Teachers, principals and parents say modern co-curricular classes that teach 3D printing, robotics challenge children in the age of the Internet.
Remember the co-curricular subjects you had as a child — needlework, cookery, a basic Windows primer? Well, you probably know those are now passé.
Today’s kids are dabbling in 3D doodling and 3D printing, robotics, graphic design and animation, contemporary art, product design, writing and publishing, even studying scientific enquiry as part of their optional co-curriculars. The courses range in length from one week to three-year weekend modules, and are conducted by specially trained faculty or experts from the field.
“We’ve been offering more new-age options over the past two years, responding to requests from students and parents, whose input is sought regularly at our school,” says Damayanti Bhattacharya, headmistress of middle school at Cathedral & John Connon, Fort, Mumbai. “Participation is entirely voluntary, but most children sign up for at least two such courses a year.”
At Cathedral, the most popular co-curricular subjects are 3D printing and 3D doodling; at Birla School, Kalyan, it’s computer game development; at JBCN International, Borivli, Nahar International, Andheri, and Oberoi International, Goregaon, the top picks are invention, robotics and animation, and community service research respectively. “This kind of exposure to current technologies and evolving skills turns students into global citizens,” says counsellor Shilpa Pathak. “It facilitates all-round education and multilateral thinking and improves self-confidence.” While most courses start in middle school — around Class 5 — there are courses like robotics that start as early as Class 2. Teachers, principals and parents say the modern co-curricular classes help challenge children in a time when the syllabus remains outdated, while children are exposed to myriad streams of knowledge via the internet.
“Since many are designed keeping in mind principles of core academic subjects such as physics and mathematics, students learn applications of concepts and develop a greater interest in the curriculum,” says Vandana Arora, principal of Nahar International School.
Sometimes the courses complement the curriculum in ways that are entirely new.
JBCN International School, Borivli, for instance, holds classes on scientific inquiry.
“Anu James, head of the science department, helps students identify a problem in their neighbourhood, collect, analyse and interpret data, carry out experiments, and eventually create an invention as a grassroot solution,” says principal Debika Chatterji.
A fresh canvas
A large part of the co-curricular experience is learning by doing, so students create 3D objects, design their own trinkets, even create their own copycat master art.
At DY Patil International School, Worli, students can opt for a year-long course of weekly sessions in contemporary Indian art conducted by the schools art teacher, Ganesh Phalke. Students then get to pick an artist and try their hand at replicating their work. “The school held an exhibition and auction of our artwork and the money we earned will be given to an NGO,” says Class 8 student Aashka Nuwal, whose painting inspired by Satish Gujral was bought by one of the parents. At Children’s Academy School, Kandivli, students learn about India’s many cultures through an in-depth weekend course that stretches from Class 6 to 8, with interactive sessions on dance and music. “We conduct activities and educational excursions,” says principal Sona Dhingra. “Students then form teams, do research and represent different culture, to foster an appreciation of the cultural diversity of our country.”
A co-curricular course is one that uses subjects in the curriculum as its base. A look at some of the most innovative ones being offered at city schools. Signing up is optional, and students can opt out at any point.
Cathedral and John Connon, Fort: 3D doodling, 3D printing and robotics; professionals from the industry teach them to make toys and household products using 3D printers
Birla School, Kalyan: Computer game development
JBCN International,Borivli: Scientific inquiry, innovation, community service research, engineering and design
DY Patil International, Worli: Film-making, digital art, engineering design
Nahar International, Andheri: Robotics and animation
SulochanadeviSinghania, Thane: Community service research and world cuisine
Oberoi International, Goregaon: Author Your Dreams, where students work with a mentor to fulfil a dream — author a book or create an artwork, for instance; community service research
Children’s Academy, Kandivli: Heritage studies, which cover cultures from across the nation. Students represent what they have learnt through dance, music and art
How much is too much for students?
There are some concerns, particularly among parents, that the time, effort and novelty of the new-age co-curricular subjects could be drawing attention away from the curriculum itself.
“My daughter sometimes misses science class because she’s attending sessions on computer game development,” says Namrata Gupte, 35, mother of a Class 9 student at Birla School, Kalyan. “The workshops are held during school hours because that’s when the expert instructors are available. I’m worried that her scores will suffer.”
Some schools are taking note of these concerns. “We try and hold sessions after schools as far as possible,” says Birla School principal Ranjna Jangra.
“We hold extra classes for students if they miss a class for a co-curricular session,” adds Rekha Anand, head of the geography department at Children’s Academy School, Kandivli.
There is also debate over whether schools ought to award credits for these courses, given the time and energy invested.
“Students should certainly get marks for these subjects,” says Nihal Chhadha, 40, whose son is a Class 7 student at Sulochanadevi Singhania School in Thane, which offers co-curricular classes in community service and world cuisine.
His principal, Revathi Srinivasan, smiles. “Not all activities can be done for credits,” she says. “Some are powered by a student’s enthusiasm. Adding marks to such courses would turn them into a competition and make them lose their charm.”
Educationists say the fact that these courses are non-competitive actually helps students focus on the experience, think and process information, rather than scrambling to learn by rote and reproduce as ordered.
“Adding credits to such courses would put undue pressure on the students and hamper joyful learning,” says Vasant Kalpande, former chairperson of the Maharashtra state board for secondary and higher secondary education. “The curriculum will certainly need to be updated, in phases, but some elements of learning benefit from the creativity that schools and students can bring to them outside the texts and tests framework.”