Random Thoughts


GenWise's Response to the New Education Policy Draft

posted Nov 21, 2019, 12:49 AM by Prashant Bhattacharji   [ updated Nov 21, 2019, 12:52 AM ]



Vishnuteerth Agnihotri from GenWise very kindly shared some of the suggestions sent by GenWise.in, in response to the NEP Draft of 2019. 

Response to the Draft NEP 2019 from GenWise

GenWise is a group of accomplished mentors (25+), with an excellent blend of corporate, academic, local and international perspectives. We see our role as supporting schools and parents, by bringing in contemporary knowledge and ways of thinking of researchers, experts and practitioners to young students, and we have been doing this through residential summer programs, experiential programs as well as in-school day scholar programs. Our key strength is enabling students to truly experience deep learning on contemporary themes. 


We congratulate the NEP Panel on working on this very difficult task and bringing out the Draft NEP which has several excellent recommendations. In the spirit of constructive and productive engagement in the transformation of our education system, we also present a critique of some of the proposed elements. Our response focuses on the School Education section of the Draft NEP, and has 3 parts-

  • Overall Observations- our comments on the overall direction and focus of the Draft NEP

  • Specific Observations- our comments on specific sections and paras of the Draft NEP which could be considered while finalizing the NEP

  • Specific Recommendations- Specific implementable actions that we believe are ‘high leverage’ in achieving the goals of the NEP


For clarifications on our response to the Draft NEP below, please write to [email protected]

Overall Observations

  1. The Draft NEP lays out the vision for the education system in India to be one that will  “ensure that it touches the life of each and every citizen, consistent with their ability to contribute to many growing developmental imperatives of this country on the one hand, and towards creating a just and equitable society on the other.”. This vision appears to see the individual only from the dimension of her/his contribution to the country and not as a being whose human personality can be developed and enriched through learning. Enriched individuals will naturally make strong contributions to the country.

  2. The Draft NEP proposes major revamps in several areas while talking very little about lessons learned from the past- why certain initiatives worked or did not work. India has extensive historical experience in education. It is crucial for the development of an effective and impactful education policy to be informed and shaped by the learnings from this experience and institutional memory.  

  3. The Draft NEP makes several excellent points that have the potential to bring huge improvements to the system. However, there are too many proposals with no prioritization. A more focused NEP will provide a clearer direction to implementing bodies. 

  4. The Draft NEP ignores the huge challenge of ‘mindset change’ among parents, teachers and educational leaders/ administrators that would be needed to promote critical thinking in democratic classrooms. It assumes that the educational leadership believes in ‘questioning, critical thinking, and teacher empowerment’ as crucially important. However, past actions of educational leaders indicate that such a belief is rare among educational leaders, and a mindset change is needed even among leaders.


For example, when one educational program is replaced by another, we rarely see an analysis of learning from the past effort and how it is informing the new one (e.g. shift in the ABL models in Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu- see pages 67, 68 and 70 of https://uni.cf/2ypO0j3 ). What message does this send to the system on how important we consider ‘critical thinking and questioning’? Teacher involvement in important decisions about teaching-learning models and other things that affect them, is typically quite low; what does this tell teachers about our belief in ‘teacher empowerment’? (see pages 66 and 67 of https://uni.cf/2ypO0j3) . Even the extent of input of the best teachers in our country to this Draft NEP seems unclear.


  1. Another aspect of mindset change is to recognize that learning happens not just in school but also at home and in the larger community we are part of. Pasi Sahlberg, Finnish Educator, believes that the excellent performance of Finland in PISA is influenced by the opportunity available to Finnish children to engage in productive activities outside of school- whether reading because of the ‘dense library system’ or immersion in sports, arts and culture through one of the many ‘NGO clubs’. Closer to home, experts believe that the relatively higher levels of literacy and reading ability in Kerala was influenced by the availability of reading material at low cost and the availability of reading rooms or ‘vayanashalas’ across towns. Thus the NEP should look at ways of nurturing informal networks and communities that support the work of schools in helping all children to succeed.

  2. Apart from initiatives to bring ‘mindset change’, significant capacity building is needed to equip key players in the education system to play their role effectively. While the Draft NEP does talk about measures needed for capacity building of teachers, it does not talk about capacity building measures for educational administrators. Capacity Building refers to-

    1. Teacher Education- This is the rate limiting factor (to use an enzyme kinetics analogy) in the creation of a meaningful education system. The NEP articulates, fairly strongly, about the urgent need to overhaul teacher education, hiring and deployment and the overall teaching and learning culture. It also provides an extremely ambitious programme towards this but the implementation roadmap (Addendum 2) provided does not reflect this urgency. The priority as laid out in the roadmap continues to be on infrastructure and administrative arrangements.

    2. Building a Body of Knowledge on Learning and Implementing Educational Programs- A research-based body of knowledge that is robust and easily accessible is necessary. This should be built upon the knowledge of both teachers and experts. To use the medical analogy, the teacher is a practitioner analogous to a doctor, who is in the best position to help the learner learn. Just like the doctor though, the teacher too needs to refer to research journals or speak with academic experts in the area of medicine to hone her understanding and knowledge, while also contributing to this knowledge, through her on-field experience. A similar case can be made for building a body of knowledge relevant to educational administrators and leaders on areas like ‘how to build a vibrant community of teachers’.

    3. Training of Educational Leaders- This involves providing leaders with an understanding of the context of the education system, what a ‘system’ is and principles that are important in bringing about systemic improvement. For example, all educational leaders should be familiarized with the work of Donella Meadows, that points out how changes in social structures (like allowing teachers to self-organize) can be far more powerful that changes in physical inputs. See http://bit.ly/2Ytpecn -an article by Donella Meadows on 12 Leverage Points (or places to intervene) in a system. The recommendation on creating vibrant teacher communities, later in this document, is based on Leverage Point no. 4 in Meadows’ list- ‘The power to add, change, evolve, or self-organize system structure’. In simple words, communities of teachers who evolve teaching practices on their own (and are thus ‘self-organizing’), are far more powerful and resilient than teachers working independently relying only on ‘top-down’ inputs.

In our opinion, a more focused NEP would have Capacity Building and Mindset Change as the areas of focus in School Education. Further, the many contradictions in the Draft NEP proposals (whether real or apparent) should be addressed and clarified. 

  1. Some examples of the contradictions are shared below.

    1. importance of instruction in mother tongue vs learning to read in 3 scripts by Grade 2

    2. reduce curricular load by focusing on essentials vs proliferation in the number of subjects

  2. When there are contradictions in the policy or across educational programs, the goal and approach to be adopted are unclear and leads to low adoption (see pages 67 and 68 of https://uni.cf/2ypO0j3 ). Therefore communicating a single clear goal can be very powerful. For example, to achieve Foundational Literacy and Numeracy, it would be good to give a single goal along the lines of “By Grade 5, a child should be able to read an ‘unseen passage’ in her mother tongue, write a page expressing her own ideas, do simple arithmetic involved in a real-life transaction. Nothing else is more important till 2023 by when this goal should be achieved”.

  3. Lasting change is difficult, requires time, and moving away from entrenched paradigms. In other words, the desired outcomes- like children reading, doing arithmetic, knowing 3 languages etc. will take time (a 2-3 year process which may be achieved between age 6-7 to 10-11).  Because of the time lag involved in this change, such outcomes can be termed as ‘lagging indicators’.If the system is looking only at ‘lagging indicators’, the assessments will get dumbed down to ‘show’ that these goals have been achieved. This has been seen on numerous occasions when large scale assessments are done. One striking example one of our team members saw in an evaluation study, is a child reciting a story in English confidently, but being unable to explain the story in her mother tongue! This problem is exacerbated if there is an insistence that certain goals are achieved every 3 or 6 months. This issue can be addressed by having ‘leading indicators’ of change that provide confidence that we are on the right track (for example the ‘number of pushups done daily’ is a leading indicator of increased muscle strength that may take some months to develop). Possible ‘leading indicators’ would be children speaking up freely in their mother tongue, taking part in language/ arithmetic games, sharing stories, teachers being aware of what students can/ cannot do at any given point of time. In other words, the system should be clear and confident about the ‘process’ to be employed and results will come in due time.

Assessment of learning outcomes is of course important but these should be done along with the assessment of 'leading process indicators', in a low stakes manner and perhaps less frequently (say once in 2-3 years, at least in the beginning, until significant improvements are made).

Specific Observations

  1. Leveraging Peer Learning- P 2.5 talks of ‘best performers’ in each school being selected for the National Tutors Programme, and being selected for the NTP will be considered a ‘prestigious position’ - the spirit of such language if it seeps in is likely to create unnecessary competition and a superior/ inferior mindset among students. It would be more inclusive and effective to foster an informal culture of peers helping each other learn.

  2. Instructional Aides from the Community- P 2.6 talks of recruiting Instructional Aides , especially women, from local communities for remedial teaching during and after school hours. While the idea of community involvement and remediation is good, one needs to take care that this does not end up like the ‘para-teacher’ scheme with core teaching activities being done by these aides.

  3. Ethical and Moral Reasoning- Ethical and moral reasoning is rightly identified as a very important goal. Values of empathy and compassion must be nurtured which will build values of acceptance, tolerance and fraternity.  Empathy, compassion, acceptance will also allow children from a very young age to value diversity – cultural and social. This is critical in the context of the deeply entrenched caste differences prevalent even today in India. Such value systems are essential for the development of a just society as envisaged in the Draft NEP's vision. However, the NEP should recognize the conflict between its goal of ‘critical thinking and questioning’ and ‘getting students to adopt certain values’. For example, the value of ‘sacrifice’ could result in gender, ethnicity, class and caste inequalities remaining unchallenged and the value of ‘patriotism’ could lead to unquestioning nationalism. We believe that it is possible to manage this conflict by recognizing values development as a process that can be nurtured and facilitated through critical engagement with issues pertaining to personal and social values and behaviour, as well as ‘modeling’ of behaviour. The most important values, in any case, cannot be ‘transmitted’ through moralizing and laying down a code of conduct. Appropriate teacher education is crucial to ensure that these values are nurtured in a sensitive and thoughtful manner rather than ‘handed down’ in a moralistic or dogmatic fashion. 

How teachers and school staff engage with students in day to day interactions is extremely important in nurturing values- as it has been said, values are ‘caught’, not ‘taught’. For example, impartiality and fairness in and outside class, how teachers encourage children, how they provide feedback, whether they listen to them, how they interact with their parents, how adults in school resolve interpersonal conflicts- all of these influence values development in students more strongly than lessons on ethical and moral reasoning.

  1. Sex Education- In the context of sex education [Section 4.6.8.5] it is important to begin this process from the Middle Stage (11-14 years) to coincide with and provide emotional support at the onset of puberty.  An important objective of sex education should be to inculcate a healthy relationship and understanding of gender and sexuality.

  2. Gender Equality- In the list of inspiring leaders [P.4.6.8.7] provided, women scientists and leaders are conspicuous by their absence (M.S. Subbalakshmi is the only woman mentioned). Such an inherent gender bias in a policy document must be immediately corrected. This is in contradiction to the proposals referred to elsewhere in the policy to promote education for girls. It is also counter to the Government's push towards ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’.

  3. Knowledge of India- In Section 4.6.9 where integration of Knowledge of India into the education system is discussed, the NEP talks about inclusion of local and tribal knowledge into the curriculum and textbooks. Does the policy propose region specific text books to be written? As indicated in 4.8.2 and 4.8.3, SCERTs will be tasked to produce State specific sections in textbooks. Does this include integration into Science textbooks? For instance inclusion of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (recognised today as a distinct stream of study globally) and its relevance to taxonomy, understanding of ecological systems and adaptation to climate change.

  4. Integration of Subjects- New subjects like 'Critical Issues' and 'Indian Knowledge Systems' are being introduced while talking simultaneously about 'reducing curricular load to essential ideas to permit nuanced discussion and understanding'. The objectives of the Draft NEP can be met much better by integration of the proposed 'courses/ subjects' with existing subjects. For example, there is plenty of scope to integrate Language with Social Studies/ EVS at the primary level, and important content and ideas of 'Critical Issues', ‘Current Affairs’ and 'Indian Knowledge Systems' can be integrated into Social Studies at the Middle and Secondary levels.

  5. Critical Issues Course- It is appreciated that an effort towards creating greater awareness is proposed among children starting with Grades 7 and 8. However it seems rather strange to see a Government programme (Swacch Bharat) listed among issues such as climate change, water, sanitation etc. among the list of critical issues [P4.6.10.1].  Students should be exposed to various approaches / responses to managing water sustainably rather than specifically a programme. 

