Conclave @ Lucknow


Spirit of teaching unleashed at
The Progressive Teacher Conclave in Lucknow

The northern chapter of The Progressive Teacher Conclave 2016 was held in Lucknow on the theme – Making a Difference through School Education. Organised on November 19, 2016, the content of the conclave consisted of a keynote address by an eminent educationist, along with two very interesting panel discussions. Hundreds of delegates comprising teachers, principals, educationists, school heads, among others thronged the event.

The onset of the conclave was marked by a brief note on S Chand Publishing, the host of the event, and was presented by K M Thomas, Business Head of the group. He mentioned that S Chand Publishing is not just about publishing books, but helping the teaching fraternity to meet their objectives. This publisher boasts of more than 13,000 academic book titles catering to 20 million students. K M Thomas informed the audience of some ‘fresh’ ventures of S Chand Publishing.

Dr Sunita Gandhi, Chief Academic Advisor, City Montessori School (Lucknow)
Dr Sunita Gandhi,
Chief Academic
Advisor, City
Montessori School

According to KM Thomas, S.Chand Publishing helps empower the teaching fraternity through their books, among which some worth mention are: The Grammar Gate; Science for IX and X by Lakhmir Singh; Mathswiz; Maths Today (Revised); New Computer Series; ICSE History Civics; New Atlas, and others. He further mentioned that they always look forward to building closer and stronger association with education service providers who believe in taking learning and education ahead.

In her welcome speech, Rita Wilson, Editor of The Progressive Teacher, started with a famous quote from HG Wells, ‘Civilization is a race between education and catastrophe’. Let us learn the truth and spread it as far and wide, for truth is the greatest weapon we have. Being a teacher for over the last 40 years Rita feels a high when teaching. According to her the wealth she has earned over the years is not in terms of money but goodwill of people and relationships with the students.

‘Man doesn’t live by bread alone’; one needs something more to live by. As educationists, we must understand the impact of teaching and learning. People fear globalization. We must teach our children the skills of the 21st century like communication, sustainability, collaboration, etc,’ conveyed Rita, quoting words of Prof Richard Howard who said schools must have clear idea of what needs to be done—be it from the appointment of best teachers to improving children’s learning skills.

Rita mentioned that teachers are the greatest asset of schools and humanity. ‘They (teachers) are our hope for tomorrow; they shape the future of our children. We as teachers must invest in ourselves to upgrade the skills of our children, making every moment they spend in the classroom meaningful for a bright tomorrow. The most essential part of education is not books, or school infrastructure or principal, but the teachers,’ she said.

In her keynote address, Dr Sunita Gandhi, Chief Academic Advisor, City Montessori School (Lucknow) spoke on the theme ‘Making a Difference through School Education’. She said, ‘There is a world of potential in a child; but we are not doing justice to identify it, because we still use those methods of teaching we used in the 1990s. The difference between incremental change and paradigm shift is that between a landline telephone and a mobile phone. With the mobiles we have come across incremental change every year. But in terms of education, no incremental change has taken place over a period of time.’

‘How old is the blackboard?’ Dr Sunita asked. ‘200 years old, but we still use it’, she said, adding that the teaching methods are outdated therefore no progress is visible. She argued said changes should be incremental and progressive. Incremental change is necessary and what we need to change is a long list: teaching front; assessments that judge; preparing students for jobs that do not exist; comparing students with others; exam-to-exam cycle; rushing through syllabus; focus on whole class, but not individual; old ways of teaching (verbal, listening), among others.

As of now, the scenario is, teachers are teaching content and not skills. In this, she further listed some areas where incremental changes are required, such as, too much homework that has no impact; late feedbacks; looking at the imperfections only; assessing children when they are not ready; teaching system; delayed extrinsic rewards and immediate punishments.

When it came to finding out which part affects the student’s future the most, Dr Sunita pointed out ‘teacher and other staff; curriculum and assessment; process. We are not learners but we should be learners. A teacher’s experience of twenty years is of no use if one-year experience is repeated 20 times,’ she explained, adding that systems need to be changed. Everybody should think about it.

She asserted, it is very well said by Albert Einstein: Insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results. We must do things differently to achieve different results. Trust and motivation are lacking; love and care is missing.

Four building blocks of education, according to Dr Sunita, are Universal Values, Global understanding, Excellence in All and Service to Humanity. She said that schools must be the lighthouse to society where standards must be both set and met.

Panel Discussion 1: ‘Education for Living or Education for Life’

+ Lt Col (Retd) A Sekhar-Principal, Atul Vidyalaya, Gujarat

+ CA McFarland- Principal, La Martiniere School, Lucknow
+ Punita Nehru- Principal, Sri Satya Sai School, Indore
+ Aditya Nath Mubayi- Author and Quizmaster

CA McFarland, Aditya Nath Mubayi, Lt Col (Retd) A Sekhar and Punita Nehru
CA McFarland, Aditya Nath Mubayi, Lt Col (Retd) A Sekhar and Punita Nehru

At the opening of the Panel 1 Discussion on the topic ‘Education for Living or Education for Life’, C A McFarland, Principal of La Martiniere School (Lucknow) said – what are we doing in schools? We ask our children to study for ten hours a day. When will they dream? Give them the freedom to dream. Sitting and talking doesn’t make any sense if we still complain of 60 percent marks as student score. Character building is not about praying to all the gods of diverse communities. It should be sports and all co-curricular activities. Earlier marathons were held and even those who came last were appreciated. Whether a child stands alone or with a team, what’s the difference? We are holding on to something that is rapidly decaying. It’s time for arbitration, he explained.

