masks, restrooms where children end up using the same hand towel.
  3. Don’t hide facts. If any child falls sick or any family member contracts covid, don’t hide, immediately quarantine the bubble. Covid cases will happen but hiding them will only create a trust deficit.

What can parents do?

  1. Support the school in following all the safety protocols when dropping or picking up your child. The school has enough on its hands monitoring the children, don’t add to it by making them monitor you too!
  2. Create your own safety protocol when children come home from school, ensure they leave their school bag in a fixed place inside the door, sanitize their hands before entering, and go straight for a bath without touching things or people. Sanitize their bag, things, and clothes every day. It is the only way to keep safe.
  3. Ensure that your and their activities after school are also safe and you are not taking them to crowded places or calling too many people home. It is important to understand that if you think covid can come home from school then it can go to school from home too, so everyone needs to be vigilant and responsible.

What can teachers do?

  1. Get ready to face some behavioral challenges, they have had the ‘power’ of mute in their hands till now with virtual learning. Some children will be anxious, some will be depressed because of circumstances at home. There will be a mixed bag of emotions and behavior to deal with, take care of yourself first and ensure you don’t focus on the curriculum but focus on the child first.
  2. Teach children that being in a bubble does not mean shaking hands, or hugging or high fiving, or sharing food in the bubble, everyone has to understand and follow ‘CC’- Covid culture at all times. Remind them about it every day.
  3. Giving opportunities for ‘Air Gulp’ will be important. Children will be wearing masks and it is difficult to wear them for longer hours, teach them to take ‘air gulps’ in the outdoors or when away from people and in case they experience claustrophobia than to face the wall, stay away from others and remove their masks and take an ‘air gulp’ and put the mask back on again. 

Adults need to study this safety cone to understand how much supervision and autonomy do children require to follow the covid safety protocols. For very young children up to 6 years, supervise them at all times, safety is completely the responsibility of parents and teachers. For children between 6-18, the responsibility is shared, you can trust them with simple things but keep reminding. And for 18 and above, it is their responsibility, to ensure proper rules and repercussions are in place.

It’s time to learn from a small town in Italy called Reggio Emilia and keep children first, in our decisions. Reggio Emilia was completely destroyed after the second world war, the people of the town came together to decide what to start rebuilding first- their homes, their church, or schools. It was a unanimous decision to rebuild the schools first so that children can be safe and learning while the adults restart the town and its economy. It’s time to think children first and it will happen when all stakeholders: the parents, teachers, educators, schools, media, and every citizen becomes the community that thinks ‘children first’.

It’s time to reopen schools safely, it’s time to give children their right to education, it’s time to give children their connection to socio-emotional skills.

About the author:

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Dr. Swati Popat Vats is the President, Podar Education Network, Early Childhood Association India and Association for Primary Education & Research. She is a widely read author and expert on parenting, early childhood, and learning methodologies.

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Opinion

An educator shares the trials and tribulations of the extended scholastic community

Lt. Col. Sekhar shares some uncomfortable questions which all educators need to ask

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  • My mother, father, Dada, Dadi, Nana Nani are all down with COVID…Madam… I do not know what to do…please…please…help…
  • I have spent 4 lakhs on my wife’s COVID treatment… Your School is threatening to cut off online classes for my child!!!!
  • Sir, I have lost my father-in-law and nephew over the last few days …. I do not want to even talk… How do you expect me to be positive? 
  • My student in Grade 7 has lost his father … He is not speaking at all… How do I connect?
  • I have had COVID, my wife has had COVID… I am feeling listless…

The above quotes, made under stress by a head girl, parent, teachers, and a Principal respectively give you a fair idea of the trials and tribulations of the extended scholastic community across India, after the devastating second wave of COVID, (and dare I say, the world).

After the initial, understandably excited responses for the LFH/WFH, the euphoria has been tempered by the stark realization that we are yet to find a workable substitute for physical schooling.

The following reality bites stare at you hard and square: –

  • Physical schooling is not a priority for Governments in India.
  • Online schooling exacerbates digital divides.
  • Learning outcome depreciations are regrettably, a growing reality.
  • Socio-emotional/cultural/learning/understanding has reduced significantly leading to ongoing mental health issues, across the board.
  • Schools are gasping for breath, (every which way), especially private schools.
  • Physical and mental harassment of students has hit unprecedented highs.
  • An exhausted stressed academic community is searching for credible answers.

Yet, these are some encouraging silver linings in that: –

  • Teachers of all hues have been exceptional; they are the new ‘Military”!
  • Parental respect for teachers & Schools have, by and large improved (with some unfortunate exceptions)
  • Evaluations and assessments are being revisited holistically. (long overdue)
  • “21st-century skills” are now front & center.
  • After initial lethargy, state and Central School boards have been, relatively speaking, on the ball.