  6. Experiential Learning- The NEP mentions experiential learning at various points in the context of curriculum and pedagogy. Conspicuous by its absence is any reference to engagement with nature across all stages of learning. Innumerable studies from across the world have shown that the increased alienation of children from their natural surroundings has impacted physical, mental and emotional growth. Nature Deficit Disorder / Syndrome is being recognised as a legitimate problem. Together with reading and numeracy it is critical that the policy emphasize experiential learning through active and hands-on engagement with nature in the surrounding environment (e.g., learning through the senses, working with soil, creating with natural material, observing changes in the immediate natural environment around us etc.). This is essential not only for intellectual and emotional development of the child but also for developing motor skills, dexterity, observation and other sensory skills. At each learning level described in the NEP, suitable curriculum will need to be developed to deepen the engagement, exploration and learning. This is not something to be included merely as a part of Biology in the STEM curricula but as an essential component of experiential learning. See http://bit.ly/2ylRx1V .

  7. Centralization of Development of Learning Material- P 4.8.2 mentions NCERT’s primary role in developing textbooks. While it is useful to have textbooks from NCERT given their expertise, there needs to be capacity at the state and local level to build good quality learning material including textbooks, given the wide diversity of contexts across the country. There is a wide diversity of contexts even within a state.

  8. College-readiness by the end of Grade 12- Students should have depth of knowledge in at least one stream by the end of Grade 12, if they are to be college ready. Given the clubbing of Grades 9-12 under one ‘secondary umbrella’, a wider variety of subjects and the proposed semester based assessment system across 4 years, depth of learning in one stream may get compromised. In 4.9 it is proposed that between Grade 9 and 12, there will be 40 ‘subjects’ across all semesters, 24 of which will be assessed by board exams, of which 2 are Math, 2 science, one each in Indian and world history, one in economics, commerce etc. and other 15 + left to school assessment. Perhaps it would be better to focus on the ‘breadth’ goal till Grade 10 and focus more on ‘depth’ in Grades 11-12 (maintaining some degree of ‘depth’).

  9. Lack of Clarity on Assessment System – P 4.9 talks about various points– Assessment of higher order thinking skills, Easier board exams, Repeated taking of board exams with two or more attempts to improve scores, Board exams every semester replacing end of year school assessments, assessments through open book exams for secondary school students and so on. There is no clarity on what exactly the assessment system will be, and some of the suggestions are not aligned with the others.

  10. College Admission Testing- If the ‘board exams’ are being reformed is there a need for another testing agency for admissions to universities. Multiple high-stakes exams will increase stress. The school leaving exams and the college admission exams need to be thought through carefully and rationalized.


Specific Recommendations

Mindset change and capacity building are closely interlinked- changing mindsets itself requires capacity building, and building capacity requires changing mindsets. Still we have shared our recommendations under separate heads to emphasize the importance of each.

Mindset Change

  1. Public Education Campaigns on a Massive Scale- Important messages that are well designed (remember the wide appeal of ‘3 Idiots’) should be disseminated through TV/ Radio/ Social Media/ Hoardings. These should be on different relevant themes. Popular national figures like Virat Kohli and Amir Khan or local figures can be used in the campaigns. Some important themes are-

    1. The value of critical thinking and questioning- interesting questions can be used in the campaign (represent all numbers up to 1023 using 10 digits of our hands). Perhaps a mascot can be created (like Boojho/ Paheli in the NCERT textbooks) who signifies critical thinking and questioning and stories involving this mascot can be created to spread awareness of the importance of such thinking.

    2. English medium is not equal to good education- by highlighting success stories of non-English medium learners and highlighting world-class regional language schools (see point no. 2)

    3. Negatives of competitive pressure- highlighting the success/ well-being of students and schools which do not adopt a competitive spirit 

    4. Value of learning outside of school- The value of non-curricular learning (and the linkages between the curriculum and real life) can be highlighted using real-life case studies (the community learning hubs proposed below can be a source for such case studies). There are many children with significant knowledge, talent and skills who lose confidence in their abilities because of the excessive focus on theoretical learning and exams.

  2. World Class Schools in Regional Languages- Highlight existing high quality schools in regional languages and have a goal of 10 world class schools in regional languages for all regional languages (say in 3 years). Make films on these schools and use in teacher training and in mass public campaigns for people to start believing in high quality education in the mother tongue.

  3. Define and promote practices that lead to an organic shift in mindsets- Changes in mindset cannot be forced from the outside. However, mindsets can shift based on new experiences and how these are processed. Seemingly simple and specific practices have the power to bring about big change. For example, getting teachers to do regular home visits and discussing these in monthly CRC meetings could go a long way in creating a collaborative and inclusive school culture. Note that the teacher is not being told to be ‘inclusive’ but by helping her to experience the child’s home environment, we increase the likelihood of her taking a sensitive approach. Another example could be getting visitors to the school to wait in the school library to promote a culture of reading. The compendium, Eklavya Sari (http://www.eklavya.org/Eklavyasari.html) shares such culture building practices of one school. The ‘Centre of Evidence Based Practice’ proposed below could take the responsibility for compiling, evaluating and disseminating knowledge of such practices.

  4. Contests and Events that promote Real Learning- TV shows like ‘India’s got Talent’ and ‘Indian Idol’ have played a big role in inspiring talent in music, dance and performing arts. Shows like ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’, ‘India Child Genius’ and ‘Mastermind’ have encouraged general awareness and knowledge. Well designed contests or shows that promote application of knowledge in different contexts, creativity, design thinking, tinkering etc. have the potential to inspire a generation of learners as well as teachers to learn joyously and focus on what’s important in learning. For example, a seemingly simple activity of making a paper column with half an A4 sheet that can support the maximum weight without collapsing offers deep richness of learning while being open-ended and can easily go on for 2-3 episodes, also allowing all viewers to participate in the experience because of the ease of availability of material. Viewers could also send in the problems they need solved to the ‘contesting group of inventors’. These contests could have close linkages to the Community Learning Hubs proposed below.

Capacity Building

  1. Community Learning Hubs- These will be high-quality learning spaces, with a library, ‘maker-space’, craft material, computers with internet etc. co-located in the same facility with adequate staffing. A lot can be done with simple tools and modest budgets, as long as there is a resourceful facilitator. The initial target could be to have several such centres at district/ block level and ultimately one per school-complex. The centre should be open to all children in the community (even if not enrolled in the school), and be open beyond school hours also. Local ‘vocational experts’ can operate in this facility; local craftsmen, electricians, plumbers etc. should play as important a role as facilitators in this space as scientists, engineers, doctors etc. This space should be used for local contests, study circles, community dialogues and celebrating festivals, and become the ‘learning hub’ for the community. Some of the best work and learning in colleges in the country is happening in such informal clubs and groups and the presence of a vibrant learning hub in each community could create a huge transformation.

This initiative is related to the School Complexes proposed in Chapter 7 of the Draft NEP. However, the Community Learning Hubs will be most powerful when the community takes ownership of this space, and the kind of energy of informal collaborations that is seen in a community during festivals, gets transferred to learning (learning here is defined in the broadest sense as any activity that does not involve ‘passive consumption’). School Complexes must look at their role as enabling the community to run a vibrant learning hub, rather than seeing this as hub as an extension of the formal schooling system.

  1. Nurturing Vibrant Communities of Practice of Teachers- In Point 6b of ‘Overall Observations’, we pointed out that the importance of the teacher as a ‘professional practitioner’. All thriving professions require vibrant communities of practice. The school complexes proposed in the Draft NEP probably provide an opportunity to nurture such communities of practice. Vibrant communities of practice have always existed in our country. Some of these have also been nurtured consciously by educational leaders e.g. In Gujarat, during the early years of implementing ‘Pragya’, master resource persons from SCERT would visit schools in a block, capturing snippets of lessons on video, and these would be discussed by teachers across schools in the block after a couple of days, leading to a rich exchange and motivating teachers.

However, much more can be done to consciously nurture teacher-led communities of practice. The challenge of ‘scaling’ should be looked at as proliferating such networks of practice with ‘top-down’ initiatives nurturing ‘bottom-up’ communities and ideas. The Berkana Institute’s framework of Name-Connect-Nourish-Illuminate offers a different paradigm to look at scaling (see http://bit.ly/2ZtDuDr ). The work of Wenger-Trayner on communities of practice also offers relevant insights. The power of building a vibrant community of teacher practice is that it is a self-organizing system (see point 6c of ‘Overall Observations’ and pages 14-16 of http://bit.ly/2Ytpecn)

A powerful example of a self-organizing community of teacher practice is the practice of ‘Lesson Study’ in Japan, that has been in existence for one hundred and thirty years. Lesson Study involves teachers working together to design, test, and improve lesson sequences, with multiple teachers observing the session, reviewing the sessions jointly and other teachers reteaching the revised lesson plans. This practice introduces teachers to the power of collaborative inquiry and the important role observation plays in opening our eyes to alternative practice. Many good ideas come from the teachers’ own experiences, increasing their confidence in practising the craft of teaching. This practice gained international attention after publication of results from the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) video study.

  1. Educational Leaders with strong context of teaching-learning- Given the complexity in education, it is important to ensure in some way that Educational Leaders and Administrators have at least 10 years of teaching experience or strong context about education. A ‘governance paradigm’ without an understanding of how learning happens is not sufficient to be an effective educational leader. A career path should be available for teachers to grow into the highest roles in educational leadership. Lateral entry could also be allowed to exceptional individuals with a proven track record. IAS officers who come into education roles should be identified at least 2 years in advance of their actual posting and should undergo a rigorous orientation of at least 15 days and be certified by a committee before their appointment in an educational leadership role. Perhaps it is time to create an ‘Indian Education Service’ under the Civil Services.

  2. Centre for Evidence Based Practice- Constitute a ‘Centre for Evidence Based Practice’ at the central level (with representation from states), staffed with high quality researchers and teachers. This can include fellows who are part of the centre for a few months to a couple of years. This centre should collate existing evidence and do new/ further research in important areas of curriculum and pedagogy, teacher development, how to bring systemic change etc. The members from this centre should be part of committees (state and central) that define and deploy educational programs. The centre should network with educators around the country and around the world. The centre should have a high quality website of resources, start its own journal and publish high-quality research (the What Works Clearinghouse initiative in the US could guide the design of this repository- see https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/ ). This centre could be responsible for training and certifying educational leaders, including those who make a lateral entry into the government education system.


  1. Repository of good questions and projects- No effort to change the education system will work unless the ‘goal posts’ are changed. In this light, the Draft NEP rightly speaks about reforming the board examinations to assess the ability of students to think critically and reason on their own. However, such learning can happen only when teachers frame discerning questions and learning tasks and engage students in working on these. (Often it appears that there is agreement on the kind of learning that is being targeted, but on seeing the actual questions, differences in opinion surface). Initially it is difficult for teachers to differentiate between such questions and other questions, or even if they can, there is a fear that discerning questions will be too tough for students. An easily accessible repository of good questions, projects and learning tasks will go a long way towards demonstrating the kind of learning we are targeting, and catalyzing the process. Teachers and even students should be allowed to add questions and projectives to this repository with incentives for quality submissions. 

  2. Video Repository of good teaching practices- The good learning tasks repository suggested above provides teachers with engaging learning tasks that promote critical thinking and real learning. However, without specific guidance on how these should be facilitated (at least in the initial years), there is a danger that students will be taught the answers to good questions, by rote.  Providing teachers with an easily accessible collection of teaching videos will help in promoting best practices in teaching-learning. Teachers can be encouraged to submit their own videos to this repository (though these will need to be curated). Examples of such videos are shared here- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9VAM8yv2Ng (a lesson historical methods) https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/handle/2027.42/65013 (a lesson on getting students to think about odd and even numbers)

  3. Lateral Induction of Teachers, Facilitators and other Education Professionals- There are several people in the country with strong capabilities in different areas of education (sometimes without formal qualifications)- teaching, teacher training, assessment, e-learning and so on. There are very few avenues for these people to be recruited into the government system at the central or state level; where these people are retained, they are hired as consultants. Given the urgent need for capacity building in the country, teachers and other professionals should be inducted at all levels, irrespective of formal qualifications, as long as they can demonstrate expertise. Independent identification of good teachers and master-teachers can be done through a process of exam + demo class + interview. Some of these people may also be used to staff the community learning hubs mentioned above.

Curriculum

  1. Contemporary and Relevant Subject Content- The Draft NEP has already suggested new subjects/ topics like ‘Critical Issues’, ‘Current Affairs’ etc. Given the changing state of the world, some more topics should be included mandatory or optional. For example, a mandatory component should be Media Literacy and differentiating between fake news and authentic/verified news and information. Given the push for technology in education and the access that children have to the internet and other media in the NEP [P4.10.5] this should be a critical component of the learning process from an early age. Other important topics that can be offered are shared below. These could be offered as optional subjects or key ideas integrated with other subjects, or even as 2-3 days modules.

    1. The Psychology of individuals and groups

    2. Design Thinking and Hands-on Making

    3. Systems Thinking

    4. Methods of bringing social change

    5. Cognitive Science

  2. Linkages between higher education institutions and schools- To enable schools to help students understand the deeper ideas in their subjects and the latest happenings in the domain, a closer linkage between faculty of higher education institutions and schools should be created. Interes

  3. Interested faculty of higher education institutions could be released for 2-3 weeks a year to work with students, train teachers and develop learning material that can be used in schools.

