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Making the Classroom Dyslexia-Friendly

Dyslexia takes away an individual’s ability to read quickly and to retrieve spoken words easily and it cannot be cured – it is lifelong. It is important to note that this does not dampen the child’s creativity and ingenuity.

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Our culture has always upheld the position of a teacher/ guru as equal to that of God (Guru Devo Bhava). The role of a teacher is indeed indispensable and it is filled with immense responsibilities and extreme challenges. They provide children with knowledge, satiate their inquisitiveness, they even provide answers to all their queries and guide them to do the right thing; sometimes taking on a role bigger than their own parents.

One can only imagine how the responsibility and challenges of teaching a student with a learning disorder would be felt many times more. It is a miracle how some teachers possess the innate ability to understand and help them and boost their self-confidence to levels where they do as well as or even better than a child without a learning disorder. As American journalist Charles Kuralt rightly put it, “Good teachers know how to bring out the best in students.” That is the power of a good teacher.

Thanks to films like Taare Zameen Par, awareness and sensitisation towards learning disorders like dyslexia has grown in our society. The government of India has, for the first time, recognised dyslexia under the category of ‘specific learning disabilities’ in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, which is a sign of increased awareness.

Problems that were brushed away as hypothetical have today gained the attention and acceptability that they truly deserve. It is important to understand the problem thoroughly first before attempting to tackle it. The biggest problem that our society faces is the lack of knowledge about a problem and the biases and taboos that accompany it. The even bigger struggle is getting a parent to accept that their child is suffering from a learning disorder and sadly it is the first step to finding the solution. Only when there is an acceptance can there be positive moves to help the child overcome the problem. Parents sometimes prefer to be negligent and often blame their children saying he/she is just obstinate, dull, or lazy, resulting in a wrong label which the child is stuck with forever, thereby affecting their self-confidence.

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What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is defined as an unexpected difficulty in learning to read. Dyslexia takes away an individual’s ability to read quickly and to retrieve spoken words easily and it cannot be cured – it is lifelong. It is important to note that this does not dampen the child’s creativity and ingenuity.

Dr. Harish Shetty, a psychiatrist at Hiranandani Hospital, Mumbai explains, “Dyslexia is an artifact of an imperfect system. Our educational system focuses only on reading and writing. Some can answer orally, some can draw answers, some can answer in poetry and prose. There is cognitive diversity but there is no diversity in teaching. Similarly, there is learning diversity but there is no assessment diversity. Our world revolves around question-answers.”

In fact, many people with this disorder have gone on to do great things in life. What is most important is that the condition needs to be diagnosed and tackled by the parents and teachers together, so that the child can learn and work out the problem. An early intervention and change in the method of instruction can make a lot of difference to a child with the condition. DALI or Dyslexia Assessment for Languages of India is a screening and assessment tool for dyslexia in regional Indian languages that was launched last year. DALI was developed at National Brain Research Centre and this study was supported by Department of Science and Technology. DALI contains screening tools for school teachers and assessment tools for psychologists to identify dyslexia. The tools are currently available in four languages namely, Hindi, Marathi, Kannada, and English.

Dr. Poorva Ranade, Consultant Psychologist, and Counsellor at Apollo Spectra Hospital, Bangalore says, “Early identification through proper assessment tools is extremely important. Secondly, communication is equally important because the issue is equally sensitive to the parent, teacher, and child. Knowing how to talk to children is of prime importance. There should be a continuous and regular teacher-parent interface to communicate how the child is doing. In this case, we work only by focussing on the strength of the child rather than on his weaknesses. We are not trying to fix the broken, we are nurturing the rest.”

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Reading requires our brains to connect letters to sounds, put those sounds in the right order and pull the words together into sentences and paragraphs we can read and comprehend. It is a complex activity. People with dyslexia have trouble matching the letters they see on the page with the sounds those letters and combinations of letters make. And when they have trouble with that step, all the other steps are harder. According to Dr. Shetty, “God is a champion of diversity. Man is a champion of structure. Man wants to create and slot things into one structure. If you notice, some children who can’t do well in writing the long answer formant do well in multiple choice question answering. Each brain is different and we respond to things differently.”

Children and adults with dyslexia struggle to read fluently, spell words correctly and learn a second language, among other challenges. But these difficulties have no connection to their overall intelligence. In fact, dyslexia is an unexpected difficulty in reading in an individual who has the intelligence to be a much better reader. While people with dyslexia are slow readers, they often, paradoxically, are very fast and creative thinkers with strong reasoning abilities.

Laurette Reynolds, Special Educator at Christ Church School, Mumbai and Inspirium Holistic Care asserts, “Reading has to be taught to all children in a way that includes all the senses and it should include phonics. You cannot rote-learn how to read. If you know phonics, you can read 75 percent of words. Sadly, most schools don’t realise the importance of teaching phonics.”

Ways to make a classroom dyslexia-friendly:

Teachers should be made aware of the condition: Teachers should spend time understanding exactly what the learning difficulty is and the effects it can have on the student’s ability to learn, perform and interact. Many still assume dyslexia to simply be a condition which causes children to reverse letters, and while this is a sign, there is much more to it than that. Ultimately, the better understanding you have, the more you can help your students. “Children with dyslexia often feel left out because they struggle to be part of a peer group. Parents can arrange for their child to play with his/her peers outside school too so that they can grow up together. But since a child spends most his waking hours in school, teachers have a major role in shaping them and building their self-confidence, and schools should train teachers for the same,” according to Dr. Ranade.

