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Prologue: Does India really need a New National Education Policy? Is our educational reform held back by the datedness of the 1986/1992 education policy which was written before the internet and mobile phones? On this question, I tend to agree with what the current Prime Minister said back in 2013 – “India needs Action, not Acts.” So I admittedly approach the draft National Education Policy 2019 with some scepticism.

Further, in my opinion, a good policy should not be too long, should take stands on important issues, prioritise action items, readily provide evidences for the tenets it advances and draw extensively on the experience of people who have worked in the sector nationally and internationally. It should focus on the objectives that more of us can agree on, than on philosophies on which there will be more divergence. These points are important because in India we tend to write policies and Plan Documents in education that say the right things but are less effective in driving the changes that are needed.

At 484 pages, the current policy is definitely long. It makes some good points and takes strong stances on them, which is welcome. But there are also important areas which it either misses or does not have realistic solutions in.

In reviewing this draft policy, I focussed mainly on school education including the chapters on Teacher Education, the National Research Foundation, Technology in Education and the Regulatory System. I did not cover the aspects related to the higher education system and topics like vocational and adult education.

 

The Positives:

1. Emphasis on Research and the National Research Foundation (NRF): The emphasis on research and the recommendation to create an autonomous NRF is an excellent one. If India has to become a highly innovative society, it has to be fuelled by research. As the policy says, we currently invest 0.69% of GDP on research as against 2-4% in China, the US, Israel and South Korea. An annual grant of Rs. 20,000 crores is proposed (hopefully exclusive of the current annual spend on the IITs, IIMs, UGC, etc. which is around Rs. 13,000 crores – this is not clear) for the NRF. The policy states that intellectual property stay with the researchers – a welcome step.

Over the years, America’s National Science Foundation has driven high quality research in that country and NRF can do that for India. The link to school education is clear as we have always seen rote learning in schools and lack of research in universities as two sides of the same coin – each the cause and effect of the other. The proposal to place teacher education within the higher education system is also welcome. Educational research – including into how students learn different concepts and the misconceptions they have (what we at EI refer to as the ‘Science of Learning’) – will definitely get a huge fillip if these are implemented.

2. Emphasis on Foundational Learning: The second, equally important positive, is the emphasis for the first time in an Indian policy document, on Foundational Learning. We all know about the learning crisis that exists in India and it is acknowledged multiple times in the policy. A lot of this learning crisis can be attributed to children not learning to read fluently by grades 2/3 and not learning fluent arithmetic operations by grade 4/5. For us as a country today, focussing on foundational learning is key.

As we see for other aspects in the policy, there are many issues with the details discussed about Foundational Learning. The emphasis on Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) is welcome, but to further address the foundational learning crisis, we believe the need is to research reading and arithmetic gaps and their causes especially in the students from the lower socio-economic strata. This research and learning data must be used to train teachers to help students for the lowest socio-economic backgrounds who usually tend to be first generation learners as well. Monitoring our progress on students’ foundational skills through sample assessments and closing this gap within 5 years should be a national priority and is doable.

3. The policy candidly acknowledges some important problems in the Indian education system: In acknowledging problems, the policy does not mince words. It sayswe have been almost fatally slow in the adoption of technology to improve the quality of education’, and ‘salary, promotion, career management, and leadership positions in the school system and beyond tend not to have any formal merit-based structures, but rather are based on lobbying, luck, or seniority’ and further ‘the teacher education sector has been beleaguered with mediocrity as well as rampant corruption.’

Unfortunately, the policy seems to be less effective in proposing concrete solutions to these problems but acknowledging a shortcoming is a key step towards any solution.

4. Commitment to public education, investment in education and religious and other equity unequivocally re-affirmed: The draft policy re-affirms each of these and that is welcome. Only well-funded, public education can ensure that the quality of education a child receives is not dependent on her parental income and we need to strive towards that goal. The policy makes these arguments well. The commitment that education should be a tool to reduce inequity in society is also well-made. India can never achieve greatness if stark divides that exist today continue in society.

 

The Negatives:

1. Many of the biggest challenges facing Indian education are not addressed: We discuss 6 large challenges below. Most of them are mentioned in the policy but are not convincingly addressed.

a. The Learning Crisis: The learning crisis is acknowledged in the draft policy multiple times but neither the causes nor the specific solutions are discussed. The term rote learning is used but it is not clear what the authors mean. It says on page 76, “Learning will .. move away from rote memorisation; if and when rote learning is used, it will always be pre-accompanied by context and motivation, and post-accompanied by analysis, discussion, and application.” (emphasis added). Firstly, there is no discussion of how this will be achieved – a diktat will certainly not be enough. Secondly, it seems that memorisation (which is required) is being confused with rote learning (which is learning something mechanically or by memory without understanding it). The two are distinct and we believe that there is no situation where rote learning is good, while memorisation is a powerful tool in many situations.

The policy does not try to examine why rote learning is so widespread in our system. We see rote learning in our classrooms as a simple consequence of exams expecting recall of textbook facts and procedures and not understanding. This is not something individual teachers choose but the way Exam Boards set exams year after year (and to that extent, is possible to address if there is commitment to change this.) The policy says that Board Exams will be made ‘modular’ and ‘restructured to test only core concepts, principles, critical thinking, and other higher-order skills in each subject.’ Though positive, this sounds a little vague and jargonish. There is a need to change the type of questions that are asked in our exams and to mention this explicitly.

The worst aspect of the learning crisis is children not being able to read or do basic arithmetic by grade 5 or so. Even if they physically stay in schools, these children have been ‘pushed out’ of education often for life. The policy acknowledges this but does not discuss the causes for this except to suggest that there is ‘too little curricular emphasis on foundational literacy and numeracy (page 56)’. But there is curricular emphasis on reading and numeracy – we just fail to develop these skills in our children. There is need for research on teaching reading and numeracy to children from poorer backgrounds and training teachers on techniques that work with these children. There is also need to have national and state goals like ‘every child reading by grade 2’, for example, which should ideally be a part of a National Education Policy.

