Published: 04th August 2021
CBSE, Matric, IB? No, it's the Open Schooling Board for this cool school in Kochi. Check it out
Three veterans of the field of education talk about the alternative learning curriculum that they have adopted at their school
Learning is a constant process that is too long for a single lifetime. I'm sure all of you will agree with the fact that we are all on our individual pathways of learning. We face hurdles and challenges along the way and are often helped by our mentors to tackle them. This story is about three educationists who took up something bold in their professional careers and enabled students in Kochi to have a real choice in learning the open school way. Maya Mohan, Shailaja Menon and Rema Jayaram talk to us about the National Institute of Open Schooling Board that they have adopted at their school Tattwa in Kochi and the transformation it has brought about for students who have been hoping to break away from conventional schooling under other Boards.
Excerpts from an enlightening conversation:
1. How did Tattwa take shape at first?
It happened during my time as Chinmaya School's Principal. I was helping the NIOS Regional Director and I got hold of a few exam answer sheets and I asked him, "What do all these children do?" Some of the papers were very interesting and well written and I got very curious. He said to me that it is self-learning mode, more or less, for them as it is easier for them that way. When I left Chinmaya, I was intrigued by the NIOS as an alternative learning mode that can really disrupt education as we know it in Kochi. It was designed as a self-study mode for everyone, from a broad spectrum of students who are extremely bright to those who cannot cope with the pace of other boards like CBSE. We chose the NIOS Board for accreditation for two reasons. One for the flexibility in choice of subjects that it offers and two, for the split nature of how exams are conducted over two years for the students.
2. What do you have to say about the subject choices offered by NIOS?
There is a lot of flexibility in the subjects that students can choose during their curriculum. But simultaneously, it is not like the supermarket system where you can combine whatever combination of subjects you want to take. There has to be a reason for the subject that you want to opt for and only then are you allowed to pursue it. We also have several subjects that are not offered by conventional schools, like Mass Communication.
3. What is the guiding principle of Tattwa?
Our vision is to always enable students to reach their maximum potential. We are there to cater to the needs of the students first and foremost. We are trying to create an environment that is conducive to the total growth of the children. It is not just the syllabus that we offer that makes us different, but the entire curriculum that we have set for the learners. Another area where we are absolutely non-negotiable is about the numbers. We only take in a limited number of students per class. We are all for giving the children the choices they need to have for learning. Our official motto is 'Journey to Transform' and I believe that we are truly adherent to this principle.
4. You mentioned that you take in only a limited number of children. Could you expand on that?
At Tattwa, we try to provide maximum care to our students. This gets much more difficult when there are more students per class. So, we have restricted the number to a maximum of 22 students per class so that our teachers can provide maximum attention to each and every student without feeling overburdened. We have also come up with a system where the students help their classmates learn. This peer-to-peer learning mechanism is extremely beneficial as the teacher's method of imparting knowledge may sometimes be outdated and the students can step in to make a difference.
5. It seems to me that Tattwa is on a path of continuous reshaping. Is that true?
It does come across that way but that does not mean we don't have a root. The NIOS curriculum is something that has given structure to our system. We are continuously evolving to give the children something that is set apart from convention. But at the same time we try to expose them to different things for character building. Tattwa is an experiment in learning and it is working very well. We are not trying to reinvent the wheel by trying the same things all over again.
6. What are some of the new-age strategies you have adopted at Tattwa?
At Tattwa, we believe in imparting more than just the school syllabus of NIOS. We have specialised add-on programmes that aid in the overall development of the child. We have identified yoga as a key method because it aids in improving the focus of the student. It is being offered by Jineesh and Risha of the Santhi Yoga Centre based in Calicut. We also have a neurolinguistic programming (NLP) session every week for our Class XI and XII students as a way of tapping the maximum potential out of them. We use methods like mind mapping to enhance their learning capacities and to make them reach the best self possible. It allows them to be ready and be emotionally stable for life's challenges that await them in the real world after school. We also have a learning system for Classes VII and VIII, developed around the panchabhootas (space, air, earth, fire and water). In this we have all subjects like Science, Literature, History and Art all connected around these elements and we teach them based on it.
7. How has the process been for you via the online mode during the pandemic?
I would say that there have been more challenges than advantages for us. We have been trying hard to restore parity in the sense that every student has the devices to manage the classes online. One great boon that has come our way is that our teachers have become really tech-savvy and are equipped with far more ways of gaining students' attention on their computers and making it more interesting for them.
8. Any challenge that you have faced with Tattwa?
There is still a major sense of apprehension in people's minds about the NIOS Board. They think that it is only for children who are not bright enough to study the CBSE Board. But the fact is that there is nothing wrong with the Board at all. In fact, a few years ago, the JEE entrance exam was topped by an NIOS student. This goes to show that the Board is really all-inclusive as a package for the students.