So, what next?

Assuming that schools & colleges reopen in 2022 physically, full time, how are we going to address the complex and urgent challenges facing India’s Education systems in a post (present continuous) pandemic world? How do we bridge the inevitable learning gaps and the myriad issues of socio-emotional learning?

Do I have the answers?

By God No!

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Do we have the answers?

I suspect not!

What is the way forward?

During the 1980s & early 90s, there was this great fear that the US was losing its leadership in education & technology due to the Japanese and South East Asian economic miracle. Subsequently, a national nonpartisan Presidential commission, including the best brains America could offer intellectually (both from the public & private sectors) came up with a pragmatic actionable document, unconditionally accepted by all the stakeholders. The FAANG boom is a consequence of that initiative.

Clearly, that initiative has stood the test of time.

Today's decisions will impact the largest cohort of under 30 population the world has ever had (the Indian demographic dividend). The students entering School in 2022 are to be made ready with competencies and skillsets for jobs yet to be created, (even dreamt of) in 2047, when India celebrates 100 years of independence.

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Can the Central, State Governments, public and private sectors, (all of us, each one of us) put aside our egos and vested interests, join hands, create a new consensus, and make the demographic dividend the turbocharged engine for India to become a global superpower?

Your answer is as good as mine.

About the author:
The author is a soldier educationist. He is presently the Chief Development Officer, Jagran Education Foundation.

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Opinion

A Call For Adaptive Change Approach To Leadership 

A smart leader would know that during the adaptive phase it becomes crucial to diagnose, interpret, and innovate in order to create the capabilities that match the organisation’s aspirations.

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The impact of the impending pandemic has been observed across the globe. All the major sectors of the economy were affected by the Covid-19 crisis and the education sector unfortunately was amongst the worst hits. Around 32 crore learners stopped moving to schools/colleges, all educational activities halted in India. 

The outbreak of COVID-19 has advised us that change is inevitable. It seems as if the outbreak has worked as a catalyst for the educational institutions to grow and opt for platforms, techniques that have not been used before. With many primary and necessary changes coming in the educational system, it is also important for educators to accept the change not only in the system but also within the management and organisation. 

Tough and challenging times call for a change in the strategy implemented, management framework and also that of leadership. Adaptation is a primary element for the changes to be successfully implemented. New normal and rapidly changing education system certainly calls for a change in leadership – it requires adaptive leadership. 

In simple terms, adaptive leadership is a practical leadership framework and approach that helps individuals and organizations adapt and thrive in challenging environments. An effective adaptive leadership enables both, individually and collectively, to take on the gradual but meaningful process of change. 

The framework and approach towards effective adaptive leadership can be implemented in a 3 step process, namely – ‘Observation, Interpretation and Intervention’. A smart leader would know that during the adaptive phase it becomes crucial to diagnose, interpret, and innovate in order to create the capabilities that match the organisation’s aspirations.

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The Observation stage of the adaptive leadership framework is the most primary and important phase. It becomes important to make some basic observations about the current work structure, policies and work style before planning for any changes into the system – internally or externally. Without understanding and comprehending the current situation it would become nearly impossible for the organisation to adapt to any changes. 

This stage of adaptive leadership involves collecting the present data, analyzing the problem and figuring out whether the problem requires a technical fix or a more modified and novel solution to deal with it. Adaptive solutions to the problem become more complicated and yet extremely important since it involves dealing with personnel. It becomes necessary for the leader to consider everybody's viewpoints and opinions and also to take the required steps in dealing with the issues taking the support of the management. Having a ‘bird’s eye view’ for a particular situation really helps the leader to correctly observe and analyse the situation. 

Next comes the Interpretation stage. Once the data is collected and analysed it becomes important to decipher the meaning of the data and information. A successful interpretation of a leader would be to get to know the ‘unsaid’ and ‘unexpressed’ in the organisation. It is important for the leader to observe the data and also to comprehend the underlying meaning. The interpretation stage really requires and also challenges the leader’s management and leadership skills, along with their skill to analyse a given situation in a deeper manner. 

The last stage is the intervention stage in which the leader should see to it that proper assessment is taken and monitored regularly along with the implementation of the newly planned policies and changes in the organisation. It also becomes important to realise and accept that there is always a chance of human error while implementing these changes. It then becomes essential to provide those who are responsible for certain tasks, with relevant training so as to enhance their capabilities and skillsets to carry out the adaptive changes. 

