Urmila Reghunath & Vijayalakshmi Mohan writes for The Bastion on how effective advocacy can influence public policy.
Merlia Shaukath writes for The Bastion on the importance of parents as critical stakeholders in the education system.
Aparna Shankar writes for The Bastion the means and methods by which a state can gather the required data to make evidence-based policy decisions.
Vijayalakshmi Mohan writes for The Bastion just how far we have come in supporting in-service teachers in primary schools in their continuous professional development.
In the second part of the series, Srivathsan Ramaswamy writes for The Bastion on the different ways in which the Centre and states can tackle curriculum design to benefit public school students.
In the first of a two-part series on curriculum design in India, Srivathsan Ramaswamy writes for The Bastion on why and how textbooks fail to meet the standards of ambitious education policies.
Part 2 will delve into the nuances of the lifetime human need for education, from the perspectives of equitable delivery and uniformity.
In the preceding article, we proposed that a well designed and equitably delivered education system could become a key lever towards achieving poverty alleviation. Additionally, we discussed the necessity for state actors to strategically apply decision making principles to determine the allocation of limited state resources. We also purported that the Eisenhower Matrix could be a useful tool to make such allocation decisions.
This article will examine the lifetime human need for education, from the perspectives of equitable delivery and uniformity. We had earlier discussed that the primary objective of state provided education should be to offer access to learning, such that it can augment a citizen’s overall quality of life. It can do so by providing a pathway to meaningful livelihood opportunities, as a result of the education received*. Life today is sharply different from what it was in 2004 (when children, who are 21 today, began their learning journey in LKG); technology and lifestyles are altering at a faster pace than we have encountered before. Accordingly, it is necessary to prepare children who enter the education system today for the world of work that they will encounter in 2035; the expected year for children in 1st grade today to turn eighteen.
Keeping this objective in mind, we can categorise the lifetime human need for education into the following four groups, each bearing the following features:
1. Primary Learning
Education received between the ages of 5 and 12
Here, the objective of education should be to build foundational knowledge and skills amongst children; focussing on encouraging children to use their intellect to build the hard skills of literacy, comprehension, numeracy, and the softer skills of effective communication and critical thinking.
It is necessary to deliver such education in as uniform a manner as possible to ensure that the building blocks of learning for each child remain the same. It is only when the foundation for learning is delivered in an equitable manner, that we can ensure that all children will start their lifelong journey of learning on as level a playing field as possible. Viable customisations to the learning delivery in this context could be to alter the medium of instruction, such that learning occurs in a child’s native language, however the curricular content imparted should remain the same..
Attaining mastery in foundational literacy and numeracy skills will ensure that the child will be able to learn proficiently, no matter what their future choice of subject or professional pathway will be. Learning to read to read to learn is an old adage which exemplifies this line of reasoning; mastery in foundational skills has been noted as being critical to being able to successfully function in Industry 4.0.
2. Secondary or High School Learning
Education received between the ages of 13 and 18
Here, the objective of education should be to provide young people with the opportunity to explore a variety of different subject pathways, build further technical knowledge across all segments of learning, gain meaningful career counselling and gain a deeper understanding of entrepreneurial and critical thinking.
It is necessary to deliver such types of education where the skeletal components of delivery and the access to various subject pathways are uniform. However, research has shown that there is merit in customising the finer details of the education imparted to suit local contexts, opportunities and labour market conditions.
During this period, young people should be able to meaningfully engage in planning the trajectory of their professional development; identifying where their interests lie, choosing whether they want to build traditional careers, choose vocational professions or choose entrepreneurialism** as a means to their livelihoods. This period of learning should be the building block for ascertaining the professional trajectory of one’s career path.
3. Workforce Ready Education
Education received from the age of 18 onwards, designed to make the learner workforce ready
Traditionally, such education has been in the form of university learning, vocational training or informal apprenticeships. Here, the objective of education should be to prepare people to enter the workforce, and learn the key skills which will enable them to successfully work in their chosen field meaningful, applied career counselling which can support learners in making the correct decisions related to their careers.
It is necessary to deliver such education such that the primary components of the learning should be customisable to the specific workforce needs and the primary components of career counselling should be customised to the learners needs. However, an element of uniformity should remain in imparting the core, transferable competencies needed to thrive in Industry 4.0.
During this period, people should be able to select a career trajectory that is suitable to their skill sets and interests, fits the trend of labour market demands, and allows them to learn the applied skills required to thrive in their chosen career.