Early screening for a learning disorder: Schools should screen children and identify a problem if any exists. Dr. Ranade asserts, “From my experience, I see that early detection does not happen in most cases. There is no early intervention because of no early detection. It is easier to work with a child when the problem is detected early. Often there is absolute denial on the part of parents. This is also because schools also lack the ability to give guidance and support to the parents. Schools are in a hurry to remove children with learning disorders, rather than trying to include them in the system. I’ve seen many cases where parents keep moving their child from one school to another but that is of no use. The child should be the focus here, not the schools. They should understand why the child is behaving in a certain way or is unable to cope with lessons taught in schools. This is often unnoticed.”

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Work one-on-one: Giving one-on-one attention can go a long way in understanding the deficits and supplementing what is required. Teachers should understand where exactly a student with dyslexia is at the start of the term in terms of reading, writing, and speech. They should create a plan and keep track of their progress.

Praise achievements: Teachers and parents need to give adequate praise to even the smallest achievement or progress made by a child with dyslexia as it is very important for the child to feel confident that he/she can progress in whatever task they undertake. 

Use dyslexia-friendly fonts and overlays: Most of the recommendations come from associations for people with dyslexia and they agree in using sans-serif fonts. The British Dyslexia Association recommends the use of Arial, Comic Sans or, as alternatives to these, Verdana, Tahoma, Century Gothic, and Trebuchet. Laurette Reynolds promotes the use of overlays. She says, “Overlays which are coloured transparent sheets can be placed on paper to help children read better.”

Give one-step directions at a time: This helps children lower processing time and caters to memory deficits. Giving multiple directions may confuse the child and will hinder their progress.

Provide a visual representation of an oral instruction whenever possible: Children with dyslexia learn and remember better when there is a visual stimulus attached to a verbal instruction.

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Use coloured backgrounds: Allow children with dyslexia to write on coloured paper (purple, blue or grey) as this minimises their symptoms. When using smart boards or computer screens, change the background colour to something besides white, and dim the screen slightly for the benefit of students with dyslexia. You can even print worksheets in coloured paper for children with dyslexia.

Train children to read each paragraph or question twice: Most of the time when a child with dyslexia is reading the text, he/she is trying to read it completely without putting much thought into the meaning of it. Reading twice can help them understand the meaning of text better.

Create dyslexia-friendly classroom lighting: Fluorescent white lights are very difficult for children with dyslexia. Use yellow lights or keep windows open so that the natural light balances out the artificial lighting.

Preview and review whatever is taught: Previewing the day’s activities help children organise, prioritise and filter information.

Have buddies or peer mentors: Allocating a peer to mentor his/her friend can give the child that additional support and can help him/her focus and learn better in class and supplement their deficits.

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Speak slower and focus on pronunciation: Children with dyslexia need more time to process information. Speaking slowly and pausing in between gives them the time to process what is spoken and comprehend better.

Create a space for high‐frequency words: This can be a simple way to ensure that dyslexic students can focus on other skills rather than trying to piece together vocabulary. It can be a big challenge for dyslexic students to learn new words, and this allows them to always have a reminder at hand – you could create sheets for each subject for students to reference.

Schools can take the support of a counsellor: Schools can take the support of a counsellor or a psychologist to train teachers to be sensitive to children with a learning disorder. There have to be special educators on board to enable inclusive education. Special Educator Ms. Reynolds says, “Teachers identify problems in a child and come to me. Then I do an informal assessment of the child to identify what exactly is the issue the child is facing and if needed an intervention is planned. I work with children right from the playgroup level up until the 12th standard.”

It is also important to note that each student learns differently and all students with dyslexia cannot be taught in the same way. So teachers need to differentiate and adapt in line with these needs. We cannot define a fixed set of rules that need to be abided by while teaching a child with dyslexia. Teachers need to study the student first before they can start teaching them.

Dr. Shetty says, “Children with dyslexia should attend a regular school which supports inclusive education. Schools should slowly harness the inclination and skill sets to make the classroom inclusive. Most importantly, the teacher has to be skilled to deal with each and every child.”

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He also advises teachers to look at the space between the teacher and the child when a child is not doing well. “Never attribute motive or blame on the child. Look rationally for reasons. Fever or failure, diagnosis is the key. Teachers should spend more time with children who have scholastic issues. They must also work with a counsellor to provide the best for the child.”

To prove that dyslexia is never a deterrent to success, we have celebrities like Steven Spielberg (movie director), Whoopi Goldberg (actor), Cher (singer), Octavia Spencer (actor), Kiera Knightly (actor) and Jamie Oliver (chef), just to name a few, who have made it big in their career by never letting dyslexia be a deterrent.

Most importantly, it is the teacher who can make a huge difference by identifying a problem, altering the mode of instruction and by being sensitive to a student with the condition. Dubai-based Curriculum Expert Rashenah Walker says, “Children with a learning disorder can learn and become successful just like their peers. It is just that they may not learn something the conventional way. They learn differently. They may need more time to grasp a concept or they need to be instructed with more visual aids but they are capable of learning it in their own way and it is up to the teacher to make that happen.”

This story featured in our November 2017 issue.

