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The changing dynamics of Indian education system

In the post-Covid ‘study at home’ era, online classes and digital content for students seems to be gaining prominence. In this scenario, reimagining the education system as well as making information and technology available to all key stakeholders is essential to make everyone across the board future-ready.

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They say that the pen is mightier than the sword. However, with Covid-19 turning our lives topsy-turvy, neither the pen nor the sword seems to be of any use anymore, having been deftly replaced by the keyboard and the screen! Online learning has come as a ray of hope in these dreary times. When online classes were announced by schools last year, parents had been relieved to know that the education of their children would continue. Or, at least, they would be ‘occupied’ for a few hours – precious time that was being ‘wasted’ playing games and doing household chores would be replaced by the much needed studying, a top priority for most Indian parents.

With the new NEP 2020, there is a lot of confusion over teaching and learning, and the online teaching mode makes matters more complex. At this time, workshops to suit the ‘new normal’, in terms of the teaching-learning process, mentorship, NEP and what to expect from it, and many other topics, have become an integral part of training for educators across the board. There is also a lot of emphasis now on the teaching of languages, physical education, art and craft, and other practical subjects like science and music online because these are not just concept-based, they also have to be shown and observed and practised.

However, when we talk about online education, or even education per se, the three stakeholders have always been the school, the students, and the parents. But who is that one major player that has been hugely overlooked? The publishing fraternity!

Publishers have always played a major role in the Indian education system, but during the pandemic, they have been the real silent heroes behind the scenes. After numerous emails sent to parents, online classes began on platforms like Zoom, Google Classrooms and MS Teams. However, glitches became apparent soon – the obvious skill gap between the digital-age students, who are almost born tech-savvy, the relatively unskilled parents and teachers with their traditional approach to education, other challenges like homework, assessments, notebook corrections, and technological hurdles like making presentations for each class, ensuring participation of each child, ensuring that they have enough to do at home using worksheets, activities, stories to watch on YouTube, and so on. For parents, work multiplied manifold –taking care of the household, cooking, cleaning, sifting through numerous mails and reports, Zoom meetings, children’s homework and activities, etc. And this is where educational publishers stepped in. They rose to the occasion and provided online content through e-books and digital content like animated learning material, assessments, test generators, teacher training workshops, career counselling webinars and workshops for parents, and much more.

The virtual launch of a Marathi series called Saptrang for classes I through VIII by an educational publisher is one such example. It accommodated around 800 teachers of Marathi nationwide. The panel was moderated by an expert on the language and the event was about the practical usability of the books as well as the digital content that could be used in everyday classroom sessions, along with how the series aligns itself to the new NEP. The author of the series, Dr Manjusha Sanjay Swami, said, “Since life must go on with or without the pandemic, a virtual launch is an exceptional idea. It was executed with absolute precision, which was perfectly managed through a slide show, a Q&A session, followed by an interaction with many teachers, parents and students, without a glitch. Through this course, the four skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing will get developed at every stage of their learning, through extensive learning tools like animation, language games, and so on. The series also contains teaching aids which will help a teacher impart more knowledge regarding a chapter with fun exercises, discussions and thinking activities for students.”

Shammi Manik, CEO of a leading Indian educational publisher, says, “These are anxious times and it is imperative that we as partners in learning reach out to as many educators, parents and children in terms of giving them complete information about the rapidly changing education landscape while also addressing their concerns. Through the online mode, we have gotten much closer to our audience and they are able to reach out to us far more easily.”

However, with the internet being flooded with webinars and workshops, the content which looked great initially, seems to have lost some of its sheen now. Reasons for this include content becoming repetitive and too easily accessible on different channels. Therefore, managing content – be it in terms of e-books, worksheets, videos, webinars – must be carefully regulated so as to ensure that it is consumed by the maximum number of people while retaining its impacts. This is also a reminder that innovation is needed constantly for keeping the target audience engaged and ensuring that value is delivered at each step.

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Educationally Speaking

Eight simple takeaways for success in life and work

These stories may not be new but if followed they can be life-changing. They remind us how small changes can make big differences in our lives.

