Looking at all the different perspectives, it really does seem that imparting quality education is not as dependent on the board affiliation as one would believe. Each board seems to have its own strengths and there are examples of schools affiliated to different boards that have gained a reputation for innovation and flexibility amongst parents, students and educationists.
This leads one to the conclusion that it’s not so much about the curriculum that you are following, but rather the manner in which that curriculum is delivered! The best of international curricula can be delivered in an uninspiring manner, negating its very objective, while a vast and comprehensive syllabus can be introduced to the student in innovative ways, allowing him to not only understand concepts, but also how to apply them in new situations. What we are really looking for is a shift from Focussing on the curriculum to Focussing on teacher-learner interaction. A curriculum can be student-centred only if the teacher delivering the curriculum understands its learning objectives and is well aware of the resources at her disposal to make it student-friendly.
Which brings us to the next question: how can teaching of a curriculum be made more student-friendly?
The need of the hour is for teaching to move away from merely supplying factual knowledge to instead stressing on the understanding of context. The notion that there is no link between the different subjects studied in one day is detrimental to the concept of holistic education. It is necessary for children to see connections and develop problem-solving skills because this is how real life is – when we face a problem, we bring to bear different kinds of skills to solve it, not just one! Teachers, in turn, need complete support from a visionary management which will allow them to employ innovative methods in the classroom; methods that aim at helping a student learn and not just score marks. Ideally, the management should support their teaching staff through:
- regular training to keep them up-todate on the latest theories and trends in education
- teaching aids that make their teaching effective and interactive, and
- assessment tools that allow them to not only monitor the students’ understanding and progress but also the efficacy of their own teaching methods
Creating a student-centred learning environment: what it involves
- Engaging content and teaching
- Learning from real-world situations, through internships and projects
- Milestones-based and age-appropriate learning, without forcing children to learn concepts that are beyond their ability, and yet challenging them to work a little beyond what they are currently achieving comfortably
- Experiential learning
- Interdisciplinary learning, teaching a particular concept using different kinds of thinking – mathematical, scientific, and artistic, etc.
- Exploiting the multiple intelligences that children have to ensure that a single concept is taught in a variety of ways so that there is something for every child in the classroom (read our Issue 1 cover story on Multiple Intelligences to find out more)
- Revisiting the scope of assessments
- Assessments should be designed to determine a child’s understanding of a concept and to identify gaps in learning, not to find out which child scores the most in the class, or how well he recalls facts
- Use assessments to determine the level of the student and see if he is ready to move onto the next stage
- Use assessments to monitor teaching effectiveness, by demonstrating if the class as a whole is progressing or not
- Changes to the classroom set up
- Smaller class sizes that allow for more personal attention
- Changing the seating arrangement in a classroom from the traditional ‘one behind the other’ to small discussion groups or a circular arrangement, allowing students to have discussions and interactions amongst themselves rather than insisting on teacher monologues
- In addition to the above, ensure that learning happens outside the school too by encouraging parents to play an active role in their child’s education
(With inputs from Deepa Avashia, Principal, Riverside School, Ahmedabad & Kamakshi Jayaram)