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An In-depth Analysis: Navigating Challenges in the School Bus Vendor Landscape Post-COVID

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In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the school bus industry has undergone significant transformations, bringing to light a host of challenges faced by bus vendors. Daily encounters with these vendors reveal a common narrative, characterised by persistent issues that have only intensified in the post-pandemic era. 

This article aims to shed light on three prominent challenges faced by school bus vendors and explore potential solutions to ensure the sustainability of their businesses.

Challenges:

  • Late Payment Woes:
    One of the primary challenges faced by school bus vendors is the delayed payment of fees by parents. Unlike schools, bus vendors lack the leverage to withhold essential documents or take punitive measures for non-payment. It is reported that 25 to 50% of parents take more than three months to settle their dues, with some outright refusing to pay despite utilising the services throughout the academic year. The absence of a robust system to enforce timely payments puts immense financial strain on bus vendors, leading to cash flow issues and operational difficulties.

  • Thin Profit Margins:
    Except for a few premium schools, bus fees often barely cover the operational costs. Negotiations with schools, PTA bodies, and parents leave little room for profit margins, especially considering the sharp rise in the costs of buses, including EMI, diesel, and employee salaries. Causing the financial sustainability of bus vendors is at stake, with many struggling to break even. The increasing costs coupled with stagnant fees create an unsustainable business model, prompting some vendors to reconsider their involvement in the industry.

  • Intense Competition from Car Pools/Van Operators:
    The rise of small van operators offering transportation services at significantly lower fees poses a serious threat to traditional school bus vendors. The appeal of doorstep and personalised services often overshadows considerations of safety and hygiene. School bus vendors are grappling with a loss of clientele to these cost-effective alternatives, further exacerbating their financial challenges. The competitive landscape has become increasingly cutthroat, pushing vendors to the brink of closure.

Solutions:

  • Enhanced Safety Standards:
    Despite norms by the government and school boards, many buses still lack with essential safety tools. Implementing stringent safety measures such as cameras, fire systems and seat belts will help regain the trust of parents concerned about the well-being of their children.

  • Higher Convenience:
    In this age of digital revolution, parents want information at finger tips about the whereabouts of the bus in real-time, irrespective of the situation. Hardware based GPS solutions don’t serve this need entirely. Apps for school bus tracking are solving this exact problem.

  • Implementing Digital Payment Solutions:
    India as a country may be a leader in advanced payment technologies, but many in bus vendor community stuck in the (dis)comfort of collecting a cheque from parents. They start should adoption of digital payment platforms to streamline the fee collection process. This can significantly reduce delays and ensure a more predictable cash flow.

The challenges faced by school bus vendors post-COVID demand a collective effort from schools, parents, and the vendors themselves to navigate through this complex landscape. By addressing issues related to payment delays, profit margins, and competition, stakeholders can work towards creating a sustainable and mutually beneficial environment for all parties involved in ensuring the safe transportation of students. It is imperative that proactive measures are taken to secure the future of school bus vendors and uphold the standards of safety and reliability in student transportation.

This article is authored by: 

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Rajesh Bhura, Co-founder of Chakraview Solutions, an application working towards school bus tracking 

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Radio Broadcasting in Schools: Creating a Platform for Student Voices

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Roll up, roll up, for a trip down memory lane, back to a time when radio was the king of entertainment and information, reaching every corner of India with the magic of sound. Fast forward to today, and guess what? Radio has got a trendy new outfit, and it is called podcasts. Yes, you heard it right! As we celebrated World Radio Day on the 13th of February, let us dive into why radio broadcasting and its cool cousin, podcasts, are making a splash in schools, creating a buzz with the young and the restless.

Picture this: back in the day, radio was the Internet. From the cricket commentary that had everyone perched on the edge of their seats to the melodious tunes of Binaca Geetmala that had people swinging and swaying, radio was the heartbeat of India. Fast forward to the present, and the essence of radio is getting a reboot in schools through podcasts. This is not your grandpa’s radio; it is radio reimagined for the Snapchat generation. The educational landscape is buzzing with the potential of podcasts as a dynamic platform for interschool and intraschool communication, essentially a canvas for student voices to paint their thoughts, learnings, and creativity.

Podcasts, in essence, are the contemporary cousins of radio, offering a personalised and on-demand listening experience. Schools across India are now catching on to this trend, integrating podcasts into their curriculum to foster a culture of listening, learning, and expressing. The medium’s flexibility allows for a variety of content, from academic discussions and storytelling to debates and interviews, creating a symphony of student voices that is by the students, for the students, and, let’s not forget, about the students.

One stellar example of this educational podcast movement is the initiative by ‘The Good School Alliance‘. Their series, accessible on Spotify under the banner ‘Learning Forward‘, is a testament to the power of audio media in education. These podcasts delve into a myriad of educational topics, featuring insights from educators, students, and thought leaders in the field. The content ranges from innovative teaching methodologies to student wellness, offering a holistic view of contemporary education practices. What sets these podcasts apart is their focus on real-life applications of learning, encouraging students to connect classroom theories with the world beyond school gates.

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The Good School Alliance‘ podcasts are not just about disseminating information; they are about creating a dialogue. By involving students in the conversation, they foster a sense of community and shared learning. These podcasts serve as a beacon for other schools, illustrating how digital platforms can be harnessed to amplify student voices and create a participatory learning environment.

