Classroom-based teaching allows teachers to physically meet their students – Dr Karun Kumar Gaur

Classroom-based teaching allows teachers to physically meet their students and assess their growth and development in real terms

— Dr. Karun Kumar Gaur, Director, JKG International School, Ghaziabad

What is your vision for JKG International school? How has the school progressed after you have joined at the helm?

At JKG we believe in adopting 21st century skills in every aspect of education. Since its inception, JKGISV is committed to enlighten the minds of children by improving their kinesthetic skills, spatial skills and communication skills. The use of innovative teaching methods, relevant to the skill requirement of the present era, aim at grooming our students to become innovators of tomorrow.

With the mission of making the learners a part of skilled India, and lead from the front, NITI AAYOG selected few schools to set up ATAL Tinkering labs. JKG International School, Vijay Nagar was one of them. The aim is to cultivate the young minds as neoteric innovators. This mission will provide the platform to the young minds to tinker with the tools and equipment and create something new which will not only clear the concepts of STEAM but also provide a workspace to learners to give shape to their ideas through hands on learning.

Keeping in tune with STEAM Education, we focus on enhancing the logical reasoning skills of our students which are necessary for their future endeavours. The students of our school participate actively in math, science, hindi, and reasoning olympiads, talent hunt exams, and robotics and technology activities. We also offer a hands-on Science club and Athletics club (that includes basketball, volleyball and table tennis) as part of after-school activities.

For honing Entrepreneurial skills, our students enrolled in an International Business Programme — ‘NEST’ run by the education charity ‘Teach a Man to Fish’ in 2016. We are now into 3rd year of its business and have attained the Silver Level, and working hard, for the Gold Level.

CBSE has recently released the special assessment scheme for class 10th and class 12th for the academic year 2021-2022. What are your views on this assessment scheme?

I appreciate the Board’s decision to cancel the physical board examinations for the session 2020-2021 because of brutal Covid pandemic. The difficulties experienced during the lockdown examinations forced the Board to look at alternative ways for meeting the learning and the assessment objectives, and find a way to conduct the Board Examination for the academic session 2021-22.

Despite the uncertainty around covid-19 situation, CBSE has decided to split the syllabus for the session 2021-22 into two parts, and conduct the final examination in two terms. This special assessment scheme is the best feasible way to assess the students’ potential through the limited options available as the covid-19 situation still persists and more waves are predicted. 

Dr Karun Kumar Gaur is a passionate educator, a dynamic communicator, and a self-motivated individual and is currently the Director at JKG International School. He has a Doctorate in computer science. His vision is to impart holistic education and create a powerful impact on today’s generation. His passion, focus and endeavours have culminated in the development of a variety of innovative educational products that include activity books for the learners and concept-based board games. His unique style and all-encompassing attitude towards modern day education has helped him to head integrated experiential learning program for the last 4 years at JKG International School. Under his leadership, JKG International School has been ranked amongst the top 10 CBSE schools of Ghaziabad and one of the best 20 schools in NCR by Brainfeed School Excellence Awards. Recently his school has also been ranked No. 1 in India for Co-Curricular Activity in a survey conducted by Education Today. Niti Aayog has selected JKG on pan India level as one of the schools to set up Atal Tinkering Lab.

The second wave of the pandemic has been devastating for everyone including the teachers and the students. In what ways is your institution providing support to them?

Indeed, the second wave of the pandemic has been devastating for everyone including the teachers and the students. Coping with the stress of the second wave in itself was quite challenging. We provided online platform for the students and teachers so that online studies continue. This online platform helped students and teachers to remain connected beyond the stipulated time frame. Teachers also provided supporting study material in the form of pdfs, charts, images, audios and videos.  We also focused on meditation and pranayama exercises for decreasing stress, and maintaining mental balance among students and teachers.

What are the major challenges that you have faced since the onset of the pandemic as a leader and a head of the institution? How are you managing them?