Often it is seen that while implementing new policies and changes in the working culture of the organisation, the current policies that seem to be working very well are often neglected. A leader should make sure that these policies and structures of the organisation are not left in the dirt. Rather it would be beneficial if new policies are to be based upon the current working ones. 

When dealing with such crucial changes there are a few things that a leader should bear in mind to make the process and transition more efficient and effective. 

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  1. Leadership is about finding like-minded people and proper delegation of authority.
  2. Implementing massive changes in the organisation would often result in confusion and some displeasure among the personnel. To avoid this a leader has to be sure to implement minor changes systematically so that they would be approved by everyone and also be effective in the long run. 
  3. Patience is the virtue of a good leader. The changes and new policies implemented would require a period of time to actually show the results. Hence it is important for the leader to have patience and also to celebrate even the smallest positive outcomes. 
  4. As a leader, it is important to realise the fact that not everyone is going to be committed to the change. Many would be afraid to adapt to the change because they would be lacking certain professional skills required or even to invest the time and energy. As a leader, it becomes crucial to acknowledge this and convey to said people that their hard work is appreciated. It develops a mutual understanding and respect towards each other which in turn is beneficial for an efficient and effective transition. 
  5. New changes come with criticisms. A good leader would always welcome these criticisms and make them the basis of future observations and during the monitoring phase. Criticisms about a particular change give the leader insight and different perspective that is beneficial to the improvement of the organisation. 

In order to see that these adaptive changes and solutions are efficiently and effectively implemented a leader can create certain conditions. 

  1. It becomes important for a leader to establish a conflict management culture in the organisation so that the management and the workplace environment holds through these changes without any serious damages. 
  2. A good leader who believes in adaptive leadership should see to it that in the management of the organisation, every point of view is heard; a fair chance to improve and be heard is given to everyone irrespective of the hierarchical structure and an open-minded working environment is built where people welcome the idea of experimentation. 
  3. While implementing the new policies and changes within the organisation, the leader should control the momentum of the process and transition. 
  4. Working towards changes in the running system is never fun, people would often try to avoid work and a leader should be able to create a work avoidance management system. 
  5. Lastly, it is important for a leader to maintain high spirits and be encouraging towards the developments and results. The high spirit of the leader reflects the working style of the organisation and thus it becomes crucial for a leader to be pragmatic. 

Although adaptive leadership requires plenty of efforts, it provides substantial returns. Based on credible statistics, firms that are adaptive end up with immense gains both financially and operationally. They are able to weather the storms and rise to the top even during periods of volatility.

About the author: Siddharth Rajgarhia, Chief Learner-Director, Delhi Public School, Nashik, Varanasi & Lava Nagpur

 

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Opinion

Know Why Learning & Activity Centres Are An Important Part Of School Education

An opinion article by a leading educationist and an avid holistic education seeker on learning centers for supporting classroom teaching

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School – an educational centre. A place to emphasize the holistic development of the child. However, many times, more emphasis is given to academic development at the expense of emotional, social, and physical development and we often forget how important these are. Classroom learning centres, provided that you implement them right, can be a perfect place to promote these areas of growth in young children.

Learning centres are areas within the classroom where students learn about specific subjects by playing and engaging in activities. Even cognitive development is achieved through child-initiated exploration and discovery. Children need specific strategies and skills, such as making decisions, carrying out plans, cooperating and sharing with others, and problem-solving. 

Learning centres help build literacy skills and content mastery with the help of differentiated instructions. Learning centres allow students to use and apply academic concepts to expand their understanding. They also encourage participation and collaboration. Having a choice for students at each activity centre allows for more engagement. They will move towards self-regulated learning. 

Learning and activity centres in each classroom would help build up a positive and productive learning environment in the classroom. Students would also feel a sense of belonging because of more camaraderie in small groups and increased student-student positive relationships. In case, the educator has planned the classroom management well by displaying rules at each activity centre, limiting the time to 10-15 mins at each centre, orienting the students for transitions, and each centre. 

Using homogeneous groupings right after finishing with the teaching of a topic would be quite useful for the educators to see that each group of students has understood what is being taught and if there are any confusions, they can solve and explain them in groups. This also helps in developing a sense of confidence in students. 

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So when the teacher is dealing with one group, the other groups would have the same worksheet, which will have various difficulty levels of problems that the students are solving. This helps the teacher isolate the group of students who have difficulty understanding the concept or the subject taught. The teacher will be mindful of spending more time with such groups and spend less time with groups that are already able to follow the worksheet.

To sum up, learning centres allow children to develop not just intellectually but in a wholesome manner. Learning and activity centres are an important part of a balanced classroom teaching and curriculum.

