Nov 2012 – Assessing Schools

I was participating and speaking at the inspireED conference organized by Teach for India-TFI in Pune recently, it was a wonderful experience to witness the energy and enthusiasm that the TFI fellows had to make a difference to the lives of children in the government and low income schools. A majority of the fellows were very young in the early 20’s and many of them had given up lucrative corporate jobs to follow their passion of adding value to the educational arena.  What struck me were the simple innovative things they were doing in classrooms that could do wonders in mainstream private schools.

Over the past decade I have worked very closely with private schools across the sub-continent and I have witnessed the magic that some of the educators have managed to create in their schools. My experience over the past few years working with government schools has opened my eyes to the ground realities of their domain and I must admit that there are several sparks of excellence even in government schools. Being an entrepreneur myself I also realize the wonderful job some of the private companies and enterprises are doing in the Indian education domain.

From a macro perspective I get a sense that these 4 different players – governmental bodies, private schools, NGO’s and private companies are all working parallel to each other, apparently with similar goals and objectives. They are all trying to improve the educational system. If only these different players looked at synergies in an organized manner the positive outcomes of their interventions would be multifold. The goal of everyone working in education is to ensure a bright future for our children, if we could reachout and learn from other organizations we give ourselves a wonderful opportunity to co-create something magical.

Over the past few years I have had several educators express their opinion about some of the school ratings that are being brought out. A common question that is asked of me is – Do I subscribe to such ratings and what is my opinion about school ratings? I believe that ratings are good if done in a fair manner and the evaluator and the evaluated principally understand the parameters of assessment. If the assessor has very little idea of what is being assessed and the ones assessed have no idea how they are being assessed, it leads to a very interesting scenario, which is what I guess we are in with the present school ratings. I have always subscribed to the philosophy that there has to be “a method to the madness”, if the method itself is unclear then there is a serious danger of not being in control of the outcomes. Would love to hear from you on what you think about this recent trend of School Ratings.

 

Oct 2012 – Co-creating Education

Its Horlicks Wizkids time and I will be spending two month traveling the sub continent hosting one of the biggest inter school literary and cultural festivals in the world. In its 10th edition this year the legendary event will have over two hundred thousand students from over 2000 schools of 5 countries showcasing their talents. The philosophy behind Wizkids is that ‘Every student has a talent and Wizkids is a platform that encourages all talents’. We at EduMedia believe that no matter what competency the child has – singing, dancing, quizzing, speaking, writing, art, painting, design, cooking, etc. they are all ‘Wizkids’ and need to be encouraged. In addition to their competencies we make a conscious effort to highlight the importance of a sound character that determines how children use their competencies to shape their world in future.

I consider myself very lucky to have had the opportunity to see over 2 million students participate in the event over the past decade. What is heartening to note is their growing confidence, they seem to be very open to exploring and experimenting. Their level of exposure is reflected in their awareness of issues and the world around them. What is saddening is the fierce sense of competition that is engrained in them by their parents and schools; this takes away from them the joys of the journey. What is also clearly evident is the drop in quality and depth of their talent, for example more kids dance today but very few children put in the necessary effort to practice the art form. This has created according to me a whole generation of children who have the confidence to win but lack the depth to pull them through the tough battles ahead of them.

When I check with children if their schools have a dedicated time in their time table to nurture their talents, the answer is an over predominant NO. This does not come as a surprise as the focus of all schools is to get marks, so why waste time on hobby clubs. One of the reasons sighted by schools is that they do not get relevant qualified teachers/guides to lead their creative/hobby clubs. I do empathize with them, but want to remind them of a legend that a few thousand years ago lived Eklavya who was not fortunate enough to have a Guru, by his sheer enthusiasm and grit he learned the art of archery. If Eklavya could do it without any technology just by observation, I am sure in our immensely connected world students can find their answers online for no matter what hobby they want to learn. As schools if you can fan the enthusiasm in children and clear the obstacles to learning they will figure a way out, infact self and peer learning can be a brilliant outcomes of this ‘Connected Hobby Classes’.

The Mentors Conclave 2012 Call for Papers has received an over whelming response, over 100 research and experience papers submitted. I am happy to share that 25 papers have been shortlisted for publishing in the first edition of the Mentor Journal and 15 authors will also get an opportunity to present their papers orally at the conclave. I look forward to some thought provoking sessions, innovative educational ideas and an opportunity to meet fellow educators.

Sep 2012 – A Pledge

In September EduMedia will partner with FICCI to launch a nationwide ‘Skills Pledge’ campaign.

I pledge my commitment to skills by working voluntarily, in individual or organisational capacity, to advocate and encourage the importance of skills within my circle of influence which includes

–       Give preference to engaging skilled and certified people in my organization

–       Acquire and practice a new skill for self

–       Support at least ONE unskilled individual per year to acquire a new skill for their career progression

I will pursue the above in true spirit of upholding dignity of skills to support the National Skills Development Mission.  

The term ‘skill’ refers to an acquired and practiced ability needed to perform a job for a certain task competently. It is a multidimensional concept, as most jobs require a combination of skills for adequate performance, ranging from physical abilities to cognitive and interpersonal skills.

During the planning stages of this campaign I asked myself a question how could schools support us in this campaign? Are schools the right place to teach skills? My experience says that schools are the best places to teach skills to children in an organized manner – considering their age and ability to learn. What skills do schools teach? The answer is that schools mostly strive to teach Cognitive Skills that include

Attention Skills: A student’s ability to attend to incoming information can be observed, broken down into a variety of sub-skills, and improved through properly coordinated training.

Memory: The ability to store and recall information:

Logic and Reasoning: The ability to reason, form concepts, and solve problems using unfamiliar information or novel procedures.

Auditory Processing: The ability to analyze, blend, and segment sounds. Auditory processing is a crucial underlying skill for reading and spelling success.

Visual Processing: The ability to perceive, analyze, and think in visual images.

Processing Speed: The ability to perform simple or complex cognitive tasks quickly.

In their effort to focus on cognitive skills very often neglecting physical abilities and interpersonal skills. There is a historical reason behind this skew in our society’s mentality to favour cognitive skills over physical skills. It is deeply engrained in our psyche that any skill that requires the mind is superior to the skill that requires the body – Infact the division of our society over caste lines came predominantly due to the type of professions people practiced. Therefore the obvious need for schools is to focus on physical skills and interpersonal skills.

In the coming MENTOR CONCLAVE 2012 to be held in Bangalore from November 16 to 18 we will be dedicating one segment on ‘Skills in Schools’ that will aim at empowering educators to ‘Support Skills in Schools’.

I am using this opportunity to invite you to join us on this campaign and do your bit to spread the awareness of skills development in our nation. We at EduMedia are trying to do our bit to skill India, are you?