What’s the big deal, you ask? Well, in a world where everyone is glued to screens, podcasts are a breath of fresh air, or should we say, a melody to the ears. They are a ticket to explore new worlds without having to leave your comfy chair. And for the creators, it is a playground for imagination, a laboratory for ideas, and a stage for voices waiting to be heard. It is where Shakespeare meets science, and history gets a remix. Crafting a podcast is no game – from research and scripting to speaking like a pro and editing it. It is a rollercoaster ride of learning, with plenty of life lessons along the way. And who knows? Today’s podcast prodigy could be tomorrow’s radio superstar or the next big thing in Bollywood.

Podcasts offer a unique way to engage students, making learning more accessible and interesting. They cater to different learning styles, especially auditory learners, and provide a platform for students to explore topics beyond the traditional curriculum, fostering critical thinking and creativity.

In moving towards the digitization of radio, let us tip our hats to the OG radio, the grandfather of communication. Together, they are tuning into the hearts and minds of students, turning classrooms into studios, and homework into home runs. Here is to the voices of the future, loud, proud, and podcasting their way into our hearts. So, keep calm and podcast on, for the airwaves are waiting, and the stage is yours. Let’s make some noise, shall we?

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Navigating Social Media: A Guide for School-Going Teenagers

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Safer Internet Day on 8th February serves as a poignant reminder of the digital age’s complexities, especially for teenagers navigating the choppy waters of social media. Once considered prudent to keep teens at arm’s length from social media, this approach has become impractical due to the ubiquity of digital platforms. The challenge now is not about restricting access but ensuring that their engagement fosters positive mental health.

Jaya Chakravarty, Principal-CAIE, Satpuda Valley School, Betul, views social media as “a vast canvas that blends feelings of unheard voices, stories of vibrant colours which leave their radiant strokes to create an alluring impression on the masses.”. However, the digital landscape is a double-edged sword for teenagers, who are at a pivotal stage of personal development. Social media can significantly influence their mental well-being, shaping their views and self-esteem. The constant quest for validation, coupled with exposure to fake news and a myriad of opinions, can be overwhelming. Adolescents, amidst hormonal shifts and a natural inclination towards rebellion, remain highly impressionable and vulnerable to the adverse effects of social media on their evolving psyche.

Recent statistics shed light on the magnitude of social media’s impact on youth. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, 95% of teenagers have access to a smartphone, and 45% claim they are online “almost constantly.”

This connectivity brings to the fore the importance of navigating social media responsibly. A notable case is that of the “Social Media Anxiety Disorder,” a term increasingly referenced in psychological studies, illustrating the direct correlation between social media usage and heightened anxiety levels among teenagers.

Films and documentaries such as “The Social Dilemma” and “Screenagers” delve deep into the intricacies of social media’s impact, offering invaluable insights into how digital platforms engineer a need for constant validation.

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Moreover, Shipra Verma, Coordinator at Nehru World School, stresses the importance of digital literacy and open dialogues about cyberbullying in creating a positive social media landscape. She believes in empowering students to use social media for learning and self-expression, which will instil critical thinking skills and lead to responsible online behaviour.

Educators play a crucial role in guiding teenagers through the digital thicket. They are uniquely positioned to influence positive social media practices, teaching students to discern the authenticity of information, encouraging self-confidence beyond digital affirmations, and fostering a healthy skepticism towards the polished facades often presented on social platforms. By incorporating digital literacy into the curriculum, teachers can empower students to engage critically with social media, identifying fake news, understanding the implications of sharing personal information, and selecting influences that enrich rather than detract from their self-worth.

The digital age demands a nuanced understanding of social media’s impact on youth. Mr Nasir Shaikh, Group CEO of The Lexicon Group of Institutes, emphasises the delicate balance educators must achieve: “Balancing the landscape of social media for teenagers feels like walking a tightrope. Educators have to step into the role of coaches, teaching critical thinking and empowering youth to become responsible creators rather than passive consumers.” highlighting the importance of integrating social media into academic curricula, promoting digital literacy, and setting positive examples for students to follow.

The dialogue around social media and mental health is incomplete without discussing the proactive steps teenagers can take to safeguard their mental health. This includes curating their social media feeds to reflect positive content, engaging in meaningful online interactions, and balancing screen time with offline activities. Swati Gauba, Thinker-In-Chief at Kidspreneurship Pte Ltd, advocates for a proactive approach to social media education. She said, “Prohibiting use of social media often sparks curiosity. Instead, integrating social media education into the curriculum can be highly beneficial. By incorporating lessons that demonstrate how social media can be utilized for constructive purposes, alongside discussions about its potential drawbacks, educators can empower students to navigate these platforms responsibly. For instance, Kidspreneurship curriculum includes a dedicated module titled ‘Utilize Social Media for Positive Change’, emphasizing the potential of social media to drive meaningful societal impact.”

As teenagers inevitably traverse the digital landscape, it is imperative to arm them with the tools to do so safely and positively. By fostering an environment where they can critically assess and constructively engage with social media, we pave the way for a generation that leverages digital platforms for growth and learning, rather than falling prey to their pitfalls. A.N. Suryavathy, Principal of Harvest International School, Bangalore, encapsulates this approach perfectly: “Let’s embrace social media with wisdom and courage! Schools and educators, guide our teens to build digital bridges, not walls. Empower them to share positivity, learn endlessly, and connect responsibly. Together, we can make social media a force for good and growth!”

