Sharmila Chatterjee – This pandemic has been an eye opener for all of us

This pandemic has been an eye opener for all of us

Opines Ms Sharmila Chatterjee, Principal, Billabong High International School, Noida

What motivated you to embark on this remarkable journey of school leadership?

Since the last three decades, I have been associated with academics and school education. I have served in various capacities in this field beginning with being a teacher and then eventually given the task of leading a school. So it was perhaps a natural progression.

It has been very overwhelming and enriching experience and continues to inspire and motivate me.

Billabong High International School is one of the premier educational institutes in NCR. How long have you been associated with it and how does it feel to lead such an institute?

I have been associated with this school for the last 6 years and it has been an extremely overwhelming and a humbling experience so far.

CBSE has introduced 10% questions based on PISA model. What is your opinion regarding PISA?

PISA is an international format to assess the education systems worldwide. It is designed by education experts from around the world, which is competency based and does not encourage rote learning or memorization. Hence I feel that if the CBSE has initiated to incorporate some of the elements in their Board assessment format it shall surely benefit the learners by enhancing their critical and creative thinking skills. It will also help us – educators – to map the teaching learning process with the learning outcomes.

The ongoing pandemic has shifted the traditional classrooms to rectangular screens. All of us are digitally connected wherein the classroom protocols can easily be thwarted. What is the better medium according to you, the digital one or the traditional one we have had over the years?

This pandemic has been an eye opener for all of us. As a progressive school, we believe that learning is a continuous process and hence it has to continue under any circumstances. We adopted the digital platform to reach out to the learners and since the last 4-5 months we have progressed in our efforts and teachers have made a quantum jump and transformation in making teaching-learning process successful with the digital platform and online classes. We, as educators and stakeholders, need to accept that henceforth online and digital medium will be used extensively for teaching-learning even in post pandemic world. All educational institutions will have to adapt and adopt both synchronous and asynchronous mediums of learning.

Our educators are under huge stress since the beginning of the pandemic; from coping with internet connections and erratic power supply to more structural issues like curriculum designing and teaching techniques. How are your teachers overcoming such challenges? Did you arrange for some special training for them?

With the onset of the pandemic, the teachers had to resort to online medium to reach out to the learners and continue the learning process in the best possible manner. As a school, we realised that we have to be better prepared, and made an action plan to make the process smooth and convenient for all the stake holders. We initiated a training program for the teachers to make them comfortable in using the digital platform. For the students and parents, we held orientation programs and made them aware of the processes to be followed on the platform. Our priority in selecting the digital platform was safety and security and convenience of all the stakeholders. We continue to provide guidelines to the students and parents and also organise regular capacity building programs for our teachers to be updated with the latest teaching aids and digital tools.

In this new kind of one-way teaching how are they managing and monitoring student’s active involvement? 

The teachers design activity based learning which ensures active participation. Several strategies – subject based – may be used for the learners to participate.

For example in mathematics, children can be asked to create word problems, by integrating art with mathematics.  For science, the teachers may ask the learners to use some basic tools, materials, ingredients available at home for conducting practicals, observation and analysis of data, etc. Social sciences can be made interesting by using reciprocal teaching method wherein the learners are given opportunity to make presentations in the form of PPT, prepare brochures, go for virtual tours, etc.

With the lockdown and classes becoming online, the biggest challenge has been the implementation of the assessment process. We have been conditioned to the pen and paper test pattern. However, if we reflect and analyze why we need to assess a child and what for, the confusion clears and I feel assessment can be taken with very smart and simple ways with the use of technology. There are several platforms and mediums like MS Forms, Google Forms etc., which can be used. The conventional method of testing is based on question paper which comprises of subjective questions. With digital format, we have to shift towards more of MCQ’s and objective type questions. To monitor the regular pace and learning of the learners’, frequent questionnaires comprising of MCQ’s can be easily taken by the teacher at her convenience. We may also opt for open-book assessments.

Any message that you would like to share with the publishers or independent app providers?

  • Focus on New Education Policy 2020 objectives.
  • Content should be more application based and relatable.
  • Emphasis on hands-on-learning – learning by doing techniques for both teachers and learners.
  • Focus on Life skills.
  • Development of pragmatic and user friendly modules in the apps.
  • Should be safe, secure and protected, and abide by the privacy laws and guidelines.

Would you like to share any message with our readers?

As educators we need to be chief learning officers. In today’s times we are experiencing extreme transformation in the field of education, not only in the mode of transaction but in the core education process itself too. As team leaders, we need to be abreast with the latest in the field of academics, be adaptive and flexible. Also we cater to a world where inclusion is the key, therefore, we have to be empathetic and compassionate to one and all to create a world of empathy and compassion.