PISA is an international assessment that provides cross-national learning benchmarks and helps nations improving their learning levels. India has decided to participate in PISA in 2021 and 2024. (The last time we participated in PISA in 2009-10, we stood 73rd out of 74 countries). Many countries set goals that they will figure in the top ‘n’ countries in assessments like these within a certain number of years. The policy should clarify if India accepts these international benchmarking results and will strive to improve its PISA ranking. Both, I believe, are highly desirable and can be a powerful way to focus all stakeholders towards improving student learning. This will necessarily require us to reform our Board Exams and eliminate the scourge of rote learning from our system. It is thus a powerful way to address many aspects that are leading to the learning crisis.

b. The crisis of capacity in our system: Many long term educational observers believe that there is a root cause which explains why many of the educational initiatives undertaken in our system fail or do not produce all the benefits that were hoped for. That reason is a severe shortage of capacity – well-trained individuals and institutions that can implement initiatives, do research to know whether an initiative is working and build a body of knowledge about the same. Capacity includes both administrative capacity (for example, the ability to implement a programme properly) and educational capacity (an educational understanding and ability). In our experience, the latter is a bigger challenge as administrative capacity has improved over the years. Even officials tasked with educational roles (like block and cluster personnel) get sucked into administrative roles. Educational capacity includes abilities, for example, to:

  • set good quality assessments
  • teachers having strong content and pedagogical knowledge
  • ability to diagnose student learning gaps and remediate them

In recent years, the importance of head teacher training – addressing both their soft and hard skills – has been recognised. Institutional capacity – where skills reside and grow for long periods of time inside institutions like SCERTs and DIETs – are also critical in a large system like India’s. These large and related challenges in our educational system are not discussed much or concretely addressed currently in the policy.

c. Private Schooling, fee regulation and medium of instruction: While the policy is quite explicit in its denouncement of for-profit schools, it almost ignores the issue of private schools which educate about 40% of our children according to estimates. A related issue is fee regulation. The policy mentions that private schools should have the right to fix their own fees but not to increase them arbitrarily. But many states now have stringent rules limiting private school fees. This is an important issue on which a clearer stand – either way – is important in a national policy document.

A related issue is that of the medium of instruction. The policy reiterates the 3 language formula but does not talk about the craze for English-medium we are seeing in society. Issues like these are huge in India today. The exodus from government schools to private is partly due to the demand for English medium education. This is forcing many state governments to open new English medium schools or convert existing ones to English medium. The policy document should take a clearer stand on this.

d. Use EdTech effectively for maximum impact: The policy mentions India’s unique leadership in the IT space. The right policy and implementation push can help India become a global leader in educational technology solutions. Yet many challenges plague the successful implementation of Educational Technology in our own country. One is that most schools – both private and government – tend to focus more on hardware purchase – which is more tangible – than creating or procuring the right software or educational content. In other sectors of the economy, it is understood that hardware has become commoditised while the right software is key. Some guidelines – for example that tenders for procurement of hardware for schools should have a parallel software tender – may help correct this bias.

There are few steps in the policy to mandate a push towards greater technology use in education. Technology in schools should be seen as a key part of Digital India. Today, for example, most competitive exams in India have moved to computer-based testing, but assessments at the school level (including Board Exams) continue to be pen-and-paper. The policy could have mandated a time-frame to move assessments to computer-based testing. Both at the national and state level, various educational softwares could be empanelled or rated by an independent committee. Capacity to do impact assessment (relevant not only for educational software but all kinds of educational interventions) needs to be built at a national level. Finally, though the importance of creating high quality educational software is discussed on page 348, the opportunity to EdTech labs or incubators in our IITs and encourage private companies to create them (possible through challenge grants) and effectively use existing educational software that already  exists may be added to the policy.

The policy does recommend setting up a National Educational Technology Forum, “an autonomous body … to provide a platform for the free exchange of ideas on the use of technology to improve learning, assessment, planning, administration, and so on.” It seemed vague but could become a powerful idea if its role and strategies could be more clearly defined. Organisations like NASSCOM have played an effective role in related sectors. 

e. Compulsory Education: The policy seems to reaffirm its commitment to compulsory education. However, it is not clear if it means compulsory education the way it is normally meant (“…a period of education that is required of all people and is imposed by government…. involv(ing) both the duty imposed upon parents by law to see that their children receive instruction, and the prerogative of every child to be educated[1].”) or the, frankly absurd, alternative definition mentioned in the RTE Act of 2009 (“compulsory education means the obligation of the appropriate government to provide free elementary education…”). Most countries have recognised that sending a child to school cannot be a CHOICE that parents make. In India, including in this new draft policy, we keep that choice intact while still using the word ‘compulsory’.

f. AI as a national priority: Just as India strove to achieve leadership in some high technology areas like space and software, it has the opportunity to do so in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI is not just another sector but can fundamentally change a society’s competitiveness and levels of prosperity. We have the human resources needed to become a world leader, but do not, as yet, have the educational system it needs. But this should be one of the key focus areas as it can be force multiplier in our education reform efforts while paying off rich dividends for industry and the economy as well. Though AI is mentioned in the policy, it is mentioned only as a sector and not as a strategic priority area it can be.

2. No role is envisioned in the policy for private sector for-profit education players or learnings from international experience: I see the need for all sectors to work on solving India’s educational challenges, a critical requirement that has been well established by success stories in fields where India’s achievement are at world-class levels. There are many areas in education that need high quality research, data analysis and expertise building. These areas include assessments, technology-based learning, curriculum research, remedial education and many others. For-profit companies that operate in this sector not only contribute to economic growth, they also play a key role in expanding educational understanding. For example, our company EI has played a key role in shaping the national agenda in the areas of student assessments and adaptive learning. It has been considered a pioneer and thought leader in these areas and has worked with many state governments as well as international education regulatory bodies on multiple projects in these areas closely. There are other companies that have made a notable impact in the education field. The policy seems to see no role for them by not mentioning or acknowledging them in any way and must be immediately rectified.

To take a concrete example, why should the NCERT be seen as the sole body to do national assessments like the NAS? Why can’t organisations in the private sector actually be encouraged to do the same – would it not build capacities across the system? But the policy very clearly states this as the role only of the NCERTs and SCERTs – which has been the government’s stand too. 

Similarly, the policy ignores the fact that there may be learnings in the educational journeys of other countries. There is no mention of attempts to study what has worked and not worked elsewhere and learn from them or to have exchange programmes both to learn from and share our own learnings with others. This may also include being challenged and inspired by others’ successes and trying to emulate them while preserving our own strengths.

3. Many of the suggestions seem unrealistic or mere platitudes or made without a full understanding of the issues and challenges involved. The mismatch between the challenges and some of the solutions proposed are striking.

Consider this, for example: Two of the largest problems are the learning crisis, and the severe capacity shortages in the system, whether of skilled teachers, researchers who can build good assessments or educational functionaries who can implement high quality learning solutions. Some of the biggest solutions proposed are the creation of a Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog headed by the Prime Minister with Chief Ministers and others and similar Rajya Shiksha Aayogs and other regulatory bodies. While the latter would help build a national consensus and some priorities, our challenge is not that there are priority mismatches or differences in approach. Rather it is a skill and educational challenge and may need clearer action steps to strengthen bodies like the NCERT, SCERTs and DIETs while also building on such capacity outside these public bodies. These aspects have received little to no attention.

Across the report, many of the toughest problems that states and NGO’s have struggled to solve for decades have been re-written as diktats or platitudes, for example: “Teacher vacancies will be filled as soon as possible” (page 58) Even the way the timing is expressed means that the statement essentially means nothing.

