The Progressive Teacher – New Delhi Conclave


The Progressive Teacher (TPT), a bi-monthly magazine, that aims to empower the school teaching community in India, celebrated its four years of publication by organizing ‘The Progressive Teacher Conclave’ a forum for discussion on school education. The Conclave was hosted by the S Chand Group on 1st September, 2018 at The Crowne Plaza Hotel, Okhla, New Delhi. At the conclave, the publishing and education services enterprise also honoured about 77 teachers with the ‘Teaching Excellence Awards 2018’ along with the ‘Star Educator Awards’, where 43 principals and academic heads were honoured for their significant contribution in education.

The theme of the conclave was Holistic Education. The event comprised a keynote address, a special address, two panel discussions on Holistic Education, Star Educator Awards and Teaching Excellence Awards.

The event started at 9.30 with ashort video showcasing the journey of the S Chand group in the past seven decades. This was followed by a special address by Mikko Leppänen, a Finnish school educator, on International Best Practices in School Education. While sharing his eighteen years of experience as an educator, he touched upon the following points–

  • The idea of holistic education does not solely depend upon the school; rather,the whole society plays a key role in it.
  • Each child learns differently, e.g. by reading, listening, experiencing and so on. Thus, teachers need to adopt different learning styles.
  • Children have their individual learning paths. A teacher should take interest in their families, interests and support their learning path.
  • There are three areas of learning—physical, psychological and sociological.
  • Parents are the most important element in holistic learning. Parents know how a child acts personally but a teacher should know how a child acts socially.
  • Our society needs goal oriented people. People who have goals in life are happy. Therefore, the purpose of schools should be to bring out people who have a vision and purpose in life.

This was followed by a welcome address by Rita Wilson, Editor of The Progressive Teacher magazine. She appreciated Leppänen’s views on holistic education and was also appreciative of the fact that the attendees waded through the heavy rain to attend the Conclave which reaffirms our faith in the Indian System of Education. She started her address by quoting Colleen Wilcox, ‘Teaching is the greatest act of optimism’, and admitted that teaching is a mammoth task due to challenges faced by teachers in theclassroom. A teacher has to inspire, influence and transform each and every child in the class during the short span of a teaching period. Children come to the classrooms with their own psyche, manifest various personalities, have their own way of learning and a teacher has to cater to every such child in the class. Thus, she pointed out that a teacher is like an artist who has to connect all the dots to create a perfect picture;and on the other hand, they have their own personal challenges too.

Thus, teachers have to maintain a balance between personal and professional parts of their lives. To encourage all the teachers, she gave a three Word Guru Mantra on how to keep this balance: Accept, Evolve and Emerge

  • Accept: Teachers have chosen this profession not by accident but by choice. Teachers must embrace what resides within them. They must put their best foot forward and be in competition with themselves. This will enable teachers to be the best version of themselves.
  • Evolve: Teachers must honour the true spirit of an educator and keep evolving as a teacher. They should have a passion for teaching and should be able to transform themselves as per the need of the hour.
  • Emerge: To emerge means to reckon with the attribute that makes them a teacher without the fear of competition or judgment. There are no good students with bad teachers and no good teachers with bad students. Teachers must strive to be extraordinary teachers by accepting not just their strengths but also by accepting their shortcomings.

She further motivated the teachers by saying that wisdom is not restricted to those who have a number of degrees;a lot of growth of a teacher happens in the interaction with students. The first check towards this change is awareness and faith in ourselves.

She closed her welcome speech with a dialogue from a Bollywood movie, ‘when you want something with all your heart, the whole universe conspires to make it happen’, which left a deep impact on the audience.

Post her speech, she introduced and welcomed the keynote speaker Dr Sunita Gandhi, a PhD from Cambridge University, the Chief Academic Advisor – City Montessori School, Lucknow and a globally recognised educator, author, visionary, innovator and researcher. Dr Gandhi delivered the keynote address on ‘Holistic education’.