4. Lifelong Learning Opportunities
Education received by adults, through their lifetime, designed to support the learner in either imbibing further knowledge to gain the necessary skills which are required to remain professionally relevant
Traditionally, such education has largely been delivered by either industry or the public sector; the former aiming to upskill their workforce and the latter aiming to reduce the rate of unemployment. Here, the objective of the education imparted should be to engage adult learners with the specific knowledge and skills they require to improve their ability to do a particular job.
It is necessary to deliver such education in a manner as contextual, customised and targeted as possible, as research has shown that most adult learners will be best motivated to learn when they can visualise the material impact that the learning will have on their daily professional growth. It is not necessary to maintain any uniformity in the service delivery of this category of learning, because there is an implicit expectation that learners will be best placed to decide what manner of learning will best suit their needs. There is however a need to maintain uniformity in providing access to opportunities for lifelong learning, particularly as research postulate that the average worker will alter their professional trajectory multiple times in Industry 4.0.
The following diagram describes the extent of uniformity or customisation that each category of lifetime education requires to ensure equitable access to learning.
Let us assume that due to limited resource availability, the state system cannot equitably provide access to quality education for the entire spectrum of lifetime human needs. Let us further assume that while the state cannot itself deliver the entire spectrum of education required, it can create a conducive environment through policy decisions and targeted regulation which will ensure access to the spectrum of learning and support which citizens need, in a reasonably equitable manner. For example, to ensure equitable access to Workforce Ready Learning, the state can mandate that non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) must provide universal, affordable access to credit such that learners from lower income backgrounds can also obtain the necessary support required to develop a meaningful career. It can further establish the framework against which educational institutions will be held accountable for delivery of quality education.
Given this context, how do you think each of the components of lifetime education should be categorised into an Eisenhower Matrix, contextualised for state decision making. How would you allocate resources keeping in mind the necessary urgency or importance of each of the four categories of the lifetime need for human education?
*Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) is the education goal. It aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”.
**By focusing on entrepreneurial skills as a core competency, the Indian education system can also become inclusive to the needs of the informal and agricultural sector; which account for approximately 60% of national income in India and are slated to account for a larger proportion of income as production becomes increasingly automated.
“Why so serious?” asks an iconic villain, right in the middle of several intense settings in a Hollywood movie that came out not so long ago. “Let’s put a smile on that face,” he adds, and carries on with his villainy with gusto! You remember, right?
A villain – an epitome of serious, dark affairs, is inadvertently highlighting the need for lightheartedness in the midst of a raging conversation. Yes, an idea that may seem out of context, yet so relevant.
We often take things too seriously, in fact we tend to take everything seriously, don’t we? Of all those things, one stands out – work! Work forms a significant part of most of our lives. Be it an intern at a start-up or the vice president of a corporate conglomerate, we are expected to be seriously serious about work.
The seriousness we attach to our professional lives unknowingly ends up being a bane as much as a boon, and the reason why many of us have to cope with stress, or more specifically, work-related stress. This burnout is often a by-product of us undermining the importance of a crucial element in our work life – humour.
Even though humans have an inherent affinity towards humour, we often tend to neglect the impact of humour at our workplace. We do not realise how humour can potentially help individuals, teams and even organisations to define an emotionally and psychologically balanced work environment. Research has validated how laughter has the ability to release endorphins in our brain. Endorphins are chemicals, which have the ability to diminish the perception of pain or stress, in other words, the human body’s in-house “feel good pill”.
A study conducted in 2017 by Finnish and British researchers of University of Turku highlighted how social laughter resulted in positive feelings and a significantly improved release of endorphins. The results of the study point in the direction of endorphin release induced by social laughter, being an important pathway that supports formation, reinforcement, and maintenance of social bonds between humans. This social bond inevitably forms the foundation of a positive work environment leading to an improved work culture and increased productivity.
As aptly pointed out by Eric Tsytsylin in a video published by Stanford Graduate School of Business, we are “in the midst of a laughter drought”. He adds that children on an average laugh 400 times a day whereas adults above 35 years of age tend to do it just about 15 times a day. Data from various researches also suggest that people laugh significantly less on weekdays than on weekends. Somewhere between growing up, growing old and chasing our dreams, we seem to have forgotten to just laugh!
