The approach of CISCE is more consistent in comparison to CBSE

The approach of CISCE is more consistent in comparison to CBSE

says Arpana Ruth, Principal, Ingraham Institute English School, Ghaziabad

What are the ways CISCE curriculum is better than CBSE? Being the Principal of a school under CISCE, do you consider it as better?

It would not be fair to say that CISCE is better than CBSE. Rather, we can say that the approach of CISCE is more consistent. Everything has its pros and cons. CBSE has certain limitations. It works as per the instruction and ideologies of the government. Once things are cascaded, stakeholders made aware and enabled; the government/minister changes. Again, it is re-structured according fresh directives; whereas in CISCE, an individual’s thinking does not affect the curriculum or its rolling process. The curriculum is fairly stable.

CBSE depends heavily on NCERT, which is very research-based. Though the research is required to remain contemporary, NCERT is not able to sustain it. Whenever any new inputs come, revisions have to be made. The execution of the curriculum needs more attention and energy.

It seems that CBSE does a lot of experiment with the execution process. They are now trying to make things very much hands-on, value and life skill based. Do you think it would be feasible in Indian set up?

Right, their emphasis is on hands-on, value and life skill based approach. If one goes through the new curriculum of CISCE, it also emphasizes experiential method of teaching. Rather than depending on academics only, it says that a child needs to see, touch, feel and experience, he/she has to do some community work and learn to work in collaboration with their peers. Teachers are now being trained to implement these new teaching methods.

Secondly, as far as life skills are concerned, CISCE has always emphasized on socially useful and productive work (SUPW). We even have a score system for life skills. CBSE has introduced life skills which too is commendable.

In curriculum, CISCE is stable whereas in many areas, CBSE is quite advanced. In CISCE, any topic is dealt with thoroughly. It is more child centric. CISCE wants to give a child a very thorough grounding of the basics of any subject whereas CBSE gives the child a particular topic which is very contemporary with lots of new techniques. CISCE is classical in approach. They teach things in such a way that a child may connect with the world later on. Initially their focus was on ‘what’ the input is and ‘what’ the outcome is. Now, they are also focusing on lesson transaction part that is ‘how’.

We give importance to project work. CBSE does project based assessment, whereas CISCE emphasizes project based learning and there is no stress on students as projects are planned and modified as per their understanding. In English, it might be creative writing, in Geography, it might be a survey. Majorly things depend on the Principal and the school management. 

How long are you associated with Ingraham Institute English School? And, how have you impacted the growth of it?

It’s a long association of 12 years as of now. I had joined here as a Principal in 2006. It may not be fair to say that I played an important role as the institute is one of the oldest and prestigious institutions in Ghaziabad. It will complete its 100 years in 2026. I inherited the school which was functioning like a very well oiled machine, with rich traditions and practices. Ingraham contributed tremendously to the growth of Ghaziabad city, particularly the adjacent areas.

I joined school in my 30’s when I was relatively young. I observed that the school needed to upgrade in terms of technology. I worked for the induction of digital classrooms. Now, we have 60 digital classrooms. Another initiative was to introduce experiential learning for which we had tied up with IdiscoverI to train the Principal and teachers in implementing it. In 2012, the magazine Digital Learning ranked Ingraham Institute English School as the top most school in Ghaziabad. Another aim of mine was to build strong vocabulary of the students to improve their expression since Hindi is the dominant language here.

Do you face any challenge in recruiting teachers in this area?

True, there is a great demand for qualified and experienced teachers. Young teachers usually join the profession with an objective to earn and are very commercial. The employers too are very demanding sometimes almost bordering exploitation. Some of them think how to extract maximum work at minimal cost. My biggest regret is that I do not see any major change in the recent years, as a Principal.

A teacher not only teaches, she builds something, she makes a generation, she creates an individual, and she not only invests her mind and energy but her emotions. Children exchange feelings with them. If a child can’t emotionally relate to a teacher, it would be fruitless. Hence, in the society more reverence for the teacher needs to be promoted.

I believe the head of every institution should actively encourage building a very healthy social and emotional relationship between teachers and students, even among the staff.

CBSE has a mandate in inclusion policy, do CISCE have the same?

CISCE does not mandate it but has inclusive policy for children with Special Educational needs. CISCE wants assessment of the difficulty level of a child. It depends on the school head and the management—how well in advance they brief and report to the council. Once the report reaches the Council, there is a complete handholding. We do have a counsellor in my school, but not a special educator. In my opinion, one special educator would not fulfil or satisfy the need for various existing special problems. Dyslexia, hearing impaired, loss of vision and so many areas are there to mention! How can one special educator deal with so many problems! In India, with all our limited resources, with so much of burden on us to educate children, we don’t prioritise investing money on this area, whereas, in USA or in Australia, it is mandatory. A, ‘special educator’ is assigned to a child who has special educational needs.

