“Private Schools Abroad Have More Freedom”: Executive Director, CIS

In an email interview with BW Education, Shweta Sastri, Executive Director at Canadian International School talks about innovative teaching methods and how technology can no longer be boycotted in the Indian Education sector:

How can educators ensure cross-disciplinary competence in today’s dynamic world order?

Volatility in jobs requires students to be nimble in their thinking and prepared to face challenges that they could never have envisioned. An educator today, has to ensure a multitude of factors from providing exposure – be it through an internationally relevant curriculum to leading by example. The role of the educator is to create situations where learning is practical and contextual and not just theoretical.

There is a paradigm shift towards liberal arts styled education, how does this upskill the workforce of the future?

In India only hard sciences such as mathematics or physics were considered real degrees, and subjects such as philosophy or art history were seen as hobbies. A liberal arts styled education is essential for a multitude of reasons - participation in civic life, being able to debate, defend a point of view, present an idea in the real world. Skills that are critical in the workforce today but are lacking in the Indian curriculum. For example, Indian students have higher high school test results, but when it comes to innovation, strategic thinking, and leadership positions because of the skills accrued in liberal arts styled education American counterparts have historically done better. The private school sector in India is very heavily regulated in what they can and cannot incorporate in their curriculums, if you compare us with school’s overseas, private schools abroad have more freedom to perform the way they should in order to serve the interest of the students the best they can.

How is technology revising how content is delivered to students?

The crucial element when it comes to using technology in general but especially in education is balance. You can no longer boycott the use of technology. Students are consuming information through technology in our classrooms, homes, even on the move on their tablets- in their backpacks or in their pockets. Another crucial aspect of technology is that it empowers students not only to consume knowledge and information but to create it.

 How are schools imparting knowledge to the millennial student who is passionate but lacks focus?

The millennial student is not less motivated, but needs a different teaching style. Contextual learning situates learning in a way that makes an impression on the millennial – who is no less determined but has a different pace and manner of learning. For example, the arts play an essential role in engaging the millennial student, engaging and bringing out their committed selves through passion. Including technology in curriculum is another way of making learning relevant and more engaging. As educators we have to mirror the circumstances and situations that the students will be exposed to, and the fact of the matter is that there will be opportunities for different capabilities and we need to build that confidence in the future workforce.

According to industry body Nasscom, up to 40% of the estimated four-million workforce need reskilling over the next five years, singling out the most significant skill gaps in innovation and strategic thinking (57%). What are schools doing to instill innovation and strategic thinking?

Innovation and strategic thinking is a capacity built through critical thinking, inquiry, analysis as well as verbal and written communication skills at a formative age. These skills are instilled early on through ‘In-class discussions’, field trips, presentations, movies and hands-on assignments. When students are exposed to multiple facets of an issue and encouraged to explore, it encourages them to be critical and innovative. Unfortunately memorization and the rote system has stunted these skill sets. The remedy to a lack of strategic thinking and innovative mindset is contextual learning.

What are some unconventional teaching methods that have yielded results?

The unconventional teaching methods that are yielding results are actually conventional methods which are being aligned with 21st century literacy skills, for example the use of technology. Be it sciences or arts, it is not enough to consume information in the 21st century , one has to create and build on existing knowledge database. And that is being done by instilling the four C’s which are collaboration , creativity , critical thinking and communication. These skills are indispensable and have become central to effective learning and its efforts in preparing students for 21st century workforce.

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