Making children ‘future ready’


Nikita Tomar Mann
Principal, International Wing, Apeejay School, NOIDA

The system and syllabi needs to be revamped to facilitate educators to integrate development of skills within the existing system and reform subject-based curricula to an amalgamation of subject coupled with skill based curricula.

The focus of the new education policy appears to be on development of skills among the learners. How are schools gearing up for this change and what needs to be done, shares Nikita Tomar, Principal, International Wing, Appejay School, NOIDA

TPS: 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?

Nikita:The paradigm shift in the education policy from ‘Certification’ to ‘Skill Development’ is an extremely welcome change as the system has acknowledged the fact that hands on education is in the true sense education for life. Sound theoretical knowledge does serve as a strong edifice but without development of skills, there remains an evident disconnect with application in real life and employability in future. This move reflects our priority of investing in the future of our nation, facilitating economic advancement as well as productivity and social well being for the individual and society.

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

Nikita: The first and the foremost challenge to the school systems remains the alignment of the thought processes of heads of institutions, teachers and parents to appreciate the need of the hour and encourage and steer students to focus on skill enhancement in order to leverage from the opportunities that they will encounter in the near future.
With increasing awareness on the need for skill development, it is imperative that schools focus on identifying the requisite skills for the workforce of the 21st century, introduce these skills at schools, provide infrastructural support to sustain this change and train the faculty/hire trained staff to effectively deliver these courses.

TPS: 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?

Nikita: ‘Future ready’ skills encompass honing competencies such as financial and civic literacy, global awareness, cross-cultural skills, critical and inventive thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration as well as social and emotional competencies.

The system and syllabi needs to be revamped to facilitate educators to integrate development of skills within the existing system and reform subject-based curricula to an amalgamation of subject coupled with skill based curricula.

In a content-centered classroom, teachers cover &‘uncover’ the content, and students ‘acquire’ it. In contrast, teachers and students in a learner-centered classroom use content to construct knowledge. The classical classroom model needs to be revitalized and metamorphose in terms of fluidity in classroom arrangement, kind of interactions between the teacher and the taught and incorporation of time for focussed activities aimed at skill development. Untethering the facilitator from the front of the class will yield more fluid learning space which will promote a wider range of interactions between the learners and the facilitator. We need to create learning commons which are engaging, comfortable and, perhaps most importantly, flexible to allow for a wide range of teaching practices

TPS: 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?

Nikita: At present, the schools are steadily getting sensitized to the imperative need for skill development but are ill equipped to implement the plethora of changes pertinent for making it a reality.

Modern teaching practice can no longer be modelled on the didactic teaching methods of the past. Classrooms will need to be flexible learning spaces, which enable multiple users to work concurrently with multiple purposes. While bringing in changes in the content and textbooks will be relatively easier, the more daunting task would be to train the teachers to transform the quality of classroom instruction by including experiential learning and adequate time for internalization of the concept by the learners. Appropriate tinkering laboratories, material support and forums for brainstorming will be required to create self directed learners.

Administrative agencies are required to review the system holistically to capture an accurate picture of impediments to this process and propel radical as well gradual changes that will be integral to this transformation.

TPS: 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?

Nikita: Classroom transaction is a dynamic process which defines the efficacy of learning outcomes. To make any learning apropos, it is vital that the teacher is enthusiastic, passionate, sensitive to the needs of different learners and takes initiative to assist them in their construction of knowledge through enriching experiences where a learner’s old knowledge transacts with new information to construct new, relevant and meaningful knowledge. Academic achievement would then be demonstrated through use of this ability to address and solve real-world problems or to create products that are valued in one or more cultural settings.

Teachers will need to ‘unlearn and re-learn’ and undergo training to encourage lateral thinking. Teachers will need to endorse collaboration and sharing of ideas. A paradigm change of this kind will necessitate a hand holding period with infrastructural and material support which will prepare them to more accepting of this change, effectively handle this change and finally turn into change agents. ‘The most valuable resource all teachers have is each other. Without collaboration, our growth is limited to our own perspectives.’ – Robert John Meehan.

Nikita Tomar Mann is presently serving as the Principal of the International Wing at Apeejay School NOIDA. She is a trained post graduate teacher with over two decades of teaching experience at the senior secondary level. On completion of her schooling from Air Force Bal Bharati School, New Delhi, she pursued her degree from Venkateswara College, Delhi University, a Bachelor of Education, on scholarship, from Regional College of Education, Ajmer and a Post Graduate Diploma in School Leadership and Management (PGDSLM) from IGNOU.

She has rich experience of having served as the Head of Biology Department in several prestigious schools across the country such as The Cathedral and John Connon School (Mumbai), Convent of Jesus and Mary and Navy Children Schools. She has served as a Principal for more than a decade at several schools and was the founder Principal of the highly ranked and reputed Sadhbhavana World School at Kerala. She has been the Master of Ceremony for several high profile government functions and events, including the International Fleet review. For her dedication, commitment and professional competence of high order, she was awarded two commendations, one by the Commander in Chief of Andaman and Nicobar Islands in 2006, and the second by Commander in Chief at Visakhapatnam in 2013. She is a proud recipient of the Computer Literacy Excellence Award.