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Making Education Fun: Strategies for Overcoming Real-Life Teaching Challenges

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“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Teaching is a noble profession, but it comes with its fair share of challenges. One of the most significant challenges faced by educators is keeping students engaged and making the learning experience enjoyable. In this article, we will explore real-life problems teachers encounter and discuss effective strategies to infuse fun into education.

Students have varied learning preferences and styles. Some are visual learners, while others are auditory or kinesthetic learners. Catering to these diverse styles can be challenging for teachers. With the rise of smartphones and other digital devices, students often find it challenging to stay focused in the classroom. Teachers must compete with the allure of technology to keep students engaged.

Children, especially in the younger grades, have limited attention spans. Holding their interest throughout a class or lesson is an ongoing challenge. Teachers face pressure to cover curriculum standards, leaving little room for creative and enjoyable teaching methods. Many teachers struggle with limited resources, making it difficult to create engaging and interactive learning experiences.

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As rightly stated by Albert Einstein – “Creativity is intelligence having fun.”

One of the most important C’s of 21st century Creativity fuels innovation, unlocking new perspectives and solutions that drive progress in every aspect of life. It is the catalyst for pushing boundaries and fostering a dynamic, ever-evolving world. To cope up with the Complex behavior of Gen-Z, educators today need to work upon Creative solutions to make learning a fun-filled experience for the students.

Following are the tested Strategies to Make Education Fun

  • Incorporate Technology Responsibly: Rather than competing with technology, use it to your advantage. Integrate educational apps, interactive whiteboards, and online resources into your lessons. This not only captures students’ attention but also aligns with their familiarity with digital tools.
  • Utilize Gamification: Gamify your lessons by incorporating elements of games into the learning process. Create educational games, quizzes, or challenges that reward students for their accomplishments. This not only adds an element of fun but also promotes healthy competition.
  • Hands-On Learning: Kinesthetic learners benefit greatly from hands-on activities. Incorporate experiments, projects, and interactive demonstrations into your curriculum. This not only caters to different learning styles but also makes learning more memorable.
  • Encourage Creativity: Allow students to express themselves creatively. Incorporate art, music, drama, or other creative outlets into your lessons. This fosters a positive and enjoyable learning environment.
  • Personalize Learning Experiences: Recognize the individual strengths and interests of your students. Tailor lessons to accommodate their unique needs, allowing them to explore topics that resonate with them. This personalization fosters a sense of ownership and engagement.
  • Build a Positive Classroom Culture: Cultivate a positive and inclusive classroom culture where students feel safe to express themselves. Positive reinforcement, encouragement, and fostering a sense of community can significantly impact students’ enthusiasm for learning.
  • Field Trips and Guest Speakers: Take learning beyond the classroom by organizing field trips or inviting guest speakers. Real-world experiences add excitement and relevance to academic subjects, making them more enjoyable for students.
  • Use Humor: Humor is a powerful tool in education. Injecting appropriate humor into your teaching style can create a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere. It helps to build rapport with students and makes the learning experience more enjoyable.
  • Encourage Collaboration: Foster a collaborative learning environment where students work together on projects or solve problems as a team. Collaborative activities not only make learning enjoyable but also enhance social and communication skills.
  • Flexibility and Adaptability: Be flexible in your teaching approach. If a particular method or activity isn’t working, be willing to adapt and try something new. Flexibility allows you to respond to the changing dynamics of your classroom.

In the quest to transform the classroom into a fun-filled heaven of knowledge, remember: a sprinkle of laughter is the secret sauce. Embrace the chaos of learning with joy, turn boring lessons into adventures, and let curiosity dance with creativity. After all, if learning isn’t a bit like a comedy improv, are we even doing it right? Choosing to mold young minds, not stumbling into it by chance, teachers are the architects of tomorrow, not accidental tourists in the classroom. So, go ahead, unleash the giggles, and make your classroom the happiest corner in the school !! (more…)

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The Need to Preserve Newspapers for Bias-Free Education

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Imagine a world where your morning cup of tea/coffee isn’t accompanied by the crisp rustle of a newspaper. Unthinkable, right? As we mark Indian Newspaper Day on 29 January, let’s take a moment to appreciate these daily marvels that have been a cornerstone of our society, long before the digital age buzzed into our lives.

Newspapers, often termed the ‘first draft of history’, have been our trusted companions, weaving the tapestry of our world with words. They’ve been the steadfast guardians of truth in an age where ‘fake news’ flits through our social media feeds faster than a hummingbird’s wings. Remember the time when ‘viral’ meant a flu and not a tweet? Newspapers have been the antidote to the viral misinformation pandemic, standing tall as bastions of fact-checked, well-researched information. They are the unsung heroes in the digital age.

But let’s face it – in the whirlwind of 24/7 TV news channels and clickbait headlines, our humble newspapers seem to be playing catch-up. Yet, there’s something undeniably charming about the black and white pages that tell colorful stories of our world. Newspapers are like that wise old professor – a bit traditional, but always insightful and full of surprises. They educate, they inform, and sometimes, they just make us smile with a quirky cartoon tucked in a corner.

In a world increasingly leaning towards 280 characters or less, newspapers challenge our attention spans, nudging us to dive deeper than the headline. They foster critical thinking – a skill as essential as a knowing how to use a smartphone in today’s complex world. Ever tried solving a crossword or Sudoku in the newspaper? That’s mental gymnastics right there, and you thought newspapers were just about news!