Examples of directives that will be extremely time-consuming partly because they may require laws to be amended:

  • “..teachers will not be allowed any longer to conduct government work that is not directly related to teaching (except for rare events that do not interfere with their class work); in particular, teachers will not be involved in electioneering, cooking of midday meals” (page 118) though this is partly contradicted elsewhere in that chapter
  • “Special Education Zones will be set up in disadvantaged regions across the country.” (page 141)

Examples of directives which are just extremely unrealistic to achieve:

  • “All teachers, from Foundational stage teachers to Secondary school teachers, will be recruited with standard service conditions as per their work requirements and the same salary structure.” (page 130)
  • “The suggestion to create a larger group structure called the school complex, consisting of one secondary school together with all other schools offering lower grades in its neighbourhood, a radius of five to ten miles, was first made by the Education Commission (1964–66) but was left unimplemented.” (page 159) [Only Maharashtra tried School Complexes but didn’t persist with the experiment. The policy does not try to analyse why the idea didn’t take off and why it will be adopted now.]

Examples of directives that are basically platitudes which mean nothing:

  • “State Governments will prepare cadres of professionally qualified educators for early childhood education…” (page 52) The reasons they are not already doing it would need to be identified and addressed.
  • “The autonomous National Testing Agency (NTA) will comprise of numerous academic, educational, and psychometric experts, and from 2020 onwards will administer aptitude tests and tests in specific subjects that can be taken on multiple occasions during the year in order to reduce the intense and unnecessary pressures of the university entrance examinations system.” (page 109) [A serious capacity constraint is unlikely to be addressed just through an intent especially as the intent was expressed in 1986 also. The NTA is functioning since 2017 but there are challenges before it achieves its quality goals.]
  • “If every literate member of the community could commit to teaching one student/person how to read, it would change the country’s landscape very quickly; this mission will be highly encouraged and supported.” (page 58)
  • “To create a culture of reading, public and school libraries will be expanded across the country, and will contain books – particularly children’s books – in local and regional languages.” (page 64)

Examples where the context and / or issues are complex and may not have fully ben appreciated:

  • “Students will be expected to take a total of at least 24 subject Board Examinations, or on average three a semester.. Board Examinations will be significantly restructured to test only core concepts, skills, and higher order capacities in a range of required subjects and a range of elective subjects of the student’s choice.” (page 108) [The movement has been towards fewer centrally conducted Board Exam subjects]
  • “far too many children are enrolling in Grade 1 before the age of 6, due to a lack of any suitable pre-primary options;” (page 46) [More children are enrolling before the age of 6 because their states mandate 5 as the age for grade 1. Gujarat tried shifting it to age 6 a few years ago but it was not popular and was dropped.]
  • “At the school level, such developmental assessment of learning will be carried out periodically, and at least once a month, in all domains, to help both teachers and students continuously reassess and optimise learning plans.” (page 107) The word domain, used here, is not explained. If it refers to subjects, this will leave little time for teachers to teach.

4. The experience of people and organisations who have worked for years or decades the space, both within and outside government, does not seem to have been drawn upon: Many examples have been shared, especially in points 1 and 3 of this section, where the policy seems removed from the historical and day-to-day realities of the Indian education system. Yet there organisations which have worked with these ground realities for decades. There are individuals who have led these organisations and others in government who have grappled with these problems. With the exception of a few of these organisations like the MHRD, UNICEF and the Azim Premji Foundation, I felt these voices are completely missing in this policy. I am naming organisations here across the non-profit and for-profit space, most of which have worked for over 15-20 years, but do not seem to have been mentioned or their work consulted and acknowledged in creating this policy: Pratham, ASER, Eklavya Foundation, Digantar, Vidya..

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I have noticed that there is a strong sense especially among administrators that grade-wise Learning Outcome statements are important and useful in helping improve learning levels. Some states have also mandated painting them inside classrooms. Examples of such Learning Outcomes statements are:

By Grade 1 learner:

  • names familiar objects seen in the pictures
  • recites poems/rhymes with actions
  • recites number names and counts objects up to 20, concretely, pictorially and symbolically
  • counts objects using numbers 1 to 9

By Grade 3 learner:

  • recites poems individually/ in groups with correct pronunciation and intonation
  • compares numbers up to 999 for their value based on their place value
  • identifies simple observable features (e.g. shape, colour, texture, aroma) of leaves, trunk and bark of plants in immediate surroundings
  • identifies relationships with and among family members

I have found international funding agencies supporting the idea especially for India. These seem to come from a management thinking that clearly visible and set goals help them being achieved. But do these ‘grade-wise Learning Outcomes’ really represent clearly visible and set goals?

Our own experience of doing assessments for over 15 years with large government systems as well as private schools suggests something else. At one point of time, we did think that these documents were useful, and I believe they were useful then and for a specific purpose. Today, we feel they are not that useful, rather they need to and can be replaced by something more comprehensive and more useful for teachers.

Right from the MLLs of the early 1990s, to various state documents of recent years, these documents can be useful if they can give a clear message that learning has to be focussed on understanding and not getting children to simply be able to solve certain types of questions. When a document says that students should be able to “recite number names and counts objects up to 20,” in Maths or “differentiate between small and capital letters” in English, there is a danger that these statements are interpreted mechanistically. At the same time, these are important competencies children need to develop – but there is a real danger of these statements being misinterpreted and there seems to be no clear protection against that.

A competency like children should be able to “estimate sum, difference, product and quotient of numbers” could be represented by both these types of questions shown below:

Most educationists would agree that children should become competent not only in the above two types of questions but many more including real life situations representing this competency. But how do we explain to a teacher who does only traditional problems, say like the one in the left, and feels that he is doing justice to the competency or believes that the children should be proficient only in the textbook-type of questions.

Often, statements in Learning Outcomes documents are not unambiguous and clearly pointing to what teachers need to do.

Another point is whether Learning Outcomes documents have really helped especially at scale. Can the process by which they are expected to help be described more clearly? Or can we have a companion document for teachers showing clearly ‘How to use this Learning Outcomes document’ – an attempt to do that will reveal these serious shortcomings. Can ‘use cases‘ be defined of how teachers use it say while teaching, or while assessing, etc.? Attempting to do these itself would highlight the inherent gaps in such an effort.

Do we have any reason to believe that states or schools that made better Learning Outcomes documents had improved learning outcomes? We must note that such documents have been used a lot and have not really yielded any notable results. We worked with a state as they did assessments annually for over 5 years. After the 3rd year, there was a directive to create these kind of ‘grade level competencies’. The document was prepared. Note that assessments were done before the document and similar assessments were done after it also. After the document was available, the questions in the assessments were mapped to the statement. Both to us, and other external observers, there was no other difference or impact from the availability of such a document.

As I mentioned, we did see Learning Outcomes documents as useful many years ago, and this is the reason: Such documents if written well, can guide teachers on what their focus should be and examples of what would constitute good learning. We were impressed in 2001 by the Japanese Learning Standards documents. They DID NOT list out most or all of what children should be able to do. The document could not have been used to set questions in a test or map questions of an existing test to determine if everything had been tested. Rather, it gave broad guidelines. It explained that the purpose of grammar is not to test rules in sentences, but that children should be able to construct correct sentences. The test of vocabulary comes from checking if children can understand authentic texts they find in the world around them. While teaching measurement in Maths, the importance of estimation and how it can be developed were emphasized. Good Learning Standards documents (that term is more suitable than Learning Outcomes) actually guide teachers and answer the doubts they face when deciding how to handle a topic in class. Such a document can help improve the quality of teaching by genuinely building teacher understanding and capacity.

