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In an exclusive interview with Sriram Subramanian, Director of Callido Learning, EducationWorld uncovers insights on the practices that make some international schools clear leaders in their field.

EW: You have worked with a wide profile of international schools. What do you think sets apart a good international school from others?

SS: Indian parents are grades-focused and most international schools cater to this mindset. What the leading IB and Cambridge schools have appreciated however is that over 50 percent of the grade in these boards depends on students demonstrating skills such as critical thinking, research, data interpretation and argumentative writing. An experienced principal once commented that chasing after grades in the traditional way in an international school is like “playing a game of tennis with your eyes on the scoreboard instead of on the ball!” The leading schools have figured out that there is no exam prep shortcut – improving underlying skills is the key to student’s academic achievement.


EW: Don’t you think that’s a tall order? I mean, there is already a shortage of experienced teachers.


 

SS: So that’s the elephant in the room – principals know it is hard to find staff who are equipped to undertake this. The leading international schools invest in the infrastructure that matters most – teachers – and equip them with the right set of resources to deliver what is expected of them.
For example, rather than relying on teaching experience as the key metric, check for teachers’ ability to deliver skills-driven lessons and design assessments which match the international curriculum.


 

EW: What challenges do new international schools face and how are they dealing with them?


SS: New schools primarily struggle with enrollments – selecting the right students and getting a decent batch size to start off with. Some schools have tackled this by instituting a skills-based test to predict how well an applicant would do and attracting them with merit-based scholarships. I think that’s a win-win. On the enrollments front, schools with a large CBSE or ICSE feeder have an edge as there is an opportunity to introduce them early to skills-based learning. As we have discovered, giving Grade 8 or Grade 10 students a preview of a skills-based approach greatly increases their chances of opting for an IGCSE or IB programme.

 

EW: It’s a competitive world out there for international schools. What kind of outlook helps an international school thrive?


SS: One of our advisors – a veteran of international schooling in India – gave us this analogy that is worth sharing: In a tough market with a shortage of staff and customers, a smart hotel owner will shut one floor entirely and focus on maintaining service quality on the remaining floors. If he instead lets overall service quality drop, he will not survive in a reviews-driven market. International schools are not that different.

Callido Learning partners with international schools to deliver measurable gains in critical thinking, research and argumentative writing skills. To learn about their programmes or skills-based diagnostic tests, write to info@callidolearning.com

 

 
The announcement made by CBSE on February 3, 2017 stood in good stead for previous NEET candidates across the country; their past attempts will not be counted while applying for the National Eligibility and Entrance Test (NEET) exams from this year onwards. However, with this, the competition is bound to increase imperatively. A jaw-dropping 10 lakh candidates are expected to attempt India's most important medical exam in May, 2017. This increased competitiveness has made dropping and repeating a more alluring option for medical aspirants. To crack the exam next year, students and their mentors will require a specific strategy and the right approach. Listed below are some tips for NEET aspirants who are going to drop or repeat this year:

Identify your shortcomings: In order to attain success, students need to analyse their strengths and weaknesses and devise a method to make the most out of them. They need to create a strong roadmap to gradually eliminate or, at least, minimise the impact of such limitations. For eg., if a student has good retention and weak problem solving skills, he/she must constantly learn and revise theoretical questions to increase their score while also alloting more time to exercising numerical questions from recurring concepts.

Time management: Time management is a key attribute for cracking any competitive exam. Despite having a great potential, students often fail to crack an examination because of their misconception of not having ‘adequate time’. Create a timetable and a timeline for course completion and revision and work towards its strict implementation right from day one. Optimally manage time and make room for physical exercise and performance enhancing activities such as meditation. You can also opt for an online coaching crash course instead of traditional classes if you have attended them during the previous year. This will not only help you save time and prove cost-effective, but will also help avoid a lot of distractions.

Be unconventional: Instead of needlessly memorising concepts and theorems, look towards their application in objective questions and numerical problems. Also, do not stick to old study patterns. Utilise smart pedagogical methods to stay ahead of the curve. Many questions can be solved using shortcut techniques. Students must note down all such techniques and regularly revise them. Learning creative methods to solve questions faster, such as Vedic mathematics, and using learning aids for retention can also be beneficial for students. Steer clear of monotonous study patterns and focus on their weaker areas first. Gradually advance to the stronger segments.