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Schools have a golden opportunity to rekindle the love for newspapers among students. How about a ‘Newspaper in Education’ week, where students swap textbooks for newspapers, engaging in debates, discussions, and creative writing, all sparked by the latest headlines? Picture a classroom buzzing with animated discussions on current events, students critically analyzing editorials, or writing their imaginative headlines. Newspapers in classrooms aren’t just paper; they’re catalysts for curiosity.

Newspapers also offer a window to diverse perspectives, a vital ingredient in nurturing empathetic and global citizens. They are the uncelebrated heroes in our democracy, keeping an eye on the corridors of power, often being the voice of the voiceless. Remember, for every sensationalist headline flashing on your TV, there’s a newspaper journalist digging deep to bring the unvarnished truth to light.

As we navigate the choppy waters of the digital era, let’s not forget these anchors of reliable information. So, this Indian Newspaper Day, let’s raise our mugs to the good old newspaper – the chronicle of our times, the keeper of our history, and a steadfast beacon in our journey towards an informed and engaged society. Let’s not just flip through its pages; let’s absorb them, for in them lie the stories of our world – unfiltered, unspun, and undeniably vital.

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Empowering the Future: The Success of Beti Bachao Beti Padhao in Girls’ Education

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As we commemorate National Girl Child Day and International Day of Education on 24th January, we celebrate the profound impact of the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign, an initiative that resonates deeply with ScooNews’ vision of nurturing potential and fostering empowerment. Launched by the Government of India in 2015, this campaign represents a significant stride towards dismantling the societal barriers that hinder the progress of girls and women in our nation.

Spanning 640 districts, the campaign’s influence is evident in the marked improvement in the Child Sex Ratio (CSR), which rose from 918 in 2014-15 to 934 in 2019-20 in the focus districts. This positive trend reflects a societal shift away from the discriminatory practices of sex-selective abortions and towards a future where every girl child is valued.

Central to the campaign’s success is its emphasis on education as a transformative force. Beti Bachao Beti Padhao has catalyzed an increase in the enrolment and retention of girls in schools, thanks to a suite of holistic interventions. These include providing scholarships, enhancing educational infrastructure, and introducing innovative learning methodologies. The results are encouraging: the gross enrolment ratio of girls at the secondary level escalated to 81.32 in 2018-19, while the dropout rate decreased to 14.53, showcasing the campaign’s tangible impact on girls’ education.

Moreover, the campaign has ignited a nationwide discourse on gender equality, challenging deep-rooted biases and advocating for a society that respects and upholds the rights and dignity of girls and women. Through various platforms, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao has sensitized communities, engaged stakeholders, and celebrated the achievements and potential of girls and women.

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However, the journey towards gender parity is not devoid of challenges. Deep-seated social norms and attitudes continue to undermine the status of girls and women, necessitating a persistent, multifaceted approach to drive change.

  • Amplifying resources and ensuring the integration of the campaign with other governmental initiatives will provide a robust financial foundation and a unified direction for these efforts.
  • Additionally, a robust monitoring and evaluation framework is crucial to accurately assess the campaign’s progress and impact. This will not only facilitate transparency and accountability but also provide valuable insights for future policy formulation and implementation.
  • Fostering collaboration among stakeholders is another critical aspect. By strengthening partnerships between government bodies, educational institutions, civil society organizations, and communities, the campaign can harness collective expertise and resources, thereby accelerating progress towards gender equality.
  • At the heart of sustainable change is the empowerment of girls and women. Creating newer platforms where their voices are heard, their rights are acknowledged, and their achievements are celebrated is vital. Engaging and educating families and communities to challenge and transform discriminatory norms will further reinforce this empowerment, paving the way for a society that values and invests in every girl.

As we reflect on the journey of Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, it’s evident that the campaign has made significant strides in improving the lives of girls and women in India. The achievements are commendable, yet the road ahead demands continued dedication, innovation, and collaboration. ScooNews proudly stands in solidarity with this transformative campaign, advocating for education and empowerment as the keystones for building a society where every girl, every woman, and every future leader can thrive. As we forge ahead, let’s reaffirm our commitment to nurturing potential, fostering equality, and creating a world where the dreams and aspirations of every girl are realized.

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Knowledge

Is Students’ Data in Safe Hands in a Digital World?

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As the education sector increasingly intertwines with digital technology, the security of student data has become a pressing concern. Recent breaches in Indian schools highlight the escalating cybersecurity threats. Notably, a prestigious school in Delhi experienced a significant data breach, compromising the personal information of students and faculty. Similarly, a well-known educational institution in Mumbai was crippled by a ransomware attack, underscoring the vulnerabilities within our educational systems.

These incidents are part of a concerning pattern that has been substantiated by the SEQRITE’s Threat Report, a malware analysis lab. The report revealed a surge in cyberattacks targeting educational institutions, emerging as the most targeted industry for cyber attacks, accounting for more than 7 lakh detected threats in April-June 2023 in India. The predominant forms of these attacks were data breaches, phishing attempts, and ransomware, indicating an urgent need for fortified cybersecurity protocols.

The ramifications of these breaches extend beyond immediate disruptions, posing severe threats to students’ privacy, potentially leading to identity theft, financial fraud, and a long-lasting erosion of trust. As digital platforms become integral to education for administration, learning, and communication, the imperative to safeguard digital data intensifies.

