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TCS-EW Teachers Awards

India's best school teachers


The second all-India Tata Consultancy Services-EducationWorld Teachers Awards attracted 25,000 nominations countrywide. At a gala awards ceremony in Chennai, the eight finalists were showered with gifts, cash awards and mementos. Summiya Yasmeen reports

It was a memorable day of triumph and celebration for the eight school teachers who made it to the national final of the second all-India Tata Consultancy Services-Education World Teachers Awards 2006. The finalists (divided into primary and secondary) were shortlisted from among 25,000 school teachers nominated from across the country. On November 29 at a gala awards celebration staged at Chennai’s Taj Connemara Hotel and well-attended by the media and school teachers, winners in each category were chosen by a panel of high-powered judges following intensive interview.

Chitti Babu, principal of the Mahakavi Bharatiyar Higher Secondary School, Kasuva, 42 km from Chennai, was declared the best teacher in the primary school category and R.V. Raghavendra Rao, who teaches biology at the Central government promoted Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, Panchwati, in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, was adjudged India’s best secondary school teacher.

Instituted in 2005 by the Mumbai-based Tata Consultancy Services (revenue: Rs.12,150 crore in fiscal 2005-06), India’s largest IT services company with 70,000 employees in 35 countries worldwide, and EducationWorld, India’s pioneer education news and analysis magazine (estb. 1999), the annual TCS-EW Teachers Awards acknowledge and celebrate the best practices and classroom innovations of the brightest and best among India’s 5 million primary and secondary school teachers.

"It is our privilege to honour great teachers, to stimulate discussion in the academic fraternity and highlight the value of innovation," said S. Ramadorai, the go-getting chief executive and managing director of TCS who has more than doubled the revenue and number of employees of TCS since he took charge of the company in 1996, and has pitchforked it into the front rank of IT-driven consultancy corporates worldwide. "The quality of teaching-learning in the classroom determines the creative and innovative thinkers of tomorrow. As an investment in the future, we are pleased to reward those who are making this happen. On this belief rests our outreach programme with teachers," Ramadorai said in a special message sent to the convocation which he was unable to attend due to unforeseen business reasons.

In Ramadorai’s absence the TCS-EW awards celebration was presided by Mala Ramadorai, former vice principal of the Bombay International School and an active educationist in her own right. In a short but inspiring speech she congratulated the finalists for their commitment and classroom innovations. "The teachers awards is TCS’ way of acknowledging and promoting inno-vative teaching methodologies which nurture curiousity and creativity in young minds, preparing them for tomorrow’s competitive world," she said.

Substituting last year’s disparate awards ceremonies with a consolidated gala celebration preceded by a three-hour teachers workshop, the public relations and marketing divisions of TCS pulled out all the stops to make the all-India awards presentation event in Chennai a resounding success. Finalists were invited (all expenses paid) to Chennai and showered with gifts, cash awards and mementos. Best teachers Chitti Babu (primary) and Raghavendra Rao (secondary) were presented state-of-the-art Zenith laptop computers by TCS. Moreover co-sponsor Manipal Education Group and TCS presented cheques of Rs.10,000 each to all finalists who also received specially commissioned TCS-EW silver and acrylic embossed trophies.

The modus operandi of selecting India’s best teachers began with repeated advertising of the awards in EducationWorld and a poster campaign in schools across the country. The advertisements/ posters invited all involved with education — students, principals, parents, school managements — to nominate innovative and/or exceptional teachers (in primary and secondary schools) for the awards. The nominations were scrutinised by IL&FS Education and Technology Services Ltd (IETS), the nine-year-old education consultancy and training subsidiary of the Mumbai-based construction and infrastructure financing giant IL&FS.

Following initial scrutiny of more than 25,000 nominations from across the country by a team of IETS personnel headed by the Bangalore-based Neena Paul, who heads IETS operations in Karnataka, 25 teachers were shortlisted. These 25 shortlisted teachers were asked to submit 300-500-word essays detailing their teaching innovations and/or best classroom practices. After careful assessment and evaluation of the essays received from school teachers countrywide, eight teachers were invited for personal interview in Chennai. The eight finalists were interviewed by a high-powered jury, comprising Mala Ramdorai, Paul, and Dilip Thakore, EducationWorld’s publisher/ editor.