NCERT-based preparations: Your basic strategy must not sway from NCERT course books. Around 70 to 80 percent of the overall questions in such examinations either come straight from NCERT textbooks or are their advanced derivatives. Make sure that you master each and every topic, concept, and question in it before graduating to reference books. Also, constantly revise them later.

Question banks and Mock Test papers: Pick up new question banks and solve as many problems as possible. If you are planning to drop this year, then do so after completing each and every concept. Doing so will enable you to effectively apply your learnings. It will also help you to explore unique set of questions and new approach methods. Begin with solving 50 questions in 50 minutes and progressively increase speed. While attempting mock test papers, stick to the time limit and complete the question paper within the designated time frame. If a particular subject is more demanding, then give it additional time during the test and work on that area later. There is no strategy better than regularly challenging yourself and identifying your shortcomings.

Additional reference books: The importance of additional question banks and mock tests at this juncture is immense. However, the same cannot be said with regards to reference books. Since you might have used a few reference books previously, you must follow the same suit this time. Hence, you must not get tempted to pick up additional reference books and study materials at this stage. Doing so can complicate your approach technique and increase confusion as different books employ different techniques for same question. Additionally, limited number of books will also give you more time for revision and strengthen your skills.

Stay motivated: Last but not the least, do not get caught up by the entire course that you have to revise once again. It might seem like a daunting task to give it a fresh start, so make sure that you remain motivated. Your goal is all the more achievable considering the fact that you also have experience to benefit from. Prepare yourself psychologically and make sure that you adhere to your timeline. It will boost your confidence significantly. With more than a year remaining, it is much easier for you to crack NEET examination. However, this is only possible if you firmly stick to your strategy right from the beginning.


The author is Aakash Chaudhry, director, Aakash Educational Services Pvt. Ltd
 
Progress in modern education has direct implication on the standard of living reflected by a nation, and this is fittingly justified through the rapid development of India in recent times. The education system in India has evolved in a remarkable way, to become one of the largest establishments of its kind in the world, surging the stability in economy and the wholesome development of general intellect amongst its citizens. Today, education in India is seen as one of the key ways to upward social mobility, being utilised as a powerful tool to build a society based on knowledge and progressive temperaments, while upholding the tender framework values and ethics intact.  Considerable improvements, in both quantitative and qualitative terms have created a space for a positive outlook towards the society, in general. However, to augment education to a higher level, it is imperative for educational bodies to undertake modern age steps - one of the most prolific being diversity in classroom.

The modern Indian society is diverse in its cultural roots, with inclusion of expats settling down to explore better opportunities and views diversity in a positive light. Schools are the initial enablers of progress and a healthy perspective towards life and hence, diversity needs to be promoted in classrooms to as it gives people the chance to experience and imbibe a plethora of cultural connotations. The explosion of global atmosphere in a developing country like India fuels this growth of diversity to a great level that one can denounce the myriad diaspora that is blooming, even in the most remote pockets of the nation.

Why is diversity important?

With the advancement of connectivity and modern amenities, students come to the classroom with different backgrounds, sets of experiences, cultural contexts, and world views. A diverse student population results in providing a common platform to people of various ethnicities. This inculcates the importance of cultural appropriation and teaches young minds to view people on the basis of their nature, not race.  A diverse organisation is one that values the difference in people, through recognising individuals with diverse backgrounds and upbringings, which enable them to come forth with fresh perspectives. Diversity in classroom encourages one to identify and leverage these differences for the unified good.

Diversity has been prevalent in the classrooms, but in today’s age it is imperative to utilise it in a more positive way. Teachers should encourage to value diversity and cultural sensitivity amongst their students as one learns to respect human life in its truest form through inculcation of cultural diversity, while acclimatising themselves with novel customs of the world. Additionally, issues of diversity play a significant role in how students and teachers view the importance of the classroom and its learning. Identifying and thinking through notions of difference and how they affect the classroom allow both, students and teachers to see the classroom as an inclusive place.

How can teachers contribute?

It is essential for teachers to provide students with an environment that is conducive to learning. As when a student feels uncomfortable or low in confidence, then their chance of success in the respective class dramatically decreases. Hence, it is imperative for students to learn and use diversity to the greater good.

