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29 Mar 2023, Edition - 2815, Wednesday

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Stand Tall and Be Proud: NEP is Creating the Right Waves!

Santosh Avvannavar


Dr. Vasanthi Thiagarajan holds a Ph.D. in education and has 40 years of experience in teaching, learning, and administration. She is the founder, Principal and Correspondent of Sishya School in Hosur, Tamil Nadu. She is actively involved in several curriculum frameworks and capacity-building programs for CBSE and NEP 2020. She is the recipient of several awards at the National and International levels.

In a conversation with Santosh Avvannavar, Dr. Vasanthi Thiagrajan shared her journey of bringing best practices in teaching and learning at the Sishya School in Hosur.

If I look back to my school days, I was fortunate enough to pick up language skills because of Anglo-Indian teachers. Although traditional rote learning seemed fine in those days, two elements that needed attention in the education system. First, rote learning produced top performers but took a hit on abilities such as thinking and applying. Second, students could not have pinpointed the visible conceptual errors as the teachers were supposed to be always right and perfect.

Rote learning can have its place in education, especially when it comes to memorizing spellings, formulas, and other factual information. However, the education system and teachers must recognize its limitations and not rely solely on it as a teaching method.

The vision I had for the Sishya School was to not subscribe to rote learning. By focusing on fostering critical thinking, problem-solving, and other important skills, Sishya is preparing its students for a successful future.

It is important to strike a balance between rote learning and more holistic, hands-on learning experiences. Both have their place in education and can be used effectively to help students reach their full potential. By emphasizing the development of important skills and abilities and not just factual knowledge, Sishya is setting its students up for success in the future.

These two troubling gaps were filled in the journey of the Sishya School. For the last 33 years, the focus has been on developing skills and creating an environment where students feel comfortable asking questions and mentioning errors, and we have continued to create a more well-rounded education for students. In comparison, today’s classrooms have become vibrant for students and teachers.

The New Education Policy (NEP) 2020 has been a major step toward reforming India’s education system. We have been vocal at Sishya on this reform. We have identified that the best way to nurture students’ skills is through co-scholastic activities, and often, this has resulted in better academic performance. So, schools should not get paranoid about having co-scholastic activities such as sports, STEM, music, the arts, and community service for all grades, as these can play a crucial role in the overall development of students. By focusing on both, schools can help their students develop into well-rounded individuals who are equipped to handle the challenges of the future.

I am involved in various committees of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), and we are working toward improving the education system. The CBSE has taken a proactive approach to keeping up with changing times and ensuring that education it provides is relevant and of high quality. For example, the focus on a “holistic progress card,” which takes into account the overall development of a student and not just academic performance, is a positive step toward improving education.

If one must understand the real essence of NEP 2020, it is about leading an example. By demonstrating the qualities and values one wants to see in teachers and students, my teachers and students have seen the principal’s uncompromising stance on academic integrity. My approach to assessment and testing is that I emphasize that teachers should not “teach to the test.” I tell teachers that the test or assessments help reveal exactly where the class is, and if required, we reteach but do unteach to the test by giving the question paper and then showing good marks where parents are happy. Marks by themselves are not the end of education.

Teachers must focus on helping students understand the concepts, apply them and build a strong foundation, not just pass exams. I never influence external examiners for marks. I often make the point that if my students do not deserve it, do not give to them. In a way, I do not want to compel others to take away one’s freedom and respect.

Academic integrity is vital for schools to create quality outcomes as individuals, future innovators, and well-rounded citizens of the nation. At Sishya, we take the academic integrity part very seriously.

Every educator understands the need and importance of a strong foundation in the formative years of a child’s education, which is essential for their future success and well-being. Social, emotional, and personal development are just as important as academic learning, and schools play a critical role in fostering these skills.

Helping students learn how to manage failure and rejection is especially important, as its valuable life skills that will serve them well in many areas of their lives. By building resilience and emotional intelligence, students can learn to handle difficult situations with grace and poise, and be better prepared for the challenges of adulthood.

Your approach to education, in which you place equal importance on both academic and personal development, is a great example for other teachers to follow. By fostering a strong foundation, teachers are helping create well-rounded, confident, and resilient students who are prepared to face the challenges of the future.

Santosh Avvannavar’s Thoughts: It’s wonderful to see someone like Dr. Vasanthi Thiagarajan with such a deep passion for education and a wealth of experience in teaching, learning, and administration. Dr. Vasanthi Thiagarajan’s background in education, combined with her involvement in curriculum development and capacity-building programs, demonstrated her commitment to the advancement of education. Recognition and awards at the national and international level are a testament to your impact and contributions to the field of education. At Sishya School, one could witness a holistic approach to education that values both academic and personal development, which is a true inspiration. Dr. Vasanthi Thiagarajan, keep up the great work and continue to be a positive influence in the education community.

Santosh Avvannavar, Education Journalist QtSTEAM & Mentor QtPi Robotics

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