Gifted Students- Identification and Programs to Nurture

It is heartening to note the proposed initiatives mentioned in 4.10 on the support of students with singular talents and interests. While the goal should be to support all students’ interests and dispositions helping them to enrich themselves and fulfil their potential, identifying and nurturing gifted students has a particular relevance in nation/ world building. As Dr. Lubinski, an expert in the psychology of gifted children from Vanderbilt University says, “When you look at the issues facing society now — whether it's health care, climate change, terrorism, energy — these are the kids who have the most potential to solve these problems. These are the kids we'd do well to bet on.” We have the following recommendations in this area.


  1. Identification of Gifted Students- Psychologists generally agree that aptitudes (or innate talent) concretize by the age of 14. This means that we are unlikely to spot new aptitudes in children after the age of 14-15. Recognizing these aptitudes early is important; if an aptitude is not recognized early enough, it will not be nurtured sufficiently. Some aptitudes may go completely unrecognized as children may have no opportunities at school or home to engage in these areas (e.g. design, playing a musical instrument).


Identification of gifted students should start by age 10 (or even earlier in some cases). Existing instruments for identification of giftedness on different dimensions (nationally and internationally) should be evaluated and a battery of quality instruments (paper-pencil tests as well as observed tasks) should be made available easily and at affordable costs (free for students of government schools). At least 10-20 master resource persons should be trained on using these instruments effectively with children. A National Gifted Talent Search Test from Grades 5-9 should be conducted annually. The test should include as many abilities that can be tested using automated scoring as possible. The existing NTSE does not test for some kinds of abilities and in any case is only available in Grade 9.


  1. Interventions to Support Gifted Students- 4.10 mentions ‘study circles’ and ‘residential summer programs’- these are welcome initiatives and will make a difference. We have also noted through media articles that a gifted school along the lines of the ‘Sirius Educational Centre’ in Russia is being considered. Additionally, other initiatives should be explored for providing gifted students the support they need. Some suggestions are shared below-

    1. Online mentoring- Both MOOCs and tutor-based programs can be used to provide challenging material and mentoring support to gifted students. Schools, School Complexes and the proposed Community Learning Hubs can provide the needed infrastructure.

    2. Acceleration- Students identified as gifted in a particular subject could attend classes in that subject with students of a higher grade. Schools have been doing this informally in rare cases. A more systematic and well-defined approach will help schools to implement this more effectively.

    3. Shorter day-scholar/ residential programs through the year- These could be 1-5 day programs during holidays, apart from longer programs in Summer. Kerala SCERT has already been conducting summer residential programs. The experience of organizations like Kerala SCERT, GenWise, NIAS etc. in India and the likes of Johns Hopkins CTY, Duke TIP and Northwestern CTD in the US would provide valuable inputs to this exercise.

    4. Training teachers on giftedness- Gifted students can have difficulty in fitting in with their peer group, impulse control and in other areas, leading them being labelled as ‘disruptive’ or in social isolation. Many teachers are not even aware of these aspects of giftedness. Training them to do a first-level intervention will be very helpful to gifted students. Teachers should also be provided with a support system whom they can rely on for such cases. In our work at GenWise, we often come across children who have been pulled out of school at a young age because schools are unable to handle them along with the rest of the children.


This article, based on a 45 year study which tracked gifted children, is a good primer on issues related to gifted education- https://go.nature.com/332qTsU


  1. National Level Conference on Gifted Education- An annual national level conference with experts and practitioners from around the world, will go a long way towards creating a knowledge base and awareness about gifted education. The National Association of Gifted Children (NAGC) in the US is holding its 66th convention in 2019- see http://www.nagc.org/. NAGC is a major influencer of government policy and plays a key role in creating awareness about gifted education.

Notes from someone who homeschooled his children!

posted Nov 21, 2019, 12:04 AM by Prashant Bhattacharji   [ updated Nov 21, 2019, 12:45 AM ]

The NIOS (Open school, permits home-schooling) is an underutilized gem in India. Yes, this is the "open-school" system,
where students can take class 10 and 12 board examinations without being enrolled in a formal school. 
However, we seldom find students or parents who have tried out this system. 


One such parent, shared his experience with us. He took his family far from the madding crowds and lives in the hinterlands. 

This is something the internet could revolutionize and change forever. 

I have been staying away from the mundane world for sometime. Kind of retirement place. And it's in the hinterlands.
We have homeschooled our children. I dont believe in providing children with fake information.
One is an Engineer and one is a Doctor. Successfully completed their studies and are doing well in their jobs.
You can apply for the board exams. There is no restriction.
At present, the parents are sheeple who want their children to just succeed academically. They have forgotten to seek out all round development of the children.
Children are very receptive and they are like sponges. If you truly can understand the children's psychology..its easy to sit with them..be like them as seek out what interests them.
A child needs freedom to explore his surroundings in his or her formative years. They should develop a sense of curiosity about what's happening around them. 
Never force them to do something they dislike. If we want to hone their skills..we should start doing things and soon that will get the attention of the kids. 
Once they start to show interest..they start asking questions. Once the questions are answered to their understanding and satisfaction, gently prod them to give their opinions. 
Keep track of their development. They also need to respect the balance of the nature. They need to look at the stars in the sky in the night. They need to feel the gentle breeze and clouds. 
They need to experiment with the elements. They need to understand what compassion is about the other creations on this planet. 
The child who can grow in such set up will tend to grow as a complete human being.
Every experience is different. There are no benchmarks. I am not rich. My father was a ranking Officer and we moved across the land in our formative years. 
He was a sincere officer. We just had three pairs of clothes and we all slept on the floor. 
Both my parents came from reputed families but they left that reputation behind and we stayed incognito. 
We learnt things hard way.

An interesting activity! A visit to the zoo (Gyankriti School)

posted Nov 20, 2019, 12:29 AM by Prashant Bhattacharji   [ updated Nov 20, 2019, 12:33 AM ]

An email on the Gyankriti School group, forwarded very kindly by their founder, Yograj. 
It describes how a visit to the zoo can be structured into an excellent learning session for primary kids. 
School trips are a critical part of learning. 

--
Namaste!


Today all the students went for a tour of the Indore Zoo.


Problem: During the tour of various places in past our students have seen broken or worn out display boards and it was very difficult to know the details of the venue or the items there. They observed the same thing at Indore Zoo. Despite of so many renovation work going on at the zoo there is no proper way to get information of the animals. Similarly the blind people can't get any information.


Brainstorming the solution:
We discussed this problem with the Grade1-3 students and encouraged them to find a solution of this problem. While we were brainstorming, the students came to realize that their own student radio channel on youtube (Gyanvaani) can be put to some good use for this task. They then linked this to easily accessible paytm QR code at each shop.


The students have good experience of making audio and video presentations. They recently made video presentation as as follow up assignment of Maheshwar Trip.


Solution proposed: Then 6 students of Grade1, 2, and 3 met the Indore Zoo curator, Mr. Nihar Parulkar and proposed their plan of making audio tour of Indore Zoo. The students will record description of zoo animals in Hindi & English. The audio tours will be available on any mobile phone by simply scanning a QR code near all the animals. The Zoo Curator was delighted to hear this idea from students and immediately talked to his superiors at Indore Municipal Corporation. The IMC has accepted the proposal of students and very soon Indore will hear the guided tour in our student's voice at the zoo. Isn't that fabulous?


Ab Indore Zoo bhi banega no. 1


Do check these photos and videos

Students talking to the Zoo Curator - https://www.facebook.com/gyankriti/videos/2256815277944495


Photos of the Zoo tour - https://www.facebook.com/gyankriti/posts/2729295273758743




Video presentation made by students on the Maheshwar Fort -

Gyankriti's Video on the Maheshwar Fort






Suggestions for the NEP based on a discussion involving 80 schools, organized by Inventure Academy

posted Nov 19, 2019, 11:39 PM by Prashant Bhattacharji   [ updated Nov 20, 2019, 12:03 AM ]

These are consolidated recommendations from students and faculty from about 80 schools in and around Bengaluru -
@InventureK12 team facilitated the group discussion & synthesized all the inputs into a document; arranged the inputs and feedback. We thank Inventure Academy for consolidating all these inputs in a document; and we also appreciate the hard work done by the teachers and students of the 80 schools involved, in enumerating so many critical points.

It is always great, to know first hand, what schools and their administrators, teachers, students and parents feel about various policies. 
We thank Ms. Nooraine Fazal of Inventure Academy, for forwarding us their draft of inputs in reponse to the New Education Policy Draft of 2019. 
We also thank Ms. Mary Whabi for helping us process this information, to upload on the website. 

All 80 schools deserves a special shout out for participating in a session like this, to make a comprehensive list of suggestions and inputs, to help mould a policy which will 
be critical in shaping future generations in India. 




OUR FUTURE, OUR VOICE: FEEDBACK ON THE DRAFT NATIONAL EDUCATION POLICY (NEP) 2019

OF, FOR and BY the STUDENTS and TEACHERS of KARNATAKA


                                                                                                                                            Preamble & Guiding Principles


Don't limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time.”

Rabindranath Tagore


Take to the path of dharma – the path of truth and justice. Don’t misuse your valour. Remain united. March forward in all humility, but fully awake to the situation you face, demanding your rights and firmness.”

Vallabhbhai Patel


WE, the children and teachers of Bengaluru, AFFIRM that:

  • EVERY CHILD HAS THE RIGHT TO A HOLISTIC, MEANINGFUL QUALITY EDUCATION: which prepares the child for life in India and in a dynamic, globalised and interdependent world.

  • AN INCLUSIVE EDUCATION SYSTEM MUST RECOGNISE CHILDREN, TEACHERS, SCHOOL MANAGEMENT AND FOUNDERS AS PRIMARY STAKEHOLDERS: who spend at least about 220 days per year at school. Therefore their motivations, concerns and needs should underpin the essence of the NEP 2019.

  • EACH CHILD/TEACHER IS UNIQUE: While it is not viable or desirable to have individualised learning plans for every child, an enabling education system must cater to multiple intelligences, pace, style of teaching / learning, different needs, strengths, areas of improvement and aspiration.

  • THE FREEDOM AND AVAILABILITY OF CHOICE IS CRITICAL TO HUMAN RIGHTS AND KNOWLEDGE CREATION: Each individual should have the freedom to choose the education that best aligns or reflects their philosophy and approach to education - as teachers and students / parents. In addition to the draft NEP 2019 guiding goals of Access, Equity, Quality, Affordability and Accountability, we believe it should include Freedom of Choice as a core goal and guiding principle.

  • EQUITABLE’ EDUCATION IS INCOMPATIBLE WITH A ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL APPROACH TO EDUCATION: The proposals must strive for an equitable education aligned with the proposed vision instead of an equal one (as the detailed proposals seem to recommend). Thus the NEP must account for the difference in circumstances of a variety of students, rather than mandating a one size fits all approach for all.

  • ALIGNMENT BETWEEN PROPOSALS AND FEASIBILITY OF IMPLEMENTATION IS CRITICAL: Proposals cannot be made in isolation or separate from ability to implement; therefore it is critical that the NEP 2019 take into consideration the feasibility of implementation, including availability of resources. It must be financially viable for all stakeholders and must be scalable within the time frame specified by the Draft NEP 2019. Otherwise, it will be a hollow promise.


These affirmations are based on the voices of children and teachers across almost 70 schools in Karnataka. They reflect our collective understanding of the experiences, perspectives, aspirations, concerns and needs of the people most directly impacted by the NEP, i.e. children and educators. Though each stakeholder group reflected and captured their observations separately, the issues, concerns and recommendations that emerged from both groups were surprisingly similar. In addition, it is worth noting that both groups, reflected on the effect of the NEP proposals on their own interests as well as those of other primary stakeholders. We were very heartened to see students in particular assess the potential impact of the NEP on themselves as well on their teachers and management.


Table of Contents



Preamble & Guiding Principles 1

Table of Contents 3

Executive Summary 4

Children’s Voices on Draft NEP 2019: Chapterwise Feedback 7

Vision Statement and Founding Principles 7

Chapter 1: Early Childhood Care and Education: The Foundation and Learning 7

Chapter 2: Foundational Literacy and Numeracy 7

Chapter 3: Reintegrating Dropouts and Ensuring Universal Access to Education 8

Chapter 4: Curriculum and Pedagogy in Schools 8

Chapter 5: Teachers 11

Chapter 8: Regulation and Accreditation of School Education 12

Educators’ Voices on Draft NEP 2019 13

Vision and Founding Principles 13

Chapter 1: Early Childhood Care and Education: The Foundation and Learning 13

Chapter 2: Foundational Literacy and Numeracy 13

Chapter 4: Curriculum and Pedagogy in Schools 14

Chapter 5: Teachers 15

Chapter 6: Equitable and Inclusive Education 16

Chapter 7: Efficient resourcing and effective governance through school complexes 16

Chapter 8: Regulation and Accreditation of School Education 16

Why and How Our Future Our Voice initiative was created 18

Our Inspiration for Our Future Our Voice 18

Participants at Our Future Our Voice 18

Flow of the day 19

Conclusion 21

Annexures 21



Executive Summary

The Draft National Education Policy (NEP) 2019 - released in May 2019 by PM Modi’s Government shortly after winning the national election - will, in the words of Dr K. Kasturirangan, Chairman of the Committee for the Draft NEP, “change the educational landscape” of India. It is aimed at “preparing our youth to meet the variety of present and future challenges”. “The Policy is founded on the guiding goals of Access, Equity, Quality, Affordability and Accountability.”