"A striking feature of the flood of nominations was that most of them were from small towns and rural areas. Nominations from urban India were few and far between. This is perhaps an indicator that students, parents and academics in small-town India are more appreciative and respectful of the teachers’ community. But overall we are happy with the scale and diversity of nominations which were superior quantitatively and qualitatively this year. Moreover in the essays shortlisted teachers sent in there was a high awareness of the benefits of the use of information technology in classroom teaching," says Paul.

Winners and finalists of the Tata Consultancy Services-EducationWorld Teachers Awards 2006 are profiled on the following pages.

New technologies driven innovator

R.V. Raghavendra Rao of the Central government sponsored Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya (JNV) in Panchawati (Andaman & Nicobar islands), was adjudged India’s best secondary school teacher at the Tata Consultancy Services-Education World Teachers Awards 2006. Rao who teaches biology in classes X-XII at the CBSE-affiliated JNV was felicitated for integrating ICT (information and communication technology) into the teaching-learning process and making classroom teaching interesting and enjoyable for students.

"I’m honoured that the sponsors of the awards have acknowledged my work in a school in a remote outpost of India with minimal access to technology or training. The Andaman & Nicobar islands haven’t yet recovered from the tsunami which ravaged the Union territory in 2004. This award has inspired me to continue researching teaching innovations," says Rao who teaches 438 students at the JNV. Perhaps the most valuable legacy of the late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi (1944-91), the 515 CBSE-affiliated JNVs countrywide provide free class VI-XII boarding school education to rural children of both sexes in the age group 11-17 years.

A botany postgraduate and education graduate of Andhra University, Rao served as lecturer in the Government Degree College, Vishakapatnam for four years before accepting a job in JNV Panchawati. Following training with technology majors Intel and Microsoft under their Intel Teach the Future and Project Shiksha programmes, Rao has transformed into an IT in education missionary, introducing ICT not only in biology teaching but also in school administration and community life.

"With systematic planning and implementation, I’ve digitised 70 lessons in biology using animation, visuals and interactive quizzes. With the help of power point presentations, educational CDs and worksheets I have motivated my students to become independent learners and use ICT for research, project presentations and online-testing. I’ve also helped my school use technology for maintaining records of students, preparing question papers, and analysing examination results," says Rao, who has designed his own website (www.arurags.bravehost.com) which can be accessed by class X and XII CBSE students and teachers countrywide.

Moreover, as a trained HIV/AIDS education counsellor, Rao is actively involved with the AIDS awareness campaign in the Andamans. He also conducts computer literacy programmes for teachers and students from other schools in neighbouring villages.

Not surprisingly, the TCS-EW Award is not his first. He received the Microsoft Innovative Teachers Award in 2005, the Intel Best Teacher Award in 2005 and the Guru Sreshta award of JNV, for facilitating the excellent performance of class XII students in biology in the CBSE examinations held last year. Rao’s computer skills helped JNV, Panchawati — designated as one of 250 Navodaya ‘Smart Schools’ — win the Intel award for the best school integrating ICT into the curriculum in 2005 •

Imaginative pedagogies pioneer

G. Chittibabu, headmaster of the Mahakavi Bharathiyar Higher Secondary School, Kasuva, a village 42 km from Chennai, was adjudged India’s best teacher (primary school) at the Tata Consultancy Services-Education World Teachers Awards 2006.

The K-XII Tamil medium MBHSS (estb: 1992) promoted by the Chennai-based Sevalaya Charitable Trust, provides free education to poor, orphan and destitute children. Under his leadership as headmaster and science and Tamil language teacher (classes I-VIII), MBHSS which has 850 students instructed by 31 teachers, has attained 100 percent pass results in the class X state board examinations for four years consecutively and 100 percent success in the higher secondary (class XII) board exams last year.

"Our children are from the poorest and most deprived backward communities and most of them are first generation learners. Therefore we have become their parents and teachers, providing them love, care and encouragement to learn," says Chittibabu, a double postgraduate in Tamil and Gandhian Thought from Madras University who signed up with MBHSS 10 years ago.

