Our host teacher Tansuree Ghosh asked my Social Studies partner Kim and I to each conduct a Social Studies professional development workshop for social studies teachers here at Shri Shikshayatan School. Kim modeled the Paideia Seminar with the workshop participants. I chose to focus on Social Studies Inquiry with Primary Source documents and used the set of documents I had put together about colonial reactions to the Stamp Act. This was a tried and true lesson that I taught to my 9th grade American Studies students and did as a quick professional development model for my colleagues at a faculty meeting last year.
Leading 20 Indian teachers through this lesson was really fun and engaging. Like my students, they were concerned that their responses to the prompts were correct and wanted to share their thinking with me. The follow up discussion focused on how to modify this activity in a variety of ways and how to assess student performance.
At the end of the workshop, teachers were talking amongst themselves and I heard some of the same comments I hear from US teachers, and have even said myself, at the end of PD sessions, “I don’t have time to do this, I already have so much to teach.” “My class size is too large” “My classroom doesn’t have enough space for this” “It takes too much time” and so forth. There are teaching challenges everywhere, there is never enough time, but we need to make the effort to try new things to benefit student learning.
Four students at Shri Shikshayatan School gave speeches on Women’s Empowerment at a formal panel discussion this afternoon. The speeches were incredible. See for yourself!
Here in Bangalore, our in-country education consultants are Maya Menon and Indira Subramanian. Maya is the Founding Director and Indira is the Head of Content Development for the Teacher Foundation. The Teacher Foundation’s vision is “To make schools enabling environments for all students by empowering educators to become energetic, effective, reflective practitioners and life-long learners.” (The Teacher Foundation)The Foundation works with teachers and schools to expand professional development opportunities so that teachers are “enabled and inspired” in changing their instructional practice from the traditional to the exceptional.
Before we headed out to visit schools, Maya gave an excellent overview of the Indian Education system so we could better understand why schools are the way they are.
Important points from Maya’s presentation to consider:
- India is complex, multiple realities exist.
- India is grappling with many challenges.
- India is a land of tremendous potential and opportunity.
- 2 billion people with the world’s youngest population with 450 million children under the age of 18 who want to learn.
- 22 Modern Indian languages coexist; 1576 mother tongues.
- Schools teach in 70 languages
- India does not have a stand alone Department of Education. It is part of the Ministry of Human Resources.
- Each Indian state also has ministries that oversee education.
- Parents can choose between government schools and private schools.
- Right to Education Act that states education is a fundamental right and that all children between the ages of 6 and 14 must be in school.
- Teacher shortage. Many teachers are untrained or poorly trained and it is a “noble” profession with little status and is female dominated.
- Administrators and Teacher Educators don’t know what is happening in the classrooms.
- Large class sizes that go beyond the 1 to 30 teacher/student ratio as stated by law.
- Teaching & learning English is the highest priority.
In both schools we observed, like in the US, that teachers do the best they can with the system they are in. Indian teachers must teach from the required textbooks and that doesn’t leave much room or support for creativity. Much of the teaching and learning was rote in nature and the students respectfully complied and were eager to show us their books and materials. One English teacher at the Vasanthnagar School used additional flash cards that she created herself, modeled the definitions of action verbs connected to the text, and engaged in a short discussion with the students. Her lesson was enthusiastic and fun which engaged the students. The English class that I observed at the Shastry School was taught straight out of the text with the teacher as the expert with students following along. Students were very compliant and excited that we were in class but this lesson was more indicative of the standard teaching and learning in Indian classrooms. The Vasanthnagar classrooms were small and dark with fixed benches, few materials but had beautifully painted alphabets in multiple languages, multiplication tables, and so forth on the walls. At Shastry, all of the classroom walls were bare and the interactive space was the chalkboard and teacher platform at the front of the room. I look forward to my week of observations at the Shri Shikshayatan School in Kolkata to learn more about day to day teaching and learning.
This website was designed as part of my participation in the Teachers for Global Classrooms program.
The focus of TGC is for teachers to study and implement broader ways of integrating global education in secondary classrooms. The program, courses, and travel is all funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and is administered by IREX (International Research and Exchanges Board).
Global education is a vital part of any student’s preK-12 education program and this site provides resources, materials, and experiences to support teachers and students on their global journeys in and outside of the classroom.
We live in an increasingly globalized world and students need a variety of opportunities to develop and practice global competencies at all grade levels and in all content areas. The more we learn, think, and understand how other people in other cultures in other parts of the world live and work the better equipped we will be in addressing conflict and controversy. According to The Asia Society’s Book, Educating for Global Competence, “Global competence is the capacity and disposition to understand and act on issues of global significance.” If each person can add one drop in the bucket of an issue of global importance to him or her, the bucket will quickly fill, and change will happen.
This blog is not an official U.S. Department of State blog. The views and information presented are my own and do not represent the Teachers for Global Classrooms Program, IREX, or the U.S. Department of State.