What we believe is needed today: The world is very different today from what it was in 2001. The version of the Learning Standards described above would now be documents, videos and forums teachers can access and get inputs and guidance on. Please note that I am not suggesting that these materially are not made centrally – the first version should be, and most of what gets on to the site should be rigorously approved. But there is much more we can do to concretely improve Learning Outcomes today.

I am quoting from our comments to an international effort to develop Learning Outcomes document: (We) now believe that merely a list of standards or competencies is not very useful either for teachers or researchers. Rather we believe that what we must have is a large pool of questions and activities linked to every skill or competency. This can be used both as a teaching as well as an assessment tool. Gradually a list of misconceptions should also be provided again linked to questions.

Such a listing of competencies linked to questions will helps plan the way ahead and address the learning gaps before they become misconceptions for life. The questions chosen would have representations of ‘straightforward’, recall questions, those that check deeper understanding, application and higher order skills. In the absence of linked question examples (ideally the pool of questions for each competency should be large, at least 20-30 on the lower side, hence in an electronic database format) and if a variety of questions are not there, educators are not able to relate precisely merely to competency statements.

In other words, today ‘Learning Outcomes Document’ could actually be an electronic database of lists of competencies, explanations of their importance, sample questions, their performance data, and ideas to teach and assess that teachers can access. One use case would be as follows:

A teacher is about to start teaching Polynomials in class 9. She refers to the Learning Outcome Database first reading the section on ‘Why Polynomials’ and then ‘Difficulties Students Face’. She notes the 15 commonly made errors and glances through some of the question examples. She downloads a 25 question test which she decides to use before her first class, noting that it actually tests the pre-requisites children need to understand polynomials. She also realises that the test will clearly show her where her class and individual children are. For every question answered incorrectly in the test, the database provides a series of graded questions and examples to help children getting those questions wrong. As usual, she feels a bit overwhelmed with the number of questions available, but knows from past experience that she can use as little or as much as she wants! Even in the one hour she spent, she got 3-4 question ideas which she decides to use in her introduction in class the next day. This way she not just benefits from knowing what students should achieve at the end of the lesson, but also gets clear indicators that could be used to measure success of her lesson.

The post Why Grade-wise Learning Outcome Documents May Not Be So Useful Any Longer appeared first on EI blog.

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This article is a part of a series about India’s participation in PISA and explores if the same can be used to improve the quality of education in our country.

India has decided to participate in PISA in 2021. A small group of scientifically selected students from Chandigarh, the Kendriya Vidyalayas and the Navodaya Vidyalayas will write the test that year. In this article, we use data and insights from other assessments to analyse why Indian students do not, in general, perform well in international assessments like PISA. (Needless to say, many Indian students do perform well on these and other tests – most of our comments in this article refer to the vast majority who do not.)

Why do Indian students struggle on tests like PISA?

India participated in a modern international assessment for the first time in 2009-10 when some students from Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh appeared in the PISA test. However, we performed very poorly – ranking 73rd out of 74 countries that participated that round, finishing ahead of only Kazakhstan.

The result was so shocking that many people assume that it must have been an aberration. Some feel that the students may not have been prepared for the test. Others believe that the students may have been tested in English which they were not proficient in. (Actually, all students were tested in their medium of instruction.) Still others feel that the performance must have been poor because only government schools were tested – our private schools would have done much better. (But a well-publicised study by EI in 2006 and repeated in 2012 established that even students of our top schools would perform well below international average in grade 4.)

In discussions, many educational officials express the view that students performed poorly because the tests and the questions were not suited for Indian realities, especially in rural areas. For example, PISA has had passages on topics like genetically modified crops and electric cars – and that contextual disadvantage is why Indian student performed poorly.

However, that is not a convincing argument. While PISA questions may have different contexts, information about that context (for example, what genetically modified crops are) is always provided in the passage. Not just Indian children, but world over many children may not know much about these topics beforehand. One of the important skills tests like PISA assess is how well students can understand key ideas related to new information.

PISA tests the skills and knowledge of students in reading (language), mathematics and science and how well they can apply what those skills and knowledge to real-life situations. It is important to appreciate that as good tests go, PISA is not unusual in this respect. Another international assessment, TIMSS or even a good Indian test like our own ASSET use questions that have examples from unfamiliar contexts or which look different from questions students are ‘used’ to. That is what tests if children have really learnt a concept and can apply it in real life.

My favourite example to illustrate this idea is a question from ASSET (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Like this ASSET question, many PISA questions use an unfamiliar question to check a student’s understanding of basic concepts and her ability to apply concepts to real life situations.

The question explains the basic principle of the working of a seismograph (which measures the intensity of earthquakes) and asks a question based on the graphs recorded during an earthquake. Even some teachers who saw this question commented that seismographs were not ‘in the syllabus’ in their schools! Needless to say, seismographs are unlikely to be in the syllabus of any country in grade 9, and that is not the point. Students are expected – and should be able – to understand the information (in this case that the earthquake’s unusually large vibrations will be captured by the graphs and use that to answer the question.) In our sample, only about 30% of students from private English medium schools who take the ASSET test, were able to answer the question.

The argument that the context of the questions is the reason Indian students performed poorly implies that our students would perform well on questions that have a familiar context. Figure 2 contains a question with a simple and familiar context. Less than 20% of over 30,000 class 9 government school students in an Indian state answered this correctly. (Most students think that the largest decimal number is D. 250.49 which is bigger than B. 250.6 because 25049 > 2506.)

Figure 2. A large number of Indian students struggle with a question like this which does not have an unfamiliar context.

The last example indicates that our students perform poorly in tests like PISA at least in part because of poor understanding of basic concepts. This is a sobering thought. In our experience this is NOT because students or even teachers are inherently weak, but more because of the nature of questions they are asked in the public (Board) exams and trained with in their school exams. In addition to other factors discussed below, if our children have to perform well on PISA, they must be trained to answer questions that require them to understand the question, figure out which concepts apply and work out and give the answer. This will not be an easy or quick process, which is why the sooner we start it off as an educational system, the better it is.

Let us look at all the reasons why assessments like PISA (and even ASSET) turn out to be difficult for most Indian students.

1. The mentality that questions can be only from the textbook or minor variants of textbook questions: Not only students, but even teachers and parents fundamentally seem to be believe that questions in Board and school exams must be of the pattern that students are familiar with, ideally matching questions in the textbook itself. Just search for ‘out of syllabus questions’ and there is no shortage of newspaper articles on parent protests about questions that are deemed unfair for this reason (see ‘Couple of ‘out-of-syllabus’ questions in SSC Maths II’ or ‘Out-of-syllabus novel question knocks them over’). No doubt the seismograph question above would be seen as ‘out of syllabus’ but what would one say then of virtually every PISA question?