As the driving force behind this school, Chittibabu has initiated imaginative pedagogies to enliven classroom experiences of his students. "Among the teaching innovations we have developed are the ‘whispering concept’ to develop students’ concentration skills; symmetrical drawing to stimulate creativity and right brain functions; teaching maths through rhythmic music and dance; improving communication skills by encouraging participation in stage plays; splitting lessons into small segments to facilitate learning and using low-cost teaching aids like flash cards, charts, and colour pencils to enhance student retention power. Extra-curricular activities, yoga training and social service are given equal importance," says Chittibabu who was awarded a Tamil Nadu state government sponsored best teacher award — Bharati Vikas Parishad — in 2004.

A staunch believer in values-based education, Chittibabu has helped to include the values and teachings of Mahakavi Subramania Bharathiyar (a well-known 20th century Tamil poet), Mahatma Gandhi and Swami Vivekananda into a special syllabus — BGV — named after the three great men. Chittibabu accords equal emphasis to technology-based teaching and the school is well-equipped with computers, slide projectors, television, educational CDs, and audio and video cassettes to supplement classroom instruction.

Optimistic about the future, Chittibabu has drawn ambitious plans to promote Sevalaya’s first rural university, the blueprint for which has already been prepared with help from students of Stanford University, USA. Clearly, a teacher-educator who believes in investing all he has into his work •

Finalists' Profiles

A
part from winners Chitti Babu and Raghavendra Rao, six other school teachers from 25,000 countrywide made it into the Tata Consultancy Services-EducationWorld Teachers Awards 2006 final round held in Chennai on November 28. Subsequently all finalists were felicitated at a well-orchestrated awards ceremony held in the Taj Connemara Hotel on November 29, where each finalist received a Rs.20,000 cash award (Rs.10,000 each from Tata Consultancy Services and the Manipal Education Group), and futuristic TCS-EW silver and acrylic pyramid-shaped trophies with gold-leaf embossment. Thumb-nail sketches of the finalists:

Sanskrit pedagogies pioneer

S. Sreemathi is the sole Sanskrit teacher at Sri Sankara Vidyalaya Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Chennai, a private sector state board affiliated kindergarten-class XII institution boasting a student enrollment of 4,000. She has pioneered several innovative pedagogies to help students learn this ancient source language of India.

"If taught in an interesting and interactive way, Sanskrit is easy and fun to learn. For instance I have set several Sanskrit shlokas (hymns) to music and during class we sing them. Students converse with me and among themselves only in Sanskrit during the language period. Moreover I’ve developed quiz programmes and crossword puzzles in Sanskrit. I regularly organise cultural events and competitions and one day of the week, students read news in Sanskrit during the morning assembly," says Sreemathi, a Sanskrit postgraduate of Madras University who earned her B.Ed from Annamalai University in 1991 and signed up with Sri Sankara Vidyala immediately thereafter.

Voted best teacher by the students of Sri Sankara Vidyalaya two years ago, Sreemathi has used information technology to facilitate fluency in Sanskrit. "I regularly play CD-ROMs of the great epics Ramayana and Mahabharata in Sanskrit for my students. This helps them improve pronunciation and develop conversational skills in this 5,000-year-old language," she says.

These classroom innovations have paid off. In the Tamil Nadu state board class X examination of 2006, Sri Sankara Vidyalaya recorded a 100 percent pass rate in Sanskrit. Moreover her students recently presented a Sanskrit play —Yaksha Prasnam — on All India Radio and have won several inter-school competitions.

A teacher for the past 15 years, Sreemathi has a message for her fraternity. "It’s a reward in itself to be a teacher. Our first priority should be to instill a love of learning within students and develop teaching methods that are enjoyable, interesting and interactive. Examination success will follow automatically," she says •

Learning-by-doing teacher

A higher secondary (classes X-XII) commerce teacher at the CISCE-affiliated S.N Kansagra School, Rajkot (Gujarat), Bijal Damani received a special mention from the judges’ panel of the TCS-EducationWorld Teachers Awards 2006 for teaching innovations.

