Nursery of Innovation- The story of a Delhi Government School-GBSSS, Dhakka
Nursery of innovation
The story of a Delhi Government school-GBSSS, Dhakka
I recently attended a 2-day workshop titled ‘Reflecting Pedagogy in Context of School as a Learning Organisation’.
The title would have many assume that the workshop may have been organised by a university or educational bodies such as NCERT or SCERT, given that the kind of practices and experiences available in the field of education in our country generally emanate from these institutions. Except, that this one was organised by a school, and not a ‘private’ or ‘international’ kinds but a government one. Yes, dear readers, Delhi government run-school, Government Boys Senior Secondary School, Dakka near Mukherji Nagar, is where this workshop took place.
Organising such workshops has been a regular practice in this school for the last 3 years. This was my first opportunity to witness the event which left me astonished. The reasons for this were ample – 1. the room was full of teachers and there were no specialists; everybody was treated as a specialist, 2. everyone had equal chances to express their views and it was accepted and appreciated by all, 3. All of us, the teachers, were sharing the ideas with each other and chairing and moderating the sessions in turns, 4. age was no bar as many young teachers also got a chance to chair the session while the older ones would moderate and vice-versa.
The formal timing for the workshop was from 10 am to 5 pm, but on both the days, the sessions extended with teachers participating enthusiastically till the end, without hurrying to leave. Even, in one such moment, despite having no supply of electricity, teachers sat through, involved in the meaningful discussion. Infact I was told that participants have come here, prepared to stay till late. This was phenomenal considering how in regular workshops, teachers do not exhibit such behaviours. Moreover, in those typical workshops, where an ‘expert’ speaks in front of the teachers with an objective to teach something to the teachers and the latter often rebel, leave the sessions midway and experts continue lecturing to an almost invisible audience!
I would also like to share here, the plan for the workshop which would give us a glimpse of the nature and quality of the workshop.
|Sessions on Day 1||Sessions on Day 2|
|1. Understanding School: Structure, Process and Vision/ Objectives, Community School, Learning Organization
2. Understanding Pedagogy: Pedagogic Vision, Strategy and Agency
3. Curriculum, Syllabus/Learning Objectives & Assessment
4. Recontextualising Curriculum: Leading by Innovation
|1. Pedagogy of Language
Pedagogy of Mathematics
2. Pedagogy of Science
3. Pedagogy of Social Science
4. Pedagogy, Planning & Learning Objectives
In the first session titled ‘Understanding School: Structure, Process and Vision/ Objectives, Community School’, the nature of the discussion was very intense, meaningful and engaging. The session brought out various points. Through the years of practices, a school has thought of as part of a bureaucratic structure wherein its primary objective is to fulfil the demands of bureaucracy such as – finishing the syllabus, conducting exams on times, distributing several scholarships and other welfare schemes.As a result, a majority of the teachers have forgotten that school is a learning organisation and its primary responsibility is to create a conducive learning environment in the school.
In this context, this school is unique as it believes that each school will have to frame its own vision and process of achieving it.There is a strong practice of community participation in the decision-making process in this school and that came out through the discussion in this session. The school believes that learning is the outcome of the interaction among the teachers, students and their parents. Though there are several other factors affecting the teaching- learning process but these three are the most important and so all these three should be kept in the centre of any discourse in education. To implement this vision in a practical sense, the school organises a monthly grand teacher- parents meeting and different aspects of school education are discussed in this meeting. Besides, these meetings also give a chance for parents to directly approach the principal and teachers for specific doubts. Taking this vision a step further, the school believes that it belongs to community so it becomes imperative that not the only community comes to school, but school also goes to the community. Thus, the school teachers and principal often visit their students and interact with them on several issues experienced by them and their families. And yes, they also sip a cup of tea with the parents of children. This process has led to developing a strong connection between the school and the community. The principal believes that the seed of the autonomy of the school is hidden within the such bonds between the school and the community and the stronger this bond, the more autonomy a school and the community can enjoy.
In the context of the second session titled ‘Understanding Pedagogy: Pedagogic Vision, Strategy and Agency’, I must say here that having worked in the school system for almost a decade now, terms such as ‘pedagogy’, ‘structure’, ‘agencies’ still horrify many teachers. But I was surprised to see the quality of discussion held in this session by the teachers. This session was based on group work where teachers were grouped and had to deliberate and present their understanding on the topic. The presentations were quite rich as teachers came with several ideas of pedagogical strategy and agency. They agreed that this must be contextualized and such strategies need to be prepared by each school, keeping in mind its own special set up and the need of its students.
The next session titled ‘Curriculum, Syllabus/Learning Objectives & Assessment’ was chaired by me. Initially, I had my own fears considering this topic has been chaired by very senior professors in various seminars that I have participated in. I asked the organisers what exactly is expected out of me. He asked me to initiate and sum up the discussion. We started with the discussion on the following questions:
- How the curriculum, syllabus and textbook differ?