Is increased workplace stress a result of decreased workplace humour or is it the other way around? A publication by Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute suggests that the brains of depression sufferers tend to show decreased activity in the regions that are engaged while processing something humorous. In certain studies, patients being treated for depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders, associated laughter less with humour and more with communicating emotions. Contagious laughter was often identified as a mutual validation of emotions within a group and thereby supporting the notion that mutual empathy is also a shared experience.
Humour however, isn’t as easy as we think it is. Just as we say – to each his own, humour translates into different meanings for different individuals. The thin red line that separates a good joke from an offensive, incongruous passé must be something that one treads carefully. Misplaced humour at the workplace can easily transform into a disaster if delivered distastefully, be it intentional or unintentional.
The “how” of workplace humour can therefore be a tricky thing to pull off. While team members tend to admire and derive more motivation from leaders with a sense of humour, they may tend to have less respect for leaders who “try” to be funny. Humour isn’t only about laughing at a joke. It is about being authentic and genuine in your reactions to a situation. It is also about your ability to laugh at your own mistakes and take it in its stride. A disarming self-deprecating laugh at your own folly goes a long way, even more than an apology. Remember, a team that laughs together, grows together!
It’s only fair to assume that practice makes perfect and it takes practice to master humour at the workplace. But remember, we cannot practice soccer on an ice skating rink wearing sneakers. Know your strengths, know your people, know your surroundings and then, strike!
Next time you are at work, ask your colleagues, “Why so serious? Let’s put a smile on that face!” But, please don’t carve up their face with a knife like our villain. (Okay! Bad joke!).
Mannin et al (2017, June).Social Laughter Triggers Endogenous Opioid Release in Humans. The Journal of Neuroscience.
Tsytsylin, Eric (2013, May). Laughter: Serious Business. Stanford Graduate School of Business. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nju6yel062Y
Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute (2010). On The Brain Vol.16 No.2. https://hms.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/HMS_OTB_Spring10_Vol16_No2.pdf
The pandemic has led to the abrupt closure of schools and has left millions of teachers and students in a lurch regarding continuing education. In order to bridge the gap of teaching and learning, the entire world seems to have turned to online/blended learning modes. While it has become a norm and a necessity, millions of teachers have been pushed into uncharted territory with little or no training. If you are a teacher and have figured out a way to navigate through the technical challenges, and are thinking about classroom management and improving your online instruction, this blog is for you.
Recently, I had the privilege to conduct an online teacher training workshop for about 100 enthusiastic teachers through Teacher Champ – a COVID response project conducted by Madhi Foundation. The execution of the course led to research on the differences between online and face to face classes. Having had the experience of teaching in a classroom for 2 years, the idea of an online class seemed somehow strange and scary. I am sure a lot of teachers out there feel the same. But here is some good news, the research points that the similarities outweigh the differences between the two modes of teaching. In this blog, I will summarise the comparison between the two and dive into classroom management and instructional strategies that work well in both online and face to face classrooms.
Whether over a computer or in a classroom, every day of teaching remains an adventure! I’m sure a lot of teachers will agree with this statement. Even as the points laid out above assure us that there are many similarities between the two modes of teaching, it is a challenging undertaking to teach without the physical presence of students. There are, therefore, some principles we need to follow to set up a good online class:
Strive for presence: social, cognitive, and teaching presence.
Interactivity is the heart and soul of effective asynchronous/online learning.
Let the students do (most of) the work. The more time students spend engaged with the content, the more they will learn.
Does it sound familiar to face to face teaching? I thought so too. With conscious effort, a teacher can build their online teacher presence and interact with the students without needing to be loud or being physically present. All the three principles are not to be seen in isolation but must instead be employed as a means to improve student learning outcomes in entirety.
Let us look at 8 classroom management and 9 instructional strategies that will help you establish a strong teaching and learning environment for the students.
Here are 8 Classroom Management Strategies
This refers to the wide variety of skills and techniques that teachers use to keep students organised, orderly, focused, attentive, on task, and academically productive during a class.
1. Establish Norms
It’s important to establish clear rules and expectations regarding student discipline, participation, the study process, deadlines, etc. To do so and build accountability, encourage all students to help you build classroom rules and reason out with students the need for such a rule while making norms.
For example, rules can be such as:
Check in with your teacher. Gather your materials
Be on time
Stay engaged (nod or thumbs up) if others are talking
Mute your mic if you are not speaking
2. Establish a Routine
Students feel more confident and comfortable when the study process is well established and the procedures are predictable.
