A visionary school director tells us how schools can strategize and implement changes in a world that is challenged by COVID-19.
While most schools in India are scrambling to go online with their teaching, the Suncity World School in Gurgaon established clear strategies and implementation models in place in time. One of the reasons for this could be that their director wants to pluralize education and not standardize it.
“I was quite the math student in school and college,” says Rupa Chakravarty, Director of Suncity World School. “I think this helped me understand students who do not focus in school or who wanted to walk another path. These children think differently so I think this has been a great learning for my life.”
The school community, she says, has been drastically affected by COVID-19. Digital transformation, which was viewed with skepticism a few months ago, has suddenly become essential and the new normal in a sense.
“The pandemic has made us all take this up as a challenge and try something new,”
she says, adding that if anything positive can come out of the pandemic, it is our will to carry on and evolve.
Planning in advance
On 24 March, 2020, the Indian government announced a nationwide lockdown owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most schools were pushed into adopting online classes but Rupa had sprung into action much before the announcement.
“About ten days before the lockdown was officially announced, I had a meeting with the head of the school,” she says. “I proposed that we should work out as to how we are going to teach if the lockdown happens.”
The biggest upside to online learning? The teachers could really mine inter-disciplinary material and deliver superb curriculum implementation. Rupa attributes the smooth transition to the school’s heads of departments, most of whom have been with the school for more than 10 years.
How remote learning is structured
Suncity’s remote learning program is structured very specifically and is outcome driven. “The concept that is going to be taught is called the unit web,” she says. “Out of this, we create a podcast. The podcast is a concept note that we start off with and if a child later wants to recap or understand the concept in a form of synopsis, the podcast is very useful. We also have an online component called the concept initiation. This refers to activities, puzzles, quizzes and more. Then, we have live teaching, which is the concept elucidation. It is a little conventional but the rest of how we teach, especially in the lower classes, is very inter-disciplinary. The final element is closure and we have assignments.”
A student’s interest in inter-disciplinary learning is piqued when they are asked to bring certain material for classes.
A child in a math class, for example, is told to keep matchsticks aside for the class. This triggers curiosity and a zest for hands-on, multisensorial learning despite it being an online medium.
What educators can do to implement online learning
Rupa has many ideas to help other educators ace the online learning game. “Make sure your children are curious,” she says.
“They are already familiar with technology. We need to ensure we have lesson plans that sustain their interest. We should also teach them through multifaceted ways and keep multiple intelligence in mind.”
She states that children’s interest levels do waver during online classes. “It matters how well you have planned your lesson to encourage their interest,” she says. “The lecture method is not going to work. Also, chats are very important. I went to many online classes and I find that the children are chatting so well with the teacher and their peers.”
Rupa constantly keeps in touch with teachers, students and parents. “Every week, we have a meeting online and we have other meetings where almost 45 people are online,” she says. “I also call parents to have a conversation and ask them about how we can evolve further in discipline learning process. We ask for their feedback.”
The many wonders of online learning
Rupa finds that there are so many interesting facets to online learning and one of them is peer interaction. “In a grade 12 class, the students were learning acids and alkali,” she says. “I saw a child writing ‘thank you’ to another child in the chat box for helping him with his doubts. With online learning, student values are also coming to the forefront.”
The school has fine tuned its online program to a large extent and has brought in many layers to the process. Resources like Callido support it in this endeavor.
“Resources like Callido help us develop skills in students, skills that are important even when the books are closed and you leave the institution,”
she says, adding that today, the line between virtual and real classrooms are blurring. Digital natives are used to these intersections and this is when skill-building becomes especially crucial.
Rupa believes that the skills curriculum by Callido comes at a crucial time in human history. The need for such resources, she believes, cannot be undermined and institutes or educators who adapt to the challenges posed by COVID-19 will be the game-changers.