Priyanka Mehta

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Being an efficient Principal is not a job. It’s a way of life! You must always keep the teacher alive within the leader and vice versa as each fires the other. These stories are not new nor have been written by me. They have been assorted from various books and sources on the Internet. They have, over the years, inspired me and have been used at various training platforms. The takeaways are simple but important. We know we must do certain things in a certain way, but we tend to forget. They have been put together here for your easy reading.

#1 ANECDOTE

Once a mother decided to take her young boy, who had become addicted to eating sugar, to Gandhiji for help. After a scorching tiring journey, she finally reached Gandhiji’s ashram and asked him to tell her son to stop eating sugar as it wasn’t good for his health. Gandhiji refused to help at that time and asked the mother to bring the child back to him after two weeks. The mother was confused and upset and took the boy home. Two weeks later, she came back. This time Gandhiji looked directly at the boy and said, “You should stop eating sugar. It is not good for your health.” The boy nodded his head and promised he wouldn’t. The boy’s mother was puzzled. She asked, “Why didn’t you tell him that two weeks ago when I brought him here?” Gandhiji smiled and said, “Two weeks ago, I was eating a lot of sugar myself.”

Takeaway: Leaders must model the behaviour they ask of their subordinates.

#2 ANECDOTE

A gentleman was once walking through an elephant camp when he noticed that the elephants weren’t being held by chains. All that was holding them back from escaping the camp was a small piece of rope tied to one of their legs. The man stood there, completely confused. The elephants could easily escape from captivity using their strength to break the rope. But instead, they weren’t even trying at all. Curious and wanting to know the answer, he asked a trainer nearby why the elephants were just standing there and never tried to escape. The trainer’s answer was an eye-opener. He said, “When they are very young and much smaller, we use the same size rope to tie them. At that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.” The only reason that the elephants weren’t breaking free was that over time they believed that it just wasn’t possible.

Takeaway: Believing you can become successful is the most important step in actually achieving it.

#3 ANECDOTE

Many years ago, in a small Italian town, a small business owner owed a large sum of money to a loan-shark. The loanshark was a very old, unattractive man who liked the businessman’s daughter. He decided to offer the businessman a deal that he would wipe out the debt if he could marry the businessman’s daughter. Needless to say, this proposal was met with a look of disgust. The loan-shark then thinking smart said that he would place two pebbles into a bag, one white and one black. The daughter would then have to reach into the bag and pick out a pebble. If it was black, he would marry the girl, and the debt would be wiped. But if it was white, the debt would be wiped, and the daughter wouldn’t have to marry him. Standing on a pebble-strewn path in the businessman’s garden, the loan-shark bent over and picked up two pebbles. While he was picking them up, the daughter noticed that he’d picked up two black pebbles and placed them both into the bag. He then asked the daughter to reach into the bag and pick one. The daughter naturally had three choices; refuse to pick a pebble from the bag, take both pebbles out of the bag and expose the loan-shark for cheating or pick a pebble from the bag fully aware it was black and sacrifice herself for her father’s freedom. She drew out a pebble from the bag, and before looking at it, ‘accidentally’ dropped it into the midst of the other pebbles on the path. She then said to the loan-shark, “Oh, how clumsy of me. Never mind, if you look into the bag for the one that is left, you will be able to tell which pebble I picked.” The pebble left in the bag was obviously black. As the loan-shark didn’t want to be exposed, he had to play along with the trick and pretend as if the pebble that the daughter had dropped was white. He lost the marriage proposal and had to clear the debt as well.

Takeaway: Smart, out-of-the-box thinking can sail you through tough situations.

#4 ANECDOTE

Four frog friends were travelling through the woods. Two of them accidentally fell into a deep pit. When the other two frogs crowded around the pit and saw how deep it was, they told the two frogs that there was no hope left for them. However, the two frogs decided to ignore what the others said, and they attempted to jump out. This time they fell back harder and also bruised themselves. The two frogs on the top shouted harder and told them to stay safe inside, as jumping out was not possible. Eventually, one of the frogs, believing what the others had to say, gave up. However, the other frog continued to jump as hard as he could. The three frogs now yelled at him to stop and accept his destiny to die in that pit. But he jumped even harder this time and made it out, leaving one behind in the pit. When he got out, the other frogs said, “Did you not hear us?” The frog explained to them that he was deaf. He thought they were encouraging him the entire time.