Meanwhile, a separate study conducted by the online safety firm Happinetz revealed that a significant 88% of parents expressed concerns over their children’s premature exposure to unsuitable content on the internet. Furthermore, 55% of the 1,500 parents surveyed across 30 cities in India reported being regularly informed about incidents concerning children’s exposure to unsafe internet content, indicating that the internet’s adult content is indiscriminately accessible to all age groups.

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Addressing these challenges requires educational institutions to adopt a multi-layered approach to cybersecurity. This entails deploying advanced security solutions like firewalls and anti-virus programs, conducting regular security audits, and, crucially, embedding a culture of cyber awareness. Training programs for students, educators, and parents are vital in cultivating an understanding of digital safety practices, from identifying phishing attempts to securing personal devices.

Parents play a crucial role in this ecosystem. Exercising due diligence before sharing personal information with schools is essential. Verifying an institution’s data protection policies, comprehending the usage and storage of student data, and being informed about the school’s response strategies in case of a data breach are critical steps.

As we navigate the evolving landscape of digital education, a collective and informed effort is necessary to secure the cyber frontiers of our educational institutions. A combination of robust cybersecurity measures, proactive awareness, and supportive government policies is indispensable in ensuring that our students’ data, and thereby their futures, are well-protected in the digital realm.

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Education

Youth Leadership in Education: Nurturing Young Leaders for a Better Tomorrow

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Image Generated with Bing AI

On 12th January, India celebrates National Youth Day, a day to celebrate the achievements and contributions of young people in India and around the world. It is also a day to reflect on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for the future generation of leaders.

India is a country of diversity, with over 1.3 billion people belonging to different religions, languages, cultures, and regions. It is also a country of potential, with more than 65% of its population under the age of 35. These young people have the power and the responsibility to shape the destiny of their nation and the world.

However, India also faces many issues that hinder its progress and development. One of these issues is the lack of youth representation in decision-making bodies at all levels.

According to a report by Ashoka, in 2019, hardly 1.5% of the Lok Sabha MPs belonged to the age group 25-30, 12% were between 30 and 40 and 16% came from the 51-55 age group. The majority of the Indian democracy is made up of people below the age of 40. This means that many young voices are not heard or taken into account when policies are made or implemented.

Another issue is the persistence of patriarchal norms and values that discriminate against women and marginalised groups. Despite making significant strides in education, employment, health, and social justice, women still face many barriers and challenges in accessing their rights and opportunities. For instance, according to UNICEF, India has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world (27%), which affects millions of girls’ lives and futures.

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These issues are not only detrimental to India’s growth and development, but also to its global reputation and influence. As a rising power in Asia and beyond, India needs to showcase its leadership potential on various fronts such as climate change, digital innovation, peacekeeping, humanitarian aid, etc. However, if India continues to be dominated by men who have a generational gap and are not up to date with global trends, it will lose its credibility and relevance as a responsible actor in world affairs.

Therefore, it is imperative that India nurtures its youth leadership in education by providing them with quality learning opportunities that equip them with knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes that enable them to become effective changemakers in their respective domains.

One way that Indian schools can instill such qualities in children is by adopting an interdisciplinary approach that integrates different subjects such as science, technology, arts, humanities, etc., into a holistic curriculum that fosters critical thinking, creativity problem-solving, collaboration communication etc., These skills are essential for young leaders who need to adapt to changing situations, understand complex problems, and communicate their ideas clearly and persuasively.

Another way that Indian schools can nurture youth leadership is by exposing students to diverse perspectives and experiences that broaden their horizons and challenge their assumptions. This can be done through various activities such as field trips, guest lectures, workshops, projects, etc., that allow students to interact with people from different backgrounds, cultures, and fields. These activities can help students develop empathy, respect, tolerance, and appreciation for diversity and foster cross-cultural understanding and cooperation.

A third way that Indian schools can nurture youth leadership is by encouraging students to take action on issues that matter to them and their communities. This can be done through various platforms such as clubs, associations, competitions, campaigns, etc., that provide students with opportunities to express their opinions, share their ideas, learn from others, and make a positive difference. These platforms can help students develop confidence, initiative, responsibility and resilience as they face challenges and overcome obstacles.

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However nurturing youth leadership does not happen overnight. It requires constant work and support from various stakeholders such as parents teachers peers mentors role models etc. It also requires patience understanding feedback encouragement recognition etc. It also requires courage vision passion perseverance etc. But most importantly it requires love care respect trust etc.

For youth leadership is not just about having power or influence or fame or money. It is about having a purpose or a vision or a passion or a mission. It is about having an impact or an influence or a legacy or a change. And these things come from within. They come from having faith in oneself in others in life itself.

 

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Integrating Startups in School Projects: The Sign of an Effective Curriculum

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Forget boring textbooks and dusty lectures! In India’s classrooms, the future of education is sizzling hotter than a samosa fresh out the fryer, and it’s all thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit of students. Startups are no longer just America’s playground – they’re popping up in schools like mango trees after monsoon season, and guess what? They’re changing the game! Integrating startups in school projects is a great way to teach entrepreneurship to students and help them understand the value of problem-solving. It also makes the projects more practical and engaging. In this article, we will explore how startups can be integrated into school projects and assignments.