The power and responsibility to change this mindset lies primarily with our Examination Boards. But they face 2 challenges – one, a push back from schools and parents (some believe at the goading of coaching institutes) if they try something different – such pushbacks quickly escalate into bad publicity for the government – and two, the lack of ecosystem support, for example, people who can develop such questions. Yet, the responsibility to present a strong case for change (‘Shanghai-like performance in PISA, anyone?) and build that ecosystem lies primarily with the Boards though schools, parents and indeed, all of us, should support these changes.

2. READING, READING, READING! Most application questions are based on a context which is first explained in the question. This requires students to read through at least a few paragraphs to understand what is being asked. Our average student has very poor reading abilities and usually prefers to guess what the question must be by glancing through it.

Consider the question in Figure 3 on Slope-Face Investigation an actual question in a recent PISA round. It demonstrates both an unfamiliar context as well as a need to be able to read and comprehend fairly large amounts of text to understand the question.

Clearly developing good reading and comprehension skills in our class 9 and 10 students is not an easy task. Doing PISA questions well is not a sprint but a marathon for which the basics have to be built and then built upon.

Figure 3. A typical PISA Science question requires careful reading and the ability to apply multiple concepts to real-life situations (Source: PISA Released Items)

3. Process of answering questions – pattern matching versus problem solving: Leading from the above 2 reasons, the strategy that students use to solve questions in typical Indian exams is very different from what is needed for tests like PISA. Firstly, it is quite easy for students to recognise question types in the Indian tests since all exams follow a set of patterns that they are familiar with or have prepared for (including through their coaching and tuition classes). Questions on probability in Mathematics are of certain types and they know the possible questions that will be asked from a particular passage in the English reader. The process of solving the paper, then, is one of rapidly identifying the pattern, recalling the steps in the process and writing those steps. Almost every question follows this recall / reproduce pattern. Needless to say, in this scenario, reading questions carefully is unnecessary at best and a waste of time, at worst!

The PISA or ASSET questions, as we can see, are very different. There is no pattern to match with. Rather, the problem itself has to be read and understood. Some of the information may be in a figure or graph. Not all of the information presented may be relevant, as is common in real life. The academic concept that needs to be applied is not clearly given – multiple concepts, possibly including those learnt in lower classes may need to be used. In the Slope-Face Investigation, for example, the student has to read and understand the experiment. The concept of uncertainty measurement needs to be understood, yet is only a small part of the problem.

4. Being put off by the unfamiliar and not proceeding further: When Indian students encounter PISA-type questions, many of them freeze at the first sign of the unfamiliar and decide that they have not ‘learnt this question type’ and cannot solve it. Many students abandon the question (or decide they will come back to it later) at this point. Note that the question itself may NOT be a difficult one if they cross this stage. This is true in the Slope-Face Investigation as well – it is very clear that of the 2 parameters being compared, one varies significantly across the 2 slopes while the other does not. For students who reach this stage, the question is not a difficult one.

In fact, it is seen that students perform more poorly on unfamiliar questions than genuinely difficult ones!

5. Genuinely low understanding of processes or concepts and even comprehension skills: And finally, like we saw in the decimal comparison example, actual learning levels and understanding of concepts is low. The fact that mainstream exams do not test concepts in a different or unfamiliar way reduces student exposure as well as teacher incentive to focus on genuine understanding of concepts.

***

Like in a PISA question, identifying the problem is a key part of finding the solution. Each of the above represents an entrenched, yet solvable problem in the Indian education system. Though there are no quick fix solutions, there are key levers available to create change. Changing the pattern of Board Exam questions – and teacher training starting with teachers from grade 5 or so are two strong levers in our control. The facts that few seem to disagree that the system needs change and most would even agree with these broad approaches are also huge positives. In the journey to an India where every child is learning with understanding, PISA is just the first milestone on the road.

The post Why do Indian students struggle on tests like PISA? appeared first on EI blog.

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What is Giftedness?

Every child is unique as most parents would readily testify. Yet, there are individuals who stand out for their singular accomplishments. What sets apart a poet like Rabindranath Tagore, a researcher and institution builder like Vikram Sarabhai or a successful CEO like Mark Zuckerberg? Is it merely the 10,000 hour rule of deliberate practice, favourable socio-economic circumstances or old-fashioned good luck… or is there something more to the mix?

Research on giftedness and talent strongly suggests that ‘early cognitive ability’ has more effect on achievement than effort, environment factors or luck. Until the 1960’s, tests that measured ‘general intelligence’ or IQ were popular and were used to try and identify individuals with extraordinary ability. But researchers found years later that IQ had missed many notable stalwarts (like Nobel Prize winner and inventor of the transistor William Shockley.)

Reasoning that gifted children are those who demonstrated significantly high proficiency in an area of study (as opposed to ‘general intelligence’), researchers began studying the performance of students in scholastic tests in Mathematics and language. They initially did this using tests for older students as those were the tests easily available. Two things were quickly discovered – one, that these students often successfully solved problems 2-3 levels higher that they hadn’t encountered before; and two, that they significantly outperformed the older aged counterparts for whom the tests were created in the first place!

It was also found that testing early, by the age of 13, helps to identify children and provide them support. Today in the US, the large system-wide testing occurs in grades 5-8 (ages 10-13). Waiting beyond then may delay opportunities to provide the exposure and challenge that develops giftedness.

In the US, systematic identification of gifted children started with the John Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth (CTY) in 1979. Duke University began its Talent Identification Program (TiP) a year later. These are the 2 largest giftedness programmes in the world and now have an almost 40 year history. Many of the early students have been tracked and have now reached the peak of their careers. Their career trajectory seems to confirm the case for detecting giftedness early and then investing in it.

Why is it important to invest in Giftedness?

The husband and wife team of David Lubinski and Camilla Benbow direct the longest study on gifted students, now in its 40th year. (Originally titled the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY), it retains that name though it now tracks all gifted students, not just those strong in Mathematics). According to them, many of the innovators who are advanc­ing science, technology and culture are those whose unique cognitive abilities were identified and supported in their early years through enrichment programmes such as Johns Hopkins’ and Duke University’s programmes. Pioneering mathematicians Terence Tao and Lenhard Ng, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Google co-founder Sergey Brin and musician Stefani Germanotta (Lady Gaga) were all detected to be among the top 1% students and went through such a programme to support gifted children.

Psychologist Jonanthan Wai at Duke University’s TiP programme puts it even more directly, “Whether we like it or not, these people really do control our society. The kids who test in the top 1% tend to become our eminent scientists and academics, our Fortune 500 CEOs and federal judges, senators and billionaires.”

What does all this mean for us in India? India does not have a systematic programme to detect or support gifted children in school. But even the identification of students to prestigious institutions like the IITs and AIIMS has led to amazing returns for India (and, indeed, the world). A study by the India Brand Equity Foundation showed that IIT Alumni had an “annual revenue responsibility” of about USD 1 trillion globally in 2008. They had been associated with incremental revenue addition to the tune of USD 200 billion in the previous year and, on an average, an IIT Alumnus was associated with the creation of around 100 jobs!