About the author: Siddharth Rajgarhia, Chief Learner-Director, Delhi Public School, Nashik, Varanasi & Lava Nagpur

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Opinion

How To Help New Kindergartners With Separation Anxiety

Here is how parents and teachers should work together to help the child start kindergarten

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Children will always be anxious about starting school, this will never change. And their anxiety is well justified, hence, parents and teachers together must work in order to help the children feel safer.

Here is what they may try.

Parents can always sit with the children and talk to them about what is stressing them about starting kindergarten? Why are they screaming? What are they so scared of? 

Dismissing a child’s feelings or worries will not help the parents, rather the child will suffer internally and develop more anxiety. Letting the kids explain their thoughts and fears (however much they can) is a major part of dealing with the issue. Telling them that what they are feeling is absolutely valid and okay to feel, but going to school is a huge part of life as they transition to being a bigger kid.

Immediately making a kid stop crying is not a solution to everything, let them cry and express themselves. After they are calm, reassure them that you will be there for them emotionally and present in person if they need you to come and get them.

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Role-playing can be a good way to help kids learn how to make new friends. They can practice with parents how to start a conversation or simply what they should do in the class. This way the parents may also make sure their children behave well in the class by letting them practice.

Child psychologists say that children relate to storybook characters a lot; it is a good way to read them a story about a kid starting a new school. It could also help them articulate what they’re feeling since the stories can perfectly depict the child’s worries and fears about school.

First few days or even weeks is more crucial, do not just say goodbye and leave, let them know that you will be there waiting outside for them. Definitely don’t try to sneak away because this would increase your child’s anxiety.

Children may bring their favourite toy or security article from home that makes them feel safer. If a child can see and hold their toy when they feel insecure, this helps them become comfortable quickly and may improve confidence.

Having play dates with other kids before starting school is a good idea. Parents may ask the teachers about other new kindergarteners and set up some playdates before the children start school. This way they may already have a friend and can rely on each other.

Not agreeing with helicopter parenting here by asking the teachers about the child’s progress regularly is a good idea. Are they slowly making new friends? Or are they finding it hard to speak up? Is your child experiencing anxiety? Parents much know all these to have a regular knowledge of what is happening in a kid’s life.

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Keep in mind:

1Separation anxiety may be handled better if the parents and teachers collaborate on the matter and work together. Education on the topic of separation anxiety is important for both parents and teachers. Teamwork regarding interventions and strategies, training to increase a child’s independence and sense of competence will help the child in the long run. Teachers may counsel the children to build self-esteem and sense of adequacy, give them positive feedback and allow opportunities to meet and celebrate small successes.

2. Since the pandemic has been a well-known fact even amongst children, talking to them about disasters should be normalised. The best way to always protect a child is not by keeping them out of the discussion, sometimes talking to them is what helps them better. Talking to them about disaster management, the importance of precautions and ways of solving a large scale problem should help bring their minds at some peace. 

3. Children identify parents as the safe adults to tell all their problems to. For the school, they need to identify a safe adult as well. Parents and teachers together should sit with the kids to let them know that is it okay for them to trust their teacher. This way they get the idea that trusting only those whom their parents introduce to them is right and they would be comfortable to come to their teacher with their problems.

It definitely takes a village to raise a child and in the case of any pre-school, this village is certainly led by parents and educators who're to work together!

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Opinion

A Fresh Perspective Towards Math – Are We Looking At This Subject Right?

Interesting things we can learn from mathematicians.

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As children, whenever we used to crib over the mathematics homework, we were always told one thing by our elders – “Math is a subject that you will require throughout your life.” And that is the message that is still being passed on to students. Faced with the seemingly daunting derivatives and integration sums in the higher classes, students wonder when these would actually be useful in their lives, and they struggle to somehow get through that semester with the mere intention of passing. And here is where the fault in our math classrooms is unveiled. 

To the majority of the children, math is merely a subject, and that too, a tough one. To motivate them, they are often told, “Math is the most scoring subject,” and this, over a period of time, cultivates the belief that the only purpose of math, its sole outcome is good marks. Also, in our classrooms, time is often considered as a factor for judgement, when it actually should be a thorough understanding of the subject. Those who solve sums the fastest are declared as “smart”. But the one who is taking longer, but developing a full understanding of the topic, tends to be discouraged. In this process, the beauty of the subject is lost, and it becomes something that the students study to fetch a few marks. 