The Draft National Education Policy of 2019 (Draft NEP 2019) is a long-awaited document for all. It envisions a society based on knowledge and principles of equity, and aims to provide a high quality education for all. 

We appreciate the Government’s efforts in developing the NEP and and the opportunity to share our feedback. While the policy document appears to be quite promising in terms of intent and some of the recommendations, there are several aspects of the policy which need to be reconsidered in light of the concerns and feedback of all stakeholders, and in particular the groups which will be most directly impacted by the NEP 2019 - the students and teachers / educators themselves.

Inventure Academy (a PreK-12 school based in Bangalore) in partnership with Karnataka ICSE Schools Association (KISA - 290 member schools), Associated Management of Primary & Secondary Schools in Karnataka (KAMS - 3000 member schools), Management of Independent CBSE Schools Association Karnataka (MICSA - 105 member schools) and Management Association of ICSE & ISC Schools (MAS - 75 member schools) organised the Our Future Our Voice, a day long symposium at Bal Bhavan, Cubbon Park. The event was aimed at giving students and teachers - those most directly impacted by the National Education Policy - an opportunity to share their views and perspectives on the Draft NEP 2019. 460 students and 80 teachers from 70+ schools from various Boards of Education, participated in the symposium.

Key Findings of the Charter which reflects student and faculty responses include:

  • Students and teachers recognise the importance of being “India centred”, but strongly feel the need to be prepared for an interdependent global world;

  • Both students and teachers want to retain the freedom that students, parents, faculty and management have on the choice of vision and culture of the education institution, its leadership and education approach, they believe is best suited to them. Most students and teachers do not favour a common national curriculum created by a single government agency (at the Centre or State level). They want a choice of Boards of Education (not just Boards of Assessment), type and level of subjects, and learning materials. Failing which, in the words of a student group, “otherwise India will become like North Korea”;

  • Many expressed concerns regarding the impact of reducing curriculum content - whether this would adequately prepare them for college and beyond. Also, how viable is it to expect textbook suppliers to provide “quality textbooks at the cost of production”?

  • Disagreement with the three-language formula was evident, with students and teachers not thinking it is realistic for them to learn so many languages from the Foundation Years to Grade 12. They also want the freedom to choose how many and which languages they learn/teach. They overwhelmingly believed they should teach / learn English;

  • Students appreciated the ability to attempt Board Exams “on up to two occasions during any school year”. However, faculty and students were largely unanimous in their opposition to eight sets of board exams over four years for Grades 9 to 12;

  • Many like the emphasis of co curricular being given as much importance as academics;

  • Students and teachers overwhelmingly agreed that as primary stakeholders, school management / founders and teachers, and not the general public, should have a say in the way that schools are run. They expressed serious concerns about their desire to continue as teachers in the absence of this;

  • Everyone welcomed the emphasis on teacher education. Teachers welcomed their profession being acknowledged as one needing a one - four year degree, but had apprehensions on how everyone would be certified by the year 2030, as there is already a shortage of teachers and teacher education institutions. Further a B. Ed does not ensure that a teacher has the right philosophy or attitude for education.

  • Concerns about the feasibility / viability of implementation of the Policy due to shortage of teachers and funds, therefore making the policy a “hollow promise”;

We hope our charter is given the importance it deserves in formulating a purposeful and effective National Education Policy that reflects and includes the voices of the children and teachers of Karnataka. We look forward to an opportunity to meet with the Government and the Draft Committee to share our perspectives and findings in more detail, and participate in an ongoing dialogue.


Children’s Voices on Draft NEP 2019: Chapterwise Feedback

(Important to note that this has been written by the students, in their voice)


Vision Statement and Founding Principles

In the words of the Student Drafting Committee, “We believe that the vision statement in the Draft National Education Policy is too limiting and that we can have an education policy that focuses on an India centred education, while also educating Indians to be global citizens. The NEP strives to level the playing field in education across all backgrounds, ensuring equality and social justice. However, we are concerned that it will do so not just by increasing quality and standards in some areas but by decreasing it in others.”


Chapter 1: Early Childhood Care and Education: The Foundation and Learning

Things we strongly agree with:

  • One value we hold dear is the right of every child to a quality education, irrespective of their socio-economic background. This is shown as 90% of students in the Our Voice program are in favour of the extension of the RTE Act to include students of ages 3-18.

Our recommendations

  • The policy should aim not only to reduce inequality in education, but also within society itself. It ignores the fact that a child’s family background is a huge factor in his/her educational performance. Implementing this policy does not solve any of these other problems. The government should also take strides to tackle these problems as well.


Chapter 2: Foundational Literacy and Numeracy

Things we strongly agree with:

  • Majority of students liked the proposal of a Pupil-Teacher Ratio (PTR) of less than 30:1

Our recommendations

  • While the idea of a PTR of less than 30:1 is a step in the right direction, the students would prefer a PTR of at least 15:1, which is needed to implement the vision of the Draft NEP.

  • As a result of the deficit of teachers in India, the students would like to recommend the following solutions using government funding, among others, to incentivise teaching;

    • Higher salaries for teachers

    • Tax cuts on teachers' salaries

    • Subsidising/ providing scholarships for teachers through their education


Chapter 3: Reintegrating Dropouts and Ensuring Universal Access to Education

Our recommendations

  • Students have serious concerns regarding the protection of data in the proposed database system which aims to track out-of-school children. We believe the data should not be available to the general public and that it should be stored very safely. A similar policy to the EU data laws may be best.


Chapter 4: Curriculum and Pedagogy in Schools

Things we strongly agree with:

  • 92% of students believe in placing equal importance on both academics and co-curricular activities and having learning assessments for the same.

  • A large number of students are in favour of studying critical issues and current affairs.

  • 94% of students agree with the proposition that the educational approach should be more holistic, integrated & flexible; build cognitive & soft skills, rather than emphasise rote learning; focus less on content & more on developing skills/competencies; learning should be discovery based, experiential, personalised and multidisciplinary.

  • Students strongly appreciate the ability to have multiple attempts at assessment (schools must provide at least 2 attempts to students willing to improve), but most not in favour of so many Board Exams (8 sets of exams across Grades 9 to 12).

  • Over 80% are also in favour of the proposals on special needs, such as the reduction of PTR in special needs schools to less than 25:1.


Our recommendations:

Curriculum

  • We believe that "One Nation - One Curriculum" could give rise to the following problems and thus suggest that it should not be implemented:

    • One Committee will outline what every child in the country learns. Centralising Education to a single body could be dangerous and unworkable.

    • Doesn’t allow for creativity and diversity in teaching and learning methods. Doesn’t cater to every child’s personal learning needs and aspirations.

    • We believe that parents, students and teachers should be allowed to choose what and how they want to learn and to keep what the government mandates / dictates to a minimum

    • The NEP should be implemented over a period of time, first at a smaller scale, reviewed periodically, and then scaled up eventually.

  • Students taking liberal arts subjects should undergo skill based testing over content based testing.

    • This develops critical thinking and an application based approach to learning whereas a system based primarily on memorization and recollection does not develop these skills which are essential for success in any field.

Assessments

  • Students should not have to take two sets of board exams per year for four years as this will:

    • Create more stress.

    • It will hamper students who wish to pursue “extracurriculars” as a profession, because students will constantly have to be preparing for board exams.

    • Give way to complacency as students may gain too much comfort from the fact that they will be given multiple attempts at board exams.

    • So we suggest that: With more investment in online testing / technology and a logistically simple retake system, a testing system that doesn’t impede the students ability to pursue other activities can be put in place.


Learning Materials

  • Students believe that textbooks should inculcate internationalism along with local content and flavour in order to expose students to progress in modern society and to prepare them for a global world:

    • Furthermore, students expressed their desire to learn skills they will need to succeed in a global world rather than learning the content of a textbook, which provides a limited viewpoint of the world based on what the author, publisher or the government believes is right or what we students should learn.

  • Private entities should still be allowed to produce textbooks at more than the cost price:

    • The resources available for learning should not be limited.

    • Governments should subsidize these textbooks rather than restrict the right of publishers in order to make them more easily available and so the publishing houses can make a living.

  • Students believe that teachers’ choice of learning material should not be limited to NCERT textbooks. Our teachers know best what we need to learn and how we learn.

  • Students expressed concerns that reducing curriculum content would affect their level of preparedness for the future (admission and performance in college and careers). Hence, we believe there should be an option to take subjects at higher levels of specialization.


Language Policy

  • Majority of students want a 2 language system from grades 9-12 rather than a 3 language system.

  • English should be a compulsory language where possible and stakeholders should have the freedom of choice.

  • Foreign languages should be offered before grade 9 and from at least grade 6.

  • Students would like to emphasize language acquisition skills rather than language learning skills.

  • Approximately 60% of students are in favour of a course on the ‘Languages of India’ but would prefer for it to be compulsory for one year rather than two.

  • As much as 60% of students agreed that Classical languages should not be compulsory and prefer it to be an optional elective.

  • Students don’t believe that the language of instruction should be limited to the local language/mother tongue as this isn’t feasible in urban cities with immigrant populations, such as Bengaluru.

  • Students also feel that if the curriculum is decided by the government, the teacher should not be held solely responsible if a student fails to learn.



Chapter 5: Teachers


Our recommendations

  • 70% of students are in favour of the new B.Ed requirement for teachers, provided this is a reliable way to ensure that teachers learn the best skills and techniques to teach. However, this does pose a problem as the majority of teachers currently teaching are doing so without a B.Ed degree. We suggest a number of ways the government can improve this policy:

    • The B.Ed program should be updated, made more accessible, relevant and cheaper

    • There should be numerous ways for teachers to prove their capabilities without having to stop teaching and earning as they too may have families to support. They could do this either through part time or online programs or other teacher training programs.

    • Teacher training programs should not focus just on theory and technique but on fostering the right temperament and attitude.

  • The data on teachers should not be available to the general public, as this could risk their safety.

  • Teachers’ salaries for public schools should be decided by the School Management Committee and the State government.

  • Probation for teachers should be cut down from three years to one year.

  • Private schools should be given the freedom to decide what their teachers’ salaries are (ensuring that teachers are well paid). This way they can incentivise hard work and creative teaching methods outside of what the government proposes.

  • Schools should employ separate administrative staff - to decrease the workload on teachers, and administrative work should be kept separate. This can be completed by others who work in their respective fields, and who are not engaged in teaching.


Chapter 8: Regulation and Accreditation of School Education

Independence of schools from SMCs and the general public:

We feel that the private schools shouldn’t have to operate under the SMCs because:

  • Private individuals will be less incentivised to start an institution if its management will rest in the SMC’s control instead of theirs.

  • Furthermore, it is possible that the SMCs may be less experienced or knowledgable than the educators and management that have been trained in this field.


Educators’ Voices on Draft NEP 2019


Vision and Founding Principles

Our students need to fit into a global interconnected world. Learning about their history and culture is important, but we should also equip them to deal with the global stage.”

The vision should include a global approach / perspective.



Chapter 1: Early Childhood Care and Education: The Foundation and Learning

Points we strongly agree with:

  • We strongly believe that early childhood education lays the foundation for educational reform and are appreciative of the fact that ECCE is now under the education framework and the RTE has been extended downwards to the age of three.

  • Oversight of ECCE by the MHRD.


Our recommendations:

  • Institute a public private partnership to help anganwadis benefit from the pedagogy and resources available to private preschools.


Chapter 2: Foundational Literacy and Numeracy


Points we strongly agree with:

  • Schooling in the early years does not lay enough curricular emphasis on foundational literacy and numeracy and, in general, on the reading, writing, speaking of languages and mathematical ideas and thinking.

  • Teacher capacity also plays a central role in the attainment of foundational skills.



Chapter 4: Curriculum and Pedagogy in Schools

Points we strongly agree with:

  • Teachers appreciated the balanced curriculum with curricular and co curricular subjects being given equal emphasis.

  • Teachers also liked the spiraling curriculum, as opposed to the previous, more linear one.

  • The restructuring and expansion to include early childhood and grades 11 and 12 in the NEP is appreciated.


Our recommendations:

Curriculum

  • The schools should have flexibility to choose curriculum and books.