Yet, we know that most of India’s school children drop out well before reaching class 12 and even thinking of an IIT. If we could really tap into their skills and detect and support them early, what new cancer cures, clean energy sources and social innovations would they unleash for India and the world?

Ironically, many Indian states do have their own ‘talent search’ exams, but they tend to be low quality tests which are rote and textbook-based. One test the author was asked to comment on as an expert asked for the exact temperature of a Bessemer Furnace and the students had to pick the number mentioned in the textbook from options that differed only by a few degrees! And this was typical of all questions – in fact the question makers had noted the textbook page number where each question’s answer could be found. Such tests do not detect gifted students, indeed they may push out or alienate them.

EI’s Gifted Educational Programmes

At Educational Initiatives, we have been working at detecting and supporting gifted children in India since 2009. For the first few years, we worked as the exclusive partner of Duke University’s TiP programme which offered its then first non-US programme in India. Today, EI’s ASSET test and a special 2-grades-above ASSET Talent Search are used to identify gifted students. The ASSET Talent Search is written by students who have already qualified in the top 10% of their grade in English, Mathematics or Science.

The students who clear both levels qualify to attend a 3 week residential programme – the ASSET Summer Programme – which has been held over the years in venues like IIM Ahmedabad, Infosys Mysore, Jindal University and Manipal University. They may also choose to attend day scholar gifted programmes in cities like Bangalore, Delhi and Dubai. While the talent identification tests can be taken by students of grades 5-8, only the older students of grades 7 and 8 are eligible to attend the residential programmes.

But this is a just a drop in the ocean as a country like India needs hundreds of such programmes! If just 0.1% of the top students of grades 7 and 8 were to be given a chance to attend such a programme, that would be 48,000 students every year. These are the number of students – every year – whose ability is on par with the best of the best – IF they are identified and supported. This would also be a powerful vehicle for social justice and equity because it is the poor who, even if bright, often drop out, so their talent goes unrecognised and unrewarded. Of course it is critical that the design of both the test and the programme are high quality and scientific based on the rich research in this area.

Research has consistently shown that even these gifted children have special needs and support is needed both from the family as well as society. Programmatic support is based on the following principles:

  • Students must be provided challenging academic material which is well-beyond their regular age level. In the US, for example, 7th and 8th graders do the equivalent of college level material in 3 weeks! It is fascinating to see them learn new things quickly (for example they pick up trigonometry in the first 2 days of their course which is critical to their course on ‘construction of bridges’.
  • Students must have an opportunity to interact with and learn from experts in their chosen fields: Each course is driven by a course instructor and a teaching assistant carefully selected both for their ability to mentor gifted children and their own passion for the topic. The idea is to expose children to experts but also help them interact with them as mentors in a holistic way. 
  • Students must get exposure to a peer group of similarly gifted students. In a regular school class, very bright students are often considered nerds or the ‘crazy’ ones who enjoy a subject – this is their opportunity to connect with others like them. For this reason, each class should not be more than about 20-22 students.
  • A planned and packed non-academic schedule is as important as the academic programme and designed to promote interaction, allow students to showcase their other talents and build deeper relationships that last beyond the few weeks of the course.

Students who attend such programmes routinely describe them as life-changing and talk of having built strong lasting relationships with both mentors and peers. Research suggests that for many students and parents, the course is an eye-opener into their own potential as well as what they can aspire for. Such programmes simultaneously build their confidence while building humility (they are no longer the ‘best’ in the class). In our programmes, we also try to inculcate a sense of social awareness and responsibility and the spirit that their talents, to a large extent, are gifts, which should also be used for the larger good.

Is Your Child Gifted?

Returning to Camilla Benbow, here are a few simple tips if your child or another child you know is gifted:

  • Expose children to diverse experiences.
  • When a child exhibits strong interests or talents, provide opportunities to develop them.
  • Support both intellectual and emotional needs.
  • Help children to develop a ‘growth mindset’ by praising effort, not ability.
  • Encourage children to take intellectual risks and to be open to failures that help them learn.
  • Beware of labels: being identified as gifted can be an emotional burden.
  • Work with teachers to meet your child’s needs. Smart students often need more-challenging material, extra support or the freedom to learn at their own pace.
  • Have your child’s abilities tested. This can support a parent’s arguments for more-advanced work, and can reveal issues such as dyslexia, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or social and emotional challenges.

A few seats in select courses are still available in EI’s ASSET Summer Programme 2019 in Manipal University, Manipal that starts on May 12, 2019. Registrations close on April 30, 2019. Only students who have already qualified through the ASSET Talent Search and have received letters to this effect are eligible.

Acknowledgement: Some quotes are taken from Clynes T. How to raise a genius: lessons from a 45-year study of super-smart children. Nature 2016; 537: 152–155.

The post Detecting and Nurturing Giftedness – The Challenges and Opportunities appeared first on EI blog.

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We recently conducted a game-a-thon event at Ridgevalley School,  Delhi-Gurugram. The students were shortlisted based on their sparkie count from April till January. 15 students were selected from each class to participate. On 11th February, it was conducted for grades 3 to 5. There were two rounds of online games followed by a final Quiz round. 
The Benefits of Math Game-A-Thon

Beyond, fun games serve real academic purposes.  It could be a decent change from monotonous from pencil-and-paper schoolwork and can reduce academic stress.

Students are less self-conscious while competing in a game, as it’s fun. It takes away the fear of failure and helps them understand their weakness better, unlike in a typical math classroom set-up. That can reduce math anxiety and help kids develop a more positive attitude toward schoolwork.

Game-a-thon serves as a fantastic opportunity for teachers too, to observe her student’s levels of learning. With no fear of grades, students compete with fantastic sportsman spirit and make the most of it. 

We asked Mindspark coordinator of Ridgevalley school, Gurugram of her experience of game-a-thon and how she sees this event as!

As an educator, how has your teaching journey shaped in all these years?

 
I started my career as a teacher, and as I evolved along with my students, it was always the direction and pace of their growth that defined my stride. When they evolved from students to learners, I took the cape of teacher off, put the hat on, of a Facilitator. Today, I do not teach as a facilitator, I facilitate learning for myself along with my group of learners. This is how my journey has blossomed as an educator.
 
How do you see Game-a-thons/ competitions shaping the student engagement?
 
Game-a-thons will enhance the competitive spirit in students. They will learn how to quickly analyse a question and solve accurately.
 
Your school recently had Mindspark Game-a-thon event, please share with us your observations of Game-a-thon.
 
Game- a-thon is an exciting way of integrating technology with learning. The event was well planned and executed. Students had their bit of fun as well with learning.
One thing you enjoy the most about being a teacher.
 
Self-satisfaction.
 
 

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In silence and movement, you can show the reflection of people- Marcel Marceau

In this fast-pacing age, I really wish students learn to articulate their ideas and confidence in expressing them. As an ex-primary teacher, I have seen students struggle to find their voice and even ask for help.

