Experiential learning: major step towards skilling

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Sharmila Chatterjee
Principal, Billabong High International School

The schools need to make honest and transparent efforts to impart meaningful learning in the classrooms. More than knowledge, the need of the hour is to impart application literacy in the classrooms which is oriented towards skill building and outcome oriented.

Today, we lack not only in effective skill-based curriculum but also in infrastructure which enhances or encourages experiential based learning. For this, schools themselves will have to develop state-of-the-art infrastructure which is eco-and nature-friendly and is equipped with resources and tools to provide experiential learning to the learners.

Q: The focus of the new education policy appears to be on development of skills among the learners. In an educational scenario, where the current ‘certification’ focused delivery systems in schools have become irrelevant, how do you see this paradigm shift would help to generate a sense of relevance to imparting education?

Sharmila: The purpose of education today is being questioned in every forum and by the academia in general. We all know that a conscious shift has to be made and evolved in our current education system and structure. Our pattern of education is examination and assessment oriented and not application of knowledge based.

We lack not only in effective skill-based curriculum but also in infrastructure which enhances or encourages experiential based learning. We have to adapt and mould according to the new age requirements.

The policy makers have to involve and integrate various sections of the society and disciplines – science, social science, information and technology, public administration, industry representatives of manufacturing/ services/tertiary/agriculture, medicine & pharmacy, security and defence, literature, media & journalism etc

The aim of the education policy should comprise of global perspectives and outreach, progressive and constantly evolving, experiential from the early ages and empowers the human force to merge into professional arena productively and smoothly. We should also look at those nations who have outgrown their colonial or regressive education policies and modernized it with changing times, such as Israel.

Q: With greater focus on ‘skill development in schools,’ what do you think are opportunities and challenges to school systems to respond meaningfully to the emerging needs?

Sharmila: The schools will have to make honest and transparent efforts to impart meaningful learning in the classrooms. More than knowledge, the need of the hour is to impart application literacy in the classrooms which is oriented towards skill building and outcome oriented.

The major challenge is to rise above the curriculum or syllabus, also experienced and trained teachers/faculty will be key here.

Q: How do you think ‘skill development’ could be achieved in a classroom with closed walls and with a focus on ‘completion of syllabus’? What kind of changes are required to the ‘classical’ classroom model?

Sharmila: The schools will have to shift focus and work on the skills of creative and critical thinking, effective communication and team work or collaboration, solve new problem, intellectual flexibility, and ability to adapt and learn new things.

Schools will have to create learning spaces equipped with tools, technology, resources to provide the learners to explore and experiment new findings.

Schools will have to collaborate with external agencies, institutes, experts to provide opportunities to the young learners to interact and visit and experience skill applications.

Q: The development of conceptual models to imparting skill-based education would require several auxiliary support systems like textbooks with an entirely different frame of content delivery, pedagogical innovation, laboratory and experiential support? What is the current preparedness in schools and what kind of support systems do schools expect from the administrative agencies?

Sharmila: I completely agree that the development of conceptual models to imparting skill based learning will require a very effective content and pedagogy which will supplement learning process along with teacher–mentor training capsules.

Over the years, it has been felt that our education systems need to emphasise more on formal and meaningful education and to include development of civic literacy, global perspectives and awareness, multi-cultural values and strong social and economic competencies.

We have one of the youngest population in the world and therefore the need to develop skill based education system is very significant as the potential to have skilled manpower in the coming years will help India to become one of the biggest economy in the world.

The current education system does not focus on skill building and employability hence the opportunities are untapped, there is a large section of educated youth but unskilled for jobs of 21st century. A large section of labor force in India possess outdated skills and are not able to benefit from the new job opportunities which demand trained, certified and skilled manpower to cater to the millennium challenges and opportunities.

Q: Classroom transaction would probably have to be more personalized, interactive and facilitative to empowerment of skills. It would indeed mean a new frame of mind from the teachers. How do you think teachers can be empowered and facilitated to discharge their work effectively in the changed scenario?

Sharmila: To further develop our human capital into skilled manpower, the role of trained and industry experienced mentors will become imperative. The rising global competitiveness is replacing the knowledge based human capital which need to be highlighted and addressed to.

Professional development institutes have to be stringently structured with outcome oriented goals, they have to be progressive in nature and follow a curriculum designed to meet the new age skills and attitudes.

The policy makers and the government should initiate development of technical schools, vocational schools, tech-learning centers, sector- specific skill development centers etc. to empower the teacher facilitators.

The private and public schools will also play a major role in initiating teacher-mentor training locally to cater to their learners. The school management and leadership will have to create policies for teacher empowerment with collaborations from industries and other stakeholders.

Besides the schools themselves will have to develop state-of-the-art infrastructure which is eco- and nature-friendly and is equipped with resources and tools to provide experiential learning to the learners.

Sharmila Chatterjee is the Principal of Billabong High International School, Noida. She carries a belief in herself where she can create value for all stakeholders and become a part of an organization that integrates conventional, contemporary and futuristic ideals as an instrument for the young minds to be life-long learners and be change agents.

Sharmila is an educationist who stands dedicated & committed to promotion of child-centered education. During her illustrious career of more than two-and-a-half decades, she was the Principal of Delhi Public School Ghaziabad Vasundhara, and Principal of Blue Bells Model School, Gurgaon.A master trainer in life skills, she spearheaded integration of life skills in curriculum, she is a practitioner of Multiple Intelligence approach to learning & Total Quality Management in education.

She undertook many outreach programs to help community and sensitize students & teachers towards addressing issues concerning community development. She firmly believes in inclusive education and upholds that each child is unique and that the educational system should facilitate and address the uniqueness and individuality of each child. According to her, art, music, dance, sports and other cultural activities form an integral part of education.

Chatterjee has graduated from Delhi University and is an alumni of IIM Ahmedabad – participated in Programme on’ Strategic Leadership for Schools in a Changing Environment’, she is also a certified Internal Auditor on ISO 9001:2000 by DET NORSKE VERITAS. She has also been a part of Australia-India Teacher exchange programme.