  • Restricting books and content to NCERT only will curb creativity and the freedom of schools to choose the best available content in the market. Will also limit teachers ability to teach learners based on each child’s unique needs & abilities. Teacher autonomy is critical for us to be motivated and do the best by each child.

  • English should be a compulsory language to enable children to compete at a global level.

  • Flexibility and variety of subject choice is good but how will schools afford staff & space for it.

  • Reduction of the content to core only may lead to future generations being generalists and not being prepared for further studies or make informed decisions about their future.

  • Spiralling curriculum sounds promising, but in senior grades if children are doing subjects only for one semester how would the curriculum grow and spiral/progress.


Assessments

  • Teachers felt the pressure would increase on students if they had four continuous years of ‘board’ exams, twice a year.

  • Formative assessments are a good step but will need a mindset change as students and parents consider any assessment stressful.

  • Board exam subjects listed seem low on Science and Math: will this lead to children moving away from those subjects? We need more scientists and innovators in India.

  • Teachers were unhappy with testing for 4 to 5 languages at board level especially with so many children who migrate across the country.


Language

  • Home language as a medium of instruction is difficult to execute with so many different languages, particularly in urban cities.

  • Teachers not native to Karnataka or fluent in Kannada felt at a disadvantage at the suggestions to teach in a bilingual manner.

  • Some teachers felt knowledge of the local languages will help children.

  • Three languages from the Foundational years is too much pressure on the young children, one language as the medium of instruction with another language introduced at grade 1 would be better. The third language can be introduced at grade 4.

  • Teachers were unsure of how schools would find so many teachers for the Classical or other languages (we are experiencing a severe crunch for even Sanskrit & Kannada teachers).

  • Another concern is that we will not have enough time to teach other subjects or life skills with so much emphasis on languages.



Chapter 5: Teachers


Points we strongly agree with:

  • Teachers appreciated the fact that the profession was being given its due and there was a requirement to be qualified in education to teach.


Our recommendations:

  • Requiring all teachers to be B.Ed certified by 2030, with the B.Ed being a 4 year or 2 year full time program means that many would have to take a break from their jobs to get certified. This did not seem practical or feasible and many teachers felt that it would add to the problem of insufficient teachers available across schools & will impact their earnings.

  • A 3 year probation seems inordinately long and will not attract teachers to the profession.

  • The pay scales and grades should not apply to private and unaided schools. We do not want a cap in our earnings.

  • CPD is a good initiative but clarity is required on what comes under the purview of CPD.

  • SMC should not have significant decision making powers in the appraisal of teachers since parents, civil society etc may not have the necessary qualifications/ abilities/ first hand knowledge to be unbiased during the appraisals. We do not believe that private unaided schools should be governed by SMCs.



Chapter 6: Equitable and Inclusive Education


Points we strongly agree with:

  • Inclusive education being a part of teacher preparation.

  • PTR in schools with URG’s being at least 1:25 (we think it should ideally be lower).

  • School environments to have concerted set of actions to sensitise learners to diverse cultures, backgrounds and people with disabilities.


Chapter 7: Efficient resourcing and effective governance through school complexes


Recommendations

  • SMC’s should not be applicable to Private and Unaided schools. Private school teachers are accountable to parents and the PTA already, being accountable to civil society / media and others not involved with the day to day operations of a school is unfair and could be a threat to security from local vested interests.

  • It will act as a deterrent to people choosing teaching as a profession.


Chapter 8: Regulation and Accreditation of School Education


Points we strongly agree with:

  • Regulation to empower schools.

  • Separation of functions of policy making, regulation and academic standards is a good move.

  • Public Government schools being held to the same standards as private schools.


Recommendations

  • Public disclosure of all information: Clarity on what details of teachers are being shared. Any sharing needs to be mindful of the privacy of the teachers.




Why and How Our Future Our Voice initiative was created


Our Inspiration for Our Future Our Voice


The Draft National Education Policy (NEP) 2019 - released in May 2019 by PM Modi’s Government - is aimed at “preparing our youth to meet the variety of present and future challenges”. We were happy to see the Government coming up with a new NEP given the changes that have taken / taking place in the world since the last one was released. The drafting committee headed up by Dr Kasturirangan, consulted a number of Ministries, Institutions, Associations, Organisations and individuals. But as per Appendix VII of the Draft NEP, it does not appear to have taken into consideration voices and opinions of the people most directly impacted by the policy - students and teachers / educators.


Inspired by our success with Our Safety, Our Voice1 which resulted in the Government of Karnataka incorporating perspectives on child safety from over 1000 students from diverse schools & socio-economic backgrounds in the creation of the Karnataka Child Safety & Protection Law in 2018, we decided to create a similar initiative - Our Future, Our Voice, aimed at giving students and teachers an opportunity to share their views and perspectives on the Draft NEP 2019.


Participants at Our Future Our Voice


460 students and 80 teachers from almost 70 schools from various Boards of Education, participated in the symposium. The schools included Delhi Public School East, Bangalore, Delhi Public School North, Bangalore, Delhi Public School South, Bangalore, Inventure Academy, Parikrma Humanity Foundation, Appollo National Public School, Auden Public School, BNM Public School, Bunts Sangha R.N.S Vidyaniketan, Cambridge Public School, Christ School, Citizens English School, Elite Public School, Gem International Residential School Alipur, Gopalan National School, Pratham International School, Ryan International School, Shishu Griha Montessori & High School, Shree Mahaveer Jain Vidyalaya, Shrunga Vidyalaya, Shri Krishna International School, St. Anthony’s Public School, St. Charles High School, St. Dominic’s School (ICSE), St. Joseph’s Boys High School, St. Mary’s Convent School, St. Michael’s High School, St. Norberth School, St. Patrick’s Academy, St. Philomena’s Public School, Tapovan School, The Paradise Residential School, The Sudarshan Vidya Mandir ICSE Academy, United International School, Vidya Niketan Public School, Vidya Saudha Public School, Little Flower Public School, Gopalan Twinkler’s School, Holy Spirits School, Indian Public School, Insight Academy, KALS, Lady Vailankanni English School, Mitra Academy, Nazareth School, New Baldwin International School, New Horizon Public School, Prakriya Green Wisdom School, and St. Mary’s Convent School, We also had representatives from NGOs such as Whitefield Ready and Teach for India, participate in the event.


Flow of the day

Presenters included:

  • Divya Balagopal, Education Law Specialist - salient points of the Draft NEP 2019 with a focus on areas that impact students & teachers the most

  • Shashi Kumar, General Secretary, KAMS - inclusive education & teachers

  • Nooraine Fazal, Co-Founder & Managing Trustee, Inventure Academy - assessing the NEP on the desirability of the draft vision, its suitability in terms of meeting the aspirations and needs of the various stakeholders and the feasibility / viability of its implementation

  • Panel discussion moderated by Nooraine Fazal - students and teachers perspectives on the NEP. Panelists included Radhika Surendran - Founding Faculty & Lead Curriculum Developer for Theme Based Learning, Inventure Academy, Kabir Madan - Inventure alumnus & Student, Shiv Nadar, Sumedha Godkhindi - Whitefield Ready lead, Rajan Thomas Choondal - Teach for India Fellow, Anitha Brijesh - Vice Principal of DPS (Bangalore South) and Gayethri Devi - Secretary of KISA & Principal, Little Flower Public School.


Students and teachers then had breakout sessions facilitated by the Our Voice Committee comprising of Inventure students and faculty to discuss what they liked about the NEP, their concerns, clarifications they would like and recommendations for the Government. Each group looked at alternatives, including resolutions, petitions, and social media posts. They then presented their top concerns/recommendations for the Government to the entire audience.


Based on the feedback we received at the Our Future, Our Voice workshop, we have produced this Charter to communicate Our (children and teachers’) Voices. It represents our shared-experience, suggested solutions, and our aspirations for our individual and collective future. We trust our voices will be heard and this Charter acted on by the Government. We would be delighted to engage in a dialogue with the HRD Ministry about the proposed education policy.



Conclusion

The Karnataka Government and the Learning Community benefited tremendously from incorporating feedback from students in creating the Child Protection Policy for Karnataka. We welcome an opportunity to contribute to the creation of the NEP. We would be delighted to engage in a constructive dialogue with the HRD Ministry to ensure that our futures’ voices are similarly heard for the mutual benefit of all stakeholders.


Note: This document has been drafted by a Charter Committee consisting of students, alumni and faculty from Inventure Academy, and is based on the discussions and surveys we conducted at the NEP 2019 workshop. We would like to place on record a sincere thank you to all the schools, NGOs and to the heads of KISA, KAMS, MICSA and MAS, and Divya Balagopal for participating at the Our Future, Our Voice event. We are grateful for the opportunity to learn and contribute to the future of children across India.



Annexures

Annexure A - Our Future Our Voice in Pictures

Annexure B - Media Coverage on Our Future Our Voice




1. Our Safety Our Voice was organised by Inventure Academy in November 2014 in partnership with the UNICEF, ENFOLD (NGO), MLP (law firm) & Feedback Consulting (market research firm). Bengaluru at the time was awash with policies on how schools can be made safe for children. However, students’ views had largely not been taken into consideration. This event was organized to provide a platform for children of varied ages, and backgrounds to voice their feelings and opinions on personal safety and how different stakeholders can help to ensure all children are safe everywhere. This helped shape the Karnataka Child Safety & Protection Law implemented in January 2018. “Our Safety, Our Voice”, brought together over 1100 children aged 8 – 18 years. In addition to group discussions, we also conducted a survey of 1000 children, across 18 educational institutions and NGOs. The population sample was carefully chosen to remove any demographic, socio-economic, culture and gender biases. For more on this please watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92_WOeVdMj4


Here's our Python code for running a Twitter bot

posted Oct 29, 2019, 9:23 AM by Prashant Bhattacharji   [ updated Oct 29, 2019, 9:34 AM ]

Here's the code for 2 of our Twitter bots 

You can email me ([email protected]) for any clarifications!
 
 
BOT1 - runs a simple ruby quiz

import tweepy
import logging
import time
import urllib
import random
import subprocess
import commands

# Author: Vaibhav Goel, [email protected]

# Consumer keys and access tokens, used for OAuth
consumer_key = REDACTED
consumer_secret = REDACTED
access_token = REDACTED
access_token_secret = REDACTED
 
# OAuth process, using the keys and tokens
auth = tweepy.OAuthHandler(consumer_key, consumer_secret)
auth.set_access_token(access_token, access_token_secret)
 
# Creation of the actual interface, using authentication
api = tweepy.API(auth)
 
# Sample method, used to update a status
#x = api.update_status('test 3 Hello Python Central! #Bot2.0')
#print x.id
#y = api.update_status("very nice to see you, handshake", in_reply_to_status_id = x.id)

def diff(first, second):
        second = set(second)
	secondIds = [x.id for x in second]
        return [item for item in first if item.id not in secondIds]

def tweet_url(t):
    return "https://twitter.com/%s/status/%s" % (t.user.screen_name, t.id)



def get_replies(tweet):
    user = tweet.user.screen_name
    tweet_id = tweet.id
    max_id = None
    logging.info("looking for replies to: %s" % tweet_url(tweet))
    while True:
        try:
            replies = api.search(q="to:learning_pt", since_id=tweet_id, max_id=max_id, count=100)
        except tweepy.TweepError as e:
            logging.error("caught twitter api error: %s", e)
            time.sleep(60)
            continue
        for reply in replies:
            logging.info("examining: %s" % tweet_url(reply))
            if reply.in_reply_to_status_id == tweet_id:
                logging.info("found reply: %s" % tweet_url(reply))
                yield reply
                # recursive magic to also get the replies to this reply
                for reply_to_reply in get_replies(reply):
                    yield reply_to_reply
            max_id = reply.id
        if len(replies) != 100:
            break


questions = [("For a string of semi-colon separated integers, write Ruby code to sum the first N numbers (results separated by semi-colons). (1 <= N <= 1000000)? \n If Input is 1;2;4 the output should be 1;3;10 (sum of first 1 number = 1, first 2 numbers = 3.. so on)",0,"1;100;1000000;10000000","1;5050;500000500000;50000005000000")]



questionTweets = [] 

for quizQ in questions:
	if quizQ[1] == 0:
		x = api.update_status(quizQ[0] + "  #TLPCodeQuizBot2")
	else:
		x = api.update_with_media(quizQ[1], quizQ[0] + " Respond directly to this tweet (NOT to tweets below). #TLPCodeQuizBot4")
	questionTweets += [x]
	

scanned_replies = []

congratulatoryStrings = [ a + " " + b for a in ["Aha, that is ", "Yes! That is ", " You got it, that is ", "Yup! That's", "Well done, that is "] for b in ["the right answer", "the correct answer", "correct!", " spot on! Congratulations"]]

incorrect = ["Thanks for trying. Try a bit more!", "Thanks for taking a stab. Try again!", " Think a bit harder :)", "Not yet there ... take another shot","That's not the answer I'm afraid.", "Not really. Try again!", "Thanks for trying. Try a bit harder!",  "Thx for trying. Try a bit harder!", "Thx for trying. Take another shot at it!", "Nopes :( Try again."]