Associated with S.N. Kansagra School, one of six education institutions administered by Rajkot-based The Galaxy Education System (TGES), for the past nine years, Damani has taught several subjects including computer science, English, economics and commerce. Whatever she teaches, she enlivens her classes with innovative pedagogies to stimulate student interest.

"I do not believe in limiting myself to textbooks and like to experiment with new techniques in teaching-learning. For instance my English students improved their letter writing skills by communicating with pen pals in Sikkim. Likewise I initiated a 12-week online discussion forum titled Project World Village connecting my students in Rajkot with counterparts in Japan and Russia to discuss global problems like war, terrorism and child labour. Moreover, I use technology for differential learning and accurate assessment," says Damani whose commerce classes are supplemented with visits to factories, ports and retail malls besides guest lectures and computer camps to enable practical application of what is taught in class.

A commerce postgraduate of Saurashtra University and education graduate of Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), Damani pressed on to acquire a postgrad diploma in business management from Saurashtra University, an MBA in marketing and a higher diploma in software engineering from IGNOU. A lifelong learner who believes in continuously upgrading her teaching and learning skills, she is now pursuing a Cambridge International Diploma for Teachers and Trainers offered by the University of Cambridge, UK, and intends to earn a doctorate. Unsurprisingly in 2004 she received the Broad Outlook Learner Teacher award instituted by Air India and Singapore Airlines.

"In the near future I plan to launch a website for commerce and economics students and teachers. I also want to expose my students to video conferencing by facilitating interaction with students from Singapore," says the dynamic Damani, who enjoys riding a motorbike and scuba diving as much as she enjoys teaching in the classroom •

Self-learning motivator

A primary school teacher at the 470 student CBSE-affiliated Aditya Birla Public School in Perumbalur, 320 km from Chennai, M. Arulmani is a man with a mission. "I want my students to learn by understanding rather than through memorisation. As a teacher my aim is to continuously devise ways and means to facilitate learning through critical thinking and self-discovery," says Arulmani, a chemistry graduate of Madurai Kamaraj University who earned his B.Ed from Annamalai University.

To realise this objective, Arulmani has pioneered several innovations for teaching math and environment science to class II and III students. For instance when the CBSE banned affiliated schools from giving home work to class III students, Arulmani designed an ‘advance assignment system’ for his maths class which permits students to resolve ten maths problems from the syllabus at a time of their choosing.

Shortlisted in the primary school category, Arulmani teaches difficult concepts in environmental science through songs. "I’ve set several popular Tamil movie song tunes to my lyrics. The children love singing them in class," he says.

But the classroom innovation which perhaps most impressed the panel of judges is the "inducing learning by critical analysis" (ICLA) pedagogy Arulmani has pioneered to teach chemistry. Based on the premise that pampering or scolding children is unhealthy and will produce adults who are helpless and incompetent to perform tasks on their own, ICLA motivates students to learn through critical analysis. "Typically in a class period of 40 minutes, the teacher spends 10 minutes explaining the lesson. During the next 15 minutes students read the text and discuss it among themselves and clarify doubts with the teacher. And in the last 15 minutes students are evaluated through a question-answer session. Through this method they are encouraged to self-learn," says Arulmani •

Maths lab missionary

"There has been a loss of student interest in science and maths over the past few decades. We need to reverse this trend by making maths learning joyful and exploratory. Learning maths is very important because it helps develop an individual’s logical and reasoning skills," says M.S. Solanki, a Nasik (Maharashtra)-based maths teacher who has spent a good proportion of his 33 years as a teacher researching ways and means of making maths enjoyable for students.

An engineering graduate and mathematics postgraduate of Bhopal University, Solanki began his career as a secondary school maths teacher at the Kendriya Vidyalaya School, Bhopal in 1972. For the next 19 years he served in several KVs in Ranchi, Gandhinagar and Moscow. In 2004 he retired as principal from Kendriya Vidyalaya School, Gandhinagar (Gujarat). Currently Solanki is a senior faculty member of Ashoka Universal School, Nasik, an ICSE affiliated institution, where he is setting up a Centre for Excellence in Maths & Science.

During his eventful teaching career, Solanki invented several student-friendly pedagogies to teach maths in secondary school. Notable among them is the concept of a maths lab. In Joy of Learning Maths, a book Solanki authored, he gives teachers step-by-step instructions on how to build maths labs for sums as low as Rs.5,000. "Many teachers have set up math labs in their schools using my model," he says.

