Old schools of thought | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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Old schools of thought

During the monsoon, an earthworm crawls into a nursery classroom. Oohing and aahing, the children stop their block activity and huddle around the wriggly visitor, reports Kiran Wadhwa.

mumbai Updated: Oct 11, 2009 01:26 IST
Kiran Wadhwa

During the monsoon, an earthworm crawls into a nursery classroom. Oohing and aahing, the children stop their block activity and huddle around the wriggly visitor.

But the teacher claps her hands to draw their attention and sends them back to their seats. She calls the maid to get rid of the worm and continues her lesson.

“This is the wrong approach,” said Swati Partari, a PhD student at SNDT University’s human development department who helped with a three-year study on 250 teachers across seven national-board schools in the city that claim they appeal to the multiple intelligences that psychologists believe humans possess (See box).

“The earthworm crawling in had generated so much interest that it was the best time to teach the children about earthworms,” she said.

“The earlier activity would have anyway become ineffective. This is called incidental learning.”

This is among many incidents observed by the researchers that indicated that these schools did translate their theories into practice

effectively, concentrating on reading and writing that use just linguistic intelligence.

Yet some children may learn better though music, others through art.

“I always give the example of Lata Mangeshkar,” said Rita Sonawat. “If one were to give her a traditional cognitive IQ test, she might not emerge a star, but if a concept, be it in science or math, is taught through music she would grasp it much better.”

The department therefore trained the 250 teachers who took part in the study to identify and address different types of intelligence.

“Apart from altering our curriculum, we learnt to consciously identify in what way a particular student grasps a concept better,” said Avani Ganasia, a playschool teacher who was part of the workshop.

City schools, however, face constraints.

“We have so many children to handle so to allow each their freedom of expression is difficult,” said Kinjal Shah, a nursery teacher.

Schools also tend to be rigid about sticking to their curricula.

“Chain playschools send a standard curriculum across the country and not adapt them to the social background of children,” said Reeta Sonawat, who headed the study. “So you have a child in Kolhapur learning about hot-cross buns, something he or she will never see or eat.”

Parents can therefore play a big role.

Kamal Mukunda, an educationist whose book on learning What Did You Ask at School Today was recently released, believes the essential support begins with parents.

“The little bit of innovation is usually restricted to the pre-school level,” she said.

“At the primary level it is back to pen and paper intelligence. Few parents want their children to become potters or musicians. They’ll support these activities till a certain age, but eventually want them to join an IIT or IIM.”

“But there is a change in India now,” said Mukunda, who teaches and helps run an alternative school called Centre for Learning outside Bangalore.

“A small but significant part of society does accept that happiness is not defined merely by salaries, and that there are other avenues for their children.”