So, how can teachers help students come out of their shell and help them stay focused amidst so much noise and distractions? How do we introduce the importance of reflecting on your words and thoughts of those who don’t agree with you? In a teaching institute, the concept of silence is entirely alien. In fact, it is used as some sort of punishment, as the finger on your lips. So instead of a practice, it is introduced as a punishment. 

Psychologist says silence is so powerful that it can help instils self-discipline, and as a result, higher capacity for free thinking. It is the blindsided pedagogical practice that supports ideas of continual growth, possibility and primary care of students.

Silence enhances the ability to concentrate

In 21st century learning, collaboration, classroom management and interaction are central to education. Now, I am not dismissing this practice, but it’s the time that we reinforce the importance of silence and use it as a tool in the development of our students.

Silence can help our students concentrate better. Of course, collaboration and discussion churn out more ideas in class, but at when students take time to think of others opinion, comprehend it and debate it increases=student’s ability to master a particular skill

I was an English teacher. In one such class, my students were to write an essay on “My Kind of School” Needless to say, this was entirely personalised and unique for each student. So, I began by giving them the opportunity to share ideas with their peers.

In no time the classroom turned into a fish market, and students were just chatting with the opposite partner.  Few students expressed while some struggled in articulating their thoughts too.  There was an evident imbalance in the classroom, and this is when I decided to ungroup them, and it helped! 

I asked all my students to close their eyes and think of the school they would want to go to. It struck me that offering opportunities for students to sit without diversion causes them to assimilate content and recall it, and consider further questions. They can process the emotions and thoughts communicated by their partners and think about the significance of different points of view. 

Consider history class. While there are unending recorded points to ponder, if there isn’t a great opportunity to think about what’s being learnt, the students will just focus on the grade and not on a critical understanding of the topic.

If the students are asked to sit and reflect on the learnings, it might help them realise how events from the past have formed their life and network today, or how individuals felt amid a time of strife or test.

learning at an individual pace

While in class, students must stay aware of a specific pace by following an instructor, schoolmates, and educational programs, once in a while at a quicker or slower speed than their very own optimal rate.

Homework, sports cooperation, testing, and even meal break all have due dates and time limits. Thoughtful stretches of time offer students a chance to get up to speed or slow down and process at their own beat.

Education tools that give students time to comprehend the learning are encouraged.across the schools. Perosnliaded learning tools like Mindspark is helping children learn with understanding at her own pace.

Mindspark is an adaptive learning platform for imparting literacy and numeracy skills to children to provide a personalised learning path to each child based on their performance and their misconceptions. Here’s one such case study depicting students learning curve from her Mindspark sessions

I don’t trust a classroom ought to be unendingly quiet. Be that as it may, I think about silence as the sound of reasoning, and I use quiet as an instrument on my training device belt to support the substantial psychological advancement of my understudies.

As you’re pondering your classroom, think about how regularly you take into account times of quiet where understudies have an individualised chance to centre and process their very own inward musings.

The post Importance of Silence In Classroom appeared first on EI blog.

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I never really was inclined to do Math. Forget revising, learning was tough too. While my friends and teachers tried their best to engage me in class, I would end up just copying notes, doodling, writing big questions and highlighting them.  

Worked out for me until my board exams. Reality hit hard, and I was now conscious I didn’t know it all. If you really want to get on top of the material, you need to engage with it – you learn more from a conversation than from a lecture.

1. Make Sure You Have Got The TextBook Covered:

Always know your syllabus. Start by prepping all the class lessons and cover your curriculum in a systematic way. Review your notes thoroughly. Remember, your teachers made you mark board exam important questions? Well, solve similar problems since these will help break down how a given procedure or formula works. This will help you be more confident in board exam

2. Play Math Quiz and Practice a lot

Online Math quizzes are amazing and have a lot to offer. It is engaging as well as tells you where you need more practice. Answering one challenge question a day will keep you motivated and aware of learning gaps. Once you know, find all the topics from your Math Textbooks and solve the exercise given at the end of every chapter in books to have a deep understanding of the problem. You can also solve Math 2018 board exam paper to get the gist of the Math board exam. 

3. Tell out loud How You Solved It

Rote-learning is our habit. We tend to memorise instead of understanding. But, math is too risky for that. Form a habit of explaining why you solved a problem in a particular way. This will reinforce the practice and also tell if your approach is right or not. Do this exercise with your siblings. 

4. Make an Enthu Math Group

A lot of your peers will have different concepts and understanding of the topics. If you form a “Math Practice Group” it will be easy and fun to understand tough concepts and work on it. You could actually identify each of your strength and weakness and do peer learning accordingly. 

5. Do Mindspark Twice A day:

One study in the J-PAL review which looks at an Indian after-school scheme where children used Mindspark for 4.5 months. They found that the progress made in language and maths by those pupils was more significant than in almost any study of education in poor countries—and for a fraction of the cost of attending a government-run school.

Mindspark offers interactive games, it lets you do math at your own pace and is like a friend who solves problems with you showing you the right path. If you answer incorrectly, Midnsaprk will tell you why you are wrong and will take you to basics. It will help you with tons of practice questions. Mindspark is your all-time buddy in need.

Avail your 7day free trial here http://bit.ly/2z41Nwq

The post Five Tips To Prepare For Your Math Board Exam appeared first on EI blog.

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Ma’am tell us about your journey in education; from being a teacher to a principal of one of the most renowned schools of Gujarat!

(chuckles) First of all, let me tell you getting in the field of education was an accident for me. Actually, I had gone to a school to get the form for my neighbour’s child. That day, in 1988, counsel (had) instituted computer science for the first time.

So, while I was filling the form and the principal, Mr.Mishra asked me if I was filling up for my own child. I explained to him it was (doing it) for my neighbour’ kid.  The conversation just began from there. He asked me for my qualifications and I said, I am a computer programmer (and) I was working for a corporate. He asked me if I was willing to teach the computer course.

I was very hesitant as I had never taught before, but he insisted that I come for a part-time job. And, guess what! I ended up taking it. The first class I taught was class 12th. After that, there was no looking back. I didn’t want to go back to corporate. It was very satisfying teaching students. I was one of the oldest computer teachers from the first batch since 1988.

Oh! So from corporate to teaching… That’s fascinating.

Yeah! I was working in data processing centre as a computer programmer and moved to teach computer programming.

How did your teaching journey shape in these three decades?

Probably my subject was very different, so I could experiment in my teaching method. I never had a conservative approach towards teaching because I always had the machine to back me.

For instance, if I was telling them (the students) something, the facts could be shown to them with the help of a computer. In computer programming, there is nothing right or wrong. The students had a different method/approach to solve a particular problem and I was quite open to it.

Right from the beginning, my approach has been analysed with the children. I have evolved with the syllabus and have learnt a lot from my students in this journey. I would always say ‘teaching and learning are for life not for a day or year!’

Wow! If I am to sum it up, you have been one of those teachers who has used data or machine learning to impart learning in the classroom

Very true! I think this can be done with each and every subject. You need to understand the thought and change the strategy. It’s not always my way is right.

As a principal, how do you weave this experience in enriching your school performance?