Dr Gandhi greeted the audience with ‘Jai Jagat’, meaning ‘victory to the world’. She also recognised the S Chand Group, India’s biggest educational publisher for its contribution in the field of education. She highlighted the following in her keynote address

  • She defined holistic education as education of the body, mind, heart and spirit.
  • One must be clear on where one is going and which road to take. This establishes the significance of aim and objective in life.
  • Think fresh principles about education.
  • Motive of education/purpose of life:
    • Accept what cannot be changed.
    • Have courage to change what can be changed.
    • Acquire wisdom to differentiate between the two.

She suggested some building blocks that we can create in education:

  1. Universal values to our children
    Schools must inculcate spiritual values in children. Spiritual learning and not material learning should be at the core of education.
  2. Global understanding
    Make students realise that they are a part of one human family–the moment this happens, we reduce the cost of war. There shouldn’t be any discrimination based on colour, class or race. Teach respect and reverence for all forms of life.
  3. Excellence in all things
    a. Visualization
    b. Focus on beauty and perfection
    c. Evidence
    d. Compete with yourself
  4. Service to humanity
    Service is a way of life and is not charity.Real life cases should be included in the education system and it should be activity based.

Everyone should feel great while entering aschool. We can achieve this by doing the following:

  • Setting vision clearly.
  • Pleasant way of talking with students. Teachers should focus on the language they use in the classroom.
  • Report card should reflect the idea of holistic education and it should showcase at least one good quality of a child. This can be represented as qualities perceived by parents and teachers about the student and what the student thinks about her/himself. There shouldn’t be any negative points.

The keynote address By Dr Sunita Gandhi was followed by a brief presentation by K.M. Thomas, Group Business Head (School and Higher Education) of S Chand & Co Ltd, highlighting the upcoming print and digital products.

He went on to thank everyone for such a large gathering despite torrential rain. During his presentation, he appreciated the authorship and editorial team of S Chand publishing. He also gave a demonstration of how to use web support (provided with S Chand products) for the benefit of teachers.

Panel discussion I – Holistic Education – Early Learning

Fr. J.A. Carvalho; Sangeeta Kain; Dr (Mrs) Bharti Swami; Satyasree Gupta Kedharisetty
Fr. J.A. Carvalho; Sangeeta Kain; Dr (Mrs) Bharti Swami; Satyasree Gupta Kedharisetty

Satyasree Gupta Kedharisetty, Academic Head – Sri Chaitanya Group of Schools moderated this panel discussion. The speakers were –

Dr (Mrs) Bharti Swami, Principal – Vidhyashram International School, Jodhpur

Sangeeta Kain, Principal – Delhi Public School, Jaipur

Fr. J.A. Carvalho, Principal – Fr. Agnel School, New Delhi

Ms Gupta started the panel discussion by sharing a short Russian story by Leo Tolstoy. She said that the holistic approach in education in the Indian context can be seen as a blend of physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual learning. In earlier times, there were Gurukulas; now we have a blend of modern and traditional learning that focuses on intellectual mental development. Nonetheless, the challenges faced by holistic education are:

  • Time limit
  • Subjects that fetch white collar jobs
  • Negative effects of gadgets and technology

Dr Bharti Swami defined holistic education using three words:

A: Attitude, S: Skills, K: Knowledge

  • There is a need to switch the education system from knowledge based to holistic approach.
  • The curriculum should be student centric and activities should be a part of the curriculum.
  • There is a dire need to develop empathy, respect, spiritual and meditation process in our current system of education. This will help to bring a lot of change in physical and mental strength of children.

Sangeeta Kain: Some of the key points shared by her are:

  • Opportunities should be given to the students to develop their interest.
  • Emphasis should be on parents and parenthood more than schools. Students need to be taught how to respect.
  • Students need to connect with the society, culture and environment for holistic learning.
  • Schools need to have a system that makes successful human beings into valuable human beings.

She further elucidated that we have a lot of competition and this pressure is faced by students. However, the major cause of this fierce competition is population. Despite a lot of stress being faced by teachers, children should be taught what they need to be taught, and the teacher’s stress should not impact a child’s learning process.