Other innovations authored by him include a teaching aid christened ‘Solanki’s multipurpose model’ — a device which teachers can use to verify nearly 80 geometry theorems, axioms and problems and a CD-ROM titled ‘Power of mathematics’, comprising practical activities for teachers and students.

Author of BBC Basic Programming (Oxford University Press, 1988), this maths missionary has presented papers at pan-India seminars organised by IIT-Mumbai, NCERT and the Association of Mathematics Teachers of India. "Every school in India should have a maths lab. Teaching of maths in an interesting and interactive way is crucial to the popularisation of this all-important subject," says Solanki who was bestowed the National Innovative Award in 2003 by NCERT •

Continuously learning teacher

In 1987 when Thomas Mani returned from a seven-year teaching assignment in Ethiopia to resume teaching at the Christ Nagar Higher Secondary School in Thiruvanathapuram, computer science education was an after school activity conducted with one personal computer gifted by the Kerala state government. Now the computer science department of the CISCE-affiliated Christ Nagar Higher has transformed into the largest of any school in Kerala, with three state-of-the-art labs boasting over 100 computers, internet connectivity and five full-time teachers. Moreover in 2003, Christ Nagar School was awarded the Computer Literacy Excellence Award by the state government’s information technology ministry.

"In the early 1990s computer science was a completely new subject with very few schools offering it to students. We began in a small way with only class VIII-X students. Gradually I expanded it to primary classes. Currently computer science is offered as a subject from classes I-XII. Through the years I’ve strived to make computer science education interesting, interactive and enjoyable to students," says Mani who is also the vice-principal of Christ Nagar School, which has 2,500 students on its muster rolls.

Mani has also applied his IT skills to improving the school’s administration systems, and the school’s exam tabulation and admission processes are fully computerised. Moreover he started an interactive web portal which parents can access for information on exam marks, tuition fee and other programmes of the school.

A postgraduate in botany from University College, Trivandrum, Mani never contemplated any career apart from teaching and is a strong advocate of continuous self-learning. "Since computer science is a continuously evolving subject, I try my best to be up to date. I am a master trainer of the Intel Teach to the Future initiative and have recently finished a course in IGCSE computer studies conducted by Cambridge International Examinations. Moreover I have taken several certificate courses in new computer languages," he says •

Quality improvement pioneer

A higher secondary school (classes XI and XII) computer science teacher of City Montessori School, Lucknow (CMS), Dheeraj Mehrotra also supervises the application of total quality management (TQM) norms and processes in CMS. As head of TQM in education at the CISCE-affiliated City Montessori, (billed the world’s largest single-city private school as per Guinness World Records), Mehrotra has also introduced student quality circles (SQCs) to ensure continuous improvement in the school’s curriculum and its delivery.

"The purpose of SQCs is to receive continuous feedback from students for improving course content and to ensure quality education is delivered in CMS. Typically three student volunteers form a SQC. These volunteers solicit student suggestions on how the curriculum and pedagogy can be improved. Subsequently each SQC presents a report to the class teacher or facilitator for evaluation and implementation," explains Mehrotra.

A postgraduate in education management from Algappa University, Chennai, who signed up with City Montessori in 1996 after a brief stint with Bishop Johnson School in Allahabad, Mehrotra is also the author of the ‘Six Sigma in Education’ concept. "I’ve applied the Japanese Six Sigma theory to education to motivate teachers to regard themselves as factory shopfloor workers striving to deliver quality education to customers i.e parents of students. I’ve used the Six Sigma theory in conjunction with SQC to achieve excellent results," says Mehrotra. He is ready to provide the SQC, TCM and Six Sigma models of CMS to schools across Uttar Pradesh.

Also a resource person for delivering computer science training to teachers of other ICSE affiliated schools, Mehrotra was awarded the national award for Best Teacher by the Union HRD ministry on Teachers Day (September 5) last year. A prolific journalist and author, he has written over 25 textbooks/ guides on computer science for secondary school students •

With Hemalatha Raghupathi (Chennai)

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