Counselling is an important part in school education now. CBSE has introduced ‘Know your aptitude’ test for the board classes from this session. Is CISCE thinking about the same?

Different types of counseling are required in school education—behavioral, psychological, emotional, social other than academic and career. Our school does not have a career counsellor. Yes, there is a directive from the Council advising the heads of school to make provisions to encourage career counseling.

The Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation method of CBSE flopped. Is there any such evaluation method that CISCE follows?

CISCE does advocate CCE, but in a different sense. What went wrong with CBSE were miscommunication, misunderstanding, shortage of trained and qualified teachers in CCE and wrong concept. Continuous and comprehensive evaluation does not mean that a child has to score marks continuously throughout the year. It is not like he/she is reciting, writing, dancing, playing, singing, doing a project and scoring against it on a continuous basis. In reality, it is what happened and children came under tremendous pressure along with teachers and parents.

CCE rather is meant to assess and evaluate the areas of difficulty of a child, and try to remove it, not to send them home with a bagful of marks. It is not an area to show some tricks as a teacher. I have put a column of assessment in teachers’ planning diary. The lesson plan should be made in such a way that evaluation automatically happens without burden.

I tell my teachers to observe 10 children every day—what they speak, how they speak, remain sad or gleeful, do their lunch in time or not, mix with the peer group, can they concentrate etc. Methods and strategies are decided according to their feedback.

Arpana Ruth has been in the field of education since last 25 years in various capacities—a teacher, trainer and administrator. She had been a trainer for Springboard Women’s Development Programme, UK. Presently working as Principal, Ingraham Institute English School, Ghaziabad since 2006, she has a keen interest in educational technology and on the holistic development of children.
A very down-to-earth and genuine personality, Arpana Ruth is a disciplinarian and she practises what she preaches.

As a Principal, do you monitor classes? If you find anything negative, how do you deal with it?

I do not believe in too much control and monitoring. Yes, sometimes it is required but not always. I believe in distributed leadership. The Headmistress looks after classes up to 3rd, and then there is the Vice Principal, class and subject coordinators to help me. We have about seven sections in each class. Coordinators take care of every minute detail, update me and give me reports.

If some change/improvement is required, I certainly give feedback. Culture of feedback is valued in the school. Before doing so, I certainly keep some points in mind. A feedback is given and is needed for betterment but it can be a reason of immense emotional turmoil and mental damage. So, it’s better to sit with two more people who may correct us when needed. And, before we start, we should understand the person who is receiving, at least a little bit—what makes him sad, what makes him happy etc. The way of speaking matters a lot. While dealing with a young teacher, I may suggest that ‘please Google it’ or ‘see YouTube videos related to enhance your knowledge’. But, while dealing with a senior, I need to say, ‘your ways are superb. Still, you may upgrade yourself by watching some videos available on YouTube’.

Teacher attrition is a concern these days. Why do you think this is increasing? And, what could be the probable solution?

It is a huge concern, no doubt. School suffers and children suffer the most.

The most important factor is salary. These days, hardly we get dedicated and devoted teachers. People come to work for money and there is nothing wrong in it. If another school is ready to pay 2-3 thousand extra even with longer working hours, a teacher leaves. According to me, if the basic pay structure could be standardised, teachers won’t leave their jobs like this. Sometimes, a teacher doesn’t even get an appointment letter for many days. So, where is the motivation? If we care for a person, she/he will certainly reciprocate. 

Another reason for leaving might be in search of a better work atmosphere, better infrastructure and it largely depends on the management.  Other than this, women have numerous issues like balancing home and work life. In India we lack an organised system of substitute teachers.

Why don’t we grant care-giving leaves along with sick leaves? At least the teachers won’t have to lie then; they don’t have to produce false medical certificates. Why are we encouraging this malpractice and not trying to find out an official way out for this? I strongly suggested that care-giving leaves should be allotted and options should be there for carrying it forward.

There is a strict ban from the Government regarding fee increase. How do you manage with limited resources? Don’t you think that the private schools are becoming too soft targets?

I completely agree. It is not possible to maintain quality infrastructure with limited resources. If we don’t invest, we won’t be able to get an output. Still, we are completely complying with fee regulations of the UP Govt. Council as such has no fee rules. They rather advise us to increase fees to meet the needs of the salary structure of the teachers and the school infrastructure.

We manage all the school activities from school fees and do not charge anything extra from the parents.

Would you like to share any message with our readers?

As educators, we need to put more focus on us as emotional beings. We should be careful about our relationships with children, our colleagues and our own emotions. Teachers do face a burn out. We need to be careful about that too.

Secondly, I would advise to raise the level of respect for the profession and not to prioritise financial gains. Everybody certainly works for money but that should not be something that drives you. A school environment, one’s subject, the love of children should be the driving force for educators.