I was recently part of a discussion on how to select a good school for a child. The conversation covered aspects like distance, classrooms, the qualification of teachers and the list of toppers. It’s not surprising as these are largely reflected in the advertisements and literature of most schools.
Distance is a consideration, but should we select an average school next to our home over an extraordinary school a few miles away? Are gleaming classrooms enough?
In the past decade there has been research on how classrooms create a barrier to learning. Classrooms were necessary when schools were meant to educate, say, upcoming factory workers. They were required to receive standardised instructions to carry out standardised tasks. So, the students learnt the same thing, the same way, which is not valid in an era where every child requires personalised learning.
Each child has a different learning style and speed, which is impossible to focus on in a classroom setting. Is having infrastructure enough to produce great sportspersons? The fact is many great sportspersons emerge fighting difficult conditions. This is not to say infrastructure is not important. Are schools in any way responsible for developing a child’s love for sports? Do they help them build the mental and physical toughness required for being a good athlete? Statistically, very few adults continue to play or pursue sport after school.
Having the required qualification can get a person the job of a teacher, but entrusting children in the hands of teachers who don’t have a passion for teaching is an entirely different question. It is appropriate then to understand how teachers are appointed and trained. A school should be assessed on how it delivers and impacts all its students.
The greatest schools have in them traces of extraordinary work done by its students. Further, there are no classrooms, but zones where students work in teams, create and innovate; it’s like the coming together of Google and Lego. Children in these schools do not like leaving them, in fact, some prefer school to a vacation. Scores follow their love for learning. The teachers are inducted through an exhaustive process and trained on a regular basis with participation from parents, the community and professionals. These schools are open for assessment by educators and policymakers.
It’s when the boundaries between the home, school and the real world diminish that great schools and students are born.
Sandy Hooda is co-founder, Vega Schools
The views expressed are personal