Takeaway: Your thoughts are very powerful. They will make anything happen, no matter what people say.

#5 ANECDOTE

There was once a farmer who sold a pound of butter to a baker. One day the baker decided to weigh the butter to see if he was getting the right amount. When he weighed it, he found the butter of less than the ordered quantity. Angry about this, he took the farmer to court. The judge asked the farmer if he was using any measure to weigh the butter. The farmer replied, “Sir, I am primitive. I don’t have a proper measure, but I do have a scale.” The judge asked, “Then how do you weigh the butter?” The farmer replied, “Sir, long before the baker started buying butter from me, I have been buying a pound of bread from him. Every day when the baker brings the bread, I put it on the scale and give him the same weight in butter. If anyone is to be blamed, it is the baker.”

Takeaway: In life, you get what you give. Don’t try and cheat others.

#6 ANECDOTE

In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a roadway. He then hid and watched to see if anyone would move the boulder out of the way. Some of the King’s wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many people loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none of them did anything about getting the stone out of the way. A peasant then came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to push the stone out of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant went back to pick up his vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King explaining that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway.

Takeaway: Every obstacle we come across in life gives us an opportunity to improve our circumstances.

#7 ANECDOTE

One day a man found a cocoon of a butterfly. He noticed a small opening on one side. He sat down to watch the butterfly as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Suddenly it stopped making any progress and looked as if it was stuck. The man decided to help the butterfly. He took a pair of scissors and cut off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly emerged easily, although it had a swollen body and small, shrivelled wings. The man sat there waiting for the wings to enlarge to support the butterfly to fly. But that didn’t happen. The butterfly struggled there, unable to fly, crawling around with tiny wings and a swollen body to ultimately die. The kind-hearted man didn’t understand that the restricting cocoon and the struggle needed by the butterfly to get itself through the small opening were God’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings, thus preparing itself to fly to life.

Takeaway: Our struggles develop our strengths. Without them, we never grow or get stronger.

#8 ANECDOTE

There once was a little boy who had a very bad temper. His father decided to hand him a bag of nails and said that every time the boy lost his temper, he had to hammer a nail into the fence. Conscious of the situation, the boy was shocked to see that he had hammered 37 nails into the fence on the first day. The boy gradually began to control his temper over the next few weeks, and the number of nails he was hammering into the fence slowly decreased. He discovered it was easier to control his temper than to hammer those nails into the fence. Finally, one day when the boy didn’t have to hammer a single nail, he rushed to his father. The father then told the boy to pull out a nail every day he kept his temper under control. The days passed, and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone. The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said, “You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one.”

Takeaway: Control your anger. Don’t say things to people that you may later regret.

The writer is director principal, Sarvottam International School, Greater Noida West. The article is an edited extract from her new book, ‘104 Traits of Highly Successful School Principals’ (Notion Press).

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Educationally Speaking

ABEA TIES UP WITH JOHNS HOPKINS CTY TO BRING ONLINE PROGRAMMES

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The Aditya Birla Education Academy (ABEA) has collaborated with Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY) to offer scholarships for CTY’s online programmes for advanced learners in India. Both ABEA and CTY aim to identify and support the needs of bright young learners in India through these online programmes at reduced rates up to August 2021.

Through this cooperation with CTY, Aditya Birla Education Academy is providing a 5% scholarship on tuition fees and reduction in the application fees up to August 2021.

This scholarship can be availed by only the first 50 advanced learners who apply to ABEA. Students in grades 2 through 12 can qualify through participation in the CTY Talent Search and demonstrating high ability in either quantitative or spatial reasoning (for math and science courses) or verbal reasoning (for humanities and writing courses).

