In the last decade we have witnessed the increase of International schools in India. Every new school comes up with more sophisticated infrastructure and facilities. Hence there is a tendency to look at these externals and rate schools accordingly. However, the heart of education is the learning that takes place within the infrastructures and facilities; and it is this heart that is often forgotten when parents are looking for schools.
So, too often, parents assume learning has taken place if the teacher has taught, or that students have actually learnt to solve the problem if a correct answer has been given, or that students have acquired life skills if students have gained knowledge. It is important for parents to know that teaching the content of a text book or covering a syllabus or students providing the right answer or demonstrating knowledge does not ensure learning nor does it automatically leads to problem solving or life skills.
It is also generally believed that teaching is nothing but the transfer of a bulk of information from teacher to student. Hence, most schools expect the following from their teachers:
- They must produce students who can memorize facts and information
- They should be able to control a classroom so that no questions are asked
- They should produce students who are so-called ‘toppers’
This kind of an understanding clearly reinforces the idea that school is nothing but just teaching and testing and 100 % results. Examinations that test knowledge without testing skills and conceptual understanding will not prepare the student for the 21st century. We all know that whatever knowledge and content we teach gets out-dated every passing day. So merely teaching, testing the content and the reproduction of content does not guarantee learning. Knowledge transfer is no doubt important, but only in relation to the quality of learning that takes place. If the teaching does not result in learning, there has been no teaching.
So how do we ensure that learning takes place? It is not merely through end of term/year testing but through continuous assessment which enables teachers to discover levels of achievement, learning style and interest of the student.
It is crucial to realize that our emphasis ought to be on conceptual learning, skill development and continuous improvement. It is important for all parents to discover the right school for their child/children that will provide the programmes which will encompass all subjects without neglecting Fine and Practical Arts, Performing Arts, Sports and Games etc. so that the students develop in all areas and their individual talents are developed.
So what questions should parents be asking?
- Do the grades reflect true learning?
- Are teachers teaching students or teaching a subject?
- Is homework reinforcing learning or just busy work?
- Is there any effective outcome (the emotional and feeling aspect) from the learning?
- Are teachers helping students to think, inquire and reflect?
- Is there any connect between what is being taught and what is being learnt?
- How are assessments designed?
At SNIS the emphases is on learning and continuous improvement. It helps the students to become independent thinkers with inquiring and reflecting minds. The THOTS lab helps students to develop into critical and analytical thinkers and inventors. The school believes that mere teaching and ‘covering the content’ (as opposed to ‘uncovering the content’) is not learning. The content taught to the students, teaching strategies, the available resources and technology support, student assessment and feedback systems are carefully planned in SNIS to ensure learning.
Pradip K Das
Head of School