LearnShift India 2016 Building an Agile Practice and Culture


Karishma Kotwani,
Strategist in Innovations and Teacher Trainings, RN Podar School, Mumbai

Drawing a host of leading thought leaders and change leaders from across India to a common platform, RN Podar School organised its fifth annual educational conclave, LearnShift India (LSI) 2016 on November 8-9 with a special focus on schools that have an agile mindset, that want to ‘get better all the time’ and relentlessly find new and better ways of improving student learning. LSI 2016 saw Dr Simon Breakspear (founder & executive director of Agile Schools) leading an immersive workshop on Agile School Leadership and also provided an opportunity for school leaders and practitioners to lead solution-focused discussions around ‘Policy to Practice’, with special focus on the Draft New Education Policy.

At the workshop on Agile School Leadership for school teams across the country, Dr Simon Breakspear impressed upon the fact that as the rate of change outside of education continues to speed up, school leaders must develop strategies, cultures, and tools to enable educators to innovate and create learning that is more personalised, collaborative, and deep. LSI 2016 took school leaders through understanding the process of adopting an effective agile mindset and helped them contextualise the same for their own organisations. Avnita Bir, Director-Principal, RN Podar School shared that “Schools and educators have had to keep pace with the rapid rate of change and the onslaught of new technology, new methodologies, new terminology in the last decade. For these to get optimally leveraged to improve learning outcomes, what is needed is an agile mindset that allows you to quickly review your priorities and adapt to changes. The Agile School Masterclass led by Dr Simon Breakspear, in that sense, felt therapeutic and soothing”.

The panel discussion on the draft New Education Policy also invited thoughts and ideas from school students, liberal public policy think tanks such as Centre for Civil Society, ex-defense personnel, corporates and education consultants and trainers such as Teacher Foundation & MindSprings. Dr Breakspear also provided relevant global examples and encouraged all school leaders to lay more emphasis on the teacher and learner as well as collaboration across schools; which would go a long way in discovering opportunities for continuous innovation and improvement within the teaching fraternity and realistically help to reform the entire school system. When students in the gathering asked questions around freedom to learn and express their own understanding as opposed to what was further, panelists shared the need to equip students with new skills such as DICE (design thinking, innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship) to ensure that they were better equipped for their future and also preferred by potential employers.

Curated by Avnita Bir and Dr Breakspear, LSI 2016 sought not to give answers, but to redirect every school leaders focus to the right questions, to come back to what matters – student learning outcomes. It set out to give a structure – the Agile Mindset and Approach – that educators could embed in school teams so as to find and create answers themselves. Since its conception in 2012, this conference has involved a diverse gathering of high-level leaders, thinkers and pioneers who seek to push beyond the current educational paradigm and harness new approaches that deliver better learning for all young people. LearnShift India was co-sponsored by YES Bank and Phyzok Learning Solutions. This two-day conference saw participation from over a 100 practitioners across diverse schools such as The Bombay International School, Delhi Public School (Navi Mumbai), The American School of Bombay, The Orchid School (Pune), Heritage School (Delhi), HLC International (Chennai) and Riverside School (Ahmedabad), amongst thirty other leading schools in the Ashoka Changemaker Schools Network in India.

Have you ever been at sea in a dense fog, when it seemed as if a tangible white darkness shut you in and the great ship, tense and anxious, groped her way toward the shore with plummet and sounding-line, and you waited with beating heart for something to happen? I was like that ship before my education began, only I was without compass or sounding line, and no way of knowing how near the harbor was. “Light! Give me light!” was the wordless cry of my soul, and the light of love shone on me in that very hour.”

–Helen Keller