HT Top Schools Survey: Schooling steps out of the box

  • Omkar Gokhale, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Sep 10, 2014 17:57 IST

At Avalon Heights International School, Navi Mumbai, students are required to maintain complete silence for 35 minutes every week. This, however, isn’t the disciplinary ‘pindrop silence’ teachers usually impose on students. It is an innovative teaching method, where students are taught using Power Point presentations and sign language, in a quiet classroom.

Over the last few years, educationists have used numerous experimental methods to improve students’ skills. The focus has shifted from merely dispensing information to enhancing the learning process. According to the Voice of Teacher Survey-2014 by Pearson, an education publishing and assessment company, 94% teachers said skill and personality development was a critical benchmark for measuring students’ success.

Schools believe the only way to inculcate these skills is by introducing new, and sometimes radical, ways of teaching such as role play, mind maps and experiential learning.

While role play involves the dramatisation of stories in subjects such as history and English literature, mind map is a technique where complex topics are explained to students using diagrams that organise information in a visual manner.

“Mind maps make the learning process quicker, as students just need to glance at the graphical representation to go over the lesson again,” said Seema Buch, principal, Gundecha Educational Academy, Kandivli, where this technique has been implemented.

At Avalon Heights, the 35-minute quiet classroom concept has increased students’ awareness about speech and silence, said teachers. “The method also prompts teachers to come up with innovative ways to communicate and design creative lesson plans. For those 35 minutes, the school resounds with the sound of silence,” said Simi Sharma, director of the school.

Experiential learning is another technique many schools are opting for. At Avalon Heights, for example, during a lesson on mummies from the Egyptian civilisation, students use yards of tissue to create a model. They also try their hand at cartography, by making their own maps, and entrepreneurship, by starting tuck shops. Their introduction to music has been by composing tunes for syllabus-prescribed poetry.

Many schools in the city are constantly upgrading educational practices to foster self-learning among students. But even as activity-based learning has caught the attention of teachers and children, these practices are yet to find a permanent place in the education system.

According to the survey, 61% teachers said exposure and practical learning is an important factor in driving learner outcomes, while 63 % pointed to a mismatch between syllabi and students’ needs. “Innovative learning methods can enhance their interest in academics, while reducing stress,” said Buch.

To give students a chance to explore new fields, NES International School, Mulund, has created a ‘space exploration centre’ on campus. Students from Class 8 to Class 12 can explore space research, through workshops conducted by experts from NASA and competitions to design aerospace colonies. “The exploration centre inspires young students to get into space research. Learning about it through experience helps them understand their goals better,” said R Varadrajan, principal of the school.

According to Anjana Prakash, principal, Hansraj Morarji Public School, Andheri, skill development, innovation and problem-solving approaches should take precedence over annual exams. “It is necessary to have a continuous, performance-based evaluation,” she said.

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