For example, a typical routine for study hour could include instructions like the following:
Set a schedule and stick to it
Meditate for 5 minutes
Share one good thing about the day
3. Clear Instructions
The teacher needs to give clear instructions at the beginning of every task, for the student to engage in an activity with clarity and manage time efficiently.
For example, the following image shows the detailed instructions that could accompany a simple writing activity.
4. Positive Reinforcement
Teachers could observe the students who follow the instructions and expectations set in the classroom and acknowledge their efforts. Another way to appreciate the students is by writing positive individual messages and by making phone calls. These techniques will not only encourage student participation but can also help in building a stronger relationship between the students and teachers.
For example, the teacher can say encouraging messages such as:
“I saw how you were helping other kids. I’m so proud of you”
“I like how Suresh is answering questions, I want others to also answer.”
“Thank you, Kanniammal for sending your homework.”
5. Call and Response
To regroup the students or get the attention of the students, a teacher can use the Call and Response technique. Teachers can say aloud the first part of a phrase and the students should immediately look at the teacher and say the second part of the phrase. Please note that it Is not necessary to turn on the audio of your virtual classroom as that might create chaos.
For example, the teacher can establish a ‘call and response’ routine where when the teacher says ‘One Two’, the students respond loudly with ‘Eyes on You!’.
Energisers help regain students’ attention, take a brain break and prepare them for the next task.
For example, rhythmic clapping, following dance videos, etc. are great energisers.
7. Count Down
Teachers can use a countdown to help children re-group after an activity/discussion.
For example, the teacher can count backwards from 5 to 1 to get the students’ attention.
8. Hand Signals
Teachers and students can co-decide hand signals to make a discussion purposeful and engaging.
This video shows some useful hand signals that teachers can incorporate in their classrooms.
Here are 9 Instructional Strategies
Instructional strategies are learning techniques a teacher can use to help students learn or gain a better understanding. It allows teachers to make the learning experience more fun and practical and encourages students to take more of an active role in their learning.
1. Check for understanding
Teachers can ask questions after teaching a concept to see if the students have understood it. These questions can be thinking questions or direct questions from the concept.
Correct Example: “What are the two types of ….?”
Wrong Example: “Did you understand?”
2. Tell me what to do
The teacher can also check if students have understood the instruction by making the students repeat what was just told to them.
3. You can answer
If a teacher finds that a student is not able to answer, he/she can ask another student to say the answer loudly. The teacher can repeat the question to the first student and encourage them to repeat the answer. This helps the students develop a sense of community and inclusion because of the opportunity presented to them.
4. Graphic Organizer
This is an important tool that allows students to visually categorize new information or review old information. It helps to conceptualize the information given to them during the class. When students look at the information that’s organized, it’s easier for them to retain and remember that information.
For example, simple flow charts like this or this with boxes and arrows do a marvellous job of communicating structured information that a paragraph of text may not be able to.
We can also use games to make online learning fun and engaging. Games can be used to make assessments and classroom interaction more interesting. It is important to align the gamified elements with learning objectives. You can incorporate gamified elements such as points, levels, badges and leaderboards.
Some tools for gamification are Kahoot, Quizizz, Khan Academy and Microsoft Math Solver.
6. Continuous Assessment and Feedback
Having continuous short assessments can help teachers gauge the students’ progress and keep the student motivated. These assessments need not be lengthy and can entail just asking 5 questions relating to the concept. It will help the teachers decide the next steps for the learning outcome/concept.
7. Cold Call
In order to make participation the expectation, call on students regardless of whether they raised their hands to answer a question. This will encourage students to always be attentive in the class and will provide equal opportunity to all students to participate in discussions.
For example, the teacher can write down the names of each student on one ice cream stick or a piece of paper each, and show the names on the video to call on individual students and check their understanding.
8. Word Drill
Select a word wall from the textbook and do a drill every day. This can be a routine for your class. If there is no word wall available in the syllabus textbooks, you can use Dolch sight words, CVC words or curated wordlists from the syllabus textbooks.
9. Spell Check
Give five words every day as homework and ask the students to learn the spellings. You can conduct a spell check for the students regularly. This can be followed for all the subjects.
I hope these strategies will help you take an online class. As a teacher myself I would recommend using 1 or 2 strategies consistently for 8 weeks and then add or change them accordingly. It also helps to make a conscious choice to use these techniques regularly, as many teachers might be new to these strategies.