solved = [0 for x in questions ]

def checkAnswer(reply, answer, query):
	command = 'echo \"' + query + '\"| ruby -e \'' + reply.strip() + '\''
	print command
	print reply
	replyOutput =  commands.getoutput(command) #open('outputAnswer','r').read()
	print replyOutput
	print answer
	if answer in replyOutput:
		return True
	else:
		return False
	
	

while (True):
	for i in xrange(0,len(questions)):
		if solved[i] == 1:
			continue
		x = questionTweets[i]
		q = questions[i] 
		replies = get_replies(x)
		reply_list = set(diff(list(replies), scanned_replies))
		print "*** Replies**"
		for r in reply_list:
			print r.id
			print r.in_reply_to_status_id
		print "**"
		print len(reply_list)
		for reply in set(replies):
			print reply.text 
		for reply in (set(diff(reply_list, scanned_replies))):
			if reply.in_reply_to_status_id == x.id:
				try:
					reply_text = reply.text
					print reply_text
					for url in reply.entities['urls']:
						reply_text = reply_text.replace(url['url'],url['display_url'])
					print reply_text
					if checkAnswer(reply_text,q[3],q[2]):
						api.update_status("@" + reply.author.screen_name + " " +  random.choice(congratulatoryStrings) + "  #TLPBot3", reply.id) 
						linkToRightAnswer = "https://twitter.com/" + str(reply.author.screen_name) + "/status/" + str(reply.id)
						api.update_status("Congratulations @" + reply.author.screen_name + " Solved!  #TLPBot " + linkToRightAnswer) 
						solved[i] = 1
					else:
						api.update_status("@" + reply.author.screen_name + " " + random.choice(incorrect) + " #TLPBot", reply.id) 
						print "@" + reply.author.screen_name + " Thanks for trying. #TLPBot"
				except tweepy.TweepError as e:
					logging.error("caught twitter api error: %s", e)
					continue
			
		scanned_replies += list(reply_list)
		print "*** Scanned Replies**"
		for scanned in scanned_replies:
			print scanned.id
			print scanned.in_reply_to_status_id
		print "**"
	time.sleep(10)



BOT 2 - Tries to make a sketch out of an image 

import tweepy
import logging
import time
import urllib
import random
import urllib
import cv2
import numpy as np
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

# Author: Vaibhav Goel, [email protected]
# Modified version of bots created by Prashant :) 
def convert(): img = cv2.imread("/home/vaibhav1994/Desktop/tweepy/test.JPG") sketch_gray, sketch_color = cv2.pencilSketch(img, sigma_s=50, sigma_r=0.07, shade_factor=0.05) stylized = cv2.stylization(img, sigma_s=60, sigma_r=0.07) cv2.imwrite("test_sketch.JPG",stylized) # Consumer keys and access tokens, used for OAuth consumer_key = REDACTED consumer_secret = REDACTED #'oaImVO5gCpxIV7L23ZW8TzaKkNX5LhXpG1hmqfMRws' access_token = REDACTED #'549856297-aQCu355sQXw5YNrbaLPmOE0u2qlNspATfgH9emAA' access_token_secret = REDACTED #'nKMSB6mKbcn6a5j4t2LbWHclPswr5vm3dBhsEKVnCVTGW' # OAuth process, using the keys and tokens auth = tweepy.OAuthHandler(consumer_key, consumer_secret) auth.set_access_token(access_token, access_token_secret) # Creation of the actual interface, using authentication api = tweepy.API(auth) # Sample method, used to update a status #x = api.update_status('test 3 Hello Python Central! #Bot2.0') #print x.id #y = api.update_status("very nice to see you, handshake", in_reply_to_status_id = x.id) def diff(first, second): second = set(second) secondIds = [x.id for x in second] return [item for item in first if item.id not in secondIds] def tweet_url(t): return "https://twitter.com/%s/status/%s" % (t.user.screen_name, t.id) def get_replies(tweet): user = tweet.user.screen_name tweet_id = tweet.id max_id = None logging.info("looking for replies to: %s" % tweet_url(tweet)) while True: try: replies = api.search(q="#TLPSketchPic to:learning_pt", since_id=tweet_id, max_id=max_id, count=100) except tweepy.TweepError as e: logging.error("caught twitter api error: %s", e) time.sleep(60) continue for reply in replies: logging.info("examining: %s" % tweet_url(reply)) if reply.in_reply_to_status_id == tweet_id: logging.info("found reply: %s" % tweet_url(reply)) yield reply # recursive magic to also get the replies to this reply for reply_to_reply in get_replies(reply): yield reply_to_reply max_id = reply.id if len(replies) != 100: break questions = ["#BotTesting Want to see your pic 'Stylized'? Follow us, reply to this tweet with the hashtag #TLPSketchPic and attach a JPG image."] questionTweets = [] for quizQ in questions: x = api.update_status(quizQ) questionTweets += [x] scanned_replies = [] congratulatoryStrings = [ a + " " + b for a in ["Aha, that is ", "Yes! That is ", " You got it, that is ", "Yup! That's", "Well done, that is "] for b in ["the right answer", "the correct answer", "correct!", " spot on! Congratulations"]] sketch = ["Here you go!", "Here's the sketch!", "And here we have a pencil sketch for you..", "The magic of picture to sketch is right here for you!", "Here it is!", "It's ready!" ] solved = [0 for x in questions ] def checkAnswer(reply): if "tlpsketchpic" in reply.lower(): return True else: return False while (True): for i in xrange(0,len(questions)): if solved[i] == 1: continue x = questionTweets[i] q = questions[i] replies = get_replies(x) reply_list = set(diff(list(replies), scanned_replies)) print "*** Replies**" for r in reply_list: print r.id print r.in_reply_to_status_id print "**" print len(reply_list) for reply in set(replies): print reply.text for reply in (set(diff(reply_list, scanned_replies))): try: #if (api.show_friendship(target_screen_name=reply.author.screen_name)[1].following) or (reply.author.screen_name == "learning_pt"): media = reply.entities.get('media', []) urllib.urlretrieve(media[0]['media_url'], "test.JPG") convert() api.update_with_media("test_sketch.JPG", "@" + reply.author.screen_name + " " + random.choice(sketch) + " #TLPBot", in_reply_to_status_id = reply.id) #else: #api.update("@" + reply.author.screen_name + " - Well, you need to follow us first!", reply.id) except tweepy.TweepError as e: logging.error("caught twitter api error: %s", e) continue scanned_replies += list(reply_list) print "*** Scanned Replies**" for scanned in scanned_replies: print scanned.id print scanned.in_reply_to_status_id print "**" time.sleep(30)

A Chat With Gyankriti Founders

posted Oct 8, 2019, 6:26 PM by Prashant Bhattacharji   [ updated Oct 9, 2019, 12:43 AM ]

Gyankriti is a new school in Indore. They've adapted various activity based ideas into their curriculum. This is how they describe their journey so far! 
You can email your journey to anyone of us and if we feel there's something in it for other educators to learn, we will definitely publish it here. 
You may send your mail to any of these IDs, preferably the first. [email protected][email protected][email protected] 
Recently, similar insights were mailed to us by the founder of a montessori school. 


The journey so far:

Gyankriti was founded by two IIT Bombay alumni, Akshay Gupta and Yograj Patel, in the year 2013. They opted out of campus placements to setup a chain of preschools in Indore and nearby districts. Thrusted by a small round of seed funding, Gyankriti was able to open 8 preschools in Indore and Dhar region.


However the founders soon realized that the reality is far more difficult from the media hype they were getting. The parents would see preschools only as a parking space for 6 months to 2 years and later moved on to bigger schools. Secondly, it was extremely difficult to manage high quality of education and teachers across multiple physical locations. We then rolled back to a much more conventional setup with a big school at a single location. Eventually all the preschool branches were merged and all students were offered to shift to the new campus.


The new Gyankriti school campus is ideally located, away from the hustle and bustle of Indore city. The core concept of the campus building is to keep the raw materials like bricks and RCC exposed. It conveys a feeling of warmth and character and adds texture to a large blank space. The building is being developed as a Learning Aid (explained in detail here - BaLA), it  aims to use the built elements like the floor, walls, pillars, staircases, windows, doors, ceilings, fans, trees, flowers, or even rainwater falling on the building as learning resource.


Currently the school is offering classes Nursery to Grade 4, we are increasing one class every year and wish to affiliate with the CISCE.


How we are different from most of the schools in India


The most challenging part of being an edupreneur in India is that people will often ask how you are different from the rest of the schools, but they will be scared to put their children in any school which is actually different from others. The courage to be a part of any experiment is lacking in our society. However thanks to our experience with the preschool chain and many of our existing fan following continuing with us, we were able to sail through with some hiccups.  Gyankriti School has developed a fresh perspective on education to enhance the value and quality of education. Here we present the education philosophy of the school:


YouTube Video


 

  • Individual Attention through education technology:

    • Active Learning in a child centric classroom: We enroll only 15 students per section in the early years (Nursery to Grade2) and 25 students per section in Grade3 and above. This is really helpful in implementing innovative teaching models like ‘active learning’. The students in our school don’t sit in linear pattern facing the board, instead they sit in groups of 4-6 students. The teachers are less into lecture mode while classroom discussions are encouraged. The ultimate aim is to make all the days interesting for children and totally eliminate rote learning.


    • Use of ICT tools: Starting from Junior KG classes children are trained to use the necessary evil of computing devices in productive ways. Ubuntu education software packages like Gcompris, TuxMath, TuxPaint, Tangram, Geogebra, Scratch e.t.c are extensively used. We are following the computer science curriculum developed by Prof. Sridhar Iyer of IITB, where children start coding from Grade3. Apart from this, the school is also adapting Google Apps for Education, where all parents and teachers get a google account. All communications to parents happen online through gmail and google groups, teachers also use Google Drive to manage their classroom planning. We are using the Google Classroom app for home assignments, sharing documents e.t.c. We believe that the job of the school is to make children ready for the future and not for present circumstances. ‘Education for tomorrow’ theme is visible in each and every process at Gyankriti. For example, the name of our google group for Grade2 is [email protected], signalling the parents everyday that their children will complete schooling in year 2030 and hence we need to think from that perspective.


    • Ongoing experiments: We are also experimenting the blended learning models in our primary classes. One of the objectives is to reduce the human intervention, due to the continuous crisis of quality teachers. The idea is to use tools like KhanAcademy, Mindspark e.t.c. for subjects where students generally face problems like in English and Mathematics. We are working on both Station Rotation (groups of children doing different stuff in the same room, some working on devices while some learning from teachers) and Lab Rotation Models (part of the lecture delivered in class while follow up activities taken in the computer lab).


  • All-round development: 50% times for core academics. 25% for Sports. 25% for Arts. Performing and visual arts are taught as an extension and integrated with the languages and mathematics. This way children enjoy the arts throughout the year instead of limited period activity for annual days.

  • Self-Learning instead of Spoon-feeding: No homework in preschool years. Creative assignments in primary years. No tuition policy.

  • No Exams till Grade2: Following the continuous evaluation process to help evaluate the child’s development better by continuous day-to-day monitoring and feedback. The core principle is that we do “assessment for learning” instead of “assessment of learning”. Only the students are not assessed, the performance of teachers is also reflected from the detailed analysis. We are also developing the ethical values in students, contrary to what we see in our society where every one is running after marks. We don’t keep any invigilators during exam hours and children follow the honour code. We have not found any significant issues so far.


  • Parent-School partnership: Workshop every month. Sometimes we do it through video chat or youtube, when it is done offline at the school all parents use public transport instead of personal vehicle (School Bus facility). The workshops are helpful in understanding our unique or sometimes weird methods.

  • Community service is mandatory: Children clean the dining hall, wash clothes, wash utensils, gardening etc. once a week. We have our own farm too.

  • Children own the school: The children plant trees and sell their artwork to develop school facilities. They love to come to their ‘own school’ and read from their ‘own library books’.

  • Enjoyable learning experiences: Diverse activities, puzzles, field visits, worksheets, projects etc. makes learning a much more enjoyable and enriching process.

  • Learning beyond classrooms: learning becomes much more effective and relevant through hands-on experiences, dramatizing concepts learnt, applying the learning’s in real life experiences.

  • Modern Gurukul: Children learn about Indian History and heritage. Starting from Grade1 they all learn to speak in Sanskrit language. 

  • All this freedom comes with a lot of responsibility: A common problem with private schools these days is that parents interfere too much in the school curriculum and market driven schools often compromise the school syllabus to satisfy the parents. We were very clear from the beginning that parents are not our customers, the children are. Hence we should do what’s right for children and not what is asked by the parents.  We have strict guidelines for discipline, quality control, safety of children, standard norms and procedures applicable to everyone in our parent community. An undertaking of the parent handbook is signed by all parents at the time of admission. Everyone is made clear at the time of joining that school will follow its own curriculum and methodology.


