Sunday, November 9, 2014

Honest intentions are not enough to create good schools

Some educators believe that good philosophy ( whether it is of Krishnamurthy or the IB school philosophy of developing global citizens) can itself help produce good schools. Some believe that attractive tools such as activity-oriented schools, experimental schools or Holistic schools itself will produce good schools. Some believe that good teachers alone can produce good schools, so we have teachers starting their own schools like Toto-Chan's teacher Sosaku Kobayashi who could run a school in a train coach. 

However, Good philosophy, Attractive tools and Good hearted teachers alone are not enough to produce good schools, because good schools have to consistently produce good results. All these three threads have to be tied together in a 'Method of teaching'. This is called Pedagogy in the language of educators. 

Without the right design of 'teaching method', even good teachers cannot produce good schools. We need a good pedagogical method to tie the three threads together. Without tying these three elements in one Strand, each individual thread does not produce good schools.

Please see this video of a brilliant pedagogical method designed by Chennai corporation schools in 2005 for primary school. ( ) Although the entire video is of an hour, you can view the video of 15 minutes ( from 6th to 21st minute) to appreciate the brilliant design of Primary school which now runs in all Chennai corporation primary schools. It was initiated by then Chennai Collector M.P. Vijaya Kumar. It synthesises the principles of Activity based school of Rishi Valley schools and Montessori child-centric method in a tightly knitted thread. 

I earnestly request you to spend 15 minutes in seeing this video to appreciate the 4 basic pedagogical principles of designing a good school:

1. Child-centric design of teaching: Child determines the sequence and pace of learning curriculum. Child-centricmethod compels a teacher to teach every child individually, not in a group. When child determines his pace of education, learning is guaranteed. In a teacher-centricdesign of teaching, where a teacher teaches a group of student at his pace, learning is guaranteed to fail.  Despite a wonderful philosophy and brilliant teachers, a school cannot succeed if the pedagogical method is not child-centric.

2. Tools and kits to impart teaching : If you have observed the video carefully, you would observe the cards and pictures for Language material as well as the 100-year old Montessori beads for teaching Mathematics. Observe the use of blackboards which are meant for children. These kits are part of good design. If you have seen any Montessori, you will see the entire set of kits which help a child choose them according to his needs. I have seen many of the wonderful brilliant schools who do not have any tools and kits to impart teaching. Without these tools and kits, the child is unable to self-learn and take guidance when needed.

3. Self-corrective design to detect and correct the mistakes : When a child is trying to learn something,  mistakes are bound to happen. Pedagogical method should be designed in such a way that these mistakes can be detected by the student himself so that he/she can also correct it. This simple principle of design is necessary to ensure that the student does not feel demotivated while making mistakes. Unfortunately, very few pedagogical methods incorporate this principle in the design. I know of one method which incorporates self correction in the design: Montessori method.  

4. Well trained teachers in the designed pedagogical method: Teachers have to be trained in the designed pedagogical method, not just be a good teacher. Although qualities of good teacher, such as self-reflectiveness and empathy, are required in a good teacher, these qualities are not enough to ensure learning. Teacher's qualities are determined by the pedagogical method. For instance, subject-wise knowledge of a subject is more important in teachers in certain pedagogical methods of teaching.


In my last 2 years, I have met many educationists, school founders and teachers. I have been surprised to observe that piece-meal thinking ( that only one element can produce good school) is popular in the world of education. Schools are supposed to produce learning, and they can do this only, if all the elements are synergised together in one strand of pedagogy. Only good teachers, beautiful infrastructure, learning aids such as computers or well articulated philosophy of teaching is not enough to make good schools.

No comments:

Post a Comment