Bridging the gap between education and employment is essential

Bridging the gap between education and employment is essential 

analyses Mrs Rajni Kalra, Principal, DCM Presidency School, Ludhiana

Share with us your story of being associated with DCM Presidency School, Ludhiana.

It has not been long that I am associated with this school, but I consider myself as one of the fortunate ones for the same. 

Teaching has always been my dream. I had realised my passion for it when I was quite young. A zeal for leadership and education, a strong desire to make a difference in students’ lives and good organisation skills have helped me become a leader. 

I entered this profession with a dream to carry forward my vision as an educationist. I take pride in stating that DCM Presidency has always motivated and helped me to carry forward this vision to bloom and bear fruit. It would not be an understatement to say that this school has enabled me to evolve as a thorough professional.

What are the school outcomes that directly result from your form of leadership?

Leadership is a futile attempt if one does not take along the team outlined for the mission. I take pride in sharing that DCM Presidency has a fantastic workforce, who goes beyond their peripherals to conquer a designated task. This team has made DCM Presidency win accolades not just at the national but international levels.

We are the proud recipient of the International School Award (British Council), Microsoft Showcase School Award (Microsoft Development Corporation), Money Smart School Award (National Centre for Financial Education) and many more. We had organised DCM-MUN to precede our children another step towards the making of world leaders and to cultivate a sense of responsibility in them. Our student delegates got an opportunity to develop critical thinking, foster confidence and enhance diplomatic and leadership skills. 

A lot is being discussed about Education 4.0. But, our classroom is still stuck in the designs of the past—blackboards or whiteboards, rows of chairs, the omnipresent clocks and bells etc. What would you say?

Learning 4.0 is no longer just about cognition in a classroom, it is about the total immersion of the learner in real-life situations. It is all about asynchronous (anytime) and digitally dispensed (anywhere) learning. Indeed, the factory-like classrooms, rows of chairs give a strong feeling of industrial age learning behaviour. 

With the advancing technology and changing times, there is a dire need to make the teaching-learning relevant. While not flawed, the better implementation of education law can improve school education. Teachers have to evolve from being ringmasters to Zen masters who must enlarge the horizon of knowledge. 

Aspiring to be global is just not enough for the future. It is important to do things quickly and be open to challenges and change. In doing so, we would not be denying the value of education 1.0 to 3.0, but embrace them and build them into the opportunities for education 4.0.

It is estimated that 70% of the jobs that we would be doing 10 years from now, do not even exist today. With this backdrop, how could you imagine that the education system—as it is in its present form, can make a student employable! What according to you is the requirement for this shift to employability for education?

Education is the passport to the future. Everyone builds his future on this foundation; but unfortunately, the education-employment link is missing in our country. Industry linked curriculum should immediately be initiated in schools and colleges. The best foot forward in this regard is the partnership between schools and industries.

It is the need of the hour to work towards bridging the gap between education and employment. Teaching can be made interesting and joyful by adopting blended educational models, using digitalised teaching tools, gamification platforms etc. With 4.0, the jobs and education will observe the complete transformation. The role of the classrooms will change from theoretical to practical education. The pace of change is so rapid that the jobs that we are doing today, will be replaced by the tasks of the future, some of which are yet to be discovered. 

The skills important for the future of work include work readiness skills, soft skills, technical skills and entrepreneurial skills. Hence, it is important to crack the recipe of education to employment. 

What special activities does your school offer that hones children’s skill holistically?

In a constantly changing environment, schools must provide their students with skills that prepare them for leading a better after-school life. Introduction of vocational and basic life skills in the curriculum is important to build a strong foundation for a thriving future on the academic as well as on the professional front. Taking a proactive approach, DCM Presidency school has incorporated Financial Literacy Program (FLP) in the school curriculum. FLP teaches students on the basics of Money Management; Budgeting, Saving, Debt Investing. This knowledge lays the foundation for students to build strong money habits early on and to avoid many of the mistakes that lead to lifelong money struggles. The National Centre for Financial Education has certified DCM Presidency as a Money Smart School.

We are attempting a paradigm shift in school education from pure academics to an orientation towards skill development and employability while maintaining the scope of vertical mobility for higher education and therefore, offer various vocational courses for students like Financial Marketing Management, Banking and Insurance.

The ten core life skills as laid down by the WHO, for example— Self Awareness, Empathy, Critical Thinking, Creative Thinking, Decision Making, Problem Solving, Effective Communication, Interpersonal Relationships, Coping with stress and Coping with Emotions are taken care by adopting various activities like class discussions, story-telling, debates, brainstorming, role plays, audio-visual activities e.g. arts, music, theatre, dance etc.