Here are a few techniques that teachers can harness in their approach to promote diversity:

- Taking the patience to acclimatise oneself about the students' background, interests, and learning style. This will allow teacher to create an environment that can be easily directed and assimilated to each individual student. Every student has a story to tell and it is for the teachers to listen to them. Young minds can relate to those who take time to listen and provide credible responses.

- Allotting time for the students to learn about each other and gain an appreciation for the diversity they bring to the classroom.  Functioning in teams encourage students to assess the strengths of the team members and channel it, in order to produce the best possible results. Team building is essential to function in the real world, as assimilating strengths of various individuals helps in working towards a common goal at a rapid pace.

- Bringing in people of different ethnicities, from varied walks of life, to class as resources. This will help students get familiar with the variety in customs and beliefs. Therefore, teachers should proactively seek people from diverse backgrounds in order to give ample opportunities to students to learn from different personalities. It is important for students to look-up to someone as role models. These role models would turn out to be relevant framework for the students to base their life decisions on.

- Showing zero tolerance over bullying, teasing, and other put-down behaviour, at any time in the classroom. Racial bullying has percolated through the early eras of segregation and Klu Klux Klan, with people being prosecuted for belonging to a different race. In modern era, such extreme measures are not taken, yet psychological and verbal versions of it remain prevalent. Hence, today, it is important to understand that a community is built on trust and mutual respect, something that can be imparted to children from classroom levels. Implementing a "zero tolerance" for anything that is disrespectful, hurtful, or intolerant of diversity instils a sense of abhorrence in the direction of any behaviour that would be considered as a sign of hostility towards others.

- Encouraging student participation through intrinsic involvement with the curriculum. Participation can be promoted by encouraging students to respond to questions within their ideologies or personal experiences. It can also be introduced by asking students to debate on issues and practice role-play. Involving students in innovative methodology does not only provide variety in instructions but also enhances retention and assimilation of learning.

Teachers already have a number of roles in the classroom, yet, valuing diversity is one of the most important ones he/she must fulfill. With such progressive measures, one can uphold the delicate framework of diversity and openness while promoting humanity at large. The fabric of our society on the amalgamation of various perspectives and promoting diversity helps in maintaining that.
 
By 2025 India will have 119 million 18 to 22 year olds and that means India will have the largest student population anywhere in the world by that time. India’s education institutes will face many challenges if they are to be able to meet the demand for places from students of all types from vocational to highly academic and at standards acceptable to both students and the government.

Education institutes in India
are set for a complete overhaul in the way that they offer education to the burgeoning population of young people who want to gain the advantages that a good education offers.

Education has never been more expensive to provide than it is today: right now, the amount of student loans issued through banks alone is around 700 billion rupees. Education institutions need to make sure that they can offer real value for money to their students and graduates when they enter the job market. Something they are not always succeeding at achieving.

Here are five trends for education in India that can be seen right now:

1. Online learning will move from a marginal activity and into the mainstream. Today’s youth are happy to use their mobile phones and Internet connection for many activities. In the coming years, they will be using Internet connectivity to carry out their education from their homes rather than from traditional education institutes.

2. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will tend to reduce the role of traditional teaching and mentoring roles. We might expect to see virtual mentors who will, in time, not even be human but will be an interface to other students and electronic libraries.

3. Traditional forms of learning such as lectures, classes and examinations will change, probably in ways that we cannot yet imagine. Classes are likely to be disaggregated into smaller units blended together to enable students to acquire particular competencies.

4. Virtualised teaching will enable classes to become tailored much more closely to a student’s individual needs and even preferred learning styles. Content can be curated from multiple sources rather than an individual lecturer carrying material to crowds of students. Learning will increasingly move away from the classroom and may become part of an ongoing process of learning whilst in employment.

5. Degrees will become much less important than they have been, Instead HEIs will start offering short courses with individual certifications to meet the changing demands of employers and students in a pattern of lifelong learning. Rather than the traditional fixed curricula and credit accumulation students will engage in agile learning, moving in and out of education over many years with courses centered upon competences and skills rather than book learning.

The successful Indian education institutes will be those that are proactive in their development and growth. Success will come from their own innovation. From training their own staff to provide the new forms of teaching and in developing the required, short courses with clear learning outcomes and measurable results.