‘Where is our parenting? Are we fit to be parents?’- to these questions, C A McFarland replied that education for a living for a child is very important. If you and I are fit to do the job for which we get paid that is what matters. In the context, Lt Col (Retd) A Sekhar, Principal, Atul Vidyalaya (Gujarat) said, children have to learn, re-learn which is not good. In some places, it’s a crime to let children study after 10:30 at night. He took up the example of Abraham Lincoln who failed everywhere, but became the role model of Barack Obama today. It’s not only IQ, but being a good human that is important, he explained.

The second speaker at the session, Aditya Nath, who talked about difference between knowledge and information, stated that something could be ‘information’, but giving reasons for that is ‘knowledge’. Nothing can be taught, it can be learnt through the inner self, he asserted. According to him, a teacher’s role is to make sure that children learn. No man is an island; you have to better yourself if you want to live in a better society, he urged.

Punita Nehru, Principal, Sri Satya Sai School (Indore) shared, when somebody asks me ‘how should I be referred to’, the answer is – ‘24×7 educator’. For most women, I am a mother first then a daughter-in-law, then a wife and a teacher in spare time. But first I am a teacher, then a mother. What is education? What is its purpose? What we pursue is correct or not? Answering these crucial questions, Punita said the system is hypocritical; we talk and continue to do wrong. We equate education with academics—that’s not right. The percentage-based admissions are taken and the rest are rejected. Till we continue to do that we will suffer. Knowledge is imparted but it changes, what we read in books changes. But what is fact is not changeable. Education for life has an education for living in it, she stated.

In her success mantra, Punita mentioned that success stories come from average people, therefore we need to bring the changes that would change the mindsets of parents as well as change the policies and there is need for educators to change themselves too. Future generations are ahead of us so they must be set free to follow their dreams. Unity in diversity should be the aim, she explained, adding, we nurture children, but love should be practiced. If you love your children, it can do wonders. Encourage, motivate, love. Mindset of teachers must be changed; monotonous way of teaching should be stopped. You don’t get success with IQ, you need EQ + IQ, she said.

Panel Discussion 2: ‘Value Systems in The Changing Educational Scenario’

+ Virendra Kapoor, founder, Orange Ivy Play Schools, Pune

+ Dr Krishna Gupta- Director, Patanjali Group of Institutions, Allahabad
+ Susmita Basu- HOD at Quality Assurance and Innovations Department (QAID), City Montessori School (CMS), Lucknow
+ Rita Wilson- Editor, The Progressive Teacher, New Delhi

Virendra Kapoor, Dr Krishna Gupta, Susmita Basu and Rita Wilson
Virendra Kapoor, Dr Krishna Gupta, Susmita Basu and Rita Wilson

Topic for the Second Panel Discussion was ‘Value Systems in The Changing Educational Scenario’. In this session, panelists discussed things that revolved around ‘what is taught in PG should be taught in KG’. The Moderator Virendra Kapoor said we are bound as teachers; we must give importance to small things. Punctuality and sense of responsibility should be the hallmark of teachers. There is urgent need to change the current scenario where dishonest people are rewarded, but honest people suffer. Instead of saving tigers, we should save the honest man. Values can be taught in schools. Narayan Murthi, Ratan Tata, Asim Premji are good examples of it. Parents play a very important role in making a child a bright student. But we don’t want to change. Only paying fee to the school does not make a horse out of a donkey. Workshops for parents should be conducted, he appealed to schools.

Dr Krishna Gupta said teachers are silent workers behind the child; education must become flexible and it must generate innovative skills. There is a negative impact also of change these days. Many things bring positivity, but certain things bring negativity, she explained. Further talking about the negative impact of science and technology, Krishna Gupta said it has increased disparities, widening the gap between the poor and the rich. At the individual level, erosion of values leads to helplessness and alienation. Crisis of values is a crisis of education; science and technology must be integrated with values, she stated.

What is value education? According to Krishna Gupta it is deep concern for others, love, kindness and helping others. Value education is the urgent need of the 21st century. The gap between materialistic and value-based education systems is widening. We must develop a system where the whole world gets educated. Children learn self-esteem, learn about aesthetics. Besides academics, human learning is also important, she explained.

Susmita Basu, Head, Quality Assurance and Innovations Department (QAID), City Montessori School (CMS), said values cannot be taught, they must be caught. The basic philosophy is that ‘what is caught cannot be taught’. In this respect, the whole community should be changed. Only then change can be brought about, she explained. Picking up the famous quote from Mahatma Gandhi—‘Want to bring the change, be the change’ – Susmita urged everyone to head towards a new direction of change.

Sharing her view on value systems, Rita Wilson, editor, The Progressive Teacher (New Delhi) said the entire enterprise of education is linked with values and these values are integral to human beings. Teachers should nurture students to become true human beings by inculcating values in their teaching in the classroom. From the ecological perspective, a child is educated by the entire environment in which it grows and that environment is determined equally by the parents, teachers and the society around. The kind of individual we produce in turn determines the kind of society we live in. If we produce individuals who are self-centred, aggressive, competitive and greedy, we cannot have a society that is non-violent, peaceful, cooperative and harmonious. Education is the main agency for individual transformation and social change. It is not possible to bring fundamental transformation in society unless the individual is transformed. The kind of education we provide to our children will have a bearing on the values of the society.

The Conclave ended with a vote of thanks proposed by Himanshu Gupta, MD, S Chand & Co.