Let us make learning possible even when it is difficult and seems impossible!
McAleavy, T., & Gorgen, K. (2020). What does the research suggest is best practice in pedagogy for remote teaching? Education Development Trust.
Angelo State University – Instructional Design. (2020). Retrieved from https://www.angelo.edu/instructional-design/online-teaching/section_12.php
College, N. C. (2020, August). System’s Principles and Techniques of Online Education.
Lemov, D. (n.d.). Teach Like A Champion.
(2012). Online Student Engagement Tools and Strategies. A Magna Publications. Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/newsletters/online-classroom/
Webster, J. (2019, May ). The 49 Techniques from Teach Like a Champion. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/techniques-from-teach-like-a-champion-3111081
An article written by Bansidhara Elia James and Jiss Mary Thomas
If someone asks me whether I am a storyteller, I’d say no.
Truth is, stories pervade the cracks of all our everyday lives. We narrate incidents, needs, and hopes, amusing and informing anyone who would listen. Almost unconsciously, our brains stitch together disconnected events, transforming them into personalised tales of interest. Aren’t we all, then, storytellers?
For NGOs like ours, stories are the translators we rely upon to communicate to you the inspiration and impact that drive our work. Every poster, every proposal, and every conversation, needs to perform this storytelling function for us to be able to expand our reach and build support for our vision. This of course means that storytelling is an essential skill to hone, especially for those of us working with communications, fundraising, and partnerships.
Here are some storytelling challenges and opportunities I’ve encountered through my experimentation with writing and design.
Having a clear intent
Every day, through each poster and document, I am aware of our vision and conscious of aligning every collateral to it. In fact, rarely do we encounter doubts in our minds of the vision behind our content, having passionately committed to work towards the purpose of our organisations. A broad rationale alone, however, is insufficient to successfully tell stories.
It is perhaps useful for us to approach storytelling as a tactic and be purposeful in incorporating its elements into the different strands of our work. This clear intent can lift our communications strategy from its shadows and accord it the attention it deserves.
Bring in the human element. Evoke emotions. Build empathy.
Oft heard suggestions as these are, I have always struggled to imagine them beyond the inclusion of emotive photographs while creating communications collateral. I suspect though, that in attempting to communicate the problem, the solution and the impact of our work in disjointed parts, we tend to miss out on an opportunity to elevate the interest of our audience. Instead, building an impactful story arc, and using a central character, emotive language and sensory details, are some tricks that could transform mere words into the beginning of a relationship.
Having just completed my nth reading of the Harry Potter series, I am inclined to take inspiration from JK Rowling, and explore how these gripping elements that built personal connections between millions of readers could be brought into the relatively drab world of PPTs and funding proposals.
Of course, perhaps the most successful elements of Rowling’s magical masterpiece are the characters. The readers empathise with and root for them, willing the story to an ending we all anticipated, and yet waited for with bated breath.
Could storytelling for nonprofits be that much different? Can we not also be more purposeful in building the characters that carry the story forward, and uncover the layers of emotions they may convey to different demographics of audiences? What a name, a context or an identity can do for a data point is, to stick to the theme, almost magical. The Girl Effect video, is a lauded example of this use of a single character to tell the story of millions.
A lot of the work within the development sector is highly nuanced, and spread across months and years of experimentation. Condensing all that we want to communicate into single posters or paragraphs is not just difficult, but also impossible to do as we touch base with our audience mid-way through a project. How then can we persuade the audience to remember the bits of information they received across a span of months, and understand the trends of growth or improvement conveyed through them?
Carrying forward the tone and characters of a story across multiple collateral could aid in this, even through the subtler aspects of storytelling like the use of brand colours, consistent tone of design and recurring themes. Charity Water, through their social media accounts, does this extremely well through simple yet memorable visuals, and impactful captions.
Every blank page is overflowing with the expectation to be memorable. We want our audience to remember what we said, understand it and be personally impacted by it. In writing and reading for this blog post, I have been re-energised to pinpoint my attention towards telling stories through my work in the development sector. Through the humdrum of a busy work week, it is easy to get lost in the minutiae and spend hours analysing the exact positioning of a line or a dot on a Google Slide deck. Perhaps you can join me in taking a step back every once in a while, reading the stories we tell, and wondering if it is indeed a page turner.