As we celebrate National Startup Day on 16 January, in the Indian context, the Make in India campaign has given birth to a startup culture that is thriving. According to Statista, India has emerged as one of the leading startup ecosystems in the world, with over 61,000 recognized startups spread across 55 sectors and 635 districts . The Startup India initiative intends to catalyze and incentivize the startup culture through tax exemptions, funding, and support for incubators and accelerators.

Bonus fun fact: Did you know that India is now the 3rd largest startup ecosystem in the world? That’s right, these young entrepreneurs are shaking things up on a global scale!

Startups have become a major part of modern classrooms, and for good reason. They offer a unique perspective on problem-solving and innovation that can be applied to a wide range of subjects. For example, a startup that focuses on renewable energy can be integrated into a science project on climate change. Similarly, a startup that focuses on healthcare can be integrated into a biology project on human anatomy.

To integrate startups into school projects, students can work on various startup projects, appeal for funding, and then execute a whole idea in an assignment. This approach can help students learn about the various aspects of entrepreneurship, such as ideation, market research, funding, and execution. It can also help them develop skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and teamwork. Some successful startups working towards transforming education are:

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From coding wizards to eco-warriors:

Imagine learning to code by building your own robot that plants trees! That’s what WhizKid, a student-led startup, is all about. These tech whizzes are using their coding skills to tackle climate change, one line of code at a time. Fun fact: Their robots can plant a sapling in under a minute – faster than you can say “chai time!”

Turning science into superhero adventures:

Remember those boring biology diagrams? Not anymore! Tinkerly is turning science into a real-life Marvel movie. With their DIY science kits, students can build their own microscopes, dissect volcanoes (safely, of course!), and even create their own mini-ecosystems. Get ready, lab coats and goggles – science class is about to get epic!

History that rocks your world:

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History buffs, rejoice! StoryWeaver is weaving magic into the past. This platform lets students write their own historical fiction stories, collaborate with classmates, and even translate their tales into different languages. Imagine learning about the Mughal Empire through a rap song or the French Revolution through a graphic novel – history has never been so cool!

Another way to integrate startups into school assignments is to invite startup founders to speak to students. This can help students learn about the challenges and opportunities of entrepreneurship firsthand. It can also help them develop a better understanding of the startup ecosystem and the role of startups in the economy.

Integrating startups into school projects and assignments is a great way to teach students what lies beyond the world of their textbooks and the space outside of the walls they live in. With the right approach, startups can be integrated into a wide range of subjects and projects, making them more engaging and fun for students.

These are just a few sparks of innovation igniting in India’s classrooms. With the support of initiatives like Make in India, students are finding their entrepreneurial wings and building a future where education isn’t just about memorizing facts, but about creating solutions, solving problems, and having a blast doing it. So next time you hear the word “startup,” don’t just think Silicon Valley – think of the young minds in India, dreaming up the next big thing, one school project at a time!

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Assisting Children Overcome Writing Challenges Post-COVID: Fostering Visible Thinking Processes

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The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the lives of children, disrupting their education and social interactions. With the shift to online learning, youngsters became adept in technology but struggled with their writing skills and critical thinking abilities. As they returned to physical classrooms after a prolonged period, adapting to new routines and expressing their thoughts coherently became a gradual process.

Navigating this as a primary educator posed distinct challenges. Implementing visible thinking routines emerged as a valuable strategy in my teaching approach. Encouraging children to initially externalize their thoughts onto paper became a pivotal aspect of their learning journey. However, the concept of making thinking visible raises questions about its significance in lesson planning for educators.

From my experience, a captivating lesson involves students deeply engaged in thoughtful discussions and seamlessly translating these thoughts into written form. Yet, the pressing challenge for educators remains allocating time for thinking amidst the constant pressure to cover the curriculum. How can educators facilitate and promote visible thinking processes among students, especially amid school events and breaks?

Let’s clarify: what does ‘making thinking visible’ entail? It involves nurturing students’ abilities to organize and structure their thoughts effectively and utilizing appropriate tools to convey their messages coherently.

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One effective approach is using visible thinking routines or graphic organizers. There exists a diverse array of templates for educators to integrate into various stages of their lessons. Project Zero’s compilation of thinking routines serves as a valuable repository for educators seeking to incorporate these techniques into their teaching plans.

For example, in my unit focusing on rights and responsibilities, I strategically incorporated Project Zero’s visible thinking routines during provocations, case study analysis, and assessments. The ‘Circle of Viewpoints’ routine facilitated active student participation and encouraged the exchange of perspectives, fostering patience and open-mindedness among children.

Similarly, during the exploration of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ‘Step In, Step Out, Step Back’ routine proved immensely beneficial. This approach prompted students to reflect and structure their thoughts using guiding questions provided by the graphic organizer, enhancing their understanding and empathetic outlook.

By using these thinking routines, students’ critical thinking was stimulated, aiding them in articulating their ideas effectively in written form.

After two years of conscious integration of graphic organizers, I can proudly say that a significant improvement is visible in my students.

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Though the void left by the pandemic in the lives of both children and educators may take time to fill, integrating various graphic organizers into teaching practices represents a conscious and gradual step towards empowering children to visualize and articulate their thoughts coherently through writing.

Authored By- Aanchal Shah, IB PYP Educator, Grade Level Coordinator, NEASC school visitor

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