As the head of the institution, I am promoting the use of technology in whichever way it is possible. In fact, we are the only school who does online processing for our admission process. There is no paperwork involved. We are completely computerized – be it report card (or) paper setting. We also take the assessment test – ASSET for  Social Science, English, Math and Science.

How do you use this assessment test?

I feel ASSET can be used as reflective practice for teachers, as well as head of the institution. It could be used in three ways: If you look at the way we get report per class per subject,

one is it compares the growth of a particular class –  compared to last year versus what it is this year.

It gives you a comparison on a national level – what’s the national average and where do you fall.

It can be used as remedial for teachers depending on various skills the learners need to learn. It gives you clarity on where the child excels and where he lacks. So teachers can use it as remedial to improve the learning experience of students.

Your school has 14 skill-based clubs. What are these clubs and why you have it?

To name a few these clubs are Photography, Cooking, Designing and lot more. These clubs promote team spirit. What I really feel is textbooks may give you knowledge but will not always make you ethically or morally wise. In case you have to live a holistic life both your mental and spiritual education has to be complete. So academically, physically and spiritually we wanted to integrate all this together. Precisely why we have these clubs.

So, what’s the difference you see in education? When you first taught, and now when you go to the class. How has teaching evolved?

Technology has come in. In our times, it was chalk-and-talk. Now you have so many tools are at the disposal for teaching. Though I firmly believe this tools cannot replace a teacher and I advocate to use it. No teacher should be running away from it. It’s on us to make our student so competent that even thousands of machines cannot replace them.

We say hundred people can be replaced by one machine, but we can always create one extraordinary person that cannot be replaced by thousand machines. Teachers are now playing a multifold role. Usually, parents are working and student spends most of her time in school. So a teacher has to take up the role of a guide, counsellor, observer, friend as and when needed. In a competitive era, the teacher has to be there for the students.

So much onus on the teacher! On that note, Alka Murthy as principal or Teacher?

(Smiles) Always a teacher! I enjoy being a principal, but the connection that a teacher can have with her student in the classroom is tough for the principal to have with. It is more satisfying to have that connection with teachers.

The post In conversation with Alka Murthy- Principal, Zydus School, Ahmedabad appeared first on EI blog.

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When a 9th-grade student,  Avantika Saaish from Gems Modern Academy signed up for forensic science course she expected it to be a “mix of playing detective and learning science.”

Little did she expect that at the end of her winter break she would start questioning every information presented before her.

We were taught that our tongue senses some flavours such as sweetness, bitterness, saltiness etc. better at certain parts. None of us questioned this fact, even though we all knew we could taste different flavours well all around our tongue.” she gathers sceptically.

Another student, Vedaant Jamaiya from Grade VIII, DPS Dubai, who was Avantika’s batchmate during the 3 weeks of “Dubai’s Most Gifted” programme by ASSET joined the forensic science course because of his love of solving mysteries.

“This course is better than the way we learn at school,” he says.

Avantika, Vedaant and 44 others like them were the gifted children who participated in Dubai’s Most Gifted programme. This programme is organised by ASSET and students from 14 different schools from Dubai and Sharjah participated in the 3-week gifted learning programme.  

Students were exposed to modern and unique courses such as “Argument-Driven Science Learning” that focused on introducing students to the scientific way of thinking and questioning, “forensic science” which offered students an opportunity to put their ‘detective’ hats on and look for clues as they solved criminal mysteries.

Courses for the Gifted

Academically gifted students typically have very high skill levels and tend to oscillate between ‘boredom’ and ‘relaxation’. This means that they are not feeling challenged and hence, not utilising their full potential. Dubai’s most gifted was designed by industry experts and delivered by instructors from these industries.

According to one report on high-achieving students, more than 7 in 10 teachers of these students surveyed noted that their brightest students were not challenged or given a chance to “thrive” in their classrooms.

Additionally, gifted students need gifted programming in many cases because the “general education program is not yet ready to meet the needs of gifted students” due to lack of general educators’ training in gifted education and the pressure classroom teachers face to raise the performance of their struggling students. 

During this programme, students got to interact in a diverse classroom where both boys and girls were collaborating on activities and experiments. The instructors (who hailed from various cities in India) added another element of diversity and brought a variety of perspectives for students to think and debate about. In addition, the classes were designed to challenge each student uniquely – catering to differences in learning speeds and abilities.

But, this is not all! Our next post is going to bring to you a lot of insights on what does the day at DGM looks like for a student!

Watch out this space! Know all about our upcoming flagship programme for Gifted Students

The post ASSET: Dubai’s Gifted Students Unlock Their Potential appeared first on EI blog.

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When a 9th-grade student,  Avantika Saaish from Gems Modern Academy signed up for forensic science course she expected it to be a “mix of playing detective and learning science.”

Little did she expect that at the end of her winter break she would start questioning every information presented before her.

We were taught that our tongue senses some flavours such as sweetness, bitterness, saltiness etc. better at certain parts. None of us questioned this fact, even though we all knew we could taste different flavours well all around our tongue.” she gathers sceptically.

Another student, Vedaant Jamaiya from Grade VIII, DPS Dubai, who was Avantika’s batchmate during the 3 weeks of “Dubai’s Most Gifted” programme by ASSET joined the forensic science course because of his love of solving mysteries.

“This course is better than the way we learn at school,” he says.

Avantika, Vedaant and 44 others like them were the gifted children who participated in Dubai’s Most Gifted programme. This programme is organised by ASSET and students from 14 different schools from Dubai and Sharjah participated in the 3-week gifted learning programme.  

Students were exposed to modern and unique courses such as “Argument-Driven Science Learning” that focused on introducing students to the scientific way of thinking and questioning, “forensic science” which offered students an opportunity to put their ‘detective’ hats on and look for clues as they solved criminal mysteries.

Courses for the Gifted

Academically gifted students typically have very high skill levels and tend to oscillate between ‘boredom’ and ‘relaxation’. This means that they are not feeling challenged and hence, not utilising their full potential. Dubai’s most gifted was designed by industry experts and delivered by instructors from these industries.

According to one report on high-achieving students, more than 7 in 10 teachers of these students surveyed noted that their brightest students were not challenged or given a chance to “thrive” in their classrooms.

Additionally, gifted students need gifted programming in many cases because the “general education program is not yet ready to meet the needs of gifted students” due to lack of general educators’ training in gifted education and the pressure classroom teachers face to raise the performance of their struggling students. 

During this programme, students got to interact in a diverse classroom where both boys and girls were collaborating on activities and experiments. The instructors (who hailed from various cities in India) added another element of diversity and brought a variety of perspectives for students to think and debate about. In addition, the classes were designed to challenge each student uniquely – catering to differences in learning speeds and abilities.

But, this is not all! Our next post is going to bring to you a lot of insights on what does the day at DGM looks like for a student!

Watch out this space! Know all about our upcoming flagship programme for Gifted Students

The post ASSET: Dubai’s Gifted Students Unlock thier Potential appeared first on EI blog.

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