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Leaders who can revive Indian Education – Kiran Bir Sethi

EducationWorld June 2020 | Magazine

Kiran Bir SethiKiran Bir Sethi
Founder, Design for Change

An alumna of the prestigious National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, Kiran Bir Sethi is promoter-director of the Riverside School (estb.2001) and founder of Design For Change (DFC), a co-curricular experiential learning programme which encourages class III-X children worldwide to design and implement socio-economic development programmes in their school neighbourhoods. Since its launch in 2009, DFC has attracted participation from 25 million children in 72 countries around the world.

Riverside and DFC Covid-19 response.

At Riverside, we quickly embraced the online medium to ensure learning continuity for all our children. In less than ten days, our teachers put together an online learning programme featuring selected modules and designed a balanced curriculum incorporating self-directed learning and parental involvement.

DFC has also responded amazingly to the Covid-19 pandemic. Our partner in Singapore has started an initiative #dfcconnect, to get children from different parts of the world to share their anxieties and optimism. We have initiatives from Spain and South Africa on ‘mindfulness’ and ‘course to action from young adults’ as immediate responses to serve communities in this time of crisis.

Major challenges confronting K-12 education in the new Covid-19 era.

This is the first time 1.5 billion children are out of school worldwide. Though education has transitioned to blended learning, online is not a substitute for learning in conventional classrooms. Moreover, only 8 percent of children have access to the Internet in India. This is a big challenge and we need great creativity in our response to this crisis.

Fees waiver/deferment circulars.

The debate on government circulars is not a battle on who’s right or wrong. Offering relaxations is a wise move. It is important to be sensitive during this crisis.

Top 3 proposals for reviving K-12 education in India.

The first imperative is intensive digital literacy training for teachers. Second, there should be greater collaboration between schools. For instance in Ahmedabad, we have a coalition of schools to support and learn from each other. Third, there should be fluidity in education to remove any kind of imagined or perceived boundaries, in terms of people, time or expertise.

Future plans.

In our journey forward, Riverside School would like to become a digital savvy and collaborative institution. Ditto DFC. Currently, DFC India is working with UNICEF to introduce social-emotional learning skills in government schools. We plan to continue sharing our resources with all who can benefit from collaborating with us.

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