Has your passion always been in being an educator?

It will not be wrong if I say that being an educator has been my passion since my childhood. When I was not doing my homework, I was either teaching or taking care of my imaginary students. 

An educational institution cannot rise above the quality of teachers. But, teaching as a passion is long lost. Individuals entering the profession reluctantly cannot be the agents of change. What is your opinion?

Being a teacher is a challenging job. As a teacher, there are different roles to play other than just teaching, right from being a role model, to be a parent figure, to be a friend, to being a guide to the kids. Also, the responsibilities as a teacher are varied, right from planning lessons to effectively executing them and ensuring that they are differentiated properly to suit the needs of all the kids in a class. All these responsibilities can be fulfilled with one skill—passion, the topmost skill of a successful teacher. The individuals entering the teaching profession reluctantly and only to make a livelihood with no motivation or conviction cannot be the agents of change. Research shows that effective teachers are the most important factors that contribute to students’ achievement. A study enumerating the influences regulating student achievement revealed the following statistics. The influence percentage revealed as per the study showed 50% of achievement was accounted for by the student, 30% by the teacher, 5-10 % by home environment, 5-10% peer influence and 5-10% influenced by the school. This shows that teachers have a high percentage of influence on students’ achievement. Therefore, a school must focus their efforts on improving and developing teachers’ effectiveness.

Do you think e-books would replace hard copies or they have their charm and would always remain in trend?

E-books are on their partway to replace hard copies. No doubt, e-books are wonderful in a way that they are compact, environment-friendly, easily accessible but they are never going to replace the physical print books. However, there is something special about the feeling of holding a book in your hands, feeling the texture of paper, inhaling the unique smell of ink and paper and the satisfaction of physically turning a page which an e-book can’t quite replicate. 

Moreover, an interesting experiment has been applied to finally understand whether there is a difference between reading on a screen or a real book. A 2013 Norwegian study of the reading pattern showed that students who read a real, physical book scored much better in reading awareness than those who read texts digitally. This is connected with the fact that paper gives spatiotemporal markers; the touching of the paper and the act of shifting pages serve as memory markers that are absent while scrolling down an electronic screen. In two separate 2013 and 2014 studies, one of the school pupils and one of the grown-ups, Anne Mangenand, a professor at the University of Stavanger in Norway gave groups of people with similar reading skills several texts to read, with half-reading electronic and half-reading text on an actual paper. Afterwards, the readers completed a test to gauge reading comprehension. Eventually, the people who read the texts electronically did worse than their paper- reading counterparts.

Does your school take any initiative to inculcate reading habits among children?

Oh! yes indeed; our school has a plethora of modules in place to inculcate reading habits amongst students. We have a well-planned Communication Improvement Program designed specially to foster vocabulary, phonetics, punctuation and communication skills to enhance language competency. Key facets of this comprehensive program include—The School Reading Program (SRP) comprising of 7 components—The Book Buddies’Club, Reader’s Hub, Kathashala Club, Mini & Monu Club, Mobile Libraries, Class Libraries, LRC (Learning Resource Centre), and Communication Improvement Plan (CIP) comprising of 10 components—Drop Everything and Read (DEAR), Word of the Day, Phonics Program, English Language Lab, The Speaker’s Forum, Effective use of Newspapers in class, Use of Dictionary in class, Dictionary Navigation, Project Overseas Education Program—Skill Enhancement Class, Group Discussion / Debate / Declamation / Show & Tell Activities)

The main objectives of the aforementioned facets are to—

enable the students to develop a natural and accurate style of pronunciation, 2) enhance their abilities to read, write, speak and comprehend the language 3) equip them to exchange ideas and opinions, express emotions, and present information.

Would you like to share any message with our readers?

We need to mould children from the beginning as the harbingers of change. Deep-rooted habit formation is essential in nurturing the mindsets of our human resource. Educating people about environmental and social activities will empower the noble cause of environmental cleanliness. It needs to be incorporated into our systems as a value and a virtue.

We need to understand that ‘Rome was not built in a day’. For us to achieve any mission, habit formation through education, leading to awareness and motivation to accomplish the task at hand, is of utmost importance.

 It sometimes happens that the road to a goal appears hazy and bleak; but with a strong desire to spread the message of environmental sustenance, will go a long way in achieving the sought after satisfaction of dwelling in a clean and green country whilst providing hope for our upcoming generations to follow.