Recognizing this problem, our classrooms, over all these years, have slowly evolved to make math seem more and more interesting to the students. But for students to be passionate about it, it is vital that they look at it as something beyond just a mandatory subject in their curriculum. Here is when understanding a mathematician’s take on math can prove helpful. A mathematician is someone who recognizes a problem in the real world and aims to find a pattern that would act as a solution to that problem. His work is motivated purely by the possibility of finding an answer that would help the world in some way. Even if that takes a few days, weeks, months, or even a year, he will spend the time required to solve the problem.

Another interesting thing we can learn from mathematicians is that they often collaborate to solve problems. Math is a subject that requires debating, reasoning, contradicting, and building up of one thought upon another till the solution finally emerges. This atmosphere of convincing and reasoning and learning together needs to be introduced in our classrooms. Letting the children work in small groups for a few days, as guiding them as they struggle to find the perfect solution is a much more mentally rewarding activity than a student sitting alone and solving a number of textbook-generated sums.

Solving multiple sums is definitely a way to fully acclimatize oneself with the subject, and it is often an approach parents insist upon, but studies have shown that although it provides good mental exercise, it does little to actually increase the thinking power of a student. In comparison, when understanding mathematics becomes a collaborative effort to solve everyday problems it becomes a rounded learning activity, in which the students help each other.

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Thus, learning from mathematicians’ point of view and seeking inspiration from their commitment to the subject can truly help us to make our students look past the veil of marks and perfect grades, and actually see the beauty of the subject.

About the author: Siddharth Rajgarhia, Chief Learner-Director, Delhi Public School, Nashik, Varanasi & Lava Nagpur

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Opinion

Why Govt. Needs To Put Educators in The Vaccine Priority List Before School Reopening 

The question to be asked is why haven’t this year seen any fairness towards the education sector? It is time we start talking about teachers in the COVID-19 vaccine priority list, at least.

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Let us face the imponderable truth, nobody knows when the whole world or rather a particular country might get vaccines to all its citizens. The vaccine of COVID-19 is the pivoting point of the world in the current scenario. As of October 2020, there were over 100 candidates for vaccine production around the world, according to WHO. A successful vaccine, though still in the making, has had the whole world discussing insistently on who all should be the priority groups to be given the vaccine. 

Countries around the world have been attempting to prepare a multiphased vaccine regime. Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, on 24 Nov 2020, held a virtual conference with Chief Ministers of all states and Union Territories of India regarding the same. They reviewed the status and preparedness of COVID-19 response and its management. A special emphasis was on the 8 high contamination states – Haryana, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat and West Bengal.

The PM made it clear that in the first stage, the vaccine will be given to the frontline health workers, in the second stage to the police personnel, sanitation workers etc., and to those above 50 years of age in the third stage. The question arises here – what about the educators? Is this going to be the year where the education system around the world is suffering an unending unfairness? First, no salary then unemployment and now they are not even in the count for those who should be prioritized for the vaccine?

According to an article in 2018 by World Education News Reviews, India has the world’s second-largest school system with 1.5 million schools and approximately 8.7 million teachers. Now imagine most of them being unemployed or without salaries during the pandemic. Out of 1.3 billion population of India, about 260 million are school students who have been out of school since March 2020. There are discussions about reopening the schools but no appropriate ammunition is being considered that should be given to the teachers who are fighting this war of COVID, no less.

Dr. Swati Popat Vats, President APER, ECE & Podar Education Network, wrote a thought-provoking post on Facebook following the news. The post brought up a very crucial point that if India plans on reopening schools, shouldn’t teachers get the vaccines in priority too? Dr. Vats believes that schools should not be asked to reopen until the teachers are safe, that is until they’re given the vaccines. “There should be free and paid vaccines available and those that are in a certain tax slab should be made to pay for the vaccine. Others to get it free,” she writes in her viral FB post.

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Dr. Vats is an influencer in the education world, her Facebook post almost immediately received many agreeing and supportive comments and was shared as well by educators all over the country. Even some parent groups that follow her agreed to the idea of having vaccinated teachers for their kids when the schools finally reopen. 

To summarise, many educators like Dr. Vats feel that a meaningly thought should be given by the government towards the issue of teacher safety. That the second or third stage should include K-12 educators as well since the initial stage is rightfully deserved by the frontline workers. Also, since teachers work around children all the time, they should be vaccinated only after the vaccine has been proved useful and harmless.

The world has experienced the power our educators hold. During the lockdown, they managed to flip to virtual learning instantly and kept teaching unhesitantly. Irrespective of the challenges and no major financial help, we all know they will still keep going resiliently because a true teacher never gives up!  

Back in August 2020, Russia reportedly planned to include the profession of teaching in the priority list along with the medical workers. Perhaps other countries can consider doing the same now. 

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