Mrs. Sandhya Siddharth is passionate about incorporating new trends, methods and teaching practices. Her expertise is in education management, teacher training, leadership and team building & curriculum development. Her interests are also in school policy, assessment, project management, educational design etc. She is currently the Director/Secretary of Samved School, Bengaluru.
In this exclusive interview, Mrs. Sandhya speaks of skill development, leadership in schools, and also about the measure that need to be taken for child safety in schools.
1.Your school holds the tag of being a ‘British Council International School’ from the year 2014-2017. As the director, what do you think has helped the school achieve this feat?
Being open minded and constantly trying to keep abreast with innovative strategies in education has helped us achieve. As an organization we have had to constantly update our skills and knowledge as educators. Vision, belief and drive are very necessary to try innovations.
2.Tell us about your philosophy on ‘education’.
Education has to be child centric, creative, challenging, meaningful and joyful for the child. Education must empower the individual in all aspects of his/her personality – social, emotional; physical, psychological and mental. Academic assessment cannot be based on rote learning or summative in nature completely ignoring creativity and individuality. Assessment needs to be formative and wholistic as it influences the learning. Education should involve a deep interpersonal engagement between the teacher and the student.
3.What do you think are the challenges that the school administration faces today?
A dearth of passionate, committed, proficient teachers is the biggest challenge facing schools. The unimaginative out dated curriculum, interference from governmental departments and lack of resources for periodic teacher development are concerns. Lastly the societal changes in the family unit, lifestyles have impacted school administration tremendously. Fifteen years ago, schools were only responsible for the child learning today schools have to take care of the psycho–social needs, safety, security and emotional well-being of the child too. The commercialization of education has further corrupted the core values of schools and in some cases profit is a primary goal. Schools cannot be run impersonally like corporates nor can they be money spinners.
4.How do you think introducing new trends and methodologies help the students and the school?
Introducing new trends and methodologies challenges the institution at every level. Everyone is pushed into unlearn-learn-creative mode. It drives out age old theories and brings in innovation. It forces the system to review and reinvent.
5.Do you think introducing skill development in higher classes is required to prepare the students for the outside world? Please elaborate.
Yes, it’s the need of the hour. Our students’ knowledge tends to be bookish and purely academic for the purpose of scoring marks. Today schools are even ‘teaching’ children ‘life skills’ because children seem to have lost some very vital social and intrapersonal skills in their development. Our curriculum is lop sided and totally based on knowledge acquisition still, while the world over skill based education is taking priority. Many students are not inclined towards rote learning but they end up going through an education system for 13 years that does not recognize or develop other valuable skills or intelligences. If skill building in integrated into the curriculum students will be better prepared to face to world.
6.Focusing on child safety in schools, what according to you are the measures that schools need to take, to achieve the same?
Apart from providing technology and monitoring the safety system school leaders must educate all the adults involved in the school. Children need to be sensitized through workshops. Parents too need to be educated about ways in which they need to make their children aware of such issues. Life skills programs and in-house student counselor can also help. Teachers and all care givers have to be very alert and caring. Teachers and parents must engage in conversations relating to safety and security. Circle time also helps children open up.
7.Do you think it is importance to have a counselor in school? Kindly elaborate.
Yes, it is very important. We see lot of behavioral problems in children manifesting mainly because of some underlying familial or psychological problem. We frequently refer cases to local child psychologists. At times school teachers and leaders might not have the knowledge or experience to handle such cases.
Secondly a child feels safer opening up to a counselor who is not viewed as a teacher. It’s more effective if the counselor does not take any teaching periods nor associate too closely with the teachers as this will help build credibility and trust.
8.What measures do you take in your school, to inculcate leadership skills?
We have a student’s council in school which is elected. The elections are conducted systematically and students cast their votes electronically. The student council comprises of school captains, vice captains, house captains and prefects. They are given the opportunity to attend leadership camps and they are given responsibilities in the day to day management of school routines. Our guides and scouts participate regularly in training programs.
The annual school events provide several opportunities for children to explore their leadership skills.