Fr. J. A. Carvalho: Some of the key points shared by him:

  • For holistic education, the platform of thought should change.
  • We should teach children to think and question from an early age.
  • Paradigm shift in education processes is required.
  • Emphasis should be on unity, equality and critical thinking.

The First Panel discussion was followed by the Star Educator Awards for exceptional principals and academic heads. In addition to felicitating 43 Principals and Educationists, the Lifetime Achievement Award was conferred upon Fr. Joseph, Principal, St. Paul’s School, Rourkela, Odisha.

The award ceremony was followed by a delicious lunch and the event progressed to theTeaching Excellence Awards 2018 and the second panel discussion.

77 teachers from across India received awards in 20 categories. The enthusiastic ovation from the fully-packed conference hall was a wonderful boost to the awardees.

Panel Discussion 2: Holistic Education—Primary
to Secondary School Education

Reekrit Serai; Lakshmi Sharat; Geeta Varshneya
Reekrit Serai; Lakshmi Sharat; Geeta Varshneya

The speakers at Panel Discussion 2 were:

Geeta Varshneya, Education Director,Khaitan Education Centre, Sahibabad
Lakshmi Sharat, Director Academics, Kerala Public School, Jamshedpur
Reekrit Serai, Director & Dean,Satluj Group of Schools, Panchkula

Geeta Varshneya said:

  • There are four facets to which holistic education is related—body, mind, heart and soul.
    Teachers should show patience while dealing with special kids.
  • Sport is the best source to inculcate holistic education.
  • Definition of a literate person: a person who can learn, unlearn and relearn repeatedly. If you want to teach, first learn.

Lakshmi Sharat stated:
Every child is a winner. We should have a vision for every child. We should give them opportunities to grow by

  • Helping them climb the ladder of success ethically in all challenges of life.
  • Focussing on reading and meditation.
  • Holistic education–Three Rs: relationship, respect and reverence to all kinds of life.

Some of the interesting initiatives taken by her school to impart holistic learning and inculcate values in students are:

  • 15 minutes of reading time before starting of the school to inculcate the art of reading. This includes everyone in the same act.
  • Meditation sessions.
  • 2 minutes of affirmation sessions where students discuss with teachers. After every 40 minutes, 1 minute of reading exercise followed by affirmation exercise. This helps to build a positive attitude.
  • Acceptance of society and building relationships:
    • Include each and every child, even those with financial problems. This teaches them to include community/society at large. The students celebrate special days such as Grandparents Day, Sarathi Diwas where they felicitate drivers and rickshaw pullers, organise cultural events, quiz on traffic rules and so on.
    • The first half of school is for children taught through the English medium, while the second half is for underprivileged children. In the half an hour between the first half and the second half, English medium children adopt underprivileged children to teach them,thereby demonstrating the spirit of ‘Each One Teach One.’ Children take pride in what they do.
    • English medium children are encouraged to gift books, notebooks, pencils, stationery items to underprivileged children on their birthdays.
  • To inculcate honesty, they have IVR rooms or invigilator less rooms during exams. Children can opt to be in IVR rooms and be honest and write the exam. The number of children opting to be in IVR rooms is increasing day by day.

Reekrit Serai shared the following points:

  • We must fill the gap between what is to be learnt and what is being taught by building a proper system.
  • Emphasise on strong basics where the educators have a major role to play. Education happens every single second and it cannot be forced.
  • Educators should learn, relearn and unlearn.
  • We are lacking innovation. We need to innovate through our education system. Education is just about two primary stakeholders—teacher and learner.

A token of appreciation was given to all the participants of both the panel discussions.

Atul Nischal, Executive Vice President, Academic and Professional Development at the S Chand, closed the day’s events by thanking everyone for their effective participation and making the event a success.

Teachers appreciated the Conclave and found the points of discussion to be valuable and practical which they can imbibe effectively in their classrooms.