Re-imagining Learning

Re-imagining Learning


DR. VANDANA GUPTA | Principal, Euro School, North Campus, Bengaluru
Dr. Vandana Gupta has more than 23 years of experience as a motivator and mentor, both in teaching and administrative capacity in some of the reputed schools. She was a Senior Principal at GEMS Public School, Bhopal and at GEMS International School, Karnal. She was the Founder Principal at Shreejee International School, Sonipat (NCR) and D.A.V Centenary Public School, Karnal (NCR).
Dr. Vandana Gupta is the recipient of many prestigious awards and accolades. ZEE TV Award 2016 as recognition of excellence in the fi­eld of outstanding contribution in the sphere of education, Avantika Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam Award 2018 for the Best Principal, Nation Builder Award 2018 by IITA, are few of them. She is currently the Principal of Euro School, North Campus, Bengaluru.
 
What or who motivated you to become a teacher?
I belong to a family of teachers. My mother was a school principal, her mother was a school principal and my great grandmother was a school teacher so it was something familiar and came easy.
You have taught in schools across the country. How has your experience been so far?
With 23 years of experience behind me now and having worked in both high end and low cost public schools, I think what is worth sharing is the fact that parents in both set ups are discerning, wanting schools that are accountable to them, with high standards and good discipline.
What according to you are some of the challenges that educators face today?
I would here like to refer to quotes from Tony Wagner, author of Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World.
“The world doesn’t care what you know. What the world cares about is what you do with what you know.”
“Students who only know how to perform well in today’s education system—get good grades and test scores, and earn degrees—will no longer be those who are most likely to succeed. Thriving in the twenty fi­rst century will require real competencies, far more than academic credentials.”
Therefore, the biggest challenge is how to re-image learning and education in this new era. The challenge is to know what it means to be well-educated in the 21st century. About how we can better harness human potential in this fast-changing economy. And, the most important and challenging component for educators is choosing the right curriculum which will help children adopt the growth mindset, since the school and the teacher invest so much of time, energy and resources in rolling out the programme.
How important is Arti­ficial Intelligence and technology in schools and classrooms today?
The world has witnessed a forceful impact of technology in the last one decade and the schools have not been left untouched. Arti­ficial intelligence is also fast becoming a part of our daily reality, so we should anticipate that it will make changes in the realm of education too. We can already see effects of implementing AI in manufacturing and healthcare. Surely Artifi­cial Intelligence will impact the education sector positively and benefi­t both teachers and students.
What according to you are the values that an institution should impart in its students to help them face the outside world?
I think you have asked me a very valid question. I have now been a principal for almost 15 years, and I am yet to come across a parent who has ever enquired about the school curriculum ensuring that the child becomes a good human being and is given values to live by. Unfortunately, their concern has always been grades and participation in school competitions.
Even CBSE says that there is the need for education in values. This is due to the fast erosion of values in our country and the state of growing up of children and youth in the age of instant grati­fication, shortcuts, insecurities, fear-based survival and existence.
Even though the world changes rapidly, the values that students need to develop are actually not really much different to those that were taught by the bygone generations. It is just the application of those values in the present education and times have changed.
Showing respect to others, for instance, or caring for the environment are just as important as they ever were – and maybe even more so – but they are now applicable in a variety of new ways. For example:
Teaching students to be respectful of others can now be applied to their behaviour online as well as offline. Students should understand the importance of acting responsibly and respectfully when using forums, social media, or mobile devices.
Similarly, good citizenship can now be equally applied to practicing good digital citizenship, whereby students learn to avoid the misuse of information or to acknowledge and respect others’ right to peace and privacy.
How important are sports and extracurricular activities in school?
Very important! I have been a national level tennis player myself and studied in one of the most reputed boarding schools in the north.
The daily routine constituted getting up at 5 AM and the fi­rst thing you did was go for a cross country run and then get ready for your other school activities and studies. So, having done rigorous sports during my school years, I strongly believe that it is not just about physical fi­tness; it’s about practice, preparation, fair play, perseverance, endurance, right attitude and so much more. The lessons learnt can help you steer the ship – that is your life - aright in good times and through bad times. Like in life, you don’t always come out on top in sports, but you learn to move on gracefully. Therefore, schools must emphasise on sports as essential part of the curriculum.
When it comes to extracurricular activities, I have observed that students who participate in co-curricular activities show a marked improvement in their grades too. This can be attributed to skills they learn, such as better time management, to accommodate their hobbies and class activities, better organisational skills and social skills, and a boost in their self-esteem.
What are some of the skills that schools should focus on developing in children?
In a time that’s changing and developing so rapidly, we struggle to keep up with the pace and the impact of the exponential growth of technology. Children need to be at the forefront and the schools must provide them the enabling environment to develop the 21st century skills such as –
Learning Skills
Literacy Skills
Life Skills
Critical Thinking
Information Literacy
E.Q
Creative Thinking
Media Literacy
Flexibility
Collaborating
Technology Literacy
Initiative
Communicating
 
Social Skills
 
 
Productivity
 
 
Leadership
 
If given a chance to change one thing in the education system today, what would it be and why?
If given a chance, I think every educator would like to re-de­ne the purpose of education as such. The goal of education system should be to create entrepreneurs, innovators, artists, scientists, thinkers and writers who can establish the foundation of knowledge-based economy rather than the low-quality service provider nation that we are turning into. Assessment is another area we need to look at. It’s unjust to judge every child on the
same parameter.
Also, it is high time that the mindset changed and teaching jobs were stopped being considered as safe, well-paying, risk-free and low-pressure jobs. It is high time to encourage a breed of superstar teachers, just like Finland does.
Your message for teacher and educators…
For any business to stay current today, you need to change and that goes for education too. Who will ultimately survive is the one who will have the ability to learn, unlearn and relearn and that goes especially for teachers and educators essentially.
This article was originally published in TheTeacher.in magazine in the month of July, 2019.