Rakhi Mukherjee

Interview: Rakhi Mukherjee, Principal, Utpal Shanghvi Global School

May 11, 2022

The Juhu Parle Education Society’s Utpal Shanghvi Global School (estb.1982) has a reputation for providing holistic learning opportunities to the 3000 students on its rolls. Adding to its current academic bouquet of state board curriculum as well as the Cambridge University certified IGCSE syllabus, the school will also offer the International Baccalaureate Primary Programme (IBPYP) academic year 2022-23 onwards. Principal, Rakhi Mukherjee talks to Dipta Joshi of EducationWorld about the dynamics of  the IB programme and its alignment with India’s new educational policy.  

Q) Tell us about the International Baccalaureate programme Utpal Shanghvi Global School (USGS) proposed to offer its students?

A) Utpal Shanghvi Global School’s proposed International Baccalaureate Primary Programme (IBPYP) offering will cover grades I and II from the academic year 2022-2023. It will offer a learner centric approach based on the premise that students are the agents of their own learning and the teacher is a friendly facilitator providing apt learning simulation and environment. The programme is open to all students, in-house or new.

Q) What are the advantages of an IB programme? 

A) The International Baccalaureate (IB) programme has multiple advantages as it provides an emphasis on personalised teaching and learning. There is scope for student agency as the learner takes ownership of learning which is possible due to the adaptable curriculum framework. Cultural integration and diversity are an integral part of the IB programme based on the belief that it is important to foster cultural awareness and international mindedness in the classrooms. Concept driven understanding is also a major focus of the IBPYP as there is transfer of knowledge and understanding across disciplines and programmes of inquiry.

Its unique pedagogy is student centered and based on a constructivist learning approach. There is provision for implementation of a self-guided curriculum that focuses on experiential learning through exploration, discovery and play.

IB’s transdisciplinary framework enables learners to create connections between various subjects building up conceptual understanding while exploring a relevant concept, issue or problem. The methodology of learning is through inquiry, reflection and synthesis fostering self-efficacy and thereby imparting life skills. Collaborative and interactive  skills that are imparted via the curriculum  make learning more meaningful as the process is attuned to the needs, goals, and strengths of the learners.

The assessments are based on the concept of exhibiting visible learning through PYP exhibitions which depict problem solving, reflective  and decision-making skills of the learners.

Q) USGS already runs a successful Cambridge programme since 2008. Why then introduce the IBPY programme?

A) USGS has always been a visionary, futuristic organisation providing a global platform to our learners, hence the IBPYP offering. The school has a legacy of creating our own narratives and giving the community a team of successful confident young adults. Being a proposed IBPYP school is just another step towards that direction.

In the IB system,  the transfer of learning takes place from one main subject to the rest of the subjects at the same level and at the same time making it a habit for the learner to always internalise and synthesise knowledge and skills of the classroom to the real world. This enables the learner to be a better person, citizen of the nation and world as a whole.

IB’s multidisciplinary and holistic education across the sciences, social sciences, arts, humanities and sports also aligns with the new education policy 2020’s (NEP 2020) call for a multidisciplinary world in order to ensure the unity and integrity of all knowledge. The emphasis is on conceptual understanding rather than rote learning and learning for exams or marks alone.

Q) What should be the guiding factor for parents who have to choose between the Cambridge board and the IBPY programme for their wards?

A) In all fairness comparison between the boards is not a right, rather understanding of the context is important. The teaching-learning approach is different between Cambridge and the IBPY programme. In  IGCSE, subjects are taught as collections of facts and isolated skills whereas in IBPYP subjects are taught as a collection of key concepts contributing to an understanding on how a subject connects to the central idea of a unit of inquiry. The IGCSE curriculum is based on stand-alone subjects as the sole driver for learning which are in isolation from the unit of inquiry. In IBPYP the subjects are focused on the transdisciplinary form of learning making connections between one subject to another in a planned format of units of inquiry.

The IBPYP programme is more learner focused wherein prior knowledge of learners is assessed before selection of subject-based conceptual understanding. Within the IGCSE system, conceptual understanding is viewed only through the lens of age-specific development and subject knowledge.

The delivery of concepts in IGCSE is based on a focused outcome and is teacher-led and subject-specific whereas in IBPYP teaching is student-led and the learners set the goals and timelines to move forward with the pace of learning. So, in the IBPYP, there is provision to focus on differential learning to meet the needs of the learners. The teacher co-constructs the inquiry process using various resources integrating the role of play, environment, subject matter experts, etc.

The other advantage in the IBPYP board is that the assessment requires monitoring, documenting and measuring of the student’s capacity to understand and apply the conceptual understanding across various subjects as well as apply the knowledge in the real-world context.

Q) A common perception amongst parents is that the IB board is more suitable for those planning to study abroad rather than within the country. Comment.

A) There is no such mandate or reason for limiting learners to a geographic area in terms of learning in an era when a lot of international/national and regional academic boundaries are merging and GLOCAL is the way ahead.

Q) What does the IB curriculum framework entail and what will be USGS’s focus area?

A) IB gives schools a broad program of inquiry (POI) and unit of inquiry (UOI) to the schools within which the school frames their own curriculum keeping it flexible to suit the learner needs and keep up with the global demands. In IB the learning does not happen around subjects rather around a central idea and the unit of inquiry that integrates all the subjects. As an institute, we are focusing on developing teaching expertise among the staff so that they can be a right guiding force.

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