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Educationally Speaking

NURSERY SCHOOL ADMISSIONS IN DELHI TO BE CONDUCTED ONLINE

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The admission process for nursery and other classes across the national capital will start soon. Nursery admissions in private schools in Delhi this year will be held completely online. All schools in Delhi have been closed for primary classes since the last 11 months. The Education Ministry of the Delhi government will now work out a process for the admissions. The school forms will be downloaded and applications will also be submitted online for admissions. The list of the successful applicants will be displayed online and the parents of these students can pay the fees online. However, in government schools, the admission process would be conducted both via online and offline modes. Apart from nursery admission, admissions for other classes in government and private schools would also be started soon.

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Educationally Speaking

CAN CLASSROOM LEARNING RETURN TO NORMAL IN 2022?

Ankit Shyamsukha

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As vaccines undergo trials and others are rolled out across the world, it is expected that a large part of the vulnerable population will be protected against Covid-19 by the end of 2021. While it will take a few years before everyone gets the shot, especially with new strains of the novel coronavirus presenting a fresh challenge, there is still hope of returning to normalcy over the next two years. However, this will bring a major transformation to the education process as it will take the blended approach with both online and offline classes, depending upon the severity of the situation.

HOW THE PANDEMIC HAS AFFECTED EDUCATION

Education has been one of the worst-affected sectors in India during the pandemic. It has thrown a new challenge in every student’s life. The learning process of around 32 crore students in India had come to a halt all of a sudden when the pandemic hit. According to a UNESCO report, about 14 crore primary and 13 crore secondary students were affected. But that is also what made every student more resilient and open to adapting to new challenges. They opted for technological platforms for uninterrupted learning, while many educational institutions moved classes, examinations and internships to the online medium. Teachers assigned work via the internet and delivered lectures via online video conferencing apps. Thus, ovid-19 taught both students and teachers how to emerge victorious.

Even though the scenario was not similar everywhere, it was still a challenge which could be overcome with good internet penetration in rural areas. The government also postponed examinations for secondary and higher secondary classes and conducted them later while adhering strictly to Covid-19 guidelines.

THE EDUCATION SCENARIO IN 2022

Here are some of the major trends which will be observed in the education scenario in 2022. They may also be considered as positive outcomes of the pandemic and lockdown.

A shift towards blended learning: This kind of learning will give students exposure to both online and face-to-face learning. In a recent survey, it has been found out that 59% of students are more motivated to learn through a blended or hybrid mode than with a fully online course or a flipped classroom setting. It gives them the advantage of learning at their own pace and via digital technology. At the same time, virtual learning is often best consolidated by in-person interactions. SO, in many ways, blended learning combines the best of both worlds.

A rise in the use of learning management systems: There is a rising demand for learning management systems among educational institutions, especially for soft copies of learning material. This is providing a great opportunity to the companies which are developing and strengthening the learning management systems.

Though the outbreak of Covid-19 has had many negative impacts on education, educational institutions in India have accepted the challenges and adjusted to the new normal despite the initial hiccups of using technology. They are trying their best to provide seamless support and services to students and continue their education. In fact, it can now be said that the pandemic has brought an opportunity for the Indian education system to transform and enter a new era.

The writer is CEO of ICA Edu Skills.

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Educationally Speaking

Achariya World Class Education explores the role of happiness in education

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Role of happiness in Education

The Indian education system has undergone tremendous changes in the course of history. While factors like its success and failure are open to deliberation, one fact that cannot be ignored is that it had put the students under a mountain of pressure. From the pressure to score well to pressure to outshine in extra-curricular activities, all of it took a toll on students physical and mental well being. As move forward, it is the moral responsibility of each individual to make the New Education Policy address all those concerns for a better future.

Achariya World Class Education recently organised a thought-provoking webinar on the ‘Role Of Happiness in Education’ to understand and suggest how we can transform ourselves and the Indian education system.

In his inaugural remarks, Mr Samyak Chakrabatory, Founder & M.D. of X Billion Skills Lab, who was also the co-host, said, “For companies, students are essentially creators of revenue, for tuition classes- students are a way to attract more students and for schools-students have become mere cohorts that we need to push forward and take them to top the exams. In all of that, somewhere we have forgotten what about the child, what about the students and also moving out of that the role of education is also producing citizens of the country and of the world.”