- Who frames and who should frame the curriculum? What are the different approaches of framing curriculum?
In this session again, the teachers surprised me with their understanding of the deeper politics of curriculum and the issue of hidden curriculum and the null curriculum. It came forth that who really prevents the schools from framing their own curriculum. Considering India is such a diverse country and so its curriculum would also be diverse, most of the states should have ideally developed their own curriculum but very few states take this pain. They often copy the national curriculum framework prepared by NCERT.
In the last session for this day, ‘Recontextualising Curriculum: Leading by Innovation’, with the scheduled time already exhausted for the workshop, the teachers didn’t put their put down. So, what if they had to sit till 6.30 p.m.! They had all the energyto talk and listen about the innovations which this school has been leading. Some of these initiatives and innovations are path-breaking in the field of public education. These are:
- Teacher Students Interaction Period (TSIP)- The school has dedicated two consecutive periods in a week for teacher-student interaction. This is the forum for the students where they can express opinions, their observation about various issues in school. Teachers are allotted students, selected on the basis of random sampling from different classes. Teachers also share their own observations and experiences with the students. Both students and teachers keep this interaction non- judgemental.
- Cultural Zones– In this unique idea, the school has decided to classify the students in 6 major cultural zones such as Music, Literature, Painting, Theatre, etc. The idea behind this cultural zone is to not just let the students make the school a platform to show the talent students already possess but to train them further in different cultural aspects of their interest and make them capable of pursuing the samein future.
- Academic research and development Council– The school believes that almost all Industries have research and development team and basically most of these industries are engaged in production of goods. Why can’t we have a research and development team in school which deals with the human being? The research and development team of the school consists of teachers of different subjects and members of the parents’ body. They together sit and think about the different issues and try to find the solutions available within the school this council has come up with several ideas and implemented it into the school.
- Bal Sansad- Bal Sansad is based on the democratic concept of parliament in our country. The students are given the right to elect their representatives and constitute the Bal Sansad. All the procedures are followed as per standard procedure followed while electing the representatives for parliament. The most important thing is that the decisions taken by the Bal Sansad are binding for the school. There are some instances when the students have asked the teachers that they will take an issue to the Bal Sansad. This kind of political empowerment of the students in school is unprecedented. While talking about this, the HOS of the school informed that the United Nation convention on students right wanted a set of children’s right to be implemented in all the countries. Most of the countries denied citing the inability to create the institution for granting right to the children as this may lead to chaos.
Keeping this in mind, the empowerment given to the children here in this school is phenomenal. The idea is to empower the students politically, so, when they grow up and join the nation as an active citizen. Where they would participate in the decision-making process and not just follow this the others.
Each of these innovations requires a separate article. I have written about the innovation in brief, to just give the reader a sense of what it is.There were many people who were willing to say many more things about the innovations they were doing, but since it was running late, people decided to continue the discussion the next day.
On Day 2, four parallel sessions were organised around pedagogy of different subjects such as Mathematics, Science, Social Science and languages. Teachers joined their respective subject groups and sat together to discuss the pedagogy and the issues related to the concerned discipline.
Due to time constraints, only the Maths group could present. The crux of the presentation was that ‘Mathsas difficult’ is a misconception created by teachers and parents. In reality, this subject is something so inseparable from our daily lives. The group observed that the subject needs to be demystified by conveying it in a simple language.
I was part of the group which discussed pedagogy of Social Sciences. The idea was to reflect on the pedagogy through the practices which we undertake in our classrooms. All of us agreed that our subject has a direct relation with day to day life of the students and this link needs to be established inside the classrooms. We also agreed that it is our primary responsibility to make the students critically aware about the different socio- political and economic issues that influence their lives. There cannot be one method of teaching social sciences and thus, it needs to be contextualized as per the need of teacher and schools.
It was lovely to also see separate arrangements being made for those on Navratri fast. Post-lunch, the plenary session had a research paper presentation on ‘Pedagogy, planning and learning objective’. The paper basically discussed the need for a shift from lesson-planning to pedagogy-planning. The session was summed in the following words, “Whatever planning you do, when a teacher carries it to the classroom, the contextualization has to happen. The learning environment inside the classroom must be changed and for this we need many such discussions in the school premise. Schools must not be stopped from organising such seminars from time to time.”
This article would be incomplete without mentioning about Mr. Ajay Choubey, who is the man behind this show. Talking to him, I felt I am speaking to a university professor. His academic understanding make him an exemplary school principal. The various initiatives to transform the school from being a bureaucratic setup to a learning organisation have been a result of his vision. The secret of all this lies, I guess, in the following words he often uses for his teachers- “आप मेरा जुनून हैं, आप मेरी जान हैं, आप मेरा जीवन है”
(The Article was edited by Nidhi Qazi, She can be reached at email@example.com.)