Other links you can explore:

  1. http://smallscience.hbcse.tifr.res.in/category/view-from-the-classroom/gyankriti-school-indore/

  2. http://teachersofindia.org/en/article/understanding-lunar-cycles-help-indian-calendar

  3. Our main website www.gyankriti.com


PS: We are also open to any edupreneur or school visiting Gyankriti and taking inspiration (or even copying) our concepts or curriculum. It is like Free and Open Source Software. We just want this virus to spread, as we know we may not be able to personally open more branches of Gyankriti. http://gyankriti.com/en/network-schools/


How to select UG Programs: BA, BCom, BTech, BSc, BArch: A problem of plenty?

posted Aug 22, 2019, 6:53 AM by Prashant Bhattacharji   [ updated Sep 10, 2019, 4:28 AM ]

How to select a college or an appropriate UG program. Things which a high
school student should know before entering college or selecting a program
- Factoring in and balancing our personal aptitude, family or peer pressure, long
term career goals etc

A post by Abhinav Janak

Many young students in India are grappling with a problem of plenty situation when they
are suddenly bombarded with a barrage of career options all of a sudden when they are
in class 10 leaving them very little time and space to really think what they really want
become in life and what really suits them in greater proximity keeping their interests and
a practical sense of options in real time. So is having a range of choices to choose from
really healthy or detrimental to a young 16 or 17 year old’s psyche passing out plus 11
or plus 12 when he or she has to choose a right UG option. Don’t you think the young
minds are too over burdened to dissect, assimilate and process so much information all
at once together with a sword of damocles hanging on their heads to decide a particular
course to move forward and for life to go on as normal?

We in India are known to have a herd like mentality in following what’s really tried and
tested since decades .ie., in taking up career choices which have been taken up in the
past by our parents and their parents and so on and so forth. Are the younger lot really
making a right choice or has our system shaped them in a manner where they make a
choice only to impress the society and to earn money? We more or less come under the
glaring scrutiny of peer pressure and more often succumb to it as we think that’s the
beaten path which has rewarded laurels to our yesteryear generations. Is this the way
forward? Is this healthy to think this way in a modern current turbulent world where new
age careers have emerged and are encouraged, where changes in technologies are
faster than expected. I personally observe when I see people around me take up the
usual engineering and medicine fields as if other fields don’t exist. News paper articles
have cited closure of many engineering and medical colleges in recent times due to lack
of filling of seats. But still youth continue to prepare of grueling engineering, medical and
CA entrance exams as if they are on a death sentence.

Why does life seem so crammed up for youth at that sensitive age of 15 to 18 where they
are so stressed to make a decision at gun point? What’s wrong if they just take a
year or two away from regular life ( Which is messy more often ) and indulge in activities
they like,  for example sports, Arts, Music, Entertainment/acting/modeling,
Sketching/Drawing, Architecture etc. Its so tough for children to reply when suddenly
asked what are their long term career goals. I have known CEO’s of companies who
have become CEO’s by a regular mechanism but who really do not know themselves
well as to what they really wanted to be! Gosh…please spare the poor young child of 14
or 15, imagine how his brain gets heated up when suddenly asked what he really wants
to become, he in his anxiety to impress the opposite person blabbers a regular usual
line which many have taken, but does he really want that is the question? We as a
society are to be blamed for this for creating an environment of beaten paths which suck
many a kid into it with not even knowing his true likes and dislikes.

I would recommend good career counselors to pitch in, be a part of the school and
observe students carefully making a note of each kid’s likes, dislikes, his mental
aptitude, his psychology, his behavioral patterns etc in order to help students select an
appropriate UG programme. Students should be encouraged to read newspapers and
magazines regularly to get a real time pulse of what’s happening around them , but they
must’nt get influenced by the society in getting pushed into a regular line which may not
be to their liking! Students must be groomed to develop their own independent thinking
and individuality to put forward their own thoughts and to help them come to their own
finalizations regarding a course which they would take after a good introspection of
themselves.

If the whole world were to have taken up only engineering and medicine, then we
wouldn’t have a Leonardo Da Vinci, a Sachin Tendulkar, a Pablo Picasso or a Sylvestor
Stallone etc. There’s more to life than being an Engineer or a Doctor. World doesn’t
come to an end if one doesn’t take these branches. I myself regret that had I known
myself well, I probably wouldn’t have done Engineering and an MBA, currently as I have
dabbled my self into Acting. Modelling, Writing, Photography, I perhaps ought to have
taken arts, Visual arts, performing arts, Editing, photography etc. These are the new
age careers which have caught the imagination of the world in delivering sheer joy
interms of having a day to day satisfaction especially if they are artistic and playful by
nature.

Not everyone is studious. Not everyone is cut out for the rigorous rigmarole in-order to
prepare for intense entrance exams which majority of them turn out to be an eliminating
form. These entrance exams are precisely designed to eliminate majority of students
and not a selective procedure. I myself know how much stress I underwent along with
nervousness when I had to write my engineering entrance EAMCET twice.

One has to beware on his or her selection as one has to live by the decision he made to
undertake an arduous study programme of 3 to 4 years. If they are not enjoyable, then
one is again forced to change their path after finishing under grad programme and
becoming an ineligible graduate to face the world. The corrections required later on will
seem stiff if they have made wrong choices in selecting their UG programme. For this
not to happen, I advocate all youth not to compare themselves with anyone. Every kid
or every adult is unique with his or her own built of personalities together with their
pshyche and emotions and the emotions play an important part in choosing professions.
What’s the gut feeling of the student? How assertive is he in indicating his likes towards
particular professions. How important is it for parents not to dictate to their children what
they want out of them to score brownie points in the society. Does society really care?
Are we all living a life to impress the society or to really do what we love?

Way forward for upcoming generation is to really do what he or she really likes and
loves doing cause the real joy and happiness is in doing what we love to do rather than
getting imposed by society.

Choosing Subjects and Streams after Class 10: Science (Medical/Engineering), Commerce, Humanities/Arts, Vocational

posted Aug 22, 2019, 2:32 AM by Prashant Bhattacharji   [ updated Aug 22, 2019, 6:40 AM ]

(An aggregation of points from multiple people)

Deciding on a stream after Class 10, can be one of the most challenging decisions in the life of a 15 year old student in India. 
There is a lot of pressure on many students to opt for the Science stream. There is no-size-fits-all rule for selecting streams. 
What is the best subject combination for you, could be terrible for another student. You need to account for several factors, weighted appropriately.

If you already know that you want to pursue undergrad programs in technology, computing, engineering or medicine or natural sciences
There is nothing much to ponder over: you will obviously choose physics and chemistry - with mathematics or biology or both. 
Choosing the fifth subject can be a challenge at times. Try to pick something which is reasonably light, enjoyable and useful in the long run.
CS and informatics practices are understandably popular subjects at the class 11 and 12 level. There is always a lot of value in studying a new 
language as well (foreign or Indian). Avoid picking subjects like economics which involve a lot of pointless workload: the economics syllabus 
of Indian boards, is focused on economic history instead of the basic principles of economics. It is not of much use in the long run.
You should, however, pay attention to your grade 12 mathematics and statistics, if you're interested in a long term career in economics.
Also keep in mind, that its quite easy to switch from science to other fields after class 12. It is much harder (often impossible) to switch from
arts to a science and technology oriented field. However, there are plenty of career options, even on the technomanagerial front, for those 
who pursue commerce with mathematics or computer science. 

If you neither like science and mathematics, nor can manage it 
You have been in school for more than ten years, and by now you have a fair idea about where you interest and aptitude lies: and where it doesn't lie. 
It makes no sense opting for the science stream in this case. Pick something you like and can excel in. 

If you don't like science and mathematics, but can manage it 
This can be a tricky one. Having science in class 11 and 12 does give you a bit of a base required to understand the social sciences much better,
at the college level. For example: economics requires a significant amount of statistics and linear algebra. A good foundation in biology and/or chemistry
can help understand neuroscience and neurochemistry which is so very foundational to the study of human psychology. 
If you scored well in science and math in class 10, you could pursue the science stream with a non-technical fifth subject (or sixth subject) such as
psychology or economics. 

If you scored poorly in science and mathematics, but want to take in in class 11 and 12
This can be a tricky one. The class 10 science score doesn't reveal or indicate very much but a score less than 75 in math should be a bit of a yellow light. 
Physics is very dependent on mathematics and calculus in grades 11 and 12. The jump in physics and mathematics is extremely steep, after class 10.
A lot of students opt for science out of pressure and then regret the choice when they find the workload unmanageable. They end up performing poorly
in class 12 and this restricts a lot of their choices. 

Humanities
Opting for the humanities with mathematics can open doors to careers related to law, via the well regarded CLAT examination.
Journalism is also a good option after humanities. But be aware that humanities in high school will restrict various options at the time
of college admissions.


Unless you are really unable to handle it, avoid dropping mathematics, regardless of the stream you choose.
Many of the country's top colleges require mathematics as a compulsory subject, at the grade 12 level, even for fields such as commerce and economics. 
This should come as no surprise: commerce requires a fair bit of commercial math and the social sciences (economics, psychology, political science) are
increasingly switching to quantitative and data-intense methods to generate truly evidence-backed research; instead of qualitative research which is often
more prone to human biases. If you drop mathematics in class 11 and class 12, a large number of doors will be slammed in your face at the time of college
admissions post-class-12. And, chances are, that even if you do get admitted to programs like economics - the lack of sufficient math background might 
be a serious impediment in your mastery of your chosen college major. Try to opt for mathematics, at least as an additional sixth subject, in case you
feel that you might not manage a great score in it in your class 12 examinations. The NDA examination also requires mathematics. 
Opting for mathematics at the grade 11-12 level also makes it much easier to understand the physics portion of the medical entrance examination. 
Many of those who perform well in the NEET, opted for both mathematics and biology at the class 12 level. 

Of course: if you have really hated mathematics and struggle with it, do not force yourself to opt for it. 
There are plenty of BA programs in languages and history and fine arts, which do not require mathematics at the class 12 level. 
The only thing is that you should be aware of the doors which will close because of dropping mathematics. 


Try to opt for Computer Science or Informatics if your school offers it. 
Try to opt for one of these subjects regardless of your stream. The software industry is seeing a massive boom and data analysts are in demand. 
Often, many of these jobs do not require an intense STEM background. Basic skills in programming, data structures and algorithms, can take you a long way. 
Even a BA Economics with programming skills can be a good fit for business-analyst and data-analyst roles. The programming exposure in school
is very basic in nature, but it is sufficient to make you comfortable writing some elementary code. It'll also give you a fair sense of whether you'd like to
do this for a living at some point. Some basic programming skills can be extremely useful if you choose to pursue economics or psychology or linguistics - 
econometrics, psychometrics and computational lingustics are fields which involve a mix of computing, statistics and social sciences/symbolic systems. 
In addition, CS has been a very scoring elective in the last couple of decades. A lot of software work is in the space of business related information systems. 
So, computer science can be a great elective for commerce students as well. 


Try to opt for six subjects if you are in the commerce or humanities stream
If you are in the commerce or humanities stream, you probably don't have to worry too much about entrance examinations or lab work. 
If you're in a reasonably good school which offers a variety of electives, use this time to opt for six subjects instead of five. It'll broaden your horizons
and give your education a certain breadth which college may or may not be able to provide. Apart from mathematics and CS (highly recommended)
and English Core (compulsory) and 2 standard humanities/commerce electives; you may also use this phase to explore a vocational subject 
or a foreign language such as French or Mandarin which could make you an invaluable asset in the international expansion plans of various businesses.
Six subjects can also be a blessing at the time of college admissions. Many colleges such as Delhi University, use the score from four subjects (the best four,
including 1-2 which need to be mandatorily included). If you end up with a low score in one or two papers, chances are that your "best four" can be computed
without using these 1-2 scores which ended up bringing down your overall score. 

Commerce with a humanities elective maybe better than the humanities stream
The syllabus for commerce subjects is well structured and rigorous in both CBSE and ISC. 
The same cannot be said for humanities: the syllabus is badly diluted for most subjects and many reputed universities such as 
Oxford or Cambridge, don't accept school leaving certificates from the humanities or arts streams of Indian boards. 
In addition, because of subjectivity, the inter-examiner variability is often high in the humanities or arts subjects; and there is a high degree of 
unpredictability in what scores you'll be awarded. Of course: if the arts and humanities are what truly interest you, that is what you should go ahead with.
There is no point coercing yourself into taking a stream you're not interested in.

Vocational subjects and fine arts
Certain subjects such as computers, informatics practices and biotechnology have a fairly well developed course structure and syllabus. 
It is meaningful to study this. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the hundreds of vocational and fine arts electives which CBSE offers. 
Painting, art, music and engineering-oriented courses are great subjects to learn: but the syllabus is substandard and the assessment is erratic
as there are often insufficient teachers with the training to evaluate scripts of such subjects in the board examinations. 