Elaborating on what does happiness mean especially in the context of happiness, Dr J Arawindhan, Chief Mentor & M.D, Achariya World Class Education, said, “Education is all about expression. When you are able to express yourself in your head and your heart happily, willingly and smilingly; you are able to do things from your head and heart holistically without any limitations, you can see your own possibilities making into peak possibilities of your own expression- That is where the happiness is there in education. Expression should be there; Education should be towards that expression and that expression from the head, heart and hand should be integrated. Expression without the heart, expression without the head and expression without the hand is incomplete expression. Without the combination of these three, you will not have the state of happiness.”

Teachers are delivery mechanism of education. When asked how do we convince the teachers to not create more pressure or anxiety on students, Dr Arawindhan further added, “In context of a classroom, the teacher is like a magician. The interaction between a teacher and the student, the master and the fellow, is what is needed instead of mugging up a book. If we ask for skills, intelligence and expression of individuals, the schooling and the classroom experience would be much more happier. We need an ecosystem for that to happen.”

Speaking about how can schools and colleges transform itself to be a happy environment from an infrastructural point of view and behaviourally from a teacher’s perspective, Mr Biju Dominic, Chairman at FinalMile Consulting, Chief Evangelist at Fractal Analytics, said, “Happiness, from an overall perspective, as far as any activity is concerned, is when I want to do that activity over and over again and that I am looking forward to doing that activity. We say that there will be happiness when students say that ‘oh, I want to learn’ or ‘I want to do that activity again and again. From a brain’s point of view, when I am sort of anticipating something that I really want to do, the chemical that gets released is the dopamine. If dopamine gets released, the brain wants more and more of it. When we create the whole environment of learning, wherein students, teachers, school, parents and the physical environment play a role, happiness really comes alive in the world of education.”

Spiritual and mindfulness coach Shyamal Vallabhjee, highlighting the role of spirituality as an essential ingredient in a schools’ curriculum, said, “if you take one sect of spirituality, for example Buddhism, we talk of awareness and equanimity. Awareness is your ability to draw your thoughts, feelings, and emotions and hold it and equanimity is your ability to distance from it. Through awareness, we cultivate a practice called mindfulness. Mindfulness is your ability to stir your mind. When you stir your mind physiologically, we also relax the body. If you look at the physiology, the hormone and the gut that drives happiness is serotonin. 90% of your serotonin is in your gut. If we can bring a spiritual practice like breath work, mindfulness, gratitude to the forefront of education then what you are doing is that you are ensuring each person is cultivating the art of centering their mind every single time. This doesn’t mean that they would not be unhappy or they will not have anxiety but it means that the frequency at which these incidents happen will reduce quite drastically. Also, it will empower them to reset their mind and body every single time they move out of it.”

He further added, “With respect to happiness, the biggest problem is that we tend to link happiness with success and that is the first thing that education needs to break out of. Until you do not break the invisible thread that somehow got linked, then people will feel that they are on a conveyor belt and they need to continuously do more and more. As a result of that, you are going to make yourself a victim to everything outside. Any person you speak to about happiness, will tell you that happiness starts within.”

When asked how do we incorporate it in a systematic fashion, Shyamal Vallabhjee responded, “In a world of information overload, more important that the habit you cultivate, are the people you choose to listen to because they will reiterate the habits that you need to become the person that you want to. We can change the education system very simply. We try to create a practice where every single class from Grade I to Grade XII, the one minute of their practice is by stilling the mind and then we teach people how to become hypersensitive of how they choose to listen to.”

Watch the entire telecast here: 

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Educationally Speaking

BHABHA ATOMIC RESEARCH CENTRE IS HIRING FOR 105 JRF POSTS: APPLY NOW

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Mumbai: The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Mumbai has released an official notification inviting all the interested and eligible candidates for the award of Junior Research Fellowships at this centre. The BARC Recruitment 2020 for 105 vacancies has started and the last date to apply is January 15, 2021 on the website—barc.gov.in. All the selected candidates will register for PhD in Homi Bhabha National Institute (HBNI a deemed to be University of Department of Atomic Energy). Application fee of 500 is payable at the time of submission of online application. Mode of payment of the application fee is only through online. Application fee is exempted for women candidates and candidates belonging to Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and Person with Disabilities.

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