When faced with challenges, you, being the head of the institution, just cannot runaway. In life, challenges often bring opportunities as well. I harnessed my potential, keeping myself completely calm and composed because I knew half the obstacles would vanish gradually with time. For the rest I worked with my academic partners and devised plans for better attendance of students in the classes; and with the financial partner, Grayquest, to regularise monetary needs of the institution without putting any burden on parents.

There are some challenges I still face today, such as—

•    Improving accessibility of books and other learning material for young learners

•    Timely disbursal of staff salary

•    Assessment and evaluation of students

•    Maintaining proper records

•    Keeping a record of teaching staff’s absenteeism

The ongoing pandemic has shifted the traditional classrooms to rectangular screens. Most of us are digitally connected now. How does online teaching fare compared to classroom teaching? Do you think online teaching would continue post pandemic and compliment classroom teaching?

For my entire career so far, I’ve been a facilitator for the learners and educators. There are always two sides to a coin. So, there are some advantages and some disadvantages. I will enumerate some of them.

Advantages of online teaching

•    Flexibility of time for educators as well as learners

•    No physical travel required

•    Easy access to the teaching material provided by the school for the students

•    Safety for the students and teachers while attending classes from the comfort of their homes

Disadvantages of online teaching

•    Unsocial hours: The Government has suggested flexible hours for the classes so that students may attend them regularly. This requires teachers to endure extremely unsocial hours.

•    Unstable network connection: When attending online classes, students can leave or join their class at their sweet will, with an excuse that there were some network issues. But, sometimes, network problems are genuine. So, the educators fail to observe how much the child has learnt after getting disconnected.

•    Limited teaching methods: The range of teaching methods that the teachers have at their disposal is limited. They have to rely mainly on audio and visual tools, and are not able to use any kinesthetic methods like physical games or role-plays.

•    Loneliness: Finally, working and teaching from home, spending most of the time in front of a computer and rarely getting to meet students or colleagues in person can be quite monotonous and lonely experience for teachers.

Classroom-based teaching allows teachers to physically meet their students and assess their growth and development in real terms.

It is quite natural that the teachers have binding relations with learners and students and do feel connected in a classroom. The ability to socialize with students and colleagues is one of the most fulfilling advantages of classroom teaching.

For students too, classroom and school environment is the most important element for their overall social and cultural development.

NEP (National Education Policy) 2020 was announced last year and aims to revolutionize the Indian Education System. What are your views on the policy? How is your institution preparing to cope up with this significant shift in the education ecosystem?

I believe this is a wonderful opportunity as the whole discourse that has been going on for years about 21st century skills and so on; I think for the first time, we are really ushering into 21st century classrooms.  And as everyone knows, we can’t possibly do 21st century skilling through rote learning. Also, we will have to change the way teachers are being trained.

There is so much emphasis on digital technology as we are going into the hybrid mode. And if it is hybrid, the teachers have to keep evolving themselves on a daily basis — it is like Toffler’s future shock. A teacher will constantly have to be trained to make learning more interactive, more interesting, experiential, worldwide and creative. And technology is a fantastic tool to facilitate that.

School fee has been a major point of bitterness and discontent between parents and school authorities. During the pandemic, the income sources have diminished and people have lost their livelihood. What is your take on this?

Private schools are still facing financial distress, as parents could not pay the school fees for several months. As a result, we were unable to pay teachers’ and staff salaries. How can we survive if fees are not paid? The expenses are increasing every month.

To streamline everything we requested parents to pay monthly fee instead of quarterly. We also collaborated with Grayquest, a finance company, to meet our short term financial needs. 

What drives you to work every day? How do you keep yourself motivated? 

My aim is to create a culture of teaching and learning that resonates with my students.  Where I once feared giving up control, today I relish the opportunity to do this each and every day.  I am proud to say that many new successful initiatives have been taken and our students have ultimately benefitted from them. With each passing day, seeing and observing the fruits of our labour in the form of students, exhibiting a growing appreciation for the culture that we are creating together, brings a smile on my face.  This is what drives me to work every day and I always try to make learning more enjoyable and fulfilling to everyone.