There is no one-size-fits-all rule which can be applied while selecting subjects. 
You need to factor in your interests, your aptitude and the career paths opened up (or closed) via the subjects you choose in grade 11 and 12. 
Avoid making a decision based on peer pressure or parental pressure because the consequences of this selection of subjects, will often last and reverberate lifelong. 

Choosing a school
If you want to prepare for entrance examinations, it is best to take admission in a school which isn't too particular about attendance. 
Some schools make you sit through half a dozen pre-board examinations: they serve you no purpose, avoid them. 
You could also pick a school which runs an integrated program with FIITJEE Pinnacle and the likes. 
Otherwise: pick a school which has a reputation for good results in the board examination. There are various benefits in being able to claim
that you're an alum of a well known school. "Dummy" schools and dummy admissions should be avoided, as far as possible. 
With CBSE cracking down on the non-attending/dummy business, it is also going to be very risky to enroll in dummy schools.
There is no real need for students to switch from ICSE to CBSE: the syllabus is more or less the same and the former has a more reliable examination system. 
And is perhaps more generous than CBSE in grade 12. However, some ICSE schools are very strict about attendance. Avoid them like the plague.


Inputs to the New Education Policy

posted Aug 16, 2019, 8:59 AM by Prashant Bhattacharji   [ updated Aug 16, 2019, 9:00 AM ]

We linked to some of the old articles authored by Prashant.
https://www.orfonline.org/research/great-indian-exam-debacle/

https://www.firstpost.com/india/cbse-class-12th-2017-board-exam-results-withheld-grade-distortion-is-a-serious-public-policy-problem-2887650.html

journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0973184915603174



Here is a summary of suggestions.
This is largely a consolidation of points already made by several observers of the Indian education system.

1. Repeal the Right to Education and replace it by a voucher or direct-benefit-transfer system such as the one being proposed in Andhra Pradesh. the presence of aadhaar, makes it simpler to create systems like these.


2. Extend Article - 30 to all groups to bring parity and fairness in institutional autonomy. 
OR: enforce a strict defintion of a minority institution where at least half the teachers and students are from the minority community. Currently, it is a loophole being flouted brazenly to avoid regulations which are 
heaped solely on honest players who don't have a route to wriggle out.


3. Do not make any tweaks in the language policy. Learning outcomes are very poor inMathematics and Science and the first language itself and making 3 languages compulsory
right from 1 to 12, will take away valuable time and bandwidth and might have a retrograde impact on the subjects and languages which already exist.


4. Boards are in a race to inflate scores and pass-rates. Force them to release a percentile score or a positional grade on the marksheets as the current scores are meaningless. 
There is data related to score-inflation in this article: https://www.orfonline.org/research/great-indian-exam-debacle/


5. Having modular board exams is a good idea but keeping it too open ended will create utter chaos. 
Keep a few basic rules: for example, a student can take the class 10 exam for a few subjects, right after class 9. Or: a student may take the class 12 exam for 2-3 papers,
right after class 11, if he or she is prepared and wants to get done with a few subjects. 
It might be worthwhile to take ideas from the conduct of the A-level examinations in the UK where students are allowed to take a few papers (AS level) before the school leaving year.


6. Avoid a centralized curriculum, except for grades 11-12. Even for grades 11-12, only prescribe minimum standards (schools should be allowed to teach over and above the minimum standards)
Different parts of the country; different socio-economic groups: all of them have their own preferences. The average rural child might not be able to handle the syllabus of an IGCSE or ICSE school, for instance.


7. Liberalize the board regime. The monopoly like status of CBSE has been extremely damaging for the sector. 
Allow groups of school to form their own board as long as they have in excess of, say, 20000 students per batch. 
Boards will compete and better systems will emerge. 
As things stand, we have an absurdity where foreign boards like IB/IGCSE are running a curriculum and syllabus which Indians are not permitted to provide in the form of a new Indian IGCSE/IB like board functioning at an Indian price point.


8. As long as institutions have basic infrastructure and security, remove the NOC requirements. No NOC should be required from the state government, for affiliation to central boards - this
leads to demands for bribes and the harrassment often discourages from serious players from entering the space.


9. The NCMEI injects sectarianism in the NOC regime: this body can be scrapped.

10. Mandatory education till class 12 might not make sense in an economy like India. By grade 8 a student has been taught the basics of language, math and science necessary for real world tasks.
For those in rural areas for instance, education beyong class 8 might actually have a retrograde effect, of making them reluctant to stick to agriculture which requires work with the hands rather than just the mind.


11. There should be no form of government aid to theological institutions or educational institutions run by religious trusts, or faith based schools. This is neither acceptable nor desirable in a secular nation.


12. Avoid any sort of coercion as far as the medium of instruction is concerned. Allow parents to choose the medium they find best for their kids. 
While there is evidence to suggest that students learn best in their "mother tongue" this mother tongue varies from place to place and community to community and person-to-person in India. 
English medium schools can be a problem if the quality of the school and the teachers is the problem: this often has little to do with English as the medium. 
Waging a war on English medium education will have disastrous effects not just on our education system but also on our economy in the long run.
The domain knowledge for various subjects right from sciences to social sciences and technology, is held (almost) entirely in English, in our country.


13. There is a lot of meddling in education policy by NGOs which receive foreign funds, corporates vying for PPP funds, as well as foreign
citizens who often represent vested interests of various organizations. By all means take ideas from data-driven research of experts or academicians
or researchers, from all over the world - but as things stand, there are too many inputs from disruptive elements who often have
ideology driven agendas. As things stand, there is little one can do against an NGO activist who walks in with a print out of the RTE,
and brings an institution to a screeching halt. It will be more meaningful, to list primarily to Indian players (directly involced with institutions here)
Indian stakeholders and well-regarded researchers with evidence based, data-driven inputs.


14. NCERT is not required for any task other than framing minimum syllabus requirements and for periodically assessing learning levels in
different parts of the country (NAS surveys). NCERT textbooks are of a very poor quality in comparison to those sold by reputed private players.


15. School league tables should be published annually - indicating the mean or median score of students in various subjects (or in the aggregate score).
Such information empowers parents and helps them select better schools for their children. It also sets up an incentive for schools to compete.


16. Infrastructure requirements for CBSE/ICSE affiliation need a re-think. Efficiently used space, with vertical architecture (5-7 floors) is the only
practical way to run schools in many of our towns and tieis where land prices are simply too high to construct and run an affordable school with
current land requirements (1 acre+). There should also be some provision for schools to be able to share playgrounds or rent them out for
specific time intervals. Currently, many are unable to get affiliation, because of land requirements - while many schools have large playgrounds
which are unused for several hours a day.


17. Teachers evaluating board examination answer sheets should be remunerated suitably given the amount of effort put in by students to write 2-3 hour
exams which are currently marked and graded by disinterested, tired, over-burdened and/or unqualified teachers. There should also be a thorough screening
and training session for teachers who evaluate answer scripts. Currently, boards are paying a pittance (between 5 and 30 Rs) for the assessment of answerscripts
into which candidates have put in years of effort and hard-work.


18. Currently, many of our board papers require 15-20 pages of handwritten answer scripts which are corrected carelessly. The accuracy of assessment could
improve if these examinations are partly computer graded (computer based testing or OMR/OCR sheets) - with a few pages requiring handwritten answers
which can then be marked with greater thoroughness and care. This will also bring down the man-hours of manual assessment required in the process,
thereby making it possible for a smaller but more knowledgeable group of teachers to correct the answer-sheets.


19. When it comes to scholarships which are often offered by central and state governments, discrimination based on caste or religion should be a strict no-no.
Such invidious schemes exacerbate social tensions between different groups, based on their identity. Similarly, segregated schools such as those in Telangana,
catering primarily to specific groups based on religion/caste, should be forbidden by law. Such institutions alienate marginalized groups instead of integrating them
with society. A parallel maybe drawn with the US Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court
in which the Court ruled that American state laws establishing racial segregation in public schools are unconstitutional, even if the segregated schools are otherwise
equal in terms of funds or quality.


There should be a strict check on discriminatory schemes which are often used by politicians for drawing support from various social groups seen as "vote banks":
such provisions lead to an insidious partitioning of society along identity-based lines.




Thank you

EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT – IT’S NOT ROCKET, IT’S NEUROSCIENCE!

posted Aug 13, 2019, 7:00 AM by Prashant Bhattacharji   [ updated Aug 13, 2019, 7:04 AM ]

A child’s early year’s development is what will help shape them into well rounded and broad-minded individuals. There will be countless influences on child’s early life which will inevitably be both positive and negative and how a child responds to the influences can be attributed to numerous factors but, in essence, it is down to neuroscience. This is something that shouldn’t be over complicated but it needs to be fully understood to understand a child’s development. One key contributor to the subject is Mine Conkbayir.

Childhood education and neuroscience are extremely closely linked but it is alarming how rarely the two are discussed in the teaching of neuroscience with inconsistency frequently occurring.

As an example, a superb early year’s international school with a British curriculum in Bangkok is Kidz Village. The school recognises the relationship with neuroscience and helping youngsters with their early childhood development.

Students and practitioners are encouraged to embrace the theoretical teachings from leading people in the sector including Piaget and Bowlby with explanations about how these concepts can be introduced into international schools with the British curriculum. All groups are encouraged to understand how learning environments and a teachers’ interaction with pupils influences very young children. When it comes to neuroscience, the same emphasis is not placed, overlooking that the two are closely interrelated. Understanding how a child’s brain develops in the earliest of years is crucial to their development.

Why is neuroscience so important?

Knowing how a child’s brain works helps us to understand how we should take care of the child and educate them. We need to understand what works and what doesn’t. When we adopt this approach, it becomes very easy to appreciate how the learning environment and interactions have a direct impact on how infants learn. Here are a few reasons why:

1.    The first five years of life is when the most prolific synaptic activity occurs

It is during this period when a child acquires many skills that will be required in future life. This includes social skills, behavioural skills as well as being able to develop their language skills and start to learn about their environment. They will start to become aware of different cultural influences; something that plays an even more crucial role in an international school teaching the British curriculum. Teachers, parents and carers play a vital part in supporting and aiding healthy brain development in these early years.

2.    The first five years is when plasticity is most rapid

We often hear the phrase that “a child is like a sponge, they are soaking everything up”. This, of course, exposes them to both positive and negative experiences to which they are extremely sensitive. Certain places and environments will quickly become familiar to a child and they will start to form neural connections. Teachers and parents must be fully aware of the potential these associations have in later life.

3.    Cortisol and toxic stress

Cortisol is the stress hormone that is present in all humans and will have a compelling impact on early childhood development. Babies and young children must not be continually exposed to situations where they feel threatened or under stress. Their emotional and attachment needs must be satisfied along with the need for affection. If these needs are constantly not met, they will develop a hyper-reactive stress response. These forms of response, damage a brain's development which harms learning and the child’s development.

4.    Brain physiology, cognition and learning are extremely closely related

The relationship between all three factors demonstrates that emotional well-being is essential to early childhood development. It is the foundation for cognition and learning ability. Parents, teachers and carers should endeavour to create a positive learning environment understanding that these influences are intertwined. This is crucial with the under-threes and should be carefully considered by international schools teaching a British curriculum.

Neuroscience and education

It is now vital that neuroscience is embraced within the education system. It is an alternative way of theorising and fully appreciating early childhood development and needs to be adopted by schools and education practitioners. However, neuroscience should be seen as part of our understanding of brain development and not the only tool. It adds a contemporary dimension to existing ways of thinking that is perhaps more in keeping with the modern world.

Early brain development and neuroscience are starting to be accepted if not embraced by early year’s teachers and practitioners. A greater discussion needs to be encouraged to fully understand child development, especially in the under threes although this is certainly not embedded in professional qualifications. A review by Professor Cathy Nutbrown emphasises this point as she identified the problem, explored it, but didn’t go into any depth.

There are some fantastic primary school teachers at international schools with British curriculum who often have excellent qualifications. However, merely filling a school with superb graduates isn’t a complete answer. Rarely have they been trained about the role of early brain development so it escapes their thinking when planning curriculum, activities and the learning environment.

Nursery education is now globally recognised as being essential in child development with Save the Children calling for all nurseries to be led by a qualified teacher. The teacher should incorporate neuroscience into the school to ensure that early childhood brain development is not threatened or hampered.  Embracing the latest ideas and concepts from neuroscience and including cutting-edge theories can only improve early years’ brain development. Child development will be supported by teachers and practitioners who, in turn, will lead to creating an all-round educational experience for children.

Dowling (2004: 4) has called for the importance of utilising neuroscience in parenting, education and care stating:

“The challenge of understanding how the brain develops and how that understanding might help in raising the next generations to the best of our and their abilities is key to the future of humankind.”


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